Monday, September 5, 2011

I didn't really mean for this to turn into a general art blog.
Delwin has a glow beetle!
I guess I'm just rolling with it, though, and I will try to resume the 365 projects but it's kind of nice to have somewhere else to share my general art, too. I have been busy. On the drawing front, I joined an online RP that's very art-centric, reusing an old character of mine, a little centaur boy named Delwin.
He's kind of challenging to draw, because I struggle with drawing children, but he's fun to play because the psychology of kids is fascinating. I guess I'll be drawing him a lot, and I'm pushing myself to do more digital painting experimentation with him.

In other not-so-fun news, all of my artistic output has been severely dampened for weeks and weeks now by an outbreak of hives. We think it's an allergic reaction to a new medication, which I have since stopped taking, but there's apparently no good timetable for how long it takes to work its way out of your system.
If it's not a reaction to the medication, then it means I've spontaneously developed an allergy to something that's consistently in my environment, and that will be utter hell to work out. I'm currently on my second dose of Prednisone to try to shake this off. A lot of the hives are on my arms and hands, which has made it almost impossible to so much as hold a pencil, some days. Using scissors is hard. I can't practice the guitar. It's obnoxious and frustrating and makes me want to be creative all the more just because I'm having so much trouble physically doing anything.
And yet, I've still been managing to get stuff done, sometimes painfully. Inspired by the cubed bird, I've been making these guys we've dubbed 'SquareCrows' to sell for Halloween, both at the local Farmer's Market and on our Etsy shop. The largest there is a cube three inches to a side, the medium-size one is a two-inch cube, and the tiny one is one-and-a-half inches to a side because I cut out a one-inch square and took one look at it and decided I'm not quite that insane. They're all felt, all hand sewn with embroidery floss because we were out of orange thread, and I've been scrounging for button eyes. We did find these packs of teeny tiny buttons that work for the littlest one, and may have to break down and buy a pack of buttons for the others because I've pretty much run our miscellaneous bags/jars of buttons out of orange. I've gotten lots of squealing comments and had a commission for a full trio plus one extra of the largest ones. Anybody who sees them here and wants some, drop me a line, because I'm still at work on more.
Mostly I'm grateful my hives today are mostly on the backs of my hands and I can still work...

Friday, August 12, 2011

In betweener art

I know I need to make time for daily 365 projects again, but life is keeping me busy. Two days a week get pretty much eaten up with the local Farmer's Market. In addition to running the table for a local tea shop, on Saturdays we also have a table to sell my girl's dolls and my art.
The other vendors are so friendly and it's a cool social atmosphere, so I'm not complaining. Anyways, there's a woman there who sells what she calls 'bird cubes' which are these cubical birdhouses. I asked if they were for cubical birds and the idea struck me and wouldn't let go. I just had to make this guy. He only took two days, and he's all hand-stitched with some stiff interfacing to hold the cube shape. There's an European robin on her business card, so that's what he's supposed to be, although I had to paint on the red.
The cube bird in natural habitat.
He's gotten a lot of good comments already when I gave him to her on Wednesday, and I'm hoping tomorrow she'll help direct business our way. Saturday promises to be busy for me anyway because we'll be out of here at 6:30 for the market, and then I'm working at the tea shop after the market until who knows what time of night. It's going to be a long day, and I probably won't get a real meal until dinner. Ah well. If we can sell some dolls or art, it's all good.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Slow return

I guess I shouldn't have assumed I'd be ready to jump back into life just after the funeral. On top of it all I brought home some germs that rapidly devolved into being so sick I was pretty much non-functional the week after I got home. Even now I'm finishing up a course of antibiotics because it tried t turn into bronchitis.

Been drawing some, though, and  pushing myself to get back into the normal rhythms of things. I'm still looking for work, but I also stumbled on what might be an excellent site for getting illustration work, so I'm scrambling to put together a few pieces for a portfolio that would be appropriate to what they look for there. Freelance is scary, but being jobless is scarier.

That said, updates here may be slow, and while on the one hand I'd meant for this blog to be devoted to the 365 project,
on the other hand it's all art so I may continue posting my other work in between proper entries. Click either of the images here to see them full size on DeviantArt, where I keep my regular work.

