Friday, January 28, 2011

Illustration Friday: Arresting Apple

"Arresting Apple" Inks on Paper / 2005

Illustration Friday has chosen this week's theme as "Surrender."  

My immediate train of thought when reading this was surrendering to temptation- which brought me to an older work about original sin.   This was one of the first works I ever displayed in a gallery setting at Alter Gallery in 2005 in Clarksville, TN.  I traded it to the curator, Miranda for some free framing!

Is the snake eating the apple, or infecting it?

(Click here to see all my Illustration Friday weekly entries)

Monday, January 24, 2011

In Loving Memory of Andy Casali III

Manatee Epic (for Andy Casali) inks on bristol / 2011
The arts and tattoo worlds lost a prince last weekend with the passing of Mr. Andy Casali.  Andy popped into my life about seven years ago.  Since then, we've traded art, exhibited art together, and of course, I had the displeasure of him drilling ink into my flesh on several occasions (the man was a sadist and loved his work.)  Casali was one of the funniest people I've ever met and we'd have to pause during our tattoo sessions for bouts of immense cackling.  Andy made me cry not in pain but with joy and laughter.    I was compelled to create an illustration for him in his wake and here it is for your viewing pleasure.

The manatee was a source of inside humor between Andy and myself.  There were a few stories based on manatee tattoos and we'd often joke about coming up with the most ridiculous ideas for such a tattoo that we could think of.  The imagery along the left side of the work begins with the great mother of creation at the bottom with a Dali-esque door coming from her (which is an element of the surrealist artist's work we both admired and Andy had tattooed a few times.)  The figure standing on the books in "ascension" is Casali himself with the mismatched socks only he could pull off.  Andy obsessively included the number 4 in his work, the reason behind it on the manatee's chest. All of these things will always make me think of my friend and fellow artist.  A common theme we shared was the idea of the light bulb in our work- rendering the inspired moment.  This piece will join my series of light bulb and lampshade-headed figures entitled Random Acts of Vibrance which I'm currently working on. 

Two of my tattoos from Andy (Left: Hurdy Gurdy Man holding my brushes in place / 2006) (Right: Buddha in a Flying Light Bulb / 2008)

And here is the process video of The Manatee Epic...


UPDATE 01/15/2012

Today is the one year anniversary of Andy's passing and I was compelled to translate an image I've had bouncing around in my head for the past several months.  Here is my portrait of Andy Casali III In Memoriam...

Inks on Bristol / 2012

Friday, January 21, 2011

Illustration Friday: Syndrome of a Down

Syndrome of a Down (acrylic on found wood / 2008)

This week's theme for Illustration Friday is "Dusty."  The first thing that popped into my head for this was my painting.  I don't paint that often any more other than for specific projects which call for the medium.  Several years ago, I loved to paint on found wood.  I had a couple of friends (one a house framer and one who worked for a company which built closet organizers) who would bring me scrap wood often covered in mud or sawdust.  I usually wouldn't clean the panels but rather take a Francis Bacon inspired approach of letting the grit and grime go into the paints to create one-of-a-kind textures.  Bacon is one of my favorite painters and he would often mix dust on the surface of his work with his fingers and paint on the raw side of the canvas where it hadn't been primed.  He was old school low brow!

(Click here to see all my Illustration Friday weekly entries) 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Top 10 Gangster Films of All Time

"The Hit" Inks on Bristol / 2008
Today in New York City, the FBI executed its largest one-day bust on organized crime in history.  127 people were arrested in connection with organized crime- that's a pretty large-scale operation.  A small business in the United States averages about 25 employees with wages under $50,000 per year.  Frank Lewis (American Gangster) was worth over $50 million.

This is just one reason we're crazy about Gangster cinema in America.  Money is glamorous baby and people will go to extremes to secure it (and its sources.)  Mafioso in all forms across the world for hundreds of years have protected their communities (often times against local authorities and governments.)  Gangsters are in a sense revolutionaries going against the grain and against the rules.  They provide simple but effective services.  If the local system of law can't do justice to a situation, they step in.  This is also also why eventually much of their action got focused on illegal businesses such as gambling and drug trafficking this past century (again, just providing a service where there is a demand.)

