Tag Archives: turtle

a Russian New Year, a tattoo, & epoxy (oh, and my favorite photographs)

(new year’s day persimmons :: brancoli, italy :: 2008)

a Russian New Year. as i mentioned in my previous post, i am not a huge fan of ‘new year’s resolutions’ (even though i, myself, have agreed to make a collage a day for the next year. and yes, i am a couple of days behind :: how surprising! [insert sarcasm here]). personally, the new year really isn’t that big of a deal. it’s just another day on the calendar (albeit a new calendar). i think my opposition to these so called resolutions stems from the fact that making a resolution for the new year creates too much pressure :: and it has been my experience that unnecessary/unforeseen/sudden pressure tends to delay/stifle/prevent success. now, don’t get me wrong :: i fully support those that take the new year as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and quit smoking, lose some weight, and so on and so forth. as for me, i cannot set my own goals for success based on january first. i have goals in my life, just like anyone else, but reaching those goals is something i do on my own time. i have certain set dates for things i want to accomplish and perhaps they align with the start of the new year, but more often than not, they don’t. so be it. i’m ok with being unimpressive come january 1st.

(new year’s day persimmons :: brancoli, italy :: 2008)

i had the pleasure of spending the latest start to a new year with three fine people. a small gathering :: just as i like it (i’ve never been one to attend large new year’s bashes that typically end in disaster). one of these fine people is from Russia and her name is Ksenia (who is an incredibly talented girl who also featured me on her wordpress site some weeks ago – and i’m very thankful for that). this was her first new year spent without her family and she wanted to do something special for our small group. she made the typical Russian New Year dish :: a salad made from boiled beef , boiled potatoes, apple, onion, salt, pepper, hard-boiled eggs, and mayo. all of the above delicately diced, mixed together, and served at room temperature. we drank champagne and at the stroke of midnight (while standing on the roof admiring fireworks), we did something very special. something i’ve never done before. something that i would like to do every new year for the rest of my life. we scribbled onto a piece of paper a personal goal for the coming year. at midnight, we set the paper on fire and dropped the ashes into what remained of our champagne and drank it. it was so simple, so elegant, and so poignant. thank you, Ksenia, for making this new year actually mean something special. up until now, i’d written it off as an excuse for people to drink too much champagne and spend the following day nursing a horrific hangover (which, by the way, is really no way to spend the first day of a new year, is it ?).

side note :: [Ksenia just moved to New York City ! i wish her the best in that fine city and know she will kick some major a**, if she hasn’t kicked said a** already].

a tattoo :: so an old friend emailed me a few months ago. he was looking to get a tattoo designed for his back (specifically :: his right shoulder blade). he gave me a loose set of instructions and asked me to do with them what i will :: a grab the freedom-of-artistic-expression bull by the horns type of request. to most, including myself, this sounds like a dream job. however, as most commissioned artists/illustrators/designers know all too well – this ‘freedom’ is not as it first sounds. before you know it, the client is pulling in the reins and making requests that were not previously mentioned. this is the conundrum and fate that we face not just sometimes, but basically all the time (and yeah, for the record, it’s really annoying when (not if) this happens).

so, when he emailed me, my first thought, naturally, was :: ‘yeah, right. i’ll do it, but ‘freedom’ of expression ? we’ll see how long that lasts.’ i am happy to report that, in this case, i was wrong. very wrong. my friend meant what he said. he wanted me to grab the metaphorical bull by his metaphorical horns and run with it as i saw fit. he had no interest in artistically getting in my way. so, upon sending him my final design (which i figured would only be one of a dozen versions to come), his reply was filled with nothing but enthusiasm. sure, there were a few tweaks, but they were so minor :: particularly when compared to what i have become accustom to.

