Monday, December 17, 2007

This Painting Can Kill You

might seem like a pretentious title but it is at least fairly true. More than any piece on the blog, this painting is more effective when viewed in person. It does not translate terrible well to the web. Adding to the problem is that my camera does not seem to like to pick up extremely dark green very well.

This image replicates what it looks like upon a glance at the studio.
The second angle is below.

This is a few of the 3000 pins stuck through the back. It is a little more intimidating in person.
There were held in place by shoving them through cardboard before the canvas. As a result they are fairly sturdy. So if this fell on you, death would be a potential outcome, if a little unlikely. That, though, is part of the point.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Emergency Brigade - People's History Poster Series

The Celebrate People's History Project was started by the Just Seeds Collective to create posters which bring light to radical individuals and events that are otherwise ignored by the oft-taught version of history. While there is no arguing the potency and potential of the project, I felt that bringing the concept to a local level allows it to have a more significant impact. It is an important distinction because it stresses not only that anyone is capable of making significant change but that this has done repeatedly in one's own community.

This, then, represents the first in a series of posters devoted to informing viewers of the social justice history of Flint. To reiterate and expand all at once, here what was written to go along with the posters:

The Celebrate People's History project was begun by the Just Seeds Collective to create posters celebrating radical events and individuals throughout history. The posters bring light to those whose contributions to the social justice movement were ignored by a history which credits only single leaders. They represent the people who fought for the rights of all without reward or recognition for their efforts. They are intended for classrooms, homes, and public spaces: anywhere they can inform and strike conversation.

Celebrate the People's History of Flint brings this concept closer to home by creating posters concerning local struggles. These posters will explore Flint's deep history of union, civil rights and social justice activities. The posters are all silk-screened on recycled hand-made paper by local artists.

Each Poster costs only $5 and all profits are reinvested into supplies to facilitate the project continuing indefinitely.

When I was researching Flint's civil rights history for this project, I came across an article (shown below) written during the famed Sit-Down Strike about a riot 30 women precipitated. The women had formed a group called the Emergency Brigade to support and defend the strikers. This is the text I wrote to describe the group that appears in the poster:

Wearing red berets and armbands, over 60 women of the Emergency Brigade actively supported the strikers of the Flint Sit-Down Strike. Wives sisters and auto workers themselves, they brought food to the strikers and placed themselves between the attacking police lines and the strikers.

The brigade was organized following the Battle of Bull's Run. Early on in the strike when riot broke out in front of the plant the police took the upper hand by firing on unarmed men. In response, Genora Johnson spoke on the loudspeaker, calling to all women present in the onlooking crowd to break through the police line. Hundreds of women broke through and the police refused to shoot leading to a victory for the strikers. From this success, the women organized the brigade to respond to incidents where police attacked.

Weeks into the tiring strike, with the large engine plant no. 4 yet to participate, the women organized a plan. They leaked out that the attached plant no 9 was going to strike, leading the police to converge on it. The women marched to the plant, broke out windows, fought off tear gas and arrest. With the police occupied, plant no. 4 struck. The remaining Emergency Brigade blockaded the plant to prevent the police from storming it until more supporters arrived. With the engine plant striking, GM's hand was forced and they gave into worker demands.

After reading the initial article, I did a little further research and found out that a documentary film was made about the group in 1978.
It was nominated for an Academy Award!
You can watch the whole film at!

It is an excellent film with insightful interviews and footage of the women brazenly attacking plant no. 9. I was continuously struck by the complete disregard the women had for anyone who attempted to keep them from accomplishing their goal of doing what to them was so obviously right. They fought off sexism from the police, the community, the strikers, and the union to play a deciding role in the strike, only to get ignored by history. There were many variables to their struggle into which the film could not delve, some of which are better discussed in this article.

On a personal note, this was my first full attempt at silk-screening. Luckily it worked out fairly well. I may have chosen a different color scheme in retrospect, but I cannot by any means complain. The paper is hand-made out of about two months worth of junk mail.

Thanks to Brooke for guiding me through the silk-screening-process, lending me equipment, and dealing with my incessant questions.

Hopefully other local printmakers will help continue the project. I will be forcing them to and post their results here.

"Hurling imprecations at the police" is a rather hilarious quote.

