Wednesday, December 30, 2009

fifty-two {a study of words and their meanings}

Although I've started a series of posts about interesting words and their definitions called "typographic paint", I want to revive a previous idea I had in regards to words and their definitions. So, I give you..."fifty-two {a study of words and their meanings}".

I'm still going to draw the words...or maybe use collage...and possibly found letters, in order to convey their definitions. Each handmade treatment will support the word's definition while providing a bit of contrast between digital type and a sense of humanity. Every week a new image and hopefully, a new understanding of how letters communicate.

...{first word coming February 2010}...

the Latte is back!

...I know, I know, no posts for months. Well, I needed a break. A long break. And, I felt as if the Latte needed to be recaffeinated, which wasn't an easy task. I also had to decide if it was time to move on or time to dig in.

At the end of this long and arduous thought process, I decided it was time to dig in and give the Latte a bit of an overhaul.

You'll probably notice a few the navigation, the portfolio, the content in general. I'm reworking the blog to focus more on my writing niches; I'm also trying to use it as a freelance portfolio without giving it a portfolio feel. I'll slowly add to the portfolio section over the next several days and I'll be deleting a few posts here and there, mostly older stuff, generally the stuff that deals exclusively with photography, painting, etc.

[edit, 1-06-10]

I'll also republish two articles since they truly reflect my style of creative writing and overall approach towards written interpretation. Why? I really want 2010 to be about creative writing. Period. No excessive updates, no art for art's sake. Everything will have a function within this blog space and creative environment.

While I have plans for fine art, they will focus on a journal style of fine art, not traditional photography, painting, etc; some of the more visual art based posts are a little too far from the style I have in mind. But fine art is a ways away so I'll post updates on that soon.

Well, that's about it. A small update to cover a large amount of time. My next post won't be until the new year and again, there will be small periodic adjustments to the blog. But, the important thing is that the espresso's been ground and the steamer warmed up. A fresh batch of caffeinated creativity is on it's way...seriously!

See you in the new year!"

Monday, August 03, 2009

I'm sure you can imagine...

See what happens when I sit still?

(for the background story behind these articles, click here)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

typographic paint: "persnickety"

persnickety...(adj): overparticular; pretentious

ex: 'His persnickety attitude created a frustrating work environment.'"

[view main word list and the story behind the series]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

think outside QWERTY

I recently watched a video of an artist painting a portrait while listening to the subject's music, moving the brush according to the tempo of the music (view the video). It was fascinating; that exercise represents what it means to be an artist. Of course, I'm not going to sit down and write an article about Hendrix while listening to his guitar solos. But, the article did get me thinking about how alternative methods can help writers create successful and unique work. So in that spirit, let's start with what most writers are familiar with: typing.

What's wrong with typing words?

My advice: don't do it...not all the time anyway. Writing by hand is liberating; the scribbles, scratched-out words, arrows, lines, consider it a nude thought process, not in an exhibitionist way but in an unconstrained way. Writing by hand makes the process more personal, it's a creative investigation that is more dynamic than hitting the backspace key or quickly applying a bold weight to certain words.

Is that not enough? Not convinced? Let me take the handmade notion one step farther.

Draw your letters. That may sound ridiculous in the digital age but imagine expressing your thoughts beyond a simple choice between two synonyms. A 't' can really support the word 'tree' if the serifs flourish into leaves...or maybe, the main stroke has a tree bark texture to it. Ok, I admit this approach is more for poets and creative writers than copywriters and technical writers but the exercise is still a liberating study that allows the mind to look at a subject from a different angle (something that all writers, regardless of career path, can benefit from).

I see there are some of you still shaking your heads, first left, then right, then left again....ok, I get the point, you need more.

Create a narrative with photography. Don't write with words...get out of the studio (or whatever you call your work space) and take pictures that represent what you're trying to say. And notes are off limits! The whole point of this exercise is to think about your subject in an unrestricted capacity. Once you have a collection of images that you feel provide a decent narrative, go back to the studio, print the pictures, and lay them out on your desk. Start writing but use the pictures as your inspiration; get creative, be bold.

While I consider these suggestions great ideas, I encourage anyone interested in writing to generate their own unique methods; the more personal the approach, the better the writing will be. The whole point is to move you away from the keyboard, to remove you from routine and place you within a rich thought process. Writing is structured thinking; if you broaden your thinking, you will certainly broaden your chances of creating successful work."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

typographic paint

If you draw, paint, take pictures, or (insert your artistic discipline of choice here) then you understand what it means to work with specific media and materials. Before an artist is truly an artist, they are a student of their chosen discipline, learning the nuances of pens, markers, filters, handmade paper, etc. And that's what words are, to a writer that is. Typographic paint.

In order to help word artists develop their palettes, I'm adding a 'typographic paint' section that will feature a new word and definition every week.

Similar to the 'thoughts on materials' section, 'typographic paint' will display words that are interesting, words that can definitely kick a sentence up to the next level. No boring stuff here, all 100% caffeinated goodness.

Jot them down, commit them to memory, or ignore them. Just know they're here if you need them!

the paint:


...more words coming soon...

Monday, July 20, 2009

one cup...

Yes, that's right, it's the incredible 'Pour-O-Matic' 'Espresso-Matic'...a piece of illustrated machinery used for regularly distributing caffeinated fiction. From this reliable mechanism will pour thoughts and ramblings dedicated to one notion:

If a coffee cup could talk, what would it say, based on what it has seen?

After seeing the semi-antiquated machine (illustrated above) sit idle in a Jiffy Lube waiting room, I thought about how long the coffeemaker has been around. That reminded me of an idea I had for a piece of writing...basically, if a coffee cup could talk, what would it say? What stories could it tell? Put all of that together and you get a "fly-on-the-wall" style of fiction around an ordinary object most of us use on a regular basis.

