Dream (1948) is one of Cage's earliest, 'standard' compositions for piano, (prior to his 'invention' of the prepared piano) is unbelievably melodic. The above version is performed by Stephen Drury and is on the recording In A Landscape: Piano Music by John Cage. The album also features another one of my Cage favorites, Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947). Originally composed to accompany Duchamp's Roto Reliefs in Hans Richter's art film, Dreams That Money Can Buy (below), the work is an early example of Cage's prepared piano technique.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
Typically, a casual trip to a museum wouldn't warrant a blog entry, but two things about the visit were surprised me; first, the museum was crowded (especially for a Monday!?) and two, Ed Rushca's 'Chocolate Room'. It's a rare moment that I find true inspiration within the walls of a museum, but Ruscha's installation, originally conceived for the 1970 Venice Biennale, really resonated with me. The work consists of simple, floor-to-ceiling sheets of imageless screenprints, using chocolate as the pigment. Here's the 'official' description from MOCA-
"For its debut at the 35th Venice Biennale in Italy, Chocolate Room originally consisted of 360 shingle-like sheets of paper silk-screened with chocolate and applied to the interior walls of the gallery space. Edward Ruscha was just starting to work with organic materials in his prints, using such unconventional substances as blood, gunpowder, or cherry juice instead of traditional inks. During the summer of 1970, curator Henry Hopkins invited Ruscha and several other artists to make a work for the American Pavilion as part of a survey of American printmaking with an on-site workshop. Many declined the invitation in protest against the Vietnam War; Ruscha intended to do the same, but eventually reconsidered. When Chocolate Room went on view in Venice, protesters etched anti-war slogans into the rich brown surfaces of Chocolate Room, leaving it to stand as a spontaneous anti-war monument, which Ruscha ultimately considered more effective than non-participation in the Biennale. In the summer heat, the heady smell of chocolate was particularly overwhelming and attracted a swarm of Venetian ants, which ate away at the work. MOCA acquired Chocolate Room in 2003 and silk-screens new chocolate panels each time it is installed."
For me, it's not so much the fact that Rushca has used an organic and unconventional medium (chocolate), but more the fact that the work is imageless/nonrepresentational. Perhaps most important of all, I have found the inspiration or 'validation' to continue my Seriblot series.
Excerpts from a soon-to-be published and rather in-depth interview with fellow designer, Nick Toga...his Q's in italics and my A's follow. Enjoy.Explain the career path you have taken from school until the present:
I was pretty hell bent on pursuing fine art from an early age. When I enrolled in art school, I chose to study photography over painting; painting was too old and I felt that it would be nearly impossible to bring something completely new to the historical table. Photography had just celebrated it's 150th birthday; that medium was 'newer/younger' and appeared to me to have many more creative possibilities. Graphic Design, as a major, seemed so dry, corporate and commercial, that I had zero interest in that field.
I completed my BFA in 1994, with a major in photography and a minor in art history. After graduation, I was able to procure a full time, staff position within the Photography Department at SCAD; which allowed me to remain within the academic environment that I cherished. I became shoulder-to-shoulder colleagues with my former professors and had unlimited access to every material resource in the Department. I stayed at this position for nearly ten years, all the while making new personal work, exhibiting (but RARELY) selling art at various galleries and museums around the world.
When a friend of mine moved to LA and opened up his own design firm, I came out to visit him and investigate the commercial art world. They were getting a lot of interesting assignments and I admired a lot of the work they were doing. I took a sabbatical from SCAD, temporarily moved to LA and interned for six weeks at his office. I had the slightly naive notion that because I already had a very solid sense of aesthetics, often driven by conceptual thinking, it would be a natural and relatively simple transition into a role of a graphic designer/commercial artist. For the most part, that turned out to be true, but I needed to acquire more technical skills.
