Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More Companion Pieces Preview

Here are a few more images that will end up, sans grey shading, in an essay comic about my youth. I hope to post it soon, but I thought I'd share these as I'm pretty happy with the results. These two images and two from my previous post's all came from thumbnails that were less than an inch square and I think they look as good in a larger format, which shows how simple works well for comics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Companion Pieces Preview

In my previous post about my "Dirty Comics" submission, I mentioned I'd written it originally as part of a letter to a friend, but there were other related pages; so I thought I'd clean them up and post them here. But as happens this time of year I've been busy cooking, cleaning and doing things around the house that need to be done. Not that I need an excuse nor do I want to seem too fastidious, but I've also spent a lot of time using Tumblr, Facebook and Google Reader. Wasting time really, as I have better things to do than scroll through porn, assault my friends "walls" with aimless comments and catch up on blogs that I like to follow. 

As always, I justify everything I do recreation-ally as "doing research". Anyway, these images will end showing up smaller and with less detail in the final, because they will be accompanying words, but I wanted them to have more punch. At some point I'll get back to posting sketchbook pages.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Mad Violinist part 5—promotional designs

Having posted this spring about an unrealized animation project, I was inspired to clean up two of the sketches and offer them as promotional items. Here is Erich Zann as the crazed musician the protagonist encounters in the garret on the top floor above his apartment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Self portrait?

I wanted to illustrate the phrase "Read my lips" with this stylized self-portrait. Unfortunately I wasn't too flattered by my attempt to illustrate my personal "look". I imagine I had the exaggerated and smooth lines of the Rolling Stones' logo in mind.

Wikipedia tells me that was the work of designer John Pasche, who has done extensive work designing album and singles covers for the music industry, notably several Art of Noise covers that I remember from my early twenties, working at KUOI, the college radio station in Moscow, Idaho, back in the late Eighties. All the same, there is much to recommend this sketch, perhaps I'll re-do-it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dirty Comics: an Art show

Jon Macy has put together an art show of comic book "erotica" for the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco, California. He's calling it Dirty Comics and I've submitted a single page autobiographical piece for the show. I'm not sure what the etiquette for posting things that are submitted to a show is, but once the show is done I may share it here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Artist Signatures: Jon Macy

Jon Macy almost needs no introduction as his work is all I've been talking about for the past five years or so, well, when I'm not talking about my own stuff.  He's published his adaptation Teleny and Camille was awarded a coveted Lambda Literary award this spring for erotica.  He's now working on his four part series Fearful Hunter, a fantasy featuring Druids and Werewolves. He drew the above portrait of his two protagonists Oisin and Byron for me at the Emerald City Comicon this spring. Below is the Wolf Master, who I've been pestering Jon to depict for me for some time. Hunky, isn't he!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Artist Signatures: Sean Z

I'd heard of the Myth comic books on several of the Internet forums I regularly read and I'd visited Rated-Z Studios before. But I was very pleased to meet Sean Z, the creator of these comic books at the Emerald City ComicCon this spring. He asked me first, "elf or human? I think elf." Then he proceeded to produce this "portrait". Who knows, this character could show up in one of his stories...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Artist Signatures: Christopher Lange

Jon Macy pointed out to me Chris Lange's artwork last year. I met Chris at the Prism Comics Booth at the 2011 Emerald City Comicon. He's been posting his web comic at Capitol Hillbillies since 2007 and had a small chapbook of his strips published by Northwest Press. His eclectic and graphic style stands out for its ability to engage the reader and yet the topics of his strips are definitely not work safe. Chris's humor is adult, sarcastic and definitely campy, referencing pop music stars, porn stars and Internet sites. What you get is a contemporary pro-safe-sex observation of "twenty-something" gay culture.  In the sketch above the comic strips character's names, as best I can tell, beginning in the upper right corner with Stu pointing his finger, then John in the lower right corner, William to the lower left and finally Clark in the upper left with the cross hanging from his neck...Hey Chris, let me know if I got their names wrong!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Artist Signatures: Jeff Krell

As promised here follows a series of posts about artist signatures and better yet, original art that I collected at the 2011 Emerald City Comicon last March. I'm starting with Jeff Krell, who's work I've read ever since I came out. I first discovered his funny Jayson comic stories in Gay Comix, back in the mid-Eighties. He continued publishing in the Meatmen anthologies in the Nineties. Later Jeff collected the stories together and re-published them through Ignite! Entertainment the publishing company he started to publish his translations of German cartoonist Ralf König's works. He has continued to write new Jayson stories and publish them in their own publications.

