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

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

The sky clears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always seeking to survive and flourish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bad case of abyss gaze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No danger of coming ashore, huh?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THAT'S THE WAY THE GUILLOTINE CLAPS

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

Aesop Rock- The Impossible Kid

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

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

At the Drive-In- Governed by Contagions

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

clipping. - Splendor & Misery

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

Carly Rae Jepsen- Emotion Side B

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

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

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

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

Bastards of Fate - Freemasons

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

The Lippies- self-titled

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

Shiro Sagisu- Persecution of the Masses

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

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

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

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

And we carry on

CURRENT STATUS:

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

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

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

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

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

So many faces

October is over, and so I'm done drawing portraits of my friends and writing about them in an emotionally raw manner that I'm not used to. All told, I drew 33 within those 31 days, and since 12 of those were couples, that means I drew 45 people total. Err, well, 44, since I drew my girlfriend twice on her birthday.

So what did I learn this time, besides how to articulate my feelings? Well, the sheer number of friends I have with glasses means that I had no choice but to overcome a lousy hurdle, and now I'm not half bad at drawing them. I got quicker at noticing issues with proportions and placement of different elements, and in a few cases got more expressive with my use of color, so I definitely feel like I've grown a little more as an artist from all that practice.

I succeeded at my goal, I think. Most of my friends really appreciated the drawings and what I said about them, and it helped me realize just how many people I know who are just really great people. What's more exciting, is that this month my girlfriend and at least one other friend have decided to write everyday about a friend who they're thankful for, inspired in some small part by my effort. Being sick of all the despair in my social media feeds, this is great to see and I hope more people follow suit.

This marks the...fourth? No, the fifth year in a row that I've pulled off this daily art challenge. I think I said this last time, but there's no longer any question of whether or not I can pull it off, I undoubtedly can. It's now just a matter of finding different ways to challenge myself and continue to grow as an artist. As always, exhaustion really kicked in during that final week, especially when I was in between an art show and a trip out of town. 

ANYWAYS. Other stuff:

The final Bristol Bizarre was on the 22nd, and it was a really good time. I only sold one of the skulls that I drew for it, and none of the nudes I drew sold, so that was a bummer, but I still made decent money that night and had fun with a big group of friends. A bit before that, I met up with some people from FRAG to check out the gallery space where we'll be having this year's Holiday Bizarre show in Kingsport, which will be on December 3rd. I'll have more details on that soon, probably. Tomorrow we're meeting to talk about the show and do some more figure drawing, which I'm really looking forward to.

Also, I'm in this month's issue of a local art paper called A! Magazine for my work in the Cherry Bounce Show at the William King. My name is on the cover, and I'm interviewed inside. I'm glad they made sense of my rambling. Makes me feel more legit.
I should really get better, newer pictures of myself taken though, shouldn't I?

Um, beyond those things? I don't know. It's back to work on comic stuff that I'm still not ready to talk about yet. SORRY.

Oh, and I drew Godzilla's weird baby form from Shin Godzilla, I really love that big dumb precious baby:
That's it I guess. Take care of yourselves! 

"Truly a god incarnate."

Shin Godzilla opens very much the way the original 1954 film and the 1984 reboot Return of Godzilla do: with a boat out on the water under mysterious conditions. These two films are referenced the most out of the franchise, and not just because they're the only other movies in which Godzilla doesn't face another monster.

That said, it's still a big departure from the rest of the franchise, and that's most obvious with the King of the Monsters himself. This really is the weirdest iteration of Godzilla to exist, which is an odd thing to say because he's never really been weird, has he? You know what you're in for when you see Godzilla most of the time, it's usually a pretty safe bet what you're going to see in any of the other movies, but here writer/director Hideaki Anno, co-director/special effects director Shinji Higuchi, and designer Mahiro Maeda have purposely set out to subvert your expectations. It's a breath of fresh air, and this strange new monster's physiology is a major component of the movie. A lot has changed over the years, there are all sorts of tools available with which to learn just what a monster like Godzilla would be should it exist, and the movie gives us a keen understanding of how this horrific creature functions. As for his purpose...that's a little more unclear.

The movie primarily follows a group of politicians and a team of outcast experts put together to figure out how to stop Godzilla. While it would've helped to have more perspective from regular people caught in the disaster, the constant meetings, press conferences, and time spent huddled around laptops sorting through new data never feels stale or boring. For the first two acts, things move at a breakneck pace in spite of the government's failure to cut through the red tape of bureaucracy and come up with a quick solution to the giant monster that's come ashore. Dialogue is spat at a remarkable speed in time with the rapid cutting that's come to be expected from Anno's work, and board meetings start to feel more like action sequences. It can be a lot to keep up with, I admit. As quick as everyone moves in their scramble to stop the slow, lumbering beast, they're still not fast enough.

