Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007: My Year in Review

Well. I certainly never imagined writing some type of 'year in review' for a blog I was involved in, let alone one dedicated to my drawing. And yet, here we are.
This year, I think my personal theme has been "From the Gutter to the Stars". At the start of '07, I was at one of the lowest points I've ever been in my life (and that's saying something). I was a wreck mentally and emotionally, disconnected and disjointed from just about everything. And now, although I'd not go so far as to say I'm on top of the world, I'm definitely within sight of the stars. Unlike the movies, there's no one moment of epiphany I can point to and say "yes, that's where I decided to stop being a wreck", but instead it's the hundreds of little moments (and one or two big moments) that really add up to me pulling myself out of that wreckage.
But, such little moments are lifetimes made of.
Among those little moments (and big moments):
I took a class in painting, just because I wanted to
I went to see a bunch of movies with my friends
I got to read the last Harry Potter book sitting with my brothers
I had the honor of watching a relationship I saw start blossom into a crazy, goofy, touching and beautiful wedding
I spent another awesome year at Chincoteague with my friends
A bunch of my friends welcomed new babies into the world (this is spilling over into '08)
I read a ton of books
I cleaned up my room
I drank absinthe
I decided that suits and Converse All-Stars DO go together
I had my brother Dan call me from the Police concert so I could hear 'Message in a Bottle"
I finally got to spend a week in Bethany Beach with my other family
I reconnected with a friend I thought I'd lost
I met new friends, as brilliant and demented as myself
I was called "stevie weavie"
I've made more than sixty postings to a weblog I created
I said goodbye to people I loved and admired- reminding me how precious we all are
I found, once again, blood means very little where brotherhood is concerned
I talked with my Dad
I got to see my mom and dad and brother and sister all together again
I hung out with my brother and nephews, four guys out having fun
I finally got to sit down and have dinner and talk with my sister
I watched my parents celebrate Fifty years of their marriage
I picked up a pencil again
Thank you all for stopping by to visit, whether it's been once, or every other day from the start. It's meant a lot to me to know there are folks out there who either care enough, or have enough time to kill, to stop by and look, read, and hopefully be amused by what they've seen here. You all have been a big highlight of my year. I have every intention of keeping this up for as long as I can hold a pencil, so I hope you'll stop back and visit.
It's been a pretty damn good year. I can't wait to see what '08 brings.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nobody's Hero

Welcome back from the Christmas break, those of you who decided to come back, and those of you who had no choice in the matter. Regardless, I hope everyone's holidays were nice and stress-free... or as stress-free as they can be.

Anyway, back to Mr. Gordon. Here's yet another attempt to draw a new version of Flash Gordon. This time, as you can probably tell, I went in a completely different direction. Yes, that's a pot belly. Why, you ask, does a world-famous pulp hero have a pot belly? All part of the plan...

I tried taking the costume in a different direction here, as well. I decided to ditch both the 'classic' look and the 'movie' look and try for something more futuristic. Hmmm... not overly-successful. Looks like he's wearing some kind of exercisewear. Ah well.

The woman is, ostensibly, Dale Arden, the female protagonist from the comics and movie. I was going for a more retro look with her, and for some reason she just reminds me of a 40's-era movie actress. *sigh*

Back to the drawing board.

Not much else to say for now. I'll be back Monday with the last post of the year, which probably won't be anything fancy, but we'll see what happens.


Music: "Star Wars (Disco Remix)" - Meco

Monday, December 24, 2007

Don't mess with the Big Man

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

This is a painting I did for a Christmas party my roommate and I threw last year. I figured if Santa can be everywhere, surely he'd visit Whoville, too. And he'd probably not be best pleased by a pretender to the suit. The original painting is 6 feet tall by 3 feet wide, or something like that.

Now for God's sake- stop surfing the internet and go spend time with your families and friends!

Music: "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" - Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Death is a dialogue between
The spirit and the dust.
"Dissolve," says Death. The Spirit, "Sir,
I have another trust."

Death doubts it, argues from the ground.
The Spirit turns away,
Just laying off, for evidence,
An overcoat of clay.

