Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kubert School Flashback - I

I've been planning to write a series of anecdotes regarding my time at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. for a while now.  Here's to getting off one's ass!

I attended Kubert's from September, 2001 through to graduation in May of 2004.  At the time, the way the school worked was that everyone in the First Year class took the same courses.  After that, you chose to specialize in either Illustration or Animation for your remaining two years.

We had two classes a day, ten for the week.  It was a huge workload.  I can't remember all of the courses, but I'll see what comes to mind from that first year:

Basic Drawing
Narrative Art I
Paste-ups & Mechanicals
Methods & Materials I
Intro to Animation
Life Drawing I
Layout and Design.
Humor and Caricature

Hmm...drawin' a blank for the last one.  Maybe Layout and Design were separate classes?

Anyhoo, you can see there was a lot to work on.

For First Year students, there was student housing available.  There were three locations you might end up in: The Mansion, The Carriage House, or The Clinton House.  I'll keep most of my comments to "The Mansion", since that was where I stayed.

I remember my first day pretty clearly.  I was assigned to The Mansion, but they didn't assign you a specific room.  The house was pretty grand, if a bit dated; a three story brick building on a good bit of land.  It had a pool (empty), plenty of room, industrial carpeting, and the pervasive smell of dust.

For some reason, when I enter a new house, I need to go upstairs.  It's like a curiosity mixed with a need to be at the top.  I dunno why.  So, I ended up on the third floor in one of the largest rooms of the house.  Because it was so big, I shared it with two roommates: Chad Wyrwicz and Steve Talaba.  Chad was there when I go there; a tall, gregarious, and excitable fellow wearing a black Thundercats T-shirt. 

I thought, "I am among my kind."

That was before Chad began moving his bed into the closet, but that's a tale for another post.

For this post, I'd like to relate a tale of Tanner, our maintenance guy.  He was like a cross between Schneider on "One Day at a Time" and Grizzly Adams.  Toss in a Jersey accent, and you got it.

Now Tanner had a real gruff manner; he said what he meant and didn't have time for too much artsy-fartsy crap.  He was ornery.  He was rough around the edges.  He was hilarious.

This story actually took place during our second year, where one of the three of our class that went on to animation, Tony Doench, became an RA at The Mansion.  A few of us were hanging out in Tony's room as kids were moving in and getting situated.  At one point Tanner walks by and one of us says, "How's it going, Tanner?"

We expected a grunt, or maybe a, "It's going."

Instead, he stops and talks to us.  Apparently, now that we've survived a year at the school, we are worthy of conversation.

"These new kids, man...I dunno," he starts off, shaking his head, "and their PARENTS.  This one kid's mom, apparently she don't like the look o' the town as they're drivin' in.  She says to me, ' it safe for my kid to walk to school?'"

He gives us a look like, "These mooks, am I right?"

"So I says to her, I says, 'Lady, I got three words for ya: LOCK AND LOAD.'"  He makes a pistol with his hand, firing off randomly as he leaves yelling, "LOCK AND LOAD LADY!"

I have absolutely no doubt he actually said this to a student's mom. 

I remember this clearly because, up until this point, Tanner was there to fix stuff, complain about fixing stuff, and warn us not to make him have to fix stuff.  I'll have to pick Tony's brain for more Tanner stories, as he spent more time in The Mansion than the rest of us.

Next up: Why is Chad living in the closet? (No, no, the literal closet, not the figurative one.)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Artistic Mumbo-Jumo: A lull...sort of...

So it's been a while.

I can't promise I'll be incredibly regular with this thing, but I will post when I think there's something worth sharing.

Opinions may vary.

The quest to define my work in a more ME-centric way continues, though at a less-frenetic pace.  It's still buzzing in the back of my brain, but I've been distracting myself with other things...

Lately I've been working on paintings again, which scratches an itch I've neglected for too long.  I've forgotten the joy I get out of mixing mud, and am glad that it's come back to me.

Here are some recent examples:

I decided to do some monster portraits for Halloween.  To have in the house, as well as to sell as prints, postcards, etc. on my Esty shop.  We'll see how that goes...

I have learned that I'm not keen on canvas.  There is some give to it, which allows me to play with the building-up of color, but the texture ends up being a bit of a hindrance to me in the end.  Perhaps I should reserve it for landscapes, instead of the more "comic-centric" stuff I usually do.

