anyway, the latest installment is a quick one-pager. funny how almost all of these stories so far are from about the '89-'95 time period. guess i am much more boring now. i'm fine with that.
ok, this is just a test to see if an uploaded page on the blog is any more detailed than an uploaded page where the rest of the comics live. i truly don't know why they kind of suck over there. i have tried multiple sizes and versions but they all look about the same.
anyway, the latest installment is a quick one-pager. funny how almost all of these stories so far are from about the '89-'95 time period. guess i am much more boring now. i'm fine with that.
verdict: looks about the same. for what it is worth, it reads really well on mastadon.
of the few i know, "sumimasen" is the japanese word i uttered more than any other during my trip. if you've seen james may: our man in japan, a travel series of which i was unaware of until i returned home, you will notice this is his go-to as well. it basically means, "excuse me", or, "i'm sorry", and i attribute its overuse to the sensitivity i experienced of possibly inconveniencing an entire country full of people at every turn; when i was lost, when i didn't understand, when i blindly walked in the someone's path. of course, being eternally damned wasn't the case at all, it is the opposite there and i have never met a kinder, more accommodating society so happily willing to assist. still, "sumimasen" was said out of an embarrassment of gratitude a hundred times a day.
it is a tired refrain but this was a life-changing trip in a number of ways. yes, i discovered a whole new way to look at the world, but i was also reminded of the things that are important to me- the value of loved ones, overcoming fear, reaffirming good health and the appreciation of choosing sobriety 25 years ago. the peace of finally realizing a life path that leads you places you never dreamed. but in this instance, i have dreamed this place. i have dreamt of seeing this sunrise since i was young, and it exceeded all expectations, even on its grayer days.
there is too much to say about everything my travelling companions and i experienced together, and individually, so i will just share some of my favorite photos. i know i may never be able to fully articulate how the air felt, how the trickling brook sounded, or how the colors all around me seemed to radiate out from some silver core, but i will always know. it is not the type of place and they are not the type of people one ever forgets.
writing tonight from kumamoto, which can only mean one thing: the lafcadio hearn research trip is finally underway. it has literally been over two years of stops and starts with covid, but when japan announced in early november it was opening its borders again, we took the plunge, again. this time, our plans have held.
so, there will be a lot of discovery on this trip- there already has been in our first few nights in tokyo, in an effort to get a rounder understanding of our subject. already i see why he decided to make this place, of all he visited, his home.
to prepare, we made a website that could easily explain our project to people we will meet on this trip and i share it with you now
not from here
have you ever been inexplicably drawn to a place and feel strangely fulfilled on the rare occasions when you are there? despite having no familial or practical connections to said place? is it a place you knew from another life, if you believe such things (not saying i do or don't)? is it your destiny waiting to be met?
this is what happens when i think about the pacific northwest, which, honestly, has been every day for a long time now.... and have maybe felt for longer than i have been aware of. it is almost like......an aspiration or dream of a parallel life.
having had a couple opportunities now to visit, the history and culture of the northern coast just makes sense to me; its trees, water and air. its modest harbor towns are very real and relatable and strike a chord. its big cities, modern but not aloof. mostly, i love the art. certain factions of the music, yes (i've worn the flannel, like many of you), but the aesthetic of the the coastal tribes has always been alluring and held a special place. more than any other culture, except maybe japanese, i find a sense of belonging in the visual language.
not long ago i was in the museum of anthropology in british columbia and it was simply hypnotizing; the pedigree of craftsmanship so distinct but spanning hundreds of years. room after room was filled with so many amazing artifacts that i thought i would share a few. what's more, many native artists still carry these skills today.
their dedication and love of animal imagery is essential in knowing who they are....... the natural beauty of the area in which they lived and created comes through in the artwork. that is what excites me. not the thing i painted today or yesterday that i must feel compelled to make sound important. maybe that will and should happen next time on this page. but for now, just study these......the hands that honor the geography. the geography that produces the hands. i'd say it all very much fits like a puzzle.
