Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the gift of time starts now

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” – Henry David Thoreau

Sometime late 2005 I started a blog. It was a Blogger blog, like this one, with the exact same title.  It was fun, easy and an incentive to get creative again and hopefully start making some art on a somewhat consistent basis. Essentially, it was a semi-personal blog, much as it remains today, and it gave me the opportunity to write and post about what mattered to me, more than anything.  Along the way, I "met" many bloggers who have come and gone, and very few are still blogging today, as they did way back when. I managed to make lots of art too during this time, some of it bad, some of it good, some of it depending on how you looked at it. Still, it was better than nothing at all. Best of all, I met my wife through my blogging/creative journey.

How amazing it still is to me that one can now share and communicate with people from all over the world through the internet. This I don't ever take for granted, and for the most part, I've always tried to be mindful of what I put out there, hoping to contribute far more good than bad, more positive than negative, even if in the form of what could be described as the occasional rant.  However, despite this amazement, I've arrived at a crossroads of sorts, and have recently begun to reevaluate what it is to blog, and spend time on my computer(s). When I started blogging, it was much more casual, with the intention of using my personal time more wisely and focusing on what was important to me. I ditched the TV, which to this day I don't miss for a second, and started to art again. Fast forward to seven years later, almost to the day, and once again I find myself spending too many hours of my life and my precious time sitting in front of a screen, a different screen, and even standing in front of a screen, if you include my I-phone and I-pad. I recall a time, not so long ago, when this didn't exist in my life, and I was just as happy. 

Early last summer I had somewhat grandiose plans for selling and marketing my art. Not only would I blog or use Flickr, but like nearly everybody else, I'd get on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. I needed to "evolve", right? Wrong. The thought of spending more time online and less time actually living, truly living, as in looking around, walking around, seeing people and doing things, and talking to people without pushing buttons, made me sick to my stomach. That's when I knew it was time for a real change and a personal reevaluation. I found I was also at the point where I was making less art and posting more about art. Not good. Not for me at least.  

But, it's not just about art-making. I see too many people occupied with the little (or big) screen in front of them, immersed in virtual worlds and not with their actual surroundings, be it at home, while shopping, while eating, while in the company of others, and while driving.  I don't want to be one of those people, especially the last one. Yes, I learn a lot online, getting inspiration and gaining some fascinating new knowledge.  I also get sucked into some of the most inane mind-garbage set before my very eyes.  So, as I reach a crossroads and enter a new decade of my life today, I will also start to say no to my computer/internet more, and yes to the physical world a lot more.  I'm not scolding or trying to chastise those who think differently, though I think we could all definitely use some time looking away from our beloved screens, which in many ways have become the new adult pacifier, or even crack pipe for some.  As I enter a new decade in life, I'm going to leave the internet behind, for a while at least, and quit blogging for a year. It will be tough for me, 'cause I love to blog - to share my art and art by others, and to express my thoughts and how I feel about things that matter to me - things that I feel are often overlooked or neglected for what the popular culture machine thinks we should like or find important.  Who knows, I might return to blogging again in a year, and get hooked up with all the other accounts from the likes of  Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and even (gag) Facebook.  Then again, I might not. I will however continue, for the time being, to upload to my Flickr account, since I'm not planning on going completely Luddite on ya here.  In the meantime, I am extremely grateful to all of those folks, past and present, who, through blogging, encouraged, inspired, and even befriended me. There are still many good blogs out there and I'll continue to check them out on occasion, and I've discovered that while many have left the blogging platform to post at the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, the quality of blogs and blogging has vastly improved.  Anyway, please enjoy my last Instagram pics/post, at least for a while, wish me luck and take care, wherever and whoever you may be.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

jj & steve collab (so far)

Late last summer I got in touch with JJ Cromer about trading some artwork.  I had been following his work for a couple of years now, since first reading about him in Raw Vision magazine.  While I don't like to play favorites, if I had to choose only one artist whose work I could look at for the rest of my life, it would be JJ's. The fact that we ended up trading some art was in itself amazing to me, but now we're working on a little art collaboration, and this post is just a sneak peek at the beginning, which I'm documenting from start to finish in its entirety. I refer to our collaboration as "little", because originally we had much more ambitious plans for the project, but we agreed to narrow it down to simply ten pieces, for now at least, due to time constraints. Above are the five JJ began and sent my way to work on, while he currently is working on five that I began and sent with Splotch Monsters.  So far I've only added the Splotch Forms to these gorgeous drawings, and throughout October I'm going to bring them to life like I normally would with my Splotch Monsters, making sure to take extra care with the drawing portion.  I have to admit, it was somewhat surreal and intimidating at first to start working on drawings by my favorite living artist, but as I've discovered through e-mail communication, he's just a way cool, regular guy, as humble as can be about his work, without a single chip on his shoulder.  If you want to learn more about the how JJ Cromer became an artist (and a beekeeper!) and see some spectacular new pieces by him, please check out the latest issue of The 22 Magazine. I actually just ordered myself a copy of this beautiful book, since it's also available in print form. In the meantime, I'm having lots of fun so far with this collaborative effort, and I know it's going to result in some pretty fantastic art work!

