It’s amazing how things come together when you aren’t paying attention.

It seems so coincidental, that I have to pause and ask, Is something bigger than myself at work here? I listen to RadioLab on NPR. During the summer, I heard this episode about an Anthropologist who was documenting objects left in the Sonoran Desert (Arizona). These objects ranged from thousands of backpacks, bottles, shoes, clothing, and human bones. Sadly, this area remains a grave sight for many who try to find refuge in America. It breaks my heart. This quote comes to mind, when I think about equality, freedom and politics.

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

John F. Kennedy

So I listened and internalized. Listened some more and moved on. About a week later, my friend Angel Fernandez calls me up. (He works at another campus within Tarrant County College.) Angel asks if I can help with editing a video and compose a soundtrack. Curious and excited, I ask him what it is. He says that he has purchased land out near Big Bend National Park. I get more excited. He tells me that he is building a 400 lb wire frame with tires attached to the outside. I get scared. He tells me that he will be filming himself pushing it on his land. I get sweaty thinking about pushing that heavy object. Conceptually, he starts to tell me of migrants from Mexico, the Devil’s Highway and a researcher he heard speak at Baylor University. WHAT!??  Is this really happening to me.  Something good is about to happen! We will be entering our video into the LINES OF THOUGHT exhibition at the CICA Museum in South Korea. He gets his filming done and forgets the due date. I have a week to work on it. I rush to get it done in time to send it off in time. The exhibition is set for Oct.

Main inspiration for soundtrack: The Joker’s Theme from The Dark Knight and the beginning of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, There Will Be Blood.

The buzzing/humming/annoyance is on purpose. You ears on not playing tricks on you. This was done using the sound of the drone and modifying to a specific tone(s). Low notes played on cello in combination.

Here is Angel’s artist statement.

The work is a performance video utilizing a spherical tire covered sculpture. The device creates a drawing on the sandy 40-acre surface on our property in Terlingua Ranch. I document the process and finished marking via drone photography as well as on the ground footage. While traveling from South Padre Island to the Big Bend along the U.S. and Mexico border, I encountered chained tires that the Border Patrol uses on the American side. Their white Suburbans drag tires to clear tracks on the dirt paths. This clearing or erasing of tracks allows them to monitor fresh foot traffic. Native Americans used this method to track and hunt various animals. This technique sustained their livelihood, which at times was unpredictable. Tires are symbols of progress, movement and date back to Sumerian culture’s invention of the wheel, one of the most revolutionary inventions of civilization.

I intend to use the tires differently from the subtracting and destroying quality. In Tires for Sisyphus, they are a creative and mark making tool. The tires and my shoes leave impressions on the earth the same way that immigrants leave evidence of their passage. This drawing is a record of the journey. The process of pushing this object on the desolate landscape suggests a perpetual struggle, one filled with tension, pain and hard work. Our existence leaves a mark on the land, good and bad. This same existence also makes impressions on our collective identity, shaping the psyche of this country.

Tires for Sisyphus is a reminder of the great cliché that great things come from hard work, risk and adventure. Immigrants make up the greatest part of our American identity and they embody the entrepreneurial American spirit that helped individuals traverse the Atlantic Ocean on their most perilous journey to this amazing land of opportunity. Presently, people come to this country and risk everything, including their lives. People are caged, turned away, and mistreated. Many will come back and try to find a different way to enter this country. This process is part of the unending cycle, a Sisyphean task, and the pursuit of a better tomorrow that may never come.

I am overwhelmed with pride at what we have accomplished.

Thank you Angel, Winter and Family for your generosity.



PS. We also took 3rd Place in the THIRD COAST NATIONAL BIENNIAL at KSpace Contemporary in Corpus Christi, TX.


Final Design Project. (1 of 3)

Half of my Design I class resides in the hands-on.  In fact, everything originates from drawn materials. Peppered throughout the semester, we shift to the computer to scan and scale up our thumbnails to poster size. We spend time in Photoshop and Illustrator.  The student’s Project work is generally under 7″ in any direction. This size in a hallway can be quite small.  Some of their process thumbnail sketches reside the 3″ range.  Their process is an important part of their grade and likewise I want the students to showcase their process work in the Fine Art Building hallway. So we scan these thumbnail sketches, we apply threshold to help clean up any nuances. We transfer to Illustrator and do an Image Trace which further cleans up line work/fills.  This also gives us the chance to scale up a 3-4″ thumbnail to an 11×17″ paper. It has turned out to be a good process and 11×17″ maintains a more visible impact in the hallway.

