Saturday, July 30, 2011

Breaking Radio Silence, Part 2: Grand Scenesterism

I've recently done a couple pieces for Scene Magazine, covers and what not. It's actually a pretty awesome gig doing work for them now. They recently took on my homie, and design powerhaüs, OKPants, AKA: Aaron Secrist, as their new Art Director and he's really whipped things into shape, with the quickness!

At any rate, I did the cover of the May 18th issue, which was for an article, The Job Machine, about an organization, Global Cleveland, that is working to bring a specific type of immigrant, H-1Bs, to Cleveland to fill jobs, and what that might mean for the region. I used the local iconic image of one of the Guardians of Traffic statues that hold sway over the Hope Memorial Bridge (Lorain/Carnegie). I think it came out pretty awesome, even in print it looked better than I expected.

In addition to that, I did the cover for an article about Ohio selling off the prisons to private corrections firms, and the impact that will have on the system, all the lives completely wrapped up in that, and the communities that have to co-exist with it.

Years ago, I did the art for a series of columns in the Cleveland Free Times written by a man who was actually IN prison at the time, called simply "The Joint". I posted a lot of them on this blog, but apparently only labeled some of them, HERE. After reading the draft of the article, Shake Up in Lockdown, I went back and looked at all the art from The Joint, which I hadn't looked at in years. I felt a strange level of pride for all that work as the memories flooded the vines of my mind grapes. There's a distinct illustrative growth that I think is apparent over the arc of the series.

These are the roughs I jammed out and sent Aaron, and the editor, Erich, to light the fuse on this piece. I knew it needed to be claustrophobic and have a great many number of people in it. One of the worst problems in the corrections system is over crowding, and the pressures that puts on the inmates and the C.O.s was something I thought would be visually compelling.

They chose the fourth option, and I just ran with it. I love drawing crowds of people and trying to make them all look like unique individuals with stories of their own. Essentially, I'd like you to be feel able to point out any single dude in that shot, and feel like you could read their story and it would be interesting, at the very least, and a compelling tale about a dude, at the very best.

I've been to prisons, I've never been IN prison, but I've been to them. I've even been to the prison they talk about in the article, in Grafton. I've visited, and spent a lot of time paying attention to the convicts, inmates, the Corrections Officers, the other visitors, who's there and the way everything is set up. I didn't use any hard number statistics as a basis for the crowd on this cover. I based this drawing on what I have seen, with my own eyeballs, in my own head, right in front of my brain. Prisons are pretty dehumanizing, and it's easy for people involved to get wrapped up in the systematic details, and what those statistics mean. To loose sight of the vast number of actual lives involved. It's also very easy for people who don't have the first hand experiences of being there and seeing it in person to not think about it, or even give a shit about what's happening. It's easy to glance at an article or catch some seconds long news bite about the system and think "hey- that's fucked up, thank god it ain't my problem. It's all those people that are statistics' problem." When I got assigned this cover, in some small way, I felt like this was an opportunity to silently state "LOOK- this is what we're talking about. THIS is what we're dealing with." I don't know if it worked or not.

Here's the final colors. I think it came out good. I think I saved a palette of swatches in Photoshop just to use for the clothes and skin tones. I knew I wanted it to be pretty colorful, but also limited. Lately I've been using this Color Scheme Designer website to cheat. It's pretty helpful, but I often then go way off into the wilds after setting up the palette.

Here's the final with the text designed by Aaron, which looks awesome. I always do all my text by hand, and I love the way that looks, but goddamn does it look great when another designer spikes it over the net straight into the opposition's faces (yes- a volleyball reference! Who knew?).

Also in the mix over at Scene, I drew this background are for the featured Happy Hour of the week, which runs in the center of the magazine every week. The art stays the same, but the Happy Hours change every week. I drew this pretty big, brush and ink on Bristol Board... 14" x 17", I think.

Here's the colors. This one I knew I could get pretty bright and vibrant. It's always a blast coloring a city scene. It's easily one of my favorite things to draw. There's definitely an opportunity to make buildings and other urban structures just as expressive and characteristic as ...characters. It's architecture and also part of bigger scheme, I think cities lend themselves to articulating something that maybe can't be said otherwise. I have to think about this way more before I keep on typing.

Aaaaanyway, here's a shitty cellular telephone camera picture of the spread in the magazine. I like it. It works.

Next up: MELT megapost.

Dr. Feelgood, Fetko- Get Better!

