Saturday, April 28, 2018

Evening of Enterprise

Amid International Workers Day and the anniversary of Chicago's Haymarket Riots, it is with complete delight and utter irreverence that we bring to you an evening of enterprise.

Treat your hardworking self and revel in anti-establishment bliss with a brewski and piece of work from some of Chicago's most prolific and under represented artists, makers, and producers. You deserve it.

Giraffe Kat
Michelle Richardella
Siobhan Kealy
Temporary Services
True Partners In Craft
Vice Versa Press

Bring a t-shirt along and get it printed in Chicago pride for a small donation, 100% of which will go to Battered Women's Justice Project.

BWJP promotes systemic change within the civil and criminal justice systems to ensure an effective and just response to victims & perpetrators of intimate partner violence and the children exposed to this violence.

The lineage of hardship triggered by the incarceration of domestic violence victims acting in self defense is as appalling as the beating/rape itself. This organization provides support and education in dealing with legal, emotional, and interpersonal ramifications of the violence.

Friday, January 8, 2016

So what's with all the Kim Gordon?

Reality Check

If I told you how long I've spent writing this blog, you might be surprised. I haven't been punching a clock, but it's definitely been more than three, 4-6 hour blocks. Trouble is, as I write about this stuff, I keep slipping into art speak. Making connections as if I had executed a well thought out plan, which it is not. Using big words. Stroking my brilliant ego. SAIC style. Then, as I look back on hours of writing and rewriting I think to myself, "This has morphed into something that isn't true. It sounds good and make sense, but it's not how it all went down." This very tendency to change, accentuate, and glorify what is speaks directly to the subject at hand.

Getting On With It Already

5 color screenprinted poster of Kim Gordon

Maybe you've seen this image or another iteration around Chicago over the past several months. The woman from the original image is Kim Gordon, bassist for the band Sonic Youth. My use of this image began with an invite to come up with a portrait of an iconic female in music to benefit Girls Rock! Chicago.

Quick Story

I met Tracy Lemieux in the basement of the Kinko's on Lasalle by the board of trade. I was 2nd shift production and she took over on third shift. She was in a band (Silverado) with her best friend Angenette on drums, and some dude they found in the Reader on bass. 

I loved their music and went to all their shows. The dude wasn't about the band like they were. I used to like to jump on stage with them and when they complained about homeboy I was like, "well, get a friend to play bass then." Before too long, they handed me a blue pawn shop Ibanez bass and invited me to play with them. Oh shit. I'd never touched a guitar before in my life.

back cover, Silverado 7"
Teaching myself to play and learning the songs, I had yet to play out when Silverado was asked to open for a sold out Local H show at the Metro. This speaks to how good these ladies were and what kind of work they'd already put in. The Metro ended up being the 3rd live show I ever played. 

We played around Chicago a bunch and even toured the midwest. As much as I loved music and Silverado, I was terrified and self conscious each and every time I got on stage. Really bad. But I did it each and every show. I did it and lived. I did it and messed up on stage and still lived. I did it and kicked ass and lived all the same.

The Takeaway

One may think it brave or confident to embark on such an adventure. Truth is, the confidence Tracy and Angenette had in me carried me as I slowly developed my own. Now that I'm in a better position, I can support kids with opportunity and confidence. Organizations like GR!C can funnel this intention with that of others to reach a heck of a lot more kids. Not all will get out of music what I did, but at the very least some will. Some may go on to change music as brilliantly as Sonic Youth.

That Look

Photo by Pat Blashill, 1986
Let's look at the original photograph. What most attracted me to this image in particular is Kim's expression. Focused, intent, seemingly detached from the world but connected to the music. I see this look often in artists doing their thing. You know the word presence? That's what I think is happening here. It happens most identifiably when someone is doing what they love, something that uses their mind, body, and spirit. No past or future. No mind chatter. I don't mean to make it sound like some enlightened meditative state, if I am. It simply is.

I think Tracy was probably the first artist I ever knew in real life. She got this look when she played and I'd never seen it so close up. Ultimately, I realized that I was not feeling what she was feeling. There was innate and critical difference between she and I when it came to music. Music was breathing for her.