above is the final drawing for the tattoo. it includes (from left to right) ::  the Flatirons (Boulder, CO), the Space Needle (Seattle, WA), bennox (Russian for my friend’s last name), a cross (to symbolize his faith), the Eiffel Tower (Paris), the statue Oso y Madroño (Madrid), and a famous building on the Rue des Rennes (France). my friend wanted these images to be pieced together :: each image represents a significant place where he has lived. below is the final tattoo. the building was removed (most likely in an effort to save space) and a setting sun was added (most likely in an effort to achieve compositional balance)(excuse the red factor, this was just hours after the image was inked and his skin was still recovering) ::

in other news :: i have fallen in love. it’s, not his, name is epoxy. ok, ok. it’s not the first time i’ve heard of the stuff, but it is the first time i’ve ever used it. for the last few months i have been obsessing over putting a high gloss super plastic coating on my paintings. think of a generic piece of hardwood furniture with a high gloss finish. it is hard, shiny, and durable. i am not sure why, exactly, i have such a fondness for this sort of finish, but i do. it all comes down to personal aesthetic at the end of the day i suppose ?

so, i asked around. a lot of people recommended an array of varnishes or high gloss acrylic mediums. i tried more things than i am willing to admit and none of them satisfied me. none of them achieved the (what seemed like) impossibly high gloss hard plastic finish that i was after. now, as you probably know by now, i work at an awesome art store here in San Francisco. one of our regular customers is a sweet guy by the name of Anthony (of A. Aversano Gallery). i went to one of his openings some weeks ago and noticed that he finished his own paintings with this plastic finish i have been chasing after. when i finally saw him in our store again, i asked him what exactly it was that he used to achieve that finish and he walked me over to the sculpture/ceramic section of our store and pointed at this little blue box of epoxy..

i was elated ! more than elated ! and then i asked him for the details. and then i picked up the box and read the instructions. not only did this stuff seem complicated and labor intensive, it was also highly toxic. Anthony even claimed that he would wear a ventilation mask when he used it. i felt defeated and deflated. i have no problem with labor intensive activities (art is, after all, a labor of love), but when it comes to highly toxic fumes :: i tend to run in the other direction.

fine, maybe it provides a high so good that kids would rather huff this stuff over glue, but that’s not really my game.

with hesitation, i bought that little blue box. i had already made the piece i wanted to finish with it. when i got home, i opened the box. followed the instructions carefully, pouring this toxic stuff over my piece. covered it with a large cardboard box (to protect it from dust and to protect myself and others from its fumes). left it outside for a few hours (though it takes about 72 hours for it to completely harden). and six hours later i lifted up the cardboard box. i was expecting to find a semi-hard plastic mess – as was i expecting to release an abundance of toxic fumes. i was pleasantly surprised that the mess i had made was minor and the fumes were.. well, they were non-existent. now, this is my first time working with this stuff and it was a small 9″ x 12″ surface that i had covered. for all know, the toxicity was present, but i couldn’t detect it. within 48 hours i could touch the piece without leaving any fingerprints. at last, i had achieved my much sought after high gloss plastic finish.. however, a 9×12 piece is a small feat and i know i have to play with this stuff a lot more to really get a feel for it, but.. but.. i am in love. the finish was just what i was looking for and i guess its toxicity is something i can look past. i’m not sure how great that it for my health or the environment, but apparently i am selfish enough that that will not stop me from using it again in the future.

there is a photo to come. i gave the piece to my sister for christmas and because i am so great at planning ahead, i did not take a picture and therefore have nothing to show you. i’ve requested a picture from her and i am not so patiently awaiting it’s arrival in my inbox. tick, tock, tick, tock (insert twiddling thumbs here). [edit :: the picture as promised !] ::

