While I am working on my new book, I am experimenting with a new series that I hope will become a book/digital download/video series of short pieces I’ve been collecting. I made the music, drew the lines, and took the photos for the background collages. These can be found in the newly updated “Video” section of my site. If you’ve ever been curious about Horse Fishing, what I think about while getting a fever, or why superhuman robots envy their meaty inferiors, check them out here.
after doing much hunting and gathering for a character model for the final character of the book, and finishing up a few projects in the meantime, i was introduced to Max. he is pictured here as David from my new book, painting his own constellations in the stars. these new starshapes become the characters on which he and his friend base their collaborative comic on, which is called “Space Girl and Aquatar,” the cover of which is in progress here as well.
now that all of the photos have been taken, the final illustrations are underway. i am excited to be able to put them together and being the book shopping process!
Last night I dreamed that I had been born in New Jersey, and was repairing my 74 Dodge Dart in the street. (or Dodge Dartre, if you party like it’s 1969.)
A Jersey girl and her friend began to climb up the trunk to walk over the roof and hood, which I cursed them roundly for in a terrible, natural accent. “Hey, whaddya doin over there! That’s my car, not a freakin’ sidewalk.” Their gorilla-armed mancompanions lumbered out of the shadows, but backed off when, wrench in hand, I demonstrated the simultaneously manly arts of automotive repair/improvised blunt weapon combat readiness.
One of the guys invited me to join him and his friends, by way of accepting me into their shrewdness, to a tavern for a drinking game. The game had something to do with watching the cartoon “Rugrats,” and taking a shot at certain hilarious hijinks the talking babies would get into. I accepted, and got into my crappy-on-the-outside-but-from-the-future-inside 1952 Studebaker truck to follow them. Under the radio panel was a holographic 2-way timewarp communicator.
Helena Bonham Carter called me from the the year 2042 to warn me off the ape pack’s drinking game, which was a trap to get me drunk and then beaten behind a tavern in Passaic. She reminded me that my mission as a sleeper time-spy was not to cavort with the locals, but to carry out an act of technological sabotage which would save the future from a colossal war that ruined most of the world. My sacrifice of a personal life meant the salvation of millions of lives, so I had to quit screwing around. I apologized to her, not daring to look directly into her glowing cybernetic eye. Then, I drove to my job at a public radio station, where a breaking news story was just coming in that a secret descendant of the Kennedys had been discovered, and assassinated while campaigning for a close race for superintendent of a local school district. America mourned another Camelot courtier. Under the announcer’s affected British accent, soft-jazz trumpets began to lament in a minor key.
the new book i am working on is called “the star painters.”
it’s my new book for kids that i’ve been putting together to start shopping around next year. you can read the summary below, or skip right to some of the sketches i’ve done here.
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the book summary:
david’s best friend liz moves out of town, shortly after a fight about how to play monster and princess. liz wants to fight her own battles, not be saved. a few days later, david gets liz’s address from her parents and encouragement from his mom to write and stay in touch.
david feels a sad cloud following him around, made of his friend’s sudden move after an unresolved argument. liz was into studying astronomy, and he goes to the spot where they often watched constellations, her to explain them, he to paint his own in the sky. david decides to get over being sad by taking his cloud, stuffing it into a dream cannon, and shooting it into the sky where it explodes into fireworks, that fade into stars that look brighter than before. between these new stars, he paints new constellations.
he decides to write a story about the new creatures in the sky, and writes to liz to invite her to try his new game: star painting.
liz writes back to say she can’t play the game like he does, because stars are already miracles of science to her, and she can’t think of anything to add to something that is already perfect. but she encourages him to write his story, and maybe he can add a dog with a jetpack in there to help out the space girl.
he writes a comic book about the space girl, her dog, and a mutated tugboat driving centaur (the aquatar) who helps her fix her time machine after battling robot pirates and getting helped by a ghost wolf. the story is a parallel of their friendship– one character wants to accept the world as it is, the other wants to embellish it with creative new connections and mythology.
a year later, david has finished his book and gives a copy to liz when she and her parents come to visit. they sit in their old play spot under the stars–liz to read his book, and david to paint the two of them in the sky.