When creating my comicbook, Loren and Sylvia, I took a lot of inspiration from Jeff's simple line work. He manages to present just enough information to allow the eye to skim over the page without too much interruption, which makes for a fun and easy read. He also is inventive with his backgrounds which are often similar for whole sequences, but manage to maintain the continuity between panels.

Here we can see Arena, Jayson and Robin, the three main characters of Jayson, enjoying an evening of television watching.  Hot in Cleveland is a new property offered on the TV Land cable network, which usually features reruns of classic television comedies. It stars Betty White, Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Levees, and Wendie Malick and Jeff is a big fan of these actresses and the show.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Artist Signatures: Roberta Gregory

I've been a fan of Roberta Gregory's since I encountered her groundbreaking, Dynamite Damsels. Roberta has written a little about the creation of her first comic book at PrismComics.org and she includes a link to the Queer Zine Archive Project where you can currently download and read yourself. This book set the tone of all my comic book reading since I entered collage, which is to say I was reading primarily underground and independent authors and works relating to sexual politic and Gay/Lesbian lives. Which is not to say there was a lot to read, but thankfully by the mid-Nineteen Eighties we did have the Gay Comix anthology which lead to other things being published by progressive and innovative independent publishers.

I met Roberta in the early Ninties in Seattle at an art show featuring cartoonists held by The Center on Contemporary Art Seattle when it was down on First Avenue. She drew this sheep in my sketchbook and signed it right after the cartoonist's panel where the Bros. Hernandez and other artists discussed their works. Later I got a job in the Fantagraphics circulation department for a couple of years when she was working in their art department. She was publishing her Naughty Bits comic through Fantagraphics which I collected and thoroughly enjoyed.

This post is something of a departure from posting my own artwork, but I've recently acquired several more pages of original artwork with artist's signatures at the 2011 Emerald City Comicon, so I will continue with those for the next few posts.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I often sketch in coffeehouses, at least I did when I frequented them often.  The denizens of the coffeehouses then often become the subject of what I draw. I'm rarely a quick enough draw to capture them accurately. I don't know what was different on this day, but I had a ballpoint and the urge to capture haircuts and headgear. Then I began to doodle inspired by a face I saw in a magazine made up of letters. I didn't have a clear idea of what word I was drawing, so I guess it is just shapes inspired by facial features. You sometimes come up with the most amazing ideas when in coffeehouses.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Butch Man and Nelly Girl

Returning to my sketchbook posts, here is a quick sketch of contrasts: a man and woman with exaggerated physiques. Gender issues have always played into my own identity, so naturally in my sketchbook, I've played with how our society tends to point-up certain aspects of gender while downplaying others. This first sketch plays off the differences between men and women.

 I've suggested the passivity of how women have been depicted in the past century by drawing the female relaxing at the man's feet, but she is also proudly displaying less characteristic feminine traits like chest hair and hairy armpits. The man, in contrast is depicted with a swollen head, like a Mardi Gras costume, and yet his sexual traits are minimized. I named these two "Butch Man and Nelly Girl", then later played around with the idea that those names made them seem to be superheros. But what would their super powers be?

This next image is a cartoon I did much later depicting what those superheros would be like. They start by observing how stereotyped their schtick is; but rather than breaking them, only confirm it more by their actions. Is this an effective way society teaches us about gender? Probably not.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Mad Violinist (an unfinished project), part Four: Style

In working on this project, at one point I began to experiment with ink and white gouache to see if I could conceive the artwork as depicting a silent black-and-white film. The following images I derived from my morgue that I'd assembled to help decide and fix the style of the film. I did several paintings in this style focusing mostly on people. I included a lot of images of women although they don't really figure in the story, but I did want to use them in the dream sequence.

This is based on a portrait of Nijinsky, the Russian ballet dancer. I thought the protagonist in the film would look something like this.

This image reproduces a poster of drag performer Joey Arias. I often salvaged posters for collage material from the street. I really liked the mood of this image and how dramatically it crops the face.

This portrait based on a promotion still of silent screen actress, Theda Bara, I liked the contrast and the expression.

A publicity still for Louise Brooks in "The Canary Murder  Case" provided the inspiration for this image.

This is a fashion photo from the Nineteen fifties. The stance of the model seems suggestive of a visual story.

I've always been inspired by the Russian designer Erte'so I have often referred to his work.

