Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Endearing

Squidball Display in Odeiba, Tokyo

One thing I love most about visiting Japan is taking in all the cool, fun, cutesy things you see everywhere. From store packaging to advertising to the really interesting mini-sculptures you see in front of businesses of all types, everywhere you go you’re greeted by a smiling, happy icon, be it an orange elephant, an ice cream cone, a frog (or a lot of frogs), even an upset tummy. It’s hard not to smile when you see ’em, and that’s part of the reason I find visiting Japan so much fun. Here’s a small gallery of some cool cutesy stuff I’ve encountered in my various travel to Japan. Now if these aren’t endearing, I don’t know what is!


Posted in Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Japan, Kyoto, Photography, Tokyo | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Art Coutre: The Fashion Forward Illustrations of Peggy Wolf

Magic Fairy

Peggy Wolf is a Germany-born artist whose love of fashion inspired a career in art. A former student of fashion design, Wolf gravitated more towards drawing rather than dressing sophisticated, artfully-clad women who would be right at home on the fashion catwalks of the world. Along the way she worked for an art gallery, a trend-consulting company, and she started a successful career as a freelance illustrator of fashion magazines. She currently lives in London, where she moved on a whim, juggling careers as an illustrator and interior designer. Her use of bold lines and juxtaposed textures, patterns and bright colors are all hallmarks of fashion, and her interesting use of found images in a collage-like format gives her work a unique, almost dimensional feel.

So check out the work of Peggy Wolf in the gallery after the jump. As usual, you can see much more of her art at her website, or at her Etsy page, where you can buy many of the prints you see here for affordable prices.  Continue reading

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Shine


Kyoto Bike Girl shines like a pink diamond as she waits for the light to change.

Posted in Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Japan, Kyoto, Night, Photography, Stephen Kelly Photography, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Dark Forests: The Folksy Surrealism Of Kathleen Lolley

Captive Light

The night, darkness and nocturnal creatures figure prominently in the rustic yet mysterious art of Kentucky-born artist Kathleen Lolley. Owls, fireflies, and even little ghosts frolic in the softly-colored forests and woods of Lolley’s imagination. Like many of the artist I’ve featured in these posts, her art celebrates the sinuous, peaceful connection of nature and humans.

Spending a childhood “split between the green hills of Kentucky and the magical dark forests of Pennsylvania,” as well as a long-held family tradition of sharing oral stories and folk tales, helped form a visual narrative that serves as the backbone of her intriguing work. These influences could also explain the many fantastical creatures that populate her dreamy greenspaces.

The Magic of SolitudeWhen it comes to her technique and the thought processes that go behind her creations, Lolley says it best on her website:

“My visual style is an organic mix of surrealism and folk art. I use a wide variety of mediums including acrylic, oil, paper-mache, gouache, mixed -media and collage. I strive to allow enough ambiguity for the viewer to draw upon their own imagination to create their own interpretation.

“I am very interested in exploring the unconscious influence of childhood in our adult lives. When I paint, I use innocence and playfulness to explore complex themes. I derive visual inspiration from nature, folk tales, philosophy & music and seek to synthesize these elements in my work.

“My work is not about humans having a spiritual experience, it is about spirits having a human experience.”

Enough said! You can enter her magical worlds by checking out the gallery after the jump. Again, this is but a small representation of her excellent work, and you guys can check out even more on her website (in which she shares more detailed information on each piece) or her Flickr page. Continue reading

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The Pastoral Surrealism of Jacek Yerka

Don't Slam The Door

Born in Poland in 1952, Jacek Yerka studied fine art and graphics prior to becoming a full-time artist in 1980. While at university, Yerka resisted the constant pressures of his instructors to adopt the less detailed, less realistic techniques that characterize so much of contemporary art. Instead, he stubbornly continued to work in the classic, meticulous Flemish style he still favors to this day. In the end, it was his teachers who eventually relented, finally recognizing the talent of their determined student.

Bible DamThe pastoral atmosphere of the Polish countryside provides a solid foundation for much of Yerka’s art. However, it is his own uniquely evocative dreams that delineate the complex, often arcane imagery of his work. One need only glance at the luminous surfaces of Yerka’s canvases to perceive his adoration and resonance with the master painters of the 15th and 16th centuries, key factors in his surrealist development. Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Hugo van der Goes and Jan van Eyck were powerful, early influences.

