Saturday, September 6, 2008

Of course I'm kind of an idiot sometimes.

Yes, it's another image posted for the sake
of posting an image.

So I used the wrong modifier yesterday. Neither Microcosmic God nor Sandkings (Sturgeon and Martin, respectively) could be described as taking place in microscopic worlds. They were contained environments, yes, and small enough for domestic purposes, but not microscopic.

The Other Art Show.

Floss or die.

So the two most immediate art shows for me are the aforementioned paleo show, which is going to take a million years to put together, and this one, which will have twelve completed images in two or three weeks.

It's based on the work I've done for the last two issues of Swill, pieces composed using scans and photographs of bones and other objects.

I start off by composing in Photoshop, sometimes using a sketch as I did in this case, sometimes by using an image in my head. Frequently the visual possibilities of the material suggest unforeseen directions.

I learned more about light in the three weeks I spent taking and using photographs than I had in twenty years of drawing.

In order to make the images work I had to keep the lighting of the finshed piece clearly in my mind -- if I was going to use an object and reverse it in order to make a gate or a set of claws or what have you, I'd have to shoot the same object from the same angle and reverse the light. Lots of little details like that...

Then I flatten the images and convert them to bitmaps, in some cases at seventy-two ppi, sometimes at one-hundred. These are composited at about seven and a half by ten. The coarse bit-mapping is done in order to make the images clearly reproducible when using a photocopy process. But this is a case of deriving style from necessity...

The bit-mapping of the image helps to make the separate elements inhabit the same visual space; in some cases I've gone in and drawn on top of things and the drawing is indistinguishable from the photographs or scans.

These are then resized to fifteen by twenty inches at two-hundred and forty ppi. This is done as a bitmap to preserve the clean blacks. At this point I convert it to an RGB file, add one white layer for the background, one clean layer for colors, then on top is the bitmapped layer. I select the white areas in that layer and delete it so that the black pixels that define the image at this stage overlay the layer on which the coloring will be done.

Then I use the pencil tool to place flat color onto the color layer, which is on top of the white background layer and the bitmapped image. The result is very much in the style of comics and animation cels -- the color palatte is influenced by old-fashioned four-color comic books.

The images initially published at seventy-two ppi are colored using more experimental methods than the one-hundred ppi images. The simpler works need the additional information that fully-rendered color can give.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Art Failure

I believe I will try and hide my shame behind a Coelophysis entirely rendered in Illustrator...

Well, the missus has her father staying with us right now and when I brought home some of my prints to show him he was taken by the bare tree visible in the Print Lab Ego Boost point.

He offered to buy it; I had no idea how to price it so I let him and the missus work it out. I was told that I had to sign it so I did.

I have some of the ugliest handwriting in the world. People have told me that once you become accustomed to it, it's quite legible. But it is ugly, ugly, ugly. And when I signed the print I used an India ink brush and it was big and I made a spelling error in the man's name, for chrissakes.

So I'm going to print him another copy and sign it again. After I practice. I mean, that's fucking ridiculous, practicing a signature. But I need to. I really do.

I don't want to be the only person in the history of art who can reduce the value of his work by signing it.

Oaf Fiction Now Available.

Here's the front cover to the current issue of Swill...

Right now I have two short stories up on the net. One is a straightforward piece of reminiscence called Montana Seafood. You can find it at...

The other is the closest thing to straight-up old-school science fiction that I've done. It's partially a tribute to the tradition of bar stories -- specifically, Lord Dunsany's Jorkens stories, the Gavagan's Bar series by L. Sprague deCamp and Fletcher Pratt, and Tales of the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke.

It's also a salute to my favorite SF microscopic worlds, ranging from Fitz-James O'Brian's The Diamond Lens to Theodore Sturgeon's Microcosmic God to George R.R. Martin's Sandkings.

Go to It's The Little Things by Sean Craven at

I've got to admit I'd like to give both of these another run through the mill. As the Ramones would say, why is it always this way?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Filter Follies 1

This version's called Bullethole...