A Closer Look

I'm intrigued by presence. I want it. Oops. I didn't just say that. It can happen when I'm printing, but it happens more when I'm painting. It's easy to go on autopilot once I'm set up to print. The repetitive process opens my mind for chit chat. Creating a painted original requires focus that leads to presence. I felt it important to put a lot of time, effort, and yep, presence into creating this original.

7' painting = lots of present moments

A Different Look

Context changes meaning. Thusly, repetition can deepen contextual circumstance. I'm interested in what happens to meaning when the location changes. Size. Stylistic approach. When I talk about meaning, I'm not necessarily speaking to big heady ideas and philosophies, either.

Meaning can reference the purpose of a piece in the company of others.
At Renegade Craft Fair
Meaning can be derived in the personalization of hanging a piece in your home.
In the home of a GR!C supporter.
Meaning can be an observation or fleeting thought as you walk by.
Chicago's West Loop
Small or big, color or black and white, night or day can all affect a viewer's perception of an image.

That which surrounds and image can influence meaning.

And how might meaning change when a viewer actually knows the conceptual background of a piece?

After finally getting this written honestly, I have a lot of questions about what exactly I'm trying to achieve. Why am I doing this? I believe the image and it's creation has strong roots, but use of the image seems to dissipate arbitrarily. It seems to lose any clarity of meaning. Instead of observing and speculating on how meaning can change, a more purposeful strategy will likely result in more definitive conclusions. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Derangement, Inside Us All

Inside Us All


The skull is a powerful icon. While generically associated with the likes of motorcycle gangs and heavy metal, the skull also represents a common denominator in humanity. Underneath the skin and external attributes that differentiate us, structurally we are much the same. While we can acknowledge the skull as a symbol of unity in this way, the skull undisputedly represents something dark in our collective unconscious. Isolation. Death.

Much of what we are exposed to on a regular basis dwells on the differences that separate us. Media and marketing thrive on competition, inequality, and dissatisfaction. What distinguishes voluntary, circumstantial, and isolation by force? Can we effectively regulate the intake of the messages we receive?

Examining the roots of my own isolation, I uncover insecurity, anxiety and a wealth of other self destructive characteristics. As I name and expose these qualities, I realize I'm not actually separate, different, or alone. Struggle is not unique, but inside us all. Like our skin, the outward manifestation of intrinsic characteristics serves to differentiate and isolate us.


The installation, Derangement, Inside Us All, was created for Rockford Art Museum's Printmaker's Ball Exhibition (June 12-Sept 27, 2015). The installation consists of 4 printed arrangements. Each arrangement screen printed with the most recent skull illustration I refer to as "Inside Us All" in fluorescent yellow, hot pink, and black skull. Inside Us All was divided into 100 panels, each panel measuring 10"x10".  Inside Us All was printed in each color using a different configuration for each arrangement, hence becoming a derangement. Random portions of the image are recognizable, however not easily and no two derangements are the same.

yellow + pink + black = 1 arrangement

Universal laws of balance suggest that in the presence of isolation, there is equal presence of connection. In reflecting upon Derangement, Inside Us All, themes emerge to support the existence of this balance.

Derangements 1 - 3
Derangement 4

Communication. Zeroes and ones. Morse code. Digital language.

Community. Infinity. Individual parts that make a larger whole. Printmakers. Ball.

Recognition. Appreciation. The impact of scale and beauty in nuance.

Trinity. Singularity. Spiritual scientific overlap.

Sustainability. Evolution. Stated best by Albert Einstein -- Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another.

All wood used was found or re-purposed. Panel detail.


Unexpectedly, this installation marks the end of the body of work I've created over almost 2 years.

At this moment, I'm inspired by carefree spontaneity. Yang emerges.

Rather than a stopping or starting point, I am at an oasis.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Learning To Ride The Wave

Original article written for Verve - A collective resource committed to teaching artistry at Marwen.

