Random Thoughts

Writing a weekly blog has been an interesting experience for me. I’ve been writing a blog for seven years; I began my first blog in September 2008 after discovering France Belleville’s Wagonized blog (Check her blog out, she’s great). Not being too familiar about with what it took to start a blog, I emailed her and asked her to give some info. She kindly responded and provided with me with all the information that I needed to launch my own blog. In September 2008, I started Cubist Comix and the adventure began.

Over the past seven years, I’ve shared thoughts and drawings that are pulled from the pages of my daily sketchbook journal. During that time, I written about lots of things — mostly about the  process of developing as an artist and what goes into achieving the goals that I’ve set for myself, As the years have gone by, I’ve started to feel a need to be more candid about things. People read blogs for a reason after all: they want to know about you and what your thoughts and opinions are. As a blogger, I obviously, have to be selective about what I write so as to ensure that my readers are as entertained as possible when they visit my little ol’ blog. It is with this belief that I venture forward on my chosen path as an artist and blogger of daily life — warts and all.


This sketchbook page that adorns this post is from late last year; since that time, fall 2014, I’ve completed quite a few new sketchbook pages. As I share them here as soon as I finish scanning them, so keep an eye out for them. I drew most of this page while accompanying my wife on visits to her physical therapist’s office. On this particular visit I decided to draw the Halloween pumpkins that decorated the office’s entrance. Not too bad given the fact that I had to hold my sketchbook in my lap — something that I never do. The chaps in the newsboy caps are some of my alter egos; they express my thoughts without reserve and I love them for that. They are my inner voice and they are what gives my work character. 

Things have evolved quite a bit since I started blogging. I guess that’s bound to happen — you start writing and along the way you discover what you truly want to write about and how you want to say that. Much like drawing, writing is also a process. I say the same thing to those of you who want to start blogging that I said about keeping a sketchbook — write what you want to write about and express yourself without restrictions. Not everybody is going to like it but that doesn’t matter because you’re not here to please everybody. Be yourself, write candidly, and draw what you want to draw. Life is too short to waste on bullshit. It’s not complicated, it’s a choice that’s up to you so, go on, grab your sketchbook and let it rip. 

Me And My Book

UOP Landscape 1

Summer is upon us. This past weekend, that was made abundantly clear with 90 degree weather. Now that summer is clearly here, it’s time to start thinking about what I’m going to be filling the pages of my sketchbook with. This past weekend I was looking through a book from my library on Joaquin Sorolla and it made me want to get out and draw more landscapes. The drawing that adorns this post was drawn during the past year, and is one of two landscapes that I’ve recently done in my sketchbook. I happen to live in an area where there’s lots of trees and nice landscapes that lend themselves well to being drawn in pen and ink. Lots of people have paid me compliments on my pen and ink work, and I appreciate their enthusiasm for my work, but there’s a lot more that I’d like to do with my drawing. As the saying goes, the best is yet to come.

I’d like to augment my drawing with other things this summer; lately, I’ve been feeling as if I need to go back and deepen my knowledge of things that I love. I feel the need to reconnect with all those things that nourish and inspire my creativity. I’ve got quite a few books that I need to start reading: A life of Picasso by John Richardson (3 volumes), Loving Picasso by Fernande Olivier, Van Gogh: The Life by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, and this is just a few of the books I’m ready to start. This summer I will also reconnect with music that I love. I’ve been enthralled by flamenco for a very long time, and as time passes my fascination with it continues to deepen. This summer I will endeavor to learn more about it’s origins and discover new voices that I’m unfamiliar with.  My taste in music is pretty eclectic and I certainly love lots of different things. Kate Bush is also someone whose catalog I’d like to reexamine over the next few months. I’ve heard her music a thousand times over the past thirty years, and I still continue to discover new things about it. These are only a few of the things that I’d like to reconnect with; there’s documentaries, theatre performances, and other things that will also fill up my time over the coming months. All of these things will nourish my creativity and that will find its way onto the pages of my sketchbook. Summer is already looking good. 

Artist And Malcontent

Salva Speaks

This post completes the trilogy of posts that I’ve made about being yourself over the past two weeks. I hope that my writing has helped someone out there who’s on a similar path. Sometimes, it can get a bit lonely when you’re chasing a goal that others can’t see.

Developing as an artist and a person is an organic process that takes place over the span of many, many years. It’s easy to say, “I’m now going to be myself,” but, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. There’s lots of factors that play into artistic development: social, economic, psychological, etc. It’s an ongoing process that’s invisible to most people. Those precious small steps that you take along the way are, for the most part, overlooked by a majority of people — even those that are close to you. Development of talent isn’t what people want to hear about; they want to see success and money — they don’t give a shit about the small steps that led you there. It’s harsh to say it, but it’s true. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a few individuals that will take notice of the changes that are occurring and the progress that you’re making. IF you’re lucky. Don’t count on it.  

Artistic development occurs over years; in today’s world, years is too long. If it’s not a click away, then the hell with it — no one gives a damn. In essence it boils down to this: if you’re not making x amount of dollars every month then you’re a loser. It’s always blown me away how the mighty dollar affects the way people view you; before any sort of renown, you’re brilliant and talented and afterwards, you’re still brilliant and talented, except now you have money. It’s all about money in our society and I double dog dare anyone to deny that. I know that it’s the truth because I’ve lived this reality. People can be real shits when you’re trying to work your way up; “You have to start at the bottom,” they’ll tell you. They say that as if you’ve somehow secretly been at the top — give me a fucking break. When you graduate from college, art school in my case, the only place to start is at the bottom. Come on people, get a clue! The arts are something that are grossly overlooked and misunderstood in this country, period. Art is viewed as a luxury item by most people. Why would anyone want to buy a $1200 drawing when they could go down to Walmart and buy some new patio furniture? That’s the pedestrian mentality that most people have until what you do becomes an investment — there’s the old mighty dollar rearing its ugly head again.

