Archive for the Literature Category

Skull Island

Posted in Drawings, Gormenghast, Literature, Movies, Skull Island with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2011 by gladlad

For the last year I’ve been, periodically, telling my kids bedtime stories loosely based on King Kong.  I love pretty much every version of that movie, and it affords a wealth of ideas for cliffhanger moments; a whole island full of whatever crazy monster and dinosaur you can think of.  My kids call them “Skull Island stories”, and at first they followed the original Kong storyline pretty well, albeit with names changed and far fewer gruesome deaths.  But after months of the fearless ship and film crews searching for Kong’s lair where the actress is stuck alternately fighting and bonding with the gorilla, it started getting a little stale.

There were no children in the original King Kong story, so I though it’d be fun to introduce a little tribal girl named Kita from the walled island city.  She knows about the island and how dangerous it is, but after a mishap involving her doll, she gets stuck outside the city wall and has to get back in somehow.  And on Skull Island, nothing’s ever easy.

I’ve been meaning to hone my brushwork, so I finally drew a picture from our stories.  Here’s Kita and her doll getting swept out to sea in the throes of a suprised python at the base of the city wall.  (Just before this, she was riding a giant ant through the jungle, which I think I’ll draw next.)

In other news, I have been absolutely LOVING the novel ‘Titus Groan’, the first of the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake.  The story is about a handful of characters living their day-to-day lives within the massive, sprawling (like, city-sized) castle of Gormenghast.  I had first heard about this series in a book called, appropriately enough, ‘Castles’ illustrated by one of my art heroes, Alan Lee.  ‘Castles’ is a kind of visual encycopedia of famous castles from world fiction and mythology, and Gormenghast caught my attention due to its description of castle-as-world instead of a simple building within a larger story.  But Castles didn’t prepare me for the oppressively sumptuous writing this book contains.  Peake is a wordcrafter.  He is a sentence-sculptor; a paragraph alchemist.  He wields English like a sensual brush dripping with dark, brooding intensity.  There are no words to describe his words.

The book begins as playful, even cartoonish, and then begins to twist and wrap itself around itself; simple caricatures of characters so idiotic in their exaggerated weirdness gradually solidifying into intensely, horribly fleshed-out individual personalities much deeper than you are prepared to be faced with.  And the description!  The metaphors and similes, the alliterations and onomatopoeia…  It’s like drinking a book made out of dark, spooky, ancient wine made from fruit you’ve never heard of before because it’s from a black hole.  It is a gothic, somber beauty, made even more impressive after seeing Peakes original sketches of his characters.  For the love of all that’s literary, go look at them, man!  He was a writer-artist, of a sort not seen very often at all.  And certainly not in 1946!  It’s like e. e. cummings and H. P. Lovecraft went to William Burroughs’ opium den together and came out with a book-baby, delivered by Dr. Seuss.  And then it’s… not like that at all.

Anyway, it’s (insert hugely understated superlative here).

More from Jonathan Strange

Posted in Drawings, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by gladlad

Well, here’s my portrait of the homeless, vagrant, swarthy, crabby and very important magician Vinculus from ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’, which I posted about last week.

I have been wanting to try a piece of art in the style of Arthur Rackham for a while, and this was a perfect chance for it.  Rackham’s sketchy, twisty linework and brown tones work perfectly for this sketchy, twisted character.  You can see that his face changed a bit from the original sketch (which was also a little hydrocephalic); I just could not get that face to look right in the inks.  It’s sad, because he looks a little more… evil than I intended him to in the final, but maybe that’s a good thing, I dunno.  Anyway, there it is!  Cheerio!

A Portrait of the Raven King as a Young Man

Posted in Drawings, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by gladlad

So I’m on my second time through ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’.  Goodness gracious, what do you say about this book?  I’m sure it’s a very niche-audience work, but I am very well within that niche of people who love Regency-era British literature, historical fiction and well-thought-out fantasy.  This novel pleases all three pleasure-centers in spades.  Didn’t know you had a Regency-era literature pleasure center, did you?  It’s easy to miss due to its quiet formality and slight aloofness, always sneering down its nose at the electronic entertainment pleasure center, which is quite the attention hog.  But I digress.

‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ is a big, thick, unruly book with many characters and lots going on.  It’s very slow at first, but once it picks up, you don’t want it to stop, what with its triple-pleasure-power.  And it… really doesn’t stop for a long long time.  It’s amazing.  Susanna Clarke spent like a DECADE writing this thing, and it is sprawling; with humor, horror, (quietly formal) romance, magic, fairies, more magic, and even a big, climactic… climax.  Jane Austen never had a big climactic climax.  (That was totally not a double-entendre regarding being a middle-aged spinster, btw.)  I hear there’s a movie on the table, which is both awesome and sad for the age-old reason that a book this huge cannot be condensed.  It’d steal its whole charm.  Aw, who knows.

