Sep 28, 2016

Life is Living-Oakland Oct 8th

I will be reading Furqan's First and One of a kind like me at the Kids Zone around 2. And I will be selling the books the whole day near the OPL, come and find me. Here are some of the flyers created for this years Life is Living event showcasing music, dance, art, culture, health, and good vibes. Come through and feel free to share the posters w/ the 50 yr Black Panther anniversary design! If youre an artist or book vendor and would like to table please go HERE.

Sep 21, 2016

Until we are all free!! Site/tool kit

The cover art is by Crystal Clarity and I'm proud to be a part of this project by collaborating with both CultureStrike and Mobilize the Immigrant Vote to create artwork that speaks to voting rights, the stories of migrants in this world, and the collaborative work of activists and artists. You need some stories to share? Some curriculum? Some actions to attend? Some social media to follow that will make you think? They got you. Please follow Culture Strike, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote, and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. But first, go to 

These are some of the art pieces I did for the art & story lessons:
Some words from CultureStrike:
Today is the day!
CultureStrike, in partnership with @mivcalifornia, @instabaji, and Asian American Writer’s Workshop launch: “Until We Are All Free Declaration of Unity,” written by Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo.
Signing onto the Declaration are over 65 artists and organizations. Cultural workers like Wangechi Mutu, Janet Mock , Teju Cole, Roxane Gay, Marlon James, Staceyann Chin, Raul Pacheco from Ozomatli, Mike De la Rocha, Jasiri X, Cameron Russell, Aurora Guerrero, Dream Hampton, Hari Kondabolu, Rinku Sen, and organizations like African Communities Together, Chinese Progressive Association, CHIRLA and many more respond to increasing anti-migrant sentiment, systemic criminalization of communities of color (especially of Black communities), and are calling for transformational solidarity at the intersections of racial justice and migrant rights.
Please visit UNTILWEAREALLFREE.COM to read the Declaration (available in 6 different languages), and please sign on!

National Anthem

Title: National Anthem
Medium: Mixed on paper
Size: Big & small

Sep 19, 2016

Daddy thoughts 12- Best friends or strangers

Its been over a year since I wrote one of these and its good to be back.  So much has happened in my child's life, my co-parenting agreement with his mother, etc. But, this one is about what happens when friends change and become strangers or worse yet; enemies. I heard my son getting a lot of advice from his mom on the phone. So I gently pressed him to talk if he wanted to. We had a conversation about a feeling I remember all to well. When somehow someone you were cool with or was really good friends with decides they're not going to sit with you anymore or that they don't like you now.

Awwwww man, I know this feeling. It sucks. He did nothing wrong. Kids joke around and all, but it doesn't seem he did anything to this kid. He went on to say that the kid was no longer laughing at his jokes, but rather he was dissing him. He went on to describe what sounded all too familiar for junior high school or high school. I tried to explain to him that for whatever reason kids change. Sometimes its hormones or something unseen. I tried to ask him if he'd noticed that some of the girls were starting to change externally by different parts of their bodies growing (he told me he tried not to notice that) and that boys are doing that as well; on the inside and out. I told him that he would change too, but that he didn't have to be mean to anyone. Not mean, like his friend. I didn't offer it as an excuse, but more of a factor in the strange behavior he was experiencing.

This is so tough and whether you're a parent or not, most of us have had this experience. It's a hard time when kids are starting to reach their teens and they start to become aware of themselves and as a result get very self conscious. I know I did. I remember kids who were cool, doing 180's and acting like complete assholes. I'm lucky that he has not had to get into as many physical fights as I had by the time I was his age. But it still sucks.

I told my son a story about how just one or two things said to me by one of my best friends broke my heart. I didn't get to the pivotal point in my life when i changed "crowds" in high school, too painful. But, after i listened to him I shared the story with him. I'd had a friend who i'll call Tae. He was my best friend. He was tough and wasn't scared of no one! I was, and it showed. I fought, every did. You kind of had to, but if i could avoid it, I would. Sometimes he would stick up for me just by simply kicking it. But this one time we were playing kickball and I totally fumbled a ball that came straight to me in the outfield. My best friend grimaced because he wanted to win so bad and cursed and yelled across the field at me calling me "sorry". For those who aren't hip, that means weak, slow, or just less than. Anyway, I held it together for the rest of the day but cried when I got home. I got advice from my dad and his then fiance. The next day it was like my best friend had totally forgot about it. I hadn't. but I was also too scared to confront him, I mean shit I was only 10!

