Every winter I have the privilege of making a pilgrimage to norcal where this spot lays in the cut. The homie Pride sharpens up his scissor-style letters while I grind through a grey-scale study. I’m digging the pink pixels that drift off of his piece like a de-frag file. The vato is studying video-game design in Silicon Valley, and the hours upon hours of relentless gaming are beginning to imprint his artistic vision…
First things first: I’m so very grateful to have been well-received and taken care of by my Californian friends and business associates. Santa Cruz County is a kind and peaceful place; in the mild indian summer here I have found the space and opportunity to express my creative vision. The focal point of my vision currently is the rendering of large-scale portraiture in low-pressure aerosol paint using greyscale and monochromatic palates. Knowing that most of you will likely experience these pieces on small monitor (or even smartphone-sized) screens, I have tried to express the scale of the work by standing-in some of these frames. However, the experience of sharing a room with portraiture of this scale is quite different from remote digital viewing. In person, one can approach the wall and enjoy each microcosmic moment of the piece: the texture of smoothly diffused colors, the multi-shaded iris of an eye, the recklessness of floor-length drips… Afterward, one can step back again to watch all of these moments combine into something greater than the sum of its parts.
One of my favorite markets to work with is the bar and nightclub industry. Recently, I’d been seeking the proper venue to bring my greyscale illustrations into a nightclub setting. The opportunity arose when my good friend Dr. Pride introduced me to Bobby Card of Capitola. This March, Bobby opened an exclusive speakeasy on Coral St. in Santa Cruz. A follow-up to his former after-hours joint “Shades of Green”, this club is dubbed “The Greenhouse Studio”. It features large-scale pieces by veteran Santa Cruz muralists Taylor Reinhold, Casey Landaker, and myself. Bobby’s vision for the Greenhouse Studio is a retro-prohibition-era art club that blends modern EDM and Burlesque with 1920’s Jazz music and Flapper-Girl/Pinstriped-Gangster fashion themes. My contribution to the ambiance covers a 10’x30′ space behind the marble-topped bar, depicting three seductive elements of cabaret culture in the form of three playing-card Queens.
The first subject of this mural is the right-most section, the Queen of Diamonds. She was painted from rough to finish in six hours in a single evening. I don’t employ grids or projections in my work; I study a photographic reference and enlarge the image with my mind. This Queen came into focus most easily of the three– bearing a dead-on perspective and a high-contrast composition, she represents the vice of vain material wealth. She clutches at thick strands of pearls around her neck and sports a Diamond engagement ring on her left hand– a symbol of a love affair with the age itself. She was a pleasure to paint; her expression is of youthful affection and naiveté; of the exuberant sweetness that directly preceded the Great Depression. The silk that covers the left hand and the feathers of the headdress are my favorite moments in this portrait, as well as the balance in the arch of her glossed lips.
My second effort, the Queen of Spades, was painted the very next morning in a comparable amount of time. She is the centerpiece– most treacherous of the set, under a suit that represents alternative and extreme lifestyles in popular culture (think Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”). She is ominously seductive, sipping at the illicit poison of the era from an embossed cocktail glass. The glass itself is the most difficult technical detail of the entire mural– painted in translucent Magic-White with Shock-White highlights. Capturing the shape of a transparent object with a spray-can was an entertaining challenge made possible by a cool hand and Montana gasket-technology. The Queen of spades looks like a gal that you might want to reconsider crossing, a whiskey baron’s daughter or some such; sizing you up with a glance as she drains her glass. “If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man. You win some, lose some; it’s all the same to me.”
The third and final piece of this installation is the Queen of Hearts. She was painted after two days’ rest in three sessions, which is to say she gave me the most trouble. A lit cigarette rests in her gloved hand and flapper-girl-style beads dangle from her brow and ear– these were the most challenging details of her outfit. The Queen of second-highest suit represents the oldest profession’s presence in the room: the vice of sexuality as it is seen accompanying other vices. She leans into the mural from a dark, smokey corner of the room, her glassy eyes catching flashbulb bursts. The rounded curve of her right shoulder traverses the corner of the room, streaked by gloss-red drips that reach the concrete floor. Her expression is gentle yet savvy; she might be the concierge of the room as she introduces the viewer to the other two Queens. “Some say Diamonds mean money for this art, but that’s not the shape of my heart.”
