Friday, July 12, 2013


Here is a project that I worked on recently with Kevin Staniec at Black Hill Press. Kevin called me several months ago to ask if I would like to collaborate on a series of book covers for one of their series (of books). Black Hill Press is an independent publishing house dedicated to the novella - a distinctive, mid-length fiction. Part of the reason why I chose to collaborate was because of my own interest in writing; I've not been formally trained in the craft, and really my doing so, was for my own pleasure. Initially, I was intending to only post the final covers, but then decided midway through preparing the files to upload online, that I wanted to show some of the process as well. Much of my blog is devoted to the creative process that I experience in my studio, the psychological, emotional and critical challenges that I  face through my art-making. However, this time I thought it would be interesting to share some of the lead-up sketches and preparatory drawings that I created up to, and including the final illustrations. Kevin and I spoke a good amount about each of the stories, and our dialogue helped shift and guide my approach to the covers. Although I did not read the novellas in their entirety, it was still important that each one of the images be endowed with its own "spirit," while still being connected to one another. As an Illustrator, I believe it's paramount to be aware of those qualities about one's work that makes it special and stand out from his/her peers. In my case, I know that colour, a graphic composition, and creating patterns through the repetition of shapes and objects have become my visual communicators. The challenge then, was how to let go enough and to brainstorm in way that would make the images convey a kind of genuine feeling, rather than seeming as though they were formulaically constructed based on the conversations that Kevin and I had about each cover, as well as the judgements that I had about my own work. When I begin a project, I go into a kind of free fall, (thumbnail) sketching every idea onto the page, while still being very aware of what I am visually trying to communicate - yeah, I'm free-falling but I still keep an eye out for where I'm supposed to land.  It's a conceptual purge in a way, and for me, speed is important, so is rhythm, and so I have to use a tool such as a marker to draw at this stage. This method gives a heavy nod to automatic drawing, ala the Surrealists, not necessarily having one's subconscious inform the marks that one makes, but rather allowing oneself to freely draw without judging or editing oneself. Eventually, I have to trust myself enough to know that even though it may seem like a struggle moving towards the final destination, I understand that as I continue to draw, I will eventually arrive to the right place.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Studio Visit with Joshua David McKenney + Pidgin

Yesterday I attended a studio visit with Joshua David McKenney: artist, designer and now creator of “Pidgin” his modern take on the classic European doll. We sat down in his home and studio, cracked open a bottle of Lambrusco Rosé, and dreamt aloud;  we spoke about art and design, doll-making, illustration, creative transition, Mel Odom, Antonio Lopez, Jane Forth, food, and Olive Oil.
As an Illustrator, I spend much of my time alone in the studio, but occasionally I manage to get out and roam the neighbourhoods, stumbling upon goodies that feed my eyes and spirit. I’ve read many artists’ biographies and interviews in which they discuss their creative re-engagment with whatever discipline is their focus (when I use the term artists, it encapsulates all kinds of artful things, such as writing, music, illustration, hair, fashion, etc.). For me, it’s the stories of others, seeing and hearing about their processes, not only in reference to making whatever (art) piece they are making, but also the lead up and arrival to that aforementioned work. It felt kind of like a denouement seeing Joshua again after several years, and meeting Pidgin for the first time. I remember reading about both successes and failures while he was making this doll -- melted faces especially (the head, arms and legs are porcelain and so they have to be fired in a kiln) and so, I related to it much the same as any other individual who is close to whatever it is that s/he is making – and that thing which is being made carries within it all of the artist’s greatest hopes and intentions. Seeing Pidgin manifest in front of me was incredibly surreal, and inspiring. You can meet Pidgin at

