Category Archives: Tips for geeks

Family Artist Projects 2016: Who Is Kenny Howard?

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Kenny Howard (aka Von Dutch) was a pioneer in pin-striping, among other talents. Try your hand at some geeky pin-striping with this mini hood project. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Originally ran in GeekMom on Aug. 5, 2016

Kenny Howard was one of most groundbreaking American artists of the 1950s, whose style and work is still influencing artists, graphic designers, musicians, fashion designers, and architects today. However, very few people would recognize his name. They would recognize one of his better-known nicknames: Von Dutch.Born in 1929 as the son of a sign painter, Von Dutch was already painting professionally by age ten. He got his famous nickname from being called “stubborn as a Dutchman,” and also excelled in his professional life as a motorcycle mechanic, metal fabricator, knifemaker, gunsmith, and more.

 His recognizable striping style began gaining attention in the 1950s, and he became one of the fathers of the hot rod-centric style of art, fashion, cars, and more known as Kustom Kulture. He was known for his steady, intricate pinstriping patterns, as well as the “flying eyeball” symbol. His freehand work, often done with a thin paintbrush, was steady and exact, and it helped win him several awards for his custom work.

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Kenny Howard, better known as Von Dutch, has been an icon Kustom Kulture art since the 1950s, and has been the subject of, or included in several publications of the movement.

After his death in 1992, his daughters sold the use of his name to the company Von Dutch Originals, which

became a multinational, licensed brand. Today, the company produces and sells clothes, jewelry, and other items worldwide celebrating the style and life of Von Dutch. There was even a Von Dutch energy drink, created for Rockstar Energy drinks, and one of the most complete books on the artist, The Art of Von Dutch by Al Quattrocchi and Jeff Smith.

Even though Von Dutch’s name is now often associated with a successful brand, Von Dutch, himself said in 1992, not long before his own death, that he felt “Copyright and patents are mostly an ego trip.”

His name may now be part of a license, but he welcomed people  taking elements of his work and making it their own.

“Use any of my stuff you want to,” he said of those inspired by his style. “Nothing is original. Everything is in the subconscious; we just ‘tap’ it sometimes and ‘think’ we have originated something. Genes make us more or less interested in certain things but nothing is truly original!”

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Before taking on a Von Dutch-inspired pattern on a real car hood, scale it down with a bit first. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

The Project: Little Kustom Hoods

This is a good beginner way to practice Von Dutch’s style of pin-striping, even if you don’t yet have a steady hand–nor a car or bike to work on.

First, make a hood using a square of cardboard or pasteboard. Round it off on one end or taper it to make it

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Cut square pieces of corrugated cardboard or pasteboard, and shape to resemble little car hoods.

resemble a little car hood. Next, spray or hand paint it the color you want and set it aside to dry. If you want a more industrial or steampunk look, add a few “rivets” using self-adhesive pearl or jewel stickers painted to match the hood.

Now, this part will take a little effort to perfect.

Find a good symmetrical image you like, (a mask, face, vehicle, logo, etc.) and draw a basic outline of one-half of it

(think of pinstripe work) on the edge of a sheer sheet of paper. Use tracing paper if you don’t want to draw freehand yet.

Next, add your own pinstripe pattern around it, as simple or complex as you like. Pinterest and clip art sites are great places for pinstripe ideas.

Now, place the design on top of the cardboard hood. Slowly but firmly trace over it with a pen or toothpick, so it leaves a slight indention in the cardboard. Flip the design over and trace its reverse side on the hood, aligned with the original pattern.

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Draw or trace half a pattern on a sheet of sheer paper and add some “custom” pin-striping. Use a pen to transfer the image onto the cardboard hood, and paint over the image outline. Images: Lisa Kay Tate

Once done, this should produce a full, nearly symmetrical pattern on the hood top.

Finally, use a thin brush with acrylic paint (or paint pens) and paint over the design to give it the appearance of a custom pinstripe job.

