Darkling I Listen…

I call him LL Scrub Jay. He’s a Western Scrub Jay that hangs out in the necto-plum tree outside of my studio, and I feed him peanuts from time to time. He and his buddies turn up in my “bird a day” sketchbook (full disclosure, I don’t always have time to draw a bird a day, but I try).

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I’m pretty sure the neighbors think I’m bonkers but when I do my pathetically bad scrub jay call he usually shows up for a few nuts, and this makes me feel like we have a “relationship”, which resulted in this painting:

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Flash forward a bit to when I was asked to contribute a piece to the show “Boxes of Death 5″, in which artists are all given a 2′ high wooden coffin to paint/alter/play with. The blank casket arrived on my doorstep at about the same time that I read an article about how Western Scrub Jays have funerals. When one finds a dead comrade, they start up a loud screeching call — but not to warn other jays away, to gather them around. The assembled birds all perch near the dead bird’s body and screech together for as long as 30 minutes. (You can read more about this right here.)  That’s when I decided I would create a funerary piece about LL.

First step, paint it black.

First step, paint it black.

In my paintings I’ve often toyed with the idea of an animal kingdom where the critters have dragged elements of human culture back into their world, and pondered what sort of things they might take a shine to and value. With the idea of “pouring one out” in remembrance of a fallen friend, I decided the background for the piece should be hand-painted labels from Olde English 40 oz bottles — as close to “gold leaf” as a bird might be able to scavenge.

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Which started to come together something like this (with the help of my studio assistant, who feels there should be massive amounts of feline hair in everything I do).

This is about the point where I was starting to really regret the decision to hand-paint a bunch of beer labels.

This is about the point where I was starting to really regret the decision to hand-paint a bunch of beer labels.

What other sorts of embellishments might a bird have access to? Years ago when we were picnicking in Joshua Tree, we shared some scraps with a scrub jay, and once he’d had his fill he flew off to rustle around in a nearby bush. He returned to us and dropped a small shiny object in the middle of our picnic — it was a small brass 9mm shell casing. I can only imagine he thought it was a fair trade, that we would appreciate this piece of shiny human stuff. Or he was trying to give us a clue (like Lassie, “Bark! Bark!” “What Lassie, little Timmy is trapped in the well?”) to some nefarious crime, but we didn’t follow up on it. We were busy moving to San Francisco from New York. Remembering that bird holding the metal shell casing in his beak, I decided the coffin needed bottle caps, which I’d been saving for gawd-only-knows-what-project, and which I went to friend Phil Horton’s machine shop to drill.

Yes I absolutely am the kind of goofball that dresses up like Rosie the Riveter to go work in a machine shop for the day.

Yes I absolutely am the kind of goofball that dresses up like Rosie the Riveter to go work in a machine shop for the day.

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Sorted by color so I could create a pleasingly "random rhythm" pattern

Sorted by color so I could create a pleasingly “random rhythm” pattern

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My studio assistant needed to make sure everything had enough hair on it before I photographed it.

My studio assistant needed to make sure everything had enough hair on it before I photographed it.

(The back)

(The back)

And the finished piece!

And the finished piece!

“Boxes of Death 5″, with work by 50 artists, will be traveling for a series of four one-night-only openings — try to catch one if it’s in your neck o’ the woods!

PDX Antler Gallery -10/3
SF Gauntlet Gallery – 10/8
LA The Chun – 10/11
SEA Piranha Gallery – 10/17

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“Boxes of Death is an art exhibition where 50 artists are each given their own coffin to do with what they want. The idea spawned from Kane Quaye, a famous coffin maker from Africa. His philosophy was that a coffin should not just be a pine box, but something that represents the person inside and their life. Each artist in the show uses the same coffin canvas format to create their own artistic statement surrounding the preconceived notions and ideas of the coffin shape. The people in the show have a chance to step out of their comfort zone and faced with the idea of death, react to it.

The result is a visually compelling installation contrasting repetition and individuality. Boxes of Death showcases artists from the farthest reaches of the continental US as well as some international artists and highlights an incredibly diverse range of creative backgrounds.

Sponsored by Rudy’s and Juxtapoz, co-curated by Roq La Rue, the 2014 Boxes of Death tour show has grown to include 50 artists and has evolved into a four stop tour. The artist roster includes world renowned painters, illustrators, graphic designers, motorcycle builders, tattoo artists, assemblage masters and print makers.”

You can find out more about the show right here:  Boxes of Death 5

Sometimes I’m The Last To Know…

Google Alerts kinda failed me here — apparently a couple years back when one of my paintings (“Chill Quill”) was used as the cover for Madlib’s Medicine Show 11, it made a “Best Album Cover” list, dropping in at number two (just behind Wiz Khalifa’s “Rolling Papers”).  Jeff Jank, the art director over at Stones Throw Records, did a beautiful job — the LP cover isn’t cluttered up with type and design frippery.

Madlib Medicine Show 11

Madlib Medicine Show 11

But if you pick up the CD you get a great little booklet that Jeff designed with an additional three full color reproductions of paintings from my “Into The Woodz” series.

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On top of all that, it’s beat heavy, super smooth ear candy, crafted with humor from a deep musical sea:  “hip-hop productions, remixes, beat tapes, and jazz, as well as mixtapes of funk, soul, Brazilian, psych, jazz and other undefined forms of music from the Beat Konducta’s 4-ton stack of vinyl.”

You can read the Top Ten list right here

And pick up your very own copy of either the LP or CD right here

And if you don’t know from Madlib, check this out! 

