Friday, December 31, 2010

Symbols in the sky

On the European meeting deciding the method and time-schedule through which the working class may best be exploited. Apparently the big dogs are having some disagreements as to how to go about it.

"Mysterious currents up there"

And here's the art for a mock-up like Time's 'man of the year' covers, of Greek minister of finance, Giorgos Papakonstantinou, who acts as the liaison between foreign and domestic powers deciding, again, the best way for the sheep to be fleeced.

Though the graphical element is missing, imagine it saying "Papakonstantinou: (Worst) man of the year"

The second one is interesting, technically, because every color you see on there is on a separate layer, and is completely opaque, there is no soft blending or mixing like you would have with real media, there's just dots and contours. This is very close to the method I use to color in my pixel art pieces. It's very time-consuming but it seems worth investigating because I have great control over every shade that makes it up on the screen/page. The image is photo-traced, sadly. If I had more time I'd transfer properly (silly little grid and all, or perhaps even eyeballing like I usually do) but the rendering needed many hours in itself, there just wasn't time for artistic pride in the copy process.

On other news, we're almost out of 2010. Difficult year but interesting. I kept the promises I made around the same time last year (get a job, figure some internal shit out) and this year I'm going to commit to furthering both work and personal ventures at the same time, to find a way to keep the juggling act going without much sanity loss. Also I am committing to being a better friend for my friends, to contact them more often and to find more time in my week to pay them visits. I also want to become a person less prone to severe statements and value judgments, but I fear that's too ingrained in my personality to be something so easily managed. Also, I probably should devote some time to both physical and emotional therapy, since I can now sorta afford it and parts of my body/psyche need it. What will you do this year, reader?



Monday, December 20, 2010

I guess I wasn't done.

I'm inking an extra chapter for ZX. I wonder if I should put it online here or just save it for the print version.

It's about 6 pages (some of them sparser than others). It goes right after the flashback sequence with the car crash, but before the final chapter (9) where Stephan and ZX say their goodbyes. It documents in more detail the psychological fallout of what happened and how exactly, the ZX entity came to appear out of that.

Also a final page after the end of the comic, which as some readers might remember, I've debated on including.

The missing chapter could be inferred by the reader but I felt that there is a degree of anguish and mental-mutilation involved that I didn't trust the reader to invent in the case they've never lost someone they love very much. As I didn't want this comic to just tall to the grief-stricken about what they already know, I'm in the process of inking that extra chapter.

Then I'm done. Honest.

Should I post it here or should it be an added bonus for the print version, you think?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm doing some work for a magazine

It's called Epikaira, which is Greek for 'current events'. It's a political mag through and through. literally. The content is fiercely committed to the examination of current affairs both native to Greece and in the more broad geopolitical sense, from first page to last. It's kind of a challenge for me, this context, but I'm growing accustomed to it. Coworkers are very kind and I have been paid promptly and fairly for my efforts, so there's that! (I hadn't posted about this job until first compensation to avoid a reprise of the previous fiasco)

Below follows some of the imagery I've been creating for them.

Julian Assange opens the floodgates

Dominique Strauss-Kahn hops from parliament to parliament merrily

New Thessaloniki mayor is bent in attracting Turkish vacationers with a brand new mosque

and so on.

This is an interesting thing for me because I do not come up with the themes of these. They illustrate pieces written by independent editorial, with whom I must be in constant conversation. It's an interesting take of 'tell me what to draw' and I'm glad I did a bit of that in this blog before I went out to search for work, as it helped acclimatize me with editorial demands. I'm still working around the ethical conundrum of drawing some of this stuff, but I'll return to this subject in the future, when hopefully my opinion will have crystallized. It does serve as a great opportunity to sharpen both my skill at capturing likeness (dreadful) and my skill at colouring (beyond dreadful).

I do one piece for them a week, which allows for independent projects on the side. For the last month and a half I've been working for them, I have focused my free time in pursuits far from the drawing pad however. Writing about music and playing it as well. It seems I can't draw and then draw some more, easily. I'm sure when I have something important to say with pictures again, I'll do so. Colouring my last 24 hour comic is in the back burner for now.

This job will also finance the printing of the ZX comic, so there's that. And perhaps most importantly, this will be the first Christmas I'll be able to afford gifts for friends and family. I do not have a lot of protestant-esque pride in being a worker, much to the chagrin of other-minded family members, but there are certain advantages in having a modest income I do enjoy.

I'm not sure I should be posting the work I do for Epikaira as it's more-than-slightly outside the blog's scope. However it doesn't seem like I'll be doing more comics very soon, not until ZX is published, at least. The blog has been relatively quiet for a while, perhaps it's best to leave it like that until circumstance requires otherwise, no reason to force a semblance of activity. Those that must absolutely read Helmwords can migrate to Poetry of Subculture, which will remain more active.

If you're feeling some reticence over my newfound employment, you're right. I have doubts about many things and this year will be the one where I test some limits and make some informed (rather than imaginary) decisions on what I am to be. This sport is a costly one in currency of psychological wellbeing, I hope everything is going to be alright in the end.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Man of Many Doorways

Pal TV effect fits this one. Clean pixels on Pixeljoint.

Here's some CPC eye-burnage for you too, courtesy of Ptoing.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Talk is not conversation.

I'm told I am twenty-six years old and although I do not remember any real difference from when I was sixteen, that's probably the ghost of sentience giving me a false sense of continuity. I must have mutated a lot since then. Part of this process is reportedly maturation -- I am not certain on whether this is a real thing or an imaginary effect embroidered by thousands of years of literature, but I generally give these common knowledge concepts more the time of day now than I used to in the past. Does that prove something? I guess I'm less angry, less determined to change the world and more stoic and trying to accept the world as it is now. Is that what maturity's supposed to feel like? I don't know. I don't feel wiser in any case. Just more sensitive.

Here's a thing I'm more sensitive about lately. As most of you readers know by now, I'm an overthinker and an introvert pressuring himself to be an extrovert. I find social situations difficult and I've tried to stick to methods I feel work in order to get through them relatively unscathed. I avoid - if I can - gatherings of people where I have to interact with too many of them at once - not good at spreading myself thin - and when I talk to a specific individual, I try to have a real conversation with them. I always used to think this is a no-lose strategy as far as honoring the social code goes, even if they didn't end up liking my personality per se at the end of the meeting.

I'm slowly realizing that that's a wrong approach. It has to do with the discrete social differences between talking with someone and having a conversation with them.

I'm an introverted person who turns to the arts for self-expression. When I make something, a picture or song or comic or whatever else, that's enough in itself as far as self-expression goes. This is the reason I often make art and do not show it to many people at all. This makes sense as it is cowardly. A conversation with oneself really, art. The person who is not artistically inclined would have to suffer much greater risk when they want to express something: they'd have to talk to another human being face to face.

So when I do engage in conversation with people, what I'm after is not a lot of self-exposition, I don't discuss to turn the conversation on me even if I talk about my experiences a lot. It's always building towards an extrnal construct to be scrutinized by both parties, tinkered with and disassembled for mutual interest. Because I find other people fascinating through the subject, I learn a lot through this, a lot about them, their sense of reality and in informs my own point of view and reality as well. I don't express, I am impressed upon.

So when people talk to me, I often default to engaging in conversation with them, instead of just listening to them until they're done. Those of you who are like me probably immediately know what I'm talking about when you read this. With age I'm beginning to realize that whereas, when I am comfortable with someone, I want to converse with them on a topic with a degree of rigor and achieve a positive movement through the argument, when most other people are comfortable with someone, what they want to do is express themselves in that safe space. They get really ticked off - though they don't always show it - when the conversationalist is trying to move their self-expression towards argument time.

