The Many Motivations of MALL

May Ann Licudine has carved her story out of trees.

Quite literally, the artist from La Union, Philippines has hollowed out sections of tree wood for several of her pieces to be featured in this weekend’s solo exhibition:
Babu’s Daydream. We spoke with MALLas she is known in the art world—about the characters in her show, specific mediums she gravitates to, overcoming challenges and much more!

Nucleus: Hi MALL, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us.

MALL: No problem, thanks for sending me questions!

Nucleus: We’ve been excited to hear your answers! To begin, let’s talk about the title of your solo show: Babu's Daydream. Would you consider Babu your alter ego?

MALL: Yes, absolutely.

It’s an evident connection considering how whimsical you both appear to be. We noticed that Babu and Abu are recurring characters in many of your pieces—can you tell us a bit about their story?

MALL: They are my personal characters who explore mysterious forest places and dreams, discovering odd and weird creatures along the way... Just like the comics of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, but with a mostly forest-themed motif.

NUCLEUS: We sensed a sort of Winsor McCay-an vibe to those two. You seem to be big on forests! Is there something characteristically unique about creating art on tree wood that makes it a special canvas to work on?

MALL: For my wood art, the paint actually absorbs faster. My new pieces involve washi tape art on resin-covered wood!

NUCLEUS: From the looks of it, you’ve figured out a way to make all the different mediums work in harmony. Which is your favorite medium? Do you import your washi tapes from somewhere specific or shop locally for it, perhaps?

MALL: Oh, my favorite medium is pencil on paper because it's easier and more comfortable to use! Yes, I purchased washi tapes from different online shops like Rakuten Japan, Pinkoi and Etsy. Oh gosh, I’m not sure how many washi tapes I have, too many to count, haha...

NUCLEUS: Maybe your next show with us can be nothing but washi tape. Let’s switch gears for a bit: what’s the most challenging part of your art process?

MALL: Mmmm, the most challenging part of being an artist is to try and push the barriers, to come up with new and thrilling mediums to create something that will make a difference in people's lives... which will make them want to dream and connect to that piece. The whole purpose of art is to make people discuss what they saw and analyze it at all levels.

Also... Making sculptures. Sometimes I make mistakes during my art process, but at least I can fix them again!

NUCLEUS: We agree that art is about making a connection—about making people have a conversation about the art—and that this can be tough to do! Here’s another fastball: What's the most difficult thing you've ever done in your life?

MALL: Major depression, suicidal disorder and crazy health issues like this:

NUCLEUS: Looking at this illustration evokes so many emotions that we can’t imagine how it must’ve been to go through all of that. We’re so glad that you’re doing better now MALL!

There’s a common thread throughout the pieces in your exhibition and it’s that they all seem infused with personal energy, with a variety of emotions which are clearly motivated by your life. How have your health challenges affected or influenced your artwork? 

MALL: Well, my very first health challenge that influenced me would be my inborn hearing deficiency. Having a hard time interpreting the things around me, pictures, images and symbols helped me a lot since they are easier to understand compared to words. Art became my foundation, strength, and it destroyed communication barriers to my social life.

I suffered from my major depression / suicidal disorder again when I had serious health issues; I felt quite paranoid, hopeless and negative. My good friends visited me at the hospital and gave me a new sketchpad, pencil and colored pencils. So I tried to draw art during my recovery period, which made me focus on positivity, bravery, and motivation. It became my outlet for my inner thoughts and emotions.

And yeah, I surprisingly noticed that my style seemed improved; maybe because I was way too serious about focusing on art, haha.  

NUCLEUS: It’s probably safe to say that you wouldn’t be the same person you are today had you not gone through these trials and hardships. When all is said and done, maybe the only things we really need are good friends and a good sketchbook!

Switching gears yet again: we know that dreams, nightmares, nature and folk music are things that heavily inspire you… Are there specific examples which you’d like to share with us?

MALL: Sometimes I draw/paint my dreams and nightmares if I remember them—I then add my characters like Babu and Abu, creating a world for their adventures! As for inspirations, I am extremely inspired by one of my favorite “surrealistic” movies, Dreams by Akira Kurosawa. The scenes were beautiful and eerie.

NUCLEUS: That beauty and eeriness definitely translates into your work. Akira Kurosawa seems to be a point of fascination for several of us then... So many films (he directed around thirty), so little time!

Some of us here at the gallery are Filipino, one of the things that excites us about you as an artist is the fact that you’re vocal about your roots! Have you ever considered doing art that taps into your Filipino heritage or Philippine culture in general?

MALL: Wow, so happy to know that Filipinos work at Nucleus—say hi to them for me! :) Yes, in fact, I have worked on artworks / commissioned commercial work about the Philippine culture in the past... But as of this moment, no.

NUCLEUS: Last but certainly not least, what are you most proud of?

