Four Talking Boxes 1991

I always find it shocking when I’m rummaging about the place and I find some piece of art that I’ve forgotten I ever made. Though I’ve made a lot of stuff over the decades it really doesn’t happen that often. I scan my art into the computer and look through the files when I need to find something. That mostly means I only glance at things but since I see them it’s rare when something takes me by surprise.

As a lot of folks did back in the 1990s I used to make mini-comics. That’s where you write and draw comics and then print them up as a booklet on a photocopier. They were usually photocopied onto an 8.5×11 inch piece of paper and then the paper was folded in half so the finished comic was 5.75×8 inches. Some people even went smaller and used the paper folded into quarters to get more and smaller pages out of a single sheet of 8.5×11 inch paper. I still have a few copies of mine stuck in a closet somewhere and I remember them all but what I didn’t remember is how I made the last two I ever did.

My usual method for making a mini comic was similar to my method for making a regular comic. I draw the art on individual pages, shrink those pages down to the correct size, paste those pages onto a master sheet (a mechanical in the language of print production) and then use those master sheets to make photocopies from. After the photocopies were made I’d line the sheets of paper up in the right order and then staple and fold them. I even have a long reach stapler because a regular stapler was too short. It’s pretty much a craft project and was easy to do but took time.

What I found while looking at some sketchbooks on a shelf was the original art from my last two mini-comics, a “Delia Charm” and an “Organics” mini. Except the art wasn’t on individual pieces of paper. I actually made a book out of the original art. A mini-comic that was itself a piece of art. Each little book has twelve pages made from three sheets of paper each, drawn on back and front, and then folded in the middle. I didn’t even use staples to hold it together. I used thread to bind them in the place of two staples each. I have the say the thread gives it a nice look. I’m glad I went that route. And yesterday I didn’t remember I ever made such a thing.

The first mini-comic is “Organics.” That’s the name of a style of comic that I do where there is no literal connection between the story and the pictures. It’s all about making connections. Finding the faces in the clouds. I especially like the front and back covers on this one. The front cover is a twice done picture. I first drew it as a spontaneous ink drawing on textured paper in the late-1990s when I was first learning that technique. I always liked something about the drawing. There was a look in the character’s eyes that works for me. I even recaptured that look when I remade the drawing for this cover. It’s not always possible to recapture a look like that but somehow I did. The back cover is a strange boat and wind thing. I think the inking technique on it is nice and I like the general weirdness of it. The “Knees, bees, trees, squeeze” type is something I used to write all the time when I got stuck and couldn’t think of anything to write. It calmed me.

The inside story has to do with a broke guy named Tony going to an ATM to get twenty dollars and the thoughts that roll through his head on a cold winter day. I think I accidentally called Tony by the wrong name for a panel. Suddenly a Ray is named and not mentioned again. That threw me. There is also a text piece the runs on the inside front and back covers about supernatural silly stuff. I used to write editorial text pieces in my comics as a sort of precursor to blogging.

The second mini-comic is one of my slice-of-life Delia Charm stories. She’s having a rough day and is trying to get through it without losing her mind. She contemplates the very nature of rough days. There is also a terrible Stephen King joke in there. It’s a contemplative little piece over all. The front cover is a decent illustration of Delia and the back cover gives us a cartoon of a man who is also contemplating a bit of life. I like the text piece in this one better than in the other one. It’s about growing up and not going out into the snow anymore.

As physical objects I really like these little books. I think that was my goal with them. I wanted to make precious little books that could be admired even without being read. They’re made on what feels like 140 pound watercolor paper. That is a real sturdy piece of paper with a creamy feel. Touching it is nice. None of the edges are cut either. They’re either the original deckle edges that were on the paper when I bought it or my own deckle edges as I folded and tore the paper rather than cut it. The paper even has a watermark on part of it. Together with the stitched staples it looks really cool.

It was really weird finding these. It’s not like they were really hiding either. They were sitting on a shelf in a couple of small white envelopes. It’s the shelf where I keep my ink books and a bunch of other sketchbooks that I flip through ever now and then. So how did I not notice these for years and years? I don’t know. Just life I guess.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got six new comics.

