Friday, March 30, 2012

Genteman Beetle

Design for one of the main characters of a children's chapter book I'm working on.

Now Officially Official!

Also, now it is officially official! I'm on the Red Fox Literary site!

Click Here!
Thanks again to my new rep, Abigail Samoun!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fred Rogers, John Waters and Self Esteem in America

Fred Rogers' message in Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, first and foremost, was for children to accept themselves, and to accept others. That everyone was unique, and special, and of worth. This implied an acceptance not only of the self, but of diversity in general.  He had a unique talent to speak to children, and he was very conscious of his audience. The message was directly to them. He addressed not only the need to accept yourself and to accept others, but he acknowledged the feelings of children. In his song “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?” he sings,

“What do you do with the mad that you feel, when you feel so mad you could bite

When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong

And Nothing you do seems right?”

On the cusp of the punk movement, John Waters expressed his anger through his films. His films weren’t an endorsement of the behavior he portrayed, but they satirized the absurdity of what society rejected. Society rejected difference. The characters in his film reveled in that difference and rejected society’s rules, taking this rebellion to its ultimate extreme, as Waters acknowledged that rebellion too can be just as absurd when taken to great lengths. It wasn’t a rejection of rebellion, but a self awareness of it. Rebellion is necessary and healthy, but rebellion for the sake of rebellion is absurd.
As Waters emerged, so did the punk movement. The punk movement too was about a rejection of society’s rules, and the DIY aesthetic was all about existing outside a dependency on that society.  It was this kind of rebellion that Waters both satirized and embraced. He had a great affection for those who rejected conformity, but he also recognized that rebellion was not an end in itself. In romancing this rebellion, the punk movement formed a parallel culture that in its way was just as conforming. Hand painted leather jackets, Doc Martens and band pins became a uniform. The punk ethos became competitive--who could be more punk? All of this lost sight of the true origin of the movement. It became rebellion for rebellion's sake, much like what Waters illustrated in his films.
But Waters understood and embraced a similar core Ethos, and his heroine was the embodiment of it. Devine was not only everything that society rejected, but she was rejected by another emerging parallel culture, what was rapidly becoming the gay mainstream. To the more conservative side of gay culture, she was an ugly caricature. To Waters she was beautiful. She was beautiful because she embraced and celebrated who she was. Society couldn’t tell her who she could be. Waters was saying in his films, in effect, that Devine was special just the way she was. 

Devine: Special Just the Way She Is

Though the parallel shouldn’t be taken too literally, Lady Elaine Fairchilde was Rogers in drag, his own version of Devine. Like Devine, she could be abrasive, she could be loud, she could be a mischief maker. She was Rogers' vehicle to express this side of himself, but like Devine, it was an affectionate portrayal. Just as Rogers loved each and every one of the characters in his Neighborhood of Make Believe for their individuality, Waters loved each and every one of the characters in his films for the very same reason. The only truly unsympathetic characters in Waters' films were authority figures, or those who caused shame in others. While Roger’s taught you not to be ashamed of who you are, so did Waters. He exaggerated and satirized shame, and showed the absurdity of the people responsible for imposing that shame.

Rogers in Drag?

Both Waters and Rogers approaches were (and in the case of Waters, continue to be) largely uncompromising. Rogers approach in many ways was as much gorilla theatre as Waters. The sets are simple and spare, some of the performances by the cast could be amateurish and unpolished. Like Waters dialogue, sometimes Rogers songs are a little blunt, and hit the mark a little too square on the head. This uncompromising approach was also an evolving one. In the early years, before Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, Rogers incorporated religious songs into his repertoire, and initially, when he was asked to exclude them, he refused. Later he accepted that the addition of these songs could narrow his audience. In Waters earliest films he didn’t always behave in the most responsible, or humane (I think some of you might know what I’m talking about) way he could have. In more recent years Waters' has explained that he's no longer as angry as he once was.  But I don’t want to take this parallel too far. I’ll just end by saying that both men have had an enormous impact on our acceptance of diversity and individuality, and the world is a better place because of them.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Best Three Zombie Movies You Haven't Seen!

