I think it’s that time of year again when I look back on what Fall TV I’ve been watching. I tend to watch two hours of TV a night. That’s without commercials so I’m talking about two hour shows and one half an hour show. Or some combination of that. I know people who watch a lot more than that but to me it seems like two hours a night is a lot. There a bunch of new seasons of old shows that I continue to watch and I don’t have much to say about them except they’re solid. I tend to like quirky detective and police shows so Castle, Bones, The Mentalist, Grimm, and Supernatural are on that list. I also like fast paced and a little out there sit-coms so It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Eastbound and Down, Web Therapy, The Simpsons, and Modern family are on that list. The one reality show I watch is Comic Book Men. Occasionally I also watch old 1970s detective shows. The Rockford Files is my favorite but I’ve also watched Cannon and Banacek lately. Friends and Cheers are my go-to nostalgia sit-coms when I need a pick-me-up. So what is new?
Back in the Game – All of the new sitcoms from last year that I liked got cancelled so I tried a bunch of new sitcoms this year. This is one of them and it’s already been cancelled. It’s an okay show and that’s about as much praise as I can lavish on it. It’s nothing great or revolutionary but James Caan is good in it as the crotchety old father/grandfather. I’m not surprised it got cancelled but I’m sorry to see Caan go. Who doesn’t like to laugh at a crazy violent grandfather?
The Blacklist – I’m a little behind on this one have seen only the first four episodes but I like what I see so far. It’s another variation on the quirky detective genre except this time one half of the detective team in a guy (James Spader) who is a criminal mastermind. For as a yet unexplained reason he turned himself in to the FBI and offered to help them fight crime. He insisted on teaming up with a new female agent for a, once again, unexplained reason. I think this one is doing pretty well in the ratings and it’s a decent show. It’s dark and the criminals they go after are the super-bad ones. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of it so far.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – This one took a few episodes before I started to like it. It’s a half hour comedy about a precinct of police in Brooklyn NY and has an ensemble cast that stars Andy Samberg who I know only from some of the Saturday Night Live digital shorts that he made. Terry Crews is also in it who is a guy I always find funny. After about ten episodes the cast of characters is starting to gel a bit and it’s much funnier than when it started. There are about eight characters and now that I think about it it’s a bit like Barney Miller. Except they leave the station more often and have more women in the cast. I hope this one grows and lasts.
The Crazy Ones – Sarah Michelle Gellar and Robin Williams star in this show as a father and daughter team of ad executives. It’s better than I thought it would be. I find that Robin Williams can be annoying but here he tends more towards charming in this so that’s a win. Plus the cast of about four other character besides the main two are pretty strong. So far the plots have been fairly unmemorable but there are still laughs to be found. Lot’s of product placement a name dropping as they work in an ad agency and are always mentioning the product campaigns they are working on. We’ll see how it does.
The Michael J Fox Show – I’ve read that some people have a hard time watching this show because of Fox’s Parkinson’s disease. That hasn’t bothered me at all because they just made it part of the show, joke about it, and move on. That and Fox is the best part about the show. He’s as likable as ever. It’s a family comedy but the problem is that most of the family is dull. The little brother, the sister, and the mother/wife are all generic. They don’t have much to do. I like the oldest son. He’s a college age kid who quit college and now has to live at home with his parents. He’s ambitious though and is looking to make his way in the world. Fox also has a sister in the show who lives downstairs and fills the role of the quirky neighbor. She’s pretty generic too. Overall the show is just good enough to watch for a little longer to see if it goes anywhere. But it might get cancelled before that ever happens.
Inside Amy Schumer – A comedy sketch show starring Amy Schumer of course. Like most sketch shows it’s uneven but I found enough funny in it to watch all ten episodes. She’s got lots of stuff in there about sex and relationships and some woman-on-the-street interviews about sex that are funny. I’ll be back for more if there is a next season.
Agents of SHIELD – I’ve heard a lot of complaints and disappointment about this show but it’s okay. I never expected greatness from it so it hasn’t disappointed me and it has steadily gotten better episode by episode. I understand people’s complaints though because it’s a fairly generic show with a cast of young and pretty people. Typical television that there is not a whole lot of character to. But I like a lot of the dialogue if not the plots so I’ll stick with it a little while longer.
