Originally ran in GeekMom on Aug. 5, 2016
The Artist: Shag
“Shag” is the name So-Cal artist Josh Agle, created by taking the last two letters of his first name and first two letters of his last name, and merging them together into one nifty moniker.
He was born in 1962 in Southern California, and lived in such varied places as Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Utah growing up. He studied both accounting and architecture at California State University in Long Beach, and eventually decided to be an “illustrator for hire.” However, his sleek, mid-century style began to receive more and more attention from art lovers and galleries. Since his first solo show in 1997, Shag’s work has made its way into solo and group exhibits worldwide, been featured on everything from pillows to purses, album covers to lanterns, and he has gained legions of loyal fans.
His subject matter ranges from adult-oriented stories in lounges and parties, to family-friendly images, including many commissions for Disneyland and other high-profile clients. There are often well-known commercial logos, famous bars and buildings, and tourist attractions, all in his simple, colorful, retro style.
His work can be seen in shows and collections worldwide, or at his own stores in West Hollywood and Palm Springs.
Many fans of the mid-century style recognize Shag’s laid-back swingers, barflies, tikis, and retro families, but Shag himself has said these people and places are secondary to the tale they tell, as quoted in a bio the book Tiki Art Now! curated by Otto von Stroheim:
“Most of my paintings are set in the middle of a story or situation,” he said. “[The] characters are interacting or reacting to each other in the outside elements.”
The Project: Groovy Tales of Make Believe Away Places
Painting a Shag-style picture isn’t just about style, it is about storytelling. Shag has said he is more interested in the “narrative” of the story than just the scenery, so this is a perfect chance to tell a swingin’ story from outer space, after a zombie invasion, or in any other alternate world.
With this project, think about telling a Shag-like narrative in an out-of-this-world scene. What’s happening at the party on Mos Eisley? Who is hanging out on the U.S.S. Enterprise holodeck? What’s happening at the harvest fest in Hobbiton? Throw a party anywhere you want, and tell its story in a Shag-like environment.
From looking at Shag’s imagery, there are three things that seem to stand out.
• His people are very simple. The eyes are often variations on black dots, their bodies are often lanky and lean, and their clothes are never too complicated. If you look closely at his subjects’ hands, he often uses the cartoonist’s trick of drawing only four fingers (including the thumb). The trick is, don’t just let them stand there, give them something to do. Put them out there, and let them mingle a bit.
• He doesn’t use outlines. Draw your picture in a thin pencil first, but color it in with marker, colored pencil, crayon or paint avoiding any black lines around the edges. This can include both patterned or solid colors, but no black cartoon or illustration style outlines.
• Make the background fun and colorful, adding some details that help tell the story. Is the sun setting, or rising? Are they in a person’s home or a public place? Is there a band playing in the back, or surfer in the foreground? Shag loves hanging fixtures, random pets and animals, wall art, pools, plants, and countless other patterns and details that help set the scene without over-complicating things.
Make it lively. Make it colorful. Make it deceivingly simple.
Most of all, make it fun! Shag’s art loves a good party, so blast off, have a ball, and draw your favorite subjects. Shag said in an interview with the site Art Beat Street, there is a little of himself in all he does.
“I relate to all the characters in my paintings,” he said. “I think they all contain a little bit of my personality.”
Originally ran in GeekMom July 6, 2016.
The Artist: Dale Chihuly
Dale Chihuly is likely one of the best-known, and best loved, living glass artists today, with his bright-colored, architectural installations found world wide. He has been exhibiting his work continuously since 1967, and has been featured in museums around the globe.
He was born in 1941 in Tacoma, Washington, and first learned about working with glass when he was studying interior design at the University of Washington.
His smaller works include glass cylinders inspired by Native American textiles, “Seaforms” glass pieces, a Venetian series of Art Deco inspired vases, and one of latest series, Rotolo, creating complex forms from a simple coil of clear glass.
Chihuly’s work has inspired others for several years. In 1971, he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School artist-in-residence program in a Washington tree farm, using primitive conditions and the minimal materials. The site still serves as an international center of art education. Other early projects include the Artpark in New York state, near Niagara Falls, which utilized colored sheets of glass in simple arrangements.
Chihuly is especially recognizable for his installations and commissioned work in hotels, theatres, parks, cruise ships and other high-profile venues world wide, including creating the set of an opera, Bluebeard’s Castle. His outdoor installations, are particularly popular, as they seem to give the surrounding area surreal or fantasy-like feeling with flowing ribbons and coils, floating orbs, spikes, glass blossom-like shapes and other brightly hued, blown-glass forms.
