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Tiny Gallery | Week of June 8 | Helen

The ArtSwap club

Helen | 2015

When Helen and I first started planning our ArtSwap, she offered up a few things for her submission, a photo from her portfolio, a portrait, or BBQ pork tacos. Artistically, I wanted the photo or the portrait, but my stomach ended up choosing the tacos! I’m glad it did, because we had such a great time preparing and eating them. They tasted so good, I think I ate at least 8 of them!

A photo posted by Nolan Lemos (@nolanmakesart) on

After our taco feast, I started on Helen’s artwork. Up until then, the artwork that I made for my ArtSwap friends were portraits of those particular people. With Helen, I wanted to do something different. On her Instagram profile, there was this picture of her parents that I fell in love with instantly. The caption for that particular photo, explained how her parent’s recently sold their business and are easing into retirement. I had a feeling that a portrait of Helen’s parents might mean more to her than a portrait of herself. I went to work, first with a rough sketch, then brought that sketch into photoshop to paint it. It was a little challenging trying to capture her parent’s likeness, just from the one photo, but I think I did a pretty good job. Helen must have thought that the tacos were not enough for an ArtSwap, because I found out that she was making a portrait for me as well. I couldn’t believe it! When we finished our respective pieces, we had our swap. I’m pretty sure we were equally impressed with what the other had made. I know I was a little choked up when she showed me my portrait! I don’t know if anyone has ever drawn me before. All-n-all this was such a great ArtSwap. Helen definitely raised the bar in terms of participation and, in the future, I hope to meet more people that are this enthusiastic about my project. Good job Helen, you’re awesome! I also want to let everyone know about this really cool walking tour that Helen organizes called KTown Is My Town. I took the tour last month and met so many cool people and learned so much about the awesomeness of Koreatown. I’m not sure if Helen knows this, but she’s a very good tour guide. I encourage everyone to at least check out the KTown Is My Town Website

My contribution to Helen’s, @theotherhelenkim, ArtSwap was an illustration of her parents. This was the first ArtSwap piece were I didn’t draw the specific person that I was swapping with. Somewhere down the line, I had a revelation that there might be people that would think it’s a little weird to hang a portrait of themselves on their own wall. However, I don’t think this was the case with Helen, I think she would’ve been totally happy if I drew her, but there was this one picture of her parents, that I found to be so charming. Something about how they’re both smiling, and how her dad has his arm wrapped around her mom, pulling her close. Right away, I knew that this is what I was going to make for Helen. I drew up some sketches then brought that into photoshop to paint them. Since I’ve never met her parents, it was a little challenging getting their likeness down from this photo I just found off of her instragram, but I think I did a pretty good job. After I finished, I matted and framed it, then presented it to Helen. I might, or might not have, seen a tear roll down her cheek, but I think she liked it nonetheless. Now that both of our pieces have been swapped, I think it’s time to finally assemble our final ArtSwap display. I’m planning on having it up by the end of this weekend. I’ll keep you posted. #artswapclub A photo posted by Nolan Lemos (@nolanmakesart) on


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Tiny Gallery | Week of May 18 | Levi

The ArtSwap club

Levi | 2015

I was just putting portraits in the window just because I wanted to draw people. There was no idea for swapping of art, or anything like that. But then Levi came along.

He stood in frame of the door of the Art Garage, an obvious extrovert, asking about the portraits that I was putting in the Tiny Gallery. To his question, “Can you draw me?”, I replied, “of course”. He went on to say that he also likes to draw. One of his many ideas is to take two different dog breeds and combine them into a new hybrid. I proposed to trade one of his hybrid dogs for a portrait.

He went home and within the next couple hours, returned with one of his dog drawings. This new dog had it’s own stats, much like a baseball card. Compatibility with humans, ease of training, friendliness towards other pets, and more. He even gave it a backstory.
I was so enamored with it that the pressure was on me to mirror his artistic intent. We set up a photoshoot and while I was taking pictures I asked him if he had any requests for his art, and this is what he said.

A video posted by Nolan Lemos (@nolanmakesart) on

I got to work on his portrait. First I drew him, then I drew some strawberries that had different personalities. After that, I drew some crazy mushrooms and a deranged chipmunk. I really tried to pushed this piece because I felt it had to compete with his big imagination.

After I had my first unofficial ArtSwap with Levi, I wanted to recreate that feeling of collaborative art gifting, thus my humble ArtSwap project was born. Retroactively, Levi is officially member #1.