You know what's fun? Get yourself an original image -- in this case a scanned inkblot -- and just play with filters, layers, and modes until you come up with an interesting image. Do a save as, then do it again. Repeat until your eyes bleed -- I did ten or so of these one afternoon and I've been using them as elements in other pieces ever since.

Maybe I should get a fresh batch going -- it would give me an excuse to score filters...

And this is a Map Of The World.

The Damned Novel, part Three.

Here's one of the original images that I composited for the scratch draft cover. I'll probably recreate the whole thing in color for the next reader's draft.

Things were getting more and more awkward, more and more cumbersome. What the hell was going on? Characters from myth began showing up and just standing around, blocking the flow.

And whenever I tried outlining it just kept me from being productive. It didn't work. Nothing added up properly -- lots of individual scenes worked and they didn't go anywhere.

So I decided to take a break from writing and printed up what I'd done and passed it out to the writer's group and some pals of mine.

But the manuscript was too cumbersome. I split it in half, had the halves bound separately at the copy shop.

And while neither was an entirely complete story, the two halves each had their own distinct narrative line with a solid start and end. The second volume was weak in the middle but the first actually read like a novel.

I was writing a trilogy. God help me, a fantasy trilogy. Tolkien casts a long shadow.

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Print Lab Ego Boost

I did this in order to get away from some New-Age types at a picnic. Good people but hard on my nerves. My social skills have improved since then...

So yesterday I had my second round in the print lab at school. This was the first print I did; I was wondering how the moire pattern I saw on the screen was going to look in print. Not bad at all as it turns out.

Anyway, the guy who was running the lab is a mythological figure at school -- when people refer to him he's an Artist -- with a capital A.

Anyway, he was talking to a photographer about the way that photography and the fine arts and digital illustration were all coming together and I was listening, agog. He really had some good things to say -- knows what he's talking about.

And then he glances over at the print of this and says, "So I see you're a photographer too."

"Dude," I said. "It's a pencil drawing."

I really enjoyed the following moment of silence.

The Damned Novel, part Two.

So as I worked the novel became more and more autobiographical. I lost sight of what I was doing and started to think I'd finished it long before that was the case.

And the writing was a bitch. As I mentioned in the first post, I found that if I was writing other things it screwed with the novel. And I'd frequently get to a place where I was stuck, had no idea where to go next. My mom, Zoe Bishop, died during this time and that didn't help in the short run.

As an aside, after her death I helped my sister and her husband clean out her house. And when I saw her work space I realized that she was a serious writer-in-training. She never told me... That was a bit of a shock.

(Rest in peace, Mom. Next weekend when the missus is out of town I'll get a pack of Kools and some Budweiser and toast your memory.)

As I struggled with the story I found that a good way to get past the sticking points was to just have something happen. It was the old Chandler approach -- if things get dull have two men come through the door with pistols.

Not only did that give the individual slow spots a little excitement, it also gave me questions. What is that snake thing? Who's the Deacon? How does the Limbus work? What is the anatomy of a soul?

Questions are the heart of story. What if? Why?

I also began sticking figures from classical and Scandinavian mythology into the works on a similar basis. And when I did that they insisted on bringing the other characters from their dramas with them. The novel began to drift away from autobiography into fantasy.

And the damned thing kept growing...

To Be Continued.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Couple of Pictures.

Gorgosaurus libratus

Just a couple of images -- the last post was pretty damned wordy.


Lulu's Daddy

This post is for my internet buddy
Rory Harper
and his daughter
Be as strong as you have to, as good as you can, and live while you've got the chance.

So I walked home. It took me more than an hour. When I got there my feet felt as though they were made of cheese if cheese could blister. Lulu was already there. Her laptop was out and the two-octave portable keyboard she used for her synth programming was plugged into it.

“Where have you been?”

“Work. Willy gave me a ride in and then ditched me. What are you doing home now?”