What has been great about my relationship with Reg over the years is that slowly she's begun to love my nerdish enthusiasms. Superhero movies, Doctor Who, and more recently, zombies. It all started with Shaun of the Dead. I couldn't get Reg to watch a horror movie of any kind, until Shaun of the Dead. We had watched the BBC series, Spaced, which she loved, and I told her that Shaun of the Dead had much of the same cast and was made by the same people. Not only did she love Shaun of the Dead, but she said she wanted to see a real zombie movie. So we went through the canon: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and newer ones like 28 Days Later. I knew I had fully corrupted her when I warned her that there was a zombie birth scene in the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and she said, "we have to see that."And we did. And she thought it was great. Now The Walking Dead has just ended its second season, and she's starved for good zombie entertainment. If you're in a similar boat, here are a few recommendations.


 A "shock jock" radio host has lost his national radio job and is forced to work at a radio station in the small Canadian town of Pontypool. Of course, there's a zombie Apocalypse...

The entire film takes place in the radio station, as it begins to dawn on the radio station staff that they may be the last people in the town who haven't caught the bug. The bug, in this case, in a very novel twist, is language itself. Somehow this zombifying disease has imbedded itself in the English language as spoken by the townspeople, and the more they are exposed to certain words and phrases, the more they are at risk of zombification. It could almost be a play, but this stagey quality doesn't prevent it  from being very tense and very scary. Great writing and great performances by all.

The Signal

In this one, the vehicle for zombification is a signal sent  through radio, TV and cell phone broadcasts that makes people go homicidally nuts until they slowly become mindless homicidal zombies. Some are able to resist the signal. Some are only able to sort of resist the signal. It's not always clear by how much. So people are in various stages of confusion, bizarre behavior and homicidal intent, and some people who seem OK, aren't exactly. Or maybe they're just a little OK. It's this ambiguity that makes the movie so much fun. The three sections of the story are written and directed by three different auteurs, but it's not an anthology format. It's all one story, centering around a couple who are trying to reunite in the midst of the disaster. There are lots of scares, but at times it can be truly hilarious, especially the second of the three parts. The tone of each part is a little different, and some people have complained about this, but it didn't really bother me. Again, it's a sharply written, well acted and genuinely scary movie. 

Dead Set

Technically not a movie,  Dead Set is an English mini-series that has one of the most self evidently awesome concepts in the history of zombidom.  There's a zombie apocalypse and the only people who haven't realized it yet are the cast of Big Brother. I haven't seen Big Brother (without the zombies, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to), but  I read that the general set-up  of Dead Set is much like the real English Big Brother series. We've only seen the first three of the five episodes of Dead Set, but so far it definitely lives up to its premise. This one is a lot harder to find, and I don't think it's available on DVD yet, but it's worth seeking out. 

Hope you enjoy, and if you have any recommendations of your own, please leave them in the comments below!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Figure in Movement: Points of Stress

Points of Stress and Movement in Inanimate Objects

In drawing from life or from a realistic subject, you want to capture the subjects essential character; what is the essence of an apple that makes us read it as an apple? In the figure, the best way to describe movement is to accentuate or exaggerate points of stress.

Anything that's flexible has movement. Every fold of drapery suggests how the drapery is resisting and surrendering to gravity. A force meets another force and there's a fold. Gravity acts as another force and there's a dip in the fold, or part of the cloth rests on a surface or another fold, generating more folds from that contact point. Each point where these forces meet is a stress point. 

Here's a drapery study by DaVinci:

Here, I've tried to illustrate in the same drawing where the points of stress are, and how those points of stress effect one another:

#1 and #2 indicate points where tension converges. #3 indicates a point of stress where gravity rests.

