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

cookedbrett@gmail.com

One Month Down

So. We're at the end of January. If it's any indication of how the rest of the year will go, I should be just fine.

I'm sitting on some finished things that haven't gone public yet, including illustration and design for an album. Since last week I've been working on a design for a beer that a friend's brewery plans to release later in the year. I sold a painting and some buttons (did I mention that I have a button maker now? I have a button maker now, hit me up if you need buttons), I made the entirety of Cannonball Fist available as a free PDF on my Gumroad page, read 3 different ebooks on naturism, paid off my credit card, and more. Here's a poster I did:

Here's the really big thing: last week, a local cidery posted about looking for artists to show their work in their taproom. I sent them a message along with a link to this site, and they asked if I could show some paintings! I'll be setting up there in March! I declared that I wanted to show my work in some galleries, and while this isn't quite like a "real" gallery, it's a really cool opportunity in a neat venue all the same. I've already cranked out a new painting, and my plan for February is to do at least a few more if I can. This one's called the Ghost Behind the Barn:

Additionally, days later, a friend who works at the Bristol Public Library with my girlfriend asked if I wanted to show some work in their small gallery, probably in May. I had to submit an application along with a proposal for what the show would be, which I turned in on Saturday, so now I just have to wait and see what the curator and gallery committee think. Fingers crossed...

...Yeah. Two opportunities to show my work popped up within the same week. Some FRAG people are talking with the cidery about setting up a group show and maybe some other events through them, and we've got two shows we'll be doing at the same venue as the Holiday Bizarre, too. I'm still only signed up for two comic conventions, but at this point, I think trying to get into any more would be overkill if I'm doing two solo shows and FRAG stuff on top of that.

(there's always the chance that any of this could come crashing down for any number of reasons, and those possibilities serve as a gently humming anxiety in the back of my head, which sucks, but I can manage it)

OH: you'll notice in the sidebar on the right that I've set up a Ko-Fi account. If you like what I do and want to tip me, click that button and you can send a few bucks my way. If you'd rather not, that's fine too. It's just something new I'm trying out. A page for commission prices is on its way, probably after I get more paintings and design projects knocked out and have the breathing room to take some on, so be on the lookout for that.

What I REALLY want to talk about though is figure drawing. This year's kicked off not one, but two meet-ups, one with my own group and one with FRAG.
First off, my own figure drawing group has been renamed as Defining Bodies, and I've set up that Instagram account to share our work. Go follow it if you're into that. Our first meet-up of the year was the 14th, and our next one is lined up in a couple of weeks. I'm putting more effort into making our meet-ups more consistent, hopefully monthly. Since forming in April 2016, we've only had 12 events altogether, and I'm hoping to do way more in 2018. We've added some new artists and models, which is really exciting, and maintaining the Instagram account should hopefully help me stay focused.

FRAG figure drawing this past Saturday was fantastic too, and I took the opportunity to stretch my legs a bit and try some new things. Inspired by my friend Alejandro's recent sketches, I took some highlighters and gave them a shot, with cool results. You can see more in my portfolio, too.
I don't know why figure drawing is so important to me, why the human figure is my favorite subject in art, or why it warms my spirit in a way so few other things do. It is what it is, I guess. There's just something about it. It requires a level of thought and focus that other work doesn't, as well as a level of trust and interaction that just isn't there in other things I do.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say. I think figure drawing is helping me become a better artist for sure, but it's also helping me become a better person as well. It's made me open up more, feel better about my own body, finding power in vulnerability. I want to keep doing it for as long as I can, and keep getting more people into it.

That's all, I guess. I'm feeling good about things. I know things will go wrong, problems will arise, but right now, tonight, after a month filled with drawing, painting, and going after opportunities, I feel like I can tackle anything that comes my way. We'll find out, one way or another.

Right out of the gate

Hello. It's 2018. The numbering of days and years is an arbitary thing, a tool for organization, there's no real threshold being crossed when we move from one into the next. But still, it feels like something new. It feels refreshing. There's an energy here that I didn't feel last week, and I want to immerse myself in it. Let's get started.

Things are off to a good start, I'd say. I brought in the new year nude, drinking champagne at a friend's place next to my girlfriend in her Chewbacca onesie. Our first meal of 2018 was sushi at our favorite Japanese restaurant. I've finished up work on the album cover design I started last year for a friend, gotten back to work on the webcomic, and bought new watercolor pencils. I'm reading more, currently hooked on Golden Kamuy and Devilman Grimoire, and that new Devilman Crybaby anime on Netflix is absolutely amazing. I checked out some galleries downtown, including a show at Bloom Cafe by Suzie Kelly, who runs the Johnson City Zine Fest.

