Sherman, set the Wayback machine…

An Early commission, Gouache and Acrylics on Illustration board. The chipmunk was always my favorite bit

The last few days I have been posting a lot of old work I did at the beginning of my career on INSTAGRAM and it’s been a lot of fun. For years some of this stuff had ridden around in my portfolio case until one day, when the shape of my work and commercial art itself, had changed completely I removed it, replacing it with a lot of game art and 3D modeling and stuff like that.  At the time it was invigorating. Sadly it was also necessary in the face of the changing art scene and the tastes of younger art directors. Once I was told that I was passed over for a job because my style was “too Eighties”, something these days I think would be a complement.

When you start out as an artist the work you do and the work you show is, in a word, pure.  Untainted by market forces (and the whims of art directors and clients), the work on the board reflects only you, what you love and how you relate to your audience. As you start working in the field you lose sight of that purity, all you see are the flaws with the slightest imperfection inflating in your eyes to the size of Mount Rushmore.

The third area you get to, the place I am now, is reflecting on your more productive years and recalling the joy of the time when your art was your first love and mode you special. Before deadlines, before egos, before critiques there was that time when you whole heartedly set aside the world and lost time in the images on your drawing table.

As I look at the stuff from my start I get flashbacks to those times, like opening a window in the dead of winter and having early spring run in to fill your studio.

An interesting experiment

A Grand Experiment

Not all great experiments are planned, some happen as the result of either a fortuitous or abysmal accident.  Sometimes the actual incident’s association, good or bad, can’t be ascertained until the resultant experiment is complete. In my case it all started when I did something that in the past I had laughed at other people when they did it, letting judgement flow in hails of derisive laughter, namely I dropped my iPhone into the bog/pisseur/toilet. When I swept it out with panicky paws the case wouldn’t come off even though it had let a lot of fluids in.  By the time I got it into a bag full of desiccant rich packing peanuts the damge was apparently done.  When I shut the phone of the screen looked liked a Mondrian reject.  Time for a new phone I decided

What to buy…

Initially I embraced my internal hipster and looked at downgraded flip phones.  I’d show the Mega-Conglomerates and get me a DUMB PHONE.  Yeah, I know, that lasted about 20 minutes. The nerd is strong in this one and the pendulum rapidly swung toward the shiniest of the shiny…an iPhone X. I logged onto my provider’s site and chatted the ears off some dude about what it would cost and so on. My internet acumen made sailing through the ordering process so quickly I didn’t take time to read the delivery date…until I pushed the order button. Then reality struck, my phone was apparently dead and I would be offline and outta touch until the new one got here.

Which would be in two and a half weeks.

Living without my iPhone

When the iPhone first came out a London newspaper did an article about learning to live without a smart phone after you had gotten used to the convenience of it.  The writer tried to to go without for a week, he failed like a gibbering ape and expressed his relief when his iPhone was returned to him. Whereas I am sure there was a level of melodramatic flare inserted into the piece the overall tone was pretty serious.

That article came out about 3 months after the iPhone was introduced. I have be dependent on my iPhone for 10 years. So how long until I am reduced to a gibbering ape?

Behind the Firelines, Episode #3

MORNING UPDATE:

Went to sleep with notices from NIXLE that “Petaluma is under NO vuluntary or mandatory evacuation orders” (their caps).  Additionally further notices emphasize that “Petaluma is under no fire risk”, but that “because of changing weather conditions Petaluma can expect increased smoke over the course of the weekend”.

Great, just what I need, further reminders of my own mortality. It is safe to say that our consciousness gains knowledge as we grow but there is a certain time when we are who we are and no matter what we experience or how old we get THAT is who we will be for the rest of our lives. There are both good and bad aspects to that. Bad, in my current case, is when my mind still thinks I am 21 but it is pushing around a 60 year old body with a bad heart. Not a good match.

Not spared by the air

Yesterday at work I knew that the air outside the shop was worse than the air in Beijing but I wanted to see what was going on in the other shop where we are doing volunteer work for the fire victims. It was just across the parking lot so I didn’t take my breathing mask. Going over was OK but coming back I walked into a headwind and got a face full of whatever the hell this “smoke” is.  By the time I got into the main shop I was in misery.  When you have asthma from a bad heart it is easy to drop into a respiratory state that triggers a panic attack, which cause you to hyperventilate, which makes things worse.  The only thing that saved me from this was going into the  main shop and hanging on the giant air purifier for a couple of minutes.