Shin Godzilla also features the most tactical and coordinated JSDF attack against a giant monster seen in any of these films, followed by bombing assistance from the United States in what quickly becomes the movie's finest setpiece. It was around this time that it dawned on me just much of the sound design was pulled from older movies. The first time Godzilla roars, it's unmistakably the low, gut-wrenching sound from 1954, created by Akira Ifukube's gloved hand on a contrabass. The sounds of artillery, Godzilla's slow stomping, and crumbling buildings sound mostly like old recordings, and a good chunk of the soundtrack is made up of old Ifukube scores. As one of many nods to Neon Genesis Evangelion, the song Decisive Battle is remixed a handful of times, too.

There are issues: yes, Godzilla doesn't get as much screentime as most of us fans would like. As mentioned before, the lack of any ground-level characters caught in the middle of Godzilla's rampage would have been nice, and the film isn't as dark or apocalyptic as the trailers and Shiro Sagisu's original music let on. The English speaking actors are just as awkward as in older movies in the franchise. The last act slows down for breath, and starts to feel a bit deflated compared to the rest of the film. All that said, there's still a lot to enjoy and this is definitely the most interesting and exciting take we've seen in a really long time. While the events of the movie are definitely similar in structure to the original film, this is very much for better or worse Hideaki Anno's film, and as such it feels like a lengthy episode of Evangelion with many of his obsessions on display. It feels like the movie he's been waiting his whole career to make. That he had so much creative freedom to make the movie he wanted is kind of an anomaly given Toho's track record, but the franchise is all the better for it. This is exactly the kind of personal, unique take on Godzilla that we need more of.

F A L L

The leaves are turning, the temperature's dropping, the sun is slipping into a gray sky, my bones are beginning to ache. It's October.

Which means I'm once more taking part in the Bill Counts October Game. Or Inktober. Or Artober. Whatever you want to call it: a new piece of art every day of the month. But I've chosen a different direction this year. I made a big list of friends who I wanted to draw, then slowly and somewhat painfully cut that list from close to fifty down to thirty one. Well, more than that, because I'm drawing a handful of couples, too.
So each day, I'm picking a friend and drawing them. When I post that drawing on Facebook, I tag them, and try to write about who they are, what our relationship is, and what they mean to me. Here's the album, if you're curious to see me struggling to express these things that I'm not used to expressing.

It's also such a weird shift in direction for me. On the one hand, outside of these circles of friends on Facebook, there's not a lot of appeal to what I'm doing. I'm not trying to do stuff that would get people's attention like previous years. It feels strange, focusing on actually drawing these people I know, not turning them into mutants, not drawing monsters and surreal stuff, but trying to capture all these different likenesses and trying to distill their personalities into the drawings. It's more challenging than I expected, and it's made me recognize a lot of my limitations as an artist. I wasn't really looking to test myself much, but that's what's happening.
It's been a rough year, and it seems so many people I know are pretty down in the dumps, and a lot of what I see in my social media feeds is depressing. This is my attempt at countering that, however small or feeble it may be. Part of an ongoing goal of just trying to be a better, kinder person, I guess.

Beyond that, the Bristol Bizarre folks have a new show coming up at the Hideaway in Johnson City, called La Petite Mort. I'm going to be a part of that, and I've been cranking out a few new pieces here and there to try and sell. The primary, surprisingly enjoyable thing I've been doing is drawing a series of little skull studies:
Like, seriously, if I were to just drop everything else and focus solely on drawing (and maybe painting) skulls, become the Skull Guy or whatever? That'd be alright. They're a lot of fun to do.

I'm also doing some larger figure drawings for it:
The show will be on the 22nd. Hope to see you there.

Three comic projects are progressing slowly, but nicely. The other two are on the backburner because, guys, trying to work on five separate comic projects at once is stupid and you shouldn't do it. Seriously.

FRAG is also having another holiday show in early December. I'll have more on that as we get closer to the date.

So much for slowing down after Rhythm and Roots, I guess. I can't be too upset though.

What is ordinary?

I haven't written here in a while, and, well, it's because a lot has been going on. I had to look back through my calendar and write some notes on an index card to get a straight track of everything I've been involved with since July...

 First off: We held our second figure drawing get together on July 3rd. It had a loose Patriotic theme to it. I wore American flag and star stickers when I posed, and provided red, white, and blue leis for everyone.
 At the end of July was Rob-Con! That Saturday I sold an original, the cover to one of the chapters of Other Sleep, which is a remarkable first, and I continued to sell lots of things after that, including a bunch of Pokemon sketch cards that I made. Another first: I ate a funnel cake burrito. It's...pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Sunday was muuuuuuuch slower, and it occurred to me that, even though it was the first con that I had copies of All of This Will Crumble at, no one bought any. I sold very few comics, in fact. Which isn't really new, I think I've written about that before, but it was mildly disappointing. I did get commissioned to draw Donald Trump in a fist fight with Josef Stalin, at least. That was fun.