When Art, Sun and Drinks With Mustaches Collide

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What do a ceramic bust of The Notorious BIG, Spock wearing a zippered rubber fetish mask, and a China marker drawing of an Asiatic chevrotain (the Cadillac of small artiodactyls) all have in common?  They are just a small sampling of the art that was on view at this year’s ArtPadSF art fair, held poolside at the Phoenix Hotel.  You know you wanna see — and you can!  Just click the link right here for my tour through the fair for Cartwheel.

Come Take A Stroll

San Francisco was recently host to a big “feast for the eyeballs” weekend of art fairs, with both ArtMRKT and ArtPadSF opening their doors and isles to thousands of patrons and imbibers of free alcohol.  If you didn’t have a chance to see for yourself or you want to revisit some choice tidbits, come stroll the endless white cubicles with me and Cartwheel, who kindly asked me to cover the fairs for them.

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First up: click for  ArtMRKT!  

A Blast From The Current!

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If you’ve ever talked to Michael Snyder (I usually bump into him at art openings in San Francisco and LA) then you know he’s got a wealth of opinions about nearly any topic you might choose to bring up — he gives good conversation.  His new webcast “Culture Blast” is just like one of those meetings, except you can have the pleasure of his company at the click of a button!  In his trademark rapid patter, Michael will tell you about films, comics, tv shows, art, music, comedy, and food — just the straight dope, no filler.

So imagine my delight when he told me the other night that he’d included me in a segment?  Thrilled to the gills and ticked to the ends of my flippers!  You can check it out right here.   (You can learn more about the show on the show’s FB page.)

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a morsel of his snarky updates on current pop culture.

Do A Cartwheel

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Don’t you just love digital cameras?  How you can take hundreds and hundreds of pictures because you don’t have to pay expensive processing costs for developing film?  Yeah, it’s very liberating.  It’s over-liberating.  When I was in Miami last month for all the art fairs, my camera log tells me I took 1,060 photos.  In five days.  And I haven’t quite figured out how to share that with the world yet (or had the time to winnow it down into less of a visual onslaught, the art viewing equivalent of the endless battle scenes in the last “Lord of the Rings” movie).

Fortunately there’s sites like Cartwheel, where they’re a little more on the ball with timely reviews and have a spiffy editorial eye to pare things down to digestible nuggets.  So while you’re waiting for me to wade through a sea of JPGs,  you can check out some of their Miami art fair coverage right here.

Couple of classy broads resting their hooves after a long day

Couple of classy broads resting their hooves after a long day

Got Wood?

It may or may not be a well known fact that I like wood.  A quick stroll through the house will reveal wood-grain patterned towels, faux bois (“fake wood”) sheets, and several rolls of wood patterned contact paper with which I hope to someday cover my ugly metal filing cabinets (one of those “someday” projects that never seems to happen).  So when we decided to do a series of print editions for my recent show at Varnish Fine Art, did we print them on mere paper?  NO WE DID NOT!

"Behold My Heart". print on wood, 15 x 11 inches

“Behold My Heart”. print on wood, 15 x 11 inches

We found a fabulous company that figured out how to print them directly onto wood, allowing a hint of the beautiful wood grain to peep through.  (Which is perfect in more ways than one since I do all my paintings on wood panels.)  There are different sizes and prices, from stocking stuffers

"Lucky 7" & "Bitten", prints on wood, 5 x 7 inches (each)

“Lucky 7″ & “Bitten”, prints on wood, 5 x 7 inches (each)

to “Oh honey you shouldn’t have (but I’m so glad you did!)”.

"Song of Birth (The Three Magi)", print on wood, 18 x 24 inches

“Song of Birth (The Three Magi)”, print on wood, 18 x 24 inches

These are all signed and numbered, a very limited edition of 50 each.

"Besame Mucho", print on wood, 8 x 10 inches

“Besame Mucho”, print on wood, 8 x 10 inches

And if you order right now, you can still probably get them in your hot little hands in time for Christmas.  (Otherwise I think they’d make a smashing Chinese New Year present.)

"Golden Silence", print on wood, 17 x 11 inches

“Golden Silence”, print on wood, 17 x 11 inches

The fab guys that make these prints run a solar powered shop, use FSC sustainably harvested birch, and for every purchase they donate a dollar to the Plant a Billion Trees charity.

"The Birth of Ginger", print on wood, 16 x 20 inches

“The Birth of Ginger”, print on wood, 16 x 20 inches

What are you waiting for?  Click right here to see ‘em all and snatch something up for yourself.

"Gone Native", prints on wood, 10 x 8 inches (each)

“Gone Native”, prints on wood, 10 x 8 inches (each)

This pair is sold separately or as a set, and you get to write their story in your mind — are they arriving at the tiny island in the background or escaping? Are they coming together or pulling apart? Is the storm brewing or passing?

"The Honey Dripper", print on wood, 14 x 11 inches

“The Honey Dripper”, print on wood, 14 x 11 inches

What if the moment when Baby Bear and Goldilocks first saw each other, that instant when he cast his big brown bear eyes on her as she slept in his bed, was a “love at first sight” moment?  Maybe she would have stayed in the woods…

"Sew Much Love", print on wood, 14 x 11 inches

“Sew Much Love”, print on wood, 14 x 11 inches

And if things had gone a little differently for the Bride of Frankenstein and her Monster, perhaps they’d have decided to expand their family the best way they knew how.

Other goodies are also available at the Varnish Emporium, including Jennybird Alcantara’s new catalog “Creatures of Saintly Disguise”, prints by Jennybird, Mike Davis, and Attaboy, the Hi-Fructose Collector’s Edition boxed set, and gorgeous art books by and about all your fave artists.  One stop holiday shopping for everyone who’s been naughty or nice!

Happy Holidaze everyone, we made it another year around the sun!