Friday, September 28, 2012

crow and panda in the raw

Above is a raw example of one of seven pages I worked on for the recently released book, District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC (Fulcrum Publishing), before our editor Matt Dembicki cleaned it up and plugged in the text.  I thought it would be interesting to show what a page looked like before the editing process.  It was a pleasure working on a story based on Tai Shan the giant panda, whose story seems even more relevant now, in light of the recent passing of a giant panda cub at the National Zoo, who shared the same mother as Tai Shan (Mei Xiang). Tai Shan's birth was something of a miracle as he was the first successfully born giant panda cub at the National Zoo. Baby giant pandas are prone to all types of illness during the first few weeks of life, and it can be rare for one to survive in captivity. 

You can read more about Tai Shan in the book, which is jam-packed with some fantastic comic book art and story telling. You can also check out some great reviews HERE as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

the monsters have arrived!

Yes, the monsters have indeed arrived in my mailbox, waiting for me to greet them this crisp Autumn evening! Stickerbomb Monsters is the fourth in a series of Stickerbomb books released through Laurence King Publishing and Studio Rarekwai (the SRK). Around this time last year some good folks from the SRK e-mailed me to see if I might be interested in submitting some of my own Splotch Monsters for the book, compiling art work from artists from all over the world. I didn't even know they had a call for artists, so I feel very fortunate to have any work in this awesome little book at all. Four of my Splotch Monsters are in the book, all featured here via Instagram vision. This book is some serious eye candy, fit for anyone into monsters, stickers, street art and visual documentation of contemporary artists, illustration and art movements, just in the nick of time for Halloween.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

jean-michel basquiat: the radiant child

Last week I watched another winner from the Arthouse Films company, this one about the life of artist Basquiat called "Jean-Michel Basquiat: the Radiant Child". Thanks to some candid, unearthed interview footage from friend and filmmaker Tamra Davis, we get a rare glimpse into the real Basquiat. Chronicling the young man's meteoric rise to fame in the early eighties, we see Basquiat in action, from his early days dabbling as graffiti writer SAMO and playing in the experimental post-punk outfit Gray, to an extremely ambitious painter trying to deal with the attention and wealth that comes with fast fame.  The early eighties saw the art world transform almost overnight from a scene dominated by an often alienating European minimalism, difficult to grasp by the general public, to a bold populous type of art, born in the streets of NYC thanks to the likes of Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. It was Worhol's death in 1987 that helped trigger the downward spiral Basquiat fell into, as he was something of a parental figure to the young prodigy, whose own father, a New York business man of Haitian descent, didn't quite acknowledge him, even at the height of his artistic career.

The myth of Basquiat as icy-cool bad boy art star is quickly dispelled as soon as the film begins, and what we see is a soft-spoken, sensitive soul playing with paint and smiling like a child. The interview footage from Davis is perhaps the most crucial footage in the documentary, with Basquiat wearily and wholeheartedly expressing his dismay at the way the media has portrayed him as a young, black artist on the rise. While he attempts to brush it all off as mildly amusing, in an almost nonchalant manner, there is a pain in his eyes that can't be masked - a pain that will eventually consume and destroy such a radiant, promising young human being. As the most comprehensive collection of Basquiat footage available, "the Radiant Child" gives Jean-Michel Basquiat a voice beyond his life's work, and we get to know the man and the artist in a much truer light long after the initial flame has burned out. This movie is not to be missed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

inkflow 2

Artist, illustrator, connoisseur of great book illustration, and self-proclaimed dreamer Human, out of California contacted me about the latest self-published art book he's working on and wanted to know if I'd be interested in including some Splotch Monster work on some pages. His latest project, called "Inkflow 2" is the book, and it's to be released through Blurb. The original release date was to be sometime last mid-May, but I know he's put out a call for a few more artists before wrapping things up, so hopefully soon. So far it looks to be an awesome compilation of work and I'll make sure to update this post when the book finally does materialize.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

