Between jury duty and poison ivy it’s been a really tough week to get things done. Too many distractions. I didn’t have to actually go in and serve on a jury but I had to call every night and see if I was needed for the next day. Monday and Tuesday no one was called in and on Wednesday they only wanted numbers 1-60. I was number 72 and therefore didn’t have to go in. All in all it was only a minor distraction compared to the poison ivy.
This is the same poison ivy I mentioned in my Bryant Park blog and it was mostly on my lower leg. By the time I went to Bryant Park I had already had the poison ivy for a week and I was expecting it to go away soon enough. But soon enough turned out not to be soon enough. The poison ivy turned out to be at its worst on the Monday and Tuesday after my Bryant Park Sunday. It was crazy itchy. I was using all sorts of anti-itch cream which calmed it down for the most part but there were times it felt like little insects on fire were crawling on my legs. At one point on Tuesday I went to the store to get more anti-itch cream and on the drive home I had to grit my teeth because the irritation was so bad. Going out and walking seemed to really irritate it the most. By Wednesday it had calmed down and by Thursday it didn’t itch at all. The skin is still healing though. The whole time I had the poison ivy I managed never to scratch it. Scratching makes it worse so at least I didn’t do that.
Trying to get any art done that week was a tough chore. I did do some things though. The first thing I was glad to get started was the coloring on my “Organics: The Ghost of Fifth Street” story. I was having trouble figuring out how I wanted to color it and the sheer number of pages I needed to do was daunting. It really had me stuck. The I applied the “Keep it simple stupid” approach and got things going. I abandoned the idea that it had to be in some sort of style and decided to do it as basic cut color. Style really doesn’t matter as much as getting the basics right. I can always add style later if I lay the groundwork now.
I went back to Coloring 101. I opened the first page in Photoshop, set up the document properly, and then started coloring the backgrounds of each panel. That is generally how you figure out the color in any work of art. First the background and then the foreground. First you have to establish the color of the world around a person and then the color of the person. And be sure to have a good palette of neutral colors. Those are the key to getting things right. You need browns both warm and cool plus some various greys for the brighter foreground colors to play off of. I find things go much smoother and faster if I figure out my background and neutrals first. And they did. I managed to get a page or so done a day in my off moments. Since I was keeping it simple it helped relax me.
The other two things I managed to get done that week were two ink pieces. One came out okay and the other was a failure. They both came from a box I have that holds some of my current work that has yet to be completed. When I can’t think of anything I want to do I open the box and see what’s there. I picked a piece that need to be inked with a lot of straight edge work. Often I find that can be dull and I don’t want to do it but sometimes I like to do it because it’s all I con concentrate on. I found a drawing called “Judge Too Much” that needed some inking.
Using a straight/curved edge and a pen can be tedious because it has to be done carefully and there is not a lot of room for variation. It’s all drawn with the same line. I moved pretty quickly on it and as I was getting it done I wasn’t too fond of the way it was coming out. It was looking a bit bare. I don’t think I ever really finished the drawing on this one and maybe was going to draw a bit more on it rather than go to inks. Either way I decide to add a whole lot of black shapes to the drawing as I now inked it. That took a bit more time. I had to figure out which shapes would be blackened and which would stay white. I liked it in the end but it was touch and go for a while.
The second piece was called “Beat Holder” and was another drawing that needed to be inked with a pen and an edge but I didn’t feel like doing that again. Instead I decided to try a bit of an experiment. I would use my broken brush dry brush/wet brush technique. That’s where I use one of my old brushes that no longer comes to a point and use it to dab on ink in a flurry of little marks. I’m never making a line or just one mark but multiple ink marks. I like this technique but it works best on large images. This piece had lots of small shapes in it so I wasn’t sure how well it would come out. Turns out not so well.
I tried my best but I could get the big bends of space like I could in a larger image. I couldn’t get a shape to bend into darkness because there was not enough space. The shapes kinda look pasted on in a shallow space. That was not what I was looking for. Turns out I didn’t like the drawing very much either. I think I picked it because I was going to abandon it anyway. It’s listless and awkward. Working on it in ink brought that out more than it changed it. After a while I stopped trying to fix it because it was impossible to fix. Sometimes art is like that. You have to know when to abandon certain pieces because they’re fundamentally flawed. But at least I got passed the distractions and got something done.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got six new comics.
