Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Sewing Project
So what am I doing now?
That's what I'm doing.
I know, I know... it seems as though I flit around here and there, aimlessly trying on this art project, and that art project... letting go of one, only to replace it with another, but I've realized that this is the best way for me to work.
I'm nearly done my sewing class which I've been taking at FIT. My instructor is brilliant; no nonsense and strict, is a champion of hard-work, and softens to laughter; cracking a few jokes of her own from time-to-time. I'm learning an incredible amount in this class, and it's starting to feel as though a dream of mine that I've had since I was a child is beginning to manifest. I have to interject here, that I am not segueing out of illustration to become a Fashion Designer, or Tailor, or Seamstress (Seamster?). I have to announce this because I don't want rumours to spread that I've left Illustration.
I love to draw, and Illustration as much as it my profession, is still a passion of mine.
So there.
Don't go spreading rumours.
My studio practice purposely includes doing things, creating objects, and exploring creative disciplines which exist outside of illustration. I've sewn a skirt thus far, and now I'm onto a sewing a woven shirt (photograph above). It's nothing that I could wear, but it's the process of creating something new, which is entirely outside of my element, that continues to support my love in the craft of making things.
I think that some individuals have this fear of concurrently doing too many different types of work. I can understand the reasoning behind this. It means being designated as the Jack-of-All-Trades character-type, and being the Expert-of-None. I see this both as truth and fallacy because for me, at least near the beginning of my Illustration career, when I first gave myself permission to admit that I may have a future in this discipline, it was all that I focused on; which I believe was an important decision to have made. Having my focus on Illustration offered me a kind of direction to follow, which has continued to this day.
Having said that, I find in order to move forward, it means stopping along the way, to rest, to observe, to ruminate over; to do other things in order to be continually inspired.
The variety of tasks that I've given myself throughout the day, doing some commercial illustration some days, and then self-initiated projects on others, has introduced a kind of playfulness within my studio practice. I've written about this before, but I don't know if I've realized just how much it's meant to me until recently.
I was speaking with my boyfriend last night about this thing and that, and he mentioned that my work has improved over the last year and a half.
Without trying to sound conceited, I agreed with him.
It's important to understand how to distance ourself from our own work in order for us to view it more clearly. It's easier and even automatic for us to critique other people's work:
I love this.
I hate that.

Move this more to right.

Erase that area.

Add more of this

and that.

It looks too much like James Jean...

But oftentimes when I look at my final creation, I'm not always entirely happy. I guess this is obvious; we are ourselves, the harshest judges of our work. But it's necessary to find a means to move past this, and learn how to evaluate unflinchingly, this work of ours that is in front of us. My artistic exploration over the past three, or four years has become the catalyst for my work's improvement. I have read and listened to other people stories about the choices they have made (sometimes difficult) in order to become happier and more fulfilled in the studio, and as a pleasant fallout from that, have created stronger artwork. Just a few weeks ago, during my time spent at the Ringling College of Art and Design, a seed was planted in my brain. I listened to Chris Buzelli describe his decision (years ago) to spend more time on the execution of his paintings; to let go of those projects which did not represent the kind of artist and illustrator that he wanted to be (although they paid the bills) in order to devote more time on creating work that resonated within himself. And looking at mister Buzelli's work over the past several years, it's no doubt that his pictures have grown ever more lush, and mysterious, and beautiful and mesmerizing.

Distance allows for clarity.
Not the distance that is separated by inches or feet, but the metaphorical distance that we sometimes create to wonder about a particular situation, that allows us to analyze a move we are about to make; that moment when we step outside for a breath of air before going back inside to make a decision.
It's this distance between us and our work which allows for its improvement; staring at it, and embracing those parts of it that are good, but also accepting, reflecting on, and hopefully resolving the areas in the image that are weak. Of course, this can just be personal taste, and opinion; Illustration is, after all subjective. But on a personal level, I'm more or less aware of what I would like my final piece to look like; nine times out of ten, I don't come even close to the image that I envision it to be, which helps me to push further the next time. The same goes for my studio practice, the effort that I've put into projects, and the marks that I've made on those works that nobody will ever see has helped to make my work better. I have no proof, but it's what I believe is true because in the last year few years I have made choices which have been out of the ordinary -- uncharacteristic choices that I thought I was never capable of making; I've taken some risks in the hopes that it would (and will) continue to make me happy.
A happy studio practice means a happy Marcos.

I'm reading 1Q84 right now, written by Haruki Murakami (big fan! big fan!) and I was struck by a conversation that occurs between a taxi driver and the character Aomame,

" And also," the driver said, facing the mirror, "please remember: things are not what they seem."
Things are not what they seem," Aomame repeated mentally. "What do you mean by that?" she asked with knitted brows.
The driver chose his words carefully: "It's just that you're about to do something out of the ordinary. Am I right? [...] and after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before." (1)

(1) Murakami, Haruki. 1Q84. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I've Got a Ticket to Anywhere

Keep it quiet... people are sleeping...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, NY
I found out yesterday that I won the Gold medal for the Society of Illustrator's Institutional category. This piece is called Textiles, and was published within a book promo, entitled "X-Factor" for my agent at The Art Department. I'm thrilled. I've been working on a new set of fashion inspired illustrations over the past few months; this is one sample of it. More to come in the next several months (hopefully). It's hard to crack the whip on yourself sometimes when there's no one else there to motivate you. In any event, congratulations to all of the Society of Illustrator winners; I've seen some of the selected pieces... it's going to be a great show all across the board.