Today (and yesterday), MELT bar & grilled is offering a special benefit sandwich called The Dr. Feelgood Melt, which is a Masaman Curry Chicken sandwich, with chicken roasted then bathed in a sweet and spicy curry, spicy chana del puree (chickpea lentil), mango and golden raisin chutney, and of course... pepper-jack cheese. Vegan and vegetarian options are available, if you don't dig on poultry. 25% of the loot made from these awesome sandwiches goes to Chris Fetko, a Melt employee that had a fierce bicycle accident back in June.

I don't really know Fetko, but I'm pretty stoked to have done this poster and to have been part of this benefit sandwich. The Melt Family is a pretty tight crew, and it's a Family I'm very proud to be a part of (even if, in all honesty, I'm probably more of a "crazy cousin" or "scary uncle" type member of the Melt Family). At any rate, the word was Fetko is a huge Mötley Crüe fan, so the sandwich was names The Dr. Feelgood. That record has one of the very best of all the shitty hair band record covers of that era, so I knew I wanted to include that as part of the art. It's so iconic and memorable, even if you can't stand those catchy but banal jams. I actually had a ball drawing this homage to "The Crüe", switching the snake to a chicken, and adding the Melt logo to the dagger.

Here it is, color, bigger jpg:

Here's the OG Dr. Feelgood:

Fetko's homie, and Melt coworker Jim Allison got to do a little Art Direction here, where I needed to know details about the injured man. I drew this sandwich featuring a depiction of the successful face-plant. These nerds play D&D, so note the percentile D10s- rolling to see how many hit points he lost.

Here's the full color, larger jpg. I hope it meets with approval and is somewhat accurate. I do like being able to include real people into the posters and stuff I do at Melt. It's fun, and the people I use are always super stoked. I usually turn them into robots or animals though. So, there's that.

Here's the scan of the text, which I actually really liked doing. Overall this may have been the most fun poster I've done in a while. Not that the other posters aren't fun, but all the little individual details about this one added up to being a good time. I did have goddamn Dr. Feelgood stuck in my head for a week, though. That was bad.

I wish I had had the chance to post this sooner. I do have a giant backlog of Melt stuff to post. I'll get that up here as soon as I can! Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Sleep Till Blackbird

Cleveland People: This evening, Thursday, July 28th, 2011, there is an Opening Reception for the first exhibit at Blackbird Baking Company (1391 Sloane, at the corner of Sloane and Detroit in Lakewood). "No Sleep Till Blackbird" is an exhibition of the process and craft of award winning bicycle framebuilder Dan Polito, of Cicli Polito fame and notoriety.

Here's the Press Release:


An exhibition of the process and craft of award winning bicycle framebuilder, Dan Polito.

An opening reception will be held Thursday, July 28 from 7-9:30 at Blackbird Baking Company. The exhibition will run through August 19th during regular business hours. Complete custom built cycles will be on view the weekend of the Criterium bike race (July 28th-31st).

Winner of the Best in Show at the 2009 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, Dan Polito is the man behind Cicli Polito. Working out of his shop in Cleveland, Polito creates custom built bikes that have earned him international recognition and place him among the top steel frame makers in the world. Working at such a level means a lot of all nighters for Polito. In the middle of a seemingly endless night of work, his motto is often, “No sleep till Blackbird”, working until the early morning when the bakery opens its doors and he is one of the first customers.

This exhibition will highlight the process that goes into each custom frame he builds. It will include photos of the process, original drawings, and bike frames. Polito’s most recently completed projects will be on loan for the weekend of the Criterium as it passes by Blackbird’s doorstep Saturday, July 30th.

Blackbird Baking Company is flattered to provide the food for this process and is pleased to present this intimate look at Polito’s craft. After several years in the bakery business in Portland, Oregon, Tom Clark returned to his hometown to open Blackbird with his wife, Adria, a Portland native. Open in July 2009, it is an artisan bakery specializing in European bread and rustic pastries. More information can be found at

Blackbird is one of the sponsor’s of Lakewood’s Criterium bike race. A Criterium is a form of high speed bike racing covering less than a mile and reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The Lakewood Criterium will take place on Saturday, July 30th in the west end of Lakewood. There are several racing categories with the first race beginning at 1:00. More information can be found at

I've known Dan a long time, worked with him in the past, and been able to observe from arm's length as he worked, built, and developed, while at the same time I've been working and building on my own path, which has often seemed somewhat parallel. It's pretty inspiring to see him, and Blackbird's Danielle Schroeder (also: my Ladybird), put together this exhibit, which I think comes at the perfect time in both his development and the life of the Bakery.