Cinema in America and gangster culture have a give and take relationship.  This is prevalent in literally every race and culture here in our little melting pot of a country.  Movies glamorize the stories of men who get rich quick in a morally questionable capacity... and sometimes they don't make it look too hard (especially if you got the guns.)  I find it no coincidence that the sale of certain brand firearms in our country among inner city youth skyrockets as they are represented through various entertainment medias.  People learn from watching these movies which set up entire business and power structures, leaving little to the imagination.  You can rent a half-dozen movies, take some notes, and essentially know how to run a criminal empire.  The more the stories are produced, the more films will get made about them.  Wild huh?

So here's my own Top 10 Gangster Films of ALL TIME...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Illustration Friday: Bacon 'n' Eggs

Bacon 'n' Eggs (inks on found card / 2008)

This week's theme for Illustration Friday is "Chicken."  You can't have a chicken without the egg (or is it the other way around.)

My entry this week is from the same series I posted from last week (click here for last weeks where I explain the series.)  

Human beings absolutely love them some chicken.  You can't narrow it down to any racial stereotypes either, since worldwide, we slaughter 70 billion chickens annually, of which we consume their meat and eggs.  Only tens of millions of these are breeders and all male chicks are killed at hatching.  So we are sexually biased in our choice of the chicken we eat apparently but these baby chick corpses don't go to waste.  Alas, we turn them into fertilizer and pet food.  That's right- we even feed our animals and plants chicken as well!

It is estimated that the domestication of the chicken began about 10,000 years ago in Southeast Asia.  Today, there are more of them in the world than any other species of bird.  In the wild, a chicken has a pretty decent life expectancy of 5-10 years.  The marvels of modern meat processing have that down to just six weeks now.  Amazing what we can do with technology and world-wide demand for poultry... kinda scary though huh?    A chicken only lives .3%... that's three-TENTHS of a percent of it's expected lifespan.  To put it into perspective with that same figure and same scientific method, theoretically we could harvest fully-grown humans in just a few months, right?  Good thing we aren't cannibals.  

(Click here to see all my Illustration Friday weekly entries) 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vote Teapot PASS IT!

The fever is sweeping the nation as all 50 of our great United States now have their own branches of The Teapot Party!
And why? Well, 'cause Willie said so!

People are volunteering and lending their time and opinions to let the government know the public wants and needs decriminalization of marijuana and drug reform laws.  Sparked by a recent bust of Country legend, Willie Nelson, the movement is in full swing!  Many free-thinking societies across the globe have never placed a prohibition on this natural plant which contains many medicinal qualities, both mentally and physically.

Local organizers and Teapot Party members:  Drop a line to with your information and which branch you represent so I can email you a print-ready file for use at your rallies and events!

Be informed, know your rights and get involved...

The Top Ten Reasons Marijuana Should Be Legal  

The Vaults of Erowid:  Cannabis   

Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics 

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Illustration Friday: Same Old 25th

This week's theme for Illustration Friday is "deja vu." The term is French in origin and translates to "already seen." Emile Boirac coined the phrase in his book The Future of Psychic Sciences around the turn of the 20th century. It is a reference to the compelling sense of familiarity which many people seem to experience occasionally throughout their lifetime. Deja vu is a very uncanny feeling when something about a situation triggers an ambiance in your mind that makes you believe you've dreamed about what is happening. Some say it's a simple glitch in the brain's wiring; some say it's a small glimpse into to the dormant portion of our mind which holds psychic abilities. Some people are more tapped into this than others . It's even believed by some that the feeling is us syncing into different alternate universes with different versions of our selves in the same exact situation. The only thing we know for certain is that it is a common unexplainable phenomenon which most of us experience several times throughout our lifetime.
"Same Old 25th" (inks on found card / 2008)

My entry for this week is from a series of illustrations I composed a few years back on index card dividers I found in my office. I've exhibited several of these in different shows themed around re-purposed materials and found object art. This work's character is in an exasperated state, probably after a uninhibited and uninspiring party and we get the feeling it's probably happened to him before.  The feeling of repeated disappointment led to the works's title listed below...