I was feeling first-day-of-school jittery. It had been about a month since my last workshop with Embarc. In fact, it had been a whole month since I’d led any workshop. I arrived at Spudnik Press  plenty early to set up. Way earlier than my recent schedule called for. I was there and prepared. I felt tired and out of practice. The 13 students swept me over like a wave as they found seats at the big work table.

We went around the room to get each person’s name and share his or her favorite pastime. Thirteen new names isn’t really a huge deal, but here’s some perspective: My trouble with student names when I was in high school was trying to differentiate Jennifers. My trouble with Embarc student names is that most of them are completely new words to me. Ordinarily, I take to a name challenge like Kelly Slater to a tidal wave, but this morning I thought, “let’s get on with printing.” The students probably don’t expect me to know all their names anyway.

The workshop went well. The kids got to screen print and everybody had fun. We went around and named our favorite thing about printing. The students and teachers left to enjoy an exciting lunch at 90 Miles To Cuba.

I felt meh.

but..but...–everything went according to plan–

Where’s my teacher’s high dammit?!


By coincidence, I attended a workshop of my own at Spudnik that evening.  It was a syllabus writing workshop led by Kate Adams and Cynthia Weiss of Marwen. In true Kate and Cynthia fashion, my introverted self was tortured and uncomfortable the entire workshop  with games and working with partners. I tell you what, though–those ladies really know how to inspire and motivate. I had another workshop with Embarc the following morning and I was jazzed.


Oh dear. Morning came reeeally early again. I was at Spudnik prepared–again. I felt tired and intimated by the amount of energy that would be exhausted over 3 hours with young people. The wave of students swept over me again. I was soaking wet and dis-shelved as they settled into their seats.

I said, “good morning everybody.”
“hrrm” “mrnng” “gmorng” other grumbles.

Just as I was about to drop in, I wanted to bail and paddle in.
I know, however, that all I have to do is shift my weight to ride the wave.

“I said GOOD. MORNIIIIING!!!!!!”

The reverberated energy lifted me up like a tall gentle ocean swell. You’d better believe I got every single name and favorite pastime down. And oh! You should have seen Jeremiah beam when I told him he could sing while cleaning the mylar. KIds kept asking how old they had to be to work at Spudnik and if they could do summer internships. One student pulled me aside to ask some very specific questions about a different print process based on her experience that day with screenprint. The teachers walked the skeptical students out to lunch as they lament, “can’t we just stay here if we want?”

Now there’s that teacher’s high. A thought that keeps coming to my mind lately is that I don’t want to ask anything of my students that I wouldn’t ask of myself. I want an exciting, engaging, enriching experience for them. How can I expect them to have that kind of experience if I don’t create that kind of experience for myself? This is how growth happens. For them and for me. And I can’t think of a time it doesn’t involve moving beyond what is comfortable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Passions Exemplified at 18th Street Brewery

Creating a collection to show at 18th Street Brewery gave me the opportunity to investigate the concepts I explore through my work from a different perspective. Consequently, the work has taken a significant step developmentally and provided unique insight.

My work is consistently centered on themes regarding the mind-body-spirit connection of human existence and the universe. I learn from what I make, so my understanding and direction is always gaining nuance and clarity. Most recently, I consider this mind-body-spirit connection exemplified in the activities we are passionate about.


I began a serious study of yoga with a focus on my personal practice in January. My first works this year appropriate respected yogi and teacher BKS Iyengar in the asana Tadasana. Asana is the technical word for a yoga pose. Each asana (pose) has a name, such as Tadasana. Tadasana is the first asana demonstrated in the quintessential yoga reference, Light on Yoga, and represents a fresh start—for a yogi coming to the mat and for me to my work. Subsequently, I have symbolically used Iyengar demonstrating other asanas.

As a beer lover, in love with a brewer, I spend a good amount of time immersed in Chicago craft beer. I met Drew Fox, founder/owner/head brewer of 18th Street Brewery, well before the brewery's official opening. I respect the talent, determination, and dedication that a brewer's passion demands and that which is evident in Drew and the entire 18th Street crew. This kind of zeal can be channelled productively by a strong mind-body-spirit connection.