I shared this with my son to tell him I had been through something similar. Not the same of course. But, that I felt terrible and confused. And that I wished I'd told him how I felt. I encouraged him to share how he felt with his homie who was acting weird. I made sure I told him I'd cried because I wanted him to know that I cry, I get vulnerable, I have feelings, and it's ok to share those. I told him that he should let his friend know that he's down to be his friend, but that he should also demand respect and only kick it with those who were kind to him. If this kid was going to be mean, than he should let him know how he felt and keep it moving. What would you say to yours or what have you said to a young child about something like this?

Sidenote: He's getting to the age where young boys are looking for rites of passage. And one of the most visible ways to show others that you are becoming a young man is to fight or punk another boy. Even though I believe in solving disagreements non-violently, I HAVE TO teach him to fight, to defend himself.

Sep 17, 2016

One of a kind, like me 4 - Illustration process

This project is part of a much larger project by Blood Orange Press to bring more diverse books to the forefront, please visit and share, share, share it.

Ok, so I began work on Laurin Mayeno's (right) book over a year ago with publisher Janine Macbeth (middle) of Blood Orange Press. It has been a true joy and honor to work with both of them on this story and I am so proud to be a part of it. Laurin and I met up, she broke down the story for me and immediately I knew I wanted to illustrate this story. Why? I'd never seen a book like it as a child or as a parent. And although its just starting to reach people it is already getting tons of good reviews and responses from people. And the fact that it is bilingual means that it will reach even more families. Janine Macbeth was just starting to look for the next book that would come out of Blood Orange Press, a new home in the publishing industry for diverse books. But, lets talk about art process.

I generally start my work with a few pencils.

The first thing I do when imagining my own project or illustrating a story for someone else is make a set of very rough thumbnails. For BIG ideas like these it can be kind of daunting to start so its better to draw something really tiny just to get an idea for "placement". That means, where does a person stand, sit, talk, run, or yell in the frame? If there is a car, is it to their right, left, or directly behind them.

Next, after Ive done quite a few little doodles or thumbnails I ask the AD (art director), in this case author/illustrator Janine Macbeth and founder of Blood Orange Press to choose two of the 3 or 4 choices I've given her. This is the rough sketch phase.

She gives me feed back and i take four little ideas and condense them into one with little elements from the previous ones all in one usually. This is what I call the almost final phase because i'll need some feedback from the AD and sometimes the author to judge whether this is working or not. Then, i may even go back and redo something to make it fit better with the whole story over all.

Then i provide some color ideas for where I'd like to go with my reds, blues, yellows, etc. the AD gives me some notes and then.

I get my sketch ready on my light table/box to redraw it on water color paper. I generally use paper.
these are some of the different paints and I use when painting a spread.

Then I paint! Usually for several hours on one spread. Sometimes it takes me more than a day to paint one page or spread. Here's my palette on wax paper and cardboard.

Then I have the artwork scanned by a local printer or company. I adjust the brightness, saturation, and contrast and I send both the original and my adjustments to the AD. Then that is it for most pages.

After that you'll see it in the final book!

This is from the story "One of a kind like me/Unico como yo". It was written by Laurin Mayeno about her experience as a parent with her son Danny. She wrote about what that was like for her as a parent and I know it will resonate with a lot of families because it not only hints at children who may be gay, lesbian, or queer. It celebrates being yourself and loving who you are. And its in spanish too! Here's the cover of the book, which is starting to get a great response.

 If you enjoyed this and wish to support this book and other books like it please check out the kickstarter our publisher Blood Orange Press just launched to help create other new books and to help print, market, and promote this one. You can also learn more about the true story behind the book and how Laurin Mayeno is making a space for more parents to support their children HERE.



