Michael Carson: Artist

Michael Carson, artist represented by Bonner David Galleries, photographed at his home in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michael Carson, artist, photographed at his home in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michael Carson
www.instagram.com/mcarson1999

Michael Carson’s paintings are pieces that transcend time, with figures that emanate classic cool, in muted colors that give the works an immortal feel. It’s amazing the 42-year-old Phoenix artist is self-taught, since he has collectors from around the world who have followed him since he pursued his professional art career a dozen years ago.

You can see an exhibition of more than 20 of Carson’s works starting this Thursday, November 19, at Bonner David Galleries in Scottsdale. The Nefariousness exhibition includes some paintings on metal and runs through December 8.

Carson, who is also represented by Arcadia Contemporary in New York City, talked about what has inspired his latest collection and how he’s made it as a professional artist. You can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

Five years ago, my wife got a job opportunity. She didn’t want to take it, but I was in a spot in life where I needed to move some place. I had that need, that feel for travel, and I was selling out of a gallery in Scottsdale called Bonner David. It seemed like the stars aligned, and we took a chance and moved here in 2010.

I was born in Minneapolis and lived there basically my whole life until moving here. Continue reading

Raj Nijjer: VP of Community Relations at Yext, Angel Investor

Raj Nijjer, angel investor and VP of community relations at Yext, photographed at Malee's Thai Bistro in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Raj Nijjer, angel investor and VP of community relations at Yext, photographed at Malee’s Thai Bistro in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Raj Nijjer
www.twitter.com/RajNijjer

Raj Nijjer is a passionate believer in the power of technology to boost economies and communities. The 37-year-old Phoenix resident, who is VP of community relations at digital location management service Yext, is an angel investor who regularly partners with small-to-medium-size technology startups and advises them on how to grow their businesses.

Nijjer shared his thoughts on the Phoenix tech scene, as well as gave his advice for startups. You can also hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised in India, and I was 12 years old when we moved to America for the opportunity. The climate in Arizona was warm, and we came from a warm climate. The cost of living and opportunity was great outside of the usual immigrant stalwarts, like San Francisco, New York and L.A. We still wanted to be close to the coast, and we had a little bit of family here for some support.

I went to Shadow Mountain High School and graduated from Arizona State [University] several times. The first time was for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, then I went back and got a bachelor’s for international business.​ I did my MBA at ASU two years ago, which was such a great experience, and I now mentor undergrads. Continue reading

Jake Poinier: Freelance Writer and Author of ‘The Smooth-Sailing Freelancer’

Jake Poinier
www.DoctorFreelance.com

Jake Poinier has experienced immense flexibility in his role as a freelance writer and editor for the past 16 years. The publishing guru works on projects ranging from penning web copy to ghostwriting books, and he’s self-published three of his own titles: The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid, Help! My Freelancers Are Driving Me Crazy!, and the recently released The Smooth-Sailing Freelancer: How to Find, Sell, and Retain More Freelance Business.

The 48-year-old Phoenix resident shares his knowledge of the freelancing world on his website, www.DoctorFreelance.com, where he is available to answer questions and creates blog posts focused on freelancing. He shared his tips for existing and aspiring freelancers, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in Boston and grew up in Massachusetts. After graduating college, I was working at a golf magazine called Golf Digest magazine in Connecticut. Two years later, I quit my job and attempted to ride my bike cross-country and was run over in Montana by a pickup truck, which cut that short. Even so, the first 1,100 miles introduced me to the beauty of the West’s mountains and desert.

After going back to Massachusetts after the accident, a guy who had left Golf Digest to become the editor at a magazine here in Arizona, called Golf Illustrated, called me. It was a classically awful New England night, 33 degrees and raining, and he said, “Hey, do you want to come to Arizona to be my managing editor?” I said, “What time is my flight?” I flew out and haven’t looked back since. Continue reading

Colton Brock: Artist and Photographer

Colton Brock, photographed on top of Shaw Butte in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Colton Brock, artist and photographer, photographed on top of Shaw Butte in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Colton Brock
www.coltonbrock.com

Colton Brock has made his mark on the Valley’s art scene in a big way, as the creator of several murals throughout the downtown Phoenix area and beyond. The 33-year-old Phoenix resident creates landscape art in a variety of mediums, including photography, and presents his work at a solo exhibition at The Hive in Phoenix, called Location³. The exhibition debuts with a music and refreshment-filled reception Friday, October 16 from 6-10 p.m. and runs through mid-November.

Brock has had several commissions with the City of Phoenix and City of Tempe and has shown at The Lost Leaf and Phoenix Public Library, as well as in Minneapolis. You can currently see his murals at Tempe Farmers Market, at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, and around Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix, and he created a public installation at the light rail stop at Mill Avenue and 3rd Street in Tempe.

