Dennis Thompson

At the 2011 Kentuck Festival of the arts, I met and interviewed to Godwin Kou, never short of ideas and inspiration, and I found another jewel in 2012: Dennis Thompson and his dragons. That’s right, I said dragons! Mr. Thompson is the snowy-hair man sitting behind a booth protected by his dragons: ones in shells, baby ones, and a full-grown adult one. I battled my way through and asked for his name. Dragons were not going to keep me from this treasure!

 Dennis Thompson’s dragons are made out of clay, but I asked him, “Why clay?”

 He smiled and said that originally he’d been a painter, but that he had suddenly walked down into the clay department and much “cooler” things were going on down there, so he stuck around. (Why make something flat when it could be D?)

 My next question should be obvious: “Why dragons? Is it because you are into fantasy books, you know, with elves, fairies, etc.?”

 He smiled again and said that it was because he had a fascination with paleontology (the science of the forms of life existing in former geologic-periods, as represented by their fossils) and archaeology. Basically, fossil and bone-structures are what this all means. He also said, “My work is often viewed as ‘fantasy’ art. However, for me, the dragons developed more as a cultural interpretation of archetypal reptilian forms rather than a representation of mythological creatures. The sculptures I build are diverse and encompass a wide range of richly organic forms.”

 There you have it folks, I present to you: Dennis Thompson! (And his extremely dynamic wife; the woman is wonderful!) So, if you ever intend on buying one of these beauties, get to the festival and have to stand a minute before the gates open, because there are collectors for this artwork. Also, check out Thompson out on Facebook – look for Snobhog Studio!

An Interview with Val Freire 4/14/11

According to the bio on her website, “Val Freire is a female writer/artist/designer, born in historic Greenwich Village, New York in 1979, to two creative, albeit offbeat, educators. She is the second of four rather sheltered and inspired children.” About her early life, she writes, “At birth, she was expected to be a boy, and thusly dubbed “Mathew Alexander” until the minute of. This surprise abruptness set a life-long precedent in her development.”

 Young Miss Freire was self-educated and, at age 14, decided she was too intelligent to graduate from high school. It would take two more years to convince everyone else of this. At age 16, she actively pursued interests in typography, photography, illustration and of course, storytelling. Thus keeping her engaged as a tattooist’s apprentice and shop manager, a logo designer for a photo lab and an overactive member of the Harvey Milk High School youth program. The combination of which would inexplicably drag her through 48 states, and entirely against her will, back to New York, in time to turn 18. (Yes Val, I did steal your bio, because only one person can tell their life story how it should be told, and that is YOU — insert smile.)

 Around March, I was just finishing the “Mortal Instrument” series by Cassandra Clare, craving more of the action and wondering when the next book would be out I ran across the artist that was doing the artwork for the characters: Miss Valerie Freire. You know how you’re going to meet only one person in your life that is extraordinary . . . besides your significant other? Well, like Harry Potter had Dumbledore, and Jamal Wallace had William Forrester, I have my Val. A fellow New Yorker. (insert proud smile!) Anyway, I had the pleasure of conducting the following interview with her.

 Q: As an artist your work centers alot around anime-like designs and characters. Does that mean you are an anime fan, or just an original underground (sort of) artist?

 A: As a family, my Mom raised us with animes like Robotech in the background. I was too young to differentiate one cartoon format from another so I didn’t think their production was any different from say Bugs Bunny. I love them equally! My earliest days teaching myself how to draw was putting Bubble Gum Crisis on pause and tracing from the TV screen. Of course, I was 5 but think it’s fair to say anime has always been an influence. In my teens my stronger artist role models were Wendy Pini and Jim Lee, both two artist that anime had been a great influence in their style. Now, the industry calls that style ameri-manga because more and more artists have grown up with anime/manga as such an undertone influence, whether they realize it or not. It’s definitely tapped into some sort of cultural unconscious… I think my favorite hodge-podge of all this, becoming a voice of this influence are artists like Jim Mahfood or even The Gorillaz. In their work, that influences is so evident but the work is Original as well. So, the short answer I guess would be “Yes!”