as for my favorite photographs :: i have hundreds of pictures. i do not know the exact number, but it’s a lot – an obscene amount. up until two days ago, i had piles upon piles of photographs all over my room in various nooks and crannies. negatives here and negatives there. a few piles of unorganized CDRs. it had reached the point that when i was inclined to sift through a pile of pictures it felt as if i had just picked them up from being developed because i had no idea what roll of film i might discover. so i took it upon myself, about a week ago, to start sifting through my pictures. i bought some cheap plastic bins from the 99 cent store and began organizing them. after several days, i finally did it. i organized the photos, the negatives, and the CDRs (i love it when i get all OCD). i set aside a stack of my favorites and here are a few of them ::

wilbur shadow :: sacramento, ca :: 2010

holden float :: seattle, wa :: 2009

kate feet :: billings, mt :: 2009

laundry ciao :: luca, italy :: 2008

[nikon 35mm + color film][graphite on paper + digital application][google images][nikon 35 mm + color film]




Filed under design, illustration (both acrylic and oilt), photography

a very full car, a flying cat, and a cranky turtle

so i did it. or perhaps it did me. i moved to San Francisco. i say ‘it did me’ only because the drive down here and the nights of packing that preceded that drive were nothing short of stressful, but i am already looking back and laughing at all that ensued. it all started with my apartment. since i’d missed out on a few weeks of my life (see previous post), i was a bit unprepared. and by a bit, i mean a lot. my poor mom showed up to my place the morning that i left to retrieve my keys from me and i was in the middle of packing my car realizing, box by box, that even the best tetris player in the world would not be able to lodge all of my belongings into the back of my car (a Subaru wagon which is bigger than the average sedan, sure, but it’s not exactly the size of a moving van).

i am now sitting at my desk (yes, the same desk), but i’m admiring blue skies in October. as expected (or I should say as planned since i heard October is perhaps the best month in San Francisco – hence my decision to move down here during this month), the weather is blissful. it’s been in the high 70’s and low to mid 80’s all week. i even went to the beach yesterday. the beach ! in October ! did i mention that i am happy ? i haven’t been this happy since, well, living in New York City (three long years ago). and that is a fact. i was built for city life it seems. that’s not to say i don’t enjoy places like the midwest, log cabins, or the like (because i really do, actually), but when it comes to my place of residence – cities are what make me happy. true walking cities. cities that do not require a car. cities that bustle on their sidewalks for most hours of the day and night (ok, so San Francisco is not the sleepless city that New York is, but it’s a close runner up). and i will not take this opportunity to say bad things about Seattle because Seattle is not a bad city, it’s just not for me.

so, my car was packed to the ceiling with my belongings. it was packed so tightly that in order to close the back hatch i basically had to body slam my car. on top of this, my dear friend drove me down and had a small backpack and computer case he needed to fit into the mix which, sadly, made an already tight squeeze even tighter (sadly only because a small backpack and computer case really ought not make or break how tight of a squeeze one feels in a vehicle). now why would a friend be driving me down ? i told you about a little health scare i had in the beginning of August that involved seizures – well, said seizures prevent me from driving for six months – so i needed someone legal to get me and my stuff down there. so, my poor friend sits in the front seat of my car on that fateful Friday afternoon of my departure. i could tell he was a little irked by my car’s fullness (which also forced the front seat to be closer to the steering wheel than was comfortable for him) and i do not blame him. it was absurd ! it was embarrassing ! and my poor car was so heavy it was lagging from gear to gear when shifting and to make matters worse more interesting i was bringing my cat down (in her crate) and my turtle down (in a box) so they were both perched on the front seat (because precious cargo rides shotgun). it was just hilarious looking at the situation. so my friend goes to start the car and he looks over at me and says, “it’s not starting.” my stomach dropped. it may have only been 2:00pm, but i’d been having a bad day.