The writing for this series will follow a variety of styles. A few that are on my "to use" list are the "6 word novel" style (essentially, an entire story compressed into 6 words), prose, and straight dialogue (no narration). Stories are brewing as we speak so sit and savor the idea, let it sink in. When you return, look for the above illustration and enjoy the fictional ramblings of an observant coffee cup."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"I'm sure you can imagine...

Far be it from me to stop inspiration.

(for the background story behind these articles, click here)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

an interesting story or just a door?

Inspect the door in the photograph, discover its intricacies, and many times has this door been opened/closed, who constructed the door, who created the elaborate door knob, how many pedestrians has this door seen walk past it? Think about the possibilities, realistic or ridiculous.

The subject of this photograph is a simple door in Harpers Ferry, WV; the basic function of a door is something familiar to all of us. But this exercise isn't about a door, it's about the "what ifs" behind an object. We go through life allowing most of what we see to pass through our brains as quickly as a single exhaled puff of cigarette smoke fades into its surroundings. It's a natural reaction, we can't truly look at everything we pass by in a given day. But what could we discover if we took a moment to experience just one random observation?

The purpose of the building that this door belongs to is unfortunately lost in the recesses of my memory. Fortunately, an object as weathered as this one has many stories to tell, even if they are fiction."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Camel and Monarch...

"...intermittent; familiar; connections in smoking words..."

This was my submission to a "six word novel" challenge in Ficly. Although I'm no stranger to creative writing, this type of exercise was certainly nothing short of challenging. This type of work, assuming you're able to produce something you feel is solid, always generates a real sense of accomplishment despite the handful of words that constitute the achievement.

an update on my journal...

For those of you familiar with my ongoing mission to find a functional journal, I am happy to report that the latest book is working out as well as I'd hoped! For those of you just joining this article-based journey, here's a little background information to get you caught up.

I'm using my journal more than I did before and I'm finding that it's very comfortable to hold and carry. I take the journal on wine tastings, to coffee shops, and even use it while I read (to record words for future dictionary use). And if folding things isn't an issue, there's room in the back of the journal to tuck away interesting items I come across (such as wine tasting sheets). That's a nice feature to have since there's no need to work through drawings, writing, or photography when you know you can take certain items with you. I am rediscovering my interest in journals because I can once again enjoy the experience. I'll try to post some images of additional pages/spreads within the next couple of weeks.

Monday, June 29, 2009

the aroma of publication

After months of floating between ideas for various concepts for publications, I've committed to an idea for my first book. The book will be self-published through Blurb and sold independently through local coffee shops, word-of-mouth, and Etsy. The book will be about???.......sorry, not giving away everything!

I will say this...out of all my ideas for potential zines and books, this particular idea is one of my favorite. The concept creates an interesting connection between imagery and words while having a purely creative focus. Having said that, it isn't a book of fine art; about a third to half of the total content will be illustration, with writing filling up the remaining "space". I'm at the point where I'm creating content, which is a place I thought I'd never see any time soon. As I approach the editing/design phase, I'll post sneak preview photos of sample spreads.

Until then, check Twitter for updates on progress!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"I'm sure you can imagine..."

"...I'm a work in progress."

(for the background story behind these articles, click here)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

journal #?

But it looks as if this one will stick around!

For those of you who follow my blog, you know that my history with journals is "interesting" to say the least (read more here). Well, my latest journal, the one I thought would certainly fit all my requirements...well, it's no longer in service.

The mental disconnect isn't due to the materials but rather the size and weight. My last journal was fun to use but I seldom brought it with me; when it did accompany me, I never felt comfortable carrying just the journal. Long story short, I returned to a previous purchase that is working better the second time around.

The new journal is leather, around 4"x6", with bundles of pages sown to the spine. It has a traditional journal appearance and is small enough to tuck inside a pocket or, at the very least, carry with ease. Two of my favorite aspects of this journal: a couple of pages partially ripped away from the binding thread during use and it came with a small piece of wax-like paper that I use as a page marker...both of these elements give my journal a bit of a fragile feel to it, which I love.

Here are some images. The scans didn't turn out well but I think the image quality suits the journal's wear and use.


[inside cover, first page]

[sample spread of type experiment]

I hope this journal sticks around for the long haul that is my journey into art and creativity. In as serious a tone as I can muster, I have to say that I'm running out of ideas for portable journals; luckily, I really like this one and it seems to be a good fit. In light of that, I hope my blog won't see another article such as this...because we'll all know what that means!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"I'm sure you can imagine..."

I don’t remember where I found this picture (I didn’t shoot the photograph) but I’m glad I kept it because it’s become an interesting aspect of my journal.

What I do is visit this journal page at random moments and write a phrase (typically one sentence) that describes what could be bouncing around in the elephant’s mind due to the colorful make-over. The sentence could be the elephant’s literal opinion about the situation or it could describe how the elephant became a canvas. When I glued the photo into my journal, I didn’t have this creative excercise in mind but like most creative activities, it turned into something on its own.

As you might guess, this series of blog posts is about those phrases, published. Each phrase will be displayed underneath the photo, in bold and using a serif typeface.

“…it was either this or a hat.”

So when you see this photograph, or the title “I’m sure you can imagine…”, brace yourself for insight into one elephant’s mind!

{photograph used from a magazine, please assign all necessary copyrights to the respective artist}

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

abstractLatte is GOOD

As a serious writer, I love crafting a bit of typographic goodness in response to my environment (don't necessarily think green, although I do think the green movement is kick ass). Over at GOOD Magazine's online community I contribute comments and articles, sometimes quick prose and other times a more involved ideas-to-words effort.