Friday, November 11, 2011

For I Am But One
I stand alone on grass of green
And poppies coloured red
Among the men who lived but once
Through armies they have led.
The crosses stand up proud and still
In cool crisp morning air
And hold with them both peace and love
Two treasures, so dear.
A sense of happiness prevails
Yet still, I grieve for many.

I gracefully float through the air
As leaves on autumn's day
And silently pass through unseen worlds
Though many only say
Have I forgotten times of peace,
Or remembered times of death,
Kept hidden how this life became
Let free of all the rest.
I am to live with no fear nor fright
Of what the world has brought

A feeling of sorrow is found
Within the shell of I
For our homeland is the grave
For many that have died.
Yet gratitude stands side by side
With that of deep sadness
Our land is now and forever ours
For these men have let it live.
For I am but one
Who stands alone
On grass of green
And poppies red.


I wrote this poem when I was 13 years old. It was for a poetry competition during Remembrance Day, sponsored by The Royal Canadian Legion. The drawing at the top of the page had nothing to do with it, I just found it in a folder that I unearthed from a box in my parents basement. I assume it was done when I was between 9-13 years old. I go back that far because there was a period when I was very young when all I drew were animals in charcoal pencil; strange, but true. I have always enjoyed writing, and in the past year or so have uncovered piles of stories that I wrote in elementary school. For years, I never paid them much attention, though neither did any of my instructors. They were merely assignments to all of us; assignments given, and assignments received. Projects completed, and projects graded. Still, I wonder had I nurtured my craft of writing further, if I would be doing a different kind of work nowadays.

Oftentimes I look to the past for inspiration, my own past. I get this question a lot: "What inspires you?" As an illustrator, as someone who works in a creative and visual profession, such works that fall into a similar discipline seem to naturally influence and fuel my imagination. But over the past few years, I've become much more interested in seeking out areas outside of my illustration discipline to rouse my creativity. I've even included thumbing through work that I've done when I was kid because that work (some of which were done as school assignments) carried with it a kind of honesty and goodness in way of process and intention. The stories that I wrote, the clothing that I designed, the pictures that I drew and painted when I was 10, 11, 12 and 13 years old have gradually become bellwethers for how I've chosen to work nowadays,

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A T for You?
Or Two for T?

I've spent the past several weeks, once a week, taking a sewing class at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). I finished sewing my first skirt a few days ago (it's currently being graded) and I'm starting to learn how to sew a button down shirt. Since I was very young, I've wanted to pursue fashion in some capacity -- let me rephrase this -- I wanted to become a fashion designer. I also wanted to become an animator, and a photographer, and an art director, and a teacher, and a writer,
It was no coincidence that when I first began illustrating at more a steady pace that many of my clients were rooted fashion and lifestyle. That's because this was the type of work that I wanted to create; not wholly, but it definitely represented a significant part of me that needed to be expressed creatively. I would go to clubs and lounges and bars very often. I did this all throughout my twenties, mostly in Toronto; buzzing at after-hours, warehouse parties, and whatever else was going on during that time. And so, this environment housed the fashion-type of influences and information that fueled the kind of illustration work that I did during that time.
But over time, like with many things done in excess, it shifted towards a place where the feelings that I felt at the beginning, lessened into a mood that was not as thrilling; a kind of law of diminishing returns.
I have always tried to allow my decision-making to be guided by my gut by paying attention to how I'm feeling while I'm working. Recently, it's learning how to sew, in a more formal way, and honing my silk screening skills that has lifted my studio practice to another level. I'm close to finishing a set of T-shirts, that I would like to sell in the next several weeks. Hopefully in time for the holidays, but if not, then no big deal. There's no rush, only hope that I can introduce this part of my personal work onto a commercial platform.
In the photo above is a T shirt that I made out of (cotton) jersey, patterns and all, completely finished on the insides with french seams. It's not the final prototype, but it's close, and it's done, but I don't have a photograph of it, yet. The image some of you may have see before, done both for the Spank boat party this past summer, as well as for Ringling's Illest event, was created here in my studio originally as an illustration, that I later turned into colour separations to be made into a silkscreen. I know these details are slight, and really, it may not matter to many, but to me, it's important to be aware of the craft component that supports a product, and artwork, design, and illustration.
I was listening to NPR yesterday, as I often do, and Annie Leibovitz was a guest on The Brian Lehrer Show. Near the end of her interview she said that "...(even).. if you have talent, it can go away... you have to nurture it."
True story.
After having worked 11 years freelancing as an illustrator with 4 years of art college and 1 year of university education under my belt, I'm conscious of staying engaged in my process; being mindful of how I choose to nourish my creativity, so that it will extend into longevity.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Illest of Ill, 2011, at Ringling College of Art and Design
I'm writing this on my descent into new York city.
I still feel a bit dizzy from time spent at Ringling College of Art and Design; I've always been this way. When I go a place for a few days, and then leave, I feel as though I'm exiting through a cloud because I try to immerse myself within that space that I'm in. That's why it's difficult for me to work in-between the events on my travel itinerary. I feel as though that work pulls me out of the present, and staying in the present is something that I'm striving to do moreso in my life, but especially when I travel. It's a gift that I try to give myself, but as with anything I sometimes I have to compromise and address other commitments unrelated to the present. It's the responsibility of a freelancer; and so flexibility becomes a virtue.
I'm ruminating over the lectures that I gave and listened to while at Ringling over the past three days and part of me feels a bit saddened that it ended so soon. As with any intense experience it's as though they press into me leaving a mark at my core. I'm remembering conversations that I've had with so many of the students, conversations that challenged my perspective of illustration, but also those which I co-opted with my own philosophy (of it) in order expand my view of this discipline. As I mentioned in my presentation, I'm a perpetual student, who loves to learn new things, so that I can move towards becoming that Illustrator who I want to be, not the one who I thought that I should be. Thank you not only my fellow speakers, SooJin and Chris Buzelli, for leaving their marks-- their words -- on my brain but to the students at Ringling who have inspired me as well.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Don't Look Down
I'm not sure if coffee tastes bad at 4 in the morning, or if being awake at 4 in the morning makes the coffee taste bad. I'm already at the studio, I've been here for almost a half an hour already. When I shut down my computer last night, I whispered to myself, "I just need one more day." This weekend I tried to finish five final illustrations; actually that's slightly inaccurate because I did spend a few hours on Friday tightening the rough sketches in order to prepare for the final (digital) drawing. My neighbourhood at 4am looks and feels very different when I wake up at this hour to go to work, rather than coming home from God-knows-where. Actually it's been several months since I've been to only where God knows, but stumbling home towards my bed with a sandwich in my hand feels very different then waking up and walking the opposite direction towards the seat in my studio, where I spend most of my days drawing. I'm eating a scone that I bought from a cafe that I have stored in a plastic container near my desk. I purchased it on Friday.
Can a scone go bad in two and a half days even if I put it in a tupperware?