Another Erte' design, I love the Grecian sleeve and tunic form, used here for great effect.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How does play enhance our world through humanitarian focused games?

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the WorldReality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane McGonigal wants to change the world by getting us all to play games more. She has already established a reputation for generating play around basic ideas and putting them to work with the support of many multi-national corporations and non-profit organizations. I think she has very admirable goals and she certainly has the enthusiasm to promote them, but will this book really solve the most pressing problems in the world?

"Reality is Broken" is a manifesto. McGonigal is convinced that by playing games mankind can attack the most troubling of social issues, from poverty to hunger, and solve them through play. She lists the ways that we can do this and often sounds like a self-help guru; "do more satisfying work", "participate wholeheartedly wherever, whenever we can", and "have more fun with strangers".

I like her ideas and she been actively putting them to work in her career as a game designer and social engineer. Designing games that can encourage and teach people is a noble idea and McGonigal has worked on many projects that seem to have accomplished this. But where are the results? Unfortunately, McGonigal has only saw fit to list Internet sites where she's implemented these games. Where is the statistical data that shows the real effects of these games? Where are the first person stories of how playing these games really changed people's lives? Only online apparently because they are not in this book.

Modern humans are already playing games more and yet global problems still persist. I think the failing of this manifesto is that the gaming community is not unified in the same humanitarian values McGonigal clearly espouses. Also, while McGonigal acknowledges criticism that games can be used to escape reality, her rebuttal focuses only on the positive aspects of games and sidesteps any negatives of gaming addiction. It would make sense to design games to minimize these potentials, but that is outside the scope of this book.

I do want to watch her career for the next decade and see if she manages to attach herself to any project that applies itself to real world problems and manages to solve some of these dilemmas. It would indeed be a coup for the modern commercial world for a game designer to win a Nobel prize as she asserts is a personal goal. Unfortunately, this book has not changed my gaming habits and fails to convince me that we are really entering a new era of gaming. I'd like to be proven wrong.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Mad Violinist (an unfinished project), part Three: Planning

This is the third posting about this unfinished animation project I started back in the early Nineties. Here I'll share with you some of the sequences of the film that I began to plan out.

This is a sketch of an image I planned to use to first introduce the violist. The idea is the protagonist hears music and is clearly annoyed. He looks out his window and sees the shadow of the violist cast on the building opposite.

Here are notes and thumbnails I jotted down to begin thinking through the process of the story. In them the protagonist attempts to sleep and begins to dream. The camera pulls away from an overhead shot of the man sleeping. As the sleeping man recedes architectural columns and other features like stairways appear, getting more elaborate. On the right I began to jot down ideas for a narrative, although I really had no intention of including any voice overs:

"It is past midnight and I dread the music. I hate my neighbor with a passion that haunts me when I wake and torments me so I cannot sleep. I am not a vengeful man, yet the evil music insinuates itself into my life so that I am desperate to free myself from it. Every night like clockwork it pierces my dreams and wakes me mercilessly. Twisted and jarring music, haunting and compelling are the only way to describe the horrific effect it has on me, perverting my dreams with its own reality. I cannot sleep. He robs me of my rest. I must fight him for my sanity. I must destroy his vile instrument. The music of Ehric Zahnn must be no more."

Here are a few more notes indicating a transition during the dream sequence when a clock face becomes superimposed by the sleeper's face. At another point I wanted the camera to zoom backwards through a door-less hallway of columns, each set from a different era and design. Eventually they would devolve into a Dali-esque open field dotted with columns and ruins at odd angles.

This is a sketch for the final scene where the protagonist bursts into the garret of the violist and discovers the man playing to a broken window behind which is a swirling maelstrom. To the left is a metronome which I wanted to be the size of a wardrobe, perhaps indicated by super-imposed images. I was also inspired by Van Gogh's painting of his room in Arles to develop this scene.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Mad Violinist (an unfinished project), part Two: Characters

There are primarily two characters in Lovecraft's story, the protagonist and the violist. At one point he does describe a conversation with the building owner, but only as a reference point, so I never really considered it a part in my story. But I didn't want my story to be only about the protagonist and the mad violist, I wanted there to be something more that would point to the early surrealists. One of my favorites was the photographer Man Ray, who often created arresting imagery with simple visual juxtapositions that illustrated how we recreate our worlds with words and phrases that do not translate logically to visual mediums.

