Bruce Mitchel : Private Eye

sketchbook_mitchel_office_detective_apartment_shades_desk_chairs_layout_set_drawing

My only worldly escape, sleep, came clamoring to a bitter end by the clanging, chattering telephone across the room. Like some sugared up kid, it was attempting to free itself from the clutches of the hook. The covers, over my forehead protecting my eyes from the piercing morning light, defensively crumpled up against the wall as I gave them a few angered shoves. After slumping off the bed and shuffling across the floor, spears of sunlight pierced through the slated blinds, amplified by the hundreds of beaming cars driven by incompetent, impatient workers and the puddles in the consistent water that loitered on the streets below.

Clang Clang.

There are only three seasons around here, raining, rained, and looks like it will rain. It does actually rain, but more often than not it has just rained, like it waits until you have turned your back. The streets bleed rain or something.

Clang Clang.

Sure is an insistent, sugared up kid, that phone. I switched the alarm clock off which was due to execute its daily abuse in just twelve minutes. Of course the telephone couldn’t have waited another twelve minutes. Who was I kidding; it was just like any other day. The sirens blaring, horns and engines fighting each other as peeved drivers insist right of way with a curse word or three, often punctuated with the help of the tallest finger on the hand. I don’t know where the hell it is, that everyone feels they need to be immediately at every instant of the day.

Clang Clang.

“Alright, alright already, shut your head,” I thought while scratching my well matted hair. It seems people make an extra special effort to avoid eye contact and conversations with everyone on the street, and yet practically pray for phone calls. Every effort is made to create quicker, more efficient communication with others all while making it more and more impersonal with each step. No one puts up with another person yelling for attention and surely doesn’t put up with children poking and pulling for attention, so why anyone allows some box on the wall to rattle its damn brains out for your attention is beyond me. And yet, despite my observation, my own feet still shuffled towards it.

Clang Cla-

“Yeah?” I muttered.

“Erm, no ma’am.”

“No, there is no one by that name here.”

“Yes’m, I’m sure.”

“That is the number, yes.”

“No, no one by that name.” I reassured.

“I have had this number for some time now.”

“Yes’m. This is an apartment, but…”

“No ma’am, I know everyone else in the building. There are only six flats and none by that name.” I insisted.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

There seems to be a divine belief that technology does not make mistakes, baffling to say the least. Normally this would have been the surrender point, or at least for one to become embarrassed over her multiple accusations that I don\u2019t know my own number. But instead, the woman on the other line went soft.

“I’m very sorry ma’am.”

“Please, uh, pl-please don’t.” I hesitated, not knowing how to react.

“Cry…” I sighed.

In any situation which ultimately leads to a woman crying is a situation with which I don’t want to be involved. Other than children, crying women put me in an awkward sort of place. My natural instinct then, was to just try and make it go away.

“Look, why don’t you give the operator a ring, and ask her to help you out, maybe the number got redirected.”

“Yes, I know you said this is the number.” I flustered.

Just as the lady on the other line began to respond, I clenched my teeth and held my breath to say the words.

“I’m sorry ma’am, this is simply the wrong number.” I winced and paused for a moment, and then hung up.

After only a brief thought, I trudged along the usual morning path to the far half of the room, or what the landlord like to refer to as the kitchen. The landlord, Frank Melchings, stood no taller than a parking meter, and took money just the same. As the first of the month encroached, a mass of spotty greased leather as an excuse for skin, a handful of coarse oily hair crawling along the scalp, and a neck that was eating itself, would assemble itself at your door earlier than the birds wake. And certainly more incessant than the clang of that morning’s telephone. What were supposed to be words, dripped from his crooked lip which offset his uneven mustache as he glared through his smudged glasses that slipped to the tip of his greasy, potato nose. No noises from him were necessary, as the only reason for his presence was either someone owing him money, or his excuse for why he shouldn\u2019t pay for a repair. Most have since stopped making such repair requests, so be it now, only one reason for his presence.

