Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Halloween!

So rather than watch the Giants' game last night, Monkey + Seal took a little break from their art and headed to downtown San Francisco to the Asian Art Museum for their last Matcha event of the year. Matcha is an evening-type event that happens every other month from February-October at the museum, and features a cash bar, entry into their special exhibits (which usually requires a special ticket), and performances and art making activities and other fun stuff.

This was our first Matcha, and at $10, it was definitely a steal. We got there late since Monkey had to work, but we got to breeze through the museum and check out some really awesome art from around Asia. We then caught up with a large group to hear the last story being told by a docent in the gallery.

Then, we hit up the main event of the evening. The amazing storytelling/music duo of Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu (and company). Blending fusion jazz with theatrical storytelling, "Mermaid Meat" was AWESOME. It was really inspiring to see the spoken story being brought to new dimensions by a dramatic telling with the creepy atmospheric hauntings of the music. If you read this in time, they're actually doing what I assume to be a similar show on October 31 at Yoshi's San Francisco.

We then checked out the Beyond Golden Clouds exhibit, which featured a lot of old-skool Japanese folding screens. Both Seal and Monkey were inspired by the expertise of the brushwork, and with one screen in particular that seemed to master the economy of line, hinting at mountains and rivers shrouded in a bank of fog with the slightest value changes and brush strokes.

We saw another mini-concert/performance by Brenda, Mark and Co., and then we sped off to grab some dinner. Overall it was an awesome night, and we couldn't really beat the show for the $10 ticket price. Woo!

Because we're inspired by the mood of the season, we've decided to share with you a little scary story we've co-written (it's kind of long for a blog post, just be warned!). Enjoy and have a happy Halloween! We are proud to present: The White Door

On Sam's way home from work, he would generally keep to the same route, down Lincoln, right at the corner store, down two blocks on Woodsbury, and then left onto Ausiel, which took him past a few blocks of old Victorians til he got to his apartment. He deviated from this route rarely, only if he needed to pick something up from the dry cleaner's of perhaps some limes at the corner store.

One day, on a unremarkable day like any other, as he walked down Ausiel he looked up and noticed a door he had never seen before. Granted, he didn't look up focusing on noticing strange doors on a daily basis, but he noticed that at the peak of a house, presumably where the attic might be, lay a strange, whitish door that was left ajar.

At first, Sam though he had seen a dim light in the room casting strange shadows about. Although the door had no strange markings besides a round-ish crystalline knob and a shiny white finish, Sam couldn't get it out of his head when he went to sleep that night.

The door didn't quite make sense. It seemed to jut out into open space - why would you make a door leading to a four-story fall? If it was just for decoration, then why was it a full door and not a window?

That night, as Sam slept, he saw the door, closer this time, as if he was flying. This time, a strange greenish light seeped out and as he approached the door a black cat suddenly jumped out and hissed at him, waking him just as his alarm clock was about to go off.

As the days turned into weeks into months, Sam would occasionally glance up towards the door, and it seemed to always be open, almost beckoning for him to enter. While he didn't even know how he could get up there, he was quite curious, but never curious enough to take any sort of action.

Soon it was October, and with the crisp fall air sweeping through the streets and talk of Halloween costumes filling the water cooler chatter. The month quickly flew by, and with Halloween falling on a Saturday that year, parties were being thrown left and right.

Sam, dressed as a scarecrow, decided to venture with his friend Paul to check out a few different parties to celebrate Halloween. After staying longer than expected at a nearby bar, he found that he and Paul were unexpectedly close to his house. While things were already getting a bit loopy after the shots at the bar, Sam was relieved when they walked back on Ausiel to what was familiar territory for Sam.

As he waited with Paul and some other guests outside the apartment complex to get buzzed in, Sam was suddenly hit with a jolt of familiarity. The apartment building looked really, really familiar to him. As the buzzer went off and the gate was opened, he realized he was at the same building that had that strange door on its roof.

As Sam went in, he suddenly felt the urge to climb the stairs to see if he could finally find out what was going on with the strange door, but Paul threw his arm around his shoulder and led him into a ground-floor apartment.

