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

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

Favorite things of 2015

The year is almost over, and so it's time to drum up an obligatory list of the movies, videogames, music, and comics that I liked most in 2015. Apologies if this seems a little rushed, but I'm leaving for Florida TONIGHT, so things are kind of hectic.

 MOVIES

Mad Max: Fury Road
You’ve probably already seen this on everyone else’s list, with good reason. I don’t know what to say about it that others haven’t already said. This movie is so good that watching it makes me forget what else I’ve seen this year, and I mean that. I seriously forgot I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man until someone asked what I thought about them because of this movie.
It Follows
The majority of this movie is so much like actual nightmares I’ve frequently had. The score by Disasterpiece, the concept, and the cinematography all evoked some primal fear that keeps me nervous and anxious while I’m watching it, following me long after it's over. It’s pretty much how I’d want an Other Sleep movie to feel, were such a thing to happen.

TIE: Furious 7/Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Man, it was a good year for endangering the lives of stuntmen and smashing up vehicles.
Runners up: Ex Machina, Crimson Peak, Star Wars: the Force Awakens
Movies I didn’t get to see: Hateful Eight, Creed, the Revenant, Beasts of No Nation, Jupiter Ascending
VIDEOGAMES
Splatoon
I never imagined that I’d ever fall in love with a multiplayer shooter, but leave it to Nintendo to make it happen. I wrote about it for Gamervescent not long after buying it, and I did stop playing it for a while, but I’ve recently jumped back in after more stages, weapons, and Ranked modes were added. And they keep on adding things for free! The game’s incredible soundtrack gets stuck in my head all the time, I have the Amiibos and everything they unlock, and I’m contemplating getting a plush pillow too. I’m hooked. It’s way too much fun and visually dazzling. I'm also greatly enjoying that critics are praising it far more than Call of Duty or whatever, that makes me really happy.

Bloodborne
I was a little wary of this game due to being so disappointed with Dark Souls 2, but after just a half hour of watching a friend play it, I ran out and bought a PS4. They dumbed things down from the Souls games here and there, like weight limits and armor upgrades, but this isn’t meant to be played like Dark Souls. This game is a modern hack ‘n’ slash, the lack of a shield and ability to quickly regain lost health through combat pushing you to get up close and personal with some very terrifying creatures that you really don’t want to go anywhere near. This is the most satisfying horror game I’ve played in a long time. Here's something I wrote for Gamervescent about the awful things I encountered in the game.
Runners up: Super Mario Maker, Fast Racing Neo, Godzilla
Games I didn’t get to play: Axiom Verge, Transformers: Devastation
MUSIC
Blur– Go Out
Blur released a new album this year, their first in what, over a decade? I was really excited for it, only to realize that just like every other album of theirs, I only like about half of it. Go Out is the best track to me, and proof that Damon Albarn still has a knack for writing incredibly catchy songs, even when they rely heavily on static and feedback. The beat to this track has carried me quite a lot through this year.
Wolf Alice- Moaning Lisa Smile
 I can’t remember the last time I heard a song on the radio that I enjoyed as much as this one. The album is all over the place, and I enjoy all of it, but I don’t think any of it hits me quite like the guitars in this song do.
Grimes- Kill V. Maim This is the first Grimes album I’ve actually enjoyed, and this track in particular slays. Sounds like the theme song for her own 90’s OVA directed by Yasuomi Umetsu. If I hear this song, I will dance to it no matter what, and I don't really dance.
Aesop Rock– Cat Food
Technically released last year I think, but only available as a pack-in single with a vinyl figure. This was a pretty good year for rap, but for me nothing is as appealing as Aesop. This is just a really fun track.
Gabrielle Aplin- Sweet Nothing
This is probably the catchiest thing on my list. That chorus is immense, that drumbeat so huge that they had to literalize it in the video with an army of drummers. This is a song that effortlessly fills the room, even at a low volume. It sweeps you up. Best discovery of the year, hands down.
COMICS
One-Punch Man/Ultraman
I don’t follow western superhero comics anymore. Marvel and DC just wear me out. It doesn’t help that these two manga, which finally saw print in September, are leaps and bounds beyond anything I’d expect to see from the Big Two. One Punch Man is a hilarious and heartfelt takedown of the genre and its myriad tropes. Ultraman, on the other hand, feels like the kind of reboot Marvel was initially going for with their Ultimate universe, just done better. I’m still not too cool with the power armor and the lack of actual city smashing kaiju so far feels like blasphemy, but I’m really impressed with how this series ties directly to the original TV show from 1966 while simultaneously doing something completely different with the concept. It also helps that both these manga have seriously great action.
The Infinite Loop
I picked up the first issue of this on a whim and was surprised at how great it was. It is at its core a time travel romance about a woman who unexpectedly falls into a same-sex relationship and will do anything to protect her new partner. It also deals with history’s tendency to repeat itself, the ways we cast out others and make up reasons to hate them for being different, and how our own personalities are somewhat fractured. I never did get to pick up the final issues, so maybe it all comes crashing down at the end, but for those first four, Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier have made something very special, that I haven’t seen ANYONE talk about online.
Island
Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, two incredible comic creators in their own right and favorites of mine, are now running their own anthology book packed with stellar work by friends and peers of theirs, and the world is a better place for it. This is what Heavy Metal used to be.
Here's a random list of other things I've liked this year: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong, the One Punch Man anime, the Welcome to Night Vale novel, Chris Ready's reviews of every James Bond film, Rick and Morty, the Travis Bickle on the Riviera podcast, Red Letter Media's Star Wars: the Force Awakens Clickbait video, Warren Ellis writing comics and ebooks, Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix, and probably other things I can't remember.
Alright everyone, let's try not to bungle 2016, okay? Have a safe one.