For those of you who aren't familiar with GOOD Magazine, the publication is focused on great ideas and powerful thinking in a world that needs those things; their target audience...people that give a damn (their words, not mine). As a gesture of good will, and my way of helping you acheive a more well-rounded feel for their online content, I recommend one writer who has an entertaining and insightful way of communicating thoughts about the world and it's intricacies ( I've followed his blog for a while and it's worth the time.

Check out my words, read through the whole publication, or start your own profile in order to contribute your perspective. Regardless of your intentions, decide what's important to you, GOODmark it, or discuss it. Give a damn.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"...from Magellan to Kerouac..."

When you take a trip, do you ever wonder who's made the same trip, or who's traveled farther than your destination...and how far? Before you head out the door or open your book to take your next adventure, check out this site from GOOD Magazine and learn about some of the world's greatest journeys:

Some of the trips they've included are the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Pequod journey from Moby Dick. They also inlcude imagery and facts that highlight different points within each journey:

At the very least, it's entertaining. Maybe you'll learn something that will spark a literary purchase or new hobby. Regardless of the outcome, take an interactive journey of your own, into the past, through many historical nooks and crannies of the globe. Allow yourself to discover.


© 2009 Joe Blend. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cardon Copy

Now this is what I'm talkin' about! Practical, accessible, and creative applications for graphic design. Gone are the days of "new", "innovative", "oustide-the-box" solutions for commercial products...ok, maybe not gone, but at least there's something new to look at!

So here it is, "Cardon Copy", a thoughtful solution to what seems to be an ever increasing amount of visual garbage.

{from the website}..."Cardon Copy, takes the vernacular of self distributed fliers and tear-offs we have all seen in our neighborhoods. It involves hijacking these unconsidered fliers and redesigning them, over powering their message with a new visual language. I then replace the original with the redesign in its authentic environment."

Doesn't get any better than that. And I admit, I'll keep an eye open for his work next time I'm out!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

letters + art = an interesting grocery list

The next time you pick up a pen to write a random list or an address, consider this: words are both visual and literary art.

We use words to communicate through books, websites, and other publications; at the same time the
letters used to compose the words are forms, or shapes, that have been carefully crafted to provide visual meaning. Taken a step farther, typography (or the study and design of letters) allows each letter to be whatever it needs to be...conservative, abstract, legible, dramatic...for signs, letterheads, graffiti, book covers, etc. We take words for granted because we see them and use them effortlessly in our daily routines. But the potential for words goes far beyond asking for a favor or clarifying the price of a retail item. Words are at the foundation of so much; movies, music, humanitarian efforts, etc all owe some (or all) of their success to words and their ability to be used in various ways.

But what if we did give our words a few moments consideration when jotting down those miscellaneous bits of typographic detritus? I'm not referring to picking and choosing your words more carefully (although that is a good habit to get into); I mean, consider their shapes, the way they look, how they interact with each other. Instead of writing "1234 Main St" using your personal handwriting, have fun with it. Make crazy shapes, flourishes, scribbles that look more like abstract art than an attempt to cover up an accident. Imagine you're a kid again, having fun with a coloring book but using all the wrong colors. See what happens. I'd be willing to bet that if you did this on a regular basis, you'd see words as more than just a functional visual gesture; your ability to interpret words in new ways could inspire you to communicate more creatively.

{...perhaps this year's holiday cards will have hand-written typography that is tailored to that friend or family member's personality? Or perhaps all the "A's" will look like pine trees. You're only limited by your imagination!}

Consider a note that a child makes in art class for their parent, the kind of note that is stuck to the fridge the minute the parent sees the abstract art waving in the air. Although a child doesn't necessarily have perfect handwriting, they also don't have the limitations that we, as adults, place upon ourselves. We're so caught up in getting our thoughts down on paper, for whatever reason, that we forget to have fun. We forget that life isn't about lists, errands, or "professional correspondence with the intent of bringing about new employment opportunities". Life is about, among other things, using our minds to their fullest potential. Our brains, believe it or not, are not robotic...even though that may feel more comfortable than trying something new.

Doodling isn't for everybody...but neither is taking copious notes about your daily responsibilities or creating a mess of illegible lines because you just want to get your thoughts on paper before you leave the house. Give creative letter and word forms a chance, just to see what happens. Slow down your routine for a few moments and have fun with your "t's" or your "r's". Who knows, maybe you'll be inspired; at the very least, you won't be bored jotting down your grocery list!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

a few crumbs from "ink snacks"

Since the "ink snacks" zine is being discontinued after the current edition is sold, I thought I'd post an image of the concept design. Since this is a concept piece, it was never put into production (way too expensive) but still serves as a nice piece to have floating around the portfolio.

(upper-left: cover; upper-right: table of contents; lower-left and lower-right: sample spread)

I posted the content spread last year but never showed the cover. Everything except the poetry and some of the table of contents is handmade (dark color around the image is just a border for posting in the blog). I believe the dimensions are around that of a cd case.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

same grounds, new aroma

After having my creative attention and resources spread fairly thin over the last few months, I've decided to consolidate my personal creative efforts so that I can enjoy what's most important in life while still being creative.

In addition to "ink snacks", I have several other ideas for zines but do not have the time to develop content and design/produce all of them. When I looked at the foundation of my abstractLatte endeavor in relation to my need to simplify my efforts, I decided to consolidate my ideas into one main zine; its name will follow the endeavor that started it all...abstractLatte. It's an unfortunate situation to not have time to do everything you want to do. And with my list of ideas beginning to collect dust, I knew I needed to make a change. The only casualty in this decision is the zine "ink snacks"; I will discontinue development of this zine after the January 2009 edition is sold out. I will develop specialty zines from time to time but 90% of my efforts will go towards the blog and the new zine.

