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MARCH 2015



IN THIS ISSUE front cover / Neen this page / Pearl Preis back cover / Dor Reznik

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Connect With Us Here: WWW.FUNKYFRESHMAGAZINE.COM IG / TW @FUNKYFRESHMAG FB FUNKY FRESH MAGAZINE Submissions/Inquiries: FUNKYFRESHMAG@GMAIL.COM We accept submissions from artists, photographers, musicians, writers, filmmakers, designers, fashion brands, stylists and anyone who makes and writes cool stuff. Funky Fresh Magazine is based in South West Florida, but our outreach is not limited geographically. Artists featured in Funky Fresh Magazine retain copyright to their work.

from the editor Here we are. Welcome to the pages of our second issue, ironically though, this is Issue 1. If that didn’t leave you all messed up, by the time you are finished with these pages, you’ll probably have a new outlook on a few things here and there. In the preparation of this publication, we gave this issue the theme of love and wealth. Which lead us to power couples and power duos. It lead us to conversations with artists about their relationships and connection to the world around us. And what we learned, was that wealth, often relatable to money and possessions, holds an entirely different meaning for creatives. I was recently interviewed by Marcel Bauduin, aka DJ Cellus on Rayo Radio on 96.5 WSLR (Sarasota, FL), who was actually filling in for the host - Ryanito. One of the questions Marcel and Ryanito asked was, “what makes Funky Fresh different?” And the answer to that was the easiest answer in the history of answers. It’s the team. It’s our outlook on the world around us, and it’s our connections with others. The way we relate to one another, the way we see and treat life and those who occupy the seconds of our day. If you are an artist you know exactly the people who hold a valuable place in your heart and life, who wholeheartedly believe in our vision. And we are grateful for those who, even though might have left us lost or in defeat, we’ve traveled down a path of growth and we’ve grown rich with strength and determination. I do believe you will enjoy these interviews, that’s why there are 100 pages of this awesomeness you’re holding in your hands or staring at inside a monitor. We also threw in some spicy written word, which is just the beginning of a sequel. But the thing you will get the most out of this issue is the simple concept of life - follow your passion, create your own reality. There is no easy way out. There is no avoiding your dreams. There are no shortcuts and people will come into your creative life and some will make you want to throw your camera out and cut through every canvas and throw your microphone to the ground. What we learned from this issue and mixtape is that no matter how much life beats you down, you would do anything and give it all for what or who you are most passionate about. Without each other, there would be no love. And without love, there would be no each other, only other. So what do YOU love? Who makes YOU feel rich? Enjoy Issue 1, Lena Hart

THE FUNKY FRESH MAGAZINE ISSUE 1 MIXTAPE: LOVE & WEALTH What you should know about the Issue 1 mixtape is that much like the material in this magazine, each artist either created an original piece specifically for Funky Fresh Magazine, or submitted a piece from their personal catalog, based on the theme of love and wealth. These are their interpretations to which I am privileged and incredibly proud to present and be a part of. Please lend us your eyes and ears and join us on an adventure. -DJ Cellus

1). Esuper - Launch 2). Cliz - Stay... (Habits remix) 3). AWAR - Let It Shine 4). Seti X - 10 Seconds of Wisdom 5). Michael Mendez - The Cause f. E-MAN 6). C.Young - Blue Enigma f. Elena Merino 7). Ryanito - Drug Called Love 8). MF Grimm - Marry Mary 9). Shorty-140 - Have It All 10). Celina Lina - Love You 11). L-BO Flamez & SweetHeart - Take Off 12). Tony Hood - All I Know (I Can’t Help It) f. T.Rone 13). Slimfigga - I Get High, Stay In Denial 14). Monteasy - Napalm Bomb 15). Konsc! - Million Dollars (Master Plan) 16). Ladi G - Love Rants 17). L to the... + NoOne Jones - Rozay 18). West Coast Trade School - Flowers 19). LZRS TXN - The Last Metro

Stream & Download Issue 1 Mixtape Here:

WWW.FUNKYFRESHMAGAZINE.BANDCAMP.COM Music curated by DJ Cellus // Mix produced by Ryanito Album model: Amanda Cicchetti Album art & photography by Lena Hart // WWW.LENA-HART.COM


HINDSIGHT IS 420 An Issue 0 Mixtape Post Production Retrospect interview by Lori Ortega photography by Lena Hart




Have you ever heard a song and it seemed to perfectly narrate a specific time of your life? Does the soundtrack to your life ever just start playing randomly? Has music ever provoked new thoughts by putting things into a whole new perspective? The other day I was lost in thought. I was distracted, reflecting on the magazine, the mixtape, and all the hard work that went into completing an entire issue, when some song lyrics sucker punched my brain and ruined my train of thought. The lyrics made me contemplate all of the hard work and dedication it took to bring Funky Fresh Magazine and mixtape projects to life. iTunes had kicked on “Passing Me By,” from the Pharcyde. I’ve heard that song a million times, but for some reason the words triggered my thoughts in a different way. The song itself might really be about ‘the one that got away’, but while I was listening to it, I began to think about the various projects associated with Funky Fresh and how an opportunity to put everything together could have been lost or, “passed by.” There are a multitude of factors that create walls, which sometimes cannot be scaled, thus preventing progress. But sometimes you must see those less than ideal circumstances as only small obstacles and continue to surge forward. You have to work hard and put forth tremendous amounts of effort in order to accomplish the goals that you set for yourself. There are also many sacrifices that need to be made when pursuing a dream. One must truly believe in their vision and give it their all in order to develop that dream into a tangible living, breathing reality. The intensity, passion, hard work and dedication required to complete the Issue 0 mixtape in conjunction with Funky Fresh Magazine was clearly demonstrated by two key people; Marcel Bauduin and Ryan Larrañaga. I was recently able to talk to both Marcel and Ryan about the mixtape and to hear their post production perspectives. These two are doing some big things, making some key moves, and the mixtape is just the tip of the iceberg. Lori Ortega: How did you partner up with Lena and bring the concept for the mixtape in conjunction with Funky Fresh magazine? Marcel Bauduin (MB): I first linked up with Lena through our mutual friend E-man. He did some photo shoots with her. I had seen Lena’s work before from his shoot and other artists she had shot. E-man invited her to a play he was acting in about Marvin Gaye’s life and said that I should meet her too, so in order to get us both in, I acted as her assistant. I carried her tripod, her camera equipment and we just started talking about art and music. I told her that I really liked her photos and she said

that she really liked my show. We just started talking and realized that we were really similar and were fans of each other’s work. In September she told me that she had an idea and was coming up with a magazine. I asked if there was any way that I could help. I said it’d be cool if you did a mixtape, just something else to increase the platform. We can feature other artists much like you do with Funky Fresh the magazine. I can do the mixtape; it will be its own piece of art. We can add order to chaos by just being able to gather all these people together. Ryan Larrañaga (RL): Basically I understood the concept for Funky Fresh magazine and Marcel brought up the idea that we should do a mixtape. Since I’m an audio engineer, I told him that I would help him put all the tracks together, blend everything, mix everything, and master everything. Anywhere that I can fit in and help I will. That’s just how I am. What is it like getting to work with such great local artists? MB: It’s a very humbling experience. The fact that they think as highly of me as I think of them, that they hold me in that high a regard, is very humbling. To see all these artists that are out there really working is incredible. To see this project grow and to see all the other opportunities that come as a result is incredible. Seeing all those guys and all their different approaches within hip hop culture is motivating. I mean, with hard work and diversity everyone kind of finds their own way within it. It really is just about staying true to yourself and finding what really works for you. So, to work with these artists... yeah, they might be considered local now but it’s only a matter of time that they become house hold names. RL: Great talents, I am a people person. I am really good at seeking out people, finding new talent, new concepts and new innovations that will better the magazine and the mixtape. I will do what I can to inspire and motivate creativity, but I can also fine tune, understand the layout, and use my previous experience from having had my own mixtape compilations. I enjoy working with new and creative people that inspire me. How does the success from this project inspire you to be a greater DJ and Radio Show Host? MB: It inspires me in a lot of ways. The success from the mixtape makes me want to continue doing the work, honing my craft and getting deeper into it. I want to expand into live work later on down the line. Right now I’m doing behind the scenes work, curating the mixtape, bringing people together, and drawing a lot of attention to what we’re working on with Funky Fresh. We work with a lot of great people that are doing really cool things. A lot of people that have seen the project are blown away by it and I’m humbled to be a part of the whole thing and

So what happens when two music junkies combine forces to produce a mixtape? They create a fucking masterpiece! It is amazing how a chance encounter, a simple concept, and an open dialogue was all it took to begin production of both Funky Fresh Magazine and the Issue 0 mixtape. Lena is a genius, an amazing photographer and a highly motivated business woman. She is an incredible person with a spectacular vision, a vision that people want to help her develop into a successful reality. Both Marcel and Ryan are musically inclined, innovative and progressive. The musical knowledge that these two possess is insane; it’s out of this world. The years of hip hop appreciation that these two have under their belts, their keen ear for talent, and their desire to create quality products is what made this mixtape a success. Their many efforts, hours of fine tuning, and seamless execution turned an idea into a brilliant reality. -Lori Ortega to have a mixtape that accompanies it. It has been very interesting to see everything come together. Sometimes you just got to take a shot and see what happens. Funky Fresh is a quarterly project. You put it together; see who you can reach, and who you influence. I feel like the Issue 0 mixtape and Issue 0 itself; the waves of those releases are just beginning to be felt. We need to continue to do the work because at the end of the day there’s nothing that anybody can say if you just do the work. RL: I would consider myself a radio personality with a love for music, even though I am classified as someone that plays music for an audience; a DJ. Going forward with the music, and with how we formulate everything with the mixtape, I’m always on the search for the next big thing, big star, and great music. As a radio show host I get a lot of people submitting music to me, people that are local and from all over the country submit music. So I’m gonna keep listening, keep looking, and continue doing the work. How has your life changed over the last year pending your involvement with Funky Fresh Magazine? MB: It has changed a lot. Originally I had a different job but I was let go from that job. They could tell that I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing. I told them, “You’re absolutely right, thank you very much.” And then in March, 2014 I set out to find my passion. Even though the chips were down I still tried to give more. I made a conscious decision to surround myself with positive people and to find the right people that really want to do work and

just really care and support each other as both friends and family; to just root for each other and their artistry. Everyone is really different in their own way and we’re starting to see a lot of that in different areas of the country. It’s been a crazy year, from where I was this time last year to now is a complete 180 degree turn. So many opportunities have opened up and I just keep doing the necessary work. Just keep working. This mixtape, where artists agree and see the vision of what the magazine is, I never would have thought that unity would come. Everyone that I’m working with was at a weird point and it felt like they wanted to do something greater, beyond just ourselves and to do something grand. It felt like we were just talking to ourselves, then we all kind of met up and it all kind of clicked and started to make sense. It’s so nice to work with people that are really passionate about what they do but that are also reliable and solid people. It’s inspiring to be around other inspiring people. RL: My life has changed tremendously. Funky Fresh just gives me another focus, and another avenue to branch into. I’m trying to get a permanent position in the magazine... Lena’s going to think on that. But working with everyone is further proof that I’m multi-faceted. I believe that there’s nothing I can’t do. With Funky Fresh I see myself scouting new talent and brining those talents to the forefront. I will do whatever it takes and contribute to making the magazine better. What are your future goals with the

mixtape and Funky Fresh? What’s the direction that you’re trying to go with future projects? MB: I guess that’s really to be determined. It’s really just about continuing to do the work and to see what other opportunities this project yields, but also to find more artists to work with. I really feel like my strong suit is networking and facilitating creativity. I’m working more within an A&R level with independent artists. I’ve been trying to get great artists to connect and work together. I was very fortunate to be at the first hip hop summit in community radio at the grass roots radio conference in Ames, Iowa, where now I can reach and network with other DJ’s across the nation. It’s great to work with others that want to network and build. My goal right now is just to be an active participant in hip hop culture. I think that hip hop is the most powerful art form in the world, and there isn’t really anything that it hasn’t influenced up to this point. I’m going to use my ambition to figuring out how high we can set the bar higher with Issue 1. I had high expectations and was still completely blown away with Issue 0. I’m just going to expand my reach and continue to reach out to new people and see who is interested in doing some great quality, next level work.

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BadBoys by Annemarie Noa Pike

I joined the Bad Boys club when I was fifteen.

Our clubhouse is a mattress shoved way up in a tree in the part of town nobody wants to go. Our kingdom is a cigarette smokehouse, a bonfire party for the blind. Our cars are impounded, our clothes fresh fucking hand-me-downs and hand-to-each-others. Our way of life is not really a way at all. Our plans are not to plan anything. Our optimism is the only thing longer than our arms, reaching for the sky, climbing mountains in the dark and halfhoping we get eaten by our monsters before the dawn finds us here; another day wasted, another day gone. We really want to make something of our lives. But unless you know what it’s like to be stuck, you won’t know what it’s like to descend in endless spirals. Unless you know what it’s like to taste blood and love monsters and read your own name in the stars, you can’t know the raw consumptive power of fear. It’s not an argument, or a question. You either do, or you don’t. If you know what I’m talking about, I don’t need to explain it; and if you don’t, there’s no reason for me to try. I spent a long time feeling like a head of cattle, ear-tagged and fire-branded, unable to walk back down the stairs I had ascended - so fucking blind, so naive - because I was curious about what was on the other side. The hardest fucking thing in the world is not being able to go back. I don’t even particularly like who I was before. I just want her back. I want back the girl who hated the boys whose fangs are prominent and unguarded. I want back the girl who was afraid of everything. Now, the only thing I’m afraid of is myself. And that’s shit. There are some perks to the club. We take care of each other, here. We hold each other when we can’t go home. We know not to open our mouths, ever, when our wounds are still raw and fresh. We know to assemble silently, to forget quickly, and never to let anyone carry the burden alone. We take on each others’ agony, and that makes it better for all of us. Because there are different flavors of pain, and some of us can swallow it more easily than others. Not many people know that, but here, we do. Past the doors of our sanctuary, the world is big and scary and full of monsters, drawing us in like moths to flame; but in here, we are made whole again. In here, we piece ourselves back together after every explosion and restitch the bonds over our lips - a little stronger, every time. Most of all, we never let our lovers in. This is a woman’s space, though it doesn’t exist in real life. It’s a metaphorical space, I guess. It’s the dark corners of the car and the dark asphalt expanse of the parking lot at 2 a.m., sitting in the front seat and crying and telling each other what to do. It’s offering your help even though you know you can’t even help your goddamn self. It’s the slick grip on the flashlight, running in the early hours

towards the house, making off with a suitcase full of her clothes while he sleeps. It’s saving each other and loving each other more than we love ourselves. It’s bar-stool lurking, restaurantbooth waiting, walking tall together through the places where we met our predators. I will never know what makes the bad ones so good. If I knew, I could put it into words, pin it down, fight it. It’s codeine in a plastic cup and coke in a saucer and Skittles rainbow-spread across the table. It’s agony and insanity and ecstasy and blindness. It’s blissful bruises on your soul, making you feel marked, making you feel alive. It’s wanting to blow your brain to pieces to get one last glimpse of the dizzying possibilities that await you and this dangerous man; because he brings out your crazy and you nurture his, so together, you could drive yourselves to do the most fucking amazing things you could possibly imagine. And it is like that, briefly. Fat and bursting with promise, intoxicated and blinded by wonderful crazy. Oh my God, how fast the fall. I have learned, ten times over, that there is nothing good about crazy. Nothing. If he makes you feel crazy, know that it won’t last and it won’t end well. Know that he will someday come out of his velvet shell and break you into a thousand pieces, and that each time you will get a little bit weaker, a little less able to put yourself back together. Know that you are now a member of the Bad Boys club. Good luck, girl. We’re rooting for you. We’ll pull you into the woods with us; we’ll help you lose your mind and find it again, every damn time you end up on the bathroom tile, crying into your hands and making fingernail scars on your palms and whispering “I did it again, I did it again, IdiditIdiditIdiditagain.” Someday, we’ll write all of our bad boys on a list and swallow it. Someday, we’ll paint their names on the walls of our clubhouse and burn that fucker to the ground. Someday, we may even grow up.