 

There's been an awakening...

I wasn’t interested at all in JJ Abrams directing a new Star Wars movie until I saw that first trailer. Something stirred inside of me in a way I’m not sure how to word. I mean, I enjoy the original trilogy a lot, but I never considered myself a real fanatic. Something about hearing the TIE Fighter noise again, seeing the practical effects and puppets, Kylo Ren and his awesome lightsaber…I went from being indifferent to being all in.

So in anticipation of the movie’s release, I did a sketch every day this week of characters from the Force Awakens. I got to see the movie last night, and got to see these characters in their proper context, so I thought I’d talk about what was in my head versus how they were really portrayed in the movie.

That said, there will be some very light spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

FIRST ORDER STORMTROOPER

First off, this dude was hard to draw. That helmet design, the shape of it, it’s iconic. If you mess up even a littlee, it ruins the whole thing. I was quietly hoping these guys wouldn’t be as jokey and ineffectual as they are in the original trilogy, especially since they’ve been redesigned to look more sinister and have a little more weapons variety.

And I was right! The First Order Stormtroopers are definitely a bigger threat than their Imperial predecessors, actually managing to hit their targets. You also get a little more background on them, with hints at what life is like under such a vicious regime. Choosing to make Finn a former Stormtrooper was such a good idea.

CRIMSON CORSAIR
Also known as Captain Ithano. I picked him from the photo of all those space pirates that Annie Leibovitz took for Vanity Fair. I liked his style, his swagger, and that weird, cool head. I knew he’d just be a bit part, but sometimes the weird background characters are the most interesting. He was a little more prominent in the movie than I expected, not just set dressing. That was nice.

REY
Rey’s awesome. I had no clue what her role would be in the movie, only knowing that she’s a desert scavenger who knows her way around the ruins of a crashed Star Destroyer. Whatever expectations I might’ve had in mind regarding her, the movie blew them away. She has a great arc in this. Her character is an excellent and much needed addition to the series. Following her and Finn over the course of the next however many movies is going to be great.

 

PZ-4CO

From the moment I saw her in a picture with Billie Lourd’s character, I fell in love with this Droid’s design. That huge neck and narrowing face, that sheepish smile, the samurai armor plates on the shoulders, her posture, she’s just so great. And that shade of blue! I think she looks like something Tsuburaya Productions would’ve designed in the 70’s.

This is one of my few complaints about the Force Awakens: I only saw “Peazy” in two shots, and in one of those she was standing behind a screen, obscured so you could only see part of her head. How dare you make me fall for such a delightful design, only to keep it out of the movie?!

KYLO REN

I don’t know why I honed in on Kylo. It started with his crazy lightsaber, of course. That crossguard defines it, along with the volatile blade itself. His helmet is weird, I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me to the point that I bought one on Halloween clearance. And then I heard his distorted voice, saw him speaking to the ruined helmet of Vader. “I will finish what you started.” I had my worries. I mean, Darth Maul looked really cool, and he was…well, not much of anything in the Phantom Menace beyond an evil guy to fight. No depth.

I’m still processing things. I figured he’d be a pretty simple, pulpy villain, but the movie explores his personality and motivation in a way we didn’t get to see with Vader until Empire. I was also really impressed by the way that he used the Force in combat, I don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone manipulate it in quite that way before.

The one character I wasn’t interested in at all in the beginning, but now wish I’d drawn? Poe Dameron, the hotshot X-Wing pilot for the Resistance. That guy is great, especially paired up with Finn. I’m not about to try to figure out how to properly draw an X-Wing, though.

The movie itself was great, with no shortage of other characters to draw should I choose to do more of these. My complaints as of right now are all minor, like the PZ-4CO thing and the fact that Abrams is a dude who still relies a little too much on closeups when most of the actors also had incredible body language, but other than that? He nailed it. I’m excited to see what Rian Johnson is going to bring to the table for Episode VIII.

A few more bizarre things

Remember how I said the Asheville Comic Expo was my final show of the year as an artist? I lied. Sort of.

It was still my final comic convention of the year, but I’m doing a couple more things. First, next Thursday, December 3rd, I’ll be at NSFW Open Mic Comedy in Johnson City! I was invited by the host, Jessica Lane, to set up along with another artist, Beverly Gildemeister. I’ll just be selling prints and minicomics there, I think. Not performing, nope. Haven’t done that since the Secrets Society shows last year, and I don’t miss that particular flavor of anxiety.

