Word got around on Water St. in Santa Cruz that my pal P-Ride and I were skulking down at Hot Rod Alley, painting burners behind Montgomery’s Barber Shop, and haunting Ramona’s chairs for a fresh cut. Sooner or Later hometown tattoo-sensation Ally Lee took notice of the new pieces, probably as she was pulling her chopped, high-gloss-black ’66 Chevelle into the shared parking-lot between the barber shop and her studio. Ally expressed some interest in a large-scale mural on the side of her shop to replace the dated piece of art that had languished there for years, its colors fading out in the strong afternoon sunshine that bakes and cracks the stucco finish.
Ramona, the owner of Montgomery’s, arranged a meeting of the minds at the barber-shop, where she pulled-up fashionably late in her lowered ’55 Cherry-red Chevy. Ally and Pride weren’t far behind; the four of us retired to the shop to discuss concept and timeline. Ramona and Ally have a shared love for Bay Area classic-car culture and a shared respect for graffiti-writers. We decided that a mural in the space should incorporate the heritage and iconography of hot-rods with the kinetic energy and vibrancy of calligraphic letters. Spray-painted depictions of the pair’s vintage rides would be represented on the sprawling wall that lines the alley…
When it came time to crush, my man went left and I went right. Pride arcs the letters of “Montgomery’s” artfully over the wall’s only window. His piece skillfully drops hooked-serifs at each end, and boasts a smooth, cosmic fill-in of soft-blue synapses and orange hexagonal honey-combs. This floater seems to stand upon its serifs, balancing in a galaxy of bright-green mist and clustered orbs. Homie keeps his three-dee like he keeps his haircut, combed-back to the center and slick as motor-oil.
I was stoked to paint the name-banner of the shop for InkMaster Ally Lee, who became nationally recognized on Spike TV’s reality-series about tattooists (season 3). A practitioner of photo-realism and a style-master in her own rite, Ally creates vivid, painterly tattoos. Check out her awesome work on Instagram @hotrodalleytattoo All things told, I put over forty hours into this monstrous, four hundred square-foot mural and, as per usual, I picked the hottest weeks of the year to paint it! The entire mural was painted freehand from photographic reference with low-pressure aerosol paint–no stencils, no projectors, no tricks, no worries. The chrome of Ramona’s Chevy was among my favorite details to paint, the reflection of the horizon stripes its center in black, while Belton’s transparent paints were applied as a top-coat to achieve highlights, shadows, and the reflection of a cloudless blue California sky. Similarly, the word “Alley” is set in a “Silverchrome” base-coat and then tweaked by transparent layers that lend a lacquered-shine to the already burnished under-painting.
The summer of 2018 marks my sixteenth year of painting in public. I love hearing comments from the peanut-gallery during the process, stopping to chat with passerby, and catching sideways smirks on the faces of women as they saunter to yoga-class next door. During the final day of painting, photographer Tarmo Hannula of Watsonville’s paper, the Register-Pajaronian (register-pajaronian.com), stopped by and took a couple of great shots while we talked about being east-coast expatriates in northern California. The culture of gratitude and patronage of the arts is strong is Santa Cruz; I was encouraged by all the folks who stopped to say “Thank you” while I was painting, and I owe a debt of gratitude to “Dennis”, the dude who shook all my cans for me while I was sweating bullets on a ladder in the midday heat; thanks buddy.
Copyright Skribblefish.com 2018
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!
In the Spring of 2017 I had the honor of painting Bill’s Wheels Skate Shop on Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz, California. Bill has been running his famous SC institution for forty years, offering the best skateboarding equipment around (he stocks the Adidas Busenitz pro-model in my size) and showcasing some of northern California’s finest graffiti-writers (TiTs Crew, Lords Crew, etc.) as well as guest-artists from all over the country (and the world). I remember arriving in SC after a flight from Boston and seeing Massachusetts freight-legend “Ichabod” emblazoned on the side of Bill’s, sporting the familiar MBTA “Circle-T” crew-emblem. The exterior walls of the shop are well-curated with a choice blend of styles, so I felt in good company when Bill gave me a spot next to Australian native “Aerosol One” whose double-vanishing-point 3-d piece sprawls across the center of the back wall. The flowing geometric shapes of his piece give way to a hot-dog character sporting a mustache and emceeing the piece while puffing on a spliff:
I pulled out all the stops for this production, painting a greyscale portrait of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn next to a burner in joker-colors that boasts two skylines (one rural, one urban) and a smooth three-purple fade. The timing of this mural coincided with the release of the movie “Suicide Squad”; I may have been subconsciously saturated with high-definition digital close-ups of the adorably sociopathic Quinn… she was a joy to paint in any case, especially her sneer, her viciously indignant glare, and the iridescence of her black-opal necklace. I painted her in about six hours with Montana Gold matte-finish paints, which are the most available German brand locally here in Santa Cruz.
What Santa Cruz production of mine would be complete without the inclusion of my west-coast connection, the Pride of California Thrash Kids? P-Ride caps off the wall in the three-spot, rocking a velvety-purple fill accented by psychedelic green orbs in the background. His letters are a tour-de-force in the kick-boxer-stanced style of norcal burning. His razor-sharp cut-backs and cracked antiquing create an intensely detailed piece that invites you to get lost in its smaller moments.
I’m back in the Santa Cruz area in 2018 and I’m stoked to announce that Bill has invited the boys and I back over to paint another production this February! Stay tuned for the new episode! Coming Soon!
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!
