It seems to be a bad year for my little cat friends. An old buddy/ex-bandmate, John Skaritza, from Richmond asked me to paint a portrait of his ailing furfriend, Shumai. She passed away before the portrait was finished, but hopefully this will serve as a nice memorial. The fact that she's primarily black and the reference photo was kinda blurry made this especially challenging, but I think it turned out pretty well. Shumai, you will be missed!
Sorry for the forced sabbatical. The ol' computer was in the shop (broken disc drive one month after the warranty expired) for a while.
We decided to significantly pare down the Hanukkah/Xmas gift-giving extravaganza around here this year, so we decided on one big present each for Hanukka and one small one for Xmas.
Every year I try to get an artist both Karen and I like to do a portrait of Pony, so this year Jeffrey Brown was nice enough to do the honors. Like myself, he's a big fan of cats so he suggested including Lucy in one of the usual stand-offs between warring factions Ponysville and Lucillistan. I laugh every time I look at it, and hopefully Karen does, too.
Karen's gift to me was, I'm assuming, inspired by the tedium of seeing me drag out the same bear costume that I've been using since my friend Ben Snakepit (nee White) donated it to me in 1996 or so. Granted, I always switch up the theme (carrying a Torts law book = "Bearly Legal", Wearing moustache with halved baby doll attached = "Beart Reynolds & Dolly Partin'", etc.), but she's not as big a fan of puns as I am. So, now I have a whole new theme to work with, as well as being able to represent one of my favorite primates: The Gorilla. Behold:
Sorry for the screaming all caps subject heading, but I'm excited! I just opened an acceptance letter from the Xeric Grant Foundation. That means that I'll be getting a cash award to publish my first solo collection of comics. From everything I've read, it's a total headache, and you can count on breaking even at the very best. I've never been a good businessman, so I suppose it will be business as usual. I'm just eager to learn about the printing process, the advertising & promotion process, and the dwindling funds process first hand.
I struggled a lot with this little guy's face, but I think I finally nailed it. The background color palette harkens back to the days when I'd use harshly bright primaries right out of the tube, but in this case I think (hope) it works.
I also started a portrait for my old pal John Skariza from Richmond. His little buddy is very sick, but hopefully she'll muddle through. This portrait should be very challenging since the photo is somewhat blurry and the cat is mostly black. We'll see what happens!
Another good friend (and talented photographer) Aubrey Edwards' poor kitty, Harry, had to be put to sleep this week. I know it's never an easy decision, having just been through it with one of my cats, but sometimes you have to let them go so that they don't suffer. Here are a couple of portraits Aubrey snapped before heading to the vet. R.I.P., Harry!
Our ex-roommate, Chris, has told us about past holiday parties at his work in which the owner puts up $1,000 for the winner of a fried cheese ball eating contest. There are different rounds in which speed is usually a factor (three balls in under two minutes is the general rule). Each ball is a bit smaller than a tennis ball. Sometimes they'll have to eat jalapeno poppers or chug a full glass of Coke in 30 seconds.
I've begged Chris to get me into one of these, and he came through on Wednesday. His boss allowed Karen and I to attend (we were the only non-employees) under the condition that we not bring a camera. This only made it more intriguing.
We got there about an hour before the contest, but we were entertained by people riding the giant mechanical bull. The guy controlling the bull was beyond ennui...he seemed depressed. I ended up watching him more than the people riding the bull. Everyone would be freaking out and cheering, booing, whatever, and he'd be absolutely nonplussed.
When the cheese ball competition started, Karen and I squished into a spot right at the front of the long table. It was the perfect view of all involved. The referee stood above them yelling into his bullhorn, forcing them to wolf down the giant disgusting cheese balls (in fairness, Karen wanted one very badly, so I guess they're only disgusting to us vegans). The climax arrived when, as Chris had promised, a guy puked into his lap. Apparently, this year was much tamer than last with only one guy throwing up, but hey, I enjoyed it immensely.
We were in the perfect spot for wonderful photos, but as I mentioned, we weren't allowed to have cameras. Sorry!
Here's a new painting of a bunny wearing a pirate's hat. You might think the person who commissioned it would be a Williamsburg hipster or something, but you'd be wrong. He's a middle-aged realator who drives a BMW or Mercedes or some such sports car! I love when people defy my expectations.
You all know how I loathe the winter. Well, last year I found the silver lining to the black cloud that is November through March: Honeycrisp apples. Every sunday I stock up at the farmer's market near my apartment. I recently discovered (via a random poster somewhere on Orchard St.) that Honeycrisps have only been around since the early '90's. Oh man, they're delicious.
In other food-related news, I've been experimenting with recipes I wouldn't usually make, hoping to shake things up. Last night I made a roasted root vegetable dish (along with a snow-pea shoot based salad with tahini-vanilla dressing). The verdict: I still don't like beets, but the rest (parsnips, yams, carrots) were good.
