Artist. Designer. Awkward wad of nerd. Fights off existential terror and self-loathing with Godzilla films.

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

Make Mine Marvel

I don’t know why I decided to do this, but here is a list of every movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and what I think are the best and worst moments from each. A lot of these movies run together, they’re very middle of the road movies that tend to play it safe and follow the same formula, so I guess trying to pick the highlights and low points is an interesting exercise in finding things that really stand out.

 

Iron Man (2008)
Best Moment: I have two here. The first is when Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges, basically makes threats at Tony while grinning, hand on his shoulder, the two of them posing for photos outside of some big event. The other one is after Stane becomes Iron Monger, when he grabs a passing motorcycle, wheels still spinning and engine still revving, and smacks Iron Man with it. Good stuff.

Worst Moment: Is it this one where he sleeps with a reporter, and she wakes up in his home, and there’s this moment where she’s in awe of his automated house voiced by Paul Bettany? And then Pepper Potts steps in and kicks her out? Because that was lame.

 

The Incredible Hulk (2008)
...I don’t remember anything about this movie because I haven’t seen it since its theatrical release 9 freaking years ago. I mean, there are parts I remember, but they are neither good nor bad, they’re just there. There’s a shot that almost looks like Cloverfield, where the Abomination is leaping, I think, and I know William Hurt is in it and I like that dude a lot but I don’t recall his performance at all. Stan Lee drinks a soda? Is there a favela chase scene, like in Fast Five, or is that me projecting a better movie’s action sequence? Let’s move on!

 

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Best Moment: There is nothing redeemable about this movie. Except Sam Rockwell, I guess, he’s cool, but I don’t remember his performance, ugh.

Worst Moment: Drunk Tony Vs Rhodey, the cartoony clanging of their suits awkwardly bashing together like a child with action figures.

 

Thor (2011)
Best Moment: This is another one I’m struggling to remember. I liked the Destroyer a lot? Doesn’t he fire a really cool beam? I remember that looking cool.

Worst Moments: DUTCH ANGLES. They shot the movie in native 3D so I guess Kenneth Branagh thought it’d be cool to have the camera lopsided all the damn time for DEPTH.

 

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Best Moment: I don’t remember the context AT ALL, but Steve Rogers, super soldier, is reduced to a mascot, trapped in a montage of onstage performances, maybe promoting war bonds? The man has a heart of gold and can throw vehicles at people and this is what the army does with him.

Worst Moment: ...the rest of the movie wasn’t memorable enough for me to think of anything here. The train sequence that leads to Bucky’s “death,” I guess, was kind of not well shot? I don’t know.

 

The Avengers (2012)

Best Moment: Harry Dean Stanton’s surprising cameo as a janitor who gives Bruce Banner a nice pep talk, like the angel that he is. The movie didn’t deserve his presence.

Worst Moments: The first, what, 20-30 minutes is unwatchable garbage and Joss Whedon’s habit of turning everybody into quippy smart mouths is the worst.

 

Iron Man 3 (2013)
Best: Tony Stark calling that kid a pussy before driving off.

Worst: That holographic version of the explosion site that Tony’s computer makes that he wanders through is a really dumb and pointless use of CG.

 

Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Best: I am an unabashed fan of this dumb movie, and it’s hard to pick one thing. I like the fleeting glimpses of tokusatsu looking dudes in the prison, the girl from Two Broke Girls awkwardly asking Thor how space is, the weird Star Wars dog fight, Stellan Skarsgard ranting in his underwear, Heimdall killing a spaceship single handedly...I mean, this is arguably one of the bottom tier films in the MCU but I don’t care because it’s stupid and fun.

Worst: Oh, that prologue is god-awful though. And Chris Eccleston needed more to do as that dark elf villain, but that’s not a *moment.*

 

Captain America: The Winter Solder (2014)
Best: Cap taking out a whole crew on that ship’s deck at the beginning of the movie like he’s speedrunning a videogame stage. This is the first of these movies with actual fights and action scenes and that opening was a nice way of making it known.

Worst: Cap putting his old costume back on, because geez that thing is ugly, why did they do that. Also, his lips in this movie were like, really noticeably pink, and distractingly so.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Best: I feel like this betrays my love for Michael Rooker as Yondu, who is a shining light in every scene he’s in, but it has to go to Rocket and Groot trying to capture Quill by putting him in an actual fucking sack like kidnappers from Looney Tunes.

