Tuesday, December 22, 2009

...on this winter's night with you



She and I never knew what we were supposed to be to one another.  We were friends from the first- meeting  through a common friend, finding each other in a common class, finding ourselves spending more and more time together.  We were easy friends- easy to talk with one another, easy to be quiet with one another. But it always felt like there was something else between us- deeper currents, maybe.  I never knew how I felt- when I finally did ask her out, she told me no- she didn't want to jeopardize our friendship.  Later, when she told me she felt something for me, she was half a world away.  Our relationship ebbed and flowed, sometimes one thing, sometimes another.  When she told me she was leaving, I found myself torn even more- I was by then in love with someone who loved me back- but she still held hold of part of me.  I said goodbye, for once with no other words to give her.  I remember listening to a tape she'd give to me, over and over.  We kept in touch through the mail, off and on, and I remember thinking, as I listened to that tape, that I knew how she truly felt.  I wrote her this long letter explaining how I felt, and how I knew how she felt.  Well, I was wrong.  I haven't heard from her since that last letter.  I think about her every so often- I wonder where she is, if she's happy, if she ever thinks of me... but I always think about her when I hear one particular song...

It was the middle of winter in State College.  We had made plans to go out that night, for dinner or something, and we found ourselves walking across campus.  It was later in the evening, and the snow was coming down- big fat flakes, drifting lazily down onto the walkways and grounds.  There was no wind, just the falling snow.  The whole campus was hushed, as though everyone had decided it was better to stay indoors. 

We walked across campus, just the two of us, and we talked.   We stopped to make snow angels- it was cold then, but we laughed so much it still felt warm.  We walked through campus, onto the streets of the homes near the university.  We walked under the streetlamps,the lights making halos of the falling snow.  Sometimes we walked arm in arm, sometimes we roamed back and forth across the streets, drifting in and out of each other's orbit.  We talked about things we'd never discussed before- some of it, I don't know if we'd ever talked about with anyone else.  I don't know if I'd ever felt closer to anyone before than I did that night.

I walked her back to her apartment.  We stood outside the door and kissed in the falling snow.  It wasn't a kiss of passion, or a kiss of love, or even just a kiss goodnight.  It felt like an unspoken acknowledgement that come what may, just this once, we both knew who we were to each other.  For a few short hours, we could be two people who had the whole world to themselves, and could just be with each other, on that winter's night.

The lamp is burnin' low upon my table top
The snow is softly fallin'
The air is still within the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly callin'


If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you


The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me


If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you


The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The mornin' light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'


If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you

To be once again with with you

--"Song for a Winter's Night", Sarah McLachlan

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 12: Somebody Called About the Cable?


8/21/93.


Nothing terribly clever to say this time around. Too tired. More of the typical work of the time, though it looks as though I was moving away from the super-detailed muscles and towards less overrendering... which I guess would just be rendering. Biggest thing I notice about this pic is that I had the patience and creativity to make up all the crap on Cable's body- none of that's really original to the character, I just thought it would make for a fun picture. Might've been some kind of backstory to it, but I can't remember anything.


Later.

...oh.  Before I go, I direct you to Library Card of the Damned, my new blog.  It's hopefully going to be me reviewing books, movies, and god knows what else.  Check it out if you want to know what I think about what I read, watch, listen to, and otherwise occupy my days with when I'm not thinking about how to get out of posting anything new here ;)


Music- "Powerpuff Girls Theme" (cause it's STUCK in my head...)

Friday, December 4, 2009

My New T-Shirt Idea



I thought this would make for a fun T-Shirt, or a Christmas Card.  Clever?  Or just silly?  YOU DECIDE!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Undated; probably around November 1993.

Well, it's The Crow again.  This is hardly unfamiliar territory for the blog, right?  This time (or that time, when I drew it), I decided to approach the character slightly differently from past attempts.  This time around, I decided I'd focus on what was really the heart of the story, Eric and Shelly.  As you may or may not know, Eric comes back (or is brought back) from the dead to avenge his and Shelly's murders.  The effectiveness of the comic book comes from the numerous flashbacks to their relationship interspersed throughout the book.  So, while it's an all kinds of crazy revenge story, the book does a pretty fantastic job of highlighting just what they both lost. 

Also, when you're 19 years old, this kind of story just kills.

Anyway, the picture is something I'm actually quite pleased with.  Something a little different for me back then, I think the set up and layout of it works at least reasonably well.  I'd probably approach it differently now, but I like how it works.  Who knew?

Music: "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" - Dead Can Dance

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 10: The Hell(raiser) You Say


11/7/93.

Let me get this out of the way now: I didn't draw this on black paper- I drew it just like every other drawing I did back then, and I just now reversed it. If black-and-white photos look better than color, white-on-black drawings look much cooler than black-on-white. At least, drawings of Cenobites do.

I was a big fan of Hellraiser back in the day. Mostly because of the stylized look of them- if Freddy and Jason were cool icons, here was a whole Manson family of characters to choose from. It was gory, it was sexy, it was clever- all the things guaranteed to appeal to young people of a certain age. And of course, if it appeals to a girl the young person likes, then so much the better excuse to draw. Not that I ever gave her the drawing- somehow a little far afield from the gift of flowers, right? But, you had to know her to appreciate that she was as likely to enjoy the drawing as she was the flowers. Ah, the good old days. (I didn't realize until sometime later that Hellraiser was essentially a treatise on sadomasochism. But really, is that the kind of thing you want a 19-year-old to know much about?)

Nothing fancy about the drawing itself- mostly adapted from pics I most likely found in Fango (Fangoria magazine to you not in the know), with what I believe are some adapted lines from the movie.

Music: "Christian Woman" - Type O Negative

P.S. Ask Joey sometime about the true Leviathan (the 'big bad' of Hellraiser II)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tryptophan Overdose

Sorry folks- due to an unexpected assault of tryptophan over the past few days, I won't be posting anything just yet.
Well, other than this.
Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend with whatever you got into. I have a couple ideas for various projects- like always, we'll see how far any of them get along.
Cheers!
PS- it is now acceptable to listen to Christmas music.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 9: The Devils I Know


7/1/93 (Happy Belated Birthday, Mark!)

Well, unintentionally, I'm continuing the theme of Hell and the Devil with this retro post from '93. It takes two of my then-favorite characters, Daredevil and Grendel, and puts them in a dynamic, but dangerous, confrontation.

As you can see, still going with the super-musculature here. Lots of blacks (Grendel's outfit is meant to be black, but it's pretty hard to show detail like that). For me, a pretty decent dynamic to the figures. I remember enjoying drawing this a lot- like I said, a lot more dynamic than most of the things I drew (then and now), and they were two of my favorite characters.

