I used to think I never had the time to travel while I was working. Then a friend pulled me aside some years ago and reminded me that working alone wouldn’t sustain me, nor was it supposed to: that traveling and seeing how people lived and how cities looked, how the air smelled, how the sky folded over the earth, is how I would remain inspired and motivated for the work I was doing. And he was right.
The couple on the left was on a date. They talked about the app where they met; she called him on the dumb things he said before they met in person. He talked about politics, the Jussie Smollet case (he didn’t say anything crazy, thankfully) and being a conflicted artist: tech by day, classical music by night (he’s a conductor). Conflicted about what he had to do to make a living, to support his passion. She was smitten and interested in him; he was slightly aloof, excited by his own thoughts. The guys behind the bar were amazing as ever, and as amused by them as I was. They poured us all shots and we downed it. The couple approved of my rendering of them, we toasted “to life” in the weird city we live in, and then they went off into the night. #ObservedSF
#Process for the semifinal design round of @gabrielahasbun’s catalog of her personal series of black and white cowboy cultures in Northern California. I’ve been indirectly talking with Gabriela about turning this into a catalog for a few years, so it’s a special and personal pleasure to see it at this stage.
Friends have asked me what #ModernismWeek was like. My most honest answer: “It was like this gentlemen’s jacket, but on crack.” The opening party last Thursday night was one of the most festive public social events I’ve been to in years. It was filled with mostly locals, a day before the events officially started, and everyone was ready to party. It was pure and infectious. There was an Austin Powers and Mini Me impersonator, and there was a rumor that Verne Troyer had passed away last year (it was true), which made many people I spoke to feel something. The few days there showed me a side of Palm Springs that I knew was there, but never saw up close. I learned an appreciation for Southern California architecture and design, as well as its stewards, fellow appreciators and scholars. The unique landscape and people have created a singular experience. I’ll be back next year @modernism_week I had fun observing you.
Back at the studio today and first stop is to embrace (I actually hug my column. Every month. I’m not ashamed) and inspect #ObservedSF (to check printing, and that everything I saw before it was printed made it all the way) and plot the events for next month’s column. I get to read it as a viewer, instead of as a creator, and that’s part of the process, too.
Observed at the @modernism_week Show House last night at the Christopher Kennedy Compound Gala in Palm Springs. So. Much. Pattern. And faux fur. And fur fur. And everything else. At first I had a sense that people were reaching into the back of their closets for the ensembles I witnessed this week. But the longer I’m here, I’m seeing that it’s front of closet. #ModernismWeek #PSmodSquad
A commercial break from Modernism Week to say that the latest #ObservedSF column is OUT in the San Francisco Chronicle Style section this weekend. A double page illustrated cultural guide, to take advantage of an active month. The events, people and quotes represented at @fogfair @untitledartfair @moadsf @sfpubliclibrary and @hopemohrdance represent a robust January of art, dance and big ideas. Pick up your copy this weekend!
The @aqualillies dazzled with their choreographed water dance moves in the pool at @modernism_week. Esther Williams would have been proud. #ModernismWeek #PSModSquad
Overheard at the 19th Annual Modernism Show and Sale...all anonymous to protect the guilty...“The glove chair? I just don’t get it”....“If you’re good, be good. If you’re going to be bad, be all the way bad.”....“After the two gay girls moved from across the street, I realized I don’t *have* any gay friends.” Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra blared from the speaker as feathered hair, geometric pattens, animal prints and tight leather everything paraded in front of me all night. I was obsessed. @modernism_week #ModernismWeek #PSModSquad
Now for something else entirely. I’ve got my bag with my notebook and pens, my LaCroix for lubrication, and my maps. I’m ready for @modernism_week #ModernismWeek #PSModSquad
“Miss Lyris” 10x14” Gouache and ink on paper.
I completed my latest #ObservedSF column sitting on my family’s veranda in St George’s, Grenada, which was a strange experience, but one that I’m grateful for. It gave me a minute to take in the culturally active January that was in San Francisco. This moment was observed the evening of @untitledartfair opening back in January. Feminist artist @michelepred was a highlight of the opening, in her reflective unitard and amazing personality. She said: “I live on Oakland but mostly exhibit my work in NY, Miami, LA and Chicago so I really enjoyed showing one of my Power of the Purse Installations for the first time in the San Francisco. It's great to be on home turf and celebrate with my local friends!” Also! ‘Observed’ is two pages this weekend (Feb 17th!), so there are hella events to see this weekend!