As a side note, I sometimes worry that my art is so eclectic that nobody will ever be able to see something I've done and know it's mine. I vary so wildly in style and medium, because the concept always comes first to me, and the style and medium are in service to the idea. I think some artists (most artists?) have a style, and all of their ideas naturally emerge through that style, so you can look at any piece they've done and identify it as theirs.
Maybe I'm caring too much about getting credit for my art? I hope that's not selfish of me. Possibly if I got more people willing to place value on my art by paying for it as work I'd feel validated or something. Possibly because I've been out of work so long, art is the only thing left that gives me a sense of accomplishment I feel I can measure my worth against. Probably I should finish this post now, and go make some more art.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I will be gone for a week for my grandmother's funeral, and I'll try to get back to regular blogging after my return. Thanks to all who have the patience to still be watching this blog, and if you are, here's more filler art to tide you over.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

In between...

Sorry for yet another pause in posting. There's not so good family stuff going on, and I've been... distracted. Anyways, I did get this done, so have it as filler art until I get the next 365 project up...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 41: Create a large version of something small

So I've been really struggling with this prompt, and even though I came up with a book to go with it, I just haven't had the energy to make something big. Yesterday involved running an outdoors table in 95-degree weather until seven at night, and by the time I came home I just wasn't even functional. I think Wednesdays I may have to give this blog a pass because I'm usually busy from the moment I get up until I'm so drained I just crash.
Today, I had less excuse. Thursday or Friday usually gets to be my goofing off day. So while I was thinking of the prompt, I didn't come up with an actual project...
There was a movie very loosely based off 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs', but I do mean very loosely. The original book comes off as an excuse, I think, to draw larger-than-life food showering down on townspeople. It's really about the illustrations, and what I've always remembered about it from my childhood was the last scene where there's a snowy hill with a setting sun that just might be mashed potatoes and butter sliding over the edge. I do own a copy of the book, we picked it up a few years ago at a yard sale or somewhere, because both I and my girlfriend remembered it from our childhood.
For a project, the only idea I came up with was to make a giant sushi roll or something, but I just don't have materials and time to make something that big, which I also just know I'd end up making complicated. What I did instead of working on a project was to have a friend over, watch 'Buckaroo Bonzai', and eat watermelon. We didn't just eat watermelon, though. We had an entire watermelon, given to us under protest by my girlfriend's father. We have no room in the fridge for an entire watermelon. It's big and unwieldy, and when our friend came over we offered it to him. He said he'd take it, but then somehow the conversation got around to cutting it open with a sword, and the next thing I knew he and my girlfriend were daring me to do it and wanted to film it.
I own several swords, including a claymore which is ridiculous because I'm not big enough to wield one effectively. I've taken a fair amount of fencing classes, although I stopped shy of expert level thanks to an unrelated-to-fencing knee injury. My friends and I used to spend a lot of time sword fighting with first wooden (not a good idea at all) and then PVC-pipe-and-foam boffer swords. I'm not an expert, but I'm relatively experienced with swords. I was open to the idea because I knew what I've got would go through a watermelon pretty easy, although apparently my girlfriend didn't realize that. So we overturned the garbage can out back, covered it with a clean garbage bag to keep the watermelon clean (which failed), and our friend took my camera. It was fun, and goofy, and we brushed the dirt off and ate watermelon after.
Tonight, while bemoaning my lack of a project, my girlfriend pointed out that cutting open a watermelon open with a sword probably counts as doing something in a much bigger than usual way, and with food even. I usually try to put more thought into my blog entries, but for tonight, I'm willing to call that good. Hope you enjoy watching it at least half as much as I enjoyed doing it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 40: Yarn

The prompt to work with yarn pretty quickly led me to think of cats, possibly because any project involving yarn also involves keeping it away from our own.
About the cattiest book I know of is T.S. Eliot's 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats', and my copy is illustrated by Edward Gorey. Probably more people are familiar with this one from the Broadway musical, but it's really worth sitting down and reading the original poems. That's actually why I bought this little paperback of Amazon years ago, back in High School or College. There were a few versions available, but I couldn't pass up Gorey's illustrations.
I tried to capture the style in yarn, which sounded simple enough since there's a lot of attention to line, but it turns out yarn doesn't do well for details. Not standard black yarn, anyway. I drew a quick pencil sketch, and laid down glue over the lines section by section, letting it get a little tacky before I put the yarn down. It was all pretty quick and easy, but I lost the toes on the original drawing and decided whiskers would just clutter it up.
Maybe if I'd worked bigger, I could have gotten more details in.