Most of you probably know who Daredevil is, from the mediocre (at best) Ben Affleck movie if nothing else. But to sum up: Blind Lawyer by day, Blind Vigilante by night. Grendel, however, is a bit more complex. The character of Grendel (in comics) first appeared in the guise of Hunter Rose, a millionaire playboy who dressed up in a stylish costume and went out into the night (sounds like Batman, right?). But in this instance, Grendel was the villain of the piece. In fact, he only lasted for one story; he was killed at the end of it. The story's title, Devil by the Deed, began to make 'Grendel' and 'Devil' synonymous. The character became a cult hit, and was revisited repeatedly, even showing a meeting with Batman, and eventually, Hunter Rose/Grendel became the driving force for the entire planet. Gone was the thief/murderer Hunter Rose; in his place was Grendel, the spirit of aggression. A large number of stories were told in this future world, and how the spirit of Grendel (more metaphorical than literal) affected every single part of the world. I've not revisted the Grendel universe in many a year; perhaps it would be worth another trip. I remember quite enjoying it back in the day.

Anyway, the picture: mostly, I just thought it was a nice opportunity to take two 'devil' characters and put them together. Plus, with Daredevil being a pretty close analogue to Batman, I thought it would work well. No story beyond that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all; I'll be back sometime next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hell and The Necromancer; my book report by Karloff's Ghost

I read two books in a row. One was called Hell by Robert Olen Butler and one was called Johannes Cabal, The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard. They were both about Hell, though I didn't plan to read them both in a row. I guess I should worry that I subconsciously chose two books in a row about Hell, but I won't. They were very different from each other, but were both very good.

Hell took place, unsurprisingly, in Hell. The main character is Hatcher McCord, the newscaster for Hell's evening news. Hell is not like most ideas of Hell we've seen in the past. There's fire and brimstone and acid storms, but it's a big city (Hell enough for some people) that runs just like a terrestrial big city. Hell is a lot more devious than lakes of fire. Hell is pretty subtle- doing things you know will not work, or will only disappoint you, but being compelled to try anyway in the hopes that, maybe this time, things will be different. Hope springs eternal in Hell, as does disappointment. Hell is populated with quite the array of guest stars: Humphrey Bogart, the Clintons, G.W. Bush, Hitler, even (though implied rather than stated) the author himself. And not just them- a number of surprising folks turn up. Some of the most interesting and thought-provoking parts of the novel are the descriptions of the sufferings of the famous. But, this isn't simply a 'Who's Who' of the damned. When Hatcher learns there may be a way out of Hell, he begins a journey that takes him from one end of Hell to another, and a journey through the ideas of personal pain and suffering, human connections, free will, and the possibility of redemption.

It's not light reading, by any means- though the language is hardly florid, the directions Butler takes with his characters, often veering off into stream-of-consciousness internal monologues on the suffering of the damned, can take you out of the 'plot'. However, these side trips into their suffering are really an integral part of the meaning of the book. Some of these moments, especially when revisiting the damned, make for some of the most emotional moments of the book. By the time the novel ends, you have traveled nearly as far as Hatcher has, and the ending hits the reader profoundly, all the moreso for its understated nature. Its impact is only reinforced as you look back across the events of the novel. I found myself repeatedly thinking about the novel after I'd finished it, wondering at the deeper meanings of some of the events. It has been said that Hell is other people, but after reading this novel, I believe that the author, at least, thinks that Redemption might be other people, as well.


Johannes Cabal The Necromancer does not take place in Hell. Or at least, not entirely. Most of the story takes place in a carnival. Which could be like Hell for some folks. Especially those not liking clowns. I'm not really sure how best to describe the story- though the plot is pretty straightforward: Man sells soul to the devil in order to discover the secrets of life after death, decides that wasn't the best way to learn, then renegotiates his contract, trading one hundred freely-given souls in one year's time for his own back. And he has to collect them using a carnival. It takes places in an unspecific time and place- I was convinced it took place in Victorian England, until they started referring to things like radio and genetics. it's somewhat reminiscent of the mysterious European country that so many of the Universal monster movies took place in- filled with superstitious villagers alongside modern technology.

I found myself often rooting for Cabal, then realizing he was still collecting the signatures of people to send them to Hell. Hardly a typical good guy. In fact, there's very little immediately likable about him- he's not only soulless, but pretty much amoral as well. However, he's very good at what he does, and his determination and unflappability in the face of Satan himself, help to make him a more sympathetic lead. The whole book is written in a quirky, slightly off-center way that's become very popular in recent years. I found it very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, or the movie version of Big Fish, though with a bit drier sense of humor. The novel is populated with an interesting array of characters, not least among them Cabal's business partner. The novel itself, once it gets rolling (so to speak; it's a carnival that travels by train), unfolds in a series of vignettes at each stop along the rail. Each stop brings some new challenge to Cabal's plan, or to Cabal himself. It's not meant to be as philosophically engaging as Hell, but is quite enjoyable as an above-average supernatural humor/adventure story- one that also deals with ideas like suffering, human connections, and the possibility of redemption.

Those were the books I read. I would recommend them to anyone who likes to read and isn't afraid of the Devil or Hell or laughing or thinking or all of the above. I do not recommend reading them both in a row, or letting people know you are reading books about Hell- they might wonder what's going on in your mind. Or not, if they know you well. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Burgh n'@

Not misspelled, spelled the way a Pittsburgher says it. I love my hometown.


And, I just really liked this. It was about 70 that day.


More later. Probably about Hell, but maybe something artsy. We'll see. Cheers!

Music: "My Hometown" - Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, November 12, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 8: Devil May Care


6/29/93.

Back to the past, as it were. This one was still in that super-muscled phase I went through back then, but at this point I was starting to come into my own by making it a little more stylized. Daredevil was a long-standing favorite character of mine, and it was a nice change to do something slightly more action-oriented (for me), while still giving a somewhat iconic pose. Of course, there're tons wrong with the picture (anatomy, still not a strong suit), but I was pleased enough with it. I liked using the other inks to make 'highlights' of the picture, and this was more shading (fake though it was) than I normally used. It was a bit of a different picture than I was used to, but I still like it.

Probably nothing to post next Monday. It's been quite the week thus far, and with friends coming in from out of town this weekend, I'll most likely not get a chance to prep anything Sunday. So, see you Wednesday.

Music: "Devil Inside" - INXS

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Remembrance Table


This Table set for one is small -- Symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors. Remember!

The Tablecloth is white -- Symbolizing the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms. Remember!

The single Red Rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith awaiting their return. Remember!

The Red Ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our missing. Remember!

The Candle, the candle is lit -- Symbolizing the upward reach of their unconquerable spirit. Remember!

A Slice of Lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate. Remember!

There is Salt upon the bread plate -- Symbolic of the families' tears as they wait. Remember!

The Glass is inverted -- They cannot toast with us this night. Remember!

The Chair -- The chair is empty. They are not here. Remember!

Remember! -- All of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them, for surely, they have not forsaken you. Remember!

Remember! -- Until the day they come home, Remember!


--Larry H. Tassone, USAF (Ret)


Today is a day to honor all veterans, but I thought it would be an especially appropriate time to post this picture, taken this past Memorial Day at the Plum Legion. I'd never seen this tableau before- I've been to more than one Memorial Day tribute, but this was new to me. The solemnity and reverence with which the men of the Post attended to this table, and to the reading of the above, truly touched me- all the more remarkable given I was there for a ceremony honoring my father, as well as all those members who passed on over the past year.

