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  • November 2014
  • In Anticipation of Throwback Thursday: J+C Magazine (Issue 1 of 6)

    J+C Magazine: Volume 1, Page 1
    J+C Magazine: Volume 1, Page 1
    Front Cover of J+C Magazine. J.Lo, N'Sync, Prince Harry
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    I found six issues of J+C Magazine in my parent’s garage a few weekends ago. The discovery gave me a great opportunity to reconnect with my old friend, Carolyn who reminded me about our bizarre rat leg ritual.

    About 15 years ago, ago in first few months of the new millennium, my best friend and I found a decomposing rat leg. We carefully brought the mangled mess of bones and fur to our elementary school, hid it in our secret outdoor ‘altar’ by the field and honored it with bright wild flowers and copious bowing peppered with giggles. We did this for weeks, months maybe, because according to our 12-year-old psyche, honoring the rat leg gave us forest powers.  You know…the powers to control the weather and talk to animals.

    Since kindergarten, Carolyn and I were best friends. We were inseparable, kindred spirits. This was probably because our weirdness was so compatible. For example, I liked to pee in my parent’s rose bushes (I hope my mom’s not reading this) and Carolyn really really really liked horses.  As most preteen girls, Carolyn and I lived fully in our imaginations. Around the same time of our bizarre dead rat leg prayer rituals, we created a fabulously bitchy and highly sensationalist publication: J+C Magazine. Short for Jennifer and Carolyn, get it?  J+C marked the greatest moment in yellow journalism since the 1910s.

    Get ready for a bizarre glimpse into a time long past. through the lens of two 12 year-old suburban girls in Los Angeles as they examine mundane lives of celebrities like Nick Carter, swoon and Britney Spears, goddess. Armed with nothing but scissors, a glue stick and a stack of People Magazines, J+C reveal the wacky pop culture world of the early 2000s.

    This will be a series that I will release every week for the next 6 weeks.

    Enjoy and stay weird! And for the record, I no longer pray to rat legs.

  • 4 Universal Lessons from 30 Lil’ Old Lady Artists

    I find myself in a dimly lit wooden structure in the muddy fairgrounds of Red Bluff, California. About 30 older ladies (and two men) gather around a table, holding plates of chocolate cake and sipping hot coffee from small styrofoam cups. These women are part of the Red Bluff Art Association in Tehama county, a small rural area about two hours north of Sacramento. They are taking a break during an oil painting workshop with the talented and prolific, Judith Frost, a California-based landscape painter.

    In the studio with Judith Frost!

    As I listen to the conversations and questions about various oil painting tools and techniques (these ladies love talkin’ shop), someone sounds a cowbell to usher the ladies back into the workshop room where metal fold-out chairs are neatly arranged around Judith’s canvas and easel. I settle into my seat and take notes. This lady knows her stuff.

    Judith discusses her appreciation for light and how it serves as the cornerstone to all her work. She also demonstrates how to create a sky with a palette knife and the proper transparent blue and gray colors. The workshop concludes and I realize that this oil painting workshop could double for a workshop about life. What I mean is that many practices and core concepts in becoming a successful oil painter (hard work, experience, right tools) are universal to being a successful human being regardless of what cause or craft or life style you pursue.

    Four Samples of Judith Frost's Work

    1. Go with the FLOW (Shit happens)

    Life is weird. Unexpected events happen: some happy, some tragic. Over the course of the workshop, Judith told us that the majority of her art supplies were stolen from her car in San Jose. Why someone would do this is beyond me, however, it happened and now she had to deal with it. Judith’s lack of supplies forced her to use brushes and palettes she wouldn’t normally use, but what I truly appreciated was her willingness to go-with-the-flow and not ruminate about the actions of others.

    Shit happens: your tools get stolen, you don’t get your dream job, you are rejected in love. It is important to be aware that these are inevitable bumps in the road and that inherently, life changes. Also realize that you have the profound choice to either stop and cry in the mud OR pick yourself up and move forward. It is up to YOU to decide.

    Shit happens...fo real.

    It took me years to realize this and from time to time, I still find myself slipping back in a hole of self-pity and regret. Now, however, I have the foresight and strength to claw my way out because I HAVE THE CHOICE.

    So, In addition to being weird and unexpected, life is transient. Shit happens. Just go with it. The choice is yours.

    2. Work, Work, Work

    Because it takes a lifetime of hard work, rejection and picking yourself back up to create something like this:

    The beautiful work by Judith Frost does not happen overnight.

    While speaking to our group about her oil painting practice, Judith revealed that she doesn’t usually lead demonstrations or workshops like these and she probably won’t again. She was very open about telling us that she doesn’t have free time beyond painting to teach. You gotta’ respect her honesty.

