Apr
11

These Retro Activision Manual Covers (and interiors) are Rad

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While bumming around a Game Over Videogames store in Austin, I came across some of these amazing manuals from early Activision games.

Who made these? I couldn’t find an artist listed anywhere. I dig the late-70s rainbow look, and the animals and trees that try their best to look digital.

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Oh my god, I love the cows. The only thing better than the cows on the cover is the booklet’s interior page where Bob Whitehead gives advice on how to become a Cattle Baron:

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Also, I give you: Pitfall Harry’s Diary.

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Apr
10

Beautiful Things: Rex Ray

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About four years ago I ran into Rex Ray’s work for the first time at the MCA Denver. He had a huge work set up on the second floor of the museum, a technical masterpiece that spanned a full hallway. A few weeks after the opening, the museum hosted a screening of “How To Make a Rex Ray,” where the artist details his process.

The big reveal of the film, if there was one, was that the colors and shapes in his pieces are all paper cutouts, sliced and lacquered to a panel with delicate craft.

An escapee of Colorado Springs, he’s working now in San Francisco. Aside from the pieces you see here, Ray has designed show posters for David Bowie, Radiohead, and The Rolling Stones.

Enjoy.

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Apr
04

Becky’s Beautiful Things: Boucheron Inspiria Collection

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One of these necklaces first caught my eye in a jewelry addendum for the January issue of Vogue Japan. I’d never seen such well-crafted asymmetrical jewelry.

Usually asymmetries in jewelry are fashioned to look cutting edge or defiant, but these pieces from Boucheron glitter with equal parts verve and rococo. They’re built from lively source material, with shapes, colors, and titles drawn from specific Cirque du Soleil shows.The assembly, seen in this youtube video, looks painstaking.

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I adored these off the bat since its such an unusual fusion of art worlds. Could you capture the spirit of an entire acrobatics show in a necklace? Quite the mission, and well-performed.

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This last piece may be my favorite – inspired by the Cirque du Soleil with all Beatles-based costumes and songs.

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Apr
01

Becky’s Beautiful Things: Makeup Sponge Paintings by Margery Amdur

 
 

In the latest issue of New American Paintings, one artist in particular caught my eye: Margery Amdur.

Amongst other styles, Amdur arranges makeup sponges to create tapestries. I see hints of El Anatsui scale and pattern, and something in the work reminds me of Lynda Benglis, but I can’t put my finger on it.

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They’re also just fun. Holy cow, we probably all know at least one diva who has used this many sponges in a lifetime. Or if you’ve ever been backstage for a musical, you’ve probably seen a pile of these triangular sponges heaped in a trash bin. But have you ever thought that a used-up beauty supply could be so beautiful?

Enjoy.

 

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Mar
01

Bird Collage Process Photos

 

Last weekend I put together a few collages from strips of paper. It was fun to channel my inner Eric Carle; after years of studying high-minded art and subjecting myself to visiting painfully bad conceptual art shows, I just wanted to do the simplest project imaginable: Making birds.

 

 

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To get started, I painted several large pieces of bristol paper with abstract patterns.

 

 
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The patterns were cut into narrow strips. This was physically the easiest part of the process, but emotionally, the hardest. It’s tough to make cuts since there’s no going back.

 

 
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Tada! The first bird that resulted from re-assembled collage strips. I glued the bird to another bristol board with Golden gel. The opposite colors, mostly blues and oranges, give the piece a rich feeling. I made sure to make the eye of the bird an unusual, poppish color.

 

 
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I had enough paper left over to make a second bird from the same color palette. This one has a bit more complex layerings that I picked up from the first time around.

 

 

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The final product! An animal dyptich. Thanks for reading!

 

 


Jan
03

Wal-Mart Cosmetics Aisle Art

 

While traveling from Colorado to Texas in the past few months, I’ve found myself at more than a few Wal-Marts across the states. Each visit to Wal-Mart is a little bit unbelievable. The modern-enough electronics section quickly gives way to book crannies that host manuals on how to avoid the devil. Yes, the literal devil.
 
All Wal-Marts look the same, their floorplans identically laid out beneath exhausting fluorescent lights. In the beauty sections, a strange phenomenon riddles the images of the cosmetics models. On every aisle, someone has ripped lipstick from the shelves and slathered it all over every plastic-covered photograph of a model for Loreal or Cover Girl.
 
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I have no clue why anyone does this. Is it to test the makeup shade? Maybe not – most of the revisions aren’t exactly built to indicate shade or color. Some of the marks are seeking to create beauty, others are looking to destroy it. Are children doing this? I have to hope so.
 
Either way, the smears and daubs make for interesting photographs. The scribbles make it clear just how much retailers like Wal-Mart lose when pitted against their own consumers.
 
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Dec
27

The Case for Naming Your Characters

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One of my favorite things to do while shopping is exploring the toy sections at Target, HEB and Wal-Mart to see how toys are marketed. The toyscape can always tell me two things about marketing:
 
 
1. How we think we are creating desire and fun (because we don’t really know. Most toy product designers and marketers are not 7 year-olds)

2. How we create stories behind characters/products.
 
 
Lately, I came across two examples of blind-box toys from two separate identities under one company, Hasbro. One type was always sold out, the other was still full to the brim with unsold toys.
 
The top seller? My Little Pony. The unlucky brand? Littlest Pet Shop. Here’s one reason why I think the Littlest Pet Shop toys sold less:
 
The MLP blind bags feature every possible character on the package, along with that pony’s name. Most of the pony figurines available are ‘repaints’ of other characters. So, you may open a package and pull out a pony shaped like Rainbow Dash, but painted in different colors, therefore creating an entirely new pony. (See the pony named Sunny Rays below? It’s just a Rainbow Dash with different colored fur/hair).
 
