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.
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