2009: Clock’s Still Tickin’…

Tomorrow we’ll review 2009, but it’s still not over.  If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s to not jump the gun and just wait, so we’ll hold off on predictions and reflections until tomorrow – or maybe 12:01am.  Damn, the Inauguration seems like a decade ago, but I guess that’s what happens when you get busy livin.

It’s been a hell of a year, and the word Change is looking like a careworn ragdoll after the year I’ve had with it.   I left my contractor job, am nearing the finish line on a pilot, have new roommates, helped launch a fashion line, built 3 different websites, helped a friend write a book and another move to DC. I’ve developed my art in new directions, reconciled with a past flame, and been blessed with new friends and creative peers.

I’m proud of all of us that are still painting, still writing, still thinking and still standing despite the job and financial markets scaring the crap out of us.  I’ve stood solid with and because of some pretty incredible folks and I can’t wait to give them the credit their due in tomorrows post.

So Cheers to all the survivors, we certainly have something to tell our grandkids about.

Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.–Dale Carnegie


Performance Matters

I was twittering and then emailing with the organizer of the LetsBuyTheSkins this week and ended up totally overdoing it in my most recent email.  We’ve been waxing about the limits of a fans influence and the value of conscientious ownership.  Its a shot in the dark but just some of my own overly analytical thoughts on a certain professional sports team.


Ive pondered this Skins crisis a lot actually, and at the risk of sounding too existential, when does a city have a right to claim a little “ownership” over something despite it “technically” belonging to one person?  I ran into a council member at a young dems function last night (Im not partisan, politics is like a sport for me) and asked if Dan Snyder was in attendance for Abe Pollin’s memorial service, which I watched in its entirety.  His response: “You know, you would think that the owner of our city’s largest franchise would respect someone like Abe, but no, he was not, hes above all that- you know, new money.”

A few years ago the pres of Saatchi & Saatchi wrote an article describing “lovemarking”.  He was describing the emotional relationships that people have with brands and how companies should aim to “lovemark” their products rather than “settle for a trademark”.  Some of it is right on, but largely I found it a troubling concept, because it might imply that companies no longer have to deliver functional products.  They just have to deliver an ‘experience’ of the product and sell a label’s memory rather than actual performance.

Although I can appreciate the value of an experience based service, capitalism at its core requires something to WORK BETTER than the competition.  Without it, we rot in to obsolescence.  Some brands aren’t built on a history of performance (take the Saints for example), but the Skins were and that’s why there’s trouble.  The Skins were one of the most valuable lovemarks out there.  But as Saatchi decrees “At the core of every Lovemark is Respect. No Respect? It’s not a Lovemark. It’s as simple as that.”

I pulled this from http://www.lovemarks.com, ironically it was colored perfectly

With the Skins, the consumers arent basing loyalty to the brand on functionality, they are following an emotional memory that was once based on performance.  The Redskins have a remarkable brand but unfortunately they are suffering for such emotional loyalty at the hands of someone who does not respect their needs as consumers, or what they deserve.  He considers himself the owner of a product, rather than a steward of the team he happens to own.   He loves what “the brand” means but not the purpose of a team, because if he did, he would care (as the great steward, Abe Pollin did) about what others thought about it.  This is the lesson he has yet to learn as an owner of a CITY’S TEAM, not a BRAND.  He would come up with ways to make this season fun, he would offer fans more of an experience, not less, despite the losses.

Whats sad is that this is a time when the team’s owner could bond with the fans.  He could be showing up in bars after the game to buy everyone a round, or give away a few t shirts at the games.  There are simple ways he could show his “love” and rebuild the Skins lovemark.  Beyond symbolizing success and Superbowls, the Skins logo could mean survival, fortitude and loyalty; emotions that would cement its status as one of the world’s most popular teams, no matter the record.

Returning to the question of being feared or loved…a wise prince must endeavour only to avoid hatred”
Machiavelli’s The Prince


Headshots: A Lesson In Character

One of my accounts is owned by two great, young, local boys and I’m trying to wrestle them into a photo shoot in preparation for the relaunch of their website.  I use a little humor with clients regarding image and technology based on the belief that lectures about such things are BOR-ING.  I know some of these are not technically headshots, but I feel a meme coming on……



GOOD HEADSHOT (Im buying whatever he’s selling.  And I want a ride in that car.  Like now.)