,you know how a comedian or musician will try out some new material in a small club to see what is and isn't working? that is kind of where the lafcadio project is at. aside from determining a title: NOT FROM HERE, we have worked out a chapter of the story for a local show at 1628 , a coworking space in downtown cincinnati. it was a good chance to push ourselves to streamline our process and meet a deadline. there are some bugs to work out but it very much has an aura about it. i believe the show is up now.....i have no idea how our piece will work in the context of the show. definitely curious to see.
in staying relevant to the show theme, cincinnati, we chose the story of the tanyard murder, a grisly crime in this town's west end in 1874 that set lafcadio hearn's reporting career in motion. the truly creepy thing is the very night i was working on this particular panel below, i realized it was november 7th as i wrote the date....that gave me pause.....and to make matters weirder, it was 10:30pm- a strange fear gripped me. i consulted my books to realize that the murder occurred at that very time, half past 10, 147 years earlier. just a stone's throw from my quiet bed. i laid awake for awhile that night thinking about the words of the only person to hear the murder.......young john hollenback. who lived next door. "john! john! they are killing me!" the last words uttered by herman schilling.
from the day job file:
universal studios hollywood just opened their secret life of pets ride last week and it's amazing how long of a lead time there is on these attractions.......design, engineering, production, installation......i was painting the cats and dogs for it almost two years ago. the alley cats were fun but be on the lookout for the tangled dalmatian reaching for the ice cream- he might look simple but he was one of the harder ones. it's kinda nerve-wracking painting just the right black spots on white fur in front of the universal creative team- not much room there for error.
here's a POV ride through
i get a lot of good references and direction but it's funny, i rarely see the movies i am working on.
from the night job file:
the kenton county (KY) library has put together a thoughtful, poignant program honoring some of the community members lost to COVID-19. 20 artists were asked to create portraits for the surviving families so that their loved one could be remembered. thanks to christian schmitt for putting that idea in motion, i was happy to help in any small way- understandably, the reactions have been powerful and heartfelt.
there was a little early reporting on it here.
in lieu of other project news, i want to share with you my latest obsession of the past couple years: japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints.
not sure why it has taken me so long to start collecting- generally speaking, i have been a fan for awhile, but it has culminated now with almost nightly searches for beautiful pieces. it truly is the thrill of the hunt. availability is one thing and they can be both remarkably cheap or frustratingly expensive.....and the volume of prints is mind-blowing......
what can you really even say at this point about the last 365 days other than "so long, asshole"? what can you really even do other than get gooned on nog and trudge along, head down, dispossessed.....
and yet, in many ways, it feels as if the world may never learn its lessons, leaving that cosmic door open just a crack for the next "unprecedented" disaster to come blowing in. OR.....maybe........2020 has at the very least guaranteed that all future shit shows will now be extremely precedented upon arrival. like you, i have 1000 extremely precedented and crappy opinions that should never make it to the echo chamber, so we should probably just forget about it.
order of business #1: against all odds, 2020 provided a decent slew of songs. i have accumulated a playlist, in no particular order, and unceremoniously present it to you now:
i know there's a way to succinctly embed that link but i don't fee like looking it up right now. THAT'S where we're at emotionally.
order of business #2: the hearn project chugs along, and is now well into the knock-down, nitty gritty of fleshing out a story arc and combing through some visuals with my co-creators. not knowing what will be used yet, my gut tells me we will probably refrain from posting a whole lot on this until the end, which is very far off, but here is at least some early iteration that might find a place. flat broke upon his arrival in cincinnati, hearn lived on the streets until the kindness of strangers landed him a couple weeks stay in a hayloft. since he describes it best, it seems like a good note to end this year on.
“I take off my clothes,—few and thin,—and roll them up into a bundle, to serve me for a pillow: then I creep naked into the hay.... Oh, the delight of my hay-bed—the first bed of any sort for many a long night!—oh, the pleasure of the sense of rest! The sweet scent of the hay!... Overhead, through a skylight, I see stars—sharply shining: there is frost in the air.
“The horses, below, stir heavily at moments, and paw. I hear them breathe; and their breath comes up to me in steam. The warmth of their great bodies fills the building, penetrates the hay, quickens my blood;—their life is my fire.