Worst: Peter’s frat boy antics are really really tiresome, but the Jackson Pollack quip is the worst.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Best: Captain America, whose basic gimmick is throwing his shield at people, instead chooses to throw the motorcycle he rode in on at a henchman for no reason. It wasn’t low on fuel or banged up or anything, he just did it because he could. This is also, oddly, the second motorcycle related best moment I’ve brought up. Huh.
Runner up: Forgetting I even saw this movie after having my brain melted by the glory of Mad Max: Fury Road just a week or two later.

Worst: Ohhhh, it’s hard to pick. This movie is a bloated mess, a chore to watch, not very fun at all. So many pointless scenes, SO MANY. I may have to give it to Black Widow calling herself a monster because she can’t have kids anymore, or whatever that scene was.

 

Ant-Man (2015)
Best: When he shrinks for the first time, and the camera does some weird, fish-eye wonky perspective inside the bathtub, and things just get wilder from there. Or wait, maybe it’s Michael Peña talking about art. Or maybe it’s just Michael Peña. I dunno.

Worst: There are a lot of shots in this movie that feel like they just didn’t have the actors in the same room when they shot it, that they’re just all composited in. A lot of parts like that which just don’t feel organic. I dunno. They maybe shouldn’t have run off Edgar Wright like that.

 

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Best: Budapest. Bucky using whatever he can to fight his way through a bunch of dudes trying to capture him, kinda like a super powered Jackie Chan with a robot arm. Black Panther being an unstoppable force. The big airport fight feeling like something out of Super Sentai, probably the most tokusatsu thing to come out of these films so far.

Worst: The movie just sags whenever there aren’t any fights, but the de-aged Tony presentation grappling with the loss of his parents is just...so weird and unnecessary. Was that really the best way to demonstrate the fact that yes, Tony, like other people, feels regret?

 

Doctor Strange (2016)
Best: Tilda Swinton launching Strange through the multiverse is the wildest, trippiest thing, better than this movie deserves. I wish it did more of that.

Worst: Strange is a boring character played by an even more boring dude. Wait, this isn’t a moment. I felt bad for Rachel McAdams having almost nothing to do every time she was onscreen.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Best: Oh god, I don’t know. Yondu again? Rocket toying with the Ravagers out in the woods? Everyone in the movie being so weird looking and ugly, with James Gunn putting a lot of effort into giving them loving closeups? Setting up huge action sequences and then ignoring them? This is my favorite film out of all of these, in case y’all are wondering.

Worst: ENOUGH WITH THE DE-AGING SHIT ALREADY DISNEY, IT DOESN’T WORK AND IT LOOKS TERRIBLE. This is yet another Marvel movie with a crappy prologue attached, adding that effect just worsens it.

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Best: Hannibal Burress sending someone who looks nothing like him in his place to the movie’s premiere. And the end credits animation.

Worst: I dunno. It’s an okay movie. Nothing stood out as really BAD to me, except maybe how confusing the final fight on the stealth plane was. I just could not tell what I was looking at.

 

BONUS:
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) trailer
Best: “I lost my hammer...like, yesterday, so that’s pretty fresh.” Thor and Loki busting into a room with GIANT guns and blasting people is VERY Flash Gordon/Masters of the Universe and I’m thrilled for that. And I hope the rocking synthwave music going on is a good indicator of how the film’s score will be, because that’s rad.

Worst: When you realize Jeff Goldblum’s not going to be in the movie much at all, and that hurts.

 

Black Panther (2018) trailer
Best: MICHAEL B. JORDAN AS KILLMONGER. HIS HAIR. THAT MASK HE WEARS. And, you know, big budget afropunk, the kind of visuals we need more of in these damn movies.

Worst: ...there is really nothing about that trailer that I don’t like. I just hope they let Ryan Coogler do his thing and don’t get in the way too much, because I watched Creed last month and he’s a PHENOMENAL filmmaker.


 

Velocity climbing

A lot has been happening lately! I managed to paint two more pictures for the Entropy series I've been doing.

How to Feel Welcome Again

It Isn't Like Her to Fall Apart Like That
I submitted everything for consideration just a few days ahead of the deadline. The show I'm hoping to get into is From These Hills, a group exhibition at the William King Museum. That was my primary motivation while working on these, as I think I said. I should hear back by mid-August whether or not I'll make it in. Here's my artist statement that I submitted with the paintings and a copy of Debris Field:

Entropy is inevitable. Everything breaks down and everything we do contributes to it. These paintings are about applying entropy to emotional states, how they can alter us and our surroundings. It was an opportunity to do more surrealistic work, and choosing to primarily use watercolors and ink helped maintain a sense of immediacy while also contributing to the entropic theme. The nude figures are a subject I’ve been focusing on for the past year and a half through life drawing, emphasizing vulnerability and our relationship with our environment. The geometric and polygonal shapes and focus on colored lines were inspired largely by a videogame called Rez Infinite, and illustrates how things break down.