DOUCHEBAGS (nice fake plants, I cant wait to do business with these guys, or staple my head to the carpet. That’s one 3-ring away from being a Trapper Keeper)

LESS DORKY  (amazing what a tailored gold blazer and soft lighting can do for a dork)

FRIENDLY BUT SLOUCHY (we make great pizza, but if that Papa Johns opens up, we’re toast)

APPROACHABLE BUT POLISHED  (our small cheesy bbq bar is hurting the Hooters down the street)

DORKY PARTNERS (we work together!!!!! yay!!!!!!! video games, yay!!!!)

COOL PARTNERS  (we work together, but still have girlfriends)

COMPLETELY OVER STAGED (lemme guess, you deal in antique Japanese artwork?!)

STAGED BUT COOL (clever, approachable, very google since they “play” with their logo all the time)


I”ll probably catch flack from my Jersey friends for dissing their Hoboken pizzeria, but I was making a visual point.  I bet Dina & Ottavia’s business wipes the floor with Papa J’s, I just argue that a decent headshot can reflect that.  There’s merit in leaving things a little “analog” but given that character counts so much these days, it can be that extra 5% that tips the customer’s scales.  You are your company’s greatest asset, just look at Tiger Woods.

And The South Shall Rise Again

Its time for Bill Belichick to swap his cap sleeved fleece poncho for beads and a fringe lined umbrella….because its pretty clear that something really special is cookin’ down in New Orleans. I mean who wears a fleece poncho in a city where the winter temp doesnt dip below 60?

I know a few haters that will find a way to pick apart tonight’s win over New England, they’ll tell me that homefield advantage won this and not a quarterback who statistically played a perfect game.  That “mental errors” fouled up the Patriot’s “ability to win” instead of technically what amounted to a perfect game.  To those haters I say:

Mint julep anyone?

Or perhaps an Abita Restoration, because you need to put down whatever Kool Aid you are nursing and hop on our gold plated bandwagon.  I’m done listing past tragedies, or the legacy of Saints’ football, I’m done with it.  The Saints are closers, period.

What’s remarkable about Brees & Peyton is that they’re “game at a time” approach is really about winning Superbowls, finishing games and closing out winning seasons – consistently.  While it seems iterative, their entire mentality is about remaking a franchise and giving a city the team it deserves.  Its not about “playing our best” or “trying to win”, when Brees talks you can hear the focus and confidence.  Sure, he’ll shrug and act humble, but make no mistake, this man wants to be the next Brett Favre or Joe Montana, I mean he wakes up thinking that.  Thinking, how can kick more ass?  I guess this is what all of you Skins, Cowboy, Pats, Packers, Steelers fans have felt for Rippen, Aikman, Brady, Favre and Rothlingswhatshisname.

Oh, wait, hold on, NO.  You don’t know WHAT this feels like!!!!!

While I’ll welcome anyone on our partywagon, only the true lifer fans really feel the full weight of whats changed about the Saints.  I grew up rooting for us to “just play well” or “make it a good game”.  These are statements of losers.  It’s no more “everyone gets a trophy” down in the Big Easy, which is now a very ironic name for a very tough football town.

The Saints are exactly the team New Orleans needs and deserves, and I’ll go even farther and say they are what this country needs and deserves.  Here you have a historically flawed franchise who’s turned it around to become a lethal force in the league.   Marginal, passable, C+ behavior is no longer tolerated.   Like the President said, we strive for 90% or above, “fine is not an option”.  I love that this team has made me greedy for wins, but I can still sense that my fellow fans are scared to let the fear go.  The years have worn out our nerves, and we’re scared to expect the win. We nervously sip our beers, waiting for a glimpse of the old blow it boys.  And just then, Brees fires and scores, again and again, drilling it into our memory that THIS IS HAPPENING.  Where did this guy come from?  Where did this coach come from? Who the HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE?!?!?!

What team loves it’s city and fans so enough to fly to the Hall of Fame to visit the Katrina exhibit just for inspiration? What quarterback makes personal phone calls to reel in number one draft pics?  What coach pulls a quarter of a million dollars out of his pocket to cover the cost of a new defensive coordinator?