Anyway, all this is to say that I started out illustrating a scene from the book-world’s history when the Raven King arrives in England for the first time after being raised by fairies in Fairie for fourteen years.  Note: that means that in this illustration he is fourteen years old.  That’s why he “looks like a girl”, to all you people who thought so.  Apparently fairies don’t think much of short hair.  *ahem*  He comes back, kicks ass, rules the Northern half of England for three hundred years, then disappears and other stuff happens (namely the stuff in the book).  But instead of illustrating the actual scene with his fairie soldiers and stuff, it just turned into a portrait due to me actually wanting to finish it.  Thus, the dude standing behind him in the sketch not being there anymore later.  Goodbye, fairie dude.  The background is a mock-up from several different photographs.

Also, below is the “light” version I made before realizing he was wearing black wool in that part.  Which was silly of me altogether because, like any hip goth guy, he only really ever wore black.  With his long, dark hair hanging greasily before his dark eyes, like pools of shadow; unfathomable and remote, dark as a raven’s wing at midnight… at the bottom of a well.  Of ink.  (Whoa– flashbacks from the “Bad Poetry Day” post…)

I’m working on another character, the street magician Vinculus, and a depiciton of the magic done at Yorkminster Cathedral, both of which I shall hopefully post shortly.  Until then I shall say “shall” more, and look down my nose at their unfinishedness with aloof haughtiness.  Pish tosh!

Art Confessional Vomitorium: part IV

Posted in Drawings, Literature, Love, Things That Anger Me on November 9, 2010 by gladlad

Well, here it is… the final installment of the Vomitorium.  Not much here, just a couple favored odds and ends I’d like to work on more:

This first is an illustration inspired by the reading of William Morris’ early fantasy novel “The Wood Beyond the World”.  And when I say “early”, I mean that this is probably the first ever proper fantasy novel or more accurately ‘proto-fantasy’; it was most likely the first book in a ‘novel’ style in history to meld characters in an imaginary land with the practice of magic and the supernatural, this being the general definition of “fantasy”. 

I had previously read a later book by Morris, “The Water of the Wondrous Isles”, and it affected me deeply.  I *WILL* do a portrait someday soon of its protagonist, the damsel Birdalone (is that an awesome name or what?) who… oh, it’s a long story.  Suffice to say that Birdalone is one of the earliest, awesomest heroines in novel history, IMHO. 

Then, having loved that book, I saw this (or rather a facsimile of this) at a bookstore:

 

BASK IN THE SWEETNESS!!!  BAAAAASK!!!  Books can look like that!  Okay, William Morris was incredible: he wrote this book, drew these pictures, formed that typeface, built a printing house (Kelmscott Press) and cranked awesome books like this out, and on the side he also made incredible tapestries and textiles, paintings, poetry and was the first astronaut.     …Oh, all right, he wasn’t an astronaut.  But all the other stuff is true.

The story in “The Wood” isn’t so great.  I’ll be honest.  And MAN was that text hard to read.  Very little punctuation or paragraph division, and some archaic letter forms made for a real brain-haul.  But I am a slave to prettiness, so I made it through.  And when I was done I drew a pretty girl with big, magic dogs.  Really ugly dogs, too.  Yick.

The second image is a big ugly fish head.  ……Still tryin’ to learn to “paint”, this time with a demo of OpenCanvas.  That’s a cool program!

The third is a Locathah from a series of portraits of some friends’ D&D characters I want to do.  I actually played D&D more than one time this last year, now that a bunch more nerds moved into our home since last spring.  I decided that I’m a bit too old to need to worry about being cool anymore (it’s always been a HUGE priority for me), so I can finally play Dungeons and Dragons if I dang well please.  I believe I’m up to about three full game nights so far!  My character’s a Lillend, which is a human from the waist up, a huge snake from the waist down, with huge, awesome bird-wings.  They are skilled musicians, and fly into a berserker rage whenever someone destroys a beautiful work of art or nature.  Word.  Oh, and they drink moonlight.  I wish I could drink moonlight.

AND NOW!!!  As promised in my last post, a sexy pinup of the Jesster from just before I cut my hair really short! 

This came about after finding a Photoshop tutorial on how to make a movie poster in the style of “300”.  My wife had no idea why she was asked to take the photo, but boy was she peasantly surprised when she found out.  There’re also some funny things in the credits, but mostly only if you know our past & present household.  Well, that wraps it up for the Art Confessional Vomitorium!  Now I can get down to actually producing finished things!

Soon: ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’ fan art!

Art Confessional Vomitorium: part I

Posted in Comics, Drawings, Literature, Love, Miscellaneous, Things That Anger Me on September 26, 2010 by gladlad

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!

Jo-Jo’s Story

Posted in Drawings, Literature on May 1, 2010 by gladlad

Last month I did some illustrations for a “children’s book” describing the young life of my brother-in-law, Jo-Jo.  He grew up in Chicago and lived life on the super-duper wrong side of the tracks for a while, but turned around and is now one of the coolest guys in town.  The book was written by a guy named Truett Lawson, and was the result of a couple people realizing the wish of a woman who died recently who wanted to make a book that would affect the lives of people in prison, telling about Jesus’ love for them.  Jo-Jo asked me to do the illustrations, and I began working on some stuff like this:

Which I was really enjoying.  “Painting” in Photoshop is fun, when it works, and I was excited to continue, and had a few sketches laid out for the other pieces, but then my laptop broke.  It just stopped turning on.  So I had to send it in to the shop and furiously bash out the illustrations by hand in just a few days.  And here they are: