Posters for the Portland Trail Blazers

I’m so proud of my Portland Trail Blazers NBA team for making the playoffs this year! Last year, 2017-2018, I had the high honer of making a few of the game-day posters. Each home game during the regular season, an artist is commissioned to make a poster. Needless to say, the project is a hit, and so many talented designers have made game-day posters.

In honor of the Blazers doing so well this season, I thought I’d bring out my old game day posters and see how they look. They still hold up! My posters were for the “Green Games”—that’s the five games celebrating the five pillars of the Blazers goals to right by the environment. The pillars are Waste, Water, Energy, Food and Transportation. So I made those five posters, in that order. Something neat: they all basically can connect to make one long panorama. Like this:


I’m not really allowed to reproduce any more of these posters, but I do have a set of Artist Proofs that I made available on my Etsy page here.

The Power of a Sign

I love walking. That is, I love taking walks. Sometimes long with no destination, sometimes just short errands like a few groceries for dinner. Portland neighborhoods are delightful for walking—an endless front yard display of interestingness. Some folks have the full front-yard vegetable or flower gardens, some are full of scattered toys and rope swings, some with rusted metal sculpture, some with lounging cats, and many with some form of signage. The most frequently seen signs in front yards, near the front door is a security system sign of some kind. It seems that guarding against burglary is high on the list, although I never knew Portland to have an especially high rate of crime, it does happen. People want to feel safe, it seems. There are lots of cats, either watching passersby from a window, the front porch, or the bold cats who step out and demand petting. Then there are the political signs, of course, and there are the values signs that say what’s important to the resident. My favorites are the homemade signs, like one gem I get to pass regularly that simply says, “You are not powerless.” The local Audubon society does a backyard bird habitat certification whereby residents to qualify get a neat sign explaining what a bird habitat entails.

In America, we have so much signage around us, especially advertising messages. But these yard signs I see are not commercial interests—they’re from the heart and show me what really matters to the residents. Sometimes lighthearted, sometimes interesting, always underlining that fact that you’re not alone, that we can engage in a type of sharing between ourselves and the neighborhood at large. I can guess that for most people, besides what you do on Twitter, these yard signs are the only way we declare our values to the public. My own garden sign designs are directly inspired by my treks through Portland neighborhoods. I too wanted to contribute to our neighborhoods’ atmosphere, the sense of peace and friendliness that we want to cultivate, and most of all, to declare what we feel is important.

This sign, while welcoming pollinators that are presumably hummingbirds, could apply to more than just birds and bees. Our friends and neighbors can be cross-pollinators of ideas and viewpoints, making our community stronger. I want to make signage for those who want an atmosphere of positive messages.

This sign, while welcoming pollinators that are presumably hummingbirds, could apply to more than just birds and bees. Our friends and neighbors can be cross-pollinators of ideas and viewpoints, making our community stronger. I want to make signage for those who want an atmosphere of positive messages.

Posters for Chicory Week

Here’s the kind of project opportunity that I cannot say no to. And in the end, we created three amazing posters that capture the beauty and spirit of old fashioned Italian village food Sagras, this time celebrating radicchio. These greens (but sometimes purple or yellow) come from Italy, where they’re cultivated and celebrated for their bitter taste. Now a few folks, farmers and chefs want to bring radicchio to the Pacific Northwest. And a simple announcement wasn’t enough—how about a real food festival, a Sagra as they’re known in Italy, to introduce the possibilities this unique and versatile green brings. That event is happening in Seattle this November 2, 3, 4 and you can learn more here:

As the poster designer, my brief was this: create a poster series that celebrates, the unique colors and styles of the radicchio, and make it seem like they’re having fun! With the idea of a classic Italian Sagra on my mind, and hoping to take my cue from the vintage food posters of the early 20th Century, I turned to Leonetto Cappiello. You may not recognize his name, but I’m sure you’ve seen his posters. He’s the maker of all those wonderful beverage poster advertisements, like Vermouth and Campari. One of his trademarks is some sort of dancing nymph or jester, dancing and laughing. That’s when I got the idea of a chicory ballet! The wonderful colors and shapes of the produce will be dancing and posing, celebrating their introduction and rebirth here in Seattle.

Beautiful and classical was what I wanted. The complementary colors, greens, yellow, reds all contribute to a festive atmosphere. In the slide show, you’ll see what my prime point of inspiration was, and of course the final.

