Thursday, October 31, 2013


Lately, I've been working on a sign for Hub-Bub, the hub city's cultural edge. The awesome folks up there gave me creative license, just saying they wanted hand-lettering. It was such a fun project! I learned a lot about materials and technique and I can't wait to do this again.

I didn't take a "before" picture, but you can see the blue that it was. There were sticker letters on it and these tan painted lines. Getting the sticker letters off took awhile and the lines never quite came up.

The folks at Hub-Bub suggested I go with cyan or orange. I worked with cyan a lot on a mural recently and chose orange instead because, well, Clemson, of course.

I used an old dinosaur projector to set my guides. It was really, really cold in the studio! If you look there on the right hand side, you can see some of Cesar Maxit's stencils. :)

Painting and painting and painting! My hand is so much steadier with all this practice. 

Here is the finished piece. This is a stupid cell phone picture so the color is weird; It's more orange than this in real life. I love how it looks!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou and Me

So yesterday morning when I heard the news of Lou Reed's death, two memories came to me.

I first listened to Lou Reed with Daddy. We didn't listen to rock'n'roll at home due to being Southern Baptist/Presbyterian. So it was a really neat thing whenever I got to ride with Daddy in his old pick-up truck and it felt sinful but safe. You know? I loved Satellite of Love and New York Conversation. It was just an old cassette tape is all.

But I have another Lou Reed related memory that's even better. Hudson and I, when we lived down in Charleston, had a perfect day. We drank sangria in the park and fed animals in the zoo. It was a slightly overcast day and we went to a wildlife preserve that you just kind of hike through. So it was very remote and private on a day like that. A Sunday Morning... Ok in my memory, that is true, not sure about reality. We found a side trail and had a picnic of cheap fruity wine and muffins. We saw bison and fed bears. And every time I hear Perfect Day, I think of Hudson and that day.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Neutral Milk Hotel with Half Japanese opening was an amazing show. The 40 Watt was packed to bursting, as you might imagine. NMH is touring for the first time in, what, 15 years? And the 40 Watt in Athens, GA is their original stomping grounds. People came from all over for this show. I went with Lucy. It was a 2 hour drive from Greenville.

We parked right behind the 40 Watt and had time to split a (cream cheese and jalapeno!) burger from the diner next to the club. Julian Koster was there, like right in front of us. And Anthony Bourdain was at the table next to ours.

After dinner, we stood in line for a full cigarette before getting carded and stamped and ushered into the dark, crowded club. We went immediately to the merch table. I didn't have much money, but I got two posters and had enough leftover for the coat check girl.

For Half Japanese, we stood about 10 people from the front, bodies pressed together, you know how it is. They played songs about love and monsters. All the innuendo was right up Lucy's and my mutual alley. I wished James was there!

When Half Japanese finished, it was our chance to scoot on up to the front. Everyone would take a drinksandpotty break, right? Wrong! Nobody moved, except to shove closer in anticipation. Luckily, we were able to make a deal with a guy and get about 2 bodies from the stage. And there we stood for the next few hours.

I can't really describe to you all that happened after that. I believe it will require an in-depth illustration to fully process. Suffice it to say, they played all the songs that I needed to hear and I left with the feeling that it was a once in a lifetime evening.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

First of all, it was October.

“First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.
"But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you’ll dump on old man Prickett’s porch, or the hairy-ape costume you’ll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.”
– opening paragraphs from Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Inspiration: Russian Revolutionary Posters

These images are from a magazine, evergreen review. From April 1967. That's not a typo. This is hella old. I scanned these. After some basic googling, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that most folks seeing these here haven't ever seen them before. So enjoy some firsts. 

These are from a collection at the Lenin Library in Moscow, photographed back in the 60s by Italian photographer Caio Garruba. They were all made in the turbulent 12 year period following the '17 revolution. From the accompanying historical notes by Stefan Congrat-Butlar:

"The Bolshevik posters of the period mirror the conflicts and concerns of the Revolutionary struggle: exploiters and exploited, world capitalism, the Czar and his henchmen, the call to arms for the cause, an appeal to the workers of the world –or, at least, Russia– to unite."

Literacy is the Road to Communism Designer Unknown
Remember the Starving I. Simakov
Young Leninists are the Children of Ilyich I. Isenberg
The Workers and Lenin were United in the Smoke of their Gunpowder Designer Unknown
Bloody Sunday Designer Unknown
Mount Your Horses, Workers and Peasants! The Russian Cavalry is the Guarantee of Victory Designer Unknown.
Workers of the World, Unite! Everyone to the Polls to Elect the Soviets Designer Unknown

For the last one, the caption reads:

"Help!" This famous poster appealing for the aid to the peasants hit by the famine of 1921 has been reproduced in many Soviet books on art, and is by one of the Soviet Union's most renowned artists. Designed by Dmitrii S. Moor/1921, Moscow Publisher unknown.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Work is Good

work in progress for class

So someone said that it would be nice if everything were automated so people didn't have to work and we could just get allowances from the government to live off of (referencing sci-fi author Heinlein?). You know, I've definitely day-dreamed about not having to work. To be able to have money just handed to me so I could do whatever I wanted.

