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