Annemarie Noa Pike lives in Alaska, works occasionally, never got around to going to college, and writes at night because sleep is overrated. Fixing cars, dancing on tables and plotting to backpack through the Middle East are among her favorite things. You can read more from her monthly at: if you’d like. Following her on Twitter @annemarienoa would also be really cool.


photography by Dor Reznik model: Ksenia Semeonov


DANNY ROCK interview by Nicole Banta photography by Lena Hart Magazine




Nicole: Meet Danny Rock, not your run-of-the mill artist. Unless that mill is the Mills 50 District in downtown Orlando, Florida… Lena Hart and I met Danny Rock on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Orlando, Florida at a Pho house on Primrose Ave. called Pho Hoa. On the way to our rendezvous with Danny we passed a number of pho houses, including one right next door. Talk about close competition, but Pho Hoa stood apart from the rest. It was the restaurant’s distinct and unique paint job: legitimate, business-sanctioned street art. Giant, colorful murals covered the building and tags on-top of tags filled the short concrete walls that bordered the parking lot. The restaurant calls them Permission Walls, where they allow artists from all over the city, and potentially all over the world, the opportunity to legally display their street-style artwork to the public. Danny had picked the spot because it was one of the joints he liked to grab grub at when he was in the city, but also because he had painted one of the eye-catching murals on the side of the building.

Danny Rock: “It all started with my yearbook. I did a yearbook for my high school where I used to scribble around and do crazy stuff and during that time, you know it was the 80’s, so there was break dancing and everything so I did a whole break dancing theme. So ever since then, people just in school would be like ‘Oh yeah he’s a graffiti guy, he does that graffiti’ and I mean I like graffiti and everything, but back then to be a graffiti artist? That sucked. You weren’t an artist, you were like- nobody could know who you were, you had to be underground, you were considered a vandal. It wasn’t really a good scene back then so I wasn’t too happy about that label but that was the label that they gave me.” Having roots in art during the hip hop movement gave Danny that unique angle to the work he’s been most recognized for, which is street art. By the time he moved from the Big Apple to the Sunshine State he had a passion already growing in his heart to get his work out there. And by ‘out-there’ I mean literally out there- out of the four walls and onto them. Art inside out, on the street, getting that sun and air and every eye that passes by. That’s when he heard about the Mills 50 project.

We grabbed a seat at the front of the restaurant where the Florida winter sun was shining through the windows. Danny filled us in on his background as we filled up on pho noodles. He grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Bronx in New York City as a kid and later worked as a surgical technician. In 2006 he moved to the suburbs of Orlando, Florida and joined the burgeoning legalized street art culture in the city as part of the Mills 50 project.

“The Mills 50 district really gave me the opportunity, they’re the ones who allowed me to get work out on the street and I always wanted to do it but I felt that - I always would think, ‘well I need to know somebody who’s a street artist so I can learn from them,’ but I had to learn on my own, which you know, I guess that’s how most of the guys do it.”

That’s quite the switch. So I asked Danny where it all started for him-How did he get turned on to street art in the first place?

So I asked him more about the Mills 50 project, I was curious how it all started for him.

“Well they had a call to artists to do the utility boxes because they were having trouble with the taggers. During that time there were a few murals that were up by Andrew Spears already, you know not to take away from him because he had a few up, where the old sand flats used to be at - So during that time the utility boxes were just really ugly and so Joanne Grant came up with this idea, along with Patti Sheehan and the organization of Mills 50 to beautify the city , they figured that in San Francisco they were doing that already and it was getting a lot of attention, so then they figured ‘we want to do this here’ and they put up a call to artists on their website and I saw the information and everything. So my wife is very supportive, so I told her about this. I said, ‘Look- I should apply for this,’ and she’s like ‘yeah submit some work!’” Since he was unsure of what the district would respond best to, his initial submissions ranged from Renaissance paintings he had replicated to stencil work of Brad Pitt from the iconic movie Fight Club. Much to his surprise he received a call back two weeks later from Joanne Grant, the Executive Director of the Mills 50 District in Orlando. And the work she liked? The Fight Club stencil and a second piece depicting Medusa. “I didn’t think they would pick these, because they were more street art and edgy, but I wanted to see where they were at with all of this, you know? So next thing you know a few months go by and I find myself doing the utility boxes and it was great, that’s where it started - those boxes on Mills 50? Those were my first ones here on the street. Ever since then I’ve been grateful for the

opportunity.” Danny Rock has since risen from painting utility boxes to painting murals on buildings and more recently on city dumpsters. One of the things he appreciates about the Mills 50 District and their street art projects is the fact that they allow artists to do their own thing for the most part, rather than placing too many limitations on them or funneling their creative process into a designated theme. On the topic of themes I asked Danny if he had a certain style he’d developed or cultivated along the way. “There’s things I’m really drawn to but at the moment too I’m more of a situational artist, like what I’m feeling at the time is what I want to do. I don’t get stuck on just having the same thing-I don’t want to be like the Obey, wherever they see an Obey ‘Obey, that’s me,’ he’s even moved on from that, you know that branding concept- first of all I’m not good at marketing myself anyway!” We talk about artists and their signature styles, their calling cards so-to-speak. “That’s good, it’s not bad, but the thing is I’m not that artist, I feel like I grow more the more I try to experiment in other areas, on other themes - on figure, on doing elongated figures in an abstract sense, or to do more portraits in a realistic way, you know, stencils-and then stencils hold a whole arena-! You can’t limit yourself to one thing. I like when people see some of my work and they see my name Danny Rock and they’re like ‘he does that too?’ That’s what I like. I like being a multidimensional artist.”

december 2014

Multi-dimensional describes Mr. Rock pretty well. As I mentioned earlier his portfolio includes renditions of Renaissance master classics like Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring to utility boxes covered in Marilyn Monroe, Brad Pitt, and Harvey Milk stencils. Knowing him for his street art, I’m curious about his interest in the classics. He calls it reverse rebellion. “Before, they were doing a lot of Renaissance-like, traditional style paintings back in those days and people were – they kind of went against that so they did abstract work and everything, there was just a rebellion in art. Mine now, it’s like a reverse, I go back to that to as a protest saying, okay I do street art, but I can do this, I can do this too.” His traditional paintings are real good and much like his street art skills these too were mostly self-taught. From his work to his demeanor and the way he talks about his craft it is easy to see that Danny Rock is passionate about art. “When you’re in the creative process it’s like a spirit takes over, and not in the airy-fairy way, but what happens, you get so into that zone that time… doesn’t matter, and you don’t realize the hours go by and you’re just thinking about this detail… this here… you step back and you go… you’re in the process and it’s really passion-and you’re like… you’re kind of dealing with yourself.” Amen to that! As a fellow creative, I totally connect with his testimony, much like anyone can who is really passionate about something and fully engaged in their element. There is a sort of time/space loop-hole you can slip into when you tap into that sweet-spot. Danny says that he can almost relate to the master artists during his process of replicating the classics. As he situates himself in that sweet-spot, he can almost imagine what they must have been thinking and feeling throughout their creative process. He says he learned a lot about the craft of painting that way- by imitating the masters. Danny Rock truly is a multi-dimensional artist with his New York

to Florida heritage and his classic to contemporary tastes. His style spans from dumpsters and industrial grade acrylics to canvas and traditional oil paint. Perhaps it’s safe to say that he is delightfully unpredictable and open-minded in his approach to art. At this point, our once massive ‘small’ bowls of pho noodles are empty and our stomachs are full. With carts clattering by us and conversation buzzing around, Danny brings everything full-circle. “You learn more about art by doing it than reading about it, than studying about it; by doing it and not giving up. Just always following your heart, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time at least it makes sense to you.” Chew on that. I left the encounter feeling encouraged by the collaborative efforts between the city of Orlando and the population of local artists. The world will benefit from more big cities embracing the wealth of raw talent that runs through their cosmopolitan veins rather than forcing it underground. The Mills 50 District and their contributing artists are now counted among the frontrunners of this collaborative movement. Here’s to momentum and new waves. There are plenty of bumps and kinks left on that road but you can be sure it ain’t the 80’s anymore. I tip my proverbial hat to you Mr. Danny Rock in appreciation of good company, good eats, and good art! FB Danny Rock




NEEN interview by Lena Hart

We all have this idealized sense of self, and it’s whether or not we can reach that. We always have to mind the gap. This is your life as you think it is, and this is your life as it actually is. It’s all about that balance that you have to find to maintain a sense of happiness. And sometimes it’s not about your job, sometimes you just have to find whatever it is that makes you happy. For me, it’s very much being able to express myself artistically. -Neen


You may call her an illustrator, but if you look a little closer, you will find that Neen is no ordinary nerd with an impressive set of skills in all types of media. To give you a little bit of our background, Neen and I met in college circa 2001. I received a letter from Pratt with my dorm and roommate info and instantly went into panic mode. “What if I have to live with some weirdo?!” Even though I’ve had to adjust my life accordingly many times as I traveled the world to get to where I am today, this was going to be the first time living away from home, away from all things familiar and with complete strangers. Reluctantly, I dialed Neen’s number. I had to find out immediately. Neen picked up the phone and from the other end of the wherever she was, I heard a chipper and lively “Hello?” And just from the sound of her voice, I knew she was safe. I mean, college is somewhat like blind dating, except you have to live together right away. So more like blind marriage? Total set up.

Lena Hart: Our first year was all fine arts, studio classes..painting and a lot of drawing. I remember you telling me you wanted to work for Disney one day.

under my belt already, so I went to the local state school and I finished my degree there with fine art. My thesis was a series of abstract, paintings, Indian ink on Mylar.

Neen: Yeah I was always into animation, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I just really loved to draw. But I think about Pratt .. it’s like... oh my God... because I had the opportunity when we were 18, our second year, I took a Photoshop class and I remember being totally against it. Completely, 100% . I think I dropped the class. I didn’t want to draw on the computer, I wanted to draw and paint, I was more of a purist. And then it’s funny because getting my second art degree, the reason I went to get a second art degree is because I didn’t know how to do that. And I realized, I need that! I wanted to do pre-production work but also 3D animation and I couldn’t teach myself that. I had to go to school for it. I took the longest road possible.

Those ink on Mylar pieces are pretty amazing... (right side)

When you were at Pratt Institute upstate New York, after the initial 2 years you went onto the Brooklyn location of Pratt in New York City. I only stayed the first semester, honestly I didn’t like it at all. Then it kind of hit me that ... what am I going to do? I was a drawing ma jor but I didn’t really see any future there and it was more fine art based, not commercial. Not in any way preparing you to get a job. It was really disappointing because I heard all these great things about the school itself and then being there just felt very unnatural to me. I loved drawing and being around my peers but I was like, I’m paying too much money for this. So I left. I came home for a while and I got a normal job, an office job. And then I realized pretty quickly... nooooooo! No, no, no! I was stuck, I really didn’t know what I was going to do but I had so much fine art

Yeah, people really liked those and responded to them. I studied under some really good teachers, personalities were good. But it’s weird because people look at those pieces and say “these are so beautiful”. This was at a time when I moved back home and I was living alone. I had a lot of space and I was able to lay it all out, a lot of them on a larger scale. I was able to leave them because they take so much time to dry because they are just really, really watered down. Some layers would take a day or two to dry completely. As I kept going back I would manipulate them...but it’s weird because my reference imagery for those. I was going through a breakup that was really traumatic for me and I ended up having a lot of issues with myself after that and had a lot of social anxiety. I was spending a lot of time alone and was completely miserable. Every single one of those paintings is a moment in time in my mind that I was depicting abstractly, but they were horrible moments from that relationship. When I saw them for the first time, I saw beauty and light. And that’s what’s so funny, it’s pure alchemy. Because it came out of what I remember as the worst time in my life. I was completely this alternate version of myself, thinking about it now, it’s a little scary. Even in critiques in school everyone asked “how did you do this?” or “why did you pick this color?”. And I would literally shut down. It was so personal that I was completely incapable of talking about it. And that really frustrated my teachers.

At one point one of my teachers was like, “I don’t know what kind of a grade you’re going to get in this class”. It was this huge confrontational moment, he called me into his office. I was so low at that point that I was just like... “I don’t care what grade I get” and I just walked out. I’m making something that is just coming out of me , I don’t want to talk about it. It is what it is. I ended up acing that class and that body of work earned me the Fine Art Award for my graduating class. All this positivity came out of it, but for me, even now, I have a lot of those paintings and I’ve sold a lot of them too because I just don’t want to have them around. It came out of this horrible place and it was almost just the only way I saw to express what was happening and the way I was feeling. I needed to be alone for that amount of time, a semester or two, I spent all of my time painting. But when I was there at the state school, one of my teachers told me about MICA which is where I got my second degree which was in illustration. At that time, I had no idea what that art was. Everybody knows you can work for a comic book or something else, but I really had no idea what any of that entailed. So I put together a portfolio, applied there and I got in. That’s when I realized I wanted to do something more marketable. The fine art degree felt great, it felt as a sense of accomplishment of completing something. Fine art and more abstract work, traditional art comes a lot more naturally to me, I’ve been doing it since I was very young. But computer art? It was a foreign beast. Some of my early paintings were.... oh my god... I just remember my teachers looking at me and saying “ohhh... ahh... maybe start over or...” I took a figure drawing class that was drawing from the tablet. One of my teachers was a digital artist and one was a fine art guy. They taught the class together and they were always so frustrated with me because I kept telling them “I can’t.. I don’t get this.” A lot of people pick up digital very quickly, but it feels like the wrong side of my brain maybe? I don’t know. It took me a solid year to make anything that was even worth looking at. What was the hardest part of that transition for you? Coming from traditional

art, painting and drawing on paper or canvas verses on something you can’t feel and touch.

really just finding your place. I’ve always been really attracted to drawing and line work. I feel almost incapable of painting.

I think it was two things. Number one, it was the literal disconnect. I’m drawing over here ... and it’s over there... The hand eye coordination was obviously the first thing that felt very odd. But I think psychologically too it’s the fact that your art doesn’t technically exist... Am I even making it? Where is it? If your computer crashes, then it’s just gone. It’s a sense of anxiety. They teach you to have your art saved in five different places, and one of them should be not in your home. You can work so hard, and then it can just be gone! There are also a lot of weird feelings about illustration, like when photography came out as a medium... is it art, is it real? Should it hang in a gallery and why? To me, it’s just another medium that you can use. I think people thing the computer is making your image. Most of my artist friends that I hang around, they do traditional art. In the gallery that I showed I was the only person who did digital work. Sometimes it’s frustrating for me because it’s not really seen as the same.

The way some artists see blocks of color, I still always see lines. Maybe that’s why everything I paint has... you know, a lot of hair! (laughs) The thing about hair is... it’s a lot of lines. Very attracted to that. I draw more than anything else, even digitally and it’s always been that way. The first images I did were drawings that I inked. I have a stack of microns that were just destroyed because I would use them all up just working on one drawing and then I would color it digitally. I started very simple. I would do everything traditionally, and then just color it. Not even rendering, just flat color behind my drawing and that was it. It evolved from there. I don’t necessarily want to do human figures because to me- you then get into... is it a man, is it a woman? It becomes very specific and people immediately identify. I want to work with an emotion or feeling and if I use creatures it’s much more open ended, people are able to connect with it on a different level. I make all my textures with Indian ink on Mylar and then I scan them in and put them behind. In my most recent series, ink textures are always behind everything. It’s almost like I can’t get away from it, but I also want to keep it.