  • Invincible – 139
  • Kaijumax Season 3 – 1
  • Mage: The Hero Denied – 1
  • Motor Girl – 8
  • Southern Bastards – 17
  • Spy Seal – 1
  • Check them all out here:

    The Acid Ram is back this week with the cover to issue number eleven. Since it’s one of my faux comic book covers there is no actual issue but I’ve got a cover. It was one of the half dozen covers I penciled and set up to be inked and colored a couple of weeks ago and the only one of those that was a “The Acid Ram” cover. What is an acid ram you ask? I’m not sure but it’s something very weird. I imagine all sorts of weird stories revolve around it. Maybe it’s some sort of object that people revere. Or maybe it’s a title. A person could be the Acid Ram and that person could be the center of a strange world. It’s a title that makes me contemplate stories. It’s reserved for my most mysterious images. If I’ve got something that’s really out there it’s going to become an Acid Ram cover.

    Of the six covers I had set up five of them were “Dreams of Things” covers and the sixth was this “The Acid Ram” one. Over time I inked them all and then they sat around waiting for me to color them with markers. Number eleven was the trickiest one to color because it has the most complex space of all of them. There are three different horizon lines and three different landscapes in one image. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with all that when I started out.

    The first thing I colored was the main figure. That’s one of my Mod Man figures that I’ve been drawing for years. He’s both modular and modern as he’s made up of shapes of color. I have no set design for him and I vary the shapes on his body each time I draw him. I also vary the color. Most often I use the three primary colors, as I’ve done here, but if there are more than one Mod Man figures in a drawing I’ll add in some secondary and tertiary colors.

    The second thing I decided on was the very bottom bit of water and sun. One of the things my set of markers is missing is a variety of blue greens. I’ve got plenty of blues and plenty of greens but not enough blue greens to really give me satisfying water. I even mixed my own blue green ink and put it in a marker so I could have a base color but one day I’m going to have to track down some more blue greens. I kept the water simple with three different colors and did the same with the sun. I knew I wanted the sun/sky to be totally orange without any blue and ended up laying down three low contrast oranges. You have to look closely to see the three different shades but they still vibrate a little even if they can’t be seen distinctly.

    The next color I dropped in was the pink sky behind the Mod Man. This took some pondering. It is the biggest piece of real estate on the cover and I had to get the color right on it. I didn’t want it to be a blue sky, because that would make the piece too normal, so I opted for a hot pink, a light pink, and a really light pink that’s so light that it’s almost white. I use that really light pink a lot because it changes the tone of the paper just a little bit in an almost undetectable way. It’s a subtle change. I also like how the sky acts as the whitest white on the page and moves forward in space more than a background should. It surrounds Mod Man quite well.

    With that pink sky done my next move was obvious. I had to color the third sky and make it blue. Plus the land had to be colored and I went with green. Two blues and two greens. A simple and harmonious pairing that grounds the picture in a kind of reality that we know. I find that it’s important in a picture that’s all about weirdness to have a small anchor in reality. Some place for the viewer to relate to and let them enter into the picture. A little bit of fencing and a landscape can help with that.

    The hardest part of this coloring process was deciding on the colors of the giant face. It was foreground, middle ground, and background all at once and that gave me a bunch of trouble. The first color I chose was the lighter purple for his nose and eyebrow. Then I brought some bright orange into the picture up top in the hair. That lead me to add more of the purple on the jawline and in the hair. I didn’t want the orange too dominant so I needed more of the purple. That made the dark purple of the chin/ground an easy call because I needed something heavy and dense there and it couldn’t be more orange with the sun right below it. One choice leads to another.

    I went with a greyish blue for the left side of the face because I needed a neutral there. I had to settle down that part of the picture so that the pink sky could come forward a bit. The orange marks under the eye add a little exclamation point to the face. The last choice in the face color was the eye. I went with bright green to make it stand out. With neutrals surrounding it the green looked extra bright so I dulled it down slightly with lines of darker green so it wouldn’t fight too much with the pink. The pink has to be the master.

    The very last color choice in this piece was the building behind the Mod Man. I had no idea what color to make them. I didn’t want them too bright but I also didn’t want them to be a neutral and blend in with the blue/grey of the face. I eventually settled on a light yellow. That’s a color that normally moves forward in space as it’s so bright but I dulled it down with some light purples and oranges. It ended up more of a gold color than a yellow and it stays in its place well.

    So there is a color walkthrough for you. A little bit of my thought process to chew on.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got five new comics.

