Friday, July 12, 2013


Here is a project that I worked on recently with Kevin Staniec at Black Hill Press. Kevin called me several months ago to ask if I would like to collaborate on a series of book covers for one of their series (of books). Black Hill Press is an independent publishing house dedicated to the novella - a distinctive, mid-length fiction. Part of the reason why I chose to collaborate was because of my own interest in writing; I've not been formally trained in the craft, and really my doing so, was for my own pleasure. Initially, I was intending to only post the final covers, but then decided midway through preparing the files to upload online, that I wanted to show some of the process as well. Much of my blog is devoted to the creative process that I experience in my studio, the psychological, emotional and critical challenges that I  face through my art-making. However, this time I thought it would be interesting to share some of the lead-up sketches and preparatory drawings that I created up to, and including the final illustrations. Kevin and I spoke a good amount about each of the stories, and our dialogue helped shift and guide my approach to the covers. Although I did not read the novellas in their entirety, it was still important that each one of the images be endowed with its own "spirit," while still being connected to one another. As an Illustrator, I believe it's paramount to be aware of those qualities about one's work that makes it special and stand out from his/her peers. In my case, I know that colour, a graphic composition, and creating patterns through the repetition of shapes and objects have become my visual communicators. The challenge then, was how to let go enough and to brainstorm in way that would make the images convey a kind of genuine feeling, rather than seeming as though they were formulaically constructed based on the conversations that Kevin and I had about each cover, as well as the judgements that I had about my own work. When I begin a project, I go into a kind of free fall, (thumbnail) sketching every idea onto the page, while still being very aware of what I am visually trying to communicate - yeah, I'm free-falling but I still keep an eye out for where I'm supposed to land.  It's a conceptual purge in a way, and for me, speed is important, so is rhythm, and so I have to use a tool such as a marker to draw at this stage. This method gives a heavy nod to automatic drawing, ala the Surrealists, not necessarily having one's subconscious inform the marks that one makes, but rather allowing oneself to freely draw without judging or editing oneself. Eventually, I have to trust myself enough to know that even though it may seem like a struggle moving towards the final destination, I understand that as I continue to draw, I will eventually arrive to the right place.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Studio Visit with Joshua David McKenney + Pidgin

Yesterday I attended a studio visit with Joshua David McKenney: artist, designer and now creator of “Pidgin” his modern take on the classic European doll. We sat down in his home and studio, cracked open a bottle of Lambrusco Rosé, and dreamt aloud;  we spoke about art and design, doll-making, illustration, creative transition, Mel Odom, Antonio Lopez, Jane Forth, food, and Olive Oil.
As an Illustrator, I spend much of my time alone in the studio, but occasionally I manage to get out and roam the neighbourhoods, stumbling upon goodies that feed my eyes and spirit. I’ve read many artists’ biographies and interviews in which they discuss their creative re-engagment with whatever discipline is their focus (when I use the term artists, it encapsulates all kinds of artful things, such as writing, music, illustration, hair, fashion, etc.). For me, it’s the stories of others, seeing and hearing about their processes, not only in reference to making whatever (art) piece they are making, but also the lead up and arrival to that aforementioned work. It felt kind of like a denouement seeing Joshua again after several years, and meeting Pidgin for the first time. I remember reading about both successes and failures while he was making this doll -- melted faces especially (the head, arms and legs are porcelain and so they have to be fired in a kiln) and so, I related to it much the same as any other individual who is close to whatever it is that s/he is making – and that thing which is being made carries within it all of the artist’s greatest hopes and intentions. Seeing Pidgin manifest in front of me was incredibly surreal, and inspiring. You can meet Pidgin at

