A small bit of news on the book project. The artist who made the stencil that ended up on the book’s cover finally got in touch with me. Am glad that this happened before the book went to press, so now he can get proper credit in the book. Jennifer guessed correctly that the person staring at us is an actress who was part of Warhol’s scene. I have been focused on the Stencil Archive upgrade, as well as a Critical Mass party at CELLspace, so the book has been on the backburner. Wished that Stencil Archive would go quicker but it has taken months to get this Drupal site going. Haven’t been able to work on a site for StencilNation.org, but managed to create a new one-stop source that will have all the info you could need on the book here on Happy Feet. It should do for now (Stencil History X just has a MySpace page for its site). Justine is back from her vacation, so I hope to see a second revision of the book soon. Am still working out a tour in June, up to Seattle or BC, and need to get back to working out the book opening events here in SF. I keep asking myself, “do I really want to self-produce a tour when I know that producing one show can be a pile of work?” It’s a dream realized so I’m jumping in like a fish in water.
Things finally converged towards kicking out the list of first draft revisions today. I spent a bitter cold day at the dining room table, flipping through Stencil History X, cross-referencing photos, looking at the new photos that Logan gave me, and adding all of those changes to the list that I made a few weeks ago. I had to buy the book from a store in Paris, and then had to have the owner ship the book out for a 3-day delivery here in SC. It took Chrono, the shipping company, six days to get the package to me, and the book came out of the envelop damaged in the lower left corner: a big ding that tore out that corner’s binding. Not happy about that so had to deal with seeing if there’s some type of compensation from Chrono after working on the revisions list. Samantha, the book author, sent me to David. All business was smooth with him, which was good to rely on over Christmas. Today, I got to flip through the book to try to see where our photos overlapped. Peat and Adam5100 had the most, so I dug into the other submissions for Adam to cover that overlap. Logan gave me some new Peat photos which I threw in and shuffled around. I had to take two photos out of the Difusor section, move some around for M-City, Jef Aerosol, as well as reshuffle Logan’s section. It went much smoother than I thought and will most likely add ten new photos, along with the reshuffled ones, to the book. After about 8 hours of working through the changes that I had amassed, I ended up with 78 tweaks, corrections, redesigns, and photo reworking. Zipped the new image files and mailed it off to Justine along with the updated file credits and the list of the tweaks. On to the second draft! Had to mention this: froze my ass off yesterday stencil hunting in Atlanta. Went to Krog tunnel and walked down both sides and the pillars in the middle (dodging rush hour traffic) to shoot all the great art in there. Man, was it cold! Headed over to Little Five Points and found about a dozen other stencils there. Didn’t take long to lose the feeling in my fingers. Ah, suffering frostbite for my art. Or is it an obsession?
Met up with Jonathan and Devin, friends from SF, yesterday afternoon and had a step back into history. Near the 1 stop at Canal St., Jonathan and I walked right past Kevin Bacon as we were about to head into the Scrap Yard graffiti shop. This small shop carries everything from paint pens, tiny Montana cans, to water pipes and graffiti wear. Devin and his girl soon showed up, so we ate lunch on Broadway. Continuing the mood, the cafe played old 1980s hip hop songs (Devin popped and locked a bit when the urge hit him).
We walked up to 151 Wooster St., and I photographed stencils along the way. First, we walked into a gallery full of so-so art. The curator tried to lure us in, and when I asked where the “Wild Style” show was, he scoffed and said that we were in a room full of “real art.” We left to look for another entrance to the building and found it. No elevator due to the building’s ongoing construction (being converted to hyperexpensive lofts), but the exhibit of 1980s street art was only on the second floor. It was locked, and a group of people were having a meeting across the hall. Devin had no qualms about interrupting them to ask about the locked gallery. In a few minutes, an older man let us in. He was accommodating and pleasant, setting up the DVD player so we could watch art historians and folks like Fab 5 Freddy talk about the “Wild Style” wall. Harings, Scharfs, and a Basquiat hung on the walls, along with so-so pieces from graff legends like Fab 5 Freddy himself. The Wild Style wall itself is mostly a photograph of the real wall they found on the fifth floor of the building. There’s a large chunk of it that’s the actual wall, and it all looks amateurish and half-ass. We all agreed that it was a true historical piece of fun that, had hip hop not become a culture in itself, wouldn’t have lasted five minutes after the workers saw the scrawls. Jonathan complained to the curator about the gallery downstairs, and the nice guy said “they aren’t going to be there much longer.”
