Thursday, January 31, 2008

In the Belfry

Once again, why I love Photoshop...

I wasn't overly fond of this particular penciled drawing- nothing was really coming together with it, I didn't care much for the pose, etc. I figured I'd post it because, well, something's better than nothing. I was originally going to go with a different picture entirely tonight, but when I decided to work more with it, I thought I'd throw this one up instead. Figured I'd give it a quick background and be done with it. Then, I kindasorta accidentally did an even coat of paint to the figure, and realized it looked pretty good like that. Nothing fantastic, mind you, but I like how the gray brought out the underlying pencil that normally gets removed whenever I typically 'paint' a drawing. So, 10 minutes of work, and here you go.

For those of you looking for a medical update, evidently "I'm feeling much better now." Other than my hearing still being kinda bad, and every laugh turns into a pretty nasty-sounding cough, I'm doing alright. Just in time for the weekend- sweet!

That's all for now. See you back here Monday.

Music: "Black No.1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" - Type O Negative

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"I'm Not Dead Yet!"

But Christ, do I feel like it...

Here's my first self-portrait up on the blog (not counting the Simpsonized one from New Yearsish). Consider it a more... metaphorical self-portrait. Falling apart, but looking on the bright side.

Seriously, this cold is kicking my ass. Never before have I had two colds in a season, and never have I had one work me over quite like this. I can breathe, but just about everything else is optional. I can hardly hear (not always a bad thing), laughing leads to painful coughing, my head is either blocked with cement or flowing like a river, etc., etc. Every time I cough or sneeze I grab my head to keep it from exploding (you think I'm joking?).

Ah, wintertime. My favorite time of the year.

Music: I don't know, I can't freakin' hear any of it...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another Day, Another Sunset

Welcome back everyone. I'm still sick, and still tired, so this will probably be brief. You can stop cheering now...

This was painted early last year. I took a watercolor painting class at the local community college. Watercolor was something I really loved doing back in high school, but hadn't really touched in the intervening years. So, in an attempt to do something social, and something I enjoyed, I took this class. It went pretty well- the class was fun, the folks nice, and it was a good chance to learn some of the fundamentals of watercolor. Learning the process of creating art is always both a pleasure and a pain for me. So much of it is pretty intuitive to me- most everything I've drawn, and certainly everything you've seen posted on here- is the result of what I've taught myself or what I've picked up from looking at other artists. As a result, though I know how to do certain things, I'm lacking what's known as 'fundamentals'. So whenever I'm given the chance to learn the 'proper' way to do something, it makes a huge difference in everything I attempt from there on out. However, it's also very difficult for me to try to learn something new since I've always just done well enough with what I've learned on my own. Anyway, learning's great, but tough.

So here's this picture- one of the last ones I painted, and one that I really like and really dislike. It's a sunset at the edge of some cliffs. No worries there- the original photo was very nice- lots of contrast between the stark black foreground and brilliant sunset, all overlooking the sea. HOWEVER, painting that friggin' sea nearly killed me. I ended up completely re-doing the water three times, just to get it to this state. And it's not easy to re-do watercolor. It involves lots of water and dry brushes. Also, I learned that my paints, while nice, are not that nice. The black and dark blue were both prone to clumping and so on, so the picture isn't as highly contrasted as I'd like. I do really like the sky, though. Unfortunately, the scanner doesn't handle painted pictures really well. I'd probably be better off having Dave take photos of the paintings and posting those. But I didn't, so here you go.

So much for a short post. Suckers.

Music: "Save Me" - Queen

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sick and Tired

So you get a photo today... aren't those colors awesome?

Off to bed wi' me now, sorry...

Music: "Six Foot Town" Big and Rich

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

American Ideals

Welcome back! Hope everyone enjoyed their 3-day weekend (your time off may vary). I had an excellent time- as I always do when spending it with friends, both here and abroad.

But enough about me, let's talk about the art. It's no secret, to those who know me, that Captain America is my favorite comic book hero. He has been so ever since I picked up my first issue of his comic back in 1987- Captain America was called upon to work directly for the government, and had to choose to be told what was in America's interests, or to continue to follow what he believed was right. It sucked me in- I mean, it was loaded with action and all the appropriate melodrama for an 80's comic- but there was something about the character that really stuck with me. I think it was the idea of this person representing what America COULD be- all the best things we all love about the country- all the ideals that draw people to our country, and the reasons we love it.

Or it could've been the big freakin' shield.

Anyway, I've been faithfully following the adventures of Captain America more or less ever since then.

So, since I love the character so much, nothing like taking it and messing with it, right?

