Sunday, July 16, 2017
Thursday, July 28, 2016
by Steve Loya
Last night I attended the late July Takoma Park city council meeting as part of the "Politically Inclined" project, inviting artists who are currently on exhibit at the Takoma Park Community Center's "Stylized Notions" art exhibit, featuring works from local, DC-area cartoonists and comic artists who participated in the Cartoonists Draw Blood blood drive events. In addition to myself, Bill Brown, Art Hondros, and Eric Gordon participated. Unlike Eric, Art, and Bill, all residents of Takoma Park, I drove out from Sterling, VA, and it was interesting to participate in some small way, and contribute something to the democratic process that is a City Council meeting - something I've never done before. In addition to being in good company, and hanging out with some great fellow artists for a little bit, I also wanted to try something slightly new and different, creatively.
The event was recorded and shown live on the Takoma Park community TV channel, as well as on their Facebook page. During a brief intermission, the artists spread their work out on the stage for folks to see, and it was great seeing the variety of approaches everyone took, and witnessing the positive reactions from the people in the auditorium. I think it was a great, positive experience for us artists as well.
A big big thanks goes out to organizers Marilyn Sklar and Chanthi Chandra-Sekar, Carolyn Belefski for the heads-up, and to all the artists and folks who participated in last night's city council meeting. In the meantime, there's talk of possibly having a little exhibit featuring last night's work. I'll post more, if anything more comes out of it. In the meantime, HERE are a few more photos, etc. from the event. You can also read more about it in the Takoma Voice!
- Steve Loya
*above pic: Bill Brown
*above pic: Steve Loya
*above pic: Takoma Park residents looking at some of the artwork made throughout the evening
above pic: Art Hondros
*above pic: Eric Gordon
Friday, July 08, 2016
by Steve Loya
Last night I attended the Stylized Notions, and Citizen Bill exhibits at the Takoma Park Community Center, in Takoma Park, Maryland. The exhibits featured the works of local cartoon and comics artists who participated in the Cartoonists Draw Blood, Red Cross blood drives, as well as the amazing work of longtime Takoma Park resident and Takoma Voice editorial cartoonist William L. Brown. The exhibits were beautifully set up in an excellent space, ideal for showcasing the wide array of talent from the greater DC area. Lots of folks came out for the reception, and there was a lot of great media coverage as well. Eric Gordon added an extra dimension of fun to the event by setting up a makeshift space in the corner of the center, drawing some of his trademark stylized portraits for anyone who was interested. A special thanks goes out to Carolyn Belefski and Shanthi Chandrasekar for getting these events off the ground, as well as to all the fantastic artists who contributed in one way or another. The shows will continue to run through September 4th, 2016, so there is still plenty of time to see it. There's also talk of a closing reception as well, of which I'll post more about soon. You can read more about the shows and the artists involved HERE in the Takoma Voice.
Saturday, July 02, 2016
On Thursday, July 7th, from 6:30-8:00 pm, come visit the Takoma Park Community Center for the official opening of the "Cartoonists Draw Blood" art exhibit, featuring a diverse display of some of the DC area's finest cartoon and comics-making talent. There will be refreshments and live drawing, as well as books available for purchase. Organized by Carolyn Belefski, of Curls Studio fame, the project began a couple of years back when a small band of local comics/cartoon creators from the DC region got together to draw and give away original art work to folks who stopped by a local Red Cross to donate blood. Many of the participating artists themselves donated blood as well! So, if you're in the area, don't hesitate to check this event out, as you'll be in for an excellent show.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
by Steve Loya
A couple of years ago I had the good fortune of finding out about local visual and performance artist, wordsmith, musician and teacher, Martin Graff and his extraordinary ongoing project known as The Face Zone. It was at a cartoonists and comics art exhibit in downtown Frederick, Maryland that I noticed a wall full of curious little minimalistic illustrations of strange and interesting faces, accompanied by some words. The cartoonish faces depicted things like melting cheese on a pizza and titles like "Melting Cheese Pain", paired with thoughtful musings on the dark side of personification. The words and images were brilliant and unique observations on everyday life, in some ways like a punk rock Jerry Seinfeld, with a Banksy-like sensibility.
Soon after, Marty, as most folks know him, had a big exhibit of his work, again in downtown Frederick, and I ended up purchasing his self-published Face Zone book, which compiled most of his words and illustrations. Marty describes his Face Zone series as "short visual meditations on what makes the world go round. Existential musings with a surreal twist and a dark sense of humor sure to trip your imagination...".
