Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Accepted into Pence Gallery

As many of you know, I am happily a member of the collective artists at BlueMoon Gallery located in Sacramento. Over the last several months, I've been doing research and contacting various galleries here in California and in Washington to see what the requirements were in order to be accepted so that I could branch out a bit beyond the Sacramento area. After many failed attempts and was getting close giving up my search for another year, I randomly sent an email to Pence Gallery in Davis. I wasn't expecting an email right away and figured that the response I would receive would be along the lines of telling me that they weren't currently accepting new artists.

"Whispering Sweet Nothings" by Dawn Star Wood
What did I get in my inbox instead? The cheerful words of Assistant Director Eileen Hendren letting me know that not only did she like my art but invited me to “get my feet wet” by entering a piece into their upcoming Valentine's themed show for February. Pleasantly surprised is hardly the best way of describing the thrill of those words rush through my body. It took some time to think of what to do but finally settled on doing a small painting of love birds after the suggestion my mother tossed out at me while discussing the situation with her. That in itself was a rather interesting adventure since I wanted to go a little more elaborate in the composition. After contacting the Free State National Botanical Garden (South Africa) and being bounced over to the Senior Horticulturist of the Free State National Botanical Gardens who also works with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), I discovered through confusing clashes of information that my original idea would not have worked out. Crumpling the paper I was brainstorming on and tossing it aside, I told myself that it would be best to go simple and understated.

Tuesday, January 29th, I went down to Pence Gallery to meet Eileen in person for the first time and to deliver my painting. After an amusing moment of reminding her how we got to corresponding through our emails, I couldn't help but feel right at home in the environment. During the short meeting with her, I was stunned and overjoyed when the next thing that I know she's writing a list of upcoming events she wants me to take part of this year. So it would appear that my work will now also be seen at Pence.

Here's the information for the gallery if you're in the area and interested in checking things out:

212 D Street ~ Davis, CA 95616
Phone: (530) 758-3370
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11:30am- 5pm
Second Friday: 7-9pm (6pm for Members)

Love Lingers: Pence Gallery Group Valentine's Day Show
Feb. 1 – April 28th, Reception: Feb. 8th from 6-9pm
Celebrate all things sweet with the Pence Gallery Valentine's Day show. Besides plenty of candy to entice you, there are handmade Valentine cards by Beverly Beckman, playful sculptures by Paula Bellacera and Steve Allen, and lovely mixed media pieces by Galelyn Williams and Adele Shaw. With over 25 artists represented there is a perfect Valentine gift just waiting for you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Art of Gaming: Incredipede

There has been a great many developers that I had emailed back in December and at the time, only a small handful had responded to me asking them about their influence. Part of me wondered if my messages had even reached the others or perhaps the emails had somehow wandered into their spam folders. One such game I was attempting to contact its developers on was Incredipede. Waiting, I figured that perhaps I caught them while on vacation or even while they were busy. By some strange twist of fate, later that same week John 'Total Biscuit  Bane posted his first impression play through of it with his video WTF Is... Incredipede. Finding the situation amusing, I decided to take a step back and just ponder things over until recently when I decided to re-email those whom I attempted to before. 

Incredipede is a puzzle platformer created by Colin and Sarah Northway with art by Thomas Shahan, where you control a strange creature called Quozzle which appears to be an eye but which is able to grow 'arms' that help her navigate the world. When I first stumbled across the website, what caught my eye was the art style that was being presented. Even in the trailer, I was captivated by the bold, flat colors and thick outlines which were reminiscent of a wine label or even Japanese woodblock printing (moku hanga). With an obvious call for the player to use their imagination to move Quozzle through the various worlds, but the game also notes that there is a level editor allowing the player to create their own puzzles and share them with others. I wasn't too sure how my second attempt of emailing the creators would go but within minutes of me sending my question out, creator Colin Northway responded:

Hey, Dawn, I'm not sure how I missed your email in December, sorry about that.

My original vision for the art was to be based on botany books from the age of discovery. Thomas' art (the artist for Incredipede) skewed earlier but maintained the same spirit.

I've cc'd Thomas as well to see if he has any comments.

