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From the desk of Tim Doyle-

Back in February of 2012 I had my first solo art show at SpokeArt’s gallery in San Fransisco.  The show was rather well received, and by the end of the show- just about everything was sold out.  SpokeArt’s owner- Ken Harman, was kind enough to fly me and my father out for the opening. (My wife would have come, but our daughter was only 4 months old at that point- and babies don’t party as much as they should.)  The reception was well attended, a lot of fun people came out and a great time was had.

My pitch for UnReal Estate last year was this-

“Unreal Estate” is a collection of locations that many of us know and have been to on a weekly basis at times, but we can never actually visit. These places are in our memories- transmitted and entrenched there through a cathode-ray tube. Some of us have been going to these places for decades- some of these places were taken from us, way too soon.”-  Me, one year ago.

The next day, after the on-line drop, Ken took us out to dinner and said the scariest words I’ve heard in a while- “So, next year- Unreal Estate 2, right?”  Needle drop. Scratch sound. Sad Trombone.

Not because I thought it was a bad idea- no- it was because the first show was a TON OF WORK and almost did me in the first time through. And would people LIKE the new stuff a year from then?  That’s the problem with sequels- it’s always going to be compared to the original. Was I going to do a “Godfather 2″ or was I going to do a ‘The Two Jakes”?   I had a list of prints from shows I WANTED to get to but didn’t have the time originally, and a list of other locations from shows that I had already done prints for. So the ideas were there… I agreed, shook his smooth yet masculine hand, and dove right in.

Worst Print Ever

“Worst Print Ever” 16×20 Edition of 200

Worst Print Ever VARIANT

“Worst Print Ever” Glow Variant- 16×20 Edition of 60

This print was originally created to be an exclusive release for NYCC back in October. Luckily we have some copies left over so that we can offer them as part of this release. Last year’s show had 9 prints + 1 giveaway, and this year’s show is 10 plus a giveaway, including this one.

Back before I was a full time artist, before Nakatomi, before I ran Mondo, I ran a small chain of 3 comic book stores here in Austin as operations manager. I eventually had it out with the owner one day in 2004 and just walked out. So when I say that Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons is near and dear to my heart- I’m speaking true.  (Funny story- all those shops went out of business after I left.)  On the list of instantly recognizable locations from The Simpsons, The Android’s Dungeon might not get up there with Kwik-E-Mart, but if you’re like me- you KNOW the place. The writers of the Simpsons are obviously comic book readers, and it comes screaming right off the screen at you, if you know where to look. From a youth misspent in and out of comic and baseball card stores I am all too familiar with the sweat-pants wearing, morbidly obese, and self-righteous comic store owner sterotype.  Mainly because it’s based in reality, sadly.  I’ve met that guy, repeated in countless shops all over this pop-culture obsessed nation, and comic book store owners have- for better or worse, earned that rep.  Strangely, I have slimmed down considerably since I was a comic-book store manager…was it an occupational hazard?

The little Milhouse sitting there next to his sadly unsold copies of BICLOPS is a call-back to one of my favorite episodes.  In it, Bart and Milhouse get to run the Dungeon while the owner is out sick, and they promptly fail- Milhouse orders up cases and cases of BICLOPS- the Lenscrafter Superhero. Which, oddly parallels the path of a lot of comic-store owners in the 90′s- fans who charged into the world of retail and blew their savings and sanity, while buying into the hype of EVERYTHING IS A COLLECTABLE! There’s a lesson here, but I can’t quite see it…

The two versions of the print could in themselves be taken as two panels from a comic with Milhouse sitting there for hours and hours as the sun slips slowly beneath the horizon and night sits in, him wondering why he ever listened to that sales rep.  Oh, Milhouse.

The Title of the print is a spin on Comic Book Guy’s catchphrase- “Worst (insert variable here) Ever.”  Thanks, comic book guy, I tried really hard at this one…

Tell Him Something Pretty

“Tell Him Something Pretty” 18×24 Edition of 150.

I blame my wife. I was happy giving up on HBO after Sopranos was done. But then she got into watching Deadwood, so I got into watching Deadwood. And then, of course, my heart was broken when Deadwood was cancelled at the end of season 3. Pretty much since then, if it was on HBO (be in Carnivale, GOT, or god help me, GIRLS) I’m probably watching it.

Deadwood is an interesting animal, from a meta point of view. It’s a real fictional show about a factual town, filled with fictionalized versions of real people, filmed on a set that has been a stand-in for our fictional idea of the ‘old west’ since the 1915s- Melody Ranch.  History- that of the real old west, and the history of the fictional old west, is dripping from every corner of the Deadwood set. From their version of ‘Chinatown’ to the public latrines, it just felt authentic.  The reality of what the west was like is practically inseparable from the fictional accounts- even when the old west WAS the old west, it’s wasn’t really.

