Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Transform a courtyard and be ASKED to graffiti!? Yes please!

Finished courtyard project: design, mural, shed refurb & labor.

I'm an old bird.
Maybe I should be calling it, GREYffiti.

That's what crossed my mind when I was recently asked to transform a Brighton courtyard one sunny morning over breakfast at Laportes in Lewes. 

First view from downstairs lounge.
"You know my downstairs courtyard?  I've been thinking about sprucing it up, maybe getting rid of the shed and having some painting done – something fun. What I really want is graffiti. Have you done that kind of thing before?"

"Nothing I'll admit to! What kind of graffiti do you like?"

"I'm thinking about a Brighton scene. This may sound funny, but I really like the portable toilets they've painted on the beach. Not necessarily the style, but the idea of a beach scene."

Well, that was all our table needed. The conversation very quickly turned to the obvious Brighton beach chairs, pebbles, East and West Piers and beach huts . . . . BEACH HUTS?

"Hey, is your shed in good condition?"

Shed before (needed new roofing)
"Not bad. It's a little worn down. I was thinking it could just be taken out to make room for something else. Why?"
"Well what if we kept it and used it as part of the beach scene? Make it a feature and paint it like a Brighton beach hut! We could even use pebbles."

I love brainstorming. It always helps when you know someone fairly well, but you can never be sure exactly what they're seeing in their mind's eye. My years as a graphic designer taught me to ask questions – what colors do you like? What are you interested in? What kinds of music, art, people, animals, cities, movies, tv shows do you like? What are your favorite activities? What message are you trying to get across? Political views? What style speaks to you – clean and tidy or chaotic and crazy? 

There really isn't a wrong question when trying to narrow down the starting place for a commissioned piece of art, much less a 12 x 6 foot spray-painted mural on someone's freshly painted white wall! 

Ad for sideboard and inspiration for shed.
Thankfully these days we have PhotoShop. I took a few well-thought-out photos so I could give my client a fairly realistic idea of how the finished project would look, starting with the shed. He'd mentioned stripes over breakfast, then remembered a piece of furniture he had his eye on and emailed it over. 

"Do you think you could match this kind of look for the shed?"

Shed "sketch" in PhotoShop
That was really helpful. Not only did it give me more insight into the look and feel he wanted, the design was inspiring. The next day I emailed over the initial digital "sketches" complete with pebbles, the mural components and a basic idea of what the shed would look like.

First draft of design (created in PhotoShop).

I always hold my breath at this stage. It is the moment of truth to see if I'm anywhere near the right mark. And I was for the most part. All of the design elements were a hit, but we needed to discuss the colors. No problem! 

My client wanted warmer colors (purples and reds) for those cold, grey winters in the South of England, and now planned to install outside lighting to highlight the courtyard. We would revisit the treatment of the floor tiles once everything was installed and painted. 

Within a few hours, I had adjusted the mural design (removed the beach chair, shifted the West Pier to the left and Miles away from the shed by a foot), and was ready to schedule my first work date. There was the small matter of all of that soil in the planter which I ended up digging out, bagging up and re-distributing in the upstairs garden. Yes, we one-grrl-band artists have to be ready to get stuck in and wear a few different hats – gardener, carpenter, painter. It keeps us honest.
Finished shed.
Then came the fun – painting the shed. I spent the first part of my second day fitting new felting (sanded tar paper) on the roof and refitting the loose boards, then gave the shed a coat of Weathershield water-based white paint. It was really warm all week, so it dried almost immediately. I plugged my trusty hand sander in and started distressing the paint. I treated the doors like an abstract painting – working layers up, scrubbing bits out, scraping, sanding and doing it all over again until I achieved exactly what I wanted. Then I added pencil scratches, writing, designs and shading and varnished everything.

Wednesday I shopped for spray paints and other fun supplies at Seawhite of Brighton in Partridge Green. (Hands down my favorite art supply store in the world. Oi vey, and the prices!) 

Close up of West Pier stencil.
Thursday I worked on drawing and cutting the enormous stencil of Miles Davis and the slightly smaller West Pier. I can't remember how many X-acto blades I dulled, but suffice to say, by Friday I couldn't wait to get spraying.

First version with arched background and blocked Miles stencil.

Finished the first day of painting with changes to come.
So I finished painting for the week and left it for my client to come home the following Monday. I made the decision at the time to arch the background rather than taking it all the way from the right corner. When I left, I wasn't completely happy with how it flowed. My client agreed, and although he was very pleased with Miles, the Pier and colors, asked if I could rework the background – getting it closer to the original design.