Have you ever thought about combining your digital art with traditional art canvases, image transfers, gels? Yea, it’s definitely something I’ve thought about. Right now I keep the two very separate thought. I always have a traditional piece going in my studio and I always have a digital piece, usually more than one. But I work very separately. I just started an abstract series, I started painting acrylic on wood just because it’s relaxing. But right now I keep the two separate because I feel in my mind, it’s kind of two different sides of myself. I’m sure eventually they will merge, they have to. When you started working in illustration what was it like to develop your style? Your work has an ongoing theme of fantasy. I guess.. I don’t know? It just happened. At MICA it was just like Pratt, your first few classes are very fundamental - Illustration 1, Illustration 2. They make you explore a lot of the mediums, we had to do collage, charcoal, we did scratchboard... it was

Speaking of hair and layers.. the Jabberwocky is my favorite piece of yours (right side). I remember seeing this for the first time years ago and I was blown away by it. I wanted to have it as wallpaper in my house. And actually many of you pieces have an ongoing woodsy theme, what’s up with that? The Jabberwocky piece was actually the very first piece where everything came together for me. We were given the Jabberwocky poem by Lewis Carroll and were told to illustrate it. A lot of that assignment was so free, it’s nonsensical words, you could really go anywhere with it. That was the first piece that I made 100% digitally. I sat down at my computer and said, alright, let’s just wing this thing. It took me a couple of hours and it was done. That was maybe the only piece I looked at and thought it was done, I liked the composition, I liked everything. And it’s funny because when I brought it in,

my teacher hated it. Nooooo.... He said it made him want to throw up. As much as I liked it was almost as much as I disliked this teacher. So for me that was a double win. It was officially “it”. He immediately came out and said, this creature is disgusting, the colors make me feel like I’m going to throw up, I can barely look at it. No one said anything after that. It was talked about for a very short period of time and then we moved on. People came up to me afterwards and said “wow, I really liked that”. It was like... well thanks for whispering it to me in the corner later... you couldn’t have.. (laughs). But I really didn’t care what anyone thought, it was the first time everything came together and my digital work became something that I thought maybe this can work. I did it very quickly and it felt very natural and I was! finally. Drawing these creatures I use it as a vehicle to say what I feel emotionally.

A month after I graduated I thought, my stuff is whimsical and it’s a little creepy but I really liked drawing animals and I thought I’d love to illustrate something for children. I have a new niece recently. Books to me as a child were my outlet, I loved to read. I had so many books, I was lucky I was exposed to books and taught their value at a really early age. So I was in the store trying to find some books for my niece thinking about what I want to buy some of her first books and when she gets old enough, read them to her. And in a lot of the books that I was seeing, the graphics were awful! (laughs) I mean..... there are some really great books, usually written by illustrators. There are a couple of gems, for sure. The large ma jority of the books I was seeing were ... flat color and almost looked like clip art. I was appalled, really. And I thought I just wanted to make something. Just because you’re working with a younger age !group doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be visually as intriguing. I mean, you can inspire someone at a really young age!!

Yeah, I remember when I was little my grandfather would read me bed time stories, or make up stories in such great detail that I could just close my eyes and it was like watching a movie. My grandfather also wrote poetry and stories. When he told me those stories, the way he described everything is the way I see and feel your art work. I was really lucky at MICA because I had all these wonderful teachers. One that I had very early on who ended up being sort of my mentor. He was from France and a lot of my other teachers were also from Europe or had at least lived in Europe for a large amount of time. And over there I feel that the market is totally different. So this one amazing teacher I had would bring in a stack of children’s books at every class. They were all in French, but he would sit there and tell us stories so we would know what they were saying. It’s amazing, the words, the language - how much more credit they give to children for being able to understand more complex ideas.

The art was just abstract art. I felt like the bar was raised so high, and I thought, wow! Those are children’s books? Can you imagine, being an artistic person from when you were very young if you were exposed to things like this? It was completely inspiring. I wanted to take the skills that I had and make it a little more fulfilling, a little richer. It doesn’t have to be a simple thing just because people are young. It really had an impact on me. Children’s books, is that something that is in your future? What I would really like to do is make an app for children. Or even something animated on maybe an iPad. I see a lot of children during my day job. They’ve got tablets, or they are always on their parent’s phones. It’s a little bit sad for me, I love books. But a lot of children are also looking at using media electronically and I think with my background in animation I would really like to make something that is visually stimulating. Maybe an amazing narrative they can follow that actually teaches them something. My most influential people have always been amazing teachers. So I think that if I can make a tool that would help a child, it’s pretty amazing. Inspiration comes in all kinds of ways, I remember being exposed to things as a kid that impact you forever. What would you do if you had all the money in the world? Honestly, this is really easy. It would be amazing. If I had all the money in the world I would be able to devote all of my time to art. Which is the most frustrating thing right now. The only downside to school, private art school especially is the amount of student loans that you have. If I had all the money in the world I would just feel that weight off my shoulders and I would be able to not work at a day job that really wasn’t benefitting to me. And travel! That’s probably the thing that had the most impact on me, is traveling. The trip I took to Rome has stayed with me forever. I think about Rome every single day. Seeing things that just got to you when first learned about them in school, sculptures and stuff. To see that in flesh is just amazing. A piece of art that you’ve only studied, it’s such a different

experience. Honestly, nothing more than that. I would just love to do my art full time and travel. That can get overwhelming, when you’re in school and also working, or just working full time. We spend 40 or more hours every week and then you only have the evenings and weekends to do your creative work. It gets frustrating, and physically and mentally draining. What do you do to relax to get in a good state of mind to make art? When I come home from work I pretty much just walk straight into my studio. Sometimes I’ll make a quick sandwich or something and then I just start painting. I don’t have any unwind time. All my time is spent painting. And I paint for my day job also, I’m doing hand lettering. It’s gratifying that I’m still creating things but it’s very much out of the realm of my own personal work. But if I’m working on a painting, I’ll be thinking about it most of the day. That other stuff gets kind of monotonous, a little bit robotic. The creative freedom is a lot less so you’re not using that part of your brain. So when I come home I really just go straight to work because that’s what I’ve been waiting all day to do. And there are points in painting, when you know.. you love to paint hair... you’re on the third layer and you’ve been painting lines for three hours straight. I get stuck on detail, next thing I know I’m making the perfect line and I’m like... no one is going to see this detail, zoomed in way too far, you’re hunched over, you’ve been holding your breath... you’re a wreck, basically. What are you doing? That’s why I started a series of acrylic paintings on wood. It’s similar to my Mylar paintings I did. When I take a break from my digital painting, I get ten minutes to run downstairs because I feel faint because I haven’t eaten in six hours. Or if I really need a legitimate break I work on an abstract piece. I may show it in a gallery or I may just paint it for me. It’s much more freeing. But I really have very little time that I’m not making art. And when I’m super tired I just go to bed. As far as life, it’s not much of one for sure. Friends that I hang out with are like, “where have you been, what are you doing?” And I’m like.. you know, painting. Or someone will text

me “hey, what are you doing tonight?”.... painting. “What are you up to?”... painting. It’s like, why even ask? Everyone drops off at a point, they just know that’s what I’m doing and unless you’re interested in painting or talking about painting... I don’t really do much else to be honest with you. Today was a very rare thing. I had the day off, which, usually I wake up, I make a cup of tea and I start painting. And seven hours later when I’m starving I go to make something quick and come back. But today I did take some free time and I went to the Norman Rockwell museum. Which is only 40 minutes from where I live. I wanted to have some time with a friend and it was just the best afternoon. Lots of amazing conversation, laughs. When I do something like that I want to get out of my realm. Norman Rockwell is completely out of my bubble. Looking at the paint is very inspiring. But even in my free time I really prefer it to be something that’s going to inspire me. When I left there I was like, I gotta go home to paint! I gotta get out of here. My friend said, “you don’t wanna get a bite to eat?” I said... no, I’m just gonna go home and paint, dude. At that point I was just so inspired that I needed to paint. When you start a new piece how do you come up with the concept? It depends, I’m an avid reader, I really like to read. One of my pieces (with the cat) was based on The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. After I read that, certain images from that book stuck with me and I was looking for something to do that was relaxing for fun. And I had the moment of my life the other day when he retweeted that. Total fan girl moment! I was like... oh my god! oh my god! It was amazing. The newer stuff, the weird hairy creatures. Those are really personal. When it’s something personal I don’t feel a sense of trying to convey a narrative. It’s more about capturing what I’m feeling. The illustration on the home page of your website... what’s the story with this bird pouring tea? The hands are actually hair! Which is so weird... I wanted something on my website to immediately show this is the kind of stuff that you’re going to see. It’s a visual

representation of almost my personality. Well... hello! (laughs) Yeeeessss... come in. It just somehow embodied exactly what I wanted when people first see my website. Like... yeeeessss, goooood, come in...hellllllo. It’s weird, man. It’s weird and it’s creepy, and I feel like on the inside I look like a very nice, regular person, but I think I might just be a creep. I might just be this huge creep! I don’t know... (laughs) Within the realm of possibility that I’m a total creep... I wouldn’t say my stuff is scary, but I like creatures that look a little bit pathetic that you automatically have a little bit of empathy for. I drew a cat smoking a cigarette in this robe and he’s all disheveled and I just love that piece because I just think more than anything I’m the type of person that I can really relate to any human being. If you act like a total asshole to me, I’m more often than not thinking maybe that person is having a bad day. To me, I feel for that. The sense of empathy. Animals to me, it’s this relationship between you and another creature that is void of all bullshit, really. It is what it is. It’s a very pure relationship. It IS a very pure relationship. I feel such empathy for animals. A lot of the stuff I do, I want them to be seen in a more human kind of light. A lot of people think, it’s just an animal, it’s just a dog. To me, that point of view is insane. It’s another creature that is living the same as you. I think that’s why I like to portray them with human qualities because to me that’s almost how they are. Someone was like, “draw a sheep drinking champagne”. It was the easiest thing I had to do. I knew exactly how it would look: pictured the crossed legs and the pointy little feet. As a child, I wasn’t one of those girls that played with dolls at all, I loved animals. I always had stuffed animals, but in my mind they had these insane personalities that in my mind were just as alive. What was the thought process behind the image on the cover - “Moments Like This”? I think with that one I wanted to do more of a narrative with these creatures. The series before that it was just single ones in a frame. I kind of wanted a moment to

be happening, some interaction going on. I actually have that one framed, because I like how it came out. It was from a drawing first. I did the drawing in my sketchbook months ago, and then I thought ... I’m gonna color that and see what happens. It had a lot to do with personal relationships, it’s a moment between two people that just happens. I wanted them to feel a little bit more human, see them interacting with each other. It’s weird because sometimes when I look at it, I can’t tell which one of them is handing it to the other one. Are they holding it together? Is one giving it back? It doesn’t read clearly to me after I made it, and I think that’s what I like about it. It’s a moment that’s powerful but still a little bit vague. Let’s talk about your personal work Curious Creatures. When I first saw these I was sitting there, trying to figure out what’s going on... That series I had in my December gallery show at the Argyle Gallery in Troy, NY. I know it looks that way, but I meant for that liquid to be almost like a life force. It’s supposed to be just life in general. The idea of life. It’s something we all strive for, inescapable wanting that we all have - life that we want for ourselves. That series came out of my own frustrations. You put in all this time and money into this life that you think you’re going to have and it always ends up looking a little bit differently. Having a day job that really has nothing to do with the goals that I’ve set for myself as an artist, and it’s just this frustration of having to go every day and do this in order to just maintain the normal needs - food, shelter, bills... that sort of thing. But at the same time there’s this desire to grow, push through it. It’s a struggle that we all have. We all have this idealized sense of self, and it’s whether or not we can reach that. We always have to mind the gap. This is your life as you think it is, and this is your life as it actually is. It’s all about that balance that you have to find to maintain a sense of happiness. And sometimes it’s not about your job, sometimes you just have to find whatever it is that makes you happy. For me, it’s very much being able to express myself artistically. A lot of my work starts with an emotion and then it just goes. Once you make it, it’s alive

on its own, it’s no longer this set thing. When you start a new piece do you envision exactly what you want it to look like? And if you do, do you follow that vision or do you start on a piece and then progress as it goes? It’s a combination of the two. It starts with a sketch, just graphite on paper. I don’t know what elements will be in the background or what’s going to be interacting with the figure. I come up with the positioning of the figure the way I want it. Sometimes I know how I want it to be, but I don’t know what colors, or how it’s going to feel. I scan that in and look at it. What’s the emotion, the feeling... and that’s how I pick my color palette. After that it’s just scanning in textures or rendering on top of that. Sometimes I really have no idea what it’s going to look like, I just know how it’s supposed to feel for me. Sometimes it’s very easy and quick, and sometimes it’s not. The red image took me a week, I made a bunch of different edits to it and I really couldn’t figure it out. It was very frustrating. At one point I thought “I’m gonna scrap this.” And then I thought, alright, I’ll give it one more day. Eight hours later I came over that hump and I could see it, and now it could be something. I love all of your pieces with insects. And I don’t like insects. I’m deadly afraid of them all. But the way you see them, is the way I would prefer they actually looked in real life. They look much cooler and a lot less frightening. That was for the noir story about gangster birds. In my mind, if birds had electricity it would be lightening bugs, obviously. But they would have characters too, personalities. They would be like... “ugh... going to work...” They would walk into their day job at night to give light to these birds. I made up a whole sheet of them. Some of them liked it, they had different colors and it was more like a rave. And then others were obviously like.. “get me the fuck outta here. I just wanna go home and do my own thing”. (laughs) What do you think they went home to? It would be like any job, you know? Who

wants to do THAT? You just wanna do what you’re passionate about. It’s like working in a factory, you come in, you punch your time card and then you just count the hours until you can leave. But some of the bugs were excited about it. They were like... “yeah let’s create the mood for these birds!”. I did a whole little bird bar, little nightclub. All the furniture was made out of sticks. I actually looked at a lot of pictures from the 20’s - swing dancing, the Charleston. The Charleston! I watched videos of people doing the Charleston so that I could create the positions for my birds. What would this bird look like, if they were doing the Charleston? It was a lot of fun to work on. When you’re attracted to certain elements, especially with colors - there is so much emotion tied into a single color. Sometimes when I’m in post processing, I have to mess around with the color palette until it feels like it belongs. When I can look at an image and say - yes, this is done. Everything has to feel right, the mood, the setting, the light. With that being said, what is your favorite color? Purple! I like that cool, purple-ish blue. It’s funny, I pulled up a portfolio sample for someone the other day and I realized ..WOW! I stick to the same color palette for sure. I was with a group of artists and we were talking about how difficult the color green is. How challenging the color green is to use. And I pulled up my portfolio sample and there is no green. Anywhere. Someone said “you’re really going for that blue purple thing, aren’t you?”. And I was like... yes I am! At this point it’s my style and that’s that. Not that I couldn’t do other things, but if it’s going to be my personal work... What are your goals for the year? I’m working on developing my own children’s app, that’s my biggest side project. Other than that, just working on my personal work, have it showing in a gallery. Do you have any advice for artists who are looking to get into illustration? From your personal experiences and struggles, what would you say to someone just getting started on the path of creating a portfolio