I have to admit that sitting down and looking through the poems does tend to leave me humming the tunes from the musical, but I think they leave a lasting impression even without that. There's so many different cat personalities described, that we sometimes end up wondering which ones best fit our own cats. Also the poem on 'the Naming of Cats' amuses me, because I don't think I've ever had a cat that didn't name herself.
They also definitely do strange dances in the night, and who knows what all else. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard some bizarre noise downstairs, a crash or something else, in the middle of the night, and gone down to find nothing amiss and one of the cats sitting innocently in the middle of the floor, giving me a 'did you want something?' kind of look. It's pretty clear from the poems that T.S. Eliot personally knew at least a few cats.
Our cat Froggy giving a gang sign?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 39: Haiku

Much loved and much missed
Deceptively innocent
Gently made us think

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 38: Work underwater

I didn't technically create this project underwater, so I'm not sure if I quite met the spirit of the prompt, but for some reason the only idea I kept coming up with had to do with a children's book from the Serendipity series written by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James.The book I was thinking of is called 'Featherfin' and I know I had a copy when I was younger but it either didn't make the move across the country or is somewhere lost in the apartment. When I looked it up again the story itself came back to me, in which Featherfin (a fantasy eel with peacock feather designs) dreams about the big world above the water, all his (her?) elders say it's no place for an eel, but Featherfin goes anyway and almost asphyxiates on the beach before escaping back under the waves.
I'm not sure I really like the implications, but it's the illustrations that lingered in my mind. I suppose the message still makes it pretty appropriate for the prompt.
The underwater part of things is in the video below, but I made a little Featherfin eel puppet out of a few scraps of fabric and a wire. It took maybe half an hour to put together and half of that was cursing at the netting that's sandwiched between the green fabric because it would not hold still. I have my girlfriend to thank for the gorgeous green-gold metallic fabric, and the whole thing was done in a big fishbowl I've had set up but sans water, that I keep meaning to get a few fish for. Now that it's full of water maybe it would be less effort to get a couple fish than to drain it again... In the meantime, it makes a good theatre for eel puppetry.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 37: Stapler

Should have made his head wider...
Still trying to get myself back into the swing of daily updates, and I spent all day yesterday feeling inexplicably crappy.
Anyways, this prompt was to use staples, or even the stapler itself, and for some bizarre reason my brain leaped from making a picture out of staples to the ridiculous phrase 'stapleface'. It sounds to me exactly like the kind bad guy of name you'd hear in the Dick Tracy comics.
If all you know of Dick Tracy is from the wacky early 90's movie, you probably think it's full out campy stuff.
That's what I expected when I picked up a collection of the old comic strips at the library a while back, and I was... surprised.
The villain names are sometimes pretty goofy, and some of the plot stuff is too, but a fair amount of it is weirdly straightforward. The villains commit a lot of very real-world type crimes, and there's a fair amount of villain and sometimes even innocent bystander death. When the latter happens, the characters usually pause to ponder what a horrible shame that is. It makes for a really bizarre blend of serious crime drama and cartoony art and monikers. Sometimes it's a little jarring, but it's definitely worth reading at least once, and I do wonder what it says about the era it first came out of.
For the record, it's very hard to make a straight line with staples. The nice curves you see are staples I bent by hand and fed into the paper, folding over the backs with my pocketknife. I only jammed the stapler up once, which is kind of amazing, especially since it happened when I was mostly done and just trying to get out a few loose staples.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 36 (Really?): Make the old look new