I check for weebles.
All clear.

I'm wondering now, why I'm even typing.
I should be drawing instead of thinking and writing about it.
Be back soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Moving!

Here's the "Barf Monster" that I made using Processing to code the drawing and then to animate it. Part of me feels like I'm going backwards because my illustration medium is Adobe Illustrator, and I've dabbled in Flash and Adobe After Effects, so it's funny to have spent hours putting this drawing together when I could probably have done it within minutes using the aforementioned programs.

Still, the reason why I'm taking this course is because I want to know "how" things work. Why is it that when I put my stylus onto the tablet that a mark is made on the monitor? Curiosity is an important quality that I want to retain in my studio practice because it makes things go forward. However, the word forward makes me nervous because part of me is working on staying in the present, so flinging my thoughts and intentions too far into the future makes me wonder if I'm being dismissive of where I am right now; if I'm staving off the present to exist in some place that hasn't even formed yet.
This is where fantasies are created.
Or, it maybe it's goal setting?
I've wondered if it could also be equivalent to creative block; trying to do too many things at once, instead of focusing on one task at a time.
This seems almost counter intuitive in the age of multi-tasking, but I'd be lying to you if this never crossed my mind.
One of my favourite episodes of Ira Glass' "This American Life" is the one called "New Beginnings," that features Kevin Kelly who is the former executive editor of "Wired" magazine. He recounts his story as a young photo journalist who gets locked out of the place where he is staying in Jerusalem, and so he decides to sleep on the alleged spot where Jesus was crucified. Without getting too much into the details of it, he has a revelation which inspires him to create a type of experiment in which he is the sole participant. It's not a chemistry experiment where there are liquids, and beakers, and bunsen burners, rather it's more of a psychological one in which he strives to live only in the present for several months.

For most of my adult life, I've struggled to exist in the present.
Maybe it's because I come from a family where being in the present always seemed like a struggle, not because my parents didn't love us, they did very much, but it was trying to create a new beginning in a new place, and then to fight to exist on a level amongst our neighbours who always seemed to have
It's no wonder why Alice crossed over through the looking glass.
Social and economic classes aside, I understand how easily it is to become enamoured, or glamoured in a true-blood sort of way, by the shiny exterior to make you want to hurl yourself into its interior.

* You can see more of what my classmates and I have done in our Intro to Interactive Multimedia class at You can view the source code by clicking on the "Source Code" text to the right of the image. By the way, if you click on the animation you can make the water rise and the barf disappear. I know, I know... it's crudely done, but hey, save me the grief, I'm only at the beginning.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


This is from a previous post in the Summer of 2009 when I was invited by FITC (which produces technology and design focused events from Flash to motion and interactive art and design) to give a presentation at one of their conferences in Toronto. I assume I was invited because my art medium is primarily Adobe Illustrator, and some Photoshop, too. I don't claim to be any kind of expert user; admittedly, I learned how to use it through trial and error, allowing my own intentions and curiosities to navigate my decision to employ certain tools that would allow me to render my digital marks. It's very similar to how many of us learn new skills. I'm also fully aware that during those few times when I've given lecture-demos and workshops, that some audience members know much more "technique" than I do, which again, was the reason why I was so surprised to have been included in the roster of speakers within that conference.
Two years later and I'm finally (in a very basic way) learning the language, the code, the math, and the thought and working processes to create images that move, and interact with the user. It's a very abstract way of thinking for me. I was never very strong at math; my brain just never functioned that way.
Let x = my brain
y = math
x + y = cerebral hemorrhage
I have always been drawn more to subjects such as English, Visual Arts, and Music.
I categorized math as this cold and sterile subject.
And so I wonder, then, if I ever really gave myself a chance to be good at it?
Math is starting to become fun.
Fun is probably not an accurate descriptor at this point, but I hope that it will be soon.
Math is fun.
Can I say that?
Math is fun.
Math is fun.
I just spent about 4 to 5 hours this evening, working through my "Processing" homework assignment, as well as going to class afterwards. This evening, I learned how to program colours, and marks using, equations, and algorithms, letters and numbers.
Right now, it's difficult for me to follow along in class because the speed at which the information is passed to us feels very fast.
I wonder if it feels that way to the others who are sitting in front and next to me?
Math is fun.
Math is fun.
Math is fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Website (again)
I just finished making my new website. I seriously had to edit it because it was beginning to cause problems for users. It didn't work on iPhones, nor iPads, and I realized that the format was not showcasing my images the way that I wanted for them to be viewed. Although it's still not entirely complete, i.e., my "News" section is pretty slim, and I'm missing images in some other sections, I feel it gives a pretty good breadth of my illustration work.
I kept it pretty simple, using CSS to create a style sheet (courtesy of "CSS for Dummies, how-to book) and Dreamweaver.