MALL: I’m really proud of myself. Even with all the hardships—physically, emotionally and mentally—I was able to endure and face them; none of this would have been possible without the help and support of my family, relatives, friends and my boyfriend, who never gave up on me.

NUCLEUS: We’re really proud of you too, MALL. Keep pushing boundaries and daring us to dream.


Nucleus Roundup: July '16 Reviews

Thalia and Kenneth break down the latest crop of new books available in the Nucleus shop! In the coming weeks we'll be reviewing our SDCC haul, so check back with us regularly for our take on this year's Comic-Con pickups... For now we've spotlighted artists Morghan Gill, Caleb Thomas, Niccolo Balce and Ellen Surrey—all of whose books can be found and purchased both online and in-store!


Let's start with Thalia's sketchbook reviews:


The first sketchbook by Laguna College of Art & Design graduate, Morghan Gill, is nothing short of whimsical fun and a tenderness to her adorable characters. An experienced artist in the animation and video game industry, these pages reveal her penciling process of red pencil underneath illustrations colored in by ink and copic markers.

Morghan’s attention to her characters’ quirky and playful expressions, strong gesture but soft curves show her potential in the animation industry. Her stylized drawings of badass girls, video game and fantasy characters show her ability to transform fan art into something much more original.

To check out more of her work go to


Star Stuff is a character development sketch book for Caleb’s personal project, The Annie-Mei Project. For those of you who are not familiar, Caleb started this project years ago with a goal to direct focus in his drawings and tell the story of a young schoolgirl heroine surrounded by friends and enemies. Although the story is not complete, the sketchbook reveals a great deal of character building through poses, gestures, expressions.

There’s so much detail in the different ways each character moves, expresses, and interacts with another that we pretty much get the gist of their world. Every character drawn has a unique way of shouting, kicking, and playing from one another. For example: we immediately can tell that Annie is a stubborn, confident, and fun girl. Plus, the world Caleb built has a fun Cowboy Bebop vibe to it. Can’t recommend the Annie-Mei books enough!

To check out more of Caleb Thomas’ work go to

For more Annie-Mei go to


Kenneth shares his opinion on two more
books to wrap up this week's roundup:


This is the first collection of illustrations by Niccolo Balce, who’s currently based in the Bay Area and has worked on everything from comic books to video games—including Lab Zero’s
Skullgirls (co-created by Nucleus mainstay Alex Ahad). Robotnicc 1 is a happy mixture of softly painted slice-of-life illustrations and fantasy scenarios, sometimes sneakily juxtaposed on two facing pages.

Color theory is strong in this one, even when Niccolo’s drawings are heavily stylized poster treatments that favor a simpler alternative to the detail-minded process. That’s not to say there’s a lack of detail; the book showcases an impressive series of compositions which convey a focused attention to structure through lighting/shadows, atmosphere and reflections.

There are some pages where it’s difficult to discern whether Niccolo is character designing or world building, and it’s perhaps the most interesting aspect about Robotnicc 1… It all just melds together and sooner or later it becomes apparent that—above all—he’s storytelling.

We’re looking forward to Robotnicc 2, but until then we’ll have to make do with!



Ellen Surrey and Gloria Fowler are somewhat of an Art Center Mid-Century Modern superteam. Having both graduated from the renowned Pasadena school, Ellen more recently than Gloria (who has 20 years of teaching there under her proverbial belt), the two found each other in what seems like the perfect pairing for this kind of collaborative endeavor.

For the past several weeks in July, Nucleus featured the original artwork of Ellen Surrey in our upstairs atrium for a solo exhibition that is literally straight out of this book. Every colorful piece which hung on our walls can be found between the book cloth covers of this gorgeous hardcover and since the show has since been archived, the next best thing to seeing Ellen’s art in person is flipping through the pages of Mid-Century Modern Women in the Visual Arts! Along with accompanying quotes from each featured creative personality, she treats us with vibrant two-page illustration spreads in her growingly identifiable art style.

As a bonus, editor Gloria Fowler concludes with a 1-paragraph bio for each influential woman at the very end of the book. This is a coffee table must-have for any household—even if your coffee table isn’t an Isamu Noguchi from Herman Miller.



OPEN CALL! Broken Age Exhibition


Gallery Nucleus Art Exhibition Submission Guidelines

On June 11, 2016, Double Fine Productions & Gallery Nucleus are teaming up to host a special art exhibition for the beautifully crafted adventure game Broken Age! To celebrate this momentous collaboration, Gallery Nucleus is taking an open-call for online submissions from fans who want to express their creativity & the chance to be featured in this exciting event!


