Empty Light

Avers from my hometown of Richmond, VA released their debut album titled Empty Light on iTunes yesterday. It made it to iTunes Alternative New and Noteworthy list, very well-deserved indeed. I've already had the pleasure of giving it a few dozen listens as I got a delightful little sneak peak for research purposes...for designing it's cover! It was an exceptional honor to be asked to work on such a special project as a debut album (not to mention a lot of pressure). After a number of rounds and various experimentation the simplest idea ended up being the coolest (at least I thought so—and so did the band.) The title Empty Light reminded me of certain Sunday mornings I spend lazily in my apartment with a cup of coffee. They are my single day to really get up at my leisure and sit by my window to reflect, listen, and just be. I have a number of ornate rugs on my floor, and in the morning the light shines through my windows masking out their patterns in playful patches diffused across my floor.

My first thought was to try and capture this sense of illumination, reflection and even melancholy in some abstract design and the band had also pointed to similar reference. But after a couple tests something wasn't quite coming together. Roger and I were discussing the idea and we started doing a little more research. We discovered the term "Empty Light" is also a term used in medicine when determining brain death with cerebral radionuclide angiography. The lack of intercranial blood flow shows up in the radiograph image as an empty white space due to the lack of blood flow and is referred to as an "empty light bulb." The real medical images of this were eerie and beautiful—perfect really as it—both sad and romantic, all at once. How fitting too that I often feel like an empty vessel myself when immersed in the experience of listening to a piece music. We'd found our hook and one of my favorite tools of watercolor seemed like a perfect fit to simply execute the concept. Avers had asked that we use color, so instead of a black and white design like I may have otherwise been inclined to use, we went with a  glowing red and pinks direction with hints of blues and greens.

Below—some early watercolor tests. I actually really love the simplicity of the left green and grey version, but the band had concerns about it feeling too dark and gothic. Understandable, as I had also worked on their last EP cover release which was also just simple black and white using their logo. The right was a more psychedelic approach which I also was digging. The compromise was blending the two and meeting somewhere in the middle.

Below—some initial abstract, plant-like, organic approaches I tried in the very beginning. While I liked their design, pattern, and complexity, they weren't feeling right for the album.

Lightweight Beetle Tote

Just for fun I made a couple tote bags with some a beetle friend. I've been experimenting with some simpler, rougher line art illustrations and wanted to try one as a screenprint.  We only have a few at the moment as these were really just for a good time, but there are a few available in the shop if you're so inclined! Just for the funny fun-funs.

Tiger Scarf, Monochrome in Chiffon

The Tiger Scarf is finally here! This piece has been in the works for nearly a year, after long talks and prototyping with new production partners, sample-making, and then finally the long wait for the final hand-sewn pieces. For whatever reason, my imagination often manifests itself in technicolor through my illustration, which over the past 5 or 6 years has been in stark contrast to my own personal style, which consists of an entirely black closet. For this scarf I wanted to make something that I could feel excited about wearing myself—how very selfish I know! But something wasn't feeling quite right about carrying products I wouldn't use myself. The result of this experiment were the the bold black and white patterns of mister tiger's stripes. The chiffon is light and semi-transparent, just in time for this brutal New York winter to end—the first signs of a glorious spring are already peaking around our gotham corners.

Available in the shop. Made in France, finished in New York City.

Unexpected Projects

I had the honor of an unexpected meeting with Xavier Portela during my visit to Amsterdam last month. He emailed me just before my arrival asking if we might shoot some portraits together. It's a little intimidating meeting a total stranger for something like this, but having checked out Xavier's work online beforehand I had a really good feeling about it and decided to take a chance. By the time I got to Amsterdam though I was already 3 levels of jetlagged after being in Tokyo 4 days before then back to New York for long enough to say hi to my cat, and the back in a plane again. I was a little out of sorts and just ready to curl up into a cocoon for a few weeks, but I knew I might be kicking myself later if I didn't see what Xavier was all about. At the last minute we pulled the pieces together and sure enough Xavier was absolutely lovely in person and put me at ease immediately. He created a portrait story of our morning chatting over coffee in the gorgeous Hotel Estherea about about making time for your work and personal passions. See the rest and read Xavier's writeup here. Also, see Xavier Portela on Facebook.