- Emily Dickinson

Charles J. Illig Jr.
Dec. 5, 1957 - Dec. 18, 2007

Rest easy, Chuck.

The Hero Takes the Fall

Okay, so that first take on Flash just didn't work for me. This time around, I tried to go back to the source- Alex Raymond's original comic strip version of Flash Gordon. Raymond's comic strip pretty much defines our current idea of what "retro" sci-fi looks like- flying rockets with crazy fins, swords and lasers, damsels in skimpy outfits; it's all in his work. Raymond was a fantastic draftsman- but then, he came from a time when comics were not just about getting to the same tired punchlines, but told whole stories. Many comic book artists would later look back at Raymond's work on Flash as a big inspiration to their own style.

Anyway- here I tried to keep the same colors as the last one (and as in the movie), though I used blue for the pants in homage to Raymond's original character. This Flash is a bit more of the swashbuckler, with the looser top, gloves, and higher boots. Note the sci-fi ray gun.

Though I like this version, my ideas for what kind of story I was thinking about took me farther away from the retro-swashbuckler Flash Gordon. So, moving on...

In other news, nothing says holidays like running yourself ragged trying to buy gifts for everyone, make Christmas cards, and bake for the office party. And yet, it's all fun.
Also- new poll to the right. And, what the hell are you folks thinking? You actually LIKE reading the ramblings? well then... I'd best get back to writing my manifesto.

But not right now... I'm really freakin' tired right now...

Music: "The Raiders March" - John Williams

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holding Out for a Hero, One

Remember way back when (the Monster Squad posts), I was talking about 'world-building'? Essentially, the idea of taking pre-existing characters and situations and putting your own spin on them? Well, far be it from me to limit my mental meanderings to just the biggies like Star Wars and Monster Squad. Here we have the first part of my quest to resurrect one of my favorite mediocre movies from the 80's, Flash Gordon.

I'm not going to go into all the gory details just yet- I'll save that for when we get there. But, to give you an idea of where I'm coming from, there was a lot about the original movie that I loved. The production design; the costumes; the sense of fun it brought to the character. And there was some stuff I didn't like. Though I enjoyed that it brought humor to it, there were plenty of times I felt like it was veering too far into camp. But, one thing I loved above all- the music. Whoever the hell came up with the idea of having Queen score the movie deserves an Oscar. Though the music is as crazy and fun as the best parts of the movie, I think it still holds up pretty well. Find a group of 30-somethings and say "FLASH!" to them and (provided they're not drunk) they'll probably shout back "AAAAAAaaaaHHHH!" because we've all either seen or heard the movie or song. Practically everyone's familiar with the damn song.

And there's the secret. That's how to remake the movie. Yep, the song. But more on that later.

Okay, the sketch. This was the first pass I took at the update of the movie; as you can see, it's pretty much just an updating of the original outfit. The red and black sleeveless shirt, long pants and boots. I added the piping to the shirt, fancified the boots, added gloves, and the lightning motif (the idea being that the outfit is probably taken from some guard of Ming's, or a soldier- "the Lightning Legion" or something like that). Even though the lightning bolt has nothing to do with the original incarnations of Flash Gordon (and is famously the symbol of a different Flash entirely), it's become pretty well-associated with the character due to the movie. This almost didn't make it up in color form, but I thought the colors were a fairly central component of this particular look.

Sorry there's not more today, and that the picture's not cleaned up like normal, but I've spent most of my Photoshop time this week working on my Christmas card (yes, I know what day it is; I can't help that my muse does not check her calendar). But, fortune favoring the foolish, I'll be back Tuesday with another picture. Later!

Music: "Jukebox Hero" - Foreigner

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Coppola's Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula was a pretty big deal to me, movie-wise, when I was younger. I've been a huge fan of Dracula for many a year already, and this movie promised to be unlike any other before it. Well, it was. Visually, it was just insane. I mean, look at this guy! While charting a completely new course for the Dracula movies visually, it actually did a fairly impressive job of adhering to the original novel more closely than any adaptation had previously. Well, except for the whole bit about reincarnated love. No one's perfect. But Francis Ford Coppola's version of the Dracula story obviously had an impact on how we view the old vampire. If nothing else, this elderly version of Vlad was neatly impersonated by one Montgomery Burns in "The Simpsons". I mean, that's gotta count.