As summer 2016 drew to a close, I had the pleasure of painting a paneled custom piece for one Carl Harkness of Boston rockers “Doom Lover”. Carl contacted me while searching for fresh artistic influence to color his “Vaudevillian Spectacular” at the famous Brighton Music Hall in Boston, MA. The show featured a theme-period Roaring 20’s vibe with table-games, old-tyme photo-booth, and custom hand-crafted artwork by Tom Chamberlain and myself. The bill included openers “Aloud” and “Eternals”, both solid Boston-area acts. Doom Lover have a thick yet soaring sound that includes guitar, synthesizer, and Theremin blended with a fuzzy, thrashing rhythm-section led by Harkness on the drum-kit. Nikki Dessingue formerly of “Where the Land Meets the Sea” is the front-woman of Doom Lover, she floats her hypnotic, pleading vocals over the surface of the band’s deep sound. I was a big fan of “Where the Land…” whom I once saw open for Cursive at the Middle East in Cambridge; I was very pleased to meet her.
It was an honor to display my artwork at Brighton Music Hall, a venue that has been of steadfast importance in Boston Rock&Roll culture since the 1960’s. Their bookings this year alone include Helmet, Queens of the Stone Age, Napalm Death, and The Black Dahlia Murder.
My new “Doom” panel-piece, which features a semi-wild letter-style and burner color-scheme, was sold to a benefactor and given to Doom Lover themselves as a gift and a celebration of their success. Give them a listen at http://www.doomlover.com
This painting was executed with 100% freehand aerosol paints; no stencils, no tricks. It measures 8’x12′ and was painted on 1/4 luon plywood sheets. Belton Molotow low-pressure spray-cans were the primary medium involved. Custom murals and panel-pieces are available by request, please refer to the contact information at the top of the page.
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
A few weeks ago, as Halloween approached and the veil between this world and the next was at its thinnest and most penetrable, I felt the angel of death brush past me…
“I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.”
…decaying burner by PYSE, grim reaper character by PYSE. Beverly, MA. October 2015.
About halfway through the story of Tiger vs. Pyse, our west-coast cat shape-shifts to assume another of his incarnated forms: P-ride CTK CTV. With an alternate letter-set to rock with that’s as worn-in as a pair of hockey skates, the Pridemonster takes to the ice in Bruins’ black and gold. His season opener sports Bali-blue highlights cut as sharp as sapphires with chilling precision and prideful indignation–a piece that threatens to pull your shirt over your head and beat your nose bloody. I’ve overheard gossip in the stands lately about the “giftedness” and “phenomena” of certain writers on the bench. Those are words that only spectators use. The guys who are out here playing in the paint every week and supplying this spectator sport are punching clocks every time they drop the gloves. Nobody who’s any good is out there talking about getting rich; they’re talking about getting back to work. Not everyone can play the sport like Bobby Orr played it, and that’s okay with me; it takes just as much heart to play exclusively for the love of the game. The pieces below were painted for no occasion whatsoever:
Pride floats across the continent from Santa Cruz on a cloud of the highest-grade smoke while Fritz the cat puffs and plots some stick-up art of his own. (Fritz by Pyse)
Pyse’s cherry-rock piece bleeds black from bullet-holes and rains flat Rusto drips while flexing in a Satin-white outline that’s so fresh and so clean.
Pride comes back around the block once more to show us the westerly art of the “Chaos Piece” in which each letter bumps a different color scheme. Dopey (by Pride) drops out of Disney to emcee the whole production…I wonder what he’s holding in that hand behind his back…
These are the last efforts from the PrideTiger Vs. Pyse exhibition match of Summer 2015. There’s still some dispute about who took the title, my manager is looking for a rematch in Santa Cruz this winter. Tighten your skates and tape up your sticks boys.
Tiger CTK,CTV is an urban animal that thrives in the bloodlust of the big city so I took him to an alleyway in back of Central Kitchen to stalk some graf game. Pyse LS,RTW is a slippery suburban fish that shimmers in the copper-chrome current. Painting in Central Square is always performance art; Cambridge bystanders stop and suck fumes. Tiger was vibing with a born-again who said he used to write with Boston legend Alert before he found Jesus, I guess the savior isn’t rocking handstyles in heaven. Meanwhile, I was getting hustled for half-empty cans by some dreadlock toy with bad angles. In short, this spot always spells distraction. The restaurateur makes sure that artwork wraps up by opening-time; chaperoned youth-groups show up to stress out pieces indiscriminately but Pyse & Co. persevere, slinging paint and still making the time to pose hard. The cardiographic blue pulse-line in my rope is just to show you that I got a hand steadier than an amateur surgeon after his second drink. Tiger’s piece ran for two days before a go-over by someone with less can-control than an AA meeting in Milwaukee. After this double-burner was documented, we strolled to Harvard for cheeseburgers and beers at Charlie’s Kitchen…well, beers for me anyway; Tiger’s a sober cat.
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.
The last sweet breath of Summer breeze brought my friend Tiger on a Delta Red-eye from L.A. Tiger is a mad-laboratory-scientist-turned-graffiti-extraterrestrial from another dimension not unlike our own. Transformed by experimental artworks, he emerged a symbiotic creature of his own creation. This is evidenced by a meticulously clean style that thinly masks the seething tentacles of a Martian beast unknown to our world. Homeboy even brought an auger with him from the lab so that he could tunnel into the subterranean wreckage beneath our city and colonize the place. Tiger is a colorful Casanova, and one of his demands was that I provide leashed female beauty to escort him around the planet. He was satisfied to floss beside the Girl with the Silver Chain, a ghetto visage of spunk sprayed to life by the legendary Pyse117. The West-Coast Wildstyle letters were achieved exclusively with MTN 94, the only flavor of pigment that the Tiger finds palatable, while Pyse’s choice poison is a mixture of Molotow transparent paints spiked by silver Flame Acrylic. In this strange story of reverse-species submission, one could say the Tiger has tamed the Girl.