"Whose party is this?" Sam asked. Paul just shrugged and informed him that it was the resident manager's apartment, but that the guy was a friend of a friend. As Paul scampered off to procure some more drinks, Sam absently rode the buzz and started looking around. The apartment wasn't lit very well, and dark curtains hung from every corner, dividing the room. Fake cobwebs were strung up upon bookshelves and on cheap prop candelabras decorating table tops.

As Sam made his way deeper into the party, pushing past the billowing black curtains and costumed guests towards what he assumed was a bathroom. When he finally found the door he assumed to be a bathroom, he pushed it open to find that it was actually some sort of closet. It was only a few square feet, but surprisingly, it was nearly empty, save for some long black coats that hung from a clothing bar stretched across the width of the closet.

What surprised Sam even more was that in the darkness, he could see light oozing out of a crack in the back wall of the closet. He looked back to see if he was being watched, but all he saw were guests dancing and completely engaged in their conversations. He stepped forward and found that the back wall wasn't a wall at all, it was a door. A door he had seen before every day on his way home from work.

Sam's pulse started to race and emboldened by the alcohol in his system he closed the closet door behind him and started groping into the closet, gently pushing away the coats. His hand ran against smooth, porcelain-like molding until he came to what found what he was looking for. As soon as his hand wrapped around the door handle, he knew it was the same door. Crystalline door handle set in an ornate steel locking mechanism, smooth porcelain finish, Sam had seen it a thousand times before and just feeling it in his hand, he could see it even in the dark.

As Sam slowly turned the handle and stepped past the hanging clothes, he found himself in a narrow passageway, seemingly between the walls of the apartment building. Naked wooden beams and posts surrounded him, foam insulation sprayed on either side of him. A bare lightbulb hung from a ceiling too high to see and disappeared into the darkness above him.

Sam slowly progressed down the claustrophobic hall, noting that he could hear sounds of the party through the thin walls. He came upon a rickety wooden staircase that ascended upwards into darkness. As he took careful step after careful step, he could hear sounds of other apartments now, horror movies being watched, other parties, bed creaks and moaning. He climbed the stairs for what seemed like a lot longer than he should have been able to, but he pressed on in the dim light.

Sam came suddenly to a dead-end. Was this it? Was this just some strange coincidence that led him to a wall of nothingness? It took a while for Sam to realize that he hadn't come to a dead end, but that the stairs simply turned to the left, as if it was spiraling up around the perimeter of the apartment building.

Sam continued to climb, this time in near darkness. As he stepped through the murky black, he wondered if this was some cruel trick - that eventually up here in the dark recesses of the building the stairs would just give in and he would tumble down to his doom, fated to be rot in the walls like some rat. But the stairs were study, and Sam continued to climb.

As time passed, Sam began to get confused. Was he really so drunk that he couldn't tell how far he had walked? He wasn't sure how many steps a flight of stairs would take to traverse the side of a building, but he had been walking for what seemed like a while, and he had already turned with the stairs five times now. Sam figured that he was, at the very least, above the entrance to the corridor, but the sheer height of it didn't quite make sense. He felt as if he had been walked up ten to fifteen stories worth of stairs, but the building was only four stories tall. He had made it a point to count out how many floors of windows the building had on multiple occasions.

Just as he was about to give up and turn back, through the darkness came a faint light, as if it was creeping through a door just slightly ajar. Suddenly Sam's resolve was back and he climbed on, slowing his pace so he would make less noise as he approached the pinnacle of the stairs. As the distance between them shrank, Sam noticed that it didn't seem to be made of porcelain. It was a bit too shiny, I looked more like polished bone.

Sam nearly laughed out loud at this thought, thinking it would be too absurd and impossible to find a bone large enough to carve an entire door out of. Just then, he could hear a strange chanting going on behind the door. As he neared, he attempted to slowly peek through the door, but leaning forward put off his sense of balance and as he stuck his hands out to brace himself, he ended up pushing the door in forcefully and stumbling inside.