I found some old paintings of mine from the school days, which were done on illustration board, and it just reminds me of how much more I like the medium.  Trouble is, most craft stores don't stock it, so online orders it is!  Bleh.

In other thoughts, I'm wondering if I'm not really cut-out to be a freelancer.

I've been reading some articles and thinking a lot about what I want to do with my work, and have started to think that freelancing isn't part of it.  Not sure.  I think I'd like to take things toward my own creations, or properties.  I'd also like to get into just selling art by itself.

Shocking, I know.

Of course, this requires research like printing costs, viability of doing the prints myself (Thanks to Dave Hamann for showing me some alternatives!), as well as marketing and getting myself seen more.  This seems to be the biggest hump to climb over, but I'm working on it.

I'm going to get my thoughts in coherent order and write about that in the near-future.  It might even make sense!

Kids start school tomorrow!  Hopefully this means more time for me to work on my crap!

(Naps count, right?)

Thanks for reading.  Until next time...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Artistic Mumbo-Jumo: Halting Steps

So, as promised, here is a look at the beginnings of this process I'm going through.

First up, some art that I've done for clients that is more in line with what I'd consider my "old style":

Now, there's nothing particularly wrong with these, per se.  Although, I see the myriad of things that I'd do differently, were I to do them today, but overall, I'm still proud of the work I've done here.

At the same time, there's something about these pieces that feel stiff, restricted.  I've worked hard to make them technically correct, but I'm not feeling much from them.  They don't get me jazzed about the subject matter, nor do they especially make me want to draw more.

That's actually a pretty good benchmark for success in a piece, for me: if it inspires me to draw, then it's a winner of a piece.  These really don't do that.

Now, on to some "new style" stuff:

With these, there is a dynamic that engages me.  While they're not as technically correct regarding anatomy and whatnot, they engender a sense of dynamism that makes me more amped to draw stuff.  There's a sense of fun here that's present not only in the finished piece, but that informed my work as I was working on it.

This is an important aspect of what I'm going through at the moment, I think.  The idea that I can get more out of the creation of the art than just he finished product.  Again, this feels like artsy-fartsy mumbo-jumbo, but it's real nonetheless.

I dunno.  For many of you, this may seem like splitting hairs.  For others, it might speak to something you're going through as well.  Drop a comment and lemme know!

Until next time...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Artistic Mumbo-Jumbo: The Beginning

Artists.  We’re a weird lot, aren’t we?

Sometimes, that weirdness can surprise even us.  In this instance, I’m referring to something that’s been going through my mind for a few weeks, but has grown from seeds planted many a year ago.

Let’s go into some background, so the chances of you understanding what I’m rambling about will increase.  (One can dream, right?)

I’ve always loved to draw.  As a little kid, I’d try and “finish” my older brother’s sketches.  You can imagine how well this went over.  Still, I kept drawing.  At one point, he graciously handed over his copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and I was doomed to a life of scribbles.

Drawing was something I did for fun, recreation.  Even as I grew into adulthood, I kept drawing every day.  Directionless, I was clued-in to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. by a co-worker at Toys “R” Us who shared my love of comics/drawing.  Years later, I finally got the chance to go.  I’ll elaborate on what that experience was like in another post, but for now, realize that I spent three years with some insanely talented folk honing my skills and practicing way more than is healthy.  

During this period, I became more and more aware of “style” with regard to drawing.  Style is the particular spin that an illustrator puts on his art.  For example, people generally all look like people, but no two artists will render them in the same way.  There are as many styles as there are artists, but general trends emerge; cartoony, manga, realistic, comic-book standard, etc.  We used to obsess a bit over our own styles, and whether-or-not they were any “good”.  We also, for better or ill, used to judge the shit outta other  peoples’ styles!

As time went on, something began to happen that I don’t think I’d ever been aware of until recently. 
I’d tricked myself into thinking that in order to be considered a “good” or “legitimate” artist, I had to draw in a manner that was generally accepted by the comic book community.  Meaning, I needed to draw in a style similar to comics; generally realistic, with exaggerated poses, musculature, etc.  And I trained myself to draw this way.  What I didn’t really realize, is that I didn’t want to draw this way.

If you’re not an artist, this may sound like malarkey, and to an extent, it is.  I said we are weird, didn’t I?