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Tiny Gallery | Week of April 27 | Eric

The ArtSwap club

Eric | 2015

On Giving a Shit

When I was a kid you could buy tacos at the park for a few dollars. The vendors upped their prices the moment new people came into the neighborhood and were willing to pay more for a goddamn taco. There are other changes, too. Those random tiendas on Sunset are no longer. They seem to be disappearing every other day. Near my apartment there are about five new coffee shops. Brewing coffee is an art form here now—one is even known for having the best pastries in town.

My uncle still lives behind a trendy bar on Sunset. It was not always trendy; years ago it was a shady dive bar where the regulars would hang out. The regulars are gone now. The apartment owners told my uncle the other day the price of rent would be going up—again. He works in construction so money is not, well, flowing-in. He laments the former neighborhood but is often caught trying to balance the struggles of the past and the benefits of living in this new place where he has little worry for the safety of his family.

Violence was common back then. The park was off-limits at night because of the drug dealing and gang fights. Anyone looking for trouble could find it at the park. This has changed. The park is safer than ever before. Young couples walk hand—in—hand at all hours of the night; the other day a few friends and me smoked a joint near the boathouse and no one—not even the cops—cared much to stop and check things out. This is the new neighborhood. A place where coffee shops and trendy bars are popping up, and drug use at the park goes unchecked because the people using look different than the ones previously using—the bald headed guys in Dickies with tats, you know, the homies.

There’s a down side. Call it gentrification, call it what you will. One group of people is moving in and another is being moved out. Rents are skyrocketing; if you’re lucky enough to be a property owner so is your potential upside. But let’s be real—a property owner is not likely to be my uncle. He represents those who will be pushed out. I now represent the very people pushing him out, like it or not. I have an education and make more money. When it comes down to it, I live here now because it’s hip; doling out $4.50 for a gourmet coffee has little effect on how I sleep at night. My standard of living is higher; my willingness to pay for this standard even higher. I’m part of the problem. I have one foot in my former neighborhood and the other in this new place I’m helping create. One is quickly erasing the other. If something doesn’t give soon my past will be no longer. Maybe what needs to “give” is me—but its becoming clear I don’t really give enough of a shit to do something about what’s happening here.



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Tiny Gallery | Week of March 1 | Molly

The Art Swap club

Molly | 2015

Previously in the Tiny Gallery…, Natalie had a run in with a giant cheeseburger, this week, it’s Molly’s turn. But it’s not cheeseburgers she’s after, she wants something… sweeter. Something light and fluffy, but also chocolatey, something like chocolate cake! OOH YEAH!

On the day of the shoot I picked up a gigantic chocolate cake that supposedly had 1000 chocolate chips inside of it.. I was tempted to actually count them.

When the photoshoot commenced, I had Molly holding a slice of cake in different poses, and she seemed a little tense. I don’t blame her, it’s a little weird posing for a guy you just met while holding a piece of cake. I got the “what the heck did I get myself into” vibe from Molly. But, I feel like the turning point was when I asked her to take a bite of the cake. Then all bets were off, and she was able too loosen up a bit.

Over all the photoshoot with Molly and Natalie was a lot of fun. However, it was the first time I’ve done a shoot at night and I feel like  my subjects weren’t properly lit. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes, invest in some better lighting, and move on to make better photos.


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Tiny Gallery | Week of March 12 | Natalie

The Art Swap club

Natalie | 2015

Two friends, Natalie & Molly, stumbled upon the Art Garage one night and asked about the art in the window. When I explained the ArtSwap Project, they were instantly on board. Since they seemed so pumped on the project, I suggested that we do something different… like, what if the photoshoot involved food? Natalie was the first to voice her opinion that cheeseburgers were pretty great. No arguments from me. The night of the shoot, we went and got $15 worth of In-N-Out and had a really fun and messy photoshoot.

Everyone has a personal relationship with food. It’s fuel, friend, enemy. Too much or too little, Bad and good, I wanted to make a few sketches about food relationships, something we’re married to, ‘til death do us part.

If her Xacto knife was a wand, Natalie would be Harry Potter.

Look closer and you’ll notice that these are not prints, but actual stencil cutouts. I was so amazed when I saw these delicate patterns intricately carved out of colored paper.

Can you imagine the amount of patience it would take to cut out all those small details? Love and care show in the finished pieces.

I’m so stoked that Natalie submitted her work to the ArtSwap. She really came through. I hope she liked my portrait as much I admire her work.

Check more of Natalie’s awesome work at

Next week: Molly’s Adventure with Cocoa

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