I was pleasantly surprised that Colin apologized for missing my email to him but explained to him that I figured that I had caught him originally when he was busy. When I read that his inspiration was actually from botany books, I could see what he meant. The style the game leans closer to is the illustrations from the mid 1750s to the late 1800s by such people as Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708 – 1770) instead of illustrations from the 1900s to present.

If you're interested in checking out the game yourself, you can find it here:
gog.com – Incredipede $14.99

Incredipede has been greenlighted on Steam on January 10th, 2013 so should be available relatively soon. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

MOMAT presents Francis Bacon

As of late, I have made it a habit to check on upcoming or currently showing exhibits at various museums located not only here in California but world wide. Part of this is because there's always something that I would be interested in but also because I do have friends dotting the world so want to keep them updated. While on such a search, something caught my eye coming from The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. They have made an announcement that from March 8th to May 26th, they will have an exhibit of artist Francis Bacon's work. I have heard of his name before in certain circles but had to refresh my memory of him and his work.

Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992), an Irish-born British figurative painter better known for his abstract images, actually started off in interior design. In the 1960s, he produced a series of portraits of friends which evolved to be more of a combination of humanish and grotesque features. It was after the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971 that his work became more of a study on motifs of death. Like many artists in his position, his work became more famous after his death and has become a source of fascination and intrigue to many.

"Man in Blue VI" by Francis Bacon 
Out of curiosity, I decided to check out Christie's just to see if there was anything of his up for auction and to see what one of his pieces would go for now. My hope wasn't too high since I knew that there was only a tiny window of chance that something of his was even up for market. To my surprise I found one piece: Man in Blue VI. Placed in the category of Post-War and Contemporary Art, it is currently up for auction (set for February 13th) with the appraisal estimate set to £4,000,000 - £6,000,000 ($6,312,000 - $9,468,000 USD). It is an impressive amount of money for an 60 1/8x46 inch (152.7x116.8 cm) oil on canvas but due to the artist's known history and how he had been able to make a name for himself even after his death, it does make sense.

So for those who may be living or visiting the Tokyo area between March and May and want to visit the MOMAT, here is the information that you need and don't forget to check out the museum's website for more news.

Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
3-1 Kitanomarukoen, Chiyoda, Tokyo 102-0091, Japan

Hours: Monday Closed
Tuesday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Wednesday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Thursday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Friday 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Map & Information (English) - http://www.momat.go.jp/english/map_info.html

Day ticket (Group of 20 persons or more)

Adults: ¥1,500 (1,100)
College / University students: ¥1,100 (800)
High school students: ¥700 (400)

*All prices include tax.
*Middle school age and under 15 are free of charge.
*Persons with disability and one person accompanying them are admitted free of charge.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Art of Gaming: Blueberry Garden

Lately I have been finding myself wandering the internet, digging through various sites trying to discover indie games. Luckily enough, I'm starting to have friends suggest games for me to check out. On such an instance where I was checking out a suggested game, something else caught my eye and sparked my interest. There are times when there has been a game that I've never heard of, so when I came across something called Blueberry Garden I wanted to figure out more about it after reading the description:

“Congratulations Blueberry Garden! Winner of the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for 'Best Independent Game' at the 2009 Independent Games Festival. Also a winner for 'Best Innovation' at the 2008 Swedish Game Awards. Blueberry Garden is a short and experimental game about exploring a strange world.” 

Created by independent Swedish game developer Erik Svedäng and released in June 2009, Blueberry Garden is actually a puzzle platform type of video game with instrumental piano work by Daduk. Since then, he has brought into being Kometen, Shot Shot Shoot, TRI-TRI-TRIOBELISK, Clairvoyance, and is currently working on else{Heart.break()}. After taking a look at the short trailer and the different screen shots, I was struck by the charming innocent nature of the style of the world and characters in the game. Even the premise of assisting the character in gathering various odd objects to add to his home, all the while attempting to avoid having things eaten by little tiny party hat wearing imp creatures that when they kiss end up reproducing seems innocent and even comical. Taking a closer look at the style, there was something about it that reminded me of something but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. With an almost children's book vibe, I was getting a sense of just a little bit of illustrator Sun Young Yoo in there or even perhaps a splash of Jockum Nordström. Of course that is only my personal opinion so I had to ask what his inspiration for the art style was. Within a few days of sending out my emailed inquiry, I was happy to see that he sent me a response:

Hello, and thanks for the interest in my game and its art style. Unfortunately I don't think I know where the inspiration is from, it's the only way I can draw so I just did it like that because I couldn't do it any other way. So not very interesting to hear about I guess :)

Looking at the email a moment, I couldn't help but laugh at myself for the simple fact that perhaps my work on installments for the 'A common influence... maybe' series I have on the blog caused me to see a little more into the style then what was really there. The game's style itself is still wonderfully whimsy, however.