Not a whole lot to say on this one. It's not a leftover from Halloween; it's an idea I've had rolling around for a while now, and it finally got put to paper a little while ago. I had an idea for the elderly Dracula here to be doing something nasty, and to render him in a very stylized fashion- the long flowing gown and that crazy hair just lent themselves to lots of curves and sharp angles. Had I the skill, I could probably have rendered an even better take just by using french curves. As it is, I'm pleased with the results; the sketch itself went by pretty fast, and the Photoshopping took about 90 minutes or so.

Have a good weekend- next week, a look at my attempts at tackling another classic character. Not a monster, but he is often associated with royalty.

Music: "something i can never have" - nine inch nails

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"We Are All In The Gutter, But Some Of Us Are Looking At The Stars"

One of my favorite comic books from the 90's, and quite possibly ever, Starman was about a superhero who never wanted to be a hero. Jack Knight's father Ted was one of the most famous heroes of World War II. His brother David spent his entire life trying to walk the path his father had created. Jack wanted to sell antiques. But, as fate and the creative team would have it, Jack did not spend his days hunting down Frankenstein 3-sheets and genuine Fiestaware. He is forcibly shoved into the role of hero when the children of his father's greatest enemy attempt to destroy his beloved Opal City, and no one is left to defend it...

Starman managed to explore the idea of what makes a hero- not just the idea of the reluctant hero (though that was certainly Jack), but all the different ways heroism can take shape. From the Shade, a villain everywhere in the world but in his Opal City, to the O'Dares, a family of cops, to Bobo Bennetti, a super-tough ex-con who just wanted to walk the straight and narrow. The real cornerstone of the book, though, is family; the one we're born with, and the one we gather around us. From Jack's dad Ted, to the Mist's twisted children, to the O'Dare clan, to the men who've gone by the name 'Starman', family is everywhere in the book. There really is something for everyone in here- action, space opera, romance, comedy, drama, all the good stuff. Those of you who don't like heroes in spandex, no worries- Jack doesn't like costumes either. Goggles are about as close as he gets to a costume. So that's Starman. Good reading, honest.

Okay- the picture. Yeah, I just got done saying Jack doesn't wear spandex. However, I thought I'd approach the character from some time after the end of the original series (see, another thing- you can pick up a complete story; no ongoing plotlines every month). And here, Jack's paying homage to his father, who originally wore a red and green suit with a fin on the mask. No, really. It was WWII, what do you expect? Soooo that's the reason for the shirt. Still, it's Jack, so he's wearing jeans and bowling shoes. and the goggles, gotta have the goggles. The big stick he's carrying is an invention of his fathers, called the... wait for it... Cosmic Rod. Back in the day it was a 2 foot long, well, rod. this iteration would probably be more accurately called a Cosmic Crook, or Cosmic Scythe. But don't look at me, I didn't name it.
Oh- you can select multiple choices over there on the ol' poll- don't let me narrow your options.

Music: "Misirlou" - Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

Monday, December 10, 2007

Playing Hooky

If I could skate, I'd do that today.

But I can't, so I'll find something else to do.

I'm not working, and that's all that really matters.

So have a good day, those of you stuck in the office. I'll rejoin you in the trenches tomorrow.

PS- those of you out there up in arms over the anti-religious 'message' The Golden Compass supposedly has? Try actually watching the movie and then tell me about the message.

Music: "We Are All Made of Stars" - Moby

Friday, December 7, 2007

No Funny Business

Behold! The Fun Spoiler!

Any resemblance to any person living is entirely... well, not entirely coincidental.

Have a good weekend!

Music: "The Way I Am" - Ingrid Michaelson

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Caught Between Darkness and Light

Anton Gorodetsky works for the Moscow Night Watch. He's an IT programmer, does his job, tries to keep out of the boss's way, and likes his vodka. He's an average joe. Or he would be, if the Night Watch weren't populated by sorcerers, shapeshifters, and many other supernatural beings. By their standards, he's still a pretty average joe.