    And there’s a lot to be said about practice. Have you heard of the rule of 10,000 practice hours? Essentially, it has been theorized that what separates the pros from the amateurs is sheer man/woman hours. How much time are you willing to invest into your craft?

    According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, he examines through interviews and data analysis, why certain people and organizations achieve success far beyond their peers. So whether it’s the success of The Beatles or the launch of Microsoft, you must put in the hours.

    And I theorize that if you truly love your craft, it won’t be so hard to spend the time practicing.

    So you want to be successful? Grab your tools and start. You have 10,000 hours left to go.

    3. Pursue Knowledge Constantly

    During the course of the class, Judith generously gave us a a list of books she recommends for all oil painters to read:
    Sixty Minutes to Better Painting – Craig Nelson
    Alla Prima – Richard Schmidt
    Fill Your Oil Painting with Light & Color – Kevin MacPherson
    Composition of Outdoor Painting – Edgar Payne
    Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting – John Carlson
    Mastering Composition – Ian Roberts
    Sketching from Square One to Trafalgar Square – Robert E. Scott
    Landscape Painting – Inside & Out – Kevin MacPherson
    Landscape Painting – Mitchell Albala
    Perspective for Artists – Rex Vicat Cole

    Knowledge is power. However, gaining knowledge is also a never-ending process; it’s constant. You will never know everything, even in your particular field of knowledge.

    I usually maintain a cool head, but I get frustrated when people say ‘Oh, I already know how to do that’ or ‘I’ve already taken a class in that.’ Why?

    Because the space for knowledge is infinite and when you dismiss someone’s suggestion to teach you, you dismiss the chance to expand your knowledge. Here’s a graph to illustrate what I mean about the Universe of Knowledge:

    The Universe of What Can Be Known

    If this pie chart doesn’t make sense, then please watch my favorite scene from one of my favorite movies, Men In Black:

    ‘Imagine what you will know tomorrow.’ I love how Agent K keeps it real and real smart. Keep your minds and eyes open, you might learn something.

    4. Find your Community

    More than anything during the workshop with Judith Frost, I appreciated the warm community that the Red Bluff Art Association offered. Talent, practice and a thirst for knowledge mean very little when you don’t have a group of like-minded colleagues to commune with. We are social creatures after all.

    Sometimes when we are caught up in our projects or in our areas of study, it’s difficult to realize that there are other people doing the same exact thing! Finding a supportive community is important because it can open doors to growth and collaboration. Then we can make the really BIG things happen.

    I don’t believe in the myth about the self-made man or woman. I believe that the successes of one person is the culmination of a community of people helping that person attain success. Think about it. Even Frederick Douglass, who wrote the book Self-Made Men in 1872, can attribute his success to the help of various people throughout his life: Sophia Auld who secretly taught him the alphabet when he was twelve, Elizabeth Cady Stanton who pursued equality alongside Douglass, and Gerrit Smith who helped Douglass publish his anti-slavery publication in 1860.

    So whether it is pushing for social change or growing as an artist, you MUST find the people to not only help you grow but pursue those projects and causes that are important to you.

    The lovely ladies of the Red Bluff Art Association!

    Find the people who have the same interests as you! It might be as simple as joining a Meetup group or finding a local group like these ladies did for the Red Bluff Art Association. If you don’t find a group, then make one!

    Two heads are better than one, and more is even better!

    A big thank you to the lovely ladies in the Red Bluff Art Association and to Judith Frost for taking the time out of her busy painting schedule to teach us something. Keep smiling, keep pushin’.

  • Bent-Con 2014: Embrace the Nerd, Embrace the Work, Embrace Success

    A gawky middle-aged man saunters around wearing thick black rimmed glasses, an orange sweater and knee high stockings — making him the quintessential Velma from Scooby Doo.  I watch a flock of vampire goths sulking near the bar as they hiss at Batman and Robin.  A woman with rainbow hair and a Pikachu t-shirt slowly thumbs through binders of male homo-erotic illustrations. The smell in the air at the Marriott Convention Center in Burbank is undeniable: Nerd.


    I adjust the laminated pass around my neck and enter Bent-Con, Los Angeles’ comic convention that celebrates LGBTQ (and Allies) contributions to pop-culture and geekdom.

    I was a panelist at the 2014 Bent-Con in Burbank, CA this past weekend in the panel, “Ungays in Comics: Not-LGBT Creators on their Work,” moderated by Rebecca Hicks.


    It made sense to be there. I love comic books, all things techie (I was actually in the same hotel for the 3D Print Expo back in February) and have an unholy fascination with erotic art.  I realize that like Velma, the vamp goths and Rainbow Lady, I too, am a big-time nerd.

    Many attendees were surprised to hear that Bent-Con was my first comic convention. Truthfully, attending these conventions never really interested me. But thankfully I reconnected with an old friend and writer, Tómas Prower, who insisted that Bent-Con would be a great opportunity to talk conceptually about my work and give insight into my creative process.  The panel went better than I expected: I answered the panel questions intelligently and I didn’t leave the panel with regrets.


