exploring art and design, one day at a time


Obsessed With: Matt Shlian

Lately I find myself suggesting Matt Shlian to everyone and anyone slightly interested in paper or geometry. He’s one of my favorite paper artists out there.

Shlian’s work is an incredible engineering fete of folding. His works often leave me puzzled on how they were constructed, and wanting to constantly see more of what he dreams up. They’re so very architectural and artistic, I very much love the way he works in which the energy and process dictate the final result. Similar to the way I create my own puzzles and paths in my own work as I go, yet incredibly structured, the opposite of my chaotic mass.

“I begin with a system of folding and at a particular moment the material takes over. Guided by wonder, my work is made because I cannot visualize it’s final realization; in this way I come to understanding through curiosity.”

Matt Shlian, from his Artist Statement

mattShlian-Levis SFC





All photos from mattshlian.com

Handsome Wheat Paste Painting

The week before holiday vacation time in Texas was a hectic one. Greg had a production for Logitech in which he put on many hats—writer, art department, creative director, and director. He hired me as an extra and an artist, ah we love nepotism in this house. Although, being an extra in a bathing suit at a pool scene in December is the opposite of great, so maybe I don’t like this particular “in”.

Besides that dreary pool party, I was asked to create artwork that the hero of the video would wheat paste onto a wall. A. I’ve never actually painted anything and B. I’ve never wheat pasted. I was nervous, went through several designs, and had to email my images out to friends for help deciding which to use. I finally settled on designing in a way I’m used to (without overwhelming myself with something new), using illustrator and vector art with heavy block colors.

In the pool scene, all of the people are wearing animal masks, dancing, and swimming. I decided to take that idea and repurpose it for the painting, drawing four girls with animal masks on. The “handsome” at the bottom of the image comes from the new coffee shop, Handsome Coffee Roasters this was pasted on, coming soon to downtown LA.

Handsome Wheat Paste

Handsome Wheatpaste

Handsome Wheat Paste

Handsome Wheat Paste Close Up

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, Greg and I are both quite enamored with the look and process of wheat paste (we’re rubbing our hands together conspiratorially). The whole drawing and painting took me 3 full days to complete. The wheat paste went up on the wall for about an hour and then was torn down. One of the more painful things I’ve had to deal with—I helped for a bit and then ditched the final cleanup.

Lex McQuilkin, Cut Paper Artist and Illustrator

It’s been ages since my last post! I still have nothing to say for myself, so I’ve decided to at least say something about someone else.

Lex McQuilkin is an amazing illustrator I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with this past month. Not only was she perfect for the job we are working on, but she shares a love of paper art with me. She’s been working on it a lot longer than me and has given me some sweet tips. Her work above are beautiful examples of intricate paper work, often layered with decorative papers underneath. The typography, hand drawn,  always works so nicely with her images. When I look through all of her work on her sites, I definitely take note of how she presents her work—within frames, hanging freely on pins, installations—and hope to be able to replicate something similar one day.

Lex is a resident artist with Million Fishes Artist Collective in San Francisco, is a co-founder of Aorta Magazine, and has started her own poster company, Argot Prints. Most of her work is dedicated to social justice, practice, and responsibility, often concentrating on women and queers on the arts.

Poor, Judged Bunnies

"Even the Cutest Things", Diptych

In the essence of completing long past projects, I’ve finished another that I started years ago. I received two panes of glass from a department store in Union Square in San Francisco that went out of business. I wasn’t quick enough to nab any mannequins or really cool stuff, but I was happy with my find. A few days later I spent the evening painting a little bunny on fire. I could never think of what the second pane should be until recently so I repainted the flaming bunny and painted the second pane of two bunnies having a go. Matches our house perfectly.

Staff Pick, Villam by Veronika Obertova

Viliam from veronika obertova on Vimeo.

Dog Day Fundraiser Partners


This Tuesday, Wurstkuche downtown will be hosting a fundraiser for their friends Kevin Pecota and Dominic Devore. The two have written a script called Dog Day and need to raise the funds to make it. If you are looking for something to do, something to support, or some delicious beer and sausage, come to Wurstkuche on Tuesday, March 15. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to the film and if they make over what was expected for a Tuesday evening, they’ll make fifteen percent!

The image above was created by myself and Gregory Tuzin for the fundraising activities.

Hope to see you there!


Printed On All of the Books

In reference to my bookcase post, I just finished writing all of the numbers on the books. I painted, cut, constructed, wrote, and decorated 2,931 of them.  My hand hurts.

The Lighted Bridge, Episode 2, In Progress

The Lighted Bridge, Initial Sketch

The Lighted Bridge, First Layout

I’m working on another illustration for The Lighted Bridge. Episode Two is under way and now being edited. For this episode we are going for a darker theme than the first, with German Expressionism as our main inspiration. I’m trying to portray lots of strange angles, shadows, and a giant deconstructed clock. There are a lot of death and love themes and clock faces and face gears. The whole episode is filled with themes and amazing imagery, it’s definitely a challenge putting it all together and making it work. I went through a lot of iterations before sending this first round, adding and subtracting to find a good balance of imagery. We have still to add and subtract, but I am happy with the main shell of the image so far.