As an art lover and artist, I also spend a good amount of time immersed in Chicago's art and have been a fan of Joey Potts art for close to a decade. Joey is the primary artist and creative director for 18th Street Brewery. His label art sets a tone for the beer tasting experience and can be taken in again and again just like the beer itself. Eighteenth Street's label art would be a huge inspiration in the work I made for the show.


I began by taking a look at the feng shui bagua in relation to 18th Street's floor plan. The bagua is a tool used in feng shui to help analyze the energy of a space in relation to the purpose of the space and the people who experience it. The understanding I gain influenced decisions such as placement, color, and content.

And in taking a more pointed look at 18th Street Brewery beers, I honed in on Hunter. It's a double milk stout, high gravity and robust. Strong and solid. An exemplary beer for 18th Street Brewery. The beer Hunter was named after Drew's son and Joey's original illustration was developed with him in mind. This reinforced the direction as the art would be on view in an area of the brewery positively influenced by themes of family and community.

18th Street Brewery's Hunter Art

When first asked about my interest in putting up work at 18th Street Brewery, an image of Iyengar in a particular asana came to mind. Unlike what most people associate with yoga, this asana looks bold and fierce. This asana is called Simhasana. Simha means lion and this asana is dedicated to Narasimha, the man-lion incarnation of Vishnu. Yogis are often referred to as seekers [of meaning, bliss, enlightenment...]. Lions are hunters. This half man (half seeker) half lion (half hunter) incarnation would be the symbolic foundation on which to create the work.

Iynengar Demonstrating Simhasana


In addition to hanging art for the show, Joey and I discussed the idea of a mural for the largest wall in the event room. We talked about using a mural approach to embellish the wall, featuring the pieces on display. I've always been driven to work on a large scale, and under the influence of Chicago's graffiti and street artists, am interested in adapting screen print for mural making. As my first attempt, the strategy was to keep things simple. I used only two screens of large halftone gradients, exemplary of screen printing.

The majority of the wall embellishment was screened in a bright blue flowing pattern representative of wind and water to balance the fire, wood, and earth present in the featured pieces. In addition, feng shui is translated literally as wind water. Fluorescent green and yellow are incorporated for further balance in terms of color and represent the sun and earth.

Although I use screen printing non-traditionally, I leverage the medium's innate ability to produce multiples. Deeper symbolism can manifest from an image applied in a variety of ways. For the show at 18th Street Brewery, I envisioned 2 simple Simhasana/Hunter inspired pieces on either side of a more elaborate central piece. The event room walls are lined with small two-seater tables and I would create a small piece for each table.

The two Simhasana/Hunter pieces (titled Yin Hunter Shi and Yang Hunter Shi) act as imperial guardian lions, also known in feng shui as fu dogs. Fu dogs are symbols of protection and are usually displayed as a couple. Yin Hunter Shi represents the feminine in hot pink and metallic silver, while Yang Hunter Shi represents the masculine in fluorescent red and metallic gold.

Yang Hunter Shi

The central piece (titled Fierce Seeker) began in response to the snakes on the Hunter Coffee label. Although my motivation was in homage, snake imagery is rich in spiritual and archetypal symbolism. Like yogis, hunters are seekers [of nourishment, territory, game...] of a more aggressive nature. Fierce Seeker represents the yin (passive) and yang (active) energies in life symbolically expressed through passion. The background print on this piece is inspired by Chloe label art and organically balance the sharpness of Yin & Yang Hunter Shi.

Fierce Seeker

The small table pieces reference both new imagery specific to the 18th Street show and imagery re-occurring in my work. The combination of imagery provides a new context in which to consider the concepts I explore through the work.

Yang Hunter

The collection created to show at 18th Street Brewery marks a significant step in my work. In the context of beer and 18th Street Brewery, Iyengar is an icon of an ideal state. The history and meaning behind Simhasana supports the link between 18th Street Brewery and Iyengar. These associations reveal a universal nature to the mind-body-spirit connection, not one limited to the practice of yoga.