And while Deadwood on it’s surface is the story of Seth Bullock, it’s really Al Swearengen and the Gem Saloon that drive the show- and that’s what I’ve chosen to depict. Deadwood was a dirty, filthy, degraded show-full of rich, textured characters that made you love them, despite them being murderers and brutes. The language of the show was shocking and at times impenetrable. It was a ‘realer’ version of the Old West than we had seen before (could you imagine Gene Autry existing in the same world as Mr. Wu and his pigs?) and every foray into that time would be (rightfully so) compared to Deadwood.

Fun Fact- ‘Django Unchained’ was filmed at the same location- Melody Ranch. Unlike most physical locations, where tenants come and go as the years go by- the years never go by at Melody Ranch- they stand still while the tenants slip through.  A fixed point in space and time- a real/fictional location influencing our idea of our pioneering years.

The title of the print- “Tell him something pretty” is also the last line of the last episode- uttered by Al as he mops up the blood of his latest victim, killed not out of passion, but of horrible compromise.

Good News Everyone

“Good News, Everyone!” 18×24 edition of 150.Good News Everyone VARIANT

“Good News, Everyone!” Glow Variant 18×24 edition of 50.

Futurama is the original Family Guy. By which I mean- it’s an animated show that got canned by FOX, and was resurrected by Cartoon Network through syndication, found a new audience and then new episodes were put into production based on the success of the syndication. Fox has a history of killing shows before their time. While I applaud them for even bringing shows like this to market in the first place- they can be a little itchy on the trigger finger when it comes to cancellation.  And of course, Fox’s seemingly insane monkeying around with scheduling doesn’t help ratings much.  Luckily for us as viewers, there’s this thing called the internet, and it can WILL a show like this back onto the airways.

Futurama was always going to be a hard sell for the general audience back when it was launched. It wasn’t a sit-com like the Simpsons, it was set in the far future, no-one on the cast was really likeable, and you know…there was a Crab-doctor-person.  But the genius of Groening shone through, and Futurama found it’s fans and it’s place in our pop landscape.  Choosing a location to depict for Futurama is a lot easier than that of Simpsons because really- there’s only the ONE constant throughout the entire show- The Planet Express building and their trusty ship.

Magic Box

“Magic Box” 18×24 edition of 150

Magic Box Variant

“Magic Box” Glow Variant 16×20 edition of 75

I fought Doctor Who. I fought hard. And I lost.

I grew up in suburban Dallas, and the PBS station there back in the 80′s had a glorious programming schedule of Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served?, Black Adder, Monty Python, Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who. And I ate it all up with gusto. I loved that stuff, and I’m pretty sure it made me the total cultural weirdo that you now see before you.  I bathed in the Doctors Baker- Tom and Colin, with some Peter Davidson and Celery thrown into the middle for good measure.  So when the show was relaunched, I was intrigued- but not enough to seek it out. Sure, my friends pushed and pleaded with me to watch it, but I resisted.

Enter Netflix.

When I finally decided to give it a go, I was sucked in- hard. It’s now a terminal condition.

For the theme of Unreal Estate- the whole point is to depict locations that we’re all familiar with- a recurring element that is a touchstone for a series. For Doctor Who- a show that changes location (time AND space) on an almost weekly basis- the only constant is the TARDIS itself. The funny, flying Blue Police Box that has been the Doctor’s constant companion for 50 years now. While there are shows with vehicles that appear regularly (the A-Team van, KITT, Airworf- to name a few) the TARDIS is more than a vehicle- it’s a home and character of it’s own right. It is as much a slice of real estate as familiar as the Brady Home or the Starship Enterprise.  But unlike the Enterprise, it travels through space with a funny accent.

No Fucking Ziti

“No Fucking Ziti” 18×24 edition of 150

Sopranos is one of the shows I’m happy to revisit this time around.  For last year’s show, I did a print of Satriale’s Pork Shop.  I chose Satriale’s over the ‘Bing only because the pig statue on the roof was hilarious, and with that out of the way, I’m free to do the slightly more iconic Bada Bing strip club- purveyors of meat of a different kind.  The great and frustrating thing about the Bada Bing is it is truly an ugly, ugly building. It’s a corrugated metal structure with almost no windows and no style, situated next to an ugly highway. It’s so perfectly ‘Jersey’ that you couldn’t ask for more.

The club is Tony Soprano’s escape from his ‘real’ life at home- a boy’s club hangout full of his regular crew of thieves and murderers.  What is interesting about his character is that he doesn’t actually spend much show time hanging out and taking in the ‘scenery’- his time spent at the club is mostly in the back rooms, playing pool or poker with his Mafia Lieutenants. Right in the middle of this temple of flesh and sex and booze, he’d rather just hang with the guys. It’s when he’s out of the club that he’s more a victim of his desires and darker nature.