Devin and his girl had to go their own way, so Jonathan and I wandered around SoHo for a bit. We were both waiting to hear from upcoming meetups. I eventually worked out a meetup with Justine, the Stencil Nation book designer, so Jonathan and I wandered over to Greenwich Village to find a spot to wait. We asked an old local where a noncorporate cafe was, and he sent us to Cafe Reggio. Right around the corner from Washington Square, this spot hasn’t changed in probably 70 years. Hell, Greenwich Village hasn’t changed that much since then. Felt good to not see corporate chain stores anywhere. Jonathan got his call and had to leave, but he stayed long enough to meet Justine.
Had a great few hours with Justine. We didn’t go into much details on the changes of the first draft, but did discuss the need to replace photos due to the Stencil History X overlap. I also showed her the Chronology and mentioned to her that it needs to flow better. We also talked about a few other things related to the book, graffiti and street art, and other general things. I’ll spend next week typing out the changes for her, going over Logan’s new submissions, choosing new photos to replace the old ones, and then will send it all her way for a January push to a second draft.
Wandered around the corner and found a great veggie spot for dinner. Then tried to see Beowulf in two theaters but all shows were sold out. Guess we should all believe the 3D hype! Oh, well, I’ve been pounding out 12 hour days in NYC this week, so a 9 hour day is a needed break.
Yesterday was a puppets and stencils day. Spent the afternoon in Chelsea, which has a cluster of art galleries. This means that a good deal of street art is up around there. Found a Swoon piece that she submitted to be published in the book. It was right across the street from EYEBEAM, an arts and technology center where old SF cohort Steve Lambert plies his creative trade. You can’t miss the EYEBEAM space because it has cascading blue paint dripping down its facade (noticed some stencils up on their roof too). Steve’s doing good, and took me on a tour of the facility. He showed me the Lab where his work station is located, the 3D printer (it cuts shapes out of plastic), the laser cutting machine, and I met a few of his coworkers. He then took me around as we headed to the roof door. The roof door was locked, but I did manage to shoot some random stencils around the space. Most of them were made by Graffiti Research Labs. Great things going on there. Got to show Steve the book and talk to him about some promotional ideas for the book. After that, went to a street art show right around the corner from EYEBEAM. The Streets of Europe is up until December 29 at the Jonathan Levine Gallery. Took photos of the Bleck pieces, and enjoyed Blu’s great animation of illustrations he painted on the walls in the room where you watch the video. The moving pictures were in various forms of being painted over on the walls, so the video gives contrast to this buffed state via the story that you see on the screen.
Spent the late afternoon watching “Pippi” at the Swedish Cottage and then spent the evening with friend and puppeteer Kevin White. We ended up eating hot dogs in the Lower East Side at a place called Crif Dogs. There’s a phone booth in this subterranean joint that serves as an entrance to a speakeasy bar! Crif’s bathroom is also hidden behind wood paneling and is unlocked when the counterperson clicks a button.