Later on, after we have covered Elements, Principles, Gestalt, and Color Theory, we start to do more on the computer.  This is one of the Final Projects at the end of the semester.  This playful type project is probably a combination of first year Graphic Design class and Advanced positive/negative space exercises.  The task is use one typeface to fill a 22×17″ area in Illustrator. No letter may be legible when in black and white. Look for awkward changes in negative/positive space. Look for “kinks” that are distracting and try to fix.  Explore scale, proportion, and balance. Colorize this composition and play with opacity. Type may be legible at this point. Use thoughtful choices when it come to color.


Toy Prototyping Exhibition, Feb 2018

FabNow is an annual conference held at TCC Trinity River campus in Fort Worth. Our Digital Art class was asked to participate and of course, I jumped on it. We set up the exhibition for a month in the library space.  I made little risers, card labels, and card holders for all students. I even made a model to exhibit. (The orange zeppelin) We had a blast.  And we only had a month to design, test and refine all the student’s work. That was rough. Some students even found time to “finish” their work with a painting scheme.

Every semester, I task the students with our First Project. Toy design and packaging.  They are charged with creating an original toy design, sketches, name for the toy, manufacturing company, description, and packaging.  The Fall students have 15 weeks to get it done.  The Spring students have a month given the timeframe. As with Tinkercad and Meshmixer, they can work from home and do not need to purchase any software, which I feel better about.

The exhibition got a lot of praise and will now be an annual exhibition that students can be involved in.  We did every print using a Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen. We need more 3d printers!

3d software is the most difficult for me to nail down and learn. Well, it was in 2002. I was in a class trying to learn Maya. There wasn’t much on YouTube or Lynda and the books were difficult to read. And yet, I got through the class somehow.  With the ubiquity of 3d printers, 3d software has become easier to learn.  Not only are there a multitude of software packages to pick from, but now, there is a range of learning curves and of course each has their own limitations.  I cover Tinkercad and Meshmixer in Digital Art class. Not wanting to scare students too much, I keep them away from heavy programs like Blender or 3DS. As I see it, Tinker and Mesh are more accessible to students who have never modeled before.  This semester, the advanced students are working with Fusion 360. I started them out on Blender and they were both lost. We are all guinea pigs in this ever changing world.

But I digress. This summer, I wanted to tackle Blender. So I loaded some YouTube lessons up, accessed Lynda through our school, which students and faculty are given free. (Thank you, TCC!) And even bought a comprehensive course on UDEMY.  It is going well.  Apparently, from what I have learned, you only use about 10-15% of the things when you are first getting started. Each design presents its own set of issues and solutions, but it went well.  Now, I haven’t touched it in a while, so I will have to brush up, but Fusion 360 has a seductive look about it so, I think I am moving on.

These low poly models were done in blender. Plane sketch is from Scott Robertson.

I love a good calligraphic line. It defines an illusion of 3d space. It breaks up the 2d surface of the paper.  With some small pieces of black mat board and some black India Ink, I created some rhythmic lines on glossy cardstock (11×17″) . I then cut up 4 sheets into 3 folded panels to make an accordion book.  I gave a demo for Deisgn I students. They experimented making their own lines and booklets. I believe each panel is 4.5×6″

This has been a running theme with my wife, Kim.  I once made her into a retro cosmonaut using photoshop entitled SPACE VALKYRIE. (will post soon)

This theme of female empowerment has deeper roots in my life.  My mom, aunts and cousins have all been a strong and positive influence on me growing up and still. They have achieved a lot in their lives and provide me with endless amount of inspiration. I am truly thankful for all of them. And so, this birthday I decided to purchase a inexpensive wood screen from Speedball and vinyl cut for the stencil. Three t-shirts later, we have lift-off.  It would have been great to do this as a surprise, but it was even better going through the whole process with Kim. It worked so well, I now incorporate a contest in my Digital Art class, where everyone creates a design, we vote, and then we print on t-shirts.  Makes a great memory for the class.

If you have access to a vinyl cutter, it is an inexpensive way to get a short run of T-shirts.  More designs to come!

Designed with Adobe Draw and Illustrator.

How do YOU come up with original shapes? This is the basis of how I teach Design I. The first day, we discuss cliche’ and how to just say NO! Throughout the blog, I post my sketches and notes from class. Given how few books there on on the subject of Design and how-to design, my colleague and I want to create a book on the process of designing.

I teach the students strategies to come up with original and unique shapes. These shapes become their library for the entire semester–feeding their future projects. We move through two major directions…organic and architectural. I have my own processes which directly reflect who and what inspires me. 3d modeling, perspective drawing, architecture, topography, and biomorphic aesthetics feed my shape language. I try to show them many examples and in the end they find out what they like and keep going.

There is no “wrong” in my class.  There is only “good” and “better”. Stay away from that harsh word.  “Wrong” can be more detrimental than any “ugly”, “sucks”, or “crap”.