Once inside, it took his eyes a while to adjust. Bright lights were directed towards the middle of the room where a metal table lay. After Sam rubbed his eyes, he found he was in a room with a tall, hooded man with deep-set cheekbones and old eyes. The man stepped foward and extended his hand. "Welcome Sam. I see you finally found the door you've been looking for."

" do you know my name?" Sam looked around, suddenly noticing that there were others in the room, all cloaked with their hoods obscuring their faces. "I'm really sorry to burst in like this, but you see.."

"Oh, we know all about you Sam," spoke the tall man. He motioned for Sam to follow him and walked towards the center of the room. "We know that you've been dying to know what this room is, and how it can exist where it does." Sam was speechless. "Do you know what floor you're on, Sam?"

"Uh, I dunno," stammered Sam, taken aback by the tall man's knowledge of him. "We're in the attic, above the sixth floor?"

"Nice try, but how about the thirtieth floor?" The tall man smiled, the creases of his lips extending a bit farther up on his face than a normal human's smile should Sam stepped back, hesitantly.

The tall man continued. "Sam, I could try to explain to you how the door works, or how we're on the thirtieth floor in a four story building, or I could even explain to you what new door we're actually trying to open, but instead.." Sam suddenly realized that two of the shadowy figures had snuck behind him, and they quickly grabbed him by his arms.

Sam struggled to free himself, but someone else had already grabbed his shoulders and was trying to hold him still. Then there were hands on either side of his head, and a sharp sting in his neck. His captors suddenly let go. Sam stumbled forward, then backwards, and suddenly found himself sitting in a chair. "But instead," the tall man took a step closer to Sam, "I'm just going to show you."

"Sam, you are going to be part of this little experiment tonight. If you hadn't realized, it's just about midnight, so we really should get started." The tall man reached into his cape and slowly drew out a long, thin knife. "I apologize that the drug we just gave you only interrupts your voluntary motor control. You won't be able to talk, or scream, for that matter, but the unfortunately part is that you will most definitely be able to feel."

Sam's body felt like a dead weight. His head became heavy and he sank deeper into his chair. He tried to scream for help, but his body wouldn't listen. Two of the figures lifted Sam up and started to carry him towards the center of the room. "Well, Sam, it's time for us to say good-bye. We really hate to do this to you, but you know what they say, curiosity skinned the cat. Yes, yes, I know the saying is that curiosity killed the cat, but I've never met a creature that really survives too long after being skinned alive, you know? Say 'meow.'"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to deal with Anxiety as an Artist

Seal here:
In the pursuit of your artistic endeavor, you may have probably come across anxiety revolving your art. As an artist you may be plagued in different areas or stages in the act of creativity. It can be towards the beginning: anxiety about what painting subjects to choose. So many stories to write. So many paintings to do! Where do I even begin. It can be in the middle of creating: "oh my god, where is this going?" "what was I trying to say in the first place" "will I find the strength and courage to finish this?" It can be towards the end of finishing a piece: "now that it's done, it'll be judged" "I"ll have to show it to people" "I'll have to try to sell it" Even in sports and theater, people have a name for it: performance anxiety.

Anxiety, not handled or minimized can and seriously hamper our creativity. It can even cause people to stop creating altogether. It can be paralyzing and become a misdirected self- guilt towards our own inaction. So, how can we make it better? How can we deal with anxiety?

Let's break it down: What is anxiety and what causes it? Anxiety is our body's system response to a PERCEIVED or REAL threat/stress. There is the physiological aspect to it: sweating, muscle tension, shakiness. Our body shuts down our digestive system and any access to carbohydrates (our normal way of getting daily energy), and instead our brain activates adrenaline and expends our stored emergency energy. For a short period, we may experience a burst of fight or flight response, but overtime our body wears out, unable to access our normal carbohydrates, we get tired, we crash and burn. It is not sustainable. It is not meant to be.

First, we need to understand that there is are positive and negative responses to anxiety. When we are faced with a "real threat," such as a lion who is charging at us, our anxiety becomes a positive (a much needed) respond, we run really quickly or climb a tree - anything to relieve us from the immediate and very real danger ahead of us.

