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

amechanicaldisaster@gmail.com

HeroesCon 2013

I spent this past weekend at HeroesCon, neck-deep in nothing but comics culture and nerdery. We got up at 3:45am Friday morning to drop my girlfriend’s mother off at the airport before we drove the three and a half hours to Charlotte, so I spent all three days of the con sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, much like everyone else there, it seemed. This is basically how I am now that I‘m back in the real world:
Last year was the first time I’d ever been, wandering aimlessly and trying to put copies of the first issue of Burst Reach into the hands of artists and writers I admired. This year, however, I shared a table with my friend, comics mentor, and convention veteran sketch monster, Jeremy Massie. This is basically my third con appearance, and, like I said in my previous blog post (I think??), I had no idea what to expect at all.
The truth is? I think I did better in one day at ETSUcon back in April than I did in all three days at Heroes. Everyone was saying that Saturday would be massive, that I’d be slammed with sketch requests and people buying things from me, but it turns out actually that I sold more books and drew more sketches on Sunday alone. I barely had anybody Friday and Saturday. This, ah, well, um, led to a bit of an existential crisis Saturday evening. I had packed so much, unrealistically thinking that Burst Reach 3 and Other Sleep would sell really well. I DID manage to get rid of all of my leftover copies of the first two issues of Burst Reach, which was a great relief, but still, I could feel despair closing in as I sat at my table watching hundreds of people walk by without so much as a glance in my direction or worse, standing in front of my table in order to get a look at the insanely cool collage pieces at the table next to me while awkwardly pretending I wasn‘t sitting there.

After some talking about it, I understand completely now. HeroesCon is just HUGE. It is packed with hundreds of artists and vendors, some who are new to things, others who are con veterans, heavy-hitting Marvel powerhouses like Paolo Rivera and first-timers like myself, all of whom are scrambling and struggling for the attention and money of con-goers. Why would you want a copy of Other Sleep from me when Sean Murphy is just about 20 feet away with Punk Rock Jesus and some killer prints at his table? So it makes sense that I did better at smaller cons with fewer artists. I mean, come on, I was at the same convention as Jim Steranko and Eric Powell, who was I to think that I’d do well in their presence?

It wasn’t all existential pain and self-doubt, of course. On the first day I got a personal inking lesson from Paul Maybury, who is a great artist and great person to chat with. I got to watch my girlfriend who’d never been to such a massive con run around, meeting up with old friends and making new ones while formulating a plot to leave me for Matt Fraction and Ben Templesmith. She had a blast all three days, and it made me extremely happy to have been able to bring her along with me and watch her having so much fun. And some good friends of ours came down on Sunday and we ate at Pinky’s Grill with them, which was fantastic.

I did some pretty fun sketches for people, too.
And saw some fantastic costumes.
And, despite not making much money at all, I got a TON of stuff.
(not shown: two shirts, a badass Ultraman poster, and a few other comics and stuff)

And on top of all that, here are some other highlights:
-After two days of searching for each others tables, I finally met up with Alejandro Bruzzese. Check his work out, it’s killer stuff.
-After seeing Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick together, my girlfriend claims that they’re exactly like she and I. Her words echoed in the back of my head when I got my copy of Hawkeye #1 signed by Fraction and felt like I was having a conversation with myself. That said, she still wanted to kidnap him.
-I saw Nate Bellegarde’s original pages for Nowhere Men and swooned.
-Did I mention Pinky’s Grill? That place is amazing. I like fried pickles now, how did that happen?
-I got to watch Massie draw this strange sketch request of Burt Reynolds playing cards with a lion:
-Supermag by Jim Rugg is a thing of wonder. And when I gave him a copy of Burst Reach 3, he complimented the look of Stranger Rains!
-The Out of Step Arts table may be my favorite. I got a great Paul Maybury shirt last year, and this year got a Toby Cypress shirt and a couple of Liz Suburbia’s minicomics. He’ll be at Rob-Con next month, too, so be sure to stop by!
-There was a Republican convention going on at the same time, and the juxtaposition of cosplayers and nerds with old white men in suits made for some fun people-watching.

…And I think that’s about it. I’m going to disappear for a while to work on chapter 7 of Other Sleep, and will resurface sometime in July as Rob-Con approaches!

[Brett]

Calm like a bomb

AT LAST, Burst Reach 3 is COMPLETED. Well, for the most part. I mean, I have to have the thing printed, and then I have to fold and staple all those copies myself, BUT STILL. I've spent these last couple of weeks in Antisocial Hermit Artist Mode, working to finish off Stranger Rains, coming up with and executing a one-page comic to fit into the book, then designing and laying out the whole thing and printing and pasting together the dummy copy. It's been grueling, time-consuming work, but it feels good to look at the (nearly) finished product. Here's the cover:
That may not quite be the shade of pink the final book will be, I'm going somewhere else to get it done and I...don't...actually know what their color selection is for paper. I try not to let things like that deter me.

