September 9, 2014

Paranoia, the destroy-yuh!

Invited to submit art for a show with a paranoia/ mind control/ art of suggestion theme, I gave it my all. Drawing on 18 years (+/-) of listening to Art Bell's Coast to Coast radio show, I hit upon three ideas in no time at all. While I do not buy into conspiracies by and large, the discussions somehow fascinate and entertain me. So, lets take a look at what I produced...

      The Bohemian Club Sign      

I based this sign on others I have seen online. It does not match any one sign exactly, aside from the content of the words. The logo is a replica of the logo used by the club. Some of you may not be familiar with the Bohemian club and will be unsure of the reason it was subject matter for this art show. Hopefully you can get the jist from this verbage I copied from Wikipedia:

The Bohemian Club is a private club; only active members of the Club (known as "Bohos" or "Grovers"[12]) and their guests may visit the Grove. These guests have been known to include politicians and notable figures from countries outside the U.S.[2] Particularly during the midsummer encampment, the number of guests is strictly limited due to the small size of the facilities. Nevertheless, up to 2,900 members and guests have been reported as attending some of the annual encampments.[citation needed]
The membership list has included every Republican Party and some Democratic Party U.S. presidents since 1923, many cabinet officials, directors and CEOs of large corporations including major financial institutions. Major military contractors, oil companies, banks (including the Federal Reserve), utilities (including nuclear power) and national media (broadcast and print) have high-ranking officials as club members or guests.

Basically, there are some major players known to be members in this club of the elite. Anytime you have people of power meeting in secrecy, you have the makings of a good ol' conspiracy. 

      Mayan Prophecy      

The idea behind this was to create a block which could pass for a section of wall removed from a Mayan temple, or the like. The majority of the 14" x 12" piece is the styrofoam core, with only a 3/4" layer of cement over that. My thought was that it would be light enough to hang on a wall. In truth, the piece probably weighs 10 pounds. Not quite the lightweight wall-hanging I had in mind. Still, it will look good in our garden.

The alleged Mayan prophecies regarding 2012 were the source of this idea. I used my own design for the head gear, basing it off of actual images found in books. Yes, that is a Starbucks cup in his hand. Sure, they did not have Starbucks in their time but, remember, this depicts a prophetic look into makind's future. Are we doomed to the fate of this pie-eyed indian? Does his mouth hang agape because he is witnessing an atomic bomb? Or, has he suddenly realized that he has spent too much on his grande mocha?

The Illuminati Nightlight

My favorite piece of the three is the Illuminati Nightlight. I will even go as far to say that it is one of the greatest pieces I have ever made. It turned out as I had hoped it would, though I had some doubt as to whether I could make it happen. 
The subject matter, of course, is the symbol from the back of a 1-dollar bill. Many conspiracy theorists claim it is a Masonic symbol, pointing to various aspects of it's design. My take on it consists of mahogany sides topped with a crystal pyramid I ordered off of Amazon.

I must give due credit to Mr. Eric Williams at Future Antiques. It was with his help that I was able to cut the compound miters necessary for the angle of the 'bricks' to match those on the crystal pyramid. I can say with some certainty that I would have been hard-pressed to get the accuracy his knowledge provided me were I to be left to my own devices.

Finally, I want to discuss the light coming from beneath the pyramids base. As I was working on mounting the light fixture inside the piece, I noticed that raising the base slightly from the tabletop caused a really cool glowing 'halo' around the bottom. As a result, I ended up mounting tiny rubber feet to the inner walls. That was a really cool addition to an already exceptional piece. 

August 12, 2014

I almost didn't recognize you.

It has not been that long since I started making art for 'the masses'. I figure the real start was around 2006, when I moved into the place where I still reside. Tae, the lovely woman who would become my wife, was due to visit my house for the first time and the place was painfully sparse. I did not have any dining room furniture to speak of. My living room consisted of about 16 feet worth of workbench space and a tall, narrow shelving unit which housed a rinky-dink TV and a couple gaming consoles. I had no bed. I think I had a hand-me-down dresser... Most striking, I had nothing on any of the apartment walls.

What, I thought, could I do to make my apartment more presentable? Furniture, I knew, would cost money. Being impoverished, I decided homemade art was the solution. Some sort of painting was going to be the key in my drive to gussy up the pad as the date of my guest's arrival loomed. So, what to paint?