The social code for these two situations is very different. One encourages and rewards rhetoric and logical gambits, it's almost a game of 'let's see who can find the smartest solution on what we're talking about'. The other rewards patience and non-judgment until some serenity is achieved. One state is problem-solving, the other is problem-accepting. Both are very valid impulses.

Most people who do not make art do not have a direct way to work themselves out, that is, to problem-solve the art coward way, without needing other people and their hanging judgments. Their mirror isn't painting or music or writing, it is other people. Fractures hang in the balance when they express themselves in that space.

So slowly I'm adopting a new mode of social interaction with new people (and some old people I've perhaps misunderstood). When they talk to me, I don't mistake that for a conversation. The implication is that people want to talk to me - sometimes at length - and I should mostly keep quiet. They'd never say that out loud but that's what's going on. If they want me to tell them my opinion, they'll nudge me for it, it's not taken for granted that because they're talking to me on a subject that appears within limits, it really is.

This probably reads as painfully basic to half of you. Just think of the other half that's struggling to realize this social nuance for decades.

Also it might be too late for me to change my social persona on this level. The people that know me and hang out with me are usually logical debaters. Like seeks alike and all. If I start to go quiet they'll take that a sign of boredom or frustration. So I'll have to choose when to test this out well.

For people like me, when we're told something and we do not have something to reply with we feel unease and almost anxiety, as if we're failing some social test and we'll not be liked and popular because we didn't have something profound to offer. On the other hand, for those that seek self-expression through talk, the constant barrage of the opinion-nerds is suffocating and exhausting.

I'm not going to be a therapist for every person I meet. But instead of taking sociality for granted, let's instead keep this as a reminder: when people want to talk and self-express, even if there's violence or ignorance in their mode, that's still part of human interaction. The choices should not be binary: either even-handed logical analytical debate or abject silence. It's a difficult thing for me to internalize, but I'm trying.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cat Castle

I'm cat sitting for this cat. And he's awesome.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

ASCIIpaint... descent into a deeper pit of nerddom

Yeah, Melly made a tool called ASCIIPaint.

It's pretty rad.

Here's an image I made using it. The first of many.

(god, click it. Click it before it dies!)

Follow thread, app development and make your own art by getting the tool from here.

I have no idea what this looks like to people that don't immediately get how the picture is composed. As a long-time pixel artist, I find this method of work very refreshing because the pixels are LARGE and the symbol characters smaller, so there's a degree of reversal of pixel art methodology to this. Which probably means I'll make more art for it.


Work-related troubles, some c64 art and other talk

Hi. Remember when I used to post regularly on my blog? Ah, those simple times.

The reason I've been sparse lately is because I'm trying to get stable work in the Greek magazine arena. It's proving difficult. The job I thought I had at Plus magazine is out, apparently. It's an interesting little cautionary tale so I'll recount it briefly for those of you who are also looking for work in the same field. Good to know what's going on out there, right?

I approached Plus to publish comics and do illustration work for them. They said yes, they want an illustrator (as a stable member, who'd work on a few pieces a week) and after a few months when Plus can support it, we could talk about putting some comics in there too.

We explicitly discussed payment, and the plan was this: I wouldn't be paid much of anything until the magazine was stable and drawing advertisement funds. Then I'd be paid as would befit a professional. It was a gentlemanly agreement, and one that is somewhat common with starting up magazines. I don't like these arrangements, but the financial climate in Greece is very difficult now so I hoped to get in on the ground level and work my way up to a humane wage by doing good work. Does that sound simple-minded? I worry about my world-view sometimes.

I supplied art for two of the issues, which I've reposted on this blog for your assessment. I didn't get any calls back for the third issue, and I e-mailed the guy in charge with something like "hey, I guess there wasn't anything to illustrate on the third issue?". No reply. A day later, I call him up and he says "...there wasn't anything to illustrate on that issue, but there'll be more work for you soon, for sure." The fourth issue ran a reprint of a story from a different magazine, and when I was asked to illustrate it, at the very last minute I was canceled because as they found out, when you reprint a story from a different mag, you have to carry the photographic material from it as-is. Those are the breaks, no worries, right?

Well, the last words I heard from the person in charge there, were "There's going to be more work for sure, I'll call you in a couple of days". Here we are a couple of weeks later and there's been no follow up. I take it as a given that this job has therefore fallen through. Any imaginary wages for past work are forfeit, obviously. I've began looking for work elsewhere (though I'm hesitant to post about that yet because I fear the same stop-starts don't make for fascinating reading. If something becomes stable, I'll let you know.) I fear it'll be a repeat performance of this, however.

Here's what's there to take from the Plus situation.

1) Obviously, my work isn't good enough for me to be a sought after artist. Or perhaps more importantly, my name doesn't carry enough weight to be treated with respect by publishers and editors. I will find something positive to take from this realization. I'll become better -- as good as I can get until publishers are proud to have me and pay me for my work. And I'll publish my ZX comic and promote it as much as I can withstand before I go to anyone and ask them to give me work.

2) That said, I should expect and familiarize myself with the reality of employment: professionals acting unprofessionally, not returning calls or giving feedback, canceling me at the very last minute, demanding art at unreasonable time frames, of course not paying me if they can get away with it and finally dropping me without as much as a phone-call. I am not an idiot, I realize employers are not my friends, but you'd expect fields like the arts (which are about specialist skills, it's not about flipping burgers which anyone can do) to have at least a standard of courtesy and communication about the common goal.

3) I get a very strong sense that what was expected for me in that situation was to constantly pester the editor in chief for more work; Call every day, beg and plead for him to throw me a bone, and be glad when I got it. For work that I wouldn't be paid for. I find the ramifications of this employer-worker dynamic very bothersome and do not wish to stoop at this level. I am not in danger of poverty at the time being because my father supports me. I can afford to treat myself with a degree of self-respect... but for how long?

I'm not going to lie, this sort of thing has its psychological toll. Last time it happened to me (the Paraskevi 13s fiasco) I dropped out of the comics world for a full year. It took this blog, and the readers of it letting me know my stuff's worth a damn over and over to get any sense of artistic self-esteem back. Now I have to suffer diminished repeats of the same performance a few times in a row... it won't be as bad because wisdom comes from understanding pain but it doesn't stop it from being very disorienting.

The worst aspect of it is might be that it's not really promoting my work as a comic artist. Getting 'your name in print' is not worthless, of course, but getting it connected in people's minds with what you consider your signature work is the most important goal. Illustrating a piece of text, no matter how smartly or beautifully you do it will not help with publishing comics. It might pay some bills but... the jury's still out on that one. I fear that in my journeys as illustrator-for-hire I will not be achieving much. I am pondering on my further choices in this light.

So, take this as a word of warning: unless you're an amazingly super-talented blindingly awesome artist that is great at self-promotion, has a following and know how to sell yourself and pressure employers... be prepared to be swindled and disappointed by the Greek press over and over. I sincerely hope you don't, but I have to be honest with my own experience if it's to be worth anything to the reader.

On other news, I've started inking and coloring my 24hr comic and I'd have posted a page or two here already here it not for job distractions. On some level I'm just waiting for my current employment plans to fall through too so I can focus on my comics again. Comics, that's what I wanted to do when I started all of this, right? Must realign vector. Anyway, expect a page soon-ish.

