Sunday, November 29, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 19: The World in Love, pp. 18 and 19

Our heroine is coming into her own, though she doesn't know it yet.


The lizard is, of course, an homage to my man Vaughn Bode', referenced here several times in the past.
In yesterday's post I mentioned my Mother's paintings. One of those, done the day before my 13th birthday, featured the Northern Lights and was an unconscious influence on this story. I was reminded of it during yesterday's shoot.
This painting, along with 29 others, will appear in this year's book of Mother's art.

Friday, November 27, 2009

One for Mother

Today is my late Mother's birthday.
It's also Jimi Hendrix's birthday.
As such, I'd like to offer a sentimental Hendrix number, accompanied by photography. Mother loved nature photographs, and took some good ones, though these are not hers.

She also loved a good laugh. She weaned us on Burns and Allen records.

Every year, I put together a book of her paintings for my brothers and sisters. The shoot is tomorrow. Between that and her birthday, she is very much in my thoughts and heart today.
Without her influence, I might never have become an artist. Like many of us, I owe my Mother more than I can express. I try to give it back by reflecting the best of her in my words and deeds.
Lighter post again on Sunday!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bless the Day!

Just a quick note to wish all the best at the beginning of the holiday season. It's been arough year for a great many of us, and beyond gratitude that we survived it, we can be grateful for the promise of better days ahead, and for those who comfort and support us when the going gets tough.
Here's one of my favorite prayer type songs. Sadly, it's not a live version, but the song remains as potent!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 19: The World in Love, p. 17

The aftermath of a big moment. Sort of a reveal but not really. I had a devil of a time explaining the panel layout to Diana Nock, seated across from me, as I was roughing the pencils. "No, the figure will not be broken by the panels. It's just- you'll see."
I really like this. It's a much older device, I'm sure, but I first became overtly aware of using the empty panel as a pacing device through Terry Moore's work on Strangers in Paradise, linked to in earlier posts.

Again, sparse backgrounds, which can be forgiven if the blacks give enough weight and color to  hold the page. In fairness, this page could use more weight, visually. Resisting the temptation to tweak the work! Did a crop and ran levels in Photoshop. That's it.
Next week: two or three pages, including an homage of the most fun order.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Singing for our lives

Last night, the choir I belong to, Trans Voices, sang as part of the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Spirit of the Lakes Church in Minneapolis. Though this event has occurred annually for a decade and takes place in major cities around the world, this was my first time attending, due to prior work conflicts.
The point of the event is to remember the trans folk who have been murdered in the previous year.
The 2008 ceremony celebrated approxiamtely 36 lives.
This year's ceremony, with a couple last minute additions offered by people in attendance, commemorated 170.
One hundred and seventy.
The way the ceremony worked: our moderator, Barbara Satin, made opening remarks. A poem was read. The Chorus sang two songs, and did quite well, I thought, much more confident than we were in rehearsal. The songs were This Is Me and Here's Where I Stand.
Then we took turns reading the names and ages of the victims, if known (many were not), date and method of death. After we read our names, we lit a candle for each of them, as the next person read the names.
Due to a momentary dearth of people to step forward for reading (out of a crowd of well over 100), I read twice. I was stopped cold when I got to the this poor girl:
Carol de Souza
Died Sept, 13, 2009
location of death: Caratinga, Brazil (by a brook)
Cause of death: stabbed
Seventeen. She was only seventeen. Barely knowing life, yet already knowing who she is, and dying for it.
But what choice is there?
During the open mic portion of the program that followed, I said that we must have great power, we must really scare them, if they're willing to do all this (shootings, stabbings, beatings, mutilations, dismemberment, decapitations and more atrocities) to us.
I am reminded of this scene from V for Vendetta. The comic is better than the film, but the film is still worthwhile.

Following the reading of the names and the open mic forum, our choir closed the event with a rendition of the full version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Everyone in attendance joined in for the final verse.
I am hardly an American Idol fan, but this is the only version of the song I could find that includes the intro we performed.

There was a photographer from Lavender magazine in attendance. I will post photos when they become available.
All in all, a powerful, empowering, rage-inducing night that somehow reinforced my belief in our own strength.
This image from one of last year's events says it all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Great Lost Gentle Giant Instrumental?

Well, not really. But a fun and very imaginative piece of music, and a prototype video from the 1950s.

While the musical structures presage Zappa more than GG, the variety of instrumentation brings Gentle Giant to mind.
The actual source is, of course, the Dr. Seuss musical The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T!
I am reposting this for the benefit of my GG friends in other nations who cannot access the clip on YouTube.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who gets to call it Art?

Freely stolen from the Sleeveface blog!

