Filtering by Category: Painting

Latest Project: Draguignan, Saint Hermentaire, the dragon, and Atlas Obscura

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

In 2013, in the middle of my Home trip, I took a quick trip to France with my brother and cousin to visit family in their tiny town of Draguignan. It was a much-needed break after going through the eastern coast and southern states of America and getting to visit family, who happened to love the beach, was nice. Unfortunately, my brain never turned off from ethnographic interviewing mode and I asked my cousin’s husband, who grew up in Draguignan, too many questions.

For instance, why is Draguignan’s coat of arms a dragon? Why is there dragon imagery everywhere in Draguignan? Why is Draguignan surrounded by a lot of cities named after saints?

A mural in Draguignan, France, depicting a couple landmarks in the town, including the Dolmen Pierre de la fée, a Celtic structure on the bottom left, the clocktower, the church, and the red coat of arms in the top right.

Well, it turns out, Draguignan got its name when Saint Hermentaire pulled up and murdered a dragon to free the people. I found this endlessly fascinating. I mean, why wasn’t the city named after Saint Hermentaire, like how its neighboring cities of Sainte Maxime and Saint Tropez are?

I always wanted to document it somehow – it was in my Notes app since 2013. I took this picture of the city with some undetermined future project in mind, I just knew I wanted to put a dragon in there.


Predictably, this project kept getting pushed down and down, because of the second leg of my Home project, then because I had to find a job.

Fast forward to the spring of 2019 and Atlas Obscura puts out a call for submissions to get a $15,000 grant to go on a journey to learn, explore, and grow. This seemed like an amazing opportunity to really dig into my unknown passion for etymology and the folk stories that they’re based off. I spent weeks writing, rewriting, and editing my essay to get it just right. I consulted friends to read it and give me feedback, and then I rewrote and edited it some more. I submitted my mission a day before the deadline and heard back the next day:


Thank you for submitting a proposal for Atlas Obscura’s First Journey prize. It was an absolute pleasure reviewing so many excellent, inspiring journeys. Unfortunately, your proposal was not selected as a semifinalist. We do hope you get a chance to make your journey.

Yours in Wonder,
Atlas Obscura

It stinks not even being long-listed, but I was really proud of my writing, so here it is in full.

While visiting family in Draguignan, France, I asked my cousin why there was so much dragon imagery around this village. He said back in 400 AD, the tiny mountain town in southern France was constantly terrorized by a small, but fierce, dragon. A bishop, now known as Saint Hermentaire, slew the lizard and freed all the villagers, and that's how Draguignan got its name.

This tale stuck with me because as an advertising art director, I've been telling the same brand stories about antacid tablets and nasal strips for years. Sadly, my 30-second commercials won’t be passed down generations like Draguignan’s origin story. Those kind of tales are fragile and rely on oral traditions to keep folk history alive.

My parents told me about some Vietnamese folktales growing up, but not enough to have a deep, emotional connection – a majority of the stories I know are from the West. As I journey across Southeast Asia, I want to find more cultural and traditional history to help people see the richness in regions not often represented in the States.

These stories are sometimes hidden in plain sight in the etymology of the city's name, or featured by the city's folk art, statues, temples, or plaques. Other times, they have to be hunted down by talking to the locals and listening to their oral history.

After gathering these stories, I'd like to preserve them in writing, and visualize them with videos, photographs, and illustrations.

Spreading these folk histories to the Atlas Obscura audience will help preserve them, and broaden the readers’ minds and understanding of Asian cultures in the most human way possible – a story. 

Thank you.

So here I am in the summer of 2019, slowly working on personal work on the docket, thinking about how instead, I could’ve been traveling around Southeast Asia for three months on a new project that I’m passionate about. I never got to share my vision with Atlas Obscura, but while I have you, here’s the Draguignan dragon.

First I started with the image and a sketch on my iPad. I have a particular way I always draw dragons, but I had to check how this particular dragon has been depicted throughout art and adjust it, because this little guy was always a little menacing, at various sizes, with a curly tail, two legs, no arms, wings, and two horns.