Getting these done in time was quite a load off my shoulders. I've been thinking about just how much stress I put on myself by taking on projects like these, and how I need to handle things better. I always talk about pushing myself too hard and burning out, and this was definitely on that same track. Gotta dial it back.

Next in line: finishing the comic I've been doing with Danny Djeljosevic. I just finished inking the final page today, even! Won't be much longer before we can show you some stuff! After that, I'm going to devote myself to working on a new webcomic. No idea when anything from that will see the light of day. I want it ready to launch this year, but, you know, see above about pushing myself. Not to mention, after doing large watercolor and ink paintings, I want to continue doing fine art, but now I want to try a different direction. Goauche on canvas, maybe? We'll see.

There have been a couple figure drawing parties this month, with another lined up for this Sunday. I didn't get to draw much at one since I wound up being the primary model, but I have started playing some with watercolors, which is a real challenge under a time limit.

At the other one, we had quite a variety of models, so I got to go wild and play around a whole lot.

Posting some of these on Instagram led to someone wanting to commission me to draw them nude as an anniversary gift for their husband. It fell through for some reason, but I didn't realize that that was something you could do? I wonder how you could advertise something like that. I love figure drawing, and being able to make money from it would be incredible.

Oh yeah: after two years of abandonment, I briefly returned to Reflected Gaze to write one last blog post. It's a weird personal thing about using nudity as a form of self care, as well as just trying to be more open and true to myself, and there's a picture with my butt in it, so maybe don't click on that link if you're not interested in seeing that.

RobCon was this past weekend, and I felt weird and uneasy about it, having not done any other shows this year besides the Asheville Zine Fest. I took a bunch of old toys of mine to sell alongside my work, having just rounded them up from my parents' basement. Had I not done that, this would've absolutely been my worst RobCon since 2013. I kept making jokes that the toys would sell better than my work, which luckily, and just barely, wasn't true. I drew a whole series of sketch cards for this show and only sold some that people specifically requested online, and only did a few small sketches on Saturday. Only a few prints sold, but Debris Field and the reprint of Slimepunk did okay. I feel like I need to make some changes and shake things up next year so I can do better.

But hey, I got to see a bunch of friends, someone brought me food both days, and I bought far more kaiju toys than I expected to. It's always a good time, no matter how well I do or what that anxious hum in my brain tells me.

The Johnson City Zine Fest is next month, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. I hope it does well.

Okay. Deep breath. I think that's everything. But there's clearly more to do. Keep doing whatever it is you do, help your friends and others when you can, and make sure to take care of yourself too. I'll see you later, yeah?

Always without armor

Some time back, March maybe, I mentioned starting on a new series of paintings. I don't think I've shared them here yet, but they've got a lot in common with what I was going for in Debris Field. Here's what I've got so far:

Forever, Her Gaze
Personification of the abyss, like staring across the room at someone you're crushing on.

Shaped From Her Tears
The weight of depression.

Exhaustion From Every Direction
Too much happening at once.

Always Without Armor
Feeling vulnerable all the time.

When She Scatters
Pulled in every direction, unable to keep up and collect your thoughts.

The ideas for these developed almost simultaneously alongside Debris Field, so I had the same theme in mind: entropy. There's a page in DF about emotions and the different kinds of energy they produce, how it can't be contained. So that's what I'm trying to get at with these, having been riding across the emotional spectrum like a raw nerve all year and watching my friends have similar experiences.

They're all big, 18x24 inches, with the exception of Armor, which is only 9x12. The goal is to have enough of these done to submit for an upcoming group show at the William King Museum, the deadline being late next month. I need 6 total to submit, but I want to crank out more than that to have more choices to work with. Fingers crossed, but even if nothing makes it in, doing these has been really good for me. I'm trying a lot of new things and it's a really nice change of pace from everything else I've been doing lately. They're such a different challenge, and I really do enjoy working with watercolors. It's also nice playing with surrealism for the first time in a long time, and working in those elements from Rez Infinite like I've been wanting to do.

My figure drawing group's first anniversary was in May, but we couldn't get together until a couple weeks ago, our first party since February, and good times were had. We've already got the next party lined up for July. I'm so proud of this little group. It's such a great thing to be part of.

I'm in the home stretch on the cyberpunk comic I've been working on with Danny Djeljosevic since last year. Only 10 pages left to draw and color! Since the surgery in April I've managed to get caught up on the rest and this is all that remains. I'm excited to finish and actually share it! It's been quite a journey.

