Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Continued Absenteeism

Well, I got back from the familial marathon last night, just in time for the logic board on my computer to go ker-flooey. I'm on my way out the door to spend four days in New York, and don't have time to drop the poor old thing off at the repair shop. So it'll probably be the other side of New Year's before I get any more images up.

Sorry about that. But stick around, okay? Good stuff is coming.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

End of December Absenteeism

I'm on the road, cramming as many family visits as is humanly possible into the next four or five days. Blog posts will, therefore, be spotty at best. So, here's a couple seasonal images stolen off my website:

First, of course, is kindly ol' Saint Nick.

And this is his grumpy older sister, Mamma Eggnog.

Mamma Eggnog has her own, less well-known holiday, the BicycleMass. I've got a bunch of drawings and even some Bikemas carols hiding away in a notebook, somewhere. If you're interested, bug me about them.

Okay, I'm off to listen to my family tell my lovely wife horrible lies about me. Happy Holidays, Wal-Mart shoppers!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Charles W. Morgan pt. 6

Okay, so, you've been tooling around the ocean in your whaling ship, and you climb up into the crow's nest, and you actually spot a whale. Now what do you do?
This is the crazy part: You, and a bunch of other guys, get off the nice, big whaling ship, and climb into this tiny little boat. These longboats are about sixteen to twenty feet long.
And then you row as fast and quietly as you can out to where the whales are. You are in the middle of the ocean, in a very small, very crowded boat. The whale is about the size of a city bus, and sperm whales are every bit as aggressive when protecting their own as any other mammal. So what do you do? You start jabbing them with pointed sticks.

Once you harpooned a whale, it would take off. Your boat would still be attached to the harpoon by rope, and so you'd take off, too. At high speed. This was called a "Nantucket Sleigh Ride," and they could last for days. And the whole time, you're hanging on just hoping that the whale doesn't remember that it's a whale, and whales can swim underwater.

Just how badly did the world need lamp oil and corsets, anyway?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Birds of a Feather

Here's an illustration I did this weekend for a poster. It's to promote an institute which supports diversity of all sorts in the study of Philosophy.

It's always tough to try come up with an image for "diversity" that doesn't look like a Seventies community mural. Or, even worse, that turns into some Wattsian checklist. In this case, I drew on the fact that I'm kinda into figuring out how to draw birds right now, what with the Rooster, and all.

Other than the pheasant and the parakeet, all of the birds should be pretty accurate depictions of North American songbirds. I have no idea if pheasants sit in trees, or if they make any sort of song that one would want to listen to, but I really wanted to put one in there. I mean, what says "diversity" more than a pheasant? If only there'd been room for a penguin.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Charles W. Morgan pt. 5

Here's the Crow's Nest, from which one would keep a look out for pods of whales and their tell-tale plumes. The crow's nest of popular imagination is practically a small room on top of a mast. Nice and enclosed. These guys, on the other hand, have a couple of planks and a metal hoop. And by contemporary standards, that hoop/railing would have been an almost ostentatious display of workplace safety.

This piece is the only one in the series that is more based on photo-reference than drawing-on-location. What can I say. I wasn't prepared to shimmy up a mast with a sketchbook clamped in my teeth for the authentic point of view.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rooster Pages 5

... aaaaaand scene! Sun's up, rooster's done crowing, and I won't be showing any more rooster pages for awhile. Maybe, next, I'll show you some of my sappy looooooove comics which are about mushy stuff, like kissing, and hugging, and doing each other's hair while eating smores.

That, or Gladiators.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Charles W. Morgan pt. 5

When you're living on a ship, you need to be able to build or repair anything you might need. So it was pretty important to have a carpenter and a blacksmith on board. This is, perhaps, the smallest, most economical smithy in the world: nothing but that tiny little anvil and a vice. The big thing behind him is the back of the tryworks, which, I suppose, must have doubled as his forge. Here, he's acting as a cooper. Barrels, of course, would have been a major feature of life aboard a whaler. Everything you'd eat or drink would be stored in them, and, of course, you'd be trying to fill them with whale oil as soon as possible.
And this is just a length of ship's chain, used to tether the anchor. These links are each a little smaller than your head. A length of chain may not be a terribly exciting subject for a drawing, but, I dunno... I've always liked the looks of these chains, and I was interested trying to get the texture of the metal right.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Rooster Pages 4

Almost there!

I have two more pages in the cock's crow sequence yet to post. Then, I'll have to shove the Rooster to the back of the drawing board and concentrate on some other projects. While I'm taking this brief pause in rooster-doodling, I'll be building up my chicken reference. This will include spending some time with actual poultry. But, if anyone can recommend a good book with pictures of the different breeds of chicken, I'd sure appreciate it.