I wanted to explore new ways and styles to illustrate while keeping my look, so I experimented with new Kyle brushes (dry media pastels this time) and ways to outline and draw.

Draguignan, 2019. Digital
(Click to enlarge)

Though I didn’t get the $15,000 grand prize, or even the $500 runners-up prize, I’m still happy with where I ended up, and the winner is very deserving and will have a great journey.

Anyway, if you want to donate to my journey to do that other thing I wanted to do, here’s a button to drop some pennies in until I get $15,000.

#Lets Get Nathan Hoang $15,000 to go to Southeast Asia to do that Project!

A huge thanks to Casey, Conor, Trent, Paul, and Mark for reading and rereading my essay for me. Y’all are exempt from donating $15,000 to me.

Latest Project: Ego's Dream Gallery

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

When I first started at Grey in 2014, my desk was right next to a conference room that had floor-to-ceiling glass panes and a giant bed in it. The agency lore was that when Grey moved their office to Flatiron, a bed was errantly delivered to them and they just kept it.

Since then, it has changed into an Instagram sideways installation room, a room with a couch and a Playstation, and most recently, an art gallery featuring stuff people in the agency do outside of the agency, called Outside This Box.

Through the grapevine, my partner Conor threw my name over to Denise Da Curator, to take a look at my stuff and she loved Ego’s Deck Dreams. And then to tie the show together, Denise wanted to include Ego’s Delft Dreams, the accidental sequel to the series that showed Ego’s new life as a Dutch lady.

As a simple request, Denise asked if I could supply, like, maybe a few more paintings of Ego. Something both she and I knew could be done very quickly.

So during jury duty where I sat in one giant room all day while the mounted TVs were playing fried, bootleg episodes of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America, that were manipulated so that YouTube couldn’t detect a copyright infringement, I drew Ego a bunch of times, and was never picked to even have the possibility of being picked to be a juror.


Then I went through my usual process routine of importing the Procreate files into Photoshop while watching something in the background, this time was the University of Houston playing, winning, and advancing in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.


Next step was to help Denise Da Gawd hang the prints up and after it was all done, I couldn’t stop thinking how good it all looked. Not just the art, but the print quality (shoutout to Joe in the Studio, best in the biz) and the selects that Denise told me she carefully pored over to get the tone and vibes juuuuuuuust right, and the color story that you get walking through the former bedroom and seeing every piece.

So if you happen to be by the International Toy Center in the late spring months of 2019, pop in and see if I’m around and I’ll get you a guest pass to come up to see it. It’ll be weird, but you just have to act natural, ok?

(And don’t get it confused with the Grey Art Gallery down by Washington Square like I did when I first started.)

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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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:



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.)


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: 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.


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: 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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 12.00.25 AM.jpg

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: 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: 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: Long Dog

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I keep receipt paper at work for scrap papering, note-taking, to-do-list making purposes, and one day during an in-office happy hour, I doodled my friend's favorite dog on the paper and it wrapped around naturally as receipt paper does, and I thought it was cool and she thought it was cute and then I forgot about it until I checked this place where I printed my Birds and the Bees bag and it turns out, they did all-over printing on t-shirts, which is perfect because this doodle wouldn't work unless it was seamless, so then I paced around the apartment with excitement, sat down and fired up Photoshop while watching Nocturnal Animals.

I started off with a sketch of my roommate's favorite kind of dog, even though she's a cat person, the dachshund. Then I had to take that dachshund sketch and put it into Illustrator to stretch the dog out and make sure it'd wrap around correctly.

Could I have done this in Photoshop? Yeah, but I thought about doing a vector outline first and then decided to not do that at all and keep the lines natural, but by then it was already too late and the program was already open and then I was like, yeah sure. I'm watching  Nocturnal Animals  so who's really paying attention to what I'm doing, anyway?