My generation has grown up watching executive managers squander profits, sell out their employees, and treat customers like cattle, hell, like idiots.  While normally this blog celebrates living in DC, having to watch Skins fans suffer is especially tough and I feel guilty considering how great the Black & Gold are treating me.

No, wait, I don’t. Not one bit.

All I want to say is:


DC Design Week’s Pecha Kucha Night Out


RSVP required: RSVP@designweek-dc.com

Jonathan Grinham – Architect for VA Tech Solar Decathalon

Brittany WatsonCorcoran Interior Design Student/Blogger

Brian GafneyArchitect at Mancini Duffy/Professor at WAAC

Rakiyt ZakariDesigner

Chris BrownStory of a Prefab Dwell House
Ondine Karady – Interior Designer/Set Decorator & Finalist for Bravo’s Top Design
Alberto Gaitan – Artist/Sculptor

Tashia Senn – Fashion Designer

(client of Dot & awesomista fashionista)


Justin Vitorello and Peter Corbell of The Fojol Bros – Traveling Culinary Carnival

(were at the H St Fest, hilarious awesome chefs!)

The Color Blue

I have a good friend that is known for stunningly simple observations.   And they are stunning because he knows so little factual information about me, but now twice in our ten year friendship he has managed pull the camera back on whatever emotional hairball I’m choking on and make me feel, well, like an asshole.  But in a good way.

So I’m blabbing on and on to him about my work, my love life, my fleeting sanity, and he stops me cold and asks me “Whens the last time you wrote anything that wasn’t work related?”

Thank you Tim, this is for you, for “the palest ink is better than the best memory”.

Tranquility By French Toast Girl

Tranquility By French Toast Girl

Being creative can be fun.  Mostly its fun.  Sometimes its not so fun.  Sometimes its really really not so fun.  I love being creative for myself, but its a lot harder than being creative for others, or with others.  I love collaboration, working with teams to develop their ideas, push things forward and concretize something that seems imaginary.  Its hard to know where the lines between creativity and what the DSM V-whatever would call “grandiose thoughts”.  My ability to take an idea and make it real is what I do for a living, or at least what I want to do.  But I’ve been pondering a lot on when ideas should be saved, pitched in the garbagio (as my Dad puts it) or when they should be pulled out of the can, flattened out and revisited.

Before I get existential with my point (and bc Im ADD I’m already there and waiting for my fingers to catch up), I had a recent experience that made tonight’s episode of Mad Men so personal for me.  Go ahead, roll your eyes, tell me “its just a show”.  That was sort of the point of tonight’s ep, is this just a show? Where you see a show, do I see art?  Do we all see the same color blue as Ms. Farrells student asked in art class.  Where someone sees a sidewalk, another sees a canvas.

Street art by Julian Beever & Kurt Wenner

Street art by Julian Beever & Kurt Wenner

In my studio, I’ve taken to saving a lot of “messups” rather than tossing them out, believing that maybe something good will come out of them, that there are no mistakes.  Since my first show last January at Touchstone, I’ve had the pieces I made rolled up, somewhat embarrassed because I wasn’t really sure what they were when I even made them.  I had painted them purely out of fun, out of a love of color and because when I saw the paper in the art store, I knew what I wanted to do with them-even if it made no sense at the time.

So I painted up a storm.  The creative muses partied with me down in my studio, my first studio I’ve ever had in my house 0r ever, and I had a ball.  I had no idea what I was making or what to do with these crumpled pieces of paper that I threw paint all over.  Each one came out better than the next, but slowly, the muses left and I was left wondering what the hell I had made.  Then the show came along, I figured I would show the pieces, thinking maybe someone else knew what they were.  I was painting for me, for my own enjoyment, even if it made no sense, even if no one else “saw it” and thats what I felt like showing.

I’ve written about this show before, the show itself being an experience I’ve tried to derive meaning from in addition to the work.  Thats why I wasn’t figuring it out though, I was trying too hard.  Surprise, surprise.

So the work sat in my studio until one day randomly when I felt like playing with them.  My fickle friends, the muses, back just for a carefree afternoon.  I had struggled to make the pieces more than just flat paper on a wall for the show and pretty much failed.  But when I was loose that day, I started pinning them to the wall the way they had been in my head, visually trying to confuse the viewer about whether they were sculpted pieces of metal or if they were cloths hanging on a wall, maybe that had been used to rub paint off another canvas.