The Bada Bing’s exterior filming location is a very real strip club- Satin Dolls, located in Jersey.  To draw this print, I had to do a bit of research and found the signage for the existing club, and drop the famous Bada Bing neon on top.  The ‘Bada Bing Lunch Special’ sign is a real sign the club had up- the actual location making a profit on it’s fictional reputation. Like a lot of what I enjoy doing with this series, I tried to make what is a commonplace or downright ugly scene beautiful in a way.  I hope that comes through here.

Damn Good

“Damn Good” 16×20 edition of 150. Glow Edition of 30. (same colorway)

Like a lot of the shows I’ve chosen to depict in this series, Twin Peaks also ended too early, leaving us wanting more.  But unlike the relatively ‘tied up’ ending of Deadwood, Twin Peaks ended on a hell of a cliffhanger, followed by a movie that instead of resolving the storyline, left us with only more questions. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Twin Peaks was my introduction to the world of writer/director David Lynch, and that man’s work has shaped my life in ways I’m still discovering. His portrayal of seemingly normal American life as merely a skin covering a much darker web of secrets and  insanity informed my adolescence and early adulthood. Twin Peaks was also an early television experiment in what a lot of us take for granted- serialized story. From Breaking Bad to LOST to Game of Thrones- these shows aren’t episodic “one and done” stories- they’re layered tapestries of fiction that need to be- DEMAND to be paid attention to. Twin Peaks walked that line between ‘Lynchian Psycho-Drama’ and ‘Soap Opera’ so well, and still remains to this day- clearly the weirdest freaking thing ever aired by ABC in primetime.

The ‘Double R Diner’ from the show was filmed, exterior and interior, at the Mar-T Cafe, now known as ‘Tweede’s.’  The production just added the ‘RR’ neon to the sign for exterior shots.

Side note- I was really confused by billboards advertising ‘Twin Peaks” restaurants when they first started popping up a few years back. I really expected a ‘Great Northern/Black Lodge’ themed dining experience, and was disappointed to find it was merely a second rate Hooters with flannel. I still dream of a diner full of backwards talking little people as waitstaff.  It’s probably just me, though.

CORRECT AS USUAL

“Correct as Usual” 16×20 Edition of 150.

Mr. Rogers is a hero to me, and he should be to you as well. He represented a kinder, more genteel way of living and interacting with media. As popular as it has become to make fun of the man over the years, it’s his program’s ubiquitous place in all our collective memories, and his honest, earnest manner that makes him such an easy target.  We all remember the theme song, the repeated rituals of donning the sweater, changing shoes, feeding the fish in his kitchen. And the magical trolley that served as the transition between the real world of Mr. Rogers and that of the Land of Make-Believe.

King Friday’s Castle was one of the locations I yearned to visit as a child, along with Big Bird’s nest and the subterranean world of Fraggle Rock.  The Land of Make Believe was a softer world of rounded edges and calming voices- a stark contrast to the real world a large portion of children find themselves in. Now that I find myself a father, I appreciate the soothing effect that a kind face and clear words can have on a child- and I hope I can bring my children there one day myself.

If you want to read an amazing article on the man Fred Rogers really was, a perfect picture of grace and compassion- go HERE.  It’s okay- I’ll be here when you get back. That’s what neighbors do.  Warning- if this article doesn’t make you cry, you are a robot.

I Ache With Embarrassment

“I Ache With Embarrassment” 18×24 Edition of 150

It’s close now…can you feel it? The new series of Arrested Development is almost upon us.  This is a glorious time.

Last year, I depicted what is probably the most iconic location for Arrested Development- The Bluth Banana stand. But this time around, I chose to go for a location while maybe not as iconic, it’s the moment that totally encapsulates the show. If you’re familiar with the show and the scene I’m depicting here, try to explain it to someone who has never watched the show. Do it in under 2 minutes. I bet you can’t. The improbable network of events and characters that led to THIS scene in Season 3 is so perfectly scripted that it ranks up there with one of the best scenes in a comedy…ever. Right up there with George Constanza pushing a Frogger machine across a busy New York street, and Larry David hanging off a rooftop, from the belly of his intern- the events leading up to George-Michael in a jet pack fighting Tobias in a mole costume stomping through a model train set as Japanese investors look on in shock would take longer to explain than it would to just show the episode. It perfectly defines why this show is so great, and why it couldn’t possibly succeed with a regular mainstream audience. Again, luckily, with modern TV market segmentation and streaming content- we no longer have to worry about a mainstream audience- we need JUST ENOUGH people to care for a show to continue on.

The title of this piece, “I Ache With Embarrassment” is a quote from one of the Japanese investors from this scene, and I can think of no better phrase to sum up the piece, the moment, and the show in general.  This print features two split fountains- making it the most technically difficult print in the whole series.