Could I have done this in Photoshop? Yeah, but I thought about doing a vector outline first and then decided to not do that at all and keep the lines natural, but by then it was already too late and the program was already open and then I was like, yeah sure. I'm watching Nocturnal Animals so who's really paying attention to what I'm doing, anyway?

Once I got the dachshund to the optimal length, I exported her back into Photoshop to start different brush tests.

Testing different Kyle brushes

Happy with how the little guy looked, I went back to the original pup cause I knew at least one shirt would be bought. It took a while to get the correct brush, but it didn't occur to me to fill out the scottie instead of outlining him like the dachshundd.

Testing different Kyle brushes

The final step before I sent these out to be made into shirts was to put it back into the Illustrator template.

With the shirt template layer turned on

With the shirt template layer turned on

With the shirt template layer turned off

With the shirt template layer turned off

Now look at these mock-ups and imagine how excited I was to get the orders in.

Just look at it!

I broke my style guide rule and wore a shirt with a print on it to work. I was very excited.

From my copywriter,  @conopatttt

From my copywriter, @conopatttt

From my account person,  @caatnaps

From my account person, @caatnaps

My other roommate works in fashion and gave me her approval, so it'll be in my revamped store soon!

Also, because I like things in threes, there'll be a third dog soon.

Latest Project: Grey's Dog and Pony

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Six times a year, Grey gets the agency together after work to enjoy a happy hour together. They call it Dog and Pony. I don't know why, I must've missed it during orientation.

March 2018's Dog and Pony is going to be put on by the Famously Effective Women of Grey for Women's History Month and through some happenstance, Jessica Deutsch, my fellow Grey softball outfielder, asked me to make a poster promoting the Dog and Pony.

So I made some posters. And then I painted some posters.

Not entirely sure how I ended up making three posters, but I couldn't stop after one. I think it's because I thought of the empowering phrases that are all around pop culture and sweaters since November 2016: "Wild Feminists," "Future is Female," and "Slay Bitch."

It became the basis of the concepts. I don't remember which poster concept I thought of first, the photographic one where it's more Wolf & Horse than Dog & Pony, or the fully painted one that's more Dog versus Pony than Dog & Pony, but I do remember telling Jess that I was planning on spending my weekend working on the posters because I was super excited about them and she said, "What?? No! It's the weekend! You should enjoy yourself! Go make some friends!" But the thing is, it's really hard to make friends after you turn 30 and the only friends you have at that point are the ones you already have and also any animals you adopt.

So late Friday night, while unironically listening to Sugar Ray, I started things off the way I usually do, with Procreate:

As you can see, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. But I started getting it to the point where the horse was less of an intruding cartoon character and more of a demonic horse. Once I was happy with the general layout, I traced the landscape in Illustrator so I could paste it into Photoshop and paint into it.

I decided to keep it achromatic because it was much more dramatic, heroinic, and because Jess needed it the next day and I had spent too much time on the tarot card. Anyway, I was very please with how this turned out because I always wanted to try landscapes for when I finally get started on my Space Zoo book.

When I was thinking about "Future is Female," I remembered watching Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, with my brother a couple months ago, and the idea of tarot cards was still fresh in my head, so I went with that instead of a crystal ball.

Grey Dog and Pony: Future Is Female

Hopefully more people show up to this Dog and Pony than the happy hour I set up for Texas expats who work at Grey the other day.

Making new friends is hard :(

Latest Project: Frieds of March 2018

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

10 months ago, after eating at a really good fried chicken restaurant in Greenpoint that has since closed, I was inspired to try more fried chicken sandwiches. 

I told my friend, Casey, that I wanted to make a day of it. It'd be on, oh…I don't know…, March 15, and I'd call it, ummmmm…how about, Frieds of March? So I'd have to wait, like 10 more months to make this stupid event a thing just because I like to commit a really stupid pun.

First I mapped out some noteworthy fried chicken sandwiches in the city.

Frieds of March, to-eat list

Frieds of March, to-eat list

"How are we going to eat at all these places in one day?" my friends would ask.