The event organizers have allowed me to make a some prints available for sale to my wider audience. Quantities are limited. You may pick a single, or the whole set. My typical custom framing option is available. Sagra di Radicchio Posters

Printing the House Hold Poster Series

One of the original points of the VGoT poster project was to deliver messages to the home and community that contrasted the messages of food marketers, and asked us to imagine a future where we're more in-touch with what we consume. This is just a hunch, but I believe here in this post-scarcity world, us humans are still better adjusted when we participate in our own support. Even doing or making small things, because there are recipes and projects that we want to bring with us into the future. At least, that's some of the motivational thinking behind this new line of VGoT posters I'm calling the House-Hold Posters Series.

First up, a gorgeous new screen print edition. Actually we printed a single master sheet that was later trimmed to two posters and some handbills. Here's what that looked like:

House-Hold-series_Artboard 94-01.jpg

This is only 3-colors, each hand-mixed to my specs, then each print layed on top of the next to create the final image. Ink on paper! This is not off some conventional printing press, or inkjet. We used a heavy art paper that is archival and durable. Each one features the new House Hold Poster logo:

I'm so very happy with how these turned out. Too bad there are only 100 each of the Set the Table (12x18) and Pickle Dreamin' (11x14). Each one is signed and numbered. There are a few Artists' Proofs that I may make available later. If you would be interested in one of those, feel free to email me.

I don't think these will last very long--so if these appeal to you, I recommend getting one sooner than later! 

The Search for Metaphors

I've always been fascinated with language, and when I read George Lakoff's, Metaphors We Live By (1980), I knew why. Words paint mental pictures. They can quickly trigger the construction of large scenes and scenarios--all in the listener's mind. And American english is riddled with these colorful metaphors, like "ideas are food," for example. We might say, "here are the raw facts," or "we're digesting the information," or "I can't swallow that." 

My favorites are ones that explore ideas and ideals about social life and citizenship, and bonus points if it touches on what it means to be an American. There's the old "melting pot" metaphor, but I prefer the "salad bowl," which I understand is more of a thing in Canada. I also enjoyed Eric Liu's The Gardens of Democracy (2011) where society is a garden, and we are the tenders of the garden, contending with pests, while also nurturing and expanding our plot. I also like, "life is a long trail hike," where we just keep moving, overcoming obstacles. The ultimate classic is the motto of the USA: E Pluribus Unum, or "out of many we are one." Somehow lots of variety in peoples, are able to thrive under one law. 

I'm looking for more metaphors to illustrate V.G.o.T. posters and it has been a terrific line of thought. 

Had to take a little time

I didn’t totally realize it was a thing until this year. But it makes sense to use the down time of early January to take some time off. These past several years I’ve found myself exhausted after the holidays, usually nursing a cold from all my exposure to the public, and voice shot from all the talking (so many good conversations to be had). There’s also a certain concept exhaustion I feel. I’m just tired of looking and talking about my own stuff for weeks on end. Time off to think about other things can help all that. I used to think, “can’t afford down time!” But now I say, “can’t afford to not have down time.”  This January I spent a week with my brother Daniel who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. We just walked and talked, went to museums. Swapped my home cooking for pizza and coffee! There’s good perspective for me! Plus time at home doing the side projects, and the cooking that takes time. That was nice.

Anyhow, stay tuned for updates on my new projects this year. There’s new energy and renewed focus on garden signs as well as interesting new posters. 

What's the "Garden of Democracy"?

The title of my 2018 Calendar is a call to be active on your homefront. As much as I'm distraught with the things I read in the news, I try to keep a long view of America. That's why I like the metaphor of the citizen as a gardener. I think everyone is a kind of gardener, cultivating a life. Practical people like gardeners know that things take time, need good ground work and regular attention to be successful. 

"We have nothing to fear, but fear itself," said one of my favorite Presidents: FDR. We'll work through this time, emerge stronger, with lessons learned. "Gardeners of Democracy" is what we can call ourselves. In this way, I hope to make work that assuages anxiety, and builds confidence in our ability to work through adversity. 


Craftsman Graphic Styling

Inspired by the vintage Arts & Crafts styled homes of Portland, Oregon. The color schemes were chosen to serve as seasonal accent colors, while the line work draws from the beautifully built interiors of 1910's and '20's craftsman homes. Like another built-in shelf, this calendar will fit in any home.

