Sunday, June 30, 2013

mail me art: short & sweet/ exhibit at the framers gallery, london

Just a little heads up, the new Mail Me Art: Short & Sweet book is now available for pre-order right HERE! That's the official cover for the book (above) and it looks amazing. Some of my personal favorite artists, including Aijung Kim and Maura Cluthe will have their work featured in the book. Can't wait to get my copy soon!

Here's some info about the book:

Product Description

All pre-ordered copies will be shipped 1st August 2013.

Includes instruction on how to take part in Mail Me Art: Open All Hours (MMA4).

Mail Me Art: Short & Sweet brings together the amazing work of more than 240 artists who sent mail art on a sometimes treacherous journey through the international postal system. In this book we present a showcase of what was received, and in some cases lost, in the post. The entire Short & Sweet project is featured along with photos and commentaries from the participants.

Darren Di Lieto (Author), Beach (Designer), Jane Di Lieto-Danes (Editor), Jon Burgerman (Illustrator), Jeff Miracola (Illustrator), Muxxi (Illustrator), Gaz Roberts (Illustrator), Violet Lemay (Illustrator)

Product details
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: The Little Chimp Society (1 Aug 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0956632017
ISBN-13: 978-0956632012
Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.8 x 1.6 cm

Pre-order Mail Me Art: Short & Sweet today!

About the author…

Darren Di Lieto is the creator of Mail Me Art, an international mail art project that started in 2006. He is also the founder of the illustration news portal The Little Chimp Society. He has interviewed everyone from Jon Burgerman and John Howe to James Jean and Bob Staake for the LCS. His numerous art projects have been featured or mentioned in publications such as Digital Arts, Computer Arts, Design Week and The Telegraph over the years.

In August, 2013 there will also be an exhibit of the work in the book in London, England at The Framers Gallery, where they'll also be having a book launch party, which you can read more about HERE.

Below is the piece I made for this project, and thankfully it safely made it to Darren in England. I wish I could make the show, however, when I get the book I'll do a blog post about it asap. Peace!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

the art of wayne paige

Last weekend, Kris and I embarked on our journey throughout the area as part of the Western Loudoun Studio Tour, 2013.  This was the fourth time for me, and Kris' third tour.  Fortunately, the weather was beautiful and we took full advantage of it on both Saturday and Sunday. We made a loose plan as far as who we wanted to see and where we wanted to go, and unfortunately we didn't cover even half of who we wanted to see over the course of two days.  We were lucky to have been able to visit lots of great artists and their studios and I did, however make it a point that if there was one artist whose work I absolutely had to see, come hell or high water, it had to be the work of Middleburg artist Wayne Paige.

I don't think I had ever seen Wayne's work before, until I looked through the studio tour catalogue. What immediately struck me at first glance was the similarity of Wayne's "clothespin people" with JJ Cromer's signature asterisk characters. Beyond that, the likeness to JJ's extraordinary work ends there, and if both artists have anything in common, it would be their exceptional scope, vision and attention to fine detail and craft.

The trip out to the Middleburg Academy to visit Wayne's studio was a bit of a hike, coming from Leesburg, but a delightful and scenic drive worth every mile. It's interesting to see such unique work coming from an artist in this area, known for celebrating the brutal and barbaric "sport" of fox hunting, a dying local "tradition" depicted in far too many paintings illustrating an idealistic setting in the countryside, masked behind a false sense of dignity and status.  It would seem that Wayne's work was akin to a fish out of water, yet its location of origin made perfect sense.

Seeing Wayne's art in person left me beyond words and made me wonder why some art is hanging in the big, prestigious museums while stuff like his was not. Upon approaching these highly detailed pointillist masterpieces, it felt as if I had entered a sacred or holy space - an altar of sorts, presenting some cryptic knowledge, or a message from the future sent to be deciphered in the present. Actively exhibiting his work since 1972, you can see how it has evolved, and even though Wayne has had formal training, his work is every bit as visionary as anything out there. There was a time in ancient history where the artist was regarded in high esteem, holding the position of the knowing sage providing wisdom and insight to those who were in need of it. Wayne Paige's work does just that, acting as a mirror image reflecting the world we humans inhabit, which you can read more about at his website

Despite the intense beauty of Wayne's art, in person he was as friendly as could be, discussing some of his inspiration and concepts, as well as giving some insight to into his process to visitors at his studio. Wayne was also kind enough to let me take some photos of his work and his studio.  I always find it extremely interesting to see where artists work, as well as witness some of the initial process and preliminary ideas, and it's always fascinating to see such a wide variety of spaces where the magic takes place.

