Old Bid-ness… Stencils and Friends

In the Facebook worlds, posting all this stuff is instant, and friends find things and post them. I take the trouble to pull things off of there for the Stencil Archive, my own archives, etc. and then maybe, just maybe, post it on here. I forget that some friends don’t do Facebook! And I have to remind myself that this blog belongs to me, as opposed to a multi-billion dollar corporation that is currently dot com booming the Bay Area. This site is also a great, long archive of my life here in San Francisco.

So back in late January, Regan Ha-Ha Tamanui stopped over on his way back to New Zealand and Australia. He’d been traveling the world for a year, but got stuck in Berlin for eight months. How unlucky. I got him four walls here in SF, and he took my photo after a day of wandering around the Tenderloin looking at street art. He cut a stencil portrait out of that photo, as well as the photo he took of my friend Monica that evening in Hayes Valley.

Icy and Sot, expats from Iran who now live in Brooklyn (leave Iran to have a street art show, go back to Iran and get arrested for satanism) were driving through. They all took my tour and I got them two walls to paint on. Regan collaborated with them. Icy and Sot came back to SF for an art show at a Noise Pop concert. I missed it (always seem to miss the good art shows!).

Here are photos from early Feb, with the stencil portraits thrown in.

Mu-Ban Discussion with ROBBBB (Beijing)

Last year, Sean Leow took my Street Art tour of San Francisco’s Mission District. He knew a good bit about art in the streets and eventually asked me “do you know about any stencils and graffiti in China?” My answer was no. I believed that it existed and was not that well known due to language barriers (as well as accessing evidence of a sometimes illegal art inside a tightly-controlled country like China). Leow not only knew about street art and graffiti from that part of the planet, he also was part of a group of people who were creating content for the site Neocha Edge, based in Shanghai. He gave me links and jpgs of art from China, Taiwan, and other parts of Asia. I eventually posted them up in the Asia Archive, and was happy to have two artists, Brother and ROBBBB, get their own artist archives.

Since then, ROBBBB has gotten in touch to say hello from Beijing, pass his personal link along, and give me some more jpgs to post into his archive.

I am happy to know that there are stencil artists getting up in China. When I wrote “Stencil Nation,” I attempted to include parts of Asia in the content. I was fortunate enough to find a few photographers via Flickr who had traveled to Taiwan and Japan and snapped up some stencil photos. Back in 2008, Asia seemed to be a blank spot in the Stencil Archive geography. There were no books, and artists like Logan Hicks were just starting to travel there with stencil art. I knew it had to be there, and, like the rest of the world, street art and graffiti has blossomed in all cracks and corners of the globe. Including Taibei and Beijing.

(Stencil by ROBBBB, Beijing)

During our most recent email exchange, ROBBBB wished that the English-speaking world could find out more about stencils in China. So I asked him some questions and he was glad to answer them. I have cleaned up the grammar of ROBBBB’s answers, but have tried to keep the spirit and intent of his answers intact. I look forward to seeing more mu-ban art and graffiti from China. Keep an eye out for new works by ROBBBB, along with other folks who cut the negative space.


Stencil Archive: How do you say “stencil” in your dialect?

ROBBBB: We call stencils “模板”. To pronounce it, it is spelled “mu-ban”.

Stencil Archive: My research shows that cut out art originated in China. Do you have any historical details about cut out art?

ROBBBB: Do you know the “paper-cut for window decoration”?

Stencil Archive: No.

ROBBBB: “On the joyous New Year’s Day, a lot of people in this area stick various kinds of paper-cut – paper-cut for window decoration – in windows so that they can enjoy it. The paper-cut for window decoration not only sets off the joyous festive air; it also brings beautiful enjoyment to people by incorporating decorating, appreciation, and an ease-of-use into an organic whole. The paper-cut is a kind of well popularized folk art, well received by people through the ages. Because it is mostly stuck on the window, people generally call it “the paper-cut for window decoration”. Continue reading “Mu-Ban Discussion with ROBBBB (Beijing)”

$2.55 Half Tone Stencil Series

The stencils I wored on over Dec. Jan. hang at CELL
The stencils I worked on over Dec. Jan. hang at CELL

Obscure (Jeffersonian politics)… Imperfect (Liberty)…. and Obsolete (Extinct buffaloes)

Each large half-tone stencil took about 20 hours to cut (hole after hole after hole)….