So often, when I think about all those men and women who have served America, I think about all the ones who died, fighting for their Country, or their Family, or just the Soldier next to him. Or I think about those who lived, and came back to their Country, and to their Family, and to their fellow Soldiers.

Not often enough do I think of those soldiers lost to us- those Missing in Action, unable to come home to their Country, to their Family, to their fellow Soldier; and the Prisoners of War, who sometimes do come home, but are always haunted and marked by their time kept away from their Country, their Family, their fellow Soldiers.

So please, think about them all- think of the veterans living, deceased, and lost...

Think.

And Remember.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From The Crypt Halloween, 4: The Other Monster Squad


10/6/89. At least this one was started around Halloween time.

Not much to say about this one- my favorite monsters, in color! My sister had gotten me colored pencils for Christmas past, so I was trying to put them to use. Not much to say about this one, other than I don't know why the Mummy appears to be floating, and for whatever reason I always remember drawing Dracula like that- Bela's outfit, but completely different face. There's a reason I drew that face, but I can't remember what it is. So there you go.

I'm tired.

See you tomorrow.

Music: "Monster Mash" - Bobby 'Boris' Pickett

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

From The Crypt Halloween, 3: Horror's Hero


7/24/90.

Not quite a horror monster, Darkman was nonetheless a horror fan's dream. Imagine a superhero movie done by Evil Dead's Sam Raimi... oh wait, that was Spider-Man. Well, go back twelve years or so and you'll see Raimi's first superhero movie. Coming out a year after Tim Burton took the 'comic' out of 'comic books' and redefined the superhero movie, Darkman was an early successor to that grim and gritty, super-stylized movie, channeled through the mind of Sam Raimi. Starring a pre-Qui-Gon Liam Neeson, it failed to make much of an impact at the box office- but made quite the impact on little film and movie geeks everywhere. I remember loving the bombast and insanity of it all- one of the bad guys had a machine gun built into his prosthetic leg!- as well as the drama and pathos of the poor, disfigured scientist who can no longer feel anything but rage... plus he's got a face that melts every 99 minutes! I haven't seen it since the early 90's, so I have no idea how it holds up. I would hope it's another good example of Prime Sam. I found a few pictures of Darkman- I might post another one for your viewing amusement later this week.

Oh- although it didn't do well at the box office, the filmmakers knew just how to hit up the geek market: They made two follow up films that were direct-to-video, starring Arnold Vosloo (that guy from The Mummy)- probably because he was cheap and bald, which makes for less money on bald caps. I never saw them, so I can't speak for their filmic value. Might be worth watching, yes?

Music: "Theme from Darkman" - Danny Elfman

Monday, October 26, 2009

From The Crypt Halloween, 2: First Cuts


12/20/89. Cause, you know, nothing says 'Christmas' like Freddy Krueger. Nightmare Before Christmas, indeed.

Looking back at these old pictures, I've come across a number of Freddy Krueger drawings. Now, before you decide I need medical attention (or reaffirm your initial opinion), let's take a look at another thought in play here. Essentially, Freddy Krueger, star of some hard-R movies, had by this time become a superhero. Okay, supervillain, to be precise, but hardly a horror movie monster. Sure, he killed kids in their sleep and terrorized a generation of teens, but let's take a closer look. Horribly damaged as a young man? Check. Virtually impossible to kill? Check. Long metal claws? Check.

He's not a monster.

He's Wolverine.

Alright, a bit of a stretch there. But, hopefully you take my meaning. By this point, the late 80's, the horror of Freddy (not even sleep is safe) had been replaced by a joking, nearly cartoon image of the original- the later episodes were practically action movies with more blood and makeup effects. Where had all the horror icons gone?

Looking at this pic, evidently Freddy took them out. I forget where I'd first heard the mention of a team-up between Freddy and Jason (one of those fanboy dreams that never, EVER live up to the hype), but this was a little idea that I put down on paper. I never did see the movie. I'm betting whatever I was thinking here was probably better than what made it to film.

Music: "One, Two Freddy's Coming For You"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From The Crypt Halloween, 1: We Still Belong Dead


8/20/90.

At my Mom's this past weekend, I came across a huge collection of my old drawings. Instead of shuffling them to the bottom of whatever box they came out of like usual, I decided to bring them with me and look through them again, just to see if I've made any progress since then. I thought if nothing else, I could maybe find some choice ones and post them, just to show how bad I used to be way back in the day. Funnily enough, I ended up coming across a bunch of Halloween-themed (or genre-related, at least) pics and thought, since I didn't have anything new to post for Halloween, and I've been running old pics already, I could combine those two and post these REALLY old pics. Not even from the crypt so much as the old burial mound... But, there will be, with luck, a post for each night this week. Rejoice!

So this first one, I hope you can see, is Frankenstein's Monster and his Bride. This pic looks like it was influenced by an old photo or scene from the movie (the poses feel familiar) but I don't think it was a direct drawing of a photo. As you can see, I was a fan of the Universal Monsters going back quite a ways. Not much to say about this picture, though looking at the green ink, it reminds me of the time I spent drawing, then using the different color ink pens to ink the drawings instead of just plain coloring them. And, if you look at the Bride and squint really hard, she kind of looks like Madeline Kahn.

More tomorrow.

Music: "Tubular Bells" - Halloween Soundtrack

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 7: Hell's Highway


June 7, 2009.

This one is pretty easy to describe. Much like my long-ago posting of 'breed', this one is directly inspired by a song. In this case, Ministry's "Hero". I was a huge fan of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails back in the day- nothing like some industrial music to get the outrage flowing. I'm not as much into it now- I guess my tastes have just changed a lot (go ahead, say it- I've gotten old :)- but my tastes have always changed. It's still fun to listen to every now and again, or better yet, catch on the radio.

But, this is just what came to my head when I would listen to the song. Also, it's inspired in large part by a story from 'Heavy Metal' called... "Friday", I think? About a clone trooper who doesn't think just like all his fellow clones. Wish I could remember the exact name.

And there you go.

Probably not going to post anything for this Friday, but you never know.

Music: "Hero" - Ministry (what, did you expect something else?)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 6: Snickity Swipe


May 1, 1993.

Well, we're back to the old stuff. Which is good, as I don't have any new stuff to post yet. Things have been quite... tiring here. Life is busy. But it'll do that.

This is Wolverine, obviously. Or I hope obviously. Couldn't get enough of the little runt back in the day. Now... eh. Don't get me wrong- I like the character well enough, but it's hard to buy into the character anymore when he's probably as ubiquitous as Spider-Man anymore. For Kirby's sake, he's on a cartoon for little kids! You know, the guy with foot-long metal claws who kills people? Little bit odd, that.

But I digress. This particular picture is known as, in the parlance of the industry, a 'swipe'. A swipe is when one artist uses another artist's work- usually a pose, but can go so far as to copy the actual style or composition. Often done without acknowledging the shoulders upon which they stand. If they do make the proper sounds (usually "-name-, after Kirby" for example), the swipe is known as an homage. Splitting hairs, but then that's what fandom does best. Let's see- using my profound geek memory, as I recall this is a swipe of Liam Sharp's Death's Head II, probably from one of the early issues. But considerably less detailed than Mr. Sharp's work. The original drawing was a character called, surprisingly, Death's Head II. I at least did the work to make it look like someone different.

