exploring art and design, one day at a time


Fucking Dolphins!

I was originally planning on gifting my friend Dave a t-shirt with dolphins all over it, but Greg suggested I make an art piece with dolphins all over it. Sounded like fun, and it was.

I drew some vector art of a few dolphins and came up with a quick double-entendre to adorn the piece. All designers apparently need to add type to their artwork. I was thinking of adding the script-y typeface I’ve been using on my other paper pieces, but I ended up using “Lot”, a really bulky/blocky typeface. I think it goes a lot better with the similar bulky image of the dolphins. Overall, I ended up with a maniacal piece, dolphins chasing dolphins around and around taunting you and each other. Let’s not read too far into it though, it’s just super fun and perfect for my friend, Dave.

"Fucking Dolphins"

"Fucking Dolphins"

Artist’s Manifesto, Take Four

I’ve already posted the top three paper cuts, but they were unmounted. These are the first entirely finished pieces, back mounted with a simple black, wooden frame. I created one more piece to go with the group, “Wow! Downright Forgettable.”, which measures 19″ x 24″. I’ve been waiting to post these until I got better photos of them, but the glare of the top piece poses quite a problem, so this will have to do. You can at least see that the shadows and light play in the background of these finished pieces to give them all another dimension. It’s a whole other experience than seeing them lying on a wood surface.

I’d like to keep going and create even larger scales of these—all hand cut of course—because I’m crazy.




Intricate Paper Cut, Nichole & Alex

Nichole and Alex Paper Cut

Nichole and Alex Paper Cut

The most intricate paper cut I have done so far, “Nichole & Alex”, was created as a gift for the bride-to-be during a bachelorette celebration this past weekend. It was to be potentially add to a veil as a keepsake and I wanted to gift something that was original and a part of me. Thus, I decided to create something I haven’t before as well as something that I thought would be decorative enough.

I printed about 18 of these designs in 3 different sizes thinking I would need to start over a few times. I ended up using the smallest size, about 2.75″ wide. I used Tyvek paper that is less likely to tear, this is a suggestion from Lex McQuilkin and it worked beautifully. Not only was it thinner and easier to cut, any slightest off-key jerk didn’t tear any of the thinner areas as I was cutting.

It’s not perfect and I’m not really sure how this goes with the veil, but hopefully it’s a nice, original piece of art for them. I wish I thought of this sooner for someone special!

Well then Fuuuck Me, Project Fail

Well then Fuuuck Me

This blog is as much about failures and process than finished products. I have a great series of paper cuts going and have been slowly collecting other materials to test the concept on. This blue plastic was a nicely finished matte bag I got at a music store in LA. It clearly does not hold up.

I laugh at how I decided to try a whole statement rather than even one flourish which would have told me enough. Although, I do love how the statement clearly reflects my failure. It’s like cause and effect or effect and cause or maybe I can just predict the future?

Blow Up AND Get Down

Blow Up and Get Down

Yesterday was the deadline for the Communication Arts Typography Competition. I decided to enter the image above, an altered version of the Blow Up Flyer I created for the San Francisco Blow Up Forever party. I loved the flyer we created but I wanted to send something simpler and a step more conceptual. The paper letters actually blowing up out of the paper are super fun and I wanted to utilize the natural shadow they create when shooting them in the sun. This is the original, unretouched photo I used:

Blow Up Unretouched Photo

The idea of using the shadow keeps the image simple and natural. If something was literally blowing up out of the paper it definitely leaves that shadow (as proof above). This is what I love about using tangible items to create artwork, rather than making it up yourself on the computer. The one extra step of creating physical letters gives me the 3D image and the shadows to work off of.

The result, Blow Up and Get Down!

Sean Freeman for Band of Horses

Band of Horses Poster, by Sean Freeman

I was just perusing through this year’s Communication Arts Typography Annual and came across this lovely poster by Sean Freeman. Obviously, there is a lot of typography in the annual to be admired, but this one struck me especially. I love the use of actual objects to create type, such as I’ve been exploring with paper recently. The poster is also a significantly appropriate style for the band.

Check out more of Sean’s incredible work at Levine/Leavitt—it’s all pretty mind blowing.

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.

Artist’s Manifesto

Unoriginal Paper Cut

A Failure, Paper Cut

Total Bullshit, Paper Cut

These are the first three in a series I plan on doing. They are all 8.5×11 sheets of card stock hand cut with an x-acto.

I gave the first image, “Unoriginal”, to my friend without any background information and the comment back to me was, “Way to turn your state of dissatisfaction into something beautiful.” He hit the nail on the head.

Blow Up Forever, Party Flyer

Blow Up Forever Flyer

Last week I designed this flyer for my friends that throw the party, Blow Up, in San Francisco. Late summer, they are going to throw a super Blow Up called, Blow Up Forever—with two dance rooms and a killer line up. We will be continuing to hone this design, but this was the kickoff flyer passed out last week.