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Self-adhesive pearl or jewel stickers can give your hood a little industrial or steampunk edge. Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Once you have mastered this technique, try it on other items, and eventually you might even be able to freehand like the master pinstriper himself. Eventually, you can move on to nonsymmetrical designs or more complex patterns. Even if you perfect this method, keep learning and evolving, because Von Dutch felt knowledge was the most valuable thing of all.“The only thing you can truly own is your knowledge,” he said. “For you can sell it, give it away, and still keep it.”

 

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Artist Projects 2016: Shag

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What kind of party would he have if he stopped by The Winchester Tavern during the zombie apocalypse? Image: Lisa Kay Tate

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.

Whether worthy of a cocktail lounge or family theme park, Shag’s images are always filled with color and life. Images: Lisa Kay Tate (left), and D.M. Short via Creative Commons.

Whether worthy of a cocktail lounge or family theme park, Shag’s images are always filled with color and life. Images: Lisa Kay Tate (left), and D.M. Short via Creative Commons.

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.”

“Date Night” by Lisa Kay Tate.

“Date Night” by Lisa Kay Tate.

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.

Take a look at Shag’s simple way of painting figures and faces (left) to create a Mid-Century style in your own characters (right). Image compilation: Lisa Kay Tate

Take a look at Shag’s simple way of painting figures and faces (left) to create a Mid-Century style in your own characters (right). Image compilation: Lisa Kay Tate

• 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.

To really appreciate Shag’s world, take a look at the details behind the main characters in his work (left). What would you add to your worlds? (right). Image compilation: Lisa Kay Tate

To really appreciate Shag’s world, take a look at the details behind the main characters in his work (left). What would you add to your worlds? (right). Image compilation: Lisa Kay Tate

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.

Cooking with the Kitchen Overlord: A Parent/Kid Whovian Food Review

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Originally ran May 30, 2015:

Images: Lisa Kay Tate

I recently had the privilege of talking with Kitchen Overload creator Chris-Rachael Oseland about her work on a “Regenerated” edition of her popular Dining with the Doctor unofficial Doctor Who cookbook for GeekMom.

The book, funded with the help of a Kickstarter campaign through June 2, will offer more than 140 Whovian recipes, including 60 from the original cookbook and more than 60 new recipes, high-quality photography, interior artwork by Tom Gordon (illustrator for Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord’s Illustrated Geek Cookbook), bonus chapters for cocktails and Fish Fingers and Custard, and an updated index with dietary restrictions.

“Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated is going to be a brick of a book because I’m including a recipe and mini recap for every episode of series 1-8. So if you’re into NuWho (the 2005 reboot onwards) I’ve totally got you covered,” Oseland said.

Oseland also shared a few favorite Whovian recipes for myself and my family to try out, and the Minion Feeding 101 clan was more than anxious get started.

We had been familiar with Kitchen Overlord for sometime, and even used The Doctor’s Yorkshire Pudding recipe during Christmas dinner. This was the first time, however, the girls took on the task of creating a recipe themselves.

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Five-year-old Erin took her job of creating Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads very seriously. That didn’t mean she couldn’t sneak a few mini-pepperonis.

The first recipe we attempted was the Zygon French Bread Pizza Heads. This was the easiest of the three, and the best suited for my youngest daughter, Erin, a recent Kindergarten “graduate.” My only part in the process was slicing the bread and peppers, and adding the “nostrils” afterwards. Erin adeptly arranged the Zygon heads, and followed the recipe perfectly with the cheese, pepperoni and roasted pepper placement. She was extremely thrilled at these coming out looking close to the ones in the official recipe, and couldn’t have been happier if she’d made a perfect soufflé.

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My awkward little eggs, compared to the official image from Oseland’s beautifully crafted recipe. They were, however, still extremely nummy.

I tried the Deviled Ood With Horseradish and Bacon myself, primarily because it allowed me to face long-time culinary fear — hard boiling eggs. I’ve been able to get away with shoddy boiling jobs during the annual Easter egg hunts, but I really wanted to get this one right. The filler mix was easy enough, and temptingly good. If I didn’t want to go Whovian, I would have just mixed the egg whites, bacon, cucumber and basil in with it to make a sandwich spread…which I may do in the future, because it IS that good.

