Category Archives: Some of Our Favorite Things

Cesar Del Valle’s drawings are in their own space… and yours

Hyperrealistic human forms? Check. Clever paper cuts that are more 3D than 2D? Check. But the colliding of the two, creating an illusion that your brain can’t ignore? Well, Cesar Del Valle’s got that one all sewn up. The Columbian artist’s black & white illustrations are photo realistic, adding to the jarring sense that the figures might actually be balancing on a pencil or in front of the wall, rather than on it. We like his self-restraint when it comes to how much the paper is manipulated. Just a string here or a tear there, but for the most part our brains complete the effect. All that empty space on the paper carries a lot of power – it’s characteristically, uh… paperish.


This art will stick with you

At first, we figured there wasn’t much more to Max Zorn’s tape art than what meets the eye. But the street artist has a few twists waiting for anyone who takes the time to check out his site. First of all, it’s not evident in these online pics, but he hangs his portraits on street lamps and other urban light sources. The tape has been applied to clear plastic layers, so the lamp illuminates what might otherwise look like the top of a discarded shipping box.

Max Zorn (surely not his real name – that was the villain’s name in the James Bond flick, A View to a Kill, played by Chris Walken!) includes a map on his site that will tell you where he’s “displayed” his art. And he even announces upcoming “shows”. Just the other day, he posted that Liverpool, Bristol, and London can expect to see the release of his take on The Beatles.
If there’s any doubt as to the talent that his tape art requires, there’s a time-lapse video below of Zorn at work. We wouldn’t have guessed the process requires so many steps, both additive and reductive. It’s darn impressive.

Julie Bender draws heat with animal drawings

Rodan sculpted in clay & bronze. Gauguin painted with oils. Cristo wrapped fabric. Julie Bender draws with heat. She practices the art of pyrography – the art of burning or scorching on wood. You may not have heard of it before, but pyrography has been around since the beginning of recorded history in Egypt and Africa. However, the art form has come a long way since then. Bender uses tools that are like a soldering iron but much more sophisticated. She can adjust the temperature and in turn control the shading, thickness, and other values of her line making. That, along with different tool tips and varying degrees of pressure allow her to create these remarkable and photo-realistic images. Her wood of choice is grade A northern maple veneer, sealed with protective finish. The natural motif she’s chosen is a fine match for her subject matter – the animal kingdom. Grouped into “Wildlife”, “Avian”, “Canine”, and “Equine”, her portfolio has something for every animal lover.

After we got over the impressive nature of Bender’s work, there were two qualities that stood out to us. It would seem that if an artist doesn’t have different colors, sizes of brushes, surfaces, etc. to work with then there would be a limit to how different each picture would look. But with the same type of wood and the same tool over & over, Bender is able to communicate very distinct surfaces and textures. The hair in a horse’s mane looks nothing like the hair of a snow monkey. The results she achieves appear limitless.

We also enjoyed the fact that some of the wood is left untouched on many of her pieces. This is probably a practical decision as well as an aesthetic one. It lets the grain of the maple become part of the image. The empty areas are an interesting contrast to her detailed mark making and remind us that these are not your typical illustrations.

Not your average Easter eggs

Ah, the smell of vinegar and boiled eggs first thing on Easter Sunday morning. The little colored tablets of food dye. That pesky wire dipper that was supposed to “hold” your egg while you drowned it in ultramarine blue. Pffft, that thing never worked – you always had to steady the egg with your other hand anyway. Thanks, Paas. Who else remembers a plastic tool some kits included? – it held a marker in place while you turned your egg and was supposed to make lines all the way ’round the surface. Invariably, the lines would end up jagged, appearing to indicate a crack in the shell. For those of us who are haunted by that annual failure, there’s the new and improved solution: the Egg-Bot. This contraption goes for $200, but you’ll never again be shamed by that know-it-all Susan Meriwether and her paisley egg designs at the neighborhood Easter egg hunt. If the Egg-Bot intimidates you, there are still plenty of old world solutions to expressing yourself with chicken embryos. These Ukrainian women are making Pysankas. Pysaty means “to write” and Ukrainian Easter eggs are decorated using a wax-resist method called batik. Batik is more commonly seen used in decorating fabrics. But many Easter European countries have long used it for writing on eggs with beeswax, rather than painting them. What’s the biggest pysanka ever made, you ask? Easy – it’s in Vegreville, Alberta. It’s three and a half stories high and was commissioned in 1975 as an acknowledgment to Canada’s Ukranian culture. If you’re looking for something a little smaller (and easier), you could always pass off some pop art designs with acrylic paint, rather than dyes or wax. Here’re some Roy Lichtenstein-inspired eggs – equally satisfactory to the comic book nerd in the family. We hadn’t seen this before, but evidently using silk neck ties to transfer the patterns onto eggs is an easy short cut to some fancy designs. If after all this, yer still not inspired to let your artist’s flag fly this week, well, there’s a little box you can buy that’ll practically do the work for you. And if they don’t come out gallery-worthy, you can always eat the results.

Cardboarders unite!

Cardboard workshopHow many of us give a discarded product a second life by repurposing it? Recycling an item by using it again in a way that was not intended is the whole idea behind Cardboarders, a website about “people with a fetish for cardboard.” Cardboarders seeks to promote “playfulness, inventiveness and other experimental and creative behavior.” On it, you’ll find music videos, cardboard-intensive crowd events, art installations, and a wide range of different events where the material is featured. If you think you’ve seen wearable cardboard before, trust us – nothing compares to some of these wardrobe examples. There’s even a town built out of cardboard, called Cardboardia! Here’s a sampler of what you’ll find, including a music video from their library of films that use cardboard.