“I went in early and skipped lunch because we were gone talk, remember?” Lulu frowned. “So you walked home? You should have come and got me and we could have rode the bus together. Even if you’d waited until I got off we’d have been home at the same time.”

I dropped my knapsack at the end of the couch and collapsed in the armchair.

“You sit there,” Lulu said. Rather, she told me and I was tired enough to let her. She left for the kitchen and came back with a glass of water.

“Here you go.”

All of a sudden I felt something wet on my face; I touched it and then tasted my fingers. Tears. I wasn’t sobbing; I didn’t know where they came from. It wasn’t like I was crying, more like I was bleeding from my eyes.

It was just that everyone was being so nice to me. Dierdre taking me to the hospital, Willy teaching me to play blues, Rob giving me a bike and letting me work full time. And now this from Lulu.

What the fuck was wrong with these people? Didn’t they know me at all? What I’d done, what I was…

I had no idea what to do with this. Nice things shouldn’t happen to me.

Lulu lit a cigarette, sat still and watched me until I was calm again and the tears had stopped.

“Matty?” Her voice was small, so quiet I could hear a little gurgle from her lungs.


“Deacon said.” She looked away and took a drag that burnt her cigarette down to the butt, then coughed and swallowed. When she spoke again her voice was clear. “I ain’t never heard you sing. You know how to harmonize?”

I shook my head. “I used to do vocals but you couldn’t really call it singing.”

“I want to hear you,” she said and turned the laptop on. I noticed she didn’t have it plugged in; the thought of why plugging in was a bad idea raised the hairs on my arm.

“Matty, would you sing for me a little?”

“I dunno, Lulu. It’s been a long time and I ain’t in good shape.”

“Don’t you want to drink some of that water, get your throat ready?”

I shook my head and picked up the glass, cleared my throat and took a sip. Lulu started playing the keyboard, simple chords, cycling through synth patches. First it was a church organ, then a Farfisa electric organ, then a grand piano. She finally settled on a honky-tonk piano, sharp little jangly notes with no sustain. My mind put in a walking bass line behind it; there was something familiar about the chord progression. I’d heard it when I was a kid. The lyrics were on the tip of my tongue, just out of reach.

“Let me call up the lyrics for you.” Lulu started pecking away at the laptop.

“Waitaminute,” I said. Bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-got to Hangtown. Hangtown fry – I hate oysters, can’t stand seafood… Hangtown was Placerville. In wonder they gazed down on old Placerville. “Actually I can get by without ‘em. I think.”

Lulu nodded and kept playing the chords, watching me, and I cleared my throat, waited for the jumping-on point and launched into it.

D’ja ever hear tell of Sweet Betsy from Pike
who crossed the wide prairie with her lover Ike
with two yoke of cattle, a big yellow dog
a tall Shanghai rooster and an old spotted hog.


“Fuck this, I sound like shit. Sorry, Lulu.”

“Did I tell you to stop? Cause I don’t remember that part.” Lulu sighed and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “You’re trying too hard is your problem. Don’t suck up all that air before you start, it makes you like a balloon. You don’t sing by deflating. Just take a half-breath and use your guts to power it, that way you got control. Like this.”

Lulu sat up straight and tilted her head back, took in a comfortably shallow breath. She sang a tone in that strange voice of hers, no words, quiet at first, then louder and louder, varying the volume and tone with deliberacy and control until she hit a harmonic with the room and it resonated and made every loose object in the place buzz. At the height of it she stopped cold, the breath in her lungs gone. She sighed and smiled at me, a loose comfortable smile I’d never seen from her before.

The room felt different; it smelled different. Cleaner. It was as though there’d been something lurking close and she’d scared it off with Lulu power.

“Try it like that,” she said.

As if.

One evening quite early they stopped on the Platte
‘twas near by the road on a green shady flat
where Betsy, sore-footed, lay down in repose
while Ike gazed in wonder on the Pike County rose

“You’re on-key, you know. You got a natural ear. But you got to treat singing like you was talking; singing is just talking in key.” The country in her voice was getting thicker; you could hear the hills and mountains when she talked.

