Latest Updates: July 2017 to February 2019

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

My favorite podcast episodes are ones where they’re like, “We did this great reporting on all these stories and we just wanted to touch base, check in, reconnect, and update you on all these stories.” So that’s what we’re going to do: go far back into the /latest where updates would make sense, I’ll give a brief recap on the project and what the latest update is and will skip the ones that I’m too scared to start up again because it’s too daunting.

These updates are in chronological order, which is the opposite of the blog, and it’s strange that we’re forced to read things in reverse chronological order like that, but it worked for Memento, so I guess.


Summer Pattern 2017 (Birds and Bees)

RECAP: In the summer of 2017, I made two patterns, birds and bees.

UPDATE: I put it onto two bags: one where each pattern covers the entire canvas on both sides, and one where the pattern is shaped into a pyramid for the birds and a hexagon for the bees. After getting the two bags, I liked the minimal one more and put that in the shop, and gave the full-bleed bag to my mom cause she likes almost everything I make.

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Laser Chat

RECAT: I rescued a mass-produced painting from my apartment building’s trash room and painted a cat on it. I then rehung it in the building elevator and then it went missing.

UPDATE: My friend Mike took it because my other friends, Joe and Yuwi, couldn’t fit it in a box when they moved to Seattle!

 
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Ego on a Canal Boat

Recap: I painted a picture of Ego riding a canal boat leaving New York to go to Amsterdam and I cried so much.

UPDATE: I printed this out and gave it to her! Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead and printed this out in imperial measurements so when Mark tried to frame this, he had to squeeze it to fit a picture frame measured in centimeters.


Latest Project: Frieds of March 2018

RECAP: I made an event called the Frieds of March

UPDATE: My work friends and I went around East Village. I don’t know why I didn’t document it thoroughly as I tend to document these sorts of dumb ideas, but I do have, like, eight different photos of me wearing a cat sweater with Pinot when I got home.


Line Star State

RECAP: I refreshed a previously designed version to make it cleaner and added another iteration that features a heart.

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UPDATE: I put the flag onto a hat and gave it a really cute name. That’s for sale, too.


Mud

RECAP: I made a painting of my favorite coffee place of all time using their own coffee.

UPDATE: They have (had) two other properties (RIP Mud Truck), and because I’m obsessed with doing things in threes, I rounded out the series.


Cats of New York

RECAT: I made a toile du jouy pattern featuring different cats of New York and called it, Cats of New York.

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UPDATE: I took my toile du jouy pattern featuring different cats of New York and made it into a sweater called, Cats of New York. Also in the shop.


Oriental Tailor Shop since 1976

RECAP: I made some ads honoring my parents and their shop they’ve owned since 1976.

UPDATE: I was going to buy ad space in a local magazine but that was going to cost a lot of money so I printed and frame them. I don’t know where they put them, I didn’t see it in the house, and I didn’t get to visit the shop when I went home for Tết, but I did find this jacket I used to wear in high school with my mom’s embroidery on the inside cause I used to lose stuff a lot. My dad wears it now.

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Delft Ego

RECAP: I drew a bunch of Delft-inspired tiles featuring Ego and her new European lifestyle.

Update: I visited Ego in November 2018 and gave these tiles to her! I also printed it onto a sweater because I guess I’m obsessed with all-over print sweaters now.

I also had a chance to go to the actual city of Delft where these traditional tiles are made. I learned that the tiles aren’t actually painted with any particular blue paint, but rather with cobalt oxide and when it’s heated in the kiln, that’s when it turns that Delft blue. Wow!

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Lắc Bầu Cua (2019 Year of the Pig)

RECAP: Tired of looking at the same, ugly game board we traditionally play during Tết, I made my own, which includes three dice.

UPDATE: I printed two boards, one for each side of the family. They loved it and I made a gambling profit for once. I also got an ovation from my family, they were so happy.


The Đặc Biệt Longevity Sweater

RECAP: I designed a sweater based on the dinnerware I used growing up.

UPDATE: The sweater was a hit. It wasn’t immediately clear to some that it was based on that bowl I’m cradling in my hand, but the rumors spread. I was also asked where I bought this and I said I made it, which impressed them twice over (after the custom Lắc Bầu Cua board), and my family was also impressed that I knew how to spell words in Vietnamese.

This isn’t for sale yet, but it will be soon. Won’t make an update post for that, don’t worry.

Latest Project: The Đặc Biệt Longevity Sweater

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

When I was at Leo Burnett New York, I sat next to a Japanese designer and one day, he had an epiphany and told Skyler and me, “I just realized why I like Chipotle. It’s because it has rice! So good, man…so good.” Years later I realized that was true for me, too. I’ll eat anything if it has rice: burrito bowls, pilaf, halal chicken over yellow rice, Rice Krispies Treats, anything. And though I’ve never tried “cauliflower rice,” I’d give it a shot.

If you grew up in a Southeast Asian home or ate in Chinatown or went grocery shopping in an Asian market, you surely saw on one of these ubiquitous patterns, adorned on plates, bowls, spoons and chopsticks, sometimes referred to as a longevity pattern. I mean – I ate all my rice out of this bowl my whole life. I don’t anymore, but I do get nostalgic for them. And that’s when I had an idea:

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THIS, I thought to myself, NEEDS TO BE ON AN ALL-OVER PRINT SWEATER.

And as I thought that, I accidentally shared the thought with a friend. And like any song that gets stuck in your head, the only way you can get it out is to express it, or in this case, put it on paper and eventually design the whole thing and get it printed and made into an actual thing that you can hold in your hands.

So that’s what I did.

It took a while, to clear the other projects off my to-do list, but with Tết looming, I skipped my usual Procreate process and went straight to Photoshop via Astropad Studio using Kyle’s brushes. I tried to find an Asian movie or show to watch to help me get in the right headspace, but the closest thing available was Murder on the Orient Express (2017), which was…fine.

Getting the balance and spacing between all the pattern lines was tough and took a while, and after fudging and shifting them around, I got it in a good place. Now I just had to do it three more times for the backside, right arm, and left arm templates. I decided that instead of just using the same front.psd file for the other three templates, I’d retrace it, because although this sweater is inspired by the “longevity” pattern, which is a mass-produced to the point that ensures its longevity long after this planet melts and drowns, each side has to be special.

I also wanted to replace the Chinese character in the center which said “longevity,” with “đặc biệt” (“special” in Vietnamese), because anyone who wears this is đặc biệt.