I also made some new c64 artwork, it's a pleasant variation on days on which you're not receiving the calls you should be receiving. Here it is, just four colors out of the 16 color commodore 64 palette this time:

(click for pixel-appreciation-time)

If the motive piques your interest, you could do worse than read this very much related piece of writing on my other blog. You see, it's all connected, but so what.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I return with a 27 page comic!

...which might become a 30 page or so comic once I ink it. It's only pencils for now.

The question is, should I post it as is (and as was submitted to the compo) or should you wait until I've inked it and - gasp! - possibly coloured it?

The pencil version is pretty bare, look like this:

(click for big version)

The obvious advantage of posting the pencils is that they're finished and can be posted en-masse, whereas if I ink and colour, we're back to the one page per week regime. Up for democratic vote, guys and girls.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Decided I'm going.

So hey, if any reader wants to meet me or whatever you can come to the 24hr comics event that'll be hosted in Metropolis Live Stage (Πανεπιστημίου 54, 3ος όροφος). More details here. There'll be lots of nerds talking about and drawing comics (also something called 'cosplay' which I am not sure about, and a marathon of the work of the great, late, Shatoshi Kon), if for some mysterious reason you enjoy belonging to that situation.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

More new c64 hi-res artwork!

Again, hi-res mode, as explained in the previous post. Hiding the grid in various places was a challenge.

Grid explanation, again:

click to enlarge

And steps:

This is a continuation from the themes of this.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Some new c64 hi-res artwork

Click to enlarge

Read on if you're interested in the c64 machine limitations.

This is simple commodore 64 hi-res mode. The machine has a built-in palette that is approximately this:

I say approximately because these colors were not exactly picked from the machine itself, as this is notoriously tricky to do. The c64 palettes you might find on the internet are perceptual variations of how approximately the real colors would look on some c64s. These colors, however, cannot be altered. They have to be worked with as is. All c64 images you might find on the internet are using a slight variation of this palette and trying to do tricks so it looks like they're not limited by palettization at all. I like the palette, I like artistic limitations, so I use the pure colors it has on there a lot without interlace flickering and other techniques to blur middle shades and use them as primary ones.

The main difficulty with the c64 HiRes mode then, is that the screen real estate is segmented in a series of 8x8 pixel blocks, in which there can be only two colors from the available 16 showing at the same time. Look at this for a disambiguation of the process.

(click to enlarge)

Therefore it is difficult to use a lot of colors in close proximity to shade the represented item properly. A lot of fiddling about with 8x8 cell borders just for a simple bevel highlight, for example. And dithering (the little checkerboard patterns between two colors that do soft fades) needs to belong to its cell as well, can't mix a lot at the same time without dreaded attribute clash.

The top image in the post has the border around the screen alternated between the whole palette. I like a few of them more than others, the dark blue background, the light red one and the green I ended up using for the final piece.

C64 HiRes is good at duochromatic images (black and white, for example) as it was originally intended for hi resolution text mode on the machine. It's also pretty good at 90 degree dependent images (imagine a graphical word processor with its various panels open for example) where you can play with the 8x8 squares to their advantage. However it doesn't do curves and full color very well (the other native mode of the c64, 'multicolor' sacrifices half its horisontal resolution to get 3+1 colors per cell instead, giving the appearance of the pixels being wide). I wanted to challenge the machine - and myself - to make a colorful curvy picture in HiRes.

Actually, let's not understate the significance of the object in the picture, this isn't just an exercise, it's a celebration of one of the most beautiful things in life, I count it as being as significant (personally) as any of my comics or whatever else you might find on this blog.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

24 hr comics... again?

Hell, I was looking through my old 24hr comics and it kinda made me nostalgic (especially the second one). I think I'll do it again. Well, not 24 pages in 24 hours, but x pages in 24 hours, as polished and well-made as I can get them to be.

The only problem is company! Last time I did it I was accompanied by my friend Thanos and also Panagiotis Pantazis and we made quite a trio. The good memories come from that, primarily. I doubt the same lineup will materialize as Panagiotis is gracing the Greek military forces at this time, I think. Thanos is however, quasi-free but he's AFK right now and I can't tie this down. And there's no way I'm going to do comics for 24 hours in solo mode.

So I request from you, kind readers, to leave a comment here to emotionally blackmail Thanos to come with me and endure prolonged creation of comics. I shall post both my results and his on this here blog if you can get him to come. Concoct convincing arguments and high rhetoric if you must! I'll work the other, much more personal angle at the same time and he shall crack under the pressure. We must. Get. Him. Drawing.

Nothing after the jump.

I lied.


Friday, September 24, 2010

This week on Plus

A series of illustrations on the topic of privately owned and operated toll booths on Greek national roads and how several citizens that have to pass through them on their way to work or home, refuse to pay the fare. An absurd theater between toll operators and them occurs daily.

"1. Be patient with the toll operator no matter how they might try to detain you 2. Do not sign anything they might pressure you to 3. the bar, if needed be, can be bypassed in two simple moves: pushing it forward makes it automatically rise and if not, it can be manually pushed up 4. Keep on truckin' !"

The police cars perpetually parked adjascent to the toll booth area are for show. They will not interfere, apparently, because as the tolls are privately operated, this is a dispute between private parties. The toll operator photographs the number plates of the cars and then forwards them through a process which has the offender served with a very legally binding sounding reprimand. If the citizen does pay it, then the company apparently will not persue it further because they're afraid they'd lose the legal battle that would ensue. So basically it's highway robbery disguised under a thin veneer of legitimacy. Greece is a funny country. More information in the new issue of Plus magazine.

This one wasn't used, so another A/B exclusive, I guess! It reads, in order "welcome to the desert of the real' 'enjoy your triple-toll' 'don't forget your receipt!". Triple-toll is a Greek pun that doesn't translate, alas!



Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plus mag

The newly formed free press magazine 'Plus' will be featuring my illustrations weekly, starting today. Hopefully in the future there might also be some comics involved. Greek urbanites can pick it up at the usual places where free press magazines are to be found. My contributions this week include:

"...I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil I will never be beyond good and evil..."

Accompanying an article by Georgia Papastamou on the subject of the omissions, provocations and outright factual errors found in Greek high-school textbooks. My free-form translation of a relevant part of the article:

On the chapter [of the book on Religious Studies, fifth year of high-school] on "Causes and consequences of atheism" there is the following quote "Nihilistic atheism by the nihilist philosopher Frederich Nietzsche, whom, inspired by Feuerbach and the philosopher of pessimism Schopenhauer [...] his last decade of life suffered from constant bouts of mental delusion [...] where in the scope of his philosophy of the Übermensch he loathes all the virtues of man because he thought of them as symbols of weakness [...] the point of his theory, that is, the Übermensch concept, would be monstrous if it ever were to be applied to our society. It is well known that it stood as the theoretical blueprint of Hitler's national-socialism."

That is, you see, the intro (and outro, as it were) to the works of one of the greatest minds to walk on earthly soil. As decreed important to be taught to impressionable minds by a body of state sanctioned professional educators.

More work follows.

On the subject of ways and methods to survive in a Greece that is downwards trajectory through the stages of bankruptcy, several street performers and vendors are profiled. Here is Alex, a Romanian expatriate who works as a mime in downtown Athens.