'Swiping' is a big deal nowadays in the industry, what with the ready availability of photo references online. There's one artist who is almost as well-known for his swiping photo references as he is for his drawing ability. I remember his earliest work- honestly, it was better then than it is now, but I know I'm a minority opinion. He's gotten so bad, in the most recent issue of the book he shares art chores on, he swiped a different artist and 'drew' the exact same character in the exact same way- but the artist he ripped off is an amazingly different style of artist. Shame, shame! Swiping is something many artists do at one time or another, and it's difficult to say where using photo reference ends and swiping begins, and I'm probably not one to make that call. I've done it in the past- especially in terms of posing and so on- but then again, I'm not being paid for it. Oh well, as long as someone is paying for the work, artists will continue doing it.

Okay, off the soapbox.

Enjoy the day!

In other news, I think I figured out what to go as for Halloween. My only problem now is finding all of the things I need. You'd think Gothic stuff would be more in now, but you'd be wrong. Or perhaps over the age of 17 and shopping somewhere other than Hot Topic.

Also, I went to my first Haunted House in well over 20 years. I had a lot of fun, but I came to the realization that I should've been going for at least the past 10 years. I walked in and started figuring out what the gags would be, where the surprises were coming from, how they did the gags, and what music they were using. I enjoyed it, but if I were younger, or less jaded, I wouldn't be so interested in the how of it and just enjoy the spectacle. Still, I'm hoping to go to another one this weekend.

Music: "Terrible Lie" - Nine Inch Nails

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Toes in the Water

Well, another Columbus Day has passed, and so has another trip to Chincoteague Island, VA, with my friends. This house was the biggest yet rented (and probably the biggest house we will ever rent- it's the biggest on the island!) and filled with much happiness and good food. Here are some sights from the trip:


The Chincoteague Lighthouse. We visit the island every year, and this is the first I've been to the lighthouse in... a long time. Didn't go inside, but I'm old now and have trouble with all the steps.



Here's a lovely view from the back of the house. In spite of the weather forecasters' doom and gloom, it was all in all a great weekend.



Yeah, that's right. The house had an ELEVATOR! aka, kids'-attention-getter. Okay, I rode it twice.

That's all for now. I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so there most likely won't be a post Friday, but I'll be back Monday. Oh- extra credit to anyone who has a suggestion for a Halloween costume for me.

Music: "Toes" - Zac Brown Band

Sunday, October 4, 2009

ReVision and Milestone


10/4/09.

This marks my 200th post. Since Joey's been telling me to revisit my old work in order to try and jumpstart my mostly stalled creative inclinations, and since I knew this 'milestone' was coming up, I thought I'd combine those two ideas and went back to my first 'retro' post, which is also the one of the oldest pieces of 'modern' art I can find (I have older stuff, but I won't punish you like that; and I have larger art from high school, but it won't scan). In case you've forgotten, that original post was the start of a design for a banner meant to be presented at the Pittsburgh Arts Festival (or whatever it's called). My idea was to do a banner with an angel and demon, as gargoyles/statues, over the Pittsburgh skyline. Really, that was the plan. If you look back to it , it's kind of hard to see any of that. Ah well, I was young and lazy, not to mention I just didn't have the skill to draw it back then.

Cut to 15 years later. Okay, I'm still lazy, and my skills are sometimes questionable, but I've had 15 years of experience figuring out how to draw things (and finding the reference to allow me to draw things)- not to mention the fact that my imagination works differently now. The biggest difference, strangely enough, is the simplest difference: I bought a drafting table. So, I have a dedicated workspace now- no more drawing on the TV tray (well, until there's something good on). But, by buying that table, it gave me a focus and motivation to actually work on drawing again. Damned if it didn't work. I'm hoping it will continue; but if it doesn't, it won't be for lack of trying.

To those of you who've kept coming back post after post, either quickly cruising through or reading every single rambling, over-punctuated sentence, I thank you. This has been a pleasure, a burden, a pressure, and a reward, and I'm glad to have shared it with you. I plan on posting here for as long as I feel like I've got something to post... and even when I don't feel like it, I'll try to keep on going. It'll be back to the old school with the next post (next week; Chinco is this week!), but I plan on following it up with more new work.

The process is not yet finished
But it is going on;
This is not the end,
But it is the road
-Martin Luther


Cheers!

(oh, by the way, the 'hint' from last week referred to the song 'Double Agent' and the line "my angels and my demons at war"- obscure even for me, but it's my blog so there)

Music: "Doomsday" - Murray Gold

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 5: SooperDooper


April 22, 1993- Earth Day, apparently. (You can tell I was a college student then, since I made note of such things)

Nothing special to say about this one, other than 'hey, it was a phase I was going through'. Actually, as I look at the re-designed costume, that's very much a relic of the 90's as well. That style of costume- no-underpants, panels running the length of the body- was pretty popular back then. Hell, that was the only style Rob Liefeld seemed to draw back then. But really, the over-muscled thing? Yeesh. And not even accurate muscles! Looking ahead a bit, I think the pictures veer away from that back into the realms of normally over-developed musclebound freaks we call superheroes.

As an FYI, if I'm doing my math right, I'll not be posting this Friday, but will have something up for Monday (fingers crossed). As a hint (if you care)- it's something old, done as something new, and look at the 'Double Agent'. Surely that's too obscure, even for me. Oh, and I blame Joe for the idea in the first place.

Music: 'Bad, Bad Leroy Brown' - Jim Croce (think about it...)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 4: Mutant Mods


March 28, 1993.

The first question that came to mind when I looked at this before scanning it was, "why does a mutant whose power is healing from any injury need a suit of armor?" That's the kind of thing you only think of with age... or perhaps with common sense. I can offer no excuse, other than hell, it was the 90's and people dug that sort of thing. Everyone was getting armored up back then, in the comics. Batman, Daredevil, Captain America, Spider-Man... it was only natural to do the same to everyone's favorite mutant. Though I don't think he ever showed up with armor in the comics.

As far as the picture itself, I can't make much by way of comments on it- I don't recall what made me put it together the way I did, but two things do come to mind. One, I remember struggling with what to do with those stupid boot he used to wear- they looked like full-sized versions of his mask- but on his calves. Not sure how he walked, and I don't think he was very stealthy with those things on. Two, I liked the idea of his face being completely hidden- I think it made his mask look more frightening. Don't think that would fly with Hugh Jackman in the role, though.

Alrighty- enough for now, I'm bone-tired. More Wednesday, with luck.

Music: "Mr. Roboto" - Styx

Thursday, September 24, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 3: Ripped (Off)


March 5, 1993. Seems like it was a pretty productive time for me, artistically. I really can't think back that far to what might've been going on, but at the very least I was drawing.

And what a drawing it was. sigh. See, this is everything that was good and bad about comics in the 90's (stop me if you've heard this one before). The 90's brought a real and lasting change in how comics were seen and perceived. This is when books stopped being about the characters and (frequently) became about the creators of the books- the comic book equivalent of the end of the studio movie system and the rise of the 'movie star', in my opinion. Sure, there were always very famous and popular artists (let's face it- people are pick up comics for the art initially) out there, but it became a whole other animal back in the 90's.

