Dear Friends, hi. Here's a thing we made and posted at the very last minute.
The release party for my new kids' book ABC Oakland is on April 29 at Oaklandish, 1444 Broadway (between 14th and 15th) from 5-7 pm. ABC Oakland is a collaborative venture between myself, Heyday, and Oaklandish. The Book is itself a celebration of Oakland, its iconic monuments, and its storied history, that is fun for younger audiences and adults alike. ABC Oakland highlights everything from famous streets and boulevard such as Broadway Avenue, to Children's Fairyland and other icons, to the Ohlone people, who have lived in what is modern-day Oakland since before Spanish colonization. Michael, Heyday and Oaklandish all wanted to make this book a fully educational body that simultaneously celebrates the Town's history and people.
In order to make this book accessible to all of the Town's children, Oaklandish and Heyday are teaming up with the Oakland Unified School District to provide a copy of 'ABC Oakland' to every kindergarten classroom in the city!
In addition to the book's release, I am teaming up with Oaklandish on a t-shirt collaboration that will be in-store the day of the event.
So please join us from 5-7pm on the 29th to celebrate ABC Oakland, listen to live music by Special Ghosts, and pick up your own copy of ABC Oakland! Here's the book trailer (thank you to Andy for his patience and iphone skillz):
Also: Meet me at Children's Fairyland on Saturday May 6 for Turn the Page, a children's book festival featuring 25 local artists and illustrators! I will be on hand to sign books all day, from 10-4.
More ABC Oakland: A is for Aviary, a home for the birds; B is for Broadway, from College to Third. C is for Cranes standing tall in the sky; D is for Dogs, wagging tails, saying “hi!” On May 26 at 7 pm, I will be hosting a fun-filled PJ Party at Diesel Book’s Oakland location! Kids are encouraged to come ready to party in their PJs and excited for cookies and milk. Look for: Milk. Cookies. Drawing. Singing!
Even more ABC Oakland: Laurel Books has generously offered to host another ABC Oakland event at their lovely shop right on Broadway and 14th Street on May 27 at 2:00 pm (which is the day after the Diesel event)! I have a feeling we'll be attempting to draw their beautiful building. Maybe I'll bring a bunch of sketchpads and we can walk around the building. There will probably be: Lots more Drawing. Even more Singing!
See you at one (or more) of these events, and thanks!
A silence fell over Wertz's social media presence. For months.
What was it? What was happening?
What is the sound of one page turning?
It is a book. This book. ABC OAKLAND. A new kids' book for Heyday Books, written and illustrated by yours truly. It's been a long time in the making, and it's getting close to being finished.
Here's a sneaky peek at a few of the images. I'm excited about this.
(VAGUEBLOGGING) p.s. There's more big news on the way. I can't tell you yet. (/VAGUEBLOGGING)
Friendlies, I'm very excited. SomeWags has been printed, prepped, and hung on the walls of the oh-so-pink-and-pretty Glama-Rama Salon and Gallery in Oakland. The opening is this Saturday night, October 17, from 6-9 pm. The address is 6399 Telegraph Avenue near the corner of Alcatraz. It should be a hoot. I think there will be a short set of music by our band Special Ghosts (featuring AJ Pinecone and Isabel Samaras), as well as some uke and singing by my nephew Kellen Wertz. Punch and Pie! This is a show of new two-color screenprints created with paper stencils under a big tent on my back deck. PRINTING IN HEAT AND WIND CHALLENGE: ACCEPTED. To see some snaps of the work in progress, head over to m'Instergrahams to see #somewags in action.
See you there?
Friendlies, this month I interviewed one of my very favorite musicians, Karry Walker from Ultralash. Based out of Oakland, California, Ultralash is a folk electronica project made up by Karry Walker with a revolving cast of characters both real and imagined. Karry has several musical projects (we'll learn more about those in a bit), but Ultralash is her solo project. Her new album, A River Listless, is wildly compelling, atmospheric, spooky. I wanted to know more (and so will you), and so I asked.
Here you go.
Q: Can you describe Ultralash for a new listener? Who is Ultralash?
A: Ultralash is a character based on this young girl I used to see riding around in my neighborhood on a low rider BMX bike with a banana seat. She had freckles and flaming red hair, and she always had this huge backpack on. She would ride down the street on her way to wherever, and one day when I was sitting out on the front porch having a smoke it occurred to me that she was perfectly Ultralash. It was one of those moments when I didn't try to question what came out of me. I just went with it.
