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.
Originally ran May 30, 2015:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?”
Read the entire interview with Oseland at GeekMom.
— Lisa Kay Tate
A four part-look at the props of Firefly.
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.
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.
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 of 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
Since 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 (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.