One day I will own a Wayne Paige oil painting, if not settle for one of his micron-pen drawings, which are just as incredible. Until then, I had to settle for some post card images he was giving away from some of his most recent exhibits, including one from late 2012 in NYC, which you can get a glimpse of in the video below. It's interesting to note that, according to Wayne, his show took place during the onslaught of hurricane Sandy. He told me how lucky he was to have his exhibit taking place on the ninth floor of the building where his art was being shown, as those artists whose work was closer to ground level weren't so fortunate.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

neal martineau art at the blue moon cafe, shepherdstown, wva

A couple of days ago, shortly after Dave and I got finished with taking down and hanging some art at Hypnocoffe in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, we got cleaned up and went for a bite and a drink at the Blue Moon Cafe, not far down the road. I was starving at this point and all I could think about was their amazing "Philly Shroom" sub and fries, something I ate my first visit to this great restaurant a few months ago. The Philly Shroom proved to be just as good the second time around, but the real and totally unexpected treat was the art hanging on the walls of the place. 

What I first noticed was a sign that said "Old Fart Art", which admittedly sort of repelled me at first, though grabbed my attention. Then I actually took a closer look at the work on the walls - these unique, gorgeous, colorful and brilliantly composed prints that looked like something straight out of AVAM or Raw Vision Magazine. The work was by a fella named Neal Martineau, who lives in the Shepherdstown area.

Upon further research, I didn't discover too much at all about the man's art, however, apparently, Neal is something of a big deal, penning some of the most legendary advertising lines in history while working in New York City in the 1960s. These days he spends a good deal of his time focusing on his art, and I have to say, he's become and instant favorite of mine.

I probably would have called Mr. Martineau and ordered a few of his prints on the spot, but now that Kris and I will most likely be new homeowners in about a month, we've been pinching the pennies more these days. Still, his prices were excellent and soon enough, some Neal Martineau art will be added to my personal collection, being that my birthday's not too far off from now.

Time to enjoy a summer jam courtesy of Sweet Trip.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

splotch monsters invade hypnocoffee, shepherdstown, west virginia

Yesterday I hung some Splotch Monster pieces at the Hypnocoffee shop in Shepherdstown, West Virginia (above). My friend David Modler had some of his work there for a while and managed to convince the shop's owner, Tony to get some of my stuff hanging on the shop's walls after he took his art down. So, after work, I drove out for an hour-and-a-half and arrived there by about 3:30PM. At that point it was around 95 degrees out and I could have used a serious shower and something to eat. Thankfully Dave was there to help, as he took down his work and got some of mine hanging up.

The Hypnocoffee in Shepherdstown, West Virginia is located on the Shepherdstown University campus, where Dave teaches, and it's quite possibly the most charming little coffee shop I've ever set foot in.  It's a tiny shop that somehow manages to fit a ton of people into it's space (there was a good and steady stream of customers when I arrived), so I chose to hang some smaller pieces throughout the place. I'm not too sure what that cool, big slab of wood was for, leaning on the wall near the shop's entranceway (above), but I liked it. 

Most of the Splotch Monsters I hung have never been on display or exhibit anywhere before, including the one Dave had me point to for a photo, that I quickly decided to name "Draco-face". 

Hypnocoffee even had a shelf full of records and a record player, though on that day there was a music mix playing from the laptop computer. I'll have to check out this collection more in depth during my next visit.

Dave having a discussion with the shop's barista (above).

Love the panoramic shot (below), courtesy Hypnocoffee!

A big thanks goes out to Dave and to Tony for hooking me up with this little show, which will be up for the remainder of the summer. If you are in or around the Shepherdstown, West Virginia area, definitely drop by Hypnocoffee and have yourself one of the best cups of joe on the planet. 

