Wednesday, 30 January 2013

John, George, and Dream's Sister

John Lennon, George Harrison, and Death

This one took forever and had quite a few false starts.
Private commission from late last year.  Actually managed to forget about it between applying coats of fixative.

Graphite on 13x17" 2-ply Strathmore Bristol


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Alice Morgan From Luther

Another warm-up study from the Luther TV show (love my DVDs).  this time it's everyone's favourite murderer, Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) from Idris Elba's LUTHER TV series.

Graphite on 9x12" 2-ply Bristol paper.

Monday, 21 January 2013

DCI Luther

Today's warm-up got a little out of control time-wise.

Huge fan of Idris Elba's  Luther series so I thought I'd draw him this morning.  Was going to do it in ink, but the grey tone seemed more appropriate.

4B & 8B graphite on 9x12" 2-ply Bristol.


Friday, 18 January 2013

A Serious Person

I'm reading Christopher Hitchens' fifth collection of essays, Arguably.

 I expect it'll take some time to read them all as his work often inspires long periods of reflection. Even this bit quoted from the introduction has set off an avalanche of ideas in areas largely unrelated to his work.

". . . I annexed a thought of Nadine Gordimer's, to the effect that a serious person should try and write posthumously. By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints -- of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and perhaps especially intellectual opinion -- did not operate."

I'm now thinking of the very important distinction in the difference priorities in creating something to have immediate success and those for long term success -- or even worth.  I found myself thinking how this applies to the current state of the comics industry, largely because this is where my thoughts are most often drawn recently.  What follows could be said about every creative field driven by financial concerns, really, but I'll limit myself to comics for this.

We have creators and even a major publishing company entirely driven driven by the need for immediate success over any other consideration.  Matters of creativity, quality, respect, consistency, and even simple order are all secondary to achieving immediate success measured primarily in sales.  Quality is measured by place on the monthly sales charts, as such, if it sells it must be good even if the work is arguably bad from any critical standpoint.  The aesthetics of the company or artist shift under this consideration. This can have little effect on the scale of an individual creator, sales might spike or perhaps not.  It might make it harder for their publisher to market their book, if publishers actually marketed books these days, but the only dynamic at play is the relationship between the work and the creator's audience;  if the audience likes the changes or not, grows or diminishes determines the success of such an approach.

On the scale of a major publisher, such an approach can have a much greater impact on their product and the creators hired to create it.  I'm specifically talking about DC and the way they've been operating for the last few years, but most specifically since the beginning of the New 52.  Writers were working books without being told they were actually pitching to get the jobs until after editorial decided on another writer.  Artists being told they would be removed from books if they weren't three issues ahead of publication of their first issues while still awaiting their first scripts.  Creatives given the direction to write as exploitative as possible with an eye to create sales through shock. Writers being pulled after getting the assignment, writers being told to rewrite portions of a comic already completely drawn.  Plots being accepted, altered, altered again, altered yet again, then rejected.  Creatives being fired by e-mail, if they were told at all.  The Before Watchmen project that no one wanted. Long-term successes such as Vertigo being gutted of content and staff to prop up the super hero line. People hired to write or draw a book, then pulled before the work is solicited. E-mails demanding creators keep their mouths shut about being fired or risk never getting work from DC again.  Articles in other places go into much more detail than I want to here, but the point should be clear;  DC is doing everything to dominate the market NOW, even at the expense of its own future.  

It's a desperate and scary thing to watch.  DC used to be the tortoise to Marvel's hare, never winning the monthly sales battles, but continually putting out quality projects that would sell for years and even decades after the people stopped caring about the latest X-Men event.  Marvel looks stable by comparison, with its group of writers called "architects' and planning the future of their complex universe.  Work on Marvel's next big event started as far back at 2011, making Marvel seem akin to pyramid builders to DC's current crop manufacturers of prefab box stores. It creates a glowing picture of Marvel at first,  before you realise they're still the same old hare they've always been, but they're just as interested and focused on the now as DC, but much more experienced at servicing the market for it.  Marvel isn't in the panic DC is, or, if they are, they're doing a fantastic job of hiding it behind the near-effortless manner they jump from sales event to sales event with their current push even called Marvel NOW.

We have both major publishers and a significant number of creators all focused on what they need to do now to have success now.  I would be lying if this wasn't as often true among the smaller publishers as well.  Many are desperately hanging on to any ground they've taken in this shrinking market with their bloody, clawed hands while snatching at anything that looks to extend their subsistence in the direct market.  This usually takes the shape of a significant bite of any TV or film options;  the brass ring of small comics publishing.  It's another form of publishing for the now as it increasingly warps what these publishers are looking for in new projects as they're thinking "can this be sold as a film" when looking at the proposals.

The smart creator, knowing the layout of the land, will shift their approach to their work with an eye to appealing to Marvel or DC or a smaller company to best get a similar immediate return.  This makes the creative position no different than any other skilled trade.  The writer or artist as plumber or electrician.  There's nothing wrong in that, just as there's nothing wrong with honest work for an honest salary.  However, I really don't think many people chose to work in comics for the paycheck as there are a number of better paying fields utilizing the same skill sets.  

What all this means is we have the vast majority of the people functioning in this industry working under the constraints of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, and public opinion.

Very few people are trying to create work that will matter once they're gone.  

Put that bluntly will likely upset more than a few people; no one want to be forgotten, but few seem eager to do what it takes to be remembered.  Would a serious person work for less in a field showing such little respect for its artists knowing their work was especially disposable? Forgettable?  I don't think I could return to work for hire jobs as an easily replaceable cog, I have little interest in it.