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about the art:
for those who are interested in the look of the book, and the process of the illustrations coming to life, i’ve decided to document the paintings in progress. the first step, after the manuscript has been written, and the storyboards laid out, is to take photo reference for the characters. i’ve been incredibly fortunate to have some generous folks volunteer to pose for it, some of whom you may have heard of. pictured below is chelsea cain’s daughter, eliza, who was a fearless model, and a treat to work with. these are some of the original photos i took, a couple of character studies, and a mock-up of the cover of the comic david writes for liz.
from the storyboards, i start laying out the pages in pencil on tracing paper. i ink the basic parts with micron pens and brushes to create character studies and start laying out the background. from these, i’ll do another series of finished ink drawings, at actual size with the background rendered more like the completed paintings. the finished drawings at their camera-ready size, in this case 13″x22″, then get traced in ink using a light box onto arches cold press paper before going nutty with ink, watercolor, goauche, colored pencils and acrylic.
since the comic in the story is a significant part of the book, i’m making the overall feel of the illustrations pretty comic-like. some of the comics i’ve been reading lately are black hole by charles burns, and big sal’s, by mark ledford. i also like portland underground, illustrated by chris kohler. there are others.
i have always had an intense relationships with my dreams.
my earliest memory is a dream, when i was two years old. i dreamed that ants lived under my pillow, and were marching down a secret staircase under my head into a stone cavern, like the Wicked Witch’s soldiers from the Wizard Of Oz. in my dream i woke up panicked, and went to the staircase of the old farmhouse where i lived. i fell down the staircase and rolled to the first floor, feeling my bones snap and break. when i stopped rolling, i was looking up at the mantel in the main room of the house, where an ancient dusty violin hung over the fireplace. later when i woke up for real, i cried and asked my parents why they didn’t come to help me. they tried to tell me i’d just had a bad dream, but i didn’t know the difference from a real experience and a dream yet at two years of age.
in some ways, i guess i still don’t.
over the years, i have had many intense dreams, long ones that are cinematic in scope and length. i usually remember them, and in college we were encouraged to keep a dream journal, which i have done with various degrees of regularity over the years. i’ve never understood people who don’t remember their dreams, or feel casually about them if they do. i’ve always felt that my dreams have something important to reveal, and the sorting out of their messages has frequently been a full time job–tricky when i’ve had to work distracted at a regular paycheckery.
i have dreamed many times of flying/floating/hot air ballooning, being able to turn into something else, of species that that have out-evolved humankind. i have had a large number of predictive dreams, been delivered good advice from a higher power. i have had more dreams about the end of the world than anything else, although rarely have i ever had what you would call a nightmare, as often in the dream i wake with a sense that even though the world is hard and headed in a bad direction, there is a latent something in a small number of individuals who are born lucky with superpowers, or the will to save the planet from people who don’t think the air, water, or others like themselves are important.
a few weeks ago, i had another “society on the verge of collapse” dream. there wasn’t a war or plague or anything like that, just a logical extension of the world as it is today: a widening chasm in the classes that led to average people not having enough to eat. many houses around the country and globe were just sitting empty as people went hungry and wandered away from cities to forage and farm. i was one of a group who held onto the city, and lived in a huge house with people who were still civil enough, making art, scavenging technology to create indoor farm food. i had a walk in closet in my room. when i reached in to get a coat, i wandered through a vortex in time, and came back out ten years into the future into the living room.
the house was still the same, and the rest of the world had gotten hungrier and more sparsely populated. my home was now a farm for a kind of lobster that had been bred without a shell. the creatures were mostly transparent, and i could see their hearts and brains pulse inside them as they swam in their tanks around the house. the breeding process and their new light weight made them very tricksy and speedy. the lobsters got out of the tanks a lot, and had to be chased and captured often. as i watched, one got out of its tank and attacked my bare leg. with no shell or real claws, it didn’t hurt. it felt like two weak, toothless gums clamping feebly onto my calf and ankle. i shouted, and the thing with its blobby guts showing through backed off, and circled to charge me again.
