Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bat from the Black Lagoon

For whatever reason, the only two things I could seem to even attempt to sketch last weekend were Batman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. No idea why... well, that's not true. I'd seen The Dark Knight the week prior, and I was reading a book that involved amphibious bipeds in the Amazon (even less good a book than it sounds (and yes, that's indeed saying something)). So I sat and sketched a bit, but little came of it. Only one of the pictures made it beyond non-photo blue, and this ain't it. (aside- my spell checker does not recognize "ain't" as a misspelling... sigh...) This pic really didn't go where I envisioned it, So I set it aside until I came back with a better idea of what I wanted to do. However, I did kind of like it, and so it got scanned in.

Cut to Thursday. I let my mind wander sometimes when I'm at work (less than you'd think, really) while I'm doing tasks that don't require a ton of focus on my part. Kind of like running a program minimized in the background. I like to take pictures I've scanned in and run through them with various ideas of how to do something interesting, or at least different, with them in Photoshop. I ran through this one, and came up with something marginally like what you see before you (I have an idea for one of the Batman pictures as well from this method). It was a fun and short exercise, basically duplicating the pencils, changing the colors, then "painting" underneath the pencils. With a quick and crappy background thrown in. The original picture is somewhat larger than this; I realized by cropping it, I could make it a little more interesting looking. You'd think for all the movies I've watched in my day, I'd've realized the effect of framing a visual...

Anyway, there you go. I still have to finish the other Creature picture (pencils before PS) as well as the Batmans (Batmen?). Two posts in one week! Crazy!

Have a good weekend, suckers!

Music: "I've Got to Break Free" - Queen

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"She's got the most beautiful eyes... and her smile, it really lights up the room.
"She's just amazing- I've never known another woman like her.
"She understands me like no one else- she knows the real me, and I know the real her.
"We'll be perfect together...
"She'll see."

At some point in their lives, most folks have been smitten with someone who they are convinced doesn't even know they exist. Whether it's a coworker, classmate, or casual acquaintance, they come the focus for a harmless infatuation- usually lasting as long as it takes for the smitten to realize hey, they're just people, like everyone else.

But what if they really didn't know you existed? What if they'd never met you before, never seen you before, never heard of you before? And what if it wasn't a harmless infatuation- what if the object of your affection becomes the focus of your existence, the objective of your existence, to the exclusion of all else, often including morality, rationality, and reality? What have you become?

Welcome to the world of the stalker.

Everyone's familiar with the concept of the stalker; like described above, these folks become obsessed with another person, be it celebrity or next-door neighbor, and begin creating elaborate fantasies out of nothing. The idea of the stalker has been addressed by musicians for decades. Some of the most popular songs of the past few decades have been about these people:
"Every Breath You Take"- The Police
"Possession"- Sarah MacLachlan
"Creep"- Radiohead

The latest addition to this sub-genre of songs is one of my current favorite songs out there, "I Will Possess Your Heart" by Death Cab for Cutie. Like many of these songs, the sheer malevolence of the content of the song is often masked by the tone of the lyrics; it's only after repeated listenings that you discover just how dark the lyrics actually are (look at all the folks who used to dedicate "Every Breath" to their loved ones- either they're a bunch of stalkers, or they didn't catch all the dialogue). "I Will Possess", unlike some of the other songs, lets you know from the beginning, somewhat unconsciously, that it's not a light song about puppy love- it has one of the most menacing basslines I've heard in a song. It's not particularly violent or loud, but there's something about the steady way it's played that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

In addition to the fantastic bass, the lyrics themselves are sung in a stumbling counterpoint to the rhythm and melody of the music, further drawing the listener into that stalker's headspace. The singer's light voice catches you off guard, particularly after the long musical introduction. You're humming along to the tune until you realize exactly what the song's about.

The video is the final ingredient to the mix, and one of the most subtle. It's essentially a 10-minute travelogue of a young woman's trip to various places around the world. The beauty of it is that you're just watching her go about her trip, but you're always watching her from a distance, and almost always from behind her. When you make the connection between the lyrics and the video, the video goes from a nicely shot long-form video to one of the scariest music videos ever.