If there could be said to be a unifying style to this art, it was 'dynamic'. The artists themselves varied pretty wildly in the details of their art, but overall it had a real sense of action and vibrancy in it. Lots of useless detail lines helped. Also, over-rendering the people into something that looked more like an anatomical model of muscles rather than a 'normal' human being was a big difference. Super heroes always looked stronger than mere mortals; now you could see how each muscle was better. Hell, I remember there was actually an artistic trend in comics to draw the guys with bulging arm veins! Yep, true. One could ponder the meaning, symbolism, and effect it had on the average comic reader back then, but I'll spare you (for now).

Anyway, as you can see, I feel for this trend hook, (crosshatched) line, and sinker. The main culprit of this art style you see above was a guy named Bart Sears. I don't remember him always drawing like this, but there are some artists out there who can change their style to reflect current trends, and I guess he was one of them. Of course he pulled it off much better than I ever managed. My problems with this are like all my problems with drawing: I didn't have enough background to really understand what I was drawing. These weren't copied from anyone else's work, so I was left to figure out how the muscles were put together on my own, and figure out where the lines would go. I did okay, I guess, but really? that's just ridiculous. I never had the knack to really pull off these super-muscled people. So, when you see something I've done of late, just think: I could still be trying to draw just like this.

Back then, though, I recall being pretty proud of it- it was reasonably dynamic, and God knows I put enough lines in there. Bits and pieces I'm still pretty proud of, really. But jeez, how did these people digest food, with waists like that?

Music: "Them Bones" - Alice In Chains

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

From the Crypt v.2, Item 2: Please Don't Go Out On Me



March 4, 1993.

(Okay, so "Go" is actually off their second album, Vs., which came out in Late '93, but sue me- the title's good)

Speaking of overserious... Pearl Jam's frontman, Eddie Vedder. Couldn't tell you where I found the reference for it, but it was one of my better attempts at drawing a 'real' person. Hell, it's better than half the stuff I try drawing now.

Pearl Jam was THE band for me back then. They were the ones who really opened up my ears, musically, to all the different types of music out there, going beyond my limited interest in music back then (limited to B94- a top40/pop station). Through them, I found my way to all different types of music, and as so many teens do, started charting my own course in terms of musical tastes and, to an extent, helping me find my own way socially, as well.

The funny thing was, I'd gotten the Nirvana tape, not the Pearl Jam. I mean, I'd just started hearing PJ, but Nirvana was awesome. Then one day Joey came over with his Pearl Jam tape (sorry folks, this predates our owning CDs) and we listened to both tapes. By the end of the night, I'd decided Pearl Jam was more to my liking, and Joey ended up a bigger fan of Nirvana. Both were amazing, of course. I imagine every generation of kids comes of age with a particular group or type of music, one that really helps influence their formative years, or serves as a touchstone for them as they look back and remember. For me, and probably for a lot of my friends, it was bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

Wow- God help the kids who grew up in the early 2000's...

And yes, I wore the flannels, the ripped jeans with thermals underneath, and the kickers. It was the thing to do.

Music: "Release" - Pearl Jam

Sunday, September 20, 2009

From the Crypt, Series 2: Lost and Dreaming


Well.

It has been a while, hasn't it?

Sorry about that, really. It's just... you know... Life. And things. Everything's going fine, or as fine as it seems to go, and then next thing... it's like... what happened? When did I stop? Sure, there've been some pretty good reasons for not being here, but really- this was one of those things I'd done, those commitments I'd made, that I thought would be easy to stick with, to see through. Until I realized that I'd started looking at this blog as one more weight on me, one more pressure. Hell, it's just a scanned picture and some rambling- don't even get me started on actually trying to draw anything...

So, to come back here, like this... well, I'm going to give it a go as I had before- I'm going to post some stuff from the past, and comment on it, and make it look like I'm doing something. Let's call it- slow-motion catharsis. I'll be posting some 'new' art soon enough, honest- I'm just not ready to yet.

If you're willing to stick around and look back 17 years or so into my past, then I hope to be somewhat illumination and not make it a waste of your time. Failing illumination, perhaps at least some amusement.

Right.

Okay then.

So, this is the first drawing of my second 'big boy' sketchbook- the ones where I started taking the drawing (too) seriously, instead of scribbles and whatnot. The subject is another recurring character, Neil Gaiman's Morpheus. In this one, he's not really patterned after Kelley Jones' take on the Dream Lord so much as a more goth/proto-emo take of my own. He does have that freakishly elongated physiognomy that I like to think I did intentionally... This drawing bears all the hallmarks of my early 90's art influences- way too much detail in the muscles, over-rendered (and incorrectly draped) clothing, and a vague 'ostentatious without being pretentious' look about it. Oh, just you wait...

As usual, I'm left with a mix of pride, abashedness, and wistfulness when I look back at these drawings. I think I did pretty well back then, for no formal training, no anatomy knowledge to speak of... and I also feel kind of silly for looking at the overseriousness with which I approached just about everything back then. But, having just spent some time at my niece's high school, watching and listening to large groups of teens interact, I'm pretty sure that overseriousness wasn't just me. And a touch of wistfulness, because I drew the hell out of things, then. Day after day. And I had the patience to keep at it- I think the longest I might've gone without putting pencil to paper back then was maybe a week... and I bet if you checked my school notebooks you would've found something in them that wasn't notes.

So there you go. That's today's post. I'll be back with something else 'fore too long. I think there's an anniversary of some sort coming up.

Music: "New Divide" - Linkin Park

Monday, August 10, 2009

"With Great Power, Comes Great Merchandising Opportunities"




...Does Whatever a Spider Can...

Hi guys. Just posting a Spidey drawing I've had sitting around for a while. Well, hell, they've all been sitting around for a while. I've been wanting to do this one up in a certain style- which I've kinda/sorta done here. If it looks a little different from most of my posts, that's because I've also colored the lines making up the picture. This is done all the time in animation (especially Disney, if you can remember seeing traditional hand-drawn animation from them, and especially the 'new classic' Disney stuff like Little Mermaid on), as well as by a growing number of comic book artists. It gives the work a different flavor, which is what I was going for here.

To be honest, I should've inked this first to eliminate a lot of the roughness in it, and perhaps I will in time, but I just wanted to post something, anything, so here it is. I'm really taken with this particular design of Spidey; it's something a little different, a little (okay, lot) cartoony, but fun. It's definitely inspired by the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon on TV now, especially the design work of Sean 'Cheeks' Galloway. His style is so clean and fun, it's not hard to see how it would be perfect for cartoons.

Anyway, there you go.

Music: "Spider-Man Theme"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who Watches?


Just a quick post. Since it's been weeks, I figured the best way to return was by barely posting anything.

