Saturday, July 31, 2010

Random News and Notes

- 'The Ballad of Toby & Sara: Track 5' will make its full debut on my main website by the end of August. Like I said in the previous post, the pages are done, I'm just adding a grey tone to the artwork. As for an actual printed book, this may have to wait due to a certain lack of funds to do an adequate print run. I am, however, contemplating a Kickstarter drive. I'll keep you posted if this develops into anything.

- I'll be attending two more conventions this year. The first one comes up next Sunday, August 8, at PACC (the Philadelphia Alternative Comic-Con). Then, in September I'll be exhibiting at SPX in Bethesda, Maryland the weekend of September 11-12. If you're in the area for either of these, please stop by.

- I have a comic in the upcoming issue of Secret Prison, a free comic tabloid distributed around Philly. The comic met its Kickstarter goal, and is set to debut at PACC. If you're not in the area and would like a copy, email me and I'll find a way to get you one.

-I've never been to Comic-Con International in San Diego, CA, but I found Tom Spurgeon's overview of the most recent one over at The Comics Reporter insightful and observant, as always.

If you're having trouble understanding Inception, this timeline infographic over at Deviant Art by dehahs might help you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

'Toby & Sara: Meetings and Greetings' dilemma

Back in April at MoCCA, I was offering a small, 15 page preview of the next 'Toby & Sara' chapter 'Meetings and Greetings.' I haven't heard back from many people, but the response was positive if a little bit hesitant. In this comic, however, I had announced that the remaining pages would debut in June 2010.

Well, June 2010 has come and gone, and July 2010 is about to close its door as well. So I'm here to say that the pages are DONE. I could conceivably lay them out and send a new book to the printer, or upload them to my main website. So, why haven't I?

As I was cleaning up and preparing the final pages, I couldn't help but think that, yes, these are good pages, but that an additional element would help immensely, something to really focus the readers attention on the characters, and to add depth to the visual settings of the story. My drawings can tend to become cluttered with a lot of visual information, and as I've learned from working on 'Supernova Lullaby,' the use of color and tone can help guide the reader in how they experience the comic.

Thus, I've decided to incorporate gray tones into these new 'Toby & Sara' pages. Below, I've posted samples of a few pages, both with and without the gray tones. I'd love to hear your comments, if you are so inclined.

Page 3
Page 14

Page 17

A couple things to watch out for in 'Inception'

First off, this isn't a review of Inception, there are already hundreds out there who have critiqued the film in both positive and negative lights. But as I was watching it, I noticed two undercurrents to the film that I thought worth sharing. As you probably know or can tell from my work, I'm a bit of a mythology geek, and so whenever I see or notice something mythic going on, I pay attention a little more.

So, there are two myths, both Greek, whose DNA flows through the story of the movie. One is the myth of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. Christopher Nolan, the director and writer, by no means hides this allusion. Ellen Page's character in the movie is named Ariadne, who provides the hero of the original myth with the means of getting out of the Labyrinth and vanquishing the monster.

The other myth, however, plays out in a much more subtle way in the movie. The parallels aren't as literal as the Labyrinth one, but I couldn't help but see traces of Orpheus and Eurydice in the film. Orpheus, who goes down to the Underworld to retrieve his lost love Eurydice, only to lose her again. Nolan is much better at hiding this parallel, and in the end even subverts it a little bit.

That's all I'll say for now, just a couple hints before you see the movie (or see it again, as may be the case for many of you). I may go into a bit more detailed analysis at a later point, but I don't want to give away too much of the plot at this stage of the film's release. And truth be told, I'm not even sure how I would describe it from beginning to end.

(Oh, and in case you wondering, I really liked the film. An intense ride that caught me from the beginning and didn't let go for 2 1/2 hours. I can't think of any movies in recent memory that have done the same thing.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Movie Illustrations Project (ongoing)

These are two illustrations for a project that I had good intentions to execute. The premise is fairly simple, do 8x11 drawings of characters from various movies, not only to practice my skills but to also have something to sell at conventions. Needless to say, this and that comes up, and before you know it, the project has fallen to the wayside. Wah wah.

So, these are the first two drawings that are the most developed. I'm tempted to add color to them, either with a set of Pitt brush markers that I picked up recently, or with watercolor (though I'm fearful that the water color would warp the paper). Though I'm kind of pleased with the black and white too. Decisions, decisions...

