My little phone avatar friend had a mind of its own on this trip to Denmark. I usually take lots of photos with it, and collect reference for some of the illustrations that I observe on a daily basis. Notsomuch over the last week. Having a phone that would just casually go to sleep 😴 at the most random and inopportune times presented some old school challenges that I had to embrace: Drawing maps in my notepad to get around a new city, using my brain to remember the details of my surroundings, and most importantly, just being present to where I was, and letting that be that. When It did decide to be awake, I did catch some tender moments, like this one with my spectacular travel soulmate @shak_simley being inspired at @louisianamuseum a few days ago.
In these last few weeks of summer, Copenhagen has, like, a trillion fairs, festivals and conferences going on now. I’ve been to festivals celebrating (and critiquing) food, technology, and now art and design. Today, I attended the sixth edition of #ChartArtFair today, located opposite the well-known Nyhavn. It’s been a hoot going to @chart_artfair events that I would be covering for my San Francisco ‘Observed’ column in this town. Really great people watching. The gallery shows I saw were filled with curious patrons of the arts, collectors, families and people just looking to be inspired. Like me. #ObservedCPH
I had the privilege to sit in on a preview kick off of @techfestival in the meatpacking district in Copenhagen this afternoon. The festival rolls out this Wednesday to Sunday and boasts an expected turnout of 16,000 people. These Danes do not fuck around. The goal of the programming is to explore how technology (in all its forms) impact our human lives. What I heard today made me wish I could stay to see the whole thing. I sat in, and drew the audience as they listened, rapt. The idea of talking philosophically about the impact of tech in our lives sounded so luxurious to me. I couldn’t help but think of how frustratingly insular our conversations about tech is in the Bay Area. It was like a warm bath to hear people speak plainly, and in a non-academic way about a very complex topic. I’ll be back to attend (and maybe speak) next year. #ObservedCPH
My continual vantage point in Copenhagen this week: man-buns, lots and lots of bicycles, hot older people and really old streets. Not pictured and equally seen, many many cardamom pastries, small bathrooms and me mangling the Danish language. #ObservedCPH
A drawing of students contemplating the art of a photo of students contemplating a painting at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art today. #ObservedCPH
One of my favorite ways to spend my travel time is to sit in a restaurant and watch how people congregate and engage each other. It tells a lot about the culture of the place. It’s an inbetween time here in Copenhagen. The last bits of the summer and the beginning of the fall. People are squeezing in as much of the sun here as they can. From what I’ve heard, Denmark had a record summer heat this year, and people got used to it. They’re getting ready to start putting layers on again. #ObservedCPH
Commute ride home on the intersection of Stefansgade and Nørrebrogade #ObservedCPH
I’m pretty terrible at doing nothing, but my first 24 hours in Copenhagen are signs of vacation progress. Walks, hot chocolate, there *may* have been a nap. This drawing may have been the only productive thing I’ve done today, and that is some kind of victory for my sanity.
Forty eight ridiculously short hours in New York to plan for ‘Illustrated Black History’ and meet with the wonderful @designsponge to discuss our next collabo, issue 3 of @goodcompanyzine. But we hardly talked about work, what with the people-watching, and the liquid-lunching, and the french toast-consuming at @balthazarny. Next stop, Copenhagen. #ObservedNY
Some news to share on the social channels. I’m making a book called ‘Illustrated Black History’. // It’s taken me a few weeks to process this, without just being an emotional mess. My publisher is Amistad Press, a division of Harper Collins. The book will be released February, 2020, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the creation of Black History Month. This project is based on an idea I had, that restarted my creative life two and a half years ago. The entire story of how this book came to be is a story for another time, but suffice to say, I’m excited, emotional about it, and ready to create. // It will surprise some people and not surprise others to say that when I started researching this concept (a contemporary telling of American black history, outside of academia and children’s books) I found that this idea was unpublished. I was unsurprised, but also, was. When I first spoke to the woman who would become my editor, she said: “Let’s change that.” I’m grateful to my community, who all provided me guidance and reflection during the proposal process. // Special shout out to my fairy god-artist @jenhewett who pulled me aside at the beginning of this year and said, “It’s time”, and @katewoodrow of @presentperfectlit for making simple a confusing process, and being a badass. You ladies are amazing. I’m so grateful. I’ve cried many times over the last few weeks, with gratitude, and pride. This book has been, and will be, a community effort. I cannot wait to get started. #IllustratedBlackHistory
My friend K. teases me that I go on (and on) about how #mercuryretrograde affects me and I know nothing else about astrology (truth) but oh man. The last few weeks have been a hot mess. Up down left and right. Packages missing, files corrupted, keys lost, cattywhompassed communication, often in the same day. The thing I’ve learned is to just go with the flow and not fight it (which is hard, when you’re trying to get shit done) but I’m also learning that it’s always a good time to revise and revise the process. Change shit when it’s not working, and keep stepping. That’s something that Mercury and her retrogrades can’t touch. Polaroid by @ddent
Love it when my clients dig their presentations 💥💥💥
I sent yesterday afternoon with this view of @isawstephen, Whetstone Magazine’s founder, recording an episode of the upcoming #WhetstonePodcast. We had Red Blossom tea steeping. I got comfortable. I took my shoes off. And then we broke shit down. We talked about the colonialism I was raised in, the sexism I witnessed, the systemic racism I was on the receiving end of in the publishing industry, the agrarian culture that inspired me, the food and flavors that sustained me, and my true reason for collaborating with him on @whetstonemagazine, after I swore I would never design another magazine again. We’ve known each other a long time, and it felt like a conversation we had never had before. It was wonderful. The podcast series drops in October. I can’t wait to share it.