Brock shared his artist inspiration, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in and grew up in Phoenix and went to Arizona State University, where I got my bachelor degree in art and design, with a minor in religious studies.

My grandfathers were both born in Arizona. My whole family is from here, back to four generations ago, and before then, I don’t even really know where they came from. Continue reading

Stacey Gordon: Founder of Puppet Pie, Puppeteer with Die Puppet Die

Stacey Gordon, founder of Puppet Pie and puppeteer, photographed at her Puppet Pie studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Gordon, founder of Puppet Pie and puppeteer with Die Puppet Die, photographed at her Puppet Pie studio in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Gordon
www.puppetpie.com

Stacey Gordon believes people should never grow up, and that they should always strive to inject imagination, creativity and fun in their lives. What better way to do that than by using puppets? As founder of Puppet Pie in 2006, Gordon creates one-of-a-kind puppet creatures she sells and uses in theater performance, as co-founder of the puppet theater and puppet improv troupe Die Puppet Die. The 37-year-old Phoenix resident has had a love for puppets since a young age and now travels to conventions and festivals around the country spreading her passion for the art form.

You can catch her performing as Claire the sheep in the Settlers of Catan-based web series The Bob & Angus Show, sponsored by the board game company Mayfair Games. The new series starts this Thursday, October 1, and you can view episodes at www.thebobandangusshow.com.

Watch Gordon’s puppets live in action this Friday, October 2, and Saturday, October 3, at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater at 8 p.m. She performs with Die Puppet Die there every first Friday and Saturday of the month, other than summer months.

Kids can take a mask-making workshop with Gordon on Saturday, November 14, in conjunction with the Grand Avenue Festival and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts — check out www.puppetpie.com for more details.

Gordon, who has made thousands of puppets, has a presence at local arts festivals, and can puppet-ize anything from mirrors to chalkboards, talked about why she has made puppetry her career. You can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

My husband got a job down here right after we got married, and we moved here in 2001 from Littleton, Colorado.

I grew up in northern California in a really small town called Ripon. I met my future husband while visiting a friend in Colorado and moved there after high school to go to community college and was going to study education. I ended up going on the Disney College Program in Florida, shadowed the puppetry department there, and decided to skip having student loans and dive straight into puppetry and theater. Continue reading

Stacey Grondahl: Owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa

Stacey Grondhal, owner of We Do Men -- A Male Concept Spa, photographed at her spa in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Grondahl, owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa, photographed at her spa in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Grondahl
www.wedomen.com

Stacey Grondahl is the self-proclaimed “Boss Lady,” as owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa in Old Town Scottsdale since 2012. The 29-year-old Phoenix resident and her staff “manhandle” clients, beautifying and relaxing them through massage, facial and brow services. Guys instantly feel comfortable in the unique spa environment, which features local art and music by classic artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Patrons may take advantage of the spa’s Sake Bomb special during September, which features Pumpkin Sake Bomb and Sake Bomb peels for $50 and $70 each, saving clients up to $21 per treatment. In November, the spa celebrates its three-year anniversary with a party November 12, which includes educational aspects about products and specials throughout the spa. In December, catch Grondahl at the Jackalope Art Fair in Phoenix.

Year-round, the spa offers male-centric eco-friendly beauty and relaxation products in its shop. Grondahl shared her beauty philosophies, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

It was a disability that brought me out here in 2011 to go to the National Laser Institute. I came out here to restart my career and grow as a spa professional. In California, you can’t be a laser tech without being a doctor or a nurse, which is interesting because they have no skincare background. I came out here and have never looked back.

I was born in Williston, North Dakota, and I grew up in Bakersfield, California. Continue reading

Leslie Barton: Stand-Up Comedian

Leslie Barton, Phoenix stand-up comedian, photographed at Giant Coffee in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Leslie Barton, Phoenix stand-up comedian, photographed at Giant Coffee in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Leslie Barton
www.facebook.com/lesliebarton87

After less than a decade performing stand-up comedy in the Valley, Leslie Barton has become one of the scene’s most prominent players. The 50-year-old Phoenix resident produces the Hashtag Comedy Corner weekly comedy show on Tuesday nights at Grand Avenue Pizza Company and performs improv every Monday at The Rock in Phoenix in the Workin’ It Out show. She’ll be making people laugh during the Big Pine Comedy Festival in Flagstaff, October 8 to 10, and you can catch her performing at Crescent Ballroom this Wednesday, September 2, as part of The Switch comedy show.

When she’s not performing stand-up, Barton manages Bragg’s Factory Diner in Phoenix. She also is a visual artist who has shown her artwork at the First Friday artwalk in downtown Phoenix, and you can see her video work in an installation in one of the bathrooms in AZ/88.

Barton shares her journey as a stand-up comedian and has tips for aspiring stand-up comedians, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents. We moved here from Colorado because my mother had a job here, and I’ve lived here since seventh grade. I graduated from Thunderbird High School and went to Phoenix College, then went to school at Al Collins Graphic Design School and got my degree in art and design.