I hope somebody's still reading this blog, but if you are I bet you thought I'd given up.
I really apologize for the big gap. Life just kind of got away from me, partly because working a lot of odd jobs under the table can devour your time the way no normal job could. Part of that is they are multiple, and that means dashing from one place to another. Also a major portion of my time got eaten up painting a giant signboard menu. It's awesome to get a job like that everyone will see, it feels professional, but it took a lot more time than I'd anticipated. Anyway, I hope this one was worth waiting for, because I did put a lot of work into it.
With the assignment to make something old look new, I scrambled around looking for ideas until my brain fell on the metaphor of Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods'. The plot is a convoluted one, but at its core is the idea that the old gods of ancient mythologies do not die when we stop looking for them, but they are forced to either adapt or fade away. Some gods find it harder than others to make a place for themselves in the modern world, but the author makes some very plausible transitions. Some deities, in a very essential way, are still up to their old tricks even if they've learned to put a new face on them.
There are several gods portrayed in the story from various diverse cultures (including one whose legacy is the subject of another Neil Gaiman novel), but one I noticed missing was Ganesha.
I'm not a Hindu, I'm not really anything that's easy to define by the terms of organized religion (although I was attending a Unitarian Universalist church for a while, and have only stopped due to a hectic schedule), but Ganesha holds a special place in my mind. Back when I was in High School, or maybe college, I had an incredible and apocalyptic dream that involved the repercussions loss of religious faith the world over, and in it the only deity I actually came close to was Ganesha. It was in the form of a white stone statue, and at the time I couldn't even name what deity it was beyond 'that elephant-headed one from India', but the image was one brief pause in the chaos of the dream. It was a moment of resounding calm while the world was crumbling, and I stood before the statue and touched it, and it started to cry.
I don't see the dream itself as prophetic in any literal way, although there was some important symbolism in it, but an image like that really sticks with you. 
I have since learned a lot more about Ganesha, and collected a few little figures and a pendant. Of all the deities of the Hindu culture, Ganesha is without dispute the most widely revered. The myths around him and his status vary from one sect to another, but he crosses boundaries other deities apparently don't.
What it is about him that makes him so popular, I'm not sure, but even to other cultures he's probably the most easily recognizable. It's not just his cuddly, elephant-headed appearance that makes him endearing, but he's also usually represented as being fairly humble and easy-going.
He is known chiefly as the Remover of Obstacles, the guy that helps deal with roadblocks in your path. Depictions vary, but some of the more common things he's shown carrying are an axe and a rope, both useful for differing approaches to practical obstacles. I guess the ability to chop things down aggressively or work more subtly pulling something aside or someone through makes him a pretty versatile problem-solver. This version is also giving a sign of blessing, which can't hurt along the way, and carrying a lotus blossom to remind us to pause sometimes in all that work and enjoy where we are. He's also dancing... because it has to do with balance and moving through the world, or maybe just because he's that kind of a guy.
If you look at my previous progress posts, you might get an inkling of what kinds of old materials I used to make him. Nothing was purchased for this project, and most of it was old stuff that we had around and really didn't know what to do with.

His body itself is made from an old plush shirt that fit me in Middle School. I hung onto it because the material itself was so awesome. I want to add that my girlfriend gave me a lot of help on sewing the body, because our sewing machine has been busted and yes this thing is every single stitch sewn by hand. Only one material in the house struck my mind as right for his pants, and apparently it struck hers too, because the yellow fabric was actually a mostly-finished skirt my girlfriend had made for a doll. It was long since abandoned for reasons I can't fathom, and she let me cut it up. What he's wearing is actually called dhoti and it's one very long rectangle. I wrapped and tucked it just like the real ones, although I had to tack it down with stitches.
Beads are something we seem to have no end of, and yes I used lots. His rope is just some neat yarn, and his axe is actually a plastic one stolen from my pirate collection (remember those?), prettied up with some paint and beads and glue.
Lastly came the lotus flower, which is made with a technique a close friend of mine invented. It's colored tissue paper, a couple layers cut into circles with petals coming off them and strung onto the end of a piece of wire. Then you paint and shape them into place with clear nail polish and it magically makes it all translucent yet flexible and durable.
I leave you with that reminder to stop and enjoy life's moments, and I'll try to do more of that in the future by resuming this blog.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Almost there...

This has taken longer than I wanted, but if I can just get the time tomorrow to finish him off, I'll be making a real post and get things back on track... I guess that was my spring break? Except that I spent most of it working odd jobs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Slow Progress...

I haven't done so well on the daily updates, but I have been working! This is going to be a long one... still have the limbs to go, then embellishment. If you didn't guess what I was making before, there's a not-so-subtle clue.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

365 update: altering approach slightly

I guess my 365 project is evolving a little, partly because I've just been so busy. I love the idea of creating something every day, but I also like interspersing little easy-to-do projects with more interesting bigger stuff, and if I want that I'm just going to have to resign myself to knowing the bigger projects will take more than one day to finish. I'm happy with the end products for the ones that have taken multiple days, even though i was stressed that they were taking longer.
To keep myself on track I'm going to still try to post daily with updates, which forces me to still be actively creating every day, even though it takes multiple days to complete.
This one's going to take me a few days, but I'm getting a start on it right now, so here's a beginning photo. The challenge is to make something old look new. I'm not sure if transforming a really ancient shirt into a doll is quite in the spirit of the prompt or not, but it's all I could think of and I think it'll turn out cool...

Happy Easter!

This isn't a real art post, but a friend online was sad she didn't get an Easter egg hunt, so I slapped one together for her in a hurry. That's two Easter egg hunts I've made, today. I thought I'd share in case anybody else missed out. For a limited time (until I get around to fixing the wacky arrows in my online adventure woods thing), there are nine Easter eggs hidden in the Weird Woods!
Click here or the image below to go hunting!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Working like a... rabbit... or something.