Listen. I don't know. The furthest I planned this was the name and date. It's one of those "cross that bridge" situations.

And then they'd ask, Could I eat nine different chicken sandwiches throughout the course of a day? Of course.

Am I going to take a PTO day just so I can eat at least nine friend chicken sandwiches throughout the day? Yes. Of course.

Fine. But would I be ok with eating alone at at least nine fried chicken restaurants because no one else is committed to the craft like me? Absolutely yes.

But I decided that if this is going to be an inaugural event, I should choose just three? So I can do it again next year?

Anyway, I had to make an invitation that wasn't just a calendar invite.

I started with Vincenzo Camuccini's Death of Caesar. An obvious choice, but a painting I'm fascinated with, and one of the few I can remember the name of.

That's not to say I was interested in Julius Caesar. I don't remember much about Julius Caesar; I didn't pay much attention in sophomore English, but I know there was a conspiracy to kill the guy and this and that.

So initially this was just going to be a teaser/save-the-date type invitation, but I wanted it to decode like we're in a secret society, conspiring to commit to chicken, and if you stare at the image for longer than two seconds, you can see what happens on March 15.

Process shots and breakdown of the type transformation. The font is called "Diamonds."

I also considered making Caesar an entire chicken but I made it too sexual, so I abandoned it.

This Chicken Caesar's coming after your man.

Latest Project: Ego on a Canal Boat

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

When I was a kid, I met a terrier at soccer practice and I loved it. I asked Santa for a dog, a terrier if possible, but instead got a hamster.

One day after summer school, I got off the bus and found a dog's snout poking through the fence. I was keeping it company and apparently I kept it company for so long that my mom was worried I got lost or kidnapped or something because she sent my brother out to find my on his bicycle.

In our first NYC apartment in DUMBO, this is the first time Ego and I cuddled, on what came to be her safe ottoman.

In our first NYC apartment in DUMBO, this is the first time Ego and I cuddled, on what came to be her safe ottoman.

And there was one time when my brother was playing basketball with his friends in the driveway and a dog came up to me and we starting playing together. It wasn't until my mom came home and my brother's friends left that I found out it wasn't playing as I thought. And it wasn't until years later that I realized it was just humping my leg, which explained a lot.

Anyway, that's to say I always wanted a dog, but my parents correctly knew I wouldn't have the responsibility to care for a dog.

A day after knee surgery when I was still knocked out on drugs, Ego slept by me all night to keep me warm and safe and happy.

A day after knee surgery when I was still knocked out on drugs, Ego slept by me all night to keep me warm and safe and happy.

So when I moved to New York and stayed with my roommates for an internship in 2011, I finally got to live with a dog. Two dreams come true, I guess, and Ego inspired me in so many ways: the Quick Brown Fox series, the Animals in the Night series, cards, a year-long illustration project, computer passwords, wifi network names, iPhone wallpapers, desktop backgrounds, half of my phone storage, and my Space Zoo book which I'll finish eventually.

I haven't even mentioned the time she saved my roommate's life. And I'm not talking about saving someone's soul like chicken noodle soup. Ego literally saved my roommate's life one weekend in the East Village. She's the sweetest dog and one of my best friends and saved my soul.

I always said she was "my dog" even though she was adopted by my roommates in Texas and they brought her up to NYC, but I just felt like she adopted me and accepted me. Was it because when I first walked her, I let her smell literally every tree? Or was it because I always gave her a mound of food? Or maybe she knew I always wanted a dog growing up? Maybe all of that. She's smart.

And she's going to be bilingual because she's moving to Amsterdam with Mark and Bonnie.

I wanted her to remember her time in New York so I made this for her to hang in her crate as she flies KLM.

I found a picture of New York from this past summer and put in Procreate. It was hard to figure out what vessel Ego would sail on from New Amsterdam to Old Amsterdam, but remembered they have canal boats.

Then I imported Procreate's PSD into Photoshop to use Kyle's Brushes.

And there it is.