Exhibition: Double Fine’s Broken Age Art Exhibition hosted by Gallery Nucleus

Dates: June 11- June 26, 2016

Opening Reception: June 11, 2016 from 7:00PM-10:00PM

Exhibition Venue: Gallery Nucleus, 210 East Main Street Alhambra, CA 91801

Business Hours: Tuesday - Sunday: 12:00 PM - 8:00 PM , Closed Mondays (FREE Admission)


All submissions must comply with the following…

  • You are FREE to submit as many images you would like

  • Submissions are open to those who are at least 18 (eighteen) years of age

  • No use of any third party intellectual properties outside of Broken Age

  • Submissions must pay homage to the Broken Age title by Double Fine Productions

  • No business advertising

  • No crossovers or character mergers with outside properties or other Double Fine titles

  • Submissions must be ALL-AGES APPROPRIATE

    • No use of profanity, hate speech, or vulgar language

    • No use of explicit/overtly sexual language or imagery

    • No images or references to illegal drugs

  • All pieces must be created from the imagination of the contributor and must not infringe     on the intellectual property of any other individual or entity.

  • Mediums: 2D Artwork in either digital or traditional mediums preferred

  • Dimensions: Submissions must fall between 11x17” and 24x36” once framed

Feel free to interpret the Broken Age characters and world in your own style, but they should still remain recognizable!


Please do not send physical artwork to Gallery Nucleus until you have been contacted by email to participate in the exhibition. Submitted artwork must strictly adhere to the Submission Guidelines to be eligible.

Once accepted, all artwork submitted must be available for sale. All digital submissions will need to be printed out, signed, and framed prior to being received by Gallery Nucleus. Select submissions may be chosen as a Nucleus event exclusive print. Artists whose works are selected for Nucleus prints will be contacted by Nucleus directly with further details.


For consideration to be included in the Broken Age Art Exhibition by Double Fine and on display at Gallery Nucleus opening on June 11, 2016, please submit images via email in accordance to instructions above no later than Tuesday May 24, 2016 at MIDNIGHT 12:00AM (PST) to:


Selected artists/submissions will be notified by email no later than May 28, 2016 and will receive further instructions for participating in the Broken Age exhibition. High-resolution files will be requested upon notification, and an official gallery agreement will be sent to the artist by Gallery Nucleus.  All selected artwork must physically arrive at Gallery Nucleus by June 4, 2016.

Final selected submissions must be hand-signed, framed, and ready to hang. Artwork must be shipped securely with painter’s or other non-paint-stripping tape on the glass face (in case of breakage) and at least two layers of bubble wrap padding around the artwork. Artists are in charge of shipping their work to safely arrive undamaged at Gallery Nucleus by June 4, 2016.

IMPORTANT: Damages due to shipping will be the responsibility of the artist. In the case that the artwork does not sell, the artist will be responsible for the shipping cost to have the artwork returned.



The Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2015

'Twas the night before the night before Christmas, when all through the gallery... stocking stuffers were stirring, ready for your hard-earned salary! With 2 days left before Christmas, you've most likely completed your holiday shopping and are neck-deep in wrapping paper and greeting cards. However, there are always one or two people who you're stuck on—family or friends whose gifts you've procrastinated purchasing because you just don't know what to get them this year. Fear not, Nucleus is here to swoop in with our Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide 2015!

Read on for our stocking stuffer store-picks, curated gift bundles for that particularly specific person in your life. Each gift bundle ranges from affordable to pricey, and keep in mind that you can always swap one thing out for another to meet your tastes. Remember to take advantage of our current SALE discounts, which can be found at the very bottom of this post (and don't forget: tomorrow we close early at 5pm for Christmas Eve). Merry Christmas, happy holidays and thanks for shopping Nucleus!


The Modern Nature Enthusiast Bundle

Do you have a tree hugger friend who loves to hike, camp, take waterfall pictures and post all of the above on social media? Well we have the perfect gift bundle for the modern nature enthusiast, including a log pillow for those high-altitude naps on the summit of Mt. Fillintheblank, a fun tea accessory for the campfire steep session and a beautiful nature print—an indoor reminder of the outdoors.

Clockwise from top: Log Pillow by Kikkerland: $16.95, End of the Triassic print by Brooks Salzwedel: $125, Tea Holder Fishermen by Kikkerland: $14.95, Heartist book by Wendy Hearts: $26.95, Mighty Tree Tops by Karl Zahn x Areaware: $11.95

The Obsessive Cat Lover Bundle

We all know someone who loves their cat. Or maybe they love your cat. Either way, cat love abounds and you're wondering what to give that person for the holidays because you can't regift the 10-lb. bag of kitty litter which came free when you bought that carpet-covered feline tree. Consider this bundle, which includes various cat-themed gifts and enough kitty art to last through the winter!

