Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Stick 'em Up!

I honestly don't know what this is, or where it came, other than that it emerged from the tip of my pencil over the course of a late night with friends at Denny's. Nothing like 24 hour service and burnt coffee to release the cyborg bunnies from their cages within your imagination.

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Worthier Part

Well. Last weekend was...interesting. With a new truck sitting in my driveway and an old friend in town for a short while, the idea of doing an impromptu, weekend-long roadtrip to San Francisco was spawned: three days, 1800 Km each way...what could go wrong?
We made it to the US border without incident, at which point we were asked to pull into a garage and step out of the vehicle with our hands in view and relinquish the truck keys. Marched into a locked waiting area, we were instructed to removed all items from our pockets, take off our jackets, and prove that we had nothing strapped to our bodies under our clothing, while through the window two armed men with drug dogs headed towards the truck. Two hours later, with the truck completely unpacked and our bags thoroughly scoured, they let us into the United States. Two young, bearded guys in plaid and baseball caps driving a truck that was purchased four days earlier to San Francisco and back for no apparent reason...come on, people, that's not suspicious at all!
With our driving time severely injured, it was decided that the best course of action was to take shifts driving through the night. I fell asleep with visions of reaching the Bay just as the sun rose and lit up the Golden Gate bridge before us...visions shattered by the wail of the cop car that pulled us over for a burnt-out headlight. The female cop who came to the window, though, seemed to have other priorities. In a tone that suggested he was concealing a weapon, she barked a question at my buddy in the driver's seat: "Why is your zipper open?" Right.
When she cleared out, leaving us with a warning, we decided to switch spots. I took the wheel, and five minutes later our engine died. No gas, was our diagnosis. Nothing for it but to wait til morning to flag someone down; we were both pretty sure we'd passed a sign a couple miles back that said "Entering Middleofnowhere, Oregon". So...sleeping in the truck.
Woken up by yet another cop, this one interested in why we were way the heck out here and sleeping on the side of the highway. Anyway, two tow trucks, an $80 jerry can of gas, and one jump-start later, we're in the next town having a new part installed for free by a mechanic who decided to befriend us and do the work for free. We bought him lunch, said many thank-yous, and were on our way.
We never made it to California. The south Oregon coast was as far as we got, found a hotel with wide beds and a hot tub, and hit the road early the next morning for the 12 hour trek back home. Cruising up I-5 we both agreed: we may not have got where we were going, but it was a good trip. We made some friends, ate some good food, saw some breathtaking country and listened to good music while doing it. And I got to thinking that maybe San Fran wasn't ever the real destination, or that we didn't really care where we got to because, in the words of Shepherd Book, "how you get there is the worthier part." And those words hold true.

Friday, 26 October 2012

May There Be A Road

There are times in life when you feel suffocated. Or at least, there are times in my life when I feel like that, where it seems that I need to be somewhere less structured, more wild, somewhere...else. Luckily, I have friends with those same feelings, and so sometime this afternoon we're loading up my '89 GMC and heading south. San Fran if we can make it, wherever else the road leads us if we can't. "Yol Bolsun!"; may there be a road, in the words of Louis L'Amour, a man who perhaps understood the open road better than any. May there always be a road  between you and where you are meant to be. I doubt that I'm meant to be in San Francisco this weekend in any spiritual sense, but that where I'm headed. Keep 'er between the lines and greasy side down. Yol Bolsun!

Monday, 15 October 2012

What You Make of It

I've heard it said (as have we all, at some point, I'm sure) that the world is what you make of it. Which it really, really isn't. Not anymore. We adults know that world is what it is, and it will continuie to be so, and so we must learn to survive within it and adapt. Some of us decide to just go with the flow; others decide to fight that flow, in an effort to not become some sort of mindless capitalist zombie. But children...well, children have it good these days. Their worlds truly are what they make of them, absolutely anything that exists in the mind of a child, which leaves rather a lot of options open. I miss those days. I miss the times when I walked out my front door into the snow-covered battlefields of Middle Earth, or clambered over the back fence, cap gun in hand, and dropped into the gunfire-laced jungles of my mind. In my back alley, I was Indiana Jones, or James Bond, or Aragorn, or whoever. Now I'm pushing twenty-one, and so much of that is gone. People wonder why I'm such a geek, why I would bother with comics and most of all, why something like roleplaying would be so important to me. Why? Because sitting around a table rolling dice with a bunch of guys and pretending to be a Half-Elf ranger or a gunslinging smuggler in the Old Republic is a last ditch attempt to hold onto the childhood wonder that is Imagination. Children are the best storytellers, becuase they never run out of ideas. I don't want to lose that. And so I game.