Friday, December 14, 2007

All My Friends Can Catch Good

Creative Commons License

All My Friends Can Catch Good by
Tyson Schwertner is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Making this movie has been one of the more rewarding art projects I have embarked on. It has been a lot of fun collaborating ideas with all of those who participated. Many of the concepts for the most successful shots came from people who likely do not consider themselves "artists" in any traditional sense. Hopefully everyone garnered something positive out of participating.

Thanks to everyone who helped out and let me invade their homes and lives for a bit.

I should have my other works from the show last night up in the next few days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Post for the Sake of a Post

It has been much too long without a post. Nevertheless, this is a post.
This video is merely outtakes from a video that will be up here soon enough.
It is just a short compilation of shots where I just hit the record button for a second accidentally or otherwise.
It is more of a test to see how things look when uploaded.

Friday, October 19, 2007

3 Circuit Bends

Here are three circuit bends that have been waiting around for awhile for me to get finished.

This would be my first bend. It has the least in the way of switches and such. That said, I think it is the most "usable", although i suppose circuit bending isn't exactly aiming at usability. It has the added benefit of three contact points and a nice little led flicker.

I had red spray paint. I used it.
It helps.
This has three tiny push button switches that I accidentally bought from jameco. Luckily they were useful. If pressed a few times they trigger some rather nasty unstoppable loops. They are quite unpredictable and sometimes just kill the circuit. One can hear an example of a non circuit killing loop towards the end of the sound sample. The sample is played on an annoying widget.
It has ads.
I have to fix that.

I about fried this thing ten times over but luckily it survived. This keyboard has a sweet sampling function that I was never able to fully exploit to make it do something other than what it was intended. Someday maybe.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Last Painting of Letters

This is the last in the short series of word search puzzles. Possibly.
It is not much of a word search at all.
It is about as subtle as can be.
It took a long time.
It is good that it is done.
It is untitled.
It was quite hard to tell when to stop. Usually I do not have trouble knowing. Being that most all of the letters were drawn and then erased, I stopped when the eraser was down to nothing.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Receipts Again

These are even older than the other receipts.
I have quite a few more of these. I could make them all day if I desired. I have yet to.

The other ones are in an out of business sushi restaurant/club in Detroit that once they once showed in that may back in business soon - supposedly.

Either that or, even better, they are on the wall of the house of the owner an out of business sushi restaurant/club in Detroit that once they once showed in, that may or may not be back in business soon - supposedly.



houses on fire

originally this was titled 'shapes' when photoshoping these down i noticed they resemble steaks. kind of. so 'steaks'.


shopping bags or your boss asleep at their desk

asbestos filled walls


Thursday, October 4, 2007


I did these awhile ago. I thought about continuing and making them gigantic but at some point you have to move on and do other projects that are completely unrelated.

Wordless Wordsearch

There actually are words in it. This is impressively hard to avoid. I failed. You have failed at things as well. You know how it can be. So be it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pixel Graffiti

One of the great video games ever is 'Bruce Lee' for the Commodore 64. Luckily you can still play it thanks to people other than me. I just put the characters on the wall with spray paint. I thought doing it one pixel at a time seemed more appropriate while allowing for more improvisation. Hopefully soon I will do something more complex. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe one of my plants.

The graphics in the game seemed to use full and half size pixels. I cut out some accordingly.

I always thought the ninja guy was the worst in the game. It makes me feel bad for him. I figured I could give him a bike (my bike) to help.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Word Search for Iraqi Cities

This painting is the first in a series of word searches. In actuality, it is a drawing, as no actual paint is involved beyond gesso, but this is not relevant much anymore.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Matchbooks from Japanese Strip Clubs

Some gentleman traveled to Japan and Taiwan, visited plenty of strip clubs, smoked, and returned home with some matches to spare. Somehow the matchbooks he collected ended up at a second hand store, wherein I purchased them at 10 cents each and three years later posted them on my blog.

This photograph

I found a long time ago. I like it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How to Make a Giant Inflatable Walrus

The fine folks at Crimethinc long ago put out a diy zine which contained instructions on how to make giant inflatables. My friend Nikki and I attempted it. I had yet to see a case of people trying it out online so I thought I would share.

(I should note at this point that you can also find almost thorough instructions in "Recipes for Disaster," a fairly respectable Crimethinc release.)

What you need:

a stuffed animal of your choice - something longer than tall would probably be best

painter's tarp - a lot of it - wider the better - not the thin stuff - we used 4-mil. i think. just make sure it will hold air in. some thin kinds will not.

packaging tape - a lot of it - we kept having to buy more and more tape - then we discovered the
multi-pack - don't go cheap on this - buy the best quality you can find - 2"scissors
graphing paper

a giant room
that is it. i think.