A samurai! Of course! Japanese girl... Japanese subject matter... It would be a cinch. I thought. Wrongly. Not having delved into Japanese art much further than some anime and 1 or 2 Kurosawa films, my memories from which to draw inspiration from were, surprisingly, more barren than my house. My solution was to do a painting based upon one I had seen in a book. While the original would certainly look far superior to what I ended up with, the final piece was indeed pleasing.

I painted it on a 2' x 4' scrap of cabinet-grade birch plywood that I scored on a construction site. Armed with acrylics and a circular saw, I did a valiant job of creating a statement of my capabilities with this one project. Having this hanging opposite the door as you entered the apartment made my home far more welcoming. It hangs in our living room to this day.

Although the art was not created for public consumption, it was the spark that lit that flame. I was finally aware of painting and my ability to utilize it with effectiveness. There would still be a couple years before I would hang my art in a gallery for the first time, but it was not long afterwards that I created my first piece for someone who was not me. 

The shop shown above is located at 2843 University Avenue. Owned by Mr. Simon Wong, the space houses all manner of items from the far east. Statuettes, figurines, vases, swords, clothing, paintings... as I said, all manner of items. And, according to the rave reviews on Yelp, Kam Fung is the only place one need visit when making the move to create a feng shui living space. It was Simon who received the art I am eluding to.

Having enjoyed a casual, friendly relationship with one another for a couple years, I was happy to oblige when Simon asked me to paint something on a cabinet door he possessed. I took the wood home and, with Tae's help, stripped it of the existing paint and finish on the panel. Finally, with the prep work complete, it was time to be creative. Initially, I did not have any ideas about what I should paint.  Looking back, I believe that my habit of letting the 'canvas' dictate what shall be painted was likely born at this point. After staring at the door for a great deal of time, the image, in all its randomness, became clear in my mind. Although I did not know it, the creation given life on Simon's cabinet door had all the hallmarks of future artwork I would eventually produce.

Recently, I have been toying with the idea of using the term 'nansensu' (nonsense) as the name of my personal style. I think the sign shown here is a perfect example. The banner at the top advertises a shop that caters to soldiers (Bushi), offering discount clothing and supplies. Below the enormous setting sun, the wandering ronin gives testimony to some of the features that make this his one-stop trading post: They rent boats, they offer hot baths and, for customers who prefer it, this establishment accepts personal checks! It is an additional bonus to learn that such a market is open 7 days each week, 24 hours a day.

I ran into Simon out of the blue last weekend. Remembering the cabinet door, and wishing to see it after so many years, I inquired about it. I was delighted to learn it still hung in his house. I was further excited to hear he would bring it to his shop so that I could get the photo of it which, foolishly, I had failed to get back then. The icing on this already delicious cake is the fact that, today, he let me take it home for a few days. This will allow me to get a good photo, for sure. Also, the extended borrow-time will let me reconnect with a piece of my personal history. Nansensu jya nai..

July 30, 2014

Sweet Simplicity

(Click for trippy bigness)

I am not much of a pot smoker. I took a ride on the proud mary once upon a trip, but it makes me tired anymore. Worse yet, it makes me look very tired. In other words, I made a decision years ago that looking like I was 'high on something' was not the look I was going for and I put the peace pipe in mothballs. Despite my leap from the love train, I support anybody's decision to use responsibly.... unless it leads to sinister things....

In my 20's, I was turned on to the spoken word recordings of Jello Biafra. I was familiar with his wonderfully biting lyrics as long-time front man for the Bay Area punk band, the Dead Kennedys. His fifth speaking album, I Blow Minds For A Living, was released in 1991 and contained, among other things, an extensive history of marijuana and its road from useful vegetation to illegal narcotic. It was here that I first heard that, sometime in the 1930s, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, it was said that marijuana was known to cause people to 'listen to jazz'. True or not, it is hilarious. The idea has stuck with me and, 23 years later, I put the idea down as art.

The image shown is my computer rendition. Of note is the fact that this falls into the category of art which turned out exactly as I had envisioned it- the rarest of things, I am afraid. It will appear as an aged painting (acrylic on plywood, 2' x 2') in the very near future. At that time I will post a photo of the finished product. That is, unless I am too baked to remember.