Sleepy Hollow – I’ve heard good things about this one. Mainly that it’s a fun show. So far I’ve only seen the first two episodes but I’ll check out some more. There are supernatural monsters, Ichabod Crane (time traveler from the Revolutionary War), and a police officer. I like its straightforward nature. By that I mean there is no “Lost” type “What is really going on here?” mystery that so many shows have copied. We got good guys and monsters trying to take over the world. Sure we don’t know everything about the evil plot and monsters but we know that they’re monsters and therefore will naturally plot evil. No complicated (and boring) mystery within a mystery stuff.
So there is the new stuff I’ve been watching. How much of it will last? Who knows? It already looks bad for the sit-coms.
This week’s comic book cover to look at and examine is “Jack Staff” #3 by Paul Grist from September 2005. Here is a newer comic for a change. Yep, eight years old counts as newer around here. As you can see from my list of comics that I bought this week I buy a bunch of new ones every week but often the covers aren’t that interesting. I think less thought and effort goes into comic book covers these days because they’re less important to sales than they once were. But not always.
Paul Grist does things a little differently than most comic book artists. This cover shows that sensibility. I like most of his covers but this one jumped out at me because of its use of black. The blacks in Tom Tom the Robot Man blend right in with the background in a very Ditko-esque way. It’s a striking image that goes along with Grist’s style of simple line cartooning. He’s one of the guys who can use just a few lines to create interesting shapes and characters. I don’t know how he does it.
Grist’s covers are also very self conscious. He presents the cover to us. It’s a nice concept. The layout and type are all about talking directly to the reader and trying to get them involved with the comic. We have a cool looking drawing of a robot, he’s given a name, and then a situation as we are shown another character put in peril. It’s like an old time circus poster where they show you what you’ll see at the circus if you go.
The colors are also simple but effective. The cover is dominated by black and grey but we get some full strength color on the logo to liven things up. Then things are toned down with a light yellow arrow behind the type. If they had gone with a full strength yellow it would probably have been too distracting. A touch of orange and brown rounds out the cover colors. There are decidedly fewer colors on this cover than are on most but they’re all well chosen.
This is a fine example of how an artist doesn’t have to do things like everybody else to make a good cover. After all he still has the three things that I say makes a good cover: good drawing, good design, and a good story. Though done in an unorthodox way Grist has got all three here.
“Sunrays” – the title to this piece is obvious because it’s painted right on the painting. Usually I name my paintings with whatever random word or phrase comes to mind as I’m trying to think names up but here I used a word in the painting itself. It’s another one of my eighteen by twenty four inch acrylic on canvas paintings. As I look at it I find it to be a hard painting to write about because it seems simple and straight-forward to me. It’s all about the word and the image.
I find that this is an image I especially respond to. Or maybe it’s an image that I find peaceful and that’s a change for me. Often my images are challenging the viewer but not here. This one is a cute little bird coming out of half an egg. There is no hard gaze from a human face here. And being that it’s not a person and not a face the image is a little unusual for me. I think it’s also an image that I’ve used before. I can’t quite remember but I think I made a small five by seven gouache painting using this chick and egg. I don’t think it was too similar to this one though. I found it to be a fun image and wanted to do something more with it. Sometimes that’s the way it is with small works finding their way into bigger ones.
Overall this painting has a bit of a theatrical presentation. I don’t remember thinking that as I was making it (it’s from May 23, 2012) but as I look at it now the “Sunrays” type looks like it’s on the front of a stage and that the egg is sitting on the top of the stage. Further emphasizing the stage motif are the purple vertical lines on the top of the painting that start to resemble a curtain. The green and blue behind the egg form a painted backdrop as on a stage. I’d say the painting is about the presentation of the bird.
This painting is a good example of my use of type and images together. It’s hard to explain why I like the two together so much but they create a space in my mind that’s different than anything else I can think of. It’s a mystery to me why it works for me but it does. I can’t even describe why some words work and others don’t. I don’t remember what other words I tried with this image but “Sunrays” does the job for me there. There is nothing literal about it so it makes my brain try and find connections. I like searching for connections.