Monday, June 24, 2013

YEE YEE + Renegade Craft Fair, part 2

Photos by Isabelle Derveaux
Last fall I chose to give my personal T-shirt project a chance; the line is called YEE YEE. It’s a thought that had been steeping in my brain for about two years, but I wasn’t sure that it was something  I wanted to pursue for several reasons mainly because I lacked the time that it would take to learn a new skill. So much of my life is spent drawing. It's become such a ritual for me, that I do it almost every day without question. But when I chose to enroll in my first sewing class at the Fashion Institute of Technology over a year ago, the time that I spent drawing became challenged by the time that I spent learning a new skill because I knew that if I wanted to become better at it, then I would have to spend time nurturing it. By the end of last Fall, I had completed two classes at FIT in sewing and draping, and partially completed a third class in pattern-making. Each time I finished one class and began another, I fell in love even more with the process and craft of making clothing. I admit that this made me nervous because the emotions I felt while cutting and sewing reminded me very much of when I was a child making art. This sounds like a strange thing to admit, but my worry about enjoying sewing meant that I would now need to build time into my schedule to accommodate more of it. And quite frankly, I'm a person who tends to spread himself too thinly as it is, already.

Yesterday I participated in my first public craft fair: The Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn. Over the past year, I’ve created modified Tshirts that I’ve cut, sewn, and printed in my studio, in Brooklyn. Much of it was enabled through the knowledge I had acquired via my classes at FIT, as well as the time I spent researching online and in books to acquire information that I wasn't taught in school. I also spent several months last year interning for a fashion designer in New York, where I met her assistant who I eventually hired for a few weeks to help me sew a few things. She, above all became a huge saving grace for me; having spent more than 30 years as a sewer in factories in China and in New York, she taught me things that I really don’t believe I would have ever learned in school. She streamlined my process, shared with me her knowledge and experiences in the industry, and questioned the intentions of my work. She spoke to me about manufacturing, mass production, and suggested various ways I could approach my craft. She asked me questions, many questions, and called me on my own bullshit time and time again.

I confess that over the past few months I've been wondering if I should continue making my T-shirts; to carry on, and to expand my body of work within this discipline. I think more than anything else, it was becoming a situation in which I was making things and then putting them off to the side as personal items that very few people would physically see, or touch, or pay any attention to. I wonder if part of me kept these things to myself because I was unsure about how they would be received. As someone who is just learning a new craft, it’s terrifying to put your work out there for others, for fear rejection mostly. Admittedly, when I was first starting out as a young Illustrator, I made many mistakes, to the point in which I’m sure that some clients would never want to work with me again. Not because of any type of personality clash, but moreso because of the quality of my work, or lack thereof. I reflect a lot on my workmanship in reference to my sewing; that each time I create a new T-shirt for example, I believe it’s better than the previous one, and so it makes me want to reach out and replace the one that somebody has already bought. But then I stop and realize that this is just part of the creative process: wanting to improve, and knowing that one's work will become better over time through repetition, practice and effort. We’re not born experts, none of us are. Sure, some of us are fortunate to be blessed with extraordinary dexterity within a particular discipline; some are born into families who are supportive, some wealthy even, who can help make the path to realizing one's artistic dreams much easier than if it were otherwise the case. But in the end it’s really about the level of commitment that one has with making one’s art, or design, or drawings… or T-shirts which needs to firmly exist if s/he is to keep forging ahead.

I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted to write about this morning, only that I knew I had to share my experiences from The Renegade Craft Fair. It was an incredible weekend, and the first time that I’ve ever displayed this particular work of mine in such a public way, to both strangers and friends. I’ve been trying to recognize the difference between this event, versus my experiences participating in an open studio or (gallery) art show. If I distill it into its most simplest form, it’s really quite the same: I’m sharing my work with an audience, which may or may not respond favorably to it. However, there was something very different about this event, and I wonder if it had more to do my wishing for some kind of sign or response, which would encourage me to continue.

I wanted to thank you for everyone who came by; friends and strangers who said hello, the conversations that I had with you, the exchange of inspiration, and creativity; the openness of those who I spoke to, who wondered out loud, and the encouraging bits of wisdom and advice that I received. You are all incredible. 