Here's the inside cover, the table of contents:
...err, well, actually, I changed that annoyingly long sentence at the bottom to simply "SELF PUBLISH OR DIE," which I know I stole from somewhere, but I cannot remember where.

I'm happy to have gotten all this done a couple of weeks before Heroes Con in Charlotte, which is June 7-9. The girlfriend and I are heading down together, and I'm sharing a table with hero and savior Jeremy Massie. We'll be at table AA-41! I'm excited, and a little scared. I have a little experience under my belt now, and while last year's Rob-Con and last month's ETSUcon both got a good crowd, over a thousand people each, that's still NOTHING compared to the big huge three-day event that is Heroes. We're in the back, against the wall, so on the outskirts of Artist's Alley, but not in a corner or anything, so while we won't get the same kind of traffic the big artists do, it should still be bustling.

I have a second order of copies of Other Sleep that should come in this Tuesday, I'll get a LOT of copies of Burst Reach 3 printed up (I want to give some to a few choice artists I admire), gotta print more posters, and probably get more paper prepared for sketches and such. I have no earthly idea how busy I'll be, but by god I'll be prepared. I hope. There's no predicting, that's something I've realized in the few things I've attended. While Free Comic Book Day this year was smaller, I still did WAY better than I did at Rob-Con last year despite it's larger attendance, partially because I had a lot more work to show, maybe? 

So. Two weeks. I can't wait. It's gonna be crazy. YOU SHOULD GO.

[Brett]

A big bag of many things and stuff

So it’s been a while since I’ve done something like this, and I’ve been wanting to flex my writing chops a bit in this manner for a while now. Here we have, in no real particular order, a bunch of thoughts and feelings on a bunch of things I’ve been reading, watching, and playing lately.

BioShock Infinite: Damn good game with a crazy ending that really got people talking, which is more than most videogames even strive for these days. After beating it, I became increasingly disappointed in several of the choices made in the story, especially the way it shifts away from Columbia and the crazy racism and religious beliefs and started focusing more on Elizabeth and Booker. I was much more interested in the game’s social commentary than in the quantum mechanics stuff, and I’m hoping some of the upcoming DLC will shift the focus back on those aspects. That ending is a really good visualization of…of…multiple universes and such, though, and I like a game that doesn’t hold your hand and expects you to have at least a passing familiarity with early 20th century American history in order to kind of grasp what’s going on.

The Hunger Games: On a whim, I tried watching the movie on Netflix. I made it maybe 20-30 minutes in before giving up. It’s atrociously shot, more like a Shinya Tsukamoto film without the drill penises and screaming. Seriously, just the worst camerawork I’ve seen in some time. Unwatchable. I’ve started reading the book, and noticed that just from what little I watched, the movie also expects you to have already read it, which is a terrible idea. The book itself? I’m not far enough into it to have a decent opinion on it, but I am enjoying it somewhat. I’m not seeing how it caught on and became so enormously popular, but it’s not bad at all.

Kingdom Come, by JG Ballard: Ballard’s final novel before he passed away, about a dome-enclosed supermall in England and the crazed culture that builds around it. Like Columbia in BioShock Infinite, it’s an atrociously racist society, with consumerism as the primary religion. It starts off as a murder mystery, the novel’s protagonist looking for the man who shot and killed his father, and spirals into something larger and scarier from there. Not exactly what I was expecting, but this was my first time reading any of Ballard’s work outside of a few of his short sci fi stories.

Copra: Michel Fiffe’s self-published monthly action comic pays tribute to superhero comics of the 70’s and 80’s with explicit references to Dr. Strange and Suicide Squad, while simultaneously putting to shame every single book Marvel and DC are putting out today. The sixth issue dropped this month, concluding the first storyline, and it is the best monthly comic I’m reading right now. Fiffe is a beast, and every issue has at least a good two or three incredibly inventive sequences. Drop whatever crappy cape comic you’re reading right now and go pick this up. The first three issues are collected in the Copra Compendium, with the second collection coming soon.

Hawkeye: Having said that up there, Hawkeye is pretty good too, largely due to the crazy tricks David Aja has been pulling in the artwork. It may not deserve half the Eisner nominations it got, but it is quite enjoyable and a breath of fresh air compared to all the other crap that the Big Two print.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon: I have never played a Far Cry game before. I don’t really know what they’re about or anything like that. A friend convinced me to play this, however, by getting me to listen to the insanely good synthesizer soundtrack and watching a couple videos of the game in action. The game is every 80’s action/sci-fi movie cliché rolled into one, taking place in the dystopic future of 2007. The dialogue is hilarious, and the game’s hints during loading times are great, as are the tutorials. I’m usually not incredibly fond of shooters, but I will enjoy anything that’s drenched in neon with a killer synth score.

