Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"I am beholden to no human..."

I loved "Deadwood". It was such a foul, dirty, violent show... but it was brilliant. Written in a language that usually took repeated viewings to decipher (for me, at least), it was filled with all kinds of crazy characters, each of whom seemed to walk the razor's edge between civilization and complete chaos. It was funny, smart, and never led you in the direction you thought you were going. Happy endings were few and far between in Deadwood. And no one was who you thought they were.

Take Al Swearengen. When you first meet Al, you're pretty convinced he's the "bad guy" of the show. He's filthy, abusive, violent, and runs a gambling and whorehouse. When he meets the "good guy" you know there's going to be trouble; no way would anyone want this guy around. Except, he's not really the bad guy. He loves his town, and just wants what's best for it. It's just that his ideas of what's best don't always agree with the straight-laced sheriff. Plus, you see more and more sides to Al. I wouldn't call them "softer" sides, but he's very recognizable as a human being. And then once again, everything gets turned upside down.

This was really just a quick sketch based on one of the DVD covers, then gussied up in PS a bit, and finally given the sepia treatment.

Hopefully more Friday.

Music: "I Walk the Line" - Johnny Cash

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Down With the Sketchness

Welcome back- another new week, another set of... something.

I was going to dig out something I'd previously scanned in, but with the late time I was going to start (after 10pm), I didn't want to rush (more than usual) to post something that I could do something with, so I opted to just sketch out something digitally and post that.

I've been reading this manga series called 'Death Note', and so I can guess that it inspired my sketchings this time around. Hence, the big eyes. It's a very good series, and one that has an appeal to folks beyond the usual manga fan- hence, its appeal to me. It's very clever, a mental chess game between a boy who wants to save the world by killing anyone he thinks deserves it, and the boy who wants to stop him. Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that, but I don't think I have the skills to do it justice. Go "here" to read more about it (beware spoilers!).

Anywho, the central sketch started out with no particular idea behind it (like usual), but once I put the eyes down, it started to look a bit like one of the characters. Then, once I did the hair, I realized it looks kind of like Frodo after he's been taken over by the One Ring. So, it's either manga, or Elijah Wood is in fact a living anime. You decide. The other two are really just random sketchiness- that's what I saw once I started sketching. When I sketch like this, I tend to move the pen in fairly random strokes until I can get the idea of an image out of it, then I tend to bring the picture towards that ideal in my head. Usually with varying degrees of success, as you might imagine.

That's it for now.

Music: "Here's Where the Story Ends" - The Sundays

Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Action How Like an Angel...

I'm such a slacker.

Even when I was taking a class for the sheer pleasure of taking it, with no pressure upon me to do anything more than show up (if I felt like it!), I still waited until the last minute to do my work. I do so strive for consistency.

It was Winter back when I was taking my watercolor class, and as we wound our way toward the end of our sessions, each class would have fewer and fewer attendees. Until finally, at the next to last class, there were only four of us, not counting our teacher. For the final class, the teacher decided that we could have a mini art show, and we would all bring in all of our various projects we work on in our free time, in addition to the two projects we had done in class.

Wait, all our projects? You mean, stuff we did on our own?


Yeah, I know- what the hell's the point in taking a class if you're never going to use it(College excepted- that is the point)? But it was tough to get going on any watercolor projects on my own. Back then, my artistic mojo was pretty badly damaged, and just painting the couple projects we had was a huge drain on my mental resources. So I'd really never gotten around to coming up with my own paintings.


Well, thanks to the internet, I found some fairly awesome photos I thought would make for good paintings, and on Sunday I started drawing them.

Class was Tuesday. Plenty of time.

I actually finished two of the three pictures, and had partially completed this one, by the time class had rolled around. All was well. When I got there, only two other people made it in, plus the teacher. We had fun looking at each other's paintings, noting the progress we'd made, and chatted while we worked on those pictures we hadn't finished. This was the one I worked on that night. The others thought I was crazy for trying to paint it- it was a landscape class, and this was no landscape, not to mention my paper was covered in pencil marks.

But it is not I who am crazy. It is I who am mad.

I finished it, as you can see. The actual photo was of a statue of an angel somewhere in Italy (see how good my note-taking skills are). It was probably way beyond my skill level at the time, but I'm still pretty pleased with the results. The large portion of thanks for that goes to the magnificent photographer. The angle of the image, I think, is critical to the impact of it. I changed a number of things in it, mostly to suit the colors and the texture of the image.

A note about this scan- the colors you see are actually much sharper and darker here than on the actual paper itself. Watercolors do not lend themselves to scanning.

