five of my pieces were selected for inclusion and will be published in the 3x3 Illustration Annual Number 15. Thank you to 3x3 and the Judges! The winning entries are below.
Friendlies, I miss this page. I really do.
Making the posts is great fun, and I've hardly even had time to make newsletters, let alone posts. That said, we have a new Wertzeen coming out tomorrow at 8am. If you haven't subscribed (heh, like anyone actually reads this thing), you should do so. That will get you the latest bits, bites and hoo-hahs.
In the meantime, you can look at this list of links I prepared for my students at CCA; there's some goody-goodies in there.
Oh: I just added a few new prints to the shop page. That page is very well attended to. It has a staff.
Also, here's some amazing footage of the Women's March in Oakland. OAKLAND SHOWED UP.
Here's a link to all the published Wertzeens to see what you're missing.
Below: a preview of the preview preview. Preview.
Exactly one year ago we adopted this 56-pound ball of pure energy named Blue. The photo on the left was taken by Amanda Jones about a week after we had adopted her (for a cover shoot for The Bark magazine), and we were still getting to know her. We still are. She is affectionate, exuberant, lovely, goofy, and frustrating. You know: a puppy. It's lots of work (naturally). Well, (as my dear Grandfather once said) Blue is two years old now. It's time that she get herself a job. Since she has no thumbs, she's going to have to get creative. To pay for her care and feeding (read: trail walks), I've started a redbubble shop featuring some of my designs. I've ordered a few of the products, and I'm happy to report that the quality is top-notch. Peep some samples below.
Hey Everybody, I'm excited to announce that I will be showing along with illustrator (and mensch) Josh Ellingson at the first-ever show at Mule Gallery in the lovely North beach district of San Francisco from January 20th through February 26. The opening is on February 5, from 6-9 pm. This event is part of North Beach's First Fridays gallery walk. Join us?
Josh Ellingson & Michael Wertz Jan 20th-Feb 26th, 2016
Opening Feb 5th, 6-9pm Mule Gallery 80 Fresno St. San Francisco, CA 94133
I'll be showing a bunch of the Some Wags prints : see below. All prints are framed & ready to move. We'll also have a small collection of unframed prints for sale.
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.
Friendlies, please know that the Campout 11 Poster for 2015 is now available for sale in the shop. Also! Also! AND! I just cut the prices of MOST of the posters in the shop by HALF. I need to make room in the flat files. It's gettin' crowded in there, and we have lots more posters on the way. So! Point your glowing boxes over to the shop, have a gander, and drop some coins. You'll be glad you did.
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.
dear friendlies, i'm thrilled to announce my first show of artwork in a long while. nat swope at bloom press and i have been producing prints together for a few years, and this will be a showing of a few of the work we've produced together (among other things). the show will be at bloom press, 2310 telegraph avenue, in oakland, on may 3, from 6pm - 9pm sharp. i hope to see your shining faces there. the image below is a preview of one of the prints that will be available.
Dear Friendlies, behold! The kind folks at Hard Boiled Industries made this promo video for the San Francisco Center for the Book and Dog Dreams as part of what will be the eBook version of Dog Dreams. Neet!
(And, I'm not joshin' when I tell you I hope to see you at the Center making your own books soon!)
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.
Friendlies, 'Kicking out the Crutches' is how my friend Isabel describes the evolution of her artwork. Her work (and mine, for that matter), used to have dark lines surrounding all the shapes and giving form to her drawings. Now there's nary a dark line in her paintings - she kicked out the crutches she used in her earlier work.
I took Isabel's advice and started going from finishes where the linework was everpresent to finishes where the line is hardly there at all. The line is there, but the shape defines the line instead of the other way around.
It wasn't easy for me to let this happen. Your work is essentially a collaboration with your Art Director, and your final piece - the final product - is so immediately public. The scrutiny can be a little difficult, especially when you're trying to branch out and do something new and different.
I've had some incredibly slow periods in my work when I've felt like the phone was never, ever going to ring again. At these times, I feel like my work is uninteresting, at best. My work relies so heavily on direct feedback from clients that when the phone stops ringing I instantly go into a bit of a panic. I end up on the couch with Auntie Mame on the tv and a bag of crispy fatty salties on my chest. It's ok when this happens every once in a while, but after a few days it gets dull. It's time to get off the couch and do something with yourself, fer chrissake.
Here's a quick list of stuff to do when the work dries up: This list is mostly for myself. Because it will dry up, I promise. Best to be prepared.
1. Use this time to try something new for your portfolio - or, hell, just for yourself. Look in an old sketchbook and expand on an old idea. You already have the map to the new place you want to be. Open it and take a look. Try a completely new media. This was the idea behind my dog blog (which is about to be taken down, so look at it while you still can). I made artwork about what I loved - dogs - and worked in flat color, which I had never dared to do before. It made me new clients and gave me a 'specialty' (dogs) I really enjoy.
3. See what happens after you drink three espressos and let loose on the pages of your sketchbook.
4. What kind of promotion piece would you like to receive in the mail (hint: it's not a printed postcard from modern postcard) ? What would you put up on your wall? Look up on your wall, and make something like what you see there. Make a handful of hand-made promotions, put them in beautiful envelopes with a hand-written notes to the folks you'd like to work with.
5. Look at something new. Do an art date - all by yourself - at a gallery or museum. Go for a long, random walk in a part of town you've never been to before.
7. Start a dream journal. Yes, I know, it's hokey. These images make for great illustrations.
9. Do the opposite of reaching out: reach in. Unhook the internets, put the tv remote away, and draw and draw and draw. Don't leave the house until you have 15 new drawings. Remember to wash.
10. Chill out, man. Been working like a crazy person from 6 months straight without a weekend? How about a short road trip? As my friend Pete says, "As soon as you plan a vacation or turn up the stereo to dance around your apartment, the phone will start ringing again."
It's hard to realize that sometimes the reason that the phone isn't ringing has nothing to do with you. Companies that used to hire illustrators are going away fast. Remember that, and make work that will make you happy and interested in your work again. A by-product of this is that you will make potential clients interested.