And on that note, I'll toss up the preliminary sketch for a screenprint I'm working through titled Return to Imagination. The final print won't look anything like this (and I'll post it when I'm done, no worries), but I rather like this image on its own. Sort of an unintentional homage to Bill Watterson, I guess. And if you don't know who that is, get on it.

"My character has the highest charisma score! I'm a natural leader."

"One: "charisma" does not equal "knowing what the hell you are doing". Two: You can't be our leader; you have no pants."

- Marcus and Chuck, "Chainmail Bikini"

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Bateman's Dragons

I remember a prof telling me in my first year of art school that he knew my type: I was the kind of student he'd been weaning off dragons for his entire career. All these kids showed up to art school, he said, with this penchant for drawing scaly, fire-breathing monsters and his job was to snap us out of it. I was just another Lord of the Rings who was going to learn the merits of true art. I believe I wished him good luck, and kept drawing.

And so here I am nearly three years later...still drawing dragons. That's the trouble: if a kid who with a pencil and a love of fantasy decides he's gonna make his living as an illustrator, there are certain things you'll never break him of. Like dragons. They're just so versatile, you know? Big and scary, murderous, practically made of teeth if you want them to be, but with the potential to be cute and just a little dysfunctional (thinking specifically of the dragons Paul Kidby draws for the Discworld novels). So yeah; I figure I'll draw dragons until the end of my days. Like these ones, which were originally mountain goat sketches by Robert Bateman adorning the cover of my sketchbook, but were deemed lacking in character and originality. So now they're dragons.

The goal here was to post a sketch a day, something that's successfully made the journey from my imagination through my pen to the page, but that hasn't really happened. Art school, y'know? So while you wait for the next one I'll send to a man I greatly admire, a certain Skottie Young []. As storytellers go, he's among the finest. Enjoy.

"Pinfeathers and gollyfluff!"
-Archimedes (the owl)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Ashes to Flame

Community is crucial to survival. Take that staement to its most literal connotation, and it reinforces some of what we know about early humans: that in order to survive we banded together in tribes and hunting parties, and eventually built cities and civilizations. Personally, I'm lost without community; I thrive in the presence of my friends and family. Also, as a storyteller (which all illustrators are, at their core), I appreciate community for the way it births narrative simply by existing. All stories come out of community, interaction, culture, experience, written through the simple act of being around other people. The best stories unite people, make them cry and laugh together. Community and the art of storytelling are forever and irrevocably linked to one another.

There are moments in life that reveal to you in one fell swoop just how important the people around you really are. Like when one morning you discover that someone you thought would be there, if not forever, at least for a long while yet, is no longer a part of your life. Suddenly there's a hole in there your life. You've got this exit wound that bleeding all over the floor and if you were alone you'd be doomed. But you aren't. You have a community, and they'll patch you up; whether it's going out for coffee, or a beer, or rocking a four-player splitscreen Halo Reach session with copious amounts of ice cream, one way or another your community will help you heal. It'd be nice if we could just make like the phoenix of myth and rise from the ashes every time we die. Wouldn't that be easy? No, we are creatures of far more complex constitution; for us there's a healing process. But we've got something the phoenix can't compete with: every time we heal, we become a little stronger. We change, we're different, and we've got some scars, but we come out of our wounds stronger than we were before.

In case you were wondering, I'm dealing with one of those exit wounds. And I've had phoenixes on my mind lately. Like the one below; it's a university phoenix, rising from the ashes of a campus ashtray, haggard, blackened, and looking a little carcinogenic. Today's lesson: don't smoke, it's bad for mythology.