How about when anxiety takes hold of us in our art: Whether we start painting A or painting B first. Does it pose a threat? to our life? career? or daily existence? Does it matter what we choose? In the grand scheme of things, yes, of course it matters - because you have to paint something that you like and is true to who you are, but will it kill you if you make the wrong choice?

So if you scored a never-before-heard-of contract with a gallery, it seems almost too good to be true. You get an uneasy feeling in your gut. Is it a real threat? We don't know.

Each anxiety must be evaluated individually: Is this a real or perceived threat? And only you ultimately can answer that in each case.

So do the research. You keep calling the gallery to make an appointment and no one ever returns your calls. You ask to visit the gallery ahead of time and they ask that you deposit your paintings first. Then, . . . probably, your anxieties were well-placed and had probably saved you. OR You find out that the gallery had great reputation among your well-known artist friends, you were nervous mainly about having to show your work, not about the gallery itself, then perhaps your anxiety is misplaced.

So what if we find out the threat was perceived, that it doesn't really kill us to choose Painting A or Painting B, but we still have anxiety about choosing, working on the art, or finishing the art. What we can teach you is how to minimize, handle, and ask the right questions in regards to each anxiety.

  1. First, grow in your awareness and acknowledgment of your own anxious thoughts/actions in regards to art. Seal gets very nervous before starting a painting.
  2. Voice out WHY you are anxious, What is it in particular that makes your nervous? : Seal grew up with critical people in her life, she is afraid that every piece of artwork is bad. She is afraid that she doesn't have good ideas, that she's not creative enough.
  3. How does the anxiety manifest itself? Seal has to have multiple cups of tea, stalling and procrastinating before putting any marks on the canvas. She goes on Facebook or checks her email multiple times, just stalling. Her negative anxiety of inaction begin a downward spiral in her mind, and she shuts down.
  4. If you know that this anxiety is recurring (every time Seal starts a painting), just knowing and anticipating the known anxiety is helpful. Given the circumstances, how would you, personally, minimize and deal with your own repeating anxiety? Seal braces herself: Okay, I'm going to have my 2 cups of tea, but no more. After 30 minutes of procrastinating, on Facebook, I will start. When I hear the negative self talk start, I will put a halt on it: I'm doing good. My ideas are good. I am creative. I have everything I need right now, in order to create.
  5. Scientists have pointed out that there are also two more ways to relieve stress/anxiety in general: you can physically take out your stress on something else (punching someone- not recommended, but you can buy a punching bag and it is shown to have the same impact in lowering anxiety.
  6. Also, taking action, ANY action (jogging, talking to friends on the phone, listening to music) immediately lowers stress, whether that action is directly correlated or not to solving your initial problem. (But afterward, tackle your art! There is a difference between initially relieving your stress with chronic avoidance).
Hope you know that as an artist, you are not alone. Many people deal with anxiety, most especially artists, because we are often putting our hearts out on our sleeves. But in the end, despite the fear, the agonizing pain, and anxious turmoil, when you have completed and created that art - hadn't it all been worth it?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting Your Work Out There - Part 3

Monkey drew this to be funny, but now he's seriously considering investing in a squid suit..

Today, we wanted to talk about the importance of getting your work out there into the world. For more on the getting yourself psyched up to show, check out Part 1, and for the business side of why you should get out there, check out Part 2. This is Part 3 (of 3) and will be about some practical ways to actually have your work seen.

While craft fairs/art shows, comic conventions are cool ways to get out there and sell some stuff, they do cost money to register for booths. If you really want to get out there though, these really are the best ways to do it. If you can't afford it now, try to save up, or sell art to friends, or even apply for artist grants. If you aren't ready because you don't have anything to sell, we recommend signing up for an event a while off, that way you can make a concrete deadline for those that need them.

If showing at one of these events isn't for you, however, there are a lot of ways that you can start getting the word out, most of them for very little cost. You could start a blog of your art for free on a site like blogger (what we currently use), wordpress (what we're going to migrate to eventually), or flickr or tumblr. There are lots of options and besides the cost of a computer and access to the internet (which you can access for free at most libraries), are all free.