Can't Take the Sky

“Can’t Take the Sky” 18×24 Edition of 175

Can't Take the Sky VARIANT

“Can’t Take The Sky” Glow Variant 18×24 Edition of 75

Firefly, like Arrested Development and Futurama described above, was a victim of Fox’s content being ahead of it’s time, and bad scheduling.

I was first exposed to Firefly at a screening of the film, Serenity- and instantly fell in love with the complex and very real-feeling world that Joss Whedon had created. I backtracked through the show, and like all the other fans, was crushed that there were only 14 episodes and a movie. The world was so deep and vast and well-realized that it felt like a show that had aired for YEARS- not just a truncated season. We can only hope that Firefly, like Arrested Development, might find a second life somewhere online or in cinemas.

This print was amazingly fun to do the research on- I hadn’t watched the show in a few years- and felt the loss of it ending early yet again. (Damn you, Whedon- you give me feels.)  Like the Doctor Who print in this set, with it’s TARDIS- the Serenity ship is the location I’m depicting. It’s very much the character’s home and every bit of a character in itself.  This is also the second print in the series to have horses. They’re outer space horses, but horses regardless. Firefly was very much a western at it’s heart- with all the trappings: frontier justice, hard men making harder decisions, gun-play, and even a train heist.  And that, I believe is part of the show’s enduring fandom- no matter how far you get from Earth- people are still people, with all that entails.

What is a Weekend

“What is a Weekend?” 16×20 Edition of 150

What is a Weekend Variant

“What is a Weekend?” Variant 16×20 edition of 40.

Yes, I have created a Downton Abbey themed print. I will not be mocked. This show has everything I can’t stand- period drama, rigid class structure, and the intricacies of waiting tables and preparing food. But god help us all, it’s gripping. The show is a cultural juggernaut, and has grabbed hold of English-speaking viewers on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. It’s purely a soap opera, but with quality acting- and now I understand why my mother watched General Hospital all those years ago- you can really get wrapped up in the lives of these people, these fictional constructs.  Luckily for all of us, Downton is a BBC production, so we’re not stuck watching 5 episodes a week for the rest of our lives, like our Grandmother’s soaps before us.

The show is about a family who lives to service the needs of their estate, just as their army of valets and maids and butlers and footmen serve them.  It is about location becoming legacy, and the way the times change not just the people in the abbey, but the context in which they live. It’s also a show full of wry comebacks and vicious ‘snaps’ that make any modern ‘Oh No She Didn’t’-based comedy pale in comparison.

The title of the print- ‘What is a Weekend?’ is also my favorite line from the show- illustrating perfectly the dividing line between the world inhabited by Maggie Smith’s imperious Dowager Countess and the one we currently reside.

The show is filmed at the historic Highclere Castle in the UK- a real place grafted onto our fictional pop-culture landscape, along with King’s Cross station and Devil’s Tower and every place else that now takes on greater importance to us because of the real emotions elicited by the fictional characters and stories we fill them with.

greyskull web

“By The Power” 12×18

This is the Free Print that we’ll be giving away to the first 100 attendees to the show opening on 2/7. This particular castle features big in my childhood, and if you don’t recognize it, I really doubt we can have a conversation about anything, really.  He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is actually a VERY important show in the history of Television, strangely. It was the first children’s TV show to be based on a toy-line. It actually required FCC deregulating children’s Television to allow it to be aired, as previously it was not permitted to have shows that were essentially a 30- minute commercial targeted at children.  Think about that fact for a second- the entirety of what you and I (assuming you and I are in the 35-ish age range) consider to be our pop-culture heritage- G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man and all the rest exist PURELY out of the government throwing up it’s hands and deregulating an industry. Now, while in other areas of our life, like Banking and Campaign Finance, deregulation has been disastrous, when it comes to Television, it’s brought us awesome things like Shipwreck, Starscream, and a floating idiot wizard with an ‘O’ on his chest, who I’m pretty sure is the Smurf no-one wanted to hang out with. Go USA!

This print will never be available for direct purchase through the SpokeArt OR the Nakatomi site, so if you can, make it down to the gallery opening!

Unreal Estate 2 opens on 2/7 at 6pm at SpokeArt San Francisco- located at 816 Sutter St.  Any prints not sold at the opening will be available the following day on Spoke-Art.com.

Thank you for reading this rambling account of the stuff kicking around in my skull.

-Tim Doyle

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  • Vicky

    I really love the Unreal Estate series, and the glow variants in particular are amazing in person. Thank you for sharing your thought process with us, very interesting. I’m British but not a huge Who fan, yet your interpretation here is incredible, and makes me wish I did like Doctor Who. For me, Futurama, The Simpsons and that wonderful glow variant Firefly are must haves. Roll on Unreal Estate 3!