VIDEO: ‘Reels on Wheels’ Premiere

In my last blog post,

I introduced you to my life-long friend, comic book artist, illustrator, and author and all-around awesome human being, Justin Castaneda. One of the reasons we’re such great friends is that we enjoy watching Hollywood blockbuster movies and talking about them.

So we came up with the idea of Reels on Wheels,

a YouTube road show where we talk movie expectations on our way to see it and review the movie on our ride back. Here’s the deal: Justin and I approach our reviews as fans. We ain’t no professional film critics, boo! We’re just your average, nerdy Hollywood film-gobbling movie viewer.

We started with the movie that officially started the 2016 summer movie season*: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’

At the time of filming this, we had not yet solidified our rating system, but as of writing this blog post, we now have one: Reels -OR- Wheels? Reels: Go see it! Wheels: [tires screeching and peeling away] Save yourself and don’t see it.

Having been out for over a week now, the ‘Batman v Superman’ is divisive.

If you haven’t seen it already, should you go see it? Should you save your cizzash?

Justin and I weigh in here, but let me know what you thought of the movie by commenting below! And don’t forget to subscribe to Justin’s YouTube channel to keep up with future episodes of Reels on Wheels.

Our next movie? Captain America: Civil War, which hits theaters May 6.

*The summer movie season starts earlier and earlier every few years. We have May-premiering ‘Spider-Man’ in 2002 to thank for starting that trend.

VIDEO: Creatives in a Cafe Getting Coffee with Justin Castaneda

Every once in a while, I go on a POWER LUNCH with Justin Castaneda. Who is this person? Ohhh he’s none other than an illustrator genius, comic artist, author, and most importantly, amazing, life-long friend. And what’s a power lunch? Well, both being independent creatives, Justin and I know it’s important to step outside of the ever-so-cozy and sometimes-isolating box that is the home office. Our favorite place to catch up and share our creative process is Creative Cakes in Tinley Park. In the video above, Justin and I share our creative processes and laughs.

You also get to see a terrible, terrible sketch for one of my t-shirt designs for Snort Monster. (I hope my drawing teachers aren’t watching…!) Enjoy, and be sure to subscribe to Justin’s YouTube channel to get more of his creative process, hyperlapse sketches of his famous #cardBOREDsketches, and keep up with his comic con adventures.

I Met Brand Master Johnny Earle, CEO of Johnny Cupcakes!

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Look at that cute lil cupcakin’ family. ;P Here’s my hub-hubs Jeff, Johnny Cupcakes CEO Johnny Earle, and me.

As a longtime fan of cupcakes and t-shirts, my world changed 5 years ago when I found out there was a company that sold t-shirts with cupcakes on them. Not just any cupcakes. But COOL cupcakes. With his iconic cupcakes-and-crossbones logo, Johnny Cupcakes CEO and “Head Baker” Johnny Earle brought this cutesy little frosted pastry to the masses by integrating bold and rockin’ design with humor and playfulness.

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The Johnny Cupcakes van. According to the video they posted on their site, they slept in it when they arrived the night before.

If you haven’t read his story, I strongly encourage you to read it on his website here. It’s extremely inspiring, and it will put a smile on your face. Johnny Cupcakes is a company that values high quality products and loves its customers. Despite his phenomenal international success, Johnny Earle continues to give the brand a homegrown feel by taking the time meet and chat with his fans. So he hits two of the basic elements of a successful business: great product and great customer service.

So years ago, I bought my first Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt and was hooked. Ever since then, my husband has been giving me a steady stream of JC gear as wonderful gifts. ^_^

As a part of Johnny’s tradition (and genius brand formula), he does tours of pop-up shops around the country. Since he only has stores in Boston, L.A., Martha’s Vineyard, and London (haha, “only”), this is quite a treat to his fans around the country and the world. To celebrate Halloween this year and promote his latest line, he’s doing what he’s dubbed a “coffin tour” called Cupcakes From the Crypt.

I was so excited when I saw Chicago was one of the stops on his tour!

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Chicago! Yaaaaaay!

I was even more excited when I found out he was setting up his Chicago shop in one of my favorite stores in the world, Rotofugi, a designer toy store and art gallery in Lakeview. Having never been to a JC tour, Jeff and I were anxious to see how it went down.

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Rotofugi’s signage. According to their site, the name comes from a combo of the owners’ beagle-shihtzu puppy (his name is “Fugi”) and the vaguely Asian-sounding word, “roto.”

