Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Fury Road

I like movies.

This is not a blog about movies, and I don't plan to make it into one, but there is no denying that I fell in love with the new Mad Max movie last year, and it's been inspiring a lot of art ever since.

The older Mad Max movies from the eighties have long been favorites of mine, but there is no denying that the newer film, 'Fury Road', is a visual explosion above and beyond the original films. Maybe it helps that the creator behind it is the same as ever, getting the chance to make a fresh take on his own ideas. I'm a quiet member of the fandom, but Mad Max; Fury Road inspires cosplay, inspires fan fiction, and inspires art.
Furiosa & Max (coffee, watercolor)

All of the above are coming out of this movie, for me, but most notably it's set me painting a lot, trying to recapture the feel of the film. In most cases I've been driven by texture, looking for a gritty rough feel, like sand in your teeth.
Back in an earlier project on this blog, I tried painting with tea and had very limited success. For some of my Mad Max art I've taken to painting with coffee, and double-boiled and laid on heavily it gives some good blotchy texture. I've still found myself resorting to sepia watercolor to get really good darks, but mixed directly with the coffee it gets the best of both worlds.

Keeper of Seeds (coffee, watercolor)

I'm not the only artist inspired by the movie, of course. Recently I splurged on the book above, 'Mad Max Fury Road Inspired Artists' (I will admit he cover typography leaves me a little confused if there's supposed to be any punctuation in there).

Some of the art inside has been floating around the Internet in some fashion or another, and some of it was pretty clearly created based just on movie trailers, before the film came out. It is all, however professionally done, fan art. To see fan art validated by being published like this, as the tribute that it is, feels rewarding for the fan artists like myself who make the art because we're so in love with the source material.
Art by Jim Lee

Art by George Pratt
NThis book is nothing but art, some of it full of symbolism, some just splashy scenes trying to capture the vivid and chaotic energy of the film. On the last few pages are brief blurbs about each artist, and their thoughts about the piece, with a little detail thumbnail of their art to help you match it up. The way some of the double page spreads make artwork fall into the gutter is a mild annoyance, but still, page after page of pure art. I'm not sorry I got this book. I made another painting, after looking through it, this time in full color.



Badass trio (colored pencil, fine markers, watercolor)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I've been busy, especially since we lost an employee at work and my schedule went back up to 54 hours a week (if we're open, I'm there). This means little time for anything else, reading included, but nonetheless the occasional trips to thrift stores have built up a 'to read' stack beside the bed. Because this is a modern world we live in, I will admit some of what free time I do have gets sucked up by electronics. I'd like to think I'm not as dependent as some people are, and maybe it helps that I have a glitchy phone that doesn't do internet. I like my computer, my iPad, my internet, but I like anachronisms and space without the constant hum of electricity, too.

When I started reading 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane', it was in bits in the evenings before bed, a little at a time, with the iPad deliberately put aside for the night.
Then the storm struck, and the weather reports leading up to it billed it as just another squall in a pattern that's been going for weeks. That Thursday evening the thunder started, then rain, then there were flashes that at first I took for police lights. A moment later, the house went dark.

Both my boss and I showed up at work early the next morning, to find that the clinic did in fact have power. Neither of us was expecting that, since our own homes were dark. It turns out that a small diamond-shaped area centered on the nearby intersection had electricity and, surprisingly, the internet worked just fine so that I could look up a power outage map to see it. The surrounding neighborhoods were mostly out, for large enough swathes that they didn't even want to estimate when the power would be restored. The entire weekend was quiet, the only sounds in the area birdsong and generators. Even going out for errands was an adventure of roads blocked by fallen trees, and hoping that we'd find businesses the were open and had lights.

I got a lot of reading done, and something about the strange atmosphere of the neighborhood contributed to the mood of the book I was falling into every spare moment.
Much of the book is a dreamy reverie, as the main character recalls the boy that he once was, and an unearthly adventure that he can't believe he forgot. With the guidance of a girl named Lettie (and the maiden/mother/crone she's a part of), he suffers the consequences of a blurring of lines between our world and another place. 
The one thing that occasionally falls flat for me with Neil Gaiman is a certain emotional detachment his main characters seem to have from the bizarre twists and turns of the plots their lives entangle with. This book portrays the boy at its heart as quietly distraught, keeping a facade of detachment but privately seething. It was a depiction that resonated well, and while this is not a long book it packs a lot of imagery and tension into something that's deceptively small in your hands. 
Sometimes Neil Gaiman describes things that defy visual portrayal, more intense in feelings that would never translate to illustration, but I could vividly picture every scene, and for somebody who is a visual thinker that may have made the book all the better for me. The descriptions of surreal scenes give just enough and not too much, and this is one book I'd be curious to see a movie version of.

At the beginning and end is a framework of the narrator as an adult, recalling all this with wonder, and while there's an important plot point that ties in with that it still feels less important than all that happens within that memory.

This book has been out for a while, and I feel mildly annoyed with myself for not getting hold of a copy sooner, but on the other hand the timing with the power outage gave me an entire weekend where I felt lost in a wild dreamlike state.

We got our electricity back Sunday evening, and I'm just a little bit sorry.