As I recall, the thinking behind this particular design was to 'modernize' the uniform. What would a 21st century Captain America wear? How could I make it look practical(ish) while still keeping it a superhero? Well, that's what I was thinking at the time. It's up to you to decide if it worked at all. I think this sketch is about 3 years old or so- not too long ago, I reapproached the idea of the modern Captain America; I post that either next post or in the near future.

Anyway, hope ya like it.

Music: "Van Diemen's Land" - U2

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Do not forget the face of your father..."

I've been reading Stephen King for over 20 years now. I'm pretty sure my first King book was Night Shift, one of his short story anthologies (he writes some of the best short stories ever, in my opinion). I quickly moved on to his other books, with 'Salem's Lot still one of my favorite books to re-read. I've read up and down amongst the many, many books he's written. But, until a year ago, I'd never read his supposed magnum opus, The Dark Tower. I don't know what kept me away from it; it seemed too weird for me (yeah, I know- can you imagine?), or too boring. I mean, some cowboy is chasing a wizard across the desert? Please.

Thank God I picked up that first book.

I tore through them, one after the other. I was amazed at just how good the story was. To me, one of King's strengths is his ability to tell tales; well, I'd heard this story a hundred times before. And yet, never like this. He really drew me into the story, and the characters were so well drawn, it felt like they were real people who somehow became trapped in these seven books. The Dark Tower series now sits as another well-loved favorite in my pantheon of Books.

Anyway, before I go completely off the rails here talking about the books, the drawing above is one of my first attempts at the main character of the series, Roland Deschain. Roland is an awesome, awesome character. He's literally a man on a mission, and the things he does to complete this mission are amazing and horrifying. He's an incredible, flawed hero.

Also, dude has a rough go of it. Check out that right hand.

Anyway, if you find yourself looking for something to read, might I suggest The Dark Tower? I give it 5 stars out of 5. For what that's worth.

Ah yes- it's a long weekend coming up, and I'll be away Sunday and Monday. So, no posts until next Wednesday. Try to hang in there.

See you Wednesday!

Music: "Streets of Laredo" - Johnny Cash

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

That's a fancy shootin' iron, son

Continuing with the western theme...

I had this idea to do this perspective shot of some manner of outlaw holding a pistol in the air. So, this is what I came up with. Normally when I'm drawing a figure, I'll lay out the entire figure as a stick figure, then go in and reposition the limbs and body, till I can get a reasonable approximation of what I'm going for. Then, I'll start adding the 'meat' to the body, making it look (hopefully) more human, and more like what's in my head.

Not so, here. I pretty much started with the gun and worked my way down. It was initially working out pretty well; I was pleased with the positioning, and the body, and so on.

Then I tried the damn legs. I don't know what it is about legs that makes them so hard to draw- it's not like I've never seen them before. But, like so many other things, legs are a weakness of mine. It's just so hard to figure out what to do with them. Maybe that's why I'm such a lousy dancer. Anyway, I struggled through and got them onto the paper. And THEN I realized they weren't in perspective with the rest of the figure. They'd be fine if I'd not tried to exaggerate the gun and hand. But, since I did, the legs look all stumpy and misplaced.

Ah well, chalk it up in the learning curve. Better luck next time around.

That's it for now.

Music: "Something to Sing About" - Sarah Michelle Gellar/ James Marsters

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Now THOSE are some colors...

Driving home from work, January 9, 2008.

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous." -Aristotle

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cue the Morricone!

I finally bought and watched "A Fistful of Dollars" over the holiday weekend. I figure, I've seen it referenced in a dozen movies and shows over the years, the least I can do is watch the original. It was fun. It's great to see a younger Clint Eastwood having this much fun with a role. Plus, guns. And a poncho. And a suit of armor getting shot up. And so on. It was a lot of fun.

Strangely enough, though, I'd drawn this some time before I'd seen the movie. I wasn't thinking of Clint Eastwood's role specifically when drawing this, but it's hard not to imagine him when thinking of western characters. This was basically an exercise in lines for me- I wanted to go with an angular, cartoony look for a character. At the time, I was also thinking some about Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, whose main character is a gunslinger. So, two plus two equals the above.

While fun to draw like this (nearly reducing faces and figures to basic, stylized shapes), I've come to realize it's almost impossible, for me at least, to translate those drawings into a consistent look. If I tried to draw a front view of this face in this style, I'd have a hell of a time making it look the same. Ah well. Time to spend more time drawing.

Now, to go find two warring groups to place myself between- after all, a man has to make a living...

Music: "Beer for my Horses" - Toby Keith

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Well, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time...

I love music. I love everything about music: how it sounds, how it makes a person feel, how it manages to find a way to convey emotions that I can't find words for, how it makes my foot tap (usually not in time), how it can make me feel better when I'm down, how it makes a springtime drive one of the best times on the planet... everything. Music is awesome, in the traditional and proper sense of the word. I have no musical ability whatsoever, other than the ability to listen to it, so music can have a somewhat magical quality to it, in my eyes (so to speak).