  • Kill or be Killed – 11
  • Divided States of Hysteria – 3
  • Manifest Destiny – 30
  • Shadows of the Grave – 7 of 8
  • The Wicked + The Divine – 30
  • Check them all out here:

    My art tends to be odd. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what is popular and can’t tap into the zeitgeist of whatever is happening at the moment. That makes people look at my stuff sideways. I’m no good at plugging into the power of pop culture either. Whenever I try to make something with pop culture in mind it ends up somewhere in the realm of mediocre. I don’t know why. I’m a little envious of people who can do that because it means that more people will look at their work. Make a mash-up piece of Star Wars and My Little Pony and you will get a lot of eyes on your drawing. Even if someone uses a pop culture piece as a lure to look at their real work that’s still a good thing. They came for the thing that they know and maybe some stay to look at what else you’ve got. That how careers can be born.

    I mention this because sometimes I make something that even I find really odd. But I like that. My art is all about trying to find images that have not been seen before. The whole development of my spontaneous ink drawing technique came about because I wanted to find a way to mine my brain for images. Now I have seventeen years worth of small ink drawing to look through to help me. That’s about 10,000 little drawings.

    So what I did this week was that I pencilled some stuff and prepped it to be made into one of my “Dreams of Things” faux comic book covers. I made three six by nine inch drawings and then scanned them in, put them in my “Dreams of Things” template, and printed them out on eleven by seventeen inch paper to be inked whenever I got the chance. That’s how I’ve been working on that series lately. I draw a few of them, ink a few of them, and then color a few of them. I can work on whatever stage of them that strikes me.

    Today I could not get much done. I tried. I puttered around with starts and stops on various projects but nothing interested me. I hate being in that state. It’s a limbo of wasted time. It’s not even wasted time where I’m enjoying myself. I finally stopped trying to figure out what I wanted to do and pulled out a cover to ink. That can pull me out of a funk.

    Of course most of my “Dreams of Things” drawings have a dream-like quality to them. It’s in the name after all. They’re filled with odd creatures, strange landscapes, and people who don’t look like they’re living the same life that the rest of us are. That is the point of them. But sometimes I draw something and then when I get to the inking stage it makes me stop and have to figure out exactly what it was that I drew. This was one of them.

    I think I made some sense of it. It’s only in black and white at the moment but hopefully it will make even more sense when I eventually color it. Looking at it now it’s hard to even recreate the confusion I had when first looking at it. It just seems weird but not nonsensical.

    I leave a lot of room for myself to draw in ink when I’m penciling one of these covers. I use a lot of pattern and texture in my “Dreams of Things” drawings but I don’t draw them in. I know I can do that stuff in the ink stage and it’s better to work it out there. Sometimes I have to break out the pencil again for a brief time but that’s okay. When I first looked at this one I though I left myself a bit too much room. I mean what was it that I was drawing? I left myself a lot of thinking to do in the inking.

    The first thing to notice is the face. That’s easy to see. But what was the face on? A box headed thing? It has no arms or legs showing. It has a weird long neck so what is it? I still have no answer to that but at least I made it into something. I kept the box head because I figure that must be what it’s about but added the multiple lines for the cheek bones. That made the face a little more interesting to me and less flat.

    Usually I’m a fan of flat but this piece was way too flat. I couldn’t tell the foreground from the background. At first I worked on the foreground. The figure. I worked out the line thicknesses of all the various shapes involved in making the figure and that was not enough. I knew I would need some textures. I put some hatching lines in the neck first. They round the neck just enough to not be flat but no so much that is would like like a illustrative cylinder. I went with the line texture in the stripes after that and it almost worked for me. The last thing I did was to blacken in the triangles on the left side of the “Zipper.” That brought the figure together for me but the background was still way to flat and involved with the main figure.

    I knocked out the four circles first. I knew they had to be objects rather than just circular designs so I gave them a striped texture. They were easy but then what was I to do with those diagonal lines emanating from his head? Those checkered squares, which were my solution, weren’t even there yet. I had to get to them and what lead me there was the desire to add little dimension to the background. I put those textures squares in and drew them in one point perspective. This helped separate the figure from the background. After that it was pretty easy as I kept the rest of the background flat and looking like a frame. The last little touch was the black mountains. A little hint of a landscape.

    I think it came out well. It’s only in black and white so far but it makes visual sense to me now. But what is it? That’s the question I have no answer for. I stare at it a bit and wonder what the heck that thing is supposed to be. Even I don’t know.