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

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A bad case of abyss gaze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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