One of the many things I find so great about music is the ability to convey an entire range of emotions, to 'tell a story', if you will, just by the selection and arrangement of songs. You know, make a mixtape.

I can spend hours putting together these compilations, choosing the songs I want, and maybe even more importantly, the arrangement of the songs for he listener. I usually start out with a theme (driving, depressing, random, uplifting) then take it from there. Then, sort through the library, picking the songs I think best serve the idea, then arrange them so it sounds right to me. Then, my favorite part- the title. Usually something funny, or clever, or punny, or whatever. Remember, they're for me, so my standards are not your standards. Some past titles are "Sidelong Glances and Barroom Brawls" (mix of fast songs and slower, deeper songs), "LOOK OUT! I'm Dancing Like a Monkey!" (um, not so serious songs, like 'Kung Fu Fighting'), "Leadfoot" (Driving music, of course), and my favorite, "... in darkest night", which was an entire year of my life's story.

Anyway. As I got back into drawing, I thought it'd be worth making an attempt at drawing a title to one of the cds. Since they often have all kinds of different songs on them, with a bunch of different meanings, I wanted to try something like that with the picture. Something to convey an array of emotions, and would hopefully get across the theme of the cd.

I blew it. It pretty much fell apart from the get-go. The idea I was going with was a bit flawed, my drawing wasn't up to the challenge, etc., etc. But, in the interests of posting all the stuff that goes in the book, here you go.

This is why I'll stick to words from now on...

Music: "Love Song" - Sara Bareilles

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Redneck Snowboarder

The title really says it all, doesn't it?

But, if you're looking for a little more explanation, the story is something like this: Dave and I were watching one of the new series of shows that go into how everyday items are made. In this case, they were talking about snowboards. As I recall, they were originally made of plywood (and are still made with a wood core), so we made jokes about using whole sheets of plywood. One left turn at Albuquerque, and here you go. The redneck snowboarder.

This particular board features a cooler, duct tape bindings (of course), mud- er, snow flaps, and truck nuts.

That's it, nothing else to report.

Music: "Good Ol' Boys" - Waylon Jennings

Thursday, January 3, 2008

"... before ANNIHILATION!!!"

Sadly enough, my first exposure to the actor Max von Sydow was through Flash Gordon as Ming the Merciless. Not that his performance was bad; he played the character wonderfully, and seriously (or as seriously as the movie was; I'm pretty sure he was having fun playing such an over-the-top villain). But to me, ever since then it's always been "hey, Ming's in another movie!" Not like he needs to worry about typecasting, I think. He's been in everything from The Seventh Seal, where he beats Death in a game (take THAT, Bill and Ted!) to Strange Brew to What Dreams May Come, and just about all points in between. Every movie I've seen him in has been just a little bit better, because he was in it.

He must be a pretty decent actor; he left me with such a strong impression that, 28 years later, whenever I think of the character of Ming, I think of Max von Sydow. So, here you go. This was one of the times when the movie stayed very close to the original design of the character, with one exception. As originally drawn, Ming was a very obvious "Yellow Peril" caricature. By using von Sydow, they took the character about as far from that image as possible. Anyway, I stuck with what worked. Not much of a deviation from the movie design, but I always kinda liked it. I did, however, take it back into a more Asian-influenced look; nothing specifically, but the lines and "detail" are meant to hint at that. Oh yeah, that and the big damn yellow claw hand. That's definitely a throwback to the "Yellow Peril" figure that used to be in old comics, but I thought the hand would be an effective symbol of how "Merciless" Ming was.
I think he and Dracula have similar tailors...

Alright- time for the weekend! These 4-day workweeks are rough.
Music: "Sour Times" - Portishead

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Flash at Last!

Happy New Year!!! What better way to start off the new year by revisiting some left over business from last year.

When we last left Flash Gordon, he had been forced through a series of changes in a quest to fit the ideas of an internet blogger's dream of creating the ultimate Flash Gordon homage. He had been taken from 80's camp action hero to retro 40's comic strip icon to an overweight man in lycra. What new terror has befallen our would-be hero? Keep reading...