Clockwise from top: Fruit Cat iPad Mini Case by ECA: $30, Hover Cat print by Mike Yamada: $29, Kit-Tea Infuser by GAMAGO: $9.95, Cactus Kitties blindbox figurine by tokidoki: $5.95, Needle Felting Cat Kit by Woolbuddy: $14.95, Shark Bites vol. 2 book by Megan Nicole Dong: $14.95

The Nerdy Geek Friend Bundle

This is you, isn't it? There's a nerd inside all of us, and we're proud to proclaim it! Whether you're in search of presents for your geek pal or for yourself, this bundle is full of Nucleus-approved gift ideas—from a retro video game system that plays those dusty old cartridges to a wide selection of old school Star Wars action figures, just in time for this season's newest space saga...

Clockwise from top: Naughty Dog 30th Anniversary Shirt: $9.95, Assorted Star Wars Action Figures by Hasbro: $10 or $5, RetroN 3 Gaming Console by Hyperkin: $74.99, Hero Pages book by Julian Callos: $6


Libros de los Muertos

Happy Halloween and Día de los Muertos! Enjoy this fun booklist of ghostly reads, appropriate for the entire family:


Deep Dark Fears is artist Fran Krause’s hardcover assemblage of individual mini comics depicting uniquely superstitious scenarios of paranoia. The book is a comedic combination of user-submitted fears and Fran’s own paneled micro-stories, comprising a bound work of hilarity originating from the darkest reaches of our collective imaginations. Deep Dark Fears may look like coffee table fare, but spend five minutes flipping through random pages and you’ll swear its stories were stolen straight from the mindspaces of your own brain!


Leo: A Ghost Story 
is a story of loneliness wrapped in a delightfully drawn dust jacket. Artist Christian Robinson’s cute paper-cut characters perfectly complement author Mac Barnett’s slim-and-grim story of Leo, a lonely boy ghost who isn’t wanted in his own haunted house… Feeling rejected, Leo sets out into the city in search of meaning and—hopefully—a friend. It's a good thing then that he stumbles across Jane, a sprightly young girl who doesn't seem to care that Leo is a spook! Sometimes friendship is found in the unlikeliest of situations, even if that situation involves wandering ghosts.



If you liked the sequel film to Sony Pictures Animation's Hotel Transylvania, you'll enjoy this art book. The Art of Hotel Transylvania 2 is a handsome hardcover collection of movie concept art, character and location designs, as well as interesting narration to accompany all of these art goodies. It's like Halloween between two covers, except there aren't any tricks on these pages... It's treat after treat of behind-the-scenes artwork, from colorfully beautiful spreads that begin each and every chapter to intriguing storyboards which shed light onto the story's production process!


Zombie in Love 2 + 1 comes to us from the creative duo that is author Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator Scott Campbell. In this zombie family story, Mortimer and Mildred are new zombie parents who are perplexed by the mysteries of raising a baby. This colorful sequel to the popular children’s book of the same name picks up right where the first Zombie in Love left off, and it's full of memorably humorous moments interspersed with adorably gory parenting scenarios. Teething babies and squishy brains, anyone?




Neil Gaiman calls this one a masterpiece. It's right there on the cover of Anya's Ghost, a uniquely modern ghost tale written and drawn by LAIKA storyboard artist and Portlander Vera Brosgol. Anya is a regular teenage girl who attends Hamilton Private School, and her life is full of everyday teenage girl problems (annoying mom, pesky little brother, low self-esteem, BOYS, etc.). But when she accidentally falls down a well one day and discovers an unburied skeleton at the bottom, her list of high school issues gets just a little bit longer with the addition of a ghost who won't seem to leave Anya alone!



Our Other Blogs

Twitter Feed

Twitter_16 Follow Us

    New Photos


    A Fairy Friend with Claire Keane: Signing & Exhibition
    May 28, 2016
    54 Photos


    Violent Pink Launch & Leslie Hung Solo
    May 21, 2016
    45 Photos


    Painting the Town
    April 30, 2016
    30 Photos


    August 2016
    July 2016
    April 2016
    December 2015
    November 2015
    August 2015
    March 2015
    January 2015
    October 2014
    May 2014
    February 2014
    November 2013
    October 2013
    May 2013
    October 2012
    September 2012
    August 2012
    June 2012
    May 2012
    April 2012
    March 2012
    February 2012
    January 2012
    December 2011
    November 2011
    October 2011
    September 2011
    August 2011
    July 2011
    June 2011
    May 2011
    April 2011
    March 2011
    February 2011
    January 2011
    December 2010
    November 2010
    October 2010
    September 2010
    August 2010
    July 2010
    June 2010
    May 2010
    April 2010
    March 2010
    February 2010
    January 2010
    December 2009
    November 2009
    October 2009
    September 2009
    August 2009
    July 2009
    June 2009
    May 2009
    April 2009
    March 2009
    February 2009
    January 2009
    December 2008
    November 2008
    October 2008
    September 2008
    August 2008
    July 2008
    June 2008
    May 2008