Monthly Archives: August 2012

One of my favourite mediums in art is the simplicity of pen and ink and the limitless creativity that they can unleash. Hailing from Toronto, Ben Tour’s gorgeous pen and ink illustrations are a perfect example of how one can manipulate these simple tools in order to create emotion in truly dramatic pieces of art. His paintings and illustrations have been featured in such popular publications such as Playboy, Colour, and Juxtapoz and has also showcased his incredible talent in galleries across Canada and the U.S. – and lest I forget that he’s indulged big name clients like Absolut, Burton, Nike Snowboarding, BMW and Lifetime Collective with his amazing work. Currently residing in Vancouver, he’s come a long way from his humble beginnings as a Sheridan College student and continues to produce stunning work. He’s got a real Ralph Steadman kind of quality. Some of my favourite stuff comes from his sketchbooks – what I wouldn’t do to rifle through some of those over a cup of coffee!

To find out more about Ben Tour, check out his website.

Often times, when we think of art and design, the man-made world dominates our thoughts, – but nature gives us the greatest inspiration to create above all else. This world is in a constant state of creation and degeneration, of evolution and extinction, which gives us an entire spectrum of beauty and abomination from which to glean our ideas. Nothing is weirder than what nature can create – in fact, we spend generations trying to grasp exactly why things occur. We need to quantify the existence of the natural world to feel somehow in control. Why not let go and let your imagination soar with the amazing world that surrounds us? Let’s start by looking into our own backyards.

Lately I’ve been fixated on the strangest and most bizarre elements that our natural world has given us and I’ve recently come across some incredible images of odd trees from around the world, so I thought I’d share.

My all-time favourite is the Baobab. I would love to have the chance to visit Madagascar and see them towering over the landscape. To me, they are one of the most magical-looking trees on earth. Baobabs reach heights of 5 to 30 m (16 to 98 ft) and have trunk diameters of 7 to 11 m (23 to 36 ft). Baobabs store water inside the swollen trunk (up to 120,000 litres / 32,000 US gallons) to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region. Some hollowed out baobabs have been used as anything from prisons to wine bars, and one was even converted into an outhouse!

The Dragon Tree, found in the Canary Islands is also really cool looking. When the bark or leaves are severed they secrete a red resin, one of the sources of the substance known as Dragon’s blood, used to stain wood, just like that used to stain Stradivarius violins. It also traditionally has numerous medicinal uses.

The Silk Cotton Tree in Cambodia is an incredible sight to behold. It consumes buildings and many specimens have grown to gargantuan proportions in both height and width. The temple of Ta Prohm is the most popular place to view these tentacled giants.

The Tree of Life resides in Bahrain and is around 400 years old and boasts one of the deepest root systems worldwide. The Mesquite tree is now a local tourist attraction, as it is the only major tree growing in the region and is viewed by approximately 50,000 tourists every year. It is also believed to be the site for cults practicing ancient rites.

El Arbol de La Sabina is in the Juniper family, which, when distilled, provides us with gin. This specific tree can also be found in the Canary Islands, an autonomous region of Spain. The wood is really compact, fine-grained, super tough, yellowish-brown or reddish and extremely aromatic. It can grow in most soils and climates and gets its appearance from being pushed over by the rough winds that cross the ocean.

The Tree of Tule is a Montezuma Cypress tree. It has been said that it has the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world. Located in the church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule in the Mexicanstate of Oaxaca, in 2001 it was placed on a UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites.The age is currently still unknown, with estimates ranging between 1,200 and 3,000 years. One claim of 6,000 years has also been made.

The Bottle Tree is a strange poisonous one that grows along the rocky hills of semi-deserts, such as Namibia. It has a weird bottle shaped trunk and very few branches covered in thorns up to 30 cm long. It was widely used as a blinding toxin for arrow tips while hunting.

To see the 50 weirdest trees in the world, check out this site.

Bukisa also has an interesting article on strange trees from around the world.

Here are some more interesting trees that have been manipulated by man:

The Oak Chapel Tree, Alouville, France

Axel Erlandson’s Circus Tree, Santa Cruz, California

Axel Erlandson’s Arborsculpture, Santa Cruz, California

The Chandelier Tree, Leggett, California

King’s Gardens, Copenhagen

Playing with nature is Jim Denevan’s favourite hobby – he surfs, he’s a chef and he’s a well-known sand artist. Simply using a driftwood stick and a few rakes, he creates enormous majestic geometric designs on the flat expanse of the beach. The greatest part is that his work is entirely improvised – he just begins with a centre point and works his way outwards, creating large spirals and perfect circles until he’s covered most of the area. Much of his work is entirely interactive, springing forth from a series of strategic movements – like a dance with nature – and inviting the public to explore the space when they are completed. These beautiful works are temporary though – the tides wash them clean away in stages as they were created, and so the cycle begins anew. He has also branched off into working with snow-and-ice-covered terrain and I can’t wait to see more!