At the conclusion of the internship and returned to Savannah, where I enrolled in a few classes to learn additional computer and design skills. I also started taking a few freelance assignments, trying out some of my newly-acquired skills. Shortly thereafter, I made a permanent move to Los Angeles where I started as a full time creative at a brand new firm. I stayed there for four years, working for an impressive list of clients that included a healthy mix of assignments from both the faceless, mega-corporations and the tiny, independent companies.
For the past two years, I have been self-employed, working as a freelance designer/commercial artist. It has provided me with much more creative freedom, but also the often-terrifying lack of a steady paycheck. I have learned considerably more about the business end of design; sometimes it's more important to be an effective salesperson than an effective designer. It's unfortunate, but simply a reality of modern business and I am becoming more comfortable with that. I undoubtedly have to take the less-than-desirable assignments from time-to-time, just to get the bills paid, but I often get the pleasure of working on some very challenging and rewarding assignments, too. It's also a refreshing change to be able to work with clients directly, instead of being an anonymous and faceless creative entity behind a desk....so I suppose that's where I am today.
We happen to know that you have plenty of experience screen-printing and obviously designing for the process, explain how this has helped you throughout your career.
Silkscreening was just an extension, or a more sophisticated way, of making spray paint stencils. I learned how to make stencils at a young age, and kind of on my own. I was really drawn to the way that you could easily repeat a logo or a graphic over and over; very quickly and on about any surface. I learned the basics of screenprinting in high school, but only with hand-cut, paper stencils. We never learned how to sensitize or burn screens or anything like that....
It's always important to begin any design process by knowing where it will ultimately live. When it comes to knowing any printing process and how that benefits the designing process: that's very simple. From a design perspective, one must obviously be familiar with the technical limitations of the given printing process; but the twist is how to use those limitations as an asset in the design phase. Discover and exploit the syntax inherent in the technique of reproduction, and those technical limitations won't be so 'obvious'.
What is the best/worst part of owning your own studio?
The best part, and conversely, perhaps the worst part, is the independence and responsibility.
Ultimately, you are responsible for every facet of the operation, from understanding and fulfilling the creative needs of the clients, to the ugly job of collecting money on outstanding invoices. Of course, the banality of tasks like keeping toner in the inkjet or being sure the rent gets paid aren't too glamorous, but that's part of the territory and I don't mind it. I never tire of receiving new business inquiries, because it's impossible to know who is going to call next. I savor the variety of assignments; from t-shirt graphics to movie posters; corporate logos to children's books, they each present a new set of challenges. Sometimes the workload can become overwhelming but it's rarely dull.
We have shared some stories about nightmare clients and bad situations you have been involved in, explain the difference in clients' behavior when dealing with a freelancer vs. 'a studio.'
When you are in a freelance situation, often times you play many roles: lead designer, account manager, producer and/or art director. You have to be versatile and never lose sight of the clients' needs or the target of the creative brief. You also need to possess the ability to bite your tongue from time to time as well as choosing your proverbial battles wisely. It's often productive to be able to interact with the clients directly, and not fall victim to 'watered-down' feedback that might happen within typical design studio protocol or hierarchy.
Describe the process you take on personal projects as opposed to client-driven projects?
The two processes are very similar, for me. I always like breaking away from my own formulas and proven tools/tricks, but sometimes the need to tackle an assignment quickly reigns supreme. I don't always have the luxury of time to have multiple 'false starts' and making a project deadline can occasionally be the highest priority. I avoid projects with unrealistic deadlines because it usually results in an inferior piece of design.
Working on a personal project, where budget or schedule may not be as restrictive, can allow for some vital research and exploration time. An excuse for a trip to the bookstore is always, for me, a welcomed excuse. I don't 'collect' anything, but I do have a real weak spot for buying reference books. And they need not always be the lavish, $200 hard cover, 500 page, full color book, either. Sometimes it's just some weird, anachronistic pamphlet on color theory or how-to on hand-lettering. Anything that brings inspiration into the equation, and gets my imagination going is always worth the ticket price.
At the end of the day, no matter the who the client is, I strive to possess the humble satisfaction that I delivered the best piece of design that I was capable of that moment...the on-going, ever-elusive goal is to simply keep growing as an artist/designer upon each one of those deliveries.