and finding that happy place? The thing that was most helpful for me was not so much as someone telling you, for example in photography “what camera are you using?”. A lot of people look at Photoshop and it’s this giant program and the capabilities are almost endless at this point. People may ask you “what brushes are you using?” or “what are you doing?”. The thing that helped me the most was just watching. I was lucky enough to have teachers that would just show a tutorial and they would just talk to us. It would be a group talk and while this was happening, they would just be painting. And if you had a specific question like “how did you do that?”, then they would show you. But you can use the same brush, the same technique.. but you really have to find your own voice in it. It’s a tool like anything else, it just takes you putting in the time to realize that this is how it works and this is how I’m going to use it for me. People make the mistake of thinking that it’s digital and it’s different. People ask me all the time “what filter did you use for that?” And I tell them that I don’t use a filter. I painted that the same way you took a paint brush and did your painting. I painted it the same way. With digital there is certainly the luxury of when you’re unsure about something, you can put it on a different layer, but you have to figure out what the tool is capable of and how you’re going to use it to speak with your own voice. As far as the portfolio, I would say - everything you make isn’t gold. It doesn’t matter if you spend a million hours on something, you have to be willing to throw it away. It might just not work with everything else. You have to decide what the themes are in your work and what’s going to make it the strongest. You have to have your portfolio be a visual representation of what it is that you want people to see about you, about your art, anything. Everything that you’ve made since you were five probably isn’t worth including. Just knowing what’s good and what’s not, and just really being honest with yourself. What is it that I’m trying to say? All these pieces are really saying it. Right, and also - what you’re trying to attract. When people look at your portfolio they know what to expect. If

you’re showing work that you’re not really wanting to attract, then you’re trying to attract the wrong thing without even really trying. Exactly. You can have an amazing piece of art, but if you hated making it... Essentially, this is the kind of clientele that you want to attract. You want your work to speak for you. Even if it’s the best piece that you have, if you really hated it, what’s the sense? You have to know yourself and what your goals are. That’s what I go by. Everybody is different and have different motivations. But for me, this is what I love to do and I loved making every one of those pieces, so that’s what I’m putting out there because that’s what I want to get back. It’s the kind of work that I want. And honestly, just working your fucking ass off. It’s like anything else. Just because it’s art, it’s working for what you love. Just feel lucky that you have the talent and the balls to do it. (laughs) I mean, it’s SCARY trying to be an artist. If you’re out there trying to make it, I feel like you should already give yourself a pat on the back. It’s paramount to support yourself and not really rely on others as much. Wouldn’t you agree? You have to have that draw, you have to believe in yourself and you will attract others who also believe in you and see your vision. It’s like keeping yourself in check slash acknowledging your own achievements. I mean, you’re not shitting glitter. Everything you make isn’t the most amazing thing ever just because you thought of it. It’s knowing things that aren’t successful and figuring out why and then just moving on from that. You don’t have to harp on things, you don’t have to beat yourself up. Knowing that you’re just growing every single day from every single thing that you make - it’s only going to get better. People can be very discouraging of art, that’s just been my experience. And sometimes, maybe they don’t know what they’re talking about. If that’s what you want to do, then do it. Why not? IG @n.e.e.n

Funky Fresh


Renegade of Rhyme The Life and Times of MC

RYANITO aka RAYO words & interview by Lori Ortega photography by Lena Hart Magazine




december 2014

When was the last time that you tried to put a puzzle together? Did you pour out the pieces, sift through the rubble, and try to group some like colors together in hopes of organizing the chaos into something that looks like the picture on the box cover? What happens when you invest the time and deal with the frustrations? With a little organization you can fit all the components together and reveal the image that you were seeking. Well that’s what we’ve done here with Ryanito, he’s a human puzzle. He’s an astounding figure with a few cracks, a few breaks, but when assembled, reveals a masterful image. There are many pieces required in the total construction of Ryanito as both a person and performer. He is a multi faceted, multi dimensional, multi talented charmer who is one of the hardest working people in the industry. He writes his own lyrics, produces his own unique beats, markets and promotes himself! He has worked vigorously to create a sound as refreshing as a hard cider on a hot day; he’s crisp, sweet and will leave you punch drunk off a higher content level of music. This ridiculously busy man recently found some time to sit with me for an interview where I was able to dissect the many parts of him. After a short conversation, I was able to gain a better understanding of him as an artist. I can see why it’s so easy to be drawn to him... He is enticing and charismatic but overall, phenomenally talented, dedicated and focused on producing quality music to withstand the test of time. Phase One: Sort and Separate So what are we looking at? Who is Ryanito? When attacking this complex Ryanito puzzle you must consider a game plan. First step; sort through the information and separate fact from fiction. Ryan Larrañaga was born on November 2nd, 1986 in Rockville, Maryland. Musical ability is an element composed within his genetic makeup; a gene passed down from both parents and distributed equally among he and his brother. Ryan discovered his inherent ability to sing at a very young age while driving around and singing to oldies with his father. Encouraged by his parents, grandparents and friends he developed his vocal skills. Soon after, he began writing his own poetry, and when those words were partnered with a beat, they turned into songs. At age 19, Ryan’s father moved to Florida, he remained in Maryland where he began a very valuable street education. Headed for a life that might have ended quickly, or without meaning, he changed his focus and escaped into his music. In 2007, with the introduction to DJ Carnage, his musical education began. His first artistic achievements with DJ Carnage pushed him further down the music making rabbit hole and Ryan realized that his talents,

when cultivated, can truly lead to success. That same year, Ryan recorded two songs on his own and began working on a concept for a full length album. In 2009, eager to create and develop his own sound he changed his geographical location and moved to Florida. With his new location, new perspective, and fresh outlook, he became receptive to the Sarasota music scene. Moving to Florida might have been one of the best things that he could have done for himself and here is why... Phase Two: Fitting the Pieces Together Ryan is a lyricist, music enthusiast, and a radio host. Since music is such an important component to completing this puzzle, I asked him to select a song with which he might identify. Hoping to gain some insights to the interworkings of this mastermind, I used the song as a structural foundation for my interview. I picked apart the lyrics and created a guideline that would facilitate a deeper understanding. The conversation helped unlock quite a few secrets of his being. Lori Ortega: How do you identify with the song One Mic by Nas?? Ryanito: To me, it’s the tale of an MC and everything that he sees around him... a grasp of reality and identifying it in a song. I connect personally with many lyrics. It’s one of the best songs... best perspective from an MC. When did you realize that you wanted to be a singer/song writer/ lyricist? Well, that goes all the way back to Parkway Elementary School. I was in music classes, took chorus, and also took a course on the violin. I was hanging around a bunch of friends as well; they all played the guitar. We hung out, wrote some songs... In the 5th grade I used to sing the Beatles in front of my whole class with the accompaniment of one of my friends playing an instrument. So that was the first time that I realized that I liked writing songs and music in general. I basically wrote lyrics and realized that I had an ability to put words to music. In the song, “One Mic,” Nas says, “All I need is one blunt, one page, and one pen…”

What is your current method for song writing? What inspires your creativity? To be honest, everything that he listed in there is exactly how I feel about that. To me, the spark of inspiration comes from the simplest things... When I write songs it’s typically based on one moment in time, one thought or one experience that I’ve had... and it kind of snowballs into an avalanche affect, and lyrics just start pouring out. In the song, “One Mic,” Nas says, “All I need is One Mic, One beat, One stage…” What does it feel like to perform your music before a crowd and to be on stage? You know, I kind of have a different outlook than a couple other performers that I’ve dealt with. When I get on stage, not only do I give my all, but I kind of black out. And when I say blackout it’s not like I pass out and fall down, but I just exert so much energy and adrenaline, that by the time I’ve done the music and people are clapping, I don’t even remember giving the performance. I go into a different dimension... It is so many mixed emotions in a short period of time, in one setting. Exhilarating is a good way to put it. I’ve been doing performances in front of people for a long time, since I was 7, 8 years old... I was the lead a couple school plays, did talent shows going through school... The stage fright or the nervousness behind performing exists, but I feel like I put that on the back burner and I just continue to push the music out as well as I can. In a previous interview, you allude to the fact that music saved you; that it has helped to turn your life around. At what point did you realize that music was the saving grace; that music was going to be the positive force in your life? Throughout my life music has always been a positive influence. It makes your day to day reality that much better. It’s another one of those simple things in life that you can use to kind of escape reality for a second and really go into a whole different universe. I will give credit to my dad on this one because growing up he influenced me musically. We would ride in his Chevy van,

back in the early 90’s listening to the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel... so many different arrays of music... We’d be riding in his van and he’d turn down the music real quick to see how we were singing, me and my brother. So, how music has saved me, no matter the negativity that you go though in life, and the things that may happen, the situations that you may be in, or even negative influences around you... I’ve always felt that no matter what, I can put my headphones on and everything is cool.

industry and the music business. The music industry, to me... is this entity that has existed for many years that consists of record labels, CEO’s, and A&R people that are basically plugged into the mainstream. The music business... myself, I’m an independent artist. I’ve had to do all the things that record labels do for you as an artist on my own. The main strategy at this point is to make sure that my paperwork, copy rights, trade marks, everything that exists legally for this avenue is 100% correct.

Without music, do you think that you would have headed down the “wrong path”?

For me starting from the ground up, strategizing how much money I need to spend, planning my next move, and ensuring that I’m taking the right steps is my strategy. Basically be aware of how others became successful in the independent lane before me, making the right decisions, and making sure that everything that I do is 100% me, that nobody owns what I have.

Yeah, absolutely... speaking about some of those negative influences, there were friends of mine, people around me that encouraged my music but at the same time their lives were in a negative fashion, getting into the wrong thing, selling drugs... gangs... all kinds of stuff. And even though I was exposed to that, being around those people, they always encouraged the fact that I was talented and told me to take the right path, to follow my dreams, and to pursue my passion. I feel like if I hadn’t taken the music seriously, that I could have easily been on a different path, which in a lot of aspects I was... I was in with a group of people, that most would consider an east coast gang... I started to get mixed in with the drama of that lifestyle and the things in that lifestyle that turns you into, what I consider a monster. If I hadn’t taken the advice of one of my O.G. friends that was a ranking gang official, and follow my dream, I would be on the same path that he is. He’s locked up for probably the next 7 years... I lived that way and lost a lot of people in my life that meant something to me because of the fact that I was involved in that lifestyle. In the song, “One Mic,” there’s a part where Nas suggests that he might have gotten a second chance. He says, “It could be that my time is up, but my luck I got up…” Do you feel that you’ve been offered a second chance? I feel like, where I just was - a second chance. A resurrection, revival, renaissance, of a person comes when you’re kind of at your lowest point. The music and the writing helped me identify and articulate the world that was going on around me. It was also, to me, a therapy that existed by me taking my thoughts from my brain and formulating them into lyrics. No matter any time I hear lyrics that I’ve written, no matter how old… I can identify with what was going on in my life at that time. That’s definitely a second chance scenario, where without that ability to create you would take your frustrations and negativities and put them into other forms. Do you feel that there is a strategy required to be successful in this industry? If so, what is your plan of attack? Being in both radio and music, it gives me a good perspective of both sides of the playing field. As a radio host, I am exposed to a multitude of people that want to become successful in the music business. Now there’s a difference between the music

There’s a part in the song where Nas says, “All I need is One Mic, Fuck cash...” although it can buy things, do you think that money can buy happiness? Do you feel that money is the best gauge for success? I believe that money is a necessary evil. If you know the history of money, to me, it’s a device of control. People thoughout history, and in modern society, have become slaves to it. Money controls and brings about negativity in a lot of aspects, but at the same time, like I said, it’s a necessary evil. You need money to be successful in some aspect, now as far as it brining happiness... No, I don’t think so. I think that when I’ve had the least amount of money, I’ve been the most happy. Success is harder to define through monetary value. To me, success is a personal growth... I mean I can think where I’ve started with music, which was with a lap top, a pen microphone in my bathroom, in Frederick, Maryland. To being a radio show host and what I consider a seasoned MC, gaining the knowledge and understand of the reality around you. To me, success is knowledge... Nas is a perfect example of that... Nas is one of the best, most successful MC’s that has ever existed, but it’s not based on his net worth. Nas references loyalty to his, “hood,” and says, “I’ma rep to the death of it…” You have lived in both Maryland and Florida, how do those areas differ? How did both locations influence you musically? I like to say that Maryland “raised” me and Florida “made” me. I learned all my motor skills and influences from music while living in Maryland for 22 years. I’ve lived in Florida for about six. Maryland gave me the ability to be around friends and other influences that gave me the perspective and ability to articulate what my experiences were into music. I didn’t take music 100% seriously until maybe a year before I moved to Florida. I was dealing with DJ Carnage, who is a couple of years younger than me... now he’s a major EDM DJ, performing for over 50 thousand people a night and had major successes. But he was the first DJ that recorded me and put me in a class

december 2014

of artists that made me realize that things were really possible. That you can become famous and successful from doing it if you have the talent and the drive to match. It doesn’t just take talent. You can be the best MC in the world, but if you don’t have the will, the network, or the connections, then you’re not really making any moves. Where is “home” for you now? Sarasota is definitely my home. I used to come down here and visit when I lived in Maryland. It was my summer vacation place. I knew that sun the breeze, the temperature, the beach, that kind of calmness that Sarasota brought to my life, which was different from the city was what I needed. The people here are different, there’s a huge melting pot here that I wasn’t necessarily exposed to up north. There’s a different mind frame and way of living down here. Sarasota really brought me peace in a lot of ways. I went from vacationing here to vacationing every day. How would you explain the music culture within the Sarasota community? Sarasota has more talent concentrated in one single place, than I’ve ever seen anywhere. That’s why I have my radio show... so that I can showcase that talent and make people realize that there really is a social and cultural uprising that is coming out of this area. For me, it’s like the east coast Hollywood... I mean it’s not as big as Hollywood, it doesn’t have the same population by any means, but the amount of great MC’s that I’ve met here in a short amount of time like Shorty-140

being one of my number ones, my buddy Yungn, Slim Figga, a couple cats on the mixtape. I mean me and Cellus, reached out to these people because we listened to their music. I’m a lyricist on my own but when I can hear somebody else that can match or describe things in a way that I find to be interesting or appealing, then I consider them great MC’s. Some of these guys are really, really talented! They’ve done some major feats. I feel that southwest Florida is a market that is on the rise, people are going to start to realize that this is the hub. Sarasota in the next five years is going to be a Metropolis where there’s going to be a huge hip hop and music scene. The underground scene is pretty decent, the concentration of good music and the Sarasota culture in general... You have the Sarasota film festival, you have STARRIZER, which is an up and coming company, a new music platform like iTunes or Google and its headquarters is in Sarasota. People are starting to see that Sarasota is a diamond in the rough... I feel like I’m on the forefront of that and that’s another reason why I have the radio show, to bring those things to light, because I don’t feel like anyone in this area is doing it. It seems like your music career really blossomed in Florida after meeting DJ Purfiya, Shorty-140, and TyMoney; how did those relationships help develop your music career? When I first came down here I realized that there is a lot of talent everywhere.... and not to count out anybody because they’re not like me or similar to me. But when I first came down here and started exploring the club music scene, I fell in love

with the Florida club atmosphere. I walked into a club one night and I heard this DJ, DJ Purfiya, playing all this great southern music and I fell in love with some of the movements down here, like the Jook movement, which is like a Florida dance type of music. When I first heard of DJ Purfiya, I thought that he was just a regular DJ, but he’s had over 300 mixed tapes, he’s had collaborations with some of the biggest southern artists and a multitude of ma jor artists that have done something in the industry, artists that have come from the south and worldwide. I met him in a club one night, so I gave him a CD. And he was like, “I really like your music, I would really like to get you involved in what I got going on...” Then I was featured on his World Wide Hustling Mix Tapes, Volumes 1-21, which hit all these ma jor markets. Thanks to him I realized that I had come into the music scene down here and stepped up, like 100% after meeting him. Purfiya gave me the motivation to continue making songs. He helped me realize that there was an

avenue that I could take. During the time I met Purfiya, I set up my birthday bash in 2011, and he brought some of the best artists in the area... Sota, Yungn, Shorty-140, Bonez. That’s also when I was introduced to TyMoney, who was affiliated with Shorty-140, which was Money Makers Entertainment (MME). From MME, I met Shorty and as soon as I saw him perform on stage for the first time I realized that he was the real deal! Shorty was 19, at the time but I realized this kid had something going for him. Just meeting him and realizing how serious he was, how passionate he was about the music, made me want to be affiliated with him as much as I possibly could! MME, which was TyMoney and Shorty’s label at the time, they were doing ma jor moves; they were opening up for a lot of ma jor artists. I saw myself being part of their whole entity. They knew me as an artist, but a lot of people didn’t realize that I’m extremely business oriented, so I started attending

meetings with them and getting a feel for a company. Through that we gained so many connections, it was like a melding of the minds. We were successful with that, until about 2013, when Money Makers Entertainment split and did their own things. Shorty went off and continued to do his independent stuff, and I just have remained side by side with him. I realized that he’s never gonna stop his grind... his hustle, no matter what’s going on, and he works without any fault, so that’s kind of where I’m at now. The verse, “Writing names on my hollow tips, plotting shit…” really stands out to me… What type of projects are you working on? What moves are you “plotting” for the music industry? Plotting my next move is doing what I can to stand out and be unique compared to everybody else is the game. Plotting my next move is encompassing what I feel is great poetry and MC with styles of the past. I don’t think that I sound like anybody, I mean I think I’m unique, but at

