Art Confessional Vomitorium: part I

I don’t even know how to start this post…  There are things I need to get off my chest and out into the open, but this isn’t really the place to do it.  What this blog is for, and what I want to post, is art.  What I am having a lot of trouble motivating myself to do lately is art.  I have become so selfish with my not-at-home time it’s pretty sickening.  I have so many productive things I want to be doing.  But when I get to my overnight job, where all is quiet (for the most part) and I usually have a few solid hours of absolutely free time and it’s really the best time in the world to put effort into drawing/writing/creating whatever, I just stall.  And stall and stall and stall…

Drawing is my breath; it makes me happy.  It’s fun.  But I have discovered that I have what comes down to a kind of sickness when the act of drawing is coupled to anything outside of a random, spontaneous creative burst.  If I can’t finish something within the first spasm of inspiration, it will take me (almost, but not so off as to be really false) FOREVER to finish it.  I have started and subsequently neglected SO MANY PROJECTS it’s depressing and embarrassing.  I wander around the web drooling at the beautiful, magical things my art idols create (people like Emily Carroll, Lois van Baarle, Heather/Makani, the Cannons, Josh Middleton, Joy Ang and soooo many more).  I stalk about like a ninja, trying to absorb the coolness and talent  and wanting so badly to enter that inner circle of people who have DONE STUFF.  Then I leave the noise and busy-ness of our home, the fun and joy of life with wife and kids and housemates and churchmates and coffeehousemates and enter my quiet place of (drumroll) imminent productivity.  And then I play Minecraft.  Or watch another pointless kung-fu movie.  Or read blogs.  Or eat without needing to.  Or read some book.

Even when I actually get the pen to touch tablet and make lines on the screen, I can always find an excuse to draw something OTHER than what I know I need to finish.  And every second I don’t do what I know I need to do, I am CONSCIOUSLY choosing not to do it!  I feel exactly like I felt when I first started this blog, at war with the forces of laziness and procrastination and knowing I’ve been actively fighting for the losing side.  I’ve victimized good people who really want to help me on my path to “being an artist”, and so often it’s in the name of protecting my precious “free time” after having long, stressful days at home.  Everyone who is anyone sacrifices that free time to their cause, their dream, but (understatement of the universe) it’s very hard.  It’s hard to get motivated at 2 in the morning.  It’s hard to resist the foul succubus named FUN.  It’s hard to be dealing with money, kids, drama, volunteering, organizing, blah blah blah and then take those precious hours of calm on the night shift and sacrifice them on the altar of “career”.  Anyway, that’s how it FEELS, but in reality it’s drawing!  It’s the thing I love to do!  It’s my hobby!  It’s fun!  It makes no sense, and I hate it.

I’ve started some big, cool things that I want to show people so desperately, but as finished products.  The only thing is I have no idea when that will happen.  So here it is, my shame: my gallery of things that will be really cool someday.  At the moment they are poor orphaned children, birthed into the forgetful hands of a procrastinator.  Perhaps, as I struggle with myself and claim a few victories, some of these will mature into brilliant gleams of portfolio-worthiness, and you will be able to witness their transcendence right here at the Tethered Hawk!  Until then, they cry out as did the poor hunchback, Richard III:

“I, that am rudely stamped, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them…”

Sorry– got a little melodramatic.  *ahem*  To the gallery!

First, and most dear to my heart at the moment, are the beginnings of a series of portraits of one of literature’s most underexposed, misunderstood heroes/villains/demi-xeno-nematodes: Leto II, the God Emperor of Dune, from Frank Herbert’s book… ‘God Emperor of Dune’.

I have been trying to learn to use Photoshop to “paint” more realistically, and after that girl’s head a few posts previous I attempted Leto.  I was re-reading the series for the first time since high-school and was stunned at how little I’d “got” back then.  I loved the first one in high school, but as the series went on it just kept going so far over my head that very little was retained in my brain at the end.  Not so today; they’ve pretty much changed my life.  Back then, I was infatuated with Lynch’s movie, and only connected with the first book.  This time, they seemed to get more fascinating and uber-creative and just plain brilliant with each successive book.  I just finished them last month, and they were so incredible it’s hard to put it into words.  I think I have to do a whole separate posting on why I was so fascinated by Leto II, and the Dune saga in general.  (I also read one of the Brian Herbert Dune prequels, ‘The Butlerian Jihad’, and… I don’t think I’ll try another.)

