A Puzzling Habit

posted in: Art Making, Era of Great Wonders | 2

Yesterday, while thinking Deep Thoughts and working diligently on my comic art load, I started thinking about puzzle books, and how badly I’ve wanted to make one for a few years now. Honestly, I’ve wanted to make one ever since I saw Ben “Neb” Girven’s Stomping Ground Activity Book that he made.

I’ve been a fan of logic puzzles ever since I first discovered them, even thought I’m not the best at most of them. I don’t really care for things that are too “mathy” because I always feel like I’m being tricked into school work. But the other types of puzzles? The ones where everything is written out and you just have to follow the clues and pay attention? Or even better yet, the ones with hidden codes that you crack to find out hidden information? Those always made me feel like a Super Seekret Spy kid, and I loved them!

So, even though I’m behind on all four comics*  and two prose stories** as well as a comic script for a friend*** as well as a few other projects (doing character design for alien plants springs to mind) I decided yesterday at 3:30 to spend the next seven hours working on a puzzle book, set in the world of Era of Great wonders.

What does seven hours of non-stop work get you these days? Not as much as you’d expect. A few hours in I did find a really great site that helps do the heavy grunt work when it comes to designing things like crosswords and mazes. The mazes weren’t quite what I was looking for though, so I’ll be drawing those from hand. I want something more organic and feeling, that looks like a path through a destroyed city.

Seven hours also gave me enough time to lay down the bare bones of the story: you help Amelia, a young girl, find her way through the torn up city-state of Pangaea as she searches for her missing family. She has to solve a series of logic puzzles in order to build up enough clues to solve a logic grid puzzle that will tell her where her family is, and who they are with (whether they’re with good guys or bad guys.) The more puzzles the reader completes, the more clues Amelia has to work with.

I am hoping that I can get done with my comic work early enough today that I can get a little deeper into some of the riddles and clues, and still actually make it to my aikdio class later tonight. (I totally missed classes last night – I sort of “woke up” from my work around 7:15pm, and realized that even if I did rush down to class, I would get there as it was ending. Super embarrassing.)

But I have no idea why I do this to myself, why I can’t just sit and see one project through all the way, and then start the next, like a sort of artistic clockwork. Instead I sort of hover around from one project to another, working on them all at once, and it never seems like I make any progress (and yet, I am always creating stuff!)


* Growing Things, Era, Vagus, and I’ve been wanting to clean up Namio and get it up and running

** One of which is a smutty follow up to a story that will be published in January, and another which is NOT smutty in anyway, shape, or form

*** Something in the vein of Blade Runner, except I’m drawing a blank and really want to write a love story between two soldiers in a futuristic war torn world. Maybe I’ll write that, and then write the Blade Runner thing? See? This is how I get into trouble!

Degrees of Tolerance

posted in: Art Making | 0

(Passion vs. Craft, continued.)

I’m still thinking about yesterday’s post.

Well, honestly, I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and will likely continue to churn through thoughts about it even after I write this. My thinking process tends to be very murky, with sudden bits of quicksand and strange sinkholes where thoughts go to drown until they are washed back up onto the boggy shores of my consciousness; bedraggled, changed, but still very much alive.

I used to keep a small notebook on me at all times so that I could try to rescue these drowned thoughts as they emerged, shivering from the waters, but it was more work than you’d expect.* Also, there is no way to look inconspicuous walking down the road, and then suddenly crouching over so that you can write in your little notebook. After a while, people start to notice, and I’ve spent most of my life trying to hide in the background of things.

But back to the post! Sorry for the derail.

I was thinking about yesterday’s post, and I started to think again about process, and how even if you start just throwing words and images at a page and hoping that they stick, you find yourself eventually learning from your messes. You begin to develop your craft, and find what works best for you.

It is not elegant and it’s not efficient, but it does create an understanding on a deeper level than if you had just read “how to make” whatever it is that you’re making.

A bit like cooking: you find that you have certain talents and can mix up a roux without anything going weird or lumpy, or perhaps you find out that cilantro is the worst tasting herb ever, and that you can cook perfectly fine without ever touching the filthy herb ever again.