I already know what I'm doing next once it's wrapped up. I'm already laying groundwork and doing a lot of worldbuilding stuff for it. It's going to be great, I hope.

And I haven't been quite on it this year like I was in 2016, but kaiju fanart is still happening. Here's a skullcrawler from Kong: Skull Island:

And here's Majaba, which I painted for a friend using my own toy as reference:

HeroesCon was this past weekend. It feels incredibly weird that I didn't go, even having made the decision not to much earlier this year. Usually my mind is consumed during the weeks leading up to it, but this year I kept forgetting it was even happening until I'd see someone bring it up on social media, and watching a number of friends and artists I know posting from the con itself is such an odd feeling. You'd think it'd be fine, missing so many shows this year, but it feels kind of wrong not freaking out over any upcoming shows.

Rob-Con is at the end of July, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. The next Johnson City Zine Fest is in August. I don't think I'm doing anything else unless FRAG puts anything together. Again, I should be enjoying this lack of show-related stress in my life, but it just feels off. Maybe next year will prove to be more eventful.

Regaining control

I LIVE.

My jaw surgery was April 11th. The aftermath was, no doubt, the worst I've ever felt in my life. Leaving the hospital and taking the five hour journey back home was awful, and the two weeks that followed were spent mostly in pain and feeling remarkably puny.

But here I am. Alive, still healing, but fairly okay.

I started a new black and white minicomic a week or two before the surgery. I had been aching to do one all year, and had a few failed starts, but finally things clicked into place and it was like a fever hit. It got sidelined thanks to the surgery, but I still managed to put together some pages while recovering. I finished the book this week. It's called Debris Field, it's 12 pages long, and it's about entropy.

It shares a handful of similarities with last year's comic, All of This Will Crumble. A lot of my personal obsessions are on display: nude figures, a mirror, a giant, et cetera, but I think it's wildly different from my other comics in how it was made and how it reads.

Two pages were drawn in my sketchbook. A few pages were on the comic board I typically use. Several were hastily scrawled out on cheap copy paper, with little to no penciling. It was mostly inked with a sloppy Pilot G-2 gel pen that tends to bleed or just stop altogether with little rhyme or reason. And the first page wasn't drawn at all:


There isn't quite a narrative to it. There aren't really any characters. I didn't produce it the way I have other things, clearly. Honestly, now that it's all done, I feel more like this comic erupted from me as its own strange beast, like I had no way of controlling how it came out. There wasn't much careful planning.

It was all about getting the pages out as quickly as possible, expelling a whole lot of feelings I'd been accumulating since late last year. It's more of a kind of a personal maifesto, maybe, as part of the reason I made it was to stand as a reminder of my emotional state as of late and how I've dealt with it.

Whatever it is, immediacy was key. Especially since everything else I've been working on has been going so slowly. Working on Debris Field admittedly slowed those other things down even more, too. Gotta get back on track after all of this.

I stayed up late the other night to finish it, and I got it printed yesterday. I bought what I thought was a pack of gray paper to print the cover on, only to realize when I got home that it was actually vellum. Light, gray, translucent, it reminds me of wax paper or an x-ray. Ink doesn't take too well to it, so smears and smudges could happen. Which is appropriate for a comic about degradation, right?

Also, using the vellum meant leaving the inside covers blank to keep the outsides readable, as well as finding a way to obscure the final page so that people don't quite know what they're looking at when they pick it up.

So of course I stuck with it, even though using colored paper and keeping the inside covers I had been working on would've sufficed just fine. It looks good though:

For those who aren't interested in a physical copy, I've put a PDF up on my Gumroad page for free, which you can go grab.

If that's the route you pick, please, spread the world. Tell others. Send them a copy if you think they'd be into it. Just like everything else I make, I want this to be in front of as many people as possible.

I'm glad I got this done in time for the Asheville Zine Fest this Sunday. I hate that I'm missing out on Free Comic Book Day, though. It'll be my first year skipping it since I got into making comics. I missed ETSUcon, ShikaCon went on a break, I'm missing HeroesCon too...it feels weird. Rob-Con is at the end of July though, and the Johnson City Zine Fest is in August. Definitely not going to miss those.

And there's that other stuff I'm working on, too. Goals are becoming more clear. But now? Now I need some rest.

The sky clears

I haven't done much since the last blog post. My brain has been kind of all over the place. Not that that's anything new, but I've been feeling more stretched thin lately.