Original Art Sundays, No. 18: The World in Love, p. 16

Just posting one page this week. Narrative flow and all that.

This is the climactic moment in the confrontation with the predator.
When I show people this page in person, I get one of two reactions.
Reaction one: OOOOOOOOOO-kay then......... ( as they slowly move away....)
Reaction two: That's pretty cool.
Which pretty much sums up my response to the story at this point. I'm not sure what it's about, but I know where it's going. Much like the Nesmith line, "though my path is planned, it's not rehearsed."
Tech specs: original done on semi-gloss backing board, coated 3-ply Bristol cut to the size of a modern comic page, in grayscale brush tip marker, using an ink rather than the icky stinky stuff that markers are often loaded with.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Eat!

Oh my Deity.
This is the image many people have of comic book fans. In fairness, some of us live up (or down) to it.
As such, food is a big deal to us.
Given that comics serve quite well as an instructional medium, despite many of their advocates' preferences for narrative, it seems only reasonable that comics should delve into the realm of cookbooks.
The first recipe I was aware of in a comic was in an underground, Hungry Chuck Biscuits #1.
This contained a recipe for a hamburger weighing close to a pound. It says something about how much things have changed in the last 40 years that we no longer see such a burger as unusual or excessive!
The next comic book recipe that jumped to my attention was on the letters/editorial page of American Flagg! #1.

I still have this book, but don't read it often, as my perspective on its cynicism and misogyny, too seldom redeemed by its Martian porn-star "hero", has changed. But I did like its Greek muse, the genetically altered talking cat, its energy, the elements of Alfred Bester's writing that it evoked, and the aforementioned recipe for Spaghetti Alpha Carbonara!
Shortly threafter, haunting Paul's Books in Madison, WI, I ran into a cookbook by Dana Crumb, illustrated by her then-husband, Robert.

A sample recipe and illustration:

It turns out that there have been cookbooks featuring comic book and comic strip characters for decades. A Peanuts cookbook or a Blondie cookbook is a viable marketing tool, a way to reinforce the status quo (a former party girl like Blondie is content to stay home and cook), and a way to get kids into cooking, if you buy into the then-prevalent notion that only kids care about or even read comics.
It's also fun.
Even DC and Marvel got into the act.

There's a recently released Manga cookbook, that supposedly shows kids Japanese cooking techniques.


This begins to address what I see as the problem with cookbooks, instructional manuals and technical journals in comic form. They're too didactic. Despite reading being a solitary activity, comics lend themselves to an intimacy, a familiarity with the reader. This last entry incorporates elements of that, at least in my perspective.
Comics should not talk to their readers, they should talk with us.
That's why this is the single best comic book cookbook I've ever seen.

Sorry I don't have a better cover image. I'll update when I dig out my copy. It's with my cookbooks, not my comics!
Northwest Cartoon Cookery was published in the mid-90s by Starhead Comics, a fascinating company that also did a comic book version of WWII promotional film by the US Army, Hemp For Victory. Starhead jumped head first into the 90s fray of zine publishing, and offered some wildly adventurous books along the way, many of them more enduring than much of the zine fare.
This specific book used the old saw of having cartoonists illustrate their favorite recipes. However, on the page facing each recipe, the cartoonist who contributed the recipe offered a one-page meditation on the recipe or its place in their life, or some related matter.
I made Roberta Gregory's Albondigas Soup many times. I loved that she used ground turkey instead of hamburger to avoid the layer of orange grease that so often shows up on this soup in restaurants!
And Joe Matt's recipe for Hot Dog Soup was accompanied by a hilariously depressing treatise on how he couldn't afford insurance on a cartoonist's pay, and so would probably die of gangrene, but anyway, enjoy the soup.
Comics are best when read in solitude, but at their best they give a sense of immersion in a story or a life other than the reader's. Cooking is the most fun in a busy home kitchen full of people, so long as everybody has the sense to stay out of the chef's way.
Solitude and community meet in the comic book cookbook?
Nothing so grandiose, but I can't help wondering why, when I go to my drawing board to work on a comic, I say to myself, "Okay, let's cook."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Diana joins Trosper and Ignatz

