Saturday, February 28, 2009

It'll Be Hard To Write Titles Without Cussing or A Special Day, Sort Of

Tomorrow, the mystery shall be revealed!

Well, it's dawning on me that the Special Secret Event that's gonna be unveiled tomorrow is going to affect the way I write this blog in an unexpected way. Since it involves having the header image, title, and the first few words of text from this blog appear in what I suspect will be a family-friendly venue, from now on I'll be hesitant to use titles like, "It's My Motherfucking Forty-Fifth Birthday."

There is a certain tragedy in that.

I'm pretty pleased by the last year. I'm tempted to go over my little triumphs point by point, but a) if you're interested, you probably already know about them and b) I may as well save the energy for real masturbation. Let's just say I took some decisive and effective steps toward achieving my ambitions and received unexpected kindnesses from people who helped further my cause.

So what do I want out of the next year?

I want to get my novel off to an agent. This is under my control. I want to get an agent. This, not so much -- but given the quality of the work I'm doing it's not unlikely.

I want to figure out a good venue for my art. I'm not convinced that the fine art scene is where I belong. I'm usually not happy doing work based on specific requests, though, and I'm becoming addicted to seeing my work in large formats. So regular commercial illustration isn't the place for me either. I need to find a way to do what I like and be able to sell it.

If I were to be given a free hand to do illustration and design that would work for me -- but I'm not sure how one winds up in that position. 's what I do for Swill, but that's a special case.

Speaking of which, I want to try and get Swill better distribution. I hate that marketing crap, but it's a really good magazine (he said, eschewing false modesty) and it deserves a wider readership. Right now I'm tentatively trying to get copies to people I admire who I think might like it, since my doing so in the past has produced startlingly positive results, but I want more. I'd like to see it picked up as an annual anthology by a small press publisher with established distribution channels. That would at least put us in a position to throw a few bucks at the writers we publish. The lack of name writers makes the magazine nifty in one way and hard to sell in another. We'll have to see.

I want to develop my drawing skills. The trouble with having so many areas of creativity is that when you ignore a skill set it degrades. My drawing isn't what it has been, and drawing skills provide the basis for much of what I'm doing these days.

Ditto graphic design.

I want to have some kind of product in the marketplace by the end of the year. Nothing wrong with Swill or any of the other fine publications that carry my work, but I want something that people give me money for. It's not a good year for it, I know. And I'm not imagining that I'll be making a living at it. But I want to make that step.

To be more specific, I want to have two calenders available next year. One based on the Bonelands series of prints or the next series of pieces I'm doing for Swill, and one based on the paleontological drawings I'm doing for The Big Secret Project (to be revealed tomorrow!).

I want to have short fiction in at least four different venues.

I want to make some kind of sally at cartooning. An ongoing strip or a comic book is probably too ambitious, given my other projects, but I want to at least take a few stumbling baby steps.

Which is part of a larger long-term creative goal -- to start figuring out how to take my art and my writing and use them in conjunction with one another. I have a big project coming up where I want to use a technique that draws on both illustrated prose and comics... We'll see.

And finally, I want to toughen up a bit emotionally. I am a delicate hothouse flower. I'm polite to the people around me and expect courtesy in return. I've been dealing with a few snotty passive-aggressive creeps and it takes a lot out of me. Some of this comes from the occasional anonymous commenter on the blog -- but most anonymous commenters here are pals of mine. I'd rather deal with the occasional turd than cut my friends off.

So I need to learn how to rise above that shit and shrug it off without resorting to tracking them down and cutting their fucking guts out with a cheap steak knife so I can whisper endearments and prod at their ruined bodies with the dirty tip of my boot and laugh at their screams as the dogs feast...

What am I saying? That's crazy talk. I don't need to grow hard and callous in order to be able to live in the world. I just need to get better at finding these people. Anyone got any tips?

And if you want to meet me, I'll be at the LitPunk reading tonight. It's at the Makeout Room in San Francisco (3225 22nd Street at Mission, about two blocks from the 24th St. BART station), 7:30 to 9:30.

See you there!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Nine And Over

And there we go. Now I'm all set to work out the colors -- although I suspect I may have a couple of hours worth of dividing light and shadow into separate shapes in order to accommodate the patterning.

Jesus. I think I'm going to make my deadlines without shaming myself.

But I am toast with loads more to go -- writer's group, printing, possibly varnishing a canvas, putting together an initial packet for the Bonelands prints, editing for the writer's group, the LitPunk reading on Saturday ...

It sure beats boredom, though.

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Eight

The last post of the morning and possibly of the day, depending on time... I've got to make lunch, go to class, do the edits for tonight's writer's group meeting, and I've been working on this since six. But I'm having fun -- Illustrator is a gas.

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Seven

Here are the new highlights, done for the sake of form and graphic effect. Let's do a quick comparison...

Yeah, I think I'll keep 'em.

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Six

And here it is with highlights. I'm going to have to play with these to bring them off... Possibly use transparency or blur, definitely rework the color scheme.