for one, i had not slept and once i realized that not all of my boxes would fit into my car – i just ended up leaving a pile of boxes in my apartment. since i am ‘so great’ at labeling my boxes, i had no idea what i was leaving behind and what i was taking (as it turns out, I forgot all of my underwear and all of my paints – I’m so special sometimes!). at that point i didn’t care. it became a matter of which box will fit into that space? not a matter of which box do i really need? i had only begun loading my car around 6:30am, about an hour after my cat had decided she needed to try her hand at flying by JUMPING FROM MY TWO STORY WINDOW at 5:30 in the morning. i spent thirty long, exhausting, kill-me-now, crying minutes looking for her. i had decided she was gone and was walking back up to my apartment in a wrecked inconsolable stupor when i heard a MEOW upon opening the door. as it turns out, she decided to scale the wall BACK into my apartment during those thirty minutes i was outside calling her name, crying, and repeating one obscenity after another. at least she was safe and sound and i could get back to packing, but i think i had roughly ten years shaved off my life after that experience.

so, hearing the words: “it’s not starting” fall from my friend’s mouth was not exactly comforting. i was just about ready to throw my hands in the air and admit defeat. perhaps i was not destined to live in that fine city 950 miles south ? perhaps this is all one giant mistake ? i mean even my cat was jumping from windows in an effort to keep me there and/or end my life early. so i looked over at my friend and said, “really… ?” (not that i actually wanted him to answer that question honestly), and he said, “yeah.. watch” as he turned the keys in the ignition. so i held my breath and noticed that his foot had not compressed the clutch while he was turning the car on ! silly boy ! he must be so accustom to his fancy automatic transmission he’s forgotten how to drive a clutch ! relief washed over me until i thought a little bit harder and, with hesitation, asked, “you do know how to drive a stick shift, right?” his face dropped. I knew the answer immediately. As it turns out, boys who grow up in the Midwest, apparently, do not learn how to use a clutch. and I thought they all grew up driving tractors ! silly me. silly, silly me.

i did a bit of driving. shoot me. but i had to. you hear me ? i had to or else I was never going to get to San Francisco. so, when the road became straight and less populated I figured it was time for his first Stick Shift Lesson. now, he may have grown up in the Midwest without ever sitting on a tractor, but this boy went to Harvard, folks. so, he’s no dummy. we went to a parking lot off I-5 and i taught him the basic concept of driving a stick shift. started the car in first a few times and handed the wheel over to him and i have never seen or heard of anyone picking up the skill so fast in all my life. within minutes he was starting in first gear without stalling or uncomfortably jerking the car around. so, we were on our way. and although when we reached towns I would take the wheel over when we reached major intersections and/or any sort of inclines – we made it work. sometimes we’d just pull onto the freeway shoulder and i would put him behind the wheel and he would start from there. after all – getting a car into first gear is the hardest part of driving a stick shift. once you’re in first, you can slide all the way up into fifth gear and just glide south on I-5 without a care in the world.

because we’d left so late in the afternoon, we stopped somewhere to sleep around midnight. since the car was so packed and since i’d packed in such haste before i’d left, i decided to repack the car. at midnight. in the middle of nowhere. yes, i am a little crazy. i met a jazz musician whilst repacking – that’s cool, right ? i didn’t hit the hay until 2:15am – it was an intense game of tetris i was playing with my car, believe you me – but i eventually won and we were actually able to squeeze my friend’s back back and laptop into the back of the car ! so, for the remainder of the drive south – i resumed my position in shot gun. a cardboard box at my feet holding my turtle and a crate on my lap holding my cat. i was even so successful in the repack that i was able to move the front seat backwards a couple of inches to allow my friend to sit in the driver’s seat more comfortably – i’m such a good host, aren’t i?

i wanted to share an even longer story with you and describe to you, in painful detail, my new apartment and the surrounding area(s), but this post is long enough as it is and it’s taken me nearly all day to write considering i’ve been in and out of my apartment and have spent much time applying to jobs and making necessary appointments. that said, i bid ye farewell and a fine evening. i will post again in a day or two once the dust settles (weekends are for dust settling – are they not?). in the meantime, enjoy this picture i took of the view from my roof ::

[google images][google images][iPhone camera]




Filed under design, illustration (both acrylic and oilt), photography