Tag Archives: art

Monday Gratitude: Meaningful Work

photo-on-2-19-17-at-11-19-pm

I got 2 phones.

I wanted pictures of a fluffy elephant toy and I didn’t want to pay for it, so I went to Toys R Us and photographed a fluffy elephant there. The Canon Rebel was in my bag but just as I found the store it occurred to me that it would be equally effective, for my purpose, and much less conspicuous to use a camera phone instead of a massive DSLR.

The black phone on the left is one of the crappiest phones you can buy. The keyboard sucks, the GPS sucks, the voice recognition sucks, and also the rear-facing camera is broken, so it only takes selfies. The white phone on the right is superior in every way, but it has a cracked screen and that bothers me more than all the  other things, I guess. But I carry it sometimes for various purposes. No one noticed me taking 30 photos of 1 plushie from 30 different angles, and now I can do some more work on my big project.

After a crash photography shoot and some bare bones work in the library, I went to Ms. Kitty’s house, and she told me about “2 Phones” for Kevin Gates. In this masterpiece of self-aware modern music, the upcoming entrepreneur must carry 2 phones, one with which to communicate with his lover, and the other to conduct his business. I told her that I used one for Pokemon and the other to play words with friends. And then later, while I watching the video, Miss Kitty came in and told me about the Pokemon Go remix. Which makes sense.

Anyway, whenever I think of all the things I haven’t got…it’s important to remember how much I have. I’ve got 2 phones. But what I’m most grateful for is the work I did with that phone. It really is a true privilege to get paid to create things.

You’ve Made It! Now Where Do You Go?

hobbies_edited-1.png

Crippling hand pain is a side effect of pretty much everything good, and a lot of bad things too.

Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, maybe my outrage meter needs recalibration, or maybe nothing outstandingly egregious happened in Washington today. Nothing struck me politically, and I didn’t even start thinking about this comic until midnight, so if it’s a little light, blame my running-on-fumes brain.

When I took up ukulele, I usually couldn’t hear how out of tune it was. I asked some musicians if it was possible for someone with little musical talent to develop and ear for that sort of thing and they assured me it was. Now I can tell, more or less, if it’s not right, but I can’t tell you if it’s flat or sharp, and I can only tune it with an interactive device that visually tells me whether I’m flat or sharp. And even then I’m not great at it. But I love playing it.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that I realize, now, that never in my life has it even been a particular desire of mine to be successful. All I ever wanted was to spend my days immersed in the arts. Society and my family told me that it was only important to be successful, and after I achieved success then I could do the things I actually wanted to do. Just doing art without worrying about success or whether the world would agree that that’s what I should be doing with my time seems like a real crime sometimes. But now that I’ve achieved a modicum of success I guess it’s all right?

Not that the world needs more successful people. But it probably needs more happy people.

The Last Rainbow Mandala

img055

As good a place as any to pause and reflect.

About 6 or 7 years ago, long before QWERTYvsDvorak, I started this 100 mandala project and when I got to 100, I wasn’t ready to stop. Why not 1000 mandalas, I wondered? Because, as it turns out, 1000 is a LOT of mandalas. Ultimately, I drew about 130 of them, not counting a few drawn after the blog started, and this is the very last last one of the original set. It felt like I had come full circle from the first (also rainbow) mandala and perhaps going on would mean just repeating myself.

I’m not saying I’ll never draw another mandala again, but they won’t be my regular Monday feature/safety net when I forget the weekend is ending.

Ms. Kitty suggested that I replace it with some sort of Monday gratitude, which seems like a really good idea right about now. Must think of how best to execute within the framework of QvD re: art.

But speaking of gratitude and art: that Lady Gaga concert sure was something, wasn’t it? So many people were watching it that the roads were completely empty, as were all the best hiking trails. But I caught it later on the NFL Twitter page. Those NFL people really put on a good show. I seem to recall they hosted one last year for Beyoncé that just slayed.

Vivid Snowflake Mandala

img054

Crystals upon crystals

First of all, for the 17 people who insisted on informing me that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and therefore the Declaration of Independence is meaningless, great job reporting on your 4th grade social studies lesson. Yes, I am aware that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and that he could have been a more honorable and less hypocritical man by the standards of the 21st century. But it’s pretty well-documented that he was also in favor of abolishing slavery, and he did intend to say that we’re all created equal, as far as he could assert that sentiment in the 18th century.  Yes, he did many things that we can judge him for 100s of years later. Yes, he was a product of his times, and he must have been the master of cognitive dissonance, but that doesn’t make the words of the Declaration of Independence any less meaningful. “Thomas Jefferson owned slaves,” is a statement of fact, but it’s not an argument against life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. It’s definitely not an argument for racism.

Now that that’s cleared up, what the hell was this weekend? My sister, like many people, said something to the effect of what a great time to be making art. But I didn’t want to make angry-scared art about whether or not Bizarro White House is going to suspend everyone’s civil rights and impose theocracy upon the only country I want to live.

