Synergetic Mural Magic at Kokeshi Restaurant
This December I had the pleasure of meeting south-London’s own Tim Haigh, a restaurateur and chef operating in the Salem area, north of Boston, Massachusetts. Tim and his partner Larry Leibowitz were busy cooking up a hot new urban aesthetic for their second venture in downtown Salem. “Bambolina” Pizzeria is Haigh’s first effort in the area, a popular spot inspired by brick-oven-fired counterparts in BK, NYC. His new project, “Kokeshi” is a Bronx to Bambolina’s Brooklyn–a harder post-industrial edge featuring brushed-steel structures and chrome-burner graffiti-letters.
In early December, Tim and I discussed his vision for Kokeshi’s entryway on the Central St. side–a set of transparent glass exterior doors opening into a long corridor with a host’s station at the end. We settled on a matching set of silver-chrome-and-deep-blue pieces, playfully incorporating the Ramen-noodle dishes that will be Kokeshi’s fare. The color pallet in question is inspired by classic Japanese combinations of bright red, black, yellow, and deep-green. The shimmering texture of Belton’s “Chrome-Effects” paint is beset by a Matte-black background that gives way to a Gloss-blue midnight-sky-scape, splattered stars, and full-moon hanging from the fourteen-foot ceiling.
Come Christmas time, Tim and Larry were developing the dining-area of Kokeshi. They were looking for a showpiece to display upon a massive interior wall that rises up to the dining-room’s eighteen-foot industrial-finish ceilings. The pair had initially envisioned a male Samurai covered in traditional Japanese tattoos for this space, but when I began researching references for their concept, I came upon a photograph of a beautiful woman holding a Katana blade behind her back and wearing a flowing black-and-floral kimono. We all agreed that she would be an elegantly-stated centerpiece for the dining-room and so I set about rendering her in free-hand low-pressure aerosol paint. Although I’m in the habit of using spray-paint exclusively, I employed mixed-media for this piece, using a stiff one-inch sash-brush and flat white paint to achieve the white flower-petals of the kimono and to cut-back against the pink cherry-blossoms…
The cherry-blossom tree was achieved primarily with free-hand Belton Premium “Deep-Black” and “Mad-C Psycho Pink”. I tried to execute this part of the mural in a minimalist style, showing gesture-of-hand in the line-work with very little cut-back or post-facto modification. Semi-transparent paints are employed in the shadow-effect beneath the blossoms and in some of the shading in the woman’s figure. Silver-chrome aerosol paint was applied free-hand to achieve the blade of the Katana; the red Japanese letters and the detail in the sword’s hilt were painted with a half-inch flat-tipped brush. Ninety percent of the time, the painting process was beset by the calculated chaos of pipe-cutting saws, plasma cutters, and HVAC teams running pipes overhead. I strapped-on a set of headphones and a respirator, struggling to keep a steady hand amid a staccato of screaming saw-blades and passing clouds of steel-vapor.
Kokeshi’s ambiance integrates larger-than-life mural work with the custom steel-fabrication of North Shore native metal-worker Scott Lanes who first caught my eye while parking his 1968 Plymouth Satellite outside the restaurant. The car has a bowling-trophy figurine welded-on as a hood-ornament; the man envisioned grand free-standing brushed-steel-and-grating structures that include a cooking station inside a corrugated storage-container. The result is a truly unique dining environment that offers its patrons a transporting experience in the heart of downtown Salem. Kokeshi opens this week (3/7/17) at 41 Lafayette St. If you’d like to learn more about Kokeshi or read an additional interview with yours truly, please check out Creative Salem’s new write-up by Joey Phoenix here:
…Or take a look at this beautifully photographed feature by Rachel Blumenthal in Boston’s chapter of national dining authority Eater:
Regretfully, I can’t be there for the grand opening but I’ll be stopping in for a bowl of delicious big-bowl Ramen when I return from California this May to take on a new season of mural painting on the North Shore! Cheers!