Here's a quick sketch I did back at a drawing session at Sean's. I'm not sure what else I drew, if anything. I remember being really frustrated at not having any ideas, but this came to me. It's not much, but vaguely amusing. Even vigilantes need to eat, right? The one red shoe is a (now-intentional) accident of painting. Oh yeah, I'm posting this in honor of the DVD and Blu-Ray release of Watchmen- and if you go to Best Buy, you can pick up special edition packaging in the shape of either Rorschach's or Doctor Manhattan's head. Possibly the most disturbing, yet sure-to-sell, packaging I've yet seen. Oh wait, they did do the Ape head for the complete Planet of the Apes series. Nevermind.

Apologies for the lack of posts, especially to those of you who check the blog on anything approaching a regular basis. Things are... things are fine, but the past few months have not been very kind to my desire to draw. I feel like I don't have the time I once did, and there are so many things to do, sometimes other things have to get put back on a back burner. Right now, drawing is one of them.

I'm hoping the next couple weeks will change that. I'm not going to say more, but we'll see if history is kind enough to repeat itself.

Music: 'Desolation Row' - My Chemical Romance (after Bob Dylan)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Do You Mean Something Like This?; or, the Loneliness of Command


I forget when I drew this; a few months ago, probably. My niece, Emily, was trying to draw something. She asked me about drawing someone in a military uniform, with his hands behind his back. She draws like I do when I first started drawing: try to draw the finished picture all at once. As a result, things weren't working too well for her. So, once I thought I understood her meaning, I threw this together quickly- as you can see. I hadn't given it any conscious thought at the time, but looking at the picture, it seems to me like this poor fellow has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Certainly not intended, but kind of interesting.

Not sure if she ever did anything with the picture or not. Hope so.

Something more later.

Music: "Feel Good Drag" - Anberlin

Thursday, June 4, 2009

"Fat, Drunk, and Using Adamantium Claws is No Way to Go Through Life, Son."


The Art Club got together a while back, as we occasionally do, and were trying to come up with things to draw. I don't remember why we decided what we did (pretty sure Sean had nothing to do with it), but we opted to draw Wolverine. I think we were talking about either artists or the movie or- oh wait, it was the new Wolverine comic that had recently come out (now like 8 or 9 monthlies, including at least 4 team books- pretty impressive for a loner).

So we talked about interpretations we liked, and naturally drifted to an old favorite of mine and Joe's, Havok/Wolverine: Meltdown. This came out in the early 90's, and was distinctive for two reasons: 1) it was published by Epic Comics, Marvel's "mature" imprint, so it had cussing in it, and more importantly 2) it was painted by two different artists, Jon J. Muth and Kent Williams. Each artist painted one set of characters; Muth painted Havok, Williams painted Wolverine. We loved this series.

Williams's take on Logan was like nothing we'd seen before. Gone was the ripped superhero with slick, yet pointy, hair. In his place, a pale, potbellied runt with broken capillaries (how much drinking does it take for a man who heals to get those?) and hair that looked more like a pelt than anything human. He painted him with these two wild tufts of hair that streamed out behind him, almost like antenna.

It was awesome.

So it was, as we sat down and started drawing, that I decided to go with this Williams-inspired look. To be perfectly honest, all the smoother, animated-style, cartoony work I put up isn't really how I draw. What's above is really how I draw, when I'm just throwing something down without worrying every little thing. It really lent to this version of Logan, as Williams's style is much rougher (though still magnificent) than many painters today. I had a blast drawing like this, as it indulged my comic geek side, while letting me stretch my artistic muscles somewhat.

By the end of the night, there were three Wolverines in the basement: my rough and drunk Logan, Joe's masked Wolverine (with Williams-inspired long pointy mask), and Sean's Hugh Jackman-styled Logan (no mask). It was a lot of fun to see how all three of us took the same idea and went running off in totally different directions.

I wasn't done, of course. Once I finished the drawing, I decided to take it a bit further and try to color it along the lines of Williams's fantastic watercolors. Doing subdued coloring in Photoshop is a lot harder than I would've imagined. As you can see from my past coloring efforts, loud primary colors are a lot easier to do than subtle variations- at least for me. I've seen other digital artists whose work made me want to cry. In time, perhaps... but I'm pleased with the result, though as always I'd like to change things here and there.

Thanks to Dean Wormer for the quote.

---

Welcome back. Sorry it's taken so long to get this post up. Getting the picture to the point where I wanted to post it took longer than I expected, as well as life getting in the way. All's good, though.

See you next week.

Music: "Friends in Low Places" - Garth Brooks

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lines of Force


Hi, everyone. Welcome back after a long weekend. Hope everyone had a good time spent with family and/or friends. I managed to do both.

Nothing too fancy to post this time; I'm going to try to go back to a (mostly) chronological posting of what I've drawn. That'll last probably as long as I don't find something else to put up, or something comes along of more interest to me.

Anyway, this was just a simple exercise I did a while back. Since one of my many weaknesses when drawing comic characters is their complete rigidity (talk about a stick up the-), I like to try to goof around every now and again with loosening up the posing, and just look for something dynamic, regardless of things like anatomy, look, or anything like that. This was such a thing.

There are actually a number of books on the market addressing such things as force and motion in drawing. I have a few of them, but haven't found/made time for them yet. However, this is a little like what you'd see in those books, except very poorly rendered. I threw in a couple sets of lines in here, to show what I think is the 'skeleton' of the figure (where the limbs will go, how they're posed, etc.), and to show the sense of motion I'm going for. A good artist can make a perfectly static image look like it's about to leap off the page. I'm not such an artist, but I did enjoy doing this. If only he had someone to hit...

That's about it for now. I'll probably have something up again either Friday or next week...

Oh hell, let's be honest: it'll be up when it's up.

Music: "Time and Motion" - Rush

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Service

Last weekend was, in its way, Memorial Day for me and my family. We spent the weekend remembering Dad, in three different, but appropriate ways.

Saturday-

We got up early Saturday (early for Emily, at least) and packed Mom, my sister Bobbi, and my niece Emily into the van and took a road trip to Maryland. Not normally the kind of thing we'd do (I like sleeping in as much as the next person), but this was a little bit special. We were headed down to the Hilltop Fruit Market. Nothing fancy about it, just a roadside market, but it was a place Dad used to take Mom (and Bobbi and Emily from time to time) as an excuse to take a nice leisurely drive through some wonderful country. It was about the journey, not the destination. I'd known they used to take drives down to this place, but had never gone with them, so I didn't know where it was or how to get there. Mom couldn't remember the name of the place, but gave a really good description of it. I found out through a friend where it was, then found some directions for it. Instead of taking those, I took a look at a map and asked myself, "Which way would Dad go?" Well, knowing him, there were probably at least 3 different ways to go, with another 5 in reserve. I picked the most obvious one, and off we went.

I wasn't sure what the drive would be like, especially for Mom. Would it be sad for her? Bittersweet? As we drove down, I imagine all of our thoughts drifted to thoughts of Dad from time to time- 'what would it have been like to come with them?' 'I remember the last time we came down' 'I remember the first time we saw that place, all those years ago'... but it never felt like those thoughts were oppressing, or taking the enjoyment out of the trip. Instead, it felt like he was there with us, or maybe in the next car over. We talked about things they'd seen on different trips with Dad down there, about the scenery, the towns, or whatever- it was just another family trip. Partway down, they talked about seeing Nemacolin, a fancypants resort, one time. I was pretty sure we wouldn't see it; I felt bad, since I wanted to take them the way Dad would, I wanted it to be like when he drove.