If you're interested in checking out the game yourself, you can find it here:
store.steampowered.com – Blueberry Garden $4.99

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Coffee Review: RealBeanz Iced Coffee Cappuccino

It has been some time since I've had the chance to sample a new coffee and honestly I have been a bit glum about it. Not just because I enjoy trying out new types of coffee and learning about their origins but because I do have so many friends and readers who are interested in drinking coffee and enjoy reading the Coffee Review segments. Well I'm happy to say that this review has been brought to you by a very close friend of mine and was completely unexpected. I just happened to be at her place to visit when she disappears into her kitchen for a brief moment, coming back out and placing a 9.5 FL oz (281mL) bottle of RealBeanz Iced Coffee Cappuccino in my hands with a grin on her face as she said “Here. For the Coffee Review”.

Pulling the bottle out of the refrigerator, I noticed that on the label itself in bold letters below the type of coffee that it is was 'ENERGIZE'. What did that mean? Glancing on the side of the label it explains the natural energy giving supplements that was also in the coffee which included a list of Guarana, Panax Ginseng, Yerba Mate, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and Pantothenic Acid. Right then and there I knew that this combination was going to alter the taste of the coffee at least a little. If any of you consume energy drinks (and who doesn't now-a-days with how busy our work schedules are), most of these ingredients are found in most of the beverages you consume. They're used as an added lift naturally to also help make the inevitable crash a little less drastic. Popping the bottle open, I couldn't help but note the aroma was a little less coffee-y (if there is such a way to describe it) then I'm used to but was prepared since there was more then just straight coffee, cane sugar, and low fat milk in it. Taking a sip, I found that the flavor was surprisingly light and the added Guarana, Ginseng and Yerba Mate I noticed that it didn't alter the flavor as much as I thought that it would. With the natural cane sugar, the beverage had a nice sweetness to it without the thick syrup feel in the back of the tongue and corn aftertaste that drinks with corn syrup tends to have. After only a couple of sips, I was already feeling a bit more perky then I was originally feeling. Perhaps it was the added herbs. Maybe it was because this was the first coffee I had of the day. I wasn't too sure but I'm willing to say that it was probably a combination of the two but I could tell that my alertness level was a whole lot better then it was when I slogged my way to the kitchen to retrieve the bottle.

RealBeanz is a coffee company based out of Brooklyn, NY and proudly advertises on their website that all of their coffees that they offer are made with natural ingredients and certified kosher. Strolling through their selection, they have Cappuccino (Energize), Caramel (Focus), Vanilla Nut (Relax), Mocha (Resist), and Diet Cappuccino (Trim & Fit) along with Cappuccino and Dark Roast made with Coconut water. What is nice is that they have the option of not only finding out what stores in your area carries these beverages but you can also purchase them on their online store. For those who are interested in trying one of these iced coffees, I encourage you to try them out. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A common influence... maybe: Shigeru Mizuki

Now that the new year is upon us, I had pondered how to kick off this segment as I take it into 2013. Wandering the internet and my own collection of reference materials, but at the time of my search it felt as if I was repeatedly smacking into a stone wall. It perhaps didn't help it was the holidays at the beginning of my little adventure. For some reason my hunt led me towards comic artists. A few caught my eye but the one that perked my attention the most was manga artist Shigeru Mizuki.

GeGeGe no Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki
Known for his horror manga GeGeGe no Kitaro, Shigeru Mizuki (1922 - ) specializes in storytelling dealing with yōkai. After loosing his arm during his time in the second World War and returning to Japan, he worked for a short period of time as a theater operator before breaking into cartooning with his first work Rocketman (1957). Since then, he has written several books and created a collection of manga which includes Akuma-kun which was later adapted into an anime series and live-action TV show. He has also received a number of awards and several deceleration of recognition, the most recent being the Person of Cultural Merit award in 2010.