(Click here to see all my Illustration Friday weekly entries) 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In Memoriam: Gerry Rafferty

"Stuck in the Middle" inks on bristol (01/05/11)
Scottish rock legend and co-founder of sixties pop sensation Stealers Wheel, Gerry Rafferty passed away this morning from complications of liver disease.   Gerry's music has been with me since I was a teenager... and will always continue to make my playlists. He released his final album last year.

When I read of his passing this morning, I was immediately compelled to pay tribute through my craft.  The background of the cityscape in the reflection of Gerry's glasses is Scottish flags on either side.  Stealers Wheel got together in Renfrewshire, Scotland around 1972 and were considered the British version of super-group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young at the time.  The group disbanded in the 70's and Rafferty went on to score a #1 hit in 1979 with the love song, "Right Down the Line."

The clowns and jokers bordering the portrait are inspired by lyrics from Stealers Wheel's biggest hit, Stuck in the Middle with You.

"Clowns to the left of me; Jokers to the right
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Portrait Process: Leonard Cohen

I was running errands Sunday when I got a song stuck in my head.  Actually- just one line in particular from Leonard Cohen's "Anthem."
"There is a crack in everything-
That's how the light gets in"

This is one of my favorite songs from the author and musician next to Hallelujah and Everybody Knows.   I hadn't considered drawing a portrait of Cohen in the past but when the lyrics got stuck in my head, the gears turned just right to give me the perfect image of him in profile with a beam of light radiating out a crack in the darkness.  I couldn't get the image out of my head so I started working on him Sunday night...

I began sketching Cohen's profile from a picture off the net.  If I'm doing a larger piece with multiple reference photos, I'll usually print them but tonight was just a small 5 x 7 portrait.  I start out loose, just trying to get the general layout and spacial settings, them start hashing out the details..

After the sketch is done, I throw down my outlines in ink and call it a night after I get a scan (I had already been working on a much larger piece all day for an upcoming group exhibit.)

This morning I got back to the portrait as I erased away the sketch and got a clean outline for coloring.  This is the process I go through on each and every illustration.  When you erase the lead however, it dulls the outlines, so I go back over them when I'm done coloring.  So essentially all my drawings get an initial sketch and the outline done twice, the second outline usually adding much more detail. Now to get to coloring...

In many mediums, you go dark to light.  With markers, I've found it depends on the situation and I often go back and forth.  Most of the time I'll get my background done and then start adding my highlights to see where my light source will be.  You can't really add a light area over top of a dark one with my medium.  I lay some grays down first to get some depth on the "crack" and let the light in with three different hues of yellow.

 Next, I begin work on the clothes and skin-tones.  I generally use anywhere from 2-5 colors for a skin tone.  The hat and suit took four different blues and then a few grays to shade...

I work the drop shadow from the hat and then darken the background with another wash of black before adding some stars to match the suit (with a blue metallic pen.)  Last, I add some more depth to the shadow from the hat...

I went back over my outline to get things a big crisper (as I mentioned above.) Now I get my final scan...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

CyberCasualty: January 1: The Death of Hank Williams

The Death of Hank Williams (inks on bristol / 7in x 5in / 2010)
Last week I had the pleasure of illustrating a portrait of Hank Williams for JoeBot's article about this musical pioneer and wild man on his site, CyberCasualty. Williams died of a morphine overdose on New Year's Day 1953 in the back of a baby blue drop-top Cadillac.

I'll leave the words to JoeBot today [Click HERE for the article] but I have to say this- (and I think he'd agree) some men become gods in death and most of them go young. 