Meanwhile I ordered 10, 25kg bags of beach pebbles and two 4 x 8 foot sheets of 2 inch thick styrofoam sheets to cut and fit into the bottom of the planter as fill under the pebbles. The order would take a few days to arrive, so I planned my attack on the rework of the mural.

By Saturday, I was ready to go and really took my time making a seamless transition to the background. Miles was cut off at the shoulder in the original painting, so I referred back to the photo I used to draw the stencil and brush painted the shoulder and back, keeping the effect I originally achieved with spray paint. I added some highlights to the pier as well, brush painting some lines and reflection from the water.

Finished mural, shed and beach pebbles. We left the floor tiles as is.

The added day gave me time to smooth out my first attempt at spray painting the sky and sea, and I was much happier with the final outcome. It always pays to take your time, step back and walk away for a little while. Fresh eyes are good.

The result: a very happy client and a garden party two weeks later with Miles serenading from the courtyard. Cool, man.

Example of outdoor, weatherized garden art on an upcylced door.
If you're looking for something different and want to transform your outside space, pub garden, porch, building or anything else, contact me! (info at cookiechang dot com) I'm open to discussing anything from a little piece of outdoor garden art to a whole space makeover – any style. View my etsy shop for other indoor art as well.

Monday, 4 August 2014

A Tricky Landing in the Tree of Knowledge


"A Tricky Landing in the Tree of Knowledge" mixed media: bendy art doll in her flying machine, clockwork propeller, bottle cap, carved wooden mushroom & apple, Tree of Knowledge face, gouache & pencil forest painting, Jenga frame, enamel paints, gel pens, ink, milagro & painted tack.
Like me? You can BUY ME HERE!

Music: "Can't Stop it Raining" by The Unthanks
All images ©copyright Ramey N. Holsman

Thursday, 15 May 2014


Dear Rook,

I thought you were a plastic bag
tied to a pole
filled with a handful of earth

just enough to make you
    and jerk
in the wind.

I thought you were designed by a clever farmer
to ward off
unwanted dinner guests.

But then you looked too real

and I saw
    in that same field
three of your sisters
dancing the same herking jerking

of feathered sinew.

I used to wave and smile at that farmer
    so noble
I thought.

Now I tag your funeral photo:
gunned down in her prime
paraded before the masses

Peck this bastard's field dry
    and don't stop 'til you hit

by Ramey Holsman ©2014

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

the return of the papalclip!

Back, ohhhh, something like 23 years ago, I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar when I met you . . . Wait, no I wasn't. Let's start over.

Back, ohhhh, something like 23 years ago, I was doing graphic design the old-fashioned way – paste-up and layout – using a statcam, waxing strips of type and cutting things with X-acto blades for a little-known TV guide magazine in Portland, Oregon. I'd already done that kind of work for a few years, so usually finished my jobs quickly and had plenty of time to annoy my BFF, Nancy, whose layout table was directly behind mine. She also had a much more complicated job and was overworked to say the least, so it was rare for her to have idle hands, and rarer still an idle mouth – like mine.

Nancy had a strange attraction to Catholic iconography back then (still does, actually), and often drug me along to a hole-in-the-wall shop, deep in Southeast Portland, to buy little trinkets, medallions and prayer candles. I got a kick out of seeing how she displayed everything later – windowsill alters with tiny plastic nuns holding rubber pigs; prayer beads draped across picture frames; a crucifix magnet holding a Sex Pistols postcard to the fridge . . . her creativity knew no bounds.

So it wasn't too much of a stretch to find something, not only to amuse myself, but potentially get a giggle out of Nancy while I sat twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my boards to be proofread late one afternoon. I had been shooting a bright red paperclip across the room with a rubber band. I know, it sounds like something a 12 year old would do, but I never claimed to be mature – especially back then! My coworkers, including Nancy, were starting to get pretty annoyed with me.

I'm not sure who actually said it, but someone had a little slip of the tongue when throwing the paperclip back at me (with gusto), "Here's your stupid papel clip!"

Well that was all I needed.

"Papel clip!? Haa haa!! The Pope on a paperclip . . . I love it . . . a papalclip!! I'm makin' one!"

"Whatever keeps you quiet!" Nancy grumbled from behind her mounds of type.

I'm digging in my purse for a thin-line drawing pen, putting a new blade in my X-acto knife, scrounging through the wastebasket for the right weight of paper . . . and being anything but quiet.