Adventure Time and the Regular Show: Fucking hilarious, wonderful cartoons. How have I never watched these before? They’re just so great. And weird. Good weird. I shouldn’t have to explain them to you.

Ren & Stimpy: Man, that first season holds up well. Weird, creepy, hilarious, unsettling, and a lot smarter than I remember it being.

Iron Man 3: Much better than I was expecting. Plot is full of holes, the villains’ motivations are…fuzzy, to say the least, and the final showdown at the end almost put me to sleep, but there are some really genius bits in there. I wish the movie had dialed back on the humor a little and focused a bit more on Tony’s PSTD/anxiety attacks. That could’ve developed into something really interesting, but in a movie with a ton of other stuff going on, it just becomes almost pointless as it gets buried in fanservice. I loved the handling of the Mandarin, and that entire Miami sequence in general is great. I heard some people this past weekend at the comic shop complaining, about how Tony is barely in the suit throughout the movie? I was okay with that. I liked that more, that it was trying to show Tony as more than just some handsome smart guy who says funny things. Still, WAYYYYY better than the Dark Knight Rises, that movie was just crap…

Upstream Color: The movie I have been waiting to see since it was first announced. It’s my movie of the year so far, and I kind of doubt anything else will top it. Shane Carruth’s Primer is one of my favorite films and I never imagined he would be able to top it, but he has. The soundtrack is wonderful, feeling like you’re in an aquarium, and is a big part of the movie’s atmosphere. It moves like a dream, showing more than telling, making you pay attention and search for clues, piecing together what’s happening as it happens. I need to watch it again, as I still don’t completely grasp it all, and I’d like to write something more on it, but I just haven’t chewed on it enough yet to come up with anything worth reading, especially regarding the (forced?) romance between the two main characters and how it appears to be a literal representation of how it feels to fall in love. Still, it’s sublime, you can pause it at any moment, frame it, and hang it up in a gallery, it’s that beautiful. The sound design is incredible. In a perfect world, we’d have more beautiful, intriguing movies like this to think and talk about. I can’t wait to see what Carruth does next.

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain: My girlfriend got me into Bourdain’s No Reservations shortly after we met. I love that man, and this is the book that made him famous. I’m only a little more than halfway through it, I confess, but it’s wonderful, and reading it before bed is a bad idea because it always makes me hungry. Bourdain writes in a way that is intoxicating and addicting to read, and it’s his own personal account of his experiences hopping from one restaurant to the next, an ugly but exciting look at what goes on behind the scenes in the industry. I’ve got another book or two of his waiting to be read, and I hope they’re just as good.

Change: This 4-issue miniseries written by Ales Kot, illustrated by Morgan Jeske, colored by Sloane Leong, and lettered by Ed Brisson is incredible. Dense, too. I need to reread it to really wrap my head around it, especially since I kind of read the issues out of order on my first go, but it’s unlike anything else in comic shops right now. It’s strange and dense, vibrant and alive, and I love it. Like with Upstream Color, I want to see more like this.

There are so many more things I’d love to write and talk about, but not enough time and space here, and I’m kicking myself for just realizing that I’d left out the music I’ve been listening to lately as well: Colleen Green’s Sock it to Me, the Shirks, Electric Ills. I’d like to talk more in-depth about Power Glove’s soundtrack to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Slime Girls, the new song Anamanaguchi dropped the other day from their upcoming new album, and more. But alas, I cannot.

So. What have YOU been reading, watching, playing, listening to? What’s been on your mind lately?

[Brett]

ETSUCON REPORT

...I hope I come up with a better title for this thing by the time I'm finished writing.

Yesterday was ETSUcon! Tomorrow is my 25th birthday! COINCIDENCE? Well yeah, actually it is.

It was quite an experience, being only the second real con I've ever done, but I surprisingly did pretty freaking well. Better than I'd expected to. Turns out people LOVE posters of giant skull robots and kaiju! And I managed to do quite a few mutant portraits for people, too!

Cosplayers roamed the ETSU Culp Center in droves, more than anyone could possibly try to count, but this Splicer lady was my favorite:
There was also a dude dressed as Ryan Gosling's nameless character from Drive? He was awesome and hung around my table quite a bit, but I forgot to photograph him because we kept talking about how cool the new Gosling/Nicolas Winding Refn flick Only God Forgives looks. Seriously, watch that trailer! Doesn't that just look AMAZING?!