This, and the rest of the profile pieces are photo-trace work, to which I am not used to and don't generally condone but the issue was one of realism. Were I to abstract the figures or the environment, they might look more like archetypes of street performers and vendors, not specific individuals. And the focus is on the exact specific individuals. The color version of the above image was not used, so here's an A/B exclusive, if you will.

More within the pages of Plus magazine, and a good luck to us all.


So I have another blog now.

I'm pretty certain I'm biting off more than I can chew here, but I am my inspiration's slave in the end. Here if you want to read what I have to say about Heavy Metal, from now on.

I used one of the default blogger styles because I really don't have the time to learn how to extensively customize a second blog (this one was actually customized by friend Skurwy) and besides, it's a pleasing preset. If any dressing up is to occur, it will have to wait a long time.

I don't know how often I will be posting new 'reviews' there, it may be as often as twice a month and as late as... whenever. I anticipate covering the one hundred records will take a couple of years in the least, and that's fine.

There will be no more music posts on A/B, naturally.

More news on work and posts containing actual art (remember that?) very soon.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

excuse the lack of posts

I'm just trying to get a job going. It looks hopeful. It'll be in my field, so no flipping burgers for me (yet). Wish me luck.

Also if you're interested in Heavy Metal, read on.

Still here? Alright.

I used to comment on Invisible Oranges a lot, however its main writer and editor, Cosmo Lee, recently sent me an e-mail telling me to stop, so I did. I'm going to start something else instead, I don't know if it'll be a second blog or a small web site where I'll be 'reviewing' the 100 Heavy Metal records that I consider my personal favourites, with a specific intent of capturing the quintessence of what I consider Heavy Metal in the process (so they won't be 'normal' reviews by any stretch).

Given that I'm trying to get a honest living going, I do not know when I'll start this properly. I did write a 'FAQ' of sorts to help me gather my thoughts and intentions and if you're interested in Heavy Metal and want to discuss this project with me, you could read it here. I don't know how fast this'll go but it's worth discussing it now rather than later.

On other news, my cat loves me.

My girlfriend is adopting these strays as well:

The one looking at us is a boy and he's very playful but flighty. The one behind him is his sister, who has stunning Cleopatra-like looks.

So, stuff is happening! Black thing! Heavy Metal! Kitten adoptions!


Monday, August 23, 2010

How we listen to music / Welcome back, Helm!

Hi. I'm back from vacation. I had a nice time, though ridden by minor injuries.
I wrote something for Illogical Contraption before I went off my merry vacations, I'm glad to see it's online. You can go read it over there.

It has to do about how we listen to music. I like this picture Shelby put on it so I'm using it here as well. This must be one of the few times in the last three years that I've used header art on the blog that isn't mine.

More news below the jump.
1. Somewhat ironically, due to swimming I got a clogged ear a week ago. I woke up and decided to poke at it with a q-tip (more like fifty of them) and made things worse. Drastically worse. You know that feeling where you're messing with something and you're only making it worse, the mounting panic? I apparently pushed in wax and compacted it so the ear was completely closed. I was deaf from the left side. Furthermore I felt *massive pressure* inside my brain. I don't want any of you readers to ever have that experience, it was pretty awful. I couldn't get used to it, either. And it really gets old to ask "say what??" every time someone speaks too. Helm learned a life lesson: living with even minor disabilities sucks. Cherish your eyes and ears and arms and legs, guys.

So we go to the doctor to unclog my ear. You don't want to see what comes out of your ears. The doctors that deal with the icky stuff are weird, I mean, why? Like orthodontists and ear, nose and throat doctors are the worst. Wait, no, proctologists. Anyway, now I'm fine. In fact, I'm better than ever, upgraded my firmware. I can hear frequencies I had apparently forgotten existed. Lots of high-end that makes everything - especially the Heavy Metal music of death I so enjoy - have extra bite. If you like listening to music then, I now append the top list with another item:

Clean your ears

Haha, yes I know that sounds just like a dad would say to their son when he heard the noise he calls music. "But dad, I want to clean my ears to enjoy the noise even more!"

The other injury was bumping into rocks-trapped-in-concrete (sloppy masonry, I hate you!) on my very first outing in the sea with my girlfriend. I took a slice off of my left big toe almost clean off, only it held on by a little bit of skin. I tried to basically duct-tape it together with the rest of the toe and pray it mends but it got all pus-ridden instead. Strangely it didn't hurt much, I guess toes are resilient, I even swam with it. Really icky sensation to try to swim with the legs and feel a bit of toe flapping against the currents! A few days after the skin underneath grew back and I snipped off the extra toe with clippers. Fun times!

But on the upside, I had a long vacation (can you tell?) that I really needed. I'm full of ideas for art and music and words, words, oh god so many words. You'll see, soon.

So how were your vacations, humans?


Sunday, August 1, 2010

The cyber Punk

Lego said:

He's obviously a punk. I can picture his mohawk

and Nekromantis said:

I get it! He's an cyborg. He should have some visible "augmentations" on his skull a la Deus Ex:

The optical eye-things aren't necessary though. They could obfuscate those human emotions the face is showing and make the guy look a bit too much machine-like.

I am fond of the tacky Shadowrun type cyberpunk because of nostalgia, but I couldn't bring myself to go the full chromium-plated way for this guy, so the enhanced optics are a bit more subtle.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Just some expression practice

Just working on conveying some emotions. Will do a few more, they're fast to do. And I might give this guy a hairstyle and a leather jacket or something. Actually, wait, reader participation time: provide photographic examples of hairstyles (and facial hair styles) and clothes for this guy in the comments and I'll draw the ones I think fit him best! Move besides the obvious!

I need to do a lot more anatomy work before I embark on any other new projects, because frankly, I have a lot of holes in my technique. The saner choice would be to instead settle on a stylized approach that hides my faults better than the erratic style-switching methods I usually employ (on the ZX comic most of all) but I don't think that compromise is forthcoming. My psyche wants to fight!

I work so much with strict black and white inking that using a full grayscale range feels like cheating now, heh. That must sound crazy for actual illustrators who are used to employing a full value and hue range to convey their objects, but I've dedicated so much mental processing in a highly specialized sub-set of the drawing craft that is "how to convey stuff using only little opaque black lines" that I'm afraid I've damaged the part of my brain that revels in lack of restrictions and open creativity. I'm sure fiddling around with pixels and 16-color palettes didn't help either.

At least it's funny when I step outside of my inky inky idiom and draw something like this and then people tell me they're surprised and how it doesn't look like my art. I guess that's a polite way of saying "I didn't know you could draw anything else than your usual black and whte robots!".

A large part of how slowly I become better is that I don't particularly enjoy the process of drawing. I enjoy the conceptualization and I enjoy the end result. The middle period where I have to get my chops up and put in all the work to arrive at a palatable result is not enjoyable (though as I've said before, inking is fun when you're done with the artistic choices and all that's left is filling in the spaces). I'm comfortable in the knowledge that I am not alone in this attitude but less with the inevitable reality that I'll never be as great a draftsman as I could be because of it. But that's fine, I keep reminding myself. Nobody ever is what they imagine they'd be, because our imaginations stem from this fantastic survival mechanism that is the presupposition of never-ending willpower. When we make plans or theorize on our future course of action, we tend to calculate with our own actor being in best-possible shape and full of desire to succeed, we never take into account our past history of faults and repeated behavioral patterns, our well... personality. "Man I'm going to draw *every day* for *three hours* for the next *four weeks*, you bet!". Ah, well, it's better to overestimate than underestimate and sell that as a "realistic" excuse to do nothing!

