I'm going to submit -- how about you? by VH McKenzie


I've just received news of an "Upcycling Design Challenge," sponsored by online retailer Uncommon Goods. UncommonGoods celebrates high quality art and design by supporting a large community of independent artists and designers. 


For this  challenge UncommonGoods is soliciting talented artists to submit their most unique upcycled designs -- anything from handbags to kitchen tools, or from gadgets to wall art. 

I'm planning to submit several of my Metro Card paintings to the challenge, now also available in frames made of  sustainable wood (rubberwood and bamboo). Crossing fingers!

Here is the info provided to me by my contact at UncommonGoods:


-Grand Prize: $500 and an UncommonGoods Vendor Agreement

- We accept all sorts of materials as long as they are safe and animal-friendly. So no lead, leather, feathers, or pearls. We love unique materials, especially those that tell an interesting story, so don't forget to share your medium's tale with us in your product description.

- Judges: Writer and Reporter Yuka Yoneda, Chief Design Junkie at TerraCycle: Tiffany Threadgould. andUncommonGoods Associate Buyer for Home Decor Alexis Campagna.

-Submission Deadline: September 30, 2013 at 11:59 PM ET


-Submission page: click here.

- Judges will provide runners-up with a critique of their work, tips for marketing and growing your business.


Wish me luck, Night Shifters!


A Painting Progression - the next lady on the train by VH McKenzie


 Step 1, first blocks of color:




Step 2 - more contrast, deep shadow under the bench, refining the shape of her head....


Step 3 - changed up the color in the background behind her, modified her hair, more detail to the bench and changed the color of her big, slouchy purse:


Step 4 - a touch of lipstick and more attention to her legs and feet. Hmmm, still muddling with them:


Finished? Not sure -- think I prefer her hair as in the step above and still not sure about the wall behind her head nor her folded arms. Added the iphone earbuds but they're not clearly attached to her head! Happy with her legs and shoes, tho, very happy:

Back to the drawing board -- stay tuned for the finale.

"Give me such shows — give me the streets of Manhattan!" Walt Whitman by VH McKenzie



A stroll through Times Square is rarely on my schedule - to be truthful, I avoid it whenever possible. It's a must-see for visitors but hellish for locals.

Still, I was happy to take on a commissioned painting for one of my Etsy customers - it gave me the chance to see Times Square in a different light. Or rather, as a jumble of lights and colors. 

It was tricky condensing that landscape into a 2.5" x 3" rectangle, particularly since there really isn't one iconic image that screams "Time Square" -- it's really the cacophony of sights and sounds that you see as you do a 360 degree panorama-style view of the place. 

I decided to stick with a very loose, impressionist style to just suggest the buildings and lights at night. I added a slice of a taxi in the foreground that I think pulls it all together:


And once framed, giving you a chance to stand back and take it in, I think it works - what do you think?

Subway Card NYC Times Square No. 1
2.5" x 3" oil on Metro Card






Little Book of NYC H20 - Plus, How To Make a Tiny Book! by VH McKenzie


I couldn't pick out a favorite among my two dozen or so water tower sketches and thought it would be ideal to collect them all in a miniature book;  you don't have to pick a favorite either, collect a dozen in one fell swoop!

2.5" x  3" Handmade paper cover and archival art prints, with leather tie strip


 I've made a limited edition of these mini books - 25 in total. Each is signed and numbered inside the front cover.






Here's a quick at-a-glance reference to show you each of the prints that are included in the book:



 A lovely handmade treasure for yourself or you favorite New York-ophile:



I'd never made a mini-book before, or any kind of book for that matter. But was inspired after coming across this terrific volume, with a very straightforward title:



The accordion-style book seemed to be the perfect "starter" for a new book maker like me, since there would be no need to actually "bind" the book with a needle and thread.  I turned to that section and saw several options and suggestions:


I decided I'd make my first attempt just using inexpensive materials since I was bound to screw it up the first time around. No sense wasting my lovely handmade paper from Thailand and my archival prints on my first effort. Let's just make a down-and-dirty cheapo version first, to make sure I get the process right.