After three delays, one of which was a canceled flight, I finally got into Manhattan around 2am Monday morning. Slept a good 8 hours and then started making phone calls before breakfast. One of those calls went to Logan Hicks, who now lives here, and we planned to meet up Monday evening for a few hours. Hadn’t met Logan before, so was glad to get to finally hang out with this amazing stencil artist. After wandering around the Lower East side of Manhattan most of the day, looking for stencils in the freezing weather, I hopped a train over to Brooklyn and rang Logan’s door. He was waiting for FedEx to mail a pile of packages, so we spent the first hour in his apartment. FedEx never came so we then wandered down the street to have some pizza and then went to his old studio (empty for the most part except for random studio things of Logan’s mate HAZE). His working warehouse location is heavily guarded due to the potential to rack (steal) all of his SABATOZ paint cans (Logan is the North American distributor for the brand). Other than talking about his new son, who tagged along (pun intended), Logan and I shared stencil stories, talked about the paint can business (much more competitive now), the art of being a successful artist, the trappings of the art world, and we caught up on mutual friends. Things got down to the book, so I showed him the first draft, edited with red markings by me and Jennifer before I left SF. He liked it and saw a few new artists whose work he didn’t know. Jetlag began to hit me when his girl showed up to their place. Logan had just given me a copy of “Stencil History X” from Paris. I already knew that some of the artists that I feature (Jef Aerosol, Logan, Peat W, M City) where in this French book. What I found out as I flipped through it was that some of the SAME photos where in there too! So began a mad rush to flip through my roughs and find as many of the same photos as possible. I think I found a dozen, and, to his credit, Logan only had one cross over (Peat had four!). As the jet lag got worse, I got a bit manic and messed up the page order of the print out. Logan was super nice about my going into editing mode and sat at his computer and hit me up with about two dozen new photos of his works and a few new Peat W. and M City pieces. One thing that kinda freaks me out is that Justine only used some of my photo selections for the first draft. This means that the replacements, which I didn’t have at Logan’s place, may be in the French book too! Logan offered to send me photos of the book pages (he got his copy from Chris Stain) if I needed them. Looking at his happy family, I thanked him and gently said that I’d never do that around this time of year. Calming down, his girl and I fondly recalled her days living in SF. Then it was off to trains back to Manhattan, a few of which my meddled mind missed stops on, making the trip back about 3x too long!
Came back from the holiday weekend and had an email from Justine. She’s finished most of the book’s initial layout so sent a link to the first section’s pdf file. She then sent another email with links to five other pdfs of the rest of the book save the last section (reference, how to, endnotes, etc.). Jennifer has tipped us off to yousendit.com, an online email service that handles large attachments. yousendit also gives links to the files, which stay online for a limited amount of time. The first section downloaded fine, but the system was busy for most of the morning when I tried getting the other files. The network eventually opened up and I downloaded them all. So exciting to see the book in digital form. I set up Acrobat to look at the pages as if they were in a book in my lap so I could get to see how Justine set up the two-page spreads. I had given Justine hopeful page counts for each artist, documentarian, section, etc., along with the photos that I sent her in order of my first choice to print to the last choice. I could tell right off that I had asked for too much space for the sections, and realized that only a few of the sections will get 3-4 pages of photos. I am also afraid that many of the 750 photos I sent her may not get in the book. I plan on going through the book with my photo credit file (the photos are in order on that file) to reference my choices with Justine’s. Overall, I like what’s going on with the book. I have mentioned the fact that all the photos might not fit, and am sad to see still more being edited. But I understand that that happens, especially when a small press publishes a full color book. I found a few obvious tweaks right off, and Jennifer encouraged me to look closer and find everything I think should change. I plan on doing that tomorrow. On the digital front, MySpace and Flickr moves forward. I add photos weekly and long in often to check out who’s gotten in touch. Good to see the buzz happening already, and I’ve seen some great art and met some new artists thanks to the sites.
