David M. Cook is the architect of a mischievous microcosm. Amicable and unassuming, he hardly seems the “type” to consistently and skillfully crank out such a lewd labyrinth of work, but the cheeky hedonism comes all too naturally. Based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn, but originally from Louisville, Kentucky, David (who also answers to Bonethrower) uses no shortage of fine lines to design a world that is equal parts modern mysticism and memento mori—at the end of the day, it all sinks in like a psychotropic drug.
London based Nick Sheehy (previously featured here) is an Australian-born artist and illustrator who explores the dreamlike, sometimes semi-autobiographical scenes and oddball characters that echo from his childhood imagination. After studying bronze sculpture in the wilds of Tasmania, Nick gave up on art only to re-discover his love of drawing whilst living in London, sparked by an interest in the city’s low brow art, illustration, street art, and graffiti.
Employing a laborious technique, building up layers of texture and thin color, his work infuses precision and attention to detail with random abstraction and clumsiness. He enjoys drawing various weird things for himself, exhibitions and publications.
3D designer Chad Knight is changing the landscape of digital art and design with one shoe, painting and day at a time. Knight is a 3D designer at Vans Shoes and also creates his own body of work that hijacks the viewer’s third eye and mind with intensity, beauty and curiosity. Knight describes his expression of art and creativity as a necessity, just like an apple tree makes apples, Knight makes art- his purpose is clear. He also describes his work to entail encryptions of his soul and musings that aren’t visible to the audience, but a great way of sublimating his inner journey into the external world.
Mercedes Bellido was born in Zaragoza, Spain in 1991. She moved to Cuenca to study at the Faculty of Fine Arts and later moved to Madrid to study a Masters Degree. In the last two years she has been dedicated to the world of illustration and artistic creation performing in various collaborations with brands like Reebok, Urban Outfitters, Absolut, Pull & Bear, Eastpak and Sony and has participated in projects such as Valle Eléctrico, L.ibros Mutantes, Lost & Found Market, Naranjo Etxeberria and the music label La Castañilla.
Her artwork and paintings are composed of a series of elements that make up a whole imaginary world with influences from Baroque still lifes mixed with elements of traditional tattoo or alchemical imagery. She also feels strongly influenced by the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico and Henri Rousseau, with the architectures of De Chirico, the vegetations and animals of Rousseau and her color palette heavily influenced by cartoonist Moebius.
Bellido’s illustrations are placed in strange spaces with large and extensive plains in which imaginary characters and unusual animals wander erratically in the magnificent landscape that is created. Despite the strangeness of the images, she intends to convey certain serenity and calm that make images look nice although sometimes can be somewhat disturbing.
Gustavo Rimada’s paintings exude a particular blend of influences and a very unique emotion. They are composed through cleverly interwoven references on pin-up artists, pictorial elements taken from the tattoo craft and emblematic representations drawn from the rich and vibrant Mexican history.
Katsuyo Aoki is best known for her intricate, pure white porcelain skulls. Her latest sculptures are decorated with colorful designs, some of which are now on display in “The Colors of Globalization” at Bernardaud Foundation in Paris.
It was Victorian England that kicked off the trade of blue and white porcelain originally. Aoki’s palette draws upon this time period, which dates back to 18th century designs that imitated Chinese porcelain. The skull takes on a new form in her new pieces, such as “Trolldom,” one her largest works to date measuring at 6ft tall. Here, she borrows inspiration from the Norse folk magic tradition of the same name, in a continuation of her mythical themes. The decorative style in which the piece is crafted alludes to that of a religious relic, while also making its macabre details more refined.
Salavat Fidei creates with graphite pencils in an unexpected way. Instead of sharpening his pencils to draw or sketch, he carves out incredible mini sculptures out of the graphite of his pencil instead. Checkout these impressive sculptures that emerge from the end of an expert blade. From the Roman Colosseum to Wall-E the robot, the artist has no problem shaping them to his satisfaction. He also has a fascination for other miniature projects including pumpkin seed paintings and matchbox paintings done with equal skill and finesse:
Upper Playground’s long time friend and contributing artist,USUGROW, made his way from Tokyo to San Francisco this month for his solo exhibit,“INKFLOW”at Fifty24SF Gallery.