Seriously though, I need to go frolic on a beach somewhere for a couple of weeks. Plans are being made.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Time off for Helm

Until the end of August, probably. I'll be posting, sporadically, probably not a lot of art. Time to take some time off, I've put in the time, certainly. Get off of the computer, go swim in the sea, hope they don't burn the rest of Greece down while I'm away...

see you guys soon. Nothing, absolutely nothing after the jump.

You see, this "read more" thingy, it's a hack for blogger. It's not supposed to be there. I can't turn it off, either every article has it or no articles have it. We have to cope with this dreadful reality.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Technothrash revisited

Over at the Illogical Contraption, mr. Cobras has been gracious enough to host another compilation by myself after the one on Greek metal and another on progressive metal. This time it's about technothrash. You can go download it and read about the bands featured over there if you're so inclined. If you're not you should click on the link below instead.


Goodbye 1bit

I hate having to write this.

The little cat we've been keeping at home for the last couple of weeks is missing. When we found him he was in a sorry state, big bump on the head, crying constantly, wouldn't eat or drink, blood ran from his ears and nose. We took him to a vet, got him hooked on UV for a couple of days. The doctor said she thought the kitty wouldn't make it. But he did.

We weren't sure we'd keep him, there's been interest by two friendly parties to care for him. Early on when we got him back in the house it was apparent (to me at least) that the cat couldn't see right. He wouldn't track movement, he walked around very hesitantly and cried out when left without hugs for too long. It could have been just the shock though, or perhaps the dehydration because for the next two weeks of care he seemed to be able to see much, much better. A day before he went missing I caught him tracking a fly, which told me the cat had near-normal vision, now.

Yes, I gave him a dorky pet-name but I didn't think I'd have to keep it because I didn't think I'd have to keep the cat. But two days ago he just up and vanished. I live on a first floor apartment, below is a yard with dogs, it's not easy for cats to escape (I had to save my first of two current cats, named Cat, from the dogs once, true story). The first thing that I dreaded was that the cat had fallen off the porch and was promptly eaten by the dogs below. I searched for evidence of this but could find nothing. I searched the house like mad, you know how cats are with hiding. Put food in many places around the house and let it stink in the heat, nothing.

I waited and waited for him to show up again but it's pretty clear he's not in the house anymore. The biggest telling is that my two current cats, Cat and Black Thing, have gone back to walking around the house in their usual relaxed manner. This tells me they can no longer smell poor 1bit around the house, so they've gone back to default house kitty behavior. No guests anymore.

We can hope that the kitty fell off (or climbed off) the porch and evaded the dogs and now is living a life of freedom. It's possible, he had grown much more assured and strong in the couple of weeks we've had him and as I said he could see pretty well now. Perhaps he wanted to leave that hard, perhaps he just fell off and made of the situation what he could. We searched around the neighborhood but nothing. My girlfriend and I joke that we're going to see lots of black and white (1bit, get it? *sigh*) kittens around the hood come next summer and I don't know, perhaps it'll be so. Who knows? Not knowing sucks.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Usually I can tell it's Xenakis because it sounds awful

Two voices are in a bed. It's very warm and humid. Friend Computer is shuffling through a gigantic music folder, providing diversion. A lapse in the conversation lasts long enough for the song that has just come on to grab their attention.

The first voice is excited, the music on the computer belongs to him and he knows it well. He's eager to translate the lyrics to the second.

One day I saw a man
Dressed in rags, with a staff in his hand
Begging for a penny to survive

How poor a man can be
I gave him hospitality
A room, a bed and lots of food to eat

Still I hear his last few words
"I can never return what you've done
But heaven will remember and repay"

Fifty years had gone since I saw him
I was dying and I'd soon be dead
Three angels stood beside my bed

The first one she said to me, "don't be afraid
I will give you immortality, and grace for your soul"
The second had eyes of gold, she gave me my wings
The third gave all wisdom an angel could give to me

I joined with my destiny, eternally
I knew I was born again, an angel to be
A vision beyond my dreams, called me by name
So in devotion I spread my wings, to heaven I had came to stay

The two voices now are joined in limber conversation, the song's meaning is explored. The Heavy Metal solo in the middle is judged to be off-mood, but otherwise the piece is commended for beauty and motive. The second voice, curious at the juxtaposition between morose metallic orchestration and positive Christian sentiment, asks about the band and what they believe in. The first voice says 'probably nothing' meaning, they're not Christian. But they can hope just the same, right?

As the voices debate on the possibility of a just afterlife and what it would take for someone to earn an eternity in heaven (more than either of them has done, they concur), Friend Computer counterpoints with his follow-up song.

The first voice is eager to tell the second that this music exits because a friend of his wills it so. Moreover, that friend has made her acquaintance in a few occasions. The second voice pays extra attention to the sounds because she wishes to understand the distant friend as well, perhaps. There are no lyrics to this song to discuss, but there are meanings still. Perhaps because of the previous song, this one is felt and discussed as an examination of an afterlife as well. Especially towards its end where the shimmering guitars stray outside of the mix and what is left is only feedback and smoke.

A connection is made between the two pieces of music. Two paths to an after-life, one where justice is served and meaning is achieved for an eternity and another where words were just words and meanings were an errand for fools, where after-death means eyes that are always open but ever so slowly dim. Hades of thick smoke that enters the lungs not to suffocate, but to embalm, to keep the solemn traveler perpetually existing. A journey without an end.

A third comes as punctuation.

The voices almost simultaneously remark on how this is not a song about an end, it's a song about the now. The first voice offers wisdom to impress the second "this is probably by György Ligeti". The umlaut sounds especially impressive. The string quartet discusses with the piano, pleads, argues, commends. Sometimes the piano adds flourish, sometimes it plays along, other times not so much. The whine of the violins is almost sickening, then.

Two songs. One about hope, the other about un-hope. And a third to remind that we're not done yet with hoping. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The two voices get up from the bed and go to take a shower. Computer text now in reading range corrects: not Ligeti, Xenakis.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

blogger is weird with comment moderation.

If you've left a comment and it's not showing up it's a possibility that blogger is failing to bring them up for verification once in a while, so keep that in mind. If I take more than a couple of days to make your comment public, it's probably lost, not me censoring you.

Nothing after the jump.


Monday, July 5, 2010

What cats do when nobody's looking

Friend and reader Lackey requested

I'd like you to draw something like you would feel seeing through a window into a brightly lit room while walking alone at night.

I enjoyed drawing this. Had to return to some technique practices I haven't had much real need to use since I've been inking digitally for the last year and a half. This scribbly style takes a long time but it's a pretty zen for me anyway so I don't mind.

On other news, I have a new cat visitor which might become a permanent resident. His eyes can't see very well due to the dehydrated state in which we found him, but he can see enough to lead a happy interior-cat type life. We are debating on whether we'll keep him or not. Here's his mug.

If any of you want a slightly disabled kitty (blind and semi-blind cats are just like regular cats inside the house, really, so don't worry that much), he's an absolutely kind cat that likes cuddling and purrs all the time. He's only a couple of months old, max. But hurry in making up your mind because he might otherwise claw & gnaw his way into our hearts here at Helm (:his dad's) mansion (: modest apartment).


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sympathy for the Overthinker

This is thought that has been swirling around in my head for a while and today it coalesced into relative certainty, so, as it is pertinent to a lot of things I actively do and even more I am passively involved in, here. It has to do with the concept of 'thinking too much' and some assorted accusations of pretension. The brave click onwards.