Now here’s the embarrassing part….of the three recipes Oseland suggested, it was the “grown up” who messed hers up the most. Despite thinking I have followed every “how to boil an egg” instruction to the letter, my poor Oods’ heads looked like they were still waiting for their skin to clear up after those awkward teen years.

I also didn’t realize until after they were half-consumed how squishy I had their heads, so they weren’t only battling a skin condition, they were getting over that adolescent Ood baby fat. Poor things. Despite this, they were still presentable, and very edible.

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Molly, now 14, spent her last day as a 12-year-old perfecting the art of dough-making…with a little help from official “glaze-master” and companion, Erin.

My oldest daughter, Molly, wanted to do the Pull Apart Bow Tie Rolls, because the little scientist in her wanted to see the process of making dough from scratch. She also confirmed, of course, that “bow ties are cool.” I was at first worried about her attention span in making the bread, but creating dough by scratch worked perfect for the tween. She got to take an hour break, to play on her “three Ps,” Pinterest, Polyvore, and Pottermore,” before getting to punch a big wad of dough. The assembling of the bow ties was also great fun for her, and they looked really good.

They turned out really nice, and the consistency and taste of the bread was wonderful. We saved them, and had them for her birthday breakfast with tea the next morning. And, she made them, all by herself…almost. Little sister insisted on helping so much, we designated her official glaze-master. She handled the task like a true companion. Better, actually (we don’t always have the highest confidence in the Doctor’s people collection).

This one turned out to be our favorite recipe of the three, and we plan on making this one again soon.

Once we successfully created all three recipes, my girls offered their official on-the-record opinions:

“The recipe was fun to make, and it was really, really easy. I thought the dough would be hard to make, but it wasn’t at all. I was very happy with the way they came out. It was delicious. My favorite thing about making it was eating it!”

— Molly, age 12

“I thought these pizzas were really tasty. I really liked putting the cheese on them the most, but I also liked eating the pepperoni when we were putting them on the heads.”

— Erin, age 5 (who I estimate consumed a good two Zygons worth of mini-pepperoni pieces)

The final consensus from all of us was the recipes were simple, but not “simplistic.” There was actually something to them, not just a configuration of prepackaged foods made to resemble a pop culture character. The only one to actually come close to this description was the pizza bread, but that was a perfect fit for the busy hands and easily-distracted mind of an active five-year-old.

As for my older daughter, the bow ties were easy enough to not get discouraged, but involved enough to not be bored. Plus, you can never go wrong with “The Doctor” in our household. Most importantly, though, everything we made was genuinely yummy. Everyone in the family enjoyed all three recipes. Cooking and baking are fun, but what good is a recipe if you can’t have just as much fun consuming it?

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

Other books by Chris-Rachael Oseland we recommend. These aren’t “kids” cookbooks either, but recipes that are just fun to make and eat for geeks of all fandoms.

The entire Minion Feeding 101 wholeheartedly recommends cooks of all ages and levels check out Oseland’s books and website to find a fandom befitting their culinary and pop culture tastes.

We’re looking forward to picking up a copy of her “Dining With the Doctor: Regenerated Edition” next year, as well as “going on an adventure” with another favorite of ours, Bilbo Baggins and crew with An Unexpected Cookbook: The Unofficial Book of Hobbit Cookery.

One of the best ways to maximize that important dinner-table family time is to get my girls in the kitchen beforehand taking part of the process. These were a perfect excuse to get them laughing together, talking about their day, arguing over who the best “Doctor,” is and just enjoying each others’ company. This isn’t easy with two strong-willed kids separated by seven years.

Being able to compare the results of their labor, and be proud of learning something new  and showing it off to Dad, Mom and Grandpa was a positive as well. Plus, this gave them a huge pool of ideas for parties, summer projects and other boredom killers.

When else can you get to hear at the dinner table, “can I have another Zygon?”

Find more great recipe, tips and product reviews on Oseland’s Kitchen Overlord website, or pick up her books online at Amazon.

