Monday, December 31, 2012

"Mistah Kurtz - he dead."

Today I completed what will be my final drawing of Kurtz, from page 91 of Heart of Darkness. He is a remarkable man.


My task is nearly complete, and it has haunted me these last few days. Let's hope 2013 brings more pleasant thoughts and happier dreams.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001 (or, it's not you, it's me)

Many of you were very kind after that last post, either leaving well-wishing comments or contacting me privately. I tend to be very cynical about social networking and online relationships but that cynicism has occasionally proven to be wrong and this was one of those instances. Thank you, sincerely, for your kindness.

It's funny, but shortly after that Monday post I got violently ill. Debilitating weakness, chills, body aches, fever, shortness of breath, explosive coughing. Misery, all around. Was my life somehow paralleling Kurtz's? Did my ego know no limit since this is not the second or even the third time I had compared myself to a famous literary character? It doesn't matter. I've decided that the way forward is not to wallow in this but to confront it swiftly, brutally and perhaps violently. There will be no more running.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"...it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice."

We are, I think, the architects of our own fate. If so, then I am doing this to myself. I have been plagued by bleak thoughts for some time now. I don't sleep much and when I do it is not well. I was struggling to understand why this had come into my life, and almost by chance I noticed these three images I was working on at the same time. Placing them side by side, a clearer picture of why I remain troubled emerged. These are the thoughts and ideas that I must fill myself with, hour after hour, day after day. I need a change.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The World's Largest Personal Collection of Nazgul Art, part 1

So, due to my obsession with the Nazgul, and the Witch-King of Angmar in particular, I have been asking my artist friends as well as several artists who take commissions to create for me their own unique interpretation of that Witch-King. The response has been phenomenal, and every one of these illustrations has been a wonderful shocking surprising treasure. I plan on continuing this for quite some time, as my art budget allows, and this is only the first group of what I hope becomes an even larger collection. I'm going to post them in the order that I received them over the last month or so. Take a look at what I am optimistically christening the World's Largest Personal Collection of Nazgul Art!

The Witch-King of Angmar
by Tom Williams


The Black King
by Matthew Houston


(Matthew was also kind enough to make for me a print of this incredible digital piece he did titled Witch-King.)


The Witch-King of the Nazgul
by Josh Simmons


Witch-King of the Nazgul
by my wife


Witch-King of Angmar
by Scrap Princess


(Scrap Princess was also kind enough to give me this drawing of just a Nazgul too.)


The Witch-King of Angmar
by Patrick Kyle


The Witch-King of the Nazgul
by F. Raymond Sickly


I am absolutely ecstatic about all of these pieces. The range of vision is astonishing, and I am fascinated by how each and every artist interpreted the Witch-King of Angmar in vastly different yet instantly recognizable ways. Just brilliant. These pieces are all MINE! And they will all be framed and hanging on my walls very soon. And, hopefully, there will be a part two of The World's Largest Personal Collection of Nazgul Art soon, as I have at least three more in the works, am working on one of my own, and hope to acquire more. Are you an artist? Do you take commissions? Would you like to trade art? Let me know.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

This post is mostly for me, but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm really pleased with my recent Nazgul studies. They are an interesting step for me. Large format work, very loose and inky, and deliberately humanoid in form. I really like the way the five of them look together, so this post is a kind of recap. Often we can see more intriguing elements of images when we see them in a series like this.

Nazgul Studies #001 through #005

11 inches by 14 inches
various media including acrylic paint, ink, marker, metallic ink and pencil






SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001 (Nazgul)

For a time, while working my way through those first five Nazgul studies I was struggling to find my way. Those studies were my primary means of visual inquiry, but I did briefly turn to my sketchbook to push the idea into new directions. Ultimately, the two sketches I completed were interesting but not where I wanted the images to be. Which is exactly what a sketchbook is for. In the interest of completeness, I'd like to share those images, and my thoughts on them, here.

First, something much more direct and overt. Here the emphasis was on simplicity, composition and elegance. I was thinking about Aubrey Beardsley's wonderful illustrations for Le Morte d'Arthur...


Since this was to be a sketch, I eschewed the decorative border but planned to include something like that in a finished piece if these investigations bore fruit. My sketch...


I actually liked the contrast of the sweeping linework in ink and the rough, textured brushstrokes of the acrylic paint. In the end, this direction simply did not seem daring or interesting enough so I abandoned it.

Several days later, I tried something completely different. Inspired by my great love of self-published and hand-made comics and zines, I made this.