About 5 years later I walked into a bank and there she was, working as a bank teller. All the spark in her had been tucked away or discarded, as she greeted the customers in her black bank suit and bright, contrived smile. It was a sad day for me, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. It happens every day, to all girls who grow to be young women, unless you are extraordinarily vigilant about protecting that light within you from the pressures of conformity.
Q: How did you begin A River Listless? Did you set out to make a concept record, and/or did the concept arrive as you wrote?
A: Well, one day I was looking at my iTunes music collection. It contained a huge lot of recordings I had made over a period of about 10 years and I thought "geez what is all this stuff?" Most of it didn't even have names, just numbers and dates. So I began listening to the recordings, and then I thought "hey, some of this stuff is pretty good. I should catalog it." So I created two folders named "Light" and "Dark" and I just started shoving stuff into each of the folders based on my first impression.
When I was done doing that, sez me to myself "Let's make a record." So I flipped a coin - Heads for Light, Tails for Dark. Tails. So then I started listening in earnest, stitching together the tracks that told a story. I never really know where it's going. The story reveals itself as I work on it, and it's based purely on what makes me happy as I listen - what makes the little hairs rise up on the back of my neck.
Later, just like when you try to tell someone about a dream you had, the plot presents itself. I always have mixed feelings about this part, because it can become confined by it prematurely. I have my ideas about what that plot is, and there are certain elements built into the finished album that are my own meaningful bits, but those are personal.
The final decision to dispense with track numbers came after Myles Boisen and I mixed the record. Determining where one song ended and another began was proving difficult. Around that time I was with a friend and we were talking about how visual artists - painters, sculptors, film-makers get to have installations - a one time showing of their work. It was then that I came up with the idea of doing it as a sound installation - one complete composition, listened to one time. Several songs are available for download online for anyone who would like to listen in a shuffle.
Q: What was the timeline for this record? Did it all happen at once, or was it gradual? Both?
A: Fits and starts. The labeling project began in 2011. I stitched together a rough mix of about half of it in the next couple of months. Then I abandoned the project for a while because I was involved in other music projects like She Mob, an all girl garage rock band fronted by Joy Sue Hutchinson. I played bass, which I'd never done before! That resulted in recording She Mob's album Right In The Head.
I was also writing songs with Myles Boisen for a ukelele/slide guitar duet we call The Hollywood Laundrette. That also resulted in an album with brilliantly illustrated cover art by Michael Wertz!
But I didn't pick up the Ultralash project again in earnest until a year ago, April. I was reeling emotionally from some personal changes, so I threw myself back into the project to distract me from my own misery. And it did, because hey. There's working on yer shit, and then there's working on yer shit. And the latter has always, without exception, been more productive. At least for me.
Q: What's your writing process like? Acoustic guitar and recorder? Piano? Notebook? What's your best time of day to make music?
A: I daydream a lot. Occasionally there's something in that stream of consciousness that's worth writing down. And if I'm lucky and paying attention, I will. Some of my most favorite lyrics were written in less than a minute, and most of my favorites were written in ten. It's just a matter of paying attention at the right time. Often it happens when I'm outside on the front porch having a smoke. But my favorite time to record acoustic songs is first thing in the morning, sitting up against the wall, dog at the foot of the bed. That's how I recorded two songs on A River Listless. I used Garage Band to record "Skin." I used my iPhone voice memo app to record "Do You Ever Think About Me."
Q: Upcoming shows or events? What should we know?
A: I'm throwing around ideas and footage for a music video for Terminal Velocity, one of the songs on A River Listless.
I'm also currently working on a contemporary remix of Kitka. Kitka is an internationally renowned women's choir who perform traditional Eastern European women's music. The Ultralash remix should be released sometime in the latter part of this year.
So there she is, folks. I'd like to thank Karry for the interview, and for all her beautiful music.
This month's interview is with Nat Swope from Bloom Screen Printing in Oakland. Nat was kind enough to give us an interview (in between running his shop, teaching classes, and little league with his kid). Nat and I work on a few projects a year together for clients who need multiple prints, and he always does an amazing job. Q: Hi, Nat. How are you?
Doing fine, thanks.
Q: How did you first learn to screenprint?
My aunt Mary, who is an artist and art teacher, gave me a rudimentary introduction to it. I had already figured out stencils, cutting frisket, so screen printing made sense. A little bit later I got a job printing shirts. That's how I learned about production, on the clock. I didn't go to art school. I was into photography so exposing screens photographically was pretty exciting. This was the late '80's/early '90's so I caught the tail end of paste up before computers really came into play, which I always thought was helpful later on. Most art departments back then were still using copy cameras and rubylith. But the short answer is I learned how to screen print the same way you learn how to do anything: by doing it over and over again. The other thing that really accelerated the learning process was printing for other people. It led me down a lot of roads I would never have gone down had I only been doing my own work. Getting a glimpse into other people's processes has been invaluable.