How will the content of the zine differ from the content of the blog?

The blog will maintain its coffee shop/bookstore vibe, continuing to display articles and resources as well as creative experiments. I'd like to start workshops at some point in the future, a sort of DIY effort to help others give their creativity a tangible home, but that is not in the near future; those will be accessed through the blog. The zine will focus more on creative communication around concepts (to include the same types of content contained in "ink snacks"); look for art and function in equal measure.

As for the baristas and displayed artwork, don't expect any immediate changes but I do have ideas on how I'd like to make adjustments to the barista concept in order to include more people, in a more casual manner. And the artwork? Well, I've never been to a coffee shop (or bookstore) that didn't have art on display so that's not going anywhere!

As usual, check the blog and Twitter for updates on the new zine. I'll post preview images when available.

Monday, April 20, 2009


This is a newsletter that I designed for the American Red Cross; it was a monthly publication called "The Coffee Break". Again, the creative approach:

concept: "Travel" (July 2008 edition)

background: The newsletter was created to develop a sense of community between local American Red Cross chapters scattered throughout the continental United States. Each month, the newsletter would take on a new concept; these concepts related to a circumstance associated with that month (ex. current events for the organization, seasons, etc).

approach: Since this issue was July 2008, I wanted to emphasize the freedom of summer. A postcard seemed to be the perfect icon of travel but since photography is used extensively within the American Red Cross, I created a custom illustration that mimicked the rather busy nature of some postcard images. All of the headers, to include the newsletter title, were created using handwriting to emphasize the personal nature of postcards; on the back, there was space for staff and volunteers to jot down comments about their own personal travel and vacation moments.

materials: The headers, newsletter title, quotation marks, and illustration were drawn by hand and scanned; in Photoshop, color and composition were added. The stamp, postcard details, and background texture were scanned and arranged in Photoshop.

(top: front, bottom: back)

Out of all the newsletters I created for the American Red Cross, I enjoyed creating this one the most. The design was an exciting process that merged concept, art, and message into a fun print piece.

Friday, April 17, 2009

a human voice

This is a poster that I designed for the American Red Cross, it promotes their Safe and Well program. What follows is a detailed description of my creative approach.

concept: "a human voice"

background: The Safe and Well program gives disaster victims the opportunity to register on the program's website and select one or more phrases that can be displayed online, letting loved ones know they are ok. These messages can be accessed by loved ones outside the affected areas based on the disaster victim's name and pre-disaster address.

approach: What I wanted to convey was the idea that this website can give a voice, that's surrounded by chaos and confusion, the ability to communicate to others outside the affected areas. I wanted the idea of communication to be emphasized, with hints at speech but the overall focus being on the actual act of communicating.

materials: The typography and abstract/human forms were drawn by hand. The dialogue bubble was cut from paper; the background is scanned packing paper. All the handmade elements were scanned and composed in Photoshop, with the red/black/green as well as the distressed features added in the computer.


I decided to post the design that was submitted; although I liked the revision better, it needs a few more adjustments in order to allow the revised copy to function more effectively.

Monday, April 06, 2009

found ice cream

This is one of those subjects that you stumble upon and luckily notice. How this imagery found its way onto a wall in a Civil War era town I have no idea. But it makes a great narrative.

subject: wall imagery
location: Harpers Ferry, WV
equipment: DSLR, 18-55mm lens with polarizing filter

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"caffeine talk"

After a long hiatus from serious drawing and fine art, I've completed a new piece.

title: "caffeine talk"
materials: pen, pencil, and paint on canvas
dimensions: 10"x8"


Paint was applied to the blank canvas, then I used a blank piece of heavy paper to distress the base coat. A sponge dipped into dark brown paint added the darker distressed accents.

The coffee cup and steam were cut from carving block and dipped into paint, then the forms were applied to the canvas. Miscellaneous specks of paint were added as accents. Pen and pencil were used to highlight certain aspects of the forms and to add the saucer (unfortunately, you can't see the pencil line that connects the saucer to the right edge of the canvas). The quotes were drawn and filled with paint


For some reason, the background isn't coming out as warm as it should be; granted, this is a photograph and not a scan. I'll try scanning it and post a new image if the results improve.

With my inspiration coming from narrative, I usually try to incorporate words or typography in each piece but with this one, I used the minimum amount of typographic elements (quotes). Not my usual approach but to add anything else would have deteriorated the composition. The coffee definitely adds a sense of conversation so I feel comfortable with the outcome.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

found fun

...sell individual journals of drawings, random writing, and miscellaneous creativity (each journal should be created over several months)
...create a zine that, after read and enjoyed as a zine, can unfold into a large piece of art for a frame
...write a poem or piece of prose, then draw the letters/writing onto a large canvas
...create the lines of a large mixed media drawing by poking holes in the paper, canvas, etc
...paint with espresso, red wine, dirt, and/or grass stains

Why am I revealing my ideas for future work? Aren't I sort of "giving away secrets"? Ha! Of course not. First, I will always have more ideas. But what's more important than more ideas is the notion that someone else has the same ideas.

Let me take a step back for a moment. Rarely are there ideas in art that are original; most art is usually inspired by something that came before which point, the work attempts to take on a different perspective in a unique way. That's the best we can do as artists. So why am I sharing my ideas? Because these ideas have probably entered someone's mind at one point or another and have probably been created as artwork at one time or another. In other words, they're probably not new.

