Monday, June 13, 2011

I'm working on some stencil art again for fundraising.

One of the signs I made while selling stenciled tshirts and patches on Hawthorne St. when I was couchsurfing in Portland five years ago, frustrated that people would dismissively throw change to musicians who played horrible covers all night long, but barely make eye contact with people sharing their visual art with them.
I used to carry everything on my bike. I had a photo album of my best stencils over my history of beginning in New Orleans 6 months prior, shirts with my most recent ones sprayed and bleached, and a bunch of blank shirts and paints and 20 or so stencils to make shirts on demand for people, always for donations. People offered me anywhere from a few dollars to $50 for a tshirt once in the five weeks I would sit on Hawthorne Street for a few hours each day.
In stressing myself out for weeks trying to think of clever designs related to dentistry to make silly and/or uplifting "commemorative" shirts and prints and things to sell, I had the epiphany that I ALREADY have a bunch of old designs and images that were always selling just fine in Phoenix for the year and a half I was living off my art sales and commissions.
I used to sell shirts and things in the back of the old Willow House coffee shop on 3rd Ave. and McDowell before it closed when I first came to Phoenix. It was also where I met the majority of my Phoenix friends who I am still the closest with today, and right around the corner from the roof I slept on (by choice) when I was homeless for 3 months before I saved enough money to move into the art collective the Firehouse.
So...I have decided to post some of them and try to continue to get them out into the world. Now that I am slowly finding a bigger internet following and learning more ways to network online and have a paypal account, perhaps I could get lucky with Etsy or a few properly tagged shirts or something on ebay and end up printing hundreds of shirts all of a sudden and making all the money I need without even hosting fundraisers! Who knows. In any event, here is a link to some of the old designs of shirts I will be selling and a few other odds and ends I may sell and/or reproduce again for the right prices. Stencils and screenprinting on my Facebook I also welcome commissions of all kinds, and you can find more images of my work here on myspace, and also here on flickr.
A 3-layered stenciled painting of my friend Jessica Zajicek with a wallpaper background from wallpaper from the House of Parliament from the 1800s.

I haven't really been focusing on art for the past few years, but since I began stenciling making protest signs and things for our housing sites while volunteering with Common Ground Relief in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I have made 100s of stencils in three years that I used as my sole means of support.

Everyone--and when I say "everyone" I mean 100s of volunteers over the course of 3 1/2 months, used to call me "Stencilguy" from January to April of 2006.

(Photo credit unknown. Found in shared folder on Common Ground Volunteer Computer)
 The "Not As Seen On TV" one I made about 25 of that I nailed to telephone poles in the Lower 9th Ward before I left in April 2006 was even used by Spike Lee in his documentary When the Levees Broke and later in the Green Day and U2 video Saints Are Coming. To this day I still have never been able to contact any of those people to share the story of its creation or receive any form of credit. It was another thing that always frustrated me, honestly, in thinking about my teeth. Though I never made that stencil to make money and it was always about the message, I can't help but be regretful that I never signed them or wrote a contact on the back. I tried to write to Greenday to see if I could design tshirts for them back then. Their video has nearly 14 MILLION hits on youtube. If one of every THOUSAND people who ever watched it gave me a dollar I would have nearly the whole remaining total I need for my treatment plan. Who knows how many million more have seen the Spike Lee film worldwide. I've tried to set aside my bitterness about this over the years, but I still cannot help thinking that a few grand is such a drop in the bucket to these people and public or not, they OWE me. At a very minimum, credit or thanks or gratitude. Idunno...I am less upset by the documentary. I love how it was used, and it was a really powerful moment in the film. If you look on the dvd bonus section of Photos, my image is actually the very first one shown in the album. Greenday on the other hand I can argue would not even have thought of the idea of their video if never having seen my art. It is obvious that the entire CONCEPT and big "punchline" at the end of their video was wholeheartedly inspired by my sign to anyone who watches their video. Frankly, they never even took their own pictures IN New Orleans OF it, but pulled a still from Spike Lee's film.

I know we all appropriate and I have used pictures of celebrities I've modified and all to make money here and there, but...I'm sure they payed HIM something to use HIS art. I just wish there was some sort of balance. Something just doesn't seem fair to me. But I guess the poor and struggling will always feel that way when thinking of those who are far better off. I just wish that something that was so meaningful and passionate to me that I did as a gesture of solidarity before I left New Orleans didn't have to make me feel like shit when I think of how others who have like millions of dollars could have their lives further enriched by it and get praise for it when no one even knows who I am, and I have been in pain for years. It's one of those things that always comes back to me if and when I have ever been depressed that just makes me want to shake my fists in the air, you know? Is Keira Knightley lying in bed at night mad that I probably made a grand selling tshirts with her image as Domino, or is Christopher Walken going to come hunt me down and dance on my face? No. I just want them all to at least know my name. If they want to offer me anything more than a thank you, your art is cool, that is up to them.

But ANYway....sorry, it's a sensitive subject, and who knows who might read it out there in the world who knows any of those people. Maybe Roger Ebert! Maybe something good will come of it. I've been carrying it around for far too long.
I know I am perfectly competent as a stencil artist to continue to grow and earn a living if and when I find the time and space to truly dedicate myself to earn a living at it. I can also start my own screenprinting shop and run it at any time I want, after eight years professional experience in the industry, and nearly three running TumbleTees with homeless youth. I was never really a "starving artist," and and often was making about a grand a month. I would love to begin to make that money back in addition to my dayjob at Tumbleweed, and all of this could be over before I know it! Who knows what could happen. But with all that I have written and shared on here in the past 4 1/2 months I couldn't help but feel a little strange that I hadn't really represented my visual arts in here. I hope that I can begin to find a balance between it and my writing and all aspects of my life, and only continue to be more productive, creative and inspiring as I continue to share myself and all my efforts with the world. I know only good can come of it. Thank you all for reading and viewing my links. I hope you will pass them on to anyone who you think may like them. If you are interested in my art or, as always, if you have any questions about anything or things you would like to say to me, you can either comment on here, or message me directly at
Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. hi i was sondering if the stencils i made are sellable. if you can check out my flickr page that would be cool. thanks.