Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New art at the Invisible Cities / Seeing Calvino tumblr

The third member of the triumvirate, Leighton Connor, has posted his first illustration and the third of Calvino's Invisible Cities, Dorothea. Head over to our tumblr Seeing Calvino to see Leighton's work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Join me at Monterey Peninsula College on Thursday

Friends in California and on the West Coast, please join me at 7pm on Thursday April 17 in the Sam Karas Room at Monterey Peninsula College for a conversation about my visual exploration of Moby-Dick. I am very honored to be a guest of the college as part of their Great Books Program. The event runs from 7pm to 9pm, which should leave time for plenty of questions as well as lots of drawing in people's books. You can find more information at this link. Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 14, 2014

S.P.A.C.E. 2014 - the evidence

This year's Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, or S.P.A.C.E., was maybe the most enjoyable show I have ever experienced as an exhibitor. This wasn't due to sales although I did quite well, selling out of Heart of Darkness and almost out of Moby-Dick in Pictures. It was a great show because it seemed like all of those tentative hellos and contacts and brief conversations I have had at past events all reached critical mass this year and I started friendships with quite a few artists whose work I have admired for a very long time. I think that for the first time ever at a show, I really felt like part of a bigger scene, which was a good feeling to have.

I took some photos so while some of these may come across like inside jokes, this, for me, was S.P.A.C.E. 2014. Here I am at my table. Thanks to table mate and good friend Joe Kuth for this one.

I would truly be nowhere without my constantly amazing wife, who is a partner in everything I do and the best friend a person could have. She cheerfully sits through these long long events with me, helping in a million ways, and always makes the hours better.

Here's Joe, taking a photo of his own table. I liked the Fin Fang Foom shirt. A lot.

Joe, my wife and I were fortunate enough to share two tables with the fascinating and brilliant J.T. Dockery and Liz Valasco. We've decided we may have started a tradition here so hopefully we can continue it again and again.

Tom Williams is one of the highlights of S.P.A.C.E. Every year. This is perhaps the best indicator of why.

Most of the rest of my good friends in Panel were there representing as well. From left to right in this image, writer Dara Naraghi, artist Brent Bowman, artist Craig Bogart, and writer / artist Tony Goins.

Another shot of, from left to right, handsome Dara, Brent looking oddly serious, and Craig probably in mid-sentence.

Joe and my wife, deep in conversation about...something. Probably Mya's chicken sliders, which were lunch.

Quick shot of my table. Art, books and zines, all for sale. I'm very proud of what I have made.

Another photo by Joe. At shows like this, I have time to really do more elaborate drawings in people's books. This is the beginning of an almost fully complete Queequeg in a copy of my Moby-Dick in Pictures.

For a long time now I have been really digging the art of Grixly, also known as Nate McDonough. He came over to my table and we got to talking about old issues of Heavy Metal magazine and before we knew it, we were friends. I really dig this guy, love his art, and am glad we connected. Check out his tumblr and follow along, he does some great great work.

John Porcellino and his Spit and a Half distro are tireless in their support of comics all over the world, it seems. Having John as a regular at S.P.A.C.E. has been a great thing, and John is every bit as cool, genuine, warm and easy to talk to you as you might imagine. Here he is, pondering something.

Nate Powell has become a regular as well, which is fantastic. Behind him you can see an exhibition of his original art, which was a cool addition to the show.

For the last 4 or 5 years now, Adina and Ivana, sisters from northern Ohio near where I used to live, have been coming to visit me at the show. They've got a ton of my original art and I really look forward to seeing them every spring. I finally got to take a photo of them, and it was awesome to see them again.

Lauren came by to give me a copy of her minicomic, collected from her tumblr True Life Comix, which I absolutely love. They are these perfect and perfectly odd little zen-like slices of life that are instantly compelling and surprisingly memorable.

This year I was on a panel, which was cool. The panel was about the tools artists and cartoonists use to create their art, so it was interesting to compare my process, much of which involves repurposing found paper and working very intuitively, with the masterfully executed colored colored pencil work of Scott Kraynak (on the right), the more traditional black and white pen and ink work of Pam Bliss (center) and the hybrid work of moderator Tyrell Cannon (far left).