[the point]

The only thing more interesting than a good idea is to see all the ways in which multiple people communicate that one idea.

So I say to all of you, take these ideas and create your own art! Regardless of whether you're a professional artist or a hobbyist that dabbles with "paint-by-numbers", give these ideas a shot. See what happens. If you want, send me an image of your creation and I'll post it in abstractLatte (giving you full credit of course).

At the very least, you'll have fun so enjoy your creativity!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Detour: a Moleskine project

Fascinated by journals and their many functions? Maybe you're a Moleskine fan? Do you like creative collaborations? Then you need to check out "Detour" (

I'll be honest, there is a lot of work displayed but the time spent browsing is worth it. Yes, there are images of journals but there are also videos that show the respective artists flipping through their Moleskines; it's a nice perspective to have when trying to make a connection to the artist and their work. The Detour project also supports the non-profit foundation lettera27.

This site is definitely bookmark-worthy; check it out at Perhaps it will make you think twice the next time you pass a Moleskine journal in your local bookstore.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

a caffeinated quote

"Don't worry about your talent or capability... it is not yours to judge. It will grow and change over time. Do not ask 'why am I doing this? Is it the right thing?' It is enough to know that you want to. Just do it because you want to. It will become something on it's own. Freaking out about what you 'should' be doing does not move you forward, it only serves to stress you on what should be an enjoyable part of your journey."

[excerpt from "How to make a living doing what you love" by Keri Smith, creator of "the wish jar"]

Monday, March 02, 2009

words and vehicles of R.E.M.

Prior to releasing their latest album, R.E.M. created a website around one song..."Supernatural Superserious". What they did was play this song live, with acoustic instruments, in various small format venues...and they recorded it.

This site documents those performances...

This is one of the best examples, that I'm aware of, of an artist conveying words through a powerful artistic vehicle (no pun intended...and you'll know what I mean after you browse through the site). To this day, this site inspires me; it is one reason that I became more committed to writing and zines (which I consider to be one of my biggest artistic vehicles for my words).

I encourage anyone who enjoys a powerful artistic experience, regardless of R.E.M. fan status, to view these videos. Who knows, maybe you'll be inspired.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

for readers and writers

I've been looking for a great site that caters to both writers and serious readers/book fans. Although EditRed is a great site for writers, it doesn't really approach books in the way that I wanted. After browsing through a handful of other websites that dealt with books and writing, I found a site that fulfills all of my literary requirements...

I've been involved with quite a few sites that deal with various aspects of writing and books but this site is, without a doubt, the most fun and interesting. First, you have a bookshelf where you can display the books you're reading, the books you've read, and the books you want to read; the fun part is that you can create your own shelves, partitioning your books by genre, author, etc. You can also write reviews, comment on someone elses review, and even rate books using a five star scale. And when you find a book you like, you can choose from a variety of booksellers, both large and small. If you're an author, Goodreads has a special membership that allows you to display information on your published work. There are also a variety of groups you can join where you can engage in discussions on various literary topics...or start your own group if you don't find one that covers your topic.

What closed the deal for me was that your profile allows you to display your writing. Perfect! Exactly what I was looking for. You can display chapters or single pieces of work; either way, it creates a more well-rounded literary profile, if that is in fact what you prefer.

If you're a huge fan of books or a casual reader, this site is a great place to learn about new books, authors, etc without having to walk aimlessly through a bookstore or anxiously wait for your next email from Borders or Barnes and Noble. And if you're a writer, there's something here for you as well. Check it out, start a profile, and start browsing!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

fifty-two {a study in words and their meanings}

I thought about publishing a new word and its definition every day but reality forced me to understand that won't happen, especially if I'm out of town. Then I thought about every week, which is when I realized that anyone could pick up a dictionary and look up a word anytime they wanted to, without ever having to read my word posts.

That's when it hit me...fifty-two {a study in words and their meanings} committment to a new word, and its definition, every couple of weeks. But instead of just typing the words and definitions, I'm going to draw them...or maybe use collage...and possibly found letters. Each handmade treatment will support the word's definition while providing a bit of contrast between digital type and a sense of humanity.

Each week a new image and hopefully, a new understanding of how letters communicate..

...{first word coming January 2010}

Thursday, February 19, 2009

the "coffee & tea" section has cafes!

After a few months of planning and a decent amount of traveling, the first coffee shop has been published to the "coffee & tea" section.

"The Coffee Bean" is a great place, one that I've visited many times; even if you're not in the area, their wide variety of drip coffee is available through phone orders. Although I've included a link to a second shop, "Mudhouse", the content is being developed and I still need to take the photographs of the cafe. Don't worry, I plan on having content for this cafe by March 2009.

For now, enjoy abstractLatte's first featured cafe and check back soon for more featured shops!

so I've decided to include an "ad-free" badge...

Although any badge displayed within this site is not an advertisement (which means abstractLatte receives NO compensation from the organization), they may not always be perceived that way. That is why I've been reluctant to include an "ad-free" badge because of the potential confusion it might create. However, I've moved passed my concerns and decided to display it with pride.

Why are the other badges not advertisements? Besides receiving no compensation for their display, the people/organizations that the badges promote are endeavors that I believe can improve the quality of a person's life; maybe those improvements are nothing more than the ability to brighten a person's day or maybe the insight allows someone to have an impact on a positive public effort. The point is, the effort promoted is positive and can have a meaningful impact on life.

Why am I clarifying this after I already posted an article about the "ad-free" endeavor? Because it's important that we, baristas of abstractLatte and our readers, are on the same page. It's important that the work, effort, resources, inspiration, interaction, and creativity that have been developed over the last three years are not compromised because of an incorrect perception. If there's a possibility that credibility is on the line, however minimal that possibility may be, then it's important to provide clarification.