What I'd really like to do , of course, is set up a coup in my backyard and keep chickens for at least the duration of this project. That's what we call "method-cartooning." Kinda like how, in order to get into Delaware Thistle's frame of mind, I painted myself green and walked around naked for most of 2001. All the cool cartoonists do it. Harvey Pekar was actually 24-year old Swedish ballerina before she got the plastic surgery necessary to truly "inhabit" the "Harvey" character. And her comics are the better for it, I think we can all agree.

But, would you believe there are city ordinances against me keeping chickens? In Memphis? I mean, Manhattan would make sense, but Memphis?!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Charles W. Morgan pt. 4

Here's some drawings from belowdecks on the Morgan.

These drawings were pencilled on location. Then I'd go over to the photo-archives at Mystic Seaport, and add any people or props from period sources. I'd ink the drawings at night on a card table in my Grandparent's cottage.I call this guy "Ahab Lincoln," and he's pretty fanciful. It's unlikely that a whaling captain would have a peg leg, and probably even more unlikely that he'd have a harpoon in his cabin. This is, by far, the most luxurious space on the ship, and it's about the size of a twin bed.
This is the officer's table. The big thing running through the picture is a mast. As you can see, they ate off of china and crystal, which, for some reason, strikes me as funny. The table has runners down it's length, so that the plates couldn't slide around but so much when the ship was rocking.

I wish these drawings did a better job of conveying just how small these spaces are. I drew these while crammed into tiny little corners to 1) get the composition I wanted and 2) stay out of the way on any tours coming through. To get a sense of the scale, print one of these drawings out, hold it about six inches in front of your face, and then back up against a wall. To complete the experience, get about a dozen kids wearing novelty pirate hats hopped up on ice cream and let them scream in your ear the whole time (it is, of course, a basic truth of childhood that ALL large wooden ships are pirate ships, and that if you keep pestering your father, he'll eventually show you where the cannons are).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rooster Pages 3

The rooster's getting there. Here comes the sun (doot-doo-do-do)!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rooster Pages 2

The cock continues to crow. Here's two more pages. It takes about 13 pages, total. After that, I'll need an actual plot.

My older brother, Matt, provided the following as possible plot material:

There once was a rooster that was so vigorous in his ardor that it usually killed the recipient hen. When the hens were gone, the rooster went after the ducks. Then the geese. Nothing with feathers was safe. Then the rooster went after the livestock, chasing pigs and goats and cows from one end of the farm to the other. The farmer tried to catch him and wring his neck, but the rooster always slipped away.

One day, the farmer came out of his house and saw vultures circling over a field. "Aw, christ, who did that son of a gun kill this time?" thought the farmer. He hiked over to the field and saw the rooster sprawled out in the middle of the clearing. "Serves you right," said the farmer, "You finally screwed yourself to death. Let the buzzards have you."

The rooster opened one eye and whispered, "Shh. They're getting closer."

I think I could get a hundred and sixty or so pages out of that.

As far as naming the rooster: the votes are leaning towards Redwald. What do you think? I'd really like to hear some opinions.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Charles W. Morgan pt. 3

This is the oven I mentioned as making life astern so unpleasant. It's called the "tryworks". It's basically a brick rectangle with an open top and two massive iron pots suspended over the fire.

When a whale was caught, it would be stripped of blubber, the sheets of which (called "the blanket") would be lowered into the ship. There, they'd be cut into managable chunks, called "the horse pieces." The horse pieces would then be brought up on deck and rendered (or "tried out") into whale oil here in the tryworks.

Remember that whaling ships would go out to sea for years - however long it took to fill the hold with barrels of whale oil. After awhile everything onboard would be coated with oily black soot: the decks, the rigging, your clothes, yourself, your food... Suddenly that little fo'c'stle (upwind of the tryworks) seems like the sweet place to be.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Skeeball Whalers

While I was working on the Morgan drawings, I was asked to produce an Illustration on "whatever struck my fancy" for a magazine that was never heard from again. As you can see, I didn't veer too far from what I was already doing. I'm not too sure what the deal with the skeeball-face-thing is. They've been showing up since grad school. Maybe they're my attempt to pretend I'm Jim Woodring, although, compared to his stuff, mine look pretty anemic.

Let me try a couple Rooster names out on you: Redwald or Rasebeck.
Redwald seems evocative of the cock's comb, while Rasebeck references the Rooster's job of calling the sun each morning. At least, in my mind.

Any thoughts?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Rooster Pages 1

Here's the first four panel/pages of the Rooster story. Still don't have a name for the rooster.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

More Charles W. Morgan

Here's the fo'cstle of the Morgan, where the crew would have spent their free time. Melville claimed that the crew had a better voyage than the officers, because the fo'cstle was upwind of everything else on the ship, while the officers where back in the stern. Makes sense, especially on a whaling ship, which had a giant stove for rendering whale blubber in the middle of the deck.

And this is, of course, is the steering-wheely-thingy.