Points of Stress In The Figure

Drapery is a complex subject, but I just want you to get a sense of how something essentially inanimate can be dynamic. Here's a gesture drawing I did from the live model, about a 5 minute study: 

Here I've tried to illustrate the points of stress. The arrows represent the movement towards these points.  Think of a point of stress as that point when a branch is about to break, or a car is about to crash--it's those points of tension before the finish of the action that demonstrate movement, even if that movement has no ultimate destination. Bones don't have to be about to break to show the tension of the muscles or the distribution of weight.

Here's another figure, also a 5 minute study:

The arrow at the center is the center of gravity. Points of stress are all about either resisting, or surrendering to gravity. Points at rest surrender to gravity. Points of tension imply a resistance to gravity. Both points at rest and points of tension are stress points, points that, if given emphasis, describe the most movement in a figure, but the points at rest are just as important as the points of stress. The rest points give us a sense of weight and substance. The stress points give us a sense of suppleness and texture. 

Texture and dynamism in portraits
To get a sense of an object or figure's texture, there has to be a force playing against it. We can't tell visually if a rubber ball is very hard or very soft, or very heavy, or very light unless we see how weight or gravity acts against it (though light too, is a significant force at play in describing texture, but that's another subject altogether). In the same way, the muscles act against the flesh. If there's no points of tension in a figure, the figure will not look dynamic. It will tend to look stiff and inanimate. Even in a portrait, tension and release of tension describe expression, even if that expression is a placid one. There are still points at rest that can be emphasized. Lines on a face, relaxed or tensed describe how flexible the face is. Elderly and wrinkled faces show gravity, how the skin is softer and less elastic, but this is all expressed through stress points.  Here are some longer studies from life:

The portrait is of my dad, but the rest of these drawings are from one of my favorite models who models for us at The Davis Figure Drawing Group, Steve Savage.  A really dynamic and great model! Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 12, 2012

50 Monsters Mock-Up Cover

So here's the mock-up wraparound cover for my unpublished book, 50 Monsters to Give You the Creeps. It's in dummy form right now--a dummy is the roughed out version you present to the publisher. I'm pretty happy with it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Moebius, 1938-March 10th, 2012

My First Embarrassing Encounter with the Great Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius)

Moebius had more influence on me than any other artist in my teens. He died today before I got a chance to redeem myself for a very embarrassing meeting when I was 13, at The San Diego Comicon, back when Comicon was actually about comics. I just couldn't help myself. I waited in a line to get him to sign my book, and when I got to the front of the line I had a complete nerdgasm. My friend Josh's mother was there with her camera, and I posed for a picture with him, and so somewhere there's this picture of me pointing at Moebius with an ecstatic smile, looking like I'm about to have a psychotic break. I wish I could take it back, but I went completely nuts. My fantasy was that the two of us would meet for coffee some day, and I would show him my work, and he would admire it, and I would tell him how I felt about his work, and I would tell him about that first meeting, and we would laugh about it, and we would find that the two of us shared a deep inner connection, that we two walked the same spiritual plane. Of course that will never happen now. Not that it ever would have. 

This was the book I had him autograph:

I loved everything about it. The simplicity of the drawing style, the fluid line, the colors. It was this wistful fantasy story originally written to promote a French car called the Citroen. Here's a page where Stel and Atan, the two bald-headed protagonists, have driven their Citroen across the desert of the planet they call "pool ball" to encounter a group of aliens from different worlds who have all formed a shantytown around this huge crystal pyramid, that, for some magical reason, they have all been drawn to:

I still have my copy. It has ink stains on it, and is a little worse for wear, but it still has Moebius' signature next to a sketch of his signature character, Arzach. He drew a drawing for every single person in line. Here's Arzach:

Le Garage Hermetic

My second discovery was a book called, The Airtight Garage:

In French, it was called, Le Garage Hermetic, "hermetic" meaning both airtight, and esoteric in French, so that part was lost in the translation. The Airtight Garage was this completely improvised story that Moebius started kind of on accident while trying to meet a tight deadline. He simply made it up as he went along, page by page, each time giving himself some impossible challenge, having no idea how he was going to tie up all the loose threads. And believe it or not, somehow he managed. It all made an odd kind of sense in the end. It has got to be my Favorite Moebius story by far.