Trosper and Ignatz have met Gentle Giant. So have I.
I was in New York and CT last weekend for the annual GORGG- the Global On-Reflection Giant Gathering.
This was the 11th one. I've been to 8, I attended the events in New York; Toronto, CA; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Portland, Oregon; Evora, Portugal; Qeubec City, Quebec, Canada; and Denver, CO. I missed the ones in Wales, London and Germany for financial reasons.
I almost missed this one for the same reason. I've had fiscal difficulties of late, and have been getting some financial help from a family member. Although I bought my plane ticket months before these problems happened, I wrestled with the ethics of going at all under those conditions. do I spend money under these conditions or waste the non-refundable plane ticket?
I had a room share, which cut my hotel bill in half, and they gave us a great group rate to begin with. and I know how to eat on the cheap, even in New York.
I decided it was more wasteful to not go than to go, so I set about finding the funds I needed.
So I got busy and sold a bunch of stuff. I figured that if I raised the money for the trip by selling my belongings, especially ones I should let go of anyway, it served multiple purposes. I freed myself of stuff I no longer needed, I was able to take the trip with a clear conscience and not waste the paid-for-ages-ago plane ticket, and I rejuvenated my spirit by spending time with people who hold a special bond with me.
The music of Gentle Giant speaks to us all, almost three decades after the band ceased to exist.
This year, in addition to the special guests we've come to prize so- GG guitarist Gary Green, keyboard player and composer Kerry Minnear, and drummer Malcolm Mortimore- we got an unexpected treat. Frontman, lead singer and band founder Derek Shulman stopped by for a couple hours.
Here I am with Derek.

The camera was uncharacteristically kind to me, and Derek was quite gracious. We managed to avoid mobbing him TOO badly!
Later that night, there was a jam session with all the great players jumping in (Derek had departed by that point).
Here's some stunning footage from that night: Jamie Krutz on violin and my dear friend Paul van de Hart on guitar, playing the GG barnstormer Mobile from the classic album Free Hand!

But the shining moment was earlier in the day, as Wendy Boulding (thanks to our hardworking host Jon Roberts for helping me with Wendy's last name!) rehearsed Memories of Old Days with my roommate Glen Bourgeois sitting in on bass, and Gary Green and Alan Benjamin on guitars! My only contribution is at the end where I tell Wendy, "Nice pipes!"

Although I did go on stage with the boys in Denver two years ago, I didn't even try this year, much as I always want to. Too many really talented players. I decided to enjoy it for what it was.
Apres' jam, I joined in a very loose guitar bash that ran till almost 5 AM.
I kept coming back to the same thought I have when I talk with comics folk or when I'm with family. These are my people.
So many things come to mind when I think about this experience. Do I really have to travel halfway across the country to share this music? To share it with these people, yes.
As Leonard Cohen says,
"I came so far for beauty,
left so much behind"
Except that what I left behind here was a sense of being beat down by life. To say things have been tough this year is like calling the Chicago fire a weenie roast. I needed this.
This renews me in a way nothing else does.
I am going to do everything in my power to improve my fiscal lot so I can attend next year's gathering in Scotland with the ribald (in every sense) John Burns and his lovely wife as hosts. It's possible that John Weathers, a dear kind man and the drummer for most of GG's work, will be able to join us again. His health is poor, but Wales is not so far as all that from Scotland.
Here I am with my partner in punning crime, John Burns:

There's an old saying that you can't have too many friends. For me that's becoming "you can't have too many families". This is one that's rare and valued.
Its great to have a family of over 100 people who all know the words to the songs!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Original Art Sundays, No. 17: The World in Love, pp. 10-15

Posting a bigger chunk again this week. Next week will be a single page.
The posting of different amounts weekly is fascinating to me. It reinforces Scott McCloud's argument in Reinventing Comics that creators using the Net have more control over pacing the narrative. Even in the context of daily or weekly strips, the pacing of the individual strip is set by the creator(s), but the frequency is set by the publisher. And if you're presenting a completed work, once it leaves your hands all you can do is hope the reader paces the work as intended. This gives a different measure of control.
The work at hand.




Things I particularly like on these pages: the open framing of p. 10 and the wolf defined by shadow, which reminds me of Argent in Matt Wagner's Grendel.  I flatter myself in this respect, as Wagner's design sense has been a standard to which I aspire since I first encountered it.
The knife scene on p. 13 brings to mind a scene from near the end of the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple. This is one of may favorite films, but I was not consciously aware of the influence during the execution of the page. I wanted a quick action depicted in large rapid fire panels, going for a low-motion or freeze frame effect. I may have also had the shot of the Cornithian stabbing Morpheus in the hand, from the Gaiman Sandman story A Doll's House, tickling the back of my mind, but again, not a conscious influence.
The radar silhouette effect on panel 2 of p. 15- I love this. It says so much about this character, whoever he is (did anyone notice that not one character in this story has a name? Now THAT was deliberate!) that he doesn't see who the girls are, only seeing them as things in his way. That, and there's a serene, contemplative quality to the act of hand redering repeated patterns with slight variations.
Next week: page 16.