Strike base

So far this morning there has been no evidence of it but starting later today the airfield here at Petaluma will be serving as a staging base for National Guard Helicopters serving as water bombers.  At the same time there are seven evacution centers spread across the town and we are all doing our best to make things easier on our neighbors who have lost so much.  Everyone I know who isn’t working has been doing some volunteer work and my company is dedicating at least one day a week going forward to do whatever we can to help out. The people of Sonoma have proven themselves to be amazing.

Frustration

My studio is in what other people might call a garage and as such the sir in there is not as good as it is inside the house. Later on I will probably try and do some work there but for the most part I am stuck inside the house. That’s OK though, at least I still have a house to be stuck inside of, and there is plenty of reading and drawing to be done on good-ole-analog-paper.

Damn I will be glad when I have a car again…

Ja ne! and be safe!

Behind the Firelines Ep#2

MORNING UPDATE: Despite rumors to the contrary Petaluma is quiet this morning.

After a surreal week I am looking up finally and today will attempt to get back on track with this whole “life” thing. I have still yet to replace my car and filing some other papers got delayed as well. This morning the skies appear clear and in growing dawn I hear neither helicopters for sirens. Glancing at the morning fire maps it appears te carnage has moved east, although in fact that is just an assumption as the maps themselves are confusing.  Yes they show shelters and fires as icons of the same size and any areas of…anything…is defined not so much by a legible color code but whatever seems to be on the google palette du jour.

The closest fire to Surf’s Up HQ is the PRESSLEY FIRE, about 12 miles North East of us. It is one of the smaller fires but is currently only 1% contained. Still, things are somewhat calmer.

Clarification

I caught some flak yesterday for what I said about the rumors that have been circulated around town.  There were a number of reports about rumors posted yesterday and how they ran rampant very quickly during the events of this week but at the same time I may have worded things a bit stronger than I needed to.  This was in response to my personal reactions to this particular news, amplified by al the hurley-burley that has surrounded me the last month, which was I freaked out.  Odd that bit as since I adopted my new policy about news I have had fewer incidents of said out-freaking.

My new policy

Given the current climate I have adopted a simple rule.  I don’t believe anything anyone says unless I get corroboration. This goes double for anything that I read on the net.  In the face of the growing picture of how certain groups are using the web to bend people to their will (an idea formed by aggregating information from APPARENTLY reliable sources) the words that flow across my CRT have all the veracity of a UFO website with an animated GIF background…meaning NONE.

So in this regard I based my opinion on the info I was given and the corroboration from additional sources, for which I found none.  It may be that I am TOTALLY off base with this and will suffer the firey consequences, so be it, but I spent too many years not writing here to be intimidated anymore.

Ja ne and be safe!

New from behind the fire lines:

MORNING UPDATE
Awakened by a phone alert…that a family in Afghanistan had been rescued (thanks BBC). After my heart got back in place I stepped outside to find smoke a little thicker than yesterday but cool marine air and no wind to speak of for now.
REALLY VICIOUS RUMORS
Last night I got a taste of what “fake news” can do, in the form of a RUMOR (which is all that “fake News” is) when a friend who I like and trust texted me that my neighborhood was UNDER HIGH EVACUATION ALERT.  I didn’t know how tightly I have been wound until I got this text.  Since all of this started I have been maintaining an even strain, even in the face of an unending loop of disaster reports on KTVU, streaming aerial video of the remains of the Fountaingrove Neighborhood and such. When I got this news something sorta snapped.
I started sweating…
I got scared and paranoid…
I got al misty for all the memories that had happened in “this house”…
In short I became just the sort of American citizen that THE BOSSES want to cultivate, terrified and thus easily controlled. It took a lot of Pizza and Anime to get me over this, and back to human, but I am there…sitting in the dark…listening for sirens and waiting for sunrise.
Ja Ne
PS: IF YOU DO NOT KNOW IT TO BE A FACT DON’T PASS IT ON! ESPECIALLY OF THE PERSON YOU ARE PASSING IT ON!