* the photos above are courtesy of Isabelle Derveaux, Illustrator - Photo Organizer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

YEE YEE + Renegade Craft Fair, part 1

photos by Steven Chu
I've been working on creating a few new Tshirts to sell at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn, this weekend June 22 & 23; here are the latest ones. I've expanded my Love Is Cool collection to include a "Full Floral T", and also a "Big Heart Tank." I'm heavily shifting towards prints and pattern; I feel this makes sense being an Illustrator, but also, I'm a lot of fun doing it. Below are some photos that were taken by the artist Steven Chu.We collaborated to come up with some ideas that were strangely, playful and beautiful. I created the props using paper and foam core board, and then silkscreened my prints onto them. Also, I created some sculptureal pieces that were cut, sewn and stuffed to created a kind of visceral toy chain, in one of the shoots. Thank you to Mikee and Glenn who were amazing models. The shoot was not easy! But it was fun! Thank you also to Santos party house for lending us the space. The Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair is on Sat + Sun, June 22 + 23, 11:00am-7:00pm in East River State Park, on North 8th Street, and Kent Avenue. I'll be selling some of my Tshirts and silkscreen prints. I hope to see you there!

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Peggy Roalf for DART through American Illustration and American Photography (AI-AP). It was a Q & A about my work and process in reference to my commercial and personal work. Link to to read interview. And many thanks to Glenn Lovrich for photographing me at work in my studio.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last night I watched a documentary called Fame High. The movie followed the lives of four students who attended the prestigious (performing) arts high school, Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA).  One of the students, a dancer named Grace Song, said near the end of the documentary about needing to commit to one’s art (and craft) everyday. This statement felt very profound to me because it encapsulated in a few words, much of what I’ve been trying to do over the past several years via my studio practice, but haven’t been able to articulate in such a succinct way.

Each morning I arrive to my studio very early, and begin my day. It’s quiet. I like the quietness. It allows me to center to myself so that I can move forward doing the tasks that I’ve assigned myself. It’s not always commercially related, but personal projects as well. I’ve wondered many times over the reasons why I continue to work on these self-initiated pieces instead of just taking the time off to do other things that I like such as going to the gym, exploring the city, and seeing friends; I mean, these personal projects of mine don’t result in any sort of tangible return, they don’t necessarily elevate my professional practice in an immediate way, there’s oftentimes no audience, nor do they inspire any kind of reward that would directly boost my career. For the most part, my personal projects allow me to manifest those ideas that I have floating around in my head; to give shape and form to my content. However, after watching the documentary I realized something new: that my decision to work, when there’s no work, to draw when nobody is telling me to draw, to sew when there is no reason for me to sew is because it encourages me to re-commit myself to my art and to my craft of making things.

To re-commit doesn’t mean that I’ve fallen out of love with what I’ve done and need to proclaim my reconnection to it, rather re-committing simply means that I continue to love what I do, and through this love helps me to see the importance and neccessity of the work (which is oftentimes repetitive in nature) and the discipline that is required if I want to continue to make this (art) a long and fruitful part of life. I know how easily it can be to become lazy and bored of drawing. I know how easy it can be to feel like giving up, to find excuses to see the worthlessness in wanting to create something that will undoubtedly be judged by others (for better or for worse); and if it’s for the worse, then why bother? I understand how challenging it can be to stay motivated. But I realize that going into my studio each day, and leaving each night is a form of the commitment that I’ve made to the art that I create. I tell myself all the time, that talent can fade; that this talent can leave me if I refuse to nourish it – the creative process that I experience everyday is really a creative ritual of commitment that I choose to practice every time I step inside my studio.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Talk at the Apple Store, Grand Central Terminal
I'll be giving at an hour long talk at the Apple Store, Grand Central Terminal tonight at 7:00pm. It's free and open to the public! Hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"Nature Boy," for Runner's World magazine