This drawing expresses different things that have been on my mind for a long time. I guess you could say that it’s very existence is tangible proof that we all reach a point where we know that things are no longer the same. When we know that that what used to work for us in the past no longer works now. You know that you’re no longer the same person that you were. Everything has changed. This is how it’s been for me; I don’t feel that it’s anything different to what other people go through, so no one should be surprised at all by what I’m writing. We all go through changes — some of us handle them better than others. In art, it’s all about perseverance; in fact, my favorite thing to say is, “Perseverance is when everyone else has given up and you keep going.” Ultimately, in life, it comes down to being happy. Happiness is a deeply internal thing that can only come from within yourself, and nowhere else; not from someone not from a place. Do what makes you happy, express how you feel, and screw what people think. Oh, and don’t forget to put it all down in your sketchbook.              

I Am I

The Finger - April 2015

In keeping with my last post about always being yourself on the pages of your sketchbook, I offer this recent sketchbook page. It’s interesting to see how people react to what I draw. I showed this page to a friend recently and she said, “That’s a bad word, I know that word. Why would you write that in your book?” Her reaction serves as a perfect example of the misconception most people have when it comes to art and artists. The first thought that came to my mind when she asked me this was, “Why the hell not?” This is exactly what I talk about all the time; you cannot do work in order to please anyone but yourself. There’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you do. Fuck it, who cares, screw them, it’s not important. 

In the end, being yourself is what it’s all about. Finding your own voice doesn’t come easily. For some people, it comes early, and for others, later in life. For some it never comes at all. It doesn’t matter how you find that voice, it just matters that you find it. We all start by emulating the work of someone we admire — it’s completely natural to do this. Sometimes, you do that for a long period of time because it feels right. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s part of the process of developing. The development of talent seems to be a mystery to most people. Everyone expects you to develop by yesterday. It doesn’t work that way. Anything that’s great has, in most cases, had a long gestation period. The public in general doesn’t understand this because they don’t have the patience or perseverance to wait it out. As an artist, I feel that I’m essentially chasing a goal that is invisible to everyone else. Unfortunately, because of the time involved in developing and whatnot people tend to look down upon artists. It’s sad but true. They heap all manner of derisible adjectives upon people who don’t do the nine to five thing. What’s worse is that a lot of people will tell you how they love or support the arts while simultaneously heaping scorn upon you for doing the very thing that they claim to love and support. Recently, I watched a couple of videos that really shed some light on this topic. Throughout history many great people have been ridiculed and looked down upon for not being a raging success at 25. They videos excellent and I urge you to watch them.

In the end, I say this to you: follow your heart, draw every day, and never ever give up on your goals. There are always going to be those people that don’t get it. Some of them are failed artists and can’t stand the fact that you’re doing what they wanted to do and others simply don’t understand what an artist does. You will run into these types of people more than you think; it’s part of the game. Whenever I encounter one of these people I simply smile and thank the universe that I’m not in their shoes. Life is short, idiots are in abundance, and art is forever.    

Keeping A Sketchbook Journal

UOP Landscape 2

This week, I am happy to announce that the drawing that accompanies this post is being featured on the Stillman & Birn company blog. As many of you know, S&B are the manufacturers of the premium quality sketchbooks that I personally use. I started using their sketchbooks a year ago and highly recommend them. The post on their site talks about the making of this drawing so I will devote this post to talking about general tips and ideas about keeping a sketchbook and my own personal experience doing so. 

I first started the practice of keeping a sketchbook when I was eighteen years old. My first sketchbook was a standard 9″x12″ book just like the one I have now except with cheaper paper. From what I remember, I did traditional studies of torsos in pencil probably copied from Michelangelo; nothing too exciting. My first real attempt at keeping a sketchbook as a journal came in 1987 when I was a sophomore at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. At the time, keeping a sketchbook as a journal was something fairly new to me. During that time, I was using a spiral bound sketchbook and drawing with a Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph. The Rapidograph is a refillable technical pen that uses waterproof ink. This is important for two reasons: permanence and durability. Over time, this type of ink will endure the test of time and not fade, and it will also stand up to working in conjunction with other media such as watercolor. A Rapidograph and a premium quality sketchbook with bright white paper are the perfect pairing. The paper is heavy enough that the ink does not bleed through the page and the whiteness of the paper gives the watercolor more luminosity as its surface will reflect brighter light back through the color. Make sure that you always choose your sketchbook based on the media that you will be using. Brands like Stillman & Birn offer different variations that will handle most media. 

I keep what some might refer to as a nontraditional sketchbook. For me, a sketchbook should be a journal where you put down your feelings, ideas and opinions. I think that this is very important as it helps you to find your own voice as an artist. Two people who use the sketchbook medium to its fullest potential are Barron Storey and Robert Crumb. Towards the end of my time at the Academy of Art, I was fortunate to study with Barron Storey who was working on the Marat/Sade Journals that were published by Tundra. Tundra was a publishing company owned by Kevin Eastman, the co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Barron’s journals were nothing short of a revelation to me. They are the epitome of what a sketchbook journal is. Click his name and check out a video tour through one of his incredible journals. You should also check out his Tumblr blog that’s devoted to his journals as well. Someone else who has also had a big impact on my idea of what a sketchbook can be is famed underground comix pioneer, Robert Crumb. Although he is recognized for his revolutionary underground comics work, he has also produced volumes of sketchbook journals that, like Barron Storey’s, redefine what a sketchbook is. Although their work is very different in approach, it is similar in that they don’t hold back in their subject matter. Their sketchbooks are as honest an expression as you’re going to get in this medium. Unfortunately, there is no good source for viewing his journals online, so I suggest Googling, “Robert Crumb sketchbook,” so that you can see the amazing sketchbook work that he’s done.

In closing, I would like to say that the most important things that you should aspire to in your sketchbook are to be yourself and to express your opinions, ideas, and emotions freely and without restraint, even if you are concerned that your ideas may be unpopular ones. Perhaps, especially if you are concerned your ideas may be unpopular! Over the last ten years, I’ve noticed many more people keeping a sketchbook and I think that’s great. Sketchbooks are used by different people in different ways, but I feel that the most powerful of these uses allow a viewer to have a fuller understanding of you as both an artist and as an individual, so be sure that your sketchbook always represents who you are. 