Moving along…

So there I was! Writing out a stream of effervescent prose about the evils of Social Media and stuff and BOOM the world gets stopped in its track when some lost soul in Las Vegas decides to take a journey to hell and want to take along several hundred strangers. Even with the social rhino hide I have been cultivating crap like this kicks you in the soft bits, even if you don’t want to admit it.  I do have a follow up about Social Media but just don’t have the will to post it just now.

Right now, after a full day of overtime yesterday, it’s time to chill and watch new anime for the Fall Cour.

One show that caught my eye is called TWO CARS and when you wade through the tropes and silliness of a High School network of after School side hack racing clubs, all girl of course, you get down to a lot of cool drawings and animation of Sidecar Racers, or “kneelers”.  The art is nice and the characters on the grid silly so I am in for 12 episodes I think.

At the same time the show drudged up a story from my real life past, believe it or not. Even stranger it is a story I have never told anyone, including my ex wife and son. Still this morning, after the first episode of TWO CARS I felt compelled to sit down and write it out and send it to my Anime Pen Pal Monty. After I was done writing I thought I might paste it in here, but then Monty suggested another use for it, so I will tyr that out for a bit.

If that doesn’t fly then I will post it…later.

Ja ne

Cascade

The word of the day is cascade.

The way I visualize a cascade is like marbles on a shear cliff face with small ledges spaced evenly apart.  On each of those steps is a glass ball made of possibility as one rolls off it’s ledge it falls and strikes another ledge and another ball, knocking it off so it rolls off it’s ledge and falls…

…and so on.

That is what the last three weeks have been like with one new event happening in my life and that triggering another. The cause does not IMMEDIATELY precede the effect, but the effect is obvious at the time of the collision it is a forgone conclusion.  This happened = This is the result.

It all started when my former employers decided to get rid of me by cutting back my hours, like someone who wants to get rid of a fish does so by drilling a small hole in its tank.  When it became obvious that this was happening (meaning when the third person I knew told me that my former employers had TOLD them they were doing it) I found a cold resolve in me that had been missing,

Several friends told me that I should ask god for help.  My entire life the idea of formalized prayer and ritual were artifacts of a system that uses the blessing of a diety to control people.  At the same time I have never been comfortable with the idea that we understood everything and everything is only a matter of chance. So rather then praying I talk to either the universe as a whole or to my personal connection, Louie.

So I hadn’t been in touch with Louie for awhile so I guess it took awhile for him/her to pick up my voicemails but then I started to feel the motions.

It started with an 8AM set call in South San Francisco and currently is manifesting as me sorting through stack of paper to find the pink slip for a car I have used as both transportation and as a Cenotaph…and I sense it is not over yet.

So I hope your day is filled with happy cascades like I have been enjoying…if it hasn’t I will put a good word in for you with Louie.

Ja ne!

Morning After

When has a terrorist been so damn adorable?

Hey there, did you miss me oh my invisible pals?  Yeah, I know…

So sorry I haven’t been around but July has been a busy month.  On a mundane level there have been dramatic tribulations at the day jobbe (isn’t that what day jobbes are for?) and the heat here in Sonoma County has been pretty intense.  Somedays it reminded me of why I left Sacramento…just a bit though.

Mostly though I have been working with Jesse Bloch over at Crissy Field Media on an animated segment for the KSAN documentary.  I have already done some work for the film but this time Jesse wanted a completed piece to cut in for the submission to the Mill Valley Film Festival.  He also had specific parameters that he wanted in terms of look and feel.  In the past the work I have done has been, well, like my nature ANAL RETENTIVE. Jesse wanted something looser, more like an animatic with jarring cuts and loose line work.

At time the latter bit was like chewing on aluminum foil.  I now realize that I am the Adrian Monk of garage animators.

At the same time I had certain things I wanted to play with. Ever since the election of…that THING…I have done a pretty good job of hiding from the work on CRUNCHYROLL, which is an anime site on the net.  With aid of an old pal from when I was working at NAMCO I have explored aspects of anime that I had never seen.  In the past it was all tech and mech and Miyazaki.  Now I started looking at the broader picture, everything from Rom Coms to Surreal fantasy.  In the latter I found something that has inspired me, Shows like MONOGATARI and FLCL made me look at animation in ways I have not looked at it in a very long time.  Animation not as product but as art.