Two days later, on December 5th is a local art show called the Holiday Bizarre:
Joe Culp and his wife Hannah roped me into it, and I’m kind of excited to do something that isn’t strictly related to comics. Most of the 14 other artists exhibiting are fine artists, photographers, and sculptors, not comic creators. Which means I probably don’t quite fit in with my comics work, but from what I gather, the FRAG group that’s putting this together is a bunch of artists in the area whose own work doesn’t quite fit your traditional gallery setting either. That’s pretty cool. Plus, hey, booze and Krampus. I’m into that.

Hopefully it’ll be a good turnout and I’ll sell some stuff. The show is invitation only, so here’s the Facebook event if you want to RSVP and get on the guest list. If that doesn't work, use the email or phone number on the flyer and get in touch!
I made this last minute decision that I wanted to do something new for the show, so in roughly a week I put together a mutant themed coloring book called the NATION MUTATION COLORING ZINE. Aside from the cover, it’s all new mutant drawings drawn in that 6 day fever. That's a dummy copy above. I probably pushed myself a little too hard to do so much in such a small span of time, but I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s 16 pages plus a colorable cover, all printed on cardstock, and I plan on personally coloring/defacing parts of the front and/or back of every copy. Here’s a random page out of it:

Also, last week, after so many days of ugly news and ugly behavior on social media, I drew a grumpy Godzilla head. One thing led to another, and I ended up with this:
I posted them as individual images on my art Tumblr, in case anyone wanted to use them as avatars or whatever. A couple prominent monster related Tumblrs (primarily kaijusaurus) got a hold of it, and it’s exploded in popularity. It’s finally tapered off at just over 650 notes. How insane is that? It never happens! Usually my work is lucky to get one or two notes, and I feel really special if it somehow hits the double digits, but over 600? Sheesh.

I know, I know, paying attention to how many people like and repost your art on social media is silly, but this is unprecedented and I’m just flabbergasted by how many people are responding favorably to my angry kaiju portraits. I have friends who want me to make shirts, stickers, and/or posters. I’ll probably do something like that, I’m just not sure what, and between the comedy show, art show, the holidays, and a few other things going on, I don’t have the time to figure out WHAT I’ll do.

I am drawing more, though. It’s a little too much fun. I ended up doing this one on Tuesday after seeing too many crappy racist news articles:
Other projects are happening. I’m starting to break ground on the next Slimepunk mini. I was going to get back into drawing Cannonball Fist last week, but the coloring zine took over. I did start writing a new chapter, at least. And…I may be working on something new that WON’T be a solo project. It’s too early to talk about that though.

Anyways, it’s looking like I’m ending the year in a much more active way than I’d anticipated and right now, I’m cool with it. I realize trying to take on so many things on such short notice after a hiatus that was prompted by exhaustion isn’t the best idea. I don’t want to burn out again so soon, so I’m going to take my time. Progress is progress, no matter how slow it may be.

I backed off from everything in order to take better care of myself, and I don’t really want to lose that and wind up miserable and dumb again. I’ll keep at it, and you should take care of yourselves too.

Right? Right. Back at it, then.

Current status

I feel like I’ve turned a corner and I’m beginning to enter a new phase of life as an artist.

God, that sounds dramatic.

I didn’t do much of a post-mortem on this year’s October Game because of how exhausted I was, but it’s been about a week now, we’re approaching the end of the year, and I’m trying to get a good perspective on where I am with things. I think, artistically, it was a huge success, with only a few duds. I proved to be pretty versatile with different tools, and cranked out some good work that’s not the kind of thing most people are used to seeing me do, and I've managed to sell a few pieces too!

…Well that wasn’t much. I was going to try to make a big post out of this. I guess, with it being the fourth year that I’ve done some daily art challenge in October, it’s no longer a big deal to me. I've always managed to pull it off, and it's always pretty satisfying, but not quite the big celebration it was the first year.

 …So now what?

 I planned on taking the week to just relax and be lazy, but I’m still keeping busy even with my sinuses repeatedly trying to knock me out. I let a lot of adult responsibilities slide last month, so in just a couple days I cleaned my apartment, made a credit card payment, reserved a hotel for our stay in Florida at the end of the year, and scheduled an appointment to get the oil changed and tires rotated on my car. I did some spring cleaning on the website, updating the About page and removing a lot of old comics and art. I made a new banner featuring Slimepunk.
Oh, and I put my Slimepunk minicomic up on its own page for your reading enjoyment. Check it out!

I also crunched a lot of numbers, tallying up everything I sold last year (that I recorded, at any rate) along with everything I sold this year (which I did better keeping up with). I did 13 events last year, 11 this year. I made quite a bit more money last year, despite selling more comics, posters, and sketches this year. However, I also spent way more last year too, so this year I didn’t have quite as big a loss. What do I do with all this data now? I’m not sure yet.