It's not a complicated argument but it seems it's one worth putting out there publicly once or twice: Don't disparage thinkers for thinking, don't mock wordy types for being wordy, don't disapprove of worriers for worrying.

There seems to be this idea going around (for as long as I have been paying attention at least) that it's some sort of choice to be engaged in intellectual pursuits. As if it's cut and separate from more visceral needs and desires for which, while there is no shortage of social critique, there seems more of an awareness of the critique's futility. Intellectualism is widely loathed as if it's a frivolous hobby, at odds with everything natural in life.

While I find the attempts at substantiating this strange thinking/feeling dualism to be fascinating sometimes, I grow tired of them when leveled against me as weapons. Please accept one empirical observation, that the tendency for intellectual examination and for assorted wordy exposition is not a voluntarily one. It is an emotional reflex and much like most reflexes it can be fought against only to an extent and even then the sufferer has to wonder why they're fighting against themselves to begin with.

If the reader has offered the advice to others that they should "think about things less", even if they meant it out of kindness for having spotted the Gordian knot the overthinker has entangled themselves into, they should be aware that what the overthinker is hearing is disapproving critique of foundations of their personality they have little free will to alter. What they're getting from it, basically is "I disapprove of you and I have the unrealistic expectation that you will change at my behest for having shaped my disapproval in socially unassailable passive-aggression". Yes yes, I know, that's unfair, but people don't really know what you meant because what you said was precisely antithetical to further examination. In silent victory, the words have ended.

Likewise, Overationalizators (I count myself included) are reflexive. The whys and hows of that behavior pattern can be deconstructed endlessly (and this is also a favorite pastime of navel gazers the world around) but rest assured they are not a stance, not an act, not a pretense. I see things happen around me and they, like lightning, touch on three-dimensional inner constructs of causality, they interface with presuppositions and inform my world-view subconsciously. This is instant. The quasi-rational deliberation afterwards is not instant but that doesn't mean it's much more controlled. Nor should you assume that the rationales spewed forth are considered truthful or accurate representations of world workings. They are a debugger buffer for the program of consciousness.

I have met people that, at the time, I was convinced they were pretending to be intellectuals and were trying too hard to impress me. Their most significant characteristic was not they they were thinking about things too hard but that they were implicitly asking me to acknowledge and agree with their line of thinking, nearly at the end of every value judgment. Some of them were also overthinkers, yes, but the two situations are not necessarily causally related. I have certainly also met blunt and base men who also pressured me for endorsement at every turn. The ones who value the conversation (and let's not kid ourselves, the exposition also) more than the agreement are mostly harmless.

And as a final note on wordiness. We cannot all be Nietzsche. It's a matter of mental acuity and talent. Some of us need to take the long way around an argument until we've circled it completely and on many planes and then only can start cutting towards the center. Bear with us for our philosophy is not meant as entertainment for you nor as a hobby for us, it is a practical necessity for our survival.

In an effort to accept others I'm slowly trying to treat a lot of their personality I find displeasing as prima facie instinctual behavior and not begrudge them for their nature, I'd be wonderful if they would do the same. That doesn't mean I have to hang out with all of them and neither should it mean you should read every word I have to say on whatever strikes me as significant every Monday, but please, easy on the judgments.


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beyond the realms of Arcana

Kind reader Nekromantis requested:

I'd like you to draw a dreamlike landscape inside the mind and some kind of ethereal gates (or perhaps two rune-carved monolith stones with space between) showing a glimpse of grandeur/weird/horrific on the other side. A passage to subconsciousness or arcana if you like.

I can't in good conscience put my pen to the paper to describe what life after the transcendence of the material plane would be. In the light may your imagination always find shapes of hope and wonder.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Tell me what to draw more!

The experiment has given fruit. But it's not enough fruit for my fruit salad. Give me more ideas. Below the jump are the posting instructions as before. I await thine wisdom.

1. Suggestions can be as impressionistic or descriptive as you want. From 'a persistent but unspeakable desire struggles to make itself manifest' to 'the biggest robot ever!!!' to 'the only book a very lonely man would have' to 'a lion'. Write me an one-liner, write me a paragraph, write me a book, whatever you want.

2. You may supply as many ideas as you want but,

3. can only work on one idea a week I can only work on two or three ideas in the next two weeks. If I didn't pick yours it's either because it didn't resonate or because something else came along that did more so. Feel free to repost it next week but don't take offense if I don't explain why I didn't pick your idea.

4. The image must be self-contained. Though implicit storytelling is not just allowed but recommended, no sequential stuff, i.e. I won't draw your comic. Unless you pay me handsomely.

5. The end result will be posted here. If you want a print-friendly version you may ask for it and I'll e-mail you a sizable, well-adjusted scan of the picture for you to print out. If you're feeling generous you may tip me as you wish.

If you want the actual original piece of paper you could pay-pal me the shipping costs plus any small patronage you desire and I'll mail it to you. If the instigator of the idea doesn't want the image, anyone else may request it.

6. As I hope is clear by the above, there are no strings attached. The one with the idea owes me nothing and I owe them nothing in return. I might take you up on your idea, I might not. You might like what I come up with, you might not. You could request the finished piece but you could not. This is just a community-building endeavor, not a professional partnership of any type.

So, here we go again. Post ideas in the comment-space. If you know a friend that would enjoy telling an artist what to draw, inform them of this little experiment.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

F. Nietzsche gazes into you

I couldn't ink it so I pixelled it!

Steps and such at Pixelation.


Monday, June 21, 2010

A Love Like Blood

(Click on image to download the mix)

Did I tell you about mixtapes? I love making mixtapes, or, as it where, mix-cds. Seriously, anyone that's spent more than a dozen hours with me probably has one or more cds with meticulously planned playlists on them.

Pieces of plastic are kinda out though. For the last few years I've been mostly making mp3 mixes, and predominantly of the Heavy Metal persuasion. But there's one person whom doesn't understand the internet very well, for whom I still make mix-cds for. He's my dad.

He must have a dozen mixes of mine, most themed around moods or historical periods in popular music and properly all geared towards the vain attempt to 'explain Heavy Metal' to him. Well, after ten years of trying, I think my dad gets it pretty well. He probably can't name you more than two genres of metal -although he seems to enjoy dropping "death metal, the metal of death" on me some times. I get why it tickles him, it's a pretty funny yet severe name for a music genre. Also he says "Heavy Metal" and never "metal" to me, so I've taught him well. Anyway, he may not know more than two genres or more than five metal bands by name but he sure as hell can explain to you the Romanticist onset of the genre, its lust for transcendence, its stochastic morbidity, so I'm pretty proud to say he's paid attention, and therefore through my fascination for it, understood me better too. Most dads wouldn't bother.

But that doesn't mean I'm all 'mission accomplished!' about it. I still write him new ones twice a year or so. I've written him proto-metal late sixties to early seventies only mixes (he liked most of it), I've written him genre-specific epic metal mixtapes (he liked Warlord and Virgin Steele), I've written him pot purris of 'religious music' going from J.S. Bach to My Dying Bride to Gregorian Chants to Thomas De Luis Victoria to Lordian Guard to Arvo Pert to Black motherfucking Sabbath (tremendous success). The works. I know he listens to them in the car on the way to work and back, as well as on the long treks he likes to undertake to various foreign countries (my dad is cool). I don't know how much he enjoys them really, he has low tolerances for noise and dissonance so I try to avoid anything more aggressive than Metallica, most of the time. And perhaps he's being a kind liar when he says he's into it, just so we keep communicating like this, but I take it as a good sign that he does anyway.