Finally, a note on my Dad: my sense of timing is as acute as ever. He came home late Tuesday night, I believe muttering something about "never tell me the odds" and is doing now doing well at home. Thanks to all who've kept him in their thoughts and/or prayers. Believe me, it's all appreciated. And thanks to all of you for taking this detour into very non-artistic places. Don't worry, I'll be resuming the goofy art, bad puns, and rambling postings before you kno-

Oh, right. Too late!

Cheers everyone! Have a good weekend.

Music. hmmm... so many angel-themed tunes to choose... "Angel" by Aerosmith? "Send Me an Angel" by the Scorpions? Nah. I'll go with the one I always think of when I think of angels and music (which, I admit, is not frequently):

Music: "Animate" - Rush

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Unspoken, Undone; Spoken, Done

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Hodding Carter

This is a pretty long post, but it means a lot to me, and it might be worth a few minutes of your time.

Twenty years ago, I asked my father what he'd like to see me draw. I was, no doubt, full of my talent and certain of my ability to draw anything he asked of me. Perhaps it would be Batman, crouching and ready to leap on some poor bad guy. Or maybe Captain America, taking out some ratzi. Whatever he'd ask, I'd be ready.

"Draw me a bird."

Sorry, what? A bird? what kind of comic artist draws a bird? That's pretty boring, I thought, and a waste of my massive talent as an artist. But, I humored him- there was an image of a dove on one of the hymnals at church. I drew the outline, added where I thought the eyes should go, and some feet, and handed to him. There's his bird. Maybe now he'll ask for something cool.

"You didn't take any time with that."

Well, he was right- it was so boring! But he laughed a little as he said it, and took it from me, and that was that. Sure, I did a lousy job with it, and I knew it, but whatever- it wasn't that important.

As the years went by, that moment would pop into my head- at the most random times, without warning or explanation. And I'd think about what I'd done (or not done), and think on what I could do if I really tried to do something for him. God knows, I'd gotten a bit better at drawing since that first picture. I'd get close enough to look at a book for some pictures, but invariably it would drift back out of my mind. Off and on, now and again, for nearly twenty years. Last year, in the midst of my watercolor class, I thought to myself, 'finally, I'll get around to painting Dad that picture of that bird- he'd like that, I bet. Not that he'd even remember, all these years later." I found some pictures of birds I liked on the internet, printed them out, and set them aside. 'I'll do it later,' I told myself again, 'when there's more time.'

But there's never enough time, is there? No matter how many or how few goals we set ourselves, no matter the difficulty or the simplicity of the challenges we give ourselves, there is just never enough time. Time will always have its way with you, and always leave you broken and bloodied on the ground, wounded by regret and shame and fear. You will look back and think to yourself, 'My God, why did I waste those chances? Why did I set those goals, and do nothing to achieve them? Why didn't I do this one, simple task? Why didn't I even try?"

How often are we given the chance to know that time is about to come calling, to knock on the door and remind you that not all the time in the world is yours? To set aright those things that can be, to not leave unsaid words that need spoken, to not leave undone those actions that need done? Too often, those needed words fall on deaf ears, too often, those needed actions are unseen.

What a terrible gift it is, to hear that knocking, and to know that it's not for you, but for one you love. What a beautiful burden, to hear that knocking, and know that, when the door is finally opened, and you have to say goodbye, that he was able to hear your words, and see your actions. How wonderful, to have these last few minutes, days, hours, years, seconds, and to know you didn't waste them with silence.

All of this spins through my head, driving me nearly insane with sadness and regret. So often, I hold back on words, on actions. Considering how much my silence has cost me in the past, you would think I'd have learned my lesson. But silence, silence of those things I'm afraid to speak of, those questions I'm afraid to ask, has been a longtime companion of mine. Silence is so easy to maintain; words are so hard to come by- once uttered, they cannot be taken back, and their reactions can't be controlled.

But no more. I've learned that there will not always be 'more time'. I have learned that silence can be as impossible to take back as the spoken word.

But I still have time. Thank God, I still have time.

I knew it was time to sit down and look at my list of words unspoken and things undone. I knew that the time wasn't now, but this wake up call we all received was enough to tell me that now was the time; to speak, to not remain silent. To act, to not stay still.

The words- I have so many words- so much to say, how can I possibly say them all in less than a lifetime? In a thousand lifetimes? I thought about all those words, and eventually, I found the ones to say the most, to speak my mind and my heart.

The action- that was easy.

