Dec 26, 2019

Video - Uncle Jam's Army

I've always been a big fan of LA DJ's, their brand of hip hop, and of course so much of that comes from the DJ groups and sound systems like "Uncle Jam's Army". Respect to Red Bull for doing this short documentary on them.

This episode of the Beat Junkies podcast ep with Cut Chemist talks a lot about LA DJ history which the army was a huge part of.

Dec 19, 2019

Social Media vs New Books

At the beginning of last year I decided to take a bit more time away from social media and I'm amazed to say I've been able to stick to it. I have one day on social media and one day off. So if I started on Monday, my Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of that week would be days with no social media at all. And for the days when I was on, I tried to keep the hours of 10am-4pm off limits. Friday-Sunday were days when I would allow myself to check it as many times as I wanted.

But I found that doing this helped my mental health A LOT. And it made me focus more on in real life stuff like making more art and reading. I have read political books before and I tried to read a few history wise this year. But mostly I dug deep into YA or young adult novels. I always read a ton of kids books because I want to learn how to tell stories better. Here are some of my favorites that I read this year. If you're looking fr more book recommendations, holler at me or check out Bens IG page "Ben Be Reading" and Book Riot who makes read a likes. I love Octavia Butler, so their read a like related to her was dope. I'm still making my way through.

Ethnic Studies Sticker!

Here's a new sticker of a drawing I did in my sketchbook.

What is Ethnic Studies? To me, it is a chance to learn about history and cultural from a people of color perspective. Typically US and world history is Eurocentric and leaves out tremendous amount of stories and history from Black, Indigenous Native Americans, Asians, and Latin@s. I believe very strongly that every school from elementary school up to college should have mandatory ethnic studies classes to educate all students.

You want a sticker? Go to my Etsy please. 

If you missed the painting I did of this same phrase, check that out here on the blog too.

Dec 15, 2019

Character 150- How's it sound?

Ok grandma, how's it sound? Thumbs up!

My inspiration for this one? You can now take classes to learn to be a DJ! Did you catch the last character? Here it is:

Dec 11, 2019

Ethnic Studies in Every School

This is a print of a recent painting I made for the 16th anniversary art show of the "Trust Your Struggle Collective" in Sacramento California. I am a product of Ethnic Studies as I was able to take classes in it at Berkeley High School (California) and at San Francisco State University.

What is Ethnic Studies? To me, it is a chance to learn about history and cultural from a people of color perspective. Typically US and world history is Eurocentric and leaves out a tremendous amount of stories and history from Black, Indigenous Native Americans, Asians, and Latin@s. I believe very strongly that every school from elementary school up to college should have mandatory ethnic studies classes to educate all students.

After being a student, I had the privilege to be a presenter as part of the Trust Your Struggle Collective in the late 2000's Ethnic Studies Conferences held at SFSU.

Check out the close ups below! You want a print? Go here.

Did you take classes in Ethnic studies? If so comment with your experience.

Dec 10, 2019

Freelance Chronicles 4- Improve your merch table

My merch table 2011 vs 2019
Recently, I've seen people post 10 year comparisons and it inspired me to post about my merch (merchandise)  table in the past 7-8 years. Ok so I have been selling artwork at events for well over 15 years. But it hasn't been until the past five years that I really started to understand how to make money and make something I like. A few points of contrast below.

And while you're here: Did you see the previous post about the tech I use? CLICK HERE


1. Original Art?
Ok so let's talk about art collecting. If you are like most people you like art but you don't typically buy a piece that is over $40-50 unless it is for a very special occasion like a commissioned portrait. The majority of my table 10 years ago was original artwork that would be considered too expensive for regular working class folks. For art collectors, it would appear too cheap. Point is, its been tough for me to sell original pieces. If you want to sell original artwork over $100 you should try presenting it in a gallery that regularly sells artwork. How do you know? Ask! Do your research. I'll do a post about making your own gallery show one day.

Oh So Lovely Vintage

2. Focus
I really got into kids books because I was inspired by my son and I wanted to service the little child in me. Through that I found that I was providing a service to lots of other kids. So a lot more of my artwork has been literacy or narrative focused. I think its important to figure out how to make your set up cohesive. Make it look like it all belongs together. Like a collection, an album, or a curated wardrobe.

3. Presentation
Another important aspect of my merch table has been working on presentation. A flat table is boring to me. And I started to notice who was buying from me (women). What do they like? So I asked my wife and she gave some great advice about having varying levels on my table. Not all flat. It looks more interesting to me. And I started to look at craft people, jewelry artists, candle makers, etc to take notes on how they set up their tables. I make sure to have a nice large table cloth that is pleasing color wise, but also covers the majority of my table. And I try to make the display interesting. If it's not working , I move things and experiment.

4. Salesperson
It is not too hard to sell when you really like what you do. But, one of the key things I've learned about selling is that if you work on your presentation people will come to you. They want to see what you got and they want to be engaged. So, I usually turn off my phone, make eye contact, smile, and I ask them about their day, complement their cool scarf, etc. 

I have found that going into a story about me, my prices, or what I make can turn people off. So I try to engage them in conversation about them. It doesn't always lead to a sale, but it definitely helps me get to know more about the people who stop at my table. At some point, people intentionally started seeking my table out telling me they came to see me :). But I think making it about your customer or supporter is key at first. When they're interested, they'll ask you questions.