I have another well worn book called, The Art of Moebius. The center spread had an image he did in collaboration with an artist named Geof Darrow.  Darrow did the drawing and Moebius Moebiusified it. I looked at this thing for hours.

Moebius Owns Science Fiction in Hollywood

You may not realize it, but just about every science fiction movie in hollywood since Blade Runner has been inspired by Moebius in some way. Including Blade Runner. I don't mean to downplay the contribution of Syd Mead, who may well be just an influential, and who did design much of the look of Blade Runner, but first there was a story by Moebius called "The Long Tomorrow" that looked like this:

And was written some time in the late 70s. Moebius, in the French Magazine, Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal in the US) made the future that has dominated sci-fi for the last thirty or forty years. Everything new and novel about science fiction movies and imagery of today started with Moebius.

Moebius also designed much of the look of Tron though Tron might have looked a little cooler if they stuck to Moebius' original designs:

The recent Sequel to Tron not only borrowed everything from the original, but it missed the point. They took Moebius' elegant simplicity and turned it into, well, Blade Runner. 

The French Avant Garde director, Jodorowsky, gathered together some of the best designers and illustrators of his time in the late 70s, with the intention of making a film based Frank Herbert's Dune. It fell through, but this is how it might have looked with Moebius' costume designs:

Instead of the black Jumpsuits and sepia palette that they ended up with in the Lynch film. Here's one of Moebius' many contributions to the otherwise mediocre The Fifth Element:

And he kept working, and inventing. This is from a book that features a series of drawing inspired by the New Mexico dessert. This is Moebius putting his pen to paper and just letting it do his Moebius thing. Like The Airtight Garage, no sketches ahead of time, just a pen and paper:

But I'll never get to meet him as a less spazzy adult. I'm positive he couldn't have possibly remembered me anyway, but still, I wanted to impress him, and impress upon him, that I was no longer that kid. But now it will never happen. I can't believe he died. He's younger than my dad. It's simply not fair.  He will be very, very missed.

Edit: I forgot to mention the very sweet and modest thing that Moebius AKA Jean Giraud told me at the San Diego Comicon. I told him he was my favorite artist, and he responded, "Then you must not know very many artists." And he was right. With so many egotistical artists out there, (particularly cartoonists) the remark was honest and generous. Speaking of artists less than modest, I once read a cartoonist's remark about how he was affronted when someone told him that he was their second favorite writer. To me, it sounded like a high compliment. We can't all be Van Gogh, or Picasso. We can't all be Dostoevsky. But Moebius remains close to my heart. 

Friday, March 09, 2012


Another monster from my monster book, the fearsome Australopithacat, the ancestor of the common house cat. The dummies finally complete! I'll post the cover soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Leaping Springaloris

Another monster. Getting closer to finishing the cover for my 50 Monsters book dummy. The interiors are already complete, so it won't be long now. I think I started this project 3 years ago, and started with about 70 monsters, then chose my favorite 50 and came up with names and descriptions for each of them. Each description is a sort of cautionary narrative, or represents a particularly annoying sort of person, though some are just silly and don't represent anything. It was a good time. Hopefully it will be a real book some day!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Skippidus Dippidus

Another monster, this one's a little timid. Another for the mock-up cover I'm working on, the last step for the 50 Monsters dummy.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

A Hairy Who

A monster not entirely accidentally named after the Hairy Who movement of Chicago. Call it a tribute.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Thursday, March 01, 2012


And ink drawing of one of the monsters for my monster book.