    I sat alongside Jane Clark (Creator of Meth Head and Crazy Bitches), Rebecca Hicks (Creator of Little Vampires), and Mercer Boffey (Creator of Justice for Hire).  Our diverse panel of actors, directors and comic book illustrators started off with good-humored questions like “what moment in pop culture made you realize you were ungay?”

    My response went something along the lines of “In 1995, the groundbreaking film, Caspar the Friendly Ghost came out, marking my coming out as ungay.  In the moment when Caspar (Devon Sawa) reveals himself as a real flesh and bones boy to Wendy (Christina Ricci), during the Halloween dance  I remember feeling a tingle in my heart (and panties), making me realize that I was unabashedly and unequivocally ungay.

    The last question of the panel was probably the most serious: “What’s your advice for artists and creators who want to work in your field?”

    My answer was (and is still) this: Always remember that the most powerful force in the Universe is momentum. In physics, in business, in relationships, momentum is what moves us forward. It’s what creates that snowball effect, but it requires consistent effort and energy.  I’ve noticed many people who are stuck in a rut have encountered another great force: resistance.  And most of the time, this resistance comes from within us and can be embodied by laziness, shame, self-doubt and apathy.  Like all people, I’ve met resistance many times, but we must acknowledge and maneuver around those pockets of resistance to continue creating honest and thoughtful work.


    Bent-Con was super fun. My advice: Keep nerding on and you WILL succeed! It’s science!

  • Student Preview Day at the STEAM Carnival

    Here’s a riddle: What’s large, terrifying, at times cute and eager to learn?

    Answer: 500 school age kids every hour, on the hour from 9AM to 5PM at the Port of Los Angeles during Student Preview Day at the inaugural Steam Carnival.

    On Friday, October 24 I happily participated as a technician at the Steam Carnival, the brainchild of Two Bit Circus.  STEAM Carnival is dedicated to STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) to demystify the design process and make technological creation accessible to everyone. We do live in the Internet era after all.

    Here’s a crude outline of what went down on Student Preview Day. Please excuse the monster text…I’m still in a Halloween kind of mood.


    Starting bright and early at 9AM, a dedicated group of Steamster conductors ushered in hundreds of excited students to get a taste of an techy/arty infused day that awaited them.  Once the kids (elementary school through high school students) were seated in the walkway between the MaKey MaKey workshop booths, they were treated to an electrifying performance by Austin, Texas based music and technology group, Arcattack. As I was speaking to the founder, Joe DiPrima about how they control the electrical output of their twin Tesla coils through MIDI controllers and synthesizers, he mentioned, “[w]e actually use about 100,000 volts of electricity” opposed to the 40,000 volts that the Two Bit staffers were telling the kids. Check out a video of their performance here:

    One the kids were sufficiently dazzled by an electric entrance into the STEAM Carnival (har har har), it was up to the Technicians, of which I was part of, to teach basic concepts of electronics: what a circuit is, conductivity, ground, etc. Once the kids got a basic understanding of electricity, they dived headfirst into experimenting with MaKey MaKeys, a simple circuit board that we used to turn pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, fellow students and circus peanuts into game controllers. As a fun group experiment to understand conductivity, we created giant classroom circuits by holding hands in a circle, essentially using each other to create paths through which electricity can travel. Check out this cool video about how YOU can use a MaKey MaKey. (DDR anyone?)

    Once they finished with learning about electricity and experimenting with the MaKey MaKey, the students were escorted into the next warehouse where there was the game arcade. There were laser mazes, hacked Kinect powered games, human pinball machines and a Hexaball game, which I had particular fun with:

    I wasn’t in the other warehouse for most of the day as I was teaching in the first warehouse, but when I did pop my head in, it was utter madness…in a good way.  Kids running around, having fun with the games and learning about how they actually worked from the developers and engineers that stood patiently beside their creations.   I can’t speak for the developers and engineers but their games DEFINITELY went through an intense stress testing phase whether they liked it or not.  I talked to the engineer of the Human Pinball Machine, Kujo, as he shaked his head and recounted his Home Depot run to fix his machine. A lot of games were out of business by the end of the day, but it was a great learning experience for everyone involved.

    Once the students had sufficiently screamed their heads off in astonishment and awe at the STEAM Carnival, they were gathered up and shuttled back to their schools.  After a long and exciting day, all the Steamsters gathered for this photo underneath the green boa sculpture. I’m in the front row on the left side (not wearing a Two Bit t-shirt, it was so hot)


    All in all it was a fun day and very organized considering it was Two Bit Circus’ first go at the STEAM Carnival. I met lots of cool people and enriched the lives of Los Angeles’ youth which is always a plus.

    Happy steaming and stay true.