Inspired By The Tactility Of Red Fabric, Joseph Beuys Becomes My Next Portrait Subject

A few weeks ago,
as I was experimenting with photography and Instagram,
I emerged with this self portrait

which reminds me of Joseph Beuys‘ work with felt.

I have always greatly admired Beuys: how far-out and conceptual his work is, that as a teacher he believed

It (teaching) is my most important function. To be a teacher is my greatest work of art.

and that overall, he stands out as a truly unique artist.

Joseph Beuys, logically, it seems, has become the subject of my latest portrait drawing.
Here it is, after only 2 sessions of work:

Once completed, I will scan and vectorize it, as I have been doing with much of my drawings (see my series of Olio Festival venues and galleries or my illustration of Snoop Dogg/Lion), and will be screening it onto Tshirts,
which will say “yeeeeeaah” along the top and “Beuys” beneath:
“yeeeeeaah Beuys!”


Blunt, Thou Art The Lion’s Paws


To both the Dogg and the Lion, only one thing matters…

My mixed media piece for the Drop It Like It’s Art show, Vancouver BC Nov 9 2012. Printed 19”x13”

Creative process:
Step 1) hand draw (pencil on paper) illustration of Snoop, based on found photo
Step 2) scan drawing
Step 3) in Photoshop, adjust exposure & levels to increase contrast
Step 4) place in Illustrator, trace & expand all lines to vector shapes
Step 5) sample colours from photo, digitally colour the vector graphic image
Step 6) accidentally discover that illustration layered on digital colour layered on photo look really dope together!
Step 7) throw in a few masks to emphasize his hand, smoke, etc, tweak, make adjustments and bam! There you have it.


Flying Lotus, Crazy Happy Face Portrait, As Based On Exclaim! Cover Shot

Flying Lotus, an artist I admire greatly, is on the front cover of the new Exclaim! mag. Here’s my interpretation in pencil.


Fall Season, Profile Scarf Bearded Portrait

Fall is here. It’s 2:30am, this is who I am. DSC_8268_side_Oct2012
based off this pic
self portrait profile


Incense Leaf, Centre Me, Remind Of This Moment

incenseLeaf_01 by Format No Auto
incenseLeaf_01, a photo by Format No Auto on Flickr.

Mediation has been important for me ever since I dated a girl whose mother is a practicing Buddhist. I feel it’s incredibly important to centre, to find grounding, though so much of the time, we are swept away in the drowning currents of go go go modern urban life.

I went camping last weekend, a great 2 days away from it all; I even turned my phone off (!). I realized that as much as technology enables us to do wonderful things (graphic design, social networking, posting to this blog), it increasingly roboticizes us, it kills our flesh-and-blood contact to this world.

I was re-awakened on that camping trip, and upon return, dedicated myself to my physical presence. I have resumed a regime of stretching and exercising every morning, followed by a meditation.

It’s quite hilarious that I began this blog as a way to help me stay in THE MOMENT, to appreciate the here and now, yet I haven’t been here often. That says something to me – that I have become a slave to the go go go, that anxiety is the anti-moment, that I am not lost, but it is easy to be such. Here’s to meditation, here’s to THE MOMENT.


Cloudy Head In An Older Age

If I would’ve been warned
that getting older
wasn’t just about aging,
saying goodbye to youth, energy, supple skin & innocence,
but that it means
piles upon piles upon piles of
disappointment, regret, and
that everything that would’ve been
shrugged off
is now so heavy, so serious,
because we know there aren’t
always 2nd chances;
we know we aren’t special.
If I would’ve been properly warned,
I wouldn’t have signed up for this.



I Don’t Wanna Worry About Dying (I Just Wanna Worry About Turning My Roast Potatoes)

Inspired by Japandroids “Young Hearts Spark Fire”


holy fuck why the fuck am I such a fucking idiot thinking that I can actually design a business when I’m too scared too chicken shit to even design the interface I could barely draw a circle of colour the other night goddamn don’t wanna put it out there because of intellectual property well its okay because I don’t have quite the right intellect mine’s all wrapped up in feeling inadequate small dick syndrome too average maybe below average I’m so sorry that i look better on the outside because inside it’s just dark and confused and inadequate and unsure and sad oh boo hoo for me right?

fuck I suck.

I suck because I should’ve never switched my direction from 18 i should’ve just stayed the prairie boy who liked to draw and be quiet and look at girls from afar but never try because I was too limpwristed rather than travel and meet people and aspire to be those people, those people who know what aubergines are and how to eat rare steak when mine was always always well done. more well done than well done. fuck trying to be international trying to be refined fuck it fuck trying to be unique. What’s YOUR unique selling proposition? mine is being a miserable whiny little artist boy whose art is actually subpar, it’s really just a spewing of inner turmoil that no one will ever care about but me, except on the days when I hate myself and think my shit sucks. which is more often than not.