The wagon broke down with a terrible crash
And out on the prairie rolled all kinds of trash
A few little baby clothes done up with care
‘twas rather suspicious but all on the square

Lulu stopped playing.

“How come you’re all squeaky-like?”

“Don’t know what you mean.”

“Matty, you got a real nice baritone and you pitch it high. You’re trying to sound like a little kid and it ain’t working. Sing like a man which you ought to because you are. You hear how you crack on those high notes? Try going low instead.”

The rooster ran off and the cattle all died
one morning the last piece of bacon was fried
poor Ike was discouraged so Betsy got mad
the dog drooped its tail and looked wondrously sad

And at that point my voice sounded like I was really singing. Fuck if I knew how that happened; it was Lulu more than me. Pitching my voice low worked and was easy on my throat but it made the base of my tongue hurt; okay, maybe I was a man but it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose!

Lulu was smiling differently now; it was the smug smile she had back when she had on her face when she was recording my bass, the one she got at the end when she was pleased with herself for getting something that worked out of me.

“Hey,” I said. “What’s this all about, anyway?”

“I just needed to know,” she said. “You ever do any harmonizing?”

“Fuck no. That shit’s hard.” I shook my head. “Lulu?”

She caught the tentative tone in my voice and the smile vanished. “Yeah?”

“Can I ask you something?”

Her eyes narrowed. “I guess.”

“It’s about the Deacon. He said something to me that’s been hanging on the edge of my mind.”

Lulu looked positively grim at this.

“He asked me if you’d told me about your father.”

“God damn it.” Lulu punched the power button on her laptop and looked at the French doors. “Shit. The van’s gone.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’ll go to my room.”

Lulu put her hands over her eyes and her hair drifted down over her face. She stayed like that for so long that I started to get up as quietly as I could.

“No, don’t you do that.” She sighed deeply with a gurgle and started coughing. I pushed my water toward her and went to the kitchen to fetch her a paper towel.

“Should I pound you on the back?”

Lulu shook her head with a great deal of vigor, still coughing. Finally she brought something up and spat it into the paper towel, took a peek and seemed unhappy with it before she folded the paper towel in fourths and set it on the coffee table. She reached into her purse for her inhaler and took a long drag.

When she caught her breath she pulled out her cigarettes.

“So the Deacon said that?”

I nodded.


“I’m sorry I brought it up.”

“Well what the hell else were you going to do?” She lit her cigarette and took a long drag, then exhaled sharply through her nose. “It ain’t your fault. I just don’t like thinking about it.” She took another drag. “Deacon asked me why I came after you; I said you were a friend to me and Willy. Wanted to know if I trusted you.”


There was a nice long pause after that.

“Ain’t you going to ask?”

“Ask what?”

“What I told him.”

“If you said yes then you’d tell me. If you said no you wouldn’t want to answer. So what’s the point of me coming at you?”

Lulu’s face relaxed a little. “I’d give you a kiss on the forehead, I could reach it. I told him of course I did and so would anyone, told him there was no meanness or guile in you.”

“So you lied.” Or were delusional.

“Just stop that, it makes me tired.” She curled her legs under herself and drew her arms in and it made me think of a pill bug curling up. “I never talk about my daddy.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Will you cut it out, you are the I’m-sorriest creature I have ever laid eyes on. You didn’t do nothing so stop taking it out on ever one else.” The ash on her cigarette was an inch long and when she waved her hand at me it gave way and drifted to the floor.

Lulu looked at the red cat clock and my eyes followed; it was going to be a while before anyone else was home. I could tell whatever she had to say choked her. I sat back and put on my listening face and waited; after a while she opened her mouth and shut it again.

“Listen, Lulu. You don’t have to say anything if you don’t feel like it. Maybe you could try showing me some harmony.”