Stop Motion Prep

Bishop/Tuzin Cloud Test

I’m preparing for a short stop motion film for my friends’ website. They are starting a new brand for screen writing and filmmaking together and we need some imagery. The idea is to create several short videos that are classically cinematic and then use them super-sized, running in the background of their content. One image they’ve created is the well-used flying through stormy clouds, lightning flashing, and coming across the logo floating in the air. I decided to “Michel Gondry” the idea by creating a stop motion video of the idea. I started with the paper letters that I’ve already created and am now creating and test shooting the clouds (seen above). The clouds will keep me busy for a while, then on to the foil lightning bolts.

Pretty Cool Work

Cool Work

Oh hey, I’m actually working on non-corporate work during the day.

Profile Pic

Cambria Typeface, Paper Letter

I recently rocked my letter “B” paper construction for my friend’s facebook profile photo. The typeface is Cambria bold, approximately 3″ high. I went for it and added serifs this time to these paper constructions with great success. I have a full logo for Bishop/Tuzin created—I’ll post that next.

Perfectly Blurry Stop Motion Test

A COMMON NAME, Stop Motion Test from Julian Paige Smith on Vimeo.

My very first foray into stop motion. Yes I know it’s blurry, yes I know it’s fast, but yes I do think it’s fun. I got the concept down, now onto the equipment…

Post Brunch Work Day

Sunday Work Day

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!


Paige’s New Business Cards

A Common Name, Business Card

I received my first business cards today and they aren’t exactly what I was aiming for, but I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. The original idea was to have a blind deboss on white cotton paper with no ink. Unfortunately, even though I asked the printer, the type at the bottom was too small to read once they were creating the first run of cards. I grudgingly agreed to adding a run of 30% black ink over the cards to help with legibility. The cards are definitely legible, yay. I’m digging my logo on there!

Despite my slight printing snafu, I’m really happy with the printer, Taste of Ink. Ask them for a printing sample, they have some nice stuff.

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.

Burton Products

Burton Campaign Ad

While flipping through Nylon this month, I noticed this awesome ad by Burton. It’s not the exactly something I’ve never seen, but I love that there is no digital typography in this ad. I’ve always been a huge fan of using major amounts of imagery and teeny tiny small typography, the imagery is more interesting! But when you can find a solution that is unobtrusive, thank you. This is the kind of tactile design I like to see, especially since I’ve been hand building my typography lately. This is the type of work I’d love to integrate my design career with.

Furry Pals Help Me Design

A Common Name, Dog Upset

Cat Declines A Common Name

Fixing My Photo Set Up

While starting photo shoots for my new brand, A Common Name, I got a few distractions. There are a few too many adorable animals trying their own layouts or probably just flat out disapproving my designs. They are way too cute to get mad at, so we happily documented their ideas..

WITHOUT, A Short Film for Purchase

WITHOUT, Short Film Imagery

WITHOUT, Movie Titles Close Up

The holidays have slowed up my posts and my projects, everyone is on vacation or working half-time right now. Luckily, we received some great news today! A short indie film I worked on a couple years ago is now available on iTunes. The film is called Without and was written and directed by Gregory F. Tuzin and Brent Bishop. These two collaborators were excellent clients—they usually tell me their concept and then say, “Go for it!”. They give me free reign on design and let me explore as much as I want.

For Without, I worked with water colorist Beverly Tuzin to create the promotional poster. We selected a few screen shots and asked Beverly to water color the characters and background. The idea was to recreate the scene to really show the dry, arid, and sparse landscape the characters inhabited. After Beverly delivered, I incorporated a logo that I created using india ink and a cut out potato. I also used typefaces that I had printed out, redrawn, and scanned to create brand new typefaces that were now extremely distressed.

You can view the poster on the top left of the above images. The rest of the images are screen shots from the film and title sequence. The inked logo and the newly distressed fonts also appear in the horizontally moving title sequence of the film.

Support our artistic endeavors and purchase the film on iTunes! We are so excited to have the film at a convenient place to purchase and to share, so please direct your friends and family to the film as well.

Prepping a New Brand

A Common Name, Typeface Arrangement

A Common Name, 3D Typeface

The above two images are raw shots of a typeface I’m building for my new design brand called, A Common Name. I’ve been physically building two different typefaces into 3-dimensional paper type. The plan is to place the letters onto complex surfaces to photograph. The end result would only feature one of the typefaces set in different locations—on grass, on a brick wall, in a river (oh yes, we’re going large scale too). I had so many typefaces in mind for this, even extremely round letters. Somehow these square/rectangle shapes appeal to me, when I lay them in any which way on a surface, they create amazing patterns and shapes (see above). I’m also happy with the possible juxtaposition of placing such rigid letters in natural settings.

A background on the name:

A Common Name comes from months of searching for a new business name and finding that nothing that pertains to me in the design world hasn’t already been used. Smith is THE most common name in the U.S. I cannot use it in any way, shape, or form because it’s already been done and used. I landed on A Common Name because of this problem. Many names have become common and so many design firms have “common” and regular used phrases. It’s hard to feel original, especially in the web world.

A Common Name will be a title for myself, for original design work, for a design firm. Everything has a common name, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t amazing.

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.