Sunday, December 31, 2006

Painting Procedural pt. 4

Okay, so back to the painting. I'm continuing to lay in the local color in transparent watercolor washes. Local color is the color that we think things are (the trees are brown, the grass is green, et cetera), without the impositions of, say, the color of the light sources and shadows, and reflected light bouncing around between surfaces.

The previous three posts showed work done during classes while the students were busy doing whatever it is students do. But then the weekend came, and so I'm in the home studio for these shots. I wait for each wash to dry before laying down a new one to prevent them from bleeding into each other or washing each other away (heavier pigments will push lighter ones out of their way). This means there's a lot of down-time, which makes it the perfect activity to intersperse through a day of house cleaning.

The local colors are now pretty much established. But, obviously, there's still an awful lot of painting to do.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Holidays! Let's drink turpentine!

The lovely wife and I seem to be developing an annual tradition of spending way too much time and effort making presents that we could have bought for a quarter the price (Oh, Mr. Smith, when will we learn?). This year, it's flavored liquers. "Liquers" is the polite word. "Combustibles" might be the accurate one.

For me, this project was all about getting to make stamps for the labels. We had a lot of fun looking up old snake oil and voodoo labels for reference.

Of course, now our brew is all bottled and ready to go out the door, to bring happiness to our friends and all their furniture-stripping needs, but we still have these groovy-but-project-specific stamps.

I should find another use for them. Maybe a comic strip starring a sailor named "Scurvy Abater" and his hard-nosed pal, "Gut Tonic." "Piquant Tipple" would be the would be the foppish hobo who lives in the alley behind their house with his scruffy dog, "Floor Wash." And on Saturday, they all go to see their favorite band, "Vanilla Cure & Catharsis."

Anyway, Happiest of Happies, y'all. See you in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Painting Procedural pt. 3

Having established a basic value scheme, I start to add color. First, I lay down a wash of yellow with a mop brush. Yellow is a near-compliment of blue, so it kind of tones down and grays out the blue. Orange is the actual compliment of blue, but full compliments are often too harsh and "vibratey."

And then I start dropping in the local color. I'm not mixing the paints so much as laying down transparent washes of straight paint over one another. The base of yellow and blue will make all of the colors relate to one another

There will be more images of this once I find the cable for my digital camera.

Also, if'n yer innerested: apparently MySpace and LiveJournal just aren't geeky enough. There is now ComicSpace. I just signed up with it, because I thought Dean Trippe would make fun of me if I didn't. I'm not sure I really get the whole social networking thing, though. As near as I can tell, it's like Pokemon, only instead of collecting images of fantastic creatures, you collect images of people who draw fantastic creatures.

I just can't figure out how you win.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Painting Procedural pt. 2

This is an Art-O-Graph, although I've always known it as a "Lucy." I suppose this moniker is derived from camera lucida. I found it in the back of a junk closet at school, along with an waxing machine and other artifacts of the predigital era of Design Arts. At least once a year I have to keep someone from hauling it away as garbage. It works a like an inverted opaque projector: you put an image in a lit chamber above a pair of sliding lenses; then, you adjust the lenses until the image is projected at the size and clarity you want on the table below. In this instance, I stuck my original pencil drawing in the chamber, and projected it onto a block of Arches 140 lb. Cold-press watercolor paper.

This is the tracing of the projected drawing, darkened via Photoshop for your ease of viewing. The idea is to actually have a very light drawing, so that it won't show through the paint.

If I were at home, I might have just redrawn the sketch at a larger size by hand, or blown it up on a xerox machine and traced it with my shoestring light box (a pane of glass balanced on my lap and a desk lamp between my feet). Or made the xerox into a sheet of carbon paper by rubbing the back with graphite and transfering it.

And then I restablished my line drawing with a thin painted line, and blocked in the basic value scheme. The paint I'm using is about half Prussian Blue and half Payne's Gray. I think I meant to just use Payne's Gray, but grabbed the Prussian Blue by accident, and thought Huh, okay. At this stage, the color doesn't matter as much as the value.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Painting Procedural pt. 1

One of my favorite things on the internet are art tutorials. This is my little contribution to the genre. Except, I'm calling mine a "procedural," because I'm not sure anyone should tutor themselves in my process. See, despite years and years of art school, I didn't take a class that was actually about how to paint until I was well into my freelance career. So, in my ignorance, I cobbled together a relatively consistent way of making my way through a painting. It works for me, but there are probably much smarter ways to go about it.

This particular painting is not a commission. This is my little way of celebrating the end of the McGraw-Hill jobs. That had kept me so busy that I hadn't really painted for the past two years. As a result, I've been a bit fiddlier with this painting than usual. This is partly because I'm a little rusty, partly because I'm self-concious about presenting it as a tutorial, but mostly because I'm just having too danged much fun playing with the colorful wet stuff.