No post the past couple days, partly because I was helping get ready for this ->
These bunnies were part of our table at the Farmer's Market today, but it didn't do all that well, actually. I'm not sure quite what it is we're doing wrong, or maybe this just isn't the time to be trying to sell art and crafts, but we do everything we can to make money right now. That said, a big thank you to Heidi of Puppet-a-Day for buying some of our bunnies and making the day better!
For those who don't know, my girlfriend made most of these, we have an Etsy shop (although we're kind of working away from that, because we keep hearing and seeing bad things), and a FaceBook page for trying to sell my art and her dolls.
I partly made this!
We also sell the stuff at a table at the local Farmer's Market, but since I'm also there to run a table for a friend's coffee and tea shop, taking our business to a different market isn't really an option right now.
The other reason I've utterly failed on 365 projects the past few days is this entire week I've been running around like crazy, pretty much from waking up until past dark, at least. Sometimes into the next day, if I'm up late enough at night. Today I have basically done three different jobs, on about three hours of sleep. We're still behind on all our bills, of course. Everything we own is very old and falling apart, or a gift, or mostly both.
I'm very tired.
Anyway, have some bunnies to look at, and ask on the FaceBook page if you're interested in buying any of the ones we have left, and I will be working on my actual 365 projects again as of tomorrow. Tonight I still have paid work to do.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 35: Instructions to make something

I really did mean to get this put up yesterday, and despite having a long day that included my car stalling out twice, a tow truck, being out of the house from first thing in the morning until about eight at night, I still got this project more or less done.I was tired but feeling accomplished when I hooked up the camera to upload my instructional video by eleven at night.
Then it took two hours, a lot of alt+ctrl+del and at least one restart of the computer just to upload what was on the camera. I also couldn't do anything else during this process, like post to the blog that this post would be delayed. Attempting to do other things like, say, move the mouse, resulted in complete computer lock-up.
Putting it all together this morning has been a slow process, too, but only slow instead of disastrous. As with the disguise project, this entry is pretty much about the video. I made a flaying monkey pop-up card, and with the video you can make one too! The first thing you need to do is download the PDF and print it out on your home computer. I've included two versions, the color one you'll see in the video and a black and white version in case you want to color it yourself.
PDF is a pretty standard file format, but just in case you don't have a PDF reading program (they're free), I recomment which ironically works way better than the original PDF reading program Acrobat (which is by Adobe who originally created the file format in the first place!).
Got your PDF reading program? Acrobat or CutePDF either should work fine. Click the link below for whichever version you want, or both. Make a whole army of flying monkey cards!
Black and white flying monkey card
Color flying monkey card
Once this is printed out, preferably on card stock, just watch the video below! The joy of a video tutorial is that you can pause it if you need to gather supplies or something.

About the book: This massive Wizard of Oz pop-up book is by Robert Sabuda, who describes himself as a paper engineer. You should visit his website for lots of pop-up tutorials and stuff, which is not what I did, because I was away from the computer when I created this project, and because my brain hasn't been working very well this week.
A friend who's a kind of surrogate uncle gave me this book, and along with it he sent some print-outs about Robert Sabuda and his work, so that was my introduction to him as an artist. I'm not sure how hard the book is to come by, but I highly recommend it. A lot of the papers in it are metallic and some of the pop-ups are incredibly, beautifully complex. Paper engineer is a very accurate title for this guy.
I'm not sure this project really does justice to his work, and I apologize for it being both late and a little ramblingly incoherent. The video was made late last night, and I'm still feeling a little rough today because yesterday was such a mess. My car and my computer are both old, and cranky, but at least for the moment they're still hanging in there.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Filler post

Some days you just get up on the wrong side of the bed, I guess, or something. This morning started with finding somebody had been in my car, and while they didn't take anything (there's nothing in it worth taking), the idea creeps me out and it's locked, tonight. I also didn't get the chance to eat until almost noon, because the earlier chance to eat I did get between appointments involved me discovering my bagels had gone moldy.
Nothing major, but I was tired on top of this, and I just haven't had the motivation to get very far with today's project, although I have worked on it a little.
In lieu of a formal 365 project, here's some older fanart of mine, for Alice in Wonderland. I used to be fascinated with the Mad Hatter and his claims that he knew Time personally, although they had a falling out. Here, then, is the Mad Hatter having tea with Time, possibly even that fateful moment when he said something about 'killing time' and was thus forever after cursed...
I used my own pocket watch for reference, because it opens on both sides, so this is specifically the backside of the workings.There's numbers and hands on the side the Hatter is seeing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 34: Work with wire

