My first love is traditional art. Digital is wonderful and gives me so many opportunities to work on pieces I wouldn't know how to do with handheld tools, but paints and pencils and papers and their enigmatic scents drive me wild.

I recently moved and had to take down my artwork from my apartment walls in the process. Before gently putting these away, I had to take a shot of two of my favorite explorers: William Clark and Meriwether Lewis. If I could draw their adventures all day, I would.

If only we learned more about them in schools. It's usually a couple days of: "Thomas Jefferson sent these two guys across the country with Sacagawea and they came back and reported on what they saw. Things were tough, but they did a great job." How about the fact that only one person in their team (there were more than just these two guys) died, and that was from appendicitis? Pretty amazing for a multi-year trip across uncharted territory in harsh winters. What about Sacagawea's teenage spirit and interest in joining them? She was pregnant when they met, not carrying the papoose from the get-go like we see in paintings. And why do we never talk about Lewis getting shot in the ass by one of his own men, thinking he was an elk? That's just hilarious.

Lewis and Clark: beautiful derps whose faces I need to draw more.

the Muses

I've kind of started art journaling. I say "kind of" because I'm more experimenting with techniques and images than "journaling" my thoughts or feelings, but I suppose the creative process in book form would count as a type of journal anyway.

I'm drawn to mixed media and collage work and how they can tell a story. I saw an ad in Harper's Bazaar that just felt dark and perfect for some sort of piece. I used a gel medium to transfer it into my book, and was both disappointed and pleased with the results. Disappointed since not as much transferred as I intended, but pleased with the opportunity to fill the space with other images and patterns. Void gave way to characters.

I have yet to replace my scanner, so below is a photo of the piece.

The full text reads: The Muses are not goddesses. They do not inspire beauty. They run the freak show.

Buster Keaton: Steampunk Adventurer, Part II

I realized as I was updating my gallery and character design pages that I hadn't included this little gem of Steampunk Keaton I had made:

I've also worked some more on a previous illustration of him. I added more color / shading to certain portions and included a detail on his right index finger. When Keaton was young, he lost the tip and first joint of his finger in an accident and hid that from the camera whenever he could. I figure if the steampunk world I've put him in can fix his broken neck, then he also gets a snazzy metallic upgrade to his hand.

Buster Keaton: Steampunk Adventurer

Ever since I first watched Buster Keaton, I have been in love with his work (and his face). Sometime in the last year, I was listening to Steam Powered Giraffe and realized their songs would work on so many levels with Buster's filmography and interests. Buster was a totally gear-oriented person. The first thing he did when he saw a film camera was take it apart and put it back together, just so he'd know how it worked. I think he would have a great appreciation for the Steampunk genre.

Looking at a profile of Buster, I quickly drew the above sketch. I felt like I needed to see what he would be like as a steampunk hero. Goggles were an absolute necessity, but I later knew that he couldn't possibly cover both of his eyes all the time. His eyes were the most expressive part of him and covering them would be a crime. I then used Photoshop to attach the hat of Rabbit from Steam Powered Giraffe to Buster's head in place of his usual porkpie hat:

I like that. I like him having a fun hat and optional goggles. But that hat doesn't quite fit him and maybe having a semi-permanent monocle might be interesting. Going back to my initial concept sketch, I wanted to include more gears and technology on his actual person. Buster actually broke his neck while filming Sherlock Jr. but never realized it. He was lucky that it was such a small fracture that he only thought he had an awful headache after slamming the back of his head against a railroad track. It was only years later after getting an x-ray that a doctor asked him when he had broken his neck. He realized it must have been during that shoot. What if the fracture had been more severe? What if he needed medical or mechanical attention? In a steampunk world, I think he'd have some interesting gears, metal braces, and pipes keeping everything put together and connected. 

But where does this steampunk Keaton go? And how does he get around?

In his airship The General, of course.

I'm still not 100% sure where Steampunk Keaton is going. The General goes with the wind, but Buster always has his poor heart set on some lovely girl. Typically, he's heartbroken.

"Honeybee" is what plays when he flies off into the sunset, wondering whatever happened to his love.

Let Go or Be Dragged

Let go or be dragged is a Zen Buddhist proverb that is new to me and deserves the reflection of everyone.

It sounds so simple, so easy. Too easy, in fact. If you're being dragged behind an animal or a vehicle and you're holding onto the rope that attaches you to the runaway thing, why not just let go? Your skin, your clothes, your ego, your sanity - everything is being scratched and scraped away in unbearable pain. There is no reason to hold onto a rope that is dragging you faster to death. Let go.