 
 

If you’ve ever seen a longevity plate or bought a Supreme one for $100, you’ll notice that there are other floral accents on the edges. I couldn’t put this flower on the sides of the sweater because the template has bleed, trim, and safety areas, so I painted them onto the elbows, and that’s how we ended up with this look:

And before we have a bad reaction to the cultural appropriating model, the sweater website uploads my images onto this stock man’s body so I can see it mocked up.

It’s strange. I was never big on AZN Pryde [sic] when I was growing up in middle school, but I thought the song “Got Rice,” was pretty good, and that was probably the closest I got to showing pride in being Asian. So the recent uptick in Asian-inspired projects has been out of the norm for me. It’s either because of the current political climate where the Trump administration wants to limit refugees and end birthright citizenship; or the smash hit movie, Crazy Rich Asians; or growing older and realizing that I have to understand my culture and traditions to pass it on to my cat or dog or whatever; or maybe it was after watching Ali Wong’s last stand-up special.

It’s hard to tell.

Latest Project: Lắc Bầu Cua (2019 Year of the Pig)

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Growing up, my dad’s side of the family brought all the games to my childhood. My aunt taught me how to play xiangqi (aka Chinese chess), tiến lên (aka VC or 13), and the perennial lunar new year game, lắc bầu cua.

Now if you don’t know how to play this game, it involves a three six-sided dice and a mat. Players put their bets down on what they think the dice landed on and they get paid out one-to-one. Oh, and the dice actually have animals instead of numbers. So you’re betting on animals like a deer, rooster, fish, crab, shrimp and also a random gourd. Not sure how a gourd convinced people that it deserved a spot but it’s in the name. I mean, the literal translation of lắc bầu cua is “shake gourd crab.” (The game goes by other names, but this is what I called it growing up.)

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Anyway, I spent a lot of time during Tết playing this game and it never struck me how ugly this board is. And it seems like this exact board is ubiquitous among every Vietnamese household. If not this one, then another one of the two, which are just as ugly.

Tired of looking at this thing, I decided to make my own. So as usual, I started with a sketch in Procreate.

Then I traced it in Photoshop via Astropad Studio using Kyle’s Halftone Brushes.

It’s a good start, but when I worked on the Nicorette pitch, I learned that smoking is actually really cool. I knew that when I read comic books in the 90s, and I knew that when I drew a bunch of animals smoking a cigarette all over my Nicorette brief. So I added some much needed swagger to these guys.

Oh hell yeah.

As a present to my families, I ordered these boards and dice for the coming new year, and I’m also considering making this an annual tradition. Will it be available in the /shop? Find out in the Year of the Rat!

Latest Project: Polar Bear Plunge

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Every year, I say I’m going to take the train out to Coney Island and jump into the water for the Polar Bear Plunge, and every year, I wake up on New Year’s Day and think, “No, not this year.”

2019 is weird, though, because after some soft nudging of my good friend and Bronx native, Yuwi, I actually, truly, earnestly considered it. And through the luck of not partying the night before, not having a large to-do list, a relatively close commute, and rising global temperatures at a catastrophic rate, I put on swim trunks, packed a backpack of dry clothes, and went out to Coney Island for the 2019 Polar Bear Plunge.

When it was my wave’s turn to go, I walked down the beach towards the ocean with a ton of other people also out of their minds, flanked by people cheering, and a steady drum beat that sounded like a gladiator walking into the Coliseum, and all that distraction was nice because the Atlantic Ocean just kinda crept up and the next thing I knew, I was knee-deep in ice-cold water.

I went in and out of the Atlantic several times to get more pictures after warming up my toes and eventually dunked my body in after finding a group of people who looked like they wouldn’t steal my bag of clothes and camera.

When I finally got back home, I was asked if I felt anew, fresh and reborn. And as corny as it sounds, I did. If I could dunk myself into the Atlantic with thousands of other strangers, I could do pretty much anything, which is the real “if you can make it here you can make it anywhere,” if you ask me.

Latest Project: Delft Ego

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Someone told me I was obsessed with Ego. Multiple people, actually. And I don’t know, maybe I am, but Vincent Van Gogh did a bunch of self portraits and no one ever said he was obsessed with himself.

After visiting her in June (and consequently my best friends Mark and Bonnie), I was so inspired by her new European lifestyle, like how she slimmed down, eats food measured in the metric system, and can sleep in the sun under a skylight. I even think she barks in Dutch now, with a lot of throat sounds and extra vowels, like “baark” or “van woouf.” Did I want to move to Amsterdam now? Did I want to bike everywhere? Was I prepared to get yelled at by Duolingo on a daily basis?

These are all questions I asked myself on the seven-hour journey back home as I drew Ego living her new life in the style of traditional Delftware, like the ones I saw at the Rijks Museum.

Ego Delft (Process)

I spent 2 weeks in Amsterdam and this is what I was able to come up with, representing the quaint, Dutch life.

For reasons, most likely related to what I went through with the Cats of New York pattern, I let this sit on the shelf for a couple months. It wasn’t until on my flight to Albuquerque did I decide to try to refine it.

Drawing Ego nine times was easy. I’m “obsessed,” after all, the thing I had the most trouble with were the flourishes. Should they be simple and minimal, or ornate and flowery? And making sure the Dutch scenes weren’t culturally insensitive was another concern, but I’d be upset if museums didn’t allow dogs into their halls, honestly.

Ego Delft (Process) v1.1

Using Procreate’s new feature where it can reflect what you draw in quarters, sixths, or eighths made this question much easier to decide which direction I wanted to go in. Sure this new round of tiles is super ornate, but perhaps gaudy and distracting from what you’re supposed to look at: Ego.

And plus, if I was going to redraw each tile from beginning to end without duplicating the corners nine times and only filling in the center circle, my hand would fall off. So late in October, to get in the Halloween spirit, I watched Beetlejuice for the first time and began painting simple corners.

With a future return trip to Amsterdam to see Ego just a month away, I needed to finish these quickly so I could send them off to print onto tiles so I could gift them to her for Thanksgiving. I watched Youtube tutorials to get the painting technique right, studied pictures I took from the Rijks Museum and from Google, to get the color and shading right, then used the Luna Display and went in.

