Category Archives: Fun

Ka-Sheeeeeeen~!

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Switched my browser to Google Chrome because apparently my computer has contracted some sort of deadly Firefox Leprosy. I like it so far – The theme decor momentarily relieves the obscene banality of human life.

Finished all the layouts and designs for the “Tomb of Achilles” story for St. James Comics. Going to be gettin’ to those pencils, now. Might be getting a new round of comics and illustration work, too, but I don’t want to jinx it (These things have a tendency to fall through) so I’ll spare the details.

Had a crazy nightmare last night–almost more of a vision or a bad acid trip–and have been on kind of an adrenaline high all day, due to my relief that I was not tortured to death by monsters. There wasn’t even a plot, it was just those shapes we all see behind our eyelids continually morphing into a series of grotesque “ohmigod are those eyes on its teeth!?”-type creatures. Maybe I’ll get a painting or two out of it.

Going to a gallery opening tonight, too – Hopefully will make some connections.

ROW ROW Fight the POWAH

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I survived Halloween, which was a lot of fun. I really could not have wished for it to go better. Waiting to get pictures, though.

Today is my birthday, but first, a little inking, and then off to see some friends and a comedy show. There will be a finished batch of inks this week, too, and possibly a new painting. I am pumped.

The Two-Hour Witching Hour

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For some reason I’m really excited for Halloween this year. Perhaps it’s because Madison’s famously over-the-top celebration, which I’m most familiar with, was starting to crumble under the weight of concerns such as “safety” and “preventing property damage” (Truly, once tear gas is taken out of the equation, a street party loses its magic), or perhaps its because I had to skip it last year because I was moving and missed the one little public party in Helena, MT, and perhaps its because my birthday comes up two days afterward and this is kind of serving as a party for both. But whatever the reason, I am jazzed. This year is gonna be fun.

So I’m going to work hard the rest of this week to finish the inks and especially that promo image so I can enjoy spending time with my friends without suffering the guilt of the procrastinator.

But to return to the idea of somewhat seedy fun, I have to say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is quickly becoming one of the best things on TV. I have watched this episode three times and could probably watch it three more:

(In case it doesn’t play on this site: http://www.hulu.com/watch/101903/its-always-sunny-in-philadelphia-the-gang-gives-frank-an-intervention#s-p1-so-i0 )
It got me thinking, though, about comedy and personality types: When I had hurt myself the other day and was lying around with an icepack in an embarrassing place, I decided to watch some TV comedies on Hulu that are not, shall we say, targeted to my demographic, for the purposes of both research and so I had something to grumble about besides how much pain I was in.

Now, this is just some inchoate theorizing, some off-the-cuff reasoning that’s definitely not ready for peer review, but it’s been turning over in my mind and I thought I’d expose it to the light of day and see if it rots or cowers back into the shadows. When I was doing sketch comedy, the other group members and I had a theory that people who decide to write comedy fall into essentially two types, which we termed “Theater Kids” and “Assholes.” Both those designations are a little mean, but I think they paint a richer picture of the kind of people I’m talking about. These two kinds of people have, of course, very different senses of humor and approaches to writing and performing it. I would use examples from stand-up, but I think this dichotomy is much clearer in “narrative” comedy like sketch or film.

When I was in Madison, our sketch group looked down its nose at another group composed of Theater Kids (though no doubt they decried us as terrible human beings) and we found their “constructive” approach to humor to be anathema to anything we considered funny or interesting, which lead me to think that this fundamental division in comedy writing, and perhaps ultimately in art in general, comes down to the idea of “positive and negative space” — When these Theater Kids wanted to make a point, they would have a character who explicitly represents that point make various “common sense” assertions, and try to derive humor from those being shot down by the old Screwed Up World – I would term this “positive space.” On the other hand we (And I use this term loosely because it was mostly me pushing for this, resulting in many arguments during writing meetings) would try to write a character that embodied whatever foolishness we wanted to mock, and would make them out to be someone contemptible and not to be emulated – What I would term “negative space.” I prefer this almost exclusively – Things going well, and people behaving well, are not, to my mind, funny. And often times not even interesting (This is why I have trouble enjoying film dramas – They’re rarely long or dense enough for me to become invested in the plight of the characters, while a good farce simply invites you to laugh at them, and by extension the world that causes them to behave that way).