It was also a weird experience to have groups of cosplayers get their pictures taken right in front of my table...when there were two empty tables right next to me. I didn't know how to react to that, just a bunch of costumed butts in front of me.

Nor did I know how to react to people who asked me if my work was based on or referencing anything, who would then just lose interest and walk away when I told them that it wasn't. It's like...there are a number of artists on the internet who complain about how someone else's My Little Pony/Deadpool mashup gets more attention than their own, original work? Which is a lame truth, but not something I've ever paid much attention to. This was the real world equivalent to that "if I don't recognize it, I don't care" mentality. Someone asked if my Distinguished Gentlemen collection (which was being given out for free) had any "meta references" in it, and when I told him no, he immediately put it down, and when I tried telling him about Other Sleep he just remarked that the only webcomics he likes are badly drawn MS Paint ones...which...I mean, if that's what you dig, then cool, more power to you, but that was just weird.

Still, though. I saw some friends I hadn't seen in a long time, met some cool new folks (it seems appropriate that, as much time as he spent at my table, I never learned Drive dude's name), and I got video interviewed by stand-up comedian friend Hunter Roberts for a site he writes for called Gonzo Geek! Then I went and got Mexican food with a couple friends I don't get to see too often, so yeah, good times all around!

And hey, this next Saturday, May 4th is Free Comic Book Day! I'll be on 6th Street outside of Mountain Empire Comics doing it all over again. I don't think there will be as many Homestuck cosplayers this time around, though. Or Old Gregg.

Aw crap, I never came up with a better title for this entry. OH WELL.

[Brett]

Move like a shark

HELLO INTERNET. IT’S TIME FOR BRETT TO TALK ABOUT FREAKING OUT OVER ART THINGS AGAIN.
I’ve been insanely busy. This Saturday is ETSUCon, Johnson City’s premiere (I think?) comic/anime convention thing at, if you haven‘t put it together from the name yet, ETSU. I’ve got a table in the artist’s alley and as of yesterday I have everything together for the thing.
I’ll be selling FOUR different posters (two from Other Sleep covers, two variations of show posters), three different buttons, three different postcards of my October Game work, my remaining copies of Burst Reach 2 (the first one is sold out and I have no plans of reprinting it), a second printing of the first chapter of Other Sleep, I will be doing sketches, and I will be just GIVING AWAY my remaining copies of the Distinguished Gentlemen & Other Exciting Tales!
Oh, and after ETSUCon? Free Comic Book Day is NEXT Saturday, May the 4th (be with you har har har ugh) and I’ll be part of a big shindig going on downtown at Mountain Empire Comics. They’re closing off 6th Street to traffic and allowing anybody with anything nerdy to sell to come set up a table. I’ll be one of multiple visiting artists, including my main man Jeremy Massie, Matt Smith, and the one and only Dionysis. Here’s a link to the Facebook event for the thing. OH. Prices for everything at these two appearances, here:
Simultaneously, I’ve also been working on Burst Reach 3. You’ve seen the first page of the comic about a dream about an owl already, here are the first pages to two other comics that will be in it. The first is a comic about a girl who grows a second head, entitled HEADACHE:
And the second is a 10-page comic drawn ENTIRELY IN PENCIL called STRANGER RAINS, which is based on my painting series, the Same Mistake, and takes place right after the events depicted in those paintings:
…So you can imagine how busy I’ve been these past few weeks, scrambling to get things together. I was worried the copies of Other Sleep wouldn’t come in on time, the postcards were a last-minute idea suggested by a friend (got those in the mail yesterday), and I’ve been buying and gathering tools left and right, printing and cutting business cards, tweaking everything, you get the picture. Oh, and I’ve also begun painting a nursery for a soon-to-be-born nephew, but I’m doing that more to RELAX than anything else.

With ETSUCon just days away, my initial plan was to just hang loose, kick back, and rest until this weekend. Then my brain started screaming “NO BRETT YOU NEED TO PRACTICE DRAWING EVERYTHING WHAT IF SOMEONE ASKS YOU TO DRAW CAPTAIN AMERICA OR JAKE THE DOG OR A WASHING MACHINE.” My arm hates me right now. A lot.
I had this bad dream last night where I made it to the con with all my stuff, but had to punch in a bunch of info in this old computer like the kind you used to see at the DMV and things malfunctioned and messed up and I couldn’t get my table, or even into the con at all. And then I couldn’t find a drink. I don’t have nightmares, I just have dreams where horrible and ludicrous inconveniences happen. Also? Despite what you may think, Super Mario 64 is NOT a good game to play when stressed out and trying to unwind, it just leads to a lot of shouting and grumpiness.