Rachell Sumpter’s Pastels

Rachell Sumpter, Ghosts 2009

Rachell Sumpter, Islander 2009

Rachell Sumpter, Mothers Little Helper

I’ve just discovered the Richard Heller Gallery and I can’t keep my eyes off of the delicious art featured there. Rachell Sumpter uses mainly gouache and pastel on paper and I can’t believe the worlds she invokes with her techniques. The colors are reminiscent of aurora bourealis and her characters are warmly dressed eskimos or ghosts residing in these mysterious lands that actually look fairly warm themselves. I enjoy the juxtaposition.

My favorite up above are the ghosts with rainbow beards, on first look, I thought they were puking rainbow. They remind me of the old mystics from Dark Crystal achingly traveling on their last journey.  The last image I have added because, yes, I love that a baby is riding a rat.

3D Preparation

A Common Name 3D

I did a little vector art for my new graphic design brand, A Common Name. I kind of like the colors I used and all of the shapes layered over each other at this point. This isn’t the end result, but it’s fun to share a little weekend process.

Practice Makes Perfect

Smitten Paper Cut Detail

Paper Cut Photo Setup

Smitten Paper Cut

The top three images are parts of our my process for the final round of design for Smitten.

The first image is a detail image of the cut paper. After the prototype design, I decided I needed to change a few things. The paper needed to be thicker (which took longer to cut), the thin lines of the logo needed to be thicker, and I needed to hit the black ink on the paper twice. This all helped to make a darker, more precise image to use.

The second image shows the set up of my favorite in-house photographer, Greg. He used a soft light box partially covered by a black board to emit less light and some running lights laid around the piece to create ambient light from the sides. Also, I had to increase the distance of the top cut piece with the bottom piece to help more light float around in between.

Because of Greg‘s excellent skills, I find myself with this last image that took about 5 minutes to retouch. Pretty fantastic. I really am working hard on these hand made pieces to make them as perfect as possible so that I barely have to touch them in post production. A success this time.

Parlour Tricks and Toulouse Lautrec

Toulouse Lautrec Ads

Toulouse Lautrec Sketches

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a day in San Diego for a wonderful birthday woman. We spent the day time perusing museums in Balboa Park. There we found a wonderful exhibit of Toulouse Lautrec artwork at the San Diego Museum of Art. It was inspiring to revisit this master’s work as one of the greatest graphic designers and illustrators. He had such a unique style of drawing that wasn’t particularly attractive for his subjects but still sought after by many dancers and performers.

I’m incredibly attracted to what is implied in his drawings. He’s constantly skipping drawings eyeballs, just drawings the sockets, hands are incomplete and claw-like, dresses have no details, just outlines. All of these effects truly allow you to leave your own imagination to fill in the blanks. I also very much admire his use of typography on the prints, usually hand drawn and never intruding on the characters of the page.

This revisit and reminder of Toulouse Lautrec is a great way to rethink my typography and keep moving forward with my hand made approach. Lately, I feel my typography has gotten boring and soft after so many corporate positions, hopefully this will give me a jolt in a new direction.

“Smitten” Paper Design

I’m in the beginning design stages of a website for a new book called “Smitten”. My friends Ariel Kiley and Simone Kornfeld have written an insightful book about the “way of the brilliant flirt”. They had a few wonderful inspirations of places in New York that they loved and felt represented the feeling of their book. The Gramercy Park Hotel and the Kiki de Montparnasse New York store set the mood for me to hit the ground running with creativity.

The Kiki de Montparnasse store inspired me to create something luscious, with some dark, elegant, and rosy hues. I decided to hand-cut some paper into the lace effect. This is my first time doing this, so I chose a slightly simpler design than I’ve seen before for this treatment. When I started cutting it out, my filmmaker boyfriend walked by and exclaimed, “You’re going to cut all of that out?! I’m doing a time lapse.” And so he did…

The following is the silly video we came up with. The time lapse wasn’t the greatest for what I was doing (we plan on trying again on the next design I do) so we added some silly elements to help beef up the interest.

The final image is the effect used for the initial round of design on the website. I doubled the design over a rose colored sheet of paper and photographed it to create natural shadows.

“Smitten” Cut Paper Time Lapse from Julian Paige Smith on Vimeo.

"Smitten" Paper Cut Design

Sketch Motion Picture

Rudolph Sketch Process

A long while ago I started a large drawing in a sketch book, and I decided to document the process. I started documenting a little late, so I had to fake it with some photoshopping a few shots. I promised myself the sketch would fill the page and I definitely had a few hitches in the road where I had no idea where or how to continue. A few times I started a section using some inspiration I had found and I think those are the parts that do not fit the rest of the drawing as much. I’m glad I abandoned those thoughts but made sure to keep them on the page.

For me, this isn’t supposed to be a perfect drawing, it’s supposed to be an accomplishment of actually finishing. I’m very hard on myself and I tend to not even start projects, so this is part of a personal process to start and complete ideas, whether I like them or not or if I think they failed.

Pardon Me?!

This is just incredible.

Benjamin Ducroz

Still from Benjamin Ducroz Video