The other notion that laid eggs in my brain was the idea of “backing down.” This is ultimately related to the “show, don’t tell” adage that every creative writing professor likely has tattooed somewhere on his or her body, with good reason: Action is what brings fiction to life – Talk on its own is an essay. This notion of “backing down” brings me again to the other shows I mentioned earlier, and why I like “Always Sunny.” One of the shows I looked at was “Glee,” a perfect example of, in this case literal, Theater Kid sensibility. The story was explicit in its moral intentions, using those “positive space” brushstrokes to convey a tale about a nice kid worrying he’ll be rejected by his peers, and then pulling through in the end. But what struck me even more was the way the comedy would often “back down” from an unpleasant idea, raising only the specter of it for laughs (“The teacher thinks we should cane students!”), as opposed to actually having the threatened event occur. I suppose this can be attributed to the “hardness” of a given story’s comedic universe, but there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about posing a “threat” to the audience or characters as a comedic end in itself, as opposed to actually having the thing in question happen. It’s already fictional, so this is like making it fiction twice over… On the other hand, a show like “Always Sunny” will delve into a comedic action immediately, with the words and explanation always playing catch-up. Obviously, since these examples are TV shows, budget, network standards, and the like are important factors, but it’s still possible to have something occur off-screen or otherwise be implied to have actually happened as opposed to merely rolling them out as concepts. Next time you’re watching a show or reading a book, take note of the times something occurs as an attempt at humor versus how many times it’s merely threatened in order to get a laugh. Ultimately, what I mean by “backing down” in comedy writing is best expressed by some cliched jokes: Think of characters making a dead baby joke versus actually having a baby die, or someone saying “I banged your mom” versus actually having the character do it. I guess it comes down to the old postmodern saw about the contents of a story being a commentary on the story itself. Or something…

I’d go on, or at least re-re-rewrite until it’s clearer, but it’s only a foggy notion in my head as-is, and I don’t want to spend all my time writing and none of it drawing, so I’ll leave this off here. I don’t have any answers right now, but hopefully some lines of thought will take this post as a starting point.

Duct Tape and Ducts, lots of Ducts.

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I just finished my Halloween costume while watching the very seasonally-appropriate “Brazil,” which is still as amazing and disturbing as I remember it. Liberal Democracy always bills itself as rule by laws instead of men, but it’s nice to have a little piece of art like that to remind you that that can go too far and fall into tyranny as well – Gotta keep an element of humanism in there.

Now on to some more inking. Going to finish that promo image before this weekend, too – There’s a con it needs to be at, bein’ all promotional and such.

The lesson of Elvis

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If anyone ever tells you that you can’t painfully injure yourself while pooping, they’re mistaken. Sorely mistaken. (Wordplay!)

I brought up Elvis, however, to also serve as a segue into another, very different blast from the past:
I was organizing my art files earlier, and found this old, old, old drawing I did in perhaps 5th grade, showing my drawing fixation from around the ages of 9 to 12, which was centered around massive cartoon battles between Gary Larson-style lemmings and incompetent little robots with laser guns for hands:
lem

This was essentially all I drew between 3rd and 6th grades. I had an art teacher who loved the idea, though, calling me, in my report card, the “Heironymus Bosch of the 5th grade” and encouraged me do a massive poster in this style for the centerpiece of the Parents’ Night exhibit, which was a really great idea if you wanted my friends’ parents to forbid me to come over. Every once in a while, I look back fondly on these characters and think about using them again. There’s something refreshingly basic and silly and honest about them, a certain something that makes me think that Modern Me is occasionally trying too hard.