It's going to be a great show, and this opening party is going to be a really great time. If you aren't familiar with Dan's bicycles or Blackbird's amazing bakery, this is the perfect opportunity to get familiar and see what they're doing.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Breaking Radio Silence, Part 1

• May: Ended in a whirlwind of a lot of hard work toward the last half, which was all great and I felt pretty strong being able to demolish all that in the midst of magic missiles exploding all around me. Unfortunately, this left me a little bit burnt out, a little bit exhausted.

• June: Realizing I needed it, I opted to take a slight break and chill for a piece. However, apparently the only thing holding me together was the work- because as soon as I stepped back I quickly started falling apart and crash landed in a pile of burning wreckage. Which was not as much fun as you would think. I still got the work done for Melt and some Red Seven posters done, but mostly by the skin of my teeth. Also, I will be posting those separate, later.

• July: This shit's been ridiculous. Between the 4th being an explosion rich war zone, and the brutal punishment of the earth scorching heat (and I'm not sure why, but I have absolutely no capacity for the heat anymore, due to the way I'm paralyzed I can't sweat, so I get pretty sick just being outside for a few minutes. Then I'm cooked and done for hours on end. I used to be able to handle it for longer periods of time, but not anymore), I'm just now, at the end of the month, starting to feel like I'm fighting my way back to normal. I'm still out of shape- and I'll get rocked every time I have to face the sun, but I've done some real good jobs lately, and got good jobs on the horizon.

I'll be posting some more of the stuff from late May, June and July in the next couple days. I may even dip into some older jams I never got up here before. In the mean time, I'll be drawing hard. Here's some stuff:

Most recently, I've done a couple posters for Now That's Class. I loved doing this because I feel like I was somewhat sharpening my poster chops in a way that I hadn't done in a long time. Melt posters are incredibly awesome, but I don't cut loose with the harsh gangster gruesomeness, or push the weirdness out into the absurd zones like I can for posters like these.

This one is a giant Sludge/Doom Metal show on August 11th, with bands from all over the globe. Pledge of Cain, Dead, Megachurch, The Unstoppable Death Machines, Churches Burn, and Red Sun. I fucked up the "E" in Red Sun and connected the horizontal lines after not doing that on any of the other "E"s.

Toxic Holocaust, Midnight, Holy Grail, Krum Bums. This one, I think worked out really well, even when I wasn't as confident it would, while I was coloring it. I gotta admit, the reverence that younger dudes ascribe to 80s thrash metal is fucking beyond me. I'm just old enough to remember how totally fucking stupid most people were in the 80s, and even though there were some beacons of true grim darkness out there in the spandex wrapped, hair spray tinted, day-glo cocaine storm, I can testify that the 80s pretty much fucking sucked. Then again, I'll probably be saying the same thing about NOW, in 20 more years, or... like, next summer. Goddamn, I hate guitar solos. Though, Midnight rules.

I drew this for this weirdo show. Tiger Hatchery, Moth Cock, Drake/Sceible/Henry Trio, and Dead Peasant Insurance. I had a lot of fun drawing this, I think I'll put the original up in the Shiner Comics Big Cartel store later this week. Dude's eating a Doom Sandwich.

Here's an Asbestos Breath flyer that I liked. What a nut! I bet that was a good show, too.

Here's a poster from waaaaay back in April, for the May 1st show at The Beachland, that The Cleveland Bachelor had me bust out. I'm not sure if the proximity to Cinco de Mayo inspired the use of this pyramid, which I think I based on The Kukulkan Pyramid in Mexico, outside of Sour Soul's home town of Mexico City. I was also riffing pretty hard on Spaghetti Westerns, which... of course. I still have no idea who Village Bicycle or ME is. Not that I'm actively trying to find out.

BEST FOR LAST TIME. This is one of my favorite posters I've done in a while. It was a show that Blue Arrow Records put on, and I knew I needed to include some sort of feline based imagery. I decided on the tower really early, and the band being called The Building had almost nothing to do with that. The cats are all based on The Volcano Cats. I had a really good time making this one. I liked drawing the text.

Thanks for reading. Check back for a lot of drawings of sandwiches, and some type about other junk later. Now get back to work. It's damn near August.