For example, I was always taken by the idea of the relationship between a musician and their instrument as a love affair. Man Ray illustrated this in a famous portrait of a nude woman viewed from the back. He'd pasted two "f-holes" in black paper on her back to play with the connection between the human form and how stringed instruments are shaped. F-holes are not what you are thinking, but are sound amplifiers which are very recognizable on the front of most stringed instruments. I played with this notion in relation to the violist by drawing him as seducing a woman who was interposed with the instrument.

In this last image, I was playing with the idea that the protagonist might see the violist as an idealized figure, more cartoony and sinister. I have to admit I was inspired by Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, as it was interpreted as a cartoon show. There is a skeleton character that I believe had spirally eyes, which I modeled this character on.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Mad Violinist (an unfinished project), part One: Cityscape

This was an animation project that I've thought about off-and-on-again over the past many years. What I'm presenting here are mostly sketches and ideas, notes I've taken and the general mood that I hoped to create with my story. I was originally inspired in 1990 when I first read H.P. Lovecraft's short story, "The Music of Erich Zann" and most of these sketches are from that early time.

I had a definite visual story that I wrote out as an outline and then created images to match the story. My story deviated from the original story, including a dream sequence suggested by the weird music the protagonist hears playing above him in the garret apartment.

I was greatly influenced by Lotte Eisner's book "The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt" which focused on Germany's silent screen history. The only films I had viewed from that period were "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "Metropolis", which I believe is reflected in the imagery. Also, having recently moved to Seattle, I intended to include an iconic tower. I vacillated between wanting to include the Eiffel Tower which would place the story in Paris, France or including the Space Needle which would place it in Seattle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I ♥ H. P. Lovecraft

I knew about H.P. Lovecraft by the time I started working for Collectors Bookstore in the Pike Place Market during the early Nineties. Collectors was a small store down just one of the ramps to the lower floors and across the hall from a Chinese cafe that served dim sum. It was run by the same couple that own Golden Age Collectables, the comic book store that has been an anchor store in the Market for many decades. On Collectors's shelves held a wide range of books including many regional titles, cookbooks and a children's section, but they specialized in hardbacks and special editions of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror books.

This is where I learned how popular H.P. Lovecraft's stories are. We barely could keep hardback editions, from the notorious publisher, Arkham House, in stock, they were so popular. Of course, nowadays, years after role-play gaming has brought much of our American fantasy literature alive for younger generations, as well as, film and other popular media, Lovecraft is mined by such popular properties like South Park

I mention my stint at Collectors because it was at that time that I decided to read some of his stories, which I'd avoided partly because I didn't want to believe what every fanboy (and quite a few fangirls, too) I'd talked to said, "he is one of the best, most influential horror writers of the twentieth century. And his monsters 'kick ass'!" A friend offered to lend me his cherished paperback, collecting short stories by the author. And so, I read.

Lovecraft is not a terribly easy-to-read writer, although his style is similar to many writers who've taken a page from Edgar A. Poe or the lesser known Sheridan Le Fanu; but Lovecraft manages to ease you into his ideas so that by the end of the story you are truly startled by what happens and he does it often without being explicit about what does happen. In other words, he enlists your own imagination against you, so you fill in all the details he leaves out. For example, my favorite story in the collection I read (I don't remember the collection's title now) is "The Music of Erich Zann" which involves little more than the interactions between a lodger and his upstairs neighbor, who happens to play the most strange music at night, keeping the protagonist awake.

You can imagine there will be an intense final encounter with the mysterious musician, but I won't elaborate more, because the story really stuck with me and it is certainly worth tracking down and reading. Anyway, I soon outlined a sequence that I still think would make a wonderful animated film. In researching this post, I stumbled upon a few attempts by people recently who do just that. Nothing notable enough to link, but if you're still interested, a search will get them. Anyway, as I come across my drawings for the sequence I will make mention of them.

Now for the above illustration, which unfortunately is something of a spoiler if you haven't read the story it's from. I don't remember the story name, so perhaps you will be surprised anyway. I barely remember the story, but I think it was about an old abandoned cathedral on the top of a hill. A man sees lights in one of the cathedral towers and later decides to investigate. The protagonist climbs to the top tower where he encounters recent evidence of someone performing an occult ritual, burnt candle wax and charcoal markings on the floor. One of the tower windows is boarded up and the cracks filled with fabric. Upon breaking back some of the boards the protagonist encounters a creature that carries his likeness, but is naked, has wings growing out of his back, his hair is frizzed out and his feet are blackened, as if he was hit by a bolt of lightening.