I walked into the room, surprising them both. Mom was sitting in the corner of the room, reading the Sunday paper. He was sitting up, practically lounging in his bed, looking for all the world like he was at home here and just reading another section of the paper. He looked so old there- was this the man who used to carry around hundreds of pounds of equipment like it was a bookbag? But God, he looked so strong there, too- this was the same man who stopped drinking one day because he decided it was time to stop, even though both his father and brother had their lives damaged and cut short by years of alcohol abuse. This is the same man who put up with five heart attacks and a triple bypass and God only knows what else and came back stronger and better than any doctor ever imagined. This is a man who has no idea of what it means to give up. They both gave out little "hey"s of surprised greeting, and I made some dumb comment about him being lazy or something. I gave him a hug, as long a hug and as strong a hug as I could manage, and somehow kept from breaking down and crying on his shoulder. Another big hug and a kiss for Mom, and then we're talking a little bit. The expected stuff: "how are you feeling? Doing alright? What are the doctors saying?", things like that. After a few minutes, Mom asked me what I'd brought; I had the bag with the pictures (stuck inside a couple frames, hopefully to spruce them up a bit) behind my back.

Words were about to fail me; I knew what I wanted to say, what I had to say, but they were leaving me. I felt like such a fool, like an idiot for holding on to this stupid little idea that somehow these stupid pictures would mean anything to him, that he'd even remember, that I'd even be able to say anything about what I wanted to say, that he'd understand what I was really saying to him.

"I don't know if you remember," I began, as I pulled the pictures from the bag. I held them to my chest, now strangely ashamed and proud of them. "But about twenty years ago, I asked you if you wanted me to draw you anything; you probably don't even remember, but you said a bird, and I drew you one and it was crap, and you knew it, and I knew it, and here it is twenty years later, but..."

"Oh, I remember!" he said, with a big smile on his face.

Of course he did. He's my father. And thank God, I am his son.


He seems to really enjoy the pictures; he never actually told me what kind of bird to draw him, so I settled for finding a dramatic picture of a falcon, about to land amongst some bushes or something. Almost as soon as I started drawing it, I realized I had to do something else with it, not just give him a pencil drawing. Since I've become so taken with Photoshop, I thought he would appreciate seeing what I've taught myself to do, artistically, with the computer the same way I could show him what I've taught myself to do with pencils. I know neither he nor Mom really ever "got" what I did with my drawing- they're not big fans of superheroes and comic books. But that never mattered- I never had a shortage of pencils and papers growing up. He took them, and kept them with him for a while, before finally sending them back home with Mom. Less likely to get lost in the shuffle that way. We sat and talked some, more unimportant things. The next day when we went to visit, we sat and talked some, still more unimportant things. Except, in the ways that really matter, they were all important. I got to talk with my Mom and Dad.

He's doing fine, by the way. Once again, he continues to ignore expectations, and makes great progress. He still has a long road ahead of him, but he keeps on the same way he always has- one step at a time, one breath at a time, no giving up. I don't know if I'll ever get to say every word I want to say to him, to do all the things I'd like to do with him- really, do any of us ever have that chance? But I do know that I was finally able to finish this one task for him- and that it says just about everything I needed him to hear.

I'll be going up to visit again this weekend. Just to sit and talk with him some more, and hear what he has to say, and tell him more of those things I want to say. It'll probably be awkward at first, because neither of us are especially good at talking about these 'important' things (I didn't even know if I could write this, but writing to a friend today helped me find my voice). But I'm not going to give up on it, I'm not going to leave more unsaid. Because like I said, he's my father. And I am my father's son.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I can see for miles and miles...

Here's a camphone shot from my friends' yard, taken Saturday evening. That's the kind of view you can't just ask for...

No art to post today; I'm up here in PA on some family business, but I didn't want you regular viewers to go thinking I'd slipped and forgotten about it. Hopefully I'll have some more arty stuff to go up here Wednesday. If it's what I think it is, there will probably be a bunch of words to go along with it. If not, expect more of the same!

Hope everyone is doing well, and continues to do so.

Music: "My Father's Eyes" - Eric Clapton

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Trim those nails, son!"

Seriously, I just have no idea where this stuff comes from. I started out just trying to draw a guy from a bird's eye perspective; or at least, slightly higher up than eye level. As usual, I tend to just sketch loosely and see what shapes appear. Next thing you know, there's a friggin' plate on his head and a Freddy Krueger glove on his hand. Weird, right? So I figure he's probably some kind of Frankenstein's Monster, maybe the same one, existing on into the future, who at some point in time picked up Freddy Krueger's glove. Yeah, I don't know either. But, there you are. In this instance, I am guessing function follows form.