I attended seven conventions this year, versus last year’s six (the other events were little local things). I paid for my table at four of them, and three of those were bummers, not even making back what I spent for the table. Every single con that I’d previously attended last year, I didn’t do as well this year. Again, even though I sold more comics, posters, and sketches altogether.

Which sounds weird, right? But the big reason for that odd difference lies with Other Sleep, last year‘s best selling comic. I sold more than half of the print run when I released it early in the year (having an art show at the William King Museum to debut it at helped), and that’s the big ticket item on my table when I do events. The number of copies I sold this year was significantly fewer. The biggest seller this year was the Slimepunk minicomic, which I’ve almost sold out, but I have to sell 8 or 9 of those just to match how much I make from one copy of Other Sleep.

Burst Reach 4 isn’t doing well at all, as I’ve only managed to get rid of about a quarter of its run after printing it last year. I just mailed off the final copy of Burst Reach 3 to a friend. I think I’m done with black and white minis for the foreseeable future.

I sold more posters altogether, but not a single one of those was the Cannonball Fist poster I made last year. Boss Rush hasn’t sold well this year or last, and I guess nobody wants the Spanish boxing robots from my repurposed Beat About poster, which breaks my heart. I’m not really sure what to do about these. I could give away the Cannonball Fist posters with copies of the comic, that may work.

The new thing I started doing this year which seems to have gone pretty well is selling pre-made character sketches. I sold about half of last year’s Inktober fan sketches, as well as a handful of others that people responded to. That’s definitely something to keep pushing, if nothing else, and not nearly as expensive as printing books and posters.

It’s already been decided that I’m doing fewer cons next year. My girlfriend and I were talking about how I should just go to Heroes as a fan instead of paying to get a table. I’m actually really excited about going to NC Comic Con for a day next weekend as a fan. I’m going to take a handful of books with me to show and hand out to other artists, but not being tethered to a table struggling to get people to buy things is going to be refreshing after three years of only attending cons as an artist.

I’ll probably just stick to doing local, cheaper cons in 2016, with an eye towards getting back out there in 2017 with better work under my belt.

I’m also trying to drum up more business online. Here’s an album of original art that I have for sale, including work from this year’s October Game. I’m working on sprucing up my Big Cartel and Gumroad shop pages, thinking about setting up at Society6, and Other Sleep is on ComiXology at last, with hopefully more to come in the future. I’m wanting to open up commissions too (gotta work on one tonight actually). There’s this desire to try to set up a Patreon, but I know my audience is way too small to try something like that at the moment, and I’d want to do a lot of research for it first as well.

So I guess the TL;DR of this is that I’m scaling back next year, at least as far as expenses and cons go. I’ll just focus on what’s important, making good art. I’m already itching to get back into making comics before too long, with plans in mind for getting back into Cannonball Fist and Reflected Gaze as well as putting out a new Slimepunk mini. More on those things as they develop, right? Right.

Okay, NOW I’ll relax.

October Game, part 3/3

The month is over and I am dead, but once again I pulled off a successful 31 days of making new art! I'm over it and ready to go on to other things, so let's go through these real quick...

Day twenty-two: “the unrelenting divergence of the human condition”
I wasn’t on it. Before doing this, I tried and scrapped two or three other different ideas. I had a hard enough time coming up with those ideas in the first place, so I was feeling a little hopeless when I finally made this. That frustration, the desire to just get it done, allowed me to loosen up quite a lot and do something different with the colors. I wonder if I could do something like this again?

Day twenty-three: “that was, more or less, the defining moment”
I didn’t want a repeat of the previous day, and I wanted to do something quick and simple since this was the day before the Asheville Comic Expo, so I had the idea in mind right away. I had learned about the Jellyfish Lake in Palau, and was enamored with a lot of pictures of it on flickr. It ended up being a lot more work, but it was all for the better. I wanted to color it more realistically, but I mistakenly picked a yellow when I started coloring the jellyfish, and the neon, luminescent green result was so striking that I stuck with it. It’s satisfying when a mishap like that ends up working out.

Day twenty-four: “you’d think being a human being was this complex art”
I did this while at the Asheville Comic Expo and still haven’t gotten around to scanning it (I haven't even unpacked my stuff from the con!). This is the first time using markers this month. I based it off of a picture of Lee Marvin that I really like.

Day twenty-five: “you have to go the other way now”
This was my girlfriend’s birthday, and between that, weekend errands, and the previous day’s con, I had kind of forgotten about making some kind of art until later in the afternoon, so this one was pretty quickly put together before the birthday girl got off work. This one’s based on a picture I took of her when we went hiking at the Alum Cave Trail last year in the Smokies.

Day twenty-six: “you’re a different human being to everyone you meet”
More self-portraits! Nine of them! This was one that I really should’ve tried to do a little more planning on before executing, so some of these are better than others. Just like how some aspects of myself are better than others. I guess that means it works.

Day twenty-seven: “I still haven’t washed my hands”
I tried painting with acrylics again. I’m getting better, sort of, but I’m still not so great at drawing hands. It’s extraordinarily messy, but somewhat suitable to the subject and title. 