Okay, massively full day today.
I'm out.
Enjoy your day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day One

My friend and I tried building a go-cart when I was about eight years old. He was a year older than me, if I remember correctly, and a pretty smart guy. I thought this because he talked a lot about things that I didn't know much about, like sex and computers.
He told me that I was born because my parents had sex.
I said that if that's the case, then his parents must have had sex too.
He said that they didn't.

The go-cart we were making was laid out on his driveway and front lawn as pieces of scrap wood, nuts and bolts, some other tools, and some wheels from a skateboard. I sat there and mostly watched my smart friend piece the random parts together. In my mind I imagined a wooden-box-shaped tub-on-wheels, coasting down Shady Hollow Drive like some episode of "The Little Rascals," or a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, but with me in it.


Today, I said out loud, "I want for it to change my life."
Those are strong words filled with so many expectations.
I've enrolled in three night classes this semester; two are in computing, and the third is in basic sewing techniques. Sometimes when I tell people that I am taking such courses, they ask if I want to become whatever professional person is assigned to that particular specialty.
Do you want to become and animator?
Do you want to become a fashion designer?
None of the above.
I just want to expand as person, learn more, and live a full life.
I think I've been coasting on auto-pilot for some time now. This is not to sound aloof or arrogant, or even ungrateful, but it's the truth.
Why do you want to become an animator?
Why do you want to become a fashion designer?
I told you.
I don't.

Well not entirely, that is.

I've always believed that one's art and craft are extensions of themselves, whether aesthetically or conceptually, and so as a person changes, it makes sense for their work to do so as well. Within the medium that I have been working in (Adobe Illustrator) my work has changed considerably; however, I find that the more time that I spend using this material (because the software is the material and tool that I choose to use) I'm becoming less surprised by what this medium can do for me.

Today I used "code" or "coding" (gosh, I don't even know the proper jargon to use) to create a digital brush from an online open source, I assume that's what it was - a brush tool? - and I also learned how to create a circuit and then program the board to turn an LED light on. I have no idea how this is related to illustration, but I can tell you that the kid inside of me is skipping right now. I feel like a character in Dave Hickey's book "Air Guitar," the kind of person who can talk incessantly about things in their life that they love: like books, and surfing, and music to others. I met one of these people once at a framing shop in Manhattan, who moved to New York City during the early eighties from India. He was the son of Master Printmaker, who learned about this artform from his father. When he moved to New York City as a young adult, he continued to work in this field through some chance encounter with a stranger who also happened to work in a printmaking studio. That's a terrible and anticlimactic short version of the story, but more than anything, I recall the life in his voice, and the excitement in his gestures. That's what it feels like when I'm learning how to code. That's what it feels like when I'm learning how to sew. That's what it feels like when I'm learning how to animate.


We never did complete the go-cart. I think in our heads we imagined it would be done in an afternoon, and maybe it would've been if we had the help of an adult, but it was just the two of us mining through the supplies in front of us that we didn't know how to use, nor how to piece together. Still, it was a good day to have our imaginations fueled and sparked by the possibility of trying something new, trying and failing and then trying again.

* The image above was created using "Processing," a free and open source software that can be found online at

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Come on Irene
The hurricane is expected to pass through New York City tonight. I've been loosely following the news and so far it's made it's way into North Carolina

This morning appears ordinary. Like any Saturday morning, there are random people walking on the streets performing their weekend routines, some are jogging, some sifting for bottle empties through recycling bags, and some milling on sidewalks, talking to friends and neighbours. The garbage truck passes by on its daily route, and the city workers push plastic garbage containers down the street in their blue uniforms. Looking towards the city, the sky is over cast - a soft grey with patches of lighter grey mottled together; I can hardly see the Manhattan buildings across the East River.
A mild breeze cuts through the humid air, cooling my sticky skin.
It's dim outside, but not unusual.

As for me, I just filled two glass jugs with water, and boiled another huge pot of one. I cooked a box of rice pilaf with raisins, parsely and orzo, and have pulled out the matches from the dark armpits of my kitchen cupboards. My headlamps and flashlights are in check from our trip to Costa Rica, my laptop and iPhone charged, and our green Jennifer Lopez LED lights are lined up along the tops of our black lacquered IKEA side unit.

...waiting for tonight...

This is by no means extreme preparation for an impending natural disaster, but it's preparation nonetheless. We have a few canned food items laying around in our kitchen, but not too many. In the age of urban farming, and farmer's markets, organic this-and-that sans pesticides and preservatives, our kitchen is packed mostly with stuff that will go bad in a few days if the power goes out. Still we do have some peanut butter, rice cakes, nuts and seeds, and canned salmon, if necessary. Oh, and of course lots of filtered water, lemonade, and rice pilaf.

Emergency provisions at a supermodel concentration camp.

I laughed for a moment while I was mentally preparing a check list of the things that we would possibly need this weekend, but then acquiesced in my decision to do so.
I can feel my parents' protective instincts kicking in.
I wonder if the feelings and struggles that came from us having to flee Mozambique during the war trickled its way into my being. Not that I anticipate this hurricane to have the magnitude of any kind of revolution, but there's nothing wrong with having insurance, especially when it doesn't cost you anything, or much money for that matter. Some canned food, toilet paper, water, flashlights and batteries are not that big of deal to have in anyone's home. Fortunately I haven't grown into any kind of Chicken Little. Yeah, I'm uptight, and yeah I've been called names about being this way, but I know that I'm no chicken.
But, I am probably an ant.
And doesn't the grasshopper end up rooming with the ant near the end of that story?
Or does he eat the ant?
In any event, I'm by no means as prepared as I could be for a three day power outage, but two days?

