Navel-gazing at 30 Year old Ink Stains

Making art is about continually judging what is right. So in excavating old work is there any point in looking at it again? Well, when your headspace is filled by past events, fabrications and hungry ghosts that you don’t want to feed anymore, probably not.

But Daniel Vozzo once from DC Comics posted a color chart from the 80’s when the color in comics was a hand done process involving codes, little old ladies in Connecticut, and some luck. Then a request for a re-creation of the last page of Martian Manhunter (a series I had draWN colored) came over the Internet. It was shocking how much I liked the work. See those hungry ghosts are rather large with nasty tentacles that have torn at mainstream comics career.

In the middle of that career, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

I did a short strip in an anthology with friends about being diagnosed with MS. It ended with a plea to support the Single-Payer initiative on the ballot that year in California. We got a letter that said, “sorry but that’s not the appropriate subject matter in comics”. So at 31, the comics community, my body and the medical professionals basically said “you’re not appropriate”. They all said, “there is the ice floe, see ya!”.

But I lucked out, the Multiple Sclerosis, while at times crippling, is down to some chronic pain and the normal aches of old age. At 31 most people are healthy, by sixty even the finest of athletes, have aches creaks and cracks. It’s just the norm for everyones life now.

Now looking back at Martian Manhunter, there are some failures, and some neat ideas too. Age, time, a whole lot of meditation, has stuffed all the ghosts from the past into the closet. So now it’s time to find those good ideas.

Mainstream comics is factory work, a writer plots, artist pencils, another inks, another colors. I was weird that others had a hard time inking my work, and I was pretty sure they couldn’t color it right. The editor Andy Helfer let me color the work myself. But covers were more important and had to be done in the “office”. Weird kids like me weren’t allowed to color the cover, that would be wrong. When I came into the office in NYC to deliver the pages the color drone was mumbling at Andy about what a terrible cover this was and he had no idea how to color it. Helfer made a huge leap to let me color the cover because I seemed to be the only one who could make my own art work.

I had used diagonals swiped from Russian Constructivism and combining it with life drawing based inking was really the foundation of what would be my work. Now it’s seeing that color, knowing it should be simple, the buildings one color, flames another, details don’t need to be picked out in color. Let the big structure determine the color, not the need for silly rendering and tiny highlights.


Abstract Kirby 4 cover thumb

The finest comics I’ve ever done exploring the fundamental things that make comics comics. Now with fancy four colors added into the mix, the tension is can the flat hard colors defeat the evils of cross-hatch and the washes of watercolor lapping at their edges. Or some such bullshirt, I like these. Please buy them here, Abstract Kirby 4 on Amazon.

Getting Old

At 30 I knew everything.
I did “cool, different” comics, politically active and went to El Salvador to actually learn about truth justice and the American way. At 31, I chased a girl to California, got dumped and diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.At the time, there was nothing that could be done for MS other than die, thanks Oakland for ruining my life.
Maybe, maybe not.

But in life drawing class I met a cool hippie chick doing yoga. Thanks Oakland for introducing me to the love of my life. Marriage and kid followed, but comics collapsed, my cool different comics were hated by the comics editors who controlled the work. They made sure that I had no work and no health care.
Maybe, maybe not.

By 40, I could barely walk. The cool hippie chick attacked the health care system to get me access to Copaxone, a new drug for MS.The drug worked and play with kids was again possible. Commercial comics were gone for me but I went other ways, learning to program, non-profit work, teaching HTML.

At 50 I ran the get out to vote for one tiny little section of Minden Nevada from a teacher’s home, we elected a Black guy President of the United States. Then we passed the ACA, the health care that had been the threat hanging over my head, the black cloud of my life lifted.
Maybe, maybe not.

Now at 60, phone banks every week leading up to another get out the vote weekend. Now Republicans want to take away peoples health care, bankrupt our country and drive it into hell, maybe, maybe not. I’m doing the comics I really want to do for the first time in my life, maybe they’ll make me famous, maybe not. So in sixty years what have I learned?

Maybe, maybe not is a good motto for life.

What is Rubric Power?

I always got better results from students when I gave them a clear written rubric of what the goal was of the assignment. Last night I discovered why. Life drawing can become the routine like morning yoga where you just do it “because” and don’t focus on barking in downward dog

But having stated that I want to work straight lines against curves forced me to question drawing arms of a bony model. Skill and having habits is perhaps the easiest way to stop thinking when working.
In drawing you can question every line or just draw the same old same old.

Placement in each panel is determined by scale of your figure. Making figures a different size from frame to frame implies some point of time or new gesture or experience.

5 Minute Warmup Drawing

Goal

To break up a composition into 3–5 main shapes, create a center of interest through focusing the direction of the brushstrokes and shapes.

Steps

  1. 4 panels per page, Define space into 3–5 shapes with pencil, focus on the foreground, middle, back, 30 secs.
  2. Define the center of interest and goal of the picture in my head.
  3. DO a 30 second gesture of the main figure.
  4. Block in main dark areas.
  5. With lines focus on curves versus straights in all of the shapes.

Rubric

A
The positive and negative of the drawing is clear. The center moves around in each panel at least. The drawings brush strokes don’t just don’t represent the shapes but move the eye through the picture through direction and repetition.
C
No defined center of interest
Size of all the shapes are the same