In January 2007, I was picked to be a part of the first ever art exhibition in space, aboard the International Space Station. The effort was part of space entrepreneur Richard Garriott's mission to the station. Garriott had many activities planned for the trip, including the creation of art in zero gravity. Liftoff happened on October 12, and although there was some confusion at first, my artwork was onboard the Russian Soyuz rocket and did travel with Garriott to the ISS. Mr. Garriott recently emailed me these photos of the show and it's audience of crew members. I'm thrilled to have been a part of this historic event and honored that I was invited. The artwork will be auctioned off for charity to benefit the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.
Here's a closer shot of my piece, "Dirty Martini and the Birth of the Space Program".
More information about Richard's mission can be found at
Last Friday I flew to Phoenix, Arizona to attend "The Panelists", an art show exploring the comic-book panel. I had a few pieces in the show, and I thought it'd be fun to meet some of the other artists and get out of the Bay Area for a change. The venue was Pravus Gallery, one of the newest galleries on a small, quiet, and impossibly art-rich strip of Roosevelt St. Almost directly across the street from Pravus is Perihilion Arts Gallery, arguably the center of Phoenix's low-brow, pop-modern universe.
Before heading to the airport, I checked out Google Maps "Street View" just to get an idea of what the neighborhood looked like. The photos made the area look desolate, and the buildings where the galleries were supposed to be looked like abandoned dime stores. At least there'd be plenty of parking.
I should say that I'm not great at planning trips. For this excursion, I decided it'd be best to just fly in for the night and head back the following afternoon. I'd only talked to the currator of the show a couple of times and didn't really know anyone else in Phoenix, so I figured it might be good to just make an appearance and if I didn't make any friends, then "no big deal", I'd be one a plane the next day anyhow. So the whole trip was going to be less than 24 hours. What I didn't plan for was a three hour weather delay out of San Francisco. This meant that the show was already going on when my plane landed. Having never been to Phoenix, I didn't know how long it was going to take to get to the gallery, etc. In my head, I was counting on that Google Maps image of infinite parking. What I didn't expect was the Phoenix First Friday Art Walk.
I don't think I've ever seen an art-crawl/block party on this scale. This was highschool-homecoming meets Haight Street Fair with a scent of Burning Man. The warm still air was nice and parking the rental was easier that I thought despite the crowd. When I got to the gallery, it was already thick with people. The space was great and worked really well with the scale of the art.
Right away, I found KRK Ryden, one of the artists and currator of the show. He's a Bay Area guy too and we'd met before at comic conventions. He introduced me to a few of the other artists that came to Phoenix for the show.
First, I met Anthony Ausgang, an Los Angeles based artist famous for his surreal paintings of cartoon cats. One of his contributions to the show featured a unique use of metallic flecks in the the paint. Very slick work.
After talking shop with Ausgang for a while, I was introduced to Mark George and his mother, Judy. They flew all the way from Florida to attend the show. Mark's work really resonated with the Lichtenstein-esque theme of the exhibit. The materials he paints on also added a nice three-dimensional element to the show.
LA artist Zoey Stevens was also in attendence, representing his narrative works. There's a lot of energy in Zoey's paintings, his colors are nuts, and he's got mad B-Boy skills to boot! If you ever run into Zoey Stevens, be sure to ask him about his rave days as a black-light live-painter. Sorry, other people with stories. Zoey's got the best stories.
Here's me and one of my pieces:
The show was a great success. People seemed to be really into the art. At one point I went over to Periheilion Arts' Scion show and got a Colt 45 to celebrate and came back with a street vendor hot-dog to boot. I really wanted cotton candy but there wasn't any to be found.
Here's a little video I took of the show:
After the show, we all ended up hanging out at the rooftop bar at the Clarendon Hotel. The Clarendon is a crazy boutique hotel a few miles away from the gallery. There's a weird "Southwest kitsch meets high-design" flavor to it and a whole mafia-murder-mystery subtext that creeps up on you as you explore the place. Apparently the site of the hotel is where journalist Don Bolles was allegedly murdered by the mob. There's a bronze bust of Bolles in the lobby of the Clarendon, along with numerous bloody crime-scene photos. It's a trip. Here's the scoop on the murder via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Bolles
The afterparty went well into the wee hours of the morning, and after closing both of the hotel bars I retired to my ridiculous suite. Thanks for hooking that up, gallery people! I got a call from Ausgang at 9am for breakfast. I mumbled something into the phone and eventually met him downstairs for luke-warm continental breakfast. We found Mark George drinking Miller High-Lifes in the hot tub. I don't think he ever went to bed.