So I decided to follow the plan at the bottom of the page, the H-I-J folds and cuts. I used photoshop to lay out miniatures of some of my pen and ink drawings and just printed them out on regular plain paper with my regular printer. I had the foresight to number the images since I wasn't quite sure where they would appear in the book after the folding, cutting and re-folding took place.



Then I cut according to the instructions in the H-I-J steps:



So far, so good, I'm thinking.......

That is, until I folded it according to the instructions - and some of my lovely ladies were upside down!

See? I knew I would screw something up the first time out of the gate. So I checked which numbered images ended upside down and re-arranged the images in the print file. Seems I had to turn the top row and the third row images upside down so they'd come out properly in the accordion fold. Duly noted! 

So let's try this again:


Ok, I didn't take a photo of the next step, the re-folding, but trust me, everybody is now right side up:


Next, cut two pieces of chip board to be used as the "cover." I cut them just slightly larger than the pages:




But before I  go to work on those covers, I had to make sure those folds will really hold. I placed the accordion under a very heavy book for several hours:



What better weight than "The History of Art?"



Meanwhile, back to the covers. I knew I wanted to use the lovely handmade paper from Thailand that I had purchased in large sheets. But again, my test book was going to use something more pedestrian, so I could get the process right. My daughters had some decorative papers in their stash:



It was a bit heavier than the papers I planned to use so I affixed it to the chipboard with some rubber cement. A bit messy and probably not the best adhesive for the lighter handmade papers. But for now, it would work.

Cut the paper and trim the corners so they'll fold more easily:



 I wasn't too worried about sloppy edges -- the first panel of the accordion would be adhered to the cover and would make a neat and clean inside page. So my prototype taught me a few things:


First, I realized that I wanted to make sure the first and last panels on my print page of images were blank; I didn't want an image immediately inside the cover but would leave that space blank for my signature and the edition number.

Second, I decided to use much more lightweight papers and would need to affix the paper with something other than rubber cement. 

Third, how would I keep the book closed? I'd seen other books that used a thin leather strap but realized I needed to insert two lengths of the strip in between the cover and the page of the accordion. Doh!

Ok, so now I went ahead with my high-end versions, happy to have made my mistakes on the prototype first.


I pre-cut strips of these beautiful papers -- hand-made in Thailand from mango and/or banana leaves:



But instead of using the rubber cement adhesive, I used this acrylic gel, inside and out. The gel served both to fuse the chipboard to the paper and also to seal the outside and make it more durable:



And this time, I made sure to insert two leather strips just inside the front and back panels, before affixing the accordion to the covers:


And voila!

I deliberated a while about giving it a title  -- NYC H20 seemed perfect. I printed the title out on translucent adhesive sheets and finally, I was done!


2.5" x  3" Handmade paper cover and archival art prints, with leather tie strip



I hope you found this tutorial useful -- two more editions of books are in the works, stay tuned!

Making a Mark in Maine by VH McKenzie


I discovered the irrepressible Andrea Brand through Twitter sometime last year and when our trip to Maine finally materialized, I knew I had to seek her out and explore her Art Barn.


Located in Phippsburg, Maine on Sam Day Hill Road, just off 209 South, about one mile beyond the Phippsburg Fire Station. The barn is set back from the road in a beautiful sunny spot.


Andrea has curated a large array of work by emerging artists in the Phippsburg area. Photography, painting, sculpture and jewelry - there's something for everybody. It was a delicious treat to explore.






Andrea has amassed (and inherited!) a huge collection of sea glass:  her sculptures are beautiful and intriguing.


I worked my way toward the back of the barn, drawing to the gorgeous paintings arrayed on the rear wall.


These were the works of Ellie Barnet, born and raised in Maine with a degree in Painting from Boston University's College of Fine Art. She currently lives (and paints) in Maine.


Just beautiful - clearly the rustic Maine coast but with a modernist approach:


I did my best to capture a few photos in the dim light at the rear of the barn:


And I finally treated my self to his gem:

"View of Center Pond" by Ellie Barnet
8" x 5.5" oil on canvas

I love her work! Ellie cites her grandfather, artist Wil Barnet, among her many influences.



