Monday, June 24, 2013

YEE YEE + Renegade Craft Fair, part 2

Photos by Isabelle Derveaux
Last fall I chose to give my personal T-shirt project a chance; the line is called YEE YEE. It’s a thought that had been steeping in my brain for about two years, but I wasn’t sure that it was something  I wanted to pursue for several reasons mainly because I lacked the time that it would take to learn a new skill. So much of my life is spent drawing. It's become such a ritual for me, that I do it almost every day without question. But when I chose to enroll in my first sewing class at the Fashion Institute of Technology over a year ago, the time that I spent drawing became challenged by the time that I spent learning a new skill because I knew that if I wanted to become better at it, then I would have to spend time nurturing it. By the end of last Fall, I had completed two classes at FIT in sewing and draping, and partially completed a third class in pattern-making. Each time I finished one class and began another, I fell in love even more with the process and craft of making clothing. I admit that this made me nervous because the emotions I felt while cutting and sewing reminded me very much of when I was a child making art. This sounds like a strange thing to admit, but my worry about enjoying sewing meant that I would now need to build time into my schedule to accommodate more of it. And quite frankly, I'm a person who tends to spread himself too thinly as it is, already.

Yesterday I participated in my first public craft fair: The Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn. Over the past year, I’ve created modified Tshirts that I’ve cut, sewn, and printed in my studio, in Brooklyn. Much of it was enabled through the knowledge I had acquired via my classes at FIT, as well as the time I spent researching online and in books to acquire information that I wasn't taught in school. I also spent several months last year interning for a fashion designer in New York, where I met her assistant who I eventually hired for a few weeks to help me sew a few things. She, above all became a huge saving grace for me; having spent more than 30 years as a sewer in factories in China and in New York, she taught me things that I really don’t believe I would have ever learned in school. She streamlined my process, shared with me her knowledge and experiences in the industry, and questioned the intentions of my work. She spoke to me about manufacturing, mass production, and suggested various ways I could approach my craft. She asked me questions, many questions, and called me on my own bullshit time and time again.

I confess that over the past few months I've been wondering if I should continue making my T-shirts; to carry on, and to expand my body of work within this discipline. I think more than anything else, it was becoming a situation in which I was making things and then putting them off to the side as personal items that very few people would physically see, or touch, or pay any attention to. I wonder if part of me kept these things to myself because I was unsure about how they would be received. As someone who is just learning a new craft, it’s terrifying to put your work out there for others, for fear rejection mostly. Admittedly, when I was first starting out as a young Illustrator, I made many mistakes, to the point in which I’m sure that some clients would never want to work with me again. Not because of any type of personality clash, but moreso because of the quality of my work, or lack thereof. I reflect a lot on my workmanship in reference to my sewing; that each time I create a new T-shirt for example, I believe it’s better than the previous one, and so it makes me want to reach out and replace the one that somebody has already bought. But then I stop and realize that this is just part of the creative process: wanting to improve, and knowing that one's work will become better over time through repetition, practice and effort. We’re not born experts, none of us are. Sure, some of us are fortunate to be blessed with extraordinary dexterity within a particular discipline; some are born into families who are supportive, some wealthy even, who can help make the path to realizing one's artistic dreams much easier than if it were otherwise the case. But in the end it’s really about the level of commitment that one has with making one’s art, or design, or drawings… or T-shirts which needs to firmly exist if s/he is to keep forging ahead.

I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to write about this morning, only that I knew I had to share my experiences from The Renegade Craft Fair. It was an incredible weekend, and the first time that I’ve ever displayed this particular work of mine in such a public way, to both strangers and friends. I’ve been trying to recognize the difference between this event, versus my experiences participating in an open studio or (gallery) art show. If I distill it into its most simplest form, it’s really quite the same: I’m sharing my work with an audience, which may or may not respond favorably to it. However, there was something very different about this event, and I wonder if it had more to do my wishing for some kind of sign or response, which would encourage me to continue.

I wanted to thank you for everyone who came by; friends and strangers who said hello, the conversations that I had with you, the exchange of inspiration, and creativity; the openness of those who I spoke to, who wondered out loud, and the encouraging bits of wisdom and advice that I received. You are all incredible. 