What made you get involved in art/design & who/what are your biggest influences?
I never made a conscious decision to get into the field of art and design per se; I was just raised in an environment where my natural creativity and curiosity was continuously encouraged and nourished. From the earliest moments of my childhood, I always had access to the basic creative tools; pens, pencils, markers, crayons, pads of paper. My grandmother took me to buy art supplies from about age 7 onwards and enrolled me drawing classes about the same time. My parents were also enormous and positive influences in my life; they gave me the freedom and empowerment to believe in myself and pursue my own goals.
As far as 'traditional' influences, John Cage has had the most significant impact upon my perspective and understanding of the creative world. Many of Cage's influences and contemporaries, including Marcel Duchamp and Bob Rauschenberg, fascinate and inspire me as well. Cage's activities weren't limited to only sound and silence, but extended deeply into printmaking, philosophy, poetry/prose, graphic design, cooking, performance art/theater, spoken word and mycology.
Within the world of design, I have been obsessed with studying the work of House Industries for years. They bring so much to the table with every project they do; reverence, craftsmanship, humor...it's all there to some degree. They also have the ability to shift between the low brow and the high brow worlds so easily; from Bid Daddy Roth/Rat Fink licensed material to the Neutra, Girard or Eames-licensed products, there's lots of integrity in each of project. They also possess an masterful working knowledge of print processes and make no apologies for mixing up the metallic inks and spot varnishes within their printed materials.
I also admire The House 33 line they did for a few years. It was really great and probably a bit too sophisticated for it's targeted consumer. House 33 was an exciting mix of esoteric and pop influences, blended with typical House Industries craftsmanship and humor.
How does Los Angeles make you feel in terms of design appreciation or inspiration?
I have a completely ambivalent relationship with the city of LA. I hate the traffic, as most do, but I love the resources that are available; music, books, museums, etc.. The city is big enough that just about anyone can find their creative and/or consumer niche, but I am not sure if I have discovered mine quite yet.
Is there anywhere else you would be interested in living/working and why?
I suppose Paris holds a certain mythological status in my mind, even though I am not a Romanticist. It's a city with a rich history in the arts and holds dearly to the simple pleasures in life, including food. It's also a very pedestrian-friendly city that seems rather utopian in contrast to a pedestrian-unfriendly city like Los Angeles.
Do you do anything to offset the sometimes uncreative projects, with personal projects or hobbies outside of design?
I am originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the 'Greatest Spectacle in Motorsports', the Indy 500. I attended the race several times with my father when I was very young. The sights and sounds of the those experiences were unforgettable and my fascination with motorsports continues to this day.
What did you complain about most while in school? In the design field?
To this day, my main complaint hasn't changed; "I'm broke all the time!"
What are your thoughts on a do-it-all designer versus a designer that is focused on one or two mediums of design?
I suppose I think of myself as a member of the 'Do-It-All' design school. I think that is because as I was 'discovering' design (doing my first skate 'zines), I had to do it all; shoot, process, and print the photos; conduct, write and edit the interviews; compose and execute the page layouts; handle the printing, binding and distribution...you get the idea. It's a bit of a mixed blessing, though; sometimes being spread too thin or not excelling enough on the most important ingredients.
I believe a designer should be as well-rounded as possible. Learning traditional draftsmanship with pencil and paper is equally as important as knowing the latest software and stylus tablet. The more you know about each aspect of each medium (web/interactive, motion graphics, photography, typography, etc), the more informed you can design within those realms; or, at least, how to tailor the design for respective syntaxes.
How do you handle the increasing demand for interactive and web-related design projects? Do you feel the need to expand your skill set constantly, or would you rather focus on print projects?
I don't get too many interactive or web requests, surprisingly, but that doesn't mean I would turn down an assignment that necessitated it. I have access to a pool of talent in the form of fellow freelancers who specialize in areas different than my own. I never hesitate to either pass a job along to a more, well-suited creative person or, bring them onto the project as a subcontractor to work alongside me. However, I do believe it's important to always be learning new skills and improving upon old ones.