Alright. If you're gonna read, you might as well read the whole thing. Art first. So, after trying to fit my idea of "Flash" into what's gone before (attempts one and two), and hitting close to my idea of what I wanted to do with the him from a character level(attempt 3), I shelved the idea for a while, until I went back to the 'burgh for Thanksgiving. One of the great things about driving back to PA is it gives me time to think. Okay, if you know me, you know that's not always a good thing. But a lot of times it gives me the chance to think about fun stuff like movies, comics, books, and drawing- usually some combination of all of them. On this drive back, it finally occurred to me to ditch everything I'd done before and strike off in a new direction. Well, actually an old direction. See, I knew what kind of story arc I wanted Flash to have, and I knew exactly what kind of story I wanted to see this Flash in (I'll get to that shortly, promise). But until that drive, I didn't know what he should really look like. Then it hit me. I took his look back to the 30's and 40's, but not the comic strip. I pulled from the pulp heroes of the day- Doc Savage, G-8, John Carter of Mars, et cetera, and threw in a hefty dose of retro-futurism. The future, according to the past. Canvas and brass instead of rubber and steel, or plastic and polycarbonate. Bingo. At last, I had a hero that would fit right in with the craziness I had in mind. The drawing pretty much came out fully-formed from my initial imagining of this new Flash. Once I decided he would have a space helmet with a fancy-looking collar (note the bit attached to the upper right of the lightning bolt speakerbox; that's an O2 gauge for the wearer), the rest kinda just spilled out. The lines are a bit harder than what I sometimes do; this usually happens when I'm juiced about getting something out of my head and onto the paper.

Okay, okay- all the rest of this entry is about my ideas for the story, and Flash's character. You can stop reading now and just check out the new poll on the right. Of course it's about Flash, but at least you're saving yourself eye strain.

Still here? Thanks.

See, my brilliant idea for what direction to take the plot of Flash Gordon really isn't anything fancy. In fact, it's about as basic as it gets. Take the lyrics for the song... and make them the story. Brilliant, right?

What do you mean, 'no'? My thought is, so many of these updatings of old movies and comics and characters either turn into cynical and dark reflections of the original premise, or worse yet, play on the concept for laughs and high camp value. So I thought, screw that- what's wrong with having a hero who's not jaded, who's not a goofball? What's wrong with having a story that's fun, thrilling, and exciting, and isn't either played for laughs or made to satisfy the audience's bloodlust? So, that's where I'm going with the story. I want Flash Gordon to be the kind of story everyone can get into. Why the Queen song, then? Well, the lines they use are so bombastic, so over-the-top, they play perfectly towards this idea of... a 'pure' action story- if that makes sense. It probably doesn't, but you're still reading, right? I mean, check it out:

"Saviour of the Universe"- that's a pretty tall order to fill. But nothing builds heroism like adversity, right?

"He'll save every one of us"- another Everest-sized task; but, what if he did?

"King of the Impossible"- well if he can save the universe, and everyone, he'd pretty much have to be the King of the impossible.

So the idea would be to essentially make these lines the central theme of the story (movie, really, that's how I'm thinking of it). What if there was a story where the entire universe was at stake, trillions of lives hanging in the balance, and one man rose to meet that challenge?

Yeah, I know; even I think it's crazy. I imagine it being some insane conglomeration of "The Incredibles" plus "Sky Captain" plus "Star Wars". It sounds nuts, I know... But it'd be a hell of a movie.

Alright, still awake? That was my idea for the conceit of the movie, and the basic direction I'd take it. Flash himself ended up being a little more... complex. With the story's idea being so straightforward, I kind of wondered what kind of man would be able to make that over-the-top action work without being a bland, cardboard-cutout of an action hero. So, here's what I came up with (Thanks to Sci-Fi channel for being the only people to actually give Flash a real first name; I mean, could you imagine your parents naming you 'Flash'? geez...)

Stephen Gordon is a man adrift. He is an average man, of average looks (pleasing but not handsome), with average intelligence, working at an average job. Stephen was quite the dreamer in high school and college- he dreamed of doing so many things, anything but getting that business degree (how boring! But it was the only thing is father would pay for). He wanted to be someone others looked up to, someone others wanted to emulate. He wanted to be a visionary, a superstar athlete, a man of letters and arts. He wanted to be it all.

Unfortunately, his short attention span often got in the way of his dreams; Stephen rarely followed through on any of his plans. This wouldn't be so bad, if not for the fact that he had a tendency to announce his plans to the world at large long before they ever came to fruition. This constant barrage of ideas and daydreams that burned brightly, but briefly, led to his nickname, “Flash”- short for “flash in the pan”, once folks got to know him.

Stephen used to have dreams of making a difference in the world. Once out of college and into the real world, however, there was no time and no place for him to make a difference. Reality got in the way.

All that has changed now. Thrust into a new reality beyond his wildest imaginings, Stephen Gordon realized that on the bizarre world of Mongo, he is finally free of the burdens and limitations of his past. For the first time in his life, he is truly free. He can finally live up to the ideal vision of himself he long ago abandoned. And perhaps, in the insane, impossible, dreamlike world of Mongo, he has finally found the place to make his dreams real.

Stephen Gordon is gone.

Long live Flash.

Music: "Bring Me to Life" - Evanescence