In addition to his glass works, he has worked on paper with graphite, charcoal, acrylic, and more. His permanent installations can be found everywhere, including the Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio, the Glass Art Garden in Tayoma City. One of his exhibitions, Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem, drew more than 1 million visitors to the Tower of David museum to see his works.
Chihuly is still releasing prints, hosting workshops and creating installations. He is often asked what his favorite project is, and answered that on his official website, saying he has worked in “many great projects” over the years including Chihuly Over Venice and Chihuly in the Light of Jerusalem 2000, and his work in Seattle at Chihluly Garden and Glass.
“Perhaps,” he said, “the next project will be my favorite.”
The Project: Flying Colors
Chihuly, although very different in style from fellow well-known present day artist Maya Lin, also takes advantage of the environment for which a piece is intended.
His use of color, form, shape and even lighting effect work with the surrounding atmosphere to both enhance and celebrate it, whether in a natural setting or building.
With this simple project, we’ll creative small-scale replica of what a Chihuly installation might light look if commissioned by a fictional school, headquarters, military base or other famous location.
This method is similar to those many elementary art teachers use as Chihuly projects, but the secret is in the color. The color scheme and design for an installation on the stark, floating environment of Empire Strikes Back’s Cloud City might be very different that the glowing natural world of Avatar’s Pandora. Would an exhibition at Hogwarts highlight the various House Colors? Would a one at Starfleet headquarters symbolize uniform colors? What if he did a piece for the TARDIS? Would it be the famous blue, or look more like the wardrobe of the Doctors?
Since blown glass isn’t a method that can be learned for a summer afternoon family crafts, here are two ways to create Chihuly-inspired looks using upcycled water bottles and plastic party ware:
Color the outside of clear (clean and dry) water bottles in the desired hues, and gently cut off the bottom. Adults might want to get it started for younger crafters. Next, cut around the bottle, in a coil fashion so it resembles a spring or curly hair.
You can leave the top of the bottle in place and lace a string or pipe cleaner through it for hanging, or cut off the top, and lace the coil through a hanging thin chain. These also can be mounted on wooden posts, long wrapping paper tubes, hanging wire baskets, or just from fishing line or floral wire.
Remember, think about where this is going to go, and think of a color scheme or design to best suit it.
Using permanent markers, paint clear plastic plates or clear plastic cups the desired hues. Thinner plastic items are easier. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with foil, and bake at about 350° for a few minutes, until the plastic warp it like blown glass. This can take from 1 to 2 to about five minutes, depending to on the plastic. Keep and eye on it, and don’t bake it too long.
This is also good way to utilize the bottom of the water bottles used for the coil method, instead of plates.
Once painted and melted, arrange these in the pattern you want, glue them on a flat piece of balsa wood or corrugated cardboard. If you use a glue gun, place the glue on the board, as it may continue to warp the plastic a little.
This work might not be as detailed as Chihuly’s blown glass pieces. His own advice for young artists is to remain inspired by others, yet follow one’s own visions:
“Surround yourself with artists and see as much art as possible,” he says. “Go with your gut and create something that nobody has ever seen before.”
There’s no turning back now. The Grand Tour is on its way this week, and is in full promotion mode.
Not to mention the show’s opening scene is being called the “most expensive TV opening scene ever” with 150 cars, 2,000 acrobats, jets, and no telling what else coming in at £2.5 million (around $3 million).
Well, that and start the preparations for a weekly watching party. One of the reasons the enthusiasm for this show has been so high, in addition to people missing the hilarious magnetism between these three unlikely friends, is the anticipation of being an armchair passenger on this wild journey.
For those planning on tuning in with this well-traveled threesome, here are some tips in putting together the ultimate watch party for The Grand Tour:Get Out The Map. These boys have a pretty extreme international journey ahead of them, so chart a course along with them. From what has been revealed so far, some of the countries covered include South Africa, the United States, Holland, Finland, Yorkshire, Barbados, Germany, France, and more. That’s a good amount of ground to cover.
Find a nice poster-size wall map of the world from a travel, craft, or teacher supply store. The vintage one shown above came from a craft store for around $12. Use stickers, tacks, or markers to keep track of their journey.
This is also a good opportunity to learn some facts about each place, like capitals, flags, food, and culture, or what (if any) makes of vehicles are made in the region. Even though not everyone will get a chance to travel the world, they can still learn about it, even in unlikely ways.Go Retro. The “tent tour” set the show has planned is no mere camping trip. Their traveling studio is more posh (and larger) than many stationary homes. In addition to its vast picture window and studio space for a sizeable live audience, the sneak peeks at this massive mobile village have revealed vintage suitcases, bits and piece of safari-like travel fodder, and, most appropriate, retro racing posters.