Leaning over what Melchings called the stove, I emptied the contents of the tarnished pot into a, probably unwashed, mug. The ebony substance oozed from the spigot in what felt like a near solid piece. I agitated it with a spoon, in hopes of giving it life, but the cold, bitter brew was good enough, as always, to survive the day. Surely, despite the early interrupted awakening, I could still be my usual ten minutes late for work. With my back turned on the world, I closed the door reading 3A, while scuffling with the keys on my ring in search of one that would fit the lock.

The morning sun forced its way through the gaunt windows that lined the street end of the hall. Winding rectangular stairs repeated down the five floor rental building. Melchings lived in 1A; being the first, he was probably staring out the peephole of his door waiting for late payers to pass. Melchings received his from me check the night before, so I should get a free pass on the troll bridge. As the key twisted to my apartment, I half listened for the clack of the tumblers clenching the door frame, usually only done so to avoid another necessary payment to Melchings for careless “non protection of the rental unit security fee” otherwise what do I have that anyone would want to steal? I turned away towards the oblong stairs of the main hall. Apparently more alert than my usual mornings, probably due to the molestation by said telephone, something seemed insidiously wrong. I smelled it, and saw it from the corner of my eye. Peering over my shoulder, the room spun to a halt, centering on the neighboring remains of the door 3B.

The lock was jimmied, wood splintered, and the door frame was smashed. The door slumped into the unit, held only by a warped lower hinge. Bitterly, the first thought that came to mind, was that he didn’t pay his rent and Melchings got the best of him, though doubtful he would impose any such damage to his property, regardless of the cash involved. Snapping from a deer-in-headlights state, I took a step forward, careful to not disturb the perfect chaos before me. Upon entering the unit, the scene unraveled its horrible explosion of events. Furniture lay dismembered, the sofa gutted, lamps decapitated, and the icebox left bleeding out, yet the bulb still burning its last bit of life.

Pictures hung crookedly noosed from the walls, signs of dirty footprints crawled to the back room, and a smell stained the air I breathed. In the back room, newspapers were scattered about, the telephone off the hook, and thick dust particulates, like witness bystanders, hovered in the air aroused from the scuffle and filtered the dim light bleeding from the slats of the single window. Shuffling my way through the back hall, I felt the depth begin to close in, narrower, and narrower still.

There, in the center of the frozen moment in time was a bloody, battered, body strewn over the solid oak desk. The arms laid straight off either edge, wrists limp, as did the head.

Flashback: Fluid

benjamin_madame_Lynch_sketchbookjack_children_book_page_layout_ink_fluid_nanny_illustration

Madame Lynch appears at the Brigham's front door.

Illustration Friday’s topic popped up as “Fluid” and I immediately thought of a past project I was working on about three years ago.  The villains in the story shed off black, inky, fluid as they moved about.  Unfortunately, this was one of those projects I just had to let die as, every time I sat down to work on it I drew a blank and struggled endlessly trying to achieve what I wanted.  It definitely taught me how to learn to let something die.  I have to admit that I really want to complete this project, but am not regretful that I dropped it.  It allowed me to clear my head and start over on several other projects since.  I still love the story and the concept, so I am sure I will return to it in the future.   The manuscript actually came together quite nicely with the exception of one plot hole, as did some of the initial pencils of each page.  But, when I sat down to some of the very important page layouts, to finish the ink for each page, or do the final treatments (and this book had a lot of “effects” involved) it just never looked the way I wanted it to and unfortunately the mood and plot of the story relied very heavily on the visuals.  I hope to add it back into my queue of projects sometime.

The basic set up for this page is that Benjamin Brigham is a rotter and just a really nasty little child.  He plays horribly (really horrible, some times life threatening ;p ) pranks on people, is grouchy and grumpy, and puts up a fight to nearly anything his parents or teachers wish him to do.  After being thrown from several schools and scaring away countless nannies and sitters, his parents receive a letter in the mail regarding the most prestigious academy for troubled youth that guarantees perfect results.  Madame Lynch, the administrator of the academy has come to collect young Benjamin.