Having said that, we invite you to provide your opinions on the ad-free endeavor through comments to this article. An ongoing dialogue about the impact that advertising can have on the general public is a healthy way to ensure our lives remain focused on what's most important.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'm adding a new barista!

I've spent a lot of time considering the potential of abstractLatte and where I want to take it in the future. One way that I want to develop the endeavor is to add participants; more people means more creativity, more inspiration, and more possibilities. I also want to keep abstractLatte small, around 5 or 6 baristas and perhaps a few others that work in non-art capacities (that's subject to change but it's a broad goal for right now).

Each participant who is involved in a creative/art capacity undergoes a portfolio review along with an interview that includes, among other things, a verbal discussion of their artist statement. Each participant, or barista, will have a profile in "the baristas" section along with their work in the Etsy shop. Although each barista is encouraged to periodically submit new work, there is no schedule for those contributions.

I don't want to give away too much but I will tell you that the new barista is a painter so a new category will be added to both the blog and Etsy shop. As for the remaining details, I'll post an introduction article when their profile and work has been added!

Friday, February 13, 2009

a fresh update...

I realized that I don't have the time to write/design/publish more zines if I'm too busy trying to create new artwork. And I really want more time to develop my approach towards zines; I think zines have limitless capabilities if given time and creativity. So I'm making a commitment to not create any new artwork, for a while at least.

What? No artwork? What happened to "books, art, and conversation"? Don't worry, I haven't given up on artwork and I will not stop displaying and selling the work that is already contained in this blog and the Etsy shop. What I've decided to do is let my zine projects create the art instead of having the two efforts be independent of each other. For example, if I write a zine about old buildings, I might pull one or two photographs from the project to sell independently; or, if I write a zine about graffiti, I might pull a couple of accent drawings that I created and sell them as independent pieces of art. I'm also considering selling each zine as a other words, with their purchase you get the zine as well as a piece of artwork from the zine. Of course, this will bump up the price but I think it would be a nice added value...especially if a customer could select the art that they wanted.

Call it an update, a public commitment to create more zines, or a sneak preview. At the very least, I want readers to understand why I haven't added any new artwork to the "books & art" section as well as the Etsy shop. It's important for me to balance, refresh, and refine the "books, art, and conversation" because these are the ingredients that created abstractLatte. And strong ingredients will create a good cup of creativity.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

a magnet set for my fridge

In a recent collaboration with various artists from the HOW Magazine online forum, I submitted a piece of artwork for use in a magnet set. The project, strictly for fun and inspiration, converts submitted artwork into a series of 12 button-sized magnets. The following illustration was the piece I submitted for the set:

All of the participants have sent their work, now it's time for production and distribution! I'll post images of the magnet set when it's completed.

Monday, February 09, 2009

the assemblage of Art Foundango

As I've said before, when career creatives take a step back from the traditional approach to their industry, great things happen. This is the case with Art Foundango, the blog of assemblage artist Randy Hill. I've been fascinated with his work for quite a while and had the pleasure of sending him some interview questions so that others could learn more about this talented artist and his work.

1. Before I ask you about the incredible assemblage art that you create, how did you get your start in the visual arts?

First, thank you for this interview, I really appreciate it.

Like so many other people, I was first interested in art as a child. My earliest memory of drawing took place in elementary school. I can remember studying and sketching the ear of the student sitting in front of me in class when I should have been studying. That was just the beginning of a lot of bad grades in school and my interest in art.

In my teens I did a lot of ink and charcoal drawings and pointillism. I especially loved to draw old classic cars and anything having to do with cowboys, Indians and the civil war.

I had a huge love of music growing up and I became a drummer in my early teens. In a round about way it started me on the road to designing band logos, media kits, album covers and things of that nature. It eventually grew into an over 30 year career in graphic design.

2. Could you elaborate on the following excerpt from your artist statement..."My passion for creating this kind of art reaches back into a childhood that was rich with the vision and imagination that is naturally found in my home state of Texas."

First, I consider myself very fortunate that I grew up in the great state of Texas where you are brainwashed as soon as you start first grade.

As a child you are drilled with facts and trivia on your knowledge about everything Texas. "What is the state bird? State song? State rock?" In addition, you have this vast colorful history of Texas, the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto and the fight for independence from Mexico. Then to top it all off, Texas becomes the Republic of Texas – its own country. It's a very romantic story, full of myth, legend and a little bit of truth.

I am struck with the immensity of state pride that people who live in Texas have, especially now that I have lived in other states and countries over the years. I have yet to find a state here in the U.S. that comes close to matching the pride that Texans have. I mean, we put the Texas flag and the state shape on everything!

Probably the largest influence comes from growing up on a farm in central Texas in the middle of a melting pot of cultures; German, Mexican, Czech, French and all the foods, music and traditions that go with each of them. Combine that with the fascinating array of farm implements, tools and everyday living sorts of objects I grew up with, it had to have had an influence on the way I look at things.

3. Who are some of your influences in the assemblage art world?

Michael DeMeng is someone who really fanned the spark of assemblage creation for me. It was through finding a book that featured his works that I realized that what I had been creating all along actually had a name and was actually considered art. Since then there are others that I really admire; James Michael Starr who is another fellow Texan, Christopher Conte who produces absolutely amazing assemblages and assemblage clockmaker, Roger Wood.

4. How do you get that first spark of inspiration when starting a new piece? What is your process for creating a typical piece?

That is a very difficult question to answer. Frequently the assemblage I am working on just evolves as I start looking at the various objects that I have to pick from in my collection. It also makes a difference whether I'm just doing the piece for myself or if it is a commissioned piece.