Monday, April 7, 2014

3 Types of Live Screen Printing Events

Screen printing sticker giveaway at 18th Street Brewery's grand opening party.
Live screen printing at 18th Street Brewery's Grand Opening.
March was a really fun month in which I had the opportunity to screen print in real time at three different events. Screen printing in real time— or live—is a different experience and process than working in the studio. Live screen printing requires a different approach with a lot of pre-planning that is specific to the event venue.

Art show in a print shop makes live printing a no brainer.

Good Vibrations was an art show I curated as part of Spudnik Press's Fellowship Program. The show was held in the print shop area, so I jumped at the opportunity to incorporate live printing with the opening. I asked each of the artists in the show to come up with a 1 color design to be printed. I made screens for each design prior to the opening. As guests began to arrive, my friend Ness warmed up the screens and we encouraged everyone—experienced or not—to take a turn pulling a few prints. There's something really special about pulling a fresh print and seeing it come off the screen. You could tell those printing were delighted and everyone walked away from the show with awesome art.

What I liked most about this situation is how fun and easy it was to expose people to screen printing. I was hooked immediately after pulling my first print and I look for opportunities to share what I love about screen printing.

Screen printing of 18th Street Sticker Design

18th Street Brewery celebrated their grand opening on March 15th and invited me to come out and do some live printing. 18th Street's creative director, Joey Potts (also featured in the Good Vibrations show), pretty much gave me free reign with what and how I wanted to print. I thought it would be cool to spin off the stickers I'd been making in my own work, so I designed one specifically for 18th Street Brewery. The sticker design was three colors and patrons curiously checked back as I layered the colors to see what the heck I was doing. The sticker features the face of Drew Fox, owner and head brewer himself. Of course, the many supporters went nuts over the finished stickers.

I really enjoyed printing in this casual, celebratory environment. Every one was in good spirits and stopping by to chat. I met a lot of really neat folks. The vibe was right on, doing what I love to do, with delicious 18th Street brews on hand. Doesn't get any better than this.

Live screen printing at charity benefit.

Art Gives Me Hope was a benefit for Hope For The Day held at Salvage One on March 26th. Over 40 amazing artists donated original works to be raffled. The event also featured printing by Culture Studios and 4 artists creating in real time. Another great party with a lot of positive energy in the room. At this event, I created a finished one-of-a-kind art piece. In the studio, I do a lot of non-traditional and over-sized screen printing incorporating various paint media (acrylic, latex, aerosol). I'd been looking for an opportunity to recreate this process live with the eventual goal of incorporating screen print into mural making. This time the surface provided was un-stretched canvas. I started getting some paint down and then moved into full body, large printing.

This event was quite different than the other two in that I was creating something relatively unplanned. My goal was to share the process of how I make my larger signature pieces. I definitely fed off of the energy of the crowd and people stopping by to watch, but I felt a detachment in this situation unlike the other events. I found that I remained distant and not fully engaged in the event to focus on the work at hand. This wasn't just printing, this event featured the whole creative process. Working under time constraints that I don't usually have in a new environment got the adrenaline going and there was quite a feeling of relief when the piece was done. I'm interested in more experiences like this with the hopes of being able to cultivate the unique energy of a specific time and place.

The biggest revelation from each of these experiences is that I love live printing in all regards. Can't wait to do more. I anticipate live printing leading to video and more documentation style projects. Stay tuned :)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Incorporating Intuitive Flow Yoga

BZ Daily Sunrise
In western civilization, the word commonly used to describe the practice of poses or postures in terms of flexibility, balance and strength is yoga. The practice of poses (asanas) is actually just one aspect of a much broader entity that is yoga practice. There is much theory regarding the specifics of a full yoga practice. In brief, it encompasses spiritual, energetic, and service aspects as well. My interest began with asanas and is expanding outward from there. Start where you are. 


When starting a yogic asana practice it's best to work with an experienced instructor. Having to stop and look at pictures or follow written instructions isn't conducive to flow. Video and online classes are now available, but it's important to note that what feels like proper alignment may or may not be. An instructor can see if the alignment is correct and can help make adjustments if it isn't. The best instructors can tell when you are able to move deeper into an asana and guide you into it. All of this is key to avoiding injury and allowing your body to evolve through the practice.