She sighed again. “Well now you got me thinking about it so I may as well tell you. But I never told this to no-one.”

“Not even Willy?”

“Willy is my sweetie-pie but that don’t mean he needs to know ever little thing. He’s got an edge to him and I guess I like to keep that edge away from where it hurts.” Lulu stretched, then settled down again. “You know I never even met my mama. Daddy kept pictures of her and I’d sneak into his drawers to look at them but he never showed them to me. I think if I asked he would have but I never wanted to ask. I thought it might make him sad.”

I leaned back and put my feet up on top of the coffee table; Lulu had the air of someone settling in for the long haul. I may as well be comfortable. And I knew whatever she told me I was going to have to keep to myself; this was private.

“She didn’t look nothing like me. I always thought she looked like one of those pictures of angels you see in church. I took after Daddy, little and dark. So it was me and him and Grandma. You know how it is when you’re a kid. All you remember of those years is bits and scraps but I remember my daddy singing me to sleep.”

Her voice rose up, soft and clear and pretty.

Hush little baby don’t say a word
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird

“The first real memory I have, I was lying in bed. Grandma had gotten a telephone call, and she was scared. I knew it was my daddy but she didn’t want to tell me about it so she sent me to bed early. I pulled my quilt around me and cried. I did it soft as I could so Grandma wouldn’t hear. I just wanted my daddy to sing me to sleep the way he always did.

“That’s when I heard him tolling me.”


“You know, when you call to something and bring it to you. I did it to you to bring you home. Like tolling a bell to call people to supper or church or what have you.”

Lulu stubbed her cigarette out and lit another.

“So I heard my daddy and I followed his voice. Hours I was walking up the mountainside at night. Sometimes I come awake at night and I can still see the way the trees moved against the moon, feel the way briars snatched at my bare little legs. But I had to keep going. My daddy was calling out for me and he was scared. He’d never been scared before.

“I heard the sirens before I saw the lights and then I heard the voices of all those gathered at the mine. I had heard of the mine but I’d never been there before. My daddy’s voice was still faint and I knew the hardest part was still ahead. But it was like a dream in a way; no one was looking for me so no one saw me, they only looked where I wasn’t. I crept behind and I crept under and as I followed my daddy’s voice I heard serious men speaking and what they said I did not want to hear.

“There had been a cave-in and I knew that’s where my daddy was and that was where I had to go. I found a cage with a door on it and when I touched the door I felt like my daddy and I knew which buttons to push, how to get it where I needed to go. But I was still startled when the cage dropped down into the earth.

“There were more men at the bottom and I still don’t know how I got through that crowd without being seen. I found my way around them and slipped into a gap no grown man could have fit into.

“I had to climb like a lizard and squirm like a snake and by the time I’d got through whatever the briars had left of my nightie had been taken by the rocks. I was sorely scratched and bruised and cold, bitter cold, and I felt the nearness of death in my chest.”

Lulu coughed and spat into the paper towel again and looked critically at her cigarette before gently stubbing it out and balancing it on the edge of the ashtray. Saving it for later.

“Then I saw a gleam of light and as I drew close it got brighter and brighter until I drug myself into a hollow lit by balls of fire floating in the air and singing like they do; they were each one singing something different and spoiling the music.”

“Souls,” I said.

“First time I seen ‘em. And the first time I seen something else.

“It was a man all dressed in black sitting on the rocks shaking his head like he didn’t know what to do. When I crawled into the hollow I knocked some rocks loose and he turned to the sound and saw me.

“He said, ‘Child, what are you doing here?’” and right away took off his coat and put it around my filthy-dirty little body and picked me right up and held me shivering in his arms.”

“Was it --”

Lulu nodded. “It was the Deacon.”


“It smelled like the air was just another kind of stone, still and ancient. It was the smell of underground and I hope never to smell it again.

“The dark man said, ‘Listen,’ and I did. I heard the souls singing. The sound scared me, but worse than that it made me sad.