Coffeehouse Hotties

Coffeehouse Hotties - April 2015

About a month ago, I went to my local neighborhood Starbucks to meet some friends for coffee and a chat. As was I waiting, I noticed a young female student sitting near the window farthest from me. Now, I must say that as an artist, I frequently encounter cute girls; they’re everywhere — there’s so many that I practically trip over them. However, I must say, it’s rare to encounter a girl who is actually beautiful. Well, that night, I did, and boy was she a stunner. My ideal of beauty was ingrained in me when I was sixteen and I discovered the work of the English Pre-Raphaelites. Jane Morris and Maria Zambaco, models for the group, became my ideal of beauty and Sir Edward Burne-Jones became my artist-hero.

I remember riding the bus to the Academy of Art in San Francisco one morning back in 1987. It was early in the morning, and I was still attempting to wake up from a gonzo session of all night drawing when all of a sudden a Pre-Raphaelite stunner boarded the bus. I was transfixed. She was absolutely stunning — a fair skinned vision of beauty with golden hair and apple eyes beneath heavy eyelids that gave her a truly dreamy feel. The girl I saw at Starbucks that night came close to rivaling that never forgotten vision of beauty. It was impossible not to stare — I knew that I had to draw her. Luckily, after years of drawing people in cafes, I’ve mastered the art of not looking suspicious. By the time I started sketching her, my friends had shown up so I really had to make an effort to not look too obvious. Slowly but surely, I captured her exquisite features. Olive skinned, Dark eyes, and raven haired — oh my God, she was perfect. Oh, and let’s not talk about her form fitting stripped dress. Just as I was finishing one my friends said, “Who are you drawing? Is it that girl over there?” Another friend and fellow artist answered for me, “Yes, it is, and looks exactly like her.” That was the best compliment I could ask for. 

I just realized that this is the first new sketchbook page that I’ve posted in a while. As you may have noticed, my last two posts were photo journal reports on my continuing artistic adventures. In order to keep this blog centered on my work, all future photo journal reports will be linked to my Storehouse account. Things are getting interesting, changes are coming and life is good. 


Artist Adventures Part 2

This week, I’m trying something different; last week, I went to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibition on Alcatraz Island; I captured my adventure using Storehouse, an app that I use to create photo journal entries with on my iPhone. Click the “Storehouse,” link and you’ll be able to read all about my excellent experience at the exhibition and the rest of my day in San Francisco.

Originally, I was going to make my post here but decided to link to my Storehouse account after I saw the published results — they’re pretty impressive for an app I must say. This has lead me to decide that all future photo journal posts will be created there and linked to from here. I’m really enjoying the benefits of all the cool technology that is at our finger tips these days. That in combination with daily artistic adventures equals photo journal entries that can’t be beat.


One Big Fat Zero

Zero Fucks Given - March 2015

You never know what is going to Impact people. When I drew the page that you see here, I didn’t think of anything other than expressing the angst that I was feeling on that particular day. That day, like most days, I walked to Empresso Coffeehouse, a favorite local café, and settled in to do some drawing in my sketchbook. There’s normally a decent number of people at Empresso – not too little, not too many – so it’s a good place to go and concentrate on whatever it is that you need to work on. When I’m there, I normally listen to music as I draw so I’m pretty much oblivious to what’s going on around me. 

A couple of days after I had drawn this, I went back to do more drawing at Empresso; as I was waiting to order a drink Sergio, one of the baristas that works there, walked by and said, “Zero fucks given,” with a smile on his face. I looked at him and smiled back. I thought, “How cool is that, he remembered.” I had never thought about the fact that there’s always a chance that something like this can happen; I mean think about it, I’m going to a public place and sitting while exposing images that, for the most part, are meant to be private. Yeah, I don’t really like people peering over my shoulder as I work but It happens. Someone sees something, it strikes a chord, and bam, there you go, “Zero fucks given.” Interesting how that works.

Almost a week later, I saw Sergio again as he took my drink order; as he was making my drink, he uttered in a low voice, “Zero Fucks.” I smiled and asked him what was it about my slogan that he liked so much. He said, “It’s so dope — zero fucks!” What could I say to that? Perhaps it may sound strange coming from an artist, but I’ve truly understood something here. As an image maker, I want people to remember what I do; more than that, I want my work to make people think. If I can do that, then I’ve done my job as an artist. I reckon that there isn’t anything more satisfying then that for an artist. 

A couple of days later, I stopped and talked to Sergio as I was leaving. I told him that I was totally caught of guard by his reaction to my slogan. He said that it was something a lot of people could relate to — he said that it reminded him of the, “Have a nice day,” slogan from the 80s. I told him that I could see his point. You just never know what will catch the public’s eye — it’s a totally random thing.

A week or so later, I went down to Empresso to draw for a while; as I approached to order my drink, Sergio took one look at me and said, “Zero Sal, zero!” I guess I was right, when you put down your thoughts and ideas without holding back, people will react. Lesson learned. 


It Is What It Is

El Arte No Es Para Imbeciles Color

Sometimes, an idea and an opinion come together in a spontaneous and very satisfying way. That’s basically what happened when I drew this page. I wanted to play around and experiment and see what would come of that, so I started with no preconceived idea in mind. I used to use this approach a lot years ago — Usually, I was pleasantly surprised with the results. 

I started with a shape and that shape led to another and another – you get the idea. Despite the fact that I drew this directly in ink, it still took me a while to finish. As you might guess, adding the crosshatching and building up the shading takes me a while. I’ve been drawing this way for 20 years; it stems from my love of drawing in ink that began in my teens and the satisfying feeling of repetitiously drawing line after line. Maybe it’s some sort of OCD thing, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s very gratifying to me. 

As I got closer to finishing my cubist-inspired image, I started to feel that it needed some text to accompany it. I started to think what I could make a statement about. You know it didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. As an artist, I have some very definite ideas when it comes to art. Sometimes, I come to my wit’s end with people’s simplistic opinions about art and artists. Therefore, I decided that a straightforward, no holds barred, statement is what was needed here. The statement came fairly quickly: “El arte no es para imbéciles.” Yes, it’s true, sometimes I really feel that art is not for imbeciles. Is it ever? Does that sound elitist? Maybe it does — if it does, then so be it. I offer no apologies for this. 

