I’m Not Going to Tell You a Secret

I adore magic and related disciplines. In recent years I’ve been lucky enough to see some great variations, ranging from Penn & Teller’s playful look behind part of the curtain to Joshua Jay’s intimate masterpiece  Six Impossible Things.

Somewhere in between and off to the side in content and presentation is another excellent experience I had the good fortune to attend, Derren Brown’s Secret. 

I’ve heard a lot about Derren Brown and his particular type of magic, but this was my first time seeing him perform outside of a couple random clips over the years.

In fact brown doesn’t primarily call himself a magician at all, acknowledging his art is a combination of that and related and intertwined disciplines like illusion, misdirection, and showmanship. The term “mentalist” has been used at times. Brown’s act is largely psychological in nature, giving the appearance of things like mind reading, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, cold reading, etc.

He uses a variety of approaches and skills  to generate and maintain interest, engagement, and amazement. One of the many things that sets his performances apart is the subtle and interesting use of a particularly technique that elevates the audience’s investment in the proceedings. I won’t specify to avoid spoilers (beyond that being a general policy for me when it comes to magic Brown reasonably asked details of the show no be shared), but it’s a masterstroke of showmanship and mastery of his craft.

Secret fully involves the audience in every aspect of the show and feels extremely interactive. Brown’s also chosen wonderful themes to explore, and the show is expertly built use them to enhance the impact of the magic and illusions at the same time. Secret is extremely engaging from start all the way through to a wondrous, satisfying finale.

Secret is on Broadway through Jan 4, 2020, and I highly recommend checking it out if at all possible.

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move for me featured a great action pose capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)  from her for their most recent sets. For Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from Persona 5 joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two Persona cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of Fire Emblem’s Tharja, and Valkyria Chronicles 4’s Riley, as well as the Bombshells version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

 

 

Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2

In Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art I talked about the the wrestling centric work of Rob Schamberger. Here, in addition to featuring more from Rob, I’d also like to spotlight another artist who specializes in wrestling related creations as well as an artist readers of this blog will be well familiar with who has entered the realm of drawing professional wrestlers as the result of commission requests from me. 😉

 

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A mix of originals and prints of Rob Schamberger’s striking work.

 

WWE’s Asuka (formerly Kana) is a longtime favorite of mine, and was the subject of first wrestling related commission request I ever made (top left above). She has remained central to collection (and will come up again later), particularly in terms of Rob’s wonderful mixed media creations which generally start with a framework from a photo of the subject and grow from there via Rob’s creativity, expert techniques, and incredible use of color. I’ve also added an original painting (as well as signed print) of current NXT Women’s Champion and Stardom alumni Kairi Sane (formerly Kairi Hojo) that nicely capture the unique presence and charisma of the Pirate Princess.

 

More information about Rob’s art can be found on his website.

 

 

 

As I mentioned in Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2, I’ve been a fan of Juri H Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work.

One of the more unique requests I made among a plethora of video game and anime characters was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move. I thought Juri’s style would be perfect for this and it came out far beyond my high expectations. I specified only the subject here, and I adore the incredible way Juri captured and combined Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in her remarkable hand drawn rendition. From there I got even more excited about having her draw more wrestlers. Asuka of course was on the list, and Juri wonderfully depicted her striking presence and style.

Aoi Kizuki is a personal favorite of mine who recently retired, so Juri’s fantastic rendition of her will be a treasured momento of a wrestler who will be greatly missed. The little details, like the patterns and textures on both Aoi’s and Asuka’s outfits and the highlighting use of metallics really make these incredible works come to life.

 

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Dash Chisako PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Sendai Girl’s Dash Chisako is my favorite high flyer in all of wrestling, and I’m amazed and ecstatic with how perfectly Juri captured Dash mid flight performing her trademark frog splash. Having Dash performing one of her flying moves is the most specific I got with any of my wrestler requests for Juri, and she absolutely knocked it out of the park. The likeness, colors, sense of motion, etc are all pitch perfect.

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page.

