Digital Painting Process for Free Bird Café

One of the more challenging, yet exciting, aspects of the Map of Free Bird Café was the variety of art forms that went into making it. My process included interviewing Lisa Nesser, writing her story into cohesive anecdotes, drawing, digitally painting, and graphic designing. Below take a look at the process of digitally painting. This was done after I had hand drawn the main image of the map (on A0-sized paper) and had scanned it. This doesn't quite show the finishing touches, but it should provide a basic idea of what went into this step of making the map.

Sketchbook Update

Sketches from a research map project about Chiang Mai that I've been working on for awhile now...

Map Examples From the (Kinda Sorta [But Not Really]) TED Talk

Map are distortions of reality; they are meant to communicate the context of the here and now at a point in space and time. They can be used to illuminate, provide reference (probably what they are most famous for), manipulate, deceive, and make suggestions—all for you, the impressionable one. They tell a story. And perhaps more than any other medium, they tell the story that you expect to hear. This is because we’ve placed a great deal of blind faith in our maps, so much so that we only notice them when they lead us in the wrong direction.

Below are links to a few maps that I think are excellent examples of the various ways in which they can be used...

"A Game of Shark and Minnow" by Derek Watkins, et al. For The New York Times (2013)

"Kowloon Walled City" from the book 大図解九龍城 (1997) 

Wilamette River by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries

Stockport Emotion Map by Christian Nold (2007)

"Dérive" section from Unflattening by Nick Sousanis (2015)

"Political Map" from Empire of Torentine by a2area



"Asphyxiation": A One-Sentence Story

On March 3rd, 2014, I performed this short piece as a spoken-word story at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village. The story is a part of an ongoing collection of work I call "One Sentence Stories." Look for most posts about them in the coming future!

A majority of his social anxieties could be traced to a recurring dream that had been plaguing his sleeping hours since he was no more than five years old, it a series of images and transcendent emotions that painted an image of him with the head and mind from his conscious-world attached to the body of his two year-old self as he gazed out his bedroom window from beside his crib, and—after a few times of this dream occurring—memorizing the flight patterns of planes departing from JFK as they glided ethereally with the coordination of a well-trained dancer across the outer boroughs’ sky and lost in an endless cauldron of East Coast haze, while he lied there pretending to sleep, as his father--slugger muscles bristling, all five tools in sync, sights set on another 40-40 season, this guy already a shoe-in for Cooperstown as the crown jewel of his generation, as baseball analysts would consistently say--crept into his room, under the pretense that his son was in fact sleeping and not memorizing flight patterns, muttering something in a crazed voice glazed with a butterscotch accent about, “fathers and sons,” and, “ungrateful male next of kin,” and what had happened to the likes of “other guys,” such as, “Bobby Bonds, Ken Griffey Sr., and—may God bless him—Cecil Fielder” and the many others who dealt with a tormented and pernicious sociopathic paranoia that the historical value of their well-groomed abilities to hit and throw and catch and run and “keep their eye on the ball” on ninety-by-ninety foot diamonds would be overcast by their male next of kin in some passively spiteful way years down the proverbially road after a failed formative father-son period during which the father had neglected to embrace the spirit of his relationship with his offspring in favor of greedily furthering his abilities to churn out demigod-like results; and while he (the father) mumbles a roughly paraphrased version of this, beneath his butterscotch breath now embossed by the high proof of scotch whiskey, it is all the son can do to pretend to remain asleep by intently focusing on flight patterns and not the kitchen rag that hangs from his father’s left hip pocket or the plastic wrap hidden precariously behind his back, as he has come to know by now that these murder implements of choice will be used to gag and asphyxiate him, in that order, even if he begs for mercy; so by this point he has matured enough in his dreaming life to figure out, at least, how to avoid being killed, making note of the third-to-last bar on the window-side of his crib, complete with a beveled and lusterless brass knob toward its base that serves as a makeshift bludgeon of sorts, as it has stubbornly—and most frustratingly, if you ask the building’s superintendent—remained loose in what has now become some thirty years’ worth of dreaming; so that when his father begins his merciless descent with the Reynolds Wrap, he can turn from memorizing flight patterns to springing into action as a tough-as-nails toddler with a brass crib bar that will be so choicely aimed, almost with deft precision, at his father’s left jaw, which always seems to stun him (the father) as he recoils in searing pain and the son makes way for the door on the other side of the room; and though a fractured jaw is painful for this neglectful and, now homicidal father, he is still a man upwards of 220-pounds of slugger’s steal, and it buys the young boy of no more than two years of age below the neckline roughly ten seconds to scamper to the room’s only escape exit until, of course, the next part of the dream occurs inexplicably: a rush of cold ocean water comes crashing in, completely saturated with foam and salt and totally unexpected, as always, flooding the room within the amount of time it takes to labor a handful of breaths for air, tops, and so now it seems as both father and son share some bizarrely similar fate of asphyxiation, only this time with water and not Reynolds Wrap, but only until this scrappy little child discovers a skylight down the hallway outside illuminated by the pale glow of a waxing gibbous moon, it dangling like an ornament of hope or life or some other abstract and cliché image that, regardless of its embedded meaning, is bright and luminous and clearly the only beacon of hope should the toddler ever dream of breathing again; though, as he butterfly strokes upwards to the light, along with the other buoyant materials in the apartment—blankets, light furniture, etc.—that drift ever so serenely in the cool ocean blue, he can’t help but notice the beauty of it all—the ambient light and the now foamless and crystal clear water that suspends the typical motions of an air-saturated world to near indifferent inertia—and as an afterthought, for just one moment in the depths of his rapidly pulsating heart, that if he must die, this is surely a more pleasant way to go than death by Reynolds Wrap, and when he finally reaches the latch to the roof and the sky beyond, he becomes blinded by the sheer intensity of the moonlight, and at this point the dream doesn’t really end, rather, it oscillates and warps like the light refracted by a black hole as his mind drifts backward into another stage of subconscious slumbering.

—© Nick Reale, 2014

Skyline Prominence Formula

As an artist who has serious interest but base knowledge of mathematics (other than, say, arithmetic), I devised a formula for determining the vertical nature of cities. This formula isn't the most scientifically constructed out there, but the results I got were fairly consistent with what I've observed about the nature of skylines. Here's how it works:

•It should be noted at first that the final statistic is a function of the three dimensions of a skyline; not only is height considered, but the density of the buildings and their apparent impact on the surrounding city is also taken into consideration.

•The formula is divided into four parts beneath a cubed root radical.

•1) Divide the number of high-rises (hr)—or buildings that are taller than 35 meters—by the area of the city.

•2) Multipy that figure by the division of aggregate height (ag) of all the skyscrapers—or all buildings taller than 100 meters—by the total number of skyscrapers (s).

•3) Next comes the division of the skyscrapers by the high-rises, to distinguish that a city like New York, which has a lot of skyscrapers, is taller than a city that has a lot of high-rises, like Rio de Janeiro.

•4) Multiply those three results by the area of the city.

•5) Throw those four multiplied figures beneath that radical I mentioned earlier, so that you can "compress" the three-dimensional nature of these statistics into one linear figure, and you've got yourself the formula.

Like I said, it's not the most mathematically precise thing out there. If you're a serious mathematician, you've probably pointed out numerous holes in this approach (and if you did, then message me). But this was just a good exercise to have and a solid way of helping me find the answer to a question I've been asking myself for awhile: what cities have the mightiest skylines?