The Casual Hunter

deer_hunter_forest_goofy_illustration_sketchbookjack_cartoon_print_ink

I recently completed a custom commission illustration.  It can be really fun doing commissions because they usually lead to something or some topic not normally in the usual repertoire.  I can’t remember the last time I drew a hunter, if I ever have!  Not knowing the full extent of the client’s relationship to the idea or the meaning of the characters can be fun because it still leaves me open to my own interpretation and style while maintaining the requested qualities.  The only requests were to have a very casual hunter (almost as if he is not actually hunting) with a big feather, carrying a coffee, and a deer in the background.

If I were to make many prints of this, it would be a great candidate for screen prints.  In this case I just painted the white with acrylic white paint and hand inked the black (plus the client wanted the original, not a print).  The image provided was the digital version (scanned the ink drawing,then the white done digitally) which was printed on a greeting card to match the original print.  I just quickly dropped it into a stock image frame to show what it might look like in the client’s pre-provided frame.  Fun!

Happy Birthday Charlie Dickens

sketchbookjack_charles_dickens_cartoon_illustration_caricature_birthday_ink

Happy 200th Birthday Charlie Dickens!  He is probably my favorite “classic” author.  The imagery and moods he builds are so robust, not to mention the themes and brilliant characters he designed are right up my alley.  London, smokestacks, chimneys, murders, dry humor, smart humor, dark humor, despair, hope, fear, shadows, chases, rooftops, thievery, spying, seedy underworlds, gangs, wars, and ghosts, all in tailed coats and top hats; what’s not to love?

Miniature

mouse_beetle_sketchbookjack_ink_illustration_cartoon

“Mush, Mush! Forward! Forward!”

We have a little mouse that lives in the bush outside.  If you look carefully between the branches and leaves, there is a whole little maze world he has built.  In one respect it looks totally alien to everything we know but also strangely familiar.  He seems to have gathered every bit of twig, leaf, fur, hair, paper and discard to assemble an elaborate labyrinth.  It runs eight or nine feet across and doubles back and down, wrapping on itself.  Scale is a funny thing.

I’ve always found miniature things very intriguing.  Things follow all the same rules and laws as we do on our scale of life, but there is something very alien and eye opening about thinking about the world on a smaller scale.  The construction of objects from our everyday are viewed in a completely different light just by changing scale.  Thread becomes rope and needles are large dangerous objects much likes swords.  The miniature world has been much played in the story telling world, mice especially, but simply thinking about the many little objects on your desk or table, or the many components that make up many of our more complex objects reveals a whole additional dimension when thinking about it at scale.  Creating scenarios of small characters using out of scale objects is always a fun exercise, and though much played out, offers an unlimited array of stories and characters.

Imagine what a creature one hundred times our size would think of the way we utilize the many things in our lives.  What objects around you would be wonderfully utilized to advance you forward on a smaller scale?

Illustration Friday : “forward”

The Island and the Plough : Contact Sheets

island_plough_contact_book_sketchbookjack_illustration_layout_story_boards

I am quite excited to say that I am nearing the very last stage of “The Island and the Plough.”  Editing and formatting proves to be quite an arduous process.  I had a first round of contact sheets proof-printed and had a few people review them.  One person in particular who is a writer/director (on the film side of things) had some really great final editorial remarks.  I decided to take a few into account and rework some small things here and there, adding one extra idea right at the climax of the story which I think will really accentuate the central tone and punctuate the climax better than what I had.

Here is my nearly completed, revised set of contact sheets.  I apologize for making them so small, but being so near completion of this project, I still don’t want to give away the story.  But there is something very interesting about viewing the pages at this size.  It gives a very clear sense of the progression of tone, contrast and balance, not to mention a great macro view of each page’s composition.  It brings the process to a full circle back to a “storyboard” format to really review it once again.

I am still in the throes of deciding how exactly to distribute this project as contacting/meeting with agents and publishers is a very slow process.  Many of the people I have talked with, even in the publishing industry, still suggest self publishing.  At some point I will be doing a small run of prints for proofing purposes as well as for family and friends, which I will make available to sale.