But what if you're scared to let go? What if you're blindfolded and handcuffed while you're being dragged? You don't know where you are, and you're not up for a fight. You might be in the middle of nowhere. You might have been followed by an even bigger runaway, and the only thing stopping it from running you over is being dragged. Maybe the adrenaline of holding on is the only thing keeping you alive. If you let go, are you free? Or are you already dead?

Death is a horrible analogy to use for this, but it is literally what happens if you've been pulled through actual gravel for long enough. Since the proverb shouldn't be taken literally, I refer to the death of one's sanity and spirit. When you're being dragged metaphorically speaking, it's still hard to tell whether or not to let go. And it's not easy to let go of a rope that doesn't exist physically.

Sometimes, it feels safer to be dragged behind for a while. Maybe whatever you're attached to is moving slowly for the moment or pulling you through soft grass or a shallow stream. It's not so bad until it picks up again and charges onto pothole-riddled concrete. 

I think you can't let go every single time because you're not always being dragged at every moment. This one project is dragging you but it will be done in two days? Finish it. You have the strength and stamina to have gone this far. If you "let go" constantly as soon as you assume you're being dragged, then you just end up sitting on the side of the road and no one's going to let you hitchhike.

But when things are bad, when things are breaking off bits of your sanity and spirit and overall well-being, when the pain is so intense that you'd rather be run over by a hypothetical force behind you...that's when you absolutely have to let go. Far easier said than done. Abused spouses know this for sure. When it comes to saving your life, sitting on the side of the road for a bit - having the chance to actually breathe in the air around you, to be still, to look up, even when you don't have a plan - is much better in the long run than being pulled by wild horses.

Boys Clubs

I've been looking in different places to see who publishes illustrations. I love when there's a fun and insightful cartoon to go along with an article. With each illustration I found, I noticed something: every single credit belonged to a man.

In The Hollywood Reporter, this is not so shocking. The film business is heavily male-dominated, so why would I expect a news publication on film to hire more women? But Glamour - really, ladies. This is a magazine by women and for women. I'm not going to seriously discuss the merits of any of its articles (some pieces are good and sometimes you just need some fluff), but with the few illustrations they have, they consistently hire men. Why is that?

The thing is, I see so many female indie comic artists. There are so many illustrators and creative ladies out there, but the guys are the ones getting all the attention, profits, and name recognition. In my limited knowledge, I can only think of two successful newspaper comic strips drawn by women: Cathy  and For Better or For Worse. Now think of the most popular comics and you'll find they were all drawn by men: Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Peanuts, Doonesbury, Dilbert, Garfield ... the list goes on and on and on.

And it's great for those guys. Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side are my two favorite comics of all time. Bill Watterson is one of my artistic and storytelling role models. But where are the women? Not just on the comics page or in magazine article accompaniment drawings, but wherever illustrators, artists, and creative types of any sort are featured?

Wayyyyy back in the day, women were expected to know how to draw and draw well. They were also expected to be crafty and know not only how to sew for practical purposes, but also how to needlepoint and other "artsy" things. However, despite all these women taking their art lessons and taking them seriously, only the men were "real" artists. We hear about the same women over and over, like Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keefe and Frida Kahlo, because (1) not many gained popularity, and (2) not many people feel like doing the research on lesser-known female artists, let alone attempting to educate anyone about them. 

It's sad how in schools, girls are still expected to be "artsy" and boys are expected to avoid such things. Girls like art class, boys like gym. Girls like theater, boys think it's "gay". Girls like home ec, boys like wood shop. Yet the most well-known artists, actors, and cooks are men. Not women.

And the same thing goes for writing.

As I wander down these career paths and out of corporate culture, I just sit here and wonder, "What gives?" And I welcome the insight of any artists. I really am curious about the state of women in these industries.

Comfy Chair Storytelling

I love drawing people (see my gallery for proof), but I need to remind myself to draw more scenery just for the sake of a non-people art. This chair with its adjacent cup of tea just looks so comfy to me. Whenever I'd look at other artists' images of empty rooms or spaces, I always imagined a character off screen, ready to come in at any moment. I picture someone searching the bookshelf for their favorite comfort book (I truly believe there are such things as "comfort books" as much as there is "comfort food") and then coming back to settle into this super-soft armchair for a calm afternoon.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I might not have a thousand to say now, but I'm sure there's a story in every image.