“The Greenhouse Studio” of Santa Cruz opened with an all-night Prohibition Party on March 26th, 2016 to a classy, pin-stripe-and-feather-clad crowd. The evening featured the live, anachronistic musical stylings of Post Street Rhythm Peddlers– a local outfit that integrates sultry female lead vocals and blazing brass solos with a solid side-show backing band. Second set belonged to Dark Rose Cabaret– a sexy collision between conventional stripping and political performance art. They gave Bobby a run for his money with a lapdance onstage… DJ Little John headlined the bill, spinning beats deep into the a.m. Meanwhile, the newly re-finished steel-and-marble bar was tended all night by a couple of local Flapper-girls in Red, accenting the lips of the three Queens relaxing behind them. Bobby Card now proudly owns the showcase piece of my 2016 winter residency in Santa Cruz, California, which as I write this has come to a close. If you’re in the area, I encourage you to pay him a visit at 360 Coral St. to see this piece in person. Next week I’ll be traveling to Portland, OR, and then back to Massachusetts for the Spring season. I’m currently booking projects for the Spring/Summer; please refer to the contact link at the top of the page if you too are interested owning a custom mural for your home or business. Cheers,
copyright 2016 skribblefish.com
Fresh from a short series of serious productions, Dr. Pride and I decided it was time to relax with some dank letters at a no-hassle spot up in the mountains. The wall in question is in a hella-cutty section of Corralitos, CA, a half-hour on 1-South from Santa Cruz. Pride whips around a little Toyota 4×4 5-speed that feels an awful lot like Santa Cruz ‘s famous wooden rollercoaster “The Big Dipper” as he jams it through mountainside switchbacks and no-guardrail hairpin-turns. I’m about to lose my tacos, hanging my head out the window; I remember that methamphetamine is a big damned problem in rural California as I examine the makeshift living structures and rusted-out muscle-cars that litter the red-clay hillsides. We roll up to the spot on a small plateau, passing a stationary school-bus filled with furniture and a set of indoor appliances left to rust into the Redwood trees. The neighborhood kids have been painting thick, black swastikas on every available surface; Pride reminds me that although the spot is chill, “Hey Bro, keep your headphones low and don’t rattle your cans too loud.” As he steps out of the truck, he notices that his gallon of bucket-paint has broken open during the bumpy ride up the hill, bathing his truck bed in robin’s egg blue. He curses as he backs the truck up directly to the wall and begins rolling-on paint from a standing position in the bed…
All tweakers and spilled paint aside, the Corralitos wall is a magnificent place to paint. The view over the valley is breathtaking, and every once in a while a bald eagle flies overhead and makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into a Coors beer commercial. My piece du jour is painted in Boston’s version of ‘Connector-style’ with a Pimp-Violet and Shock-Black fill-in littered with bullet-holes and punctuated by Purple verticals that give way to grey bubbles. The whole thing is sealed-up with pin-wheel highlights in Translucent-White and set against a field of spheres that suggest a depth of field beyond the bright blue three-dee-drop. The dripping rope is MTN 94’s Magenta, or as Pride pronounces it, “Ma-HEEN-tah!!!”
Dr. Pride uses his alternate name, “TIGER” for this piece; his letters tip-toe through the grass draped in a Melon&Cream outline. Tiger sees my spheres developing in mid-composition and decides to bite ’em, mixing his own version with broken aqua-marine bricks that suggest a shattered stability beneath the letter-structure. His outline is antiqued by spar-and-circle cut-backs that sharpen-up an already angular style. He crowns his black-honeycombed signature with the phrase “In God I Trust.”, which is either a statement of faith or a nod to the illuminati; I can never tell with this guy…In any case, a good time was had by all and we made it home for dinner. The ride back downhill was worse than the ride up. Pride’s whip got a new paint-job, and the tweakers of the Corralitos hills have some brand-new wallpaper courtesy of Skribblefish.com, Boston.
How do we reconcile the duality of our own awareness? What kinds of psychological gymnastics are required to balance the waking life against the dreaming one? How can we convince internal enemies to break bread together within ourselves?: The yearning for stability vs. the thrill of spontaneity, the drive to create vs. the need to consume, the longing for connection vs. the sense of self-preservation, etc… I’ve been re-weighing these balances while focusing on greyscale portraiture here in Santa Cruz, California.
There are two ways to paint these pieces: from light to dark, or from dark to light. The former fades into existence, advancing from a blinding blank background like a piece of photo-paper dropped into the toner. The latter flickers forward from an endlessly receding void, like a familiar face pronouncing itself as it’s met by candlelight in a dark room. This latest freckle-featured addition to my Greyscale Girls series is painted from dark to light–negative values transforming to positive ones–a pixie-faced beauty beaming from beneath the Bougainvillea.
This collaborative piece resides in Soquel (pronounced “so-KEL”), a serene village to the east of Santa Cruz that remains a cradle of California surf and skate culture. When my partner and I strolled into the spot, our client was stripping old plywood from a backyard bowl to make way for a straight-up homemade half-pipe. Construction is due to be completed by June; the finished atmosphere will showcase both local skateboarding talent and the cutting edge of spray-can culture.
Dr. Pride rides shotgun in this speedy afternoon production, painted in under four hours circa Valentines Day, 2016. The fellow who commissioned this piece is raising a teenage son who dabbles in tagging (the purely signature-oriented side of graffiti); he was stoked to have some pros roll through and show the kid what’s possible. Make no mistake, spray-can art is the largest folk-art movement in modern history; it’s global, and it’s limits as a medium have not yet been touched, even as a new generation comes up on the block.
Two years is too long to be without Californian comfort. I’ve just returned to sunny Santa Cruz County a mere hop and skip ahead of Nor-eastern snowfall. After a couple days of shaking off the jet-lag with Peruvian coffee, farm-stand kiwis, and tamales de pollo, I headed over to the West side to christen a private music studio with ancient rites of hieroglyphic glamour. An extensive selection of prescription-strength Montana paint (Spanish and German) is available over-the-counter at Palace Art on Pacific Ave. in downtown Surf City (they even carry the “Mystic” [German] transparent colors that I’m so fond of.) After selecting a seamless greyscale, I met up with hometown homegrown-scientist Dr. Pride at the spot on Mission St. My subject for the evening was a breathless blonde black-and-white photograph; languishing in her good looks; lips gently parted in subconscious suggestion of speech or sex–a duo-chromatic composition that combines graduated shading with fluid gesture. She’s painted in the “Sin City” style of selective embellishment –Montana Whiteline “Hot Lips” Gloss-finish Red is the only color that compliments the frame. This piece was painted in haste in a single evening on white-primed interior cinder-block. Dr. P-Ride adjusts the adjacent wall with a classy California Thrash Kids chaos-piece that boasts six color-schemes in a single bound. The kind and good doctor has a piecing style so technical that it requires full schematics and an undergrad in urban engineering to decipher. Meanwhile, the prevailing theme in my life, and my art currently, is simplification: painting in a loose, open-ended style that feels like a sketchbook-page spread-out on the bricks, or getting on a cross-country flight with a backpack and a skateboard; just a couple of things left to say and a cool hand to spray them with.