What’s worse is, I have friends that have gone through this already, and I remember offering my “advice” to them during school.  Guys that had GREAT styles; cartoony, expressive, ALIVE, and yet were plagued with doubts because DC or Marvel didn’t hire guys that drew that way.  I’d say, “Yeah, but your stuff is so awesome and different from anything that’s out there!  People are bound to notice and will LOVE IT.  Keep at it!”

Funny how one can give all the advice in the world, and then not apply it to oneself, no?

That’s the jist of how I’ve come to this point.   I’ve realized that I’ve been making art in a way that restrains me.  I draw how I think that I’m supposed to draw, so that I can be seen as a legit artist, when I really want to make art that I love.  I’ve allowed myself to somehow get into a space where that doesn’t happen, and it’s unacceptable.

So this is the beginning of what I hope will be an interesting and fulfilling journey.  I’m going to be taking my art in a different direction, one that will be more satisfying for me.  Of course, the change will be gradual, and may not seem all that great a change to many of you.  I suppose it’s entirely a self-indulgent exercise, but I wanted to share it in the off chance it might help someone else struggling with the same issues.

I’ll be posting here (semi)regularly, offering thoughts, artwork, and ideas for discussion.  It’ll be great to look back in a year’s time to see the progress.

At least, I hope it will!

Please, drop some comments below and add to the discussion!  I’m absolutely sure that I’m not the only one that thinks about these things, and I’d love to hear your experiences.

Until next time…

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Regret's Shadow Prologue

Hello and welcome to my blog!

In honor of starting this badboy up, I'm posting the prologue to my first book, Regret's Shadow, for your reading enjoyment!  Tell me what you think.