I've got all these bottles of metallic ink, and I wanted to see if that brought anything to the image. While it looks quite beautiful, it's not quite the effect I had hoped for, at least with this particular drawing. You can see it better here. And LOOK at that cross hatching of mine!


Really though, neither of these two suggested Nazgul to me, so they were abandoned. I quite like some of what I've been discovering with my large, 11" by 14" studies, so when things settle down a bit in mid-January I plan on returning to those. I can already tell that I'm gonna end up with a pretty big stack of these studies so if you're interested in one, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Friday, December 14, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

I feel like things started to come together with this one. Several people, on this blog and on my Facebook page, commented about the use of color in these pieces. These thoughts were very helpful since I was vacillating a bit between a heavy emphasis on hot reds, oranges and yellows (both to tie the Nazgul to the Eye of Sauron and because of the way the old Rankin-Bass animated The Return of the King depicted them all with a kind of red, eye-like badge) and cold, sickly greens and blues (much more appropriate to wraiths and spectres, and to connect the Nazgul to Minas Morgul and its horrifying corpse-light). Last night I spent some time thinking about color, greed, and hands and worked this one up. I'm very pleased with it and I think I now have most of the pieces in place. These will be on hiatus until mid to late January while I complete some other projects, but I plan on building in elements of all five of these Nazgul to continue these studies until I settle on something I feel is just right. But this one is close. Very close.

Title: Nazgul Study #005

11 inches by 14 inches
ink, marker, metallic ink and pencil on watercolor paper
December 13, 2012


And, as always, the ring, in metallic ink...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

I wasn't sure where this one was headed at first. And after I completed it, I wasn't sure where it had ended up. This is, so far, my favorite of these Nazgul studies, but I am not sure why. I don't know if it's because this is the most defined, recognizable, and humanoid, which both makes the piece instantly appealing but also less ambitious. Also, there are a lot of pieces here which I'm not sure fit. At least yet. It has some Nazgul in it, yes, and sometimes I look at it and think "This is my Witch-King of Angmar." Then a minute or two later I look again and see some Balrog in it and wonder if it is not instead one of those. Much to consider, but then again, that is why these are studies. What do you think?

Title: Nazgul Study #004

11 inches by 14 inches
ink, metallic ink and pencil on watercolor paper
November 28, 2012


And, the metallic ink of the ring...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

Again, back to the Black Numenoreans. I became obsessed with helmets and hands, seeing each helmet as a way to both tie the nine Nazgul together and to differentiate them. And as Mordicai mentioned in his comment, I saw the Black Numenorean Nazgul as having these elaborate, impractical winged helmets. This one was originally going to have two rows of four eyes each running vertically up the helmet, almost like a spider. It looked great when I penciled it in, but when I started with the ink, I liked the quality of the black and grey wash so much and thought that it looked so menacing with those teeth that to add eyes would ultimately diffuse the effect. A very different treatment of this Nazgul's ring as well, working in the Eye of Sauron.

Title: Nazgul Study #003

11 inches by 14 inches
ink, marker, metallic ink and pencil on watercolor paper
November 25, 2012


And a photo of the metallic ink on the ring...

Corpse-Light

Someone emailed me to ask why that second Nazgul study was so green, and that they thought it was a slightly odd choice especially given the blood red of the first. Good question. For the answer, first take a look at the scene below, one of my absolute favorites from the films...



The city of Minas Morgul looks absolutely horrifying, and I think it is brilliant the way Jackson interpreted Tolkien's description of the city being bathed in "corpse-light" that "illuminated nothing." That sickly green radiance rising through everything chills me, and the triumphant appearance, and bloodcurdling shriek, of the Witch-King of Angmar emphasizes the might and sheer terror of Mordor's armies perfectly. So I was thinking a lot about that green "corpse-light" for Nazgul Study #002 and wanted to work that idea in, although matching the hue has proven difficult.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

Nazgul Week continues here with my second study. This one is quite different, and I was thinking more about greed, appetite, and lust. I have never been too interested in the overly specific, slavishly faithful representations anyway and I wanted to start pushing these in different directions. Still, I am not sure how well I think this one works. There is something there, yes, but it's not quite right. There might even be a bit of Tove Jansson's Groke in here, which was unintentional and a bit surprising. I suppose that's what a study is for though. In the end, I still like this piece, I am just not yet sure where it fits.

Title: Nazgul Study #002

11 inches by 14 inches
acrylic paint, ink, metallic ink and pencil on watercolor paper
November 22, 2012


And, the metallic ink of the ring. I really like the way I've got the ring in this one. I'll be exploring that further.