You begin to learn how rules apply to you, and how they do not.

By creating and working, even (especially?) when you do not know what you are doing, you are able to find a starting point. That starting point is so very important, especially in art or writing where it is far easier to talk yourself out of creating. By doing something – anything at all – you give yourself a base of operations, so that you may launch your next attack. You are better able to assess how much time and effort, and what kinds of effort, are needed for your goals.

You begin to learn how much care and craft you need in order to accomplish what it is that you are doing.

The problem (or perhaps it is less a problem, but is instead some unknown “something else”) is that too often my impatience to keep throwing things at the page means I don’t take the time to sit down and really craft. I have become so enamored of “getting stuff done” that I tend to do less than My Very Best.

However, I would also argue that there is a point where perfection seems so easily within reach, that with just a little more effort, with a few more hours, with just a little more _____, you could have something really amazing, and so you find yourself never finishing anything you’ve started. You become subject to your craft to the point that you can not settle for anything less than your very best.

And that is also a terrible place to be.

I had a friend explain to me that in engineering and many sciences, there are “degrees of tolerance” where as long as the machinery function within those guidelines, everything will work as intended. It’s why things sometimes break down after a while: those degrees can add to instability and ultimately failure, but in art, they allow us to finish what we’ve started.

Perfection will haunt you otherwise.

The trick is finding what your Degrees of Tolerance are. I’ve found that when it comes to drawing comics, I give myself far more leeway than I do when painting. When I am writing, I give myself even more room for “acceptability” because I know that I am not, nor will I ever be, a writer on the scale like those I read and admire. But when it comes to painting, I am a very harsh self-critic, and this narrow degree of perfection, or the illusion of what I think I am able to achieve, has been extremely detrimental to my painting. I have only painted a few times since graduation, and I spend far more time frozen, staring blankly at my canvas than I do actually applying the brush to paint.

Hm… Perhaps that will be another series of blog posts? My “self help” adventures into rediscovering my love for painting, and my struggles with whether to leave brushstrokes showing, or to blend them out. Ah… the eternal painter question.



* I had also managed to lose my notebook, which filled me with despair and panic until I found it several days later. If you do not have your thoughts, what do you have? And if someone else should find them and read them, would you lose yourself to this unknown person? It messed with my mind on several levels.

Passion vs. Craft

posted in: Art Making | 0

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m not sure I’m using the correct words or terms, but bear with me, and it’ll all tie back together. I hope. “Passion” is used in this sense as “the desire to create, even when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing.” There’s probably a word for that, but if so, I either don’t know it or it has escaped my memory for the time being.

John and I spend every weekend talking about comics and writing, and the craft and technique that goes into making things. He’s very technique and “craft” driven, whereas I am very much a fan of someone who creates with passion, even if it is perhaps not as technically well crafted or created.

I am a “Leap Before You Look” sort of person because I have a tendency to over-analyze situations and plans until I am paralyzed by… well… by just about everything. On a long enough timeline, I can find failure and disappointment waiting for me at the end of any thread. The best way I have found to cope with this not-so-great superpower is to throw myself bodily into anything I am doing, and hope for the best. Usually I “wake up” somewhere in the middle of whatever it is that I’m doing, and by that point I find that “I’ve come so far now that it’d be a shame to quit!”

For example: with All the Growing Things I was desperately throwing words and art at a comic book sized page, hoping things would stick and work themselves out. I don’t think I really realized that I had “started a comic book” until I was about 80 pages in. Of course, then the panic set in because I had to wrap it up somehow, right? Which meant I had to sit back and actually look at what I had been doing, and then figure out where to go with it from there.

I’m still not entirely sure that I did it the “right way” but I did it the best way I was able, and to me, that counts for a lot. But then we start to drift into the realm of process art, where the creation of the work is more important than the final artifact of the work, and who wants to buy a comic about that?*

Meanwhile, John is a planner. A meticulous outline creator and thinker of thoughts. Sometimes his stillness gets on my nerves -not in an angry way I should add, but rather, in that I’m a nervous person and I need things to happen RIGHT NOW or I’ll be convinced that nothing will ever happen. (I am very much a creature of inertia.)

