Thursday, December 18, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Thursday) No. 201: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Bedtime Story, page 9

This was done by Sunday, but with classes ending today, I haven't had time to post.
The next page of the story is done, concluding the tale, and the final page will post on Sunday, December 21.
Here we go:

This layout is exactly what I wanted. In terms of the figures, I fudged a bit to get them laying down next to each other and still looking at the child. Also, the placement of the "dying names" word balloons was crucial.
Debated whether Phoebe and Nicholas' speeches were over the top, but when you're dying and have something to say, you just say it.
Sunday: the conclusion of this story.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 200: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Fairy Tale, p. 8

Done on time, posting a day late. Still working too much! Getting the story done anyway.

Very simple, fast page. The intent is that the closed broken set of panels framed by the splash slow the time of the egg falling.
Phoebe's face can be seen either as a death mask expression or her staring in horror at the fallen egg. While the original intent was the former, I elected to leave it ambiguous, rather than adding a  few lines to clarify. 
One, possibly two pages left to this story. If my other plans are to be fruitful, this must be done this week.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Original Art Sundays no. 199: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Fairytale, p. 7

As promised, here's the next page of the story!

Blogger continues to give me problems uploading, but I've found a work-around, so not an immediate issue. As to the page itself, an inevitable plot development. I've told a couple friends the whole story, and when I get to this part, they're really shocked. It made me sad to do the page, but not so much, as I knew there was no choice for the story to resolve as planned. Still one little plot point I'm ironing out for the final pages.
Craft notes: a simple page once again. That seems to be my favorite way of working, simple and fast. I do like detail pages, but they seldom turn out as I hoped. This one is Copic markers and Proart heavy, thick India ink for the spotted blacks.
Next week (next month, same thing): page 8.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) No. 198: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Fairytale, p.6

For some reason, I've had incredible issues with posting. See below for screed!
But here's the next page. The following page will post tomorrow, Sunday, November 30.

Sigh. Okay, numerous issues delayed this, mostly time and my own stubbornness. I really wanted to post the rest of the story all at once, but that proved impractical. The story is so close to done I can taste it. And I want to finish up a big batch of Cowgirls stuff in the next two weeks- no mean feat as I work 30 - 50 hours a week, not counting teaching and end of the semester testing and grading! Whew!
But it's time for this project to come together, at least in a Beta version.
Now thoughts on this page.
I like the top tier a lot. Simple and to the point. I really fought with the war panel. I'm very unhappy with it as it is. It has incredible energy but no focus. I'd like to rework it, but I'm still intimidated by the prospect of showing a whole war in one panel! I'm drawing inspiration from EC war comics and a recent reading of the Harlem Hellfighters graphic novel, which impressed me a great deal.
Still, the work and the joy of the Cowgirls continues. So close... so close...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 197: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Fairytale, p. 5

Well, posting on schedule!
Before I break my arm patting myself on the back, let's get right to the page.
 This is the page that sat fully done on the side of the board for weeks, while I completed the story posted last week (to be published in the Russian language!). I'm happy to be back at this story, which means a lot to me. It started out as something trivial, a bit of fun using a childhood creation (the flaming people), but it's become something more. Not sure if it's two or three more pages.
On this page, I wanted to convey a contrast between the peace Phoebe and Nicholas are enjoying and the impending chaos caused by their spontaneous absence. The background in Panel One is freely swiped from the Joni Mitchell For the Roses album cover. I'm still using the same technique for the borders- a fine ruled line with a freehand line over it for texture. It's not appropriate for every story, but I like it for this one!
I'm considering getting a set of word balloons from our friends at ComicCraft. As discussed last week, I like the idea of variety in them. While my hand rendered balloons, such as those on this page, are adequate, there are times when a more, shall we say, honed style is right for the page.
That's the key: what's right for the page. Sometimes digital lettering and precise balloons are out of place in a freely rendered page, as some of mine are.
Next: page 6 of the fairy tale.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Original Art Sundays (Thursday) Nos. 191 - 196: Get A Job!