The type itself is simple single weight lettering. In other paintings I’ve actually painted words in some sort of professional typeface but here I didn’t. I went with block printing of the letters. I did fill up the space as much as I could with the positive forms of the letters. The “S” and the beginning and the “S” at the end are both a little different than the other letters and give the word some character. It’s also dark blue on orange so there is a lot of contrast between the letters and the background. The orange of the background tries to move forward in my eye but gets beaten back by the letters, There is also some light purple on some of the letter edges to give the letters a slight bit of depth and sparkle.
It could be that one of the things I like about this painting is how calm and ordered it is. Most of my paintings have a lot more chaos going on in them than this one does. The egg and the chick sit nicely in the center of the painting in front of the painting’s deepest space. The red of the egg makes the space even deeper as it pushes against the green backdrop. Often red and green, being complimentary colors, will fight each other for the eye’s attention but here so much separation is created between them that they sit quietly together. The peaceful blue of the sky also sits back in space nicely partly because we expect it to. A blue sky in the background meets our expectations and therefore behaves as it should. The yellow of the chick’s head stands out well in the field of blue. The purple up top is dense and heavy but balances out the strong orange on the bottom.
All the little lines, brush strokes, and tick marks I put on this painting add to the harmony of it. I often use such marks to create action as the eye moves across a painting from point to point but here the lines follow the contours of the objects in the painting. The curved lines along the sides of the egg emphasize its shape and widen and stabilize the egg. The lines and marks on the left and right act like columns and give strength to the sides of the image while keeping the eye from wandering off. Even the lines and yellow marks on top of the chick’s head calm things down and keeps my eye from flying away. It’s a bit of a bull’s eye painting and that’s not usual for me.
“Sunrays”. I keep coming back to that word when I look at this. What does it mean? I know it means the rays of the sun and that gives me a warm feeling but why is it there? I know it’s odd for the artist who put it there to ask such a question but still I do. Words and images together can create feelings of mystery. It’s the simplicity of “Sunrays” that I like too. It’s an easy to understand word. I’ve used less simple words before and even random ones but simple definitely works here for me. This is also the only time I’ve used a word in a painting in a while.
I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got nine new comics.
This week’s comic book cover to look at and examine is “Conan” #77 by Gil Kane and Ernie Chan from August 1977. This is another comic from my childhood hence it’s in pretty beaten up shape. This was the first issue of Conan I ever bought back right before the summer I turned eleven. I’m pretty sure it was the cover that made me buy it. I mean that’s a dramatic cover.
This cover is a variation on the classic “Between the Legs” composition. That’s when one character is framed between the legs of another character. Usually I see it in movie posters and it’s supposed to be sexy but not here. Here it’s menacing. It’s also only one leg and a door frame but you get the idea.
First off Conan is small on this cover and everything is done to make the monster look big. We have the “Ten Feet Tall” copy and the dramatic perspective. But Conan is not small and weak by a long shot. He’s drawn to be coiled and powerful. He’s got gritted teeth, his sword at the ready, and a strong wide stance. He won’t be go down easily. He’s even reaching out to the monster because he ain’t afraid!
The color on this cover works for me. The monster is knocked out in a blueish grey and sort of disappears into a monolithic mass. It sits there in the foreground being a threat from the shadows. Meanwhile Conan is in full sparking daylight awaiting his fate in the arena.
I read a lot online about people who aren’t fans of Ernie Chan’s work but I am. I like his inks. He tends to be more overpowering than most inkers but I like the solidity his ink bring. Things seem to be made out of stone when he inks them. Not all the same stone either. A variety of stones. Conan looks solid as a pillar but not like an actual pillar. Everything is heavy, grounded, and dramatic here.
And, of course, how cool is it that there are skulls in the foreground? Four of them by my count. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that the monster would keep skulls and bones in the doorway that he has to walk through but they sure are intimidating. Maybe they’re not there all the time and he puts them there to make an entrance. See that. There is a lot of story going on in this cover.