I’ll be fine. I know I’ll be fine. I’m sure it will all go well. It’s just my brain being stupid but geez, I wish it’d lay off already. So there we go, come to ETSUCon and the FCBD celebration and buy stuff from me, and if I’m looking disheveled and weepy, maybe give me a hug or something and tell me it’ll all be okay? Yeah. And then I’ll draw Deathlok for you.

[Brett]

These sour times

So last week was Beat About's one year anniversary show. I got asked to do a poster for it by Sir Jesse Mutter of Ungodly Hour Aftermath. I'd been itching to revisit the Metal Zombies of Mars, so I busted this out for them:
In case you haven't seen it or had forgotten, here's the original appearance of the Metal Zombies, for an illustration assignment where we had to do a fake pulp magazine cover:
Ahhhhh, memories.

Next Saturday is the final punk show at the Bristol Grind House, and I did a poster for it as well, using an old photobooth pic I found on the side of the road at work:
I've been listening to the Shirks A LOT this week. I'm so excited. I hate that the Grind House is closing, but the good news is that Sterlin is still bringing punk bands to our sleepy little town of Bristol, with Colleen Green coming to Machiavelli's on the 17th.

I plan on writing a longer, more thoughtful thing about these shows, the Grind House, and Sterlin's efforts. Probably next week or something?

In other local news, Burst Reach, Burst Reach 2, and the Distinguished Gentlemen comics are all available now at the Purple Loon downtown! Once I get the first chapter of Other Sleep reprinted, I believe it will be sold there as well! Exciting, yes? If you haven't gotten a copy of either of the Burst Reaches or the Distinguished Gents, better hurry and head over there or talk to me, because I don't have too many left, and I have no plans on reprinting them again. I MIGHT do a pay-what-you-want pdf kind of thing, if only so that I can read them myself on my new Kindle Fire. We'll see.

Other stuff I've been into:
I've been sketching pictures of some friends of mine as Embrace Infection style mutants. Zombie portraits are kind of popular at conventions and things these days, so this my alternative take on that. I'm hoping it's neat enough that people will want to give me money to turn them into something out of a David Cronenberg movie.

If all goes well, I'm doing THREE conventions this year: ETSUcon (which is a new anime convention), Heroes Con, and of course, Bristol's own Rob-Con. On top of that, Rob is putting together something big for Free Comic Book Day. The street that his shop is on is going to be closed off to traffic, with dealers and artists outside selling our wares. 

Oh, ALSO!
I HAVE BUTTONS!! And they're awesome! All the credit goes to Haley and Steve at Self Destruct Buttons, they did an amazing job. I look forward to selling these babies...
Finally, I just finished up a 4-page silent comic for an upcoming Pizza Flag zine. No clue when it's coming out, but I'll of course let you know when it drops. I also did a...poem/narrative/comic/photodistortion thing for a Pizza Flag/William Birdcock zine that I think is dropping some time in April. Can't wait to post that. The owl comic will also be in Burst Reach 3, which I'll be releasing...um...sometime this summer. I'm still working on it, but trust me, it's gonna be great. I feel like Burst Reach 2 was a little bit of a misfire, not quite as frantic and entertaining as the first one, so I'm trying to make up for that.

That's all for now. Lots of stuff going on, considering we're only now just a quarter of the way through the year. It's just going to get better, hopefully. Stick around!

[Brett]

Things keep happening

The new chapter of Other Sleep is online! GO READ IT. Here's one of my favorite pages in a chapter full of favorite pages:
 Angry Ninel is angry.

Now that the comic is over 100 pages in length, I'm trying to think of ways to promote the comic and get more readers. One idea I'm contemplating is a contest/drawing for the Facebook page if I can get so many likes. Acquiring new readers is difficult. I've emailed some blogs and some creators that I'm fond of, but that doesn't really do much, it seems? I have Twitter, Tumblr, deviantART, other stuff, but I don't have very many followers on any of those networks. Word of mouth is a difficult thing when most people aren't too keen about sharing other people's work or whatever. If only I knew a way to go viral or something. Arg.

Err, anyways, that little bit of frustration aside, I've done a couple other things here on the site. First off, my untitled silent sci-fi western snowstorm comic now has its own page on here. Secondly, I put one of the short comics printed in Burst Reach 2, Devil Stomper Grice, on here too, and removed Ezra Neuro and Drzaem, because they're old. I'm keeping both Cyberpunk Blues comics up for now, but I'm contemplating dropping the ETSU strips...

I have a couple of wonderful friends who make buttons under the name Self Destruct Buttons, and I plan on getting some designs made to give out and sell! I'm doing at least two Other Sleep designs and maybe one or two other designs. I'm excited about that.

