Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scattered Thoughts

Here are the first Illustrator shapes for the new dinosaur piece. Gonna have to adjust that jaw line... Oh, no I won't; it's hidden by the blood!

Well, I'm not going to be working on the computer for long this morning. I've been spending too much time in the chair in the last few days and my back is telling me that if I don't go for a walk I'm going to wake up in the wee small hours wishing I'd gotten my prescriptions refilled. (I'm leery of Vicodin -- I don't enjoy the stuff but I have no illusions regarding my ability to abuse substances I don't enjoy, saith the toper.)

So I'm going to head down to one of the Latin markets around San Pablo and University and score the ingredients to make a big batch of chorizo (or langoniza seca, more likely) y papas with frijoles that I can freeze in packages and lunch on for the near future. I'll get back to the new piece in the afternoon.

But I want to make sure I get a post in. I've been very neglectful of the site lately... Here's a few things that have been rattling around the old noggin lately.

BMI is retarded. Has anyone heard any doctor anywhere ever recognize that it's got a fairly serious mathematical flaw? It's based on the square of the height rather than the cube. That's how you get surface area, not volume. So those of us who live far from the center of the bell curve wind up with innaccurate estimates of what we should weigh, especially if we're solid types rather than the traditional etiolated tall person.

My dad and I saw an older woman with her grandson a week or so ago. We were in a hamburger joint and she was showing the kid off to the folks who worked there.

There were two things about her and the kid that freaked me out. First off, I'm a kid and animal person. But when this kid started noticing me and begging for attention I found myself drawing back for low reasons -- something in his face, his manner, made me think of him as a trashy person. He's maybe a year old, for christ's sake, but I immediately filed him with Nascar or Raider's fans. A Bush supporter. Someone who roots for their team. Drives a Hummer. Smacks his wife if she needs it. Big, big Chuck Norris fan.

And interestingly, after we left and I guiltily confessed this to my dad, he admitted that he'd had the exact same reaction.

Does this indicate the existance of a dipshit left-wing judgmentality chromosome? Or was it an accurate perception of an asshole in its larval state?

Anyway, his grandmother had a piece of fruit and she was cutting off sections and feeding them to the kid. But this was no ordinary fruit.

It was a plantain.

For those not in the know, plantain is related to bananas but it's used as a starchy vegetable. And when it's raw it has a texture midway between raw potato and mahogany. More like wood than something you'd eat.

And our little future Nascar fan was gulping the chunks down whole and unchewed, a grin plastered all over his face. He was such a happy kid; why did he seem so unsavory?

My eyesite keeps getting worse and it's making me crazy. I now need four pairs of fucking glasses; distance, reading, computer, and bifocals for class, when I have to go between the teacher and the textbook.

It sucks; I keep finding myself wearing the wrong pair of glasses and not noticing until I start wondering why I feel as though I'm hallucinating. It's messing with my sense of reality -- the bifocals are the worst. On the other hand, my computer glasses can be a treat -- the focus is about a yard from my face so it exaggerates perspective. It's pretty dramatic.

I'd consider the eye surgery but a) I can't afford that shit, b) the results are pretty varied and there are loads of nightmare tales making the rounds, c) I'm probably a bad candidate -- I have so much astigmatism the surface of my eye is shaped like a raspberry, and d) I keep picturing the pie-slice pattern they laser into your eye and imagining hitting a bump in the road on my bike (actually, I've had to give up on my current bike as unrideable, there goes a few hundred bucks down the drain) and having all those triangular flaps seperate, my eyes just flapping open and dolloping the vitreous humor all over my shirt as I run into the back of a parked car.

And let's stop rambling now, shall we? Time to go see if the missus is up and find out if we're doing anything this morning -- yard sales are not out of the question.

Have a happy day and try not to think about your eyeballs just going flurp the next time you hit a bump in the road.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Roy Lichtenstein Vs. The Beyonder!

This image and character are copyright Marvel Comics and it serves them right. Art by Al Milgrom, Steve Leialoha, and Christie Scheele, words by Jim Shooter.

Like it or not, appropriation seems like the dominant modality in the arts these days. I kinda hate it. I'm fine with the idea of people using my material but if I'm gonna art, I wanna art my way.

That said, I'm in school. My last assignment for my printmaking class was to produce an image that critiques, whether positively or negatively, another artist. Look, if I really admire someone I'm not going to be able to do their thing. That's why I admire them, right?

So I was pissing and moaning to mi amigo Pablo last night and he said, "What about the guy who does that Micheal Jackson shit? Or that horrible dude who does comic book panels?"

