I experience a visceral delight whenever I see anything made by mad genius Jesse Reno. A real “Artist’s Artist”, and one of my absolute favorites, he is often grouped with the Outsider Art (a.k.a. Art Brut) movement, an artistic environment I find compelling, irresistible, alive and of-the-moment. Abstract narratives. Contemporary primitivism. A large and strong dictionary of symbols and icons that come together to form maps of Reno’s wisdom and experiences. Unapologetically personal and confrontational and courageous.

In addition to being a brilliant painter, Jesse composed, recorded, and produced all the music.

This video is over 20 minutes long, though I always find myself wishing it would go on forever. I could spend the rest of my life just watching Jesse paint. Every one of his books is a must-have.

art + design, books + poetry, Inspirations

The Sandwich Book by Pawel Piotrowski

Such a great idea for a book…besides being a humorous take on the book form, I love that it brings to the fore qualities of the book that are often overlooked.

When we read an ordinary book, we take its construction for granted and forget that each page is, in itself, a plane…that is, a level, stratum, a stage, an environment, a microcosm of the world, a surface upon which unique things happen.

That these surfaces are bound together at one end of a book introduces sequence…this before that, and then this…usually a continuation from the previous page, though the possibilities of using the turning of the page—to rattle or to slow the viewer/reader by dropping her in some completely unexpected environment or by keeping her in suspense—have been explored by artists and writers, alike.

Ultimately, a book is a working model of Time. The time it takes to read a book. The time it takes to introduce a world and follow an unfolding story. The time it takes to make a sandwich…or deconstruct it…or eat it…

The Sandwich Book by Pawel Piotrowski via strictlypaper.

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art + design, Inspirations, music + film

dowsing for inspiration

Wandering the internet in a dreamy half-trance state is a little bit like dowsing for water. One little link will catch my eye, such as “Gotye-Giving Me A Chance-official video” and, although I don’t much care for music videos, I click on the link thinking “I haven’t heard that song,” and find myself watching an animated world of painted and drawn art creatures—really quirky, bizarre, wonderful characters and scenes.

And I’m hooked…I follow the video to the online portfolio of the artist responsible: Gina Thorstensen

And my evening blossoms like a scrunched-up paper flower set into a dish of cool, clear water…my spirit unfolds like infinite origami.

She is amazing. I can’t get enough of her illustrations,

wall paintings,

sculptures,

…and you’ve already seen the wonderful animations she does, like this one in collaboration with Nacho Rodriguez for Gotye. How about this one for the Mexican band Jumbo:

I don’t know much about her other than that she’s a Norwegian based in Denmark. But I am about to find out all I can about her. I think you should get to know her, too. Here’s her portfolio, and here’s her blog.

I’ll race you there.

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art + design, Inspirations, life, my friends

NIAGARA IN MANILA | Malate

My friend Elmer is an intrepid photographer whose blog (named after the squalid and lusty heart of the city of Manila, Malate) is always packed with great shots of the Philippines. In this post he presents glimpses of the city-wide flooding that started last week and, as far as I know, continues there still.

These are distressing to me, as friends and family have all reported chest-high flooding in their areas, and I can only hope that their homes and lives have managed to escape serious damage.

For all that, Elmer’s photos are beautiful and, in a sobering way, calming. Life goes on. Filipinos are a forbearing and resilient people. No point complaining…who would listen, anyway?

For some wonderful pics of people getting on with the business of living as though they had gills, do head over to Malate to check out the rest of Elmer’s post.

NIAGARA IN MANILA | Malate.

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art + design, Inspirations, music + film

Just one more, and then I promise to stop…

I know, I know, too many videos by/about other people lately. I’ve taken on one more day at work, but that small thing has changed everything and my creative spirit is being melodramatic and acting like I’ve sawed one of its legs off. I’m slower to get started making/doing things on weekends, and clam up and get grouchy a whole day before my work week starts. Pathetic.

So just one more video, and I promise to get cracking on some posts of original material soon.