“‘Someone got hurt,’ I said, and the man nodded.

“‘That’s good listening,’ he said. ‘Do you hear anyone you know?’

“I listened harder, and the voices split apart, each soft note going on and on. There was one--”

Lulu tipped her head back, and started to breath out. Softly at first, then louder, she sang a single note. It was a man’s tenor voice, and it went on and on. It was the sound of someone lost in the worst way, someone using their last breath to say “I can’t leave her, I can’t leave her.” It went on and on and it made me feel like someone had their hand on my heart, digging their fingers in. When Lulu finally stopped it wasn’t because she was running out of air.

“I started crying and crying,” she said. “The Deacon just held on to me, tried to keep me warm.

“‘That’s my daddy,’ I said to him. ‘My daddy’s lost.’

“‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘That’s why I need you to help me.’

“I tried to get loose to look for my daddy but the Deacon held me back. ‘You can’t go fetch him,’ he said. ‘You have to toll him to you.’

“‘Daddy!’ I called out, ‘come here Daddy!’ and the man shook his head.

“‘‘You got to sing,’ he said to me. “Your daddy needs to see you before he goes.”

“I started to sing Hush Little Baby, but my voice sounded weak and thin. It didn’t echo against the walls; it broke on them. I started crying again.

“‘You can’t just sing with your voice,’ the Deacon said. ‘You got to sing with the soul God gave you.’

“When I was able to stop crying I heard my daddy again and a song he would sing me came into my mind, the saddest, bravest song I knew.”

When she opened up the song was familiar and as much as I wanted to respect what had happened to her I couldn’t help but sing along, my voice under hers lifting up and holding down. For that moment I felt entirely outside myself. There was nothing but music.

will the circle be unbroken
by and by, Lord, by and by
there’s a better home a-waiting
in the sky, Lord, in the sky

“That was when my real life started,” Lulu said. “It was as though I’d never sung before or as though I’d never done anything else. All of my sorrows and worries and love, all of the strength my daddy had given me came out in song. It moved through me and echoed through the tunnel as if it was a stone throat. It went shivering into the rock around us and I knew where my daddy was, I knew there were men around him.

“They were crushed. My daddy was little but he seemed so strong to me and it shocked me to learn that something as senseless as rock could crush that strength. We are all so little and here for such a short while.

“The souls were angry and scared and they kept circling around each other, moving through the rock, crying out and trying to get back into their ruined bodies. They were angry because they knew this wasn’t something that had happened to them; it was something that had been done to them. I’ve tried not to think about this, tried not to dwell on it but I do know that when something like that happens in a mine somebody knew about it ahead of time and let it happen because sometimes killing is the cheaper way to go. Coal has blood on it and blood will not wash away.”

When she said that I felt a killing rage at the thought of suits and wallets and bookkeeping and saw a machine that took people in at one end and pushed money out the other with a valve at the bottom where the blood drains out. If I could lay hands on whoever had made that choice…

But this wasn’t my tragedy and I thought of the blood I couldn’t wash off of my own hands. I ate the anger, choked it down, sat still and listened hard.

“Daddy heard me and for an instant I thought my heart was broken because he didn’t fly right to me. He went to the others and made them listen, one at a time. Then when they had all found the way he came to me, rising through the stone, and my heart lifted with him. I knew he came to me last because he wanted to hold onto me now that his time had come, he wanted one last… He wanted to take a memory of me with him.

“One by one all those souls let go of what had been done to them and they rose as well and burst like slow fireworks, sparks peeling off the little suns until they were gone, each spark a living thing in itself bright and burning and joyously going forth, singing now in harmony as they went.

“That was when I knew what songs were for.

“When each soul was done and had vanished, something small and dark at its core dropped to the ground and the Deacon patiently gathered them up.

“‘Thank you,’ the Deacon said. Even in the new light he was in shadow. ‘You helped your Daddy and his friends on their way. I could never have done that.’