Actually, now that I've been away for a few minutes and had a chance to see this version and the previous one next to one another, the real problem is that the highlights suck. I need to go back and redraw them -- they need to be bolder, I need to think more in terms of form than light. Compositing them is gonna be a bear, though. Damnit.

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Five -- Blame Glendon

Well, ol' Glendon Mellow said some very nice things about me and linked to these posts, so I'm going to have to take a risk and keep posting these. I'll hold off on the finished version -- but here we have the first round of shadows.

(Incidentally, this post is going up just before six in the morning -- I started work at around four, when I realized that I wasn't going to get back to sleep... And for some reason the iPod is hot on The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, And The Crazy [dub-type stuff with Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare handling the rhythm] this morning -- I've heard both Scalp Them and Cabin Stabbin' -- oh, man, here's the third Fats Waller piano solo of the morning as well. Shuffle play sure ain't random.)

And one last aside -- check out the other art Glendon links to in that post. There's a very nice variety there.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Four -- The End Of The Line

This Psittacosaurus is now in the Trans-Temporal Witness Protection Program -- don't let it happen to you.

This... Last Psittaco-post...

They found out. They heard. A tiny two-fingered hand reaches out from the late Cretaceous and...

Get out. Take the kids. Do it now -- it's too late for me. But all will be revealed on March first, both the Psittacosaurus and the secrets behind its creation...

If I live that long.

Psittacosaurus neimongoleinsis: Part Three

Here's the template that I'm going to bring into Illustrator. It'll take a bit of fussing -- for instance, I've got to dump the highlights on the tail under the crest/mane/quills, and taper the highlights where the neck runs into the shoulder -- but it's ready to go. Time for the next stage to begin.

What I Did Last Night And Why You Should Come To The Makeout Room This Saturday

Well, before I get back into the Psittacosaurus I've got a couple of things to do. This is the first.

Last night I attended a reading at Moe's Books in Berkeley. It's one of my favorite bookstores, one I've been going to since I was in high school. This reading was centered around a couple of books, noir anthologies centered around San Francisco. Believe it or not, they're called San Francisco Noir and San Francisco Noir 2. (I bought the damned books even though I shouldn't be spending the money -- but they look like good reads. If they count Bierce as a noir influence, I am so there.)

I went because John Shirley was reading and ol' Rob said he was going to attend. Since Shirley was kind enough to give us a story for the next issue of Swill I thought I'd show a litttle support and take advantage of the opportunity to meet the man.

Well, Rob never showed -- and until I hear from him I'm assuming that something terrible has happened and he's lying dead in a ditch somewhere -- but I had a great time anyway, despite the miserable chairs that left my fucking back in agony. (Is every fucking furniture designer in the world a little person seeking vengeance on the large?)

I have to admit that Shirley wasn't quite what I expected -- but then, based on his work I was expecting a seven-foot semen-crusted blood-spattered drugsucking maniac with a hook for a hand and a ring of cranial jacks circling a skull surgically expanded to fit a brain swollen by neurotropic abuse.

Instead, I met a soft-spoken well-dressed man with a pleasant demeanor who was quite willing to engage me in conversation. Of course, I was in my out-in-public persona, which means that I hid the soul of a timid woodland animal behind a veil of nervous courtesy so I suppose I came across as deceptively quiet myself.

But I suspect that Mr. Shirley wore a hat and an ankle-length coat to hide his implants and when he read his, shall we say, escalating enthusiasm made me suspect that there was a maniac on the premises after all. Good times.

So I'm going to another reading of Mr. Shirley's on Saturday. And he said that if I could bring copies of the magazine he'd wave 'em around and I could maybe sell a few. Cool! So if you live in the Bay Area, you might want to go to the LitPunk show.

It's at the Makeout Room in San Francisco (3225 22nd Street at Mission, about two blocks from the 24th St. BART station), 7:30 to 9:30. There'll be a bit of performance art in addition to the reading, a (what is the term for a group of these people? I know --) disturbance of literary punk rockers, and, yes, live oaf. I don't come out of my room that often so if you're curious, this is your chance.

And it's my birthday so you better be nice to me. Christ, I'll be forty-five and I'm just starting to pursue my ambitions... Oh, well. Can't be helped.

See you there.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Psittacosaurus neimongoliensis Part Two

Well, I've got a couple of tips for myself when I start again tomorrow.

One -- less fretting about how you can't draw and more drawing.

Two -- start playing music as soon as you sit down. Drawing isn't writing -- it likes music.

The missus gave me her old iPod and a dock for it so I can put it on shuffle and hear everything from Fats Waller to AC/DC to the Nuggets collections, the Ernie Kovacs theme, Boiled In Lead, Japanese klezmer ska, Billie Joe Shaver, Roxie Music, Rockpile, and so on... What can I say? I like to be surprised. I need to change it out, though.

Anyway, tomorrow I need to trace over this to isolate specific areas of color, then take it into Illustrator... Hoo, boy. I'm really feeling my lack of practice. Which is good -- this is the start of getting back into shape.