Stimulus Music Video featuring Pyse117
Check out Gloucester native Adam Cooney aka Stimulus spitting some fire in front of my showpiece mural from last fall in Fishtown!!:
’21st Century Orphans’ by Py$eMoNeY117
Every year I return to my hometown of Gloucester, MA to re-paint a wall in the cut downtown. It’s tucked-in behind Prince Insurance on Washington St., visible from the west end of Middle St. looking left as you approach the Joan of Arc statue. In this year’s production I chose to make a statement about the unprecedented wealth-gap in twenty-first century America. My piece flosses on the left in royal-purple robes protected by a green force-field of flying cash-money and coin. The affluence of Boston’s suburbs is reflected in its style, stature, and vibrant color accented by a crisp, clean white outline. My name is beset by a stark orphan-girl in a greasy collar and greyscale, the mono-chromatic scheme of her bust broken only by the brilliance of her green eyes.
The windfall of green-backs that flies from my letters gives way to dingy news-print and beggars’ placards–this orphaned child’s currency. It’s rarely discussed, in our scenic little fishing town, that the homeless population has increased in Massachusetts by 40% since 2007, even as the national average was in decline. This in part due to the fact that the cost of living here in Mass is among the highest in the country; the cost of housing continues to increase now that the market has come back, and there is no relief in sight… Fifteen percent (over half a million) of our children here in the Bay state live in poverty; of the over seventeen-thousand homeless people here, thirty-eight percent are children.
I mean to draw some attention to these issues with my art; I was hopeful after seeing the social progress in health-care that was pioneered here in Mass become a national standard in recent years, that we might meet our impoverished with compassion and begin to reconcile the fleeced and downtrodden working class with the bloated one-percenters who have usurped their livelihood. Bernie Sanders was good enough to bring the plight of the working poor to the forefront of our national discussion before he was eliminated from the 2017 presidential race. However, a few days after I completed this mural, the nation chose a born-billionaire with the moral compass of a wolverine as its new emperor. He has not yet been sworn-in, but has already surrounded himself with a cabinet of other billionaires who will begin to dismantle our vital social programs (that protect the poor from the insatiable predation of corporate interest) so that tax-rates for the wealthiest handful of Americans (his friends) can be driven even lower. One can only expect that the rift between haves and have-nots will widen, and the numbers of our homeless and impoverished will inch further toward some kind of tipping-point.
Photos by Katherine Richmond of http://www.katherinerichmondphotography.com
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
Mynd v. Pyse @Harvest Moon Music Festival
I was honored to return to Gloucester’s second annual Harvest Moon Music and Arts festival this September 2016. Gloucester sweetheart Carol Pallazolla put on another killer show featuring varied musical styles from zydeco to Zeppelin. This year I invited Roslindale talent Mynd to join me in painting a live mural during the festival in front of a crowd of a couple hundred people. Mynd is a gentleman graffiti-writer who once managed the famous graffiti/hip-hop supply outlet “Kulturez Dynasty” in Harvard Square’s Garage Mall.
The 2016 Harvest Moon line-up included local singer-songwriter Alan Estes, folk-rockers Liz Frame and the Kickers, Henry Allen, San Francisco’s Led-Zeppelin-Tribute-act “Lez Zeppelin”, and was headlined by the absolutely electric Daniella Cotton from New Jersey. The non-stop main-stage rocked the crowd at high amplitude into the late-summer night, kicking out beats and baselines that were audible for blocks from the waterfront. I worked on my piece until the sun set behind a beautiful motif of the Gloucester paint factory, then I relaxed in the vip tent and snacked on organic catering by local chef and former class-mate Ross Franklin.
This event was a benefit for Cape Ann’s Addison Gilbert Hospital and was sponsored by Cape Ann Brewing Co. (among others), who poured delicious beers all night that were brewed just a block away at their brew-pub on St. Peter’s Square. The festival also featured a fine assortment of local vendors, artists, and craftsmen who represent the diversity of skillfulness and culture that we have here on the North Shore.