*The illustration above was done for American Lawyer Magazine, "

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fail, Fail, and Fail Again

The past four months have been kind of an awakening for me. I've spent much of my summer thinking about what it is that I want to do beginning this fall; I've been playing and experimenting within my studio, and writing a lot too. Most of my time in Costa Rica was spent writing and just observing my environment. I purposely chose not to draw during my trip there, but did bring some supplies in case I changed my mind. I'm not certain about my intentions for doing this -- not drawing, that is, except that maybe my interest in keeping such a sketchbook has begun to wan. Years ago, I found it strange when I met illustrators who did not keep sketchbooks at all. For years, I kept one with me always; filling my moments with the act of drawing. Nowadays, I no longer do this regularly. I still carry a notebook, however, it's become filled mostly with words, scribbles and scrawls, glued-in photo collages and bits of other things that I find interesting during my daily gadabout either in, or outside of my studio.

I'm currently working on a few self-initiated projects, ones which I hope will have life further down the road. These projects are written, and drawn, and sculpted. I'm also enrolled in two computing classes where I hope to learn how to create interfaces which are activated by not only touch, but via sound, and movement. Obviously my investigations blur the boundaries of the label of the discipline within which I currently operate, and have built my studio practice around, but I do it because it's kind of happening on its own.
And so I allow it
to happen.

I applied to graduate school for Fine Arts over 2 years ago, and did not get accepted; I was rejected by three, and then wait-listed by a fourth. Friends of mine said to me that I should've applied to around ten schools, but I didn't want to. Not only because it would be more expensive, in reference to the application fee, but also I couldn't think of any other schools that I would have wanted to attend other than those four to which I applied. Coming close to failure is something that I am very familiar with, as I'm sure many people are. And perusing the internet, reading and listening to artists and designers and actors and writers speak about their efforts moving through the industry trying to get recognized, or to sell an idea, I find one commonality amongst many of the individuals, which is that they have tried and failed.
But then have tried again.

To sit next to failure can be an important seat because it forces you to stare at that thing which you hope can be one day achievable. The idiom "hindsight is twenty twenty" is used for a variety of purposes to explain the importance of gaining distance from a particular experience in order to see it more clearly and honestly. I use this in illustration as well, not metaphorically, but in a literal means, by which I stand away from the image that I have drawn in order to evaluate the entire composition as a whole, and then determine whether or not my intentions have been visually met through the arrangement of the subject matter within my work. Standing too close to an image means that the entire image is blurred, and even if I choose to focus on one part, I still cannot see the rest of the image clearly. However, positioning myself this close to failure is about making those mistakes, those blemishes more obvious, not because I want to exaggerate the negative, but rather it helps me to inspire honesty about what I have created. I love the Sunday Times "Openers: Corner Office" in the Business Section because they feature the CEO of various companies who describe how and why their company is so successful; I take it as pieces of advice.
The kindness of strangers.

Dominic Orr, who is the CEO of Aruba Networks, a wireless network company, describes the importance of failing through a lesson he learned from his mentor, Wim Roelandts,

"[he...] would give you as much as you could handle until you started failing.
He would encourage you to not be afraid of failing - because when you start
failing, that's when you know where your limit is, and then you can improve
around that... once you figure out a way to overcome it... you don't feel that
inhibition." (1)

I have taken the first steps in submitting a book idea to my dream publisher. It was rejected at the rough stage recently, but it's given me more time to fully flesh out my vision. To not view this as failure would be denial on my part because it is just that; however, failure for me is not a singular term, rather it's binary. Like other terms and concepts it can be coupled with its opposite,


try again.

(1) Bryant, Adam. 2011. "Corner Office: Dominic Orr." The New York Times. May 8, 2011.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Costa Rica Journal Entry
A friend of mine told me that if you see a hummingbird, then it's a sign of good luck. Part of me wonders if I take a photo of one that I'll hold onto this good fortune forever. We arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica late yesterday afternoon. Leaving the airport, the sky was black and swollen as if it was about to tear open.
This morning is beautiful. The sky is clear blue with tufts of clouds scattered along the top edges of the trees like white mountains on top of mountains. We slept beneath a mosquito net last night that wrapped around the perimeter of our bed like a lace turret canopy.
The sacred in the mundane.
Beautiful ordinary objects.
But really, how ordinary is this situation?
I hear what I believe are cicadas in the near distance, but I wonder if it's my mind trying to make sense of unknown sounds. It's a kind of electronic buzz that gets louder and then softer and then abruptly fades away into silence. I'm staring into the greenery trying to see what type of animal is making this sound, a bird?
There's a high whistling screech coming from somewhere behind me, and when I turn around it's as if the sound has been thrown the opposite way.
Something responds.
It's like a bird song.
Unfamiliar notes and new tones play through the air that I find myself gazing into space trying to connect these sound-dots that I hear. There is no direction here, no north, south, east nor west. Everything looks the same because its all so different, and densely arranged next to each other. Over sized bamboo stand beside palm, which have grown next to banana trees. Our cabin stares out onto a canyon that stretches into forever. There are mountains in the distance which become a soft wall fencing in this paradise, but i know that there is even more beauty beyond.
I find that I'm trying to capture every new creature and plant around me with my camera.
Every time I take a photo of something I feel as though my collector instinct shows himself. Maybe I've become a collector of experiences?
Feed my eyes.
Feed my memory.
There are so many flying creatures and insects that I have never seen before. At first look they appear anonymous--generic bugs-- but as I focus my stare, and scrutinize them, I see new flecks of colors on their wings, and new shapes that turn into bodies.