The artist hit the ground running with aBook Signing and Print Release at Upper Playground SF last weekend. The renown artist recognized around the world for his signature black and white illustrations, lettering and ink works is currently installing his highly anticipated show opening this Saturday, October 4th at 7PM. We caught up with USUGROW for an exclusive interview with the artist. Interview by Jy-ah Min:
Tell us about the theme of your show “INKFLOW”. Will it have any connections to your last show at Fifty24SF Gallery in 2007?
U: There is no special meaning to “INKFLOW”. I just like the words and feel that they are very fitting for my style at this time, because of their simplicity.
The ‘Skulls’ in your work have a unique style to them. How did you get started in incorporating them into your work, and has it evolved over time?
U: I used to like the way that a person’s mad or scary face looked on their head and realized I was actually seeing their skull behind it. I started to see skulls and skeletons in another dimension and appreciated their beauty and simplicity. Now I focus on the positive side of skeletons instead of the negative.
You explained in the past that your signature use of Black and White was born from economy and restriction. What led you to work primarily in Black and White?
U: I started out working on flyers for the hardcore and underground punk scene, where we used to photocopy flyers in B/W and make screen prints for t-shirts. Black and white is always cheaper than full color which is how I got started. So it started for economic reasons and for simplicity’s sake and I have stayed with it ever since.
You seem to draw many references from other languages than your own. Any significant influences in your calligraphic work?
U: I’ve always had an open mind and strongly dislike being categorized. I use what I want and try not to compartmentalize myself.
What is the conceptual preparation required for your hand inked artworks? Do you go through several drafts in the process?
U: Yes sometimes, when there is a request from the client for commissioned work. For my personal work, I’m making up a story from my imagination and creating from my minds eye. I enjoy working in both ways.
Many people identify your style as having strong references to chicano tattoo cultures born from Southern California. Do you find this to be true?
U: Yes, that is one of my inspirations but just a part.
Your latest print release with Upper Playground is a third edition of the KOKUTEN series titled ‘Shijima’. Could you explain a bit more about your subject matter, Kokuten, the messenger of sun and moon in this series?
U: Kokuten is the messenger from the sun. The sun and the moon are just like yin and yang except in front and behind instead of side by side but still all in one. Kokuten is simply a portrait. There is technology all over the place in our human world, we all need to make time to communicate to the sun and the moon. Kokuten literally means “sun spot” in Japanese, in Japan the icon for the sun spot is the black crow, the messenger of the sun.
And finally, What music is playing in the background while you work in your studio in Tokyo?
U: I play every different kind of music in the background: hardcore, metal, electro, hip-hop and lately I’ve been playing a lot of indigenous/ world music from around the globe all the time. I don’t believe in written down/ textbook history. I learn real history from the indigenous/ world music that has been handed down directly from generation to generation.
Henry Gunderson is an American contemporary artist. He attended Redwood High School in Larkspur, California. His work has been likened to Georges Braque and Henry Darger. He has also been praised for his insight into “the clash between man and nature and the animalistic tendencies innate in humans.”
Having had his first solo show at Fecal Face Dot Gallery in San Francisco at the age of 19, he’s been recognized as a child prodigy. A selection of Gunderson’s exhibitions in the last two years include those at Show and Tell Gallery in Toronto, Nudashank in Baltimore and White Walls in San Francisco. In 2010 he was chosen for Survey Select at Wonderbread Factory in San Diego, an exhibition that highlights recent developments in narrative painting.
Gunderson makes his UP Debut with the Crystal Skull Premium Tee, made from 100% interlock Premium Pima Cotton. He explains the Crystal Skull image and answered a few of our questions:
Is there a story, special message, or feeling you try to convey with your designs?
The image is based on Mayan crystal skulls believed to have mysterious powers to perform miracles and possibly save the world from impending doom. The design conveys hope and a belief in miracles.
What was your all time favorite tee shirt you ever owned?
I traded my friend a shirt that I made for an ’89 Rolling Stones tour with the big tongue on it. I liked that shirt at the time. It disappeared.
What do the words Upper Playground mean to you?
That’s where the big kids play the game.