from a dark corner, a grizzly looking cowboy with a gray beard and long leather coat stepped into the room, lit with black lights. his eyes and teeth looked electric and purple in the UV light. he drew a huge bowie knife as the jelly-lobsterblob came back at me. it leapt from the ground. the cowboy’s knife spun through the air, and pinned the creature to the floor between my feet right through its brain. it’s blood glowed on the floor in the black light. the cowboy flipped the creature off his knife to a group of hungry people, who i recognized as gaunt versions of my friends from a decade before. the cowboy spat over his shoulder and sneered at me. he called me an impolite word meant to convey that he thought i wasn’t very brave.
i went back to my room. it was the same as it was a decade before, but very dusty. i wiped down my drawing table, where the thing i was working on long ago was still taped to the wood. it was a postcard i’d been working on for the holidays. it was a christmas tree made of tentacles, and instead of being topped by a star or angel, it was crowned with a bowl of fruit, and flanked by a sprig of mistletoe and a lobster claw. when i woke up, i could recall exactly how that card looked, and i knew that i had to paint it.
so, that’s why my christmas card looks the way it does this year.
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EDIT: Here’s what the finished cards look like.
i have this name for a recurring phenomenon in my life, where i am delivered the book i need to read exactly when i need to read it. i call it The Cosmic Librarian.
some notable examples of the Cosmic Librarian at work in my life.:
1) i was waiting in an airport in my early twenties in Dallas Fort Worth, going to Oklahoma. at the time, i had this opinion of myself that i was better traveled than i actually was. some guy sitting next to me was reading a paperback book, and looked over at me. “hey man, are you traveling?” i pointed to my leather cowboy hat sitting on top of my carry-on bag. “yeah, right, guess you’re in an airport. well, you should read this book. i’ve bought it, read it, and given it away a dozen times.” and he gave me a copy of Travels With Charley, in which Steinbeck decides that even though he is known as a great American author, he knows very little about the country he is supposed to represent. so he goes on this road trip with his dog to find out about what it’s like right now.
i didn’t feel so well traveled and worldly after i read that. my attitude reflected this in the following years. and i tried to travel more.
2) back in the early aughts, i lived in a house just off Broadway in Seattle. down the street from my place lived the lady that owned an amazing bookstore on Broadway, and for some reason she’d pegged me and my housemates as the kind of people who would benefit from random bags of books left on our front porch. many of the books were old, or in bad enough shape that they couldn’t be sold at the store, but could still be read if handled carefully. right about the time i was trying to do something to change the world for the better–in the form of putting on free outdoor shows for kids and making bubbles on the street– i found a copy of Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture, the autobiography of Abbie Hoffman.
while some people may contest the value of Abbie’s contribution to history, i took a great deal of heart from the book. though i was sweating it gambling with my rent money every month to put on shows, learning how to promote them, and selling my guitars to print flyers, i wasn’t doing anything as important or dangerous as say, using the company car to drive hundreds of miles at night to get beat up protesting for civil rights in the 60s. by comparison, my life seemed pretty soft, and i tried to buck up and put the show on.
3) a couple of days ago, my special lady friend and i were waiting in line at the Powell’s cafe. before going into the weekend mob to find a copy of a Peter Bagge anthology, we were going to get coffee and cookies and make moony faces at each other. i wanted some good examples of extremely stylized indie comics, as i was putting together some concept art for a potential comic-art project, and i remembered that years ago i’d found a copy of “Hate” on the street someplace, probably in an improvised corner free pile made of left shoes, wobbly furniture and faded National Geographics.
the line into the cafe was really long. i got the tingly feeling someone was staring at me, and looked over at this tall guy–over seven feet– who had a kind of horrified look on his face. i hoped it didn’t have anything to do with me. it’s a crowded bookstore, could be anything. but a long minute went by, and i snuck a look at him a couple of times. he was wordlessly opening and closing his mouth a little, but his eyes never left me. finally he said my name, and stuck out his hand for a shake. he didn’t say his, and it took me a while to remember who he was. a guy from high school i probably said less than ten words to while we were both students. hadn’t seen him since graduation, except the 10-year reunion, which i didn’t talk to many people at. my 20-year reunion is coming up fast, and except for this guy’s startling height, i wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a crowd, or necessarily wanted to. i was surprised he recognized me, i look a lot different now. but he went and introduced his couple of kids, and i introduced my lady friend, and we looked at each other not saying much after that.
the he grabbed a book off the shelf next to him. it was Black Hole by Charles Burns. “do you like… graphic fiction?” he asked.