Check them all out here:
I thought I’d do something different today and write a bit as the day goes on. I’m heading down to Bryant Park in NYC to take some street photos and I’ll write this as I go along. As of this first paragraph I’m sitting at home after eating breakfast and packing my day bag full of stuff. Unfortunately I have poison ivy at the moment. That could really put a damper on things but I’ll give it a go. It’s mostly on my lower legs but I also have some on my wrists. I really should have put on my long pants before doing yard work last week. Regrets. I hope the poison ivy doesn’t slow me down too much today. I’ve been using some anti-itch spray on it but I don’t think a spray bottle will carry well. Plus I’ve got long pants on over the poison ivy for the first time this week so it’ll be tough to use the spray. I’m going to stop off and get some cream.
Now we flash forward and I’m sitting at the train station in Nanuet waiting for the train. I drove fifteen minutes to get here and now I wait. That’s one of those things that people never mention when you ask them how long their commute is. The waiting time. Sure there is none if you’re driving all the way but if you have to take a train or bus add an extra ten minutes to your commute. You don’t want to chance it getting the there just as the bus or train arrives. You’ll miss a lot of trains that way. I’m here fifteen minutes early so I’ve got a wait. My poison ivy is making things pretty uncomfortable. My legs have a low level burning and itching to them. No fun.
Now I’m on the train and moving. I’m taking this one to Secaucus Junction and then catching another one for a quick ride into Penn Station. Normally I read on the train. The first two trips in this year I saved a issue of the magazine “The Sun” to read on the train but this time I decided to try writing on the train. I’m writing on my iPad. It all seems a little clumsy as I try to type on glass as the train shakes. For years I took a bus into the city but back in 2008 they cut the bus schedule in half and it became much less reliable. I’ve been stranded waiting for a bus that never showed up. The went from running every half hour to every hour. If one didn’t show up it was a long wait for the next one. If I was still commuting into the city I might take the bus but off peak it can’t be counted on. At least the train shows up when it’s supposed to. It’s fun to watch the scenery go by and the traffic stops for us. That beats being stuck in traffic.
Well I made it to the city and now I’ll take a little break an write for a moment. I got off the train at Penn Station and then went outside to take some photos. I took some outside of the station for a few minutes because that is a solid place for people watching. Or street photo taking. After that I walked up Seventh Avenue taking photos as I went. Let me tell you the poison ivy is distracting. I stopped at a place on 7th and bought some anti itch cream. I couldn’t put it on then and there so I continued on my way to Bryant Park and then immediately sat down and put some on. It helped but I still feel the pants rubbing against it.
After the cream I walked around the park taking photos as I went. This is the first time I’ve been here on as Sunday as I’m usually down on Saturday and there are fewer people. Of course it’s also the fifth of July so a lot of locals are out of town. After the park I made my way to the front steps of the library and shot there for a while. Plenty of people taking photos on those steps for me to take photos of. Now I sit writing and applying more cream. This poison ivy is evil. Time for some baby carrots.
Here I am again waiting for a train in Secaucus. I’ve got a half hour wait this time since I caught a slightly earlier train at Penn Station then the one that hooks up with the train to Nanuet. I always think I should stay and take pictures longer but that ends up being too long. I get there at 10:30 and leave about 3:00. That’s four and a half hours of walking and taking photos. That takes more out of me these days than I think it will. After I’m done writing this I’m going to have another granola bar. I used to come home from a day like this and get a headache. I think it was because I didn’t eat enough. I like to stay light on my feet when I shoot and not eat a lot but I think I payed a price for that. Today I ate more as I shot an didn’t get a headache.
The afternoon went pretty much like the morning. I walked around the park many times and went to the front of the library multiple times too. I walked up and down 41st between 5th and 6th avenues a few times. I set myself down a couple of times an had a snack and shot from a chair few a few minutes. This gave my itching poison ivy a little while to calm down. Between the sweat from my legs and my pants rubbing against it my legs were itchy the whole time. I never scratched it though because that would only make things worse. As I sit here at the train station I have my pants legs rolled up and I put some more anti-itch cream on. I must be quite the sight. But at least the itching calmed down.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.