I'm doing possibly three conventions this year, and our local shop is having a huge outdoor event for Free Comic Book Day, so along with the buttons I'm trying to figure out what else to do. I won't be reprinting either of the Burst Reach books, and I think I'm going to just give away my leftover copies of the Distinguished Gentlemen collection since it didn't sell too well in the first place. A new Burst Reach is being plotted out, I'm gonna definitely reprint the first chapter of Other Sleep, and I may do another minicomic too...And prints! I want to do prints, but that's going to require more research first.

I'll keep you updating as these things happen, of course. As big as last year was, 2013 is going to be even bigger, and that excites and terrifies me all at once. It's an amazing feeling.

[Brett]

Emerge from the cold

If January is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to go for me, then 2013 is going to be a crazy busy year.

First off, here are the four watercolor paintings, a series called the Same Mistake, that I did for the art show that is currently on display at the Bristol Grind House:

Secondly, I drew a 10-page, silent sci-fi western snowstorm comic over the course of a few days, completely on a whim after a massive snowstorm hit us. You can "read" the first five pages of that HERE and the rest of it HERE. You can also check it out on deviantART HERE and HERE. Maybe I'll post it all on here. I guess I should do that.
 

Also? I’m kind of an amateur stand-up comedian now. After watching my friends do it for quite a few months now, I decided to give it a try myself. I’ve done it three times now. I'm not so sure how good or funny I am, it's really impossible to tell when you're up on stage, but it's a new and fun and terrifying and beautiful creative outlet for me to play around in.

Oh, and I drew this for my friend Sterlin:
FURTHERMORE, I’m doing freelance design work for the local newspaper now, which brings in a little extra cash and lets me use a different part of my brain. I just wrapped up a logo for a thing recently. Not as steady work as I'd like, but still, hopefully this will open up to more opportunities, right?

And finally, I am in this art show at Floating World Comics in Portland. Zines are available to order and stuff too, so check it out! There are a LOT of talented folks in there, all of us paying tribute to the Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius. Really, I feel like I don’t deserve to be in there next to artists like Dave Taylor and Sloane Leong. It's like I pulled off some sort of heist. Here's the panel I did, which I somehow failed to post when I did it back in November:
Yeah, it’s February and I’m in two art shows at roughly the same time? I don’t know how that happened. I’m savoring it, because it will probably never happen again.

Um, obviously, chapter 6 of Other Sleep isn’t done yet, but it will be soon, I swear. Look, here’s the cover for it!
And I think that covers everything, right? Now I must get back to work! THERE'S MORE TO COME.

[Brett]

The glamorous life of an artist

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I kind of had a slight nervous breakdown earlier today, maybe. Over my art. Heh.

I've been working on some paintings for this art show that starts next week at the Bristol Grind House. Here's the flyer I put together for it:
Watercolors and Microns on canvas is what I'm doing, because I'm a masochist. I've been working on them for two weeks now maybe. Well, two of them anyways, the other two I started on just last week. It's a narrative, but uh, I didn't really know what the narrative was until the other day? Yep. It was supposed to be just three canvases, then it ballooned into four. When I do things, I have to go about doing them in the most punishing way possible.

Anyways...I had them all in what seemed to be a finished state this morning, and I sat them all side by side, and...and I hated them. And I started to think, "fuck, this was a terrible idea, why did I do this, I should've done something else, fuck fuck fuck." And I contemplated painting over at least two of them, abandoning the narrative and just doing something more thematically tied together? Or throwing all but one out and maybe trying to do something different over the next few days.

I spent three and a half years in the graphic design program at ETSU, and in that time I sat through way too many critiques that would go on for literally two or three days sometimes. I failed my portfolio review three times and shouldn't have gotten another chance. Why they gave me four tries, who knows, but I passed that fourth. What I'm getting at here is that school was really rough on me, my pieces were never really terribly notable during critiques, and a small group of professors I was unfamiliar with mostly thought my work was lousy and I just really had to fight in order to graduate.

So all of these memories were going through my head as I was staring at these paintings, thinking about how they'll be up for a good two or three weeks, seen by dozens of people, people I've never met, never will meet. And they'll be judging them, judging ME based on them, even if they never do meet me or see any of my other work ever again. These four paintings are all I have to make a good impression, to convince these people I've never met that I don't suck. And I'm absolutely blowing it, only ONE of the paintings was really strong, the rest were flat and vague and ugly.

I gave myself a bad head rush and a case of the hiccups as I paced around, panicking, trying to think of what to do. I didn't want to throw them all out and try to do something new when everything has to be done by Sunday for Sterlin to hang. And I didn't REALLY want to paint over the canvases, but I was getting desperate and thinking that was the only way out, I was tired of looking at these crappy paintings.