Art isn’t supposed to always be beautiful; if you view art with such a narrow point of view, then you fail to understand what art is all about. That’s like thinking that life is always good or bad — we all know that it isn’t either of those things all the time. Things are getting interesting in what i’m doing and I’m liking it. This whole other side of me is spilling onto the page and that’s bringing forth all sorts of ideas. Watch out, here I come!  

Me, My Selfie, And I

Self Portrait With Cap Crop

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a gentleman who follows me onTwitter, who wanted to know if I’d be interested in contributing a self portrait to an online exhibition project he’s putting together; I’m sure he had some sort of quick sketch in mind when he asked, but I’m not sure what a quick sketch is anymore! I told him that I was interested and that I’d be sending something along soon. I, of course, went overboard with my “sketch.” These days, I’m more interested in enjoying myself and drawing something that says something, more than anything else. I obviously took the self portrait idea in a somewhat different direction, but I like the result. Having a good time, creating with complete freedom, and producing something that says something about my current state of mind have become my priorities. I believe that someone should walk away with an idea of who you are as a person after looking through your sketchbook. If you’re not expressing ideas and emotions then what’s the point? Your work should always reflect who you are as a person in one way or another. It’s something that isn’t always easy to do, but in the end, it’s the only option you have as an artist; you must express who you are.   

The Artist Life: Part 1

As an artist, I’m pretty fortunate to live the sort of life that one leads as a creative individual; a life full of interesting people and things. It’s hardly ever dull, that’s for sure. I can’t see myself living any other kind life to be honest with you. It’s not something you plan. It’s something that just happens. It’s not a lifestyle that’s for everyone. If security and day in and day out repetitiveness is important to you, this lifestyle is not for you. However, if you’re adventurous and have a keen sense of intellectual curiosity about the world around you, then this lifestyle is definitely for you. 

In the past three weeks I have spent time in:

  1. San Francisco. My good friend Monica Ambalal and I went to see a documentary on Cambodia’s lost rock and roll scene called “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten.” The documentary tells the tale of how a once vibrant and diverse music scene that existed from the mid 60’s to the early 70s was pretty much wiped out by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. People that were once stars in their own right were forced to abandon their careers and keep their past lives a secret out of fear of being punished or disappeared; many of them ended up as farm laborers and many others simply disappeared. The documentary was a grim reminder of Cambodia’s past — a past their music scene has not been able to fully recover from, even 40 years later. The director Joe Pirozzi and a participant from the film were present and spoke after the film’s screening. I highly recommend this documentary. Afterwards, we had dinner at Mifune, a favorite haunt of mine from my days as a young art student in San Francisco in the late 80s.
  2. Walnut Grove. Living in California’s agriculturally dominated Central Valley doesn’t always make it easy for an artist (yeah, me), to find inspiration or anything cultural that could be stimulating in any way. It’s slim pickings out here, that’s for sure. It does, however, have areas such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta where one can take a scenic drive and forget the Central Valley for a brief moment. That’s exactly what my wife and I did a couple of weeks ago. We decided to take a drive through the Delta as we drove to a friend’s for dinner. As you drive through the Delta, you go through quaint little waterside towns such as Walnut Grove, Locke, Isleton, and Rio Vista. Many of these towns have existed since the Gold Rush of the 1800s. As you can see from the pictures above, we decided to stop for ice cream at Mel’s Mocha and Ice Cream, a small ice cream and sandwich shop in Walnut Grove. It’s a pretty small place but their ice cream, and the laid back character of the Delta are totally worth the drive. 
  3. Columbia. Columbia is one of two places where I got to spend time over the weekend. Columbia, like many of the towns in the Delta, has existed in California since the days of the Gold Rush. Its history is obviously the main attraction for tourists, but there are other things to experience there. As we walked around the rest of the town, I found myself enchanted with the scenery and thinking that I could see myself living there. Most people who know me know that I’m a big city person at heart, but I must admit, these small foothill towns have a charm all their own. While we were there, we found a great little place called Columbia Kate’s where we had lunch. Their food was delicious and their outside eating area absolutely perfect. It was the perfect start to a wonderful day.
  4. Sonora. Our last and final stop on our day in the foothills was the town of Sonora. Sonora, unlike Columbia, has a decent little downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, and, surprisingly, a good number of coffeeshops. Again, it was the laid back, slow pace of the town that charmed me. It’s interesting, I find that as I get older, I find myself being more and more attracted to smaller areas like this. I guess living in a small town that’s adjacent to a bigger city would be ideal; these two towns are still very inviting despite the fact that they’re nowhere near a big city. Strolling up and down downtown Sonora was definitely nice. I guess the one thing that I would miss is the later hours that businesses keep in larger cities. Cafes closing at 5pm doesn’t really work for me. 

Over all, the past few weeks have been very enjoyable for me. I’ve seen new things; I’ve learned new things; I’ve made new friends, and, most importantly, I’ve had a good time. I’m fortunate because this is the way my life has always been; even for the few years when I did other things besides art to earn a living, my life was never boring. It was always interesting in one way or another. The life of an artist isn’t something that most people understand, especially nowadays. Being tied to a cubicle eight hours a day year after year isn’t my definition of living or freedom. When do you get to start enjoying life, at 65? Nah, I’ll pass. As an artist, I get my fair share of snide comments and rolling of eyes (don’t think that I don’t notice) when I tell people that I’m a working artist; it’s OK, I’ve learned to laugh it off. People are just bitter — especially about the decisions that they’ve made that have gotten them trapped in jobs that they clearly hate. We all make our decisions. I say, “Have a good time all the time.” 

Watching The Clothes Go ‘Round


For the past year, my wife and I have been going to do our laundry at a local laundromat called College Laundry. Every outing is a roll of the dice – you never know what you’re going to see or here when you’re there. Believe me, it makes for an interesting time. The drawing that adorns this post was done while waiting at said laundromat. In May of last year, I described the scene at the laundromat in my sketchbook and would like to share that entry with you so that you get an idea of what goes on while we’re there watching the clothes go ’round.