CELL:15 :: Sunday Streets n Birthday BBQ

Sunday Streets was a great time on 19th and Valencia. I barely saw any other part of the event, but managed to hula hoop more than ever in my life. Got the hang of it and then started another trick. Will have to work on it next time. Bay Area Hoopers really filled out CELL’s area. We had maybe 15 hoopers at the most, many of them children who couldn’t resist trying it out. I didn’t realize that BAH has been spending wet season at CELLspace for 8 years now! Laura baked cookies and lemon squares for Sat. night’s Funkathon, so we had the extras to hand out and try to sell. I tried to get a Funky Puppet Supper reunion together for the day, but it just didn’t happen. The most committed alum, Nate Holguin, had to work an emergency shift at the Brava Theater. A few others alums stopped by to say hey and hang out.


After running an errand, I finally made it over to CELLspace for the birthday bbq. Dave X had several grills going, and Antonio and some of the hoopers had beaten me there. Nate was there, so I was glad to get to catch up with him after a long time of no seeing. Ben Smith, an early co-founder of CELLspace, stopped by as did several folks who saw the bbq advertised online. Soft, a former caretaker, just happened to be biking by, so he stopped for a burger and some hanging out.

Photographer Steve Rhodes showed up too. When Dave saw his camera, he asked if Steve could take a group photo by the Doggie Diner Heads. And he did. You can see them all here, along with some other photographs of the murals and Jeremy Novy’s latest additions. Right before I left for my 7pm appointment, CELL’s birthday cake was cut and being consumed. For some of the group shots, we sang “happy birthday” to CELL and then gave a hearty pirate “arrrrgh!” If you care to know, back in the CELLspace days of collective meetings, we approved all passed agenda items with a loud “arrrgh!”  Makes sense that the crowd at the bbq was more into the scream than the banal birthday song.

CELL:15 ended a great success. We got some press, made a little money, created a whole lot of community, and shared some good times with new and old friends. Like I said on FaceBook… “now we return to the regular program.”

New Mural on Haight St.

Had a fun time painting this one up on Haight St. this past week. When the weather was sunny, between those rainy days, I painted, met neighbors, chatted with tourists, was documented by photographers and videographers, and had some friends wander by. I also met a few stencils artists wandering by. Good times had by all. What was once an ugly gray fire exit is now a nice, trippy, half-toned stencil mural!

On Contemplating Art and Public Space

I spend a lot of time walking/biking around urban landscapes, looking at space and photographing art. If you’ve followed my travels, you’ve notice that this is something that goes beyond hobby. This search isn’t a job either, but I have been paid for my efforts. For me, walking through a living system where humans work, play, eat, sleep, etc. brings rewards beyond a systematic point of reference. It is hard to label it as work, hobby, etc., when the urge to wander and look for art is a deep way of living for me.

This Saturday, I went for a walk, thinking a bit more about space. I reflected on the potential that space has to present art. The way people relay their feelings in more creative ways. And the lost histories that surrounds us in the neighborhoods we live in.

The following photo essay are the images that made me stop, stare, ponder, and snap. We all live in a world full of many colorful possibilities. We also live in a culture that doesn’t tolerate certain opinions, while letting others flourish. These photos touch on all the ideas I carry with a passion, and might help add context to why I constantly “stencil hunt” in the urban wilds of the USA and beyond.

SN: Online Radio Panel at Pirate Cat

Andy Blue from the League of Pissed Off Voters called me up yesterday to see if I had any plans last night. None, really. So he told me to stop by Pirate Cat Radio/Cafe before 7pm to sit on a panel and discuss graffiti on the League’s weekly show. All worked out nicely, so I met up with Reyes, Cuba, Chris (who co-created the new local books with Steve Rotman), Eddie, and Eclairacuda to have a one-hour talk about what’s going on in SF with graffiti and street art. The talk mostly discussed spray graffiti, so it was great to hear Chris, Cuba, and Reyes talk about what’s going on in their world. Chris has great thoughts and concepts about what’s happening. Eddie and I got to throw in some angles too. And the writers, including the always entertaining Eclair, kept things real throughout.

You can hear the discussion here. Make sure you scroll half way through the two-hour show to get to the graffiti talk.

Thanks to Andy Blue, a fan and grey-area participant of the scene, for pulling us together in what may become an ongoing dialog about the City’s Zero Graffiti stance, and how absurd that goal truly is.