My attempt to research this story didn't elaborate further, but short of rereading all of Lovecraft's writings, which I think I would enjoy, I still do not know if the seraphim-type creature is unique to this story or occurs again. I was so taken by Lovecraft's description of it, that I had to draw my version of the moment before the protagonist opened the shut window. I had a distinct impression that the wings were not typical or traditional, i.e. bat-style or bird-style, but more like fans or fins. After reading these stories I began creating my own impressions of his creatures, based on dreams I had featuring them. I will have to dig around to find them before I can post them here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Another lost idea

My sketchbook often becomes the resting place for all the ideas that roll around my head. For example, this image depicts a story that I originally thought of as a response to the AIDS crisis that was prevalent through the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties. I know for one, working at a gay bookstore through the early Nineties, gay men were not really looking for stories about living with AIDS. We always sold more porno than literature at the bookstore. Too many men were already living with HIV and preferred to come to the bookstore as a way to escape, not be reminded of their illness. By the late-Nineties mainstream publishers were beginning to recognize there was a gap in gay literature that was vaguely "AIDS-shaped" and began publishing books like Micheal Cunningham's A Home at the End of the World.

Anyway, my story was going to be about a young drag queen who, before he dies, gives his trunk of dresses and scrapbooks to the volunteer who befriends him in the hospice where he's attempting to recover. She is naive and is emerging herself as a whole person, into a world where the consequences of your actions determine what happens to you. In the process of the story she would meet an older man who she has sex with and then has to become a single mother because she does not want to marry. Year's later her son discovers the trunk in the attic and asks her about it. She then discovers her own son has an affinity for cross-dressing.

I have to admit, I didn't take the scenario very seriously. It is overly sentimental and dramatic without really tying the relationships together, save the memory trunk. For me, I was more interested in the drag queen who dies than the young woman who seemed to me wanting to take over the story. I knew it wouldn't go anywhere, but it is still here as an image in my sketchbook, just in case I change my mind and attempt to turn it into something more than just an idea.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Emerald City Comicon 2011

Mark Brill (in hat and earphones), Chris Lange, Jon Macy
and Jeff Krell man the PRISM Booth on Saturday.

I skipped a week of posting, but I have a good excuse for myself. This weekend I attended the 2011 Emerald City Comicon at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. I mainly volunteered for the PRISM Comics booth, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting LBGT (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender) comicbooks and creators. Jon Macy also was in town, with several other creators I'm pleased to have met.

Zan Christensen (standing) organized the booth and I have to thank him for allowing me to volunteer. Thanks, Zan! I had a great time, I met many different people and even hooked up with my friend Maxxwell Mcguire.

Here are some more highlights of the event that I photographed:

Me and Jon Macy model my T-shirt design.
Maxxwell shows his fandom spirit.
Chris Lange poses with some X-men.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Muscle, a Monkey and mistakes

I learned how to draw figures in high school partly assisted by following a series of books on the human form by Burne Hogarth. The system he used was more detailed than systems I'd read about in other books, which were focusing more on abstracted forms rather than how those forms connected and transformed through movement and viewpoint. Hogarth showed quite easily how limbs and muscles were connected to each other and what proportions remained consistent while others transformed by movement and perspective. I found I was better able to draw figures in action and foreshortened by following his work. Unfortunately it seemed to backfire for me in college as I tended to idealize the human form after Hogarth's style and I was regularly criticized by professors examining my work who I guess too easily recognized where I was borrowing my style.

By the time I was drawing the above image I didn't really care what anyone thought of my work. Several thoughts were going through my mind in creating this. I was attempting to show someone eating a sandwich, thus the right arm position, but I wasn't drawing from life, so it didn't really come out as I hoped. Later in talking the drawing over with someone I mentioned how the proportions of monkeys and apes are different than humans, thus the quick sketch of a monkey swinging from a perch.

Sometimes mistakes lead to lucky insights, but this wasn't one of them.  The figure's torso is leaning back and while appearing somewhat relaxed, the left leg doesn't seem to be angled properly for the rest of the body.  Not surprisingly I've not really done anything else with this sketch.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Aurora Borealis

One thing I'm not including in this blog is all the text that I've written in my sketchbooks, although I may share some of them with you as they come up.  I have several reasons for not including them; most of them are fragments, or simply odd notes.  This is one that is pertinent because I turned it into an essay, Childhood Phenomenon that is displayed at my web page, Volpane In Love.

Here is the image I created to illustrate the essay.