 

 

 

Shining Wizard Designs is another artist who specializes in depictions of wrestlers, in this case wonderfully stark, hyper realistic black and white ink drawings he regularly shares on social media. I adore the striking assortment of pieces of his I’ve gotten, and have been lucky enough to get a few of them signed by the wrestlers. In addition to excellent versions of the previously mentioned Asuka and Dash, SWD drew the reigning Wave Pro Tag Team Champions Bossy to Mammy (Marvelous’ rising star Mio Momono and Wave veteran Yumi Ohka) as well as Ice Ribbon’s MMA trained rookies Team DATE (Hana, Nao, Nori, and Karen) for me.

Aoi isn’t the only wrestler I follow retiring this year, so in tribute I commissioned a combination piece featuring Aoi, Wave’s Mika Iida, and Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Maho Kurone, as well as a stand alone piece of Wave’s Misaki Ohata (who will retire in December) doing one of her gorgeous flying cross bodies. Of course later even more retirements were announced, which gives subjects for the future I suppose. 😉 I will miss all of these wrestlers greatly but wish them the best.

 

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Gatoh Move (Mitsuru Konno, Sayaka Obihiro, Emi Sakura, and Riho) by Shining Wizard Designs.

 

Finally, I had a piece done featuring some of the core members of Gatoh Move, a small, wonderful company run by the incredible Emi Sakura. In addition to Emi and Mitsuru (from Juri’s work above), Gatoh’s ace Riho and lynchpin Sayaka Obihiro are also pictured. I’m extremely happy with SWD’s work and greatly appreciate the opportunity to get these done.

 

More information about Shining Wizard Designs art can be found on Twitter.

 

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Thanks again to all three of these artists for their impressive creations.

Remembering the Past to Avoid Repeating It

“Let us learn from the destructive past, and walk together towards a peaceful future.”

 

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is home to a variety of excellent exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve written about several past showings, and two of my absolute favorites where the textile based Chika MacDonald’s “Mugen” and Nobuko Tsuruta’s “12 Years.”

Here I’d like to spotlight an important and thought provoking exhibit, the annual and currently showing “Atomic Bomb Panel & Peace Art Exhibition.”

 

 

 

 

The Peace Exhibit is a wonderful combination of works, across numerous mediums, aimed at education and reflection. It includes posters created by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, calligraphy pieces, sculptures, origami, and more (please see the full list of works and artists). The message of examining past events, including horrific ones, to reach for understanding of how best to proceed in the future is a great one, and there is great significance and meaning to the various pieces and the insights, emotions, and messages of hope they contain.

 

 

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The opening reception was held on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, and was a lively evening in celebration of peace, a meaningful reminder of the weight of the past, and perhaps most importantly a glimpse at how that weight can be turned into hope for a better future.

 

 

The reception added further depth to the already impressive exhibit, with a striking and captivating calligraphy and dance performance, prayers of remembrance given across several faiths, and a heartfelt musical performance to close the evening.

 

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“Atomic Bomb Panel & Peace Art Exhibition 2018” is running until August 14, 2018, and I highly recommend going to take in this collection and the meaning and messages behind it in person.

 

Vibrant Imagination: The Art of Achilleas Kokkinakis

One of the best parts of Perna Studios’ excellent card sets and the vast array of phenomenal artists involved is discovering new favorites. Since my first glimpse of his vivid, eye catching art via Perna sets Achilleas Kokkinakas’ creations have become a prized part of my collection.

 

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Original art for Perna Studios’ Classic Mythology III: Goddesses set base card.

 

Achilleas’ art makes an immediate impact with deep, vibrant colors that make his subjects seem to come right off the cards. Enhancing that wonderful feeling is his masterful sense of composition and positioning, with everything in careful balance.

 

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Original art for Perna Studios’ Spellcasters II set base card.

 

Equally impressive are the minute details he manages on such small works, ranging from intricate borders and background patterns to flower petals dancing in the wind to dragons covered in tiny scales and a ton of other exquisite little touches.

 

 

My first Artist Proof from Achilleas featured a grim reaper positioned straight at the viewer, “spilling out” over the card’s frame and holding a scythe decorated with tiny skulls all over. A later one had a witch similarly coming out of frame, stunningly decorated with intricate jewels, flanked by a wonderfully done pet raven, and surrounded by gently falling Autumn leaves.

 

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Wind AP by Achilleas Kokkinakis from Perna Studios’ Elementals set.