April 20, 2014

Son of Man

My latest piece measures a paltry 5" x 18". It will not be used as contest bait, but does illustrate some very famous eyes. I invite the throng of viewers to throw a guess into the ring as to whose eyes served as the models.

The black is on two separate pieces of MDF, and the lime green is painted on a third. I cut and sanded a slight back-bevel on the black pieces so that, although they are mounted directly to the back piece, they appear to be 'floating' above it. I am happy with this simple piece. You can see it in my eyes.


Due to the overwhelming response, it will be more cost effective for Nonphilter, Inc. to simply post the answer to this puzzler in the form of a photo. Inputting all responses would have taken a team of monkeys with scissors and gluesticks, working around the clock, a minimum of a fortnight.

March 26, 2014

Free to be you, free to be me

I had a really groovy idea today. Well, it actually started with a groovy idea I had last night...

(click to inspect the embiggened image)

For those of you who have seen the as-yet-unsold Mona Lisa's Eyes painting I did, you will easily draw parallels between that one and the one I present today.

With Mona's Eyes, I painted using a halftone pattern. In making the piece above, I was attempting to get maximum contrast and minimal detail, while still ending up with a portrait that is largely recognizable. Whether or not I was successful is not easy to decide on my own. I already know who it is. So, while it looks like I nailed it, I can not be to sure. It is the untainted mind that I hope can decipher this largely unimportant riddle. That is where my groovy idea today comes into play.

I hereby offer the above painting as the prize in the first ever Nonphilter contest giveaway. The contest will work very simply: The first Nonphilter reader to correctly name the person whose eyes I have painted above, answering in the comments below, can have this for free. This was painted on a nice little piece of cherry. it measures approximately 6" tall x 21" wide and is 1/4" solid cherry. being that it is a thin piece of solid wood, this is certain to warp if exposed to drastic fluctuations in humidity, so don't hang it in your shower is what I am getting at.

I can not guess for sure how easy this will be for others to solve. I can actually think of someone other than the true subject that this resembles, so who knows what the public sees. Nevertheless, good luck.


Congratulations to Nick! he solved the mystery. It was indeed Sir John Lennon. (Was he knighted? I don't know for sure...) Nick has chosen to receive the piece rather than take the all-inclusive trip offered by Nonphilter International, LLC. I think that was a smart decision.


The following guidelines are completely bogus and are posted here simply to give the illusion that a major contest event is underway when, in reality, I would be lucky if anyone EVER reads this post long enough to realize that the painting above is a prize in a contest to begin with. Nonphilter, International LLC, Inc., its subsidiaries and affiliated companies (collectively, the “Company”), will conduct its contests substantially as described in these general contesting rules, and by participating, each participant agrees as follows:
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March 22, 2014

Spring Cleaning

I am constantly working on art in my spare time. I may not post much, due to my love affair with reclining comfortably on cushions while watching ANYTHING. But, I assure you, I am always going. going, going on the art. Foolishly, I have many great pieces that I forget to get photos of and, alack, they get sold and forgotten. Then there are the pieces which do get captured on camera, but lay neglected in dusty, digital folders within my computer's hard drive. But, not today! Today I bring you a collection of heretofore unshared creations produced during the spans I went A.W.O.L. in the recent past.


(Click to view big, Mack.)

This one is not particularly new. It is at least a couple years old. Somehow, I never shared it on my blog. I like it a bunch. It represents a good mix of the techniques I frequently employ, and is indicative of what passes for my personal style. I cannot explain my style well, but it is defined by, among other things: recycled wood, bastardization of corporate logos, and general peculiarity. I am confident there are people in town here that could see this and know it was my work. Probably not many, but a few. 

The wood used to create the 'canvas' for 'Meatmen' came from the scrap pieces produced when I made the plywood skull seen in  THIS POST  from 2011.

Madheros and Hellman's

This is the most recent creation, as of the typing of this post. It is painted on a panel of mahogany plywood that i scored from a new home construction job i was on in La Jolla. The superintendent told me the plywood was leftover from the material used for inset panels in the ceiling, and was up for grabs. I tooks a stack of about 9 pieces, 1/2" thick and random widths, but around 17" x 20" each. The thing that sucks is, there is a stack 4 feet high of pieces roughly 6' x 4' x 1/2", but I do not have a place to store it. dangit.