I’ve gone off the tracks and now I’m on the wrong side of the country and it’s all gone wrong and i’m trying to convince myself that I can run a business but really I’m just fooling myself as I’ve been fooling myself for years, trying to be a husband even twice but neither time worked out did it because even though I try to blame it on her saying she lost interest, it was me all along I can’t stand myself at the best of times, how can I expect someone to live with me when I’m quiet and a loner and I just want to be left alone but then when I want attention I want attention and if you don’t give it to me i’m going to sink in to deeper depression and no, of course I won’t ask for what I want because I wasn’t ever taught that that’s important, I was always just taught to care for others, like my mom always always always always said she always thinks of my and my brother first not herself so despite always thinking that was disgustingly selfless I have taken on those same genes and it’s doing nothing but crippling me, stuck in between a selfless mom and a limpwristed, passive aggressive depressed dad who freaked out and couldn’t commit and let his family name get changed (I mean, how the fuck do you let that happen?!?!!?) that’s who I am that’s who I’ve become because I’m too weak to make it otherwise

so now that I have this grande idea and its coming down crumbling around me, I have nothing but my ability to type to comfort me as I await the next victim of my loving attention.

The previous, is of course, just an artistic representation of what may be happening in some person’s life at some point in time at some point on earth. No one and nothing said therein have any basis on reality. Really, I mean, come on. As if.


Drawing From Surprise: The Soloist As A Film And As A Poster

The Soloist was a surprisingly good movie.

An intriguing true story, it was captivating.
But it bothered me how the writer and director seemed to be keeping a distance from getting really real or raw.

Sure, there are some intense moments when Ayers increasingly loses touch, but these were bookmarked by typical Hollywood heartstring-puller scenes. I was worried that the whole thing would succumb to a happily ever after ending.
You could argue that it does, but I feel that the ending, as far as endings go (endings never happen in real life, why do we expect them to in movies?), was impressively real and honest and had a sense of unnerving incompleteness, even as the cast of characters sat there for us, watching the orchestra.


The next morning, I looked at the DVD case, and quite liked what I saw.

Initially, I thought the movie poster was simple and boring.
But now that the story was on my mind, I realize that the poster is simple, maybe even boring, but that does not make it bad.

Actually, it’s very effective, because it shows the dynamic between the two main characters.

Ayers (Foxx) is very much in his private world, and cares for nothing but playing music. In the poster, his hand and facial expression are dreamily wrapped around the neck of his instrument.

Lopez (Downey Jr) is intrigued, but distant. Throughout the film, Downey Jr plays Lopez with an admiration for Ayers that is also tainted by an inability to actually comprehend who Ayers is and how he connects to music with as much love as he does.

In the background is Los Angeles, which isn’t just the city that the movie takes place in, it’s actually very important to both characters, as Lopez is a writer at the LA Times, and Ayers has transplanted himself to L.A from Ohio. Ayers references it many times throughout the film, as when he relates Lopez to the airplane flying over L.A.

This unexpected admiration for the movie poster forced me to draw it.
Downey Jr’s facial features are slightly misplaced, and he looks cartoony, but I’m happy with it overall. Connection and love.


Reflections From A Volunteer Raker (how participating in grand scale temporary art reasserted four important things for me)

The unpredictability of the future.
Funny – who knew I’d learn to rake sand, to fluff it up but keep it even?
Who knew I’d fill in the spaces between circles for hours one early Wednesday morning in my 34th year of life?

We never know what’s going to happen to us.
Our futures are unpredictable, even when we make the decisions we do, as I did when I signed up to volunteer to help artist Jim Denevan with his latest piece, part of the Vancouver Biennale.

I awoke early in the morning. 6am.
It wasn’t a work morning – I wasn’t heading to the office.
Instead, I found myself traveling from one end of Vancouver, the far east, mere blocks from Burnaby, to the other end, the west, mere blocks from UBC.
I decided to give myself a rare break, so I threw my bike on the front of a #4 bus, wisely investing in a $2.50 fare, and settled in. As the wind blew through my bike’s spokes, I caught up on some reading.
Through Gastown, downtown, across the bridge to Kits… by 7:40 I was at 4th & Sasamat, some sort of pristine silent hilltop paradise. I haven’t heard that sort of silence in the city, ever.
As I headed north on Sasamat, the hill quickly began to descend – everywhere in front of me were huge houses, parks, a lone hopping squirrel, and the early morning beach in the distance.
I rode down, slowly, soaking up this neighbourhood’s vibe of upper eschelon peace.

I was one of the first volunteers to arrive (about a dozen of us total), yet Jim was already far out on the beach. Taking advantage of low tide, his work had begun.

I don’t think any of us knew exactly what we were going to be doing this promisingly warm morning.
We had, in one way or another, found out that Jim Denevan, worldwide-known professional artist, was creating a new piece for Vancouver Biennale, and that he requested a few volunteers to help.

I believe he normally does all the work himself, even though the scale of most of his pieces are huge.
He has created the largest piece of art ever in the desert – check out the zooming map on his site – it’s utterly mind boggling.

We began by setting up a small tent on shore with prints of Jim’s past work, as a base station for our operation, as well as an “info booth” of sorts for passerbys to today’s project.
While we were introducing ourselves, setting up the tent, and slapping on sunscreen, the artist was busy drawing circles – many many circles – far out toward the waterline.