* the photos above are courtesy of Isabelle Derveaux, Illustrator - Photo Organizer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

YEE YEE + Renegade Craft Fair, part 1

photos by Steven Chu
I've been working on creating a few new Tshirts to sell at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, this weekend June 22 & 23; here are the latest ones. I've expanded my Love Is Cool collection to include a "Full Floral T", and also a "Big Heart Tank." I'm heavily shifting towards prints and pattern; I feel this makes sense being an Illustrator, but also, I'm a lot of fun doing it. Below are some photos that were taken by the artist Steven Chu.We collaborated to come up with some ideas that were strangely, playful and beautiful. I created the props using paper and foam core board, and then silkscreened my prints onto them. Also, I created some sculptureal pieces that were cut, sewn and stuffed to created a kind of visceral toy chain, in one of the shoots. Thank you to Mikee and Glenn who were amazing models. The shoot was not easy! But it was fun! Thank you also to Santos party house for lending us the space. The Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair is on Sat + Sun, June 22 + 23, 11:00am-7:00pm in East River State Park, on North 8th Street, and Kent Avenue. I'll be selling some of my Tshirts and silkscreen prints. I hope to see you there!

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Peggy Roalf for DART through American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP). It was a Q & A about my work and process in reference to my commercial and personal work. Link to to read interview. And many thanks to Glenn Lovrich for photographing me at work in my studio.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last night I watched a documentary called Fame High. The movie followed the lives of four students who attended the prestigious (performing) arts high school, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA).  One of the students, a dancer named Grace Song, said near the end of the documentary about needing to commit to one’s art (and craft) everyday. This statement felt very profound to me because it encapsulated in a few words, much of what I’ve been trying to do over the past several years via my studio practice, but haven’t been able to articulate in such a succinct way.

Each morning I arrive to my studio very early, and begin my day. It’s quiet. I like the quietness. It allows me to center to myself so that I can move forward doing the tasks that I’ve assigned myself. It’s not always commercially related, but personal projects as well. I’ve wondered many times over the reasons why I continue to work on these self-initiated pieces instead of just taking the time off to do other things that I like such as going to the gym, exploring the city, and seeing friends; I mean, these personal projects of mine don’t result in any sort of tangible return, they don’t necessarily elevate my professional practice in an immediate way, there’s oftentimes no audience, nor do they inspire any kind of reward that would directly boost my career. For the most part, my personal projects allow me to manifest those ideas that I have floating around in my head; to give shape and form to my content. However, after watching the documentary I realized something new: that my decision to work, when there’s no work, to draw when nobody is telling me to draw, to sew when there is no reason for me to sew is because it encourages me to re-commit myself to my art and to my craft of making things.

To re-commit doesn’t mean that I’ve fallen out of love with what I’ve done and need to proclaim my reconnection to it, rather re-committing simply means that I continue to love what I do, and through this love helps me to see the importance and neccessity of the work (which is oftentimes repetitive in nature) and the discipline that is required if I want to continue to make this (art) a long and fruitful part of life. I know how easily it can be to become lazy and bored of drawing. I know how easy it can be to feel like giving up, to find excuses to see the worthlessness in wanting to create something that will undoubtedly be judged by others (for better or for worse); and if it’s for the worse, then why bother? I understand how challenging it can be to stay motivated. But I realize that going into my studio each day, and leaving each night is a form of the commitment that I’ve made to the art that I create. I tell myself all the time, that talent can fade; that this talent can leave me if I refuse to nourish it – the creative process that I experience everyday is really a creative ritual of commitment that I choose to practice every time I step inside my studio.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Talk at the Apple Store, Grand Central Terminal
I'll be giving at an hour long talk at the Apple Store, Grand Central Terminal tonight at 7:00pm. It's free and open to the public! Hope to see you there!