So I'm posting this here mostly because it's decidedly not-metal. Here's the playlist.

Sisters of Mercy - Dominion / Mother Russia
The Cure - One Hundred Years
Cocteau Twins - Wax & Wane
Husker Du - Pink turns to Blue
Killing Joke - Love like Blood
Talking Heads - The Overload
Dead Can Dance - Advent
Daemonia Nymphe - Ida's Dactyls
Fields of the Nephilim - Last Exit For the Lost
Bauhaus - All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

For anyone well-versed in dark wave, post-punk and gothic rock this compilation is laughably basic but that's just as well because my dad isn't. Actually my dad introduced me to half the stuff on here in some capacity, I heard loose The Cure, Talking Heads or Bauhaus tracks on *his* meticulously archived mix-tapes (and yes, they were tapes, numbered chronologically and with funny "I don't really know English" misspellings of band names, like 'The Beatles' became 'The Beatls' which span two decades of pop music). That's where I first heard Rainbow's 'Stargazer' and look what damage *that* did! He has some odd vinyl too, the wonderful Dead Can Dance 'Gardens of Delight' foldout, Pink Floyd's 'Meddle' and hilariously, the first Russian-sang Kruiz record that he got in his travels to the USSR. That record blew my mind, I had only heard little power metal until then (Helloween's Walls of Jericho exclusively, actually) and it was at least that good, only in a crazy moon-language.

But my dad never followed bands and genres, he just liked some songs and put them on tape, he doesn't remember The Cure, twenty years later. So when he asked me to write him a compilation that's based on 'melancholy' I thought 'I've your your melancholy right here, buddy'. Nothing more nostalgic than half-remembering One Hundred Years, (365 days x 20 years) = 7,300 days later.

(If you're asking yourself why would my dad want a melancholic mix in the dawn of a beautiful summer then I can only answer that that's my strongest proof that I'm his biological progeny.)

You can download the mix by clicking in the header image, it also has a high-res scan of the handmade cover I made for it (another tradition with me and mix-cds). Below are liner notes for the songs, if you like that sort of thing:

Sisters of Mercy

I thought it was apt to start here. I considered starting with The Doors, some Bowie and Joy Division but there wouldn't be enough time to get up to Fields of the Nephilim then (I'm something of a stickler for at least a semblance of historical continuity). That's a great way to start a record any way you cut it. I love the audacity of mr. Eldrich for putting two songs in the space of one, using the same drum machine beat all the while. I think the Mother Russia chorus will also tickle my dad, whom remains something of a Marxist-Leninist.

The Cure

You know, my threshold for morbidity in music is very high, I listen to a lot of extreme metal, Doom especially. But somehow this song is at least as effective as the more earnest metalhead attempts at 'death summoning music'.

"Caressing an old man
And painting a lifeless face
Just a piece of new meat in a clean room
The soldiers close in under a yellow moon
All shadows and deliverance
Under a black flag
A hundred years of blood

Also I enjoy how the drum machine beat is almost at the same tempo and feel as the Sisters song above. And look what I did then!

Cocteau Twins

More drum machine goodness! To be frank I don't go for most Cocteau Twins material, it's too sickly sweet for my tastes (yup, I'm a metalhead alright). But that first record, Garlands, has a very malevolent atmosphere for me even though Elizabeth Frazer is doing what Elizabeth Frazer does. It took me a while to realize why this song has the effect it has on me, it's the bass-lines. The guitar wash is vaguely chromatic with a metallic sheen, it holds no emotion for me. But the bass line is resolutely minor key and driving a mood that is commented on by Frazer, her usually nonsensical lyrics making just enough sense here, and darkly so:

"Carrying prose
Broke my real friend
The devil might steady
We wax and wane

Licking alms
The devil might steady
Rattling we'll taste
We wax and we wane"

Once this bassist was out, I was out too.

Husker Du

This is a horrifying pop song if you pay attention to it. Zen Arcade is one of my favorite records outside my usual metallic scope. I've approached it at different periods of my life, in different angles and it always leaves me richer for the attempt. I don't want to go into the lyrics of this one, they're - I hope - revealing enough for anyone that'd care to read them.

Killing Joke

Oh boy, romantic period Killing Joke. Some people hate what they were doing in the 80's and I must say I prefer 'Revelations' and 'Fire Dances' to either their early sludgy dance-punk and their latter paranoiac post-metal. But they never really put out awful records regardless of their stylistic drift over time. If I had to take only a few bands' worth of discographies with me on a desert island, after King Crimson, Fates Warning and Magma, Killing Joke would be my final choice. I really like the lyric here, it's very hopeful in its drama. 'When self-preservation rules the day no more'. My favorite thing about this song (and this period of Killing Joke generally) is how distinctively clear the work every instrumentalist is doing is. No instrument is encroaching on the space of the others and they all contribute to a simple but beautiful whole. It takes real inspiration and a lot of hard work (not to mention a smart sound engineer) for a band to sound so together.

Talking Heads

Rumor has it mr. David Byrne wrote this song inspired by what Joy Division could have been. He had been reading about them but had not yet heard them and he sat down with that inspiration and gave us "The Overload". Afterwards when he eventually heard Joy Division he exclaimed some disappointment at how 'rocky' they were. And although I disagree with his assessment (I have never felt disappointment in Joy Division, only disappointment along with Joy Division) it's pretty startling how his interpretation of the idea of 'rock dirge' is so effective. I have not heard much else that, while so sedate, has such a powerful emotional impact in me. Barring Skepticism, probably.

Dead Can Dance

After the quintessential downer that is 'The Overload' I had to pick things up ever slightly here. This is such a beautiful early song by Dead Can Dance. Here is the lyric in its entirety:

"In the hour of darkness
when our worlds collide
assailed by madness
that has plagued our lives,

On the point of departure
on the eve of despair
the recourse to reason
seems to make no sense at all

The light of hope
Shines in your eyes
Dementia has gone
Purged from inside

Throughout our wand'rings
In a land of lies
We fell from God's grace
Into a sea of storms.

In the self-revelation
Celebration of love
These bold four virtues
W seem to've left behind

Lay bare your heart
Induce the will of love
T restore what little faith
That you may have lost

As morning brings rebirth
A new day will dawn
T ease our troubled minds

Turn away on your side
and dream of days to come"

Also note I chose a Dead Can Dance song without Lisa Gerrard singing. It's not that I don't like her (or Elizabeth Frazer for that matter), it's just that I prefer my dark wave to have lyrics that make sense.

Daemonia Nymphe

This is a Greek outfit attempting to recreate in some degree the ethos and atmosphere of archaic Greek music. As we have very little historical record of how they composed and how their music sounded, it can be said that such approximations are at best inspired by the idea of Ancient Greek art than directly related to them. Nonetheless I find Daemonia Nymphe to be extremely effective in conjuring a specific mood, a prosperous meeting between Dionysus and Apollo. May we worship autumn and spring, together.