I’d forgotten how many memories are held within my muscles; that after years of having not done a certain type of movement or walked along a certain type of terrain, how my body remembers, and then I wonder if it aches for these things as well.
This morning I went for a run at 6:30am. It wasn’t planned; I just woke up and decided to go.  My neighbourhood looks different in the morning -- there’s a sleepiness about it that I enjoy.  During the day, it’s cramped and loud and at times very aggressive, but at this hour the blocks that surround my apartment exist within a kind of in-between : dusk and dawn, slumber and wakefulness, even the air that touches my skin feels like a blend of both cool and warmth. I don’t run outside very often, much of my running is done on a treadmill and although I think a lot about many things while I’m doing this, today felt different because today I was remembering.
I reached the track about 2 miles from my apartment and decided to run a few laps around it to increase my distance. I have an app on my phone that records the details of my run; traveling from my apartment to the track, and then around it four times, and back home equates to about five miles. The track circles a soccer field, and especially in the spring and summer time it livens with people playing sports, exercising, or sitting on the grassy areas nearby. When I ran along it this morning, I remember what it was like running on a similar track as a child.
It’s a strange sensation when present experiences recall past ones that can make those memories seem almost tangible. When I stepped onto the track, I felt a rush throughout my body, like I had set foot into a brand new world. I could feel the rubber track of the surface push against the soles of my shoes into the bottoms of my feet and then surge upwards into the rest of my body.  I began running faster and felt my posture change slightly, as I rounded back my shoulders and glided forward.  My breath pulsed out from between my lips and  I saw the bands of white on the surface to the left of my feet, and so I ran as close to it as possible without stepping over the line. As I rounded the corners, I tilted sideways slightly, and felt the muscles in my ankles and thighs engage, and strengthen.
I ran faster.
The last time I ran on a track like this was when I was fourteen years old, and competing in a relay race. I was the third runner in my leg of the race, and our team was competing against the other schools within our district. We spent hours after school practicing for this moment; building each other's spirits, learning the rules of the course, how to run more efficiently, and ways to pass the baton seamlessly to one another to sustain the team’s rhythm. We wore our school uniforms, which were blue, white and silver, and I competed on a huge track in the middle of a stadium surrounded by student competitors from other schools. I remember the feeling of exhilaration as I stood on my mark, waiting for that moment until I felt the cold piece of metal in my hand. And when I did, I launched forward into infinite, and I don’t think that I thought about anything else at that moment except for running.

Friday, March 1, 2013


I use colour in a lot of my work. This was not always the case. When I applied to art college, much of the work in my portfolio lacked colour. Colour mixing, and arranging colours together was for me, not very intuitive.  When I was in my foundation year, I enrolled in a colour theory class - it was a mandatory class, and my instructor's name was Renata Realini. She studied at the Bauhaus and brought her knowledge and expression of colour into the classroom. I have to confess that as a student, I felt as though the exercises were not very interesting, but in retrospect, I realized that this particular skill set could only be truly understood through practice. The assignments ranged from ones inspired by Johannes Itten's book "The Elements of Color," and also exercises from Josef Albers; mixing and painting coloured squares and placing them next to each other to see how colours changed depending on whatever they were adjacent to, and also, how its temperature would change depending on its position amongst other colours. We used colour to flatten three dimensional space, and made our own Vasarely grids to create optical effects. It was exercises on top of exercises, and although I was not able to see what was happening per se, my senses were slowly becoming attuned to this artistic element. 

I've been asked by many students how I use colour, and how they might possibly become better at using it. When I hear this question, I rephrase it in my mind into something similar to this:
"I'm afraid of using colours. There are so many colours out there, so how do I decide which ones to use? And how do I know which ones work best together?"
I think for someone who is beginning to explore colours, but is a bit nervous to do so, taking small steps by giving oneself restrictions can be a good thing; meaning that working with a limited colour palette, for example only 2 colours that are similar (or monochromatic) and then perhaps using third colour, as a highlight is a non-intimidating way to begin. How to choose these two colours is up you. Honestly, I'm one who enjoys keeping things playful in my studio, and although I do have colour touchstones (in other words, my go-to colours) frequently, I choose a colour based on the mood that I'm trying to create within a scene. For example, if it's a sad scene, then I might use cool colours, such as blues and turquoises. Or, if it's a scene that is bold and perhaps even aggressive, I may use reds, and solid blacks. As an illustrator my intention isn't only to render subject matter, but to also create moods and atmospheres. It's important for me to engage as many of the viewers' senses as possible, not only the obvious one, sight, but smell, sound, taste, and touch; colour for me is a good way to appease those senses. Once I decide on the mood of the piece, it will lead me towards selecting a base colour, or starting point. In the piece, "Death on Facebook," for The Atlantic, I chose to use blues as my foundation colour because of the topic of the article. A woman learns via Facebook, that an acquaintance of hers has died. Although there could have been other ways to approach colouring this piece, I chose to use blues and cool tones because I felt that these colours would best represent silence and the feeling of sadness. For my drawing "Scars," also for The Atlantic, the story was a fictional piece about a woman who has a mastectomy, and decides to tattoo this area of her chest with flowers. When I read this story, I gravitated towards the hopefulness, beauty and strength of the character. I asked myself, how can I make this piece both strong and beautiful using subject matter (flowers) which are typically aligned with a kind of fragile and ephemeral beauty? My answer to this, was to make the flowers bold while keeping the delicateness of them intact. The repetition through the clustered arrangements of the flower create a kind of soft armor that the woman sits in. 
"Death on Facebook," The Atlantic