Condition X Photos

Here are some photos from the group exhibition, "Condition X" at the School of Visual Arts' Westside Gallery. It was a collaboration of artwork from past participants of SVA's Fine Art Summer Residency Program, which I enrolled in about four years ago. The piece that I contributed was a sculpture that was a combination of various materials such as paper mâché, clay, plaster, chicken wire, and liquid glass. As mentioned, I continue to work on self-initiated projects alongside my commercial work; it can be incredibly daunting at times, but it's what I feel that I must do in order to continue to move forward in the industry as an illustrator/artist. Each time I walk into the studio, I remind myself that whatever it is that I do that day will become valid. In the past, I've trapped myself several times into the mindset that in order for my work to have any kind of relevant meaning that it must have an audience - ideally yes, I do want people to see my work, to participate with it, to ruminate over it, and to form some kind of opinion of it, for better or for worse - however, to have that pressure on the outset, that I should create for this end goal in mind is more of a hindrance than help. I've read and spoken to some artists who describe losing themselves in their work, that the concentration, focus and intention that is established near the beginning stages of a project spreads out into moments where the artists' processes become very much cathartic, such as in Yayoi Kusama's infinity net paintings (whose work inspired the piece that appeared in this particular exhibition).
Entering the studio and then leaving after twelve hours, but feeling that only a fraction of that time has passed is an irreplaceable feeling. I learned a long time ago that even though I chose to work in the creative arts that I could not rely on inspiration as a catalyst and motivator to start and finish projects; what we do requires a kind of work ethic that is similar to other professions, success can be determined by talent, sure, but the preening of longevity is decided by the willingness to seriously accept and practice the business alongside of the art, which doesn't only mean sending out self-promotions, and postcards to potential clients, but to consider what our next moves will be... and in my case, it's creating my dream projects even when no clients are asking for me to do so.

* The sixth photo from the top is fellow exhibitor George Towne alongside his gorgeous paintings.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

CONDITION X Group Exhibition at SVA,
August 6, 2011

This Saturday I'll be participating in a group exhibition at the School of Visual Arts, in New York. entitled, "Condition X" featuring work by past participants in the Summer Residency Program that focuses on human frailty as expressed through love, death, sex, vulnerability, and connection. I'll be exhibiting a piece that I began several months ago, one that had been previously exhibited at the Christopher Henry Gallery, but it has now evolved into something different (and hopefully new). I sound vague, I know, and although I thought about posting photographs of my process and the finished piece, I decided to wait until after the opening to do so.
I'm continuing to explore different media alongside illustration in order to express myself, and in this particular exhibition, it will be in the form of sculpture. It's been a challenging process, to say the least, because I have actually not sculpted anything since last winter, which was the first time in 11 years. I encountered a tremendous number of problems, and threw my hands up in the air yesterday morning when I arrived to studio and realized that I had made a terrible error during my construction of the sculpture (and left the cap off of my turpenoid - doh!) which caused me to think for a moment whether or not I should throw the entire thing away, but fortunately I was able to calm down and focus on a way to rescue the piece.
Sometimes a task isn't worth doing, if it's done easily (so says my boyfriend).
So again, if you're in town and want to swing by the opening please feel free.
Here's the addy:
Westside Gallery, School of Visual Arts
141 West 21 St
Ground Floor
(between 6th and 7th avenues)
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Reception: 5-8pm

Sunday, July 17, 2011

You Came In With The Breeze

Sunday morning is favourite moment of the day. Since my boyfriend and I moved into a new place and now have a balcony, it’s felt even more special to me. I’ve lived in New York for what will be approaching six years very soon, and I feel that the experiences I’ve had here have been the most rewarding and challenging of my life, thus far. Experiences and relationships are extremely important to me, which might sound peculiar because I spend most of my time working alone, or alongside my interns creating both my commercial and personal work. I seldom see my friends, even those who I miss because of the time that I spend relating to my work in the studio. I have a tendency to fling myself wildly into a project, especially if it excites me, because these moments don't happen to me very often. I wonder if all the time that I spend alone causes me to wonder about things so much, or if it’s my constant wondering about things that pushes me to want to be alone.

"There are clinking glass sounds a few balconies below across the street. A tree blocks my view, but I assume it might be someone in the neighbourhood collecting bottles for change. The subway passes along the above street track, and the rattling and buzz of the wheels grinding against the steel rails makes me think of waves crashing along the beach."