I've already laid out my plans, goals, ideas, what have you for 2018. I think I know what kind of path I'm going to take with my art, and the new banner, combining two images I did last month, should hopefully reflect that.

Last year was all about entropy: things breaking down and falling apart, people in despair. This year I want to focus on rebuilding, on strength and resilience. 2017 was terrible, but we continued to push on and we made it through. Time to keep going.

I'm going to launch that new webcomic later this year, in some form or fashion. I'm going to make some new prints to sell at shows and online. I have a new one shot comic idea that'll return to an old character that I'm really close to. I'm going to paint more. After a lot of floundering last year, I'm going to renew my focus on figure drawing, hosting a get-together this weekend with some new people, and there's a FRAG party coming up at the end of the month. I avoided faces last year in my work, so this year I want to focus more on portraits. I'm going to try to get my work into some galleries this year, I'm going to try to do more freelance work and commissions. I'm going to try to start a Patreon, or something like it.

It's one thing to state your intentions, but without any kind of plan, you won't get much further, so I'm making a lot of notes. I've already started checking out galleries in the area, I penciled and inked my first comic page of the year last week, I've started sketching ideas of what to paint. It's not much, but it's moving forward all the same.

There are goals outside of art to focus on too: I want to get new glasses, waste less time with lousy, toxic people, cook more things, buy more art, keep exercising, and be more generous and helpful to others, especially my friends. I want to go outside more when the weather improves, I want to get naked more, I want to see more art in museums and galleries, whether I get into any or not.

I'm getting my digital presence together and organized again, too. The main URL for this site now takes you straight to a heavily revised portfolio of my work, rather than this blog. I finally shut down Cannonball Fist. Reflected Gaze will still be up, but I'm not paying for the URL or any bells and whistles anymore. That'll save me some money. I'll have a commissions page up soon too, hopefully, along with an ArtStation page.

I only did 4 shows last year. I want to do more this year, but I'm not sure I want to take any risks by doing larger, more expensive shows that require a lot of travel. I don't think I can return to HeroesCon just yet. I'm signed up for this year's Rob-Con and Conapalooza already, and I think FRAG plans on having two shows this year, with a spring show on top of the usual Holiday Bizarre. I don't know, I haven't put as much thought into this as I have with the other things. It's not a top priority.

So that's where I am right now. It has, this week, occurred to me that I'm once again right out of the gate trying to do A LOT. I'm not a good juggler, I may never be, so I really just need to take it one day at a time. So now I'm gonna go work on a poster for a friend before I do some more cleaning to prep for figure drawing. Take care of yourselves, and I'll try to do the same.

Best of 2017

Here's a list of some things I loved in 2017. Not all of them are releases from this year.

What is Left by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Buying and frying plantains

Your Name.

Seeing Fire Heads live at a free show downtown

Judge Dredd: Block Mania + the Apocalypse War, from Complete Case Files 05

Ultraman Orb

Logan Lucky

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

December figure drawing

A painting that Maudlyn Claire did of my face

Nazis getting punched in the face

Man of War by Radiohead

My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

The one weekend where I got to sit outside in the sun, reading and drawing while nude

John Wick: Chapter 2

Watching Shin Godzilla with a couple friends on a giant TV

Twin Peaks: The Return

Getting to feed sting rays at Ripley's Aquarium in Gatlinburg

Rainbow by Kesha

Rez Infinite

Seeing Clipping live at my favorite local venue

Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legend

Asido by Purity Ring

This Betty Boop cartoon which features Cab Calloway as Koko the Clown singing St. James Infirmary Blues

Sexual predators losing their jobs

Golf Story

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Super Mario Odyssey

...Basically the Nintendo Switch itself, the above games, and a few more

NieR: Automata

Being able to get pho in Johnson City

The Last American by John Wagner, Alan Grant, and Mick McMahon

Criterion's bluray release of Stalker, my favorite movie

Finding and buying an old 1993 Dragonzord toy at the flea market

Get Out

Walking around the National Gallery of Art with my girlfriend in Washington DC

American Vandal

Saturnz Barz by Gorillaz

Persona 5

Small Enough by Dustin Harbin

Thor: Ragnarok

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.