One of my big anxieties lately has been the returned cyst in my jaw, which isn't actually a cyst but a kind of benign tumor with a long name I don't remember, so I call it a cyst because that's easier. Insurance never would work with the doctor in Knoxville, so the next bet is in Richmond, 5 hours away. An appointment was scheduled last month. To make the most of the trip, we decided to go up the day before to hang out in Washington, DC. There, at the National Zoo, the doctor's office called and canceled the appointment. It wasn't a wasted trip, it meant we could spend the next day in DC too, but it still felt like a waste and I came home depressed.

My other big anxiety: Since November, I've felt useless. I'm chipping away at a comic, working on other projects, or trying to brainstorm at least, and I keep thinking to myself, what's the point? What good does this serve? Will this stuff make the world a better place? I keep thinking no. I keep thinking about HyperNormalization, when Adam Curtis states that artists and self expression are virtually useless at enacting any great or necessary political change. It's a paralyzing thought.

This week, the two anxieties dissipated. Sort of. Hopefully.

We returned to DC on Wednesday, with the rescheduled appointment in Richmond on Thursday. We went back to the National Gallery of Art, not getting through it all in the first trip. It's such an overwhelming amount of art, spanning multiple centuries. It's staggering. But one scene struck me pretty hard: there was a group there that day, people moving arm in arm as couples. Half of the group was blind, the other half leading them through the museum, stopping in front of paintings and talking about them.

I think we were near the French paintings, past the Goyas I enjoyed seeing last time. Or maybe American works, I don't recall. But, I don't know. Someone considered the paintings on display important enough to organize this group to escort blind people through. It was emotional.

We moved on to the Eastern Wing, where the modern and contemporary art are displayed. I managed not to spit on the Jackson Pollock painting they had, but more importantly, I wandered into a little section on surrealism, turned and came face to face with Max Ernst's painting, A Moment of Calm, pictured above. It's a huge thing. It took up the entire little wall it was on, and it was such a staggering encounter. Another part of the gallery was filled with Mark Rothko paintings, which are incredibly inviting to my gaze. I could've stared into them forever.

I don't know. Seeing those works, as well as paintings by Picasso, Sargent, Matisse, Klimt, Bosch, and so many others in person stirred me up.

The night before the trip, getting little sleep, I got up during the night, inspiration striking hard, and scribbled down a series of ideas that came to me. Nude portraits and odd landscapes similar to this one that I had just finished days before:
I need to find models, but I think I can pull it off. It's the first idea I've felt GREAT about in a while. And seeing all that art the next day just motivated me even further. And I kept thinking of something a friend told me: my reach is further than I may ever realize. This was confirmed when someone Instagrammed a copy of All of This Will Crumble, which they found and read in a used bookstore's zine library. They tagged me, saying they were excited for whatever I do next. That was...incredibly gratifying.

So now I know what to do, going forward from here. I hope.

Oh, and the appointment wasn't canceled this time. The specialist is an energetic guy, and he got all the annoying stuff knocked out while I was there so that the next appointment will be me going straight into surgery, no more scans or anything like that. Fingers crossed it'll all go well.

The FRAG group is having a figure drawing meeting this weekend, I was worried I'd be too beat from the trip to be able to go, but now I'm thrilled. The Asheville Zine Fest is May 7th, and I should also be doing Free Comic Book Day before that, the 6th, at my local shop as usual.

For the first time in quite a while I'm feeling really excited. It's good. Let's keep this energy up.

Always seeking to survive and flourish

We're well into 2017 now. Things are weird and not very pleasant. But still, we move and we work and we do what we can.

I spent a lot of January trying to reel things in and get some perspective. I don't have much to show, as far as art goes, but I did do a logo design for a friend's Etsy store, took on some commissions, and sold some things. I hosted the first figure drawing party of the year and I'm set to host another this weekend. I cleaned and organized my apartment in a meticulous and obsessive manner, got a better handle on my social media accounts, and started a new tumblr that serves as a journal and quiet spot to try some expressive body photography stuff, which I've only given the link to a few people.

I made the new banner for this site last week. I think it's a good start for where I want to take my art this year, the things I want to explore. Here's the full piece without the text:

I'm still chipping away at some comic projects, but my big focus this year will be on figure drawing and painting. I'm going to try to get my work into more galleries if I can, and sell more original work. We'll see how it goes.

I'm exercising regularly again and I'm on my 24th day in a row of being back into yoga. That's been a massive help for me, not only physically but mentally too. It helps me relax and unwind, and my arm and shoulders have really benefited from it as well. Rez Infinite on the PS4 has also been good for my brain.
So here's some other work:

And here's a thing I did about myself:
Next weekend I should be at ETSUcon, sharing a table with Joe Culp. On May 7th, I'll be at the Asheville Zine Fest, sharing a table with Nerve Endings frontman, writer, and old friend Sterlin Hammond. I'll most likely be at Rob-Con again on July 29th and 30th. Beyond those, I don't know what'll happen or what I'll be doing.

