Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Exquisite Form, Revolutionary Function: You Are Beautiful at Galerie F

You Are Beautiful Sticker
The sticker that started it all.

The incredibly positive and powerful You Are Beautiful phenomenon started with just 100 stickers. Many of those were likely put up by artist Matthew Hoffman, himself. Now, ten years since, over half a million stickers cover the globe and You Are Beautiful has evolved to include public murals, installations, and exhibitions including thousands of artists.

Galerie F is currently host to one such exhibition and I highly recommend stopping in. The exhibition ends November 17, so hurry.  

Hoffman's work is displayed in chapters. Each chapter features a lesson of sorts—for example, "Chapter Five: Create an impact. Do a lot with a little." Each chapter title is then elaborated on briefly—"Do something for a stranger unexpectedly, unapologetically say it's okay to be human. Be audacious and a little dangerous. Give gifts and have fun." Each chapter's lesson is translated into both a wood cut design and screen print edition. In itself, the work's aesthetic is clean and very well designed.

You Are Beautiful Chapter 1: Start anywhere as long as it's now.
Chapter 1: Start anywhere as long as it's now.

The exhibition also features a wall of single pieces by about 30 of Chicago's favorites such as Nice One, Shawnimals, and Don't Fret. The diversity in interpretation presented in uniform size and shape makes for an incredibly engaging display. It's easy to spend a lot of time with each and every piece.

You Are Beautiful, guest artist wall display.
Featured guest artists.

Prior to attending the opening, I'd seen the stickers around and thought it was a really cool idea. I'm all for injecting positive messages into the media-heavy, lack-inducing landscape that dominates much of Chicago. I reference Chicago specifically because this is my realm of experience. Considering the reach this campaign has achieved, I'm sure Chicago is not unique in it's benefit from this type of positive messaging. I digress.

The stickers work through repetition on a subliminal level. Before you know it, you don't even see them any more but you unconsciously recognize the message "you are beautiful." The impact the stickers have is gradual and like any mantra or affirmation—the more you see it, hear it, say it, think it, the more quickly it is realized. 

The exhibition compared to the sticker campaign works on a more cognitive, immediate level. Hoffman breaks down what could be called a formula for success into easy, very doable steps. "Chapter One: Start anywhere as long as it's now." This can mean so many different things to so many different people, yet it means something very specific to every individual that takes it in. Don't worry if the chapter title is a little ambiguous, Hoffman gives you a few sentences to keep you going in the right direction. Each chapter progressively fleshes out definitive action to take for whatever it is you are starting now. It seems Hoffman is cheering you on as you make your way from chapter to chapter. You'll leave excited, motivated, and knowing that you cannot be stopped.

All the good vibes that went into the making of this work are projected right onto the viewer. This exhibition brings new consideration to the concept of functional art. Not utilitarian, but very purposeful, extremely effective and supremely valuable.

Get some You Are Beautiful Stickers here.
Check out more work from the show here. Couple of my favorites below...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Get It Clear In Your Mind

I'm attracted to this image because it depicts the human face and skull simultaneously. The face represents human identity and symbolizes all that comes with consciousness including ego, inner dialogue, cognitive thought, and more. The skull represents that which is inside us all: molecules and magnetism, potential and energy. Depending on where you put your focus, one becomes more apparent than the other.


In life I seek meaning, peace, and symbiosis with the world around me—oneness, if you will—as do so many others. A wide range of religious and philosophical theory agree that the conscious mind separates us from these. As examples, we can reference a variety of literature from the Bible's story of Adam and Eve to more recent writings by Eckhart Tolle. The quest for oneness can be thought of as over-riding our egoic mind, drowning it out, or controlling it to align ourselves with the flow of nature.

All things in the universe have a function and purpose that ultimately benefits the whole. Parasites, for example, we may think of as negative but contribute in a unique way. For this reason, I'm not convinced the ego is all bad. The question isn't whether or not the ego is good. The question is what are the positive aspects of identity, individuality and other conscious creations? Or how does consciousness align us with the natural flow?


I love making art. I enjoy the process in that lose-track-of-time kinda way. A second aspect of art making that draws me in is the ability to communicate and learn through what I'm making. There isn't anything fundamentally wrong with beauty for beauty's sake, however, I feel there is intrinsic value in art that is purposeful as well as visually stimulating.