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When I’m back in the Netherlands for Thanksgiving, Maybe I’ll go to the city of Delft and do a painting course to see how close I got with digital compared to physical, and maybe I’ll do a tile of Pinot, and maybe people will finally recognize that I’m obsessed with both Ego and Pinot. It’s dialectical.

Latest Project: Oriental Tailor Shop since 1976

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

In 2005, the City of Houston, just after inviting Hurricane Katrina victims in, had to prepare for their own terrible Hurricane Rita just weeks later. I helped prepare the home against high winds the best I could by taping a giant, meaningless X on the window and my mom brought all the precious photographs of childhoods and portraits, imported from Vietnam, to the second floor and placed them in the linens closet, so they would in theory, be protected by all the bath towels.

Nowadays, we take pictures for granted. You can take a five photos of the same exact thing and keep them all because digital space is boundless and you can recall them anytime because everything resides inside of at least four different clouds. But no, not these photos my mom saved. If these portraits of my grandaunt were ruined by floodwaters, they’d be gone forever except in our memory and can only be exported to a forensic sketch artist.

After Hurricane Rita turned out to be highly sensationalized (within the City of Houston), I decided I’d never want to lose these pictorial memories, not just of the pictures of my childhood and when we went to Disneyland, but of my parents, aunts and uncles when they first came to America in 1975, so I went to work and began scanning every photo album I could find.

I’d go through the photo albums and flip page after page of my sepia parents living their new American life in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1975, wearing three-piece suits, going on road trips to Memphis, Washington DC, and San Francisco. Every now and then, I’d see pictures of them standing in front of the business they opened with my aunt and uncle in 1976, Oriental Tailor Shop.

Now listen. We all know that you can’t say “Oriental,” and I 100% can, but the 70s were a different time when anyone could say “Oriental,” and that’s the name my family chose, so we just gotta go with it. You can mouth along if you want.

In the oral family history, my parents heard there was a big Vietnamese population in Houston, so they put my big brother in a car, moved down south and opened a new Oriental Tailor Shop in southwest Houston. This tiny shop is where I spent my childhood. Where I’d play with wooden blocks and watch Sesame Street and do homework and play with Battle Beasts on the sewing machines and get in trouble for messing up their table settings.

I mean, I can go on and on about how much Oriental Tailor Shop means to me, but I don’t think I could ever do it justice. There’s a little mat my parents keep around that my brother and I napped on. It’s where my brother and I were reading Garfield on the floor and my dad walked by and drew Garfield freehand almost one-for-one and I never saw him draw anything ever again, so that was quite a flex.

You get the idea. I grew up here the way JFK Jr. grew up, hiding under the Resolute desk while his dad was doing stuff.

My parents watched my brother and me grow up in the shop and looking back at these old photos, I can now see how much my parents grew in their own shop. It’s remarkable how they opened a store in Little Rock with the English they learned in Vietnam, and stayed on top of fashion trends from the 70s to the 2000s (which I think is the weirdest sartorial decade), to today.

Earlier this year, my mom told me that my dad would be retiring in 2019. That caught me by surprise. No, not my dad. I’ve seen a lot of my favorite basketball players retire, but not my dad, who can draw a perfect Garfield without tracing.

Seven years living in New York away from family can really sneak up on you, I guess. It’s bittersweet, and no one deserves it more than my dad (my mom deserves it as much, truthfully), whose number needs to be hung in the rafters of the Town and Country shopping center.

Thinking back, after many years of being in advertising, studying from 2005 to 2007, looking for an advertising job from 2007 to 2011, to working from 2011 to today, I never once thought about making any advertisements for Oriental Tailor Shop. I’m not sure why and I feel guilty! So I got to work.

The concept was to take old photographs from antique stores, sew on sequins, or embroider them, or do some sort of art and craft on them. But then I realized I had an entire cache of old, personal, vintage photographs that told a better story of how they’d been around since 1976 and seen fashion cycle in and out and evolve and innovate.

In addition to all of that, they could have helped innovate dress pockets, too! How’d it take so long for someone to sew on pockets onto a dress? I don’t know. But I’m certain my parents could have done it then years ago. I’ve seen them make, fix and adjust so much stuff that I know anything is possible. My mom made my pumpkin costume FROM SCRATCH. Oh, and she also made the clown and dinosaurs costume from scratch, too. They can make anything they want.

So these are the ads the address those facts about Oriental Tailor Shop:

The choice to use old photo album pages as the background was to show the history of the shop, and since this was its last year, it’s meant to be a retrospective as well, add a sense of nostalgia while showing how fashion-forward they are.

I started with my dad’s picture since that was both the easiest to photoshop. The tricky part was figuring out which part of the suit was going to be altered. Here are the different options:

Ultimately went with the lapel because that’s what’s hot in 2018.

Next was the picture of my mom in a green dress. I knew I was looking for a picture of my mom where her hand would be on her hip or something, but this was the closest I could find.

Bending my mom’s arm inward and into a make-believe pocket was tricky, but that’s a hand in a dress pocket, all right.

And finally for the last piece, and third piece, I wanted to keep the embroidery aspect from the original concept, but didn’t have time to learn how to master the craft, so had to resort to Photoshop instead.

The first thought was to make it a dragon wrapped around my mom’s jacket but thought that might be too much for my mom, so I made it into something a little more Vietnamese. In a vertical layout, it was hard to see exactly what was altered in the image, so then I had to move my mom inward to crop out that car.

I did some research to buy some full-page ads in some local papers and magazines but turns out, that’s like thousands of dollars, so I’m getting them printed at Adorama and giving this to them for Christmas instead.

Oriental Tailor Shop! If you’re in town, swing in and say hello!

Latest Project: Cats of New York

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Back in March 2018, a couple months into a new phase of my life, one without Ego and seeing the Pulaski Bridge cats on my morning commute, but instead with Pinot and seeing Brooklyn Library cats on my evening commute, something struck me to draw a bunch of cats of New York.

This diary entry is going to take you on an odyssey, so please grab a snack and buckle up.

I started at Grey in 2014 and one of my favorite things about the office was the wallpaper in the meeting rooms. Sure ad agencies are quirky, but this wallpaper was cool because it’s a modern take on toile du jouy featuring something I’d heard about just months before. Since then, I always wanted to try my hand at a toile pattern, especially after the Museum of Art and Design had a 3D version of one.