“So contentedly they breathe!... They must be aware that I am here—nestling in their hay. But they do not mind;—and for that I am grateful. Grateful, too, for the warmth of their breath, the warmth of their pure bodies, the warmth of their good hay,—grateful even for those stirrings which they make in their rest, filling the dark with assurance of large dumb tolerant companionship.... I wish I could tell them how thankful I am,—how much I like them,—what pleasure I feel in the power that proceeds from them, in the sense of force and life that they spread through the silence, like a large warm Soul....
remember that winston churchill wolfman a couple entries below? no? ok, well, he was the practice head for a lifesize prehistoric ground sloth my company recently made. in fact, we created the sloth and a wyandot warrior for the firelands historical society in northern ohio. this is a page from their latest newsletter...
i was tasked with surface lead on the sloth; the team and i guided it through digital design, armature weldments, casting the fiberglass, furring, and finally, silicone painting and hair poking. it achieves a certain look, but i do not recommend ever poking thousands of single hairs into silicone as a matter of maintaining one's sanity. in the end, the deadline prevented megajeff (as he's called by the bone nerds) from being taken to where i really wanted to take him, but the client was pretty happy and i was kinda tired of looking at him anyway.
it is pure coincidence that the beast is named the jefferson ground sloth, after occasional paleontologist and maybe relative, thomas jefferson. it is also a coincidence that the warrior depicted is one of tecumseh's followers. tecumseh has been of particular significance to me over the years and at one point a statue i was to make myself. it was a bronze though, and without funding, fizzled out. hell, it might've been toppled eventually anyway with the collateral damage from differing opinions these days. who is to say.
"Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis), is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed."
thus, my friend tim mcmichael decided that in this time of covid 19, he would engage his fellow isolated artists in such a surrealist exercise with the panels being carefully mailed to each other and worked on in succession. it's a little tough to see, but here are the contributions of tim mcmichael, christian schmit, julie klear, and myself.
this measures at 12 1/4" x 48". i quite like it, and everyone involved.
i'm not entirely sure what mine is trying to say....it is a little bit of a nod to hokusai with the predominant shape and mt. fuji in the background, and the crying leopards, well, they feel like a constellation or nebula in the night sky. julie's panel before mine provided the only clue of cut out shapes, so i kind of took it that direction.
the whole exercise was a nice kick in the ass, really.
how've YOU been?
you don't have to answer, i already know.
in fact, i'll keep this brief so we can all get back to staring at the walls. the good news is, along with my collaborators, evan carroll and denise burge, we finally received word that a project grant from the university of cincinnati came through to support a graphic novel about the writer lafcadio hearn. while that starts to make this undertaking more real, the bad news is we won't be leaving this week for a research trip. obviously covid-19 has shuffled the deck for everyone everywhere, so instead it just amounts to more reading, researching, and killing time. someone talked me into getting the procreate pocket app. i very rarely do straight up digital art, especially with my finger on my phone, but excessive couch time convinced me to try anyway and made about 18 images throughout april. they usually ended up being a face or a landscape since those were more manageable scales. it was mostly playing.....about an hour each. these were some of the more unique ones.
some things happen easily. others take time and an obnoxious amount of effort. that's how i have always felt about art, in general. to be "successful" in any of the many branches of this discipline one might benefit from persistence, connections, luck, or timing, because it isn't always undeniable talent; some of the most skilled people i know seem to slog away day after day with little to show for it. often, they need a second place to work in just trying to pay their bills. i've seen it in visual art, literature, and music for years now. what's more, you can be pretty successful in your field, still struggle and no one really knows your work anyway.
a larger question might be: what IS success? having name recognition? wealth? as a species, it is simply surviving. as an artist, who knows....making a living wage? teaching others? or just being content to use your hands?
making art is kind of its own perpetual battle and, ultimately, one that never should have been measured by "success" anyway. so in its purest form it must be a personal journey of creation and discovery, reflection and therapy, which can be equally fulfilling and frustrating.
pushing 50 and having tried a variety of art avenues, most of what i have wanted artistically has not come easily or sometimes at all. there is the occasional coup but i have never really "fit" anywhere for too long and have envied other artists who always knew exactly where they were to go. for me, personal "success" has always had an asterisk next to it.