It still feels like I'm floating in limbo, but I'm figuring out a path to get back on. I have no idea what this year will hold for me, there are too many things going on that I have no control over. That's scary, but I can't let it paralyze me. Gotta just keep going, no matter what.

A bad case of abyss gaze

Let's gather up some odds and ends, try to get a better picture of this year, and start putting together a roadmap for next year.

I only read one new book this year: Normal, by Warren Ellis, which was startlingly similar to the final episode of the new season Black Mirror, Hated in the Nation. Or well, it dealt in part with similar subject matter, let's say. But throughout the book, there are constant references to "abyss gaze," which Ellis defines as the act of looking towards our inevitably doomed future and strategizing about it. The book is set at an experimental rehab facility populated by folks whose job it was to do such things, who have come to the facility because of how their jobs broke them.

To me, it's probably the best way to describe how this year has felt. Or at least how I've felt.
Black Mirror stands out as the best TV I've watched this year. Besides Stranger Things and Daredevil, I didn't finish anything else I started watching, which may say more about me than anything else. Black Mirror's unyielding bleakness is as staggering as ever, with one remarkable exception: San Junipero, in which Charlie Brooker proves he's not always out to crush our souls. That episode is a shining light in an otherwise terribly dark season. I'm grateful for it. I almost put it in my movie post, because it feels less like TV, less like the rest of the show. It's impeccable filmmaking.

I played the original Doom for the first time this year, and it felt like a paradigm shift. The only other game that really holds up to it for me in 2016 is, well, it's latest successor, DOOM. Both games are extraordinarily cathartic, letting me mow down wave after wave of evil demons to a killer soundtrack and rewarding exploration with fantastic powerups with which to kill more evil demons. So pure and simple.

Similarly, I also played and beat the original Legend of Zelda on the NES, playing alongside Hyper Light Drifter, a game I'd been waiting sometime for. Both are about overcoming a bleak setting, both are simple, elegant in design. Hyper Light Drifter was a more satisfying experience, not held back by the limitations of the games it nods to, and the soundtrack by Disasterpiece really helped.

One of the brightest spots for me this year was forming a figure drawing group. I've talked about it enough already, but I'm still blown away that I was able to organize such a thing. We held five meetings this year, leading me to draw more than 60 pages of figures. The practice is great, and we have quite a bit of fun. I took a chance and decided to model for the group myself, and now I'm actually comfortable with it and look forward to doing it more. I've got plenty of ideas for what to do next year, and have already set up a meeting next weekend.

I also went to two figure drawing meetings with FRAG, and got more involved with them, setting up at Rhythm and Roots and the Holiday Bizarre show. These things are making me consider what direction I'm going to take my art next year. Right now, in my gut, I feel like I need to scale back on comics. It just seems like too much work for too little reward most of the time. All of This Will Crumble was satisfying to make and seems pretty well received for the most part, but I didn't fully learn my lesson there about taking things a little more slowly and not pushing myself so much.

Over the last month, my arm and shoulder have been aching quite a lot, and it's limited the amount of work I can do on the other projects I'm currently involved with. I'm trying to be more mindful of it, using ice packs and massaging trigger points using a book that Joe Culp loaned me, resting often. The fact is that I'm not sure I can produce finished work quite as quickly as I used to be able to, or at least as quick as I usually THINK I can. I'm starting to consider painting more, which uses my arm in a different way and by nature requires a slower, much more considered approach to working. This is another reason why I'm considering slowing down with making comics.
I've felt like one big exposed nerve for the better part of the year, and I think it's an important thing to discuss and express. I've gotten a pretty good handle on dealing with the black cloud whenever it manages to catch up to me, but I want to be more emotionally raw with my work, more open.

I want to do more self portraits and expressive body stuff. I want to bring back Reflected Gaze. I want to get more of my friends to model for me.

I also want to take on more paid commissions from people and I'm considering starting a Patreon. These are all things I should be able to accomplish in 2017.

It's been a weird, not altogether pleasant year all around. I'm glossing over a lot of things, good and bad. I get the feeling things will just get darker, but I also feel like I'm better equipped to handle that now. We'll see what happens next year, I guess.

"No danger of coming ashore, huh?"

Alright, time to write about my favorite movies of the year! This was a little easier to piece together than the music post, luckily.