Then, a few months ago, I saw “Superjail!,” and it all came flooding back – This is exactly what my little friends and I used to sit around and draw on massive sheets of paper. We rarely achieved the levels of blood and gore that Superjail! casually enjoys, but the simple, zoomed-out “schematic” look full of incidental detail and improvisation hits all the same notes, and for me it was like hearing a once-favorite song I hadn’t thought about in years. As an example, here’s a compilation of the opening sequences, demonstrating that sensibility:

There is a certain type of kid who should see “Superjail!” Not that you should show it to them – you as a responsible adult would get in trouble – but they should find a way to watch it some late night after their parents have gone to bed and they’ve build a couch fort in the living room. There’s something childlike yet illicit about it: It’s the TV equivalent of the older boys asking you if you want to go see a dead body. It’s the kind of thing being talked about in this essay, or in this book.
Maybe that’s all self-justification for my liking something that’s ultimately frivolous, just because, somewhat worryingly, it makes me feel all nostalgic and gooey. But there’s something to be said for reconnecting with that little kid who was just drawing lemmings and robots without any thought of whether it was good or not – Just drawing for the sake of drawing – for “fun”, that unassailable fortress of sincerity – the very act lending it an authenticity that disintegrates into ash as soon as it becomes something calculated.

…The irony, of course, being that this entire post boils down to “don’t overthink things.” I’m going to take my own advice and get back to work, and draw with my gut instead of my head.

And I think my gut has recovered.

Dooooo you have the time / To read about my mind

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Dookie was the first album anyone my age ever bought.

Anyway, this is a fascinating read: NewScientist on how the brain “does” time.

Got some stuff for my Halloween costume yesterday at a thrift place close to the grocery store: 1 flannel shirt, 1 orange hunter vest, 1 tennis racket, 1 NES light gun, 1 Chicago Bulls cap. Total: $12(!). Now I need another 2 liter bottle, tin foil, black spray paint, some cardboard, duct tape, and a bunch of little American flags…

Gotta say it was a good day.

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Comedy went well last night – Nothing special, but the new material seemed to go over well enough. I should get a video or something up at some point; there was a guy there with a camera, and I’ll have to make friends with him somehow…

Today was mostly boring stuff – Inked a bit, went grocery shopping, cleaned my bathroom. Now I’m gonna watch 30 Rock and have some dinner and then get back to work.

In the mean time, have a charming little music video:

Strikeout and About

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Went to a little event yesterday called “Drink & Draw” to try to meet some other artists here in Chicago – A lot of jobs I was expecting that would have helped me do that have fallen through, so it was really nice to get out and actually talk to some people while drawing for a change. For some reason, the best drawing I did that night was with my right(bad) hand, so I guess I learned I that sometimes need to be a little more cautious when drawing in the future, instead of throwing down a whole bunch of wild lines and divining some pattern in them that I like – The proverbial elephant in the block of marble. Well, either way works, I suppose, as long as it results in a striking image.

Started the pencils for the “Ex Occultus” chapter via St. James Comics, and tonight I am going to ink in all the panels and balloons in preparation for doing the pencils. So help me, I still prefer the analog method since there’s a roughness to it that can be cultivated to give the drawings a lot more emotion and verve, I think.

A painting of mine was returned to me yesterday from storage with a big scratch mark down the side. It’s on panel, so I can touch it up, but I’m trying not to think about all the time I spent mixing and applying those colors and then blending them into the painting. I’ll have to get on that, though, one of these days if I ever want to see it on display again.

The [noun] that stays together, [progressive verb] together.

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…That may not be technically correct, either grammatically or as a statement about reality, but it was the first title I thought of when I wanted to do a post about how I had some family in town this past week, which was a grand old time. We did the whole Chicago tour – Especially the art galleries, which were simultaneously inspiring and infuriating – And I now also have a new cellphone desktop photo of my feet suspended over skyscrapers, as seen from the new transparent Sears Tower ledge.

Did some work while being visited, too, but nothing heavy. Now I’m doing some promotional images for the “Ex Occultus” series I’m working on with St. James comics, before diving into the next installment:

gun

Going to polish that off today and then hit the next one, a more traditional montage of all the characters in exciting poses.

There is also a small canvas sitting on my easel with a sketch on it of an uncanny conflagration of the color yellow that I saw at Walgreens the other day… I’d like to paint that as a warmup for that “Astrolabe” deal in the post below…

OoooooooOOOH MAHO

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The last couple of days I have had difficulty reigning myself in, so I am going to spend the day at a coffee shop away from distractions to really get my current workload finished.

It hasn’t been all spazzing out, though – It seems when I just kind of let my subconscious do the drawing, I get a big mass of geometric shapes surrounding and interacting with “real” objects, so I decided I’m just going to roll with that and did this ballpoint pen sketch that will eventually become a large oil painting, as soon as I can figure out what color palate I want:
astrolabe