Having heard that there are usually lines for Johnny’s tour stops, we decided to get there early, and it’s a good thing we did! There was quite a line already, at one hour before the official event start time. But the line system was well organized. To avoid petty line fights, someone behind the counter at Rotofugi handed us each a ticket with a number on it, which represented your place in line. (Jeff was #85, and I was #86, which I was excited about, due to my fandom for ‘Get Smart.’ :D)

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My line number: 86. As in, Secret Agent 86. ;D

It was a chilly wait, because this was the day Chicago decided to officially click into fall weather. Oh yes. We endured wind and cold for about an hour. But Jeff and I and everyone in line were in good spirits! That’s what we noticed about Johnny Cupcake’s fans. Everyone was there to have fun. No stressin’.

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It’s a good thing we got here early. Check out the line the formed behind us!

Jeff and I developed a playful kinship with a group of girls next to us who were cracking jokes during our wait. “Let’s all play a game!” one of them chimed, “Maybe it’ll help us warm up!” (We didn’t end up playing a game, though. Maybe we were just too excited to get in.)

The event organizer was letting in people from the line, ten at a time, so we had fun counting down to our turn. “Oooh, we’re getting closer!” someone would say.

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It’s cold as heck, but we’re happy as clams! (Speaking of which, who determined that the default state of clams is ‘happy’?)

When we finally made it inside, we were greeted with a menu of our t-shirt choices. It was literally a menu! Ah, another one of Johnny’s great attention to detail and strong branding. It was also a smart idea to keep the line flowing smoothly, so by the time you got to the pop-up shop, you knew what you wanted and could order right away.

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Menu cover for the freshly baked goods.

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The menu presented a fun array of different Halloween-themed designs, but Jeff and I had our eyes on one particular design, which proved to be quite popular.

It was another hour until the line took us to the actual pop-up shop and we were able to make our purchase, but it was a fun experience, which is what I imagine Johnny wanted for his fans. There was excited chatter amongst those in line, so good spirits and camaraderie continued inside.

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Line inside. We were happy to be in from the cold… and to see Johnny, of course!

Also, Rotofugi’s gallery displayed a wonderful exhibit with fun, colorful pieces, so we kept ourselves occupied by pointing out the various works of art.

When we finally got to the pop-up shop, we saw each of the t-shirts were on mannequins that seemed to have risen from their coffins, and each mannequin head was covered with a creepy mask, which really pushed the creepy Halloween feel and more importantly, kept within the theme of this tour. Love!

Every aspect of Johnny’s brand oozes with creativity and consistency. I was delighted at every turn. The friendly lady behind the coffins took our orders, and I was psyched to have gotten the last t-shirt design of my choice in my size. Whew! The checkout process was smooth as well. I added a limited edition Coffin Tour Pin Pack and Johnny Cupcakes Brand Book to our purchase.

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Great display presenting the t-shirt design of our choice. The display was decked out in Halloween-ness, complete with fake webs, that kept getting caught in my jewelry. 😛

Then we hopped back in the line to actually meet Johnny himself. But then I was starting to get nervous. I’ve been such a longtime fan, that I started to worry about whether or not he was actually as nice as his press portrays him to be. What if he can smile and be playful for the cameras as his website shows, but what if he’s actually aloof and annoyed and tired? (While on a 21-city tour with back-to-back days, wouldn’t you be tired? Wouldn’t that be hard to hide?)

Other worries popped up in my mind. If you’ve attended a standard meet and greet before, you’ll know that your time with the featured person is usually rushed (although understandably so), there’s a bodyguard that tells you not to touch anything or anyone, there’s a limit on how many times and what items the person can sign, and there’s a limit on pictures… if you can take pictures at all.

Basically, I was worried that my pristine and childlike view of the Johnny Cupcakes brand would be tarnished. (I know, maybe I have issues. 😛 But you can see where I’m coming from, right?)

After a little more of a wait, it was finally our turn! When Jeff and I stepped up, Johnny was the first to say hi. My first thought, “He’s so cute and little!” With a soft spoken demeanor and baby face, it was crazy-awesome to think that he’s the grand master – ahem – Head Baker 😀 – of an international retail company.

He asked us our names and shook our hands and asked where we were from. We told him how big of fans we were of his, and he thanked us graciously with a sweet smile. Then his eye caught my pinup tattoo, and he was wowed by the detail and was lavish with his compliments. I thanked him, and then he noticed I was wearing a Johnny Cupcakes t-shirt, which he expressed appreciation for with a smile.