Shin Godzilla
I already wrote about it once before, but it's a movie that I've thought about every day since the first time I watched it. There are so many things about it that I'm in awe of. The movie pulls from every era of the franchise while creating something new, subverting nearly every expectation along the way. Godzilla evolving, changing forms as the movie progresses is both surprising and a brilliant nod towards the way the monster has already shifted and changed over the course of six decades in order to stay relevant. It's impressive how quickly cut the endless bureaucratic meetings are, the way they feel like action scenes, yet despite how fast they try to move, despite how slow Godzilla himself moves (they even comment on his speed being something like 15kmph), he's still able to cause so much destruction before they can retaliate. That's such a brilliant illustration of how unprepared and inept they were. One of the most important characters is an absent scientist, whose role I still puzzle over. Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi put so much into this movie, and it shows. While I like the new Star Wars films, it feels like the newer ideas and things being done are being held back by the old guard, and to see a Godzilla movie that doesn't feel like that at all is so great.

Arrival
I've never had such a visceral reaction to any other movie before like I have with this one. Denis Villeneuve's dreamlike direction, Johan Johannson's score, Bradford Young's cinematography, and Joe Walker's editing all combine to make a movie that feels way too much like actual dreams and nightmares I've had, despite not really being a horror movie. An early scene, when they first enter the ship, had me shaking, gripping the arms of my seat in tears because it felt like I was being ripped open and having some part of myself exposed. On top of that, this is a fantastic, refreshing sci-fi movie with incredible (and very appropriate) sound design and visuals, and Amy Adams puts in a fantastic performance. It probably won't tear you apart the way it did me, but it's impressive all the same.

The Nice Guys
So. Damn. Funny. I always knew Ryan Gosling could do comedy, and he's the one who drives this movie with a powerhouse performance. Also, with the majority of movies that I've been seeing lately being these extremely big, overbloated things trying their best to be extraordinarily epic, this throwback is such a relief with how small in scale it is. Even the major conspiracy that the movie follows plays a supporting role to the characters and the ridiculous events and encounters in the investigation they're on.

HyperNormalisation
Adam Curtis crafted the feel bad documentary of the year, putting to words and pictures a particular unease I've been feeling all year, made even more potent after the ugly results of our election. Some of it is too big for me to fully grasp, some of it too crushing to ever want to watch again, but it's incredible all the same.

High-Rise
The book that Cronenberg was ripping off when he made his first film, Shivers, way back in the 70's, now brought to life with remarkable craft by Ben Wheatley, set in that same era. An oppressively gorgeous brutalist tower where nothing works and everything starts to fall apart, crawling with horrible people fighting and fucking each other, the outside world hardly even seen. It's a very fascinating, funny, and stylish movie in which nothing particularly good happens, driven by absurdity.

You can see a list of every new movie I watched here on my Letterboxd page, if you're wondering about what got left out.

THAT'S THE WAY THE GUILLOTINE CLAPS

I've been circling and circling, trying to figure out how to write about all the music I got into in 2016, picking apart my favorite albums, songs, and EPs, trying to come up with something structured. I don't think I can. So here, in no particular order, is a list of my favorite music related things this year:

Aesop Rock- The Impossible Kid

Aesop Rock is my favorite rapper, one whose imaginative lyrics have always made me feel like his brain is wired in a way similar to mine. This song, Rings, is about the guilt he feels over giving up on painting and drawing after his time spent as an art student. He elegantly describes the joy of creation, and laments over moving away from it. Giving up on art is such a huge fear of mine, so this hits close to home.

The album it's off of, the Impossible Kid, came out on my birthday, April 29th, and I've listened to it relentlessly since it dropped. The whole thing has this personal feel to it, the biggest one two combo being Get Out of the Car, which is about recognizing the depression he's been in since his friend died, followed by Shrunk, about going to see a psychiatrist in an attempt to deal with things. As personal and clear as it is, it's still incredibly imaginative, with all kinds of allusions and references sprinkled in. I keep picking up on new things, and don't think I'll ever grow tired of it.

At the Drive-In- Governed by Contagions

At the Drive-In is back, and holy crap, I needed them. 2016 has been a grueling year full of horrible things. By this point, I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one who feels beaten down and tired. Then, last week, almost out of nowhere this new track dropped, the band's first since their last album Relationship of Command was released in 2000, and it's so cathartic. I haven't heard this level of ferocity from Cedric Bixler-Zavala's vocals in YEARS. Same for Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's wailing guitar. I didn't realize just how badly I was missing this frantic, aggressive energy this year, especially considering that nothing else I've listened to sounds like this.

clipping. - Splendor & Misery

I had just gotten into clipping earlier this year (thanks Hamilton), and as abrasive and all over the place as they are, this album was such a huge surprise. All Black is probably the most powerful thing I've heard this year. I keep turning this album over and over in my head, marveling at how brilliant and perfectly structured it is. Seeing several tracks performed live back in October only intensifies my love for it, it was such a monumental experience. I'm torn between this and the Impossible Kid, trying to decide which is my favorite album of the year, but they're so different that I just can't compare them. The Impossible Kid feels like a core part of who I am, Splendor & Misery feels like something so much bigger, more majestic, something that shakes me and leaves me in tears.