"Why do we fall, Bruce? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up."
- Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Farewell to That Which You Wish You Knew

I wonder (and this is not the first time) if there is a word that denotes a sort of blend of regret and nostalgia, when you're missing something that was part of a life you've left behind but you miss it because you didn't know it that well, and now that it's gone you wish you'd gotten to know it better. That feeling, whatever we may come to call it, shows up sometimes when I find myself thinking of some older lady or gent who passed away when I was a kid, and I wish they were still around, 'cause I'd have like to talk to them. It's a funny feeling, and it hit me again this morning. An old hotel in my hometown burned to the ground last night, and as I read the numerous wall posts and statuses about the fire one in particular jumped out at me. One of my old art teachers had written a sort of goodbye to the building. She'd spent hours painting the historical facade, evening with friends in the pub downstairs...she loved that old building. And I found myself wishing I'd known it too. I grew up in that town, spent 18 years of my life there, and never once set foot inside that old hotel. I guess I'll never get that chance. Sounds like a country song...

What does an illustrator with a song stuck in his head do? Draws it. Obviously. I was walking around three days ago with "Never Got Off the Ground" by Allison Krauss running through my mind, and when I couldn't take it any more (the song is too beautiful, it was driving me mad) I walked into the nearest Timmy's, sat down, and started sketching. It's not much, and it's definitely not perfect, but it's something.

We All Dream When We're Younger...

I've found myself rediscovering drawing these last few days. Being a working man over the summer doesn't leave me with much energy or time left over for me to sit down with my sketchbook, but with school back in full swing the creative juices are flowing again. I'm sure I'm not the only artist who feels this at times: every once in a while I find myself at a point where art feels too much like work, and I worry that I'll lose the joy it gives me. Three weeks later I pick up a pencil or a brush or a pen again and realize...this is just way too much fun. That passion never dies.

That said, there's also a point at which one must buckle down and get a lot of stuff down on paper for a deadline. In fact, I should probably be in the studio doing that instead of typing this. The three biggest distractions for me currently: J.J. Abrams' Fringe, Batman: Arkham City, and comics. My free time is two-thirds Batman...hence the fact that I'm going to sign off right now and head to the studio, where I have work to do on a very Batman-related bit of screenprinting. I'll leave you with that. Cheers!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Back in the World...Precious.

There's a place on British Columbia's west coast where the beauty of the world seem to have no limit: mountains rise straight and sheer from the ocean's surface, and where the mountains give way to thickly forested valleys cinnamon-coloured grizzlies prowl the water's edge looking for salmon. I just returned from that place, and I find myself already thinking, hoping, dreaming of a return trip. Last week was spent sailing around names like Toba Inlet, Pendrell Sound, and Waddington Channel, dropping anchor for the night in Squirrel Cove and Tenedos Bay. I'm thoroughly convinced that I've just left behind the most spectacularly breathtaking place on earth. Which, I guess, makes the rest of this province only really, really beautiful...

I was able to read through two amazing novels over the course of that week, a great achievement for a guy who really read nothing but comics all summer. After having a friend last year recommend and loan it to me, I read Gioconda Belli's Infinity In The Palm Of Her Hand, and thoroughly enjoyed it. For anyone familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and the traditional Jewish teachings of midrash, I would recommend this book; Belli's interpretation of the Genesis narrative is captivating. The second novel I conquered has been a long time coming. After ten years of writing it into every "to-read" list I've ever compiled, I finally sat down and read Neil Gaiman's American Gods cover to cover. It blew my mind. Part of that, I think, I can blame on the scenery; reading a novel chock full of mythology on a sailboat moving through rocky channels and cloud-shrouded mountain ranges, well, it'll do funny things to your mind. In a nutshell, the book is a masterpiece, an inspiration, and a not-so-subtle nudge in the ribs that maybe I should pick up his Sandman series. Thus surfaces the ever-present dilemma: comics, or tuition...

And after all that, I'm back in the world (to borrow a phrase from Mal Reynolds); a new school year looms ahead of me, a breathtaking and inspirational sailing trip lies behind me. Frankly, not bad positioning for the beginning of September. I'll make a point of setting time aside to keep this bit of writing relatively current, and with a little luck and a lot of dedication the pens and brushes and I will become ever more familiar with each other and I'll be able to fill these screens with art as well. Here goes.