Maybe something more Monday. We'll see.

Have a good weekend.

Music: "Princes of the Universe" - Queen

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grindhouse 3: Apparatus

Here's the final drawing I did from my adventure in the coffee shop. Since there were few live models, I opted to try out the furniture. Not one of my favorite things to draw, but it was good practice. Out of my comfort zone, as it were.

The picture was cleaned up in PS- desaturated and given a slight blur (it's not you) to smooth out some of the side effects of scanning. Thanks to Joey to pointing out the art tip!

Nothing more to say- more important things going on in the real world.

Music: "The Story" - Brandi Carlisle

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Grindhouse 2

Here's the second set of sketches from the coffee shop. As you can see, I had even less of an idea of what I was doing this page than I did the last.

Sorry I don't have more wit and "wisdom" to impart right now; I'm not feeling very talkative. More Wednesday, though, no doubt.

Music: "Fragile" - Sting

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I'm going to step away from the previous few posts(don't worry; the R/evolutionaries will return) and step back in with the results of a recent artistic adventure...

Thanks to the urgings of a couple of friends (Thanks, Kelly! Thanks, Dave!), I decided to try to spark some spontaneity and creativity by going somewhere to sit and watch people and hopefully do some drawing. So, where should I go? where else but a coffee shop! (Go back and read the title; it's okay to groan.)

Luckily for me, Dave had previously found this sweet coffee shop in the middle of Westminster that wasn't called $tarbuck$, and it seemed like a great location: plenty of seating, wide open spaces, and tasty coffee (or in my case, tea). So, one night after work, I stopped in with the intent to watch people, and do some drawing. It was perfect.

Well, almost perfect, except for three things.

1) there were about 6 people in the shop, 2 of whom were the help, hiding behind their counter, and 1 was me.

2) I picked a seat that was so low to the ground that everything in my line of sight was a friggin' chair.

3) I couldn't think of a damned thing to draw.

I decided to give it a go anyway. I pulled out the tools of the trade (sketchpad, pencil case (actually eyeglass case, co-opted for this), and mp3 player), set the player to 'random', and just started to see what I would draw. I was kind of nervous; I wanted this to be successful; I wanted to be creative, to keep the juices flowing; I wanted to look cool, and have hot coffee shop girls come up and start talking to me about drawing. You know, the important things.

So luckily, 2 of the occupants of the shop were working on homework or a project of some sort, and relatively stationary, so I tried to do my best to sketch them in action (or inaction, as it were). I quickly realized that 1)sitting down does not equate to sitting still and 2)I'm rubbish at drawing quickly. So I was left with a lot of half-started people, and ill-drawn ones at that. I gave up and moved on to the other target, a woman who, though alone, was evidently nursing 2 cups of coffee. But she was lost in thought, and thus mostly still. I tried to approach the drawing a little differently from the other attempts, and instead of building the drawing from the inside out, tried to get down the outside first, and hope to have it all make sense and look like a person. (most of the time, an artist drawing a person will build the frame first, then layer on basic shapes, and refine those into a physical person. In artistic circles, this is known as "the Marvel Way".) This went reasonably well, in that she looks like a person nursing two cups of something which may be coffee.

having conquered living subjects (read: gave up cause they kept moving), I tried my hand at still life. Or a plaster face up on the wall. The less said about it, the better.

I did some other drawings after that, but I'm mil- saving those for other posts.

The picture above was scanned in, adjusted for visibility, and kellered over in PS.

In other news, which is really about this anyway, the creative center of my mind is evidently working; I've a few ideas for things to draw here. Hopefully the 'get off your lazy ass and do something about it' center of my mind doesn't malfunction before I can realize those drawrings.

Have a good weekend, and I'll see you next week.

Music: "Ordinary" - The Alternate Routes

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mayhem and Milestones

This is Mistress Mayhem... or Mayhem, as she'll be better known (reporters can be lazy, and the full name distressed concerned parents...). Mayhem is a natural fighter, brilliant tactician, and the emotional heart of the group (which is easy when The Knight's Blade can be too intense and the Captain apparently has no emotions).

