The central coast of California is one of the most dramatically beautiful places I’ve ever been. The majestic, often purple-tinged Santa Cruz mountains drop off in cliffsides and ravines to the mighty Pacific. I took a moment of respite and reverie from painting this Spring, so that I could focus again on photography and capturing some of the pastel-painted vistas that take the sky over Westcliff nearly every night. A small series of twilight coastal silhouettes came into focus over the course of six weeks. I presented them in amber tones that brought the natural reds and oranges to the forefront of the color-composition, and then hemmed them in with heavy vignette. I spent some time memorizing my favorite of the series, I thought it’d make a killer fill-in to celebrate summer solstice.
My new friend Ramona runs a great shop over at 1047 Water St. in Santa Cruz. Every time I go over there, the waiting-chairs are all occupied and there are folks killing time in the sunshine by the door, waiting for a cut. The interior of the shop has a unique style, with checkered-linoleum floors and taxidermized deer-heads adorning the walls. The whole place has a classic fifties vibe, from the pearl-handle straight-razors to the hotrods parked out back. The exterior wall deserved a Cadillac-smooth flow coupled with an endless-summer air-brush style of the kind you see on custom rides. This piece was painted freehand in six hours with low-pressure matte-finish aerosols, except for the gloss dark-red Rusto that came in handy when I had some gasket-issues in the Cali heat– no stencils, no tape, no tricks, no projector, no worries!
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…
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!
Check out Gloucester native Adam Cooney aka Stimulus spitting some fire in front of my showpiece mural from last fall in Fishtown!!:
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?”
Welcome back to hockey season. Tighten up your laces when you skate with Boston writers, we came up painting in blizzards with Rusto metallics and all-weather chrome-killer bitumen-black. Guys out here are no strangers to a scrap either–styles are so smooth and fluent you won’t even notice the gloves as they drop to the ice.
I’m rocking this season-opener under the self-proclaimed moniker “Master of Sleaze”. To earn that title, it takes ten-thousand hours of sloshing in the streets with fresh paint, bad tattoos, and bottom-shelf whiskey. Open up a can of oil-borne undercoating out here for a mid-February get-up; find out the sleaze is so thick it’ll break off your stir-stick.
Old Tyme Graffiti up here in the Bean–board-bangin’ slap-shots and body-checks. See you in the post-season, hoss.
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!
Summer 2016 in Massachusetts has been hot, muggy swampfest of a season, the heavy air sticks to the skin like sugar-candy. I used to dig on the sour-apple suckers as a kid in this kind of weather. Sometimes I’d drop an unwrapped Rancher onto the hot blacktop and watch it melt down into a slick glycerin puddle. I still have a sweet-tooth for that cloying style as an adult–the glowing translucent green-apple candies wrapped in pink-striped plastic.
Mr. John Clemenzi, owner of the industrial park and the graffiti-wall that it includes, dropped by while I was painting for a chat. The north shore scene owes a lot to this guy, he’s provided us all with a free and open venue to paint and express ourselves in an otherwise inhospitable environment here in New England. Plus the man genuinely appreciates good pieces of graf… He’s gone out of his way to maintain the free wall despite endless headaches like gang activity on his property and vandalism on the sides and front face of his building; give the guy a break y’all.
Nothing sets off a brilliant lime-to-poison-green fade like a deep-purple outline. This one is brought to you by Belton’s Anthracite Grey. The Yellow Rope is Flame’s Cadmium Yellow, and as always, the background is only the finest Ben Moore Ultra-Spec Matte-Black. Superior Toy-coverage and lightning-fast dry-times are key. Cheers y’all, you can catch me at Nichol’s candies off exit twelve on the only Cape worth visiting.
As the solstice approaches, Pyse and co. kick off the summer season with a symbiotic combination of style and character. This Dorchester, MA production features Marvel’s infamous anti-hero “Venom” beset by two of most diligent writers and documenters of greater Boston’s hardcore graffiti at this moment in time. I have always been intrigued by the story of Eddie Brock, aka “Venom” as it was laid out in the Amazing Spiderman comics that I read as a kid in the late eighties. My favorite episodes are actually the prequels to the appearance of Venom that describe Spiderman’s initial encounter with a Toxin lifeform from the Planet of the Symbiotes. Spiderman bonds with this entity; it becomes his new biological spider-suit and endows him with superhuman and telepathic powers that are beyond even those that he acquired from a radio-active spider-bite. Of course, Spiderman is initially elated by his enhanced abilities, but he gradually discovers that the Symbiote is in fact malignant and evil; it is using Spidey’s powers to its own ends as much as he is using it to his own. As a kid, I hung a poster in my room of Spiderman in his original bright red-and-blue suit in a brick-walled sewer duct beneath Manhattan. In this large panel by Todd McFarlane, he crouches in front of the limp, black-and-white alien Symbiote that he had nailed to the wall with wooden spikes driven into the mortar. Later in the story, Peter Parker’s rival Eddie Brock finds the discarded Symbiote and bonds with it, gaining powers similar to Spiderman’s, but Venom is more hulking and psychotic; the effects of the same Toxin upon a looser, less healthy mind… What was once a piece of Spidey’s identity, a part of his very physical being and consciousness, comes back in another form to haunt and do battle with him long, long after their separation.
With that legend in mind, I stepped out to Dorchester, the neighborhood just across the Red Line tracks from my Alma Mater UMass Boston. Sometimes referred to as “The Rock” because of its resemblance to Alcatraz, UMB sits out on Harbor Point, a giant brick-and-mortar monolith designed to be riot-proof by architects of the Kent State era. The school is visible from Dorchester, which is every bit as crowded and built-upward-upon-itself as I remember. The wall in question is nestled between several multi-family, three-story apartment-buildings, I realize that I’m about to paint a Super-Villain that will be visible on a daily basis to twelve or so families in the immediate vicinity. My depiction of Marvel’s iconic anti-hero is executed on a matte black base shaded in MTN blues. Layers of opaque paints by German Montana and translucent whites and greys by Belton give Venom the sickeningly salivating tongue that he’s famous for–a slick, serpentine appendage followed up by sharkish rows of jagged and filthy fangs. He is the stuff of nightmares for neighborhood kids fascinated at first, as I was, by the art itself, and then later by the elegance of the metaphor that it delivers. He is a reminder of what lies over your shoulder, stalking you through the streets and alleyways that were the daily walks of your past.
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,
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