Okay okay, so I’m getting lost here in my own processes, but the point is that after that burst where I thought I finally knew how to hang the pieces (my room is a bit of a shrine to that epiphany), I was still beating myself up for not know WHAT they were.  What was I looking at?  What were these things?

bathroom pink

So I’ve been doing a lot of portraits in the meantime.  Portrait sketches are very gratifying, when I’m done I see something, I know its a person, even if I dont get it exactly right.  But even those, sometimes are illusive, as the subject sometimes remains illusively out of the grasp of pencil and paper.  Something about the person doesn’t get captured, a missing little glint, one subject of mine in particular has managed to ellude me now four times.  And so I get to my point.


So a year has passed since I began working on the pieces in question.  I now knew how to hang them, but so what.

“Sew buttons”, as the subject I reference above always says (a man who is blessed with incredible comic timing).  Which is fitting because I attended a gallery opening for Japanese fashion designers on Friday at the Textile Museum in NW.  The fashion was fun, but one room in the gallery lit me on fire.  I felt completely out of place at the opening, everyone wearing some cool art they had made, one white guy in a kimono even, and me in my Ann Taylor.

Coinciding with the fashion exhibit was a collection of large pieces of fabric.  In some cases yards of beautifully patterned fabric, that was mind-bogglingly hand woven.  It sounds totally obtuse and ignorant, but it was textiles I had made and it turns out textiles are friggin art.

The large pieces I had made a year ago were art after all!  Whoo hoo!  Holy crap, a year frickin later and I finally figure out what the hell I’ve been looking at for so long.  And I didn’t figure it out by staring or searching or asking people, the answer found me. Some people at my show a year ago told me my work was art and I didn’t believe it, they saw something I really didnt, and it was my work.  Jeez.

As I said, making things real is part of my job with clients.  I help make their fantasies real, or I help them tell their stories, but I had forgotten the simplest rule of creativity “stay loose, it’ll come.”  I needed to take a break from work to enjoy my own ride.  To write for myself and relax.  The glint I keep missing in Mr. Sew Button’s portrait will come to me, just like the tapestries I painted.  So tonight’s episode of Mad Men was all about that, the things we stare at (Don’s locked drawer, Kinsey and the Western Union ad) that just won’t open up to us when we want, but then mundane tasks, doing a load of laundry, attending some random event, and WHAM the sidewalk suddenly becomes a canvas.

rafting sidewalk

Dear Andy (again)


Hello old dead friend and mentor, I felt compelled to write you a quick note as Artomatic is going on in DC, so naturally I’m extra thoughtful this month about art, media, design, advertising and all of your favorite subjects.

I’m beginning to wonder if there should just be a whole separate traveling show devoted to the Warholian style and technique due to the pervasive influence your ideas had and still have on art.  From huge repeated lithograph portraits stamped all over one installation, to a direct homage to your Campbell soup can, I’ve seen a least a dozen works that capitalize on your techniques, which I think could be considered “open source” at this point.

I’m not even sure that people know they are doing it.  Which is why I think I’m beginning to consider you a movement rather than just a singular artist.  We are still in a Warhol Era, I’m convinced.  The accessibility of tools and software applications that can automatically apply techniques that make digital art look hand painted, or create shadowy homages of peoples faces (don’t get me started on Shepard Fairy), to huge random objects being silk screened onto shirts, walls or canvas is both frustrating and exciting to witness.  We’ve automated and digitized nearly every artistic process, technique and tool, which to me reflects the harbinger of your work.  I wonder sometimes what you would have done with the tools we have today.  Would you have taken a purist mentality and stuck to hand made art or gone buck wild with mass production on an even larger scale?

I keep replaying the scene from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in my head, the one where the historical figures are let loose in the mall.  You weren’t around when it came out but its a hilarious scene, Beethoven’s scene is more akin to what I see you doing.  Warhold in an Apple store, hmmmm…….

I’ll post some pictures soon, but you should go check it out if you can.  The circuitboard quilts by Eric Celarier are incredible.

Your friend and admirer,