But I believe there is great value in work, innately appreciated by mankind. I can't help but remember a passage from Anton Pannekoek's 1948 classic, Workers' Councils, which addresses this very subject. And I shall revisit it here:

"Labor in itself is not repulsive. Labor for the supplying of his needs is a necessity imposed on man by nature. Like all other living beings, man has to exert his forces to provide for his food. Nature has given them bodily organs and mental powers, muscles, nerves and brains, to conform to this necessity. Their wants and their means are harmoniously adapted to one another in the regular living of their life. So labor, as the normal use of their limbs and capacities, is a normal impulse for man and animal alike. In the necessity of providing food and shelter there is, to be sure, an element of constraint. Free spontaneousness in the use of muscles and nerves, all in their turn, in following every whim, in work or play, lies at the bottom of human nature. The constraint of his his needs compels man to regular work, to suppression of the impulse of the moment, to exertion of his powers, to patient perseverance and self-restraint. But this self-restraint, necessary as it is for the preservation of oneself, of the family, of the community, affords the satisfaction of vanquishing the impediments in himself and the surrounding world, and gives him the proud feeling of reaching self-imposed aims. Fixed by its social character, by practice and custom in family, tribe or village, the habit of regular work grows into a new nature itself, into a natural mode of life, a harmonious unity of needs and powers, of duties and disposition. Thus in farming the surrounding nature is transformed into a safe home through a lifelong heavy or placid toil. Thus in every people, each in its individual way, the old handicraft gave to the artisans the joy of applying their skill and fantasy in the making of good and beautiful things for use."

All that to say that work is good. It makes us feel good and all that stuff he said.

That's all I was going to share, but the next part kept being interesting. It goes on in a less uplifting way. It gets wordy, so if you want to see what's skipped with ellipses, ask me for the book. Continue at your own risk:

"All this has perished since capital became master of labor... Formerly a worker in moderate hours –leaving room for occasional strong exertion– could produce enough for his living. But the profit of capital consists in what the worker can produce in surplus to his living... His standard of life is lowered as much as possible, his hours are increased, the tempo of his work is accelerated. Now labor loses entirely its old character of pleasant use of body and limbs. Now labor turns into a curse and an outrage. Workers [are] compelled by the threat of hunger to strain their forces at foreign command, for foreign profit, without genuine interest, in the monotonous fabrication of uninteresting or bad things... Ignorant economists, unacquainted with the nature of capitalism, seeing the strong aversion of the workers from their work, conclude that productive work, by its very nature, is repulsive to man, and must be imposed on unwilling mankind by strong means of constraint."

Okay, so he goes on to talk about how Capitalism is a system of squeezing, to which all who have worked in food, retail or in a factory must attest. But that's not why I brought this to your attention. I think it is valuable to note that meaningful work is good and satisfying and that mankind is not lazy. We are used to a system that squeezes us in many ways and we are largely unfamiliar with this meaningful, pleasant work. Any job you go out and try to get* is going to put you at the mercy of ruthless managers whose very function is to get more out of you than you have. 

This was written way back before fast food and car washes, before the world was so paved, before there were endless stripmalls, but it rings true, no? I mean, that car wash I managed provided a salary that came out to $12 an hour (no benefits), which was unreal to me. I'd never made that much! But it definitely squeezed the life and soul out of me. And no matter how much I did, it was never, ever enough.

Even when I was scraping out the ditch in 13 degree fahrenheit weather with a child in utero. Oh, but the sense of futile accomplishment when the ditch was clean! Priceless.

*Unless, of course, your privilege allows you to obtain degrees or get grandfathered in somewhere, etc.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Goings On

Jake and Lucy are staying with us for a while while they look for a house in the area. It's great to have their company and good for the kids to get to play with Arlo so much. It'll all be fine as long as I continue to isolate myself for that nightly study sesh!

Speaking of which, I'm kinda behind on the school front. You see, the last few weeks, I have been involved in an all-consuming mural project. It's pretty much done now and I am both glad and sad. It took up a lot of my time and I was away from James and the kids a lot. But alternately, I learned some good stuff and met some great folks. The mural is in Spartanburg where I hope to be increasingly involve in the art scene.

On that topic, I have a new project to work on. It is an outdoor sign for an art organization in Spartanburg.

You know, I could get into sign painting. Like as a thing. I'm thinking about looking for more opportunities like this and doing some field research in this area. There's so many great hand-painted signs from back in the day and a number have recently been covered up. That makes me sad and I believe this to be an art form worth reviving.

Monday, October 7, 2013

James Ambrose is Three

We are having cake and presents tonight. Too bad his birthday falls on one of my school days, else he'd have a super 3 birthday like we did for Bea. She woke up to a three pancake stack, had a party at 3pm with 3 presents, etc. It was great. But tonight will be great also! And there's real-live-film in the ol' Pentax!

all photos by James

Friday, October 4, 2013

Family Night

Isobel almost never allows her picture to be taken. Pretty!

I have the most awesome family. I'm sure of it. There are a lot of us, but every one is a keeper.

A lot of Sundays, we all gather at Irene (my folks' house) to break bread and catch each other up on life. This past Sunday, my dad's only sister was in town, so the group was slightly bigger with grandparents and all. We had such a lovely feast after which we sat around with our drinks and sang songs like good Irish folk. The guitar went around and boy did we fill that house right up. We sang our own songs, Irish drinking songs, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Peter Sarstedt.

Those are the good times. I love the feeling of being connected to an amazing group of funny, smart, nice, creative people.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oceanic Obsession

As I may have mentioned, I'm going in a nautical direction. So this is the song I wrote in this strain. It was debuted a few nights ago with a fair reception. Ok, so I'm no Leonard Cohen. But I like it.