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

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

Exhaustion from every direction

I found myself wondering yesterday why I was so tired, and then had to laugh at myself. Here's what's been going on:

I have been exercising for about five days a week pretty consistently since early October, usually in the mornings AND afternoons. I am halfway finished with my Christmas shopping and it's not even December. I've been using Duolingo everyday for 25 days now to brush up on Spanish and try to learn Japanese, and only just last night dialed my daily goal down from 50XP to 30XP because it was getting to be a little too much to keep up with. I am juggling two long, dense videogames and dipping in and out of two or three more. When I allow myself time, I watch Ultraman Geed or Gamemaker's Toolkit, ignoring everyone talking about Stranger Things 2, the Punisher, and all these other shows, as well as ignoring the stack of movies that's been on my shelf forever. I decided I wanted to brush up on anatomy and have started going back through one of my books and taking notes on the skeletal and muscular systems. I've been to four different shows this month, two punk and two more folksy/country. I'm on the last hundred pages of the Wind Up Bird Chronicle, and getting anxious over how I still haven't finished this Savage Sword of Conan comic collection that I started reading two or three months back.

(stressing over the amount of entertainment you have access to is a really REALLY dumb thing and I wish it didn't bother me so much, but here I am)

And I'm out of my art funk just in time, through expensive retail therapy: taking advantage of some holiday deals, I've replaced my old scanner/printer with a new one that can scan my full 11x17in pages all at once rather than scanning in halves and stitching them together in Photoshop like I've done for most every single comic I've drawn since the first Burst Reach. I also realized just how badly my productivity was affected by my laptop dying early last year, so I bought a new one and a copy of Clip Studio Paint. So on top of everything in the previous paragraph, I'm learning new hardware and software to get back on track with the webcomic I want to launch next year. You can guess what the webcomic is about:

I also drew another social justice kaiju:

After spending all month doing little to no drawing, it feels like I have to learn how to draw all over again alongside the new tools, so it's slow, but it's happening. I'm also trying to put together a figure drawing party for December since I passed on it this month.

Oh, and the FRAG Holiday Bizarre is next Saturday:

I haven't really started preparing for that. I also went ahead and got signed up for next year's Conapalooza, and hopefully I'll actually get to table at ETSUcon again, since I've already applied rather than waiting til the last moment.

So it's no wonder I feel like this:

Of course I'm exhausted, of course I feel like all of my wires are crossed, of course I'm having difficulty getting my priorities in order. I'm trying to do too many things at once and need to breathe. So I'm going to go do that for a bit this week. Maybe you should too, if you're feeling ragged yourself.

One more thing. Here's a painting that I started drawing during the summer, inked and painted in September, lost under a pile of comics, and finally scanned with the new scanner this month. It took forever to come up with a title, but I've decided to call it Approaching the Right Path, because I feel like I'm getting there:

Finally: I'm getting a buttonmaker for Christmas. I am excited for all of the things I am going to make with it.

(Yes, the title of this blog post is also the title of one of my entropy paintings that's also a self portrait)

Keep it together

Hi. This is a blog post in which I’m just going to talk about myself a lot. Sorry. Just feels like a thing I need to do right now. I promise it’s not any kind of pity party nonsense, because I don’t have time for that.


I’m a scatterbrained dweeb who has a little trouble keeping focused or maintaining motivation, and I am easily overwhelmed and knocked off of my axis at the drop of a hat. This year has been especially challenging, between the world being on fire, the news being awful, and so many of my friends living in a constant state somewhere between despair and terror. My jaw surgery REALLY threw things off. And then...I have things I’ve completed, Debris Field, the Entropy paintings, my comic with Danny Djeljosevic, year six of Inktober, but I don’t feel very accomplished about them? Doing so poorly at two of the three shows I’ve attended isn’t helping. I’m just...in an art funk right now, I guess, my first in some time.


I feel like a nervous ball of energy all the time, or like an exposed nerve, and art isn’t doing much for me lately. So...I’ve been trying, TRYING, to focus more on myself? Or on how I’m living, maintaining in this world where everything is chaotic and awful and everyone is struggling to keep it together? Because I don’t really know what else to do. Because I don’t want to be one of those people who posts edgy memes about wanting to die all time, or who pisses on other people’s joy, or anything like that.