Jim Denevan’s work is often temporary – he creates art in nature, not introducing new elements, rather, working with what exists, and today was no different. Jim was drawing in the sand. Superhumanly, though, he was drawing circles of all different sizes, and perfect circles at that.
Drawing a perfect circle freehand on a piece of paper is quite tricky (try it right now – I dare you). Often it will be almost perfect, but something will be wonky – it’ll stretch out too far on one side, or the connection won’t quite match.
But Jim seems to have an incredibly powerful inner compass, and all day long, from 7:30 till 12:30, he drew. With a tall stick, this tall man picked a spot, honed in on his centre, and then paced in a perfect circle, dragging his tall stick in the sand, creating the line that would meet up, perfectly each time, to complete a circle, some five feet in diameter, most 10 or more feet, some easily 30 or 40ft.


Our job as volunteers was to support Jim’s physically arduous day by putting our backs into it, too. We were handed thin wire rakes – they felt old fashioned to me – and told to rake the spaces in between Jim’s circles. By raking, the sand broke up, almost fluffed up, and it darkened because we were releasing the wet, deeper sand to the surface.

All along Spanish Banks, the volunteers were completing an integral part of the art piece – we were simultaneously adding two types of contrast – value (light circles vs dark between) and texture (smooth circles vs rough between).

The idea with Jim Denevan’s work is to alter nature by drawing into the surface – sand, earth or ice. His work is called “temporary drawing” and his piece on Spanish Banks was especially so – his work was to be created and washed away in the same day. Actually, it only existed in its completed form for a few minutes, because it took all day to create (work began before 8am), and as it was finished (at 12:30), the tide began to reclaim it (I was told that some pictures were taken as the tide came in, and that the drawing could be seen through the shallow water!).

This day was more for me than simply working with a professional artist, which was the original reason why I volunteered. I wanted to observe an artist at work and to be part of his creation.
But what I did not expect was to experience so much more.
Four points stand out:

  1. The physicality of it all.
    Raking all day long is not an easy task. But being active, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is something I enjoy a lot.
    I enjoy feeling my blood rush through my body, I love feeling my muscles heat up, really feeling my hands, limbering up my joints. Having my bare feet in sand all day was a touch-sense overload! I loved it. Plus being out by the water, in the fresh air and sun for all those hours was magical.
    I spend a lot of my time indoors, on my computer, so I truly appreciate these days of being active, getting away from my crouched-at-the-desk position to move my body.
  2. Community.
    The group of people that arrived to help Jim were all amazing. Everyone was happy, excited, and proud to be part of a special event.
    No one complained when we were told we’d be raking in between the circles. Instead, we struggled with this surprisingly challenging task (raking sand so that it doesn’t clump into mountains, striving for an evenness, is tough!) together, trying new techniques and sharing the successful methods with each other. We found a Zen state as the repetitiveness of the task sunk in – it was compared to those mini-Zen gardens – until JIm told us to speed up or else we’d lose to the tide.
  3. Unpretentious artists.
    Jim and his assistants are amazingly down-to-earth people. This day restored my belief that artists do not have to be pretentious stuck up elite, who believe they are better than everyone else because they can communicate their voices.
    Most of us have a deep seated dream to find our voice – a way to express ourselves. Even if no one listens, we all want a way to say what we think and we feel in a way that is uniquely us, because it feels good to feel connected to ourselves. In the rare times that I have made that connection with my true voice, there is a sense of satisfaction, a sense of being in my place in the world, that is unlike anything else. But this sense of being special, of being unique, can be taken to an egotistical extreme, and there was none of that from Jim or his assistants, Molly and Christy. This added an unexpected level of enjoyment that made the day enjoyable in a refreshing way.
  4. Temporary art.
    This is somewhat related to lack of pretention. Art, separate from the artists who create the art, can be pretentious. There is a sense that art is precious, that every piece of work should be framed and never touched – hell, some people treat it like it should never see the light of day because light can break down the paint, for example.
    While I love art, and appreciate that we do not want to treat art pieces like old socks, the glowing barriers that are placed around art, especially the art of those artists who are magically deemed “important” artists, can sometimes be taken to an extreme. For example, I have trouble with sculpture. What is sculpture, if not a physical, three dimensional medium that begs to be touched? Yet we cannot touch it, for if everyone touched it, the damn grease in our collective hands would prematurely age it. Or some jackass would break a figure’s finger off.
    Long ago, I experimented with making one-of-a-kind drawings, then taping them to street posts, knowing they would get ripped, postered over, or rained on, and that I would never see them again. But I wanted to release myself from the high-class, framed and behind glass treatment of art. I never took that project very far, but I see the same purpose in Jim Denevan’s work. He knows his work will not be around forever, yet he stills creates. And he obviously loves doing it.
    Though it doesn’t hurt that he has fantastic photographers who fly up in helicopters to capture his work, and through those photos, his work will be immortal.

The future is unpredictable. Being involved in THE MOMENT is a choice. On a wonderful June morning in Vancouver, we took in our moment and lived it, breathed it, sweated it, and soaked it in fully.
Thanks Jim, thanks Vancouver Biennale, thanks wicked volunteers,
cheers, Ash