The very next weekend, I went to a meeting of the FRAG group that I had the Christmas show with last year. Our host hired a model and we did some figure drawing. For a number of folks there, it was their first time doing any such thing, and seeing the wide variety of drawings everyone cranked out was great. Here's a favorite that I did:
Things get blurry after this.

At some point, All of This Will Crumble went up on ComiXology, which led to a few orders for physical copies on my Big Cartel page! The day it went up, I received an email within hours from someone who bought it on a whim and enjoyed it, and I got some other good feedback not long after. I felt invincible that day, and hope it continues to find an audience. 

I started working hard on one of the, um, multiple comic projects I've got going. I can't show anything yet, really, but I penciled the first 11 pages at a killer pace, including my first two page spread that I'm really excited about. 10 of those pages are inked, and one of those is fully colored. I think once this batch is totally finished, we'll be ready to announce it, so not much longer.

A really talented painter friend of mine, Maudlyn Claire, popped up after I gushed about one of her self portraits and asked if I'd be willing to do some collaborative work with her. I flipped out and within a few days drew a bunch of stuff, which I mailed off to her. She's painting over my inks mostly, but I sent her some pencil drawings to play with, too. The results are looking fantastic:
The plan is, at some point, to do a little comic together. I'm on the cusp of having a solid idea nailed down. That's, um, one of the OTHER four comic projects that are in various stages of development, and the third one that's a collaboration. And each collaboration is wildly different, which is just awesome after so many years of working all by myself.

The second annual Johnson City Zine Fest was on August 20th, and I was so happy to be a part of it. I did fairly well, and picked up quite a stack of zines from other incredible people. I wasn't sure what to expect, so I decided to just push my books and a few of my prints, nothing else. I sold enough copies of All of This Will Crumble that I'm going to have to get it reprinted soon, which is nice. I'm almost sold out of Cannonball Fist and Shouting at the Void, too!

Things got weirder when my girlfriend's mom turned up at work with a mannequin that she bought me. Her name is Beatrice Rose and I have no idea what I'm going to do with her yet, but she sits by the window to creep out people that pass by. I don't know, I think I may try to turn her into a kaiju?
Speaking of mannequins, I finished a shirt design for my brother's band. I'm not sure I can show that yet, though. Sorry.

Anyways, I held another figure drawing thing, this time in my own apartment, with a new model!
I really love figure drawing, you guys. I can't properly articulate how happy I am that I'm doing it on a semi regular basis now. It's really one of this year's big highlights. Modeling is getting easier for me, too, especially when the group is cool with me playing some Akira Ifukube scores to Godzilla movies and posing like a kaiju.

Here's another drawing I'm pleased with, when another model picked up on those kaiju vibes. I stood up on a chair to draw this one:
Finally, I'm in another show at the William King Museum of Art, called the Cherry Bounce Show. More than 50 Appalachian artists are involved, each one given a specific Presidential campaign to react to. It's a mad, brilliant idea, and I wasn't a part of it at all, at first. One of the artists dropped out, the show's guest curator saw a mutant portrait I did of a friend who works at the museum, and so they called me up, two days before the show, asking if I could fill in and do a piece reacting to the 1988 election of Bush Vs Dukakis. How could I say no?

...I don't have a decent picture of what I did, which is basically a painting of George Bush's head looming over the mountains and a burning tank. Look, the show is up through January, and the museum has some other really cool shows going on right now too, so you should just go and check it out.

But seriously, you guys. It's a killer assortment of artists in that show, and I feel like I somehow pulled off a con in getting to be a part of it. I was afraid my painting wouldn't fit in. It does, better than I expected, but I'm still not 100% convinced I belong among so much talent. I freaked out...quite a bit over it, and it was a very stressful two days of work and I spent most of my time at the opening reception just trying not to lose it. I was frazzled. It was a great time, though, and we got to go to a great afterparty too.

Today, the 6th, was World Art Drop Day, so I did my bit by dropping off a couple older pieces of mine downtown during my lunchbreak. Here's one of them:
So...yeah...I guess I've been busy. It's been weird. I don't remember what it's like to have an ordinary life anymore.

And I've been invited to set up and sell work at the upcoming Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion with some FRAG folks, too. Which is in two weeks. Need to start preparing for that. Here's a new painting that I put together to try and sell there. I like it a lot, so I'll probably get prints made too:
I'm going to try to take it easy after that, if only for a little bit. I need to get back into practicing self care, because I've just been feeling overwhelmed and frazzled all the time lately.

Oh, Inktober is next month, too. And I already have my idea for that. So there's that.

Okay, that's enough rambling for now. Don't be like me, take care of yourselves.