Here's a quick sketch, drawn out on xerox paper. Why xerox paper? 'Cuz it's cheap, and plentiful, and quality is not an issue at this stage.

Costume reference, and inspiration. How could I resist drawing a get-up like this?

A xerox of my xerox, which then becomes a value study with the application of a little more pencil. I would normally do this on the original sketch, but I was working at school, so it wasn't much effort to make a copy. This preserved the original as a line drawing, which will be useful at the next stage.

Friday, December 01, 2006

More Gormenghast

The Ladies Clarice and Cora.

It's very hard to come up with your own images for characters after you've seen someone else's version. Frodo used to look like a Rankin and Bass drawing. Now he looks like Elijah Wood. I started drawing the Gormenghast sketches in order to drive the images from the BBC television production out of me head. They were interferring with my enjoyment of the book. But, I loved the depiction of Clarice and Cora, and, will continue to hear the actor's voices in my head when I read chapters in which the twins appear.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Happy Birthday, Beeswax!

Beeswax is one year old today!

To celebrate, here's some sketches I did this weekend while reading Titus Groan. They are of various persons passing the title character at his christening ceremony. And, yes, I'm reading a book about people who live in a castle that doesn't even exist. Judge me as you will.

Chef Swelter.
Mister Flay.
Doctor Prunesquallor.
The Countess Gertrude.
Lord Sepulchrave, The Earl of Groan
Lady Fuschia.

If I'd realized that this anniversary was coming up, I'd have had them all intoning the name "Beeswax."

So, one year, huh? Who knew I had this much crap that wasn't finding any other public outlet? I have no idea if I have another year's worth lying around.

Only one way to find out.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Despite my idle comments on Wednesday, I've actually been trying out the ol' feverish pace this week, putting in 10 to 14 hour days working on a new project. It's an adaptation of a play, and I've been vigorously reworking the script - comparing a couple different translations of the source material, breaking up the narrative flow to take advantage of the comics page instead of the stage, trying to keep the female protagonist from being quite such a sop, etc. And then, one third of the way through page 84, a page away from the end of Act Three, maybe twenty pages away from the end of the whole thing... My laptop goes ker-splortch.

Less than a year after replacing the logic board (but after the expiration of its warranty), my computer is $1200 this side of being a paperweight.

And now I'm stuck wandering the mean streets of Toronto with pencil and paper, making a physical record of my thoughts, like a caveman. Even worse, I'm posting this entry from the lovely wife's Windows machine. I can feel the Bill Gates cooties crawling up my typing fingers! Circle circle, cloverleaf-dot! Now I've got my Apple shot!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 7

Last week, I burnt a bunch of stuff to a disc, so that I could post every day while in Canada. Guess which North American country that disc is in? Hurray for my brain! But, at least I can finish up the Jamestown story. Enjoy!

Also, it was recently observed that I apparently won't put out a new comic until people are done talking about the last one. Well, I ain't gotta get busy, quite yet. Hurray for reviews!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 6

Ha ha! I'm off to Canada first thing tomorrow morning! Ten glorious days in the same country as the lovely wife! The same city, even. Happy Thanksgiving to me! I'm so excited that I can't think of anything to say about this comics page. Maybe you could make up something yourself - some trivia about a weird period practice, or a tirade about how editors cramp your pristine artistic vision.

Toodle Loo!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 5

It's funny to think that, as far as these sailors knew, the passage to India could be right on the other side of that waterfall. Or, they could be barely 50 miles inland of a continent over 2000 miles wide. It's what outgoing Pentagon Poet Laurate Donald Rumsfeld would have referred to as a "known unkown."

Happy Birthday to my Grampa, Carl. On the off chance there's an afterlife, here's hoping you're playing bridge with Abraham Lincoln, or drinking scotch with Jesus. And that you have have internet access.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 4

Did I mention that this story was the result of a compromise between myself and the editors? Hence, enough exposition to choke something that you would think would have a hearty appetite for exposition, and the Cliff Notes staccato of the panel transitions.

As far as yesterday's election: no, apparently we can't stop acting like jackasses, even for a day. Or, at least, not for the day that mattered. Every state with a discrimination amendment on the ballot passed it, except Arizona (Arizona? Who knew?). The good news is that Project: Gridlock seems to be underway. And there's still hopes that Aspirational Redneck, George Allen, has seen the end of his political ambitions.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 3

Let me attempt to use Jamestown's theme of poor leadership to segue into special Novemeber 7th plea: If you are in the United States, PLEASE, PLEASE GET OUT AND VOTE! And if you are in Tennessee, EXTRA-SPECIAL SUGAR-ON-TOP QUADRUPAL-PLUS PLEASE GET OUT AND VOTE! We just might actually have a shot acheiving the closest thing we have to a defense against the Bush Administration: bicameral gridlock.