I will admit I'd considered Jeff Koons. I've got an image in my mind of his Ciccolina portrait laid over a picture of his stainless steel bunny, their eyes superimposed.

But Lichtenstein. Fuck, I hate him. Well, hate isn't the right word. But it makes me angry to think that a no-talent jerkoff like that has such a prominent position in art history. It makes no fucking sense.

I'll acknowledge that it takes a good deal of technical skill to do what he did. But anyone who can do detail painting on custom vans has that much technical skill. Fuck a bunch of technical skill. The man's work is utterly dead and soulless. When I went online to research his shit, I went in with a negative opinion and I came out thinking that I had no idea of how bad he really was.

So when I went to look at the copy of Secret Wars II number three that I keep in the glove box of the car (that, along with a collection of twelve hundred anecdotes, keeps me from going nuts when waiting for the missus) I was amazed to find a panel that seemed to be making fun of my opinion of Mr. Lichtenstein. I had to run with it.

What's funny is that the production of this piece wound up being a real pain in the ass. A lot more work than you'd imagine. Just scan it in and add some colors and...

And try and make the blacks black and the whites white when you're scanning in a comic book that's more than twenty years old, with the old-school shitty printing they had back then. Take out all the benday dots and then build them all over again in Illustrator. It wasn't hard but it was sure as shit laborious.

My, my, my. Tomorrow I get back to the Tyrannosaur/Edmontosaur piece.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Brief Plaintive Bleat

A somewhat more casual approach to paleoart...

Well, the struggle goes on. I'd just as soon go into full-blown collapse mode but I'm staring down the barrel of the end of the semester and I need to get something done for both classes. Here's what I'm doing for Digital Drawing.

The goal is to use this as a basis for a print visually modeled on Japanese brocade prints -- all the ink rendering will be replaced by flat shapes and depth will be indicated by using color and blur.

The Anomalocaris is still in the works but it's pretty clear that I'll need to spend some time staring at fossil photographs and making sketches and as I said, I'm looking at deadlines.

Now I have to go take care of some Swill business.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thoughts On Plot 5: Inspirado -- A Few Thoughts On Getting Ideas

Lunchbox had a good idea here and it made me think that it might be worthwhile talking about techniques for getting ideas. This isn't going to be an organized essay, more a bit of a ramble.

Let's start off by making the problem smaller. Just make up the title. Can't think of one? Try leafing through one of those encyclopedic movie guides and see which titles jump out at you, then study them and ask why. Pay attention to the rhythm of the word combinations, the percussion of hard consonants. Then start throwing together random words in the same pattern.

Then keep doing this until you come up with something you like. If you're lucky you'll have a knack for it and won't have to go through all of that rigamarole. Either way, start listening for phrases that sound as though they might make a good title. Maybe you run across them on the label or maybe they just drift through your mind -- but unless you're looking for them you won't spot them.

Then once you've got a title ask yourself what it tells you about the story. One story of mine started as the title Hate Her, Hate Her, Tribulator! Not only did I dig the schoolyard rhyme as B-movie vibe of it but it also gave me a solid start on the story itself. It asked three questions -- who is giving the command, who is the 'her' in question, and who or what is a Tribulator? And bam, there was enough to start me writing.

Earlier on in these essays I mentioned using stories from mythology and folklore. Add everything else to that list. Songs, Shakespeare, movies, everything. Just make sure you use them as seeds, that what comes out is something unique. Otherwise what's the point?

Let me be more specific -- look for shapes and forms and principles, not specifics. You see Othello and the character Iago sticks in your mind. You read The Lord of the Rings and Grima Wormtongue reminds you of Iago and you think to yourself, "Hmm, maybe I could use an evil councillor somewhere." The name and nature and deeds of the character in question will be original but the seed they grew from is an old one.

I think the essense of what I've been saying is that the process of getting ideas is a two-stage game. Find something that catches your interest and then ask yourself questions about it.

What catches your interest? What draws your eye? What irritates you? That's a key one -- you'll get more and better stories out of the things that displease you than the things that do (unless you are one of the rare gifted few that can write pleasingly of happy times -- but I'm going to claim that I heard they're all miserable fucks). What angers, saddens, frightens you?

Anything in the news that got to you? Any spam? Did you see something that made you laugh or cringe? Get in the habit of noticing why you notice things.

Then ask yourself questions. What would my character do in that situation? What kind of person would own that sofa? Who makes a living doing that all day? Why would someone do that?

If you keep this up you'll start to notice that some ideas will stick together and eventually, with luck, they bond into a story. And that's probably everything productive I've got to say on the subject of plotting. Like I said, I ain't that good at it but I do have a few tools that let me get by.