Skylight LA Pics

Great presentation tonight at Skylight Books on Vermont St. here in LA. Submit and Ripper1331 showed up, as did a few other local artists (if I surmise from some reactions I got from a few things in the presentation). My friend/hostess Christine Marie took some photos of the event, and was great for support, assistance, and yet another diner visit (this tour is turning into the Diner Orgy Tour). Several people in the audience had a pile of questions, so we spent a good deal of time discussing stencils and elaborating on my small bullets for the presentation. Getting our stencil geek on. woo hoo!

In the big marquee lights in LA. Well, in the chalk on the sidewalk at least.
In the big marquee lights in LA. Well, in the chalk on the sidewalk at least.
OK.... No marquee name in lights, but on top of the heap at least!
OK.... No marquee name in lights, but on top of the heap at least!

Continue reading “Skylight LA Pics”

Gag me with a (Greasy) Spoon

April 29 I wake up in a quiet Val Verde and feel anxious. I don’t know what’s going on back East this morning, so turn my phone on. No messages. I didn’t sleep well last night and kept waking up, and would say a Buddhist prayer. It soothed me back to a restless sleep. Once up for good, I focused the anxiety into a shower and some more Triffids. Great book, that. Very post-WWII and English. Another dystopian novel for my collection.

Christine gets up and we have a great talk. She’s more exhausted than I am but very present for our conversations. Again, future, family, present, love, and all the poetic themes you’d think a pair of artists would talk about. We both get hungry, and  nervously checking email and text before we leave, I drive us through chain store hell to a diner that had been there since the Route 66 days. Christine tells me that this was the place where James Dean had his last meal before crashing his Porche. I couldn’t find any evidence of this on the reliable internet thingy. Over coffee and eggs, more great talking. It was Christine’s first sorta day off in months and I was glad to be there with her to enjoy it.
Continue reading “Gag me with a (Greasy) Spoon”

Tour’s Heading to Points South

stencilnation_oaklandskillshare01 stencilnation_oaklandskillshare02 stencilnation_oaklandskillshare09 stencilnation_oaklandskillshare11

Back on the roads of Stencil Nation tomorrow. Hoping that pigs and birds aren’t allowed or sneezing on the bus down to LA! The tour has been OK so far. Crowds are a bit off it seems, and sales are low, but I am happy to be on the road. Arcata and Sacramento happened last week, to little fanfare. I’m not sure what happened, or if stencils are on the radar that much in that part of California. Only a small turnout in Davis. All enthusiastic people who waited a bit longer than usual before the presentation. I showed them photos of Stencilada at CELLspace to kill time. Only sold a few books. Had an isolated day in Davis the next day, and managed to find a few stencils around the college town. Got to upload pics to Stencil Archive, which was long overdue. Sacramento on Sunday was quite miserable. The highlight was finding what looks like a C215 stencil on a random building in midtown. Found a few more stencils near the book store in the Tower District. But the presentation was a wash! Had one person show up, and we waitied about 30 minutes for more people, killing time looking at a Peter Kuper Spy vs. Spy book and flipping through Stencil Nation. She left and I left soon after, getting stuck in traffic the whole way back to San Francisco. Last Wednesday at Booksmith on Haight St. was a good time. Had about 12 or 15 in attendance. Sold some books. Got to finally meet Eclairacuda Bandersnitch, the current queen of street work in SF. She said that the kissing girl stencils all over the Mission are by Banksy (he’s got a book out from PM here in the Bay Area so was in town). Who knew he painted sidewalks?


Spent Thursday at the SF Zero Graffiti Huddle in China Town. That was disturbing (will post my notes soon). I missed the SF Arts Comission presentation on thier upcoming Street Smart program (artists to paint murals on walls that have permission). CUBA was there, one of the godfather’s of SF spray art. We connected and I think it made both our days. Sunday was the presentation  and skillshare in Oakland. Another small crowd of about five people. Good news is that four of them stayed for the skillshare. The photos of our hanging out and making stencils are at the top of this post. When I showed up to Rock Paper Scissors, the exhibit on the walls was getting painted over and a zine jam was happening. I encouraged them all to hang out and keep working during my presentation. Loved the multiuse aspect of that small space. Ruby from Wisefool was there, dropping great history of stencils in the Bay Area and adding great comments durng the presentation. So, off to the southlands tomorrow. No idea where the next wifi connect will be. Oceanside and San Diego are the next stops. Then LA (tell all your friends!) and Tempe, AZ. Then back up to the Bay Area for about four more stops. I added up all the stops from this tour and the upcoming Middle America leg, and will have done over 50 stops by then. Not sure what else is in store after June. I DID say last June that this was the “year of the stencil” so am not quite sure what next year holds in store. Year of the swine flu? Hope not!!