The Man in Black

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I like Johnny Cash; I also like the way he looks.  His appearance and personality make for a great caricature.  Here is an original ink drawing I did (before) and then a treated poster print (after) of Johnny Cash as “The Man in Black.”  It is actually available for iPhone skin and poster print, but I am wondering what I might ultimately do with some of these caricatures.  They were on Etsy as cards a while ago, but I guess cards aren’t the best application for a caricature.

“Salvador” Character Concepts

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This is the very early part of the process where I begin designing the characters based off the rough outline I have for the story.  I usually write the story in conjunction with the design/illustration phase because they feed off each other so well.  The raw idea sometimes comes from an image or a drawing of a single character or it can come from a single sentence, or verbal conceptual idea.  The writing then instructs the drawing and the drawing feeds back and instructs the writing.  I suppose this is the benefit of being the writer and the illustrator as usually the writing is completed and illustrations are filled in after the fact; however, this can pose a challenge as well being that the writing is not in stone and allows for much variation and meandering.  I think the visual aspect of illustrated stories (hence being illustrated and not novels or short stories) plays a stronger role than many give it credit and needs to inform the very construction of the story.

Here are the first few pages of the Captain character.  Like I said in my previous post, this story has some of the same themes as “The Island and the Plough.”  The main characters are going through a similar sort of learning, exploring the world around them, but yet have a bit more wisdom than the naysayer villagers.  That said, he needs to be reminiscent of a boat captain, but not too stereotyped.  He also needs to seem wise, but eager to learn anew as well.  He is not hardened by the bitter landscape or the cynical villagers so his face needs to be somewhat kind.  I fear already that he begins to look much like the character from “The Island and the Plough” so it may be that the beard needs to go.  This is one of the most fun parts of the design phase, but can also be fairly frustrating.  These are just four of the twenty plus character pages I have done for him.  If the “what I think I want” phase does not work, then I often go in a radically different direction, maybe tall and thin, or short and beardless, perhaps younger even and begin to veer far away from what I had originally envisioned.  That type of process usually helps to refocus what is working, what is not, to bring a vision of it I may have yet thought of but also help show me from what to stay away.

I will post some concepts of the village and landscape next.

Finishing One and Starting Another

The Island and the Plough book page preview mockup layout design

While I sort out the ISBN registries for “The Island and the Plough”, and navigate the intricacies of publishing a picture heavy book to the many eBook formats that are out there, I am busily working on writing and roughing the designs for my next project which I will begin to post about very soon.   I am super excited about my next book, as the story is really getting to me.   Everything is falling together pretty well.  Interestingly, it certainly has, unintentionally, some of the same themes as “The Island and the Plough” but in a very different way.  I have a pretty strong outline completed, promising concept sketches, and a few ideas for page spreads that I think will look really great.    I have yet to find a title that suits it but I am sure that will come along in time, but for posting purposes I will refer to it as “Salvador.”

The basic concept is a story of a fishing boat captain and his young ship mate, Skip.  The two are amidst a sleepy fishing village perched at the rocky cliff’s edge where the land meets the ocean. Their ship is but a small, single sail boat that barely seats two, not to speak of nets full of fish.  The captain also has an old tugboat, in severe disrepair, that he wishes to fix up and use because it is larger and could get them to deeper waters and carry more fish.  The naysayer villagers laugh at his inability to catch fish as well as his dream of using the tugboat for fishing.  Whilst readying themselves to push out one morning, a very unlikely new friend washes ashore.  The story unravels into three parts as the Captain and Skip adventure out to include high sea sailing, wrangling/wrestling with nature, and a hunt for an unusual treasure which can only be had with the help of their newly found friend, all while the cynical villagers laugh from afar.

Until then, I leave you with this book page layout-mock up of “The Island and the Plough” until I bring more news of a release date.

Bruce Mitchel : Private Eye

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“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

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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.

The Angler Boys

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Lament the story of the Angler Boys.  Surprise and joy befell the Angles household when Mabelle and Hank Angles announced she was expecting.  The excitement grew further when Mabelle learned it would be twin boys.  But, at birth, something was revealed as strange.  The doctors called it “Acute Lophii-deformes” and it would seem the bouncing baby boys shared undisputed features of the Anglerfish.  The Angles were advised to shut them away, home school them, and to investigate special therapies and operations to remove them of these “features.”  Mabelle and Hank didn’t feel right about shutting them off from the world, so they decided to go on as if nothing was the matter.