Similar posters can be found and printed out online to adorn one’s own party “tent” or table, and small travel cases can be used to hold food and drink. Decorate these with some vintage labels from some of the countries featured on the series. Vintage and nostalgia sites like Retro Planet also have a large selection of vintage posters, metal signs, and vinyl stickers for travel buffs and racing fans.
Add some binoculars, old cameras, model cars, planes, motorcycles, and other travel trinkets to round out the look.
There are two directions to go here. One option is to hit the travel centers and pick up some of the snacks, like individual bags of trail mix, jerky, Cracker Jacks, fruit, or other forms of “eat and drive” items. Shops like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and World Market also have some more natural snack items, as well as snack items from around the world. Half the fun here is seeing what there is to find.
For the second option, try something a little more substantial. Allrecipes.com always has some cool “road trip” food. Serious Eats has some make-ahead ideas as well such as homemade energy bars, Pork and Guinness Hand Pies, and fruit leather.
Some gourmet shops and marketplaces may sell different soft drinks or beers from around the world, depending on age groups and preferences of the viewing parties, of course.
Some energy drinks also have some great motoring names like “Full Throttle” or “Kick Start,” but go easy on those, okay?
Make A Playlist. One of the standouts of the most recent trailer was the inclusion of the band Kongos’ motivating hit, “Come With Me Now,” which helps make the series look like a feature movie in the works.
All road trips need a personalized, energizing mixtape, a sort of soundtrack to the trek, as it were. It would be impossible to speculate what is going to be featured on The Grand Tour, which might even sport original music. Names like Roger Daltrey, Wilko Johnson, and Hothouse Flowers have been tossed around online as possible theme song contenders.
Instead, find some favorite traveling or road trip or party songs, and put together a custom pre-show mix. Here are some suggestions:
- “The Boys Are Back” (Dropkick Murphys)
- “Party Hard” (Andrew W.K.)
- “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC)
- “Move” (Saint Motel)
- “Life in the Fast Lane” (Eagles)
- “The Distance” (Cake)
- “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (The Clash)
- “Roam” (B-52s)
- “Route 66” (Depeche Mode)
- “I Can’t Drive 55” (Sammy Hagar)
- “Life is a Highway” (Tom Cochrane)
- “New Four Seasons” (Nigel Kennedy)
Once all these travel essentials are in order, it will soon be time to sit back with friends and family and enjoy the scenic ride.
What could possibly go wrong?
The Grand Tour stops in California for their series premiere this Friday, Nov. 18 on Amazon Prime.
Originally published in GeekMom on Oct. 14, 2016. All images by Lisa Kay Tate
Here’s a little Dalek dress costume that might fit in just as well as at an art deco Great Gatsby-esque Roarin’ Twenties party as it would at any Doctor Who fan event or comic con.
1. Find a dark brown or black knit cap at any accessory, clothes or craft store.
2. Sew on one large blue jewel button in front for the Dalek’s eye and tear-shaped clear baubles for the lights.
3. Find a simple, plain cotton tank dress in tan or light brown. Can’t find the right color, “tea dye” a white dress by letting is soak one or two nights in a container of tea (use a black tea, not green).
4. Sew 32 bronze, gold or copper-colored buttons evenly over the lower half of the dress for the Dalek’s globes. Space them evenly, four across and four high (16 each on front and back).
5. For the top half, (or Dalek’s “main chamber”), securely sew three ¾ inch black satin ribbons, parallel from each other, around the dress. To get the look of a Dalek, gently cut two sets of slits the width of the ribbon on both the front and the back of the dress. Lace the ribbon through and make sure to sew these slits securely to prevent the ribbon from catching or the dress to tear more.
6. Add a ruffle around the skirt’s hem with a large satin or mesh ribbon (about four inches in width) for the Dalek’s bumper or “motive power system.”
The “Arm” Wands:
7. For a basic “sucker arm” make a cone out of black felt with a small hole in the center and place it at the end of a chopstick or dowel. Cover the chopstick with black ribbon or electric tape. Make it fancy or “wand-like” by adding ribbon, mesh or glitter.
8. For a basic “gun arm,” cover a dowel or chopstick with silver ribbon, and cut eight to 10 pieces of sturdy silver craft or floral wire about ¾ the length of the arm. Carefully use a glue gun to secure the ends around the chopstick, and carefully bend the wire out so it resembles a whisk or mixer beater (for a lazy method, either of these kitchen items can be used in lieu of making a gun). Secure the bottom ends of the wire around the dowel with glue gun, and cover both the top and bottom ends of the wires with more ribbon. Like the sucker arm, these can be embellished with ribbon, silver pipe cleaners, cheap rhinestone costume buttons or other items.
Now, wear it with pride. Extermination never looked so stylish and cute.