 Q: Also, I noticed a lot of your drawings — that is such an understatement, but whatever, haha — have a big city feel, like a this-is-what-this-teen-sees-when-strolling-the-streets-at-night feel. Why is that? I myself, have an obsession with strolling the streets at night, but maybe it’s just me. 🙂

 A: I grew up very home-bound while in New York. As a kid I fantasized about traveling the world exploring new and better cities. But as a teen, the two biggest things I noticed while travelings is A) every bit city thinks their superior to everyone else… B) which sort of makes all of them the same. Liverpool, Paris, Seattle and New York are my favorite Cities. Places like LA, DC or London are somehow impersonal since you can get really trapped in them if you don’t have a car. That losses intimacy of both the personality of a place but the people in it. The best way to experience a place wander it’s street, which is how I fall in love with it. And the things we love, its only natural that it reflects in the products we create.

 Q: Have you ever considered offering lessons, or are you strictly business only with your work?

 A: I have taught before. I taught short programs in a some public schools, years ago. I enjoy it and never realize just how much junk I knew until I’m up in front of students. Sometimes I still mentor/tutor, one-on-one, always a friend of a friend, a cousin or a nieces, through word of mouth but never in any formal capacity… not that I would be opposed to that.

 Q: How do you come across your clients, or rather, how do they come across you?

 A: The same really, rather word of mouth. When I manned the front of a tattoo shop, I had to learn the art of figuring out a clients needs, very quickly while being very personable. This way not only could I arrange the perfect piece for them but to set them up with the right artist. It’s a bit like putting together pieces of a puzzle, I might have creative input but sometimes the best thing I can do point someone in the right direction. I met Holly Black while she needed help researching “Valiant” because Cassie Clare demanded it, for exactly that reason! And we we’re a perfect match! Have been ever since. Same Fantasy Obsessed, Coffee-Drinking, booze mixing, Urban-Fairy Friends.

 Q: Who all have you worked for besides Holly Black and Cassandra Clare?

 A: Oh, wow, not everything I do is illustrations or tattoo designs. I’ve worked with so many wonderful amazing creative people in so many different capacities. Of course, there are my cousins (Rachel Freire; UK clothes designer/ Veronica Rachel Freire; cartoonist) but also plenty of local talent, Brooklyn-based Jaida Jones; writer, Ali Wilgus; writers and artists … but it’s hard to tell where the line of business and living blurs completely. It’s never been about money, always about sharing what I love with people I love. Recently I shared illustrations for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s company HitRECord.org, which turn around and were used in productions of their “Tiny Book of Tiny Stories.” While it’s a passion project, it’s still work you know and love and life and everything in-between. Sorry, I really don’t have a short answer for this question.

 Wonderful interview, wasn’t it? Be sure to check out the authors mentioned throughout this interview, especially Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I swear you won’t regret it! Also, check out Val’s website http://www.far-eviler.com !!

God is a Painter! And His Work is Quite Nice!

This was my first Kentuck festival experience, but I can say that it went beyond my expectations: artwork here and there, and people haggling trying to sell it, and tired people lumbering around trying to find some amusement beyond the art. No, Kentuck was: People singing and dancing, artists displaying beautiful masterpieces, food being sold at cheap prices (a whole box of pizza for five bucks!), and some of the weirdest sites I ever will see! Remember, this was my first trip, so excuse me if my mind is utterly blown.

 Weeks in advance, we each got to pick an artist to interview at the festival before we could get heavily underway. I chose Godwin, Godwin Kou — I know, pretty cool first name, also a very good attention grabber. Insert smile.)

 Mr. Kou (pronounced like koh.) is a watercolor painter/ calligraphist from Guangzhou, China. He moved to the United States in 1986 and learned how to paint mostly from his schools in America. But the art dates far back in his heritage, where watercolor painting was a part of everyday life. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is where he was inspired to paint.