Chinatown Toile  by  Dan Funderburgh  Seen at Grey New York

Chinatown Toile by Dan Funderburgh
Seen at Grey New York

Fast forward back to March 2018, I came home from my walk home and started thinking what felines are present in New York City. Bodega cats, of course, they’re the best. The New York Public Library lions. I really racked my brain on this one. Maneki-neko? Yeah, definitely.

Anyway, I started drawing them out in Procreate.

Cats of New York (Process)

Every now and then I’d open up the file and try to noodle around and figure out how I’d fit these cats together in a toile de jouy style and it was just really difficult in the Procreate app because I was mentally shackled to how Photoshop works. In June, during my seven-hour flight to Amsterdam, however, I was determined to figure it all out. Except I started missing Pinot, my roommate/best friend/business parter/Albuquerque native/cat lover’s cat. It’s a weird feeling of infidelity knowing that you’re flying across an ocean to see a dog you missed so much while also missing a cat back home a lot.

JJ, one of my best friends in elementary school, grew up with both a cat and a dog and that blew my mind. I read Garfield with my brother as a kid and it was always truth that dogs and cats cannot cohabitate. I’d always wanted a dog growing up and the only cat experience I had was a neighbor’s cat who’d hang out on our driveway. But Pinot was exactly the animal I needed as a transition with Ego living on a different continent.

So as someone who is constantly crippled by multiple forms of guilt, I drew out Pinot in most of the nicknames Casey and I’d given him.

Not pictured but should’ve been: Peanie Baby™

Not pictured but should’ve been: Peanie Baby™

And before I knew it, it was time to put our seat back and folding trays in their full, upright position. I was nowhere near finishing the Cats of New York pattern, but Cat of Putnam Avenue was in pretty good shape.

No fear, I still had a seven-hour return trip back home. And it’s not like there were more nicknames I could’ve put in Pinot’s piece. So I opened up the Procreate app and…instead began doodling Ego living her new Dutch life. I mean, it’s only fair. I had to get it all down while it was fresh in my mind. And then, of course, per FAA regulations, I had to put my iPad away cause I was back in New York.

This was all part of the plan, though, you see. In May 2018, I backed the Luna Display, by the people behind Astropad (an app that turned the iPad into a Cintiq), on Kickstarter. So I waited for my Luna to come in. And then it did. And then I just waited. And waited and waited.

I had another flight in September, this time back home to Houston, so I used that time to finally, finally work on the Cats of New York pattern. Except I also had the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man on, and I ended up watching that instead.

No fear, however, because there’d still be the four-hour return trip home. Except again…instead…I drew my friends’ pets who passed away.

The key to solve stress-induced procrastination, it turned out, was to put yourself in a situation where whatever you had to finish was much less stressful than whatever was happening around you. For instance, writing an article a day before deadline is stressful, yet somehow the apartment always seems so much messier at the same exact time. However, if you absolutely had to clean your apartment in an hour, there’s always an extra minute to fire off a really good tweet about your Lyft driver the other day.

The thing I had to finish (Cats of New York) was stressful because the end of the year was close and I still didn’t do my annual summer pattern. And the only thing more stressful than that and able to distract me back onto my work is the 2018 Midterm Election Night.

So with the returns up on the screen, I distracted myself with tracing the cats I drew on Procreate, in Photoshop via Astropad Studio.

My dinner on Election Night was a four-piece at Popeye’s. I ran out of Whataburger Spicy Ketchup back home so I had to stop by the bodega and pick up regular ketchup. Their credit card minimum was $5 so I bought ketchup, ice cream, some M&Ms, and these Arizona fruit snacks which were kinda gross, except their credit card machine wasn’t working so in a move that I’d never once experience in my entire time in New York, the bodega guy said, “Oh it’s fine, just pay me back tomorrow on your way to work.” An Election Day miracle.

My dinner on Election Night was a four-piece at Popeye’s. I ran out of Whataburger Spicy Ketchup back home so I had to stop by the bodega and pick up regular ketchup. Their credit card minimum was $5 so I bought ketchup, ice cream, some M&Ms, and these Arizona fruit snacks which were kinda gross, except their credit card machine wasn’t working so in a move that I’d never once experience in my entire time in New York, the bodega guy said, “Oh it’s fine, just pay me back tomorrow on your way to work.” An Election Day miracle.

First I had to test which brush was best for the desired effect, so I drew the library lion a few times and landed on Kyle’s Ballpoint Pen Brush.

For the next six hours, as the polls closed and races were called, I kept outlining, crosshatching, and occasionally looking up to see what the count was.

And just as the Pod Save America bros were wrapping it up, I finally put my pencil down. I finished the Cats of New York. It wasn’t exactly in the spirit or design of a traditional toile de jouy pattern I initially sought after, but gosh darn if I wasn’t proud of it.

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The next challenge was to make it into a seamless and tileable. In the pattern above, you can see the Cats on Broadway are aligned horizontally, but staggered vertically. Though the desired end result is visual randomness without seeing a clear seam of where things are repeated, it still has to function as a tile, if it were to be produced into wallpaper.

So as I had initially assumed on that first time I gave up, moving things around as a group was much easier in Photoshop. And that’s how I ended up with the 2018 pattern, Cats of New York.

Mission Accomplished.

Except then I realized I totally forgot about one more cat of New York that I never wrote down and so in a panic, a couple days later, I went through the whole process again: Draw the lion in Procreate, import to Photoshop, open up Astropad Studio, trace and crosshatch on Photoshop, and rearrange everything AGAIN, except this time with Escape from New York on instead of the ABC News.

And now, at last, my 2018 pattern: Cats of New York.

Featuring:  NYPL Lion; Pinot as a Bodega Cat; Maneki-neko at a Chinese restaurant;  Cats  on Broadway; Bryant Park’s Le Carrousel cat; Lunar New Year Parade’s Lion Dance; off-brand Garfield Thanksgiving’s Day Parade balloon; Katz’s Delicatessen

Featuring: NYPL Lion; Pinot as a Bodega Cat; Maneki-neko at a Chinese restaurant; Cats on Broadway; Bryant Park’s Le Carrousel cat; Lunar New Year Parade’s Lion Dance; off-brand Garfield Thanksgiving’s Day Parade balloon; Katz’s Delicatessen

The end.

Latest Project: Balloon Fiesta 2018

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

After I did my Home project, the most frequently asked question was, “Which state was your favorite?” And the answer, excluding Texas, was always North Carolina and Oregon.