The Gray Lady Came A-Calling by VH McKenzie


After some email exchanges and a phone interview with NY Times writer Matt Flegenheimer last week, staff photographer Todd Heisler was dispatched to the East Village to take some photos of me in my studio.

The MTA's copyright pursuits are the subject of Flegenheimer's upcoming piece and it looks like my successful battle against the MTA (as described on my blog here, here and here) will appear prominently (?) in the story. 

Todd took a ton of photos in my studio and I'm excited about the boost this may give me if/when the article appears in the Times. Todd is a wonderful photographer -- check out his work at www.toddheisler.com.

I'll keep you Night Shifters posted!!!

Taking Pen to Paper, Part 1 by VH McKenzie

I decided to take a break from my oil painting series of subway riders and embark on a new series of strictly black and white, pen and ink drawings. 

But my work area was a disaster.

So, first step, clean up my drawing area. Even Goose thought it was an improvement, more appealing than his usual perch on the windowsill:




Next, gather my materials:




My favorite bamboo pens:




Plus a variety of nib pens:




My trusty eye dropper:




India ink, of course:




Containers and a spray bottle of water, plus some blotting tissue:




And a  4" x 6" block of Canson watercolor paper, plus several 4" x 6" hand-cut pieces from a larger sheet of Canson paper:




Then I called up some of my own photos on my computer for reference - 






And then I went to town, using a variety of pens and techniques, even adding washes of ink with a brush to some:



About 34 in all by the time I was through:




The question is, what next? Do I offer prints? Or Mounted Prints? Or something completely different?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Vacationland by VH McKenzie

Hello, Night Shifters - I'm back after a brief hiatus from blogging.

Lest you think I've dropped off the artistic map, it actually has been a beehive of activity here; and every evening I've found myself saying about one creation or another, "I need to post this on The Night Shift."


Of course the fun is in the making and the drudgery is in the posting. But that's only because I don't want to do a crappy job of just snapping iphone pics and blurting out a few random thoughts. 

I like to  take the extra steps of scanning, shooting, cropping and thinking before I post on the blog. So I have a lot of delicious treats in the pipeline that are gradually ready to make their Night Shift debut.

Best of all, I'm officially on vacation for 4 weeks, starting yesterday, so I'll no doubt be brimming over with new work, new ideas and, of course, finally finishing up my bird series - yeowzah!

Let's start with this tiny treasure trove......

I received a message from a buyer on Etsy who wanted to purchase this Metro Card painting of the Twin Towers :





World Trade Center No. 11
3.25" x 2 " oil on Metro Card

I'll admit, it's a bit somber, gloomy, funereal even. But also a lovely geometry and respectful. No flaming, crashing planes and soaring eagles like so much other WTC "art."

My buyer asked if I could create another painting to partner with this one: a rendering of the Freedom Tower, currently still under construction at the WTC site. 

And so I did --


Freedom Tower No. 1
 3' x 3' x7' Oil on Metro Card

More celebratory, more hopeful in the light of day, the perfect companion piece.

Ok, that's it for today, but I'll be back shortly, friends -- looking forward to sharing so much more.







Misplaced Modifiers by VH McKenzie


One morning, during my ritual stroll for an early cup of coffee in the East Village,  I spotted a plastic bag full of hair on the sidewalk. Yeah, a bag full of hair.

 At first glance, I was afraid that it contained an entire  human head. I regret not snapping a photo of it and vowed not to make the same mistake twice. These sidewalks are a treasure trove of mystery, weirdness and, for some reason, shoes. 

Lots  and lots of shoes.

This page is updated regularly................click on photos for full view.


I imagine it was a spectacular walk of shame this morning. Not one, but two thongs, mere yards apart.


 08/4/13 9:07am


 08/4/13 9:08am


__________________________________________________________________________

Bloody crime scene on Avenue B.


08/2/13 7:36am


__________________________________________________________________________


A strange assemblage for July - it was cold on the Ferry?

07/28/13 9:35am


__________________________________________________________________________

Re-affirming my thoughts on The Rapture.