Carly Rae Jepsen- Emotion Side B

...And then there's the part of me that's actually a teenage girl. I have failed every time at trying to articulate to friends why I'm into this EP and last year's album that it's a companion to. Her music exists in this dazzling, uplifting world that I want to be a part of. I hope I can create a piece of art some day that feels the way songs like Higher and Cry make me feel. In its own way, it's something else I needed in this dour year. Especially considering:

David Bowie- Black Star
 
I still ache from his death. No one was as effortlessly weird and singular as he was, and the way he turned the end of his own life into this gorgeous, meticulously orchestrated work of art is just...it's something only he could do. I still can't fathom this. Goddamn, but I miss him.

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

"This is a low flying panic attack." Those words describe my general state of mind this year better than I ever could. This album's a fantastic rebound after the disappointment that was the King of Limbs. It's beautiful in a lowkey way.

Bastards of Fate - Freemasons

A friend of mine posted this, and I keep coming back to it and listening to it on repeat. I'd never heard of this band before. I recognize certain elements, I can sort of guess what kind of influences they're pulling from, but I've never heard anything quite like this song before, the way it effortlessly leaps around. Do you know how long it's been since I've heard something that sounded so utterly different from anything else I'm familiar with? It's so weird and catchy, crunchy but poppy. Just delightful and bizarre.

The Lippies- self-titled

A badass feminist pop punk band, whose energy is infectious and powerful. I'm so sad that they broke up not long after releasing this, their one and only album.

Shiro Sagisu- Persecution of the Masses

What a way to reintroduce Godzilla to the world. Sagisu's soundtrack for Shin Godzilla is moody and ornate, perfect for Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi's new interpretation of the monster. This is the first track you hear in the movie, when you first see the monster, and it's just excellent.

clipping. - Wriggle
 
Oh yeah, before dropping Splendor & Misery, clipping also released an EP, and this title track is absurdly wild. When they played it live, the crowd started moshing. I still can't believe this song is real.

There's more that I'd like to write about: John Carpenter's Lost Themes II is better than last year's album, Iggy Pop and Josh Homme prove to be a killer duo in Post-Pop Depression, Colleen Green returned to her chill style with a self-titled EP, Jóhann Jóhannsson's score for Arrival is incredible, and White Lung's album Paradise is a dizzying 28 minute punk maelstrom. But these are the big ones. These are what made this year for me.

I guess I need to figure out how to write about movies next, don't I? 

And we carry on

CURRENT STATUS:

-Currently penciling pages for one collaborative comic. Once those are done, inking and coloring will commence. Got more script pages on the way, too.
-I finished the outline for another collaborative comic. There's still some design work to do with the other artist, then scripting and thumbnailing, then drawing the thing for real.
-I've cracked into another outline for a different comic which someone else will illustrate. There are a number of big roadblocks, but a few have fallen away, which is good.
-I've finally started scripting the next Slimepunk mini that's been in my head for most of the year, spurred by reading the Super Mario Bros Adventures comic as well as Ranma 1/2 for the first time. The cover's drawn, concept stuff is happening, with thumbnails to follow. It'll be drawn digitally like the last one. The practice on the Yiynova tablet is long overdue.
-My girlfriend put the idea in my head to do a Slimepunk and Faerie Ishee holiday card. It's a good idea, hopefully I can do it. 
-I'm nearly finished painting a commission for a friend. After that, I have a tattoo design to work on for someone else.

Both the 2016 portfolio and Figure drawing portfolio have been updated. The FRAG figure drawing meeting a couple weekends back was really good.
Another one with my own group and the same model is scheduled for next Sunday, with a theme that's more emotional and personal to her.

The week after that, Dec. 3, is FRAG's Holiday Bizarre:
It's a private event like last time. If you want in, call or email like the flyer says, OR go to the Facebook event here. I'm excited. Please come check it out and buy some weird art from us. Weird art makes for great Christmas gifts, trust me. Plus, free food and drink! Bodypainting! Music! How could you pass on that?

All of these things going on, plus more that I can't really talk about right now. Feels like I'm running from something, but I'm hopeful.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. No matter what, we must carry on.