But if you asked me which state would I want to return to, New Mexico would’ve been high on that list, partly because last time I was there, Ted Cruz shut down the government and I couldn’t go to White Sands, and partly because it’s just a nice, beautiful state that I didn’t get to spend too much time to eat all their chile.

So when my roommate/best friend/business partner/Albuquerque native told me she was going back for the Balloon Fiesta, almost 5 years to the day I was last in New Mexico, I invited myself and we went on an adventure.

My only knowledge of hot air balloons was a short story I wrote in the second grade where a hole appeared in the balloon (I don’t remember the specifics, I just remember my morbid illustration that accompanied the story) and Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, so this was great.

Like most other things, these pictures don’t do the fiesta justice on the scale and magnitude of the balloons that take over the skies. As Casey and her friend Alexis described it, it looks like an alien invasion – if aliens also had spaceships that look like a flying pig.

Latest Project: Brooklyn Artists and Fleas

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

In January 2011, I started my advertising career sitting across from my fellow "wintern," Sarah Dudek. When I was driving across the country, she happened to have just moved back to Massachusetts and was gracious enough to let me crash at her new apartment. Then Sarah got into sign painting and started selling her art at weekend markets and I've been simultaneously proud and jealous – it's every advertiser's dream to no longer do advertising.

It's a weird existence we've chosen for ourselves.

That's when my roommate-turn-best-friend-turn-business-manager reminded me that I have a ton of posters under my bed, and that I, too, can have a stand at a weekend market, like, say… Artists and Fleas, perhaps. So she emailed them a proposal to get a table on my behalf and left the rest in my hands.

After many excuses and days of procrastination, I finally paid a deposit and there was no turning back (refund-wise), so I opened back up the @EgosDeckDream account and told my friends about it.

I picked the weekend that was furthest away so Casey and I could plan the business: what to print, what to order, how to price, how to design. 

I'm not sure if choosing to wait three weeks from email-to-table was a good idea or bad idea. On the one hand, I got to plan, print, shop, scout, and strategize. On the other hand, waiting three weeks and not knowing whether my table would be a hit or miss with Brooklynites is frightening. And I'm a Brooklynite.

August 25 and 26 will be days I'll remember for a long time. Maybe because it helped me remember the three months in 2013 that I'll remember for the rest of my life. Or maybe because I never smiled so much in my life, not because it was all genuine smiles, but because I'm acutely aware of my resting-bitch face and I'm trying not to deter people from the table. Or maybe because seeing people's faces light up reading about their state validates my project, research and writing.

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I also decided to venture into my second passion: pet portraits, drawn on a brown paper bag for $1. 

And as cheesy as it sounds, it didn't matter if people bought a postcard or not. Seeing people stop by, put on 3D glasses, flip through the book and nod along was pretty rewarding in itself. I know, I know.

A big thank you to every one who supported me physically or in spirit. I've never worked harder in my life, not even in my real day job of advertising.

Funny enough, things came full circle that weekend: Sarah, who helped support my project, inspired me to sell my project products at a market, happened to be selling stuff at her own market that weekend.

I might do it again, I learned areas to optimize and it was my "first pancake" after all, as my business manager says. And I might even do more of a pivot to pet portraits. I don't know. I'll have to wait for my cheeks to rest cause It's been over a week since I tabled AND MY CHEEKS STILL HURT.

Latest Project: Kanye West's Opening Credits

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Before Kanye West released his 2018 Wyoming projects and before he started tweeting and saying questionable and problematic things, I had this idea of writing this essay about Kanye West and his music. Not in a Pitchfork type of way where I analyze his music, but through a pop culture lens.

I should also explain that I was in the middle of reading Shea Serrano's Basketball (and Other Things), so this was my frame of mind.

One Friday night when my roommates were out of town, I played Kanye West's albums back-to-back-to-back, writing and trying to understand his lyrics, evolution, and his mindset at the time. Quite proud of what I had written and hoping for a feature on The Ringer, I emailed Shea for critique, something he's often very open to giving because he's a man of the people.

This was his response:

 
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Of course. Why did I even frame it as a ranking? Probably because I was still in the middle of reading his book. I mean, I was the type of guy to switch majors to whatever class I was taking at the time because I thought it was so interesting.

So I made some edits, shopped it around to other sites that are not The Ringer and got zero bites, so here it is.


What If Kanye's Albums Were TV Shows?

The entire Kanye discography is like a tv network, each album is a tv show with a different flavor, theme and story. Most, if not all of them, should be listened all the way through from beginning to end to get the whole picture. And if each album is a tv show, that means each opening track is its theme song.

If the HBO static hum and chorus came on just before you hit play, what emotions would the opening track elicit? Would it be the same feeling you get from the Game of Thrones theme song (an epic fantasy saga involving incest and murder), or Sex and the City song (a fun half-hour look into four female friends navigating life, love, and Manhattan), or maybe it’s Insecure and there’s no theme song, just a 2-second title card?

In this case, your fingernail tapping your telephone screen trying to navigate your music app and search “Kanye West” is the HBO static.

“Intro” + “We Don’t Care” on College Dropout (2004)

I was in the car with my friend Eric on our way to a camping trip in 2004. Fresh of out things to talk about, he told me about this rapper who had kids on his album singing about how they sell drugs. Didn’t sound like my kind of music, because I was more into Apple-commercially indie bands at the time, but in the interest of not having to talk to Eric anymore, we had a listening party in his Honda Civic.

I’ll be honest. I can’t remember anything from that experience. Even “Jesus Walks” didn’t impress me at the time. But I was dumb and didn’t understand hip-hop culture and didn’t realize how transformative College Dropout was both sonically and lyrically.

Now when I listen to the opening skit with Bernie Mac telling Kanye to do something for the kids and moving into the song about how kids are dealing crack to survive, I get it. This is the origin story of Kanye West, even though we get a 15-minute, Wikipedia-esqeue, oral history of the origin of Kanye West at the very end of the album.

This theme song tells the story of hustle and the tv show is about that hustle and also about how school is kinda dumb.

“Wake Up Mr. West” and “Heard ‘Em Say” on Late Registration (2005)

In Late Registration, DeRay Davis reprises his role as Kanye’s teacher, calling him a bum, which is always hilarious, followed by “Heard ‘Em Say” featuring Adam Levine. The song is catchy as hell but because the album’s kind of a sequel to The College Dropout, “Heard ‘Em Say” isn’t a standout despite the interesting pairing.