Oh, and alsowise: Tennessee and several other states have these cute little amendments allowing the public to vote discrimination into the state constitution. Could we, as a country, stop acting like complete jackasses? Just for, like, a day?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 2

For most of the McGraw Hill stories I was left to my own devices when it came to research. The editorial team in charge of this story sent a Fed-Ex packet busting at the seams with over sixty pages of densely packed historical text on Jamestown. This was pretty overwhelming, and my first attempt at a story breakdown was just a mish-mash of too much information. So my mission here was to whittle away as much as I could, trying to find something that would work as a succinct story arc, and hopefully leaving enough room for moments of actual narrative interest amidst all the fact-slinging. Unfortunately, the editorial team really seemed to want all 60 pages of information explicitly stated in the six pages of comics I had to work with. Additionally, they were very suspicious of any information included in the story that wasn't from those sixty pages. Like, say, that Captain Newport only had one arm.

The result was a lot of compromise that left neither cartoonist nor editors happy. What the kids think of it, I have no idea.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Gentlemen of Jamestown pt. 1

Here's a McGraw Hill story about the founding of the colony of Jamestown. I wish I'd had many more pages to tell this story, because there is a lot of it, and a lot of characters, and it is so over-the-top that it reads more like satire than history. Jamestown would be the perfect setting for an American Blackadder. Seriously. Rowan Atkinson plays John Smith.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Project: Romantic

Well, I don't know about you folks, but I had a great SPX. Saw a lot of swell folks, and picked up a lot of swell funny books. It seems I've now been on the scene long enough that people will give me free stuff at shows, which is good, and just, and appropriate. The only thing I've had a chance to read, however, has been AdHouse's much anticipated Project: Romantic.

This book is just chock-full of beautiful drawings and great stories. There are a few stories I could have passed on, but such is the fate of all anthologies, I suppose. And for every "Fart of Love," there are four or five stories I really enjoyed, like JW Cotter's Kingdom Animalia Illustrated, or Doug Frazier's Romance.

I'm very pleased with the way the color my stories printed. And the "to evil" panel was printed on the cover of the Washington Post's Weekend section!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm a fancy gallery artist!

Hey Kids! Comics! a freestanding interactive readymade sculpture
metal, paint, ink, and paper

Photos by M. Travis
Spinner Rack Wrangling by C. Matz

Remember, comics are wholesome.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 7

I'd kind of written myself into a corner when I came to the end of this strip, because, by all rights, Dirk should be very, very dead from exposure. But then, in a flash of poppycock, their dire situation resolved itself in an almost plausible tale of resourcefulness. If Dirk grew a particularily thick beard, and wrapped himself in a parachute, and huddled tightly to a warm-blooded koala, and never moved from his place in front of the guano-fire, the maybe he'd survive a week.

But, you know, not really.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The! Best! of! America! part more!

Wanna free copy of Houghton-Mifflin's The Best American Comics 2006 featuring The Amazing Life of Onion Jack? This book not only contains many fine comics, it is presented with fine, sturdy hardback covers (truly, the rich Corinthian leather of covers {if you ignore the books actually bound in rich Corinthian leather}), and the cover is stamped with GOLD! Yes, that's right - glorious, sparkling GOLD! So you know it's valuable!

All you need is the Internet (sorry, those of you who are receiving this blog on your dental fillings are out of luck). Email the fine folks at Comic Book Galaxy before Halloween, and you'll be entered into the drawing.

Free is good!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The! Best! of! MEMPHIS! Yipee-Kie-Yie-Yah!

Like a one-two punch from the golden fists of ego-inflation: two blasts of external validation within a single week!

The Memphis Flyer is the local alternative weekly newspaper, and they just ran their annual "Best of..." issue, and, well, they were kind enough to include me. Of course, they also said that the best place for singles to hook up was church. So, you know, grain of salt.

By the way, I think "graphic fabulist" is a much better description of what I do than "graphic novelist." Although I'm still pretty happy with straight-up vanilla "cartoonist."

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 6

Okay, just to recap standard textbook editorial poilicy: shotguns, drunken Senators, and predatory fallout shelter salesmen are a big NO.

Brutal penguin savagings? Oh, YES. Yes, please. Please, more. More now!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The! Best! of! AMERICA! Yee-Haw!

I should have mentioned this earlier, but it's been hectic lately. Houghton-Mifflin's The Best American Comics 2006 is out in stores, and I'm pleased to be included. Houghton-Mifflin seems to be giving this book the full promotional push, so it should be pretty easy to find. I went to a Barnes & Noble, and they had it sprinkled all over the place, including the coveted end-of-aisle spots. Nice!