UPDATE: I'm going to see her in June!

Latest Project: Laser Chat

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

We've been living in this apartment in Greenpoint for a 18 months and for about 10 of those months, we lived immersed in some draaaaaaam-aaaaaa.

We saw the highs of our neighbor buying a large (and I mean large tv), see his girlfriend move in, hear them adopt a dog together, and within all this, we heard the lows of them fight almost every day through our shared wall. It finally climaxed to the point where things slowly piled up in the trash room and sidewalk. She eventually moved out and so did he, and now we live next door to a family with kids and a piano somehow.

Things that were in the trash room were slowly distributed throughout the building. Their trophy was placed in the gym, their lamp were placed in the game room, and this weird, impressionist…ish painting was hung in the elevator.

A mysterious, untitled painting appeared in our building's elevator, depicting a quiet, Parisian scene.

A mysterious, untitled painting appeared in our building's elevator, depicting a quiet, Parisian scene.

It's a weird piece in a weird place, but collectively, the building and its super allowed the painting to be hung in the elevator even though the trophy and lamp were taken away and probably trashed.

But maybe the painting wasn't weird. Maybe I was weird. But then after some weeks of it being hung on the elevator, it was back in the trash room.

So I rescued it. Because I'm not weird.

I like to paint stuff on already existing landscapes, and it's been a while since I've painted with real paint, so this is basically just a deck dream but from some garage-sale dream.

I started off in iPad just to see where to put things.

I turned on The Good Place, dusted off my gouache paints and brushes and started to paint on this painting where the image was already printed on the canvas, and boy I forgot how hard straight lines were. 

LASER Chat , 2017

LASER Chat, 2017

I often wonder if you could improve upon a masterpiece, and if this, indeed, is an improved masterpiece or simply just a fig leave sculpted and glued onto a Greek statue.

The quiet, Parisian café scene makes a triumphant return to our elevator.

The quiet, Parisian café scene makes a triumphant return to our elevator.

LASER Chat , 2017 (Gouache on canvas)

LASER Chat, 2017
(Gouache on canvas)

Hopefully this time, this painting won't be taken down and will remain there until we've long moved out, like those pair of Nike Frees that are still hanging on my East Village apartment's fire escape.

UPDATE (November 27, 2017):

Someone took it down, and so I put it back up, and then someone took it back down again. I incquired the building's Facebook group and though Liz seemed to enjoy it, Bryan, my new enemy, hated it.

Anyway, I did a reverse Google search and found the original painting, Springtime in Paris, on sale for 19€.

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 7.03.57 PM.png

Update 2: December 29, 2017

Turns out my good friends Joe and Yuwi took (rescued?) the painting from the elevator because they're moving to Seattle and wanted to hang it up in their new apartment.

That's Joseph wearing a Houston Astros World Series Championship hat holding my painting in his near-empty Brooklyn apartment.

Update 3: January 4, 2018

Apparently, the painting was too big to pack and bring with them so they gave it to my other friend Mike, which it seems to be settled in its new home in Queens.


Latest Project: Jess and Skyler's Wedding Snapchat Geofilter

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I used to be really into Tumblr. There might be a day that I get back into Tumblr, that's why I still have that tiny Moosehead icon in my menu column. Like other online communities, I made friends on it, but for whatever reason, on Tumblr, I actually met some of them in real life.

Skyler is one of them. And it wasn't on purpose. I just applied to Leo Burnett New York and they paired me with him. He was my first New York City partner, and the agency tasked us to make an ad representing the entire global agency on the inside cover of for a trade magazine to run during the biggest agency award show and that was the first ad I ever made and it was with Skyler.

Anyway, long story short, I thought we'd be partners forever, but then he got engaged and asked me to make him a Snapchat geofilter for his upcoming wedding in lieu of a wedding gift, which was a relief because I'm bad at wedding gift giving – I once gave a good friend of mine a 50-foot extension cord – so at least this wouldn't be that.