“Good Morning” on Graduation (2007)

In the final album of the College Trilogy, Kanye is no longer hustling as he did in Dropout, nor is he as socially aware as he was in Late Registration. Graduation is all about the glow up.

“Good Morning” is a good theme song for a good tv show that has been going on for a little too long, like if The Wire’s ninth season’s theme song was performed by Randy Newman. Undoubtedly good. But also, like…come on, man.

“Say You Will” on 808s and Heartbreak (2008)

808s and Heartbreak is an album that came after the break-up with Amber Rose and passing of his mother. There were a lot of emotions swirling around Kanye at the time, putting him in a different headspace than where he was for his first three chipmunk-soul albums, so it only makes sense that 808s kicks off with this emotional, auto-tuned track about heartbreak and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

But here’s the thing: “Say You Will” is a good song but doesn’t exactly hype me up for the rest of the album. If the Jeopardy clue was “This is the first song off of 808s and Heartbreak,” I would’ve buzzed in with so much swagger and said, “What is ‘Heartless,’” and then I’d be at -$3600 and then my mentions would be in shambles.

“Dark Fantasy” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted  Fantasy (2011)

Five weeks before My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy dropped, we got the 37-minute film, Runaway, that opens on Kanye running full speed down a country road and the title card. Then we cut to a meteorite burning through Earth’s atmosphere and catch a glimpse of Kanye rapping this song through the rearview mirror of a Tatar MTX, driving down that same country road, surrounded by deer. Maybe it’s just associative memories at this point, but honestly, that shit’s tight as hell.

Fantasy is the first album that opens with spoken word since Late Registration, where Nicki Minaj reads a retold sample of Ronald Dahl’s “Cinderella,” and she literally tells us what the album is about. Then Teyana Taylor asks us if we could get much higher, like, 30 times. And Kanye goes on and on about pain, but in my mind, he’s going on and on about pain while driving a Tatar MTX. It’s very cool.

“No Church in the Wild” on Watch the Throne (2012)

In the early 2010s, Dodge started running ads that featured the driving beat of “No Church in the Wild” and every time I heard it, my body instinctively prepared itself for a 45-minute, luxury-rap adventure and the unseen dark side of it all, as told by two of the best rappers of the decade.

Watch the Throne is a great album not only because it’s so catchy, but also because of its themes, which mirrors The Great Gatsby (2013), which Jay-Z, who identified with Jay Gatsby, got executive producer credits for lending “No Church In The Wild” to the movie.

“On Sight” on Yeezus (2013)

Yeezus is the angry follow-up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and between the laser sounds, that weird interlude, and duration of how long Kanye drags out the word “mooooooooouuuuuutthhh,” this theme song is perfect.

“Ultralight Beam” on The Life of Pablo (2016)

There are things in life that you wish you could experience for the first time every time, like visiting New York City, or getting your first big paycheck, or the first time you lay in bed with the lights off and letting the choir from “Ultralight Beam” wash over your body. We’re always trying to chase that dragon and this song is probably the easiest dragon to catch. And that’s before Chance the Rapper even comes on.

Kanye always said The Life of Pablo is a gospel album, and I’m not sure what getting bleach on your t-shirt has to do with church, but overall the album is a potpourri of sounds and production that describe Kanye as the man he is today, post-Amber, post-Donda, post-VMA, husband, and father of two, and the gospel song that gets us there is undefeated.


Latest Project: Shake Ye Off

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

There was one night in 2014 when I was working really late on two different projects with deadlines on the same day which happened to be at the same time the next morning. With my very slow work computer, I saw all my coworkers go home one by one until I was the last person left on the team still in the office. Then my part of the office went home. Then the entire office went home. The night guard walked by a couple times and went home, I guess. And it was just me and the song "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift.

Now Grey has an open floor plan which means music is usually consumed through headphones but with the entire floor to myself, I turned it wayyyyyyy up.

So besides being an absolute bop, "Shake It Off" has a place in my heart for this reason, because it helped power me through that entire night and morning when the office lights turned back on and people slowly filed in for the day and I was still working. It's a near-perfect song with a cute music video. But if there's one thing I'd change, it'd be the weird spoken-word/rap portion of the song.

Later that year, in August 2014, I tried to be the change I wanted to see in the world by splicing the real "Shake It Off" song with an instrumental karaoke version and laying Kanye West's verse in the N.A.S.A. song "Gifted," but it didn't turn out well. It was actually kind of bad, which is why you won't hear it.

Almost exactly four years later, inspired by procrastination, I found the perfect Kanye song to put into that part of "Shake It Off," and now it's finally perfect.

So unplug your headphones and blast this in your very own stupid, open-office floor plan because the people deserve an aural blessing.

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And if you think about it, aren't they singing about the same thing?

Latest Project: Amsterdam (and a little Berlin and Antwerp)

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Since I moved to New York City for an internship in the summer of 2011, I lived with the same people and their dog for six-and-a-half years. After the pet mover came to pick up Ego for her new life in Amsterdam, I cried and cried and cried. Shortly thereafter, I bought tickets to Amsterdam to see her in the summer.

Below are photos from the trip, none of which, include pictures of me snuggling and smothering Ego because they're all on my phone.

On this trip, I also visited the Rijksmuseum and saw paintings I studied in art history. It's always an experience to finally see with your eyeballs something you studied and minored in, and it's an entirely different experience to see it through the lens of 21st Century technology.

Wandering around the streets of Amsterdam, I found this little shop.

I mean, if I just became king, I'd at least smirk. At most, I'd break into song like Simba.

I mean, if I just became king, I'd at least smirk. At most, I'd break into song like Simba.

When I was a kid, my family visited Eureka Springs, Arkansas and we took this Wild West picture. It's a picture that I hold very dear because it's just so strange. Wanting to recapture that but as an adult, I poked my head into Museumfoto and got this very scary portrait of myself that looks like, as the photographer tried to get my mindset into, "the newly made King William of Orange."

While I was processing all the photos from the trip, I decided to go ahead and buy a ticket back to Amsterdam in November to eat more stroopwaffles and to see Ego again.

This is me now.

 
 

Latest Project: Nathan Hoang Style Guide v3.3

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

After years of delays to refresh and update my style guide, I decided the world really needed to know how I label my Photoshop layers and how I archive everything. Version 1 of the style guide was more about how if you're going to buy me a Christmas gift, here's what I like. Version 3 of the style guide is more about how if I leave for vacation and you have to dig through my computer for files, here's how I stash files away.