With such an interesting and unique style, I wasn't too sure if I would be able to find artists who shared Shigeru Mizuki's flare to their works. It took me some time but I located 5 artists who could have possibly at least seen his works in some why. Taking notes, I sent out my question to those who I had selected:

"With your wonderful pieces, I was wondering if your style was some how influenced in some way to the manga artist Shigeru Mizuki."
"Battles without Honor and Humanity" by Asiulus

An illustrator located in Poland, Joanna's gallery is filled with digital works. At just a quick glance, one can see that each piece is done in subtle grey tones with sharp contrasts of bright and nearly psychodelic splashes of color. Perhaps a bit dark and twisted but each piece if visually stunning and her attention to detail is very well executed.

“"Hi! Not really a direct inspiration, but I like the mood he creates and all the motifs from classical japanese woodcuts. And the monsters, brilliant!" ~Asiulus

"The Tragedy of the Half Moon Throne" by  strayheadache
A digital artist living in the United States, Sloane's pieces seem to be a mix of fan art and her own imaginative thoughts. Leaning a bit more towards an urban style, each piece is filled with abstract forms and over-exaggerated human forms then inked and colored in such a way to give the most dramatic punch possible. A great example of this is in one of her older pieces Farewell to fall (2011).

"I'm familiar with his illustration work mainly and have read some of GeGeGe but I don't think I've exposed myself to him enough to say he has inspired my pieces?? Though I am extremely inspired by ukiyo-e illustrations from the Heian period which obviously is a big inspiration for him as well!

Is there a piece of mine in particular that brought him to your mind? And thanks for the message, your work is lovely!" ~strayheadache

"Pandora" by cbernie

cbernie.deviantart.com (United States)
Digital artist Courtney Bernard from the United States actually is more frequently on Tumblr then on deviantART but the works she does have on display has a bit of a retro feel to them. Though she does have some fan art posted, most of her pieces of her own imagination such as her interpretations of various fables and brainstorming ideas. Her color palette seems to be in the grey and blue area, all of the tones being rather on the cool side.
"Haha, I can't say that it was! I'm not familiar with this artist, but it's a very interesting connection to make. " ~Courtney

Unfortunately only 3 of the 5 artists I had contacted have had a chance to respond which is probably due to the fact that people are returning to school and work. So as always, I present to you the remaining artists, their work and leave it to you to decide if their style is perhaps influenced in some way by Shigeru Mizuki.

"Final Fight" by pietro-ant

An artist from Brazil, Pietro Antognioni focuses on digital illustrations. Much of his gallery shows a fusion of western and eastern comic styles with his own twist. With a few references to video games, most of the pieces on display are concept pieces. Dark and emotionally pulling, his work causes the viewer to really think of the various meanings in what he had created.

"Spera Volume II: Issue Two" by aznmextofu
aznmextofu.deviantart.com (United States)
A digital artist from the United States going by the user name of Afu Chan, his gallery is filled with illustrations from his own comic projects and various bits of class work. He also has done some pieces in traditional mediums such as Matsushima Mouko (2008).
Website: www.afuchan.com

Monday, January 7, 2013

Art of Gaming: Shad'O

Even though I do not game besides occasionally poking around with one of my characters on a Korean MMO RPG, I often listen to game commentators and game playthroughs while I'm working usually as background sound but for the most part because I enjoy listening to what has to be said and to watch the players interact in the environment. Many times I find what's being said about the game that is being displayed entertaining and 9 times out of 10 is where I find out about games that many of my friends have yet to hear about. One such incident is was one of game commentator John “Total Biscuit” Bain's videos from his WTF series where he took a look at the indie game Shad'O.

A tower defense game created by the 9 person team at Okugi Studios located in France, Shad'O was released in September 2012. The game's storyline states “you will travel through William's mind in a colored and dreamlike universe, made of a mix of pieces of memories, emotions and feelings. Will you be able to drive the fog of oblivion away and help the boy recover his memory?” From the first impressions video WTF Is... : Shad'O? which Total Biscuit had posted near the beginning of September 2012, I was captivated by the style that was being used and wanted to see the trailer in order to find out what else I could discover. 