Oh, the picture. Well, I was watching the video/listening to the song, and the image just occurred to me. I suppose it could take place just after the video ends or something along those lines. Not the most pleasant of pictures, I know, but the song really struck me, visually, and this is what I came up with. Originally just a sketch of the woman, I brought it into photoshop and created everything else.

I'm hoping this musical exercise will recur here more often; quite some time ago I'd asked folks for songs and/or lyrics that really struck a particular chord with them, or had some really nice imagery. I've not forgotten those, and coupled with my own ideas (music is GREAT for getting visual imagery), I'm hoping to visit that area again.

I'll possibly be back Friday; definitely be back next Wednesday.

Oh, I saw The Police in concert last night. Yes, it was great.

Music: "Wrapped Around Your Finger" - The Police

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


It's only a matter of time before I'm posting to God help me. But seriously, isn't she cute? This is shortly before she pounced on me while I was trying to sleep. Then, seeing I was awake, came up to my face to be petted. Angelic, indeed.

Yeah, I know, it's not "art". I have a few things in mind, honestly- I just need the time to get to work on them.


In other news- the new Coldplay CD is amazing. It's a very different sound from the last couple they've put out, though they're all distinctly Coldplay. Most of this one seems to be a meditation on death, but it's surprisingly cheerful. Also, my living room now looks mostly livable, and it took me a month to finish the last book I picked up. It was only 400 pages. That's depressing. And there's a fly in my office the size of a small bird, to judge the sound. It must be destroyed.

That's it.

Music: "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" - The Police

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fairy Stories

You know, this post was supposed to be me telling you how I just can't seem to focus on being creative, certainly not draw and post pictures to the blog, and how I'd probably need to take some time away from this to get my head back together (as together as it ever gets, really). But...

I almost forgot I was going to post for Wednesday. I remembered, then realized I didn't have anything done enough to properly post. Do I go with another cameraphone picture? I like them, but it's almost like cheating. It's not like I did anything creative other than hold up my phone (I'm not disputing the artistic and aesthetic value of photography; I'm just saying that's not where my creativity runs). But, I had a couple of in-process pictures lying around in the computer, so to speak, so I thought I'd give one a try. Well, the first one sucked hard- there's a particular technique with Photoshop I can't seem to get the hang of (sorry Joey- I'll be asking for tutoring again) and so I decided to bail and write the "I'm sorry I'm not creative anymore" post. Then, as I booted up the site, I remembered a random thought I'd had about something to try with a different picture. It wasn't much of a thought, as thoughts go, but it was something to try, and I really didn't have anything to lose.

It was tough at first, as I haven't really touched PS since before the move, and sadly, it's like many other skills- left unexercised, it withers rapidly. However, as the time rolled by, they seemed to come back- rusty, to be sure, but back. I think another five or ten pictures should get me back in the swing of things. Anyway, that's the story of the blogpost that almost wasn't.

Other than the picture itself. This was inspired by a friend of mine. She had been telling me about a series of letters she'd written her friend's little girl, on behalf of the Tooth Fairy. When she told me this, I had been having a terrible time trying to find anything to draw (which happens A LOT) and I was lamenting my situation to her. So, seeing the signs, reading the stars, thinking logically, whatever you call it, she suggested I draw a picture of the Tooth Fairy, which might pair well with her letters. So, me being me, I took it and ran with it, down some obviously different directions. I'm quite pleased with it (the wings were a bitch, just between you and me), though this is proof to me that you really never finish a picture, you just walk away. I could've nit-picked this till doomsday. Also, I haven't told her yet about it... Hope you like it!

That's it for now, methinks. It's going to be a long time before I'm back to three posts a week, though, so right now, let's just settle on Wednesdays, shall we? I'll go back and tackle that other picture soon, and hopefully post it next week.

Music: "Black Velvet Band" - Traditional Irish

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Always Darkest...

Cameraphone picture of an oncoming storm at my Mom's house.

Yeah, sorry, I did mention something about posting on Wednesday, didn't I? Well, technically it still is Wednesday, so...