I met JoeBot when he walked through a couple of my art exhibits in Nashville.  Based on the content of my artwork, we had plenty of fertile ground for conversation. The man is good with words and has a way all his own of putting his commentaries down.  Being an illustrator himself, he also has his own line of greeting cards which will make you absolutely piss yourself.  Embrace the same joy I get of reading it all and visit him today

Also check out JoeBot's articles at...   Disinformation / Taki's Magazine 
Greeting Cards will be back soon at The Smiling Machine

I'll leave you today with Hank Williams' last #1 Hit... 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

SACRED TEXTS at The Tennessee Art League

My newest art exhibit, SACRED TEXTS opens January 8th at The Tennessee Art League's Premier Gallery in Downtown Nashville during the First Saturday Art Crawl. This show is nearly five years in the making, consisting of works created in 2006-2007.  I'm thrilled and excited to finally get this body of work into a public setting thanks to TAL curator Terri Jordan, who was very receptive to the concept of these pieces and was eager as myself to get them an audience.

Click and download the flyer below so you'll have all the details!
On display for the months of January and February will be selected works from two series:  Declaration of Tears; Trail of Independence (illustrations on pages from The Declaration of Independence) and Sacred Texts (illustrations on pages from The Holy Bible.)  All works are composed with lighter colors being used for the outlines of the subject matter in order to preserve the black text of the pages in tact beneath the art.  The themes sometimes compliment and sometimes contradict the literature on which they are created.  There is a story to be told with each individual work and I hope you join us to see these bright and beautiful images in person.

[Click here for my blog about the Declaration of Tears; Trail of Independence including an artist statement on my motivations and intentions with these works]
The Bear (left) and Dogfish (right) from Declaration of Tears; Trail of Independence
These works utilize Native American imagery on pages from The Bill of Right and The Declaration of Independence.

Sacred Texts:  Architecture
Sacred Texts:  Angel
(Certain works from both series of illustrations are composed on multiple pages.) 

I will have two artist receptions for this solo exhibit, which will be held from 5-8PM on both Saturday, January 8th and Saturday, February 5th during Nashville's Downtown Art Crawl.  (Please note that the January Art Crawl will be held on the 8th since the first Saturday is New Year's Day.)  I will be in attendance on both of these nights to discuss my work.  I hope to see you tackle the winter chill and get out to see not only my exhibit but all the fine arts which the participating galleries have to offer.

The Tennessee Art League
Premier Gallery (First Floor)
808 Broadway / Nashville, TN 37203

I've also designed a special book compiling the complete works from both of these series.  This collection includes the illustrations which will be on display as well as others which have already been shown in previous settings and found homes.  The Sacred Texts book is 76 full-color pages with artist statements about both series as well as the lore behind each individual work from Declaration of Tears; Trail of Independence.  A limited first edition (just 20 copies available on a first-come first-serve basis) will be on sale at the opening for $20 each.  Here's your sneak peek...

UPDATE 01/09/11
 The opening last night was a true success in many ways.  I had hours of wonderful and thought-provoking conversation with friends and art walkers alike.  Many thanks to everyone for coming out and seeing my work.  You breathe life into it with your eyes.

Some pics from this the opening reception Saturday night.  I'll be back at the TAL on February 5th for the next Art Crawl.  Sacred Texts runs through the end of February.

Two works from Declaration of Tears; Trail of Independence


My cousin Nancy with her daughter Rachel

My cousin Sam

"Bullet With Butterfly Wings"


With local low brow artist, Jeff Bertrand

Scottie and his squeeze made the ride up from Clarksville to see the exhibit.

Of course Elias bought The Beaver.  I'm glad it has a good home now where it will be so deeply appreciated.

With my good friend Dan, who put us up for the night with an after party.

Mr. Benji Walker, freshly transplanted from Knoxville, enjoying one of his first weekends in town.

Student Film Maker, Julian Herrera