Each artist was able to demo some of their process which could be seen by the attendees on this screen behind us. The camera view was over the shoulder of the artist, but I found it kind of compelling to take a photo of myself taking that photo. So I did it.

Okay, I've talked to these guys...Fred Frances on the left, Mike Madsen on the right...for just a few minutes each year at S.P.A.C.E. And each year my affection for them has grown. This year, I made it a point to spend some time really getting to know them and I'm glad I did. They are great great guys with some killer art and comics. Really genuinely good people, and I'm honored to call them friends. They just started this Cowboy House Correspondence Club where subscribers get a new comic from them every month for 6 months. You can, and should, get in on that action right here. I paid in full at the show and got my first installment already. Good stuff.

Fred and Mike are two of the four members of Cowboy House International, and a third member, Pretty Jeff, was there as well. I did get to chat with Jeff briefly, although I didn't snag a pic. He's a little quiet but also a real good egg. In the absence of a photo of the real Pretty Jeff, this simulacra will have to do. We shared a moment. Fred and Mike can attest to that.

Day one of the show ended and it was off to dinner with good friends old and new. Here is the unbearably sexy Dara Naraghi awaiting his meal.

Joe Kuth, on the left, barely looks like himself here. Craig Bogart looks pretty much right on.

My lovely wife, happy because food is on the way. I'm not sure if I should mention the other woman there because she really hates having her photo taken.

After dinner, which Tom Williams REALLY enjoyed.

Day two of S.P.A.C.E. dawned, and it was a pleasure to see Panel-mates Sean McGurr (left) and Tim McClurg (right). We talked about comics and who the Cleveland Browns should draft. I hope they can snag Sammy Watkins.

One of the best photos I have ever taken. That is Ken Eppstein of Nix Comics on the left, Andy Bennett on the right.

DEFINITELY the best photo I have ever taken. And Ken's hand never leaves the pocket!

Tom Williams, tuning out!

For this drawing, I was specifically asked to depict the scene at the end of Moby-Dick when the Pequod goes down, Tashtego hammering a bird's wing to the mast as the ship disappears. It was surprisingly difficult, but I think I pulled it off.

Wandering around the show a bit here. I stopped off at Nate McDonough's table and he showed me this page from his sketchbook. On the left is one of the heads from the Saints and Sinners sculpture I took a few photos of when I visited Oakland University last week, and on the right is Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man, from the movie Phantasm. Awesome work.

Jeremy Baum is an artist whose work I first discovered last year, but was instantly fascinated with. I was able to talk to him very briefly then, but this year we spent a little more time getting to know one another. He is an admirer of Heart of Darkness so it was an honor to get a copy of my illustrated version into his hands. Jeremy's art is complex and compelling and highly recommended and you can dig deeper in this recent piece on his art by blogger Rob Clough. Here is Jeremy at his table.

J.T. Dockery was kind enough to let me experiment with his rapidograph, a pen I had heard much about but never used. It was a real challenge and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Here is what I did.

The show came to a close, and we ended the weekend with a murderer's row shot of the table mates. This is artistic brilliance right here. From left to right, me, Liz Valasco, J.T. Dockery and Joe Kuth.

After the show it was off to the Laughing Ogre where Stang was being Stang.

Then to dinner at Ray Ray's Hog Pit, one of the best food trucks in the universe. Parked near Ray Ray's was THIS! I have seen it before but never close enough to get some really good photos. This was that day.

In this one, you can see me in the mirrors taking the photo.


Joe Kuth, his face smeared with meat and sauce.

My wife, hunting...

...and going in for the kill...

...and nearing a sated state.

Finally, every year I get a convention sketch from Tom Williams. I try and give him something fun but a little strange to draw. This year I asked for a stripper-y Moondragon and he did not disappoint. Superhero decadence indeed.

Friday, April 11, 2014


For a group art blog (open to all) that I am a part of called Character Wednesday.