The laundromat is bustling with people tonight. They’re the same people that I see here every week: students, blue collar workers, drug addicts, the homeless, Asians, African Americans, Spanish speaking, Caucasian – you name it, they’re here. I never know what I’m going to see here, it’s always a surprise. Some nights it’s dead, some nights it’s a madhouse. We’ve been coming here for about three months because the laundromat is near our house and because it’s new and everything works. I wonder how long it’ll be before people start wrecking the place.

In front of me, off to the right, are two overweight African American women eating pastries out of a paper bag. Directly in front of me are two young kids, a boy and a girl. The boy is wearing jeans, a blue shirt and a belt that says, “Hecho en Mexico.” Behind them sits a woman stoically listening to music on a smartphone. To my left, sit three females – a mother and her daughters. One of the girls is dressed in dark gray sweats…she, too, stares stoically at the TV on the wall. Behind them sits an older woman who looks to be in her late 50s or early 60s. She doesn’t look happy – she looks like she’s had a hard life. She wears a completely blank look on her face – her sadness is palpable.

Prior to the three women that were sitting next to me was a man, his wife, and their two young sons. The man and the woman looked like dopes – the conversation that they were having didn’t go past there noses in scope. At one point, the guy took a call from someone who was telling him about some sort of altercation that had occurred in a local auto parts store’s parking lot. During the conversation, the guy said fuck about ten times in front of his two sons who looked to be about 8 and 10 years old. Hey, no big deal, it’s just a few F bombs, right?

The scene tonight doesn’t compare with the one  from two weeks ago – it was a madhouse in here. Clothes everywhere, drug addicts wandering around, people cleaning their baby on one of the tables where customers usually sit. It was bad, really bed. On nights like that, this place is no better than a three ring circus. It’s like sitting and watching a really bad movie in slow motion.”

That pretty much describes the atmosphere at our local laundromat. I often take pictures on my iPhone and post them to my Instagram account. Follow me there @salvadorcastio if you’d like to keep up with my laundromat adventures and regular sketchbook updates.


Unity For Charlie Hebdo


Today’s events in Paris were barbaric and horrific. It’s incredible to me that people could somehow think that they could silence freedom of speech based on some twisted ideology. I feel that they completely failed in what they tried to do. Instead of silencing freedom of speech, freedom of speech has silenced them. Charlie Hebdo will go on and continue doing what it’s done since 1970. It’s important for publications such as CH to exist; what they do is something that many of us take for granted and must protect at all cost. I applaud France and its citizens for standing up to this cowardly act today. I did this drawing tonight as my way of showing my solidarity with them.

2004-2014: Building A Bridge


Ten years ago, I was sitting in the lobby of a mental health clinic working as a security guard. It wasn’t a choice; it was something I had to do in order to survive. I had been living with my mom and caring for her for the last few years, but her condition had taken a turn for the worse. My mom suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for 30 years and she had entered the advanced stage of the disease. I could no longer care for her at home; she needed to be in the hospital. My entire life changed in the blink of an eye and I had to do what I had to do in order to keep things afloat. Wearing that stupid guard uniform and sitting in that lobby were things that I loathed from day one. Things looked bleak at the time, but I had a plan. I knew from the get-go that my time there was going to be short. Truth be told, the one thing that drove me to get out of that situation and back to making art more than any other was my ego. Security work, are you fucking kidding me? I don’t think so. Everyday that I sat in that lobby I planned on how to get myself out of there. Slowly but surely I would escape. A year and a half later, I became a Spanish mental health interpreter; that was a step up, but it was just another phase in my plan – just as with the security work, I wasn’t there to stay. A little over 5 years went by before I finally achieved part one of the plan I had concocted while working as Barney Fife – I got my freedom back and I returned to making art full-time.

Lots of changes have come about since I got back to making art full-time. In essence, the day I left my interpreter job to get back to making art was the start of part two of the plan I had made in November of 2004. Now, the time has come to begin the best part of my plan: part three will be filled with lots and lots of surprises so keep an eye out and look sharp!

The drawing that accompanies this post is a drawing that I did a few years before all the aforementioned changes. It’s from the biopic Basquiat, and it remains a favorite from that period. It’s important to be able to see what you want for yourself in the future in fine detail. That’s what I did a decade ago. It’s why I’m sitting here writing this post. I knew then what I know now – success will be mine. In order to succeed you have to be your own person. If you decide to follow a path such as this, there’s going to be just a handful of people who will understand, and a boatload of people that will fail miserably to get it. Dump the latter, they’re just dead negative weight that will waste your time and suck up your energy. Am I surprised that I’m here doing this now? No, actually, I’m not. In ten years, I’ll say the same thing – well, OK, it’ll probably be less than 10 years this time…a lot less. Learn to see the future and build a bridge for yourself. Get what you want, it’s out there waiting for you.


Have A Good Time All The Time


I love the fact that there is always something or someone to draw – always. Rarely have I felt myself without a subject to put down on the page. Everywhere I go, there they are – they’re everywhere: a hottie sitting at Starbucks talking to her friend about getting drunk at some party, the beautiful girl sitting quietly on the couch at Empresso coffeehouse reading a book, the guy with the weird haircut at the restaurant. There’s also architecture and immaculate landscaping at the local university and the feeling of being overwhelmed by loud obnoxious techno music at a local bar. The world is a never ending three ring circus. In this case, I chose to draw a beautiful woman, Chef Amanda Freitag from Food Network’s Chopped. Luckily, I was able to freeze a still from a past episode on my iPhone. Yeah, I admit it, sometimes technology can be pretty cool. Sometimes. 

For me, nothing beats the visceral feeling of my pen scratching ink onto the page in my sketchbook. The human touch and the subtleties that it brings along with it is something that technology cannot and will not replace. I guess that makes me old school or stubborn, or perhaps a bit of both. I’ve been drawing with the same type of pens for 30 years – I’m just starting get the hang of the damn things! As long as I am able to draw and as long as they make Rapidograph pens, I will continue to carry a sketchbook and pens with me wherever I go.