Monday, December 10, 2012

WORKS: Nazgul

As anyone who has been visiting this blog recently knows, I am cautiously excited about this Friday's U.S. premiere of the new film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I have been an admirer of Tolkien's writing for a very long time and, despite the liberties that they took, I quite liked Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies.

Almost since my earliest days reading his work, I have been fascinated by the Nazgul. True, they are rather one-dimensional villains, but something about the fact that each was once a human being and once a king or warrior or sorcerer who had been twisted and hollowed out and changed and ultimately enslaved by a combination of Sauron's malice and their own lusts for power intrigues me. I know, it's a simple concept, but seeing that idea of a dark side made so explicitly and overtly real is very powerful to me.

So, in anticipation of The Hobbit and to keep myself at least partially sane and give myself some kind of safety valve from the venom and futility and hopelessness of the Heart of Darkness illustrations, I've been enjoying working on a few Nazgul pieces of my own. For now, as large as these are, they are really just studies. Rather raw, but pointing the way toward something more polished and realized that will hopefully be created some time in 2013. I've completed four so far, and I work on a fifth as I have time. Additionally, I have a few sketches to share, exploring other visual techniques. I will christen this week Nazgul Week! Enjoy the art and, as always, I would truly like to know your thoughts on these.

Title: Nazgul Study #001

11 inches by 14 inches
acrylic paint, ink, metallic ink and pencil on watercolor paper
November 22, 2012


A few things I wanted to add. First, three of the Nazgul are Black Numenoreans. I thought about that, and for now, I am looking at representing these through the visual element of winged helmets. I don't believe that specific idea has any real precedence in Tolkien's writing, but it somehow seemed appropriate to me. So this would be one of the Black Numenoreans. There is one more, and the Witch-King of Angmar, the Chief of the Nazgul, is also one. Second, to give these pieces some additional visual appeal, the ring of each Nazgul will be painted in metallic gold ink. I've taken a lot of liberties with the rings, as you will soon see. And Tolkien himself is inconsistent on the issue, writing both that the Nazgul wore their rings and that Sauron held each of their rings in order to control them. Interesting. Anyway, here is a close-up photo to try and show the metallic ink of the ring.


Thanks for taking a look. More all week long.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

OTHER COMICS: The Vortex Guardian: Fear

I've been really neglectful about posting this, and I feel awful about that. The penultimate installment of my 47 page comic THE VORTEX GUARDIAN: FEAR, a story based on characters my good friend Leighton created for his LASER BRIGADE comics, is online. Only one more installment after this! You can either read my entire Vortex Guardian story from the beginning starting here or start with the most recent installment here. Check it out, and find out what the hell is going on here...

Links of interest

There are some things that I had meant to mention on Friday but, as is so often the case these days, I was a bit overwhelmed with everything I had to do and I forgot. Apologies, and please, point your browsers in these directions.

ANN WEAVER and WHITE WHALE, VOLUME II
Extraordinarily talented artist and knitter Ann Weaver has released a second collection of Moby-Dick inspired knitted projects, patterns and clothing and again she has been kind enough to feature some of my illustrations alongside her brilliantly photographed work. The book is really quite gorgeous and I am in a bit of awe over how Ann is able to make functional knitted items which are also beautiful works of art.


You can buy both volumes of White Whale and see much more of Ann's work at her web site. It really makes me wish I could knit.

STARBUCK BY WHALELIGHT by SARAH LARSON
North Carolinian writer Sarah Larson has debuted a new play, titled Starbuck by Whalelight which opened on November 29 in Asheville, North Carolina. I was able to contribute some of my Moby-Dick illustrations to help promote the play, and Sarah was kind enough to invite me down for the debut. Alas, the day job and Heart of Darkness obligations prevented me from attending, but I badly wish I could have. It fascinates me how many artists continue to explore so many dimensions of Melville's great novel, and I am intrigued by how many of these artists are women since Moby-Dick has always seemed, to me at least, to be a somewhat relentlessly masculine text. Anyway, you can read more about Starbuck by Whalelight here and if you are in the Asheville, North Carolina area, check it out and let me know what you think.

THE LITERARY BATMAN
Thanks to Daryl L.L. Houston for pointing this out to me (and for posting something on his own blog as well) but my recent Batman commission seems to have been one of the most popular things I've ever done and has traveled rather far on the internet. The Literary Man recently some kind words about it. I'm not sure what to make of it all, really, but I guess Batman, kind of like Moby-Dick, is just a really universal cultural touchstone for a huge number of people so it is easier for something like this to travel far than it might be for something more obscure like my Archons. Mostly, I'm just happy so many have seen it and said kind things about it.