Step 1:

This is important. Draw or take a picture of your stuffed animal. You are going to decimate it soon. You need to know how thing went together. You'll get mixed up.
Label each section however you see fit. We went with letters as this picture proves.*

*this picture i mention seems to be missing. maybe i'll add it later. it's somewhere

Step 2:

Decimate it. Actually, just tear it apart at the seams keeping the sections intact. Write on the back of each piece the letter (or number) you label it in the corresponding drawing (or photo)

3:Trace the outline of each section on to the graph paper. You might need to tape together a couple pieces of the paper. Just make sure the squares line up when you do. Again, label each piece appropriately. This is the end of labeling.

At this point you have to figure out how big you want this thing to be. I think ours was about 13 ft tall. Plenty large enough. I don't have the slightest idea how much tape and tarp we went through except to say it was a lot and we had to revisit the hardware store a number of times. If I were forced to guess, which I have not been, I would likely say we bought 5 100 ft rolls that were 10 ft wide.
Make it big as you can.

Nevertheless, you have to make a decision here and when you do, figure out a reasonable ratio for how much space each square on the paper will represent. We wanted the walrus to be about 25 feet long. If each square represented 6 sq. inches in the real world, the thing would be 27 ft long. That is what we went with. As you can see, we boxed out the drawings in 3 x 3 so each square on paper represented 1.5 square feet. You can now figure out how big your pieces of tarp have to be for each section.
I hope that makes sense.


Now that you know how big each section is going to be, lay out some tarp. Clean the floor first.

Cut the tarp down to size keeping the rectangular shape. Find a crayon that draws on the tarp. (That is another thing you'll need. Crayon.) With the help of your graph paper drawing, redraw the section on the tarp. We did a lot of measuring and marking of where each curve took place to help guide us along. (As in, "The curve of the nose begins four feet down from this corner and two feet over from there. Let's make a mark there.") This helped quite a bit.
Or you can just recreate the whole grid if you want. That is a little ridiculous, though. Now that I think about it, we did mark each 1.5 ft along the sides. This also helped quite a bit.

If your genes provide you with enough talent, you'll have a giant precise version of the drawing. Cut the thing up. Roll it up. Store safely. Repeat with each section.
And label each section.


Taping. This is the part where you'll begin to dislike the person who is doing this with you.
Don't worry. When it works you'll be friends again.

The book recommends one person cutting tape and handing it to the other to apply it. This seemed sensible.
Using your drawing (or photo) of the animal, figure out which sections go together. Do the parts (arm, head, tusk, fin, neck, tail, etc) separately. Hope for the best.

Join the two pieces flat together. Put half the tape on one side and then fold the tape onto the other. Seal it good. We did a fair amount of doubling up on tape. Watch it though and your tape expenses can add up.

You would like to think everything lines up perfectly. Well, the world is cruel and it doesn't. It's better you go in knowing that. We ended up doing a lot of patching, so keep some spare tarp around. In the end though, there seems to be a fair amount of leeway in how far you can be off. You can always go back and patch parts that are too tight if you need to.

When you are half done taping it up, it will seem ridiculous trying to get the second half done as all you have is a giant mesh of plastic laying over itself. You will question whether or not this is all some cruel joke. You will blame whoever convinced you this was a good idea.

We just shoved a couple ladders in the thing to prop it up, so we could tape a little easier. Just do what you have to.


I've done a great job of not mentioning exactly how this thing is supposed to work. Well you need a fan. A box fan. Just one. You'll be amazed at what one box fan can blow up.
Cut a hole somewhere in the thing the size of the fan.

As you'll see below, we created a little tarp tunnel to tape to it. (alliteration) Tape it well.
Turn it on. Watch it take shape. Make sure nothing will puncture it.
You'll note some seams burst. This is fine and expected to an extent. The air needs to go somewhere. Reinforce the area around these new holes with more tape so it doesn't get worse.
If some tears are too big, patch them up. Do not try to tape them back together.
We cut a little hole in back so we could enter it. Keep it small as possible.

Here are some other pics of it finished and out of focus. Focus is overrated.

Earlier I said I didn't find anyone who had done this before. Then I looked.
Here are some people who do. Apparently for a living. Must be nice.
They use an iron and other stuff. Who knows.

Questions anyone?