 Kou has had worldwide recognition as an artist. In 1985, his works were shown for the first time in the Museum of Luis de Camoes in Macao, a year before he moved to America! In 1996 his work was a part of ” Today’s Famous Chinese Artists” exhibit, where he toured the United States, Canada, and South Africa, representing Taiwan. In 1999, he was a part of the exhibit: “Observance for the Discovery of the Oracle of One Century” in Taiwan. And in 2004, he was a part of the Taichong Culture and Art Center in Taiwan.

 Godwin Kou is a very inspired man who doesn’t mind sharing his inspiration with others. He is a two-year member of the  Community Committee of the Atlanta High Museum of Art; one of the founding members of the  Chinese American Artist Association in Atlanta as well.

 So, with all that said, you can imagine my excitement at seeing his beautiful watercolor paintings with calligraphic inscriptions! For your enjoyment, I am providing (with permission from the artist) a video clip of this indescribable artwork! (insert smile again).

Book Reviews: “Night Runner” and “Maze Runner”

Authors Max Turner and James Dashner have dished out two new reads: “Night Runner” and “Maze Runner”!!! Both books are centered around boys. In “Night Runner,” Zack Thomson is a youth living in a mental ward because of a strange sickness that only allows him to eat strawberry shakes and doesn’t let him venture into the sunlight without being burnt like bacon. In “Maze Runner,” Thomas is a boy who is dropped off into the middle of a glade filled with other boys, ranging in age from twelve to eighteen. These are great reads and are especially worth it. (By the way, you should check out Dashner’s other series: 13th Reality!!)

 In “Night Runner”, Zack Thomson lost his father as a child while going on an expedition with him. A pillar fell on him and killed him, while trying to save Zack. But before Zack makes it back to camp, a dog bites him and he passes out. Years after that, Zack started living under the care of a nurse in Nicholl’s Ward. He has his own special schedule to live by, preferring to sleep during the day and exercise at night. This is nothing special to anyone, because everyone knows about Zack’s sickness. It doesn’t let him have contact with the sun without burning him, and he can only eat strawberry shakes. That’s it, that’s Zack Thomson, the boy who many doctors could not find a cure for, the boy who has never gone to a school in his life, but has a friend that comes by to tell him what it’s like.

 Zack faces a dilemma, however, after an old man destroys half of the ward’s recreational room with a motorcycle and tells him to “Run!” At first Zack is confused and thinks the man may be just a drunk off the streets, but then the man returns again and again with the same message. Zack is curious to know what the man is talking about, but Nurse Ophelia tells him to not worry about it and to let the police take care of it. But then questions about his father are coming up, and about what really happened on that trip they took together when Zack was a kid. Was it really a dog that bit him? Or was it something else completely. Nurse Ophelia answers some of his questions about who his father was, but she trails off and sends him to bed with more questions than he could ever had imagined he’d ever have to ask. And then his Uncle Max shows up . . .

 In “Maze Runner,” Thomas shows up inside a metal box with nothing. He doesn’t remember his last name, who he is, and most important of all: where he came from. But this is nothing new to the boys that have lived there before him, all working to survive inside of a giant maze that closes and changes at night, and reopens by the morning. However, Thomas is unexpected at the time; a “greenie” wasn’t due until later.

 Everything in the Glade is done with groups of boys specializing in some area, from slaughtering the animals, to cooking, and so on. The Glade is run by some people that the boys know are watching them, and sending them to the Glade one at a time. They can send letters back in the hole that the box comes from, but no one can actually try to escape through it.

 Thomas doesn’t know anything about the Glade. He is tested in various jobs that have to be performed and does “okay” in most, that is until he sees a Runner for the first time. And then it was decided for him, like a feeling that was programmed straight into his brain: he had to be a Runner. But unfortunate events grant him his wish, and now he has to face the dangers that lurk in the maze, looking for clues, memorizing and drawing maps, praying he makes it back alive . . . and hoping desperately for a way out.