To see more of Denevan’s designs, visit his website.

There is also an interesting article in which he speaks to GQ about his work.

Recently, I received an email from a really cool company called Zagoo, based in Zurich, Switzerland. They create truly unique custom fashion designs on all kinds of functional items such as shoes, bags, and hats. I really love that they don’t manufacture mass-produced items and everything is one-of-a-kind, and created by real artists! They also cater to every taste and style, so you can have something made in whatever subject you’re passionate about.

They only use quality materials, leather and fabrics in their creations, and they claim to stock them in limited quantities so they are always expanding on their resources, which means that every item is a limited edition. They also pride themselves on working with a small group of carefully-selected artists and provide fair working conditions. Although they might be a little pricey (and in Euros), these high quality pieces of art are well worth the investment. And what woman wouldn’t want one of these hand-painted shoes – they are to die for!

Check out more of their amazing designs, and inquire about custom work, on the Zagoo website. (Yes, there is an english version, just click on the Union Jack flag.)

If you have something cool to share with me, don’t hesitate to send me an email at

Ahh London, where street art has graced the walls of the urban sprawl for decades, and celebrated as one of the best places to catch a glimpse of the stunning work of world famous wall artists – but with the recent Olympic invasion, the authorities are cracking down on unauthorized art, siding with the corporations who’ve dumped millions into their local economy, and attempting to keep copyright under control under any circumstance.

While there’s a lot of sponsored and commissioned work out there that revolves around Olympic subject matter, there are always a few renegades that like to be subversive, shake things up, and practice their freedom of expression. Unfortunately, there have already been a handful of arrests made infringing on that right, and many pieces have already been erased – including many that don’t have anything to do with the massive global sporting event. Famous graffiti artist Banksy has thrown up a few choice pieces, which are currently being threatened, against the wishes of art enthusiasts, and a widespread cleanup of the city is currently still underway.

My favorite offender of this year’s games is Mau Mau, the artist behind the fat McDonalds clown, hoisting a smoking Coca Cola torch. That kind of tongue-in-cheek humor against the capitalist empire is not only amusing, but also embodies the values of the punk generation that once thrived in London. It’s amazing to see the clash between the old traditions and the new in London. “This attack on one of contemporary London’s most renowned traditions reveals how deeply uncomfortable the cultural relationship between this city and the Olympics really is,” writes Jonathan Jones in The Guardian. “An event that is all about massive finance, colossal scale, hyper-organisation and culture delivered from above is being superimposed on a capital that happens to be best at improvisation, dirty realism, punk aesthetics and low art. It’s like Versailles versus the sans-culottes. And this time Versailles is determined to win.”

Rubbing out street art should never be a priority for any city authority – art should be allowed to grow and reflect the society in which it exists. Erasing a part of a city’s identity is not the answer – in fact, it’s just whitewashing an integral part of the community to benefit the capitalists.

If you want to read more about this topic, check out this article on about Darren from the Graffiti Kings. He’s created art for big companies like Microsoft, Adidas, and Red Bull – but that didn’t stop the “brand police” from arresting him for creating Olympic-related street art.

What do you think? Is the street art in London worth washing away forever because the corporations want to dominate for a limited time? 

When I was an early teen I discovered the amazing world of weird underground comic books such as Eightball, Zap, Lobo, and Tank Girl, as well as the music and art of off-kilter bands like White Zombie, Ween, Lords of Acid, and Primus, which led me to be enamoured of anything grotesque, strange and unusual. Had I known that Mike Shine had existed, I would have plastered him on the walls of my bedroom alongside my heroes of that era.

Shine’s world is populated with carnival themes and sinister characters, remixed with nostalgic elements and spattered with Norse mythology, all blended together and spat out in a strangely bright, lighthearted cartoon-like fashion. Using a variety of mixed media and house paint to morph and construct the world around him, Shine often turns to found objects such as cast-off carnival ephemera, bottles, buoys, spent skateboards and oddly shaped driftwood. Some of his characters are also mechanized like the old school carnival attractions from yesteryear, bringing them to life right before your eyes. His influences can be easily be perceived throughout – Kubrick, Nietzsche, and Wolfgang von Goethe are all represented in some form or another. His “art opera” installation entitled Flotsam’s Wonder World is a beautifully evil culmination of all of these things, centering upon the carnival ringleader, Flotsam – his own manifestation of Mephistopheles – and has been included in exhibitions with SFMOMA, Laguna Art Museum and The Museum of Craft and Folk Art.

To see more amazing art, check out Shine’s awesome interactive website.

Also take a look at these great shots of the making of the Surf Shack.

%d bloggers like this: