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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

About Tadasana, Art & Yoga 2014

Tadasana is the first asana in BKS Iyengar's Light On Yoga and is naturally fitting as the first image used in my 2014 art & yoga intensive. Tadasana is the basic standing pose and although it looks simple, there is complex network of systems at work here—skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, nervous, pranic energy, and mental/emotional. Only a small portion of this network is controlled by the frontal lobe, our conscious mind. 

For me, Tadasana represents a positive start each day. In Tadasana, I assess where I am by taking an inventory of feeling, both physical and mental. I set some intentions and note areas that need attention, both physical and mental. As I move out of Tadasana into other asanas and deeper into the practice, I let go of the desire to actualize these intentions and practice simple awareness with detachment. Awareness with detachment is an acknowledgement of being—what is—without judgement or agenda. Like physical posture itself, there is a complex network of systems at work here—not all of which I fully realize at this time—and it seems a small portion of this network is controlled by our conscious mind as well.

Balance Application

For many of us, the self critical voice speaks loudest. Simply put, this voice keeps us in check, and holds us accountable, but it can also beat us down and drown out the supportive, self affirming voice that motivates us and makes us feel worthwhile. Both voices are valuable, but balance is key. All people experience these voices in different levels of balance. My self critical voice is so domineering that I have to make a concerted effort to quiet it down. I have to specifically listen for that supportive voice or I won't hear it. 

Whether it's an obnoxiously loud critical voice or a penchant for cookies, as imperfect beings the tendency for imbalance is in our nature. The practice of yoga creates a time and place to level out. By exercising awareness with detachment, the loud quiets and the soft becomes more audible. Yoga is a practice and with anything we might practice, proficiency increases with frequency and intensity. Maintained awareness can arguably be more valuable off the mat than on. With this in mind, be wary of yoga goals or practicing for a specific outcome. Go to the mat. Practice. 

Screen Print Application

For each image I work with this year, I'm producing a screen printed edition of 20. When it came to the printing of Tadasana I was posed with an interesting dilemma. The transparency level of the black ink I mixed was more than I typically work with creating a noticeable ink rink (called a screen kiss) on the print. The amount of extender making the black ink more transparent also made it more viscous leading to some slight bleeding where the black prints over the gold.

As I reviewed the first couple of prints, I liked seeing more of the fluorescent red under the black and the screen kiss suggested a wave of energy radiating to Iyengar in his Tadasana. Happy accident. There is plenty of intentional noise in the print design itself, so a little bleed in the area over the gold could go unnoticed. That didn't bother me either. The print, however, does not adhere to traditional screen printing standards for a print edition. Do I re-mix the ink so I can pull some perfect prints?

At the risk of losing acceptance by screen print enthusiasts, I opted against established standards for what came naturally. In doing so, I applied the yogic practice of awareness with detachment to my art making. The print isn't perfect by edition standards, but that doesn't mean it isn't perfect exactly as it is. Imperfection is the essence of the print.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Quantifying Yoga Practice

Yoga doesn't really seem like something that should be recorded and measured. There are no goals in being present. That being said, there is usually something a yogi is working toward that brings them to the mat. This motivator might be a specific asana, an overall physical improvement like increased flexibility, or a life improvement like better stress management. Changes resulting from a yoga practice can be subtle and best realized over a period of time. Keeping a practice log or journal can really help bring awareness of and celebrate the progress practice brings.

I'm most interested in a better understanding of my human connection with nature. What are seasonal affects on my practice? I want to discover how different types of yoga (ashtanga, intuitive, restorative, etc) specifically affect my moods. I also want to recognize what is happening physically. To accomplish this, I created a simple spreadsheet to record the following:

  • date
  • day
  • practice type
  • pre-practice mood 
  • post practice mood 
  • flexibility
  • balance
  • strength
  • creativity
  • flow
Entries rated using a scale of 1-5:
5 - unusually on, practice milestone
4 - improved, better that usual
3 - normal, usual (my own baseline, not based on age, gender, etc statistics)
2 - less than normal, a little down
1 - extremely low, unusually off

I have designated notes fields to be more specific about my mood, physicality and other things I am noticing. Flexibility, balance, strength, creativity, and flow are both physical and spiritual aspects of humanity so it will definitely be interesting to notice the connections and changes over time. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Yoga & Art Intensive

In the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna the meaning of Yoga:

“When the restlessness of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice of Yoga, the yogi by the grace of the Spirit within himself finds fulfillment...There is nothing higher than this...This is the real meaning of Yoga."

My work in 2014 will manifest from an intensive exploration and personal practice of yoga to define and experience the effects and benefits thereof. I believe incorporating a focussed yoga practice with my art practice will result in a clearer direction and more significant purpose. We can break the project into 3 components: (1) yoga study and practice (2) documentation and processing (3) visual art and communication.

The yoga study and practice includes an extensive reading list of classic texts as well as contemporary theory and philosophy. The asana practice (engaging the physical postures), meditation and prãnãyãma (breathing exercises) will consist of classes and personal practice as well as supplemental workshops and seminars. Video/photographic documentation will supplement blog writing as a means to process and share progress and insights.

I will hone in on one base image each month as appropriately informed by the yoga practice. Each base image will undergo a series of exploration featuring screen print as the primary media. Supporting media may include a variety of paint techniques: spray paint, airbrush, and acrylic, as well as sculptural elements including fabric, wood, and metal. Work will be created on a battery of substrates including paper, canvas and wood, in scale ranging from small (4”-6”) to large (108”-240”).

The work will be exhibited in a pointed seasonal context with a cumulative exhibition in 2015.

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to be okay when you don't get your way.

A saying my feng shui teacher likes to use is—”all in perfect timing.” She got the saying from her teacher. It’s an easy one, right? Sometimes our timing is not the same as that of the universe. When I want a certain thing—a certain relationship, a certain opportunity, those boots, whatever—if the time isn’t right for me, then it’s not going to happen. 

As simple as the sentiment seems, I didn’t fully understand it until recently. Accepting that I didn't get what I wanted is only the surface of the concept. The depth of it involves being okay with it and better still, stoked about it. Here’s what I mean:

I found out about an artists residency program right at the time I was considering leaving steady employment to focus on art full time. I thought finding out about this program was a sign that the time was right to quit and go do what I really wanted to be doing. I thought, “I’ll time my notice and end my employment just before the residency starts. This way I’ll have a working direction all lined up and make tons of appropriate contacts right out of the gate. The timing is perfect!”

I gave my notice and worked my ass off on the residency application, but didn’t end up getting it. I didn’t feel upset or disappointed, though. I actually got a little excited. The time was right for a change, but starting up a residency program wasn't the right change. So what is next? This remains to be seen, but opportunity is always around the corner.

Increased confidence is a benefit of practicing Sãlamba Sarvãngãsana (shoulder stand) and I’ve been practicing it a lot over the past 6 months. It takes confidence to be secure in a decision even if the outcome isn't what you expected or wanted. The key is feeling good about the direction you are headed and not which gas stations you stop at along the way.