In the meantime, Dave , who has been working hard in his studio (above) will have an art exhibit at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro from July 5th -July 31st. The reception is on July 25th.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

happy summer


I woke up this morning with what seemed like a million nagging thoughts running through my head. This is Saturday morning, this shouldn't be happening, right? Though I'm teaching a two- week long summer art course to middle and high school students, it's still, technically my summer break, so again, I shouldn't be stressing about anything. But, for some reason I was, so I rolled out of bed and made some tea and decided to sit out on my porch and take in some morning sun and listen to the birds singing their morning songs. Instead, I found myself chugging down the tea as the chattering in my mind kept on rolling, telling me I need to do this, go here and do that. That's when I had to stop myself and consciously slow down the chugging to sipping and actually make an effort to listen to the birds. It took a few minutes to get to this point, and when I did get there, it became almost automatic. Interrupted by the occasional sound of passing planes and the air conditioning unit, I was still able to listen to the marvelous sounds and songs that most people probably take for granted and go through life missing out on completely, myself included. 


During the past couple of weeks, Kris and I found ourselves contemplating some life changes that involved finding a new home. After searching for about a year, on and off, we think we've found a house, and it practically fell into our laps it seems. After renting for years, it's due time to finally own a home, but as anyone who owns one knows, it's not an easy process, especially the initial steps. Nothing is written in stone yet, but so far so good.


I find that sometimes the more responsibility you take on, the more you have to meet deadlines. I've been working on a couple of very involved art projects these past couple of weeks as well, both of which will be published in physical form, in the not-too-distant future. I've also got a few shows, both big and small, where some of my work will be hanging soon, which I'm very grateful for. I find I don't think of any deadlines at all while working on these art projects. It's only before and after I add to them that the mind chatter begins. I guess that's what they call being present, or being in the moment - a place I strive to be more often in my life. Making art and loving what you're making can certainly help with that. It's the deadlines that can be a bit of a nag, though sometimes a necessary nag. Just the word deadline has a terrible ring to it, and to think we go through life using it so often in our vocabulary. It's pretty absurd, actually.


Perhaps it's all about how you frame it. I always disliked those goofy, ultra cynical phrases like "life kills" or "life's a bi@$h and then you die". Uh, ok then, if that's how you want to see it, so be it. Have a nice life then. I choose to believe that life is a challenge, with peaks and valleys both daunting and restful, though not to be taken for granted, like the songs of the birds I heard earlier this morning.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

finley portrait

Recently, Kris and I made a pet portrait piece for a colleague of mine, mainly for fun and for practice. Since neither of us do pet portraiture for a living, we thought it would be a nice challenge to make one and see how it would turn out. The dog, Finley (above) was just too cute and cool-looking to not try and render. 


First off, the paper used was some seriously thick, good quality watercolor paper - Arches 300lb cold press, 100% cotton to be exact. Kris paid a ton for it at the DC Utrecht shop recently, and that was with a major discount, so I felt a little pressure when drawing Finley. Thankfully, I drew this a couple of weekends ago in a very peaceful setting. Kris' boss kindly gave us his family condo in Ocean City, Maryland for the weekend, and I found it the perfect setting to get in that "zone" to draw, and ended up getting the sketch (above) out in less than an hour as well as another one of a blue crab afterwards. In all honesty, this was the easy part. 


The truly challenging part was the watercolor portion. First, I have to apologize for the poor photos - I have an older I-phone which I don't plan on getting rid of anytime soon, and sometimes forget that it's not so good with indoor lighting.  Anyhow, you would think it would be easy to paint something that is essentially black and white. Instead, this was precisely the challenge - trying to get those gradations correct, especially when starting out (above). 

It took Kris roughly four hours to complete the watercolor portion of the portrait, and when she was about 99% finished (above), she knew there was a little more to go but had to walk away from it a bit before figuring out how to complete the piece.

After a few minor touch-ups, the portrait was done (again, sorry for the poor shot). We were both pleased with the results and when it comes to more realism-based work, we make a good team, with my strength being more in the drawing department, and with Kris being a much more skilled watercolorist. Would we want to do something like this full time? Not really at all, though I know we could make some extra income on occasion. The problem can be with folks who don't know too much about what goes on behind the making of an original piece of art and don't quite have a grasp or knowledge of the process, materials, time and energy involved, and think a very average price, like $200.00 for an 8"x10" portrait like this is expensive, especially when it's done well. As any artist can tell you, it's 99.9% work - the image just doesn't flow from the hand magically and effortlessly onto the paper or canvas, though some artists can make it look that way, and some have a more intuitive approach. Either way, it's the experience through patience and repetition that makes the art.  As renowned sketchbook artist and author Danny Gregory, who didn't get his start until he was in his thirties can tell you, it's just like driving a car. It can be scary at first, but the more you drive, the better you get, until it becomes second nature.