Friday, May 27, 2016

New World comics anthology

So many of the books I've posted about here are novels and children's books, but as an artist, comic books have had a profound influence on me so it's past time I included some here. Just a short while ago I received a comic anthology that is breathtakingly perfect; a comic book written and drawn by independent artists like myself, people with the passion and skill but not the luck to be in the professional industry.
Over a year and some moons ago I backed this project on Kickstarter, and in truth I'd all but forgotten about it when the emails came that they were wrapping up, then shipping. I no longer knew what to expect, but when it arrived I was impressed by the heft of a thick volume of gorgeous art. Then I read the first short story.
Then I sat for several minutes just going 'wow.'

<iframe width="480" height="270" src="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ironspike/new-world-a-sci-fi-fantasy-anthology/widget/video.html" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"> </iframe>

The video is enough to give the basic idea of the theme, but too flashy to convey the depth of thought and intelligence in the stories.

Every story involves alien elements, and some are set in the future while others need no specified time frame at all, but each and every story is also vastly different. I found myself needing to pause after each one, to absorb the profound concepts compacted into just a few pages of art and text. These are comics at their best, words and images coming together to do what one alone cannot. Some are lighter on text than others, but pack no less meaning for it.
From 'Incubation' by Ben Jelter

Most importantly, despite the heavy emphasis on alien encounters, every tale is very relatable, and very human.

Stylistically the art varies and a few of the comics just weren't as visually appealing as others, but I recognize that as a matter of personal taste. By and large, every page was wonderful.
From 'The Book House' by Jonathon Dalton









Now that the Kickstarter has ended and it's in print, the anthology is available for thirty bucks, I think, and well worth it. Several of the artists involved are peopled I've followed and admired online for years, through online galleries and other websites. The Internet, and projects like this, create a forum for amazing artists that might not otherwise get the shot they deserve at being published.
From 'Garden of Heaven' by Kory Bing & Karla Pacheco

The above image is the last page of the collection, and while there are some less than optimistic stories told in there, a hope for the future is present throughout much of this book, and it ends on a joyful note.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Just another post of sketches of Beatrix Potter-style art, with the old badger making various friends...

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Blue mason bee, best macro photo I have ever taken!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Blue Mason Bees

While I do still have fuzzy animal pictures waiting to be painted, my day was slightly derailed when I came home from work last night. My girlfriend had told me she was ordering mason bees, to keep in the yard as pollinators for our garden. Somehow I didn't anticipate how enthusiastic she'd be when they arrived. The mason bee house is bigger than either of us expected, while the bees themselves are tiny, almost fly-like. With camera poised I watched while she opened the boxes that held their cocoons, to find them already emerging. At first they were sluggish, wobbly, but in less than a minute a few were scaling the sides of the little humidity box that came with them. We let them climb on our hands briefly just to maneuver them back into the box, but by two or three minutes they were looking seriously ready to explore.
As I write this, they're in a special box in the fridge, waiting for us to get the bee house set up after work tonight.
Yes, we did warn the roommates.
My sketches are from google image search, but these are the same type of blue spring mason bees, just in better detail than I could ever manage to see from real life. Unfortunately the lighting was bad so late in the evening and my own photos aren't so good.
My girlfriend, meanwhile, murmurs 'bees!' and giggles every now and then. It's a cheerful thought on a grey and rainy Friday. This weekend there will be gardening, and bees.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Here and gone again

My parents came to visit, and now they're gone. I had a lot of fears, leading up to their visit, a lot of expectations, many of them not so good. I had a huge, looming, overwhelming anxiety over a specific conversation I've been putting off until I could see them in person, and now... I kinda miss them. The whole thing went a lot better than I expected.
There were no criticisms of our house, of our belongings. There were some unflattering personal comments made, here and there, but I'll let them slide. They gave me an iPad, which was wholly unexpected, and they gave me money with a promise of more to come in installments, which was... also unexpected. Part of me wonders where that gift was, when we were struggling and didn't always know where our next meal was coming from. I've only asked for money twice, once when my old '84 Chevy's transmission was shot, and once when my cat was in the midst of being diagnosed with cancer. They contributed money, in that first case, and a used transmission put my car back on the road. Maybe they were afraid, if they gave me money before, that I'd just spend it? Living in poverty is expensive. We're on an upswing in our lives, now, with enough money to relax a little and save up for things we'd like in our lives down the road. I'm not sure how clearly they understand the desperate period just a few years back, or the fact that in some ways we're still recovering. There's a lot of things I'm not sure they understand, and it's always been a struggle to relate my side of things to them. There was, this visit, a lot more listening than I expected or remember. There was still a lot of fear, from them, for me. There always has been.
A few people told me they could see my mother in me. I spent the whole visit realizing how much of my dad's speech habits and mannerisms I have, and how much I take after him. My own mother, when we were side by side in a public bathroom mirror, said she couldn't see what they were seeing, that I look like my father's side of the family. The last morning, she took a few last photos of me sitting on their hotel bed. I noticed my hair was doing this wave I keep trying to get rid of, in the pictures she took. She told me my father's hair had looked just like that, when they were first dating. She's still struggling with who I am, and the choices I've made in my life. My father still seems okay with it all, as long as I'm a good person. Some things haven't changed. They both said they wished I had a more successful life. I said that depends how you measure success. I've been with the same beautiful girl for fifteen years and intend to be with her the rest of my life. We're renting, now, but saving for a someday house. We're about to have our second year of a garden, bigger and better than last year. We have two cats (who both my parents quietly adored), and we have the things we need. We live frugally, not because we have to, but because our desires are pretty basic. I know who I am. More importantly, I feel free to be who I am.
That last one is not something I need their permission for, but it's nice to have it.