The way that I work sometimes conflicts with how I describe my process. I speak about the importance of personal work and nurturing experiences within the present -- not being so precious with my final product, and embracing the idea that I can still create pictures, and art pieces for no audience other than myself. However, these creations as immediate and ephemeral as they might seem, are still tied to the future. It’s a strange dichotomy, to believe one thing, but also have this belief flex and depend on the intention of something else. When I work on personal projects, when I experiment and explore new media, or even when I choose to not finish a particular piece, these actions, these practices which are rooted in the present are done for a reason - yes, it's to have fun and to keep my practice fresh, but I also do it to affect (and expand) the future outcome of my work.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post (I think) grey is a terrible colour for me, and even more of a terrible figurative space for me to exist in. Black and white has always offered me more structure, and a kind of steadfast loyalty. When I give myself definitive rules, then it means my expectations can be met for the most part because I am the one who decides on these rules; however, once I introduce an unknown component, I can feel myself become a bit unsteady. In my career, I have been fortunate so far to have had a constant, that is my commercial art; my personal work is the unknown. I have learned from various sources how to promote my commercial art in a such a way to grant me some kind of stability within my business (i.e. compiling a mailing list, sending out promos, creating a website etc.) which is why I view this part of my profession to be constant because there is a kind of logic and method within the daily operations (of my business). That said, trying to bring my work to the next level requires more energy, strategy, and risk. These latter two properties become the variables. I don’t know what types of concepts will be received successfully by an audience, nor do I have any clue on whether or not a body of work that I am working to resolve will have any merit within the eyes of creative figureheads, but I know that this (personal) work must be done because ultimately, I do want for some of it to receive positive exposure. Grace Coddington, who is the genius Creative Director at Vogue said in the documentary, “The September Issue” (which I have seen about ten times already) that, “there needs to be a place to show… [my]…work, otherwise it’s not valid.” And in many ways I agree with her. Not that I believe this to be a blanketed statement, but a crucial part of me does conceive this to be true, otherwise I wouldn’t be a commercial artist. I want people to see my work, I want them to wonder about it, I want my audience to be engaged visually by it as well. And so, even though I sometimes describe myself as wistfully playing in the studio -- directionless and uncertain -- creating pieces that people might not ever see, I eventually want to arrive to point in which these pieces will be shown to the public regardless of how they fit inside the parameters of my body of work with which people are familiar.

"I went to sleep late last night, after 3:00am, and woke up just before 9:00am.

The mornings that I spent in Xalapa have entered my mind again; I can see them dodging in and out of my brain like children playing hide and seek. It’s coaxing in other memories that I have, specifically those about the time when I went to Europe. I don’t know why they’re here today, maybe I’ve been thinking too much -- working too hard, but these are the thoughts that are with me this morning."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Little Big Chinese Face

I'm becoming a bit obsessed with After Effects, but this is the best way I that I learn - through trial and error. This is not to suggest that I am not busy with my commercial assignments - in fact it's the very opposite, I am very busy. I have 1 illustration due on Monday + 4 pencil sketches, and 1 revised sketch, and then another 2 final illustrations which are due on Wednesday and another 4 due the following Monday and then another 2 due a few days after that, not to mention that I have night school, and a sculpture workshop to fit somewhere in between all of that, and a group show to prepare for on August 6th, at the School of Visual Arts.
But this is the only way that I know how to get my time in when it comes to playfully exploring new media, techniques and concepts: after hours, between jobs, or very early in the morning.
(Sometimes I get to the studio around 7:00am)
At this point in my career I have no desire not to create.
But at the same time because I want to take my career to the next level, I'm forced to create.
Well, forced is a bit of a melodramatic description, and it suggests something negative also, but it's not this way at all. This extra work that I do, this personal work is really what will help me to convince clients and the industry that my work is still relevant. I'd be lying if I said to you that I don't think about a time in the future when work will slow down incredibly. The thing is that I want to know that I am doing everything within my power to ensure that day will arrive later than sooner. I sounds paranoid, don't I?
To me I think I'm being responsible and realistic.
As I said, I want to take my career to the next level, and after ruminating over my options which have been informed by my experience and speaking to several people who I trust, I can't rely on anyone else to do it for me. Yeah, there are agents out there, but honestly I have lost faith in them. That's not to say that there aren't any good ones out there, rather it's just that I haven't found anyone with whom I have been able to partner successfully. The way that I see it is that nobody cares about my work more than I do. Agents can say that they do, but if they represent between 30 and 80 illustrators, then explain to me how they could possible spend as much time pushing your work, as you could do on your own. Yeah, they have connections, some better than others, but in my experience, it always comes to a point where you end up just sitting like some horse in a stable ready to race, but not knowing when your race day will arrive.

I create illustrations for both the love of it, and for the money that it provides for me. It's not wholly an artform to me, it's also my profession, my job, my work. If I could choose only the former, to illustrate for the love of it, then I would; however, it's impossible, at least for me (I don't have the courage) to only focus on projects that I want to create for the sheer fun of it because of all life's bills.
telephone bills
and after all they're all paid, then maybe baby I can chill.

* btw, that's my nasally frog voice reading an excerpt from a written piece of mine. And yes, the timing of the animation is off and looks sort of mash-up, but it's a start...
Play Play Play

Recently, I've been exploring animation. It was one of my first loves alongside drawing. When I was about 4 or 5 years old I used to make my own flip books. I would scribble within the margins of whatever thick book I could find and draw a car driving from left to right, onto a ramp which sent it flying into the air, and finally landing on a pile of poop. I thought this was incredibly funny, and I would draw this over and over again adjusting the style of car, and how large the piles of poop were, and finally how messy the aftermath of such a stunt would be.
C'mon, that's so funny.
...isn't it?...
The pieces above were done in both traditional (classical) animation in which separate drawings were done and then shot using a camera, and Adobe After Effects. It's ridiculously cool the amount of ideas that are circulating in my head right now, in reference to what I want to do with my work. Not that I have any prospective clients or individuals to pitch possible animated projects, but I'm really at the stage in a new part of my career? where I believe being playful and curious will take me to the next stage.
As for what stage I'm referring to?
Don't ask.
I've been thinking about it.
Once I have the words to describe it, then it will make the direction of the course that I'm moving in much clearer and will help to focus my work.
...i think...
I've always been someone who operates in black in white; it's the grey that I've always had trouble with. But over the years my experience has taught me how to negotiate and compromise in a way that doesn't mean having to choose and let go of one thing for another; trying something new is not about preparing to let something go later on, but about expanding on what I know even if it might not have an conscious, immediate or definitive application to my work at the moment. I compare these projects that I'm working on with conversations and dialogues that I have with different people.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