I would say though, that my childhood and the era I grew up in had a huge influence on my artwork. I was born in 1955 and grew up during an amazing period of time. The race to the moon…the Beatles and all the amazing music that was created during the 1960s all had an influence. Movies I was exposed to as a kid like, "The Time Machine" and "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea," "First Men In The Moon" and "Journey To The Center of the Eath" fired my imagination even more.

I always joke that the Twilight Zone TV series back in the 1960s totally messed up my mind. What was lacking in any special effects we had at the time was made up for in creative writing and storytelling of which the Twilight Zone is a great example.

5. What do you find most challenging about assemblage art and how do you successfully move past that challenge?

The hardest part for me sometimes is the initial idea. Is it creative? Is it forced? I pretty much know by now when I'm forcing an idea that doesn't fit and when I'm genuinely inspired. There's nothing like that feeling of excitement when everything is clicking and the artwork is growing and changing as I work on it.

Little happy accidents are always welcome too. The guitar piece that I did titled "I Saw The Light" was one of those little accidents. My son-in-law was going to throw out his broken guitar from his childhood and I asked him if I could have it because I thought I could make something cool out of it. I made a tribute to Hank Williams with it, due in part to my love for old classic country music. It was only a couple of years later that I realized that it was the same brand (Silvertone) guitar that Hank Williams played. That was cool.

6. Have you ever considered creating assemblage portraits of people? Would you consider creating a self-portrait assemblage piece?

The closest I've come to doing an assemblage portrait is when recently a couple asked me to do an assemblage to represent their love for each other. That one will be an interesting challenge. As far as creating an assemblage self portrait? I might go crazy just trying to get started on that one. My whole life has been an assemblage.

Here are two examples of his work:

Title: "Sanctuary"

Title: "This One Wants To Be A Blues Guitar"

If you're like me, you're already interested in what he's going to create next! Having said that, check out for updates and new work. Thanks, Randy, for a great interview and continued inspiration!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

ad free but still caffeinated

I've been a blogger for over three years and an artist and graphic designer for 10 years. What I've come to realize is that in a world of multi-media, "digital this" and "digital that", and online interactivity, ideas are more important than ever before and the communication of those ideas must be handled with care.

One influence in my quest for new ideas and communication efforts is the blog of author and illustrator Keri Smith ( I appreciate the level of creativity and concept that is applied to her blog and creative approach; when I read her thoughts on advertising and blogs, I realized I had to mention this endeavor for not only the sake of my own work but for the positive impact it could have on others.

Here's an excerpt from the frequently asked questions section of the website:

"I am opposed to widespread advertising impacting every aspect of our existence. And I am drawing a line around the space that I deem inappropriate for advertising to inhabit. In this case it is my blog.

As an avid blogger for the past six years I started to receive numerous offers of money from companies to both advertise on my site and also to "mention" products as a form of endorsement in the content of my blog. Knowing this goes on it became necessary to differentiate myself from blogs that contain ads and inform my readers that they can know for sure that my endorsement of anything (whether it's a product, a book, a piece of art, an idea) comes directly from me and not influenced by any outside source/company/or corporation."

Am I saying that advertising is evil? No. It can be a good thing when handled responsibly; and there is certainly nothing wrong with advertising something that you feel strongly about. Although the site specifically mentions corporate advertising, the point of this endeavor is not to let advertising dictate the content and intentions of your blog and/or website content.

You have advertising badges in abstractLatte, does that contradict your article?

Yes, I do have advertising badges in my blog but I don't receive any money from these sites and I feel my readers may find these endeavors interesting, or even useful, when it comes to their creative efforts. Also, these endeavors do not dictate or influence my blog content. And no, the badges do not contradict my article.

I strongly encourage anyone that has a blog or website to visit the "ad free blog" site and consider what it's trying to accomplish; read the words and decide for yourself. There are also a variety of web badges to choose from if you are interested in displaying one in your site. Thoughts and ideas are the most powerful resources we have at our disposal; our voices communicate those ideas and our efforts make them a reality. Let's make sure those efforts are pure and not filtered.

frequently asked questions:

lost idea + lost inspiration = lost potential

What goes through your mind when I say "journal"? A diary perhaps? Maybe daily events such as a rough travel itinerary? Maybe you think of fine artists or writers and don't see the correlation between a small book of personal notes and your personal creative activities. I can assure you there is a connection; and with a small effort any creative activity, no matter what it is, can be enriched with a journal.

Everyone has ideas. For professional creatives, these general and sometimes vague notions often end up as stepping stones to greater, more specific ideas for projects and approaches. On occasion, they can move an entire body of work to creative success. And sometimes, it's not the ideas but rather the subjects of inspiration that can lead to creative epiphanies. But these ideas, these epiphanies, these subjects of profound importance, along with the resulting creative success, won't happen if that initial kernel of thought is forgotten.

That's exactly what journals do, they help you remember.

From ideas to observations, journals are portable handwritten hard drives of information that you stumble upon from day to day. Sometimes they can read like exhausted ramblings; that's alright because it's better to have the ramblings down on paper than bouncing around in your head while you're shooting photography or trying to enjoy travel sites of interest. Observations can also inspire, which could lead to a lot of excited and messy writing, arrows, and scratched-out words. That's fine too; by writing out a thought process that was, for example, inspired by some really interesting signage you came across the other day, you help yourself make sense out of the bubble of excitement that just burst within your mind. And don't feel limited to writing or doodling. Take photo studies or quick pictures as observation, print them and cut them out, then glue them into your journal. Maybe down the road those pictures or doodles will inspire a new project or support an existing one.

