Monday, February 22, 2016

Meanwhile…




I’m doing a lot of weird stuff. The real world bashed into my cloistered existence and everything went crazy. Not in a bad way, just in an unexpected way. Which means my missions to solve all my artistic dilemmas in a single week got bumped to, well, the next time I have ten minutes to think about nonsense like having artistic dilemmas.

But that isn’t to say I’m chilling, watching Gilmore Girls and wondering if there are any interesting ways to move all the furniture in the apartment; there are not, FYI, I’ve moved everything so many times it’s like watching a professional solve a Rubic’s Cube. No, as per usual, I’m hammering away at things that need to get done. Books to edit, websites to update, paintings to paint, horrible sketches to recycle and the like.

On top of that, I’ve found myself doing a bit of cartooning. Yeah, I didn’t see that coming either. But if you have any kids attending this season’s Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, they might be taking in my work. And no, they are not cartoons full of World War I veterans hacking up a lung or plague ridden dead bodies, as one might expect. Nope, I’m running with pure silliness and lots of wonderful if somewhat odd, classical music, historical references. Turns out, I’m equally fond of making fun of Strauss as I am of Sibelius or Dadaism. But seriously, there are times when wonder if the Universe is hard at work providing me with strangely fitting yet kind of obscure opportunities like this or if just being me causes such opportunities to occur. Either way, it’s a fun way to spend some time. Makes me wonder if there’s a way to do a little more cartooning in the future. Hm…

Unfortunately, I’m keeping this post on the short side, as I said, life is rather quirky as of late and my Tuesday is not my own. In fact, it’s not even Tuesday yet and I’m already wrapping things up. I think my diligence shows how much I care about my loyal readers and how neurotic I am as a blogger, ‘cause really, like you couldn’t wait until Wednesday to find out about all this stuff? Oh well, live in The Now. Live in The Now…

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Revelry Continues…





When last we spoke our intrepid hero believed he’d undergone a bit of a realization about his art and his place in the world… Which is my jackass way of saying I’m still hopped up on the happy that comes with a sense of liberation.

There’s something rather nice seeing the creative problems I need to solve as being the sort which lead me to more sane/cool work rather than the kind that involve trying to cram an idea into a small box given to me by the vagaries of the commercial world. For example: as I explained to a friend as I looked at paper upon which to paint during the coming months, as an illustrator, there is a set collection of criteria my materials must fit in order for it to work for a given project. And though the projects change, the problems are all the same and the solutions all fit on a short list. It’s very limiting and tiring. But now that I’m painting like a madman for my own edification, such nonsense is meaningless. I can pick up anything and imagine using it, the only limitations being those of my imagination.

I’m like a kid in a candy store. Or a bull in a China shop. Maybe even the mixed metaphor of a bull in a candy shop, which on some levels is far more frightening, what with all those morbidly obese kids scurrying for their lives and a bull with a high risk of bovine diabetes.

That said, I still have some requirements. I still want to work fast and messy. I still want to crank out a finished piece in a single sitting. That’s roughly 260 paintings per year on top of the other work I’m producing. 2016 has all the earmarks of being my most productive year yet, opening a door to a whole new world of creativity. Not that being massively productive leads to greatness, but whether we like it or not, practice makes perfect. I’m doing a buttload of practicing.

The biggest question, as I narrow my options in media to those I like and that do what I need them to, is to address the issue of color. Anyone familiar with my work knows I tend to avoid color. For one, I have a thing for the starkness of black and white. Nothing helps boil down the complexity of an idea and its visual representation faster than to remove the color. There’s a reason why the imagery of those Ken Burns’ movies is so arresting. And I think notion ties into the second reason why I live in a black and white creative world, the lack of color is very different from our daily lives. Who doesn’t have a HD flat screen on the wall or a smart phone in their pocket? We’re bombarded by more and more intense color than ever before, all of it calculated to grab our attention and delight the senses. And like eating too many simple sugars, all that color fattens us up and makes our brains a little slower. To be constantly overwhelmed is the quickest path to boredom. But then we stumble upon a stunning black and white image, everything stops, mostly because it is so alien from our normal existence.

But then again, people seem to want color.

I learned that an average viewer (people very unlike you, my much loved followers), will spend 5 seconds looking at one of my paintings, where they won’t give me 5 minutes to read a short story. Hence my turning to painting as my main weapon in art. So if I extrapolate that idea a bit further, it might mean that the average viewer will give me 10 seconds if I use color in a painting… which is 5 seconds more than the black and white painting gets. The point being, if I can keep their attention, I can tell them what I want them to know… or do whatever it is that art is supposed to do to the human soul. Personally, I think art should behave like a bull hopped up on Smarties and smash everything to pieces, but that’s not everyone’s idea of the purpose of art. If it were, no one would have a poorly-printed Thomas Kinkaid reproduction slowly fading, unnoticed and unloved, hanging on the wall.

At any rate, seems I have some stuff to mess around with. Should be fun. Might as well start today.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

And the Hits Keep on Coming…





As you are well aware, I spent the last six months compressing my daily creative output to what I could accomplish in one or two hours. The purpose of this little experiment was to prove I could still be productive, despite massive time constraints.

Well, the experiment is over. I learned two things:

One, that I can knock out a boatload of work even with only a short period of time in which to produce it. In the last six months, I’ve done more painting that ever before in my life, more successful experiments with various media and kick started my writing routine. All of which proves that if life comes along with a whole lot of wackiness, as it tends to do when I least expect it, I’m more than able to continue bringing the awesome.  

And two, that trying to shut down my brain when I’m off the clock is basically impossible. Yes, I could step away from the easel or shut down the laptop when my 60 minutes were up, but that hardly stopped the ideas from coming. Yes, I could make notes and use those notes for creative time in the future, but that did very little to stem the tide. I may have been away from my work, I may have been wearing normal people clothing, the kind not stained with tea and paint, but that didn’t mean very much to my brain. I kept thinking of things I could create and stories to tell. If anything, not being allowed to run with my crazy just made things worse.

I’ve decided that until such time as life limits my creative existence, I might was well bring my A Game as often as possible for as long as possible. If that means I have one hour, then I’ll have one solid hour. If that means I get four or ten hours or whatever, then I’ll work for as long as possible.

Of course, as soon as I changed gears and allowed myself to work for as long as I was able, everything changed. I’m not saying I reverted back to my inking days style, ignoring the entire world, day in day out. I’ve learned the value of setting aside time for things that matter, you know, like other human beings and seeing Titanosaurus at the Natural History Museum. Some stuff is just too cool to miss.

In the past two weeks, I’ve wrapped up edits on two novels for Box Books, which was work I’d put off since October. I’ve also kicked into research mode for several new projects. And I’ve foolishly, perhaps, taken up the old watercolor brush. Nothing may come of those paintings, but they’re fun and even if I fail to develop as a watercolor painter, at least I’ll know it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

I think there was a bunch of other stuff, but I can’t remember all of it. On some level, what I’m making hardly matters. What does matter, is that I’m being myself. I’m no longer trying to fit my projects into carefully defined formats, which is all commercial publishing knows how to deal with, and I’m not turning off the mojo when the mojo gets flowing. Which strangely enough, leads to a pretty good place. I don’t think I’ve been happy and productive at the same time since 2010. This is a nice place to get back to, even if I have no idea where it will take me. If nothing else, I’ll enjoy the ride.

But really, Titanosaurus! Go see it! It’s huge! I want one in my bedroom.