I feel like, where I just was - a second chance. A resurrection, revival, renaissance, of a person comes when you’re kind of at your lowest point. The music and the writing helped me identify and articulate the world that was going on around me. It was also, to me, a therapy that existed by me taking my thoughts from my brain and formulating them into lyrics. No matter any time I hear lyrics that I’ve written, no matter how old… I can identify with what was going on in my life at that time. That’s definitely a second chance scenario, where without that ability to create you would take your frustrations and negativities and put them into other forms. - Ryanito the same time you gotta remember what made you, what inspired you to be where you’re at. I’m always trying to find those songs, those instrumentals, that are completely different from anything that anyone’s ever heard and continuing to make songs to the best of my ability that stand out. That is always my plot; you gotta have the product first! If you don’t have the music, then none of this matters. So my plot is to continue to improve as fast as I can. I made a resolution to make one song a week. What I’m doing is, I’ll write a song, and then I will go over it, and over it, and over it until I feel like it’s at its highest potential, then I’ll record it. I wanna make every song count basically… my resolution and my plot is to continue to improve; to make and achieve goals. Are you collaborating with any new, special talents? Well, like I said, Shorty-140 is at my house once or twice a week and the kid is amazing! He can make a song in like 6 minutes. I mean a whole song! He inspired me to think and act the same way. I have a whole list of collaborations with a multitude of artists but it’s all about the timing and getting them in; working with their schedules and my schedule, stuff like that. From the mixtape, I’ve reached out to people like Coley Cole, Awar, Cliz, Eman, obviously Shorty-140. I have this song that isn’t completely finished yet, it’s a song that I did with a friend of mine, whose name is Monteasy. He’s a lyricist from New York but he’s lived in Florida most of his life. Originally, when I heard this tack that he sent me, it was just the instrumental, when I heard the track I literally wrote my 16 bars in less than a minute because it was just one of those instrumentals that captured what I was trying to make. It was something completely different than what you would hear. Hopefully that track will be completed in the next few days. When the song comes out, people are going to know... it’s a whole new mantra, a whole different vibe.

What big things can we expect from you personally in the next few months? I’m in the process of negotiating and recording my LP. I just released my Red Tiger EP, which was kind of a forced project because I’ve been sitting on it for the last year and really wanted to come out with a strong EP. It’s something that nobody’s heard before. I feel like that was a marker in time that I wasn’t going to go back to. There are 8 tracks on the EP. Seven of those tracks were recorded over a year ago. The very last track, the one that’s featured on DJ Cellus’ Funky Fresh mixtape, shows the next step that I’m taking. I already feel like I was way ahead in the future, I released that EP because I just wanted to get it out there and start working on my LP. My LP, will hopefully be recording with a live band. My greatest hope is to be in a live performance and not just have the music play behind me. I would rather have live instruments play with me which would bring the energy back to the crowd. What I want to accomplish is to bring a new aspect of everything but to also include that live instrumentation, to really give a feel of how my soul is with music. The LP is going to be coming out by the end of the year. Funky Fresh Magazine, obviously, is also something that I want to put 100% of my effort into because I feel like it’s such a great concept. People really need to come back to the roots of hip hop and understand what made this culture what it is. At this point in time, within music, we’ve lost sight. It’s time for hip hop to have a resurrection. Time to have a cultural uprising that is undeniable... you know Funky Fresh magazine! There’s also a promo tour with Shorty-140, some ma jor moves happening with the radio. Hopefully after a couple of these labels hear what’s going on, they’re gonna understand that I’m a force to be reckoned with; the moves never stop.

not it. He is also romantic, passionate, articulate, energetic, hard working, an ever evolving lover of his craft, business man, and entrepreneur. Unfortunately, he’s not a puzzle… he’s an optical illusion! Ryanito the only thing constant in the music business; he is the glue trying to solidify the jigsaw that is the music industry! With the support from his family, his good friend Shorty-140, and inspiration from DJ Cellus, he will continue to improve as both a person and a musical artist. Ryanito told me, “I always want to improve, I always want to figure out new ways to write, new concepts. But this year is about performance... and how I sound live. I’m just constantly trying to hone my craft and to improve on my delivery. To me it’s about mind body and spirit. My spirit has always been there, my mind has been a battle, but once you encompass all three and have that balance, anything can be achieved.” Ryan’s talents are endless; he will continue to push new boundaries and grow in every aspect of the word. I love encountering artists like him; people that love what they do; a person that is full of surprises. He has dedicated his life to making music and pursuing his dreams all while staying true to himself. He is uncompromising when it comes to producing the highest caliber of his trademark sound. Ryan left a familiar life in Maryland in order to search out his talents in Sarasota. He found peace, stepped up his own game, and is coming out hard pressed against the competition. He will be doing some very big things in the next few months including an independently funded US tour with Shorty-140. This will be a 6 month tour in which they hope to hit 65-70 US cities. He will be releasing a full length LP as well as collaborating on new projects with the hottest artists in the industry. I am so excited to watch the career of this brilliant lyricist develop and I anticipate a show in my local area.

Phase Three: The Big Picture Lori: When you take a step back and look at the individual ingredients required to compose this enigmatic character, they appear to be; son, brother, lyricist, performer, and radio show host. But that’s FB RyanitoAkaRayo TW&IG @RyanitoAkaRayo


On Letting Go


by Anne LaClair As an artist, I’ve discovered that one of the most important things a person can do during the art-making process is to become unattached. Sure, having a game plan before starting a piece is cool and all, but what if it doesn’t go as planned? Are you open to embracing trial and error, as well as finding beauty & possibility in mistakes? Or will you feel defeated right from the very start?

Once we realize that all we have is right now, our regrets and fears can no longer conquer us. We can finally praise ourselves and others for the amount of growth we have made in our lives. We can do what we are truly compelled to do, and say goodbye to any limitations we might’ve perceived prior to letting go. We can be grateful for every day, every loving relationship, and every trace of beauty that surrounds us. What better way to find artistic inspiration than to be fully awake?

I was delighted when my painting reached millions – not because I made it, but because people reacted the way I had hoped they would: they connected with that revolutionary feeling once more.

On Le Fight Club

Take the World by the…

I know I’m breaking Rule #1 here, but I need to mention Chuck Palahniuk [author of Fight Club] and his impact on the world. Not only is he a badass – and a hauntingly talented writer – but he’s also someone whose writing often embodies one crucial theme: how to really live.

That feeling we get from Fight Club and other sublime works of literature & film doesn’t have to fade away. You can take this feeling and keep it with you always.

It all relates to perception. After suffering from depression for many years and more recently, issues from a traumatic incident, I began to apply questions like these on a much grander scale: to life itself. I reached a point where I felt like my slate had been wiped clean; like I had risen from the ashes of a former life. For the first time, I was able to view life as it is; not how I had been shaped to view it.

The Meaning of “Life” Enter Earth, go to school, go to college, vote, get a career, make money, get married, have kids, get a house, retire, croak. Above is the freakishly linear & predictable pattern many of us feel obliged to follow here in America. As a nation, we are extremely future-oriented; a goal always needs to be set and accomplished, or we fail. We want more, bigger, better, faster. We also believe that if we work hard now, we can rest later. We go to jobs we don’t like to afford things we don’t need. By spending so much time getting caught up in day to day drama as well as obsessing about our own personal pasts and futures, we’re missing out on our ability to notice the infinite potential behind each new moment: for change, for creativity, and for contentment. We can’t decide what we want to do because we’re concentrating on what we think we should do. What if we realized that a lot of the things we worry about are only distractions – illusions, even? What if we truly understood that the future is not guaranteed, or that we might die tomorrow? Maybe we would finally slow down a little, make some much-needed changes, and ask ourselves: “What do I want to do with my life today?” “In the end, the treasure of life is missed by those who hold on and gained by those who let go.” – Lao Tzu

left). In it, I tried to capture the beautiful stillness and serenity of that particular night shared by Durden and the narrator. But I also hoped to broadcast the ever important quote about how true freedom will come when all notions are released. That’s what I was going through at the time.

In Fight Club, Palahniuk’s tale of an average Joe’s existential blossoming is a story that has inspired the masses since its release in the late 90s. Whether we escape by reading the book or watching the film, we come back to Earth feeling like nothing can get in our way. There’s a good reason why Fight Club still appeals to the hearts of many, even after almost twenty years: people are ready for a paradigm shift. Although our dysfunctional news sources here in the US don’t have much to say about it, there are massive revolutions taking place all over the world – almost on a daily basis. The ma jority of the world is fed up: with inhuman workloads, with inequality, with injustice & greed. With irrational societal expectations.

My advice to you is this: Do what you love to do – often – and you’ll always feel alive. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Know that you are an artist, no matter your trade. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself: “What is not art?” On a similar note: if you want to be a visual artist, make just one painting that you’re passionate about and then no one – including yourself – can say that you’re not an artist. If there’s something about your life that’s causing you unhappiness, start changing it today. And lastly, realize that every new second is also a new chance to start again.

Each country has their own unique struggle, but all of us seem to be on the same page: we want truth, and we want change. No more bullshit. Change, however, will come more quickly if we first begin to transform ourselves. As we individuals make the shift, the world will follow suit. “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” – Tyler Durden I created a Fight Club painting back around late 2013 which was later shared by the official Fight Club Facebook (see

For comments and inquiries about art, or if you’d like to know about how I became depression-free through diet and mindset,


CORY DEWALD interview by Lena Hart

Camera around my neck. Two charged camera batteries. Tripod under the seat. 2 lenses in my bag. Gas in the tank. And I’d basically just go get lost for several hours arbitrarily turning left here or right there until I saw a compelling scene that I wanted to shoot or met someone interesting. -Cory Dewald Magazine




I’ve gotten to work with some of my favorite artists and shoot for some big publications which has been incredible. Photographing people whose music helped shape my thoughts and views on the world growing up has been one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do in my professional career. -Cory Dewald

It’s not unusual for a photographer to stalk, I mean, scout. Especially if you also happen to run a magazine focusing on promoting artists and their adventures. Full disclosure, I stalk and scout and send out random emails to people in hopes of making interesting connections and adventures almost every day.

grab me until about 7 years ago. Today I am jet-lagged in Seattle printing and framing photos for an exhibition of photographs captured on my recent 4 month trip through Europe and Asia.

What compels you to create? My Cory Dewald stalking was no recent event, however. I’ve been admiring his work for some time now, swooning over the opportunities he has created as an artist and a wanderluster. To break it down: 1. he gets to shoot a lot of my favorite music artists 2. he gets to travel the world while photographing his adventures 3. he is also a super nice dude When Cory responded to my invitation to the Funky Fresh family with an enthusiastic “HELL YEAH” (that is, at least, how I read it), I knew that this story will definitely be one of the highlights of this issue. Cory is one of those people who makes you feel good about having a conversation. A free spirit with a true love and appreciation for planet Earth and humanity. As of most recent, Cory came back from a 4 month travel adventure to Italy, Prague, France, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. I was lucky enough to catch this man shortly after his arrival back to the states to grab a few words and flicks to share his story with you, which I have a feeling will also leave you in love and complete envy. And if you’re in or near Seattle, make sure to stop by the CMD & P Gallery at 201 Yesler Way in Seattle, WA between April 2nd and May 2nd, 2015 to see Cory’s exhibition - One More Day, essentially, a backstage pass to how he ended up wandering in cities for weeks that he expected to only last one or two days. Lena Hart: Who is Cory Dewald and where did he emerge from and where is he today?

My eyeballs. Haha. I’ve always been a very visual person. Throughout my younger years, I spent a lot of time sketching the scenes and people around me. Then came painting where things went a bit more abstract. Animating drawings and designs came next. And eventually I found photography where my creative tendencies became more about capturing unique perspectives of the world and documenting the things I enjoy in the most visually exciting way I can. On photographing music artists and events? Going to concerts has always been a big part of my life. Once I got my hands on my first decent camera, I took it to all my friends’ shows and took pics for them. And for me, I guess. Eventually, I got involved with some music blogs and publications which gave me access to bigger shows, bigger artists and for me, a lot more fun and excitement. Since then, I’ve gotten to work with some of my favorite artists and shoot for some big publications which has been incredible. Photographing people whose music helped shape my thoughts and views on the world growing up has been one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do in my professional career. On traveling and documenting? It’s hard for me to imagine a more satisfying life than traveling endlessly and sustaining those travels with a camera alone. I’m definitely not there yet, but will be pushing hard to get there in the future. Inspiration is plentiful and constantly being replenished when I’m in a new city or country every couple of days. What couldn’t you live without?

Cory Dewald: I am a photographer. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and am coming up on 9 years living in Chicago. I ma jored in printmaking in college and eventually opened that up to include painting, animation and drawing as well. Photography didn’t

Again, my eyeballs. They are pretty crucial for me to enjoy the things I’m most passionate about.

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In your opinion, are photographs meant to be displayed as art in galleries? I definitely think they have just as much business being in a gallery as paintings, sculptures, etc. Between advertising and the internet we are exposed to an absurd amount of imagery every day which can give us a tendency to scroll past incredible photos as we would a billboard on a suburban highway or a selfie on Instagram. Displaying photos in a gallery is a good reminder to people that photography can be considered, absorbed and appreciated as much as any other art form. What is photography to you? An art form, proof of existence.. or maybe something entirely different? All of the above and then some. For me, it depends on the day. Especially, since photography is how I pay my bills. Sometimes I work on jobs in which calling what I’m doing “art” is laughable for sure. Other times I’m on an adventure in search of a unique and beautiful perspective or I’m experimenting with a concept in the studio which both feel a lot more creative and playful and therefore a lot more like what I consider art. Favorite kind of light and time of day or night to shoot? There’s a very good reason the “Golden Hour” has earned that name in the photography world. I love shooting at dusk or dawn and as often as possible plan accordingly when scheduling a shoot. There’s also something really fun and peaceful about lugging a tripod to a unique location in the middle of the night and shooting long exposures while the rest of the world sleeps. You’ve recently spent 4 months traveling Europe and Asia, which you claimed to have been the wildest ride you have ever been on. Care to share stories from your adventure?