Watching the trailer, there was a mix of things that was coming to mind. I was seeing elements that reminded me of Where the Wild Things Are by writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak, the Kingdom Hearts series, and even a little bit of The Nightmare before Christmas. Though a bit on the dark side, the character designs seemed to have a bit of whimsical spin on them. Each environment that was shown appeared to have a different theme which obviously adds to the story that is being told but there was some things that made me have some questions. What was the real sources of inspiration for the art style and why did they go the route of a 'tower defense' type of game instead of a different kind of platformer? Writing to Okugi Studios towards the end of December, I asked my questions and waited. Happily I was contacted earlier today with a response:

Hello Dawn,

I'm Pascal, the creative director of Shad'O. Thank you for your interest in our game. :)
I'm going to try to answer to your question. The art direction of the game and the story background were designed AFTER the game style. We've first decided to do a Tower defense game with some special features, like a story (without knowing what!) and some RPG ingredients. It was much more like a "Puzzle Quest" game at the beginning.
Then the Art Director, David Pellet, brought the idea of Dark and Light. He wanted to work this visual opposition. And it was an interesting idea for the gameplay too : a tower defense with the notion of Light and Shadow.
We set the story into a dreamlike world, which was quite coherent with that thematic. And so, the "Tim Burton style" came naturally from all that choices and, of course, our inspirations (I personally love bizarre worlds like Alice in wonderland).

I hope I answered your question and sorry if my English isn't very good. :D

Have a nice day and Happy new year Dawn!

I was completely surprised when I read the email when Pascal stated that the art came after the choice of what type of game it would be. It didn't seem like a very common practice among the various games I've seen so far but of course I could be wrong on that matter. I can really see the influences of Alice in Wonderland and Tim Burton however.

If you're interested in checking out the game yourself, you can find it here: 
store.steampowered.com – Shad'O  $9.99 
Shad'O Collector's Edition (includes 2 items: Shad'O, Shad'O Soundtrack) $10.99

Friday, January 4, 2013

Art of Gaming: VVVVVV

Ever so often while listening to friends and commentators, games that are brought up just makes me want to check them out online to figure out what on earth they're talking about. This especially happens when the game in question keeps getting described as surprisingly difficult. Usually I find the game, read the information, shrug and move on with my day but from time to time I come across a game where I end up having more questions then I started off with. In this case I have heard of VVVVVV and had to figure out what on earth it was about.

Imagined and created by Terry Cavanagh, an independent game developer located in Cambridge, UK, VVVVVV was released in September 2010 as a 2D platormer with the description of “You play as the fearless leader of a team of dimension exploring scientists who inadvertently crash, and are separated. The game involves exploring the strange world you've found yourself in, and reuniting your friends”. What caught my attention was that the game itself is described to be in a retro style which made me want to check out the trailer. 

A massive kaleidoscope of colors and movement, it was as if I was watching someone navigating a pixelated labyrinth on an LSD fever dream. It is perhaps the worst way to describe my first exposure to the trailer but for a lack of better words at the very moment of viewing it, it seemed to work. After the initial shock to my senses, I couldn't help but feel that it reminded me of movies from the 1960's psychedelic period. Personally, the little characters was reminiscent of the little tree spirits from the animated film Princess Mononoke (1997/1999). Moving aside from the bright colors and constant movement, I can see the reason why this fantastical alien world is done in pixelated 2D instead of along the lines of the Portal series. I'm not too sure if there would be that many gamers out there that would be able to do a more first person version of VVVVVV without loosing a bit of their mind. The fact that Terry went with a retro look makes the game seem a bit more charming in appearance. It seemed to be a mesh of old Atari games such as Gauntlet (1985) and some Sega games like Frogger (1981). I did wonder what his inspiration was so went on a search for trying to find a way to contact him. I was thrilled that I received a response from him explaining his thoughts on the game:

The art in VVVVVV is very much inspired by games I played on Commodore
64 as a kid. Specific ones are Monty on the Run, Jet Set Willy, and
Mystery of the Nile! Also games like Dizzy, which inspired the
character design and the room name convention.

Hope that helps,

Taking a look of his selection of inspirational sources, I can see how he gathered elements from each to weave them together to create his game. If you're interested in playing VVVVVV, you can find it here:
store.steampowered.com - VVVVVV  $4.99