Been more than a month since I posted! I got a call to contribute a comic story to an anthology for the Side By Side Film Festival in Russia. Given the current political climate there, the idea of being part of a Russian GLBT film festival in any way was too much of an honor to pass up.
I did notice a while ago in the stats that this blog does have some readers in Russia. I hope my work gives them some pleasure.
Now, a few weeks after deadline (but apparently still acceptable to them, since they asked for it again today and they now have it, barring catastrophe), I can share it with you. I'm counting it as 6  posts, since it's 6 pages that took me 5 weeks to do.
I also have the next page of the Surrealist Cowgirls story done.
Here's a piece of my coming out story, titled Get A Job! This work will be included in The Sharp Invitation. The current total for that book is approximately 20 pages, with several more shorts in the planning stage. The book will be a series of titled chapters/shorts, telling the whole story, or as much of it as I think people want to hear. As I was discussing with another teacher at MCAD today, there's a fine line in memoir. You have to tell people enough that they give a rip about what they're reading, but it's a balancing act as to how much of yourself you put out there. The three biggest chapters currently planned are titled Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll. I sigh with apprehension just writing the chapter titles here!
Now, the new chapter.

Some thoughts on process: I worked these up in the sketchbook, then did finishes on Bristol, scanned and lettered digitally. I deliberately avoided some of my usual clean-up. I like the slightly loose, more informal look on these pages. Some of the visual devices, like the text dropped out of brush stroke silhouette on the last page, may see use again.
The image at the top of page 5 is my illustration of Katchoo from Strangers in Paradise. I lifted it from a 90s sketchbook and dropped it in; it seemed perfect for the piece.
I'm using the Shape tool in Photoshop for word balloons, but I don't like the limited options, so I'm going to pick up a word balloon set from our friends at ComicCraft!
This was also an emotionally wrenching piece. I don't like to remind myself how close I came to doing porn. I know people who do it and are fine with it, and I bear them no disrespect, but it's not me.
Next: the new page of Maggie's Fairy Tale, a Surrealist Cowgirls adventure!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Original Art Sundays: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Bedtime Story, p. 4

Well, I don't know how I did it, with another 45 hour work week and prep for teaching next week, but here's the next page!
Mostly very happy with this one. I want to do some photos and some serious mechanical drawing next time I do a restaurant scene. This is okay, but I'd like to do one that's stunning. Possibly in more of a "real people" story....
This was done in Copic ink markers. I did invest in some new brushes, but I want to make time to practice with them before using them on a page. And while markers do lend themselves to speed, these feel like ink and have very little fade to them.
The page:

Again, scanned in tiers in the interests of time. Rescan is mandated before going to press.
When working on the last panel, I kept thinking about the Mary Jane and Sniffles stories from the 1940s, with Walt Kelly-ish art from Al Hubbard. These stories, upon which I occasionally stumbled in my comic reading youth, have long enchanted me and are long overdue for a collection! Here's a sample page:
So elegant, so imaginative!
Next: page 5. Despite my original script, this is shaping up to be a 6 or 7 page story. I'm very eager to see this one completed. I think it's a really strong story, something I seldom say about my own work.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 189: The Pirate Alphabet, supplement

Next Cowgirls page is nearly done. Since I just put in over 100 hours in two weeks, I hope you'll understand a slight delay! The page is more detailed than some of late, and I want to take the time to do this one to my full satisfaction.
Meanwhile, as I was putting some originals in order, I found another page from the aborted Pirate Alphabet project I started in 1999. This one was on the subject of women as pirates!