Oh man... The biggest adventure for me was the discovery of motorbikes and the freedom (and risks) that comes with them. Vietnam was the first place I really used them as a way to travel rather than just as a way to navigate a city. I strapped everything I owned to the back with bungee cords and hit the road with my camera around my neck and that was as free as I’d felt in a long time. They’re small enough that if you see something you want to shoot it’s easy to stop on a dime, pull over, and immediately be shooting some frames. And though I don’t recommend it, I would occasionally even fire off a few shots while in motion. In general it became the way that I approached going out in search of photos to shoot. Camera around my neck. Two charged camera batteries. Tripod under the seat. 2 lenses in my bag. Gas in the tank. And I’d basically just go get lost for several hours arbitrarily turning left here or right there until I saw a compelling scene that I wanted to shoot or met someone interesting. Basically it gave me access to the places off of the beaten tourist path. A good example being when I was 2 or 3 hours outside of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and I within an hour got invited to play soccer with some kids after school and then into a small lean-to shanty to eat snails and drink some homemade liquor by a sweet Vietnamese family who didn’t speak a word of English. There’s no way I could have had that experience if I’d been restricted by bus or train routes or been going on pre-packaged tours. The ‘risk” aspect came into play when I hit a nice big patch of sand on a turn in Koh Phangan, Thailand and earned myself a few souvenir scars. Luckily, the camera was not around my neck at the time. IG @corydewaldphotography




ASHJOI SOAPS interview & photography by Lena Hart



We both kinda have busy lives elsewhere, and when I think about it - it balances out. It provides an opportunity to think creative and get together and work side by side. We’re like clockwork. It’s amazing. She does the lye, I do the oil. We can work and not talk. That’s how intuitive we are. - Joy Loos It all happened somewhere between holiday shopping and the December release of the intro issue of Funky Fresh Magazine. Swamped with projects, unanswered emails, and a still yet to be scheduled photo shoot or two, I went into my typical “I need to run away, and now” mode. I woke up extra early and drove an hour northbound to the Sarasota Farmer’s Market, which from what I’ve heard is a must to check out. The combination seemed reasonable for someone who doesn’t believe in early mornings - coffee, cool shops, holiday shopping & escape from the never ending workload of the upcoming magazine release. It was on this trip when I stumbled upon Ashjoi Soaps. As I approached their stand at the market, the scents of lavender, eucalyptus and coconut oil surely lured me right over. The soaps were neatly packed in tiny little containers, imperfect in shape, yet perfect to the touch and smell. I was greeted by Ashley and we had a brief conversation about the amazing scent their tent is bringing to the market. I instantly picked out some personal favorites and grabbed a box of two for gift giving. And this is the part where I should probably confess that after trying their product, there was no way I was giving anything away. Shameful. I know. But I’m willing to put money on the fact that you would, more than likely, understand and relate to this after experiencing Ashjoi.

a Funky Fresh soap, what would it smell and look like? They had to think on this one and asked to have some time to brew up an answer. What I didn’t expect to see was a Funky Fresh soap not only looking hella funky and smelling hella fresh - but also quickly gaining the popularity of Ashjoi shoppers on the morning of my second trip back to the Sarasota Farmer’s Market to make some portraits.

Ashley: We get to be together all the time and just talk about stuff. De-stress, you know? Just spend time together.

Lena Hart: Tell us about yourselves, where did the idea to make soap come from?

What is it about soap making that sparked your interest to turn it into a business?

Ashley Baker (daughter): Well it all started when we went to LUSH at the International mall in Tampa. It was really cool to see the big blocks of soap, me and my mom were there. You could cut off a piece and just buy a certain amount. So from there, I wanted to try to make soap. I got a book on how to make soap. My mom said, “hey, this is really cool, can I help you?”

Joy: Well, the market was going down and we kinda had a family meeting and said let’s just give it a try, I mean who knows... we might make some extra money to help out.

But the coolest part of sharing this story with you guys is actually the question that never made it to the pages, but made it to the Ashjoi collection. During the interview I asked Ashley and Joy if they had to make

Ashley: I remember my mom saying “we’ll just go out there Sunday, unload, sell it, load it up and go home.” It was like... Ok... alight.

Joy Loos (mother): Can I play?! (laughs) Ashley: And I was like, yes! This is one thing I don’t know how to do, so we did it together. We made the soap and it was really fun and we got a LOT of it! I said, “I guess we can start selling it.” So we started the farmer’s market thing. Joy: It was funny because one weekend when we started we went to all the Goodwills to get the equipment. We just needed pots and stuff. How did you get your name?

After the holidays, I reached out Ashjoi on Etsy thanking them endlessly for creating a miracle soap and asking if they would be interested in a feature. Lucky me - I got to sit down to talk shop and experience their soap making process which was incredibly cool and fun.

Joy: We both kinda have busy lives elsewhere, and when I think about it - it balances out. It provides an opportunity to think creative and get together and work side by side. We both have very high energy.

Joy: Well, it was like ... what do we do? She’s Ashley, I’m Joy. So it was like, let’s just put the two names together. And then I kinda Google’d it to make sure it didn’t mean anything in another language. Nothing came back, she said “that works” and that’s how we got it. A mother and daughter team - what’s it like? what do you cherish and value the most about your personal and working relationship?

What kind of start up costs go along with the soap making business? Ashley: We had to get the essential oils, we had to pick out what scent we wanted to do, what variety. Joy: We started at the whole foods stores and then we went online and we found out that for the same price of a little container of oil, we can get a bigger container of oil. And that’s where the bulk started coming in. I remember one order of oils and stuff was like $700! What was the first time you made soap like? was it a complete disaster or was it perfection from the start? Joy: I actually think it turned out fine. We were having so much fun! Ashley: It did! The only hard part was balancing the water, the temperatures in the water. When you do a cold process you have to make sure the oils heated up

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to a certain temperature and the lye gets cold. The lye heats up when it mixes with water. It has to get cold to the exact same temperature, so that was very difficult.

be fun!

What is your work environment like? do you each have specific tasks or do you tackle everything together? do you always agree on ideas?

Ashley: We use the olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil and avocado oil. That’s the base. Then sodium, hydroxide and water. We also have our specialties - oatmeal, goat’s milk and honey with cocoa butter. That’s added on to the base ingredients. We have our specialties with extra butter and stuff. Then we have our basic line - which is just fragrance or essential oil added into the basic four.

Joy: We’re like clockwork. It’s amazing. She does the lye, I do the oil. We can work and not talk. That’s how intuitive we are. Ashley: I do all the ordering for supplies, I keep track of everything. Joy: She likes to buy things and she’s really good on the internet! Do you always agree on things when you experiment? Ashley: Sometimes not, but we work it out. We’ll make it work. Joy: Sometimes we’ll do it, and I’ll be like... “ok, you’re right” (laughs). I take my words back! This time of the year we get many people placing orders, and we’re like.. “oh, we just want to experiment”. But we have to fill the orders. I think we understand each other when it’s like you know what? I put this in my mind, and I’m gonna do it. We still want it to

What kind of ingredients do you use in your soaps?

What are some of the differences between homemade soaps and store bought soaps? Joy: Store bought soaps sometimes are not made with the oils. If you go in the store, sometimes you’ll see it doesn’t say soap, it’s a “bath bar”. It’s not made with the oils, or they use a sodium sulfate. Sometimes when they make the soaps, they put the oils in and they’ll take the glycerin off. When we go to make the soap, you’ll see the glycerin will rise. Back in the old days, they used to take that glycerin off and make hand lotion out of it. But we beat it back down and that’s probably why it’s so gentle and moisturizing. How do you come up with your scent and

color combinations and names for your soaps? Ashley: I don’t know? (laughs) We just think, this would be a good one, okay let’s do it. The names - we just play around to see what sounds good. Joy: And sometimes we’ll have someone come in and say “these are my favorite scents” or “can you make a soap with charcoal?” And we’ll go back and make it, and sometimes it’s a hit and we stick with it. We’ve gotten a lot of our ideas from customers too. How do you stabilize the longevity of the aroma in your soaps? Joy: There are two processes: the cold process and the hot process. And the hot process you add the oils in last, it doesn’t saponify. The cold process you add all the oils together, then you add the essential oil or fragrance oil and then it sits for two or three weeks and it saponifies. So it breaks down that scent. Well, we use a hot process and we add it in last and it’s not saponified, that’s why the scent is pretty strong. Ashley: Yes, and you get to use it right away.

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Do you have any specific soap product that you are most proud of? Ashley: There are a lot. Just the basic recipe, we’re proud of. We tried different ones and that one I remember I came out of the shower and I could feel the softness of my skin. And we also had to go by budget. I remember we had to pick certain oils that weren’t too expensive. Joy: Yes, the basic recipe. Because every time we go in and we try to tweak it, we come back and we say we can’t. We even went to Tarpon Springs and tried different soaps and we were like.. wow. I think we have something here. The soaps all have different properties too. Olive oil makes a very gentle soap and that’s what most of our recipe is. The coconut oil makes the lather. And then the almond oil and the avocado oil is just really good for you. We don’t use the palm oil - there are a lot of bad things that are happening to the environment from using palm oil. Ahsley: They tear down the trees the orangutans live in, it kills a lot of animals... it’s very sad. What is your soap making philosophy? Ashley: We just really like to make people

happy. We enjoy seeing them enjoy this as much as we do. It’s really fun, getting excited to do certain things and then seeing them excited. It’s just cool. Joy: It’s so nice to be able to do something that’s good for us and then turn it around and make it good for other people too. And getting to know the customers. What’s in store for this year and the future of Ashjoi? Joy: We are trying to build up our retail side of the business involving some marketing, packaging, labels and stuff like that. Our soaps are not perfect, and we don’t want to make them perfect. We just pop them out and cut them up - so they are different sizes, we want to keep it that way. So we’re just trying to figure out a package where it doesn’t have to be perfect.

added health benefits. As I sit here, looking back on the opportunity to meet these beautiful women and actually experience soap making with them, I can truly feel the enormous amount of love and joy that goes into the making of these amazing soaps. And I can truly feel the difference on my skin. No surprise there. If you would like to find Ashjoi Soaps and live in the Sarasota, Florida area - you’re only a trip away to the Sarasota Farmer’s Market. But even if you don’t live in the area, you can always find their product on Etsy, as well as a few boutiques currently carrying Ashjoi products:

Ashley: We’d love to be one day like Yankee Candle where we could have a store, carry all the different scents. Have a basic line and bring in the special items.

Grouse Studios, Baptistown, NJ Veya Fit Spa, Tampa, FL Browns Grove Farm Market, Parish, FL Sea-Renity Spa and Boutique, Bradenton Beach, FL Blue Soy Candles, Venice and Englwood Farmers Markets Picnic Rock Farms, Meradith, NH Nessential, Sarasota, FL Enchanted Sunshine, Indian Rock, FL Not Just Jane, Erdenheim, PA

Lena: And there you have it. A powerful mother and daughter duo on a mission to transform your ordinary daily bathing routine to a spa-like experience with




REDMER HOEKSTRA interview by Rachel LaClair

With pen drawings on paper that are as lifelike as other-worldly photographs, Redmer Hoekstra’s illustrations enliven the imagination, and challenge our perception of what is really going on past the exterior. His ever-expanding body of work transcends the barriers of the logical mind, and with intentions as pure as the aim to change our perspective and aid us in appreciating the magnificence of the ordinary, his visual representations of the simple brilliance of our world are making a name in the hearts, (and on the skin) of all who are fortunate enough to get a glimpse of life through Redmer’s eyes.

Rachel: Your images have been called bizarre and surreal, but somehow I find them to make perfect sense. Would you say that you like to occasionally sneak in a hidden truth or two about humanity? Something maybe about finding balance between the material and natural worlds? Redmer: I certainly like to do that, I like to make people think about the things they do [in] their lives, and sometimes to make them realize what they are doing. All I have to do is show something in a different way. It opens their eyes. We humans think we are so clever but most things we have “invented” have been thought of by Mother Nature long before us. I do think that many of the images I have made are making perfect sense. I hear that a lot. For many people to realize that, my drawings open their eyes. And when that happens every now and then, I feel bliss, that’s an amazing moment, that my work can have that effect on people. It makes me grateful and makes me hope I too can make the world itsy bitsy better. I feel a very strong connection to the images in your illustrations. I find that my mind often mixes the usual with the unusual. Would it be safe to say that you are witness to the extraordinary on a daily basis? I think that is safe to say. The extraordinary is certainly something my mind is conscious about in the everyday life. It gives me a lot of joy. I think there is much humor in the extraordinary. Also I think the more you think about something very ordinary, the more extraordinary it becomes. Like repeating a word 20 times, by the 20th time the word has become a very strange sound. To me at least. The way things work seems to be a common thread in many of your pieces, as well as the internal systems of the human body. Which are often interchanged. Is there something important to you about what goes on beneath the surface?

The hidden world, under the skin I find very fascinating. As a child I already had many fantasies and theories about these things. Making my own explanations. In my drawings this is a powerful tool to make the subject convey a certain message. To shock or to make someone laugh. I don’t say that I know how everything works, but I’d like to make the viewer think about it and not take things for granted. Something that I find to be very peaceful in observing your work, is the care that is taken in the details. In doing this mostly all by hand, do you find it to be time consuming, or does the nature of your process allow you to enjoy every part of the creation? Yes it is time-consuming. But it can give a peace of mind, kind of like in meditation. Every little detail is important and I enjoy every part of it. What can be difficult is that when an idea comes, it has to be created within a certain period. Like the idea can expire. If a drawing takes too long, or if there are many things that have to be done in between - like exhibitions, email, preparations for art fairs etc, etc. The idea has lost its energy. Then all the details can be very tedious and feel very time-consuming. Do you ever find that when you start a sketch, by the time it reaches completion, that it has taken you to a place you did not initially expect to go? Are you ever surprised at the end result, or not exactly sure how it ended up in such a different place than you originally intended? No, mostly when I am sketching, in my mind the end result is very clear. And even though it’s still a pencil drawing, in my mind I already see the finished pen drawing. Once I start with the fine liner, the end result to me is completely clear. This might sound a little strange, but when I go on your website, I scroll through all of the images, and somehow they make me feel more alive.

Every little detail is important and I enjoy every part of it. What can be difficult is that when an idea comes, it has to be created within a certain period. Like the idea can expire. If a drawing takes too long, or if there are many things that have to be done in between like exhibitions, email, preparations for art fairs etc, etc. The idea has lost its energy. Then all the details can be very tedious and feel very time-consuming. -Redmer I think that I often like to look at the world through the eyes of a child, to be open to the magic that is everywhere. Do you find any similarities to this in the way that you view the world? Completely. Children have such an open and beautiful way of observing the world. This to me is a very inspiring way of looking at the world. A sense of wonder! I think that may be the most precious of the human abilities, one we regrettably are taught not to use too much when we are becoming older. Seeing a bunch of shoes as a lion’s mane may come a little more naturally to some of us than others, do you think this type of imaginary thinking is something that we can all tap into with a little willingness to be open to it? We might, but everybody’s different. However, I can’t imagine some being born without imagination. Reactions to your work, I’m sure have been very different, (Most people in awe, I assume, at how realistic the images are.) Do you find that the reactions are often on opposite ends of the spectrum, as opposed to somewhere in the middle? Either they just don’t get it, or they really, really get it. Reactions are a wide variety. Some people get kind of sick when they are watching my work. Most people get it, they smile, they

appreciate the craftsmanship and the ideas, and then there are some people that really, really get it. Those are the people that make my day, just to see the expression on their faces. To see I have somehow touched them, somewhere deep inside. Their eyes have a kind of light in them after that. Was it a shock for you in the beginning, with the use of the internet, how many people around the world are seeing and appreciating the work that is such a personal creation? It is very awe inspiring that all around the world people are seeing my work. It blows my mind sometimes. It still does. How my work, something I like to make, connects with so many people! To a point that some people have one of my designs tattooed in to their skin! Talk to me about your minimal use of color. All of your illustrations are mostly done with pen, some have accents, and few are done entirely in color. Is this just a preference, or is there a deeper meaning in that for you?


