Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Very Important Note To Myself

Listen up, Oafboy. If you want this to be the first story containing the words 'Sean' and 'Bar' that has a happy ending, you need to remember this.

No matter what they say or do, drinking is not a competitive sport.

Inkblot Panorama 7

Well, of course I had that one last little bit of inspiration. I softened the edge where the faces overlapped... But I'm done now. I swear. Cross my heart.

So I'm gonna make this quick because I need to go jump in the shower in preparation for something really awful. See, sometime between three and four a van is going to come to my house to pick me up for an all-night bachelor party.

It's for my pal Josh so I can't not go. But I'm in a terrible mood, as I usually am these days, and there's going to be a lot of pressure to drink heavily.

As if I needed to be encouraged.

We're going out on the town in San Francisco. If there's anything I hate it's seeing a bunch of nicely-dressed people having a good time and that's the kind of thing you tend to see in SF bars and clubs on a Saturday night.

Here's hoping I'm not too egregious...

Tomorrow I'll be making a big announcement that I should have made a while ago...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Inkblot Panorama 6

Barring inspiration, here's the finished version. I wound up using the full range of my digital color techniques. Click for a larger image -- you know you want to.

I generated an initial palette in Illustrator, then brought it into Photoshop. I rendered the inkblots by using the Map to Gradient function, then messed around with the colors and values of each element using adjustment layers until I had something that pleased me.

Finally I went over the 'closer' elements, the faces and the front mountain, and added subtle highlights and shadows by using layers set to Multiply, which I blurred and rendered transparent until the marks I made didn't show as marks.

For the next one I'm going to try using more sophisticated gradients when I render the grayscale images in color. Should be interesting...

Inkblot Panorama 5, Plus Some Writing Thoughts

Selections made and a bit of initial color.

Well, last night's writer's group meeting was really good for me. The solutions to two big problems have possibly come to light.

The first had to do with my story God's Tourists. It's already been published in the small press magazine Monday Night but I've been reworking it for reasons explained here. The story is more or less about my relationship with my grandma Jean Bishop. I used a bunch of aliens to help turns my memories into a story -- briefly, they're a bunch of New Age types who wind up making knockoff versions of my Christian Scientist grandma for sale. The end scene is the strongest emotional moment in the story but it has none of the SF components that drive the narrative.

Rob suggested that I might have the statements made by my grandma in the last scene made by one of the knockoff versions of her instead and the idea clicked. I'm going to have to give up some of my favorite moments in the story to make it work -- stuff Allison told me to keep -- but it's the old story. We call it killing your darlings...

Speaking of Allison, reading her work has really lit a fire under my ass. I mentioned in a previous post that I was disappointed by my novel.

It's lacking the guts I intended it to have. The most common and most frustrating criticism I've received about the novel has been that the protagonist's motivation/problems have been unclear.

"Why is he so down on himself?" "Why doesn't he just get laid?" "Why does he do that for those people -- it's not like they did anything for him."

Well, as I've mentioned before the protagonist is a stand-in for me in my twenties. When I was really, really nuts. I tried to address this in the novel by showing my thoughts and emotional stated honestly. It hasn't worked out.

But Allison's work has finally made me realize that the problem is that I need to just lay some of this right out. Her stuff has the kind of emotional intensity that I've been aiming for and missing. And she does it by just saying exactly what she means to say. By unapologetically airing what some might see as dirty laundry.

I've realized that for all my attempts to be honest I've been holding back. I need to spill my guts here if I'm going to write the book I intend to write. It's not going to take all that much in the way of actual words -- it'll probably come out to five or ten pages of manuscript -- but it will make that crucial difference, I hope.

I can't get away with just saying things like, "There were already too many people for me to handle so when the doorbell rang again I went to my room. I was mulling over the fact that no one cared enough to check on poor me when there was a knock on the door."

Plain and simple, that fails to give the emotional impact of deep-rooted social anxiety, the whole tangled knot of misery that lies behind that kind of alienation. It's weak sauce. I need to bring the real thing.

I hope I can pull it off.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Inkblot Panorama 4

So here's the final polish -- but not as final as I thought. Looking at this, I just noticed that the two dark patches in the middle of the back slope are obtrusive. I found myself removing just about every little speckle of ink -- I've never used the rubber stamp tool this extensively before.

And here I've gone through and messed with adjustment layers -- Levels and Brightness and Contrast -- to enhance the sense of depth before I get into color. I wasn't that fond of this piece until now but this subtle revision really brings it together for me.

Inkblot Panorama 3

Here's a better view of the faces. Of course, this isn't really going to come together until I lay down the color.

So I wound up doing the selections by using an eraser set to airbrush and going around each piece, once against a black background layer, once against a white -- each revealed scraps that didn't show against the other. Since this image was, as I said, 20" x 48" it was quite the little time-consuming process.

Which brings me to the next chore -- going over the whole thing using the rubber stamp tool to eliminate black spots and rings that make it obvious that this was based in inkblots. I debated this -- in the first piece in this series I left them in (there were some other artifacts generated by the process of making inkblots that couldn't be eliminated as well), but in this case I think they'd look too ugly to justify. Oh, well -- labor is part of the process.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Inkblot Panorama 2

Now it's time for cleanup...

Inkblot Panorama 1

Okay, you wanna know why I haven't been posting lately? I've been depressed. Not the kind that scares me but definitely the kind that scares shrinks. I just haven't been taking a whole lot of pleasure in life, and I haven't been able to convince myself that there's any more coming. Bullshit, I know -- but rational argument only goes so far when confronting an emotional condition.

But for the next few days you can expect a buttload of posts. Twin deadlines have made it imperative that I art like a ringtailed bastard -- and actually, the prospect has me feeling a bit more cheerful.

Here's the deal.

I have to have a new print ready to show by next Thursday. And I also need to start serious work on the production for the next issue of Swill. (It's gonna be a good one, I'm telling you. We've got some great stuff in there.)

I'm taking a different tack on the art this time. I'm going to produce a number -- two, three, maybe four -- of big detailed prints based on inkblots and other randomly-generated grayscale visuals. I'm going to digitally assemble them into extremely detailed imaginary landscapes and then color them. They'll then be printed up at large size -- 20" x 48".

Then I'll take smaller selections from these prints and convert them to black and white for use in the magazine -- and then take those black and white images and make large-scale colored versions for use as prints. A back-and-forth process-oriented approach. And as with the last series I'm going to use them as visual inspiration for the novel.

Right now the most time-consuming issue is going to be scanning. If I can get my scanning done today I'll be happy -- but that might not happen. The really big scans take forever, but the allow me a lot more flexibility in executing the work. There's a ten-to-one ratio between my largest scans and the finished work, so I can cover the entire canvas with a section of inkblot that's 2 x 4.8 inches -- with all the detail of random ink and paper texture and everything working for me.

I've also started messing around with putting globs of black and white tempera or acrylic paints onto a piece of paper, mixing them roughly with a toothpick, then pressing another piece of paper on top of them, then pulling the papers apart. It's generating very organic coral-like textures. The deck is full of those right now...

More later.