The cigarettes read 'Madhero'. As funny as it seems now, cigarettes were sold in candy form to children back in the day. I recall the names on 2 of the 'brands', which were near-exact copies of real tobacco products. one was Pell Mell (Pall Mall.) The other was Madhero (Marlboro.) The candy cigarettes were curiously reflective of real cigarettes in that they really did not taste 'good', but somehow they were addictive as hell and I could go through two packs a day, easy.

The smokes are balanced with the East Coast version of 'Best Foods' mayonnaise, Hellman's. I think the reason this was used is obvious, so I will not say any more about that.

The microphone-as-cranium makes an unexpected appearance in this piece. The last time we saw that was in THIS POST. Above the head we see low cards in a mediocre hand. While not a great hand, it is 2 pairs with an Ace kicker, making it a hand that is weak, but making a strong effort to shine. The kanji above translates to "Where there is a will, there is a way."

Overall, this deeply cryptic and coded image is sure to stump the most seasoned of sleuths and, to make it ultimately interesting, I vow to never confirm or deny any knowledge of the symbolic nature of this painting. All I can say is, it is me, but not me alone. Perhaps the sale of this one will be to the person most interested in solving the mystery. After all, having it at home would afford more chances to examine it. Frankly, I would hang it opposite the toilet if it were me.

Note: Aside from those mentioned above, I did not intentionally make any references in this painting to other known entities. Yet, I may have subconsciously given a shout-out to David Bowie's pants.

Real X-ray Specs!!

Pop-culture inspired, obviously. The kanji translates as 'X-ray.'

I loved comic books as a kid. Today, I still get great joy from flipping through comics published during my youth. I especially love the ads that promised everything I desired, such as X-Ray glasses. In those ads, a dork was either shown looking into his own hand or ogling a feminine silhouette. The implication was that the future was "finally here" and we would soon live as panty-obsessed geeks in a wonderous future, provided one spent $2 + shipping for the catalog.

It never happened. Interestingly, I think this piece also promises more than it delivers. Think about it.

Saito-san needs to chill.
The idea for this came from my appreciation for the kabuki face painting. Its hard to go wrong when you are working with red, white and black. The Nazis knew this, and now you know it.

I created the pattern on the green panel by making a stencil of 4 or 5 of the flower motifs, then sprayed with white paint as I moved the stencil down the board.
One of my favorite things here is the small flower-shaped pieces of hardware used to secure the two boards together. I received hundreds of these when I secured a bounty of items from a trophy store that was going out of business.
I pulled the words from a Japanese language phrase book. Because it will be hanging at Lestats coffee shop, I chose the phrase, "Mr. Saito does not drink coffee." As I see it, he looks as if you have asked one too many times.


This is basically ripped right out of the annals of Japanese 'ukiyo-e' art of yore. I am a big fan of the style which, as far as I know, is no more. the original ukiyo-e artists plied their trade using wood blocks, carving each color seperately and printing them one on top of another, as one might do for a multi-colored silkscreen print. The most famous of these, 'the great wave of Kanagawa', has been ripped off a jillion times. Actually, I may have done some thieving of my own. You'd have to go back through my blog entries to be sure. The joy imparted in this piece is that the geisha of 200 years ago appears to be on a cellphone. (a more likely prop in an actual ukiyo-e piece would have been a mirror.) I find the twist absolutely delicious and it beats the heck out of me how one of my best ideas ever took so long to sell. But, sell it did. Bless you nameless patron of the arts.

Big pack, too small

Andrew Estrada (formerly of Zepf Alt. Gallery) had commented to me about a pair of statues that he had seen at a gallery in Los Angeles. One was Biggie Smalls, the other Tupac. I will be the first to say that I do not have much knowledge of the recorded works of these two 'artists'. I do, however, recognize iconic imagery from popular culture. It was not difficult to see how two seperate works involving the slain figures would likely be desirable to a great many people.  Using my love for ultra-high contrast and excessive negative space, I created the pair on masonite, using black and white latex house paint.

Tupac looking down.

Biggie looking wistful.
I did not have a working car at the time. Still, getting the pieces hung was important. A space on the wall in 'my area' of Lestats had been vacant for too long, and I did not wish to lose the coveted location due to perceived apathy. Having only a bike at my disposal, transporting the large pieces required some ingenuity.
First, I wanted to protect the paint. I wrapped the pair in a blanket, being sure to seperate them by a layer of cloth. A smaller bundle containing another small painting was stacked upon that. Because the whole mess was too large to comfortably carry under my arm, I decided it would have to go on my back. As Lestat's is a few miles from here, comfortable straps were going to be crucial. Placing a lightweight backpack on the top of it all, I began to secure the pieces with carefully considered rope placement. While it does not look it, the final configuration took close to an hour.