These days, I’m feeling a sense of freedom in what I’m drawing that I hadn’t experienced before. When you’re young and fresh out of school you want people to like what you do, and more importantly, buy your work. Because of that, you end up doing things that compromise you as an artist. More often than not, I’ve had to deal with half-baked ideas from people who over art-direct me to the point where I feel like there’s nothing left for me to do. Oh God, and the crap that I’ve been asked to do: clowns, hawks in cowboy boots, hideous illustrations for promo posters based on ideas that were originally interesting, work so big that it could only ever fit in the Louvre – man, they put you through the wringer! Jeez, it makes me sick just thinking about it. Thankfully I’ve managed to develop a real prima donna attitude over the last 20 years. Nowadays I wouldn’t be caught dead doing any of the lame crap that I did when I was in my twenties – no siree Bob, it’s just not going to happen. After all these years, I have no qualm selling my work for big bucks. Hey, after five years of art school and twenty five more of toiling away in anonymity I deserve to earn some real cashola for all my hard work. The true prize of all this is being able to do whatever I want and not caring about what anyone thinks about it. I say, have a good time all the time. How many people can say that they live life on their own terms?

In The Blink of An Eye

Not long ago, my wife and I went to Target to pick up a few things; amongst our list were a few food items: milk, ice cream, snacks, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary, right?

I didn’t think too much about it, why should I? I live a pretty good life compared to other people around the world: I eat three meals a day, I have a roof over my head, I have a warm bed that I sleep in, I go to Starbucks multiple times a week, you get the idea.

As we left the store there was an older gentleman sitting in a walker relying on the kindness of strangers to help get through another day and night. He was an older man who probably hadn’t had a shower in days. He looked like he was in his 60s and was going through something most of us would never wish to go through. He wasn’t bugging anyone, he wasn’t asking anyone for anything. He was simply sitting in his walker with as much dignity as he could. Imagine having to swallow your pride and depend on the kindness of others – could you do it day after day? I’m not sure I could. I’ve never been in such a situation and I’m not sure I could imagine having to live like that.

As I walked by, I pulled out a few dollars and gave them to him. He didn’t have to say anything to me, his eyes said it all. Still, he whispered, “Thank you sir, God bless you.” My wife asked him if he would like an ice cream bar, “Oh my, I haven’t had an ice cream in so long, thank you.” What can you say to such a thing? His words were so sincere and heartfelt that all I could do was nod my head and say, “You’re welcome, take care of yourself.”

I hate to see things like this. It angers me that a man in his 60s has to be out on the streets in the “greatest nation on earth.” Why does this man have to be out on the streets? Shouldn’t he be sitting on the porch of a house telling stories that he’s collected over 60 years? The fact that this happens is so wrong, and yet it does.

As I get older, my empathy for other people’s suffering deepens and my disdain for self-centered judgmental bullshit grows even stronger. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what I think about someone or their situation – it doesn’t matter a damn thing. People who are hungry and cold don’t care about your politics and what you think about them. They’re human beings who are in a situation that is wearing on them. It’s beating them down little by little. It doesn’t matter to me how or why they’re in this situation – they’re hungry and if I can help them, I will.

I hope that you’ll remember during the coming holiday season, when you encounter some of these unfortunate souls, that they’re simply human beings hoping to get some food in their stomachs for the night or a warm coat or blanket to cover themselves with. Remember that the person slumped on the sidewalk or sitting in the walker could be you or someone you love in the blink of an eye.

The Shape of Things To Come

Copy of The Masses Are... - July 2014

I recently scanned a bunch of new sketchbook pages that I’ve worked on over the past two and a half months. I’m quite happy with some of them. I’m very picky in regards to what pleases me and I’m pretty hard on myself even with sketchbook pages.

I’ve always felt that a sketchbook should reveal something about an artist. Someone who looks through an artists’ sketchbook should come away with an idea about who the artist is as a person: his thoughts, his ideas, his opinions, etc. In order to achieve this, an artist must put himself on the pages of his sketchbook. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s something that, ultimately, must be done. Otherwise you’re just filling pages that don’t say a damn thing.

Over the past ten years or so, keeping a sketchbook has really become a popular thing to do. This, of course,  isn’t anything new – it’s an artistic tradition and has been around for centuries. I, myself, have been keeping a sketchbook since my first year of art school in 1986. I think it’s fantastic that doing this has caught on in the way that it has; a sketchbook is a great medium that has gone from a way to practice to a way to journal your entire life. It’s fantastic to see this transformation. People are creating visual journals that tell their stories in ways that are new and exciting. The sketchbook has become an authentic and valid medium. Like any medium, it should be approached with the same high standard that you have for a finished piece of work. As a valid medium, a sketchbook should have as much impact as anything else you do. It represents you as much as any finished piece of art you produce and should be approached with that in mind. You should leave your personal stamp on each and every page. Two people that are great examples of this are Barron Storey and Robert Crumb (Google Crumb for examples of his sketchbook work). Barron’s journals were a revelation to me when I first had the pleasure of seeing them. I remember him walking into class with a suitcase of journals that were far and beyond anything I’d ever seen before. In many ways, they still are. Robert Crumb’s sketchbooks were also a revelation to me when I first encountered them twenty or so years ago. Looking through his sketchbooks is like looking directly into his mind. Barron and Robert don’t pull any punches – they put down every thought, idea , and opinion they have. I’m pretty sure that the last thing they worry about is pleasing anyone or following any type of trend, movement, group, or whatever. That’s the way it should be, always. They remain, for me, the two greatest examples of people who have defined what it is to keep a sketchbook. Coming from this same point of view, I also turn away from following any sort of trend. I become weary when things start looking too much the same. It’s great that keeping a sketchbook has caught on like it has, but you have to be careful to not fall into doing whatever everyone else is doing. If you’re not careful, poof, your work looks like everybody else’s. I’m not into that. Do it your way, and say something.

At the beginning of the year, I switched over to a new brand of sketchbook after 25 years – Stillman & Birn Alpha series (great sketchbooks, check them out). It may sound strange but this had an impact on the way I looked at what I was doing and what I expected to see in my sketchbook. My recent pages are some of the strongest that I’ve produced. I’m almost halfway through my book and am excited about what I’ll be doing in the upcoming pages. I look forward to sharing those pages with you.