The mural that Mynd and I completed was painted with 100% freehand aerosol paints (no stencils, no tricks). The freestanding wall was built again this year by local master-woodworker Darren Taylor. It’s made of six sheets of 1/4 inch luon plywood. Both the Mynd and Pyse pieces are still available for purchase; they are each composed of three 8’x4′ (vertically standing) panels. Each panel is available individually. Please refer to the contact tab at the top of the page if you are interested in making a purchase.
Special thanks to Carol Pallazolla and Christopher Silva. See you next year!
Backyard Growers’ Mystery Machine
Every so often I get a project that I’m stoked on from the word “go”. This magical mystery-machine for Backyard Growers of Gloucester, MA was one such gig. In the dead-dog heat and humidity of August 2016 I was contacted by Lara Lepionka, leader of this local non-profit that cultivates quality organics at the local level. Lara wanted something bold and fun to grab attention for her project as she flosses the Fishtown streets. After some charcoal black-book sketchings, we settled on an anime-esque rendering of fantastic vegetables and vines, coupled with a B-girl gardener set against the windmill-dappled skyline of our fair city.
I set to work on what must have been a couple of the hottest days of the year, working with an intern from UMass Amherst whom I’d taught years earlier while painting theatrical sets in an extra-curricular program for the local high school. As per usual, the entire project was completely freehanded, without template, stencil, etc. (except for the pre-existing “Backyard Growers” decals). A variety of paints were used, from Rustoleum high-pressures to Belton low-pressures and Plutonium professional cans. After a solid week of curing in the record-setting heat, the whole thing was ready for a final gloss-clear-coat to preserve and protect the matte colors from abrasion and UV damage. For this step I used an undercoat of Duplicolor ClearGloss followed by a top-coat of top-secret automotive-grade canned-epoxy high-gloss clear-finish. The resulting aesthetic is so smooth and delicious, you might just want to take a bite out of it:
In true Massachusetts fashion, this van has subsumed the folklore of the “Mystery Machine”, which was Scooby’s ride in the famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the late ’60’s/early ’70’s. Legend has it that Scooby Doo’s characters were based on archetypical students from five prominent colleges in western Mass. (including UMass Amherst!) Are you an entrepreneurial graduate in the bay state with a business of your own to promote? Then click the contact info above and schedule your own Mystery-Machine-make-over today. Otherwise, give Lara a wave and shout “Hey Scoob!!!” if you see her tooling around town in this bad-boy, and don’t forget to check out her amazing project at http://www.backyardgrowers.org
Danny Diamond’s Post-Graffiti Landscape
Summer is officially underway in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The St. Peter’s Fiesta has come and gone, making way for the city’s annual Independence Day celebration and its colorful “Horribles Parade”. The Horribles legacy is that of a rag-tag, ramshackle community effort full of home-made floats and kitschy DIY costumes. This year, Danny Diamond was commissioned to paint a float for the Cape Ann Farmers market: http://www.capeannfarmersmarket.org He was asked to paint an interpretation of the theme “Rising Tides”. This phrase calls attention to rising global sea levels and the crisis of climate change, it is also a catch-all reference to both the enviornmental changes happening and the increasing ‘green-action’ that we’ve been seeing lately in response to this crisis. Danny was inspired by a piece from local photographer David Fernandes depicting one of the gorgeous sunsets that we have here on the northwest side of the island. If you’d like to see more of Dave’s stuff, check him out at:
Artists have been coming to Cape Ann for centuries because of its unique natural light-phenomena and its seemingly endless ocean vistas. Using Dave’s photo as a reference, Danny painted a vibrant sunset-scene in free-hand aerosol paint on the side of an Isuzu Hombre. The truck belongs to Gloucester writer and community activist Amanda Cook and her husband, Gloucester High School Principal James Cook. For the driver’s side of the Hombre, Danny painted the slogan “Rising Tides” in bold ‘straight’ graffiti lettering. Local photographer Martin Del Vecchio was kind enough to shoot a time-lapse video of the driver’s side, which can be viewed here:
Danny is currently scheduling new projects for the Fall of 2016, including automotive re-finishes. Please refer to the contact information at the top of the page.