Month Abroad: FITC Amsterdam

I ended my crazy February in Amsterdam after a quick stop over back in NYC to join my friends from FITC once again for their annual Amsterdam event. (At this point I as in a state of inception jetlag with no idea what timezone I was supposed to be in.) This trip was a very special honor for me as I also was asked to contribute the key art for the event which appeared on everyone's badges and the event banners. I have to say, I think Amsterdam really stole a piece of my heart. I barely had time to explore, but with the stole moments where I could walk around, I felt the city's spirit and mine had a few things in common. Thank you FITC for being an amazing, gracious host, and thank you Amsterdam for your energy. I'll see you again soon beautiful Venice of the North.

Month Abroad: FITC Tokyo

A skip over to a Kuala Lumpur layover, and suddenly I had gone from the barefooted bliss of the Indonesian rainy season to an unseasonably chilly Tokyo winter, complete with a rare snowstorm. I was honored to be visiting to speak at the FITC Tokyo event at the very cool Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science & Innovation. When I wasn't at the event though, I made sure to do both some solo exploring and adventuring with my fearless comrades. Memories in no particular order: karaoke peer pressure, language barrier hilarity with friendly Japanese business men at six seater bars, traditional tea in Hama Ryuku Park, Robot Restaurant mind explosions, Shibuya crossing, Akihabara gadget weirdness, Kiddie Land in Harajuku, ramen perfection in hidden side streets, maid cafe awkwardness and culture shock, endless Ginza window shopping, hiding from the cold with pachinko, the search for more Danboards, Tokyo Sky Tree in the snow, Gonpachi sushi food coma, constantly being lost in the Shiodome underground mall, being the only asshole foreigners who still drink their coffee while walking, and general sensory overload. Thank you so much FITC for making this adventure possible.

Month Abroad: Bali Recharge

It's little wonder that people visit Bali once and then move there. My crazy month abroad took me to Indonesia for an amazing solo recharge and I truly don't think I've ever felt more at peace. Don't even get me started on the local art... Suffice it to say, I had to check an extra bag on the way home.

Month Abroad: Graphika Manila

I've been traveling a month and I'm just now starting to process my amazing February—mentally, emotionally—maybe even a little spiritually, in the broadest of terms—and in the form of iPhone photos. I started my trip in The Philippines to be part of Graphika Manila where I spoke about my work alongside Dvein, Ash Thorp, Jessica Hische, Isabel Gatuslao, and Eugene Gauran. The crowd was absolutely amazing—thanks everyone for stopping by to say hello. The Graphika folks also made me feel warm and fuzzy by organizing a show of original drawings and prints at SecretFresh Gallery. Special thanks to Aram and Ella.

Portrait by Brendan Goco

Portrait by Brendan Goco

Portrait by Brendan Goco

Portrait by Brendan Goco


Aside from Graphika related fun, the crew had a nice adventure in Binondo, Manila's foodie historic quarter. We took the Big Binondo Foodwok Map tour through Old Manila Walks. If you find yourself in Manila, I highly recommend this tour. It's flexible, incredibly fun, and get to sample all sorts of amazing Chinese Filipino food. Naturally, the tour guide directs you to the specialties. 


TGD Magazine

I told myself I'd stay off my computer while on vacation, but I have to break that rule to say a quick word about two people who I love dearly and are doing something I'm incredibly excited about. Tina and Ryan Essmaker of The Great Discontent have decided to take a very exciting leap this year and start a print version of TGD as well as leave their day jobs to devote 100% of their time to the content that has been inspiring so many of us for the past two and a half years. I know from personal experience how terrifying the leap is. I left my full time only 3.5 short years ago and I still battle with the fears related to being freelance even now. With that said, it has also been one of the most rewarding shifts of my life, and I'm happy the world is going to get more Tina & Ryan time. I have no doubt in my mind that they will succeed, but to help things along, they're rallying everyone's support with a Kickstarter. They were also so kind as to put my dopey mug on the cover, shot by Ryan himself in my studio. If you've ever read even just one article on TGD, I'm sure their content and interviewees have inspired you in some way, so let's help them keep doing what they do best. <3