“as a matter of fact!” my lady friend began.
“sometimes,” I said.
“this one’s really good.” he handed me the book, and said he had to go find his wife. his kids said goodbye, and i said goodbye, and i sat at a table with my coffee and cookie reading the book.
then in bed later, reading the book. “this book is freaking me out,” i told my gal.
in between clients the next day, i finished the book.
Black Hole is a beautifully drawn book. there is not a line out of place. it is the opposite of how i draw. but i love the use of black, which is often most of the panel. it’s about high school kids, and a flesh-eating sexually transmitted disease. and the guilt and stress that surrounds high school kids and sex, drugs, people defining their adult identities. to a smaller extent, about what you have to do to make art that means something. what to do with your dreams. it gave me some really weird dreams, and a few ideas about how i was going to approach the inking of my next project.
it was a weird book to get from a guy i barely knew in high school. i highly recommend reading it.
inasmuch as i believe in a group of specific forces that exist solely to hover around in the sky and give me advice, the specific shorthand i use in regard to the right-book-at-the-right-time thing is the Cosmic Librarian, who has appeared to me at some very big turning points in my life. then dropped the book into my hands with strange encouraging words, and the reading of said book has had a profound effect on my life. i try to pay attention when she shows up.
I am honored to have been invited to MC at the “Blame it On Rio” Benefit show, August 19th at the White Owl Social Club! Rio is a second-generation tattooer, who in addition to marking thousands of people over the last 40+ years, taught a large number of people to tattoo as well, in his various studios, and most recently at the Oregon School Of Tattoo Arts. For those unable to make the event, donations may also be made to his online fundraising page here. If you’d like to follow the event on Facebook, the fan page for the event is here.
Most tattooers don’t get the things that people who work regular jobs get, mainly health insurance. So, when they get sick, they get something that hinges completely on the success they’ve achieved as artists, but more importantly with the connections they’ve made among their peers and clients who rally to help them when they are in need. It’s a big deal for me to be involved with helping out Rio, who started tattooing in 1961, and has been hugely influential for many artists who got their start learning from him. The owner of the shop I work at, and two of my coworkers learned under Rio, and thanks to the incredible atmosphere where I work, my own career has benefited immensely from their knowledge and support. Without Rio, I also would not have been able to be in a place to write my book “Mommy’s New Tattoo”, which features former Rio students Ximena Quiroz and Katie Williams.
I’ll be hosting the evening’s festivities, and donating artwork to the auction, including the design that became the t-shirt for the event. I hope that anyone who reads this will consider donating to his FundRazr, or coming out for a great night of music and celebrating.
I’ve been really excited anticipating the release of this interview and series of photos which went live on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s site today. Everyone involved with the recording and photographing of this piece was exceptionally cool. I am grateful to my client Raymond H. who was kind enough to let me tattoo him in front of the OPB camera, and to all of you who have encouraged me to keep writing! Thanks everybody, I hope you like the article.
In other exciting news, “Mommy’s New Tattoo” is now being sold by Wacko Soap Plant in Hollywood, and at Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas! Check them out!
i stumbled on this with my special lady friend, who told me that it might be some kind of pirate revenge. that would explain the tiny pirate flags on some of the forks in the back section of this mysterious fork garden. (for those of you who don’t know, portland has a large pirate population.) on one of the pointy white implants is a note that read: “THIS IS FOR YOUR PUPPY.” whether the planter of this field of forks was gifting a talented dog with cheap cutlery, or performing an unusual retribution on account of something the puppy in question had done is an enigma. does anyone know anything about this practice of forking, or about these forks in particular?