Since you're here, let me tell you- this drawing was cake. I mean it. It's kinda scary how easily this came together. Up until about 8:30 or so, I had no idea what was getting posted tonight. I was completely expecting to half-ass a sketch or something, or dig out a scrap of something I scanned in a while ago. But no. I'd been thinking about this character for a while now, in terms of pose and such- I was completely stuck on what to do. I had all kinds of reference poses, but none of them really worked. Then 8:30 rolls around. Pencil, check. Paper, check. Inspiration via bolt from the blue, check. It took me about 30 minutes or so to go from first non-photo blue layout to finished pencils, then another 15 to ink. Went beautifully. I was a little scared, it all worked out so well. Then I started erasing. That's when the friggin' erasers started smearing the non-photo blue lead and pulling up the ink! sonofa... So instead of getting all pissed and dejected, I stopped, re-inked it, and carefully erased random pencil lines (luckily, since the drawing came freakishly easy, there weren't lots of linebits to clean up). Scanned it in, and colored it. I opted not to do anything too funky with it in terms of the coloring, mostly because the really clean lines lend themselves to the simple colors and lack of textures. So yeah, I'm very pleased by how well it turned out.

Also of note: this marks my official 100th post to this blog. I knew it was coming up for a little while now, and I had all kinds of plans to put up some crazy-complicated picture I spent days working on, that would melt your eyes with the complete coolness of it. However, life (and the other posts) got in the way. And I'm glad. I was able to put more into the regular posts, and as a result, got more out of them. And, with how much I enjoyed this sketch, it seems like a wholly appropriate post.

It's pretty hard to believe that I've actually posted to this thing 100 times. When I started posting, I was about overflowing with sketches, and ideas for sketches, and ideas for posts and writing, I thought I'd never be able to get them all down. Well, it's been quite a roller coaster ride for me since those first posts. I've run completely out of drawings, out of time, out of ideas, out of patience. And, I've since drawn more drawings, made more time, found more ideas, and taught myself more patience. This site has really been the kick in the metaphorical ass that I've needed. It's been so much fun to re-discover this long-buried passion for art and creation, and it's been a complete joy to be able to share it with you. I plan on sticking around on here for as long as I can, and I hope this blog continues to be a pleasant stop on your travels through the web. Thanks for stopping by to visit, whether it's your first time, or your hundredth time.


Music: "Dreamline" - Rush

...and the road goes ever on...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Knight's Blade

Brawler. Swordsman. Scientific Genius. Knight-Errant to Arthur of the realm of Avalon. Leader of the most powerful group of people ever to walk the earth.

This is The Knight Blade.

Also, best friend to Captain Apathy. But that's not something he likes to brag about.

So yeah, this picture about killed me. I spent approximately 9 hours working on this, mostly all at once. It started out easily enough, another directly digital design. However, the more I thought, and the more I looked at it, the more complicated and convoluted it got. So much of PS is still new to me, so I'm always trying and learning (and unlearning) new tricks and abilities. As a result, I tend to have to backtrack and rework different parts of the picture until I get it right. Not to mention, working until 4am is never good for the art. But, it was totally worth it. This is one of the most successful pictures I've done, in terms of goals set and goals accomplished, as well as lessons learned (see "working until 4am").

So, there you go. Number 2 in a series of indeterminate length.

Music: "Spirits in the Material World" - The Police

Thursday, April 3, 2008


This is Captain Amazing. I guess.

All his friends call him Captain Apathy. Not that it matters.

He's supposed to be one of the world's greatest heroes. Or something.

As long as he's making the world safe, the people don't care. And neither does he.

Later, I suppose.

Music: "The Hand That Feeds" - Nine Inch Nails

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

He does his part! do you do yours?

"Freedom Prevails!"

Talk about making a purse out of a friggin' sow's ear... I didn't even want to post this picture, I disliked it so much. It was a sloppy mess- just sketched out, roughly, and not inked before scanning in. I thought it would make a decent "here's what I'm NOT doing" kind of post, because I never took it any farther than that quick sketch. It was still like that this evening, when I pulled it up in Photoshop. As I started adjusting the color levels (it was just a b/w sketch, but it's the easiest way to make the lines visible), the background started warping and discoloring. That was fine, I was just going to delete it when I was done. However, when I started coloring, I chose more muted colors, thinking it might look good as a 'retro' kind of picture. That's when I realized that I wasn't coloring the sketch, I was coloring a propaganda poster.

I should've known it was going too smoothly. It took about 15 minutes, if that, to color Cap. To do the rest? about two and a half hours. The biggest pain was that the original picture was much shorter; Cap hit the top and bottom of the page. So, to make room for the word, I had to extend the top and bottom of the picture; EASIER SAID THAN DONE, FRIENDS. What a pain in the ass. But, I think it came out reasonably well, since it was supposed to be a one-off.

Music: Cap's Theme Song