In addition as I scanned the works of all the studios I also began to appreciate the visual language, elegant at times, decending into tropes at others.

Hell I hadn’t even known what a TROPE was in this sense, that is how out of touch I was.

In a world where “cultural appropriation” is often taken up as a battle hymn ,with internet villagers picking up virtual torches and pitchforks. I began to toy with the idea of adapting some of this language into my work.  As I did this work became play and I found myself doing long hours and not really caring. As my old pal, Ken Macklin, used to say I “went into the STATE”. To us “the State” was that place an artist goes to when the world around her/him closes in a grey mist and all that is left is you and what you are working on. It is a STATE where you create.

So I cannot post what I did just now, except over on PATREON (yes, that is a shameless plug), until after the Festival.  I will post some of the new stuff I will be doing going forward though as I have some ideas about what I want to do next.  I want to add a third dimension to a similar work while making the audience think it is still 2D.  This is something that has fascinated me for years but I got caught up in supplying clients rather than doing my own work.

Yeah, I’ve had enough of that…

Mechanical horsehead in my bed…

Actually no it wasn’t, I mean business was slow but Sonoma County seems to have emptied out for the holiday like a tube minty-fresh crest but that doesn’t mean that please surprises cannot occur.

Ken and Buck, grinning like foolsIn my case my old chum, Ken Macklin, stopped past the shot on a sleepy morning to say hi and chat between customers. Ken and I have been out of touch for sometime until he dropped past this selfsame shop a couple of months ago so it wasn’t earth shattering to see his smiling puss but it was pleasent nonetheless.

Ken and I were “kids” (in our twenties) together in the early stages of our art careers. As part of a herd of incredibly talented artists (them, not me) we traveled up and down the West Coast doing Science Fiction convention and Comic Convention art shows.  We would get one room and pack it full of sleeping bags, hang our stuff up in the con art shows then cluster in an ever so bohemian fashion discussing what was new coming out of Japan (we had direct ties then that no one else had and Anime/Manga had yet to take hold in this country yet), whether JC Lyndeker could beat Dean Cornwell at Texas hold ’em (he totally could) and drinking what ever beer landed in front of us.

Now Ken is Grey and I shave my head so I am not but you know what, when we talk we might as well be at “WTFCON 42” in some unknown burg.  It was great. At this meeting I had my daily sketchbook so I drug it our for Ken to peruse, reviving an old ritual that most artists will recognize.  As he leafed through it’s pages he stopped one particular drawing, one I have noticed other stopping on.

Concept art for Millard Fillmore Master of Steam.
Simple thumbnail concept of “This Horse” head from Millard Fillmore

It’s not a bad drawing but I think of it in stand artist terminology-“…more of the same old shit”. Ken smiled and made said he had always found more in my mech illustrations then in my organic stuff.  Not the first time I have heard that, by any stretch of the imagination, but it cast a bright light on decisions I had made in the past. See here is where I made another (stupid) conscious decision at the height of my career.  For years I had done mechanical art for games and illutrations and I found it boring, the old “Stanley Kubrick Been-There-Done-that” argument.  Ken’s kind comments just  threw more light on something I have been thinking.

If I want to get my career going again shouldn’t I be doing stuff I do well, effortlessly rather then trying to branch out in new directions where I am not so strong?

The answer seems kind of obvious, don’t it?

To Do list for July 1

Today it is time to turn away from the studio, and my real life, and venture off into hippie land to sell art supplies.  When Jackie Stewart was leaving to go race in a Gran Prix he used to tell his kids that he was:

“…off to earn pennies.”

I have always thought this was a good description of what it is to have a “Day Jobbe”.  I spent so many years working in my career field that it has been a bit of a stretch to get back into the habit of going somewhere to do something you don’t really care about for people who you hardly know so you can pay for food and stuff.  It is the way of thing though and away I go.

If I have any energy when I get home I will do some zBrush as R8 shows a lot of promise.

So I guess that is what you can hold me to this morning…