I found this video via the Jealous Curator (who has the greatest blog name in the world, and features always amazing art and artists.) Kris and I used to live a bit like this…minus the wall of windows, of course, which would have been a big problem on a tropical beach buffeted by killer typhoons and ‘reverberant’ with crashing coconuts.

On quiet nights, though, give me a one-room house on stilts, filled with candles and shadows, the lapping of the sea, and the chirruping, hooting cries of the night jungle all around. Now there was a peace and alone-ness the likes of which we never came across again.

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amazing people, art + design, Inspirations

Everybody Street

Whoa. This short trailer really moves me! Fills me with admiration, envy, and longing.

I’ve always loved street photography, but have always been really scared to do much of it, myself. I’m scared of angry people, scared of losing my camera or having somebody I’ve photographed demand money from me, or hit me, or even just confront me. I feel guilty shooting on the fly, like I want to shrink and disappear (I’d give anything for a cloak of invisibility, but I took the darned thing off and hung it up in a locker room one day…never did find it again. ;) )

Part of me understands that photographs taken this way will always have a hundred times more raw energy, more truth, more revelation, than anything posed, or shot after asking permission. Changes the energy levels. Changes the story of the image. Changes the whole thing.

I am so in awe of this group of maverick street photographers and what they do.

“Everybody Street” illuminates the lives and work of New York’s iconic street photographers and the incomparable city that has inspired them for decades. The documentary pays tribute to the spirit of street photography through a cinematic exploration of New York City, and captures the visceral rush, singular perseverance and at times immediate danger customary to these artists.

Featuring: Bruce Davidson , Elliott Erwitt, Jill Freedman, Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Rebecca Lepkoff, Mary Ellen Mark, Jeff Mermelstein, Clayton Patterson, Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabazz, Martha Cooper, Jeff Mermelstein, and Boogie, with Max Kozloff and Luc Sante.

For more information about the feature, visit the website

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art + design, blogs and sites, bookbinding, Inspirations, stuff i've made

Get thee to a bindery…

Untitled

Got my bookbinding groove on last weekend and put together a diverse bunch of journals (some orders, some for the ETSY shop, and some for the shelves at Jackson’s).

There are two things I am excited about with this new batch of journals:

The paper.

Last weekend I cracked open the first pack of my new paper stock, Bianco Flash. I bought a thousand A0 sheets of this luxurious paper, which means that my next 250 journals or so will be of this stock. This heavy (120 gsm), creamy, smooth paper is made in Italy by the Favini Crusallo mills…the same mill I used to buy my beloved Shiro Alga Carta paper from (Alga Carta replaced up to 30% of regular paper pulp with algae that was choking the canals of Venice…saving trees and lagoons at the same time) when I first started binding books in 1996. My Manila supplier had discontinued Alga Carta by the time I was ready to buy my next batch of papers (although Favini still produces it), so I chose Bianco Flash, instead.

It’s a wonderful paper to write on. I took a juicy dip pen and strong Rouge Hematite ink (by J. Herbin of France) to it, and the ink didn’t seep into the paper…it dried sitting crisply on the surface of the paper, slightly raised, making it look like a print made from an engraving. I turned the sheet over and there was no bleeding through to the back of the paper. I could hardly see the blood red writing on the reverse. It should be good for pencils (graphite, charcoal or coloured), inks, pens, maybe even small touches of wash, though it’s not a paper for wet media.

The second thing I’m excited about is Spoonflower’s cotton-linen canvas. This is the first time I’ve bought fabric from Spoonflower, though I have stalked their blog for years. I ordered some fat quarters (other people’s designs) just to check the quality of this print-on-demand fabric…whether the designs are still crisp, and what the cotton-linen canvas would be like to make cases for journals with. I have to say that I was delighted on every point. The canvas is strong and full-bodied without being difficult to turn, to mitre, or to glue; the designs were every bit as gorgeous in the cloth as they looked on the website, and the canvas texture makes the surface of the journals more rustic and lively.