I don't expect the many other Nathans Hoang to adhere to v3 if they couldn't even bother to even read v1, but perhaps I'll make another desperate plea on Twitter.

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I started in March 2018 and typed and typed and typed while catching up on The Walking Dead, which probably explains why v3.0 had so many typos (because the show is bad), Four months and three version updates later, I have a shareable guide.

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There was a tonal shift from Version 1 to Version 3, because it might actually be referenced by the public and not just me. And plus I figured out how to draw a t-shirt properly.

I went from using screenshots of actual Apple interfaces to creating my own so it wouldn't be so dated.

Of all the pages, my favorite is my new Comfort-Efficiency-Value Triangle that I made up as I was typing everything out.

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You can read it below or download it in PDF form in /books

Latest Project: Alief For Life / Alief Till I Die

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Whenever someone finds out I'm from Houston, they usually ask, "Do you think you'll ever go back?"

I mean listen, we live in a crazy world and I don't know when my time will be up on this Earth, but I hope my body will find its way back to Alief. That's all I can ask for.

And hey, is this endless repping of Alief and Houston getting old? I don't know, but every time Jay-Z shouts out Brooklyn, I don't really care and I live here, and whenever Beyoncé shouts out Houston, I lose my mind and throw up the Cougar paw, so I'll continue repping Alief for life

And that's how I ended up with these two designs. Drawing inspiration off the official Alief logo, I wanted to say what I've been saying for a while, "I will rep Alief until I die," so I sketched this out in Procreate during the 2018 State of the Union address.

Alief Til I Die, digital. 2018

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My new roommate brought up the good point that maybe it's not a great idea to bring up death with a school district. I mean, Alief is a town, but she's not wrong. So I made this to balance things out.

Alief For Life, digital. 2018

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I intended to print these onto shirts and bags for my eventual store, which was called "Never Change" at the time (Sidenote: When I brought this up to my internship-day friends, June and Haywood, they roooooooooasted me), so I got a sample tote and it looked fine, I guess (Sidenote: These aren't the official totes, the design was printed on too low), but I decided it'd need to be on two separate bags instead of a double-sided bag, so I gave it to my high school geometry pal, Christi, who was in town.

I hope I live a little longer, but when I die, bury me underneath the Alief store.

Grim Sleeper. 2018
Alief Cemetery: A Texas landmark

Latest Project: Lion Harty Phone Case

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I always hated the Society6 mentality of taking a thing you made and putting it on practically everything they sell: A pillow, shower curtain, regular curtain, clock face and a bath mat. I mean, if you want to get your money, I'm all for it, but it's not for me. If I was going to make a thing, I wanted it to make sense for the medium. So out of spite of nobody except my imagination, I wanted to make a unique phone case for my upcoming store.

In 2016, I got a new project manager and she was new to Grey and her phone lock screen background said, "NOBODY CARES. WORK HARD." Not one to encourage hard work, I gave her my "LAY LOW, WORK SLOW" phone background instead.

I checked back in a year or so later to see what phone background she had now. It was neither the "WORD HARD" one nor the "WORK SLOW" one. Great. I asked her what her favorite animals are and she said a lion and sloth. Cool. 

Experimenting with layout, looks, brushes and color. Always gotta accommodate the headroom up top for the clock

Experimenting with layout, looks, brushes and color. Always gotta accommodate the headroom up top for the clock

So I made this lion iPhone wallpaper.

But the whole point of this entire exercise was to make a phone case…so…

Hell yeah. Now I just have to do a sloth.

Coming to the /shop

Latest Project: QR Codes

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

As I begin to fix my website to prepare it for the store, I'm seeing where I can fix other areas, too, especially since once every year, someone on Reddit has a ShowerThought™ that goes something like, "There should really be a sarcasm font," and then some loyalist who I'm grateful for, says, "Hey, why not try Sartalics!" And then I experience what seems to be a DDOS attack, but it's just a bunch of sarcastic nerds looking at how to be sarcastic online.

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Ever since I changed my website from a hand-coded HTML site to a Squarespace, I wanted to fix it so it's not templated. The scrolling marquee is a holdover from the HTML site, and the little bug of the moose icon below the left-hand navigation. The little moose pointed to my Tumblr, which I was obsessed with, but then my /latest blog and Tumblr achieved singularity.

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Not wanting to lose that dumb little bug but also not wanting to point to the Tumblr anymore, I decided to put one of my URLs that I'd been holding onto since the early 2012 to use.

Anyway, not going to spoil it for any of us, just know that iOS 11 has an automatic QR Code reader when you turn on your camera and point it towards the code.

I don't know where this QR code below goes (it used to point to nathanhoang.com before the addition), but I printed them out and posted them around DUMBO in 2011. 

 
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Latest Project: Point and Shoot Bicycle

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Inspired by my cousins, Lauren and Chloe, who dug out their old Canon Powershot, I found the old Canon point-and-shoot film camera that my parents took on vacations.

I'd been scanning a lot of family photos lately, and seeing the pictures taken on this camera brought back memories, so I decided to hook it up to my bicycle like a very two-dollar GoPro and take some pictures around Brooklyn like a Trader Joe's-brand Bill Cunningham.

I was biking around looking for a place to ball in Brooklyn. I ended up finding the pier out in Brooklyn Bridge Park where made zero points, zero assists and maybe a couple rebounds. So I went to a playground pictured here where I worked on my fundamentals and at no risk of getting dunked on. (Picture taken on iPhone)

Anyway, here are my favorites.

Getting the film developed was expensive but getting that irreplicable film grain and nostalgia is worth it kinda. I don't know. Haha. It's expensive. But there's something about the delayed gratification and never uploading the images to Instagram, a platform I now despise, that makes me enjoy this rediscovered medium.

Latest Project: Alief Assemble

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Did you hear? I'm from Alief, Texas.

I went to Heflin Elementary School for six years, O'Donnell Middle School for three years, and Alief Hastings High School for four years. I'm a lifer and one time well into or after college, we had a Heflin Elementary School reunion. I'm told that's weird, but Alief is just a weird, special place.

