Visual Arts

From Sketchbook to Storytime: Life Artists Show at Pictures Plus

In November while at Fun Fun Fun Fest, I spotted a guy in front of me in the crowd, drawing in a sketchbook while watching the Subhumans play on the Black Stage. I surreptitiously took his photo, wrote about how neat I thought it was for Rocks Off, and went on about my weekend. A few weeks later, he found me on Twitter and sent me a link to his blog, where he posts all his artwork.

Now that artist, Amitai Plasse, a New York native, is about to have his first art show in Texas. It opens tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Pictures Plus, 115 Hyde Park in the Montrose. The show, called Storytime, is a joint project with Houston-based artist Brad Moody. Both artists work in what Plasse calls "life drawing," or "a shared desire to convey everyday life through imagery," as the show's description says.

"It's about capturing the moment, the feeling, the energy as I move through life," Plasse said. He first started sketching while living in New York City and riding the train every day. He got fed up with seeing people cocoon into themselves on the train, avoiding interaction and eye contact at all costs, and in the process missing tiny nuggets of life.

"It almost became a compulsion," he said. "I have this need to capture people. It's like hardcore people-watching. I like capturing moments that can be fleeting."

Plasse said that as a kid he was obsessed with documentaries like , about the '80s punk scene, and Style Wars about the advent of hip hop and graffiti in New York, where the filmmakers were observing the day-to-day aspects of their respective subcultures.

"Those documentaries were made in the moment, but hey saw that there was a story going on," he said. Those musical influences may also have been what led him to draw at concerts.

"What's great about drawing music as opposed to the subway is that there exists a culture that talks back to you," he said. "You almost feel apart of whats going on, as opposed to a silent observer. It's a living, breathing entity with a story (or many stories) behind it, not just a collection of lines, shapes and color. I am a big fan of Ralph Steadman and the way he and Hunter S. Thompson practiced Gonzo journalism. Really being in the thick of what was happening is something that has always inspired me."

In 1995, Plasse graduated from Parsons School of Design with a degree in illustration, right at the dawning of digital media. He's worked as an illustrator and an art director for an advertising firm. Many of his sketches are animated on his blog.

"I like bringing things to life," he said.

Plasse, who has three sons, moved to Austin in 2011. "I lived in New York my whole life," he said. "But it was hard. I wanted to be somewhere where I had space to breathe." Though he had some art shows in New York, this will be his first Texas show. At 7 p.m. February 20 both Plasse and Moody will participate in "An Evening of Storytelling" at the gallery. The show runs through February 21.

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Shey is an experienced blogger, social media expert and traveler. She studied journalism at Oklahoma State University before working as a full-time reporter for Houston Community Newspapers in 2005. She lived in South Korea for three years, where she worked as a freelancer.
Contact: Brittanie Shey