Psittacosaurus neimongoliensis: Part One

Here's the start of the fleshing-out process. These guys had very oddly-shaped heads, which I'm probably not going to be able to convey in a profile shot -- they were almost triangular, with the jugal horns flaring way out and very narrow beaks.

So I noticed the date and the fact that I haven't done any more than the skeletal diagram for the Psittacosaurus I need for the Big Secret Project to be announced on March First. So I'm taking inspiration from Glendon Mellow's Darwin Day liveblogging -- I'm gonna push through on this until it's done and post when I've hit the various stages of completion. It'll take a couple-three days more than likely but I'll try and beat the deadline.

The finished version is going to be done in a very graphic style using Illustrator -- but to make that work I have to have a very thoroughly developed sketch. I need to have all the areas of different color mapped out and so on and so forth. But by handling it this way I have the option of printing this out at life-size at some point. Which would/will be cool.

We'll just have to see how it turns out...

And in other news, I did the big canvas print of The Tower for the Gualala art show last night. It took forever -- but the finished piece was fucking awesome. I swear, if I left it out in public people would start sacrificing goats to it. Mind you, the thrill was slightly undercut by realizing that when you do a picture of a tower made out of a skull you're opening yourself up to all kinds of Freudian commentary. Oh, well.

Next post -- sometime this afternoon, around two or three most likely.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Meditations On Current Directions In The Key Of Flu And February

I've posted this one a couple of times -- but I just really finished it this morning and I realized that by showing you the entire image I've failed to give you a clear idea of what this piece is like.

See, it's big -- I'm working at about four feet long and thirty inches high and there's a lot of texture and details. Click on this sample and see what it looks like at life-size. I hope to be able to print it tonight on a full sheet of etching paper.

Well, I was talking with the missus yesterday morning and I came to a few conclusions. I need to drop my Contemporary Color class, as much as I'm enjoying it. My back has kept me out of school for a while now and having three classes is just beyond my capacity.

And it feels as though it's time to get back to work on the novel. I've gotten a bit of feedback from some of my readers and they're confirming my feeling, which is that the novel is solid but it needs a bit of detail work and line editing. So rather than wait for everyone to get done reading it I'm jumping back in. If someone has a large-scale criticism that mandates big changes and I wind up having wasted some effort, so be it. I'll take that chance.

While I'm revising the first volume, I'm going to be working on outlining the second. As I said before, I'm hesitant about starting out with an outline -- but I've already written a draft and I know how it ends and I've got a good grip on the story arc. The outline will just be a means of making sure that I'm keeping all my balls in the air at the same time and not forgetting about any of the subplots.

I want to be able to start stalking Christopher Moore's agent as soon as possible. If you haven't heard of him, Moore writes novels that fall into a gray area similar to my own work -- his novels are typically humorous works with a bit of horror and action thrown into the mix. He's always got a few fantastic elements in play and a humanely moralistic viewpoint. In addition, there's a distinct West Coast vibe to most of his stuff, even if it's set elsewhere.

These qualities are not entirely alien to my work. And I've noticed that his novels stay in print -- he's still got his first novel out there working for him. Which is the way I want to handle my writing. So the first agent I'm going to submit to is gonna be his. If that don't work I'll have to find out who represents Neil Gaiman or Jonathan Carroll, and so on as I creep down the ladder of ambition.

I have to admit that there's something kind of humiliating about working so hard to write something really original and to then turn around and say, "Well, how does this fit into the market?" And then realize that yeah, they've probably got a slot for you.

I'm also having some doubts about pursuing fine art -- it seems as if it might be a real black hole for money and energy, especially given the current economic climate. Also, my essentially hostile relationship with much of art theory and criticism is something that will automatically keep me from participating in the higher echelons of the fine art world.

But these are just doubts. I'm going to keep on track until I've gotten a chance find out how galleries respond when I try and place the Bonelands show. If there's any interest in my work I can see my attitude changing fast. And let's face it -- I'm sick and it's fucking February. This is no time for me to be doing any kind of serious evaluation -- my attitude is just too shitty to make it worthwhile.

Of course giving up on the gallery and museum scene isn't the same thing as giving up on art. That's not going to happen -- I've tried a few times and I can't make it stick. The question is finding the proper venue for my work...

I don't want to give up working large scale, I want to be able to make the images I want to make -- like it or not, this makes fine arts sound like the way to go. If you discount the expense and probability of failure.

I actually have more hope for my paleontological work. I've decided that when I complete a series I'll try and market it as a children's book. We'll see how far that gets me.

We shall see.

The good news is that we've found the last story for the current issue of Swill. It's one that has been submitted to us multiple times -- it's so well-written that I wanted to take it but up until this version it just wasn't a story. Now it's looking good.

So now I need to do my line edits on that one, finish the line edits on my Swill story, start work on the finished Psittacosaurus reconstruction -- the deadline for that baby is coming up fast, for reasons I'll explain later -- go print tonight, even though it'll mean walking in the rain with the flu for half an hour each way, and so on and so forth...

I hate February.