John will take a perfectly good comic book story, and he will draft it several times, looking for themes and bits of symbolism. He will work a story until it is tight and, above all, finished. His stories have arcs and themes, plots and subplots, and for me, it is wonderful to talk to him about what goes on inside his brain while he is working on the various drafts of his various stories.

It is also wonderful, while illustrating his comics, to find how everything comes together in the final pages, how the stories follow their logical conclusions and fit, like a key in a lock, together. Especially his Vagus Street run is impressive to me, how the very last story turns back and reinforces all the other stories in the book. That sort of blew my mind when I first read it.

I don’t think either way is “the correct way,” but I do think people are drawn to certain types of creation processes. For people like John, drafting and outlines has its value. For me, it is far too panic inducing. I believe as long as a comic is finished, (or even started, honestly) then it is a success.



* This is a concept I was exposed to in art school. Before then, it had never occurred to me that some art is created to capture that “in the moment” feel and that the canvas or drawing that is created is actually a secondary, lesser, thing. The problem I have with this type of process art is that it only benefits the creator who is – in that moment – creating the work. The viewer must rely on the finished project, the artifact, or canvas, or whatever you want to call it, because unless they are a part of the process, it is meaningless to them – they only see the art days, if not months and years after it was created.

Gallery Show

posted in: Art Making, comics, Honors Thesis | 0

I went ahead and put up a bunch of photos of the gallery show, if anyone is interested in seeing how that massive Namio Tristique project I was working on was coming along!

I’ve been on spring break this week, and I’ve been trying like crazy to get back to all the things I’ve stopped working on. For a while it sort of felt like I’d stepped out of my life and that I was watching everything race past me. It’s hard to pick back up when you feel so out of sorts and left behind. I still occasionally have a weird deja vu sort of feeling where (and maybe “deja vu” isn’t the right phrase) I’m not sure if I’m awake and everything is real, or if I’m still panicking in my studio, and my brain has finally snapped and I still have weeks of solitude and painting to go.

Things I’ve been trying to get back into: Aikido (I’ve been three times this week, and my body is so very sore. It turns out that falling down and getting back up is kind of painful on your back and knees.)

My comics have been neglected for so long! I’ve been trying to get the word out about the print version of All the Growing Things, but truth is: I’m terrible at advertising. I just don’t really want to bug or bother anyone. Although, I will say that having strangers review it and tell me how much they like it has really made my day! (It’s also nice when friend say they like it too!) So I also need to get started on the next storyline as well, where we’ll all learn what’s up with Texy and the cats.

I’ve also been working on the next six pages of Vagus, and we’re going to start putting together a 50+ page collection of all the Vagus stories that will be ready for the summer conventions. I’m also privately working on a spin-off of a Vagus story called Heartless that I’m pretty excited about. It’ll deal a little more with the mysterious “Jerry” that John introduced in the Children’s Story.

John and I are also working on a third comic that I’m pretty excited about. I don’t have anything to show for it really, other than an instagram photo, but it’s going to be a comic about giant monsters, and the stories of people who had to deal with living in a world where that sort of stuff is going on. (Wow, can a summary about giant monsters be any more boring?) I think it’s going to play to both John and my strengths though, so I’m pretty excited!

I’m also working on a cover for an amazing friend (I’ll have to get permission to see if I can post it here when I’m done), as well as trying to catch up on all the ceramics homework I’ve sort of let slide while working on other stuff. Did you know that throwing a cylinder is hard work? Pottery in general is frigging difficult.

And sometimes it blows up on you too. Which is a huge bummer.

I still have to write a paper for my professors for the Namio Show, and I also need to figure out what I’m going to talk about at the presentation as well. Yikes. I guess I should get back to work then?