(Above: ln progress view of Lubalin-inspired typographical sketches, JRF©2009)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Poweredge magazine was a small, but full color, skate mag that ran for a few years in the late 80's/early 90's. They provided a nice counterpoint to the other two mags in existence at the time, Thrasher and Transworld. They also covered more East Coast stuff than the others, so that was definitely important to me....anyhow, they're back and online. It will be interesting to see if they bring the complete archive to the new site and generate new content as well.
Above shot, Mike Vallely, May 1989 cover of Poweredge.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Element Skateboards released their fourth and final segment of Make It Count, a full length documentary film that tells the story of the Element brand. It's very well done and features interviews with lots of notables; Natas, Mike Vallely, Paul Schmitt, Andy Howell, Ray Barbee, Chad Muska and many more.
Watch the trailer, and/or select each of the four chapters, here.
Monday, November 30, 2009
ATTENTION HOLIDAY SHOPPERS!
Thursday, October 29, 2009
A new skateboard shop, Guilford Dairy Skate in Greensboro, NC, recently contacted me about doing some graphics. After learning about the building that houses the retail operation, a former neighborhood dairy bar, I immediately started researching the history of the now-defunct, Guilford Dairy Co-op. Fortunately, I was able to discover an assortment of vintage Guilford Dairy milk bottles, ice cream cartons and related items. Those objects, complete with their elegant and simple, 1950's era, agricultural-style branding, served as reference and inspiration for the graphic solutions above.
Thanks to shop owner/operator, Kevin Townsend, for tracking me down and giving me creative freedom on this project. Look for an limited edition series of boards and tees to be released by Guilford Dairy Skate sometime soon.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
(...it's been two weeks since I blogged, so I am a little rusty. Bear with me here...)
Do you live in or around Dallas, Texas? Then you may to check out The Art of Skateboarding, a silent auction fundraiser featuring 200 unique, one-off skateboards. The event will benefit the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital and the Dallas Arts Community and is presented by Nomad Arts and Hype Skateboards.
Many thanks to former Pool local and fellow SK843'er, David Chaiken, for inviting me to participate. Above is my contribution and donation: a one-off, one-color on natural finish, SK843 deck.
For those of you who don't live in or around Dallas, no word on whether or not remote and/or online bidding will be available for the one night event....
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Today, October 13th, would have been the 37th birthday of an old friend of mine, Jason Alan Roach. Jason was a Savannah local who was known to terrorize the Historic District of the city during all hours of the day or night. His agility and speed upon a skateboard was nothing less than amazing...his generous spirit and infectious smile was unforgettable, too.
His friends and family have started a non-profit charity in his memory, JAR Skateboards, which aims to bring skateboarding to at-risk youth. I have been doing what I can to contribute my time, designs, and archive of 35mm photography to support them and honor Jason. Above is a proposed poster design for JAR; a photo of Jason at Kevin Taylor's backyard ramp in 1990.
Happy Birthday, Roach!!
Monday, October 12, 2009
I received word this morning that Brendan Mullen, the soft-spoken Scotsman and the founder of the underground LA club, The Masque, has passed away. The Masque, which existed from roughly 1977-1979, debuted several notable bands including X, the Go-Go's, the Dickies, the Skulls, Controllers, the Bags, Eyes, the Deadbeats and many more. Other acts that were regulars at the basement venue were The Germs, The Weirdos, The Screamers, Dils, Zeros, and the Alleycats. (Above portrait courtesy of Swindle Magazine/Adam Wallacavage.)
Thankfully, Brendan's story has been recorded and preserved within the pages of Live at The Masque, Nightmare in Punk Alley, released in 2007 by Ginko Press and R77. In 2007, I had the good fortune to team up with Brendan on the design of the above screenprint, which used an assemblage of his original, hand-drawn flyers that advertised upcoming gigs. It was a real honor to work with him and I am grateful to have had such an opportunity.
