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


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.


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.


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.