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Something about taking a break/

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Hey -

It's been a while. Too long really. 

When I first committed to writing these blog posts, I made a promise (mostly to myself) that I would post one every week and it's been ... [looks at watch] ... nearly two months since my last dispatch. Yikes. 

Sorry for the radio silence but the truth is ... I needed a break.

I burned myself out pulling together spec work for a big editorial illustration gig (that fell through) and taking on several freelance jobs (that are going well) and avoiding death by daily news (I'm still alive) and grinding at my day job (we're growing) and then deciding to have another kid (it's a boy!) and so on. 

You know, life stuff.

But I've missed sending this email, and I hope you've missed receiving it, and I woke up today and decided I needed to get this thing back on track. So here we are.

There will be other breaks in the future because sometimes—sometimes—you just need to step away.

If I had to guess, I'd say the next break will probably maybe definitely coincide with the arrival of baby #2 at the end of February. Until then, I'll be here. 

Works in progress/ Sure, I haven't been doing the email thing for the last few months, but that doesn't mean I haven't been in the studio (I have). Here's a sampling of some new work

Making things to someone else's spec/ A few thoughts on commissioned collaging, working with other people's inspiration, and the endless process of searching through scraps. 

The revenge of analog/ Season three of the always excellent Hurry Slowlypodcast started last week. My favorite episode from season two was with journalist David Sax who argues on behalf of the tactile. 

Some other things/ This music video collage tripped me out ... a publisher wisely collected the collage works of John Gall ... speaking of books, Craig Mod explores the importance of margins .... there is a reason Devo is the greatest band ever ... and the art direction at Sovrn Skateboards is on point.

- Stephen 

PS/ I'll let this quote by Charles Henri Ford speak for me.

Something about taking stock of the good things/

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During times of uncertainty and overwhelm, I tend to take stock of the things that bring me joy. 

For example, sometime approximately, oh, 19 months ago, feeling very uncertain about what the future might hold, I made a list of my 100 all-time favorite albums.

This seemed like kind of pointless exercise, and yet I spent months working on the list, and this small act of building and organizing a list of things I knew I loved helped me regain a sense of control over my environment.

This same feeling is what drives me to collage, to cut up old magazines and glue their guts back together. There might be better forms of therapy, but this is what works for me.

Anyway... 

Here are those 100 all-time favorite albums/ According to me. Note: Only the top 30 are ranked in order; the rest are listed chronologically. 

A catalog of collage catalogs/ Again, recently feeling overwhelmed by current events, I decided to take stock of a few of my favorite books about my favorite subject.

Infinitely discardable/ A small bit of text from Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale caught my eye as I was re-reading the classic book. It's about the promise old magazines hold.  

Some other things/ My good friend's short story collection—All the Names They Used for God—got a killer write-up in the NY Times Book Review (which, as an added bonus, is accompanied by a stellar collage by John Gall; so win-win-win) ... two killer skate parts dropped on Thrasher this month: Zion Wright and Austyn Gillette ... and this supercut of dancing in movies is guaranteed to make you feel good. 

- Stephen

PS/ I'd love to know what albums would make your all-time list. 

Something More About the Time It Takes

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This week I had a small revelation.  

For years I had convinced myself that the total amount of time it took to make a collage was equal to the time it took to assemble a collage—essentially, the final gluing together. But that's definitely not the case. 

In fact, from the moment I cut up an image until one of its scraps find its way into a final work ... well, that process can take years. I don't know why it's taken me so long to realize this, but here are a few things that take no time at all to realize are awesome:

Living in a culture of images/ Collage idol John Stezaker on analog collage, the "universal amnesia of digital culture," and subtraction. (4 min video.)

Things that are part of the creative process that no one tells you/ This whole Twitter thread is worth reading, but this tweet was my fav. 

What I look like/ My three-year-old made paper-cut portraits of me and her mother. I dunno, I think she nailed it. 

Some other things/ I once subscribed to the Sunday print edition of the NY Times just for these illustrations by John Gall ... every month I make a playlist of good songs that I discover or rediscover (these are the tracks I found in May) ... and this ongoing project by designer Jenny Volvovski's to create new covers for books as she reads them is totally rad (and is something I've thought about doing myself). 

- Stephen

PS/ Why I collage

[Note: I send an email about cut-and-paste collage every third Friday. This is the June 8, 2018 edition.]

Something about collaboration

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I'm about to begin work on a large editorial illustration project (a serialized novel!) with the always awesome fiction writer Samuel Ligon, and I can't wait to get to started. 

Sam and I did a collection of short stories a few years ago and the process was surprisingly collaborative—I assisted in the shaping and editing of several stories while Sam provided me with great feedback on the visual elements. I anticipate this go round will be just as collaborative. More details soon. In the meantime ...

Speaking of collaboration/ Collage is almost always a collaborative effort. Or, at least that's my working theory.

Black & white & pink all over/ My most recent work has taken off in an unexpected direction (featuring black and white photos of faceless midcentury businessmen hidden beneath scraps of pinkish paper). I'm not sure where this series is headed, but I'm gonna roll with it and see where it takes me.

Cut-and-paste in motion/ I compiled a small collection of (mostly music) videos which show the versatility of collage. 

Some other things/ The work of collage idols Lou Beach and Jesse Draxler could not be any more different yet equally rad ... I don't skateboard as much as I used to but goddamn this part by Louie Lopez is 100% stoke—power, speed, and style.... and I tore through the novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (if you're into dystopian speculative fiction with heart, I recommend it). 

- Stephen

PS/ This kind of blew my mind.

[Note: I send an email about cut-and-paste collage every third Friday. This is the May 18, 2018 edition.]

Something else

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Happy almost May! The weather here in Pittsburgh has finally (finally!) flipped from winter to spring, and in honor of all this fresh newness, I too, have some new things to share ... 

The old becomes new & then new again/ Yup, I re-redesigned my website (again). Sure, overhauling a website twice in one month is, admittedly, a little insane, but definitely worth it. This one is a keeper. Peep the site here (& let me know what you think).

Old things for new walls/ I'm making a lot of new work this year and need to clear space in my studio ... so you'll notice that some images on the site have a link saying "AVAILABLE." I've added a small shop to the site and these links will direct you to the product page for each corresponding piece. The shop landing page is not public, but this link with allow you to see all of the available work.

Three minutes of paper cuts/ In late 2017, I completed an 8-week fellowship with fifteen other artists (all working in different artistic mediums: dance, photography, writing, film, painting, and so on). As a final assignment, the organizers asked us to give a three minute presentation about our work. Some fellows performed, others utilized PowerPoint ... I made this short video showing my process. 

Some other things/ Hands-down, this guy is probably my favorite collage artist working today ... this modest guide to productivity by designer Frank Chimero is pretty rad ... this music video is (unironically) amazing ... and, finally, this video collage is totally mesmerizing. 

- Stephen

[Note: I send an email about cut-and-paste collage every third Friday. This is the April 27, 2018 edition.]