I’ve had this picture saved for some years now, taken by Roland and Sabrina Michaud in 1993. It’s a Jainist monk at the foot of a statue of Bahubali in Shravanabelagola, Karnataka, where a festival called Mahamastakabhisheka is held. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion which you can read about on Wikipedia. The ascetic monks, like the one pictured, forego almost all possessions, including clothes and property. I didn’t really know any of this until a couple months ago, because I had the picture saved for years without any sense of context. It’s just an image I found on Tumblr and latched onto, something I would frequently look at and think, “yes, that, I want THAT.”


...I don’t really know what “THAT” is. I’m not especially religious or spiritual, but that kind of discipline that you see or read about with monks of different religions has a sort of appeal. David Brothers talked about that discipline a few times in his wonderful newsletter, me + you. He referred to it half-jokingly as #monklife: exercising, not drinking, not binge watching (I like that rule a lot), stuff like that. So I think about that. I also think about the act of caring for something much larger than yourself, something that you have no need to hide anything from, finding comfort in vulnerability. Which is a different thing from discipline, though the latter can help lead to some understanding of who you are and where you fit into things.


Where the hell am I going with this? I don’t know. I guess I’ve been trying to carve out some sort of lifestyle that lets me hold onto my sanity and strength. To keep my shit together and stay afloat. Some means of staying focused through it all, to improve myself and adapt. I’ve always been kind of obsessed with self-improvement and trying to be the best version of myself that can possibly exist in this universe. Maybe at some point I’ll be able to better help others, too, that’d be cool.


So, things I’ve been doing, or at least trying to do this year to keep from losing myself, especially when art doesn’t seem to be working:

 

(oh yeah: please don't take this as me trying to tell you how you should live your life. Everyone's different. This is just what I do. Carve your own path!)


Keep a daily planner/journal: I try to keep track of how much work I do each day, what I watch, read, play, what errands I do, et cetera. I always start by listing things that I want to have accomplished by the end of the week, and crossing them out as I do them is satisfying. Writing everything down by hand rather than keeping it all in my head helps insure that I manage to be at least a little productive every day. Seeing a day in my weekly calendar that doesn’t have much of anything written down in it is a disappointment, so filling it in is a huge motivator. Something I need to try to do, that my girlfriend told me about, is to write down one good thing about every day. It could be laughing at a really funny joke, doing a good deed for someone, enjoying your lunch, anything like that. It can make a difference for your attitude.


Spend less time on the phone/social media: This is one of the most obvious things, but also one of the hardest! One of the best things I can do during work, if I can remember to, is just to leave my phone in another room. Out of sight, out of mind. Otherwise, I’m just constantly reaching for it.

 

Less frivolous spending: Oh man, I am so bad at this, especially considering what a hit I took paying off my jaw surgery bills. I’m doing better with my grocery shopping and eating out less, but that’s about it. I need to stop buying games I won’t play and toys I don’t have the room for. Retail therapy is a double edged sword, I’m working on it.


Mindfulness: Something I picked up from yoga is that you should try to be present in the moment, be aware of what you’re doing, aware of your surroundings and your place in them. My mind tends to meander and I forget what I’m doing, so it’s hard, but just relaxing, sitting up straight, and focusing on my breathing can really help a lot. Exercise helps, as the physicality of it all drowns out my scattered thoughts and makes me focus on my body in action. Cooking is great too. Really, just maintaining an awareness of what I’m doing and how I’m doing it.


Exercise daily: I usually would go through phases where I’d exercise for about a week or two, burn myself out, and stop altogether for a few weeks or even months. I got back into a good routine during October, going at it harder than I have all year and so far I’ve managed to keep it up almost every day. I think I’m starting to see some changes in my body, and I no longer FEEL like the odd, scrawny alien that I’ve resembled for most of my life. Not that I want to bulk up like a pro wrestler, I just want to maintain my strength and keep from turning into a useless lump. It helps me sleep better at night, too. It’s kind of become a low key obsession by this point. My issue is sometimes going at it TOO hard and being too tired to do much after work, so the trick is finding a good balance, as well as making time to-

Rest and relax: TAKE BREAKS. Stretch, take a bath, lay down and doze off to an episode of MST3K or Best of the Worst. Go for a walk outside, cook a nice meal for yourself and enjoy it, read a book. I’m also halfway through a copy of Haruki Murakami’s the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle that I picked up at a little used bookshop in Charleston. Reading that, it feels like the world slows down to breathe with me. Taking a few minutes here and there with Duolingo to learn some Japanese or brush up on my Spanish has been rewarding too. Videogames generally don’t help here, nor does looking at social media.