Hawaii record fair

5. The location
You might sell a bunch of wu-tang clan pins at a knitting conference or get a lot of signatures for the police academy at a Black Panther Party reunion. But, if you don't do research about where an event takes place and who will be there you're doing a disservice to your business. For me, this has meant going to that event to see how many attendees are there, if the crowd is diverse, if my stuff fits in, if there are 20 people selling there that do exactly what I do, etc before I sell there. This means really thinking intentionally about what you're going to present that caters to that specific crowd. Location is also paying attention to the weather report, how far you have to lug your stuff, if you've over saturated that event (ie-they already bought all your stuff), or if this is a new event hungry for what you do. 

Melody Ehsani

6. Art that can be sold 1000x times
I have been making artwork for a very long time. I have sold tiny things, big framed pieces, books, all kinds of things. And if it was thing I've learned recently with having Furqan's First, it is that you can make some really great artwork and also figure out how to reproduce it so you can sell it hundreds maybe even a thousand times. This can be a shirt, print, or piece of jewelry. The point is, make something you love, figure out how to serve your customer/supporters needs, make it affordable, quality, and make it easily accessible through in person events and online sales. 

Beat Junkies

7. Branding
Branding might sound corny or corporate. But to me it means making your stuff easy to find, readable, and consistent. There are certain items like soft drinks, bed's, or tires that make you think about an image or story when you think about them. Why? They made sure their name was on it. and they told you their story many times. This does not require thousands of dollars. It just requires spreading the word about your stuff. For my art prints, book, business card, postcard, website, I use the same type, symbols, color, and illustrations. And through seeing this in different places people  say "you're work is everywhere" when really I have just worked on trying to make it all feel consistent. And if I get tired of an image or style, I change it. And don't worry, you're not bragging. You're taking pride in your appearance and letting people know you're a working artist who is passionate about what they do.

Dance Africa at Bam
8. Capture Info / Stay in contact
Ok, you've finished an event, made a little bit of money and saw a bunch of cool people. Some of them are homies but many you just met. How do you keep in touch with them? Sure, social media is an option but most platforms now use algorithms. As a result, only 20-25% who follow you actually see your stuff. And there are homies that have left social media all together. Your friends would love to hear what's new with you. The new folks definitely need to get to know you. Both might buy your new work IF they know about the new (insert merch). How? Good old addresses and email newsletters. I know, it sounds old school but everyone is posting on-line. Not everyone is using tools like Constant contact/Mailchimp or the good ole postcard. Get people's info at your next event with a sign up sheet or your phone. Follow up with them in the new year and compare your sales and engagement with folks at the end of the year. Just a thought.

Busy Bee by Joe Conzo

9. Shout outs
I want to give a big a shout out to Nidhi Chanani who I learned so much from on how to make my work more presentable. Go check out her work here and follow her Instagram to see some of her past set ups at events.

Big shout out to the following events who helped shape who  I am as an artist and vendor: The Berkeley Flea Market, Malcom X Jazz Fest, Life is Living, Carnival in SF, Dia de los Muertos in the Fruitvale, SF Etsy, Renegade Craft Fair, Patchwork, Unique Markets, Zine Fests, Dance Africa at BAM, Afro Punk, and the Alternative Press Expo.

If you've read this far, thanks! I'm still learning and growing as an artist and business owner. I'm asking questions, reading this, listening to that, and failing a lot. Hopefully some of this will help you fail less. Leave a comment if this helped or if you have a tip to share.

Here's the previous post about the tech that enables me to be a working artist and vendor!

Dec 6, 2019

Character 149 - Photo

Character 149. Inspiration for this? Chinese elders on a weekend shopping with their grandkids.

Did you see the previous character? 

Dec 5, 2019

Sticker sheet 4 - Self Care

Can't believe it has been two years since I made a sticker sheet. Here is a new one. I have been working on affirmations for a decade as a gift for people, to myself, and to just share my type drawing skills. This one I made as as a reminder to take care of yourself. I need it to remind myself. Please hustle, do good work, fight for whats right, stand up for your rights, all that. And....take good care of yourself because the world needs you. 

Want one? Here's the link ETSY.

Did you see the last one? Its here.

Short story 25 - Haenyeo

This is a short I've been wanting to do for awhile. In fact, I drew this sketch over a year ago and never put the final touches on it until now. For those that don't know, a Haenyeo is a word for Korean women who dive off the coast of Jeju island. No time for a history lesson but what they do, many could not at the age of 20 or 80.

Did you see the last short story? Its here:
Short story 24-Argue

Dec 4, 2019

Dec 2, 2019

Marcus Books in Oakland

Check out Marcus Books in Oakland if you have not already. If you have, please go back there and support again. You can not only find history, psychology, memoirs, novels, children's books, graphic novels, non fiction, and fiction. But, you can also request books and they will order them. And when you buy it from them instead of through online giants you're helping to keep the dollars in this store and the Black community of Oakland.

Marcus Books website

3rd Annual Social Justice Children's Book Holiday Fair

What up family, this is the third year we've done the "Social Justice Children's Bk Holiday Fair" and the venue, date, and some of the guests are above. Please bring your children, families, teachers, librarians, friends, and activists to come meet some of these kids bk makers and hang out. The following is a list of some of the authors that will be present!
Laura Atkins
John Casselberry
Madeline Connor
Angela Dalton
Michael Genhart
Maya Gonzalez- Reflection Press
Daria Leavitt
Kamaria Lofton-Like The Moon
Janine Macbeth-Blood Orange Press
Innosanto Nagara
Beth Reichmuth
Lourdes Rivas
Matthew Smith-Reflection Press
Justine Villanueva- Sawaga River press
Khalid White
Here is the facebook event LINK please rsvp and share, share, share!

This year we're back at Chapter 510 in Oakland.