Rest well, Brendan. Read the LA Times obituary here.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
In continuation of Hurley's 'Against the Grain' webisode series, this new episode shows the basics of making stencils. The whole sequence was shot at my studio, improv style, starting only with a few tools and some photocopies. The entire design was performed in front of the camera, right as you see it, without any planning or additional takes/shooting. Many thanks to the Director, Greg Roman, for making it nice and coherent with our first 'How-To' on 'zines, earlier this summer...check it out.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Back in February, I was asked to design a graphic identity for a new company, Poster Child Prints. The now-launched enterprise already had a few, key elements in mind; cherubs, banners, etc. Refining those initial ingredients was a bit of a challenge, but I made it work. I was also able to develop a number of monograms (which would function as an official print chop) as well as solidify the typography and the overall composition/lockup of the graphic. Above are a few snaps of the in-progress, final ink as well as earlier versions/sketches and related studies...and I managed to stay true to my blend of analog and digital processes. You can see the final result of this logo at Poster Child Prints.
Well, it's been several months of anticipation for the launch of Poster Child Prints, and now it's a reality. PCP is a new Los Angeles-based, fine art edition publisher that has assembled a rather wide roster of artists; Adam Wallacavage, Mark Mothersbaugh (of DEVO), Mike Giant, Saber, Dalek (James Marshall), Jim Houser, Friends with You, Cool Disco Dan, Taki 183 and many more. I am also included on the above roster and very proud of it...
You may recall that back in May, I shared a couple of previews of a new print design; Patience & Discipline, Patience & Discipline II, detailing some of the process. The prints, Untitled (Border Series), are sold only as a complete set of four for $60. The edition size is 85. Each print features artist-mixed, four colors, measures 9" x 12", is signed, and numbered and features the PCP chop on the lower left. The film for each print was also hand-cut (Patience & Discipline!). I hope to extend this series over the coming months as well as expand the physical size of the prints...
If you'd like to purchase this print, or view some of the other releases available at PCP, please visit their site here.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
(More posts about skateboarding!? Hey, at least it's not just another YouTube link!)
The folks at Pour It Now in Columbia, South Carolina recently invited me to participate in their upcoming fundraiser show. Pour It Now is an organization that is dedicated to creating public awareness and securing funding for skateboard facilities within the state of SC. You may recall that earlier this year, I teamed up with Pour It Now and Kevin Taylor to present a unique display of skateboarding and general creative activities at the Columbia Museum of Art.
From 1981-1989, I was a resident of Charleston and it's where I discovered skateboarding...above are a few photos of my contribution to the event; another one-off, hand-pulled, screenprinted skateboard, featuring my photos of SC skateboarding from the Summer 1988 issue of my 'zine, Streetscribe.
The show happens next weekend, September 11-13th, 2009 at Gallery 80808. All work, including the one above, is up for sale and all proceeds will benefit Pour It Now.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
The Station Fire, north of Los Angeles, continues to burn. The heat rising from the fire is so intense, that it actually creates/forms a pyrocumulus cloud, which was visible yesterday from the front door of my Silver Lake studio.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, August 7, 2009
(Whatever industry politics and possible corporate influence aside), this is tasty stuff....
and great a soundbyte from Laban Phedias: "I think it becomes more art once it's skated".
Was Ban This 1988? Or 89? I don't remember...I just remember how fun and original this segment was. Blender, Lance and O gettin' down.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
Most of the source imagery for the Hurley/H2O mural that was supplied to me came from
Machado's recent visit to a small island in the south Pacific. You can see some of the images in the scenes above, which is kind of interesting to me; to see a still within it's original, larger context. I am actually eager to see more about the forthcoming film, The Drifter.
(BTW-It looks like Taylor Steele is not putting together a typical surf film. Check the beautiful trailer, with Raconteurs' amazing Carolina Drama, here.)