I've only had a chance to read about a quarter of the book so far, but I've liked what I've seen. I'm not sure that the word "Best" is precisely accurate, but Some Danged Good American Comics probably wouldn't sell as well. By the way, the "America" in the title refers to North America, which, for their purposes, includes Greenland. Maybe this is just a gap in my backwoods-hillbilly education, but I had no idea that Greenland was part of North America. Not that it matters. There are no Greenlander comics in this collection.

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 5

The landscapes on this page were fun to draw.

Added onto the sidebar are some new student blogs. Please drop on by and check 'em out. Make comments. Send donations. Michele Duckworth actually graduated last semester, but I'm keeping her on the list, because she's got a residency over at MCA's graduate studios.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 4

My main artistic goal with this story was to draw a man wearing a koala bear as a hat. I pretty much wrote the whole story around that. It wasn't quite the satisfying payoff I'd hoped.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 3

Can you see where this is going? The pay-off may be more or less obvious depending on how thick of an Aussie accent you're reading Philbert's lines in.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 2

All local lads like liberally loading ink-lined literature with alliteration. This simple strategem substitutes solving serious stumpers such as snappy, snazzy, and snoozeless storytelling. Politeness predicates paying attention to the plight of your periodical's patrons, however, who may plead that a piled-upon plentitude of poetic permutations outpaces patience, pleasing none.

Like so.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dirk Daring's Death-Defying Desert Deeds, pt. 1

I'm a little late to claim the posting of this McGraw-Hill story as a tribute to everybody's favorite khaki-shorts-clad wildlife-pesterer, but hey, you can't put grief on a timetable.

Here's to you, Steve. I hope you're stalking the Heavenly Choir as we speak: "Crickey, look at this Seraphim heah. What a beaut! She's trying to smite me with her flaming sword, which is her defense mechanism. Fiesty little nipper. And check out this gorgeous plummage..."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Whose Side Are You On?

Hopefully everyone seeing this is a productive member of society, and, therefore, doesn't get the reference. But being the subject of this sort of convoluted in-joke mash-up is the geek version of Immortality. So, I'm delighted.


And for those who aren't familiar with Onion Jack and Doc Bot, a reprint of their adventures will be available soon from one of those little fly-by-night boutique publishers.

Apologies for the radio silence. But, frankly, it's been all I can do to put on pants, these days.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bell of Splendid Awakening

One of the reasons I chose to draw Liberty Belle a few weeks back is because I wanted to draw a bell. But not the bell Libby was holding. I wanted to draw an Asian bell. I loves 'em. And, when I found that drawing Libby had not scratched that itch, I drew this picture.

And, well, every real superhero deserves a supporting cast that includes hordes doppelgangers and variations on one's theme. Batman has Batgirl, Batwoman, Batmite, Ace the Bat-Hound, and so on. Spiderman has a couple Spider-Women, Spider-Girl, the Scarlet Spider, and at least one Spiderman from the future. Superman... well, let's not even get started on Superman. So I decided that my mythical A-List Liberty Belle comic would include women from other cultures who also had bells that they used in various super-powery ways, collectively called the Bell Maidens.

Bell of Splendid Awakening is holding a nao, which is a clapperless bell that is kept upright and stuck with a wooden mallet. She uses it to focus and magnify her qi, granting her a range of wuxia-style abilities, including Libby-like blasts, healing, and, of course, sonic kung-fu.

Thanks to Memphis artist/ designer Kong Wee Pang, who translated Bell's name for this image.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

William Blake

This is a page from a job I just finished. The whole story will be appearing online as part of an academic journal on the Grand Old Man of words and pictures, William Blake. It's a pretty short story, but it took me forever to do, because I was so intimidated by the idea of doing justice to the Master. I kept second, third and fourth guessing myself. There is one page that I redrew and reinked in its entirety four times.

One of the projects I hope to get to one of these years is a longer biography comic of William Blake and his wife, Catherine. They had an unusual life together. William Blake educated his wife, teaching her reading and printmaking. Both of these were unusual skills for a woman of Catherine's class. But he also taught her to see visions as he did. Who knew that was a teachable skill?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Shelter pt. 10: Deleted Scenes

Here's the original ending of the story - the one I just couldn't believe they were letting me get away with. And then, of course, they didn't. Actually, at the sketch stage, Rand nee Kahn was holding a shotgun instead of a ping pong paddle in panel 3, and more or less frothing at the mouth. Some references to landmines were also removed. All of which probably adds up to me being unfit to draw comics for our nations youth.

Over on the Rooftop, kind words are being said about our friend, Libby.