Oh, and I drew a picture of Gollum.

"The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea."
-Isak Dinesen

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


I was recently offered the opportunity to tackle some graphic design work for my church, which, for me, is something of a dream come true. I've spent a lot of years trying to reconcile my art and my faith, and figure out where exactly they fit into each other, and here's an opportunity for me to tackle that publicly and get feedback from a bunch of people I respect. Naturally, I went for it.

My pastor, Mike, handed me a theme to work with: Foundations. As a guy who tends to pick out obscure parallels in my life, I find it interesting that this theme kicks off a new year of learning for me. Foundations are where things begin, where they find their support; the coming of September is for me, as it is for all students, a time of preparing for the unknowns of the year ahead. Whatever happens, it will become a foundation for the things that follow. So I've found myself doing a lot of thinking about how this theme intersects my life. What is my foundation as a man of faith? As an artist? As a person in society?  And how do I want to tackle the interpretation of all this as an illustrator? Like I said, I've spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my faith and my art; a big part of that has been trying to figure out how to depict and teach the lessons of Christ through art without resorting to cliche imagery. So, I have a challenge ahead of me. Bring it on.

(I'll post the sketches at some point...and more art, as it comes. Until then, my portfolio's at Cheers.)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Introduction: A Wrongly Condemned Hero

Right. To kick off this little enterprise we call "blogging", I'm going to vent a little bit of steam on a topic that's been eating at me lately. July 19th of this year saw tragedy hit Aurora, Colorado when a gunman opened fire on the audience of a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises". I'm a somewhat dedicated comic book reader and creator, and seeing the character of Batman portrayed on the big screen as well as Chris Nolan has managed over these past years has made me very happy. So when critics, reporters and the many self-proclaimed voices of the American people start to come out of the woodwork and blame Batman for the gunman in Aurora, I got...well, angry. Two blog posts in particular set me off: Adam Gopnik's short article for The New Yorker , and Harvey Yoder's article for The Mennonite World Review. Among the comments I've seen terms thrown about like "pornographic violence", "celebration of violence", and "lack of artistic merit". I'm in danger of wandering off into a wordy wilderness of cynicism at this point, so I'll cut to the chase. I think there's a huge something being missed in this issue, and it is this: This shooting happened at a Batman movie. 

The internet is full of people ranting about how movies like the one being shown in Aurora inspire violence like the shooting that night, but something doesn't connect. This film, "The Dark Knight Rises", is the story of a hero. Not just any hero, either, but an American figurehead of justice that has stood against the forces of anarchy since May of 1939. I've seen concern by some people online that the attacks shown in the film display striking similarity to the events of 9/11, 2001. Yeah, there's definitely devastation in this film that looks very similar to the destruction we've seen on American soil as the result of terrorism, but here's where I lose the thread of these arguments. The film can't be promoting these acts, because guess what? In the story, it's violence committed by terrorists. 

The bad guys. The characters that every one of us has been morally conditioned by Disney or the Bible or whatever system of ethics you were raised on to despise. It's the guys in masks and orange prison jumpsuits, the ones we see beating women and taking drugs. Show a clip of the film to a three-year old; if you're unsure, I guarantee he can point out for you which ones are the bad guys. It's an ages old archetype of evil. So now, someone on their keyboard tells me that millions of people across the American nation have gone to a movie. These people are fans, and there are a lot of them. They've gone to sit in padded seats while their feet stick to the floor to cheer on a hero who sacrifices everything that he cares about to save a city from the anarchist terrorists who would destroy it for their own twisted reasoning. And then this person who's telling me this comes to the conclusion that those viewers are being influenced by the film they've gone to see to commit acts of mindless violence...and I have to think that maybe you've got it backwards. You see, there are also a lot of people throwing around statistics: crime rates, firearms sales, gun registration lobbies that have failed, political standings on the issue, mental health studies and video game ratings. All these numbers are supposed to clarify the issue, but there's one stat that nobody's posted. So here it is. There was one guy in that theatre holding a rifle and shooting innocent people; there were three young men in the room who stepped into the line of fire to save the lives of those they loved. You want statistics? Statistically, that film inspired 300% more acts of heroism than acts of terrorism...and it hadn't even started playing yet.