Day twenty-eight: “it’s not easy to erase your blood”
I’m pleased with the marker colors for this, but those heavy blacks give this a weird pop art feel that wasn’t what I was going for. I really think that they don’t suit the way I draw figures, either. This is also a point where I realize just how exhausted I am, how much it’s weighing on me. It should also be clear by how little I’m writing about these recent pieces.

Day twenty-nine: “I wanted to fall through the floor”
This is the fourth and final digital painting of the month. Not much to say about it. Again: exhaustion weighing on me, and motivation is hard to find. I’m virtually on autopilot with this final stretch.

Day thirty: “it helps me feel human”
I put off doing anything all day, then, not sure of what to do, I flipped through a discarded library book I bought about the discovery of the Luray Caverns in Virginia, an old thing filled with black and white illustrations. Then I busted this thing out, small, really quickly, using only colored pencils.

Day thirty-one: “there is only a silent emptiness spreading infinitely in all directions”
I knew I wanted to use that title for the final day, and this piece came together so well when I worked on it. A good one to end the month on, yes?

And there we are, another successful, draining October Game completed. I'm happy that I can still pull it off, but sheesh, this last stretch felt like such a chore.

So what's next? I'm not completely sure. Girlfriend and I are going on the 15th to check out the North Carolina Comic Con because she wants to meet Gerard Way and I want to scope it out and see if it's worth tabling at in the future. New Year's will be spent in Florida for a wedding and a trip to Disney after that. I'm starting to get that itch to work on comics again, but with that going on I may just hold off until 2016, spend the rest of this year relaxing and doing whatever else I feel like doing. We'll see.

October Game, part 2/3

We've made it two thirds of the way through the month and I'm not dead! I don't even feel any sense of self-loathing like I usually do! I'm starting to feel tired, especially as I'm also prepping for ACE this week, but I cannot stop. Not yet.

Day twelve: “it will come back”
That’s the title of a Hozier song I’m obsessed with, one which has nothing to do with deserts. I’d just been really wanting to illustrate a desert for a while now, so I based this on the opening shot from Mad Max: Fury Road, where he’s standing next to the Interceptor and the two-headed lizard is there? Yeah. After being disappointed in my two acrylic painting attempts, it felt good to go back to watercolors and realize that hey, I’m okay at this!
This whole month I’m trying not to just go on autopilot and use the skillsets I’ve honed in making comics, so that means trying not to rely so much on line and trying to get stronger with color and value, with shading and rendering.  I didn’t want there to be any strong linework in this, but my value skills aren’t THAT great, so some colored pencils were needed to strengthen the whole thing. 

Day thirteen: “there’s a continual sense of the body as ineffectual protection from the mind”
This is the second piece I’ve done that’s entirely digital. I’ve been wanting to do something where I could effectively illustrate a decent nude figure and then break it up in an interesting way, and Photoshop was the best way to do that. Not a bad self-portrait.

Day fourteen: “your dreams miss you”
I think this title was from a mattress ad in a magazine? I don’t think I’ve been as happy with any previous piece as I am with this one. It’s based off a sketch I did earlier this year for that southern horror comic I keep saying I’m going to do, so I already knew how I wanted it to look. The fact that I managed to execute it, that I knew what to do to achieve what I had in my head leaves me a little astonished. I actually DO know what I’m doing sometimes!

Day fifteen: “I wish I didn’t have to breathe”
With Other Sleep on ComiXology now, I was really wanting to do something with Ninel for the challenge. I’ve been thinking about what she would do after the events of the comic, how she would try to recuperate and what direction she’d take her life in. I think this is her, not long after the comic, just trying to reclaim some sense of peace. I was also thinking about the swimming pool scene in It Follows, so I made Ninel’s swimsuit brown like Maika Monroe’s, and to capture the various blues and greens I looked at pages from A Taste of Chlorine by Bastien Vives.

Day sixteen: “we rely on your simple device”
We’re over the halfway point and I don’t yet hate myself, woo! This is a line from a Useless Eaters song. It didn’t come out quite as simple as I was aiming for, but I’m pretty pleased with these two tokusatsu androids and their Akira-inspired outfits. If I ever do a companion comic to go with Shouting at the Void, it'll probably look something like this, all reds.

Day seventeen: “something only you and I could understand”
I seem to falter a bit every Saturday, don’t I? I had seen Crimson Peak the night before, and loved it, and wanted to do something inspired by it. It was just too cold the next morning to try to sit down and really draw something, though. So I pulled up a photo I took of an abandoned home in Elkmont, from when my girlfriend and I camped out in the Smoky Mountains last year, and…well, this happened. Kind of neat, but not something I'd really want to attempt again maybe.

Day eighteen: “don’t try to solve serious matters in the middle of the night”
That’s a quote from Philip K. Dick, my favorite sci-fi author. I watched this 1932 movie, Doctor X, the first color horror movie, done in two-strip Technicolor. Everything was green and red, basically, and as degraded as the print was in the version I rented on Youtube, it was still gorgeous and I wanted to mimic it. I also tried to take a stab at doing black, heavy shadows like Mike Mignola, since I hardly use black in my work. I don’t think it quite works with how I draw, though.