I've found my work to be most successful when I create unconsciously—by selecting surfaces, images, colors, lines, shapes, placements, etc instinctively. When I approach art making with a plan, goal, or preconceived idea about what I'm creating, the result is banal. The unconsciously generated work resonates more with viewers. Upon reflection of the work, I am able to make realizations and connections that I wouldn't have through conscious thought.

Surprisingly, letting go of pre-conceived art making can be challenging. It parallels the quest for oneness in that it requires a quieting of the mind.


I started working with this image right around the time I quit smoking. Without going into too much detail, I'd tried to quit for about 8 years and was finally able after reading Allen Carr's Easy Way To Stop Smoking. The difference between this book and the other multitude of quit smoking aids is that the book helped me change the way I thought about cigarettes. Instead of thinking I was missing out on smoking, I mentally got myself excited to be a non-smoker.

What's interesting here is that we have the ability to consciously change a thought pattern that had become unconscious. Carr stated numerous times that it is necessary to "get it clear in your mind" that you are a happy non-smoker before smoking that last cigarette. Envision it, feel it, know it. Essentially, this is visualization. Visualization can be a productive use of the conscious mind and it can be a positive one. 


Carr's book used a lot of repetition. Repetition can be a strong tool in learning. I'm inclined to incorporate this image in my work indefinitely. A clearer distinction needs to be made in my understanding of consciousness, ego, unconscious, energy, their functions and their relationships with each other. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Avert The Conduit Of Evil For Easy Inspiration

Master Tao Porchon-Lynch
World's Oldest Yoga Teacher, Master Tao Porchon-Lynch
I discovered Tao Porchon-Lynch through a blog article written by Robert Sturman. He'd photographed her over the previous couple of years and wanted to "show her off"on her 95th birthday. And show her off, he did.
Master Tao Porchon-Lynch

Master Tao Porchon-Lynch
Tao radiates a contagious energy and love of life—even through a photograph—that inspires people to get where she is. If you aren't inspired, there are at least 275 comments to back me up. So why don't we see more people or imagery that inspire us in everyday life? Why aren’t our days filled with little land mines that keep exploding us forward?

My gut reaction is to blame media—television, movies, magazines, advertising—as the conduit of evil imagery keeping us muddled in discontent. I might hold fast to this stance if there weren’t so many ways to filter what we intake. We can watch the show or not. We can go into the movie theater or not. The magazine does not jump into our hands or fall open under our noses. TIVO, SPAM filters, unsubscribe, adjust your settings.

So, wait...what just happened here?

Inspiration is not something I feel automatically all day, every day. I want to. Since there is a desire for inspiration, there must be a lack of inspiration. My ego does not take responsibility for any type of lack. There is always some thing or some one else to blame. To deflect responsibility, I took the focus off of myself and hid in an "us vs them" scenario—people seeking inspiration vs media.

Turning the focus outside of the self is a common response the ego uses to safely assume a victim’s role. Safety in numbers and ambiguity of authority. “We” are mistreated, but there is no approachable source, therefore rendering "us" helpless victims.

Let’s look at what happens when I keep my stream of consciousness in the first person.

Eh-hem...So why don’t I see more people or imagery that inspire me in everyday life?

The answer becomes obvious and simple. Because I don't look for it.

If pictures of awesome yogis inspire me, all I need to do is Google “awesome yogis.” I can read books that inspire me. Paying attention to nature inspires me. If I don’t have a computer, book or nature handy, I can just think about Tao Porchon-Lynch and be inspired.

It really is just that easy.

Now...some awesome yogis, inverted!

Janet Stone
Headstand variation.

Michael Taylor

Noelle Beaugureau
Noelle Beaugureau

Amy Jirsa
Tripod Headstand Variation

Briohny Smyth
One Legged Inverted Staff Pose

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

First World Problems

The image I used on the left side of this piece is my Facebook profile picture. As of this article's publishing date, anyway.

In a recent conversation, the phrase "performance of self" was applied to social networks and media. Thanks Taylor, I couldn't have said it better myself. 

This piece pays a lot of attention to identity.

"As well it should!" cries the ego. 

What is the function of identity? Better yet, what are the redeeming attributes of identity? On the surface, identity's sole function is to serve the ego. And bring you down, sister.

"As well it should!" cries the ego. 

The skull image on the right side works as a symbol for what is inside us all. It represents our being without flesh, personality, individuality. It represents our essence.

In my mind, this piece is an observation, reflection, and exercise in maintaining perspective. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

You Are Here: The Making of an ARTCRANK Print

screen printed design for ARTCRANK by Tara Zanzig

March 11th of this year, I received notice that I was selected to design a print for ARTCRANK, Chicago. ARTCRANK is a really fun show, and it was even more exciting that I was to be among some of our screen printing best. 