Title: Unwieldy Demigod (Swamp Thing)

8 inches by 10 inches
ink on watercolor paper
April 10, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

In S.P.A.C.E. no one can hear you scream...again

Come out and visit me at S.P.A.C.E. (the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio this Saturday and / or Sunday. The show is at the Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, 4900 Sinclair Road. Admission is $5 per day, or $8 for the whole weekend and the show runs from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, 10am to 5pm on Sunday.

I will have copies of my books Moby-Dick in Pictures, Heart of Darkness and The Desert Places for sale, and I will draw an amazing picture inside of every copy if you buy one. I will also some original art from those books for sale very very cheap and a few copies of older zines of mine as well. There will be a bunch of other talented cartoonists and artists filling the place up too, so it's a real good time.

I will be sharing tables 117 and 118 with Joe Kuth, J.T. Dockery and Liz Valasco. Use this handy map as your guide to artistic treasure...

I always have a good time at this show. To prove it, here are my photos from previous S.P.A.C.E. shows. I'll take a whole bunch this year and post them next week.

--S.P.A.C.E. 2012, day one

--S.P.A.C.E. 2012, day two

--S.P.A.C.E. 2013

New art at the Invisible Cities / Seeing Calvino tumblr

Remember that Invisible Cities group art project I told you about last week? My good friend Gigantic Joe Kuth has posted his first illustration and the second of Calvino's cities, Isidora. Head over to our tumblr Seeing Calvino to see Joe's work.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On the road...

On Sunday, my wife and I started on the third of four university visits scheduled for March and April. Each of these visits are opportunities for me to share my art and my perspective on Moby-Dick and Heart of Darkness with college students and faculty. While each visit has been a unique experience, they have so far all been very rewarding, refreshing, and rejuvenating experiences for me and at every college I have visited so far, I've come away deeply impressed with the intelligence and attitude of both the students and the faculty.

This third visit was to Oakland University in Michigan. I had been initially contacted by Professor Jeffrey Insko, but this particular trip would be markedly different for me because a good friend of mine, Professor David Shaerf, is part of the faculty at Oakland University now. Even though he has a PhD. and is a professor, I can't imagine calling him anything but Dave, so for the purposes of this post he will remain Dave.

Dave has been slowly amassing hours and hours and hours of footage for a Moby-Dick themed documentary he is making titled Call Us Ishmael. It was through this documentary that I initially met Dave, back when he lived in Brooklyn. Work on the documentary has really picked up speed recently and it's starting to take a very defined shape, which is exciting. Also exciting is that I will probably be a part of the finished film, which intrigues me. Dave has recently set up a Facebook page, also titled "Call Us Ishmael," which you can see and "like" right here. (Say, that banner image looks very familiar.) I really think you should because Dave has some fascinating thoughts on Moby-Dick.

On to the visit. I was perhaps most excited about my trip to Oakland University because my wife was able to attend with me and I was looking forward to seeing Dave again since it had been some time since our paths last crossed. We got to Dave's place first and were finally able to meet the world famous Top Cat. This is a very imperious cat.

Since we had arrived a day early, Dave and his friend Laura took us on a brief walk around his neighborhood, with the final destination being a nice cold and very welcome beer. I like this place. It has character.

The beer in question. Old Chub. I had to do it.

Another painted sign we saw on the walk back.

I have always been, and probably always will be, fascinated with school mascots and logos, especially in terms of the growth and evolution of these logos and the athletic uniforms they are so frequently seen on. Oakland University is the Grizzlies, which was interesting because the bear is rarely used as a mascot, especially the grizzly bear. At least compared to the far more common Tigers, Lions, Hawks, Eagles and so on.

The view from Dave's office. They've been working on what I believe will be a pool or fountain, I can't remember which. I used to make fun of Dave for being excited about this, but after seeing his view and imagining what this will eventually look like, I can see why. It's gonna be pretty nice.

Dave has a few pieces of my original art in his office. Lying on the shelf is a piece from my illustrated Heart of Darkness and against the wall is my illustration juxtaposing Hitchcock and Psycho with Citizen Kane. Always nice to see my art living on.