Yerka uses precise painting techniques and his many influences in his work, but he mainly relies on his unlimited imagination to create surrealistic compositions and landscapes that have a unique connection with the natural world. While pastoral, his work often portrays the sometimes-uneasy alliance between man and nature.

Check out the gallery after the jump, or visit his website to see more of the work of this visionary artist. Continue reading

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Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Unexpected

_ASC0782When I made plans to photograph the scene outside AT&T Park before last Friday’s Giants game, I didn’t expect a rock concert to break out. But that’s exactly what happened as Petty Theft, a Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers cover band from Marin County, were rocking out at Seals Plaza, right outside of the park.

_ASC0594Petty Theft is a really tight 6-piece band who faithfully covered all of the big hits from the Tom Petty songbook (including my TP faves Kings Highway and You Wreck Me), as well as a few obscurities.The show was first of this season’s Orange Friday Happy Hour of live shows before Friday home games (it’s called Orange Friday because the Giants always wear their orange jerseys on Fridays), and what a great way to end the working week. Petty Theft rocked the crowd with a fun, two-hour set before last Friday’s game against the New York Mets that fans really got into, especially one guy who stood at the front of the stage playing a mean air guitar.

Cover bands can be funny, because sometimes the band (or at least the lead singer) eventually come to believe they really are the bands they’re covering, and they can go a little too far in emulating their heroes, often crossing that fine line between homage and parody. When I was a college student in Philly we used to check out a Bruce Springsteen cover band called Badlands that played the club circuit at the Jersey shore, and the singer actually thought he was Springsteen, wearing the same get-up Springsteen wore on the cover of Born To Run and telling rambling stories in between songs that were nowhere near as interesting the as the real Boss (sorry, dude … the frustration of waiting for the cable guy doesn’t make for a compelling yarn, even if you’re faux Springsteen).

_ASC0705I once saw the singer of a Rod Stewart cover band kick soccer balls into the audience like Stewart used to do in his live shows, and you might remember my recent post from the San Francisco St. Patrick’s Day Parade where the singer of the U2 cover band Zoo Station aped all of Bono’s moves to a T, including a holier-than-thou-watch-me-walk-on-water-when-I’m-not-having-brunch-with-Bishop-Desmond-Tutu attitude. Identity problems, anyone?

To their credit, Petty Theft just came out and rocked, or, as their websites states, “Petty Theft is not an average cover band. They are the ultimate tribute to one of America’s most endearing rock ‘n’ roll legends: Tom Petty. It’s not about costumes and get-ups, it’s all about the music.” So none of the band members wore a Tom Pettyesque top hat and the singer didn’t deliver the songs in a nasal drawl in an effort to sound like Petty. Nope, it was pretty much straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll … just the way we like it! In fact, Petty Theft was so much fun, and they rocked so well, I definitely want to see them again. Kick in the fact that the Giants scored an amazing come-from-behind 4-2 win, and it all made for one very excellent Friday evening at the ball park!

Check out more unexpected stuff at Ailsa’s Travel Theme!

Posted in Ailsa’s Travel Theme, Photography, San Francisco, Stephen Kelly Photography, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

POP! The Lowbrow Surrealism of Alex Gross


Pop Surrealist artist Alex Gross specializes in oil paintings on canvas whose themes include global commerce, the pursuit of beauty, alienation, and how globalization and capitalism have consumed our visual culture. His work features striking, dreamlike Victorian imagery, a haunting postmodern potpourri of fairytale, allegory, history, and pop culture that treads the line of striking realism and nonsensical whimsy.

ChewbaccaIn 2000, Gross received a fellowship from the Japan Foundation, spending two months traveling throughout Japan, researching and collecting a wide variety of Japanese fine and commercial art, which explains the very strong Asian imagery and references in most of his work.

While most definitely a surrealist, Gross and his work strongly embraces elements of the Lowbrow movement of pop surrealism that came out of Los Angeles in the mid-1970s. This populist movement has its roots in punk music, underground comics and the hot rod culture and is known for its sense of humor and its sarcastic, often biting commentary of the modern world.

Born in Roslyn, New York in 1968, currently living and working in Los Angeles, his work can be seen in art journals, magazine adverts and book covers and he has been featured in galleries around the world.

Check out the gallery after jump, or visit his website to see much more of the interesting art postmodern, lowbrow, pop surrealism of Alex Gross.

Continue reading

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