"Hey, what do Popes wear anyway!? Purple? Red? White? They wear those funny hats don't they?"

"SHUT UP!!" It was a choir of voices.

"Sheesh. OK. Fine. I just can't picture what a pope looks like. I was raised baptist, not catholic," mutter mutter.

Now remember, 23 years ago you couldn't instantly google "pope photo" and scroll through thousands of images, so I just started sketching a tiny guy in a long white robe. It was primitive to say the least, but when I'd finished, I thought it aptly conveyed the joke. I carefully cut him out and taped him to the red paperclip.

When Nancy got up to go check on something in the other room, I ran over to her desk and clipped the top bundle of papers together with a little note: "papalclip." It was nearly time to go home.

"Hmm heh heh heh. Papalclip. It's perfect." Nancy quietly chortled.

"It's yours! You get the first ever papalclip!! I'm gonna make more!"

And I did. And I even sold a bunch in a local hipster gift shop. And a year or two later, I filed them away and forgot about them.

So, when that white smoke blew the other day, I thought about my BFF and that little red piece of wire. I figured it might be kinda fun to bring some new life back to the papalclip. Hope you like it too! papalclip.com

Love you Gweeb. Thanks for being so patient with me ;-)

Friday, 4 January 2013

Lucia Debrazi is Sleeping with the Fishes, Pt 1

Good lord that was a long time coming! And it's just been sitting on my computer too. Well, I had to face the fact that I wasn't going to finish this project unless I had some incentive, so I thought I'd better post Part 1 to get the ball rolling.

As every artist knows, the biggest ideas can start with the smallest nudges. Back in July 2011, I posted lucia debrazi is sleeping with the fishes . . . It was just a title I threw out after meeting one of my little sister's craft challenges: "Create something that starts with the letter B." So sue me, I went a little off-track (in character). Lucia's story took hold and wouldn't let go of me for a number of weeks . . . months . . . and I created Part 1 and  "a word from our sponsors," cookie chang's commercial.

Then I got busy creating little hapas : world fusion street food & takeaway art, and Lucia went back to sleep with the fishes for a good, long nap.  Hey, I'm not complaining. I'm up for anything that keeps my creativity machine well-oiled – even if I had to trade my paint brushes in for wooden spoons and baking trays for a little while. cookie chang kept kicking me in the shins, begging to get back to art, animation and goofiness, so we gave her a little hapas commercial to work on to keep her busy.

Happy 2013. Here's to more art, more food creations, more animation and more cookie chang & little hapas collaborations!

All images, animation, characters, props, art, photography, sound and story ©Ramey Holsman (aka cookie chang). All rights reserved • cookiechang.com

Voice of Decima (and Decima's art) ©Kate Cooper (aka kpie88) • kpie88.etsy.com

Sunday, 30 December 2012

teaming up with little hapas – video ad!

Well that was fun! We're already planning of our next project depicting little hapas takeaway art. Of course it will be posted here.

All images, dolls, props, animation, sound (including voices) and photography ©Ramey Holsman (aka cookie chang) & little hapas. The wonderful background watercolour townscape was created by ©Kate Cooper (aka kpie88).

Friday, 14 December 2012

little hapas : creativity takes many forms

Oy vey have I been busy! So busy I nearly forgot about cookie chang.

"How could you do this!?" you may ask.

Truth is, I didn't really forget about cookie. How could I? She's been my left-hand gal, whispering ideas in my ear for our latest creation, little hapas : world fusion street food & takeaway art.

In addition to developing little hapas ethos (plus designing and illustrating everything around it), and hapa-izing our adorable new Aixam Megavan . . . we've been busy experimenting in the kitchen for the better part of the year! We've mixed and matched flavours from around the world – from Korean burritos to Mex-Italian quesadillas to kungPOW! hapacorn.

We're in the process of getting our online shop up and running too, so you'll be able to make your own world fusion street food with our hapasauce no matter how far you are from Sussex!

Did I mention that little hapas also "serves" takeaway art!?  Our tiny cab windows make the perfect place for the loco hoco mini gallery, featuring art by cookiechang (ramey holsman) & kpie88 (kate cooper) -- prints, original iron-on art patches, badges, etc.

Give little hapas some love on facebook and tune in to our tweets. And PLEASE don't forget about cookie chang! She may have traded paint for soy sauce at the moment, but that doesn't mean she's stopped creating.