I shouldn't have worried; sure enough we passed Nemacolin about 20 minutes later. The rest of the day was a lot of fun. We passed a horse and wagon train- I don't know what else to call it; it was in celebration of Pike Days or something like that. Plenty of people on horseback and in horse-drawn carts, some of them authentic, some of them looking like giant-sized Radio Flyers. We got to the Hilltop Fruit Market (after asking directions from a nice kid who essentially pointed and said 'look that way') and loaded up on an insane amount of bulk candy (my sweet tooth is genetic, thank you) and some veggies and sundry other stuff. We stopped for lunch at that quintessentially American site, McDonalds. And we took a drive through Nemacolin on the way back (though I drove through kind of fast before they could figure out the Dodge Caravan didn't fit in with the Hummers and BMWs...). It was a great time, fun and relaxing, spent with the family.

Sunday-

Saturday was about our family remembering Dad and what he did for us. Sunday was about remembering and honoring what he did for others, and for his country.

After chuch, we drove over to Harmarville for a memorial service hosted by CORE. CORE is the Center for Organ Recovery & Education- they are a non-profit group dedicated to helping promote organ donation and transplants. They get involved whenever someone needs a transplant- they help find donors for those in need, and help make people aware of the tremendous good that can come from signing up to be a donor.

We first learned about CORE shortly after Dad passed. Someone from their offices contacted us to let us know that they might be able to use some organs or tissue from Dad's body, and would we be willing to make that donation? Mom and Bobbi didn't even hesitate: "If your Dad can still help someone, then he will." We were surprised they even contacted us, actually; Dad was 78 years old, and in very poor shape.

Days passed, and we would occasionally wonder what had come of that phone call. Had they just decided they couldn't do anything, and didn't want to tell us? What had happened? About a week or so later, we received a letter in the mail: CORE had in fact been able to use tissue from Dad's body. It made perfect sense. Why would something like Death stop him from helping someone?

And so, almost a year later, we found ourselves at 'A Special Place' Ceremony. It's not so much a Memorial as a Celebration, for all those donors and their families, whose tragedies were instead turned into triumphs for so many others.

I wasn't sure what to expect; I figured maybe a couple hundred people would be there. Instead, what seemed like thousands were there- I had no idea so many would attend. And I learned that it wasn't just the donor's families who'd showed up; there were many recipients who'd also shown up. There were speeches from CORE members, thanking the families for the donations, for giving that gift to save lives. There was a speech from a man who looked through the grief of losing his only child to help others, and from a man who, thanks to two donors, was able to see again. Finally, two people spoke about the impact donation had on their lives: a woman's sister died in a fall, and her liver was donated to save the life of a man. Some years later, the families decided they wanted to meet because, as the woman put it, "she just wanted to make sure he was okay."

At the end of the ceremony, there was a balloon release, one balloon for each of the donors:

The next picture was a few seconds later. The circle you see towards the top of the picture is a circular rainbow; it was around the sun for almost the entire time of the ceremony:

As we were sitting, waiting for the crowds to thin, a woman walked up to us and said "Thank you for your donation. Because of someone like you, I got a kidney transplant. That was 21 years ago." That simple statement made me so thankful, and so proud.

Our next trip was to the local American Legion, Post 980. They have a Memorial Day service every year, to honor those Legion members lost in the past year. They have it a week before Memorial Day because, as they said "We want people to remember the reason for Memorial Day." It was a great service, as I would expect nothing less from these men- they were there for Dad to pay tribute at the funeral home and at the cemetery. One of the men at the service read the names of those who'd died in the past year- sadly, it took all too long. Near the end of the ceremony, the honor guard fired a salute:

I looked around at these old men, and the young men and women, and listened to what they had to say, about duty, and honor, and America, and comradeship, and love. I was filled with such pride- not just for Dad, and his humble sacrifice- but for all of these people, who gave so much not only for their families and friends, but for their entire country. To know that, even in these cynical and jaded times, there are those who will stand and fight for our country- for the ideals our country represents, for the flaws in our country, for the hope that we can rise above those flaws-

It was an honor to be in the company of such people. It is an honor to know my Father was such a person.

That was Sunday.

This weekend, as you kick back and enjoy the idea of not working, eating hot dogs, and the idea of the Penguins continuing their winning ways, please take a moment or two to think about those who serve- not just in the military, but all those people who serve others, by teaching, by protecting, by healing, by parenting, by supporting, and those who serve, and save, even though they're gone.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Moonlight Madness



One more Dracula picture. I originally sketched this late one night at Mom's place, when I had a hankering to sketch something, but not really go into much detail. I found an old card left over from the 'Dracula' trading card series back for this movie. The original card was painted by Mark Chiarello, a fantastic painter who does most of his work behind the scenes at DC Comics nowadays. I best know him for painting a team-up book of Batman and Harry Houdini, of all people.

My favorite part of drawing this was using a heavy leaded pencil- you get such thick, black lines out of it, it gives whatever you're drawing a lot of weight and power. It also leaves less room for goofing around with the pencil, thus making the work itself a little more deliberate. It gives me the feeling of almost working in ink, as it doesn't take much extra work to make a fully-rendered picture.

Then I put it in Photoshop and hid all the lines. I was originally going with a more watercolor, faded look, but then I saw how good it looked with solid black in lieu of the pencils, I decided to mess around with the colors and textures more. I'm very pleased with it, as it's a solid picture, but I colored it in a much looser fashion. Sure, it's mostly inside the lines, but there's a bit more going on in the face than just one tone. I had a lot of fun with this one, not least because it's the first really creative work I've done in PS in a while. Hopefully this'll continue.

And no, it's not secretly Alan Moore.

Music: "Panic Switch" - Silversun Pickups

Monday, May 11, 2009

America's Artist, and The Habah


This past weekend, Kelly and I took a long weekend and drove up to Massachusetts so I could finally fulfill a wish of mine: to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. We filled out the trip (going to the NRM was absolutely my only goal for the weekend. I could've turned around and driven back that day and been happy). It was a pretty amazing time all around- there's nothing quite like going on vacation with only a vague idea of what you want to do. Then when you're headed back home, thinking about how fantastic the trip was, the realization that most of those great moments came about through no planning, hits you and makes you see how wonderful spontaneity can be. Yeah, it was a good time.

I've been a fan of Norman Rockwell for a long time, but mostly without realizing it. I'd seen his paintings all over the place for years: old magazines, pictures in doctors' offices, books, and the like. I'd always admired them- there's no denying the... reality of the pictures. But my obsession with comic books and comic book art sort of kept Rockwell out of the spotlight for me throughout most of my 20's, or came in behind the ever-popular fraternal twins of Arts Nouveau and Deco. However, as I left the 20's and crashed into the 30's, my tastes and appreciations broadened considerably, and I began to pay closer attention to those artists I've always known, but never paid close attention to (Maxfield Parrish, Andrew Wyeth, and Edward Hopper also fall into this category). It certainly didn't hurt that Joey and Sean were branching out as well, or at least cluing me in to their own favorites.