Sep 15, 2016

Kickstarter Launch!- Blood Orange Press

Ok, so this is the first of several posts about this campaign. If you've been following my blog for 1 month or 6 years I need you to share the content and information you hear about it coming in the next month. Here is the first bit to chew on and think about.

Less than 15% of the children's books published in 2015 had main characters of color, yet over half of children under 5 in the U.S. are kids of color. Join us in correcting the invisibility of people of color in children's books.
If you feel so inclined, you can use either of these two images to let folks know you're sharing the project.

Sep 14, 2016

Mobilize the Immigrant Vote 1- Portraits

Benson, 21, Oakland, Mobilize the Immigrant vote

Benson, 21, Oakland, Mobilize the Immigrant vote

Benson, 21, Oakland, Mobilize the Immigrant vote

Just finished several portraits for a statewide organization called "Mobilize the Immigrant Vote". These portraits are being used in a small campaign to engage voters of many different races. This past spring I was invited to be their first artist in residence which is a big #$%^& deal. In the past i've worked with many organizations who only need you for one image or don't ask for your input on when, where, and how the artwork is to be used. But this time its quite different with MIV because I have been invited to collaborate with them and to produce art that pulls in your eye, hopefully. These folks you see are young people and adults who are either first generation immigrants themselves or their parents were. And it is extremely important to that they reach other youth so we can get them informed and involved in law, policy, and organizing. 

These were sponsored by the MIV action fund and We are California. If you've never voted or totally disagree with voting, let me know why in the comments-no judgement here. Stay tuned.

Array film release- Honey Trap

please watch the film in theaters or on Netflix when it comes out then share it with your folks.

Sep 9, 2016

Furqan's First Flat Top UPDATE 16 -Where you can buy the book (NYC-CA)

So I've been slowly getting the book into some other spots online and actual brick and mortar stores. For you folks who dont live in the Bay Area or NYC there are some other places where you can cop the book online such as Ashay by The Bay (Cali) and UGHH-Underground Hip Hop (Mass). So here are the new spots where you can purchase the book. If you'd like to purchase the book from me directly, either regular price or wholesale for libraries, stores, and organizations who promote literacy.

1. Strand Books in Manhattan, New York

2. Word Up Community Bookstore in Washington heights

3. UGHH Online-Underground Hip Hop Site based in Massachusetts

4. Rare Device in San Francisco

5. Pegasus Book on Solano ave in Berkeley

6. Underground Books in Sacramento, Ca (Black owned bookstore!)

And shout out to two organizations promoting literacy that purchased the book to give away to their constituencies. Egleston Square out there in Boston/Roxbury Massachusetts and Tandem Bay Area based in Oakland. Please support these independent book, online stores, and non profit organizations.

And if you still have not seen the book trailer, please watch it and share with potential libraries or bookstores who'd dig the story.

Sep 8, 2016

Inspiration board - 25

1. Solidarity between Black and Indigenous folks around water rights 2. Alwasta by Oddisee- a dope EP 3. Graffiti hand styles by Canser 4. Kauai's Nopali Coast 5. Fantasy Sports 1 by Sam Bosma 6. Lowkey- an ill producer from LA's beat scene 7. We Read Too-an app for finding diverse books 8. Atlanta's citizen's trust bank-a Black owned bank, a symbol of financial power 9. Illustration of Richie Pope 10. Mary Grandpre - illustrator  of Harry Potter and many other books 11. Wong Fu-An Asian American film production company 12. The Divine-a graphic novel illustrated by Tomer Hanuka 13. Photo by Roy DeCarava 14. Scenic painting by AJ Casson 15. An educational report by Vox on white washing of Asians in US films 16. Scenic painting by Adam Noonan.

Here is the previous board 24

Sep 2, 2016

One of a kind, like me 3- Huff Post

Yo, Laurin Mayeno-the author of this book I illustrated "One of a kind like me/ Unico como yo" is the illest with the pen. Please read her story of how she came to write the book on Huffington Post.