07/22/13 7:21am


__________________________________________________________________________

The perfect haircut.



7/19/13 7:28am

__________________________________________________________________________


Tea for two.


7/16/13 7:35am

__________________________________________________________________________


Sometimes the pictures practically take themselves.

7/13/13 9:15am


Indeed.


7/13/13 9:16am

__________________________________________________________________________


I'd leave the fugly shoes on the street, too.

7/5/13 7:56am

__________________________________________________________________________


Girl fight?

7/1/13 7:58am

__________________________________________________________________________


Somebody, somewhere, is apparently completely naked.
7/1/13 7:55am

__________________________________________________________________________

Human Capital Analyst abandons all.
7/1/13 7:38am




 __________________________________________________________________________



Alien abduction?

6/25/13 7:12am

__________________________________________________________________________

Stylin'.
6/23/13 9:50am

_________________________________________________________________________

I never see a pair of abandoned flip flops; they travel solo.
6/23/13 9:36am



_________________________________________________________________________


As if they are still walking....
6/20/13 8:03am


__________________________________________________________________________


Strange only because it was left at the PARK.  Not even remotely close to an apartment building.
6/20/13 7:21am


__________________________________________________________________________


Another lonely flip flop.
6/13/13 10:06am


__________________________________________________________________________


Barely worn.
6/13/13 7:26am

__________________________________________________________________________

Frankly surprised I don't see more of these - little kids shoes.
6/13/13 7:11am
__________________________________________________________________________

Ok this is officially my last umbrella carcass photo. I could have taken a DOZEN more that morning. Just how hard is it to drop your umbrella in a trash can rather than on the sidewalk?
6/11/13 7:45am

__________________________________________________________________________

This is getting out of hand.
 6/11/13 7:44am

__________________________________________________________________________


Promptly discarded on the spot of failure.

6/8/13 9:3am
__________________________________________________________________________


What do you think -  the Rapture?

6/7/13 7:39pm
__________________________________________________________________________

Not made for walking, apparently.

6/5/13 7078am
__________________________________________________________________________


 Thumbs up!

6/4/13 7:48am
__________________________________________________________________________


Haven't a clue.

6/4/13 7:44am
__________________________________________________________________________



Weave me alone.
6/4/13 7:43am
__________________________________________________________________________



At the bus stop.
 
6/4/13 7:31am

_____________________________________________________________________________



A not-so-effective hiding place.
  6/3/13 7:48am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Another pair of shoes in my path, all is right with the world.
  6/3/13 7:30am


_____________________________________________________________________________



I'll grant you the notion that these are rather easy to slip out of, but still, where's the mate?
 6/2/13 7:31am

_____________________________________________________________________________


More casual parenting.
 5/30/13 10:08am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Phat-farmed out.

 5/30/13 8:00am

_____________________________________________________________________________

Two pairs plus a floor lamp.

5/25/13 12:43pm

One day later -- seems someone coveted that lamp AND at least one pair of those shoes. No takers for the boots.
5/26/13 7:32am


_____________________________________________________________________________



Pants. In a tree.



5/22/13 10:33am



_____________________________________________________________________________




Abandoning this was a wise decision, if only for fashion's sake.
5/22/13  8:39am


_____________________________________________________________________________


Yes, that's another clump of hair.

10/13/12  9:36am


_________________________________________________________________



So festive, red metallic slippers! 
1/5/13  3:09pm


_____________________________________________________________________________



Margarita bonita - on the curb.
11/12/12  8:27am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Yes. Again.

12/11/12  9:42am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Gun and run.
1/10/13  10:01am


_____________________________________________________________________________



Just a couple of shoes, sittin' around, talking.
4/9/13  8:11am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Jeans, jeans, jeans --  jeee-ee-eh-unh-jeans.
9/12/12  9:50am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Purple rain.  
9/29/12  5:08pm

_____________________________________________________________________________


Iphone case, in Dr. Seuss colors. But no iPhone, Sam-I-am.
9/2/12 8:16 am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Hair chunks. For chrissakes. Again. 
10/8/12 10:03 am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Hair. Yeah, hair. Explain it to me. 