Master Signature-Stylist @Minglewood Tavern
Upon returning to the East Coast, I’ve just kicked off my Summer residency on the north shore of Massachusetts with a chalk-art installation at waterfront dining destination Minglewood Tavern/Latitude 43 Restaurant in Gloucester, MA. Minglewood’s owner hails from New York City, as does my late mentor and legendary signature-stylist, Jed Richardson of Manhattan. In a strange sequence of coincidence (or synchronicity), Eric DEAL, CIA–a former artistic associate of Jed’s, uncovered one of his original sketches from the 90’s and brought it to my attention:
At the time, Jed was writing “JAM 180”. I took the liberty of reproducing my man’s letters on the chalk-board-painted crescent-soffit that encircles the lounge area of the bar; I don’t think Jed would mind. Jed was a master-stylist with a chisel-tipped magnum sharpie. He could produce calligraphic wildstyle signatures that were hyroglyphically complex and yet hauntingly familiar and organic (like the one pictured in india ink at the top-left of the sketch). It’s always refreshing to see his racy, rock&roll style light up a room. Even in a medium as raw as chalk, the smooth groove of his letters pulls the eye gracefully across the room and back like a punk-rock dance-partner.
The reverse of the soffit which faces the street is a reproduction of NYC Subway bomber REVOLT’s work, he was a contemporary of Richardson’s. The subway-car image races toward several stanzas of a poem about MBTA train-line graffiti that I wrote as an undergraduate in Creative Writing at UMass Boston in 2006. The text of the poem is executed in the stylized-script that I developed over ten years based on Jed’s letters and the New York model of the graffiti-alphabet mixed with my own flavors and flares.
If you’ve never been, head on down to Minglewood Tavern/Latitude 43 in Gloucester for their craft beers, unique menu, and sushi bar. Check them out at http://www.minglewoodtavern.com or http://www.latfortythree.com. They have waterfront outdoor-dining that faces scenic Gloucester Harbor and a warm, comfortable atmosphere inside featuring fresh New York Stylings courtesy of Skribblefish.com. Cheers,
Tiger vs. Pyse at the Harvest Moon Festival
I’ve been in the rhythm of painting live shows lately. Gloucester sweetheart Carol Pallazolla invited Santa Cruz, CA graffiti writer Tiger a.k.a Pride and myself to paint an 8’X20′ mural on a set of five individual panels at her late-summer event: The First Annual Harvest Moon Festival. Tiger was only six hours off a cross-country flight when he painted a pumpkin-head character in under an hour like he was stepping off a curb. Then he turned around and gave an interview to a local-access television reporter, laying on heavy vibes of sunny Cali carelessness. The festival featured a wide selection of food, crafts, and booze, with performances by Fishtown icon Alan Estes, Henry Allen and the New Swingset, and Jenny Dee and the Delinquents among others. I managed to get a thorough sunburn on my right side while painting this monster (the leftmost four panels of which are for sale individually or as a set). All in all it was a beautiful day; Tiger and I look forward to performing again next year. Please view the “contact” tab at the top of the screen for more information about purchasing a piece of this mural.
Flatrocks Gallery takes it to the Streets
Danny Diamond polishes up the grit of urban styling against the lush garden backdrop of Flatrocks Gallery in the Lanesville neighborhood of Gloucester, MA. Gallery owner Cynthia Roth invited Fishtown’s resident spray-can wizard to perform his illusions before a live audience in early August, 2015. It was an afternoon of well-rounded hip-hop art that included a boom-bap deejay, live dance, and emceeing. This piece includes a subtle desert skyline in Molotow “Mad C Cherry Red” against a Montana “Raspberry” sky and a force-field in Montana “Bermuda” blue (notice the signature heart-beat vital-sign variation in the top left corner). This piece explores themes of a fiery internal landscape beset by the external world, represented by the cityscape that crowns the piece and the bubbly, watery backdrop of our coastal city at night.