Q: What about screenprinting gives you that special feeling inside?
Screen printing is a bit like assembling a puzzle and I like that. I like graphics and flat, clean color. I like paper. If things are going well it can be meditative and rhythmic. At this point though it's really about the people I'm working with. I've been lucky to work with a lot of people I genuinely admire.
Q: Can you tell me a few of your favorite clients?
Too many to name and I don't want to leave anyone out.
(book by Michael Bartalos)
Q: When a new client comes to you, what do you ask them?
Can I see a file before we talk about cost and deadlines?
Q: What's your favorite kind of job to print?
Again, it's the people I'm working with that matters the most. I like seeing what gets them excited. Often the client is responding to something I'm not really thinking about. My concerns are usually technical. I'm in problem solving mode and the artist is usually operating on a more emotional, gut level--do I like how it feels?
Q: Is there a kind of image that is _not_ served by being screenprinted?
Well, it has to be designed with the medium in mind. It's a flexible process but it can be unforgiving. If you don't understand spot color and key line you're going to have a hard time. Not everything has to be simple spot and trap, like a coloring book, but if you don't at least understand those things you're in for a rough ride. Less is more. It's also a fine line between surrendering to the process and being particular about certain things. Choose your battles. It's good to aim for perfect but perfection is unattainable. And boring.
Q: I know you used to have a machine-run press, but you gave it up to focus on hand work. What about doing all your prints by hand appeals to you?
Autos are great and there is nothing inherently better about things made by hand. Part of what I like about screen printing is that it is mechanical and I do not fetishize the hand made. The machine just kind of turned my studio into a factory and I just didn't really like it. I have more room to maneuver in my small space now.
Thanks again to Nat Swope. If you want to see some of the work in person (and take some goodies home as well), visit Bloom Press (2310 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland) on May 3 during First Friday.
Friendlies: I'm attempting a little experiment over here. We (the royal we) have created a monthly inbox zine called Wertzeen. If you sign up, it will arrive, like a magic mist, in your email inbox. Once a month, and no more than once a month. It is a zine without the paper: a zeen. We’ll keep you informed not just of our illustrative scribblings and meanderings but also of the happenings of the Bay Area creative community. It will be good fun, and it means you no harm. It is free and easy. If this interests you, click on over to this page.
I'm posting issue #001 tomorrow, and I can't wait.
.. and when I say LOVE you best believe I'm in LOVE L-U-V. A one-color poster design for the Oakland Museum and Oakland Pride. I'll be with the OMCA's "mobile unit", teaching folks how to screenprint their own take-away posters at the Pride festivities. We'll be close to the intersection of Broadway and 14th. Come say hi!
Oooh, Sheila E. Love her.
Dear Friendlies, I had the pleasure with working with Ron Rifkin at the Design Office and Daniel Swafford from the Montclair Village Association in creating street banners and this mural dedicated to sweet little Montclair Village in Oakland, California. Yesterday was the dedication ceremony. More about the mural (and the kind folks who made it happen) here.
Here's the completed illustration. This image was used for banners that were (and are!) flying over Montclair.
This is Pam Consear from Rare Bird and the Skyline High Art Club, who spent weeks and weeks painting the mural.
Guess who came to the Dedication Ceremony? That's Daniel, Ron, and I, plus Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Libby Schaff.
Friends, you know that "art cult" thing I've been going on (and on and on) about? You can see the documentary about it via iTunes. It's a fun watch. Yours truly appears in the film for a minute. Associate-produced by our friend Phil Benson.
Check it out by going here. Down the rabbit hole you go...
My Darlings, my presence has been requested as part of the All of Us or None poster show at the Oakland Museum, and I'm eager (yet full of trepidation). A good friend recently pointed out that my current level of neurosis is rather high, and I think it's because I keep on making public appearances in very public places. Like, for instance, in museums and bookstores. And I don't just appear, darlings, I do things in public. Like sing, or, in this case, pull screenprints that will be given away to the gathered masses for free.
I usually spend a good deal of time by myself with just a pencil and some paper and my dog to talk to, so you understand. Things could go wrong. Terribly wrong. My good friend (and collaborator*) Jim Winters will be there to help out if we have to clean out a screen or extract a squeegee from my eye socket, so that's good.