Things started happening today for the book project. Jennifer at Manic D started sending edited copy over for me to check out. She also started asking for some follow up things to go along with the text, one of them being to contact the artists who gave written comments and ask them some simple questions about when they started and where they do stencils. She also sent me the final version of the Stencil Nation cover, which I have had for a while now. Just wanted to be safe. Went ahead and posted it on MySpace and began to develop a Flickr page as well. I have worked on the MySpace site and have a layout that I’m happy with. It wasn’t easy to reformat, but it now looks different from all the other generic MS pages. Have started uploading photos on each site, as well as over on the Stencil Tribe. Got word that Janet Attard will be creating a window display for the book’s release. Glad that’s moving forward and hope that other artists will be interested in doing that in their cities. Now it’s on to reading the edits and picking up the loose ends that Jennifer has noticed. Also just got to take a look at Justine’s book designs. Only got the first 20 pages, but got a great idea of her vision for things. I gave her comments, design suggestions, opinions, and was told by the editor not to micromanage. Understand this and didn’t have any intention to continue to offer edits and critiques, but felt that I needed to voice some opinions early on to help guide Justine’s vision closer to my own. Guess I’ll be out of the design loop for the most part. I still plan on fighting for getting to view updates and progress (it is my book!).
Ah, a day with nothing to do. After about two months of pounding out the book, a lull has arrived. I mailed out the DVD of photos to Justine in NYC Friday and she got them yesterday. I finally finished hacking out the text and sent that on to the editor yesterday. After all was said and done, I only wrote 10.7k words for the book. I took submissions for parts and edited/rewrote that too, so the total is about 13k. I’ve seen longer articles than that in New Yorker, and am still wondering how writers can knock out those long pieces under tight deadlines. If left to my own facilities, I’d probably work on the text for another year or so, agonizing over every comma and semi-colon. I gave up the editing fight and sent it on to get read by a fresh pair of eyes. Yes, things got a bit hazy towards the end. Some of the parts were written weeks ago so weren’t holding my attention that well. Edits will come back soon and rewrites will happen. For now, I just sent some promotional photos to Manic D so that the book can be promoted out there in the world. I started the MySpace page for the book. Already starting to think through the Spring book opening event and the web site. But am trying not to think about it much today. Enjoy the lull….
Whew! Literally just finished formatting all the filenames for the photos, along with checking spellings, ordering according to preference, doing a bit of research here and there, editing copy to fit the photos as the narrative changes, etc. Actually finished on time too, so that’s a pretty good thing going there. Need to get the DVD to Justine in NYC tomorrow, and will work on the copy for the rest of the weekend and just e-mail that as a .zip file. In other news, I just set up a MySpace page for Stencil Nation. In a matter of minutes, I had over a dozen friend spams. Had to go in there and report them all. MySpace is such a blinky, ad-driven, pain, but millions flock there. Not much going on at that site, but hope to put some time into it later this month. Need to start thinking about the site design for StencilNation.org too. Should be basic enough. Can’t believe that there are over 750 photos going to Justine. This is after I spent a while editing them down to that amount. I had to give her sliding scale numbers for how many pages each of the 47 sections will get. If not, it’d be too big or too small. If each section got three pages with no text, then that’d be 144 pages. That’s about the right amount that Manic D gave me to publish, so with the text, some of the sections will be smaller. I have tried my best to get many of the submitted photos in there and hope that they’ll still make it. If not, they’ll be on StencilNation.org, backing up some of the photos in the book. Really looking forward to seeing Justine work her design magic and make it all well laid out and in there. Ah, the fuzzy math gets boiled down to copy, rules, and images on the pages. Here we go….
Where did yesterday go? I spent a solid 12 hours in front of my trusty machine, writing and then beginning the painful task of formatting all the photo information. I can’t imagine what Justine will go through once she gets the DVD from me. She’ll have 4 GBs of photos to open, resize, color correct, and even stitch together on a few occasions. I have to do the following: compile the information on each photo, put it in an Excel table, order the files from “publish first” to “publish last,” copy/paste filename into the filename (ex.: “Origins_DS_01.jpg”), and double-check for spelling. While doing this, I have to hop through several applications, using Excel, Finder, Word, and sometimes Preview and Firefox. My organizational skills, though advanced, still fall short on some of the submissions, so I have to dig online to find information. Last night I dug into Jef Aerosol’s Flickr archive to get dates on works, locations, etc. Things went easier with Scott Williams, maybe because I am more familiar with his work and took all the photos. Copy/past and Excel’s intuitive cell-memory cache are my friends for this grueling task. I had a design appointment with a friend today and then have spent several hours working on the cover comps that Manic D sent me. The two they sent me where nice, eye-catching, and conveyed somewhat different aspects of stencil art. We ended up with a dilemma: one cover is a good book cover and the other is a stronger stencil. Publishers are deciding as I write. Speaking of writing, I did manage to finish up all the copy for the book. I wrote more than I thought for the latter sections I worked on. Need to look them over and revise. Should do that before falling into the JPG-hole. In other book news, June 1 was set for the release date. Might have some fun going on in Toronto for the opening. Things are already starting to flesh out for the main opening here in San Francisco. More on that once I get this content out the do’!