CardboardiaOxfam Where the Wild Things Are festivalwearabletown

Wire these drawings so amazing?

CW Roelle wire drawing 6Take a look at these drawings by Providence, RI based artist CW Roelle. We were intrigued just as much by the unique choice of medium and the effort involved as we were by Roelle’s unusual choice of subject matter. “What, drawings made out of wire? Oh, okay. What, drawings made out of wire of a guy moving his lawn? Whaa-?!”
You can see more of his intricate work in our very own neck of the woods at 13FOREST Gallery in Arlington, MA – many of the pieces are for sale.

CW Roelle wire drawing 4

CW Roelle wire drawing 2

CW Roelle wire drawing 5

CW Roelle wire drawing 3

CW Roelle wire drawing 1

CW Roelle wire drawing 1 detail

Photography: It’s all in the timing

seagull-takes-ice-cream-perfect-timingNow that everyone is a world-class photo editor thanks to programs like Photoshop, it’s hard to believe anything we see online. But there are still photographs out there that are captured naturally and look more amazing than anything someone could “cut” & “paste” together. The fine folks over at Twisted Sifter put together the 50 Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever. Several of them are internet classics, but some were unknown to us and too impressive to not share them. We picked a handful of our favorites, both beautiful and hilarious.

soccer player balances the sun




bird berry





woman falls into pool

It’s made out of paper!

paper-shirtThis shirt, the Eames chair, that bench – all of these items are made out of paper. Vincent Tomczyk crafts them by hand, creating amazing details and textures that completely disguise the paper, making you think you could wear it or sit on it – the jean shorts even have functioning pockets. As amazing as the clothes are, we kinda get them. It’s the furniture that’s mind-blowing. It has such weight & substance to look at.







Here’re some photos of a grandmother & her chicken

Mamika and Bob working outWe thought you deserved to wrap up the week with some whimsical photos that’ll take your mind off the winter weather. Photographer Sacha Goldberger produced this series that features his 94-year old grandmother “Mamika” with her friend, Bob the chicken. As you can see, Mamika’s age and Bob’s fowl nature do not stop them from getting around town and living life to its fullest.

Mamika and Bob photography

Mamika and Bob in car

Mamika and Bob at lunch

Mamika and Bob with rose

Newsflash: Superheroes spotted at the Norman Rockwell Museum!

At the NRM with SupesPut on your best cape and let’s fly to the Norman Rockwell Museum! Today’s post is by one of our store managers and resident comic book nerd, Jake.
I was online last Friday morning when I read that a friend was going to see an Alex Ross exhibit at the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. I was flabbergasted! How in all of geekdom did I not know about a show of one of my all-time favorite comic book artists that was going on just a couple of hours away?! Even more catastrophic, it was ending in 2 days! This was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see some very famous (for comic book fans, anyway) original pieces of his painted superheroes. I managed to take the afternoon off from work (hey, we got a blog post out of it), grabbed my wife along with her niece & nephew, and made like the Flash to western MA .
IMG_3553Alex Ross Batman bustIt was amazing! I was familiar with nearly every artwork in the exhibit – they were all on my bookshelf at home. While some pieces were high quality reproductions from Ross’s own collection, many were the actual paintings. Seeing Aquaman or the Green Lantern in the scale that they’d been rendered, with all the little details that you don’t see in the published versions, was something I didn’t think I’d ever get to do. Aquaman & Hawkman by Alex Ross
Ross became known in comic books when the medium was on a real downturn – there was a glut of junky art and mediocre stories in the early 90s. He brought a fresh look and gave iconic characters back their prestige. His classical approach to depicting super heroes with incredible realism hadn’t really been seen like this before. Typically, publishers use 3 aritsts – a penciller, an inker, and a colorist. But Ross told stories thru painting all of his own work. Not many artists can please fans like he did and make the leap into the mainstream where his work became known outside of just avid collectors.
If it seems strange that the Norman Rockwell Museum would be hosting a show of comic book art, it’s because Rockwell’s work has always informed Alex Ross’s paintings – he’s never made a secret of that. After noticing the close resemblance between some of the pieces, more cynical people might say that he’s ripping off the great American artist. Personally, I love that there’s such a strong tie between the two. It makes sense to me because comic books and Rockwell’s images are so very American. And I enjoy the idea that Rockwell’s sensibilities help elevate these characters that many think of as being cartoonish or goofy. But with Ross’s help, visitor’s to the show left with the same impression of these heroes that those of us who visit our local comic shop live with everyday.
Here’s a great comparison of the two artists, along with Ross’s own words about how Rockwell’s illustration for the United Nations inspired him.
Norman Rockwell United Nations“What impacted me so strongly here was the flatness of the composition in imagining all these people swapped out for superheroes, which I did, there’s something very powerful to that. Something too that I engaged with from how this particular pencil piece worked, is that the foreground figures of the United Nations members are lit by some kind of overhead light which separates them from the background figures. He also had a way of illuminating subjects where it felt very realistic in a way that would help me get across the idea of wanting to render these fantastic characters realistically. I wanted you to believe them. I wanted you to look at them and believe that they could be real, but also legitimate too. That the idea of being real people was not devoid of the fantasy that they were also embracing – that the two things seemed utterly understandable and realistic.”
Alex Ross JusticeThis isn’t our first post about Alex Ross’s comic book art. Take a look at the time we got to frame one of his original drawings!