Less self-deprecation: This one’s from David Brothers, which I wrote on the whiteboard next to me in my room. I’m a very insecure person, confidence comes and goes in waves, and I realized, especially during cons, that beating myself up doesn’t help. Pointing out the flaws in my work when I’m trying to sell it is STUPID. And, well, people are attracted to confidence.


Don’t put off errands: If something needs to be done, just do it. Putting things off just brings more stress. Don’t try to tackle your entire to-do list in one fell swoop, spread them out through the day or week. Letting my dishes pile up is an awful feeling, so I try to do them every couple of days, usually when I need a break from working or something else.


No drugs or tobacco, little alcohol: I think I’m the only kid that the D.A.R.E. program worked on. Never have done drugs, don’t plan on starting anytime soon. I know marijuana has its uses for pain relief, stress relief, and more, but it’s not for me or my allergies and the smell itself is just the worst. Booze is kind of expensive, so I tend to only drink socially, and even then I try not to drink enough to get drunk. I have a low tolerance for drunk people and don’t want to become one myself. I hate that feeling, honestly, of not being in full control of your own body.


Nudism: Hahahahahahaha oh god I’m a weirdo, but for real, this is my Thing now, and honestly has been for most of my life. Clothes can feel stifling and suffocating a lot of times for me. Nudity helps me relax, my brain calms down, and in social situations (obviously making sure that whoever's present is okay with it), it makes me a little less anxious. It helps me just...be myself and feel more open, and not worry about hiding anything. And being nude outdoors feels great and helps me feel more aware of the environment I live in. I keep wondering if it’s a sign of mental illness, but I can’t find any evidence to support that. I also feel like I talk about it too much, which is in part because I’m still trying to articulate what it means to my identity and all, I guess? It’s something to be mindful of. And well, the temperatures dropping has really messed with this too, which...honestly sucks.


Go outside more often: I’ve been trying to make more trips to one of the local parks to walk around. I used to take a sketchbook with me so I could sit and doodle, but not so much this year. I don’t listen to music or anything either, I just want to surround myself with nature and quiet and just relax. And uh, if I can get naked, too? Even better. But now it’s getting colder and it gets dark way too early and that kind of hurts. It literally feels draining sometimes, and I haven’t worked out how to deal with that yet, but hope to soon.


Draw strength from your surroundings: This is a line from a song I recently heard. Your surroundings play a role in your mood. Decorate your home with things that inspire you. Keep it tidy (again, don’t put off errands like cleaning) because a messy place can be stressful. It’s easier to sit down and get work done drawing or painting if everything is organized and I don’t have to shove things aside or rearrange. Going outside is a part of this too, there’s so much out there to draw inspiration and ideas from.


As far as that other aspect of that photo, of giving yourself to something bigger than you...that thing, for me, is art, and even when I’m not working on something of my own, I can still do things like encourage people to visit local galleries, sharing art that inspires me, things like that. I guess that’s something I address in Debris Field too, the fact that everything we do DOES contribute to something bigger than we are, that we are a part of, and that we should take care and consider what it is we contribute.


Uh...how do I conclude this? I dunno. Things come in waves. I may not feel like drawing or doing much right now, but it’ll pass, and at least I’ve got other things to focus on until my motivation returns. For the most part, I think I’m just gonna hang back this month, rest, get a better perspective on how absurd this year has been, and start planning my next steps. I’ll leave you with another piece of wisdom from David Brothers and Duke Togo:

 

The End of October

Hello! It's Halloween and I have no real plans for the evening. That may sound kind of sad, but honestly, given the month I've had, it's fine.

My best friend came in for about a week at the beginning of the month, and I spent as much time with him as I could. A lot happened at work. I attended THREE Halloween parties, a friend's high school reunion, and checked out a local con and burlesque show. I also hosted a Halloween themed figure drawing party:

For her birthday, my girlfriend and I went to Charleston last week, where we ate lots of seafood, collected shark teeth by the dozens, saw cool wildlife and skeletons, and kind of snuck through a graveyard at night with a couple friends.