Tapas Anyone?


This page started with a random trip to the Bay Area; the day was a much needed get away with a good friend to catch up and whatnot. We started our day with Middle Eastern food for lunch, and we ended our day ended in Half Moon Bay at Seville Tapas, a small tapas bar situated near the ocean. I’d been there a month before and was very impressed with their variety of tapas. 

It was about as perfect a summer afternoon in California as you could ask for: the restaurant was busy, the food was delicious, and there were lots of potential unsuspecting victims to draw. Off to the left of us was a group of what looked and sounded like students; one of them, a young man, was wearing white Ray-Ban’s and seemed like a perfect subject for my pen. Between the delicious food and casual conversation my friend felt that it would be a good idea if we made a small video of me working on my drawing. I’d wanted to do something like that for quite some time but hadn’t had the opportunity to do it until that day. I’ll post the video as soon as I upload it from my iPhone. Anyway, it was fun making the video – it even drew the attention of one of the girls that was sitting at the same table as my victim. I’m sure she must have mentioned it to him. If you’re ever in Half Moon Bay, stop by Seville Tapas and enjoy a little taste of Spain. You might even see me there drawing in my sketchbook.

The rest of this page was drawn at my usual drawing haunt, Empresso Coffeehouse. The girl in the middle of the page seemed suspicious of what I was doing and kept looking over to see if I was drawing her. She never caught on that I was because after so many years, I’ve honed my ability to capture unsuspecting victims in public! The gentleman at the lower right is a regular and always sits in the same corner. I could fill an entire book with sketches of him since he hardly moves at all.

At the bottom of the page are some thoughts that I’ve had in mind recently. Sometimes it feels as if we’ve hardly progressed at all as a race. The brutality, the greed, and the self entitlement really do get to be a bit much sometimes. They say that within 20 years we’ll discover another life-form  in the universe. Hopefully, it’ll be vastly different from us. 

Hanging Around


I was recently invited to participate in an exhibition entitled Open Walls at
Empresso Coffeehouse, one of my favorite local haunts. I have not exhibited anything in public for quite a long time, but my friends at Empresso really made me feel that my work’s presence would add something extra to the exhibition. I’ve always said that I was unwilling to exhibit my work locally largely because I feel that a local artist stays local; that works for some people and I respect that decision, but it doesn’t work for me. It’s never been what I want for myself or my work. So, what made me change my mind? The fact that my friends Vito, Meghan, Tiffany, and Buddy have been so gracious and attentive has been very gratifying for me and that certainly had something to do with it. As a working artist, I need to decide on what will benefit me now and in the future. This opportunity has already led to others, and that’s exactly what I wanted. As an artist, I must make educated decisions that will ensure that my work is seen by as wide an audience as possible and in the best venue available. Thanks to the advent of the Internet and social media, I’ve been able, along with many others, to bring my work to a global audience. That is exactly what I’ve always aimed for and what I continue to aim for.

I also avoided exhibiting locally for so long because I wanted to avoid being labeled. I strongly dislike being labeled; whether the label be local artist, fantasy artist, comics artist, sketcher, sketch artist, Hispanic artist or whatever (trust me, there’s a never ending plethora of them). I equally DISLIKE them all. Fine artist works best for me – yes, I know that’s a label too, but it’s closest to how I actually view my work. Whether it be in black in white or color, a portrait, a nude, a landscape, it doesn’t matter – there’s more to the term “fine art” than oil paintings on canvas; it’s an attitude and a singular point of view about your work more than anything else.

The opening night reception was very busy and I got the chance to meet and talk to some of the people attending; all of them were very complimentary and enthusiastic about my work and that was very gratifying. Thanks to all of you who showed up that night. It was great to see you all. This was a small and calculated decision that has led me to the next step, which I’ll disclose that at some point in the future. Although I stayed away from publicly exhibiting my work for a long time, I now feel that I’d like my work to be seen and discovered by as many people as possible. As always, I will aim for the the widest audience, the best opportunity, and the best possible venue. Onward, ever onward.

By the way, my drawing of Virginia Woolf is for sale. If you are interested in purchasing it, please contact me at: artist@salvadorcastio.com with your contact info and I will get back to you.

A Slight Return

Kate Bush - March 1997Lately, the British music press has been in overdrive in regards to the much anticipated return of Kate Bush to the concert stage; twenty two shows are booked at London’s Hammersmith Apollo – her first live performances since 1979s Tour of Life, her first, and until now, only tour. Amazing. I’ve been an admirer of Kate’s since 1986 and nearly three decades later, I have lost none of my sense of wonder and awe for this woman’s music. She remains an artistic enigma to me and I regard her as a primary influence on myself and my work. It’s my pleasure to post this drawing from 1997 as my contribution to this week’s Throwback Thursday.

I’ve got lots of new sketchbook pages scanned and ready to publish, so you’ll be seeing me slightly more regularly from this point onward. Back in December, I posted about moving; since that post, we have moved and it was an all around good move to make in so many ways. For the past 8 months, I’ve been getting to know and enjoying the area and the surroundings where we are now living. There’s some real beautiful parts around here and I plan on drawing some of them for inclusion in future posts. Life is good.  


On Any Given Day

Madonna and Child (From Solari) - April, 2014

Most people that know me know there’s one thing that’s going to happen on a daily basis with me – I’m going to draw. Whether it be finishing a drawing for a project or drawing in my sketchbook – I’m going to draw. That’s never changed. Sometimes I draw a lot, sometimes I draw less, and sometimes I take a breather. Overall, drawing is a constant for me. It always has been. Still, you’d be surprised to know that there are still people who ask me what I do. Ah, life is short… when’s the next time I’m going to have tapas and sangria? Now, there’s a real question that’s deserving of an answer.