conversely, i never planned or strove to be a production artist. as a legitimate career path, perhaps it's kinda like a recording or touring musician- there is a skill set and practice every day to expand a knowledge base, but it mostly feels like a gig. i do like it...but there is a little bit of a disconnect. during, i spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what personal projects to do or how to use my new found techniques elsewhere. and yet, with limited investment, new opportunities keep rolling in all the time for me in this industry. in the past few years it has taken me far across the globe and into situations with major clients that, had i been grooming for this my whole life, i'd probably be much more freaked out about....but since i haven't, i'm not. it just flows. and when i step back, i realize i get to PLAY a lot of the time. so, perhaps not burdening yourself with expectation is the secret. or maybe just appreciating where you are.
on that note, just this week i started a new project that has me doing more fur/silicone painting and hair poking than i've ever done. to gain some practice i just started messing around on an old winston churchill head that happened to be laying in the shop (not unheard of at my place). so, now there is this jowly, english wolf man in the name of exploration. hey, here he is now........
his eyes aren't resolved and yes, his teeth are temporarily made of pointed q-tips, and yes there is quite a lot more hair poking to do....(i have dubbed this process "fucking around with intention"). yeah he looks like shit but it is starting to become a thing. can special effects be far behind? taxidermy? (sorry, taxidermy doesn't suit my tastes). beats me. maybe he's just a stepping stone to the next thing.
this meditation is all relative in the end- definitions we put on ourselves of how or if we find our way. maybe success is for someone else to decide or more dependent on our own measures of happiness...but maybe there is a takeaway message too: try not to struggle and worry about rejection and perhaps some other natural results will begin to emerge that benefit you.
just do it? if it's good enough for a shoe, it's good enough for you- that is the message to myself too, because i forget that.
anyway, since i'm not permitted to talk about what this horrible hybrid is for just yet i guess i could briefly mention the graphic novel (or, an illustrated art book, if you will) that two fellow artists and i are currently all kinds of steeped in. like, "writing grant applications and plotting research trips" steeped in. so if you've been wondering where i fell off to, it's parts unknown, a graphic novel about the writer lafcadio hearn (see previous entry), and punching hairs on a winston churchill wolf man. however, consuming as these pursuits are, i don't think we can say any of it is currently successful-and i'm fine with that.
as the full weight of the oppressive summer heat bears down upon on us, we turn to our balmy desires towards small vents everywhere.....in the car....stores or restaurants....be it languidly opening freezer doors or pressing damp laundry to our faces in a darkened wash room, anything pushing some relief towards our dwindling prayers is welcome. the earth is sick and burning and will one day shake off all its fleas again so fire up the grill!
now, since i am not a "word man", i better get to the stuff i came here for.......and yet, somehow connected i suppose, is this thrift store music box i found not long ago. upon seeing it i couldn't contain the urge to paint it black. well, with a wash, really. although not much of an appropriation artist, i do find myself more and more leaning on production techniques i've been practicing every day for the last 4 years......so... black bird singing in the dead of night. is it a one-off? probably.
long way of saying, despite my best efforts, production art still has me in its jaws. we have had big projects this year for universal studios (the harry potter ride) and dollywood (wildwood grove tree), among others. other than that....waiting on results.....didn't make a couple anthologies.....did make some other publications....and i do have a neil armstrong story in the pipeline though, which i will post here soon. stay cool.
knowing it deserved to be more than a one-liner, this one has been a long time coming....should it be color? 8 pages? 10 pages? do i draw that one guy's wiener? do i acknowledge the zulu face paint stuff?
in 2015 i emailed my friends to see what they remembered from our mardi gras trip in 1992. their accounts were riotous- it is always interesting to see the way memory of shared events tints from one person to the next. nonetheless, i herded up all of the pertinent information, common denominators, and references to finally get us here. opting not to rush a few pages, i missed last year's deadline....and still barely made it this time! part of the issue is grappling with a story, simple as mine are. i thumbnail everything to some degree, but the arc really gets resolved on the page......and then page 6 might change what i was thinking on page 1. so often there is some looking back and seeing where i could have made improvements. rather than george lucas everything, sometimes you gotta know when to say when and just take that knowledge into the next project....so these comics are what they are. that is how my brain works. i'm not complaining or disclaiming. just talking shop about the creative process.