Last night, Artomatic, Frederick hosted one of Marty's live Face Zone events, taking those short, visual meditations one step further into the realm of spoken-word and performance art. As someone who has struggled, personally with speaking in front of one's peers, it always amazes me when someone seems to effortlessly get up in front of an audience of people to talk, act, sing or dance. I'm even more amazed when someone can remember their lines or the words they want to express to an audience, without forgetting. While Marty's performance, based on his illustrated and written Face Zone material, seemed like second-nature for him, there's no doubt the amount of time, energy and preparation condensed into a single half-an-hour show, was anything but effortless.
Seeing and hearing Marty expand and further elaborate upon the words and images in his book added yet another crucial dimension to The Face Zone experience, and according to Marty, is ultimately the core of what he does now - the book more or less a companion to his spoken-word shows. As someone who experienced both the art exhibits and book aspect of The Face Zone first, I found the spoken-word performance to delve much deeper and further into these musings on subject matter ranging from the relativity of the food we eat ("The Smell of Fresh Mangoons") to haunting childhood memories of how choking on a single lemon drop soured a young boy's perception of the ocean, off the Jersey shore ("Twinkles in The Sea"). One of my personal favorites was Marty's take on the absurdity of commercial advertising, with its irrational fairy-tale promises and the less-than-satisfying results ("Jolly Hot Peanuts"), which he began last night's performance with. However, despite the dark humor and keenly cynical observations of The Face Zone live, there was a glowingly optimistic underlying message of hope, and the love of life at the very core of it all.
The ability to hold an audience captive for extended periods of time as a one-man spoken word act is by no means an easy task, and in some ways Marty's musings and highly engaging observations on the world in which we live, relayed through the medium of speech, and told through the lens of personal experience, reminded me of some of the best performances from Henry Rollins, who I've seen speak live on several occasions over the past two decades. Word has it there may even be a musical element added to The Face Zone live experience in the not-too-distant future. Whatever the case, don't hesitate to witness Marty's live act, if he comes to a venue near you. In the meantime, TED Talks should seriously consider inviting Marty to do his thing for them, someday soon!
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
On Saturday, October 24th, award-winning cartoonist Mike Jenkins, who lives in northern Virginia, will be hosting his art reception, "Art to Lunch", from 6-8 pm at Studio Pause in Arlington, VA. For the past year or so, I've been following Mike's daily posts featuring the adventures of young Maggie and her struggles and challenges faced each and every day at school, as she forges ahead on her quest to make it through to another weekend. It is a truly amazing comic art series, and I'm always greatly impressed by Mike's seemingly inexhaustible ability to portray each single day that Maggie faces, in a brand new way. Drawn on brown paper lunch bags, it will be even more of a treat to see these works in person, so mark your calendars and don't sleep on this one!
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
by Steve Loya
Local artist Eric Gordon is currently having an art exhibit of his "DC Creeper" portraiture at the Kefa Cafe in Silver Spring, Maryland. If you're familiar with the local zine circuit, you may know Eric for the zine and blog he and his wife Sara run called Vinyl Vagabonds, lovingly chronicling their adventures in vinyl record collecting. However, Eric is also a spectacular artist, specializing in expressive, spontaneous portraits of folks in and around the DC area, almost exclusively done on site. Eric's been documenting this work at his DC Creepers blog as well, and I was fortunate enough to witness the man in action at the first ever Cartoonists Draw Blood fundraiser event, organized by Carolyn Belefski of Curls Studio fame.
While I wasn't able to make it to Eric's opening night last Friday, which I heard was pretty well packed, I'm certainly glad I decided to make good use of my snow day today and, along with my wife Kris, make the drive out to Kefa Cafe for some breakfast and coffee and a look at Eric's art in person. Eric's show, officially titled "Creeping Every Day: Sketching Without Being Too Sketchy" is part of an ongoing series of new art exhibits at Kefa Cafe, in a space dedicated to showing local talent called Space 7:10. The show will run through February 28th, 2015, so if you're in the area, don't hesitate to drop in, have a bite and a sip and a look around!
Monday, January 19, 2015
Face to Face - Illustrations and prose by Martin Graff (the Face Zone) and Laura McClure (Animals for Sam), at the Griffin Art Center through 1/31/2015
Last Saturday evening I had the pleasure of attending the opening artists' reception for Martin Graff (The Face Zone) and Laura McClure (Animals for Sam), entitled Face To Face. The reception was held at a fantastic space in the heart of downtown Frederick, Maryland, known as The Griffin Art Center. Laura and Martin had their work on exhibit together, in the middle gallery (I believe there were three galleries altogether at the center). I met Marty (as he likes to be called) at another, comics-themed art opening in Frederick last year, and through him, Laura, who also had some of her art at the show. I've been gladly following their work via Facebook and blog posts ever since. While the two have a very different approach to their work, stylistically, what their art has in common is a symbiotic relationship with words.
