Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Space Cadets

I've been doing album art for the new London based record label, Space Cadets. Their first record just came out and the second one is on the way, both by the awesome electronic musician, Oak. Space sounds and cosmic patterns. I need to get a record player! Their website isn't done yet, but there should be a lot to see soon: www.spacecadets.co

Thursday, September 22, 2011

birthday art and insane gifts!

For my friend, Sean Christensen's birthday, I decided to make him the most "Sean" inspired picture possible. Anyone who knows him understands the resulting picture. I want to do more art directly inspired by friends like this.
This is one of my very favorite art pieces by Sean. It was in his most recent show, and I found myself obsessively thinking about it after I saw it for the first time. Every time I'd see Sean afterwards, I'd end up mentioning the piece at least once or twice. I guess I mentioned it one too many times, because he ended up giving it to me! It now lives in my house where I look at it all the time. I don't even know how to respond when someone gives me something so amazing. The collection I have of art made by friends is one of my most valued possessions. I'll have to post more of the pieces in my collection sometime down the road.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

invisible doors

I want to thank everyone who commented on my post about Dylan, and everyone who talked to me in person about it. It helped me to know that the photo I took of him was able to reach so many people who cared about him. Dylan's funeral was a day of raw emotion. It's hard to believe it was already a week ago. I felt like a lightning rod as I stood there listening to everyone speaking from the heart and from the gut about the friend we all held in such regard. I was unable to speak out loud myself; I felt mute and paralysed, but as we were all gathered around Dylan, I felt as if something profound and difficult was being achieved by each of us, standing together as a group. I've been carrying that feeling with me ever since, and even though I find myself unable to even articulate what that feeling is, I've been doing my best to use it as fuel for my work. The best way to honor someone who loved and valued art is to try open those elusive, invisible doors even wider, and follow my own weird calling as completely as possible. This is the photo I took at the Chapel of the Chimes right before Dylan asked me to take the photo of him I shared in my last post. I referred to it as an "unidentifiable animal" but now I see that it's obviously a feline hippo. I'm not much of a photographer. I'm always snapping photos, then never doing anything with them, but I had to search back and find this one, since it suddenly felt like an important monster to me.
A couple of days after Dylan's passing, I got together with a few of my favorite artist friends: Sean Christensen, Amy Kuttab, Daria Tessler, and Jeniffer Parks; all of whom have been encouraged and inspired by Dylan is some way or another. We decided to collaborate on a large drawing to give to his wife, Emily.
I've never collaborated quite like this before; five hands simultaneously working on the same piece. It seems like the result would have been chaos, but the image somehow achieved a strange kind of harmony. It's pretty amazing to have so many friends who draw. It's always been such a private act for me. It's funny to think back on how uncomfortable I used to get when anyone wanted to see my drawings.
Spending time with these other artists has taught me a lot about the relationship between individuals and their work. Each of these artists has such a distinct world that they build. Talking to them, and watching them work, I can really see that the art they make is a living, changing thing that is with them wherever they go, and it is a relationship that is completely unique to them.This is the closest I've ever felt to being part of an actual art movement. I don't know what I would even define it as, but I appreciate having people around me who are constantly working to reach new hidden layers, and unlock some new thing they've been feeling.

This is what I was working on when the news reached me of Dylan's passing. It's not done yet, but this piece will always feel connected to him now. It's part of an exploration of the idea of parallel realities, which I'll write more about when the piece is done. The first piece in the series was the one from two posts ago, titled "Outside Inside" which was in a show that just happened to be curated by Emily.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Dylan Williams Forever

I don't want to accept that Dylan Williams was taken from us this weekend by cancer. He feels too important and complex a person to somehow not still be with us. Ever since I heard the news, I've been trying to reverse the fact in my mind, and wishing I actually had that kind of power. For those who didn't know him, Dylan was the visionary publisher behind Sparkplug Comic Books, an accomplished cartoonist, and force for good in the world of comics, art, and culture. It's painful to imagine not having his necessary influence and enthusiasm here in Portland and in the world of comics.