Bizarro White House. There’s a comic right there.

I wanted to write epic stories about brave protagonists fighting unspeakable evil, not live them. How great is it that I started this blog just in time to have a visible outlet to vent my impotent rage 5 days a week?

Ms. Kitty’s Heart

img_4965

You know what would have helped? If I had any idea how to paint. 

Well over a year ago Ms. Kitty was extolling the virtues of her heart collection–a series of paintings by various artists, which she’d acquired over the years, and which all featured prominently the image of a heart–and asked if I would contribute. But I don’t paint all that much (the last really big painting project I did was like 18 years ago) and I didn’t have any real canvas and it just kept getting bumped. But she had asked me again a little before Thanksgiving, and during Thanksgiving my sister was cleaning out her room at my parents’ house (my parents are retiring and threatened to throw all her stuff away, which is something they would totally do and had already started doing) and she was going to toss a painting she did in high school, so I just painted over it.

I know that’s not how you’re supposed to do it, but, as I said, I don’t know how to paint. Unlike me, my sister has taken painting classes, and she told me to cover the canvas in gesso, but I skipped that step and just laid the paint on thick enough to mostly obscure the original image, although you can still see a prominent line on the left side (through the wrist) and there are a couple places where her textures or colors peek through.

For all that, I think it came out decently, even though when I look at it all I see are its myriad flaws and I’d like to paint over it again and do it right this time. But Ms. Kitty seemed to like it. At this resolution, you can’t see the 6 ghost cats hidden on the bottom right.

The canvas itself is about 18″ x 24″ and the paints are acrylic, just the common stuff you can get at Michael’s or any art shop. I think the brand might even be called Basic. Most of the paints were fairly old but still seemed fine. I had to acquire 2 new brushes and 1 new paint. Even in acrylic, painting is a really expensive hobby.

This took me about a week, working between 2 and 5 hours every day. I imagine, if I knew how to paint, it could have gone faster.

Painting made me want to paint more, but I don’t have more canvas. I was actually thinking about trying that thing where you buy terrible landscapes at Goodwill and then paint monsters into them. I bet I could make a killing if I painted Pokemon into them. But actually, getting paintings at Goodwill is not as easy as you’d think.

In other news, The Man decided to give me an early Christmas present by teaching himself bookbinding and creating a hardcover version of The Hermit! I am astonished. It’s really remarkable work. If you’d like to see the step-by-step tutorial of his process, you can follow this Reddit link (and upvote if you’re a Redditor and you like me and you think his work is worthy, which, of course, it is). Now that the paperback version is available, the ebook will be offered, for a limited time, as a free download.

A Fish Is More Than Nothing

img062

You clean your brushes your way and I’ll  clean my brushes mine.

By doing the bare minimum with my thumb for a couple days, I have taken it from ~5% to maybe 50%, which is an improvement, but still not optimal, so I’m sticking by my resolution to draw no comics this week. What we have here, instead, is a quick painting of a fish I did last after I had painted all those origami fish and didn’t want to waste all the unused paint I had squeezed out on to my palette.

What I’d like to do is more drawing/painting from live models. Seems like the only way to improve. Most artists have a better connection between their memory and their art; I’m still more a writer than an artist, and I can hear/see words in my head much more clearly than I can see pictures, although apparently it’s possible to train oneself to understand things like light and shadows across 3-dimensional objects, even though they’re harder to grasp when you lack depth perception.

Proof of Concept

proof-of-concept-neg-space_edited-2

Layers! Onions have layers; reality has layers. You get it. 

This is a proof of concept drawing for my next big project about which I am stoked and can now discuss: collaborating with the always-amazing Linda Addison to create 1 or 2 comics for her upcoming book of interconnected short stories, Negative Spaces. Originally, based on the tile of the book, I have envisioned a very different style–much more black, much simpler lines–but after we talked about the project for a couple hours, the layers started to come together.

This image won’t be an actual comic panel: it just demonstrates the style in which the eventual comic will appear, more or less. Still needs some tweaks, but the idea is that each layer of reality has its own weight and solidity.

  • The background is a manipulated photograph; in the next iteration I’ll leave off the stippling and just play with the contrast and brightness to take it down to line work.
  • The human character is a pencil sketch, with the interiors filled in with grayscale to pull it forward from the background.
  • The kid’s imaginary friend is drawn in crayon, then reproduced at 50% opacity so it’s partially transparent but still heavy enough to interact with the kid.
  • The 5th dimension beings are a 3D polymer clay model set on the scanner bed to make them hyper-real.

These aren’t the actual 5th dimension beings, whose design specs have not yet solidified: it’s 3 different angles on the “chronic pain and insomnia” figurine from my personal demons collection, because it was the only monster I had lying around that seemed as if it would lie easily on the scanner. The actual 5th dimension beings will be flatter, for maximum scannability.

Of course, these comics have to be black and white, but knowing that in advance gives me the opportunity to experiment and possibly understand how playing with grayscale can add dimensionality