Animals for Sam was started by Laura as a way to keep her young, animal-loving godson Sam informed about a wide variety of animal species - kind of like a weekly digital postcard. Laura hand-draws the animals on her computer, using a mouse, usually dressing them in human attire that relates to a certain aspect of a particular species, mostly having to do with their environment or geographic location. She also merges photographic imagery in the background, adding a sense of depth and dimension to her work. A verbal description, both highly factual and informative, while told in the artist's own conversational style, discusses everything from eating habits, to odd and unique physical and behavioral characteristics. Finally, a small graph is at the bottom of each blog post, illustrating the animal species' level of vulnerability to extinction. I could imagine myself thoroughly enjoying something like this as a boy, who like Sam, held a keen interest in wildlife and the natural world. At the show, the framed digital print pieces were quite popular, as many of them were sold. Looking forward to a book compiling these works, hopefully in the near future!
As with many artists and creative types, music plays a big role in Martin Graff's Face Zone works, which employ a cartoon-inspired minimalist approach visually. The influence of punk rock lyricism is evident in the clever verbal wordplay of the sometimes darkly humorous poetry and prose that accompanies The Face Zone illustrations. Martin's blog posts can range from contemplative to laugh-out-loud hilarious, but they always make excellent food-for-thought, which is probably where his influence as a public school teacher comes in as well. Along with his work hanging on the walls of the gallery, Martin had a newly published book compiling his Face Zone material available, a good many of which sold at the show. I highly recommend grabbing one for yourself HERE. In the meantime, don't hesitate to read more about Martin and The Face Zone in this recent article from The Frederick News-Post!
Be sure to check out Face to Face in person, at the Griffin Art Center, which runs through January 31st, 2015!
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Last Saturday, my wife and I went to see the world premier musical adaptation of Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell's The Gift of Nothing, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. Having been a long time Mutts fan and collector, it was hard to believe this was officially happening, practically in my own back yard!
I first discovered Mutts comics not in the newspaper, but at a bookstore, when I first moved out to the DC/NOVA area about fourteen years ago. It was a crazy, stressful time for me back then, with a big move to another state, the start of a new career, and then the catastrophic 9/11 attacks on US soil only a couple of weeks later. I remember how much these books made me smile and put me at ease, and I've been following the adventures of Earl and Mooch ever since then. What I've always loved about Mutts is the subtle wisdom in both the artwork and the writing, as it is a comic strip that easily functions on both a children's as well as on an adult level. The same can be said for the stage production of The Gift of Nothing, directed by Aaron Posner. Much like the book itself, originally published in 2005, the visual presentation is sparse and minimal - simple yet beautiful. Much like the characters that populate McDonnell's books and comic strips, the cast brings this musical vividly to life. I've never considered myself much of a fan of musicals, but the songs (written by Andy Mitton), the sounds and the singing and acting were all paramount to the success of this production, along with some wonderfully choreographed lighting. Consider me a convert. Here's a little more insight into the book and stage production:
The book itself has been described as having a "zen-like" quality, and it's amazing to witness how incredibly well the stage version was able to flesh out the story, adding a whole new dimension to a brief but brilliant little commentary about not losing sight of the simple and the good things we already have, but are so often distracted from during the madness of the holiday season. I have to say, my wife and I arrived at The Kennedy Center a bit frazzled, after missing an exit in DC, and after being so close, only to be thrown off course a few miles, almost causing us to be late and putting us both in a less-than-pleasant mood. Shortly into the start of the musical however, we were both swept up into the catchy and clever songs, the incredible acting, and the humorous tale of a dog named Earl and a Cat named Mooch. After this hour-long production had ended, we both couldn't stop talking about The Gift of Nothing driving home. I could write a lot more about this musical, but I wouldn't want to spoil it for ya.
*the line for Patrick McDonnell's book and program signing (above), at The Kennedy center
*me getting to meet Patrick for a book signing after the show (below)
You can still catch The Gift of Nothing at The Kennedy Center through December 28th! More information can be found HERE. Don't miss it!
Monday, December 08, 2008
By Michael Cavna, Washington Post Comic Riffs blog December 8, 2008