Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent and (not so) Recent Art Happenings

I think I need an intern. Preferably one who possesses a Masters in marketing. Recently it seems I haven't had the time to update much of anything besides the occasional instagram post, and hence this tragically belated novel of a blog post

Last year finished out with a wonderful bang, and I had the honor of traveling to Art Basel Week in Miami with Hashimoto Contemporary. I brought along four works which were shown at the Scope Art Fair on the dazzling sand (literally) of Miami beach. 

Drawings by Joel Daniel Phillips at Scope Art Fair, Miami

The show was a wonderful success, and I was ecstatic to hear that my works were sold out as I stepped onto the plane back to San Francisco halfway through the fair week. It was an incredible experience seeing so much of international art world in one place. Having the ability to gain a bird's-eye view of what is currently happening in contemporary art was equal parts inspiring and intimidating.

Drawings by Joel Daniel Phillips at Scope Art Fair, Miami

I created two life-size works for the show, in addition two 18x24" portraits. The works are continuing my ongoing body of work 'No Regrets in Life'. I particularly enjoyed drawing my second portrait of Spaceman O.T. (on the far right), a recurring subject who has begun to spread his fabulous cult of personality outside of my immediate neighborhood. If you venture through the Tenderloin or Mid-Market neighborhoods soon, be on the lookout for a gruff, wheelchair-bound gentleman with a motorcycle helmet doing something completely contrary to your expectations. These activities include, but are not limited to, directing rush-hour traffic with a rape whistle and sweeping the sidewalk while simultaneously making light-saber noises and humming the Star Wars Theme.

Robert with a Horse. Charcoal and Graphite Drawing on Paper by Joel Daniel Phillips
Robert with a Horse. Charcoal and Graphite Drawing on Paper by Joel Daniel Phillips

The months since Basel have been mostly filled with commissioned work. More than a year ago I was sitting on a milk crate talking to my friend Robert. In the midst of the conversation he paused, pointed over my shoulder to the downtown San Francisco sidewalk, and asked: "do you see that horse?" At that exact moment the unforgettable scent of alfalfa struck my nose. I turned, impossibly expecting that there would somehow be a horse on the busy sidewalk at the corner of 6th and Mission.

I didn't see one, but I'm still not sure whose sense of reality was correct. I've been wanting to make a drawing of Robert with a horse ever since I had this experience. A huge thanks to the collectors for their generous enabling this exploration of perception, imagination and reality.

Recent Commissioned Work
I had a blast installing the finished and framed piece in the collector's stairwell.

The above piece was created from a reference supplied by the collector, and it was fun to work from an image shot by a different set of hands. The subject was a street vendor in Bhutan. I particularly enjoyed working on the luscious folds of his gho (traditional Bhutanese shirt). I was also made a bit jealous of his wonderful hat. If anyone knows where I can purchase one like it I would be ecstatic.

Nate / Buzzard luck, Charcoal and Graphite on Paper by Joel Daniel Phillips
Nate / Buzzard luck, Charcoal and Graphite on Paper by Joel Daniel Phillips

Finally, another recent commission was of Nate, a subject-turned-friend who lives in my back alley. Nate is a U.S. Army veteran, artist and closet philosopher. The piece was accompanied by text with one of my favorite sayings of Nate's: "There's no luck, there's good luck, there's bad luck and there's buzzard luck."


Mar 8 - Mar 29, 2014:  "In Dreams" a David Lynch Tribute |  Spoke Art Gallery  |  San Francisco, CA
June 6 - July, 2014:  Empty Kingdom Group Show  |  111 Minna Gallery  |  San Francisco, CA
Sept 2014: Solo Exhibition | Hashimoto Contemporary | San Francisco, CA

Monday, February 3, 2014

Red Rising: Building the World

Something going on two years ago, I sat down for a glass of scotch and a pipe smoke with my older brother's roommate from college. I had met the infamous Pierce Brown before, but my limited and hasty first impressions led me to a wayward and thoroughly off-base decision that I wasn't much of a fan of this Pierce character.

Several glasses of scotch and two bowls of Matt's Blend later, I realized just how wrong I was. We talked art, dreams, creative visions, and most memorably about Pierce's recently finished novel: Red Rising. We dreamed about creative collaboration, and how someday, once Pierce was published, I would create art for the book. Sigils for colors and paintings of space battles danced in my dreams.

On January 28th, Red Rising was officially offered to the public via Random House. True to his word, Pierce allowed me the honor of helping to visualize some of the world he created, and for the last year+ I've been working with the wonderful folks over at Random House to design elements for the Red Rising book.

I don't normally post my design work on this blog, but it was such a fun project that I thought I might as well.

Red Rising

The first piece I worked on was a poster. Red Rising is set in a world where humanity has spread to colonize the solar system. In this future empire, society is stratified into color coded castes with Golds on top and Reds providing the forced labour that enables the society to function. The project was to design a Gold propaganda poster that has been defaced by 'terror' cell seeking to overthrow the class system.

The next piece I worked on was the map for the interior of the book. The book follows Darrow, a member of the lowest caste in a color-coded society, as a personal tragedy causes him to be thrown into a dangerous quest that requires him to infiltrate the highest caste of society in an effort to take them down from within. This journey lands Darrow in the Elite Gold academy, The Institute, where Gold children are sent to ruthlessly battle each other for domination. Those who come out on top win the best placements and postings throughout the empire.

The children are split up into Houses, and part of the map design was inventing crests for each house. 

Here's a higher quality image of the map as well. 

The next bit of the project was designing sigils for each of the fourteen colors of Pierce's world. Almost colors are rooted in alchemical symbols - Red is tied to the the alchemical symbol or Iron and Mars, Gold off of Gold, and so on. 

The Red Sigil, playing with the
 alchemical symbol for Iron/Mars

The Gold Sigil

The Blue Sigil. Blues are the navigators
and pilots in the spacefaring society.

The White Sigil. Whites are the doctors of
Pierce's world. 

The Violet Sigil. Violets are the
artists and creators in Red Rising.

The Silver Sigil. Silvers are the third tier,
tinpot police and soldiers who keep the lower
colors living in fear. 

A look at all of the color symbols from Red Rising side by side.

The Red Sigil even ended up on the spine of the book!

I've had a complete blast so far working with Pierce and the wonderful folks over at Random House on this project. It's certainly a dream come true, and I'm ecstatic that this is the 1st of a trilogy as I can't want to take a crack at the next two.

A huge thanks to Pierce Brown, Joe Scalora and Caroline Cunningham.