Friday, November 1, 2013

Virgin Mobile Office Murals—“It always comes back to the Music”

This post will feature the work for the Virgin Mobile-Office Murals and the discuss the process and direction behind the project. If you just want to see the work, skip to the images way below.


Last year I was approached to create a series of murals for the Virgin Mobile offices in New York and New Jersey. This was a dream job as The Creative Director-Octavio Sobriero was a fan (as am I) of the Prince Paul—Psychoanalysis album package art that I created for the Tommy Boy release of that album. This art became the “Guiding Star” for the project.

One of the reasons the gig resonated so much with me was that when I was young I was really into Roger Dean. His work and pioneering of the look of Virgin Records' brand has always been a huge influence on my work and interests. Dean is one of the reasons I became and illustrator as the idea of creating art for ““Kids” getting high in their bedrooms, listening to records and digging on album art” always seemed like a worthy endeavor and a social good—in the name of what Aesthetics truly is...

Some of the earliest influences on my work and thinking are Rodger Dean, Willem de Kooning and Constantin Brancusi. I see these influences as wholly apparent in the approach to the work over the years and in this mural series. The exposure to these influences came from the books in our house when I was growing up. They were part of a library of Commerical and Fine Art books my father had amassed for reference and inspiration as he had worked as an illustrator in the 60’s in the CBS art pool who later became a High School Art teacher. Some of these books I found entirely confusing at that early age (de Kooning) but that only added to their appeal and later influence. However, in Artschool it was the Rodger Dean/M├ętal Hurlant (read-French Heavy Metal magazine) influences that were dismissed as “Corny” and I was encouraged to move away from it then. I understood the argument but early influences run deep...

I still marvel at Dean’s work today.

Beginning the Project:

The depth and history of the Virgin brand is expansive (to say the least) as Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial spirit has touched ALL media and services but as Octavio said in our initial conversation about Branson “It always comes back the music”. It was of particular interest while researching the company to read how distraught Branson was to sell the original Virgin Music label as this was the only way to actually save it and ensure the long-term goals for the brand as a whole.

Critical Art Direction from conversations with Octavio that really influenced the project:

1. For the person who works at this company their entire life, I want them to see something new in these murals every day.

2. It’s ok for folks to be unsure of the murals...

3. Virgin Freefest is our main event—It’s all about The Fans & The Music.


I really thought about the difference between what you can do internally with a brand versus what’s been done outside in the marketplace as Octavio asked me to push what’s possible to the limit. I’ve found that the tastes of folks, especially creatives, working internally for a corporation are always much more adventurous than what can be done with a brand in the marketplace (there are obvious and solid reasons for this) and internal projects always have a bit more freedom and flair to them.

Keeping all of this, and the vast history of the brand, in mind, the thinking was to depict a loose sort of “Primordial Soup/Origin Story” for the series.

Yet the statement—“It always comes back to the Music” was ever apparent as I’m eternally fascinated by the idea of what “Fandom” is. Fandom is about a relatedness that is in touch with the idea of “The Good” but I do think an aspect, or thesis, of the deepest forms of Fandom is—If you don’t understand what is good about this, then you don’t understand anything about life and living. This I find most fascinating.

To see Virgin Freefest is to see what Fandom is all about and it’s value as an communal experience. The Fan—is the symbol of Genuine Enthusiasm, and—Genuine Enthusiasm is a precious and inspiring thing. I’m always up for creating an image or icon that can relate and communicate an ethos to a fan that in turn instills inspiration and enthusiasm (In some ways this is like describing a feedback loop ((music)).

You’ll see a wide range of approaches to the storytelling in the images below as for me, a large part of being an Illustrator is about having a deep interest in an expansive and ever evolving skill set to combine and re-mix all this with intuition— to activate ideas and solve problems. Style- is a concept. This project insisted on dipping into all of these ideas and a mixed bag of skills from the sketchbook work, experiments and old techniques to play around within the story of the Virgin brand’s development, where it’s at now and where it’s going.

These murals would not be what they are without the colab & direction from Octavio. Thanks Oc!


NYC Mural art, details and installation:


New Jersey Mural Art 1, details and installation:

New Jersey Mural Art 2, details and installation:

Below are selected elements created for the project, some of which were used for wall art (in celebration of The Fan):

That's all for now...

Monday, May 20, 2013

MTA Public Art—Central Ave Station: Generation Dynamica

I'm thrilled to officially announce my receiving a second commissioned artwork from the MTA. It will be a permanent installation of public art for the Central Ave. Subway Station in Bushwick, Brooklyn on the M line. In total, there will be 20 (two sets of 10) panels that will feature the artwork cut out of 30 X 44.5"- 316 stainless steel panels. The panels will serve as windscreens for the elevated subway station.

This post will feature the images of the final art that will be laser cut out of the panels, some of the images from the original proposal and explanations of the process for the project and how it evolved.

Architectural renderings of the station and a comp of the final 2-panel option.

Final art for laser-cutting.

Photo sample of 316 Stainless Steel Panels (for color and tone).


The initial proposal had panel sets of four (4) grouped together to be painted black and were much more kinetic and vibrating, in regard the visuals. At this point I understood that there wasn't much that couldn't be done in regard to the actual cutting of the panels so I was mostly concerned with getting my ideas and intent across to the selection committee. If the idea was chosen, then we can easily figure out the details regarding the execution.

The three images above are from— The original proposal I had submitted, all of the art for the 4-panel option, the art inset within the architectural drawings and a comp of the art (to a "relative scale") in a photo of the existing station. 

I had also included a 2-panel option in the initial proposal. I was really surprised that I preferred this option. It seemed to broaden the overall experience of the art when it was placed into the architectural drawings (images below).

In the end, the committee decided upon the 2-panel option with the feedback of —1. Figure out how to solve the problem of the smaller figures and art needing to connect somehow as the panels need to be a single piece of laser cut steel. 2. Tone down the vibrating aspect of the art, just a bit. 3. Perhaps the stainless steel natural finish would be a nice option for the art. All sounded good.

The final art—all together.

I have had such a strong connection to this area of NYC because from 1999 until 2007 I lived in, and ran, my art studio out of my apartment near the M line subway that runs down Myrtle Avenue. While living there I felt openly welcomed and, as much as possible, integrated into the community. I've experienced it as a community with a rich cultural past and heritage that broadened my own cultural experience. Strangely though, while I was living there I was reading Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller and in the book there is an entire passage that describes how Myrtle Avenue “...leads to America’s emptiness” and how nothing of value or substance has ever emerged from Myrtle Avenue. The passage goes on to describe an insufferable bleakness and sorrow about Myrtle Avenue that simply escalates with each paragraph. I remember laughing out loud and I was really astounded at how strange it was to  actually be living in the place that this bleak passage referenced and how this sentiment was entirely contrary to my own experience of living there. What I had witnessed, firsthand, on Myrtle Avenue was a vibrant, diverse, welcoming and thriving community of families and individuals who were actively engaged in their lives, finding joys and satisfactions throughout and expressing themselves and their interests to the fullest. 

Myrtle Ave Apt.—backyard.

While my wife was briefly living with me during the last few months before I moved away from Myrtle Ave, she was talking to someone at a party who was raised in the neighborhood and had found his way to a prominent position in the music industry and when she mentioned where she was living he paused and said “Now that’s a dynamic neighborhood...”. My thoughts exactly...

The piece is titled—Generation Dynamica