The funny thing is that in this great wide world of the internet, almost every depiction of Leto (there are very few out there) is really creepy and scary looking, like an evil monster.  After seeing what was out there, I had to try to render a potrait that would capture this intelligent, caring man going through the unimaginable complexities of becoming an unapproachably powerful and horrifyingly deformed demi-god in the name of a love for the human race which would be unrequited due to the very nature of the physical transformation and tyrranic rule that would ultimately save them from a horrific future.  I think I totally captured that.  *cough cough*  Just kidding.  But at least he’s not all gross-looking.

As an aside, my favorite (and for some reason, almost the only consistent) serious Dune art in internetland is done by an incredible artist named Emily Carroll.  Not only is she a fremkit full of nonstop awesome, she seems to be one of the biggest Dune nerds in the entire world, and she makes me wish there were tons of Dune nerds everywhere that I could talk with and visit each others’ houses for Fremen tea-time to have cinnamon coffee and sticks of the moist, brown paste that’s in between the layers of those cheap cinnamon rolls you get at gas stations.  But I digress…  I tried to make a Leto that would have good chemistry with her portrait of Hwi Noree.

Next, a project more relevant to my real art future: “Currently-Untitled-But-Awesome-Superhero-Comic-Pitch-Project”, in which I illustrate my friend Ted Anderson’s pitch-script for a really creative superhero miniseries.  I have strung this project along like a poor helpless kitten on a spiked dog leash of indecisiveness for almost a year and a half now.  I think my inability to commit to finishing this has to do with my own insecurities as an artist: I have been really frustrated with myself for not having a clear “style” when it comes to polished comic art, and I really want these pages to be FANTASTIC for Ted.  He deserves it.  He’s a brilliantly creative guy, and I love his origin ideas for the characters in this comic, as well as the plot itself.  It actually makes me excited about doing a straight-up superhero comic.

I have made so many excuses for why this is taking so long, and they’ve all been factual, including trying out new styles, learning to color better, being too busy, being abducted by aliens…  I have tried to figure out why I keep touching on work for this and then shying away again, and I think I’ve zeroed in on it: I have a pathological fear of drawing backgrounds.  Goofy, cartoonish backgrounds are no problem.  But I’m almost incapable of rendering realistic inorganic surroundings.  Buildings, sidewalks, cars, etc…  They cause my mind to froth and shake and collapse into paralysis like a blue-ringed octopus victim.  Whole pages of this pitch have cityscape scenes and it’s like there’s a forcefield around any page with that designation.  It makes me feel like I’m taking crazy pills… and it’s embarrassing.  But I shall struggle ahead for Ted!  If all goes well, this project should the first out of the Vomitorium and into the world of completion.  Priority 1.

In my next post, the Vomitorium continues with more exciting orphans from Jesse’s convoluted cortex!  Stay tuned!

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5 Responses to “Art Confessional Vomitorium: part I”

  1. Kevin Eklund Says:

    This is great stuff Jesse. I sympathize with your awkwardness to press forward with projects that you should want to jump into with excitement and fervor. I have a bunch in the shop. Liz is on me all the time to finish what I started. It’s so much more fun to start a new and exciting project, which you’ve never done before, then to continue with what has gone creatively stale. When I think of great art I always think of your talent that so impressed me back in the day. You have what it takes. Good luck. I hope you can find your motivation.

    – Eklund

  2. This post really strikes a chord with me. I feel the same way all the time. Though I have no solution, I have found the real demon not to be laziness, but fear. “What if I can’t do it?” “What if I can’t do it well… enough?” “What if no one likes it?” “What if I’m wasting my time?” All of these what-ifs drag me down and leave me reading blogs, or playing video games. But if you can figure out the root of what’s stopping you, you’re already on your way to knocking it down.

    You have a metric fuck-ton of talent and goodness in you, I know you can dig deep and squash those pesky fears and doubts.

  3. Ah, the look in his eyes! That’s a most sensitive interpretation of such a character. But the look in his eyes! It is so right. I’m delighted by the way you caught it and then managed to transmit those 3500 years of loneliness. Love it!

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