I do apologize for the lack of actual art and updates. If you've been following along, you know this past month has not been a good month for me and my family. One of the unexpected side effects has left me just about completely without energy for anything other than going to work and coming home. I've been here for a month now, and most of my apartment is still packed in boxes. Now, there are some legit reasons for that, but mainly it comes down to the fact that my brain just will not function the way it did before. There's really no creative connections being made in there- for the most part, the few scribbles I've done have not been worth noting.

However, I am taking some slow steps to turn that around, and hopefully correct the problem. The last thing I want to do is give up on this. But, please bear with me- the posts will be much less frequent than before, and will probably tend more towards written posts than any drawn pictures. So, hope you like reading!

Come back next week, we'll see what's cooking.

Music: "Mercy" - Duffy

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Hero

What makes a hero? Is it physical strength, the force to vanquish any foe? Is it force of will, the power to compel others to stand aside? Is it intelligence, the ability to out think the opponent? Are these characteristics of what we've come to call heroes? To look at television, movies, and most of the world today, that seems to be the case.

Or is it something else?

What makes a hero? Is it strength of character, the power to inspire others to stand by your side? Is it bravery, the force to stand against any foe? Is it compassion, the ability to think beyond simply destroying, but to also create, turning enemies to friends? Is there more? Justice- the ability to stop evil and terror, without giving in to vengeance? Mercy- the power of forgiveness? Humility- the gift of understanding and equality? These traits don't often get much mention nowadays, but this feels right, doesn't it?

What makes a hero? The label seems easily applied, but often to the least-deserving, or without real thought given to understanding why we use that word. Growing up, my "heroes" were guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger,characters like Batman and Wolverine (characters all, really). Overly-muscled, comic-book-style forces of destruction, force-feeding a simplistic world-view (Us-Good; Them-Bad) to the rest of the globe, and I reveled in it. It was fun to beat up the bad guys, right? I never gave any thought whatsoever to why they were called 'heroes'; I just assumed they had the qualities that made one a hero, and left it at that. Nowadays, in the land of world-weary, jaded and otherwise disenchanted Americans, heroes have become thugs and addicts disguised as musicians, athletes who behave no better than gang members, and people who have done nothing to deserve attention other than to be born rich. Hey, at least my heroes fought the bad guys.

Luckily for us, if we have the clarity of vision to see it, heroes are all around us. So much has changed in my life in the past years and decades; so much has changed in your lives, too. Heroes are everywhere. There are people with the strength of character to stand up and disagree with everyone around them, to argue their ideas with grace and understanding, and who stand by their convictions. There are people with the compassion to walk amidst the worst of humanity in the hopes of bringing out in others the best of humanity, people who do these things with no expectations of reward, but who do these things because they cannot imagine doing otherwise. There are the folks who quietly go through their lives making better the lives of those around them, with a gentle touch, a well-chosen word, or just a smile. There are the men and women who stand in the line of danger, whether it be from fire, disaster, or their fellow man, they stand firm for what they know to be right. There are those who go and fight and die and heal and rebuild and save for no better nor worse reason than their country asks it of them. How easy it is to imagine dying for a person you know; how impossible to imagine dying for an entire country of strangers. Imagine, if you can, putting yourself in harm's way for an ideal. Can you? I don't know that I can- but luckily for all of us, there are men and women throughout the country who can and do. Heroes are everywhere.

My heroes have changed somewhat in the past 20-plus years; gone are my friends Sly and Arnold, so long Bats and Wolvie. Nowadays, my heroes are the people who inspire me, the ones who make me want to be a better person. My heroes are the folks who speak their minds, but listen to a different point of view. My heroes are the ones who give of themselves without asking in return. My heroes are the ones who sacrifice so we don't have to. My heroes are the ones who keep it together when everything else is falling apart. I have a long list of heroes, but the top of the list is reserved for two people, of course: my Mom and Dad. They're the ones who gave me something to aspire to, and they're the ones whose examples I hope to live up to. A guy could do worse for heroes, no?

So, this Fourth of July, when you're chowing down on burgers and hot dogs, watching the fireworks go kaboom, and hanging out with your friends, take a look around- like I said, heroes are everywhere.

A hero is one who runs forward when everyone else runs away.

See you next week- let's say Wednesday, okay?