500 Words

posted in: Art Making, Honors Thesis | 0

There’s been a stomach flu going around, slowly taking out the people at school, one at a time. It even wiped out the soup kitchen earlier this year, which was pretty intense trying to feed all those people so short handed!

I had managed to avoid it until today.

Or yesterday.

Or whatever; time has no meaning when you’re trying to figure out if your guts are going to rupture out of you, one way or another (or god help you, both ways at once.)

There was a moral to that story, I think. I guess, it’s a long way to say that we all have good days and bad days, and I while I was curled up in a little ball of pain – wondering why both blankets and sunlight hurt – I started thinking about how I went to a book signing on Saturday, where Steven Gould and Daniel Abraham talked about the creative process.

Their premise is that if you write 500 words a day, and say you have a bad day, later when you go back and read your story, you’ll not be able to pick those “bad” 500 words out of the rest of the stream.

One of my friends, trying to cheer me up, told me that she bet painting was a lot like that… and that if you have a bad day painting, you probably can’t even tell after the painting is done. I’m not entirely sure she’s wrong, but on the other hand, when you’re a writer, you can go into your story and delete the words that don’t work – that’s the beauty of writing in drafts.

It’s also the beauty of painting in “passes.” You put your first layers down, maybe a colored ground, and then sketch in where your lights and darks will be, and then you paint paint paint. Somewhere near the end of the process, you can go in and start glazing… subtlety shifting colors until you get the details and tones you really want. (The glazing part is my favorite part, I think)

But one of the problems is that if you’re having a bad day painting, and you mix your paint wrong, or your medium isn’t working, or you just aren’t paying attention, you can leave “artifacts” in your painting: brush hairs, gobs of paint, weird shiny spots, and heavy brush strokes that look out of place when everything else is smooth. To that end, I thought I would share some of those “bad” painting things that are all over my latest painting – page 21 of the namio series.

I don’t quite know how to explain it, but the paint in those two bad paintings are shiny and lumpy. It’s really irritating. They only way (that I can think of how to get rid of the shininess is to add a varnish, which I won’t be able to do until way at the end, when the painting is done. And I’m never sure when things are done, I tend to tinker with them forever.

You can also try to fix things by going in and adding in details (which is what I started doing, and which seems to be working.) If you add enough details, sometimes you can distract from weak painting.

On the other hand, sometimes you can get a really nice first pass, like in the one above. Sometimes the shadows and lights just work out perfectly, and then you’re faced with the terrifying thought of messing it up if you touch it.

I don’t know, I sort of lost the thread of where I was going with this. But, bad days happen with painting, and dang, there are a few that have some bad medium mistakes on them.


posted in: Art Making, Honors Thesis | 2

Okay, the “first of the year” post is late as usual, but what the heck, better late than never. I have indeed hit the “holyshitohmygodwhatamIgoingtodo” phase of the project. Ideally, I need to have a digital and a printed component when all things are said and done, and because of that, I’ve called a truce at page 21, and am now working on the secondary pages (they go with the digital presentation.)

Speaking of digital, some of the pages (2, 3, 4, and 9) have a black panel outline. These aren’t in the actual paintings, and will only be in the digital and printed formats. My professor thinks the paintings look nicer without them (and I’m undecided) but I think that the black borders help with readability, so they’ll be in the printed and digital formats.

So… this is sort of what I have. Gah, and I’ve not even touched page 18. It’s going to be floating jellyfish looking monsters. I’m sort of looking forward to that page, except that I’m not entirely convince that I remember how to paint. I seem to have… forgotten how to paint somewhere in between pages 2 and 9. Two and 9 are the only ones I’m really digging these days. The rest are all… so overwhelmingly flawed that all I can do is own up to them. It’s too much to ask me to like them.

Well, and maybe page six. I kind of like that one too.

Page 21 has potential, but still needs a lot more work. I have it propped against the wall next to City in the Rough, and it’s not doing well in comparison. City in the Rough is incredibly good (if I’m allowed to think so of my own work), and I was very inspired while working on it… maybe that’s what carries through? These days, I just seem to feel exhausted, and the paintings seem to exude a certain laziness/tiredness to me when I look at them.