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The basis of every drawing is black/grey. Some drawings need color to communicate better. But mostly this is a process that takes place in the subconscious, almost like the drawing tells me it needs color. I do think most of my best work is without color some with a slight hint. There is no deeper meaning behind this I think, it is just what a drawing needs.

it play with the shape, meaning. When relaxed, my mind does this automatically and immediately and it often surprises me. Sometimes I do go looking for the idea, to stare at a sewing machine and see what it will make me think of - woodpecker, in the case of the elephant this also was the case. I really went looking for the alienation.

Do you have one image that’s you’re favorite? Or is it always the creation of what’s new that’s the most exciting thing?

Is there anything you want to do with your art that you haven’t yet been able to? Do you have any dreams or aspirations of doing anything different?

There is one drawing I made in 2009 that keeps being special to me. The balding man with dandelion hair which is blowing away in the wind. Somehow this has many layers in its meaning, I like the unusual composition, I like the minimal use of color. It’s not the best-selling artwork, it’s nowhere near what people like best in my work, but I still like it. I still think it’s my best work. So when you look at, say a table fan, do you immediately see circular blades of lettuce spinning around a brain enclosed in a cage of toothpicks, or does it take some to stare at it and think about the what ifs? It depends on if I am in a state of relaxation. Stress is killing the imagination. My mind, if I let it, is always making to do lists. And that is good, for the business part of being an artist. But for the creative part of being the artist I need the mind to be playful, relaxed and indeed looking at a table fan, an orange, a shoe, guinea pig droppings and thinking about what it resembles. Let

I would very much like to make some ideas in 3D. My images look very spacious and I intentionally try to make them appear as lifelike as possible, but it would be a challenge to actually have some in 3D. I would also try to go more towards animation, but I haven’t gotten round to it yet. Do you think there will ever come a time when you won’t draw anymore? Just give it up completely and do something else? Perhaps, hopefully before my arm falls off, but for now I am very happy drawing the way I do. FB Redmer Hoekstra Art



photography by Lena Hart As the grains of sand in the hourglass fall While the pain by the hands of the hours pass all A sudden epiphany awakens One that we share, no empathy is vacant Because in that moment, we sought to fathom time But as we did, that exact moment had passed us by So how are we to truly understand this concept When the idea that came to us is now merely a memory, another concept to digest Yet the future has always been on our horizon When we look at the past, we see happiness that time deprived them. But in order to revive them, the hourglass must be flipped Can we stop time for a second? Or we can we add on a couple of minutes? Can I have time for simple pleasures? Or will I always be tied down by business? Will I finally be able to take the shot? Or will it just be another mis-hit? The pondering has me wondering if it all is a myth We go through the motions like clockwork, So does time really exist? Magazine



LZRS TXN interview by DeeJay Tone photography by Lena Hart


melody MELODY



We both came up volunteering and working in the community so we understand the impact art and music can have on people, especially young people. There are too many significant problems in society to really say one weighs in most importance. But Bottom line, people are struggling, more and more, the inequality gap is opening up like a Vivid girl’s legs. -Francis Sobotka I think it’s safe to say that hip hop is officially dead. Although Macklemore appeared to have made a sincere gesture by openly admitting that he did not deserve his ‘”Best Rap Song” Grammy, it seems the spotlight is still on him as ‘Thrift Shop” was named as one of Billboard’s best rap songs of all time. Of all time? Really? Hip hop is not what it used to be and it’s quite apparent to true MC’s. Nas told us that hip hop was dead in ’06 and Common hasn’t loved her since ’94. Today, hip hop’s messages seem to revolve around reality TV, fashion and chart rankings, based on a system that doesn’t embody the culture. Insert Lazarus Taxon. The hip hop duo have burdened themselves with the monumental task of resurrecting hip hop from the dead. WTF is a Lazarus Taxon?! Wikipedia provides the following definition: “In paleontology, a Lazarus Taxon is a taxon that disappears for one or more periods from the fossil record, only to appear again later.” The term refers to the story in the Christian biblical Gospel of John, in which Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. The same can be said for the current state of Hip Hop. The REAL Hip Hop has all but died off. But now thanks to the likes of a new acclaimed Hip Hop power duo, “Lazarus Taxon”, that real hip hop has risen from the dead. Lazarus Taxon is a producer and emcee group consisting of lyricist Francis Sobotka, & producer Evil Earn. Aside from being exceptional at using chopsticks, ( which is an art form all of itself ) they pride themselves on providing the listener a taste of that music originality, paired with a true art lover perspective, over melodic aural excursions. The worlds of rap music and high-end contemporary art—once totally separate energy systems—have collided. If you told the 14-year-old me that this would happen one day, I would have told you to “get fucked”, and I would have resumed listening to Reasonable Doubt full blast on my Walkman. I wouldn’t have believed you, and I wouldn’t have been able to imagine anything worse. In hip-hop, I’d found an art that my art-loving parents hated— and that was exactly what I wanted. For it to be any more like them would have defeated the entire purpose. I was blessed with the strange experience of being raised by artists. Through them, I came to know a little about the art world around the same time I fell in love with hip-hop. We got Artforum, Art in America, The Village Voice, and other artsy publications delivered to the house. I didn’t read them. I was busy buying bootleg DJ Clue mixtapes at Midtown Clothing on 4th Street in Downtown Troy, New York. Hip-hop was mine. Art was part of the world I wanted to escape.

Visual art is an inherent aspect of hip-hop—from graffiti to album art and music videos, there’s no shortage of brilliant works of art made within hip-hop for the hip-hop community. For that reason, many great artists, Jean-Michelle Basquiat included, have touched the culture in the handful of decades that it’s been around. Yet only recently have we seen so many references to fine art in rap music, and so many rap artists rubbing shoulders in the fine art world. Lazarus Taxon are no strangers to this concept. With their first two releases, “Anywayzer” & “The Last Metro” respectively, you can hear the byproduct of their artsy background, coupled with the eclectic indie sounds of Hip Hop. Their debut EP entitled “Side A” is out now, with a soon to be released, follow up EP titled “Side B”. I had a chance to sit down with the duo and chop(stick) it up, in regards to varying topics ranging from their upcoming release, to the current state of hip hop. Tone: Where did your group name come from, how did the two of you meet? Francis Sobotka: LZRS TXN (Lazarus Taxon) A Lazarus Taxon is a species that disappears from the fossil record close to an extinction horizon, only to reappear later. The essence of our art is described by our name. You may have thought music like this was extinct, but the realness, the flyness re-emerges. Evil Earn: We met back in 2001 through a mutual friend, and both of us had already been working on music with other people. Throughout the years since, we started working on music together here and there, but never one specific unified project. Recently we started to notice that our artistic visions were becoming more and more aligned, and slowly but surely the LZRS TXN project came together. How would you describe yourselves as artists? EE: Eclectic. Really I feel like there’s not many artistic outlets I haven’t tried. Like it doesn’t even really matter the medium, regardless I’ll use it as a way to express how I feel. We’ve always been students of the game, and have always been on the lookout for the next ill shit. Of course anything urban related, since that’s the environment that we come from, but it goes way, way beyond those boundaries. So now, after years and years of studying and appreciating a variety of artists, and applying what we’ve learned to our own music, we feel a lot more confident in putting together this current project. It gives it somewhat of a calm, relaxed and reflective feel which we aim to mirror the storytelling from our favorite films.

Francis: We are both real artsy motherfuckers. Dudes have always been into visual art, painting, grafitti, B-boying, we are big indie films heads and appreciate quality movie and theatre. We also read a bunch. And when it comes to the music, we have experience and love for a wide array of genres and musical realms, and that certainly shines through in the music we make. We strive to convey that artsy ideal with our output, that it is more than just music, or one style of music, but there is a visual component to our whole style as well. What are your thoughts on the current state of Hip Hop? Francis: It would be a boldface lie to say we aren’t disappointed by the lack of originality. Puppet like, robotic, cookiecutter shit kills us. But the state of things also helps re-enforce our approach and what we do. I get inspired to create art that fills the void I see, to make music that I would want to listen to more. EE: The main foundational tenet of hiphop, to be original and not bite, has completely eroded, which is shameful. It’s crazy that it completely flipped, where dudes actually hate if you don’t bite. But I spent years being frustrated over that and have moved past it. If hip-hop can’t fulfill that role we’ll look to other artists to inspire us. On the other hand, there has been some pockets of originality in recent years here and there. And with all the genre blending these days maybe there’s some interesting stuff to look forward to. How do you think you differ from other artists? EE: I don’t think there’s tons of rappers from the 90s school that keep pushing themselves to move forward and continually evolve their style. We have the true school foundation with an unrelenting desire to stay fresh and updated. Francis: By taking chances, being original, and coloring outside the lines. We are storytellers with groovy theme music. What ‘s the most important item in your music collection?

Francis: Ahh now the hard questions. Damn. My dubbed cassette copy of Illmatic, Paul McCartney’s Swiss Army knife (his actual knife, not some album), a copy of Stevie Wonder performing live at my father’s club in the late 70’s. EE: Mister Cee’s Best of Biggie mixtape. A tape of fresh joints I recorded from 88.9 back in the day. It has shit like Black Moon How Many Emcees... when it first came out. Autographed vinyl of Hard to Earn gotta be up there too. Dead or alive, who would be your dream collaboration? Francis: Again with the hard questions. Marvin Gaye. Perhaps Prince. EE: Kurt Cobain. But I have no fuckin clue how I would collaborate with him. Right now, who would you look up to? Who do you think is a real game-changer in the music industry? Francis: All the Stones Throw cats, Outkast, the TDE cats, Justin Vernon, and anybody doing truly their own thing. EE: Cults, John Maus, Kaytranada, Just Blaze...I don’t know if you’d call them all game changers but they certainly get me excited about their music. Tell us about one of your most memorable moments while in the studio or on tour? EE: Developing our song Shitty Men on the fly in the studio. It’s got a lot of weird elements to it which never could’ve happened without true collaboration between us and our engineer. As a beat maker sometimes you hand your stuff off and it comes back underwhelming. But then, with all of us focused and free and in the moment, I began to see just how far we were going to be able to push Lzrs Txn. Francis: This may not be one of the most memorable moments, but it is a studio story that serves as a backdrop for the music. While recording our 1st EP, Side A, as well as our next, Side B, I was coming to the studio at like 11 AM with a big green Kale Juice, and a bottle of Vodka. The

dichotomy of man, encapsulated in a LZRS TXN studio session. What do you feel is the most pressing or important problem in our society now, and do you feel as though your experience as an artist has aided or complicated your involvement in these issues? Francis: We both came up volunteering and working in the community so we understand the impact art and music can have on people, especially young people. There are too many significant problems in society to really say one weighs in most importance. But Bottom line, people are struggling, more and more, the inequality gap is opening up like a Vivid girl’s legs. EE: Racism and bigotry. The people who have evolved past that seem to always be able to work towards what’s best for the greater good. Those that don’t just go out for self at the expense of others. Hip hop completely aided my understanding of this issue. Sitting there as a 13 year old with Return of the Boom Bap in my walkman while reading The Source. I was sure getting an education alright.. What’s in the pipeline for Lazarus Taxon? Francis: Our debut EP, Side A, is out now, check it on The follow up EP, SIDE B is coming next. Full length album after that. We also are behind a podcast a couple guys we know started, it’s called Russian Souvenirs, so please check that out on Soundcloud. I appreciate you both taking the time out to sit down with us. Got any self promo? Francis: Please check out the music at or on Soundcloud and itunes. Many shouts to all those supporting us, and if you’re in search for good music, remember, a Lazarus Taxon always comes back. FB LZRS TXN

The main foundational tenet of hip-hop, to be original and not bite, has completely eroded, which is shameful. It’s crazy that it completely flipped, where dudes actually hate if you don’t bite. But I spent years being frustrated over that and have moved past it. If hip-hop can’t fulfill that role we’ll look to other artists to inspire us. On the other hand, there has been some pockets of originality in recent years here and there. And with all the genre blending these days maybe there’s some interesting stuff to look forward to. -Evil Earn

wordplay by Rachel LaClair photography by Deidra leigh with Relic Imagery model : Nicole Genova

FUCK. Who the fuck says I can’t say fuck in front of a large group of people? Who the fuck says I shouldn’t say fuck for emphasis in an array of verbal sentence situations? Who the FUCK decided it was such a big fucking deal to say fuck in the first place? Oh, right. I don’t fucking care.

In the contemporary flow of cultural existence, where sound systems have a depth of audible vibrations that can often unexpectedly enhance the meaning of a joy ride, and very common is music that contains explicit lyrical content that is extremely suggestive and somewhat offensive, one can get a very good education on how to take someone out, and perform numerous potentially desirable, or undesirable activities, depending on if one is the administer or receiver of said carnal actions. When many social interactions have been muted by the hum of the underlying potential question of who is equally interested, and willing to find a place and fuck your brains out, certain controversial conversational pieces have become increasingly more common, and surprisingly versatile in meaning.

“This is fucking delicious.” “Fuck you.” “Da Fuck!?” “You fucking heard me, you fuck.” “What the fuck, are you talking about?” “I lost my fucking keys.” “Quit fucking around.” “Wanna fuck when I find them?” “Get the fuck out.”

In the many sleepless nights before phones, tablets, phablets, and apps that allow you to set up sexual meetings with strangers at the tap of a touch screen, select vocabulary that was offensive in nature resided in an area of the culture that was so out of line, the idea of the use of it, while still maintaining a respectable social standing was inconceivable. Long was the list of words that were considered to be filthy, indecent, and downright unforgivable. But like with anything, time is a test that will test the limits and the boundaries, and stretch them like the elastic waistband on a pair of ballhugging tighty-whities. Appropriateness always has, and still lies in the eyes of the perceiver, and depending on who’s driving, the road to raunchiness might just be the thing to fling someone into the fast lane, and thrust them right up to freedom’s fucking doorstep. (Or fire escape.)

So when was it that we decided that the vulgar meaning for sexual intercourse could be interchanged with other such words that have been less than offensive for so many years? One could attest to the inevitable modification brought on by the passing of time, or to the corrosion of inappropriateness caused by overuse, from the unspoken license to be vulgar, granted by the anonymity of the internet. Opt for either, or select an alternative, if you ask me, it was fucking evolution. It is, also exceedingly probable that the continuing of the accepted-ness of sexuality in our society has made the meaning of the word less taboo, as has the fact that the subject itself is finally being recognized as an indispensable part of life that can be, has been, and always will be used for fun, as well as procreation. The fact that we, the people, are finally talking about sex, and sharing in it more openly than ever, is a monumental revolution in itself. Seeing as how sexual activity has been happening behind closed doors for the entirety of humanity, yet all the while, suffering from rules and stipulations, and a million different people’s ideas of appropriate limitations, it is only expected that such stigmas and prejudices are finally being challenged, and age-old concepts are, at last, getting stuffed. Though it is extremely important that the flag of the freedom of expression is being waved with more ca jones than ever before, there is still something to be said about the respect that is momentous to have for those who may not share the same passion for screaming obscenities in exhilaration the way that some of us might. Just the tip, maybe, is not to dominate other ways of thinking, but to live in harmony amongst all ways of life, discourse and cunnilingus. The true power is being able to look only to evolve from that which we were yesterday, and improve our own way of contemplation and presentation. Whether we want to speak our truths tastefully, or get greasy, and roll with the crude-ness, there’s no denying that we’re finally getting some, having it the way we want it, and talking about it like we don’t give a fuck.