The people on the cover are alarmed by a giant wire dog...
It really would have been easier to do something three-dimensional with wire, but for some reason I had the idea of trying sort of flat continuous line drawing with it, and that made me think of the illustrations of James Thurber.
When I was growing up we had a copy of 'My Life and Hard Times' on the bookshelf, and it was one of my favorite non-fiction books. As an adult and living across the country, I came across 'the Thurber Carnival' in my favorite used bookstore, which is a massive collection that includes that entire book and more, like the short story 'the Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (which had an excellent Danny Kaye film loosely based off it).
Thurber's short stories are entertaining and often clever, but what I like more are his little essays and bits of personal history. One of my favorites is titled 'The Dog that Bit People' and is a recollection about a dog his family once owned. He describes an Airedale terrier named Muggs who would randomly bite people and walk away, but the story is really in the way he tells it, and his illustrations anthropomorphisize the dog in a way that makes his personality come through. Here I've tried to mimic one of the classic illustrations of Muggs in wire, all one piece just to make it a challenge.
I will admit that one reason I like the stories Thurber wrote about dogs (he had many, because it's apparent he really liked dogs), is that some of his other stuff suffers from cringe-worthy hints of casual racism. I guess it's just a mark of the culture and times he grew up in, but if you're deeply bothered by that, I'd stick to his animal stories. This book also has some entertaining cartoons, though, and strange modernized parables such as a version of red riding hood of which the moral is 'It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.' His tales of his teen years at home, with a senile but slightly aggressive grandfather, a mother who comes off as just slightly dotty and fond of throwing things, his brother and assorted cousins, are all told with a dry wit that turns weird situations even more entertaining. These are the stories that stuck in my mind and had me buying his book years after I'd read it last.
Nobody Knew Exactly What Was The Matter With Him.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 33: Pens

Pens as inspiration got me back to thinking of drawing, and works I like that are done in pen. If you're not familiar with the works of Edward Gorey... well, you should be. His stuff is weird and twisted in such a quiet way. He writes and draws, sometimes stories that are unexpected or even unfathomable nonsense, other times delightfully dark poems and rhymes, and usually the illustrations and words rely on each other to the point where it's only half a step away from a graphic novel.
I have three Amphigorey books, which are big collections of his stuff. In their original form his little stories are sometimes hard to come by, so this is a good way to get your hands on as much of his work as possible.
Not actually the work of Edward Gorey...
The collection pictured here includes my girlfriend's favorite 'The Wugglyump', the very popular 'Gashlycrumb Tinies' (an alphabet of children deaths), the bizarrely kinky 'The Curious Sofa', and another popular tale, 'The Doubtful Guest'.
This last one is a rhyming story about a strange creature that shows up at a family home one day, wreaks minor destruction and confusion on a daily basis, and never leaves. It's a weirdly cute little beast, though, and the illustrations imply the family is resigned to living with it.
The couplet I've illustrated here is my own creation, but just the kind of thing it would do, and illustrated in the style of the original pictures. I used Prismacolor fine line markers, not a traditional dip pen, but in the vaguely Edwardian setting of the stories those seemed more appropriate.
My illustration beside Edward Gorey's original title page.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 32: Make something ephemeral

Maybe I'm being overly philosophical about this, but it seems to me that capturing and documenting something ephemeral does in essence negate it being ephemeral. If you can look at it any time you want for the foreseeable future, it's relatively permanent, at least as much as anything on the internet is. I apologize for the grainy photos and video, though, we were having severe thunderstorms while I did this project so the lighting wasn't good.
The story 'Brothers of the Wind' is by Jane Yolen, and it's a picture book, probably not one of her better known works. The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, rich blue skies over golden deserts textured so you can practically feel the sand. It's a story about a boy, and a horse with wings, but there's nothing patronizing about his tale. There's a grimness underlying the story, despite the dreamlike imagery. I don't want to give away the ending, but mortality and the fleeting quality of life are a major part of the message.
This book is one of those much-loved volumes my parents brought home from the yearly book fair in Seattle, where they'd go for my dad's work and stay overnight. The torn dust jacket shows it's been around and read often, and it's one of those few treasured picture books I kept when I moved across the country. The image in the left background of this blog is actually the back cover of this book.

