The drive to River North Brewery, while normal on the surface, borders on the surreal in my mind. I have a box of hardcover books of 'Azreya, Aztec Priestess' packed along with my vending setup ensemble. The paperbacks arrived at Tricia's home earlier that day, and bookmarks not long before. Last week when I visited the Amazon website to copy the link for the book, I noticed that we're a #1 New Release in our categories. Every bit of this process is brand new to me and the speed at which it's come together has been astonishing...
The writer Tricia Copeland, and I, started with a handful of concepts: A mark connected with a creature aspect, psychic abilities, a rough starting point on her journey, and her name 'Azreya'. Tricia researched and would share that the name happens to translate to 'Powerful Queen', which would come to define the thrum of the story. Each of us are born and then given a name, but in Azreya's case she was given a name, and thus born.
Each corner of this book has been touched with a collective commitment to craftsmanship. At the beginning, we've included a map of Mexico Valley, a glossary of terms for readers to learn about the culture, and as an extra the concept sketches at the very back of the book. The pride in this creation comes through in our excitement when we present it at our first book opening. A handful of some of our close friends and family gather at the hall of the River North Brewery, as Tricia reads through the prologue and first chapter.
I feel immediately endeared to Azreya and her journey from the first 15 pages. The first thing I want to do when Tricia finishes reading is to hear how our audience is receiving the story and Azreya's character. We begin to discuss how we don't see many narratives like this one honoring Aztec culture, the lack of world myth representation, the only live action Aztec centered movie we can think of is Apocalypto, and the need for recognition of the 'outsider' experience.
Photo credit: Helena Karchere, of Tricia and I at River North Brewery
Ideas circulate the room about how and where best to share this story, who may gain the most from what we have to offer, and how the formulation of this book can be emboldening for people to pursue their own exciting creative projects. Zach a.k.a. M Dibby Love half jokingly asks "When's the movie coming out?" (Hey, let's not rule anything out). All in all the show was as much a success as one could hope for. It certainly didn't hurt that everyone picked up at least one copy, some as many as 4 (One cool thing about a book is that it's definitely a thing to buy some for others as well as yourself).
Now onto some more fun details: Our next show will be at Gypsy House Cafe on Broadway September 10th, 1-3pm. For those who've never been, the coffee house is lined with detail bringing the gypsy spirit to life through the aesthetics. My art is currently featured in the intimate back room setting. We're planning for 2 more subsequent events at Redline Art Center and Superior Community Center, respectively.
Tricia and I have shared a giveaway over social media offering 1. A signed paperback copy of the book, 2. Jaguar mug, and 3. Custom illustration of Azreya. We currently have over 100 entries, and the book officially released on the 23rd. A selection of this round of hardcovers will feature painted page edges (For those who haven't seen this application, it's a somewhat new trend and can add an awesome flair to our literary adventures)
I for one am massively grateful for this whole process, the results, and prospect of future unfoldings.
Murals and Commissions
Okay, I'm making a pivot in my services and getting back into the mural game. It's been a few years since I started and now seek to dive in again with renewed commitment. I love telling stories over these huge surfaces, and yes I definitely want to bring in the good mural monies. I'm most experienced with indoor designs but have also airbrushed outdoor window murals.
Photo credit: Matt Maes, 'Wine, Whey and Wonderment' at Wine & Whey
Adorning walls with art transforms what was once ordinary into a place of wonderment. When I look at a blank canvas, I see an opportunity to draw from imagination into the physical world where everyone can experience it. A big part of my mission as an artist is to unlock the sense of creative possibility in as many ways as I can. What better way for me to do this than through visual storytelling?
I place an emphasis on 'storytelling' throughout my art. I relish in taking multiple ingredients and blending them together in such a way that allows viewers to go on a journey - Just enough definition to set a foundation, yet open ended enough for exploration. People often tell me that they can come back to the same piece and see new things each time. Knowing this, I make sure to do justice to each detail where people may look. I do this joyfully in service of maintaining the suspension of disbelief which keeps viewers engaged.
I start by getting a clear idea of the owner and their space, and employ active listening for what stands out as characteristically unique. From there, we can come together on a shared vision. I then take my imagination to the sketchbook and present concepts. I don't begin until we agree on a design that we can both be proud of - For me to create and for you to cherish. I create a timeline and budget based on materials, take 50% payment up front and the rest at the end. All of this goes into a contract.
I first prepare the wall (or walls) by removing the dust from the area by gently wiping then sanding. Next, I block out the wall from the floor using painter's tape and a protective cloth. If it's outdoors I'll power wash and apply primer. Once I begin on a mural, I devote the lion's share of my focus towards the project and don't accept less than an outstanding finished project. I may use a short throw projector if I'm using a specific design from my laptop, to the dimensions of the wall.
Now in the case of specific commissions on canvas, my specialty is custom mythic portraits. Say you specifically identify with the characteristics of certain deities, I would love to convey this connection through my art. (My close friend Scott Mason a.k.a. The Myth Slayer, who helps people rewrite their personal myths, often speaks about mythic avatars. Yours truly aligns most closely with Prometheus and Freya.)
Intentionally created artwork can act as a mirror to direct our focus, deepening our relationships with the divinities. We can also use these same means towards self awareness through portraits of ourselves depicted as deities which share our own characteristics. This can be a gift to yourself or to honor others at weddings or anniversaries, in memorium, any special recognition ceremony, or regardless of occasion.
It should go without saying that due to the subjective nature of art, connecting with communities which most closely align with your craft is simply good practice. For myself, I do my best work with people who appreciate the spiritual, symbolic and/or mythical in their own lives. (I'm definitely not aiming to have my work adorning dentists offices but if they want to buy, hey, I certainly won't stop them). I like to think of places that I already like to go (Don't worry, my teeth are doing just fine). Helena and I greatly enjoy ecstatic dance at Rhythm Sanctuary where I recently vended at their Community Showcase event.
Photo credit: Helena Karchere, at Rhythm Sanctuary
We also regularly attend the interfaith Mile Hi Church. We appreciate being able to find meaning in world traditions which makes the messages all the more relevant. I've long been fascinated with seeking universal patterns in nature, psychology, and beyond.
I've come to discover that no one person or institution has the complete, total and final answer to the structure of reality. That being said, when we apply true curiosity, humility and discernment, we can bring ourselves into increasing levels of alignment with reality, however many ways our perceptions may shift along this journey of understanding.
Both Mile Hi Church and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco feature a winding labyrinth representing the twists and turns of life, and our own perceptions along the way. We could ask ourselves why it is that we don't begin life having everything figured out, but when we realize life as a process of unfolding then it makes sense why we may begin in ignorance, longing for understanding. We live in a time space reality where our choices are informed by the nature of our experiences and essential natures, and it's exactly this process of unfolding that informs our core sense of self.
Photo credit: Helena Karchere, at Grace Cathedral
My heart is with those who thirst as I do for an enriching sense of meaningfulness in this life experience. I can tell you from being historically religious as well as atheistic, suicidal and redeemed of deep suffering, playing the fool and striving towards mastery, nothing tastes sweeter than to be at one with yourself and grateful for the gift of life: At-One-Ment. I may meet you once for a fleeting moment on a street corner, or perhaps we may become fast friends. If I can participate in creating these golden moments even for brief slices of time, call me Johnny Appleseed.