I'll be pulling (about 50) prints in the gallery from 5:00-6:30 pm on Friday, April 27, 2012, in the galleries of the Oakland Museum. It's free, I think.
Here's the mantra for the evening : IMPERFECT = REAL. Write this on your hand with a sharpie, and come on down to the galleries to see me pull prints. Directly afterwards, I'll be signing the large Peace Sign OMCA Prints at the OMCA Store. See below.
Hope to see you there!
Here's a preview of the print I'll be pulling:
Here's the OMCA Peace Sculpture Print:
Here's me mixing colors for the OMCA print:
* Plus the guy is an amazing artist, and got me on the road to silkscreen - I should be there supporting him, not the other way around.
Hey kids, It's been a busy summer in the silkscreen studio, and finally I can share some of the work I've been producing. There's a mess of new stuff to peruse on the shop page: the collaborative book by Mister Jim Winters and myself, Queen for Two Weeks, numbered and signed and packed up pretty in a cellophane wrapper. The super-tall-and super-fifties Sutro Tower screenprint. The longer-than tall Lake Merritt (featuring the also-longer-than-tall Lake Merritt Monster). There is also a photograph of an attractive young man modeling the t-shirt design (it looks just like the Sutro Tower print) I did for therethere.
Frenz, I'm totally overwhelmed by the positive response - we packed Diesel Books! It was SRO! We also sold out of copies of A Dazzling Display of Dogs (but not to worry - if you want a copy, you can order one here).
For those of you who braved the rainy weather and [maybe even] came out with your kids on a Wednesday night - I thank you! I hope you had as much fun as we did. Thanks also to Tricycle Press (this is, sadly, one of the last books they will publish), Suki and Andy for the music, and Loriana and Carolee for helping out and setting up. Thanks to Betsy Franco for making the trip to Oakland, and to Diesel Books for being so accommodating. If you're in the Bay Area, go buy your books there! It's a great shop.
Here's a little video that Michael Zelner shot (thanks Michael!):
What's next for the book? Well, The Mutts are going to be recording these songs for real sometime soon. Betsy and I are going to be making a book trailer or two for the two books we've published together thus far. There are also rumblings about another collaboration. Stay tuned.
Arf, Arf arf arf arf arf.
Please join us at Diesel Books in Oakland as we celebrate the release of the latest kids book by Betsy Franco and Michael Wertz, A Dazzling Display of Dogs. This book is the follow-up to A Curious Collection of Cats, honor winner for Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, NCTE Notable Poetry Book of 2009. A Dazzling Display of Dogs is already getting rave reviews.
We are such goofs. There will probably be more of this. Plus pens and books and things. And cheese. There will be cheese. I hope you can make it. Can you? Say yes!
UPDATE: looks like we'll be joined by Betsy Franco herself at this event! She'll be sharing images from the book and discussing her creative process. We'll also "enjoy" some light entertainment by the MUTTS: Andy Cowitt - ukelelelele, Suki O'Kane - Toy Drum Kit, Michael Wertz - vox.
Friends to the Four-Pawed: my second picture book, A Dazzling Display of Dogs (written by Betsy Franco - yes, that Betsy Franco), has been released and is available at your local bookstore and online. We're super excited about it over here, and hope you'll get yourself a copy!
The book release party has been set for March 23, at Diesel Books here in Oakland. Andy and I will probably, as with the Curious Cats opening, embarrass ourselves in front of you. Just to let you know.
Here's a great review from School Library Journal:
Starred Review. Grade 1–5 - This follow-up to A Curious Collection of Cats (Tricycle, 2009) is dazzling indeed. Each of the 34 poems features a different animal, most of them engaged in true dog behavior. From farting in the car to wheezing and snoring while sleeping, these pups are funny and lovable even when they're being annoying. The verses and the book's design are beautifully matched. In "Emmett's Ode to His Tennis Ball," the text is enclosed in a circle held firmly in the dog's mouth. It begins, "Slobbery, sloppy, slimy, sphere—oh, tennis ball, I hold you dear…." Like the poems, the pictures are funny and dynamic. The pages are definitely full, yet careful use of color, typeface, and detail means they never look chaotic. A note says the pictures were started in pencil and then finished using monoprints and Adobe Photoshop. Overall, a delight for kids, their adults, and maybe even their beloved canine companions.—Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Sadly, 'A Dazzling Display of Dogs' is one of the last books that Tricycle press will publish. I am so grateful to my editor Abigail Samoun for making this book happen!