“I wasn’t paying much attention, I was watching my daddy loop and dip and sing in front of me. He kissed me on the forehead, and then he blossomed like a burning rose and moved on.”

Lulu parted her bangs; I’d never seen her forehead. “Look,” she said.

There was a white circle on her forehead, the edge of it fringed like the rays of an old-fashioned drawing of the sun. She let her hair fall back in place.

“I bet that burn on your back turns out the same,” she said. “That kiss warmed me right up. I stopped shivering and after all I’d been through I fell asleep. When I woke up I was in my bed; Grandma came in all worried and asked where I’d been. There was mud and coal dust on the sheets but no footprints on the floor. She asked me and asked me what had happened.” Lulu picked up her pack of cigarettes and started tapping it against the arm of the chair. “How can you even start to tell someone who’ll never know for sure that you’re telling the truth?”

Then her voice got cold, hard and flat like a metal strap. “We had a service for my daddy in the church. Grandma somehow paid for a stone but Daddy didn’t rest in a grave. They left the bodies where they lay. It would have cost too much to dig them out.”

The cat clock ticked into the silence for minutes before I spoke.

“Lulu, I’m so —”

She raised her hand, one finger upright. “You got nothing to be sorry for. I told you!”

Right, right, right. “Sorry, I won’t…”


“This is not a joke,” Lulu said and I heard a rough edge to her voice; her throat was tight.

“I know,” I said. Then I tried to bite at the tail of my next words as they slipped out of my mouth. “I’m sorry.”

Lulu looked at me with no expression for a second and then started laughing. So I started laughing and by the time we were done Lulu had started hacking away again and my ribs and belly hurt.

“Lulu, I wish with all my heart that had never happened to your dad. I wish you hadn’t had to go through that. I wish there was something I could do.”

Lulu tilted her head. “Do you really mean that.” She made it a statement, not a question.

I nodded.

“Then I got to tell you some more.” She picked up the extinguished butt from the ashtray and lit it again.

“Can I ask you a question?”

She nodded.

“What was the Deacon doing there?”

That was when Lulu finally broke and started sobbing, curled up with her face pressed against her knees, rocking back and forth. It shocked me; it wasn’t like her, it seemed to make her toughness, her drive into a lie. I wanted to hug her and let her cry against my shoulder but when I reached for her she pulled back in a way that let me know she didn’t want to be touched. I could not comfort her; I had nothing to offer.

But everything passes and so did Lulu’s tears. I brought her another paper towel and when she was composed again she cleared her throat.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hyeanodon horridus

I'm not pleased with the rendering,
but I like the personality.

My music buddy Paul says he looks like Benji. This was done for the magazine Prehistoric Times, as was the Pterygotus --

I've recently resubscribed and am planning on sending in my new material as I produce it.

The skeleton was drawn in pencil and then darkened and manipulated in Photoshop. The reconstruction was done using an extra-fine Penstix (a disposable India ink felt pen intended for technical drawings) that was running out of ink. As a result it gave the hair a bit of a fade. Then I colored that in Photoshop. I'm going to need to work on rendering fur and feathers...

The Damned Novel, Part One.

Here's the retitled cover of the
first reader's scratch draft.

" The first time I saw Lulu and Willy I thought they might be twins, two skinny little white kids dressed all in raggedy black with so many rings in their ears that you could have hung them from a curtain rod. The only difference between them was that her hair grew down in a greasy fringe that hid her dark eyes while his hair was swept up in a bulb like an onion.

They were sitting on the sidewalk on the mall with an empty quart-sized yogurt container on a piece of cardboard in front of them. There was a dollar sign, an arrow, and the word ‘for’ on the cardboard, the arrow pointing to a red circle with an inhaler sitting in it..."

It started out as a horror novella about a garage band's haunted album. When I took it into the writer's group, I was told that the reality and the fantasy were both fine but they didn't work together.