The 21st Century is still America's Century

Right from the beginning, the VGoT was all about raising up our confidence, creating urgency to make America healthier, more positive place. Today, more than ever, that is exactly what we need. 

Looking back to 2007, when I began making the first posters for the VGoT, my feeling then was one of uncertainty, even fear. For whatever reason--some personal need I suppose--I wanted to make my community feel confident. I wanted to reduce their anxieties, and encourage them to be healthier. With 2008's election, we had a friend in the White House. The ground was made ready and we started to feel better, and treated ourselves better. Farmers markets took off, school gardens grew, lots of people now keep chickens, and children are becoming familiar with the garden and kitchen. None of that is lost, but it is time to once again find our people power, our homemade power, and get a new sense of urgency if we still want to make gains in public health.

The 21st century still beckons us, still calls out to us to keep building the home of tomorrow. 

New Utility Tote - the story behind the bag

Now available, my new Utility Tote Bag is a handcrafted item made right here in my studio.

Growing up, my mom was often sewing--whether fixing something old or making something new, she kept busy. I wanted to pay tribute to my mother's craft by creating my own project. What came to mind was a better grocery tote, not a wimpy-floppy thing; something stand-up sturdy and hardworking, as well as neat and interesting. 

I chose materials I admire, like work-wear sturdy canvas, and hardware details that are beautiful, like copper rivets. And finally I would embellish the bag with a screen print. After many trials, this is what I settled on. Roughly the size of a normal grocery bag, just a little bigger, and, of course, with a strong handle that's a wide 2-inches, making it easy on the shoulder, because this tote slides and cinches to become a shoulder bag. 

I've been field testing them for several months. Lots of grocery and farmers market trips where I really overloaded it. Several camping trips where it served as food bag, and later as tool bag. It has personally become my new favorite thing.

So much happening in the VGoT

It felt like a heap of work earlier this year (and it still kind of is), but now there is so much new and interesting things coming out of the VGoT project this summer. New screen print posters are a hit, and I can see why: they embody the lasting courage and very real shift Americans are making toward more fresh foods, staying more in touch with plants, and coming together over food. I call them my "Flagship Series".

The "Flagship" limited edition screen print series.

The "Flagship" limited edition screen print series.

The 2017 Calendar "Action Snack" listed today, and I'm so proud of the styling on this one--its to become a real classic. It features illustrations of my favorite snack foods in a dynamic, colorful presentation. These colors and subjects speak to the mood and feelings of the seasons.

Posters More Than Ever

Thank you for following my work with the VGoT poster series.  I love making posters because they are graphic art at it's most expressive and evocative. Posters can be made loud and demanding; or poised powerfully for quiet strength. Within a vertical rectangle, a poster can tell you what to do, or better yet, show you what you can do. Like a song on the radio, it should be interpreted metaphorically.

Illustrated posters still have a role to play for us modern Americans. I'm still excited when I get asked to make posters available for a community group. I hear from food pantry folks, and garden education folks. They all want to give an imaginative voice to their program, and I’m flattered that my illustrations connect with the energy of their real work in the community. From abstract to concrete-- I love it.

I'm currently reforming the VGoT. It's a project I can't get away from, nor do I want to. But it’s not quite what I wanted it to be. It should be more beautiful, more like a real classic item. It should lend itself to other unique goods that express quality, durability and beauty. That’s why I’ve begun sewing heavy grocery totes and printing on them; as well as fabricating my own wooden poster frames. I want more screen printing, which I’ve always loved—there’s nothing like real ink on paper or fabric. I hope to have these new items ready to share this summer.

Those little jolts of excitement, which propel me to the sketchbook, are coming more frequently now. The hard part is doing the weeding; that is, keeping what’s worth pursuing and tossing what should go to the compost. The thing I crave these days is a project which has an attractive neatness, expressive quality, and is proudly made in the USA. I want posters with a voice that is powerful and imaginative. Its coming along.

Thank you for staying with me! I promise to reward you with some first looks and special offers coming over the next few months. 

New "V for Victory" Series of Graphics

I'm very excited to present a new line of work this year that focuses on food and cooking. Why? Because that's where the action is! And I know because this year has seen me in the kitchen a lot more than usual. With my wife doing Teacher Education (she's going to be an Elementary School Teacher), that left me doing all the kitchen duty. I love to cook, but when you're busy the favorite things are the simple things!