collaboration with andrea

A couple of years ago artist Andrea Martinez, who I knew as "Big A" sent me a watercolor Moleskine to collaborate with her in. I followed her work shortly after I began blogging years ago and she has become one of my favorite artists on the planet. I've worked on and off in it during the past couple of years, laying down colorful watercolor washes for which she'll later draw on top of. Unfortunately, I'd clean the studio and shelve the book away with my other sketchbooks, only to forget I even had it. Finally, after some friendly reminders from Andrea, I've completed most of it and will be sending it off for her to work on later this week. Pictured here are some sample shots  taken with the I-phone. I'm so pleased to collaborate with Andrea and am looking forward to what she'll add to the pages of her book! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

the cats of mirikitani

Over the weekend, I finally got around to watching the documentary about Japanese American artist Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, and it was as good as everyone said it was, exceeding my expectations. I didn't want to read up on the film too much and I discovered pretty quickly into the movie that this was hardly about cats, and was much more than a mere artist's biography. I will admit, it was a bit of a tear jerker, towards the end at least, only because it had such a triumphant and beautiful ending. The film made me think about how one person can make a huge difference in the life of another individual, and how in turn that individual can affect the world in a positive way. I wonder what would have become of Jimmy, if not for a benevolent and curious woman, who took him into her home, after he spent twenty years on the streets of NYC surviving off of his art. How he got there is a whole other story, and how his life changed from the moment he met filmmaker Linda Hattendorf is the stuff of legend.

From the film's website: "Eighty-year-old Jimmy Mirikitani survived the trauma of WWII internment camps, Hiroshima, and homelessness by creating art. But when 9/11 threatens his life on the New York City streets and a local filmmaker brings him to her home, the two embark on a journey to confront Jimmy's painful past. An intimate exploration of the lingering wounds of war and the healing powers of friendship and art, this documentary won the Audience Award at its premiere in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival."

Please don't miss this beautiful film, whether you have an interest in art, artists, or simply the way real everyday people live their lives through both bad times and good. It's a truly irresistible little movie about an equally irresistible little man with an enormous, vibrant soul.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

splotch monsters invade eye collector

Today I got my Splotch Monster art featured at the very excellent online art publication called Eye Collector Magazine. You might remember they did a feature on some of my more realism-based work a couple of years back, and it was nice of Austin, who runs the site, to ask me back again. You can see the feature HERE, however take some time to check out all of the recent posts at the site when you can! In the meantime, Austin informed me that Eye Collector has some big plans to get an actual physical magazine published and distributed all over the place soon, as well as some gallery shows, so keep your eyes peeled!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

district comics signing at one more page books, arlington, va

Earlier today I drove out to Arlington, Virginia to participate in the "District Comics, An Unconventional History of Washington, DC" book signing at One More Page Books.  Living about an hour away in Leesburg, I decided to get off to an early start, since we lost the GPS and I'm good at getting lost. Needless to say, the shop was very easy to find, located right on the edge of Falls Church, just down the road from the State Theater.

It was a rainy, somewhat dreary but peaceful afternoon and thankfully not very hot, like most of the summer was. I was glad to get to this wonderful little shop early, and was able to browse around some and talk with the employees who were kind as ever.  Soon after, Matt Dembicki and his wife Carol arrived at the shop.  It wouldn't be long until the place was jam-packed with not only about twenty of the book's authors and illustrators, but folks who bought copies of the book. Matt also had his marvelous new Xoc book for sale there, who he worked on with local artist Evan Keeling who did an amazing job adding color to Matt's already fabulous drawings and story. I made sure to pick up a copy, along with a couple of copies of District Comics, signed by everyone there today. 

The physical copy is alive and well in Arlington, Virginia, as One More Page Books is a beautiful little shop with something for everyone (above).

I managed to get a head start today, signing copies for the shop's awesome employees and owner (above). This was only just the beginning and I think my hand needs a day or two to recover now!

 Matt D. and Rand Arrington get off to an early start as well (above).

Most of the book's authors and illustrators have finally arrived (above)!

The place packed it in pretty early, and by around 4PM it was hard to even move around (above). This was a good thing though.

In addition to some cool goodies and prizes given away today, Matt, along with employee Terry Nebeker raffled off some of his great Xoc-inspired drawings and art (above)!

Say cheese! Author and Illustrator group shot (above)!

Thanks to Matt Dembicki, who conceived of the book's idea and got the ball rolling, ultimately editing and contributing to a couple of stories in District Comics. Also, a big thanks to the wonderful folks at One More Page Books, the awesome people who bought a copy or two and came by for a signing and chat, and to the amazing people who made District Comics happen - the authors and the illustrators.