I'd set it in Santa Cruz in the mid-Eighties and used an airbrushed version of my younger self as the point-of-view character. As I worked to fix the problems in the novella it turned out that I couldn't ignore my own story in favor of Lulu and Willy's. What started as a sort of punk rock M.R. James piece was twisting in my hands.

See, during the time the story is set in, my life was...

Well, it was nuts. In every sense of the word. I had everything happen to me from mental illness -- which, depending on your belief system either did or did not include a classic Whitley Strieber-style abduction experience -- to losing my home and winding up living with a bunch of junkies for a month. If you meet me, ask me about the Hell's Angel with cocaine psychosis who thought I was a deaf mute -- whenever he heard me speak he thought it was the Devil speaking through my mouth... That situation came close to getting ugly.

Let's just say that my life started demanding a place in the story.

To Be Continued...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pterygotus buffaloensis

This is Pterygotus buffaloensis. They found parts of one this year that suggest the specimen in question was about nine feet long. That's too damn big for an arthropod -- and that's just the biggest fossil they've found. God only knows what the real monsters were like. I regret the fact that long after I completed this I found a photograph of the fossilized claws of one specimen look much cooler than the ones I drew -- they were just coated with nice grabby spikes. And thanks to my crappy file management I don't have a version I can correct. Ah me and oh my.

Well, I had my first session in the print lab at school last Wednesday morning and this was the first large-scale print of my work. The print is twenty inches by a bit over twenty-one inches and I've got to say that seeing it was a real moment for me.

The image was rendered using a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop. After making the initial sketch I drew the shapes and laid down a basic field of color in Illustrator, then rendered them fully in Photoshop.

This is a bit of a dry run for one of the art shows that I'm developing -- or rather, now that I've gotten a tiny bit of information on art shows, two shows.

Both shows are going to be based on the idea of producing life-size images of extinct animals for display in a gallery environment. The first show will feature orthogonal images -- either side or back views -- of animals that are small enough to be shown in full on a print that I can fit into my storage drawer in the lab. The sizes of these prints will vary in order to accomodate the size of the animal in a pleasant composition. Right now I'm planning on doing the rendering entirely in Illustrator -- I want to own that program the way I own Photoshop.

The next show will feature parts of larger animals that I'll fit into a standard size, probably somewhere around two by three feet. Again, they'll be rendered at life size. We might see the feet of a big theropod or sauropod, the head of a hadrosaur, a section of a Dimetrodon's sail, etc, etc.

Of course this isn't the first thing I'm going to be working on so far as art shows go -- further information tomorrow.

Those first tentative steps...

Right, so I'm a former toilet cleaner, ditch digger, and box hucker with a screwed-up back looking for a new career as a writer/artist. This isn't as ridiculous as it sounds on the surface; I've made money as a writer, actually supporting myself for a little more than a year before the web crash of 2001, and my art has appeared in everything from Artfuck magazine to the University of Bristol's DinoBase website.

Right now I'm back in school. I started out working toward an AA degree in creative writing with the intention of following that up with courses in editing and copywriting from the UC extension program.

Those plans were delayed when I was mugged by a novel. I found that classes that required a lot of writing were sucking out the juice I needed for the big project; this led to some spectacular emotional situations that forced me to drop a number of courses mid-semester.

While this was going on I was asked to work on a new small press magazine, Swill. (There's an old-fashioned SF story of mine on the site right now.) I write, assistant edit, design, and illustrate the damned thing.

I needed to take classes that would allow me to write while giving me creative stimulation. Until the novel's finished, anything that gets in the way has to go -- so since I was working on the visual aspect of Swill I started taking courses in art and graphics.

Then a teacher suggested I join the Digital Arts Club.

I thought this would be a schmoozefest; instead it turned out to be a hardcore society dedicated to advancing the careers of its members. This led me to realize that I might be able to move my art into the gallery scene. So that's my current position. I'm working on the novel, writing short fiction for the small press, working on Swill, and developing my art in order to start getting gallery shows.

I suppose you're wondering what the novel's about...