Last year, the focus was on an active, strong voice to promote feelings of change ("Courage & Progress"). Now with this year's interest in cooking with fresh foods, I want to express my wonder with the simplest pleasures of food, and generally promote interest around cooking fresh foods at home. So my first project with this in mind is the new 2016 Calendar "Action Snack."

I love simple things, almost like stuff kids eat these days. Tomato, avocado and salami on a cracker, for example. That one is actually something my wife and I call "camping sushi." Or oatmeal and raisins, or the cut apples which I eat probably everyday, and the rainbow carrots.  My sense of wonder and awe is communicated by putting a little movement in each month's design; a feeling of weightlessness, like floating. Imagine watching cheese and a peice of apple pie falling in slow-motion onto a plate. Many of these are my comfort foods, feel-good foods. I like how I feel when I eat stuff like this. The sense of color was important. At first, I wasn't sure about doing full flood colors on each page but then I realized you need that attitude, that strong statement to make the proper feeling happen; a feeling that I associate with the months of the year. I'm feeling like this project will be setting the style & tone for the 2016 edition, and I can't wait to get started.

New Work for the Home Kitchen

As I learn more about organic produce, the more I like it. There was a time when I thought "oh, geez, here's another way for the grocery to charge more for produce." But after getting to know the folks at OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) I realized organic means more than just "no spray". It represents a holistic set of farming practices that protect the land, the people, and even the wildlife. I'll have more about this issue later this year, but in the meantime I'm very excited to present this new poster for Organics: Today's Victory Vegetables. 

This summer I've become more interested in cooking and preparing better meals. Making food at home is just inherently healthier, it seems to me. So I decided to create a few prints that may inspire a bit more home-cooking.  For this mid-year Edition I was thinking about the practice of making stock chicken broth from a roasted chicken-- one of my favorite and economical practices. We do this and use the broth for all kinds of recipes, like rice or noodle soups. And cabbage is both nutritious and versatile, showing up in cuisines around the world. 

Coffee with Pollan

I got up early this morning and had the pleasure of doing some thoughtful re-reading, over coffee, of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," Michael Pollan's classic exploration of American food ways. Part technical, part philosophical, his story informed so many of my views on food and home cooking; it was nice to review that today. It was like checking in with myself and where the VGoT project is going. Pollan's visionary book came out in 2007, and here we are in 2015, still wondering about the value versus cost of organics, the proper role of processed and packaged foods, whether or not Whole Foods supermarkets are a boon or a scourge. And that was the thing that jumped out at me: big organic versus the local organic. I generally take a broader view that is happy that we're discussing the kind of organic we want at all. But if big organic can serve more people who ordinarily wouldn't go to a food coop or a farmers market, then I say that's a win. And remember, organic is always GMO-free. Overall, I have to say I'm optimistic and encouraged by the changes that have taken place over the last ten years in the food culture of America. So much is up for discussion these days that was considered fringe thinking ten years ago. Consider school lunches and school gardens, or even industrial food makers who are dropping unnatural additives. I'm not declaring "victory!", but I'm encouraged. Change takes time, but it's moving. I'm excited by all the people who are interested in cooking more, refocusing on real family meals, or tinkering in the vegetable garden. Thanks again, Pollan, for articulating those complex issues so well. And now, as a guy who draws pictures about food, I'm wondering, what's next?


Old dog-eared copy of one of my favorite book.

Old dog-eared copy of one of my favorite book.

The Space-Age Gardener

A little bit of WWII-era homefront propaganda, a little Omnivore's Dilemma, a bit of Tomorrowland plus some space Legos and I think you start to get the inspiration for "the Victory Garden of Tomorrow". In my latest show, the "Victory Garden" goes to space where we can imagine having space gardens in an orbital farm, or chickens on a low-gravity moon base.

Screaming Sky Gallery in Portland invited me to present a show of my work. They have this fun and adorable designer toy shop. So it made sense to make that the place to debut a new batch of designs. I've been wanting to expand the world in which my long sturdy "astro-gardener" has lived. This guy is one of the original ideas, and seems to have a following. So, I asked myself, what else goes on in his world? There has to be chickens, and a larger capsule garden. What about an orbital farm? And how did they get up there? 
And then, there's Earth Day, a very special holiday with a special story. The Earth Rise photograph by Apollo astronauts showed us how fragile and special is our home planet. It's like the "victory garden" went to space in these handful of designs. They were fun to make, and now they're available in the Design Shop under the Explorer Collection.