And of course, now looking at this all collected on one blog post makes me wonder if I’ve done anything worthwhile these past few months. I’ve worked so much, and have (seemingly) accomplished so little. I know that’s just the panic and exhaustion talking, but yikes, I’ve got some work to do!

Whatchu Doin?

posted in: Art Making | 0

I’m procrastinating.

It’s pretty much par for the course for me, but I’ve been especially good at procrastinating these days. I have a feeling that as soon as the new year becomes the current year, I’m going to be doing anything and everything to avoid working. I don’t know what causes that intense desire to not do the absolute exact thing that I am supposed to do, but there it is.

I’m not even pre-working procrastinating. I am painting. Or I was five minutes ago, before I turned to the internet for some sort of distraction. (None was to be had, so here I am, making my own distraction.) I’ve mixed up my paint, I’ve the brushes all selected, and I’ve even begun to work on the painting in question. (This one happens to be page six, which I just have to finish up.) Seems simple: dip brush in paint, scrape across canvas, repeat for a few hours, then brush with clean brush to blur new paint and old paint together.

Why can't I finish this thing?!

And yet, here I am. Typing.

Gah. Okay, I guess I need to get back to work .

October Update

posted in: Art Making, Honors Thesis | 0

Whew, I am chugging along! I had another meeting with my committee chair, and she gave me some pretty good advice: I need to follow my instincts and work with these paintings they way my heart tells me to, even as my brain questions, well, everything.

This is where I’m at so far:

I have two paintings that have paint on every single bit of canvas. These are my “first pass” paintings, and I’ll be going back in and tightening them back up at some unknown point in the future. The magical, magical future where I have enough time to do so. As it is now, it’s a huge achievement just to get it to this state.

I also have five paintings that have some paint on them, and they’re… coming along. I tend to get to this point before I start fiddling with things, and then I never actually finish anything. That’s one of the reasons that I feel so accomplished about just getting things to the “first pass” stage.

Then I  have the six paintings where I’ve started outlining some of the more important lines in payne’s gray acrylic.

I’m also still in the process of stretching canvas over the supports, but I AM done with building the supports, which is a huge weight off my mind. Mostly, I’m just… trying to do everything, all at once.



Not Tuesday Yet

posted in: Art Making, Honors Thesis | 0

I woke up today thinking it was Tuesday, and I was trying to figure out how much of my work I could get done before the mail carrier (and thus, the copy of Borderlands 2 I’ve been waiting for) showed up. When I realized it was Monday, I had a bizarre emotional experience: glad that I had more time to paint, and frustrated that I had one more day to wait before getting my hands on the cool gleaming disc of awesomeness.

That assumes that it shows up on time. I’ve pre-ordered and had to wait before – it’s not a happy thing.

All that said, I have stuff to show off before I get back to work:

The usual suspects

I flipped my large painting around (the reclining nude) and am using the bottom strainer bar as a ledge to paint on… it was the best solution I could think of, where I could paint multiple pieces at once, and get a feel for what they look like near each other. There was one awful moment where I heard the strainer bars (as we were flipping it around) make a groaning sort of crack. Because it doesn’t have the vertical braces (as you can see from the above photo) it’s not as structurally sound as it needs to be, but on the other hand, that makes it useful for this improvised easel sort of purpose. When this thesis project is over, I’ll be reinforcing the back of the giant painting with two more vertical bars, as well as locating and re-gluing whatever it was that made the groan-crack sound.

I am super not looking forward to that.

two more paintings

Above, two more paintings are displayed on my discount easel. The one in the back is going to be an homage to Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa, except with futuristic nomad/raider types fighting zombie/ghouls. In my head, it is awesome. In reality, it is proving very difficult to get the initial lines down.

Oh, and as a side note (speaking of “initial lines”) I am drawing these in pencil, and then outlining in a payne’s gray acrylic paint. Once you see the lines disappear, and color/painting stuff showing up, that’s oil paint. I am trying to do these as quickly and efficiently as possible, which means plotting out bits in acrylic.