Read the entire interview with Oseland at GeekMom.

— Lisa Kay Tate

Find That Prop!: Kaylee’s Parasol

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A four part-look at the props of Firefly.

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The Prop: Kaylee’s Parasol.

Kaywinnet Lee “Kaylee” Frye, played by Jewel Staite, is the naturally gifted mechanic on the ship Serenity. Not only is she known for her exceptional know-how, but for her kindness and optimism.

The parasol is a typical Japanese paper umbrella, or Wagasa, adorned with a plain colorful swirl pattern, umbrellasand typifies the Asian influence of the world of Firefly.

Where to Find It:

There was at, and one time, an official licensed Kaylee parasol complete with a decorative carrying case, but these are extremely rare to find today, even on sites like eBay.

These best route is to make one with a plain white umbrella, and use orange, yellow and green acrylic or craft paint for the swirl. Plain umbrellas can be found on party and wedding supply stores and online sites like The Knot or Paper Lantern Store, some for as low as $10.

Don’t want to paint? Etsy artists have this market covered as well, with ready-to-purchase homemade Firefly-influenced parasols.

Even though Kaylee isn’t always seen with her parasol, it has become an inseparable part of her look from cosplay to fan art. For good reasons, it’s hard not to feel happy with a bright paper parasol in tow.

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Find That Prop!: Wash’s Battling Dinos

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A four part-look at the props of Firefly.washmainThe Prop

Wash’s Battling Plastic Dinosaurs, made famous by one of the show’s most popular…and certainly a favorite of Wash fans…moments. This scene, featured in the very first episode, not only gives viewers an instant indication of character Hoban “Wash” Washburne’s personality, but also of the fun and adventurous nature inevitablemarketingof the series itself.

For those who might not know, Wash, portrayed by Alan Tudyk, is playing with two of his toy dinosaurs, a Ceratosaurus and Stegosaurus to be exact, with the following playtime exchange:
Stegosaurus: …We will rule over all this land! And we will call it…this land!
Ceratosaurus: I think we should call it….YOUR GRAVE!
Stegosaurus: Aah. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal.

Fox Television (whom Browncoats maintain issued their own “sudden but inevitable betrayal” by cancelling the popular series after just one season) listed the clip as an “all time favorite” of viewers when they announced the Blu-ray collection of the complete series.

Where to Find It

officialdinosetSince these are simply plastic dinosaurs, they are relatively easy to find. Some of the nicest dinosaur models are made by Schleich and Animal Planet, available at various retailers. Cheaper dinosaurs can be obtained from party supply sites like Oriental Trading Company for about $13 an assorted dozen.
However, for fans who want exact, “official” (and really cute) versions of these bickering prehistoric beasts, there is good news and bad news. Good news first. Yes, there are officially-licensed “Firefly Inevitable Betrayal Dinosaurs with Sound” created by ThinkGeek and suitable for ages 6 and older. They also feature“authentic voice” clips from the show. Whee!

Bad news is these retail for around $30 for two plastic dinos, and are consistently sold-out from many on-line sites like ThinkGeek and Entertainment Earth. They can still be found on eBay and Amazon, and lucky shoppers can run across them at comic and collectibles shops.

According to some fan sites, Wash’s entire dino collection toydinos(he has more than just the two), were amassed from different toy makers including Imperial, Safari. Ltd. and Hasbro’s Jurassic Park 3 line, so even Wash followed the collector’s practice of hunting and gathering from different sources.

Of course, capturing this iconic Wash moment doesn’t mean having to corral the dinosaurs themselves. The t-shirt, poster and collectibles market is flooded with inevitable betrayal-inspired products. Pop culture t-shirt sites like Tshirt Roundup, and Redbubble have more designs to choose from than any fan could want. Quantum Mechanix even made a popular maquette of Wash and his dinos as part of their best-selling Little Damn Heroes line. The maquette is sold out on their site, but can still be found, for now, on Amazon.

With moments like these, even Firefly’s short on-screen life couldn’t escape that “sudden but inevitable” fan marketing.