I had been hemming and hawing about getting my own fabric designs printed for bookbinding, but seeing these fat quarters has finally convinced me to jump in and do it. I also really like the way the Spoonflower company handles orders, the personal touch of a note from one of the staff when your order arrives, the down-to-earth language they use on their site, the fact that they try to find shipping solutions that are affordable. Their products are awesome, and I wish I was as adventurous as many of their regular designers, who seem to churn designs out by the dozens each week, for everything from gift wrap and stickers to fabrics and wallpaper. Maybe it’ a confidence that grows with use, and I’ll get the knack of it when I’ve uploaded a few designs and printed fabrics of my own.

The three fabric designs I used (click the thumbnails below to visit their pages on Spoonflower.com) are:

Dragonflies by Bettina Pedersen
Dragonflies

Aztec Armor by spellstone:
Aztec Armor

Tropical Fronds by cricketnoel:
Tropical Fronds

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art + design, Exhibits, Inspirations, my friends, philosophy

Chati Coronel’s UnPortraits

wrist

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.
Salutation, Ezra Pound

Chati Coronel recently opened an exhibition of new paintings, entitled UnPortraits, at Silverlens Galleries in Manila. The large works were inspired by a compassion meditation from the Dalai Lama. In the meditation (and in Chati’s paintings) we are invited to zoom in on details of another person’s body in order to appreciate the things that we have in common with each other, as opposed to looking for the things that make us different and set us apart from other people.

Individuality is such a sacred cow these days that few people would even think to question the ever-present advice—on television, in self-help books, on lifestyle websites and at workshops and seminars for personal development and growth—that urges them to be unique, to emphasize their singularities, to stand out (and away) from others. This obsession with one’s Self is part of the cult of the ego, the offspring of Western philosophies that valued the clever intricacies of mind over the simple honesty of heart and soul. The ego is a fire that gets hungrier as you feed it; it can blaze up and out of control, laying waste to everything around it, and still never feel satisfied. Feeding the ego will help you stand out, but whatever rewards the ego manages to attain seem to lose their lustre very quickly, and the happiness and contentment you thought would come with reaching these goals will always seem to lie just beyond the next mountain. It’s like navigating through life using mirages as landmarks.

The cult of the ego has spread and rules most of the world, now. It has become dignified, respectable, sacrosanct. Whole industries are devoted to it, and if there is a problem or a feeling of lack in our lives it is suggested that we aren’t pampering our Selves enough, aren’t getting enough Me time, aren’t celebrating our own special and unique qualities enough, aren’t doing what we love or aren’t buying ourselves enough treats. So off we go, improving ourselves, competing with each other for rare prizes, indulging ourselves, promoting and calling attention to ourselves, adding pages and pages to that book called The Story of Me.

Many decades later, our race is unhappier than ever before. We are afraid of and despise each others’ differences; those traits that make each one of us unique also make us strange to each other. The higher we go, the lonelier it is. We are falling apart—mentally, emotionally, spiritually—as a race, as a people, as a species. The great and hallowed Cult of Me doesn’t work. We’ve taken it, we’ve tested it, we’ve assimilated it, and it has proven ineffective. The emperor hasn’t got any clothes on, but only the mad or the very young are happy to say it.

I don’t think Chati is mad, so she must be among the people whose hearts have managed to stay very young. I suspect it helps that she lives with a very fearless, very sage 6-year old daughter, who keeps her on her Zen toes every day with a wide-open heart and a lion’s spirit.knees

I was very happy to be asked to write the introduction to Chati’s painting exhibit. If you find yourself in the teeming metropolis between now and the 6th of July, please drop in and have a look. For a more intimate experience of UnPortraits you may want to schedule your visit for 3 p.m. on June 15th, and join Chati and others in a meditation session.

Silverlens has three Manila exhibition spaces and new space in Gillman Barracks, Singapore, showcasing contemporary art from the Philippines.

2F YMC Bldg 2,
2320 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension,
Makati City 1231, Philippines
T +63 2 816 0044

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