12/5/12 11:32am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Casual parenting.
8/2/12 10:34am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Walk of Shame, party of 3.

Make that 4.
8/2/12 10:03am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Walk of shame in absentia: lingerie on the steps.
7/29/12 11:20am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Mixed marriage.
6/12/5:56pm

_____________________________________________________________________________




Bad Santa. In May. That's a very bad Santa on vacation, I guess.

5/30/12 10:02am

_____________________________________________________________________________



An abandoned suitcase and a cup of un-opened yogurt. Dreams deferred?
5/19/12 8:39am

_____________________________________________________________________________

A single snow boot. In May.
5/23/12 7:55m

_____________________________________________________________________________



Rain warrior. Defeated.
5/22/12 7:20am

_____________________________________________________________________________



A boot, a bottle cap and a bouquet. Make up your own story.
5/19/12 7:44am

_____________________________________________________________________________


One rose says more than a dozen. But what it says, exactly, is unclear.
5/17/12 8:10am

_____________________________________________________________________________



No diamonds on the soles of these shoes.
 5/14/12 8:34am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Avocados. Actually, former avocados.
5/12/12 8:22am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Every damn day.
5/12/12 8:20am


_____________________________________________________________________________


I have no idea what this is.
5/6/12 7:56am

_____________________________________________________________________________



24 hours later, still married.
5/5/12 8:20am

_____________________________________________________________________________




5/4/12 8:14am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Just a bear and his coffee.
5/4/12 8:14am

_____________________________________________________________________________



Two pants in a dance.
5/4/12 8:35am


_____________________________________________________________________________



Another casualty.
5/4/12 8:17am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Marital bliss.
5/4/12 8:17am


_____________________________________________________________________________


Tempted to pick these up and take them home.
5/2/12 8:02am

_____________________________________________________________________________


I said HOLD the pickles.
5/2/12 8:01am


_____________________________________________________________________________

Old Jamaican proverb: Bird can't fly on one wing.
5/1/12 8:24am


_____________________________________________________________________________


A cleanly sawn-off padlock.
5/1/12 8:23am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Missed connection.
5/1/12 8:15am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Pants, just pants. All alone.
5/1/12 8:14am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Overnight vigil. Or spell casting.
4/30/12 8:18am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Wondering what went on here over night.
4/27/12 8:16am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Single white converse, seeking same.
4/30/12 8:11am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Strayed from the bar.
4/27/12 8:25am


_____________________________________________________________________________



Single black shoe, seeking same.
4/27/12 8:24am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Anthony was nowhere in sight.
4/27/12 8:23am

_____________________________________________________________________________


Broken.
4/26/12 8:11am

_____________________________________________________________________________

Pretty pop of color.

4/26/12 7:42am

_____________________________________________________________________________


One day later, she finds a mate. Sort of.
4/24/12 7:18am

_____________________________________________________________________________

It's a battlefield.
4/23/12  8:02am

_____________________________________________________________________________

Another victim.
4/23/12  8:00am

_____________________________________________________________________________

Single, black female.
 4/23/12  8:01am

_____________________________________________________________________________

April showers bring umbrella carcasses.
 4/23/12  8:04am

_____________________________________________________________________________

I see a lot of lonely shoes.
 4/23/12  8:00am

_____________________________________________________________________________

As if it were gently placed in the center of the sidewalk......
4/21/12 11:17am























































































Art Around The Park - 2013 by VH McKenzie

Every year I say I'm going to participate in this event the next time it comes around -- and it always sneaks up on me. I'd have to have a plan to tackle such a huge canvas and in public view! Next year, seriously, next year.

Until then, here are a slew of photos I took last week during the short time the canvas was literally wrapped around Tompkins Square Park.
1.

2.

3.

4.


5. Very Basquiat-ish. Love it!


6.


7. Nice ass, er, asses.



8. This was on the canvas near 9th Street.....
and if you turn around you'll see that the artist painted from life!



9. I don't get this one at all, bit of a hot mess:


10. Um, this had potential. I would have liked to see more -- I think the faces are all 3d wire sculptures affixed to the canvas.