I told a friend on Facebook that I wish I could just erase three and a half years of art school critiques, to which she responded "Keep this in mind: You're an artist, not an art student...and a really good artist at that."

And that...kind of snapped me out of it. I kept thinking about all the lousy critiques I sat through, being told by professors that my portfolio wasn't good enough for the BFA program, all that negative stuff. And her comment reminded me that people DO enjoy my art, and then I remembered this guy who wrote me on deviantART last week, telling me my gallery was his favorite that he'd seen in years.

So I stopped, took some deep breaths, collected myself, once again looked at the paintings, this time more objectively, and set about working on them once again, all afternoon, until once more they looked like they were pretty much finished.

And I was satisfied this time. I was able to figure out how to strengthen each painting and make them stand on their own while still telling a complete story. All it took was a kind word from a friend to help me step back and clear the black clouds out of my brain.

I guess the moral here is, if you like someone's art? TELL THEM. Let them know you appreciate what they're making. Because artists, we're neurotic as fuck. I often find myself in this hole, hating my work, hating myself for hating my work and not being any good, and it's discouraging. But a comment or two is all it takes to get me back on my feet. 

Anyways. Show goes up on Sunday. I'm gonna take pictures of the individual paintings tomorrow once I've deemed them complete, and post them some time next week. Stay tuned.

(originally posted on my Tumblr)

The end of the world was so banal

I haven’t done one these in at least a year or two, but 2012 was kind of a big year for me, and I wanted to write something, anything, about all of my favorite things. So, you know, I guess this is another one of those BEST OF lists, only you should know that my opinion of such things really shouldn’t matter that much at all in the grand scheme of pop culture. I mean, really, I never even watched the music video for Gangnam Style, so to think that I’m someone who understands this stuff is kind of ridiculous.

Plus, I liked Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance more than the Avengers. My tastes are questionable at best. Anyways, without further ado…

PERSONAL STUFF
I graduated from ETSU in December, so this was the first year of my life where I wasn’t tied down to education, taking classes or anything. That’s kind of terrifying to think of considering that I’ve spent my entire life up to that point in school. Not wanting to go soft or get lazy, I immediately started up multiple projects that I’m proud to have accomplished. Other Sleep is the biggest one, and while I’m not as far along with it as I thought I would be earlier in the year when I started, the fact that I’m still even working on it and haven’t cast it aside is a big deal. I also self-published Burst Reach 2, went to Heroes Con, had a table at a local con where I did pretty well, have been producing some kickass posters for local punk shows, contributing to local zines, and last month got my first freelance gig designing an animated banner ad in Flash. After taking a week to learn the ins and outs of Flash. That was a pretty masochistic thing to do, but I pulled it off and made money in the process, so I absolutely succeeded at not falling out of practice like I was afraid of doing. By the way, here's the flyer I did for a show earlier this month:
Also, I met a girl, and we’ve been dating like, 4 months now, my social life has improved a bit, and I may or may not be trying my hand at stand-up comedy sometime soon. Not bad, not bad at all, 2012. You were much better than last year, despite killing my dog and two of my favorite artists of all time.

MUSIC
I spent the first half of the year completely in the dark when it came to new music, the bulk of my purchases being 90’s punk albums and some old Wu-Tang Clan stuff, but then things happened and I ended up listening to quite a few new albums. Here are my top three:

AESOP ROCK - SKELETHON: I’m usually picky about rap, but Aesop is one of my favorites. His last album, None Shall Pass, came out 5 years ago and still sounds just as good today as it did when I first heard it, but Skelethon is something else entirely. His lyrics have always had an imaginative, meandering quality to them, but here things are a bit more focused and in several cases uncomfortably introspective while still remaining pretty dense. No one rhymes like Aes does, in my opinion. When the first single, Zero Dark Thirty dropped, I listened to it repeatedly because in some strange way, it managed to capture precisely how I was feeling at the time I first heard it. This is absolutely one of his best albums, period.

HEAVY CREAM - SUPER TREATMENT: These girls came to play in Bristol back in June, the first of several great bands that my friend Sterlin has brought here, the first show I made a flyer for, so maybe my love for this album exists with just a bit of nostalgia thrown in, but they played a fierce show and this album has so much energy. Fuzzy guitars, screeching vocals, catchy hooks, I’ve listened to it so many times and I’m still not tired of it yet.

PURITY RING - SHRINES: The two friends who sort of introduced me to Purity Ring weren’t expecting me to like it, but they were wrong. This is an album I listen to a lot when I’m not feeling too well. Weirdly and morbidly sweet, yet violent, lyrics, plus electronic beats that stick in my brain and put me at ease. A lot of witch house fans enjoy this album, and I agree.