Background paintings

Here I’ve started painting in the backgrounds of some paintings. To the right you can see the canvas-and-luan painting next to the original painting on mat-board (note to other painters: it’s not a good idea to do anything you want to look nice, on mat-board. Unless the tragedy of impermanence is your sort of thing.)

Close-up of the two

You can also see how the main character design has changed – for the better, I hope. Now her gear is less bulky, and instead of a full mask and helmet, is a half-mask filter sort of dealy. I plan to address in my paper the significance of having a main character that while she has a face, has no mouth/ability to speak for herself. (At least, not until the end of the comic.) It may be relevant and interesting, or it may just be academic fluff that doesn’t actually matter and is super uninteresting. But I just want to point out, I *think* I’m aware of what I’m doing.

Goopy paint technique

Above is what my paintings look like when I’m working on them. I tend to really goop on the paint, and then smooth everything out as needed. This is also a “first pass,” although I suppose since it only covers only half of the painting, it’s really only a half-pass I think. Also, that shading at the bottom of the photo? – That isn’t painted, that’s the shadow from the sun and a porch railing. Sorry. I really am a terrible photographer.

Goopy concrete

I also don’t have any real knowledge of this, but I tend to find that if I’m creating shadows, and then put lighter colors right next to the darker areas, it accentuates the shadows in a pleasant way. There’s probably some painting theory that talks about that, and there’s a good chance I should actually read my painting theory books instead of just looking at the pictures.

A close-up:

Close-up concrete

And then I put everything out side on the patio table, because this oil paint stuff really stinks:

This is (also) why I can't have nice things!

In the morning I will find all the dead gnats and bugs that flew over the paintings, and then crashed and burned into them. For some reason, bugs LOVE wet oil paintings. But like so many things, it is a deadly love.

While I was gone (but still here)

posted in: Art Making, Honors Thesis | 2

This is why none of our comics are updating on time. THIS.

(Or “these”?)

So I was accepted into the honors thesis, and have been working like crazy to create a 30 page painted comic book before March 10th, 2013. This is turning out to be more time consuming than I’d previously expected (I tend to underestimate things.)

I had started the project on matboard (because I had so dang much of it for a while) but realised that wasn’t a nice look. I eventually decided that I’d like to paint on canvas (but canvas can be delicate) so I stretched canvas over cradled luan board. Luan is light enough and as a bonus, it’s strong enough that it’ll support the canvas, meaning I can stack them against each other, and not worry about them popping holes through each other. That giant painting I started this summer (and haven’t worked on) is canvas stretched over a 4′ x 8′ piece of cradled luan.

“Cradled” just means that there’s a 1″ x 2″  sort of “frame” that supports the back of the board.

Some cradled canvas:

four blank canvases, a stool, raw canvas, and a blue painting.

I also thought it’d be interesting to use the different sizes of board/canvas to reflect “what’s important” in the comic, so they’re not all the same sizes. (There are two that I’ve not finished cradleing, that are about 4′ x 3′ or so.) Also, I need to clean my light switches apparently.

two more larger canvases

Above: two more canvases and a messy desk. Also, all my brushes, my apron, and for some reason, Norwegian mystery novels.

Smaller canvas - I have 19 of these

Above: how I tend to work. After gessoing and sanding everything, I painted the canvas red to get a nice under-painting start. I then used a payne’s grey to start drawing out the lines.

Not a bad start

Above: two paintings that I’ve started with my first pass of paint. I still have a LOT more work on both of these to go.

close-up of pg 10

Close-up of a small page with one pass of paint on it. Again, putting the first pass of paint on is mostly to help break my fear of blank canvas.  Throughout all of this, Ripley couldn’t care less:

Couldn't care less...

I’m always surprised by how Ripley can just lay down however, and still seem comfortable. Also, I always thought that those Celtic knot animals were unrealistic, until I met Ripley:

Ripley Knot

She is quite the dog.

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