 

As will come as no surprise for regular readers, I adore Japanese culture and art, and as such Achilleas’ Japanese themed cards from the last couple of sets have been some of my favorite pieces ever. The base card art of Benzaiten for Perna’s soon to arrive Classic Mythology III: Goddesses set is breathtaking.

 

 

I was lucky enough to get one of his gorgeous wind elemental geisha sketch cards, and adored it so much I got two APs in a similar vein but with variations based on ideas I wanted incorporated from other cards he’d done. The results were all I could have asked for.

 

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Incredible sumi ink rendition of Usagi Yojimbo on rice paper.

 

While I’ll endlessly praise Achilleas’ amazing use of color, my most recent additions showcase a different side to his art and a different corner of my personal preferences. When done well, limited color art (black and white with a single color for accents) can be amazing, and these sumi ink creations depicting Usagi Yojimbo and Yoda certainly qualify. Again the compositions are perfect, and Achilleas’ captures a genuine feeling of motion in these pieces.

 

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Incredible sumi ink rendition of Yoda on rice paper.

 

This is a newer technique for him, and his pieces are already fantastic. I can’t wait to see more of these, and of Achilleas’ art in general, as he continues to explore and push the boundaries of his craft.

Impossibly Amazing (spoiler free)

Although I haven’t seen much in recent years, I’ve always had a soft spot for and fascination with magic. So when an extremely intriguing looking show popped up at a unique venue I was familiar with I jumped at the chance to check it out. Joshua Jay’s Six Impossible Things is the most intimate, engaging, and yes, best magic show I’ve ever seen.

 

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My first time Wildrence (then The Mist) was last summer for Refuge, a competitive escape the room type experience. It was atmospheric, creative, and a lot of fun. The space itself has a lot of character, and Jay makes excellent use of it here as the audience is brought back and forth between the various rooms for each phase of his show.

 

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Everything about the show has a touch of the unusual and unique to it, including the venue, the small audience size (twenty people), the fact that the show is strictly limited one viewing ever per person, and of course the tricks themselves. I’d love to get into glorious detail about all the fantastic things I saw and the captivating way Jay utilizes the cozy setting, his mastery of showmanship and innate charisma, and a fresh approach that twists familiar tricks and elements to push his craft to new heights. But honestly it would be a disservice to anyone who wishes to check out this for themselves to spoil the sense of surprise and wonder I was fortunate enough to experience as Six Impossible Things progressed. Jay’s concept for this of creating magic to be experienced rather than just watched is implemented in a variety of ways, and the result is simply incredible. Catch this if at all possible while it lasts.

 

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Surrounded by Vibrancy

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is home to a variety of excellent exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve spotlighted several past showings, and two of my absolute favorites where the textile based Chika MacDonald’s “Mugen” and Nobuko Tsuruta’s “12 Years.”

Here I’d like to share my impressions of another wonderful textile exhibition, the currently showing “Our Road.”

 

 

The immediate visual impact of this exhibit is incredible. Japanese Dyeing Artist Ken Arai and Textile Artist Kiyo Masuyama’s exhibit, featuring collaborative pieces that span the length of their careers, showcases an amazing array of diverse tapestries in a variety of vivid, impactful colors and gorgeous patterns.

 

 

 

The opening reception was a fun, lively affair allowing guests to absorb the grandeur of Arai and Mauyama’s work amid a lovely background atmosphere enhanced by Indonesian Gamelan music provided I.M. Harjito and Anne Stebinger.

 

 

 

Beyond the inherent quality and beauty of the pieces themselves, the exhibit reaches further heights in it’s construction and brilliant use of space. Tenri Gallery, with it’s high ceilinged main area, large support pillars, and side area stretching to the front windows looking out on 13th street, provides great opportunity for exciting presentation and “Our Road” makes the most of its potential. Contrasting yet complimentary pieces placed side by side, impressive pieces stretched from floor to ceiling, gorgeous works draped above viewers heads, and all the other little details in placement and display choices combine to make the whole effect even more striking.

 

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Simply put, “Our Road” is absolutely wonderful. It runs until Tuesday July 3, and is well worth stopping by to experience in person.