A thorough, well-rounded sequence is usually in order for regular asana practice to address the full body through a combination of standing and seated postures that involve flexibility, balance, strength, etc. When establishing a personal practice, sequencing can be quite challenging. How do you know what to do and in what order? By taking a variety of instructors and classes, you will no doubt find one that resonates with you. In class, note the asanas and order you are practicing in class and mimic them at home. Hone in on the basics and then refine to include variations. This can take some time.

My first classes were in Ashtanga, which is a fixed set of asanas in a fixed chronological series. Since this type of practice does not incorporate variety, it was relatively easy to get the sequence down for my home practice—with the help of Ashtanga Yoga by David Swenson. After experiencing some Hatha and Vinyasa classes I realized that there are a number of yoga styles, most of which use the same core asanas—Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I), for example. I developed a personal practice to include the core asanas, my favorite asanas, and the asanas I thought looked fun, but wasn't able to do just yet. I used variation to combat a stale practice and boredom, making sure to get up, get down and move all around. 


I recently read about Intuitive Flow Yoga in Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White. He described the practice as being guided from within by becoming deeply in tune with the messages we receive from the body. 

"For example, when you yawn and stretch, usually your movements are directed by inner feelings and impulses. Try it right now: Simply create a yawn and stretch with your arms and let the inner sensations guide how you tense, move, and stretch. It is not hard to let inner bodily feeling create and guide your movements."

Intuitive Flow Yoga means no sequencing. Intuitive Flow is letting your body truly dictate the movement. Tune in to the body. Tune out the mind. This can result in a very uneven practice. Movements on the left may not be replicated on the right. The entire practice might be seated. Perhaps, the entire practice is upside down.

This type of practice was interesting to me, but I doubted that I could quiet my mind enough to do it right. I doubted that I'd know what to do if I didn't think of what to do. I doubted that I'd try it because I didn't think I was capable. 

A week later, I woke up with sore back muscles. Very sore. My entire back. I'd been back bending like crazy the previous morning, and followed it up with 10 hours of screen printing. Much to my dismay, I thought I should take a few days off of my regular practice because I didn't want to stress those muscles without letting them heal. I decided to give Intuitive Flow Yoga a try.

Prior to the back soreness, I'd worked up a fairly rigorous personal practice. I'd fallen into an all-or-nothing mentality and wasn't recognizing value in any physical practice unless it was aggressively forward moving. While this type of mentality is rarely beneficial, it took all of the pressure off my Intuitive Flow Yoga. I wasn't expecting anything.

Naturally, this particular practice revolved around back stretching and twisting. Not a single vinyasa. Not a single handstand. I simply held each asana until I received some kind of motivation from the body. When my mind wandered, I just brought it back to my breath and body to await instruction. The instruction came as knowing what to do next— not a thought about how to move. For such an un-balanced, uneven practice my body reached a place of feeling complete. Usually, soreness like I'd experienced in my back would take days to fade. Later that very same afternoon, I noticed no discomfort or soreness in my back whatsoever. Amazing practice, right?!


While amazed at the effects of Intuitive Flow Yoga on my sore back, I hadn't realized how aggressive—and not just in yoga—I'd become until I started examining the situation to write this article. Screen printing for 10 hours straight? The tendency here is to push, pressure, and over-extend to the point of significant physical or emotional response. This is not a new experience.

The new experience is Intuitive Flow Yoga. Something definitely clicked with that first practice, I've noticed a heightened sense of physical awareness during asana practice. Instead of practicing just core and favorites, I'm able to hear what my body is asking for and I incorporate those asanas.I can feel the myself deepening in the practice.

I'm even recognizing emotion as a feeling in my body before my mind elevates it to critical fruition— a tightness in chest as frustration or uneasiness in my stomach as nervousness. Intuitive Flow Yoga is a very welcome addition to my personal practice.

Thanks to my brother Blake for his daily sunrise photos. Every day is beautiful.