I was not sure if the image on the left was easy to decipher, so I added the cheap-ass scribble on the right to clarify. You can imagine how this might want to swing side to side as I pedaled. I ended up needing to clamp a couple small pieces of wood onto the small rack behind the bike seat (not pictured) which served as a 'channel' into which the tail end of my packaged art could rest in and upon. It is safe to say I probably looked like quite the traveler.
I will not go so far as to say I will do anything for art. But, present me with a chance to look like a major dork and I am there.

January 16, 2014

Mr. Lee's Atomic Barnyard

I am back after an unnecessary absence. The funny thing is, I was still creating. I just was not making time to blog about the creations! See how funny that is? (no.)
Well, to make up for it, I intend to submit for you all a detailed explanation of the process I employed in the latest creation...

   Mr. Lee's Atomic Barnyard   

I found this window (and it's, as yet unused, other half) at least 4 months ago. It collected more dust in the community laundry room until I finally felt like taking it on. This marks the second time I have used a decaying window frame. The other piece, not coincidentally, also had poultry prominently featured in the composition. Because I often let the 'canvas' tell me what it will display, there is clearly some connection between windows and chickens deep within my mind. Weird. (By the way, 'weird' in Japanese is 'hen'. Really!)

With this piece, as with most of my work, I jumped right in without a clear picture of what I would end up with. Before I knew what sort of scene the bird would finally reside in, I painted it on some fiberboard, then cut it out with a benchtop scroll saw. The repeating pattern of the feathers was not coming out very well when I simply tried to brush it on. I wanted there to be more of a 'printing press' or 'poster' quality to the chicken. I ended up cutting some adhesive-backed, foam padding into 1/16" wide x 1/4" long strips, which I arranged in a radius on the end of a dowel. It was with this stamp that I could accomplish the repitition that I desired. It was well worth the effort, and an idea that I almost did not even try.

During my hiatus I had created a circus-themed piece in the form of an advertisement for an imaginary performance company featuring a giant clown as it's headlining act. It was designed to be displayed as a sort-of sandwich board, or easel, like one might have seen outside a circus sideshow tent once upon a time. I had the frame built for it and everything. Then, I hung it at the coffee shop as a temporary filler, so my section of the wall would look less-barren, and it sold! So, while the circus feeling were still surfing my brainwaves, I decided to go with the circus sideshow theme to compliment my bird.

I needed a 'canvas'. Or, in my case, I needed some scrap material to serve as a backdrop for this work in progress. I had some pieces left from a wainscot installation I had done about 6 months ago. After cutting a piece to fit the frame, I painted it white. looking at the imitation slats in the wainscot, I saw the slats of an old fence, or side of a barn. I painted the slats red and used sandpaper to give it some age. The result was a nice compliment to the rough shape which the window itself was in. The overall rustic feel was coming along nicely.

Just as I had invented the company of 'Schlessinger and Grumstein' in the piece above, I had to decide on the entity to which a sideshow featuring a rooster would belong. I pondered various feats a freak bird might be alleged to perform. Finally, mathematics seemed folksy and ridiculous. Knowing that the sideshows of yore were aimed at a generation rife with racism and ignorance, I hit upon the idea of using a 'chinaman' as the purveyor of this fowl oddity. But, the rooster would not only do math... it would be a giant rooster! Possibly affected by some wayward radiation, causing it to grow to an alarming size, and with intelligence to match! Mr. Lee's Atomic Barnyard was born.

The part of this piece which took the longest was the poster on the left. I had started to paint the information on a piece of paneling, but hated how it looked. The poster idea was a winner. I asked my wife to boil some dark tea, into which I placed a sheet of paper for about an hour. This gave it an aged look that closely resembles actual age. Rather than paint the words, I opted to use Prismacolor pencils. This, too, would prove to be a good choice. It gives some needed contrast, while still maintaining a warm, folksy feel.

 One final note: After I had hung the piece in Lestats, I noticed that the 25-cent price oval resembles an egg, which lies perfectly under the bird's behind. Just a coincidence.