Recently, I acquired a new sketchbook. For the last 25 years or so I’ve been using Aquabee Super Deluxe spiral bound sketchbooks. I started using them when I was an art student in San Francisco because of the quality of their paper. At the time, I was drawing and painting in my sketchbook, so my sketchbook had to be able to handle both wet and dry media. The only drawback to using this brand is that their sketchbooks are spiral bound. I’d always wanted a hardcover sketchbook, but found that the companies that produced those type of books did so with an inferior quality of paper. Years went by, and nothing. I would occasionally look to see if, by a miracle, someone had invented one yet, but the answer was always the same – no. That continued to be the case until a year ago when I heard of a new brand of sketchbooks that featured heavy, natural white paper bound into a hardcover book. Could it really be? Was I imagining things? I took note of the company name and promised myself to investigate this at a later date after completing our recent move from hell.

Before I go on, you must understand the importance of my sketchbook. I’ve been keeping a sketchbook since the age of 18 and it goes everywhere with me. This habit has also come into question by various profoundly confused individuals. “What do you do that for?” ask the unenlightened. Wait, did I say that I need to have tapas and sangria soon? Yeah, there’s important things to do in life; answering stupid questions isn’t on the list. The sketchbook goes everywhere with me – people need to get drawn, things need to be written, ideas need to be explored, etc, etc. Get the picture?

So, I finally found the ideal sketchbook for myself; hardbound with natural white 100 pound paper – bloody perfect! It takes ink beautifully and is a pleasure to draw in. The image that accompanies this post is one of the drawings that I’ve recently done in my new book. I wanted to challenge myself so I thought I’d try my hand at copying a painting from the Renaissance, “Madonna and Child,” by Andrea Solari, a painter that was active between 1495 and 1524. Obviously, copying a painting in pen and ink presents certain challenges; the main one being subtlety. Capturing the subtleties in a painting in pen and ink is no walk in the park. I’m not sure that I succeeded in what I set out to do, but it was a good exercise for me. While drawing this, two things occurred to me 1. I could not have done this 10 or 15 years ago and 2. it shows that my draftsmanship speaks for itself. The best is yet to come.





Subtle Like A Club To The Head

La Puta Hipocresia - January, 2014

A recent page from my sketchbook; It’s my reaction to an unfortunate incident that occurred earlier in the year. Translated, this reads, “Motherfucking Hypocrisy.” I wrote it in Spanish because I felt that it would have more impact – it sounds stronger in Spanish. In Spanish the word puta is very vulgar and depending on how it’s used it can either mean whore or f’ucking or Motherfucking. This idea isn’t meant to come across as nice, it’s meant to have impact. It’s intention is to get a reaction.

I did this on purpose because too often nowadays people have no reaction whatsoever to any type of subtlety in art; they just don’t get it. I believe that people need to be jarred by what they see otherwise they will not react. It’s as if you have to club them over the head to get a reaction. Someone who excels at this is British street artist, Banksy. His work is full of blunt, to the point social commentary. If you don’t know his work, I recommend that you Google him.

This is but a start; So far I’m liking where this idea is going. Social criticism is something that I’ve wanted to explore in my work for quite some. For some it will come as a bit of a shock, for others, it will be a new texture, a new side of my work. Art isn’t meant to always be beautiful; sometimes, it’s meant to say things in a very direct way and personal way. It’s not about beauty, it’s about communication.

A New Direction/A New Start

Friends and Fans,

I recently made a post concerning the changes and direction that I’m going in with my work and all my social networking sites. I’m doing this because I want to bring the quality and look of my work and my sites up to the level where I feel it should be. You can read more of my post here. for now, I’d like to talk about this blog.

Along with the changes that I mention in my post, change, too, must inevitably come to my blog. After much thought, I’ve decided that my blog needs to reflect where I’m going as well as my current attitude and state of mind concerning my work and everything else under the sun. In order to do this, I will be going through and editing all my past entries; some will be deleted, some will be updated and edited for clarity, and all will be updated with higher quality scanned images.

It’s important to me that this blog be an accurate reflection of myself, my opinions, and my thoughts. It obviously functions as sort of an online journal for me and so therefor it must be clear and to the point in it’s point of view. I’m currently going through 20 years of sketchbooks and picking and choosing the best bits from the past two decades. There’s an incredible wealth of material there that I would like to eventually share with you in one form or another.

I, once again, would like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers of this blog for your continued support. I’m excited about the changes that I’ve decided to make and about the new and past material that I will be sharing with you. Keep an eye out, the best is yet to come!

Unsuspecting Victims, Thoughts, Etc


February 2014Well, well, well, here we are again. It’s been a while but I haven’t stopped looking for and drawing my favorite type of people,   unsuspecting victims. It would be a bit hard to not run into them – they’re everywhere! Just look around, and there they are in all their weirdness. God love ’em. Let’s face it, people are weird and they do weird things all the time. They can’t help it. It’s this very weirdness that keeps me filling page after page in my trusty sketchbook. Luckily, I’m able to do this for a living – did you think that I was doing all that work at cafes for nothing? Hahaha, don’t be silly, you don’t think that I buy into that whole starving artist mumbo-jumbo, do you? Nah, not me – my ego would never allow that. Perhaps I bought into it back in the halcyon days of art school, but you live and you learn. Besides, how in the world would anyone take me seriously if I didn’t come across as supremely confident and whatnot? People love it when you’re confident and full of piss and vinegar – confidence makes you that much more appealing to most people. I say most people because there is that group who loathes confidence and determination – stay away from those types of people – they’re toxic. They’ll drag you down right along with them if they can.

Anyway, here’s one of my recent sketchbook pages. It was drawn in a couple of local cafes and at a laundromat. I’m not sure how the laundromat managed to sneak in there, but there it is. What can I say, I never get tired of drawing. Up until now, I’ve mostly drawn people, but that’s changing – I love drawing people, especially women, but believe you me, it’s not the only thing I like to draw. I like drawing all kinds of things: people, landscapes, cars, buildings, cartoons, portraits, cubist inspired drawings, surrealism, erotica, weird and crazy stuff, lettering – the sky’s the limit. I can’t imagine drawing just one thing; it get’s boring after a while, you know? I have to challenge myself. I have to keep stretching and growing. Above all, it has to be done my way and done right. Everything has to be art. I’m not interested in anything less than that.