Johnny 5 from Short Circuit

Richie Tenenbaum from The Royal Tenenbaums

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Secret Prison #2! Kickstarter! Help us out!!!

I’ll have a comic in the second issue of Secret Prison, a free comic tabloid based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But right now we’re raising funds to print it, and we’re asking for your help! Check out our Kickstarter page, and come away with some awesome swag. But hurry, there’s only 10 days left!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

A few thoughts on the passing of Harvey Pekar

Earlier today, it was announced that Harvey Pekar, the acclaimed writer of the long running comic American Splendor, died at the age of 70. The news circulated through both major media outlets like the New York Times, and through the internet via Twitter, Facebook, and sites like the Comics Reporter. And for good reason, Pekar's presence on the comics and cultural scene helped shape what comics are today, and how they are regarded by major critics and everyday readers alike.

I never met Pekar, I don't have any enlightening anecdotes to share with you, that's a subject for others to relate. I've read a sizable portion of his work, but I probably should have read more by now. However, I was always touched by the honesty, humor, and reality that I found in his stories. That's a rarity to find even nowadays, which makes Pekar's work even more essential to the community as a whole.

To me, more than anything, Harvey Pekar is sort of a patron saint to any cartoonist who slogs through a day job they don't want be at, only to go home and work on comics that may or may not be read by anybody. It can be lonely work, and the rewards are few and far between, but Pekar's example proves that by continually doing the work and putting that work out there for people to see, you will find admirers, and new stories to tell and new avenues to explore. Maybe that's romanticizing his impact, but that's just what his work meant to me.

For every fast rising star over the comics landscape, there are hundreds more below hunched over drawing tables, writing and scribbling and sketching out ideas during those few hours between the paycheck job. Thank God we had Harvey Pekar to show us how to get it done.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Simon Schama's The Power of Art

I will confess here and now that I'm a bit of a jaded Artist. (Okay, I'm jaded about things in general, but still....). Call it the Curse of Grad School, but I have difficulty in finding warm affection for that thing called Art, even though I've been educated in it through and through and I'm attached to it as a livelihood. The 'Shock of the New' is no longer shocking nor that new, and the museums that house the Old Masters seem more like mausoleums than places of discovery.

So, I have to give credit to Simon Schama's Power of Art for at the very least forcing me to look again at the culture of Art, its history, and how it relates to me as a person in the 21st Century. I checked this out from the library with a bit of skepticism, but a couple episodes in and I was truly hooked, eating up all eight episodes in one weekend.

What was it that caught my eye? What made me a true believer? Was it the production, the artists, Schama's voice itself? That last part may not be far off, because I think what made each episode remarkable was the one thing that I always look for in a work of art: storytelling. Each episode opens and ends with a work of art by an artist, and then branches out to encompass their body of work and their personal history. In this, Schama is an impeccable guide, he knows how to spin a good yarn and to transform these artist biographies into a living, breathing narrative. And by doing this, Schama removes them from the pedestals of High Art and High Society, and shows just how connected they were to the politics, religion, commerce, and upheavals of their respective eras. None of these artists are saints, each of them is flawed, and all of them had to struggle to bring their visions to life.

Of the eight artists profiled, the one that effected me the most was Mark Rothko, surprisingly. Part of this was due to the fact that I didn't know much about Rothko to begin with, and I'm not immediately drawn to abstraction. But in the episode Schama confesses that he himself wasn't an immediate admirer of Rothko, that he too had doubts. This admission opened up the possibility for me that there might be something more with Rothko's work that I'm not seeing, that even doubters can become believers. And sure enough, I discovered that within Rothko's work there is a sense of contemplation, that Rothko is creating a place and space for the viewer to be silent in a world that no longer allows it. Schama states that Rothko treats every viewer as a 'human being, and what other higher compliment could there be than that.' One would hope that all Art would attempt the same.

There are other high points. Caravaggio's episode is excellent, and the Van Gogh episode digs deeper to understand the artist's psyche beyond just the 'tortured genius' argument. Though Schama uses 'genius' anyway, and actually throws it about just a little too much with all of the artists. But no matter, Schama is in love with his subject, and that devotion is clear through each episode. His goal isn't necessarily to educate, but to open your eyes to the possiblities that Art possesses, not only in the past, but one would hope in the future as well.