Later, we went back to the gallery to shoot a few more photos and hang out with the owners. Phoenix during the day was beautiful and relaxing. Next to the gallery is an art co-op/bike shop and a local crafts store. I bought a Peruvian foot-bag, a large coffee, and said my goodbyes. The trip back to San Francisco couldn't have been easier. I'll definitely be back to Phoenix for more of that. My thanks to everyone who made the show possible and made the trip memorable.
Abject Expressionism: The Art of Ron English 206 Pages, Hardcover Last Gasp
As if Ron English couldn't get any more pervasive, he busts through the brick and mortar of our favorite local book sellers with this new three-pound hardcover retrospective from Last Gasp. "Abject Expressionism" showcases the artist's expansive career in a landscape format, a layout fitting to the master of billboard liberation. In the past thirty years, Ron English's reverse-propaganda imagery has appeared plastered on billboards, hung neatly on gallery walls, and is now packaged for the art-toy savvy crowd as collectable fugurines. Abject Expressionism collects the various movements of English's work in context of theme and media rather than chronological order. The 206 pages are crawling with English's constant riffs on American Obesity, Consumption, War, and Mass Marketing, showcasing works old and new. Somehow, the book seamlessly transitions from Warhol-reminiscent celebrity portraiture to riffs on Picasso's Guernica. Before you know it, we're knee-deep in creepy renditions of English's kids dressed as clowns. For those needing context of chronology and a sense of scale, the book includes an index in the back that lists the size of the original piece and the date it was created. Apart from the index, there is very little accompanying text to support the beautifully reproduced paintings. There are two great introductions to the book. The first is from Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who brought us "Super Size Me". Spurlock found a kindred spirit in English when coming across his artwork almost by accident. The second introduction is a forward by art critic Peter Frank. Frank waxes poetic for a while about the melding of high and low art before landing a very appropriate line about English's work avoiding cliché, "…They mean something out there, beyond the museum, beyond the album cover, beyond the art book…" Abject Expressionism is an excellent recap of the thirty plus year career of Ron English. What the book lacks in text, in makes up for in content and context. It beautifully divides and make sense of English's various subject matter, keeping the hot-side hot, and the cool-side cool.
Friday, February 6th, 2009 6pm-10pm Pravus Gallery Phoenix, AZ
The Panelists: Celebrating the Comic Book Panel A show curated by KRK Ryden Featuring the art of: Mark Mothersbaugh, Niagra, Mitch O'Connell, The Pizz, Extremo the Clown, Anthony Ausgang, Spain, MATS?!,Robin Footitt, John Haddock, Mark George, KRK Ryden, Joey Stevens, Joshua Ellingson,Luster Kaboom, Jenelle Hesig, Russ Pope
My post about Bakshi's rant on determination reminded me to post my review for the latest retrospective on his work. My review for "Unfiltered, The Complete Ralph Bakshi", originally appeared in Hi-Fructose Vol. 8. Here it is in unedited glory:
When I think of Ralph Bakshi, I think about that "very special" episode of Diff'rent Strokes where Dudley was molested. Bakshi's cartoons provoke my sleaze alert in the same way Robert Crumb's gritty cartoons do. His pictures were weird, naughty, and completely unlike anything else out there. Doubtless that many video store clerks had a hard time figuring out where to shelve these subversive gems.
"Unfiltered, the Complete Ralph Bakshi"sets out to be the definitive retrospective of the acclaimed animation director. Indeed, the nearly three hundred-page hardcover is loaded with evidence of each stage in this animation juggernaut's career. As artist's reference alone, the book is worth the forty-dollar asking price. Chris McDonnell's layouts are gorgeous and the reproductions of Bakshi's sketches and character designs are fantastic. This isn't just a picture book though. Every chapter is loaded with personal anecdotes and contextual history of an industry full of brass and swagger. Reading it, you can almost hear the raspy voice of a wizard narrator, shuckin' jive. Also of note is a brilliant introduction by Quentin Tarantino, who gives us a lesson in Blacksploitation films and the part Ralph Bakshi played in the genre.
I'm amazed at the depth of influence presented here and how far this man's vision made it into the mainstream. If you thought Ralph Bakshi was only about weird rotoscoping and pantless cats, this book will make you think diff'rent.
I love good books about art, creativity, and anything else that gets the fire going. One of my favorite bookstores in San Francisco, Stacey's Books, is having a hard time competing with the big chains and websites. You can help keep independent bookstores alive by ordering one of these from their site. Below are some books that I think you'll really like. But don't take my word for it!
The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators(Applied Arts)(Paperback) by Williams, Richard - Get it here!
Stacked Decks: The Art and History of Erotic Playing Cards(Hardcover) - Get it here!
Okay, so the website is a little slow. Maybe put on some downtempo, make some tea. Lean into it. It's all for a good cause. Better still, maybe make a trip to downtown San Francisco (map) and stop into Stacey's Books in person. They have a great magazine selection.