Day nineteen: “side effects of the universal machinery”
There was a lot of digital work going on in my last few pieces, and I was feeling bogged down, felt like I was starting to lose it a little, so I went back to a traditional approach, inspired by the look of cells seen on a slide under a microscope.

Day twenty: “they do not know how immortal”
I saw Crimson Peak again, and was inspired again, this time by a couple of really unusual, unsettling shots of insects in the movie. So here we have a fly surrounded by twenty ants. Houseflies don’t get that big or hairy, but this one IS immortal. I wanted this piece to fit with the giant frog from the last entry, so I tried to color it in a similar manner.


Day twenty-one: "go confidently in the direction of your abyss"

I lifted the composition for this from a screenshot of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one that I'd saved who knows how long ago. I used the same combination of watercolors and charcoal as when I made day fourteen's piece, but this time it was more of a struggle. For some reason, the painted paper just wouldn't take the marks of my charcoal pencils. I have three or four different kinds of charcoal sticks, accumulated over the years, so I had to mess around and make the piece work with some combination of those. And, well, the scanner didn't seem too fond of this one either. That guy down there? He's climbing. I don't think I got that across quite so well, but it is what it is.

And that's everything. Only ten days to go! 

October Game, part 1/3

The first leg of the Bill Counts October Game is finished, and it’s been going fairly smoothly so far. Here are the first eleven pieces of art I’ve done for the challenge, plus some words on them.

Day one: “this pain will be useful”
I didn’t actually have this written in my sketchbook, I got it from a picture that someone reposted on Tumblr recently. I went for something to symbolize this 31-day art challenge, so there are 31 pieces of paper. The figure wasn‘t meant to be a self-portrait, but it kind of came out that way so sure, why not. Who hasn’t drawn or painted naked from time to time?
Day two: “no end of the world prediction has ever come to pass”
Adam Tan’s paintings occasionally appear in my Tumblr feed and I always enjoy seeing them. I had read a day or two before making this that he had actually died just last October. An incredible talent, just a few years younger than me, gone far too soon. I felt like paying a little tribute to him and his art, even though his work is (I believe) traditionally painted. I also wanted to draw the Smoky Mountains.
Day three: “the wave of unconsciousness failing to break over me”
We got hit with a lot of rain for a few days, and it was awful. Living and working at a storage facility, the rain hammering against metal, the wind howling along the length of the storage buildings, rattling the big metal doors of the units, it wouldn’t stop. It kept me up the night before, and the morning I drew this, I couldn’t concentrate at all because of it. I eventually managed to sit down and quickly crank this out on a smaller piece of paper, looking at an old photo I took as reference. No pencils, just straight ink. I think it sums up how I was feeling until the rain ended.
Day four: “the spider’s legs keep growing”
First all-digital piece! I had this written at least twice in one old notebook, and maybe once more somewhere else. I don’t know why. It’s such a cryptic line, I have no idea where I got it from. My original idea was to do a landscape with a giant spider in it, with massive, long legs like Dali’s elephants, but this idea occurred to me while I was taking a bath and staring up at the ceiling. The arachnid in this is a Tasmanian cave spider.
Day five: “they’re using the end of the world to justify hurting others”
Paraphrasing something my friend KT said while describing a dream they had. It felt relevant to…I don’t know, a lot of feelings I’ve had lately. So I twisted the words into some weird cult shit using charcoal pencils for the creepy robed dudes. Also, phallic symbols all over the place…not the best idea in hindsight.
Day six: “none of them knew they were robots”
This is the title of a Mr. Bungle song that’s stuck with me for years. The colored pencils aren’t very strong, a little overpowered by the ink, so this isn’t quite as striking as I’d hoped it would be. I only used one red pencil for all the coloring in the original, and changed the background to blue in Photoshop when I realized that’d make the figures stand out more.
Day seven: “contemplating beauty leads one closer to god”
I was partially inspired for this after watching the 1972 eco-horror film Frogs, starring a young, mustacheless Sam Elliott. The idea mutated from a basic frog prince concept to a stranger, more religious experience to suit the title. Also, at least as far as the amphibian itself goes, I think I’m getting better at digital painting.
Day eight: “what does black noise sound like?”
I broke out the acrylic paint for the first time in years…and realized that I’d forgotten everything I learned. I couldn’t mix the colors I wanted, I was picking the wrong brushes or using the wrong strokes, everything is too messy and undefined here. It’s my first real dud this go around. The subject is my poor doomed astronaut that I did some mixed media paintings of and who appeared in Stranger Rains, printed in Burst Reach 3. You can read it on the site here.
Day nine: “viral payload”
I’ve been obsessed with the basic shape of bacteriophages since taking biology in college, and based this off of an electron microscope photo of one that I found last month. They’re just really cool looking and fun to draw. If I ever get any tattoos, I want one of these guys on me.
Day ten: “you’ve got disaster on your mind”
Why did I try painting again? I don’t know. I was out late the two previous nights, running on little sleep, and it got cold and rainy again so I rushed this thing without much thought. The background color is a blue that I accidentally mixed on day eight. Not wanting to waste paint, I slapped it on this little canvas. Hopefully this is the last time I try acrylics this month. Or the last time I truly screw it up. I do want to create more existential android hitman stuff like Shouting at the Void, though.
Day eleven: “your existence deforms the universe”
This was a pretty quick one. So far this month has been busier than I’d like so I haven’t really devoted as much time to any of these as I’d like to, and this one wasn’t much of an exception. It came together out of desperation more than anything else, but I’m somewhat happy with the result.
Okay, that’s all for the first leg. Now I’ve got to start on today’s art…