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Yet, the characters in The Littlest Pet Shop blind bags had no names, just numbers.
 
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If you have a unique product lineup, why not name your characters? If your designers go so far as to create a unique cat character, don’t you owe it to the designs to come up with a name for the critter?

 

Names may be what make toy collections like My Little Pony and Pokemon such successful, outstanding franchises. You can’t create a good story with just a serial number. Without a name, there can be no relationship. Without a relationship, there can be no story.
 
From a non-story, non-sales point of view, maybe naming toys is totally unnecessary, since children will name toys on their own when they begin to play with them. Yet, I think the naming act is the critical operation for companies that want to develop toys that matter. If you want to create a collection of cute things that will last a lifetime, make sure the cute things have names. The more unforgettable (Bulbasaur, anyone?) the better. Kids and parents might get obsessed. They might create a whole wiki for them.
 
 


Dec
26

Drawings, late December 2013

Lately I’ve been working on some heavy pencil drawings. It’s been fun to rebuild my chops at drawing realistically after a few years of focusing on abstract work.

I’ve also been blessed to discover a watercolor-like technique using Copic markers on tracing paper. Since Copic markers are so liquid, the way they disperse across thin paper is really beautiful.

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I’m terrible at normal watercolors. Most of what you see of mine that looks like it could be watercolor is actually either colored ink or Copic markers on tracing paper.

For most of my latest drawings, I am dropping them into Photoshop to add obviously-computerized elements. It’s starting to take a shape that really works on a hybrid level. I want my work to look a bit unfinished and ‘raw’. If it seems touchable and human, it’s still good. If I smudged fingerprints all over the drawing while making the piece I just leave the fingerprints there.

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Dec
12

Drawings: November-December 2013

 

Here are a few new abstracts that I have been working on lately. I hope you enjoy them.

The ideas for these drawings emerge from my efforts to fully visualize complex systems. I’ll think of a system then visualize the components and draw them out, or map each part of a system into a symbol and then make a path for the symbol.
 
 
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Some of the systems I look at are businesses, others are biological. When I drew the drawing below, I was thinking of bitcoin and online transactions. I came up with a circular system that never goes beyond itself, just repeating and recycling golden squares, eventually distorting the squares. I don’t expect anyone to look at this drawing and say “AHA! BITCOIN!” – rather I like to see other interpretations of my work. Some of my friends see a sea creature, another person saw a hookah.

 

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What do you see? Leave your interpretations in the comments! I read every one.
 
 


Dec
03

A Stranger Arrives at Class

 

 
Did you ever have a professor or TA who would walk into class in a huff, as if they just got off a treadmill? That was me.  In grad school I taught two sections of a literary theory course, each section back-to-back. One class wrapped, then I’d hustle almost a mile across campus to the next one, which happened in ten minutes.

 

The first class of the day took place in a classroom that resembled a board room. I’d start discussions with slides while the students sat at an impressive conference table. The second section had no such luck. In their assigned classroom, the students had to sit at single desks of elementary school smallness. The small room seemed to be the result of either poor planning or budget cuts or over-enrollment. (or, all of the above)

 
 

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This is one of slides from the theory class that I taught. Riveting.


 
 
One day in the second section, I walked in with a huff as usual, making my way past the crammed desks, hoping mostly to get by the students before they would have to look at my butt for too long.

 

Once at the chalkboard, I turned around and surveyed the classroom and all 15 exhausted students were there, plus one more: an older man I had never seen before.

 

Occasionally the English department would send a professor to sit in on a class see how the TAs were doing. This was not a professor, just an older man in a windbreaker. He may have even been homeless. He had a threadbare look, and his face was drawn into a semi-permanent tautness. Survival mode.

 

Our eyes met and I tried to understand him. What kind of person would want to sit in a packed room with tired undergrads and listen to some woman go on about Stanley Fish? I proceeded with the lecture and discussion, and did my best to just go forward. The other students gradually noticed him and, sleepily, their days as busy and confusing as mine, visibly tried to scry who he was.

 

They never teach you in teaching workshops what to do if a new person suddenly joins your tiny, brick-and-mortar class. You learn what to do when students cry, or if they miss a final, but not if a total stranger appears.

 

For a few seconds during the lesson I worried that the stranger might even be dangerous, but something in his appearance kept me from making this judgment. A useless flowchart of  ’if : thens’  built in my head. If he is dangerous, then do I tackle him? End class as soon as possible? Talk more about Russian Formalism? The weirdest thing about him was that he seemed to be listening intently. At one point he even began to take notes.

 

At the end of the class everyone left and the stranger remained seated. I left the classroom as well, and the math class that happened after our section piled into the room. A math student entered the room, saw the man, then chose a seat slightly further away from the stranger.

 

Looking back, there are actions I could have taken with the stranger that may have been ‘better’ or ‘safer’. I could have addressed him directly (hey, uh, sir, who are you?). I could have called campus security (and reported what? a rogue learner?). I’ll never know what he wanted, but it may have been something as simple as a warm room and something to think about.

 
Maybe what I did was best: just letting him be. No attention paid, no reaction given.

 
But I learned an interesting lesson that day: In most realms of education, teachers can never choose their students, and they can never control who steps foot into a classroom. Teachers can definitely ‘fire’ their students in some cases, but they have mostly no say in who gets in the door to begin with. All a teacher can do is choose how they interact with everything that the day throws at them. That’s both the fun and danger that faces educators everywhere.

 
With universities that now offer open enrollment for their courses, maybe the problem and confusion that I had with this stranger will be less likely to happen to other educators. You have to hope. Learning should be open to everyone, even if everyone is a little strange.

 
What do you think, though? Did I make the right choice? Has anyone else ever had this happen, and what did you do?