Check them all out here:
I am trying to get things done but it’s not easy. Today I finally finished the first draft of the writing of my “Organics” comic. The story is called “The Ghost of Fifth Street”. This is not a comic I make in an ordinary way and I haven’t done one in a decade and a half so actually getting this far is an accomplishment for me. Most of the “Organics” stories I did back in the 1990s were eight to ten pages long but this one is forty two pages. That’s a lot more ambitious.
First off my “Organics” comics are a lot different than any other comic that I make. The way you make a comic is to write the story (or at least the plot of the story) and then draw the comic. That’s pretty standard. Generally you need to know what you are going to draw before you draw it. But not with “Organics”.
I developed this method of storytelling when I was younger and learning to draw using a Surrealist automatic drawing method. It helped me a lot because in applying it to comics I had to do a lot of drawings. Back in those days I would rule out some panel borders on an 11×17 inch piece of paper and then close my eyes and scribble on the paper. I’d move the paper around too and even scribble with my left hand to mix things up. Anything to make new and different lines. Then, like finding faces in clouds, I’d see what I could find in the scribbles and make a drawing from them. Only after I had eight pages or so done would I lay them all out on the floor, arrange and rearrange them, and see what story they told. Then I’d write that story.
My drawing was different in those days. Not as sophisticated or, at times, illustrative. I was looking for more mystery back then and to see if people could see the same things that I did. Most of the times they couldn’t. I learned the lesson of clarity from that. If I want people to see what I see then I really have to show them. It took me a while to learn that lesson though. Possibly by then I was bored of the “Organics” method I had come up with so I never really made anything exceptional with it. I remember going back a few years later to try and redraw some of my early “Organics” stories and make them more clear but I abandoned that. I had lost interest.
All these years later I was looking for some type of comic book project to work on. I didn’t know what though. Comic are exceptionally hard. They take a lot of time and drawing so if you’re not getting paid for it drawing comic can eat up your life. I needed something I could work on slowly and could break up into pieces. That’s when I thought of my old “Organics” way of doing things.
First off I’m way better at drawing than I was in the mid 90s. I’ve been drawing using a Surrealist automatic drawing method for twenty years now so it’s second nature to me. I even have a few different techniques rather than just the scribble on the page way. As a matter of fact I hadn’t done the scribble on the page way in ages. As a friend once said the scribbles are in my mind now.
The first way I have of making an “Organics” page is in pen. I made a template in Photoshop that has blue lines on it that divide up a page. I print those guides out on a piece of paper. I get two small side by side pages on a 9×12 inch piece of bristol board. Then I can easily divide the page up into panels with the blue lines as a guide and start drawing. I draw in ink with one of my sign pens. No plot or script as of yet just automatic drawing. I scan these pages into the computer, blow them up, and print them out in blue line on 11×17 inch paper. Then I draw right over top of them with pencil and ink until I have a finished page ready to scan in.
When I started this project I didn’t know how long it was going to be. I knew I wanted it to be longer than eight pages but since I had no story in mind I had no idea about the length. I think I originally wanted to go to about twenty pages. I don’t know when I decided to up that to forty but I did. As a consequence of that I wrote the story in pieces. After I had eight or ten pages done I decided to start writing the story. That way at least I’d know where it was going.
I wrote the story right over the artwork. I set it all up in Adobe Illustrator and even put down all the caption boxes and balloons first. They weren’t set in stone but I could easily see how much room I had to work with. I found the vertical format of a page in the horizontal format of the computer screen at bit awkward to works with. I had to pan and zoom a lot and I found that a lot more distracting than I would have imagined. But I got the first ten pages done and knew where the story was going. That was back in October of 2013 so this has taken a while.
I’ve squeezed in a page or two when I could and slowly built things up. The writing took nearly as long as the drawing at least in terms of me getting it done. I could draw a couple of pages in a couple of days but then it would take me weeks to get around to writing the next chunk of eight or ten. It was just a clumsy process. Now the first draft is done and I’ll have to read it all and get to work on improving it. That and the coloring. I want it in color but forty two pages is a lot. Comics take a long time.