For me, my journal is irreplaceable. I write prose and poetry, I draw, illustrate, and shoot photography so my journal pages have varied content (your journal should be tailored to your needs). And since it's something I take with me nearly everywhere I go, it had to be interesting to look at and to use while remaining durable at the same time. After buying a leather journal at Borders that used a piece of leather threaded through three holes as binding, I took it apart. Using a variety of paper from my art supply(newsprint, charcoal paper, packing paper, as well as plain white drawing paper), I cut the paper down to the journal size, punched the necessary holes in all the sheets, and re-bound the journal with custom paper. It's inspiration in itself but again, that's what works for me.

How do you know what type of journal will work for you and your creative interests?

That's easy, whatever you think will be fun and interesting to use. Just make sure it's durable since it will (or should) travel with you on a somewhat regular basis. If you carry a pack to store supplies such as a camera or paint/brushes, journal size may not be an issue. But, if you don't carry a bag of some sort, you may want to look for something small that can be tucked into a coat or pants pocket.

It sounds like a lot of work but once you integrate it into your creative life, using a journal becomes second nature. Even if it is a small inconvenience, the benefits are definitely worth it.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hanger 3

I find that when creative individuals take a step back from the traditional approach to applying creativity and develop their own ideas into fully branded and conceptually tangible realities, great things happen...everytime. Hanger 3 is an example of this idea...

What I enjoy most about these necklaces is that there is a real story behind them. The token design, its lettering, where they could take somebody in that respective city; there are so many questions that come to mind when I see them. This is the kind of experience people should have with their personal belongings/accessories/accents.

I encourage anyone who is looking for a unique way to express themselves to check out the website; keep an eye open for t-shirts and buttons as well!...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

an alternative to traditional online publishing

Maybe blogging isn't your thing, or maybe you feel as if you don't have the coding knowledge to create a custom blog using Wordpress or other CSS-based blogging applications. Perhaps you enjoy zines or full magazines and have always wanted to publish your own?

Well, there is an alternative out there that provides the ability to create a custom image for online content that is published's called OpenZine, located at

OpenZine is essentially a combination of blogging and zines, with a few website characteristics thrown into the mix. Although each OpenZine publication exists on the internet, and therefore is not truly handmade as are traditional zines, the individual publications still allow individuals or groups to self-publish content in a magazine-style format while including custom imagery.

How can you promote OpenZine while being a Blogger user?

Alternatives are a great thing. They ensure that the overall quality offered by competitors is high and they give people the option to utilize resources that suit their needs. On a secondary note, my blog doesn't make any money from Blogger and they don't make any money from me.

Sorry, OpenZine just sounds like a glorified blog.

Well, it has similiar qualities but it's a bit different. You can leave comments but from what I can tell, they are displayed at the bottom of the screen and are not visually associated with individual articles. One of the biggest differences is that each issue of your e-zine can have a different look, layout, and overall vibe.

Are there any advantages or disadvantages that I need to know about?

Well, that depends on personal taste. The advantages are ease of creation; uploading images, creating compositions, and publishing content is easy and doesn't require knowledge of web development. The only downside that I see is the url; your e-zine's url will be If you don't mind that, along with an ad posted at the top and bottom of the screen, then you'll be fine.

Have you considered using OpenZine, even though you have a blog on Blogger?

Yes. First let me say this...abstractLatte will always exist at and at its own dot com domain. As for OpenZine, I have an idea that I want to promote regularly and have considered making its primary web presence an OpenZine publication. I'll publish more info on that soon.

So if you're interested in realistic alternatives to regular online publishing, check out OpenZine at

Friday, January 30, 2009

found objects as art and fiction

How to create a path to inspiration by going around a creative block

Creative work thrives on change and variation. Whether you're a professional artist or weekend hobbyist, creativity needs an open mind in which to work and an open mind is one that allows inspiration to enter at any time. However, inspiration is unpredictable when it's allowed to show up on its own; sometimes, it needs to be "found".

To give you an example, it's no longer enough for me to shoot a random subject. I need to know in advance what I want to capture as well as have a reason for capturing the shot. After writing out my ideas and overall thought process, I decided to shoot found objects. Found objects, random items that are found (as they lay) in public spaces, have always fascinated me so I figured this would be a good place to start. But I wanted to spice up these shots, give them something extra beyond just being pictures on paper. Since I write on a regular basis, I thought it would be interesting to add a story to each shot; taken one step farther, I decided to let the subject of the photograph dictate the story.

That's where I came up with found objects as art and fiction. I realized that those objects somehow got to that spot, either on purpose or accidentally. Who was it that dropped that bottle cap? Did the wind blow that piece of paper into the pile of leaves? These types of questions started popping into my head and that's when I knew I was inspired.

Am I suggesting that every creatively blocked photographer start shooting pics of street litter? Not necessarily. What I want you to do is think of something random that most people don't pay much attention to. Maybe it's retail receipts, lint, lost change underneath couch cushions, or even chewing gum stuck to a sidewalk. Find something that is often overlooked and start taking pictures. Ask yourself how that item got there. Try and figure out what, or who, it belonged to before it was left there. Jot down notes on what comes to your mind. And most important, keep taking pictures! Spend an hour going through this process. When you get home or back to your studio, develop the shots and compare them to your notes. At that point, let the thought process flow naturally and see where it takes you.

Inspiration isn't easy. Sometimes it comes naturally but a lot of times, it's not there when we need it most. So go out and find it. Create your own path to inspiration and creativity; and remember, creativity isn't just a fun product, it's a fun process.

(originally posted in JPG Magazine's online community on 10-21-2008)

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