Fields of the Nephilim

When I said there's no Heavy Metal in this compilation, I lied, didn't I? Fields of the Nephilim are categorized as 'gothic rock' but from my point of view, they're a full-fledged metal band that happens to have taken their cue from the Sisters of Mercy concept instead of Motorhead. I know this point of view would be upsetting for a lot of goths and I don't really mean to bring something they love into the fold of something they hate (and do the goths hate Heavy Metal, let me tell you). I do not mean to say that it is because Fields of the Nephilim are a HM band in disguise that they are good (if anything 'metal in disguise' makes things worse). Fields of the Nephilim are good, no, great, because their spell works regardless what particular subculture the listener belongs in. During attentive listening, they enforce a world-sense that is hazy, but contemplative, lurid but energetic. There aren't many gothic rock or metal bands that can achieve this mood, and the Fields go even further from there. This song is their crowning opus in my opinion and it is not for its lyric or melodic sense. There is a sense of movement here, of a progression towards the vast unfathomable. The only disappointment is when the song ends but it is one I allow for because, for Fields of the Nephilim to attempt to describe what happens after the telos of this movement would be presumptuous. What human has moved beyond death and can come back and tell us what it is like?


And then of those that can speak of the persistent ennui far before the end is reached, what they'd say is often marked by eating sarcasm and gratuous nonsense. One tries so hard to understand,

"All we ever wanted was everything
All we ever got was cold

Get up, eat jelly
Sandwich bars, and barbed wire
Squash every week into a day

The sound of drums is calling
The sound of the drum has called
Flash of youth shoot out of darkness


Oh, to be the cream"


Friday, June 18, 2010

The artist deliberates

Reader and friend JesusGun said:
What if Nietzsche, except of philoshoper, was an artist too, and would have done a self-portrait? How would this self-portrait would be like?

Do I ink or do I let it be?


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Iphigenia's Sacrifice

This is the final image. I hope Casey likes it and if they want it they can leave me a message. If somebody else wants it, they can leave me a message too. Simple like that, sometimes.

I'll probably forego inking the ZX dragon one, I'd rather get to the second round of ideas. That'll be monday.

I killed two markers to get this one done, I must go and buy new equipment!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

If you wonder why I ink

Work in progress, of course. Click for bigger.

I get a real zen effect from inking, especially over tight pencils that don't leave much to improvisation. There's still artistic choices to make but they're few and far apart, mostly it's minute decisions about how to represent a texture or a surface and most of that's down to practice and subconscious whim. I can let my mind wonder and sort stuff out (and there's been some stuff to sort out the past week) while my hands keep active. It's good therapy. I've missed inking by hand.

I won't be erasing the pencil work beneath this after I'm done inking. It's very rarely that I let both hang together but for this piece I think it'll suit it. Usually I prefer to clean erase the final inks so that I can look at my professional and sharply inked result and pat myself on the back. But as I said there's been stuff I had to sort out in my mind the last few days and I think it's fitting that I let everything show this time. Art should reflect the emotional context around its creation. A sacrifice's not exactly something to be neat about anyway, right?

Look at the marble stone surface, that textural embellishment, one could say, is meaningless and for a comic artist that must give priority to storytelling structure and composition foremost, perhaps even superfluous (as it it might distract the eye from the relevant action). Resting in an uneasy place between fine art pretension and nitty-gritty comic craftsmanship, that sort of inking flourish has come to define my approach. It's a representation of my inner workings I suspect, every time I try to simplify my linework I feel empty inside. Every time I try to go the extra step and do proper chiaroscuro I feel inadequate and as if I'll never finish a single drawing, ever. Sometimes friends and readers comment on all the little crosshatching stuff that's going on in my drawings and remark to the effect that they'd never have the patience to do that themselves. At those times all I can think about is some other people I'm aware of who do more with simple black and white than I could ever hope to. There's degrees of patience, guys.

Some people are blessed with great determination. I've met artists who have been honing their draftsmanship with the drive of a single-cell organism. For as long as they remember being alive, they've been drawing. There's seventeen year olds on deviantart that can represent reality in their drawings ten times better than I ever could hope to. Going around on the internet browsing fine art sites is a humbling experience for most people hovering in that middle space between confident abstraction and full-on rendering mastery.

Comic artists often excuse their shortcomings by saying they focus on storytelling and/or characterization and perhaps that's true some of the time. For me, if I were to be frank, I never had the patience to be a fine artist. I've never spent more than twenty hours on a single piece of art (more like ten hours on average) and I can't see myself changing in the future. I didn't choose comics as a medium because they serve my strengths, comics chose me because it's the only thing I was capable of doing with my talents, peculiarities and temperament.

Sure, I can spend a year making a comic (I just did. It took about 900 hours of work, that's about three solid hours of drawing per day) but it's a variable loop: Idea, rough pencils, tighter pencils, inking, lettering, attachment to the storyline, go at the beginning and repeat until done. It suits me because I'm never stuck doing the exact same thing for longer than 10 hours or so. I record music in the same way, I'll compose rough segments, put down some guitar tracks, then do some drum sequencing, then some orchestration and keyboard work, then some guitars again, then some vocals, then add or change a compositional part, then pester other members to do their vocals or bass lines or whatnot, it's never a grind.

As I grow older and thankfully advance in my effort to accept myself for what I am, I'm more and more okay with that I'll never be a real fine artist and that I'll need to keep rotating my efforts in my various areas of interest if I want to get things done. I'm frankly not exactly sure how that'll pan out in my professional life, but at least in my own head I feel more and more comfortable being a jack of all trades and master of none. Society constantly pressures for specialization. An artist I knew once said 'specialization is for ants'. Perhaps that's too harsh but I'll take from that that specialization doesn't have to be for everyone.

What do you do, reader? How does it reflect on your attention span? Does it fulfill your desires or have you come to terms it never will completely? Do you spend more than ten hours a day toiling at a particular thing regularly? How's that like? Which are the zen aspects of your craft or work and which are the brain-hurty ones?


Monday, June 14, 2010

You told me what to draw!

And I drew it.

The two ideas are "I request an alternate cover to ZX, in the style of pulpy fantasy novel covers and Frazetta in general, wherein ZX is battling a dragon." by Mr. Sterling and "Iphigenia being sacrificed" by Casey.

Click and click again for bigger and better.

These are just pencils though, you have to decide which of the two I should ink this week!

Also! Also! Please, kind readers, do not read too much into the selection of the first two comments for drawing. It will not be a recurring effect. I kinda started the ZX dragon one the moment I got my first comment because I was scared that I wouldn't get any more and then the Iphigenia idea was too good to pass up so I started that the day after. Next time I'll be more patient.

But you people kept posting wonderful ideas and I kinda want to draw them all. So! I will (kinda). I'll do pencil sketches, at least, for a couple of more ideas from your first suggestion thread. Then, when we have the second suggestion thread, I'll get results from that and pencil more and post all the penciled ideas together to choose which one to ink. The idea is to make a repository of pencil sketches so there's always more to ink if I feel like it and I'm never out of wonderful reader-submitted ideas.

So, make your choice for this week, if you have further ideas-for-pencil-sketches, never hesitate. I keep a little notebook with the best ones, I won't forget.

It was refreshing to do more labored pencil work, I must say. It's been a while. Doing the ZX pencils was completely different to this because there was practically no shading, just contours and space definition. I did all the shading in the inks, digitally, but here I can't afford to mess around I'll need to know where my lights are well before I put ink to paper, there's no undo.

For the Iphigenia picture, I tried to capture her self-sacrifice, the reticence of the priest and the stoic resolution of her father, Agamemnon, in the distance.

For the ZX versus the dragon picture I was mainly going for a good composition and trying to think where I'll put the pulp-fantasy wordage in the top left corner. The unfinished pencil parts in the background is just cloud shapes that I was pretty certain I could do straight in ink.