Thursday, July 30, 2009
This is my final post about the US Open of Surfing. Thanks to the folks at Hurley for rolling the dice on my 'talents' and allowing me to challenge myself on this project. Thanks to Alex Chu for his great work on the documentation, time lapse and editing of the video, not to mention having to tolerate me for three days straight!
Check the video at the Hurley site here.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The 2009 US Open has concluded and as you can tell from the photos above, a few people turned out to watch the action. I was pretty excited to get this mural assignment from Hurley and pushed it as far as I could given the requirements and logistics of creating something like this on site. It was great to have the mural subject, Rob Machado, drop by at the end of the weekend to check out the mural and he seemed stoked on the results. I'd also like to thank Kika Madrigal, Jason Maloney and Adrian Nyman at Hurley, as well as Roger Gastman at RRock Enterprises, and the videographer, Alex Chu.
A few technical notes: the mural was executed on location, at the event, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; seawater was used to mix the wheatpaste for all of the collage. I also used seawater to mix the watercolor/dye washes as well as thinning/cleanup of the water based inks I used in all of the screenprints. The final dimension of the completed piece is 9' x 22' and is a combination of black and white photocopies, screenprints on colored paper, gesso, acrylic ink and chiffon. Several lengths of the semi-transparent chiffon, which we screenprinted upon, were glued only along the topmost edge, allowing the fabric to move and shift with the wind.
Hurley documented the entire process and will be releasing a webisode, featuring a timelapse view of the work, start to finish, later this week.
The waves at the Huntington Beach Pier this weekend were quite epic. Never have I seen such massively-size surf in person and it was amazing to see and feel the power of the ocean. I saw some swells that must have had 25'-30' faces. It's unbelievable that these guys and gals get out there and attempt to ride the lightning....
Here is a link (check it out at the 0:50 mark??!!! ) to the sickest thing I saw at the US Open of Surfing! But keep in mind I spent most of my time 'working'. I will have a full report of the H20/Rob Machado mural (that Hurely commissioned me to complete on site) very shortly...stay tuned.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
In progress studio views; commissioned, commercial mural for 2009 US Open of Surfing. Dig the amazing wood screenprint frames on loan from Hurley; how many prints have THOSE things made? (Thanks, Kika!)
And huuuuge inspiration from Bob Raushcenberg on the Hoarfrost vibe (detail photo).
The folks at Hurley have commissioned me to design and execute a large mural during the U.S. Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach. I am currently thrashing in my studio to prepare all the needed ingredients for the piece, which will measure 8' x 20'. I will be on location at the event this weekend, Friday July 24-Sunday July 26, creating the massive collage. Hurley will be producing a thorough webisode documenting the creation of the mural, so stay tuned.
BTW-I am happy to see skateboarding included at the festival site...
...I am trying to get rad here."
The boys of Black Sheep in NC have been laying down some skate sessions with the latest shop release. Thankfully, Justin Pittman 'got rad' despite the rather questionable deck graphics!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Artist, illustrator, historian, collector Sean Cliver is making the rounds in the press right now. He's promoting the latest edition of Disposable: Skateboard Bible (above) from Ginko Press. I have had a copy of the first edition for several years, and it's extremely informative, entertaining and of course, nostalgic. I can't wait to get a copy of this new one. There's a good interview with Cliver over at (***gasp***) ESPN.
Highly recommended for any artist/designer/illustrators' reference library and/or skateboarders' collection of printed material.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
You may recall that I posted a Coming Soon teaser a few weeks ago...well, Josh Frazier and his crew at Black Sheep in Charlotte, NC got it done. He also wrote a few kind words about our shared east coast skate scene...both the decks and the shirts are now available from Black Sheep at 704.333.1423.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
As part of their new Against the Grain webisode programming, I recently created a short tutorial on the dying art and craft of zine-making for Hurley. The whole sequence was shot at my studio, improv style, starting only with a few tools and some photocopies. The entire design was performed in front of the camera, right as you see it, without any planning or additional takes/shooting. Many thanks to the Director, Greg Roman, for making this a reality.
It's my hope that the youth of today will be inspired to continue the tradition. Have a look...