Through it all, I kept up with Inktober, though I admit it probably wasn't my best go at it. With everything else going on, I just couldn't prioritize it the way I've done in previous years. To be frank, I didn't really want to. A lot of days were more or less phoned in because it just didn't feel as important this year. It's my sixth year in a row, what do I have to prove at this point? There are other, better challenges to tackle than drawing witches and monsters for a whole month. I've still got some work I'm proud of, though:

Plus, it still helped me maintain some sense of focus, and got me exercising frequently once again, in a greater capacity than previous attempts at staying fit. The discipline is there, it's just shifted to doing more pushups and crunches now, which is fulfilling in its own way. That said, I do think this is my last Inktober, or I'll at least be taking a break next year. Six straight years is good enough, yeah?

Work on the new webcomic was steady, but dropped off because of everything this month. I'm looking forward to diving back into it now that most everything is done with, and I'd like to sit down and work out a good weekly routine to settle into for it. I've got the next FRAG Holiday Bizarre in early December, plus some other projects with other people, too, but otherwise things should be slowing down for the rest of the year, which is good.

Oh, wait, I guess I DO have some kind of plans now, as my girlfriend is about to head over here soon, so I'll wrap this up. Happy Halloween, stay safe everyone!

Back in limbo

I'm back to being kinda directionless lately.

I finished up the comic I've been working on with Danny. We're doing last minute tweaks to it and figuring out how we're going to release it, so you'll be hearing about that soon. It's the biggest single project I've done since Other Sleep, and I can't wait for people to finally see it. Having been working on it for so long, it feels weird to finally be on the other side of things.

I also finished up a sketchbook I'd been working in for almost two years, and so started a new one. The first page is a self portrait and kind of a personal art manifesto:

Seems like the right way to begin things. Just trying to center myself and figure out what I wanna do.

This weekend is Bristol's Rhythm and Roots Festival, and FRAG is setting up again, but I won't be joining them. It was a last minute thing, I don't have my stuff together, I didn't do so well last year, I need to save money and stay at work, and uh, there aren't any acts this year that I'm interested in seeing. But hey, if you go, stop by and check out what they're doing!

Another thing: those paintings I did? That show that I applied for? None of them got accepted. Over 60 people entered, and just over 20 got accepted, I think? It is what it is. I'm trying not to be too bummed about it, but...I dunno.

Between that and not doing so well at Rob-Con or the Asheville Zine Fest, I'm wondering what I need to do. My work is...kinda weird and niche, I guess? My comics aren't really the kind of thing most people go to comic shows for, I still find difficulty describing them, and the stuff I do that's more fine art, my paintings and stuff, still have this comicky feel to them that doesn't really fit in with a gallery setting. I struggle to fit in any time I set up somewhere. I just don't know what to do to try to appeal to more people, I guess? Maybe my work is too broadly ranged?

I was going to try to paint more, but, well, not making it into that show was pretty discouraging, so, I don't know.

I want to try to put together another figure drawing party soon, but I keep getting distracted and discouraged about that too. Urg.

I do have something I'm going to focus more on soon: I'm chipping away at a new webcomic. I've got the first arc roughed out. The first chapter of it is fully written and thumbnailed, and I'm working on the same for the second chapter. The art above is a monster that appears in the first chapter. It'll very much be a return to what I was doing with Cannonball Fist, and will probably even include some characters from that! It should be a lot of fun. I think I want to set up a Patreon alongside it, but the fear with that is that I just don't have a big enough audience to make anything from it if I do one. Who knows.

Also, next month is October, and you know what that means: DAILY ART CHALLENGE! My plan this year is to draw witches and monsters, alternating day by day. I've been brainstorming, accumulating reference, and gearing up.
The Johnson City Zine Fest was a few weeks back, and it was a blast. Definitely the best show I've done this year, though uh, I only did two other shows this year so that's not saying MUCH, but...I did well, it was a good time, there was live music that was great, and I picked up a lot of cool zines from people. If it's the last public thing I do this year, it's a good one to finish out on.

But yeah. A lot's up in the air right now. And the sudden shift to chilly fall weather has messed with me, making me sick and kind of bummed out, neither of which are helping with this.

For now, I guess I'll stick to limbo, and use this time floating aimlessly to continue catching up on a backlog of TV, movies, and comics and things, until I can pull myself together again. I don't want to get lethargic, but I gess it's okay to drift for a bit and relax.

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.