Some famous alums include Beyoncé (for a semester at Elsik), Rashard Lewis, Tila Tequila, Michael and Martellus Bennett, and I wondered what would happen if every school combined forces and work as one instead of having dumb high school rivalries (Elsuck, amirite?). Like if all those alums except Tila Tequila got together to do something great. It'd be pretty awesome. Like, the Alief's first school, Alief Hastings High School, has the Fighting Bears, and the rival sister school, Alief Elsik High School, has the Mighty Rams, the newest school, Alief Taylor has the Roaring Lions, and Alief Kerr has regular tigers.

Regular tigers? Yeah. I checked.

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What would happen if all these schools just…joined forces. Like…literally came together…and protected Alief?

Behold!

I shared this initial sketch of this guy to my good friend and high school prom date Caroline and she named it MegAlief and I thought that was genius so shout out to Caroline.

On a flight back home to Alief for Têt, I sketched this idea in Procreate. It went through different stances, but just standing erect was too ominous and X-Men Sentinel-esque. There was an image I ran across on Tumblr years ago of a kid by Mike Cohen that always stuck with me, so I took his little stance and made it for this robot holding Alief's giant sundial pencil.

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Once I felt good about the shapes and stylings of the robot, I began on the individual school robots. This was infinitely much tougher.

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After getting the thumbs up from my brother and cousins, I traced the robots in Illustrator.

The Illustrator process: 1. Tracing the Procreate lines // 2. refining it so the angles make sense // 3-5. Color // 6. Shading and stippling // 7. Refining the shades  // 9. Highlights // 10. Thickening stroke

The Illustrator process: 1. Tracing the Procreate lines // 2. refining it so the angles make sense // 3-5. Color // 6. Shading and stippling // 7. Refining the shades  // 9. Highlights // 10. Thickening stroke

Then I sat on these illustrations for months and worked on other stuff while waiting to go back home in May to photograph the four campuses on the weekend so it wouldn't be creepy. It had been a long while since I've been back in the vicinity of Hastings and boy did it bring back memories. Like falling asleep in the back of French class and getting yelled at by Mr. Katre and him telling me I'm no longer allowed to sit against the wall anymore. There were more memories that was always funny to me.

I often go into things and not know how it'll live, but I'd been thinking about opening a store for Alief-related stuff. Like how Kanye West sells socks that says Calabasas on it, except mine says Alief. But with these, I knew I wanted to at least make something I would've liked as a 15-year-old: stickers.

So look out for these on your TI-84s, Alief Seniors Class of 2019!

Latest Project: Mud

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I didn't start drinking coffee until after my mom told me I should learn how to drink coffee in high school because I'd need it in college; after someone woke me up in Intro to Art History 1301 because class was over and I told him my next class (Intro to Art History 1302) was also in this auditorium so I just slept through that class, too; after I pulled an all-nighter at my first internship and fell asleep at my desk in Boulder; after I pulled another all-nighter at my second internship and fell asleep at my desk in New York; after I moved to East Village across the street from Mud.

Literally across the street. Like, if I made a tin-can telephone from my fire escape to Mud, I could put in an order, run down the six flights and get the cup in 30 seconds.

Mud is special to me because I'd grab a cup every day on my way to work and the people there were part of the 9th Street community: Greg and Seth would talk basketball with us, we invited everyone to our Fourth of July parties, Garrett took Mark and Bonnie's bed when they moved to Amsterdam. And also their coffee tastes like hot chocolate.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Mud Truck came to the rescue and the line went around the block.

After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Mud Truck came to the rescue and the line went around the block.

Anyway, during a brief period when my roommate, Bonnie, and I had an overlap in unemployment, I talked about doing this project where she'd blog about coffee and I'd paint different coffee shops using their coffee. That never happened.

Five years later and inspired by the stylings of Christoph Niemann, I finally decided to see how it'd be. First I started in Photoshop, using Kyle's brushes with a couple colors: black coffee, and coffee mixed with white paint to mimic cream.

The painting on the left was based on a picture I took in April. When I came back a month later, I realized the windows were open: my favorite time of year, when I could literally sit outside Mud for hours. So I redid the windows in Photoshop and had the draft to base my painting off of.

Now I knew coffee was a weird medium (I've seen my mom dye fabrics in coffee), but I wasn't expecting it to be so faint. I experimented different techniques on how to maximize color with temperature, layers and grounds-to-water ratio, but no matter what, it was never as dark as it gets when I spill coffee on my white tee.

Experimenting different methods with two of the three mugs I saved from downsizing.

Experimenting different methods with two of the three mugs I saved from downsizing.

It was becoming clear that the "black coffee" color from the Photoshop test was an overestimation so I'd just have to be patient and layer coffee over coffee.

It took two episodes of Master Chef Junior and the first quarter of Wonder Woman, but I like how it ended up. It was a struggle to scan because it's so faint, and I'm not sure how long it'll last because coffee is acidic and that's not good for paper, but the possibility of me licking the paper is also on the table.

Mudspot , May 6, 2018. Coffee on paper That's not me in the window but that's definitely  Ego  on the ground.

Mudspot, May 6, 2018. Coffee on paper
That's not me in the window but that's definitely Ego on the ground.

Because I'm obsessed with things in sets of threes, I'm going to work on Mud's two other venues, Mud Hut on 1st and Houston and Mud Truck (RIP).

Latest Project: Houston Astros World Series Champions

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

In October 2017, a corner of the office had an MLB Playoff bracket for $1, so I had the Houston Astros going all the way. I got laughed at for being hometown. Just as I got laughed at when I wore my Astros hat to this Pumpkin Lantern Blaze thing and took the Metrorail back home, which stopped by Yankee Stadium where my Astros lost 1 to 8. But guess what?

Astros won it all. 

And I won $4 instead of $8 because I had to split the pot with some other dude.

(Quick aside: My roommates, my good friend Joe and I sat in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium for the 2015 AL Wild Card game and we got boos, food and slurs hurled at us throughout the entire game. And the Astros won. And that's when I decided I'd root against the Yankees against everything ever for the rest of time.)

Anyway I happened to be in Texas for my other good friend and former copywriter's wedding, so I got to see the parade with my eyes and my other other good friend Caroline.

Here are some pictures to relive the magic.

This year, I filled out an NBA Playoffs bracket at work and guess who I have winning it all?

That's right, the Houston Rockets.

And guess how much money I'm going win?

No, you're actually wrong, I'm the only one who filled out a bracket so it'll just be me. It's a very sad situation.