Here's a great excerpt from an ASIFA archive video of animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi at Comic Con Int'l 2008. When asked how he weathered the economic turmoil in the animation industry when he was starting, Bakshi launches into a rant about determination, technology, and the lack of inspiration that keeps creative people from knuckling down and making great works.
When I was a kid, sometimes I'd sneak into my grandparents' room and snoop around. Their house was full of unusual antiques, figurines, books, and other treasures. On one of my explorations I found a pack of nudie cards in my grandpa's dresser. Years later I told my mother about finding the pack of cards and it turns out that she used to sneak in there and look at them too. Now I own Grandpa's "Good Luck" card set and it always reminds me of home.
The pigeons are getting puffy, the sky seems a little lower, and all I think about is ham. This can only mean that it's December and it's time for my annual Year in Review! 2008 is at an end and there were times when I never thought it would happen. How did it go by so fast and so slow at the same time? Let me count the ways:
Spring was officially painting season for me, as I turned off the computer and got messy with acrylic. I found all kinds of materials to apply paint to, but none more interesting than my friend Mikey's kilt. Mike tricked me into painting a Masters of the Universe design on his UtiliKilt. Below are the results: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157604539252987/
In April, we had Spring Open Studios at the Local 303. I got to show off some of my painting madness and shoot the breeze with the real hardworking Americans. Friend of The Local 303 and local celebrity, "Kitten on the Keys" performed on Sunday. Here are some photos: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157610703797515/
May-August, 2008 In May, I tagged along with my RoboGames pals to the Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA. It was a beautiful weekend with lots of surreal moments, involving everything from flaming-robots to billy goats. Here's the proof: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157604877095332/
Next up was the PowerTool Drag Races at the now defunct ACE Int'l Speedway. I was honored to create the flyer/poster art for this completely unique and dangerous event. More flames, hot-dogs, and mechanical madness here: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157605125617150/
In June, I exhibited some painted records at "Vinyl Apocalypse" at Lower Haters Gallery in San Francisco. The group show was loaded with interesting takes on vinyl manipulation. I made an image of Ernie and Bert on a Sesame Street album from the 70's. http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/2524926063 And my longtime roommate/goldfish Pilot died, so I made another record painting in his honor: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/2524926149/
Also in June was the annual Robogames robot conference/competition in San Francisco. I was humbled to be asked to create the poster artwork for the event. I really love robots. Here's what I made: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/2312114267
GONE FISHIN' In July, I took a trip home to Michigan. It was an inspiring trip. The weather was beautiful and spending time with family was great. I caught a bunch of fish and took a lot of photos. Look, here they are: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157606220820752/
The biggest event of the year for me is always Comic Con Int'l in San Diego, CA. This year it didn't look like I was going to have a table. I was prepared to just mingle and become one with the masses of fans. Instead, I was able to get a last-minute table in Artist Alley! I met loads of great people and made new friends in a completely different part of the convention center (probably a different zip-code as well). Here are some photos of my photos from Comic Con '08: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157606428330141/
I completely redesigned my website and relaunched it in August! The new site incorporates a portfolio gallery, an integrated blog, and lots of other new features. If you haven't taken a look, please check it out! http://www.joshuaellingson.com Also, you can now order my art prints on my newly launched web-store. Get the same high quality prints online that you've seen at my art events! Check out the selection here: http://www.joshuaellingson.com/prints
> This fall was full of surprises. My artwork for BOOM Studios', "Cthulhu Tales: The Rising" made a cameo appearance on TCL's, "LA Ink". It was cool to see my artwork on a show that I like. http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/2949832929
I also got a lot of miles out of 1800 Tequila's "Essential Artists" campaign. My artwork was featured as part of an outdoor media campaign, a high-profile men's magazine print campaign, limited edition bottles, tennis shoes, in-store advertising, and a trade-show booth. I'm just happy to have a bottle of booze to celebrate with: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/3010994383
In October, The Local 303 got together again and participated in Fall Open Studios. We had a great turn-out and it's always nice to have new art on the wall. This Fall's show featured candy, paintings, and lots of babies. People had fun. No, really they did: http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/sets/72157608900358540/
The Alternative Press Expo was in November this year. Despite the bad weather, the holiday, the change of date, and the anticipation preceding the election, APE went surprisingly well. It's always nice to see friends who make the trip from out of town and talk to people about art/comics. http://flickr.com/photos/josh1/3004702714
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but I've still got lingerin' gratitude for all my great friends, family and stalkers out there. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have a pleasant winter and I hope to see you at the next event.
BONUS! Things to look forward to in 2009 -I'm bringing art to the deep south! -I get older, and you stay pretty! -The Local 303 turns 3! -I drink the WHOLE bottle!