Behind the Lens The Magical World of

PEARL PREIS by Lori Ortega


darkroom DARKROOM


I really believe that for me, art is innate. When one is fortunate enough to have someone who can show you a lot of technique, the smartest thing you can do is to absorb as much as possible and never stop creating! -Pearl Preis

California is saturated with many beautiful hidden treasures but none as rare and exquisite as Pearl Preis. Pearl is an artist and photographer that resides in Southern California. She lives in the lovely city of San Diego. Surrounded by a picturesque shoreline, Pearl practically lives in a post card. San Diego’s coastline provides the perfect backdrop to showcase her genius and skill. Her ability to capture extraordinary moments is really where her artwork stands apart from the rest. Her raw talent, gentle charm, and photo manipulations allow both clients and admirers of her work to connect with and cherish her timeless images. With a rich, artistic family history, it’s no wonder that Pearl has honed her artistic talents and spawned a surge of creativity. Her father is a successful commercial and fine artist, Salvador Bidaure. He may have taught her a few things along the way but her experimentation with Photoshop is pure brilliance and truly her own special contribution to the world of art. Pearl’s prints are vibrant, edgy, and unlike anything you’ve seen. I absolutely adore this woman, Pearl Preis. Her artwork is as amazing, stunning and valuable as she is as a person. Her photographs are brilliant, she has an eye for the unique and a skill set to invent masterful images. Her art work is significant and timeless. I should probably confess that the ocean is something that I kind of fear. Surfing and ocean culture is something that I do not understand, but thanks to the wonderful world that Pearl Preis has captured, the ocean is something that I can forever appreciate and admire. Greeted with a big smile, a wave of positive energy, and warmth that only exists within her being, I was graced with the pleasure of interviewing this exceptional gem. I was already a fan of her work, but after meeting her, I am now an even bigger Pearl Preis enthusiast. Lori: What was it like to grow up in Guam? Pearl: It was a great place to grow up, it’s tropical and it’s small, but because of the American influence that comes with having an Air Force and Navy base, you got the best of both worlds. Guam was and is a really beautiful place. I had a great childhood.

What was it like growing up in an artistic family environment with a father that was a painter; Salvador Bidaure? Very healthy, it was wonderful; my Dad introduced me to art from all over the world. He made it very clear that I could actually have a career as an artist. A lot of people today say you’ve got to be a doctor or something “serious.” There’s not a lot of encouragement for a career in the arts. Watching dad work and support a family as a commercial artist was very inspiring. Mom was able to stay home and raise the kids; I liked that a lot. I also liked that there was always art and art supplies in the house all the time. It was a great environment for a child to flourish. What were some of the most important things that your father taught you as an artist? One, you can actually make a living as an artist. Two, skill. I learned a lot about light and composition and dad always had great ideas. I really believe that for me, art is innate. When one is fortunate enough to have someone who can show you a lot of technique, the smartest thing you can do is to absorb as much as possible and never stop creating! I learned so much from him by actually going to work with him and watching him get it done. As a commercial artist you never know what the next job will be so when I got a little older I was often his assistant. It was very hands-on, working on monthly calendars for the officers clubs, murals, whatever projects he had; I was his wingman! Was he your main influence for studying art and pursuing art as a career? You bet! How did you get into photography? Did you go to school for it or learn on your own? When I went to the University of Guam I took a photography course. I was always involved in art and my mom had a camera so I thought, “I’ll take a photography course…” So that pretty much got the ball rolling. When the digital era came, things just got better! I didn’t have to use chemicals and buy tons of paper. Today, you shoot, you edit, your darkroom is your home

and printing options are fantastic! It’s a great time to be a photographer! What draws you to the ocean and to photograph surfers? What is it about the beach that you like to photograph? Growing up on an island, you always have the beach in you. My husband and I met in Connecticut. He is a musician and he wanted to move out to San Diego to live a life of art and music; we both wanted to be by the beach. San Diego’s beauty kept us here and shooting surf was just the most natural thing. We were always down at Windansea Beach and that’s how the business started -so many people were like can you shoot us too?? I started off shooting women’s portraits, boudoir stuff, but these days I shoot a wide range of subjects. Shooting on the shores sounds exciting and attractive to a lot of people, but what are the realities and challenges of working outdoors with the elements/ weather conditions? The elements are harsh; there have been a couple of times when the ocean has been an issue. Salt water is definitely no good for your camera. Sometimes I’m actually in the water trying to get the right shot so I always have to watch my back. Before GoPro, a couple of my cameras got hit real badly. One was brand new... thank god we used our Visa card to buy it because the wonderful people at Visa give you accident protection. Remember that the next time you have any kind of melt down with anything that you purchase. So secure everything! Get a waterproof bag, that’s

important. How do you find your subjects? Do most of your clients find you? Do you have a favorite subject that you like to photograph? I love shooting surf, nature and the female form. First off, a woman as an artistic subject has so much to offer. It’s easy to see why she’ll never go out of style, the face, the grace, and the curves. I don’t just take pictures and hand them over, I do my thing, I massage them a little, I make them look a little more golden, a little more magical! Honestly most of time women come to me, they know that as a woman I get it on a deeper level and that makes them very comfortable. Many of my clients want to shoot with me because they trust me to capture what they feel is a very special time in their life. For these women and for me, it’s a very personal experience. So it’s nice to help folks capture these moments and so rewarding to know that they’ll cherish these images forever. Sometimes clients tell me that they now have something to show their grandchildren, to prove to them that they were once young and hot! I love to do portraits that capture that special time in a person’s life; it’s a gift for both of us. What is the most rewarding part about your career as a photographer? Preserving personal moments through my photography is super rewarding. I’ve been a part of many events that were truly an honor to capture. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, newborn shoots, senior photos, etc.

Whatever the event, even if it was something simple, it’s always nice to play a role. When a person feels something special while looking at a piece of my art and that feeling is strong enough for them to buy it and hang it in their home, that is a very rewarding thing as well. A small example: in La Jolla, about 100’ offshore, there is a big rock called “Bird Rock” (that’s how the neighborhood got its name) and for as long as anyone can remember there was a huge hole in it and with time and with the constant smashing of the waves it just got bigger and bigger. About 4 years ago during a storm, that big hole in the rock couldn’t take anymore and collapsed onto itself. I have a fantastic image of it taken just a couple of days before the break. A lot of people want that print and I totally understand why. It’s rewarding knowing that my art can be part of people’s cherished memories. Whatever local images I do sell, it’s nice to know that you’re giving something memorable and sentimental to someone out there. It’s a very nice feeling. When do you feel the most inspired? In the evenings around 10 o’clock, the kids are in bed, my husband plays guitar and I do all my artistic work. I’m definitely inspired at night and my flow feels best around midnight. Even at sunset, I’ll look to the sky, when things start getting all glow-y and I’ll want to start capturing all that beauty. Rainy days are also very inspiring!

Where did the name Short2000 come from?

Short is a family nickname. My parents called me Short since I was born. They said that when I was a baby I was short and chubby... My mom said that I was very compact! Then when the internet came along I was just going to use to showcase my work but that didn’t happen because the name was already taken, just about every name you would think of was already taken. A cool domain name was very difficult to get, so I just threw 2000 in there, the turn of the century was coming up at the time so it worked. I wanted an anonymous pen name that wasn’t too gender specific or too personal. I didn’t want to put my name out there on the web especially with the work that I did. There was a lot of sexy stuff that I didn’t want to put my real name on. “Netboy” was my first online pen name. When I first started using Photoshop and posting manipulated sexy art-y images, people just start looking for me online; I was glad to have that buffer. For you, or to surfers, do you think that “the perfect wave” is a metaphor for something else? I think it’s both. I don’t surf, and I’m kind of a shitty swimmer, but I love to be out there capturing all that ocean magic. I love to shoot surf, so for me the perfect wave is a feel. You have those moments where you’re like, that’s it! And I don’t even know why, I can’t explain it. Sometimes the surfer looks good on the wave, the light coming through the wave looks good, the composition looks just right, and it’s just perfect! I think it’s the same for surfers, they have their own reason, and for them it just may be a metaphor for something else.

Do you have a dream subject or location that you’d like to shoot? As far as subjects go... I don’t have a good lightning shot. I would love to get a good lightning shot from around here. I have rainbows, sunrises, sunsets, eclipses, sun rainbows, you name it. I’d also like to get the Milky Way, that would be nice to shoot but I’ll need to head somewhere with no light pollution. As far as a dream location, I’m not sure... maybe Italy - something romantic and old over in Europe. Is there a specific photo shoot or image that you captured that stands apart from the rest? A lot of my surf stuff is pretty popular online and so are my sexy artsy images. As far as an interesting theme goes, when I first got into photography and photo manipulation using Photoshop, there was this one model whose images I would play around with. She’s beautiful and she was a playboy model, she’s even contacted me because she saw the art images I did of her online and she loved them! There’s this one particular image of her where I cropped in on her eyes and I made it all bluish-green. Then in Photoshop, I “hand painted” tiny sparkles and stars, and I put a tear drop coming out of her eye, and for some reason that image just got zillions of downloads. If you google “tear drops” you’ll see it! I saw it everywhere online and I got a lot of fan mail asking how I did this and I would explain the process to people. I don’t mind sharing the information about how I do things. People would ask to use it all the time for album covers and books and all sorts of other requests but I would have to explain that it’s not my image; I just added all the magic and pixie dust, so I can’t ok it. But yeah, that image got a lot of love. Still one of my all time favorites. Do you have any advice for budding new artists or photographers? Shoot a lot, especially within the field you are pursuing and don’t be afraid to ask people to model for you. Just get your shots and keep working, hone your craft and build your confidence with all your gear and with people. A lot of my models have been people that I know; friends/ acquaintances. Another tip, make contact with everyone and anyone that’s got an email, anyone with an email is fair game! Send them pictures to pique their interest, stay in their radar, often. Use your social networks efficiently. Most importantly, always be professional and always be a pleasure. Learn how to speak, learn how to show your work, learn how to deal with people on every level, learn how to handle criticism. What projects/exhibitions/ or shows do you have coming up? Usually last minute things, someone will ask and I’ll wing it. I’m always showing online. There’s also a store in town that I sell stuff in, it’s like a small gallery that I have in a really cool store called Pangaea Outpost in Pacific Beach. FB Pearl Preis IG @ pearlpreis


B is for #BringIt! by (the other) Lena Hart photo by Colleen Katana

When Lena Hart told me about Funky Fresh, and invited me to write for her visionary magazine, I was like “funk yeah”! It’s not every day a scribbler of sex—okay, romance author—gets the opportunity to feature her work in a magazine for artists by artist—and with no holds barred. Well, maybe some. But I got the green-light to feature cursing and sex in my feature so… yeah, I’m doing it, bitch! Okay, no. Wait. Come back. I’m just kidding. Before you flip the page, I want you to check out my sexy excerpt from my latest release, B IS FOR BEDPOST, a short erotic romance that features one of my favorite couples, David and Tena, from my Queen Quartette series. This power couple has been demanding a sequel well before I had their first book finished, but this short is more like an extended epilogue of their first book but sort of like a long prologue to their sequel. Confusing, I know. But honestly, I’ve written this short so that you can read and enjoy it without having to read the first or the next. Though, there’s a 99% chance that you will want to. But B IS FOR BEDPOST is a complete story with a “happy ever after” at the end with lots of sexiness along the way. It isn’t, however, a story filled with just pointless sex. This newly engaged couple has gone through a lot and has a few underlying trust issues to resolve. Tena, the heroine, has a traumatic past that has held her back in some ways sexually with her hero. Ultimately, they resolve their issues during their vacation on a small private island filled with its own sexy secrets. The scene I’m presenting to you is called “Balcony Sex.” Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds. Lena asked me to bring it, so I brought it. Enjoy!



“Balcony Sex” Excerpt by Lena Hart “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, sweets. I would give anything to erase that night from your memory.” His rough words were filled with a quiet anguish that tugged at her heart. She placed her hand over the one he rested on her stomach and linked her fingers with his. “I didn’t tell you this to make you feel guilty, Davie. I did it because I love you and I want you to understand why I reacted the way that I did tonight. It had nothing to do with you or us or the way you make me feel. I just had some really old demons I needed to face.” He gave her a gentle squeeze. “Just promise me you won’t face them alone. I’m here for you, baby, and I promise I won’t let anyone hurt you like that again. Ever.” She smiled ruefully. Maybe if she had still been a little girl, she would have believed that. But he wasn’t invincible and bad things happened all the time. She was just glad that she hadn’t let it define her or take over her future. “You can’t protect me from the world, Davie.” She didn’t realize she was still holding on to his hand until his grip tightened. “Yes, I can.” Her lips twitched at his gentle forcefulness and stubborn arrogance. She believed he would do everything in his power to protect her and keep her safe, which was partly why she refused to give him the name of her attacker when he’d demanded it that first night she’d told him about it.

response then pulled open the sash of her robe. The heavy material fell open and the cool night air brushed against her warm skin. In that moment, she was grateful for the cover of night because she wanted to make love to him here. Now.

wrapped her arms around his neck. Her precarious perch on the balcony sent her heart racing as the cool night air brushed across her nude back and whipped through her hair. “If you drop me, I’m gonna kill you.”

She turned to face him and found desire etched across his handsome face, along with a tenderness that left her breathless and desperate for his touch. She let her robe fall from her body and, for the second time that night, stood before him gloriously naked. His nostrils flared as his eyes swept down the length of her.

He chuckled. “I won’t let anything happen to you, sweets.” He ran his lips across the base of her neck then clasped her hips and pulled her forward. “And you know I would never hurt you. You trust me with your heart. Now trust me with your body.” He settled himself deeper between her thighs, his erection probing her soft opening.

She stepped toward him and pulled off his shirt, never taking her eyes away from his. “I want you to make love to me here, under the moon and stars, with the waves crashing behind us.” She reached for his buckle and yanked at the strap. “I want you to take me anyway you want, how hard you want. I want to feel you come inside me. I want us to make new memories.” She pulled open his pants and jerked him to her. He fell forward, bracing himself against the rail behind her. She was effectively trapped between him, the banister, and the ocean that yawned in the distance. “New memories, huh?” His lips curved into a sensual grin as he rubbed his thumb across her hardening nipple then smoothed his hand down the curve of her waist. Her body clenched with need, and she flattened her palm on his chest, enjoying his hardness and the heat radiating from him. “Yes. Lots of sexy ones.”

In that moment, she chose to forget everything, to let go of her fears, and create another lasting memory with him. “You’re crazy, you know that,” she murmured into his ear, letting her body relax against him. He chuckled again, the sound coming out hoarse and strained this time. “Crazy is good. Now put me inside.” With one arm still looped around him, she shifted until she was able to reach between their bodies. She guided his hard length into her and they both moaned from the intense pleasure. He pushed into her deeply and she gasped from the force of his thrust. He withdrew then plunged into her again. Their breathing came out in shuddering pants as her body clenched around him, denying his retreat. Again and again, he drove into her, the force of his speed increasing with each stroke. “Hold on tight, sweets.”

Another part of her was just ready to let that part of her past die.

He cupped his hand over the curve of her ass and pulled her forward. “Do you trust me?”

“Why don’t you help me forget, instead?”

“Always,” she said without hesitation.

He stiffened behind her when she took his hand and slid it inside her bathrobe. She brought his palm over her breast, and she fell back against him at the pleasure of his touch. He closed his hand over her aching breast and squeezed her with just enough pressure to leave her aching for more.

His eyes glowed with need and satisfaction.

“Are you sure abot this, sweets?”

Before she could register his words, he grabbed her by the waist and lifted her high. She screeched as he planted her on the cool wooden banister, his grip like manacles around her hips.

Lena Hart is a romance author of sensual to steamy romances with a flare of suspense and mystery. When Lena isn’t busy writing, she’s reading, researching, or conferring with her muse. Her latest release, B IS FOR BEDPOST is currently available and her sequel, THE DEVIL’S BEDPOST is slated for release this fall. To learn more about her and her work, visit:

She rolled her hips back against him in

“Davie!” she screeched, and instantly

“Then don’t look down.”



Funky Fresh Magazine Issue 1 March 2015  
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