 

Finding things to do

Here’s an incomplete list of what I’ve been doing since I decided to step away from making comics on a serious basis back in July:

-Painted Slimepunk and Faerie Ishee on an underwater adventure for my girlfriend.
-Tried to raise sea monkeys and triops that my girlfriend got me for our anniversary. The triops never hatched and the sea monkeys died within a week of hatching. :(

-Started exercising again, bought a jump rope.

-Been watching a lot more movies. Movies are cool, I like them.

-Bought an N64 and over a dozen games, most of which I’ve barely even played.

-Started playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time since…middle school or high school, probably? Got out of Midgar, stopped.

-Drew a great big mutant family reunion as a commission.
-Appeared at Kil’n Time Contemporary Ceramic Studio as a guest artist for a local monthly thing called Art D’Vine, where people visit the galleries downtown to look at art and sample wine and cheese.

-Cleaned a LOT of old videogame cartridges.

-Designed a couple flyers for friends.

-Figured out what Slimepunk’s insides look like, drew them.
-Got better at cutting my own hair with clippers

-Read all 14 volumes of the Neon Genesis Evangelion manga.

-Finally got Other Sleep added to ComiXology, available now for only $4.99!!

-Went hiking, stood nude atop a waterfall.
-Figured out how to switch my Roomba’s language from shouting at me in Russian to shouting in English.

-Got excited about the Asheville Comic Expo, which is next month!

-Started playing more with traditional art materials again.* Did 4 mixed media portraits of characters from Mad Mad: Fury Road.
-Cursed the transition from summer to fall and the drop in temperature that accompanies it.

-Started a new comic in my moleskine, did about 5 or 6 pages in a week, haven’t really touched it since.

-Wrote for Gamervescent about mediocre SNES and Sega Genesis games, and how the new PS4 Godzilla game compares.

-Started to make more serious attempts at digital painting by copying photographs found on Tumblr.
 

 

*I’m participating in the Bill Counts October Game again this year. The idea I have this time around is…a little different, maybe. I went back through a stack of old sketchbooks and notebooks, writing down things I found interesting, mostly quotes and lyrics that I’ve since lost any context for. I also went through tweets I’d added to my favorites on Twitter (I had over 600!), things on Tumblr, et cetera. Altogether I now have close to 60 little things written down to serve as ideas, prompts, or titles for illustrations to be made in whatever way I find fitting. I only need 31 of those, so at least I have no shortage of words to work from, right? I’ve also combed through a lot of art and photography I really enjoy as a go-to inspiration guide for the month. All the mixed media stuff I’ve been doing, attempts at copying photos and paintings in different styles, are kind of a crash course for when October hits next Thursday, so I can work in whatever way I want and at least pretend I know what I’m doing. Like grinding before a particularly challenging dungeon in an RPG.
 

So, you know, I’m probably going to go insane again. It’ll get pretty weird pretty fast. Should be fun.

Out of the doldrums and into Rob-Con

One night a few weeks back, unable to sleep, a realization came to me: I was depressed. Maybe. I'm not 100% sure. If nothing else, I was unhappy, that may be a better way to put it. X-Con was a flop, HeroesCon not much better. I had other things going really well, but I was exhausted. I kept putting other things off to prepare for everything that I scheduled so close together, and working on Cannonball Fist was becoming more of a chore than anything else, stressing out over getting the next page finished and uploaded in time. I was just doing the pages out of some sense of obligation and I wasn't happy with the work.

So after briefly talking about it with a couple friends, I decided I'm taking a break from doing serious comic work. The newest page of Cannonball Fist went up a couple weeks ago, and the comic is currently on hiatus. Reflected Gaze is momentarily stalled, though I have other people who should be working on contributions to the site. Future stories I was starting to develop are now just set aside.

And it feels good. Just realizing I was unhappy was like hitting a light switch in a dark room, and reading this article by Dave Zissou about Sam Hiti's "death" was something I connected with, particularly this part:

It’s okay to quit. 

If comics has taken so much from you and given so little and you feel that you need to escape, you should. Trust your intuition. Even if you end up coming back to it a week later, months, years, or never. You are more important than comics.

Respect the people who choose to quit or take a long time to finish a project. Comics are demanding.

I'll come back to it, of course. I just need to recharge, play around, try some new things, find some new directions and return better than ever.

Especially given how great Rob-Con was this year. The best yet! Like, I don't even really know what to say, it was just a lot of fun as always.