Night Watch is the first book in a tetralogy of fantasy fiction imported from Russia, written by Sergei Lukyanekno. The books tell the story of the Night Watch, a group dedicated to the Light, who oppose and guard against the Day Watch, those supernatural beings sworn to the Dark. Both Light and Dark are called the Others- those who are other than human: wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves. They exist in an uneasy truce, held in check by the Inquisition, who seek to maintain a balance between Light and Darkness, watching each side engage labyrinthine plots to obtain the smallest advantage over their opponents- until one side can wipe out the other completely. It's the Cold War all over again, but one that's been in check for centuries. One other thing- each side can move through the Twilight- realms below, between, and all around us, accessible only to Others, and only by stepping into their own shadows...

The Night Watch series has been one of my favorite book series in recent memory. The first three books (with a fourth one due next year) are just amazing... They introduce us to the world of the Others through Anton, himself relatively new to the world, and expand to include a host of characters, both Light and Dark. There are wheels within wheels in the plotting, one thing leading to another leading to something completely unexpected. One of the highlights for me is watching Anton figure out what's really happening. And there's a LOT of that. It's very rare when what you see is what you get, in the Night Watch books. They also manage to bring up some pretty interesting questions about people, and governments, and good stuff like that- things you don't always get out of a fantasy book. In case you haven't figured it out, I highly recommend the series. There are also two movies out based on the series- if you've read the books, think of the movies as an alternate reality version of the books. Also, the movies are completely cracked. And very fun.

Oh yeah- the picture. It's Anton, taking one of his first trips into the Twilight (or Gloom, as it's also translated)- at least, it's how I imagine his trip. This started out as a pretty basic sketch- I had the image of Anton essentially falling into the ground, with a very stylized shadow stretching out behind him. However, as I thought about it, I decided I'd rather do a more literal representation of his travel to the Twilight. Instead of drawing the background (which would have taken forever, and not looked nearly so good), I surfed until I found a decent background, then went to work. Judicious applications of layers and image manipulation left me with the two shadows (representing the Light and Dark), and some work with Masking and other filters let me tweak the background. A lot of trial and error with the coloring let me flesh out Anton, so to speak. A few hours' work, and there you go. I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, but I keep coming up with more things to tweak. (there, another 15 minutes to fix some more stuff) I also have a couple other settings for Anton, but this is the only one I took to completion. For what it's worth, I didn't try for an exact likeness of Konstantin Khabensky, the Russian actor who plays Anton in the books, but he certainly informed the drawing. If nothing else, hopefully my sketch of Anton looks vaguely European- or at least, not from around here...

So there you go- Night Watch- go read it!

In other news, I'm still sick, only now it's progressed to making me hack up my lungs at night. Lucky for me, the cats don't seem to mind. Little heat leeches...

Music: "The Dark is Rising" - Mercury Rev

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Love Gone Wrong

Don't get me wrong; I love the character of Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter books (yes, it's another one of those pictures; it's this picture I really don't like. Which is why it's taken months to actually get around to posting it. I drew this not long after I'd picked up the pencil again, and was on the HP kick. Having successfully drawn most of the main characters, I thought I'd get a little more ambitious and not only draw a character, but also draw a little scenery. Well, since I loved the character of Ginny so much, why not her? I have an idea of how to draw her, and hey, I've already drawn Ron, Fred, and George, her siblings, so maybe I can give her a kind of 'family resemblance'? Well, alright, we'll do that. Huh. Well, this is what I'm left with. A character who, according to the book, is quite pretty, looking... not so much. I ended up making her look too much like the Weasley boys, and not enough like a girl. D'oh!

Anyway, I went in to Photoshop and cleaned up the picture as much as I could- and, having colored in Ginny, decided to take a slightly different approach and did the background characters in shades of gray (obviously; I mean, it's right up top here, yeah?). I like the coloring at least. Still lots to learn, both about drawing and Photoshop. Since you've been kind enough to come visit the site, I thought I'd show you all my drawings, not just the ones I feel were successful. I'm not saying this is a lousy picture- it's just not as good as I would have liked, even just as a sketch. Once again, this serves to show the distance from idea to execution is much longer than arm's length.

Thanks for stopping by, as always.

Music: "Change" - The Warren Brothers