Archive for the ‘Shoegazing’ Category

My 2013 in Music and Everything Else

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

I don’t know about you, but for me New Years Day serves as a time of contemplation, a bit of relaxation from the holiday hubbub spent simultaneously looking back and anticipating the future. Unlike many recent years in which my life seemed to be in a holding pattern, I had an eventful 2013 filled with some letdowns (getting sick in February and being dogged with vaguely flu-ish feelings for the next eight months), a dose of the same-old same-old, and lots of delights. Here’s some of the accomplishments:

  • Debuted three new designs at LitKidsLittle Bo Peep, Winne the Pooh, and Sherlock Holmes. Also, I’m starting to see signs that this LitKids thing might become something other than a wallet-draining labor of love.
  • Related to the above, in August I addressed a roomful of Etsy users about the ins and outs of selling there (conquering public speaking fears = very healing).
  • Opened Pishtosh, Bullwash & Wimple, an outlet for selling quality vintage designs and kitsch. Unlike LitKids, this enterprise has turned into a quick, modest profit.
  • Read Pride and Prejudice and biographies of Pauline Kael, Flo Ziegfeld, Vincente Minnelli, and Willy Wonka actress Julie Dawn Cole.
  • Designed about a dozen manga books for Viz, another ten-odd books for various individual authors (including my spouse), a t-shirt, a personal branding logo, six theatrical playbills, and four or five projects that never came to fruition for various reason.
  • Hit ten years as a freelancer with all the ambivalent feelings about my profession intact (only now the competition is even younger!). I still haven’t designed or illustrated a Little Golden Book, Criterion Collection release, New Yorker cover, Taschen book, hip record album cover, or indie film poster, damn it.
  • Filed 90 reviews at DVD Talk. Best one: The Big City. Worst: Twisted Romance.
  • Watched five films in a theater, and 181 films (including documentaries) at home.
  • Listened to a lot of Cilla Black, Everything But The Girl and Margaret Whiting (the top three artists of 2013, according to my Last.fm stats).

Believe it or not, I also listened to a lot of current music over the past year. The stuff that caught my attention has been assembled into MRH 2013, a bloated marathon of melodic pop and retro-music of all types (videogame music, disco, psychedelic, soul, even a ’20s jazz cover from Bryan Ferry). After at least a decade of being indifferent to most new music, it came as a pleasant surprise that there was so much refreshing, unique stuff gaining popularity in 2013 – I mean, you wouldn’t find something like “Thrift Shop” hitting #1 in the immediate past, would you? When relatively tame, mainstream singers like Celine Dion come up with weird-ass tunes like “Loved Me Back to Life,” you know you’re in for an interesting year. Part of it comes from the fact that genre lines in music are blurring into each other – yet, instead of being a boring, awkward mishmash, the resulting music is kind of invigorating. This Grantland article by Steven Hyden uses the latest album by teen heartthrobs One Direction to delve into that, articulating the phenomenon far better than I could (the 1D song singled out by the author, “Little Black Dress,” truly is a fantastic blast of power pop, by the way).

Anyhow, the playlist. While some of my favorite artists are represented multiple times (Haim, Camera Obscura, Quadron), most of it is limited to one or two tracks per player. I kinda wish it was more concise, but at the very least it’s arranged by mood and feel – there’s a mini-suite of tracks produced by Greg Kurstin, for instance. Enjoy.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

LitKids in the Treehouse

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Christopher and I spent a few hours this morning installing a dozen framed LitKids prints at Treehouse Bakery, a vegan business located a short walk from our home in downtown Phoenix. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but don’t they look lovely?

I’m excited about this opportunity, since it’s the first time I’ve exhibited my own art in public since about 1995. Better yet, we’re mounting these pieces again in two months, at another local, independently run business. Locals supporting other locals – a beautiful arrangement! More photos from today have been included in the LitKids flickr set.

Come Shop with Me

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Dakin-like Indian man sawdust doll, $16.

Over the past few months, I’ve been squeezing in what little free time I have preparing another Etsy shop to serve as a companion to LitKids. This new shop is devoted to vintage ’50s-’70s objects. I decided to call it Pishtosh, Bullwash & Wimple, after the Jim Flora book. From the shop’s decription:

While the original screen prints of classic kiddie book characters at LitKids are my main creative passion, the objects for sale at PB&W are the kind of funky things that inspire me. Hopefully they can inspire you, too. Look around and enjoy.

The shop currently has 37 items – ceramics, plastic, vintage LPs, books and collectibles – with plans to add more. In less than a week, I’ve already had two sales. If the photos I’ve got with this post pique your interest, I encourage you to go there and look around. Pishtosh, Bullwash and Wimple will be mighty disappointed if you don’t.

Georges Briard Fancy Free covered sugar bowl, $20.

1960s shelf paper roll with sun and moon design, $8.

Shakespeare book with cover illustration by Joseph Low, $8.

Vintage 1967 LP with S. Neil Fujita cover illustration, $16.

A Cabinet of Curiosities

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Paul Steucke photograph of raccoon in tree, via Today’s Document.

If you peer at the sidebar, you’ll now see something that’s been absent from this site since 2005: a blogroll. Ever since the redesign, I’ve been wanting to get something in there that reflects the variety of weblogs I’m reading now. The problem with blogrolls, if course, is that blogs come and go and personal tastes never stay put for very long. For instance, it surprised me how many blogs I read five years ago that were devoted to junky pop cult collecting, a subject I can now only stand in small doses. Hopefully the sites linked here will stay around for a while.

The current blogroll is made up of personal favorites bookmarked in Firefox over the past year, things I’ve stumbled across at Tumblr via 4 Color Cowboy, and older blogs carried over from the My Big Fat Link Log 3 post of August 2008. The latter was pretty interesting, since roughly two-thirds of the blogs linked there are either abandoned or dropped (I suppose future historians will mark the years 2009-10 as the era of the Great Blog Exodus). On the other hand, it makes me admire all the more those who have been at it for five to ten years, or longer – thumbs up!

Maybe it’s the Pinterest/Tumblr influence, but great imagery is something I never expected to enjoy from others’ weblogs (some of which is shared here). Enjoy.

Photograph by Joseph Kelly, via Battered Shoes.

Book cover design by David Johnson, via Aqua-Velvet.

Photograph of teenagers in New Mexico, via National Geographic Found.

Shopping center architectural art, via damahadaman.

Bobby Hackett LP cover art, via Groove is in the Art.

Simplicity

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Last weekend, while cleaning out excess stuff in our garage, I came across this forgotten little acrylic-on-board study I once did back in the ’90s. Although the piece is somewhat derivative of Anthony Russo‘s art, it still appeals to what I’m continuing to strive for in art, and in life: simplicity. When doing art, the temptation is to keep adding on and adding on, when the most effective art (to me) continue to be the pieces that communicate an idea in just a few brush strokes or pen marks. Unfortunately, that concept is easier to think about than to actually do… but I keep trying.

That whole idea of whittling down a drawing to its essence also came to mind when I was perusing the illustrations for a piece of vintage paper ephemera that C. recently acquired. The imagery below comes from a booklet published by the Melamine Council to promote the proper use of plastic dinnerware. It might have been a lost cause in the ’50s and ’60s, trying to make these common household items look elegant and sophisticated, but in the context of this brochure it actually works – beautifully. The uncredited artist (or artists) did a masterful job of paring down the ideas of stylish living, feminine beauty, and cleanliness into simple – yet never simplistic – illustration.