"Scars," The Atlantic

I feel that it's okay to look at other artists' colour palettes (in various artistic disciplines) and apply those colours to one's own work. Again, when you're at the beginning stages of your career, you are still learning, and so by referring to other artists' colour palettes it will help you to understand the relationships between these colours. Eventually you will arrive to a point where you will have the confidence to adjust your colour palette, by adding or taking away particular colours so that the process will start to become more intuitive. I oftentimes refer to old prints, posters, and book covers for colour inspiration. My very good friend, Yuko Shimizu, describes the reasoning behind doing this as being a sound way to edit one's colour selection. When these posters and prints were created they were done using old printing methods, and so their limitations forced them to use only a few colours within an image. Oftentimes, I find that students are overwhelmed with colours, they see so much of it, and find it difficult to make a decision. Editing is the key, and referring to these modes of inspiration is only one way of establishing a starting point when deciding how to approach using colour in one's work. 

Another thing that I enjoy doing is drawing in colours, instead of using only black, or grey. Although this may be a psychological trick that I play on myself, it has become one of the best methods for myself, that has improved my colour sensitivity. Again, I would only limit myself to a maximum of two to three colours, and then use those colours to draw. Usually I would choose a warm and cool colour, for example a magenta and turquoise, where the turquoise acts as the cool value typically used for shadows. Choosing to remove black from my toolbox when sketching, forced me to work with the colours that I would have on hand, thereby making me less fearful (of using colour.)

What I've written has really been informed through my own experience, through trial and error, and was inspired by a recent question that I received from a student who asked about my colour use, and suggestions on how he could better his own. My approach reads as kind of formulaic and linear, but really I believe that colour is best understood when used with a kind of abandon. Learning by doing and experimenting is by far, in my opinion, one of the most effective ways to understand the properties of colour. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Illustrations for Target in Canada
For the past few months, I've been working with Target and the advertising agency KBS+P in Toronto, to create ads for Target's debut in Canada. Today they released news for the first time; glimpses into what to expect from their launch. Here are a couple links to more images and news at, and another from The Toronto Star. Stay tuned for more fun bits as the ads begin to roll out! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I fainted last night.
I fainted in front of my students, while teaching in class.
I was unconscious only for a short period of time, at least that's what I was told.
Only a few seconds.
I have no memory of it even happening; it felt as though somebody hit the power-off switch in my brain, and I suddenly collapsed. Not to diminish the experience but shortly before regaining consciousness, I had what I think was a dream -- and Britney Spears was in it.
Mikee said that she was my sprit guide?
I always thought that if I did have any kind of spirit guide it would be someone like Zora Neale Hurston or someone with the voice of Maya Angelou, or Toni Morrison.
While I was unconscious, Britney never spoke to me, but I wonder had she done so, if the voice of Ms Angelou would have come out of her lips.


Before going to sleep last night, I asked myself what I was supposed to learn from this experience. I sometimes do this; if there is a question which needs answering, I ask myself this question over and over again, until I fall asleep. 

I woke up with an answer.
Well, more like a question,

Think of all the things that you have in your life and how much they're worth. 

I'm 38 years old, and in what I believe is the best health that I've been in over the past 7 years. 

Although, I'm no spring chicken, I do believe it was chicken that may have been the catalyst for my all-day-nausea, and eventual fainting spell in the evening.

I wonder if I had been under for a few seconds longer what Britney would have said?