MISCELLANEOUS WORKS: Succubus

This was actually my first attempt at THE WOMAN but I felt it was both too literal and a bit too fantastic. I think it's a decent piece, it just didn't fit in with what I was trying to do with those four AGAIN, ALLIGATORS images I created for The Alligators of Abraham. So in the end, it got re-titled and now falls into the "Miscellaneous Works" category. I'll probably sell it at S.P.A.C.E. next April. Or try to, at least.

Title: SUCCUBUS

11 inches by 14 inches
acrylic paint, ink, marker and pencil on watercolor paper
October 21, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

AGAIN, ALLIGATORS: Alligator

The final piece in this series. It turned out slightly more fantastic than I had initially anticipated, but I think it works well within the context of the series of illustrations. My wife really liked this one, so she claimed it right away.

ALLIGATOR

15 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, charcoal, ink, marker, mucus, pencil and rain on watercolor paper
October 31, 2012

AGAIN, ALLIGATORS: United States

There's a lot of venom in this piece. I don't like to address political matters much in my art, or online, but I live in what is often referred to as a "battleground state." What that means is that throughout the month of October, which was a challenging month for me anyway, we were absolutely assaulted by a neverending barrage of radio and television ads, mailers, door to door campaigners, billboards, op eds, and so on. I despise politicians under the best of circumstances, and the events of that month filled me with so much impotent fury that I was choking on it. Elections, especially national elections, are rarely more than choosing between which candidate is the least deceptive, disingenuous, repulsively self-interested, power hungry, and willing to commit any offense to gain influence and wealth. They sicken me, the lot of them, and Hell is too good a place for them.

See what I mean? I don't like what thinking about politicians does to me. But a lot of that came out in this piece, the third of four visual reactions to The Alligators of Abraham. Somehow though, all that venom and hatred and fury produced a solid piece of art. So for that, I am appreciative.

UNITED STATES

15 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ash, blood, charcoal, ink, marker and pencil on paper
October 28, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

AGAIN, ALLIGATORS: The Woman

THE WOMAN

15 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, ink, marker and pencil on watercolor paper
October 27, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

AGAIN, ALLIGATORS: The Millionaires

In October, I was invited by author Robert Kloss and the web site Sundog Lit to create some kind of work reacting to Robert's amazing new novel The Alligators of Abraham, which I had also created the cover and three interior illustrations for, in any way I saw fit. This kind of artistic freedom is very rare, so the opportunity excited me. Robert asked me to focus specifically on the final section of the book and rather than simply visually depict portions of the narrative, I took a different approach. I read and re-read that section several times and took the ideas and impressions I drew from those readings and gave them visual form. Not quite a re-mix or even an interpretation, more a reaction or a visual conversation with the text and the author. I'm very proud of these and think that the four pieces I created were a new plateau for me. Since they've been posted on the Sundog Lit site for almost two weeks now, I thought I would post them here as well. Here is the first of those four, and if you like these, you should really track down The Alligators of Abraham. It is phenomenal.

THE MILLIONAIRES

15 inches by 11 inches
acrylic paint, blood, ink, marker and pencil on watercolor paper
October 20, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November was a hell of a month

Marginally better than October was but not by a whole lot. Here's what November brought...


And, your helpful numbered guide.

1: An 11" by 17" painting for the movie poster for Brian Holton's upcoming film AHAB the movie. I did the art, Brian took care of digitally laying in the movie logo and credits. I will have more news on this soon, as the posters are completed and become available for sale. This piece really turned out fantastically well.

2, 3 and 4: More 11" by 14" work, this time studies for Nazgul pieces I would like to do after Heart of Darkness is complete. They're pretty solid for studies. Ink, metallic ink and some acrylic paint on watercolor paper

5: That Batman commission I did last week. 11" by 14", ink on watercolor paper.

6: Another 11" by 14" Nazgul study, just placed on the floor out of order. I really like this one, and it is pretty close to being a finished, polished piece and not just a study.

7 through 21: The next 15 illustrations for Heart of Darkness. Numbers 20 and 21 had to be re-drawn yesterday, so these will be discarded or burned. Closing in on the end though.

22: My continuing, although almost completed, web comic The Vortex Guardian: Fear for my friend Leighton's Laser Brigade thing.

23: Keeping up with my sketchbook, which has been a very good thing for me. I'm not sure if I will keep the sketchbook when I am done or give it away.

I should be done with everything...EVERYTHING...by early January. And then I am playing videogames for a month straight.

SKETCHBOOKS: moleskine 001

Left: "Priest in Hell."

Right: "Wealthy Man With Broken Hands in Hell."