I found a few Rockwell books in the used bookstores down around Frederick, and it was through those I began to really understand the power and depth of Rockwell's ability. Norman Rockwell's covers to The Saturday Evening Post told stories; simple stories, stories familiar to anyone, but with such skill and thought and life, it's impossible not to feel something when viewing them. The people populating his pictures nearly seem to live and breathe, and it's impossible not to know exactly what's happening to each person in the painting. You can practically read their thoughts written on their faces. Regardless of the setting of the painting, you can't help but feel understanding for the subjects. You will laugh, or sigh, or nod in agreement to the painting in front of you. You will feel something.

I thought I'd grasped his mastery of understanding both people and paint, but I really had no understanding of his ability until we went to the museum. The first one I saw, Strictly a Sharpshooter, left me a bit dazed. I'd only seen this in one book in the past, and compared to the real thing, the print was a pale, pale imitator. What in print looks nearly like a gray tonal painting, in real life was rich with shades and hints of color- just look at the woman. The red of her flower draws you to her- then you take a closer look, and you think she's more photo than painting. You can see how upset she is, while the ragged boxer is shouting at her, most likely in disbelief. Apparently she's drawn a crowd- look how she's gotten the attention of the other boxing fans?

Then, of course, there are The Four Freedoms. I've seen these before, probably a lot of folks have. Norman Rockwell painted them in response to FDR's 1941 speech outlining the Four Freedoms: Freedom to Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Four basic yet fundamental freedoms all people want and should strive towards. The four paintings were printed in the Post, and then again and again by the government. I'd seen them in so many books myself, I'd mostly forgotten what they meant.

Until I saw them with my own eyes.

They're situated in a gallery of their own in the center of the building, across from each other in each corner of the room, rather than on the walls. It was a good time to be there; there was no one in the gallery when I walked in, so I could have a minute to take it in on my own. Without realizing it, I was taking deeper and deeper breaths, nearly gasping. Goosebumps ran along my arms, and I actually felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. I was nearly in tears, and I'd only just walked into the room. What was it about those paintings that had such an effect on me? A thought flashed through my mind as I stood there: This must be what they mean by 'religious experience', though it went beyond the idea of religion. I think it was just the idea of these simple ideas, - such amazing ideas pared down to their essence and so exactly and perfectly rendered into these paintings- I think that's what struck me so deeply. That's really the only way I can put it to words.

It was just amazing to see with my own eyes so many of his paintings, which I'd only seen previously in books and magazines. As I told Kelly later, I almost didn't want to bother looking at the prints they had for sale, since having seen the originals, they couldn't hope to compare. But I bought some anyway.

So that was my pilgrimage to the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Boston was wicked good, by the way.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Gentle Reminder


My Sister-in-Law, Linda, is quite talented.

Not only is she a very good nurse (that's her 'day' job), she's a phenomenal seamstress. For as long as I've known her, she's made all manner of fantastic creations out of fabric, thread, and what I imagine must be an incredible amount of patience. Back in the mid-80's, she made me a jumpsuit for Halloween so I could go as one of my favorite movie characters back then, the Ghostbusters. It zipped up, just like theirs did, and had silver thread stitched on it to make all the 'pockets' of their jumpsuits. It went quite well with my cardboard-box-backpack and broomhandle/tissue box particle thrower. I wore the hell out of that thing, often wearing it around the house to play in. Later, when we got our first computer (the venerable Apple IIc), she made a heavy-duty dust cover to fit snugly over the monitor and computer when not in use (remember back in the day, when people worried about such things as getting dust in the computer?). She's made all sorts of cool, clever, and sweet things throughout the years.

And then she made this.

Linda started making these bears a few years ago, to give to the parents of newborns who never made it out of the hospital. Then, when her own father passed away, she took one of his favorite shirts and made a bear for her mother and for herself. These bears, made of fabric and memories, became lasting reminders of those gone from our daily lives, but gone from our hearts and minds. She's made several for us- this one was the one I asked her to make.

The original shirt was a polo shirt made out of a football-jersey type of material, kind of like a mesh. The Cummins logo was on the left breast. Linda makes the entire bear (sans stuffing) using only the shirt; the bear's eyes and nose come from the buttons for the neck and collar. Since the fabric is like mesh, the stuffing actually pokes out a little bit- so he's a fuzzy bear (funnily enough, Dad always liked Fozzie Bear from the Muppets). As you can see, she put the logo on his leg, so everyone knows where he came from. Best of all, Linda put the tag on his back. The shirt was made by Champion. It reads:

It Takes a Little More to Make a Champion

Very appropriate, I think.

I always keep Dad close to my heart, and talk to him often. Now I have the Bear around, and I sometimes talk to him, too. He doesn't answer, but sometimes, he gets this look in his eyes...

Thanks, Linda.

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Sorry for the missed Wednesday posting- there was a computer meltdown, but we're feeling much better now. Hopefully back with more newness early next week.

Cheers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

From the Crypt, 16: More Heavy Metal


9/6/92.

Lo! There shall be an ending!!!

To this run of retro, at least. This was the end of this sketchbook, so it's a good time to stop and take a breather. This was a team-up of two popular 90's characters, one you already know (Deathlok) and one you've not seen before (Death's Head). Both very popular, both with pretty bad names, and a good indicator of what the 90's were like. It was a very violent time in comics, with the words 'Blood', 'Death', or some other nasty name popping up more often than rude drivers in Maryland. It was all so over-the-top, though, none of it really seemed to stick. Although it was the time of 'grim 'n' gritty' in comic books, it was still far enough removed from 'realism' that none of it seemed very serious. But, typical action poses, typical oddly-shaped guns, typical avoidance of drawing detailed hands or feet. Still, there are a few things I really liked out of these last few drawings.

Probably going to post some new stuff in the next post or so, along with some pictures I think. We'll see.

Hope all is well.

Music: "Big Guns" - AC/DC

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Men At Work


When you call and tell them you need help, and they don't ask 'why?', but ask 'what can I do to help you?', you can't really just call them friends.

Thanks, Brothers.

The cookies are on the way!

Music: "I Wanna Be Sedated" - The Ramones

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From the Crypt, 15: Heavy Metal... *sigh*


8/30/92.

Deathlok and Cable. One's a brave and honorable man trapped in a mechanical death machine, the other's a cyborg sent back from the future to save mankind. In other words, it's Robocop and the Terminator.

These were two of the more popular characters from Marvel back in the day... Hell, Cable was one of the most popular characters around back then. Things have changed somewhat... for one thing, shoulder pads are OUT.

Anyway, this was one drawing I recall being particularly proud of, if only for actually getting more than one character on the page. I always liked the way Deathlok looked in this shot- the turned head was quite an accomplishment for me back in the day (which is funny, as nowadays that's almost all I draw). More overexaggerated muscles, and guns that seem to be random assortments of rectangles. All good fun.

That's it. One more picture and this book is done, I believe.

Music: "More Human Than Human" - White Zombie