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.
Overheard at @troublecoffeeco this afternoon: “The line is always long (on Sundays), but the saltiness of the staff is worth it.” #ObservedSF
This morning my friend Daniel and I sat in my dining room table talking about life being a series of chapters ending and beginning. He took this portrait five years ago, when I was going through a very painful breakup, and I had no sense of my place in the world. I remember then that we sat in the same room we sat in today, talking about very similar things. I might have just taken a breath, and he caught the moment. He has the uncanny ability to do that. He and I have worked together on many branded projects over the years, and I’ve always thought of him as an indelible part of the city, as well as a dynamic photographer. He flew off to start a new chapter of his life together, and while I’m happy to him, I also know that I’m going to miss him. I waved a (temporary) goodbye to him and he disappeared down the street. A half hour later I found this photo. I’m grateful for this moment that reminded me of another chapter of my life. And his.
Another illustrated piece from the upcoming ‘Rodeo Nation’ story on the all-Black @billpickettrodeo that I’m writing and illustrating. One of the more poignant moments I saw was this tender moment between Ron and his son, who was riding that day. He told us “ met his mother at this rodeo, so it’s in his blood.” #ObservedSF
I was just going to show a crop but then I thought ‘nah show the whole thing’ cuz I love it so. The cover of next weekend’s feature on The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo for the San Francisco Chronicle. The story will feature the amazing cowgirls and cowgirls of the all-Black rodeo who I met a few weeks ago. But let me tell you: when Mister Thesus showed up in his swagger and bling and swerve on that horse, the men (and women) all paused as he walked (galloped) into the room. So naturally he had to have the cover. #ObservedSF
When I’m walking through any event I’m covering for #ObservedSF I look for repetitive patterns: in people, clothing, colors, textures. Yesterday at the #AmericanCraftShow I got ALL OF THE ABOVE. The #SeniorStyle was off the chain. Patterns, check! Color, check! Asymmetrical short haircuts, check! Wacky characters, check! So refreshing! I love me some old people (and old people love me) and when they are decked out, it’s even better. It was great to see an event with a crowd mature enough to know the original version of California craft (that has nothing to do with the current trend). I’m so bummed I only brought one black pen with me yesterday, so this is all I can show. The color(ful) version will be in August installment of ‘Observed’, out August 26th!
Observed and overheard last night in downtown Oakland, during First Fridays. “Tonight was exactly how it was supposed to happen.”
I’m moderating a panel discussion called ‘The State of...Public Arts’ on Thursday September 6th at @thebatterysf. The salon series is part of an ongoing quarterly event partnership at the Battery. I had the idea for topic in the midst of the ‘I Am Bayview’ controversy and wanted to give some voice to the questions that I had, and had received from the people I spoke with. The aim of the talk is to deconstruct how the city managed its public arts. Who are gatekeepers? How does bureaucracy limit or enhance the arts it places? What are the class, gender, and racial politics at play? With the tech boom, the city has a larger global platform, should its public arts reflect its new stature? Does it need to? All of these questions and more will be discussed. If you’re local and would like to attend, Put it on your calendar, and email me (email@example.com) your name to add to the entry list. I’ll start sharing my panelists next week. The conversation will be robust, trust.
Preview of a cover for an upcoming illustrated story on the Bill Pickett all-Black rodeo that I’m contributing to the Style section of the SF Chronicle 1. The horse is not three-legged, it’s an in process sketch. 2. The gentleman in this piece is in his 80s. #seniorgoals. 3. I’m excited about this one. #ObservedSF
The interiors series of #McCalmanco studio continues this week with Vol. 3 of #WhetstoneMagazine. Specifically, the 16-page (yes that’s what I said) feature story from entrepreneur and photographer @sanajaverikadri. The luminous Sana contributed our cover and main story titled ‘Gujarati Muslim Food’ on the underrepresented Indian cuisine of her homeland. What follows is a lush and mouthwatering photo essay showing life in the predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Ahmedabad, near her family’s home. She wrote the foreword, which gives cultural and political context for the food and its preparation. This was the very first story that I laid out for this issue and it set the tone for the juicy (pun intended) stories that followed. In my previous everyday life as a magazine designer, I would have cut half of these images out to make room for other stories. I’m glad I don’t have to suffer those restrictions anymore. The magazine (and viewer) gets to bathe in the glory of Sana’s photography. As we should. (Pick up your copy of @whetstonemagazine, sold online and at select periodical locations around the country.)
I’ve lived in San Francisco for almost twenty years, and while it’s many things, it’s never boring. Case in point: last week Tuesday, I left a reiki session to get on the BART Train to go home. At the intersection of 24th and Mission streets, a Balkan brass band named @inspectorgadje (clever) was playing live. People stood, clapped and danced (and it was cold outside that night). It was random and magical. There were so many band members, I had to draw them over four pages (swipe to see the whoooole band). My fingers were freezing, but my soul was happy. #ObservedSF
I’ve been asked to show more interiors from some of the print projects that #McCalmanCo studio is creating, so I’m listening. First up: some of my favorite spreads designed for @marencaruso’s catalog of her photo-essay celebrating the ‘Meals On Wheels’ program. I’ve often said (on this feed) that I think Maren is an unparalleled food photographer; but this book is a manifestation of her desire to combine the visual language of all aspects of her photography: portraiture, interiors and still life. I think she was pretty successful. Additionally: I’ve known Maren for a minute, and it’s been a delight to see an artist that you admire take another evolutionary step forward in their craft.
I attended a gathering ‘Sing Her Name: A Heart Offering’ last night in Oakland to memorialize #NiaWilson, the 18 year old murdered randomly, for being black, last Sunday. Nia’s sister, Lahtifah, was also attacked violently and is still in the hospital. The community gathered to commune, grieve and fortify ourselves. It was a very difficult week (both externally and internally) and it was healing being around people who cried, sang, and just held some space for all of the emotion coursing through all of us gathered. The event was also to raise funds for her family. There is a GoFundMe.com page (type in ‘Justice for Nia Wilson). If you’re wondering what to do, you can still contribute. #SayHerName
He power napped for most of my commute; talking purposefully in his sleep. Then calmly woke and got off at his stop. After a break for a few weeks to collect my wits after the biggest deadline of my year, its really nice to be back visually stalking strangers on San Francisco public transportation. #ObservedSF
I’m grateful to @jenhewett for a whole host of reasons. But her digging the latest installment of #ObservedSF is at the top of the list. Also, the skirt, the color of her bag...I couldn’t not capture all of it. Also, we are part of #BlackBrunchClub and we collectively just solved all of the world’s problems this afternoon and this is post a couple of glasses of rosé, okay?
A belated note of thanks to everyone who came out to the @heathnewsstandsf talk on Thursday night. I’m still processing the evening and the experience. Creating and producing #ObservedSF has given me a platform to combine all of my creative skills, and also learn about San Francisco all over again. But explaining what I do has also become an important component of my creative experience. I received some amazing questions from the audience, and I hope my answers made sense. Special thanks to @simonesilverstein for moderating, and especially to @heathceramics. Thank you Cathy and Robin for making a space for these creative discussions around the printed page to happen monthly. Print is not dead. It’s just evolving. Also! The Latest column is out today in @sfchronicle_style. Pick up your copy! 📸 @john_toya