My favorite view from this weekend, captured in dramatique slowmo by @gabrielahasbun (who I am grateful to, for introducing me to the @billpickettrodeo). And the truth: I don’t always have the time to paint as luxuriously as would like to. And I’m glad that I *made* the time to do this one, and collaborate with @daymondonline on the design. I’m so proud of this story.
Hot off the Presses! Black In the Saddle! I wrote and illustrated the cover story on the inspiring all-black Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. An excerpt that sums up the mission statement of the piece. // “The mythology of the American cowboy evokes white men challenged by nature and persevering. That there is a company that is retaking ownership of the storytelling of what a cowboy looks like is important: At one point in American history, 1 in 4 cowboys was black. This history is generally unexplored. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo aims to change that.” // You can find it in the Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Yes yes, it lives online but you can curl up with the print edition. Special thanks to my editor, Laura, who indulged my unfettered enthusiasm to break this story out from the monthly #ObservedSF column. Pick up your copy this weekend! Words and art by @McCalmanCo
As I’ve been reading and listening to the life and legacy of the glorious Aretha Franklin today, but amid the countless tributes to all of her countless accomplishments and accolades and voice, I can’t help but think about all of the things that we will never know. All of the racism that she never spoke about. How she combated the rampant sexism of the music industry. How much she was undervalued next to her peers. How she carried being an indomitable black woman in our unsupportive world. She came from a generation that shouldered the burdens of the civil rights movement. It’s successes and its failures. Her sacrifices and talent and fortitude have made our lives easier. We have a louder voice because of artists like her. Thank you, we are grateful.
Live-drawing at the latest @creativemean event as artists @choutoo @aoctaviusw @wesaamalbadry
@colorfulkierra drop some sage science on an attentive audience. I was too, even though I was momentarily distracted by this gentleman’s crisp and dapper pinstripe suit. #ObservedSF
I had been a professional graphic designer for 21 years when I decided (after much consternation behind-the-scenes) to stop designing for other people and spend some time creating for myself. The first project I assigned to myself was a project that will now inform the next couple of years of my creative life. #IllustratedBlackHistory was a project for me to find out about my history, Black history, American history. The experience was meant for me to explore my capabilities: to discover if I was an artist (I was) and to redefine the kind of work I was capable of. It set me on a new path and has refocused my energy. I’ve had a lot of conversations about this project over the last few months and it’s given me the opportunity to reflect back on the encouragement and support that I received from my community (friends, family and strangers). It gave me the foundation to continue delving Into what my purpose is. It also let me understand a few other things: that I didn’t know enough about black history, that I was armed with my own abilities to write, report, illustrate and design. And that I was hungry to know more.
One of the quotes that didn’t make the final edit for my story on the Bill Pickett Invitational all-Black rodeo, coming out this weekend in the San Francisco Chronicle Style section. “As far as the rodeo community, it's a big family of people trying to preserve the ol' west ways of living: that value the responsibility to nature, our children’s upbringing in being responsible, hard working, honest, respectful, humble and of course how to learn from defeat in the competition arena, to lose with your head up. Meaning to be proud of the effort, try again and again to get better, don't be a sorry loser, keep trying, and have fun doing what you love.” - Ronald Hill, Sr., cowboy
Community collaborations are the best kind of collaborations. The sample proofs for the 28-page promo catalog for @orianakoren are in and I’m so happy with how it turned out. 🔥🔥🔥photography by O, design and hand-made (with love) typography by #McCalmanCo. To say that the process was a joy wouldn’t even describe it fully. Can’t wait for the next one.