The first order of the day was shooting some additional interview / conversation footage for Dave's documentary Call Us Ishmael. This was kind of fascinating to do since our first conversation about this all took place over 3 years ago back in Brooklyn. We were each able to reflect on how things have changed over time and how both of these projects, my own Moby-Dick in Pictures and Dave's Call Us Ishmael have impacted our lives. Oh, and here's the film clipboard thing. Do these have a name?

A third piece of my art, this time from Moby-Dick, also in Dave's collection.

A rather silly picture (sorry Dave) of both Dave and Dan, one of the students assisting with the filming of the documentary, as they check light levels and camera angles.

More documentary-making. That's Bradley in the center, who was also assisting with the filming.

Oakland University printed these really gorgeous posters advertising my evening address. I was able to snag a copy of each of the four, and it was really great to see my art displayed so beautifully along with the details of the event. Sorry about the flash in the center of the image.

A brief lull in the busy events of the day. After a wonderful Q & A session with Professor Gilson and students from a variety of majors, we were able to pause and relax a bit. That's Dave, who is looking at the camera (which is hilarious since he warned me not to look at the camera during the documentary filming!) talking to my wife.

Time for some of what Dave called B reel footage, mostly us walking around the campus and talking. Oakland University has a number of really interesting outdoor art installations, sculptures and statues. I wish I had more time to see them and take some photos. This one is in front of their library, in what I think is a fountain during the warmer months, and is titled Saints and Sinners. I was especially fascinated by some of the figures.

A quick drinking fountain break in the university library, and I saw this! An old-fashioned pencil sharpener fastened to the wall! I was instantly hit with a wave of such pleasant and pure nostalgia that I nearly swooned. This is a thing of great beauty.

My final event of the day was as keynote speaker at the closing session of Oakland University's American Studies Student Group Undergraduate Conference titled "American Transformations." A lot of this was new to me so it was great to be able to talk to Professor Insko over lunch and ask him for details on what American Studies was all about. And again I was fascinated by the entire concept...not a major, but a concentration, drawing in students from many different schools and majors and providing them with an interdisciplinary approach to inquiry, research and thinking. I've said this before and I will say it again, college today is not at all what it was like when I was an undergrad in the early 90s, and I am constantly impressed by the opportunities available to students as well as the brilliant work being done by those students. These are very very sharp people, and they've all worked very hard to get where they are.

I was able to attend one of the conference sessions, the final one of the day, in which three seniors presented their final papers. The first began with a performance that was as amusing and entertaining as it was informative. That is Professor Insko there on the right. Again, I am in awe of the way these students think, and the connections they discover.

After that it was time for my keynote address. I was fortunate enough to be introduced by a student named Julia Dorey who quite honestly gave me the best, the most moving, and the most meaningful introduction I have ever had the honor of experiencing. She too is a brilliant person and extremely knowledgeable about the visual history of Moby-Dick and the manner in which the novel has interacted with and impacted visual culture. Her introduction put my own work in context with that of Frank Stella, Gilbert Wilson and Rockwell Kent, three titans in my mind and artists whose work has inspired me and driven me for years. To be even mentioned in the same breath with them was humbling and astonishing, but to hear all of this communicated so artfully, succinctly and intelligently by a thinker like Julia was even more powerful. I really cannot thank her enough for engaging with my work in this way, and for giving me such an excellent platform to begin my own talk.

My talk went very well, I think, and I was able to share my story and my experiences with an audience of students, faculty and staff that really cared very much about what I had to say. There were a number of questions at the end and these questions really challenged me, made me think more deeply about my own work, and brought me to revelations about my art that I had not previously considered. And that is something that only the best questions do. It was an extraordinary honor to be a part of this event, and the students and faculty of Oakland treated me with incredible kindness. Many many thanks to Professor Insko, Professor Shaerf (Dave!), Professor Gilson, Julia Dorey, all of the American Studies students, cameramen Bradley and Dan, and the entirety of the Oakland University staff. Three university visits in a row now and each of them a wonderful experience.