For myself, I know my motivation to do comics isn't some lingering childhood desire to draw Batman or Spider-Man, but to tell stories that will entertain and hold an audience long after the work was first published, hopefully long after I'm gone.

When it comes to the comics I'm doing, I'm doing my best to be a serious person.


(the sketch above is based on Christian Witkin's photograph)

Friday, 11 January 2013

Horror Project Concept Work 01

Been developing a new project and I thought I'd share a peek at some of the developmental art.


Friday, 4 January 2013

A Vulgar Motive

Saw someone posting about how they've lost their motivation to draw.

The best motivation to draw is because you love drawing, but, as we age, outside opinions and internal anxieties start to present themselves.  You may start worrying you don't draw as well as those people.  Thinking 'I don't know if I can make a living drawing' or 'I have to get better.'  These things can really mess any artist up, especially when your young and not getting the satisfaction from drawing you used to.

There's a reason for this and it's pretty simple;  you used to feel better about drawing when you were a child because drawing was its own reward.  As you drew more you probably got positive feedback from family and friends and that became important, reducing the importance of the inherent reward of drawing.  You became 'that kid who could draw real good'.  I was a part of your identity when you were starting to form who you thought you would be.

You went to some form of art school and you took a bit of an ego hit.   Someone, or several someones, were better than you thought you were.  It was easier to deal with because it was a small group, but still, you grew a little insecure.

Then you were done with school and, maybe, the job didn't come like you hoped, or you decided you weren't happy with your portfolio and needed to redo it but just never got around to finishing it.

Or you looked around and realised you were now competing with everyone out there and some of those people blow your mind and you want to be as good as them butyou don'tknow howandit'sjusttoogoddamnedhard. . . awwwww, fuckit!

And you         stop                drawing.

That's sad.

Understandable, but sad.

Short of brain damage, it's not likely you'll regain that childlike glee from drawing for its own sake, you spent too many years developing and maturing so that dog don't hunt no more.

However, you're an adult and you're on the internet, so I think I can help.

I'm going to tell you and everyone who reads this the real secret now that we're too complex to be happy with whatever comes out of the end of the Crayola and our circle of friends are a little more critical than the kids you impressed in school.

Here it is:

Drawing is fucking.

No, that's not an incomplete sentence.  You have to change your relationship between you and drawing so it mimics your relationship with sex.  It has to become something you do because it feels good.

"B-but, I don't have a partner!', you protest.  All the better, since drawing for yourself is essentially masturbating.  You're in complete control, can do whatever you like, however you like,  and you're done when you want to be done and no one has to happy with it but you.

"B-but, I don't masturbate!"  Fuck you, everyone masturbates.  Even Brad Pitt, Eva Longoria,  and Barack Obama masturbate when the need and opportunity arises, though I am rather certain when they do they are in different locations and at different times.
. . . .

Sorry, had a weird image I had to get out of my head.

To continue with the metaphor, when you're masturbating it doesn't matter if you look like Matt Damon or Rosario Dawson, so it doesn't matter if you can't draw like Frank Frazetta or Claire Wendling.  Just draw because it feels good.  If no one's paying for it, or you're not trying to make someone else happy with the results the actual results don't matter as long as you enjoyed the process and are happy when your done.  Keep a super-secret sketch-book that no one else is allowed to see and actually make the connection more explicit (see what I did there?) and make it a sex fantasy sketch book.  Heck, Robert Crumb didn't keep his fantasies secret and those sketch books bought him a house in France.

Going to push this a little further.

Like sex with a partner, drawing can be better when you get another person involved.  Hell, you can get some hot group action going quite easily -- probably easier than in real life.  Drop in on open life drawing session, join online sketch groups, form a sketch blog with weekly challenges.  Buy a sketchbook and ping-pong it with a friend, alternating who gets to draw in it from week to week.  There are lots of ways to get other people involved.

Hell, you can even draw with people of the same sex and no one will bat an eyelash!

This even applies to professional work.  You can even make the direct comparison that some work is essentially prostitution if you're only doing for the money, but the work you do for money should contain some satisfaction in both the process and completion regardless of content or client (if not, get a different client).  This can turn into a long digression, so I'll stop there.

If you think you've lost your motivation to draw and are depressed about it, do realise something different has actually occurred.  You wouldn't be sad about it if you actually lost your drive or motivation;  if you weren't actually interested in drawing it wouldn't bother you.  You programmed yourself into this mess, putting one or more bits of clogging code between wanting to draw and drawing.  Hack your brain.  Defrag it, whatever you need to call it to help you make a direct connection between drawing and your pleasure response.

At first, make it easy.  Draw things you know you're good at.  Don't make it any more difficult or demanding than just enjoying it -- I don't know of any people who set goals when they're hammering their happy buttons, so there's no need to do that here. Make it fun -- that's what it's supposed to be.

Once you're back to enjoying drawing, then think about pushing yourself a bit.  I'm certain you'll already find you're drawing better just from loving it again.

Now, go spank that sketch book!


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2013 Zombie drawing

Wasn't having any appropriate zombie ideas New Year's Eve. so I was actually considering doing something other than a New Year's Zombie.  It was a little depressing to consider giving up after doing one every year since 2007, though.

A day later I thought "hey, that's kinda creepy".

And so, here's the 2013 model zombie.  I think it's the first female and the first victim, too.

Hope everyone's year is off to a great start!