If You Never Try Then You'll Never Know

I'll be speaking at 3x3's Nuts and Bolts conference on Saturday, July 9 (at New York's Society of Illustrators) and will also be hosting a studio visit (in Brooklyn) on the day before. When I am asked to give a lecture, I oftentimes spend days ruminating over my past, trying to remember how things used to be. I have been working professionally for over ten years now, but it doesn't feel that way. It's easy to forget the past, and even though I pride myself on carrying some poignant moments that have altered me in, and in some ways, made me better? I still sometimes forget. Not that I forget the details of the things which have occurred, but rather the feelings that were present during those moments.
The beginning of anything new can be very daunting.
And so can the beginning of the end, or the beginning of a place that is in between the finish and the start of something.
But then again, if you never try, then you'll never know.

* I'm still learning the guitar during my drawing breaks - this time it's Coldplay's "Fix You."

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I still have a moment of thrill when I see my work in public unexpectedly. I believe this a good sign because it means that I'm still engaged and excited by what I do. I remember years ago in Toronto, I walked by a local clothing store and saw a series of illustrated figures that I had done for a fashion magazine, enlarged, redrawn and traced (without permission) onto foam core, acting as a their display window. It was very comical to me because I was still young then (although I would argue that I am still young-ish now) having had recently graduated from art college with my nose to the computer screen, drawing pictures and disseminating them into the commercial world, not knowing who was looking at them, what they were thinking of, or if anyone was paying attention.

Part of me felt like a fraud, curious as to why my work was being published, and fearful of when my luck would run out. I would admit to having been self-deprecating, not so much now, but definitely growing up (the fat-fag jokes I endured for decades were probably the cause of this) and so the reverence that I kept for realistically drawn or painted work - the kinds of images that I loved, but could not create - became the measure of the worth for my pictures. Viewing my drawings alongside those photo realistic images transformed my own into childish marks, and made them less in some ways, or as one client put it, my illustrations were "a glorification of The Jetsons."

But this psychosis of mine existed in the past, and although I still sometimes feel unsure about whether the next mark that I make will be the right one, I have softened to the notion that these uneasy feelings come with Illustration as a practice, and so, I let them be, instead of allowing them to fracture my confidence. The brain and heart are very different, and just because one speaks louder than the other doesn't mean that one is more correct than the other. At the time, my feelings told me that my drawings was less than. It felt this way because I measured it against the realism of the pictures that I judged which were greater than my own. There is nothing wrong with comparing one's own work to someone else's; in truth, I believe it's important to do so as long as one understands the reasons behind why a particular piece of work holds meaning to oneself, and why it has garnered recognition from others (even if I might or might not agree with the opinions of the latter). Competition has always been an important factor within my upbringing. Knowing who is ahead and along side of me, keeps me moving forward. That said, the issue that I had for years was that I kept my focus too much on my position within the pack, rather than on the experience of running. And so many moments were spent and lost in the obsession of uncertainty about the quality of my work, rather than taking in a few breaths to record my achievements.

* The last photo contains the Fiat Ad (mine is on the bottom right entitled "Style"). I stumbled upon it while I was listening to Pandora radio. As you can see, my tunes are fully rooted in the 80s sans apology.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"Dear Japan" Relief Benefit Art Exhibition
Saturday, June 4th, 2011 at Art Connect New York Gallery Space

This Saturday June 4, I will be participating in a group art exhibition to raise funds for the Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Crisis. There will be 170 Artists participating in the show and selling artwork between $40 - $200.
100% of the proceeds will go towards this relief effort.
The piece in the above photo is the silkscreen print that I am submitting to the show; title Flora, 4-colour silkscreen on Stonehenge paper, 8.5x11", Artist Proof.
Here are the details:
Art Connect New York Gallery Space
491 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY
Date: Saturday June 4
Time: 4-8pm

For more information and to see the list and work of the other artists in the exhibition, click on

I hope to see you there!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Buena Malicia

Excuse my mashed-up Spanish pronunciation.
Pardon the jacked-up B minor.
Forgive the squeakiness of my voice, and flailing fingers
... by the way here's some tissue... there's a bit of blood dripping from your ears.

This is what I do during breaktime.
* "Buena Malicia" by Carla Morrison

Monday, May 16, 2011

SPD 46, Gold Medal in Illustration

I found out this morning that the illustration that I did for Men's Journal, entitled "The Tiger's Revenge" (Creative Director, Paul Martinez and Art Director Damian Wilkinson) received the Gold Medal at this year's Society of Publication Designer's Illustration Category for single/spread. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees.
Below is the work process for this particular illustration. Note that in the bottom two finals there is a slight revision to the face and body of the tiger.

Amarillo Centro de Diseño

During the first week of April I hosted a workshop in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico through the design group Amarillo Centro de Diseño, which consists of Aída Aguilera Rocha, Juan Carlos Vasquez Padilla, and Joan Xavier Vasquez. Amarillo is a design concept that is comprised of a store, workshop studio, and gallery space. Many of the workshopees came from various cities in and around Xalapa. My workshop focused more on the process of illustration-making. Earlier that week, I also gave a lecture to the Design students at Anahuac University. To close off the week Amarillo set up an exhibition to showcase some of my work. The photos below are only a glimpse into the wonderful time that I spent in Veracruz, Xalapa, and Coatepec. Thank you again to everyone who made my time there so special. Hopefully I will see you all again! (ps. thank you Emy for the yummy cupcakes and for being an extraordinary translator!