I struggled with what to actually make for this project, and what I really wanted was to do something with smoke, but I couldn't quite figure out how. Ultimately I just made a little winged horse for the purpose of burning it, which creates smoke, but not enough to set off our smoke alarm. The slow, ashy collapse was strangely interesting to watch, as was the remnant that refused to burn...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 31: Make a path

Computer, inspiration, map, & tea.
This was another prompt I had to think hard about, and then when the idea did come to me it was a more involved project. Making a path is pretty wide open, because there's big paths and little paths, literal paths and metaphorical ones. The additional challenge on the prompt was to have somebody else follow it, and that's interesting but only for the person or people you can get to actually do it.
A literal physical path would be limited to local people following it, although I considered that option.
Then I got into thinking of the kind of path anyone who can read can follow, and how they can decide where to go...

I'm just one of many people, I'm sure, who grew up reading the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' type books. The idea is fascinating, and if you haven't read one you should go to your nearest library and ask in the kid's section, because chances are they'll have a few. None of mine went with me when I moved across the country, but more recently my girlfriend's dad gave me one as a stocking-stuffer. Not only was I delighted to see one of these books, but it's also a more advanced kind that was co-written by Steve Jackson. Probably only geeks know who he is, but he has a game company that does a lot of little card games, the Illuminati card and Role-playing game, and G.U.R.P.S. which was the major occupation of my life from High School through college. That stands for Generic Universal Role Playing System and it's way more awesome than AD&D, because it's designed for RP in any setting from medieval to space opera to whatever else you come up with. It's simple, adaptable, and I still have my old game books.
Anyway! As somebody who's been a GM (That's Game Master for you non-geeks), I figured I was up for the challenge of writing my own 'Choose Your Own Adventure' style thing, and my basic web skills gave me a way to put it up online so anybody reading this can play it.
That said, this is pretty simply and quickly done, and it may be buggy still. If you run into any glitches, please comment here and let me know, and I'll tweak and fine-tune it ASAP. The photos are almost entirely mine, although why I even have some of them I'm not sure. The arrows are pretty wonky, and I apologize for that. I've spent all day on it, so I need a break before I try to mend the glitches...
Please come check it out, play to your heart's content, and comment! Click here or the arrow below to play...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 30: Play with toys

L-R: Angelica (holding Uni), Huckleberry, Blackjack, unnamed monkey with fez.
How did I get to thirty? It took me more than a month, anyway. Still, I'm reasonably impressed.
Today's prompt was to play with toys. I still have a box of the most important treasures of my childhood, although I don't look at it much anymore, and I still have a few of my most important stuffed animals. You know the kind, the ones that you took everywhere and cuddled with at night. The ones that could ward off nightmares or monsters in the closet. They've done a long hard duty keeping me comforted through my early years, and now enjoy retirement upstairs in our storage room, neglected and dusty.
My definition of toys has changed, although I've still got some neat action figures collected over the past ten years. The guitar shown here is my newest toy. I just got it a few days ago, from my girlfriend's father. It's been sitting in an attic for years, and I just tonight got it re-strung backwards (with only minor injury), because I'm left-handed. I don't know how to play, but I'm hoping to teach myself through Youtube videos.
Huck understands this book...
I'm really excited about the guitar, and about learning to play it, but it will never mean to me what the consoling symbols of my childhood did.
I don't remember when I first read 'The Velveteen Rabbit', but I do remember it was with these illustrations. This is another book I tracked down again in adulthood because of how it resonated with me. Certain toys do attain a realness, an intensity of presence that sticks. Somewhere in the more innocent parts of my being, I hope that they someday get their blessing to some happy forever fate, but in the meantime I'm so attached I still keep them.