thanks to mark m, julie k, tim m, sandrine w, jeff w, and amy p for their instrumental contributions. oh, and johnny q for photographing it and eric j for photo refs. FAT TUESDAY, like all sordid tales before it, is unsuitable for romantics.....
however, if you'd rather not jump through all those hoops, the top 25 reads like so:
25) suspirium- thom yorke
24) minotaur forgiving minos- moonface
23) all nerve- the breeders
22) extraordinary love- erika wennerstrom
21) dance of the lotus- the joy formidable
20) secret light- the men
19) what do you feel free about?- the juan maclean, man power remix
18) pearly gates- u.s. girls
17) forget me- born ruffians
16) obsession- no joy/sonic boom
15) a song for those who miss you all the time- thin lips
14) cut yr teeth- kississippi
13) future creme- total control
12) negative space- hookworms
11) good times are gone again- fred thomas
10) overthrown- thee oh sees
9) black car- beach house
8) drab measure- crack cloud
7) always elsewhere- ron gallo
5) stains on silence- girls names
4) spells- jenny hval
3) pink- mothers
2) the dread- sibille attar
1) dawn: making an effort- the breeders
speaking of comics, there are a couple still in the works where some strides were made, there's that 8 (or 9) pager about fat tuesday that hopes to hit its deadline this time around, and the ever-perpetuated hello earth has been tooled slightly and is now called the ninth wave, freeing it up conceptually to be better than before.
so, i'm still alive. kind of.
REMEMBER TO VOTE.
i did it by mail this time. hope it makes it.
what started as a trivial pursuit has slowly progressed towards something perhaps a bit more legitimate within the larger context of my work. for better or worse, a small fleet of lids now have their own designation within these terrible walls. it isn't my intention to highlight every one i've made; for combing over them i am reminded they started out considerably more tongue-in-cheek until they succumbed to the more daring, painterly and pointed... and likely exorcising a few demons in the process.
with that in mind, one of said lids has been elected for a (very) limited run of t-shirts to be found only here. thee oh sees (formerly OCS, and currently, oh sees) is a san francisco band that has one of the more charged live shows i've ever seen. a favorite of mine for awhile now, their raw sound was what i would call a natural analogy for my piece "all the tongues and words wouldn't matter" so i am very comfortable with this cross-pollination. so with that, any hardcore fans out there dying to have one can reach me directly through the contact info on my bio page (if there are any still available). we will see what we can come up with. i want to stress that this is my artistic interpretation and, with respect to the band, not official merchandise and therefore not for sale.
when people ask me what i do at my "day job" it's always easier to show than tell......and i can't even tell you what i am currently working on until it becomes public. for instance, all of this stuff below is at least a year old. subjects can range anywhere from models and then life size interactives for a civil rights, air and space, or historical museum, or licensed characters for amusement park rides, replicating artifacts, tourist attractions, it is really all across the board. sometimes simple theming, sometimes complex. there is something new all the time. and yet, some of the absolute coolest stuff is happening now, so i'll get back to you on those......but here is a sampling of some past projects.
been listening to the fall a lot the last several days, following the recent death of principal player mark e smith. his passing is notable for several reasons, but i specifically wanted to acknowledge it was he, after all, who invented the line "unsuitable for romantics", which i've borrowed for my collection of autobiographical comics. it barely registers in the world of searchable everything, just a line of graffiti he scrawled for a 1982 advertisement promoting the album hex education hour......but, twas enough to resonate with me when i saw it years ago.
breaking with tradition a little bit here......
with the notable exception of NO contribution whatsoever for 2016, in the past i've listed my take on the best albums of the year. i do prefer that format so perhaps i'm afforded the time for its return next december. still, in the mish-mash of the daily grind i found a lot of good songs the past 12 months and dumped them all into a 2017 spotify playlist.