Runner up: GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR - ALLELUJAH! DON’T BEND! ASCEND!: The only album aside from Skelethon this year that made me FEEL something, this is the band’s first album in a decade. Delirious, emotional, aggressive, dark, and extremely sublime.

Oh, yeah, the new Crystal Castles album ain’t half bad either.

 

VIDEOGAMES
Uh, actually, I only played two new videogames this year, I think: LOLLIPOP CHAINSAW (reviewed here) and TOKYO JUNGLE. Both are stupid, insane, and so much damn fun and I love them both to death. I would like to play JOURNEY, but haven’t had the chance to. As for everything else that came out this year, like Borderlands 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, Dishonored, Black Ops 2, whatever else? I couldn’t care less. I realized and accepted this year that I’m not the “hardcore” gamer I used to be, and that’s okay. I got Dead Space 2 and Deus Ex: Human Revolution for Christmas and am in love with both, but they’re older games. I’m comfortably behind the curve.

MOVIES
DREDD 3D: Screw Avengers, forget the Dark Knight Rises, THIS is the comic book movie of the year. It’s not a special effects extravaganza like Avengers, and it has no intentions of trying to express “big ideas” like DKR, it’s just an hour and a half of Judge Dredd doing what he does best. The movie keeps things simple and brutal, with great design work and a nice, growling soundtrack. Seriously, you have no idea how much it kills me to have to wait another two weeks or so in order to get my hands on the Blu-ray when it comes out.

DJANGO UNCHAINED: Definitely the best movie I’ve seen this year, one of Quentin Tarantino’s strongest. Unflinchingly brutal, hard to watch in places. A bit too long, but that doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t even have to explain why you need to see this movie.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION: Between this and Dredd, I just think all decent action movies should have a similar, John Carpenter-esque plot of “our heroes are stuck in a building where everyone is trying to kill them.” This movie has the best knife fights, gun fights, and martial arts fights I’ve ever seen in a movie, just straight up, no-nonsense brutality. I want someone to count the number of times people get punched, kicked, shot, and/or stabbed in the neck in this movie.

Runners up: 007: SKYFALL and LOOPER were both incredibly good, but they didn’t hit me nearly as hard as the above movies. Oh, and GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, which I reviewed here.. God bless Neveldine/Taylor, I hope they never stop making insane over-the-top action movies with bone-shattering camera work and editing.

The Dark Knight Rises is the most disappointing movie I watched this year. It was just dull and messy and it felt like everyone involved, with the exception of Tom Hardy, was phoning it in. Bane was cool, the coolest Bond villain ever, it’s just too bad he was in a mediocre Batman movie instead. Prometheus was pretty stupid too, but it’s also so goddamn pretty and has such a wonderful score that I HAD to see it in theaters twice and by the collector’s edition. The moral here is that if your movie looks like a comic out of an issue of Heavy Metal from the 80’s, I will enjoy it no matter how bad it is.

COMICS
I made a decision earlier this year to quit buying new Marvel and DC comics. I was only reading a few cape comics at the time anyways, so it’s a decision which had little impact on my life. I broke that decision with Hawkeye, I must admit, but aside from it? I don’t miss superhero comics at all. That said, I read a LOT of good books this year, most of them published by Image, so here’s the massive list, in no particular order:

Prophet (Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis, Simon Roy, and Farel Dalrymple)
Copra (Michel Fiffe)
Change (Ales Kot and Morgan Jeske)
Fatale (Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips)
Manhattan Projects (Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra)
Multiple Warheads (Brandon Graham)
Orc Stain #7 (James Stokoe)
Godzilla: The Half Century War (James Stokoe)
Saga (Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples)
BPRD: The Long Death (Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and James Harren)
Hellboy in Hell (Mike Mignola)
Casanova: Avaritia (Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba)
Zegas (Michel Fiffe)
The Mire (Becky Cloonan)
The Zaucer of Zilk (Al Ewing and Brendan McCarthy)
Prince of Cats (Ronald Wimberly)
Sharknife ZZ (Corey S. Lewis)
Wild Children (Ales Kot and Riley Rossmo)
Nowhere Men (Eric Stephenson and Nate Bellegarde)
Ragemoor (Jan Strnad and Richard Corben)
Hawkeye (Matt Fraction and David Aja)

And probably some more I’m just failing to remember.

The quality of indie comics just keeps going up while Marvel and DC continue to make terrible decisions and put out mediocre books that just don’t appeal to me at all. I’m hoping/expecting this to become more apparent in 2013...

That about wraps it up I think. I'm looking forward to 2013, yes. It'll be a weird year, I'm sure.

[Brett]