Things were rocky, here and there, but the two boys lived together in a happy, loving home.  It then came time to enroll them in school.  Little Luke Angles did quite well; the other children thought his “lightning ball” was cool.  He was the best to have sleepovers with because he could keep the blanket fort lit nicely.  The girls thought it was cute too and they would sigh and dreamily stare, saying, “To be with Little Luke Angles was like being under the twinkling stars.”

All was not so well for Young Leopold Angles, who inherited the unfortunate features of an anglerfish teeth and tail.  The girls were all scared of him, and the boys called him snaggletooth, jaws, and walrus.  He was a favorite target for the bullies and often found himself escaping to the far end of the playground to be alone.  Luke would try to stick up for him and include him in their games, but no matter his efforts, the other children would shove him away.

One day, Mabelle Angles came to wake them for school, but Young Leopold was gone.  Hank, Mabelle and Luke looked all over town and asked everyone around, most of whom just laughed.  Days passed, weeks passed.  Leopold was nowhere to be found.  Luke would search through the night with the help of his lightning ball.  And thus, began “The Riveting Adventures of Angler Boy.”  (A follow up to “Flashback: Angler Boy“)

Gypsy Jazz

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I have long been inspired by the “Gypsy Jazz” musicians of the twenties and thirties, specifically Jean “Django” Reinhardt.  One might say he invented the Gypsy Jazz style (sometimes called “Hot Jazz” stemming from his home venue, “The Hot Club” in France) and it could very well be all because of his handicap, which I think is quite incredible.  As a young man, he was in a fire which literally seared the last two fingers of his left hand together, fingers that are obviously very important to a guitarist.  Being greatly inspired by Spanish Folk, Gypsy music from eastern Europe, and American Jazz which was in full swing at the time seemed to have helped lead way to his two finger quick style; it is unmistakable and often replicated.  The fact that he worked with his handicap rather than letting it overcome him, much like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, is simply astounding.  If you have yet to hear any of his music, you simply must.  Below I have included some of his songs as well as other artists like him including the new wave of more eclectic gypsy jazz revivalists such as Caravan Palace and even DeVotchKa.

 

Django Reinhardt: “Belleville”:

Django Reinhardt: “Minor Swing”:

Opa Tsupa: “Les Deux Guitares”

And something a little more contemporary:

Caravan Palace: “Jolie Coquine”

Caravan Palace: “Suzy”

¡Lucha!

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Lucha Libre character designs

 

Who doesn’t like Luchadores? The always look so schnazzy in their pressed suits and fancy masks. I had started a series of Lucha Libre wrestlers a while back that took it one step further and got some goofy characters and costumes out of it. I started to make retro style advertisement posters for each character. I found the few that I did and decided I could come up with a few more, so here is the series as it stands now. I am not exactly sure what I might do with these, but I think retro/circus/advertisement style posters might be kind of fun to do, each with its own theme.  From top-left on: “El Dios”, “Gaucho Marx”, “El Cactus”, “Chupacabra”, “Oso”, “El Rey”, “Toro Toro”, “Mini Mono”, “El Capitan”, “Sr. Muerto” and “El Bandito.”

Bah Humbug

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The cantankerous old grump hobbled his way home through the blustering snow and dangerous ice, completely unaware his life was following in his wake.  A young weak flame, his past, hovered right behind him.  A giant lumbering man, his present, walks careful aside him as not to fall out of step.  Ahead of him, creeps the shadows of his future and into them he ventures.   A lingering cry haunts the alleys and the streets, chains clank and rattle of warnings to a ruined man as he bitterly  scoffs off the world, heading home to sulk.

    Here is this year’s rendition of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge along with all four ghosts.  I stayed with the traditional flame character for the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I had to do three or four thumbnails, and a nearly full render of another drawing to get a composition that I liked since I wanted them stacked, using the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come as the backdrop.   I haven’t really seen Scrooge done with a beard, sometimes Victorian chops, but usually clean shaven.  I thought it might be fun to give him a cranky old beard and make him stout rather than long and lanky.  I had a lot of fun doing this one, hope you enjoy.

“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” – A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.