157 songs in some semblance of order from meh to best. sure, i probably missed a couple....that happens every year, but even my past lists get additions throughout the year. so check them all out. i'm here. however, if you just want the red meat, the top 25 reads like so:
............................and behold i find myself wandering back to black. here's a fresh batch from the lid pile.
the first of some one panel comics.....and of course they'll all be unsuitable for romantics.....
as i approach 500 overtime hours of production art this year (holy shit, it is only august?), i am still looking toward that someday when the dust settles, metaphorically and literally...i am often coated in dust by somebody grinding on fiberglass or cutting steel within a visceral moan of where i am trying to paint. working for the likes of disney, universal and sony sounds cool but can grind one down as well. as mentioned last post, as these deadlines are met i still try to crank out a deli lid or two for my sanity's sake....i'll put them all here eventually. or the best ones, anyway.
with regards to other branches of my own work, still progressing on comics and illustrations on the side, which i will share soon. i was also recently contacted by an art consultant who is interested in using select images of paintings (or, in some cases, the paintings themselves). in the past i have avoided some of these inquiries because it wasn't a good fit, but i like most of the this particular group's projects. that dialogue has just begun.
last, SOS ART for a better world is exhibiting its 2015 book illustrations later this month at xavier university. i'd have to look back to see who all is included in that, but i am particularly excited to be showing with brian level, a fellow cincinnatian and comic book artist who is the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn't very nice (that's a comic book joke). below is the postcard, where you get a good look at his poignant take on the charlie hebdo attack (L), and mine (BR), regarding disadvantaged children in our society.
as previously mentioned, i spend a grueling amount of time working as a production artist, which really only means i'm a hired gun putting a nice finish on other people's "art" (see: amusement and sometimes educational objects).
the primary downside is such a schedule inhibits me from making my own work with the zeal and energy usually needed.
however, it has been rewarding in some unexpected ways too.....i'm constantly challenged and further developing my skills through materials and subject matter i would not probably seek on my own. it's just a different beast than my own art. so as i try to square these 2 art worlds of which i orbit, i find myself putting a spin on some of the everyday tools of the trade. me and my crew go through lots of paint, containers, brushes and the like.....i often use deli cup lids as palettes and soon had a pile, that, when viewed from the opposite side are quite pleasingly sealed under plastic. put a little marker on top of that and you get a clean, finished looking piece of trash!
why are concert shirts so hard to throw out?
there is a new one-pager up that is unsuitable for romantics, called god save the tees. if you're a fan of live shows or just pimping your favorite bands, you just might relate. like many of you, my fixation has been with "alternative/modern rock" thanks in large part to cincinnati's own 97X (the best station that ever was)... and i've had some of these shirts for 30 years!
anyway, there are a few visual jokes for those in the know.....
look for more comics ahead, several in the works of various lengths and commitment!
ALSO, in january i did a small interview with felan, a poetry and visual arts zine with the theme of AMUSEMENT.
featured pieces include SAVIOR, and the illustration of comrade trump you see below in the previous post.
you can read the interview here, in which i discuss all sorts of things from scary watercolors and why roadkill isn't funny, to michael graves' funeral. oh, and buy it here!
see ya next time.
just finished an illustration for what i understand to be the best of for a better world, the annual publication of cincinnati poets and artists on peace and justice. amazingly, it is in its 13th year. i am no stranger to this book, having done it 5 other times, including a cover in 2005 in its infancy (see below). as it goes, a visual artist is paired with a poet who has provided either one or a few poems. often, said poems address war, poverty, homelessness, human rights and the like, and by now there's a pretty impressive database of cincinnati artists. i'm hoping this archive can soon be cross-referenced by individual names...mostly because i want to navigate them easier and be blown away by the list of talent.
traditionally, the book has been in black and white, however "the best of" is in color so i took the opportunity to punch it up (bottom right). really, each year gets better. the examples below, and the poets they are collaborating with, can also be found on the illustration page of this site. sorry, earlier photos aren't the greatest.
my illustration this time combines 2 poems by jeffrey hillard, pertaining to the war in iraq and the notion of a soldier being saved by a book in his breast pocket. i became transfixed with that that idea on top of all of the gear most soldiers are outfitted with.
so, with that in mind.....
the state of affairs, the direction of the world....urgh....i have mostly stayed out of the fray regarding our recent....election. partially because i am completely unamused with reality tv and partly because there is no shortage of opinion regarding the matter. STILL......i may or may not have a small contribution somewhere in early 2017. let's just leave it at that until the stench blows over. see ya next time!
sayonara 2016, you horrible beast.
artist, former woxy loyalist.