Given that Skyler also works in advertising and is super detail-orientated even though his résumé doesn't say so, we went through rounds until it got to a place where my client (Skyler) and his CEO (Jess, Skyler's fiancée-now-wife) were happy, and to help them imagine a beautiful, lavish wedding, I used our First Family's wedding photo, Kanye and Kim.

Needless to say, it was a beautiful wedding even without my help. And bonus points for asking people to not take pictures during the ceremony, therefore rendering my filter useless for the main part of the wedding.

Congratulations guys!

Latest Project: Chendra and the Wild Quest

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

A tweet caught my eye one Wednesday because it showed a picture of an elephant looking at a seal, and a book agent I once submitted to quote tweeted that she needed a children's picture book of this story "right now."

Now, I love interspecies friendships, and I love children's picture books. Growing up, I watched a bootleg tape of The Fox and The Hound, until the tape no longer worked. And I happen to be pretty good at drawing animals after a year of practice. I wasn't going to pass up this opportunity from a book agent who once passed on my submission, so I gave it a go.

First step was to gather what landscapes I've photographed in my entire life. My travels around the country, that time I filmed a couple commercials in Thailand, and IcelandAir's free layover plan definitely helped with that. I also had to dig deep into the archives of random road trips around Texas in the mid-2000s, too. I mean, I've been places, but I haven't seen every ecosystem here on earth, so some things had to be cheated

106 images I could have used for this book.

106 images I could have used for this book.

Next I needed a story. Sure the original story of the baby elephant visiting all the animals and gravitating most towards the sea lion was nice, but having the setting in a zoo is kinda sad for me. I had writer's block of sorts, but while waiting in line to see Shea Serrano at The Strand for his new book, Basketball (and Other Things), something clicked and I realized how to write this story so I began furiously typing out the online on my telephone.

When I got home, I began to sketch out the elephant in my favorite locations.

Painted directly in Photoshop using Kyle's Brushes.

Painted directly in Photoshop using Kyle's Brushes.

Though I couldn't deliver the book immediately as was requested, I spent two whole weeks working on each image, and writing out the story and getting feedback and refining and tweaking.

Anyway, this is the book.

If I had more time, I would have fleshed it out more. I wanted Chendra to visit more animals. But getting to draw animals on my photographs but with a story this time was a lot of fun. I teased a sequel at the end and maybe, who knows, I'll get to do that next quest adventure.

Latest Project: The Spirit of Houston

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

On Friday, August 25, 2017, just as Hurricane Harvey was en route to Texas, I called home to Houston see if everything was ok. It was projected to hit south of Houston, closer to Corpus Christi so things should've been ok, my mom told me.

On Sunday, as I was coming back from New Jersey, everything fell apart. Harvey swerved north and decided to just sit atop Houston for three days. Three. Days. Three crazy, intense days of flooding.

I watched local news coverage continuously for three days, with my iPad all day at work, and on tv all night. I called, texted and checked social media regularly just to make sure friends and family were ok. I didn't know what else to do from 1,400 miles away, but to donate, ask others to donate, tweet out emergency service numbers, and warn Houstonians not to go into their attics unless they had an axe or sledgehammer. I was feeling restless, glued to the tv, feeling a mixture of heartbreak and helplessness and had to some of the bad energy out, so I doodled scenes that were the opposite of that.

Started with the outline in Procreate

Started with the outline in Procreate

My friend, Thomas Nguyen, who went to the University of Houston with me, then moved to New York City and experienced Hurricane Sandy with me, then moved back home to Houston got unbelievable photos of the flood. With his permission, I used one of his Instagram posts as the backdrop to my next painting, Sam Houston Crossing the Buffalo.

I wanted to capture the essence of why Houstonians make Houston a special place: a diverse city, full of neighbors helping neighbors led by our namesake, Sam Houston.

After spending more than a year only drawing animals in a certain style, trying to paint and draw a human being is very difficult. Especially since my point of reference was Washington Crossing the Delaware.