This was done on 300# deckle edge watercolor paper. The media were watercolors (a bit), colored inks and dyes (mostly) and crowquill and ink (a touch for outlining). I had a great time researching these ladies! Stylistically, the main figures work very well and Penny and her friend (lower right corner) are rendered in a style consistent with their appearance in the rest of the book, but there's a bit of a detach between the two styles. 
Of all the projects I've left unfinished, I think this is one I'd like to complete most. It should go back on the list....
Next, back to the Cowgirls bedtime story!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: Gentle Giant: The Power and the Glory 5.1 Remix

Considering the vast role music has played in my life, I've usually had sound systems that range from adequate to slipshod. Part of this is my being a technophobe. Part of it is me being miserly about big ticket investments (to this day, I put off buying shoes as long as I can due to the cost of decent ones!). Another factor is that I can't always tell the difference between the moderately priced systems and the high-end stuff.
Currently I'm primarily using a Crosley combined turntable and CD player. I like the look of it and the sound serves. I can burn CDs from LPs. It doesn't kick out the jams the way some of my past systems have, but living in a modest space in a garden apartment, having a compact unit with decent sound is okay.
So in light of that, what business do I have reviewing a 5.1 mix of any album, let alone one as iconic as Gentle Giant's The Power and the Glory?
Well, it speaks to the quality of the work that even on this modest system, the difference is noticeable and remarkable. The instruments are distinct, yet the work retains its cohesion. This doesn't come across as five masters playing their instruments as much as five masters playing TOGETHER. There are some subtle changes, extended intros and exits on certain numbers, and the added instrumental track of Aspirations (a perennial favorite) just shines. This album, which I've heard countless times and revered for over 30+ years, has taken on new life for me. The intertwining vocal lines on No God's A Man are clear and precise like never before, but none of the magic of Giant hocketing is lost.
This album has been held in high regard as much for its lyrics as its complex music. When I saw the booklet containing NO lyrics, I was quite let down. But then I popped the DVD into my player. And there they were, embedded in some (mostly) clever and effective animation of every song on the album!

Ironically, the animation I find most disappointing is the one for the aforementioned Aspirations. By associating the song with a fairly generic family, it loses some of its impact for me. The other pieces are all either animated text and symbols or silhouettes, and the universal aspect of that makes them compelling.
In contrast, my favorite animated bit is associated with the album's original closer, Valedictory. Using simple lines and shapes in appropriate position for each of the instruments, it feels like a performance by an invisible band. Very compelling!
Credit where it's due: the animation was done by Gentle Giant founding member Ray Shulman, who's made a respectable career in sound and DVD production.
A word must be said as regards packaging. The original LP had die-cut top corners, reinforcing the image of the playing card. Sadly, not the case here. Despite a lavish gatefold box for the CD/DVD set (slightly different image on the Blu-Ray DVD than on my plain old one, according to some fellow GG aficionados) and a booklet containing a comprehensive and engaging interview/essay, the the cover was not properly, ahem, rounded. In fairness, that might have caused a great many production issues. There's only been one CD release that actually had the rounded corners, the one on Derek Shulman's own DRT Records a few years back (though the Japanese mini-LP set also, ahem, followed suit). The album does come with a charming promotional postcard, which I'll scan and add to this post when I get home from work I'm happy to post here.

Like many GG fans, I eagerly await the next Steve Wilson 5.1 mix of a Gentle Giant album. I'd love to see him do justice to the group's final album, Civilian, an album I've always held was a neglected masterpiece.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Original Art Sundays No. 188: Surrealist Cowgirls: Maggie's Bedtime Story, p.3

Again, page done on time, but extra work at the day gig created delays in posting. Still, the story goes well. Here's the next page.
Light on text this time, trying to let the story speak for itself a bit more. Clearly a love story, but I hope the turns of events offer some surprises!
Very light Photoshop on this one- just levels and cleaning up some errant marks. I invested in some new brushes this week, and am eager to break them in. This page is entirely brush tip markers, but I'll use some inks on Page 4.
Reviewed past pages in the process of scanning this. I'm much happier with the Cowgirls stuff as a whole than I am with the pages individually, if that makes any sense.
Next week: page 4!