Twilight encroached.  The remains of the day clung about the forest, but like a wave of nausea, the gloom swelled.
Ancient trees crowded the path.  They were comforting shields against the elements during the light of day, but presently began to assume their nocturnal alter egos of menacingly grim wardens and shape-shifting haunts of the imagination. 
The twisting path slowly transformed from a friendly guide into a taunting trickster, with turns and blinds hidden by the oncoming shadows.
On a conscious level, the young man was unaware of the transformation going on around him.  He ran with a pressing need.  Lungs heaving, he blundered along the needle-strewn trail without heed to what most lads his age would have found creepy. 
Foremost in his thoughts were frantic images of what he had just witnessed, as well as the overwhelming drive to escape the evil that was no doubt following close behind.
Beneath the surface there was a growing sensation, however, one that coincided with the dying of the light.  There was a sense that as night approached and transformed the landscape from the domain of men to that of night creatures, so too was the prospect of escape being overtaken by the weight of doom.
          Minutes ago he’d been spending the dwindling afternoon in the manner to which he’d become accustomed.  As time dragged on with his chest heaving like a bellows and his heart beating frantically, it seemed that he was running from what was left of his normal life. 
Still, in the manner of all teenage boys, overwhelming optimism kept him from considering a truly grisly outcome to this latest escapade.  He figured at worst, he’d spend a few days in the woods and concoct a wild tale for his ma and that would be that.
He’d run afoul of the quick-to-anger baroness.  During a typical day of exploring and generally sticking his nose where it didn’t belong, the boy had stumbled upon a clandestine meeting between Her Ladyship and a character of ill repute.  Or at least, that’s how it seemed.
In an old abandoned mill several miles outside of town, the baroness had been speaking animatedly to a fellow with dark clothing and an unshaven face.  While this didn’t necessarily make the man a hired killer or a spy or worse, he matched the descriptions of such men that the boy had heard in tales around the fireside.
Unbeknownst to Her Ladyship, or the compliment of guards she stationed around the mill, the boy had been exploring the shack before they showed up.  They had been making so much noise in all that heavy armor that he’d had no chance to miss their approach. 
Fearing that he’d get into some sort of trouble, the lad had crawled into a moss-covered woodbin.  Apparently such places were not good hiding spots for assassins, for the guards never found him.
Trying to keep his breathing quiet, the boy waited for them to pass by, but unfortunately the baroness told the guards to stand at attention outside while she awaited her contact.  This, of course, made the boy uneasy, but he really had no choice but to sit in the uncomfortable stuffiness of the woodbin and hope it all passed without him being discovered. 
Besides, he’d had to admit to himself, there was a bit of a thrill to eavesdropping!
Through one of the many cracks in the woodbin the lad could see the greaves-covered leg and booted foot of a guardsman.  If he’d wanted to he could have reached out and touched the man.  Stifling a nervous giggle, the lad listened as a new set of footsteps approached along the tiny brook.
What followed was a heated conversation involving the baroness and many names that the boy figured must have been important.  He did recognize the name of King Remiel Van Uther II.  At this, the boy’s heart had skipped a beat.  A plot involving the king himself!
Unfortunately, the boy had overheard no more of the conversation, as he’d shifted to get more comfortable and a tumble of rotten wood gave away his position.
“You idiots!” the baroness had yelled after coming around the building to behold one of her guards hoisting the boy out of the bin.
“I told you to secure the area.  The whelp was apparently too much of a challenge for you?” her face was red with rage.  It did nothing but enhance her noble beauty. 
Baroness Calistra Emberlock had inherited her family’s raven black hair and piercing coal eyes.  Her complexion was smooth and dusky, a gift from her exotic mother.  Tall and well proportioned, the baroness was often gawked at, but never propositioned.  Her temper was legendary and had earned her the nickname “Callous Cal”. 
She leveled her midnight orbs at the boy.
“You’ve done a foolish thing here today, young one,” she said in cool tones, motioning for the guard to release him. 
The boy stood disheveled and wide-eyed.  Calistra crouched to face the lad, reaching up to stroke his smudged cheek in a rare display of tenderness.  She smiled slightly while making a casual gesture to one of her guards.
“You see, spies against nobility cannot be tolerated,” she cooed, a sinister light coming into her eyes.  The boy sensed it, and as she rose and turned to take up the offered sword, he bolted. 
Expecting a shout of alarm or perhaps a scream of rage, the boy was chilled to the bone as peals of delighted laughter followed him into the forest.
Now, with night almost upon him, the echoes of that laughter propelled the boy beyond his limits.  His body was screaming in protest but he blinked through tears to keep going.  Had he been paying attention he might have noticed the root reaching out to trip him and avoided it.  He wasn’t, and so he didn’t.
He hit the dirt hard and lost his wind.  He lay there for a moment gasping for breath and spitting pine needles and blood from where he’d bit his lip.  Part of him wanted to just lay there for an hour to rest and let the pain go away.  The better part had him getting his hands under him and pushing.  As he began to stagger forward, he felt vibrations in the carpet of needles beneath him - the tromp of booted feet.
Fear lent him new strength and he pushed on.  As the trail skirted a small ravine, the boy veered to the left down into it, hoping to lose his pursuers.  He crashed through the light underbrush and made for a small bubbling brook in the center of the hollow.
There came a soft sound, as if a breath had been let out sharply.  Pain exploded in the boy’s leg, just above the knee.  He went down screaming and cut his palm on the extruding arrowhead as his hand reflexively felt for the wound. 
Terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought, he got to his knees and began to crawl across smooth stones toward the stream.  His world became a haze of pain and panic.
Behind him, just coming down the ridge were the baroness and a few of her guards.  She smiled wickedly and absently dropped her longbow to the earth.  A few relaxed strides brought her to the boy as her guards looked about, one holding a lantern high.
“This really has been great sport, boy,” she said amiably, the lantern-light catching the slightest sheen of sweat on her comely face, “You led us on a merry chase.”
The lad looked up to see her lazily drawing her blade.  It was a vicious looking thing with wicked serrations and two blood channels.  It gleamed with a sickly green light and the boy remembered it had a name but couldn’t recall what it was.  He locked eyes with the baroness.
“Sadly, like all hunts, this must end in death,” she stated flatly.
With just a bit of his wits returning, the boy realized his doom was imminent.  Stifling a sob and summoning all of his courage, he did all that he could think of doing at that moment.
He spit at her.
The baroness’s eyes blazed with fury, all trace of her previous calm erased.  Snarling, she brutally struck the boy’s head from his shoulders.  She stood for a moment, trembling in rage as the headless corpse twitched at her feet.  Blood seeped into her hungry blade until there was no trace of it and the glow brightened slightly.  Traces of crimson were caught by the waters and swirled away into oblivion.
Heaving a sigh, she sheathed her weapon and stepped over the body, heading back up the ravine.
“Retrieve my bow, won’t you?” her friendly tone had returned. 
She began to walk down the trail, reaching up a black-gloved hand to wipe speckles of blood from her perfect cheek.  As an afterthought she half-turned to her men and waved an easy gesture in the general direction of the corpse.
“Oh, and be a dear and remove that garbage from my land.”