Ideally, if you want to make a profession out of your art, you'll eventually want a website with your own personal URL or something, as it looks more professional. To start out, if you can afford it, I would even go and register a domain that you want (ie.,,, you get the idea), and you can even have it just redirect to your blogspot or tumblr account.

An example of this domain forwarding is Monkey's collaboration with his friend Matt Na Sal - their project can be found over at, but is actually just a tumblr blog.

Other key ways of getting out there is just having business cards made. You'd be surprised how often we ask artists for their card, and they don't have any. Make sure your name, website/blog, and your email and phone are all on there so they can get a hold of you! Monkey and Seal have both had business opportunities come up to a year later of giving someone a business card. It's a quick and easy way for people to find you, and you can get them printed quite inexpensively at someplace like PsPrint. If you're going to use them, we always appreciate you using our affiliate link here, but if not, no worries. You can get them even less expensive at Vistaprint, but we don't recommend them as their quality isn't quite up to snuff.

Along with business cards, if your budget can handle it, print up some postcards with your work on it. People always love free stuff, and if you leave them in coffee shops, stores, etc. (just make sure you get permission first - you don't want the owners dumping your cards), you'll find your audience as people who like your style will gravitate towards your cards, pick one up, and most likely will check out your website, later if not sooner.

Another way to show off your work in by participating in online forums and art communities. DeviantArt is one of the largest, and if you're into concept art, is unparalleled. Most of these communities have weekly/monthly challenges to get your inspired, and winners have gone on even to be hired by other companies! You can also get your weekly illustration topic on at Illustration Friday. Fun!

While all that online activity is free, once you're more confident in exposing your work, you should think about entering into contests. While there are a lot of contests out there that are sort of sketchy (ie. high entry fees for little-known contests), entry into annuals such as Spectrum and Society of Illustrator's Annual are big deals, and can pay back their entry fees tenfold - that is, if you can get in. Competition is quite stiff - you'll be competing with illustrators from around the globe - but it is frequently used by art directors to scout up-and-coming talent.

If you're not quite there yet, there are a lot of other ways to get your work seen. You can always show your portfolio to various coffee shops and bars to see if they'd be willing to hang some of your work. In San Francisco, the opportunities are nearly endless.

For those with organizational experience or are up for a challenge, you could always curate/organize/promote your own show. Monkey + Seal created Paper Hat Productions just for that reason - we wanted to get out and have really fun, super packed shows that people would remember. Seal ended up selling some of her originals as well as being commissioned for a personal piece, while Monkey has sold some paintings and picked up graphic design gigs through it. That said, it is quite a bit of work to put on a show, but if you are determined and willing to work hard, much can be gained from it.

Of course, once you get enough work (or you could always collaborate with a large group of your artist friends), you can always publish a zine or book about your art. Print-on-demand sites like Lulu and Blurb (two of the largest) make it easy to publish your own art book. If anything, you can use them to professionally print one or two copies of your portfolio. Having your own hard-bound, professionally printed portfolio can never hurt. If you're on a tight budget, you can always make color photo copies, staple it together, and sell it.

Finally, you can't underestimate the power of family and friends. Between facebook, twitter, myspace, and whatever other social media sites you and your friends use to keep in touch, make sure that you're sharing your links. Of course, you don't want to turn your FB wall into a billboard, but updates that tell a bit of backstory to your work will intrigue people who see your post and if they like it can share your links. Also, if you have family and friends who are supportive of your art, make sure that you keep them in the loop to what you're up to. We are fortunate to have some great networking-type friends who say "oh yeah, I met this animator at a business conference, let me give you their info."

So that's it. There are probably a lot more ways of getting your stuff out there (please leave suggestions we forgot in the comments for others to read!), but those are some of the basics, and if you work everything on the list (or even 50% of the list), you'll most definitely start making waves and people will start to recognize you and your style. Thanks for following along in our series, and if you'd like more (or less) multiple-part entries like this in the future, let us know!