He also noticed I was wearing my Johnny Cupcakes dangly silver earrings, and I told him Jeff gave them to me for Christmas a couple years ago, which he enjoyed hearing.

Then I told him how much we love his designs and how inspiring his story and his brand are, and how much of an inspiration he’s been to Aerial Ardour. I told him I make it a point to work with clients who value their brand and brand look, and I see he does that with Johnny Cupcakes.

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Johnny was so cool and signed my shirt from a previous printing!

He then asked about my design work and gave me some great advice about working with more clients I want to work with. I responded with my own thoughts, and then in the midst of it, I realized, “Holy crap, we’re talking about business right now! There’s a whole line of people waiting to see this wonderful guy who’ve already waited 2+ hours, and he’s taking the time to talk to me about what makes a successful business.”

Wow.

I then offered him my business card, and he was impressed with the heft of the paper weight. (Yay!)

Then he said, “Ooh! Let me see if I have mine with me, so I could give you one.” (Double yay!)

His business card also had some nice heft. 😀 And of course, it was impeccably designed. He also presented the card in the great Japanese tradition of presenting with both hands, card facing me, and with a slight bow. Wow. This guy knew his stuff.

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Johnny’s designs are spot on, right down to his business card. LOVE.

He also took the time to sign the shirt I was wearing, as well as the JC brand book we had purchased. He wrote our names and had a great message to go with his signature. (There was a slight slip-up with the spelling of my name at first since, you know, my mom decided to spell my name as “Irene” but with an “A.” 😛 But Johnny saved it and made a great font from it.)

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Here are all our goodies, including the Johnny Cupcakes Brand Book that Johnny signed. “Keep positive,” he signed below our names and his signature. He keeps his overall message consistent in every touchpoint of his brand.

Then we took a picture with the help of the person who was next in line, and it took a couple of tries to get it right, but we finally got a great shot. Johnny even took the time to change our position in order to get better lighting.

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Johnny took the time to shift our positions so we could get the best lighting. His attention to detail and consideration for his fans are just two of the infinite elements to his success.

Feeling we were taking up some time, Jeff and I started our good byes, and even as we were leaving, Johnny stopped us to offer me more words of wisdom for my business. Wow. This was surreal! I thanked him graciously, wished him luck for the rest of his tour, and he gave me a hug and we were on our way. Wow.

So all my worries were unwarranted.

Mr. Johnny Earle IS as sweet and IS as genuine as everyone says he is. Jeff and I walked away feeling so special and even BIGGER fans of Johnny Cupcakes.

THIS is why Johnny Earle has sustained a successful business. He really truly absolutely values his fans. He invests his time with his fans, and they give back tenfold.

For the rest of the day, I had such a great high from the experience. I felt special, and I felt happy, which is what Johnny wants his fans to feel when they experience his brand. (Note that I said, “experience his brand,” and not merely, “buy his t-shirts.”)

And from this, I have resolved to buy even MORE Johnny Cupcakes products.

And THAT is why Mr. Johnny Earle is a brand master.

What do you think are attributes that a company must possess in order to be a brand master? Share your comments below!

Thanks for reading!

And go buy something from Johnny Cupcakes! 😀

P.S. In Johnny Cupcakes’ video from the Chicago stop below, you can catch a glimpse of me and Jeff behind the window at 2:18 when Johnny takes the time to high five some fans walking by Rotofugi.

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Meet Me at Social Media Week!

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As one of my resolutions to amp up my skills, connect with more great professionals this year, and become a better asset to my clients, I’m attending Social Media Week (Sept. 24 – Sept. 28)!

Social Media Week is a fabulous opportunity to bone up on the ever-changing trends of social media. It also gets me to increase my network and see the faces of fellow social media fans. Additionally, SMW gets me to take in the fresh city air that I love so much… And show off my brand new business cards. ;D

I’m an avid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest enthusiast, but I figured I can learn to target my audience more effectively. (I want to keep you engaged – not enraged – or worst yet, yawning. :D)

Here are the events I’m attending this week:

MONDAY, SEPT. 24

Pinning and Winning: Activating Social Contests

I already attended this since this was yesterday, and I enjoyed it very much! This event was comprised of a panel that knew their stuff. I’ve already connected with great social media masters like Ana Fernatt (@AccidentallySxy), Curalate (@Curalate), and CMP.LY (@CMPLY). (Great job, guys!)