I sat between Ivan Castillo and his wife Joyce, who make up Conquest Art Designs, and Alex Ogle, whose work is incredibly striking. There were several other immensely talented artists there too, including Joseph Culp, younger brother of friend and Gamervescent co-owner Jennifer Culp. He's an awesome digital painter who I've been following for a while, and I finally got to actually meet him this weekend. It was his first time ever tabling at a convention, and I got to hang out with him and his wife Hannah (who won runner up at the costume contest) at their home Saturday night, where I talked him into being part of an artist's panel that was on Sunday.
That panel, by the way, was awesome. Aside from the two of us, Alex Ogle took part, as well as James Lyle and Chris Gibbs. Our moderator was the awesome Diana, who helps run the local comic shop and who I drew the last Reflected Gaze comic about, and you'd have no idea it was her first time considering just how well the whole thing went. 

Aside from being around a bunch of really cool people, I did well all weekend, selling out of all the copies of Slimepunk that I'd brought with me, as well as a bunch of pre-done sketches. I did a pretty sweet advanced commission for someone, which she came and got on Sunday after requesting it on Instagram. I ran out and made prints of the image from my Slimepunk banner for a friend who really wanted one for his wife. And I got a pretty decent haul, too. I exchanged stuff with Joseph, found a really early issue of Heavy Metal in excellent condition, bought an old Aliens action figure that I used to own as a kid, dug up a copy of Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories one-shot and a bunch of issues of the Big O, and got a bunch of Kaiju prints from the Hero Squares table.
I'm the most exhausted I've ever been after a con, but it was worth the lack of rest and assorted aches. I plan on cutting down the number of cons I'll do next year, but I will always, ALWAYS go to Rob-Con as long as I'm able to.

Really, this weekend warmed my heart and insured that I'll never leave comics for good.

The Next Mutation

I was a little bummed after HeroesCon, yeah, but the Johnson City Public Library Comic Con was rejuvenating. Well, a little bit.
My talk on Cannonball Fist was at 10:30 in the morning, a mere half hour after doors opened. Not ideal. There were maybe a dozen people who came in. I feel like I did terribly, but…who knows? It was an awkward note to start on. I had three slides about inspiration for the comic, design stuff, getting ideas, and after the whole presentation was done and I took questions, the first one was an older man asking where my ideas come from. Arg.
But the rest of the day went great and the library staff treated the guests super well. We got bottled water and pizza, I got to help judge a children’s art contest, and to make up for the lack of drawings done at HeroesCon I did enough sketches to make my arm hurt and convince me to take my sign down for a while. I drew so many mutant portraits!

So many, in fact, that I decided that I should maybe take a break from them altogether. I ran out of ideas pretty fast and just felt like I was repeating myself too much. I’ve felt that way a lot this year doing them. So I think I’ll retire the Beautiful Portraits sign with my girlfriend and her dog on it and put more emphasis on standard commissions of whatever folks want me to draw.
Part of me wants to retire them altogether, but I can’t do that just yet.
On Wednesday I went to the William King Museum of Art to teach a class on mutant self-portraits for their summer camp program. Only one kid showed up this week, which, honestly, took a bit of stress off. I was freaking out the night before, having never taught anything before, but having just one enthusiastic and talented girl made things go pretty smoothly. Here are the ones I did of myself, the bottom left being a quick, sloppy demo I did to show her how I work.
The top one is my first attempt at drawing myself as an android after another teacher came in to join us and decided to do a steampunk cyborg version of himself. Then he brought us Sharpies.
Anyways, here are the two portraits the kid drew of herself. Not too shabby:
Then we drew one of the workers at the museum, my friend Callie, after she made this incredible face.
So yeah, not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
 
I also received a couple of neat emails during the day. One confirmed that my Gamera Vs Zigra piece was chosen to be included in Hamish Steele’s Gamera Vs Zine-Ra! A Kickstarter for that should go up soon, and I’ll link to it when it happens, but I’m pretty excited to be a part of it!
The other email was from ComiXology. FINALLY. It’s been nearly 4 months since I submitted Other Sleep to them! The comic has been tentatively accepted. The PDF I sent them wasn’t a very good one, so I submitted a higher quality version. FINGERS CROSSED. It shouldn’t take another 4 months for them to respond again, right?
Speaking of Other Sleep! On July 25th from 1-3pm I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble in Johnson City as a guest for part of their pop culture extravaganza. The original plan was to have Other Sleep put into their system to sell, but, um, well, after reviewing it they determined it was too graphic, at least for the event. So now I can jokingly go around telling people that my graphic novel was rejected by Barnes & Noble, ha. I’m still a guest, I just won’t be selling it. Or Burst Reach. I’ll just have Cannonball Fist, Slimepunk, and Shouting at the Void there.
But you know what’s after that? ROB-CON! August 1st and 2nd! It’s going to be awesome!
Eventually I’ll be able to get back to work on Reflected Gaze. Hopefully sooner than later. I’ve got contributions from other folks coming in this month, at least.
Right. Back at it. Too much to do. AWAY.