The largest of these stuffed animals is the panda, Angelica. She was sitting on the piano bench one Christmas morning, and she was the biggest stuffed toy I had ever owned. She was the size of my own entire torso and head, limbs perfectly positioned for a hug. Her nose was plastic, but came out so many times my mother finally gave up on glue and sewed a black felt one over the hole. Initially her gender and name were undecided. She was Andy, except when wearing the apron stolen off my Raggedy Ann doll, and then she was Angelica. Eventually the latter stuck, aproned or not.
She's holding the uncreatively named Uni, a little unicorn the tip of whose horn shows evidence of having been chewed on. His eyes are plastic but almond-shaped with curving eyelids, sweet and realistic looking. I saw him in a store, but I have no idea where or when, and his eyes caught my heart. I begged my mother for him, because of his soulful eyes, and although I was almost never randomly indulged (spoiled) that way, she gave in that time.
Next to Angelica is Huckleberry, who I often just called Huck. He was also a Christmas gift, a year or two after Angelica. I had determined that on that Christmas morning I was going to get a best friend for Angelica. I think that's even how I wrote it on my wishlist. To this day I think of them as a pair. He's a fairly unremarkable jointed teddy bear in design, but has a distinct place in my childhood. If I had to give up all other remnants of my childhood but two, it would be Angelica and Huck.
The black horse is plastic but covered in flocking, and he has rabbit fur for mane and tail. He was a Christmas gift from the Schultzes, a family my family was friends with since before either had kids. I got the idea into my head immediately that he was very expensive, probably because of the rabbit fur, and I always took great care with him. His red bridle is permanently attached, but his saddle is long gone. The name that stuck on him ultimately was Blackjack, and one of my favorite games was to make a labyrinth on the floor with books (preferably Little Golden Books, spine-up so there was a gleaming gold edge to the maze), and pretend he was a pooka who lived at the center of it. He ventured forth by night to scare and attack people who abused horses.
Yeah, I was a strange child.
The monkey with the fez doesn't have a name, and is only a year or two old. My girlfriend made him, and when I fell in love with him she gave him to me for my birthday. To see more of her dolls, check out our Etsy shop or our shop FaceBook page. Blatant plug? Why yes, yes it is. But isn't he an awesome monkey?
Does this count as playing?
I'm not sure setting all these guys up for tea in the back garden (well, what passes for a garden at our apartment) counts as playing with them. I didn't even technically play for them, despite the picture here, because I hadn't got the guitar re-strung when the photo was taken. I felt strangely guilty putting them away again in the spare bedroom.
In 'The Velveteen Rabbit' the toy of the title is made into a real rabbit only after being cast away, fated to be destroyed. When I read this book as a child I really did have visions of Angelica someday becoming a real panda, munching away on bamboo somewhere in China (although a zoo is a lot more likely these days). Huckleberry as a brown bear would live across the globe, though, and I hate to think of them separated. I'm not sure the kind of real that comes at the end of this story is the ultimate destiny a toy would hope for. I'm in my thirties and I still have them. When I take them out, or even go into the room for something, I sometimes give them a passing greeting or a pat on the head.
Maybe that's not such a bad fate, after all?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 29: Disguise

Not The Shadow's nose.
This was actually one of the easier and faster projects I've done, but I'll warn you right now, you're pretty much missing out on the project if you don't watch the video below. These still pictures are included... well, just because.
I actually do a fair amount of talking about The Shadow pulps in the video, but not the specific issue I'm holding up. This reprint holds the stories 'The Chinese Disks' and 'Malmordo', and I picked this issue specifically because in both those stories The Shadow uses a whole lot of disguises. It's an important feature of a lot of Shadow stories, but disguise is pretty crucial in these two stories, especially 'Malmordo' where the climax kind of hinges on it.
Not a clever disguise.
 My brain jumped to The Shadow pulps pretty much as soon as I saw the prompt to create a disguise. I have a long-standing love of costumes and roleplay and everything that could conceivably go into a disguise. I like accents, and I was actually very big into acting when I was younger. Even when I do text-based roleplay (and I do, a lot), I'm very aware of not just what the character I'm playing looks like, but their physical mannerisms, tone of voice, and all the little details we subconsciously take in about people.
Valley girl, or trailer trash?
In the video I was trying to make the point that disguise is more than putting on a wig or make-up, it's about how you speak and move and carry yourself. I did dress up and even put on make-up here (yes, it does say in the video I'm allergic, but not severely. Still, my eyelids are all puffy now.), but I really did pretty much a minimum of costuming. Changing your appearance visually is only one small piece of disguise.

Anyway, please watch the video, and I'll try top preemptively answer a few questions here: Yes, my 'valley girl' looks more like trailer park trash. I was limited in what I had to work with, and pulled out some really old clothes I don't wear anymore. Also that lipstick is really hard to get off.
Sophisticated, or snobby?
I did film these out of sequence, because of the make-up involved, and I did read off a script I wrote and taped up close to the camera. I apologize for the subtle echo effect, but this was filmed in the bathroom. I put a piece of white fabric over the shower curtain rod, and propped the camera in an open jewelry box so I could see the viewscreen in the mirrored lid.
I was really big into acting from when I was very young, in community plays and in Drama Club through Middle School, but by the end of that I for the first time developed lasting stage fright. I was nervous just talking to the camera alone in the house, which is why I'm rocking a little in the normal segments. Whoops.
And lastly yes, my voice really is just that low naturally.