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 26

Emerson Spartz: Creating Viral Websites

THURSDAY, SEPT. 27

Translating Your Digital Brand Personally

FRIDAY, SEPT. 28

Keynote: Matthew Adell, Beatport, ‘Think Small, Go Big: The Importance of Engaging a Community’

I hope to see you there. Comment below and let me know, and/or tweet me at @aerialardour and we’ll meet up and expand our social media minds together!

Thanks for reading!

‘Lichtenstein: A Retrospective’ at The Art Institute of Chicago

Over Labor Day weekend, my hub-hubs and I had the thrill of seeing the exhibition of the art of American modern artist Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) at The Art Institute of Chicago, running from May 16th to September 3rd. The exhibit was a remarkable event because, according to The Art Institute’s website, “It was the first major retrospective to broadly examine his art since his death.”

A museum-goer gazes at the exhibit entrance.

Much to our surprise, the line outside the museum was about an hour long. (Then again, it made perfect sense; we waited until the last minute to see the exhibit.) But then it was another hour wait to get into the exhibit inside! I didn’t mind one bit, though. I was thrilled that so many people would come out and wait just for the chance to gaze upon the works of one of the greatest modern artists. There is hope – culture lives!

The long line for Lichtenstein’s exhibit allowed me to stop and behold the grand entrance of The Art Institute of Chicago.

I got chills up and down my arms and tingles in my head as I looked around the ‘Pop Art’ portion of the exhibit. It was surreal being surrounded by such iconic pieces like, Ohhh… Alright…, Whamm!, Masterpiece,  and Oh, Jeff…I Love You, Too…But… There they were, all in one room!

‘Oh, Jeff… I Love You, Too… But…’ – Jeff and I got a kick out of this one. ^_^

I felt like a groupie, but I couldn’t scream. (Museum courtesy and rules, go figure… :P) So there I was walking around, snapping pictures of what I could, my excitement quietly bursting with each successive rockstar masterpiece that I had only before then seen with underwhelming and anemic injustice of my Art History books in school.

(And yes, you could actually take pictures! But only of certain pieces. We learned from a museum guard that the photo permissions are contingent upon each artwork owner’s requests.)

‘Masterpiece’

If you take a quick look at my Work, you’ll see that Lichtenstein is an influence. I’ve been razzled and dazzled by color and bold lines since birth, that when I was first laid eyes on Mr. Lichtenstein’s work, I knew I was in love for life.

I was excited to get even more inspiration seeing all of his work in the canvas (as opposed to flesh, haaaa).

‘Keds’ – Pumped up kicks.

‘Alka Seltzer’ – Heartburn never looked sexier.

The exhibit was very informative. As much as I knew of him, I still learned more. For example, I didn’t know he paid homage to several different artists by applying his own style to well-known works of art.

‘Frolic’ is a piece that shows Lichtenstein’s take on Picasso.

I also didn’t know that he concentrated on the topic of mirrors for a while.

‘Mirror #6’ – Lichtenstein had a period where he studied the illustrative cues that indicate the object is a mirror. Check out the minimal lines on this piece that do just that. Genius.

He also studied nudes for a time near the end of his career.

‘Two Nudes’ – Walking into the nudes portion of the exhibit, there was a little girl about 5-years-old who made her thoughts known on the subject: “Eww!”

What was really fun was getting a peek into his process. There was a part of the exhibit that displayed sketches for several of his famous pieces.

‘Ohhh… Alright…’ – Diptych I made of Lichtenstein’s sketch and then the final piece. You’ll see the sketch is pretty close to the final. Wandering through the sketch portion of the exhibit, I wondered if Mr. Lichtenstein would’ve appreciated us looking through them. I know I would be horrified if people saw the sketches to some of my pieces. I’d imagine people would think, “That girl went to art school?? Yikes!” 😛

If you missed the exhibit in Chicago, you can still head to Washington, D.C. to the National Gallery of Art from October 14th, 2012 to January 13th, 2013. And then if you miss that, you can hop on a jet to London and can catch the exhibit’s last stop at Tate Modern from February 21st to May 27, 2013.

And if you happen to have $50 million dollars laying around, maybe you can buy one of his pieces. ;P I recently learned that Ohhh… Alright… sold at Christie’s in November 2010 for a little over $42 million big ones, setting a new world auction record for the artist. Wowza!

Mr. Lichtenstein, I certainly hope you’re proud of the vibrant red, blue, yellow, and Ben-Day dotted legacy you’ve left behind. ^_^

LIchtenstein’s exhibit kept the Modern Wing abuzz.

Did you get to see the Lichtenstein exhibit? What did you think of it? Leave a comment below, and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!