At the time, I was settling into a groove with a new body of work. Printing a lot of onesies and twosies on canvas or vinyl. Large scale. Only super bright colors or black and white. I had only 2 edition style print runs to speak of from the previous six months. 

color sampling print, subject FEW Distillery

donated poster design and print for Windy City Rocks
Rock For Kids Benefit @ The Empty Bottle
Both of these editions were printed using index color separations with up to 8 screens each. Although I’m immersed in screen printing all day, every day at Sharprint, I’d only recently gotten back behind the squeegee, so these prints were labor intensive with a lot of room for error. 

Print Approach & Technique
I approached the print for ARTCRANK differently than my most recent editions while remaining true to the current body of work. I wanted to design at the high end of my technical knowledge base while accommodating the lower end of my printing skill set.

If there’s one thing I won’t compromise, it’s tight registration. As much as a hairline of space between colors absolutely ruins it for me. Since I’d not been able to get the perfection I wanted with registration, I decided to design something that didn’t rely on tight registration.

While I made some things easier, I also set up a challenge for myself. I decided to use 55 line halftone dots instead of the tiny diamond shaped specks that form the bitmap composition evident in index separations. A challenge, indeed. I pulled back on my separation file 3 times before I was able to get prints that didn’t gain and fill in areas darker than 50%. Once I was able to maintain good detail in the dark areas, I was struggling to keep the detail in the lights from drying out. Long story short, I printed a lot of these to get an edition of 30.

Design Concept
Once I’d realized some guidelines for what I wanted to print, the design came together really easily. I love it when this happens.

screen print order 1 of 5

screen print order 2 of 5

screen print order 3 of 5

When I look at the finished print, it brings back how I felt while making it. I remember expecting an early spring, but it was still really wintery and cold outside. I felt the confinement I do at the end of each winter. This came out in the small, square print with dark edges that keep the viewer inside. However, I can see the promise of spring too. There’s bright splashes of color breaking out of the grey. The cruiser bike is out. And BBQ beers. 

final print | screen print edition of 30

Monday, June 3, 2013

Identity: Foundation Defined

I moved into my little studio amongst the presses of Spudnik Press about a year ago—summer 2012. Got my printing chops back on and did some serious reflecting on what I had been making when I was working from home. Given the new environment and new capabilities, I had no desire to continue working with the same aesthetic and I didn't feel a natural progression of direction.

Around the beginning of 2013, I stopped putzing around the studio and jumped in. I stopped being afraid to emulate artists and techniques I admire and adore and just started working. I like the stuff that's coming out. I can feel progression now too. The working is beginning to develop.

Recently, I took a moment to look at these new pieces in relation to each other and noticed the reoccurring theme of identity. Both #happybirthday @droooone and Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowgirls incorporate actual portraits. Inside Us All shows identity stripped away. The Sisters is a three piece work-in-progress that personifies each of the Goose Island's sister beers—Madame Rose, Lolita, & Juliet. Since making this observation, I've noticed the existence, use, manipulation, application, etc of—what I understand to be—"identity" all around me. Even in my own thoughts.

Just what is identity?

According to Merium Webster:
1: Sameness of essential or generic character in different instances. Sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing—ONENESS
2: The distinguishing character or personality of an individual—INDIVIDUAL or the relation established by psychological identification.

The first definition refers to generic character and sameness in a literal sense. The second definition refers to what makes something different and unique as understood by the mind. The meaning of the word seems to contradict itself and I'm reconsidering what exactly I understand identity to be...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Sisters Portraits

I first heard of Juliet, Madame Rose, and Lolita referred to as The Goose Island Sisters a couple of years ago. Since then, I've known that I wanted to do their portraits. It's very cool for beers to have sisters. Especially when the girls are solid.

This 3 panel piece will personify each of The Sisters. I've begun the panel backgrounds and have digitally mocked up the transfer images I intend to apply. The backgrounds will develop a bit more and I'll also incorporate airbrush.  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Cleaning

A major overhaul of the website, leads me back to this blog—which I haven't touched in just about a year exactly. Did you happen to read the 2011 recap? Nice.

Started this blog in 2010 and I'll keep checking in. Sporadically, I promise myself like it's December 31, that I'm going to be consistent with this thing. Not sure how well I'll stick to it this time—like sand through the hourglass—it's December 31 again.