Before I moved to Portland, I didn't know any serious cartoonists. Making comics was something weird that I did off on my own. I had been inspired and encouraged by the kinds of books that Sparkplug had been putting out and remember being excited that I was moving to the city Sparkplug was based from. Dylan was always putting out unusual books that made the reader have to rethink and rediscover what comics could really be. Sparkplug was proof that unique and unclassifiable work could make its way onto the shelves of bookstores and be appreciated. The existence of those books inspired me during a time when the publishing world seemed like an inapproachable beast. I met Dylan not long after my arrival in Portland. He was one of those people I immediately liked and respected, but it took me awhile to get to know him. Over time I really came to realize just how much he did for those around him. So many vital voices in comics are now heard because of his belief they should be heard. I had a lot of conversations with him about running a small business, and the importance of individual, idiosyncratic, honest personal expression. He was always adamant about maintaining the integrity of his company, staying small, and holding close to the reasons why art and creative culture are important. I watched him maneuver the often tricky and perplexing dynamics of the publishing world like a gentleman. I always walked away from our conversations with a lot of thoughts in my head about the bigger picture, about making things work without bending your ideals. He was someone who really thought things over and struggled to improve himself. He was someone who really got it.

I've been thinking a lot about the road trip I went on with Dylan last summer, down to a comics show in California we were both guests at. It was the most solid amount of time I'd ever gotten to spend with him, staying with his mom in Berkley, going on morning walks together, and exploring all of his old favorite books stores with him. One of the mornings we had breakfast with cartoonist Ben Catmull. After we'd eaten he told us that we really had to see a place near his house called the Chapel of the Chimes. It turned out to be a huge labyrinth of a mausoleum, filled with pillars, weirds statues, and walls of urns. We wondered around in awe of the place's strangeness. I was taking a picture of a statue of an unidentifiable animal when Dylan walked up to me and asked if I'd take a picture of him. He lead me over to a cement wall with metal letters affixed to it that read "Life Eternal". I took the picture and we both started laughing. For some reason, taking that picture right then had felt to me like getting away with something important, and I found my thoughts going back to that moment a lot during the rest of that trip without knowing why. I told him I'd email a copy, but it remained buried behind dozens of photos on my digital camera. I'm terrible about that kind of stuff. I should be more on top of things. As far as I can recall, it's the only picture I ever took of him. Now, with Dylan taken from us, far before his time, and long before the many, many people who's lives he's touched ever thought they'd have to let him go, I've found myself thinking about that photo, about that moment, about how Dylan never got a copy of it, about what he might have been thinking when he brought me over to that wall, wanting me to take his picture. The other side of death is the deep scary mystery that we humans, even after all this time, don't really know how to truly approach or comprehend, but I need to believe that such a vivid and thoughtful person as Dylan can't just stop existing. I need to believe that this photo is some kind of message from Dylan from the other side of his life and not an irony. This photo needs to be a victory. Whatever the truth is about what is in store for us all beyond death, Dylan knows the secret now. I know that nothing can fill the void of his absence, and I feel stung by the fact that he's not down the street at the Bad Apple right now, filling out Sparkplug orders, watching a 70s Kong Foo movie, and drinking green tea. I want to stop in and say hi to him really bad right now. His wife, Emily is one of the sweetest people I know, and I feel helpless knowing that she's in so much grief right now. Every moment you spend with the people you care about is important. We all miss you, Dylan.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Inside Outside

I made this piece for an art show of diptychs and triptychs, entitled "This World and The Next", curated by Emily Nilsson, at the Pony Club Gallery at 625 NW Everett #108, in downtown Portland. The opening is tonight from 6-10 pm. It's nice to be showing work at the gallery I helped start years a few years back with my friend David Youngblood. The gallery is now run by a great group of artists and they've been putting together consistently excellent shows.