Sometimes I get caught up in making things. I get so into it that I can’t stop for a little while. Usually it’s not a big project or piece, those toke a lot of planning and effort, but a smaller thing that takes less time. Of course the whole getting caught up part means that the small thing takes up way more time than initially planned. This time those small things were my “On the Rough” drawings. They are five by seven drawings that are on extremely rough watercolor paper. I draw on them with ink and a brush (and no pencil underdrawing) and then use watercolor. Except this time I used Rotring artist color inks instead of watercolor. I’ve had this set of Rotring colors since 1988 and I’ve barely ever used it. It’s a set of twelve colors in ink bottles and to colors are very bright. Much brighter than my usual watercolors. Other than that they work about the same as my usual watercolor.
Once again I’ll say I got caught up in them because looking back at the others (I had done forty four of them) I made them four at a time. I’d grab four pieces of paper, draw four ink drawings, and then put the color in with watercolor. Doing them four at a time allows me to pick up a new one as the watercolor on the previous one dries. It speeds things up compared to working on them one at a time. For some reason this time I worked on six of them at a time. Two days in a row. That means I got twelve of them done in two days. I just kept going for two days in a row. I got caught up. Now I’m going to pick four of them to take a look at.
The first one is “On the Rough” number 55. It’s one of my half masked faces. I draw masked and half masked people a lot. This person even has half a head of hair. This one doesn’t have much form to the body. That’s a bit odd for me but it ended up that way do to the process of no underdrawing and the fur. It’s not easy to draw on this paper with ink and usually I start with a little structure but here started no structure on the bottom half and let the color hold it together. The face keeps my interest on the top and the yellow and orange keeps holds my interest on the bottom. It’s almost like half an abstract painting. There is also a farm within the frame in the green background.
The second one is “On the Rough” number 53. I started drawing the face in the lower right corner and knew I wanted some big hair in this one. As I started drawing the crazy hair I noticed that the drawing started to resemble the Bride of Frankenstein. I decided to keep that going in the color and give her a streak of brightness in her hair. I like the way her face came out. The light blue against the dark blue of the sky works for me plus the red hair with the yellow streak works for me. She;s also looking out at us harder than we’re looking at her. Overall this might be my favorite of the twelve I made.
The third one is “On the Rough” number 56. Now we’re getting super-heroic with things. With this one you can definitely see that I’m drawing in ink and can’t erase any of the construction lines. There are some lines in the gloves, boots, and arms that are only there because they’re left over from the initial drawing. I don’t mind them there because they’re part of this particular process but normally they wouldn’t be. I also wouldn’t normally have his toe pressed right up against the border but with no erasing going on things end up where they want to sometimes. I like the color on this one. The three primary colors, red, yellow, and blue, scream super-hero as much as the view of him flying against the aqua and purple sky. The green of the trees or whatever they are box him in and give him something to fight against. There is also a trail of purple and yellow propelling him forward and making him a little more super.
The fourth one is “On the Rough” number 48. The big orange belly. This one is all about the curve of her hip and the glowing orange color of her belly. The Rotring inks are really showing off here because that orange is bright. The pigment in my bottles is twenty five years old too. That’s remarkable brightness. Rotring doesn’t even make those inks anymore. I’ve got my usual spiral breasts but being stuck up in the corner they don’t have a lot of impact. Only one of the spirals is even pretty. The purple peeking up from underneath the orange serves to pop the orange out even more. The green and blue on the sides calm things down and are the most pleasant colors in the piece. I like the three pieces of black line that ended up in the middle of the belly. Two lines that refer to the edges of abs and a belly button. They’re far from literal and hand there like brush strokes in an abstract painting. They make it work for me.
So there you go. That’s only four of the twelve but the four I find most interesting. When making spontaneous ink drawings four in twelve is a pretty good batting average. Since I can’t go back, erase, and work on things until I think they’re perfect not everything is going to be good. That’s the nature of this type of drawing. Of course the payoff is that I can find new ways of doing things. Some drawings can’t be made if I’m thinking things through. Sometimes it’s the mistakes that lead me down a new path. And I get caught up.