I was born in Fort Lee, Virginia, and my family moved around a lot because my parents were in the Army. I’ve also lived in Illinois and northern California in San Francisco. Continue reading

Tim Yokley: Drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine

Tim Yokley, drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool, photographed at his home in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tim Yokley, drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool, photographed at his home in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tim Yokley
www.timyokley.com

Tim Yokley is a pro behind a drum set, playing for thousands of music fans across the country and in town as drummer for For the Love, The Wednesday Machine, and Weird Is the New Cool. Yokley is also a tour manager and recently completed a summer tour with big names including Katastro, Dirty Heads, Pepper, and Aer. He heads back out with Katastro, Ballyhoo!, and Pepper this fall for a U.S. tour — find dates here.

The 30-year-old Phoenix resident had a career in real estate for 10 years before leaving to pursue music full-time a couple years ago, and he also plays with cover bands throughout the Valley. Yokley talks about what it’s like to be a professional musician and why he’s so passionate about the industry, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in Phoenix and went to Camelback High School. I went to school for Microsoft networking and A+ certification and went to Glendale Community College for business. Just one of the reasons why I love living here and have stayed is because I’m a huge bass fisherman, and Arizona has some great lakes and tournaments. Continue reading

Erick Biez: Stand-Up Comedian

Erick Biez, Valley stand-up comedian and comedy show host, photographed at The Turf in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Erick Biez, Valley stand-up comedian and comedy show host, photographed at The Turf in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Erick Biez
www.facebook.com/erickbiez

Erick Biez is responsible for bringing established and new comedians from the Valley and across the country to local stages, as the 31-year-old Phoenix resident and stand-up comedian hosts comedy nights at various bars and comedy clubs throughout town. Catch him hosting Monday Night Comedy at The Turf  in Phoenix every Monday from 10-11:30 p.m., a show that features both local and national comedians. He also runs Copper Comedy at Copper Blues in Tempe and the New Faces of Comedy shows at Stand Up Live and Tempe Improv. Beginning Thursday, September 3, he starts up a new comedy show at Valley Bar in Phoenix, with co-producer Anwar Newton.

When he’s not facilitating laughs on stage, Biez serves hungry diners at Mother Bunch Brewing in Phoenix. He shares his tips for beginning and veteran comedians below, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born outside of Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Flagstaff in 2002 to study writing for TV and film at Northern Arizona University. After college, I moved to Chicago for a year, then moved back to Flagstaff, and then moved to Phoenix in 2010. Continue reading

Marshall Shore: Arizona’s Official Hipstorian

Marshall Shore, Arizona's Official Hipstorian, photographed at The Clarendon in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Marshall Shore, Arizona’s Official Hipstorian, photographed at The Clarendon in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Marshall Shore
www.marshallshore.com

Have a question about Arizona history? Ask Marshall Shore. The 48-year-old Phoenix resident has immersed himself in Grand Canyon State days of yore since he arrived in the Valley more than 15 years ago, and he is a public speaker educating various groups around the state on what makes Arizona so special. Shore is known throughout the Valley as “Arizona’s Official Hipstorian,” as he blogs for the Arizona Oddities website, leads tours in various cities as a representative of organizations such as Arizona Humanities Council, sits on the board for historical cemetery Pioneer Cemetery, and hosts events such as the Underground History night every second Sunday at 7 p.m. at Valley Bar in Phoenix.

When he’s not schooling the state on Arizona history, you can meet Shore behind the bar at Café Tranquilo at The Clarendon. Catch him hosting a trivia night this Thursday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Changing Hands Bookstore, and head to Grand Avenue in Phoenix Friday, September 4 to visit art shows he helped curate: Hot Summer Nights at Chartreuse (1301 N.W. Grand Avenue) and the 10th Annual Grid Show: Art About Art at The Trunk Space.

Keep reading to gain Shore’s insight into Arizona history and to watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in Arizona in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I moved from New York City to Phoenix about 16 years ago. My partner and I had sort of a slumlord for a landlord, there was a rat in the apartment, and then there was a fire. It was time to move, and we chose an adventure.

For our current home, we wound up buying a 1950s Phoenix ranch. That was one of the goals and perks of moving to Arizona: we could get a mid-’50s ranch. The criteria is that it had to be as original as possible, close to the light rail. We wound up in the area just south of Camelback on 19th Avenue.

I was born in Indiana, in a small farm town of about 25 people, called Odell, with two roads and one stop sign. I realized at an early age it wasn’t where I wanted to grow up. As soon as I could, I got myself through college and then moved to New York City, as a librarian with the New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library for about a decade, before coming to Arizona. I did my undergraduate at Purdue in communications and my masters in library science at Indiana University. Continue reading