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The Canvas Project: San Francisco

September 13, 2021

Story: Punch Staff

photos: Vivo Visuals

Six bartenders showcase the projects that engage their creativity beyond the bar.

The 2021 Tales of the Cocktail Foundation Canvas Project, presented by Bombay Sapphire, is dedicated to supporting the artistic passions that fuel creative bartenders across the country. Through a series of grants, the Canvas Project empowers bartenders to realize their imaginative pursuits in the form of projects that help knit neighborhoods and communities together. This year’s finalists, grouped by four major regional markets and working in a diverse array of mediums, are showcasing at gallery events this fall and winter the work that fulfills them when they’re not behind the bar.

Port towns like San Francisco have always been hubs of creativity, tolerant of differences and continually refreshed by new arrivals and influences from afar. That’s partly why the City by the Bay has such a rich cocktail history, becoming the place where Jerry Thomas began tossing Blue Blazers and where Trader Vic’s ushered in the era of tiki. The approaches of the six bartenders showcasing their Canvas Projects in San Francisco emphasize the tactile and visceral. Their works—including stained glass creations, woodworking, photography, graphic illustration, mural art and needlepoint—furnish textures and surfaces that provoke, delight and surprise.

MARY COBB

Current city: Oakland

What is your creative passion or outlet?
I’m a stained glass artist. I think you could categorize my style as leaning toward the eerie and macabre. I also do a lot of pet portraits as commissions.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing? 
[I am] showing a piece that I’ve based off of the Greek myth of Persephone. It’s part of a series that I’ve been working on with the same glass selections and a lot of visceral, drippy, juicy, bloody vibes. It depicts Persephone’s hand reaching out of her bloody hellscape, trying to grasp at Spring, which is symbolized by the pomegranate she holds.

Follow along at @swamp_mistress

MELANIE GETMAN

Current city: San Francisco

What is your creative passion or outlet?
My creative passions range widely across the world of art and design: illustration, graphic design, sculpture, and painting, including mediums such as oils, acrylics, and aerosol. Most recently, I’ve gotten the most joy from installing large-scale mural works around the city.

What is the Canvas project you’re showcasing?
I am showcasing some new and old paintings that I’ve created during the pandemic using a multitude of media, as well as some prints of works from the last year. One piece uses aerosol paint to create texture and depth, and color to alter the perception of space and to highlight the vibrancy of its parts. Another, made with acrylic paint on a wood panel, is an homage to the classic Shanghai Poster Girls that were popular in Art Deco China during the 1930’s.

Follow along at @wideeyedwanderlust

COLTON AFRICANO

Current city: San Francisco

What is your creative passion or outlet?
Out of many, some of my favorite creative outlets aside from bartending include skateboarding, drawing, playing music, building sandcastles and woodworking.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
[I’m] showcasing some of my current and past projects. Many of my creations are made from my old skateboards, and I gravitate toward making home décor and kitchenware. Most skateboards are made from Canadian maple (a type of hardwood known for durability), and it’s such a shame to see high-quality wood go to landfills. In the past, I have experimented with making jewelry, [table tennis] paddles, guitar picks, succulent plant pots and even bicycle handlebars. Although they are a straightforward build, each one comes out as a one-of-a-kind piece of usable art.

Follow along at @coltonafro

JAVIER CASTRO

Current city: San Francisco

What is your creative passion or outlet?
My primary creative outlet is definitely photography. At age 13, I worked at my family’s restaurant on the weekends and saved up to buy my first camera.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
[I am] showcasing prints of my photos. I’ve actually never printed any of my work for display! That’s definitely the main motivation, to feel and be in touch with my work. It will range from artists I’ve shot to street photography. Before and during the pandemic will be the theme. Since there haven’t been any live shows of late, I’ve refocused my lens to [the] movement and intricacies of everyday life on the streets. It’s my own personal view of somewhat mundane activities that I find fascinating.

Follow along at @four.kicks

KAREN TARTT

Current city: San Antonio

What is your creative passion or outlet?
I use the traditional needlepoint art of cross-stitch to create pieces centered around dark humor or things that inspire me.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
I’ll be including a few pieces from the collections I made during quarantine along with a few new pieces. I was mainly inspired by the experience of being faced with truly accepting myself while I was spending all that time alone. You can expect to see a balance of fun and mindfulness. I want it to feel like the most honest version of me, just as I am right now. [My piece] “Social Karenxiety” is one of my current favorite icebreakers. I happen to really love my name, but it’s never been cool in my lifetime. Name got you feeling like a pariah? Make a joke out of it. You’ll be everyone’s favorite “not a regular Karen” in no time.

Follow along at @instagramless_karen

MITCHELL LAGNEAUX

Current city: San Francisco

What is your creative passion or outlet?
Illustration. I like to use software like Procreate and Adobe Illustrator. This allows me to experiment with a multitude of color combinations, shapes and patterns to bring a more graphic feel to my work.

What is the Canvas Project you’re showcasing?
For my showing, I [am] highlighting some previous work I’ve done over the years, some of which are projects I’ve worked on for others (branding, album art) and a series of iconic San Francisco landmarks. I’ll be including a collection of illustrations I did for Inktober last year. It was one drawing a day, with a different prompt each day. It really helped me stay motivated during COVID shutdown[s]. I’ll also be working on a Bombay Sapphire piece and making a time-lapse video to show my process from start to finish.

Follow along at @silkyrockwell

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