So glad that my morning opened up tomorrow, because I spent all day today working on photos. Know that I pared about 60 more of my own because I just checked my trash before I emptied it. I probably edited out about 20 of the submissions, and think that I’m 95% done with that process. Hoped to write today but got busy on the photos after I sent out a batch of e-mails with URGENT in the subject line. Klutch dropped his info, Logan Hicks finally sent his along, and Andie Grace from Burning Man LLC OK’d all the photos (the fact that I just shoot the stencil, and not the art it is on, helped them approve all the pics). And Justine OK’d the Excel format that I gave her for file information. So I hit the photo folders again and again, looking at the flow, finding similar photos, and trying to create some type of narrative with the images. I then dug into the Stencil Archives to try to find a few that where better examples. I lost a hard drive about six years ago and am still paying for not backing up my files. While going through the folders, a new batch of uncredited photos cropped up, so I had to e-mail those artists to ask them how to credit the files. Carrie got back in touch and said that she’d dig into her archives tonight to try to find her Scott Williams mural shots I need. Gee Vaucher, the Sandinista connection may submit, but I’m not waiting around. Now the task of file naming and logging begins, along with the final push of writing the text. Still wondering how it will all fit and hope that Justine has the magic to make that happen. Taking a break from the photos tomorrow to write. They had a mind of their own today, so maybe they’ll be quiet tomorrow. Good luck to Andie and Logan on their paths to parenthood (They both told me that they’re expecting babies today. They aren’t a couple; just a coincidence that they both told me within an hour of each other). Neck and right arm aching from either looking down at the laptop or reaching up to click on the mouse. Ah, the sufferings of a writer obsessed. On a final note, was talking about moderation with Laura yesterday and realized that I tend to moderate the items that come into my life… except stencils and writing! Ahhhhh…. pass the Tiger Balm.
Photo editing has begun. I have thrown out about 100 of my own photographs (there are still dozens more in the book) and over 60 of the submitted ones (which will end up on the forthcoming stencilnation.com), using reasonings that most editors will understand: this one is similar to that one, this one doesn’t fit what I’ve written, that one is out of focus, that artist has too many in this section, etc. Beginning the photo shearing has also given me an idea of how the page spreads will look for the sections: Tokyo will probably get a page, San Francisco about 4, D.S. Black two, etc. I have also started the photo-file-detail formatting process, detailing one folder and eming it to Justine the designer for her OK on it. Once she likes what she sees, then I’ll begin the process for each and every photo file. Feels like it’s going to be grueling, but like most design tasks, I’ll find that groove and forget about the time (my aching shoulder joints won’t). Visited Scott Williams today and showed him the time line (made a tweak) and the photos that I chose to put in his section (a few tweaks). A friend of his came over, and she has photos of Scott’s 1980s work, as well as stencil photos from Poland in 1990. She even thought she could put the word out for other people to look for old stencil photos around the world! Ahhh, that Stencil History book keeps looking better all the time. Gee Vaucher em’d back with tweaks to the time line, and might try to get photos to me this week. Susan Meiselas em’d back too and will see what she can find in her 1980s Sandinista archives this week. And Klutch finally submitted his images, but forgot the details! Still no word from Andie and the BRC LLC…. Writing time tomorrow. Think it’s going well, this book. Already starting to think of ways to promote it (the producer hat is sneaking on my head), which won’t start in earnest until early 2008.