I traveled to Grenada last week to spend a spontaneously planned week with my grandmother and family. It’s been wonderful. I’ve worked through the visit, but my daily office has been on my family’s veranda overlooking trees and open sky and fresh air. Today, my seven year old cousin Ashlee came over and we painted together: her piece was a dramatic sky and “a person of some sort”, and mine was of my favorite human being, my grandmother Lyris Holder, as she crocheted a new scarf in the next room. Ashlee and I talked about life, her parents, and the kids at school that annoy her and who she likes and who she doesn’t, and I told her the same. We talked about our philosophies on painting. She swirls and created new colors, and I’m a purist for flat, loud color. At the end of the day, she was happy that I came for the week. “You always bring the best paints.” 😍 #Process
This Friday, the Bayview Opera House (aka: #TheRuth) is having an event called ‘We Are History In the Making’ a celebration of its recent passage as the African American Cultural District of San Francisco. @jasonmadarastudio and I were asked to participate in a discussion on our #IamBayview campaign last fall, and took an entirely new series of community portraits (a continuation of our ongoing #IndividualsProject series). Those portraits will be on display, alongside the photography of Steve Jackson Jr, who chronicled the Fillmore during the 40’s and 50s. @bvoperahouse curator Allegra Madsen juxtaposed the two bodies of work hoping “together they can speak across time and highlight the idea that cultural celebration is a form of resistance and asserts that - we are here, we are important, that we come from beauty and we are beautiful.” I’m sad to miss the opening this Friday, but I’m making a beeline to #TheRuth to see it next week #IndividualsProject
#Process for the next #ObservedSF column, coming out next weekend. Observed at @fogfair a few weeks ago; I ran into Elba McIntosh as I made my final round of the floor. I was taken by her meticulously tweed power boss suit, her blond locs, her working that walking stick like she was on the catwalk, and her vivacious personality. She grabbed my phone to show me an article that SF Jazz has published on her. She smiled sweetly. “I have to admit, I *do* love the attention.”’
I’m bringing my observational eye to #ModernismWeek in Palm Springs next week, to observe and document the people, places and things that I see. It’s my first time attending and I know it’s going to be something else. The entire event is Feb 14th to 24th and celebrates mid century architecture, design and culture. I’m doing a takeover for @modernism_week today, talking about what Modernism means to me. I’ll be sharing my drawings of the tours and talks and events while I’m there, so you’ll feel like you’re there, too. 📸 @jasonmadarastudio
I did this painted portrait commission a year ago for a wildly adorable couple who happened to both contact me within days of each other and asked me to keep it a secret for their anniversary and I agonized for days and had to come clean to one of them because that was crazy so it wasn’t quite the same kind of surprise, but that is not even the best part of that story because a year later they got it framed and LOOK AT THE CUSTOM FRAME JOB The End.
An index of line and tone illustrations for #EatSomethingBook. Eeeeeverything from Shabbat to Passover to Shiva to Goy-In-Laws to Mitzvah Time.
I’ve been working on another book project called ‘Eat Something’ that will be out Spring 2020. It’s been a very personal labor of love, and I’ve had the privilege of working with the equivalent of family. It’s pretty rare in book publishing to have the team that created the proposal be the same folks creating the actual book, but what means is that we roll deep together. The book which will be a collection of hilarious essays on Jewish food and culture written by the brilliant @rachellevinsf, archival and historical photography (Wise Sons is also soliciting their fan base for family photos!), contemporary photography by @marencaruso (!), with design and illustrations by #McCalmanCo. It has a real joy to work with @WiseSons on this tome, and I’m still so touched that Evan Bloom thought I was the right person to put this together. As research, I’ve spent a lot of time eating and noshing, talking about eating and noshing, and watching other people eat and nosh, so I’m pretty qualified at this point. #EatSomethingBook
Three years ago, I took a sabbatical that adjusted the course of my creative life. I worked on a self-directed series, a daily painted portrait of black history pioneers called #illustratedBlackHistory. That series is being turned into a book that will be released in Aug 2020 via Harper Collins. I’m illustrating and designing the book, but more importantly, I’m shepherding this project into the world. It’s a community project; it’s been a process that has involved my network far and wide, and I’ve already been the recipient of more support and generosity that I could have anticipated. I’ve been humbled and it is humbling. I feel like this experience going to adjust even more than just my life. I’ve designed books and magazines and journals and catalogs and lots and lots of things, but I’ve never done anything like this. I’m nervous and excited and exhausted already. My goal is to celebrate these pioneers (some known, most unknown) and place them in front of your gaze. Because they are overdue. I’ll be sharing my process of putting this project together and I hope that when this book comes out, you will share this piece of history with someone who doesn’t know it. Which is a lot of us.