11.


12.
 Wonder if anyone actually sold their sections?


13.


14.


15. Marilyn attends.


16. Andy Warhol always makes the scene - 



17. This actually looked nice in person, better than the photo, with all the light and trees showing through those cut-out triangles.



18. Yes, ma'am.


19.


20. Nice, wish we still had those hulking checkers.


21. Nice portrait but wtf is going on with her chest? She has bone issues.


22.I know Chico is considered a local legend, but I find that he always captures a likeness with something just-a-little-bit-off. And not in a good way:


23. I think this one is my favorite:

24.


25.


26.Hunh?

27. Not sure what's going on here:


28.


29.


30. Someone OD'd on all the art, I guess:

Which one was your favorite?

Misplaced Modifiers by VH McKenzie


I've added a new feature to The Night Shift called Misplaced Modifiers. I see a lot of unexpected things when I walk through my East Village neighborhood each morning, like this tableau: The boot, the bottle cap and the bouquet.

I've recently added about 40 photos and have many more to share. You can access the page by clicking the link just to the right of the "Home" tab at the top of this page, beneath the title.


Note: Updates to Misplaced Modifiers don't generate an email if you subscribe to the blog. I will announce additions periodically on Facebook and Twitter!


Lost in Translation - a painting progression by VH McKenzie

My new favorite; pictures speak louder than words so I think this one needs very little explanation -- here's how it happened:







Once again, facial issues. Although I like the soft, looseness of the brushwork on this face, she looked too old and too pessimistic than what I had intended:



Her face was also too large, I think.....so I made it a bit smaller, painting over the first effort.


And then tilted her head upwards, as she was sort of lost in thought, gazing up at the wall across from her:

Done!



4" x 4" x 1.5" oil on cedar wood block

Louis Vuitton - another painting progression by VH McKenzie

This figure drove me nuts.  A simple young woman, holding a huge Louis Vuitton shopping bag, pretty straightforward. But I just couldn't get it right. Here's how it went down...........


First washes:


 Feeling pretty good at this point. In fact, wondering if I wasn't almost done -- I liked the loose, painterly textures.


But then I got hung up on the face. These blocks are so very small, and trying to get too much detail in the tiny faces frustrates me, I keep trying to simplify and not get too caught up in the details.

She was getting a bit messy:

 And her leopard print leggings were not happening. Ugh. I kept painting them and then wiping them away:


So I went back to her face - not too bad:


But I still couldn't get those legs right. I put the painting down for a while, a week or so and then came back to it. It was all very dry (not enough linseed oil) and she looked rather vacant, in addition to her troublesome legs:



So I returned to it later and made some changes. I opted to give her a pair of jeans rather than leggings and altered her face and head, to better effect I think:

Ok, done, time to stop!

4" x 4" x 1.5" oil on cedar wood block

Subway Series No. 13 - Painting Progression by VH McKenzie

I've been meaning to document these small portraits from start to finish but routinely get so carried away in the process, I forget to stop and take some photos. I caught myself during this most recent painting and remembered to at least take a few pics with my phone as I started.

Step 1: Pencil grid on the surface to help maintain the proportions  of my reference snapshot and then some quick sketching with pencil and a thin wash of paint. This probably looks like a big sloppy mess, rather than any subway riders you may have seen:



 I've gotten quite good, by the way, at taking surreptitious photos with my phone on the train. Folks rarely have a clue that I'm snapping away...


Ok -- I wish I'd thought to take another photo before I got to this stage but I got here so quickly, I didn't have a chance! Then I stopped to let things dry a bit and consider my next move:





I was very pleased with the woman on the right but wanted to give more form and detail to her hands and lap and also to the woman on the left. But I didn't want to get over wrought in detail:


I opted to use a nice celadon-green in the background which set off quite nicely agains the rust-colored hair of the woman on the right. It also gave the scene a whole different feel than the cool gray I had in place at first. So that's it, I decided to stop right there, keeping this fresh and loose:

 NYC Subway No. 13
4" x 4" x 1.5" oil on cedar wood block