It took me a few tries. And though it looks nothing like a Leutze, it's still special to me.

I'm making some prints and putting them in the store. 100% of the proceeds go to Houston Food Bank.

Latest Project: MacBook Unicorn Decal

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

I doodled a Liger and gave it to my friend and producer at work. To be specific, I taped it to her desk and didn't really give her a choice.

Luke The Liger, from my illustrated thesis that smoking can make anyone look cool.

 She liked it and asked if she could get a decal for her MacBook. Not of the doodle but maybe of something else? Yes. And of a unicorn? Sure.

Here you go, Amanda.

For a 15" MacBook Pro

It's not perfect, but she likes it, and perfection is subjective, so maybe it is. And maybe I'll make it into an actual sticker decal for the computer and not something printed on tabloid-sized paper from the office printer, but new MacBooks don't have light-up apples anymore, so I'm not sure if it has the same effect. So still TBD.

The  Foodie Uni Selfie  proof-of-concept on Amanda's work computer.

The Foodie Uni Selfie proof-of-concept on Amanda's work computer.

Latest Project: Love is for Losers

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

Years ago, when I was still at the University of Houston trying to make a website for laughs, I went to my neighborhood tennis courts, set up my dad's camcorder on the ground, and kneeled on the court waiting for the timer to take a picture.

I thought was so clever and well designed, art directed, and copywritten when I made it in the mid-2000s

I thought was so clever and well designed, art directed, and copywritten when I made it in the mid-2000s

Unable to face the shame of my poorly designed past, I opened up my computer and started noodling around, starting with seeing the four different Grand Slam tournament courts.

I tried making a pattern with the Wimbledon grass courts because the treading would be interesting, but it ended up being too busy. So I tried the French courts cause it was simple, has that discoloration from running around everywhere, and that clay color's kinda nice…even if it's French.

After lettering in Procreate and ping-ponging the PSD back and forth between my computer and iPad, I finally got it the way I wanted it to turn into postcards and send to every loveless person I know. Including myself. On a Friday night.

Send this postcard to your ex who you no longer see or think about but occasionally see on your social feed and is totally doing really well and is super happy now but it's no big deal because you're happy for her and it's for the best, and you're doing ok, too, you know?

Love is for Losers (2017). Digital

Latest Project: Cheeseburger Friday Newsletter

Added on by Nathan Hoang.

While I was at Leo Burnett New York, my friend started Cheeseburger Friday, CBF. Every Friday, we'd go to a new burger place. Even after I left LBNY, I'd join every now and then for a cheeseburger with my friends. We had discussions, rankings and a physical leaderboard.

Anyway, I imported CBF to Grey and it started off as a tiny thing cause Shake Shack is across the street in the park, but it grew into a bigger thing cause there were a lot of burger places around 23rd and 5th and now we have discussions, spreadsheets, algorithms, ranks and grades.

After an average-cheeseburger CBF, I visited my dear friend's studio show and was hit with inspiration and a little revelation: Cheeseburger Fridays isn't about cheeseburgers. It's about hanging out friends, co-workers and turning co-workers into new friends and we all just happen to be eating the same food.

I wanted to make a newsletter to let the people express their CBF experiences through art and copy that wouldn't have to be scrutinized by their boss or clients and could just put it out into the world.

I went home and immediately started to sketch out falling ingredients.




I don't know how these ingredients will be integrated with the newsletter, but I was messing around on Society6, and maybe it'll be a t-shirt, or curtains or something.

Why would anyone want curtains from Society6?

Why would anyone want curtains from Society6?

Next step if I was really going to put this pattern onto curtains for Society6 was to make it seamless. As it was, I could see the borders of the original image, especially if they were tiled. So I swapped the corners, shifted the ingredients around so it was still balanced yet random, overlapped tomatoes and patties between borders, and made sure they all lined up.

Now, if you want curtains or something stupid, like a backpack, that is now an option. If it were on Society6. But it's not. I'm sorry.

Cheeseburger Recipe, 2017. Digital