In art related news, I went to a couple of good shows this weekend.
My old bandmate/buddy Marty Key plays with Ted Leo & The Pharmacists now, and they played a benefit where they first played a set of their music, then played backing band for live karaoke. Andrew W.K. was the emcee. Several people wanted to do karaoke versions of Ted Leo's songs. Personally, I would find it strange to sing someone's songs while they were right behind me, especially if I didn't know the words and pretty much slaughtered it. But, apparently other people didn't feel that way. I was feeling kind of sick when I got there, but the healing power of rock n' roll cured my sore throat.
The other show was of the visual art variety. My pal/ex-coworker Jay Pluck curated a collection of paintings by ex-Utrecht employee Zoe Nelson and current Utrecht customer Joseph Greenberg. It was incredibly packed, and we couldn't see the artwork, so we stayed long enough to say hi to our friends and then got some dinner. I can't remember ever seeing Joe so happy, so that was gratifying. He's actually the guy that led me to draw my "Old Man Winter" comic. The character doesn't look like him, and hopefully the events are not in any way predictive of his future. He always talks adoringly about his deceased wife, and you can tell how much he misses her. The essence of that loneliness was the germ of the "Old Man" comic.
I finally heard back from Prometheus, the publisher of "Slaughterhouse" (I'm hoping to create a graphic novel adaptation of Gail Eisnitz's powerful & provocative novel). Basically, they said I'm welcome to go ahead with it, but any publisher that wishes to publish it will have to pay royalties to Prometheus since they own the copyright. Gail herself seems excited and helpful. She's sent a huge pile of interview transcripts which I've been upsetting myself with.
Comics do not, as a general rule, make much (if any) money. Therefore, the cards are stacked against me getting this published. Publishers already have to contend with the printing, distribution and advertising costs, so I'm sure they'll be delighted to hear about an additonal royalty having to be paid out. Ah well, I'm going to draw a few chapters to submit and see if I get any positive reactions or offers. Wish me luck!
Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. We went to Karen's cousin, Nomi Silverman's house. She always makes way too much food, and she always makes a gazillion different dishes (she obviously loves cooking, so I suppose to her it's not too much or too many). I brought along my requisite Tofurkey, non-dairy garlic mashed potatoes and wheat-free (for Karen) stuffing.
We got to look at a series of Nomi's new work for a show that opens this week in CT. It was very powerful, graphic b&w etchings and lithographs dealing with Matt Shepard's beating & murder at the hands of two homophobic men that happened several years ago. She used the stations of the Cross as image inspiration and metaphor.
Tuesday I finally finished up the portrait of Tatum's (deceased, R.I.P.) Scottish Terrier. I also continued work on Wilfredo the Chihuahua and started a new commission of a lop-eared rabbit wearing a pirate's hat. It's times like these that I thank whoever/whatever's responsible for my being paid to paint Pirate bunnies. It also reminds me of my own childhood bunnies, Dudley & Kimper and their little duckling pal, Gomer.
While waiting for the affadavits, photos & interviews from Gail to start the Slaughterhouse graphic novel I started on a less serious comic. I've always loved collecting notes, letters, grocery lists, etc. that somehow find their way onto the public sidewalks and streets. I have a huge file in my file cabinet full of these treasures. A few years ago, I stumbled upon a magazine called "Found" that collects such detritus and publishes the most interesting every so often (they've also put out two books of 'greatest hits'). I kept meaning to sort the wheat from the chaff of my own collection to submit to Found, and I finally did so. However, rather than just send them along, I thought I'd include a comic detailing the circumstances in which I found each item. So, without further ado, here is the first installment.
I'm intending to add some other drawings in that expanse of white space in the journal pages, but here's what I have so far...
(Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge)
The portrait of the Scottish Terrier is almost done. I thought it was finished, but there's something not quite right with the background....it's a little too sparse. I might scumble in some texture or something.
I started working on a new portrait of my first long-term girlfriend's current girlfriend's chihuahua. I was getting very frustrated with the face because Wilfredo (the chihuahua) has a very cute & expressive punim that I just couldn't capture correctly. I rubbed out his face several times, and I think I at least got the proportions correct this time. I'm going to let it dry for a week and try again 'cause it started to get muddy.
We went to a couple of our friends' art openings on Saturday. The first one (Anne Hall's) featured a creepy dude wearing a laytex mask that was a replica of Anne's face. He was writhing on the floor amongst a bunch of cloth tentacles when we walked in. Pony did NOT like it (see video). The next show was curated by the legendary Jay Pluck/Dunlap and featured animation shorts by one of my favorite Utrecht workers of all time: Stephen Key. He also happens to be from my home town in Georgia, so he gets bonus points for representing the dirty dirty South. There were other Utrecht old-timers there as well, although some of them didn't cram into the photo here.
In other important news, Karen and I watched an amazing documentary on monkeys on PBS. I think it was just called "Nature". There were a bunch of weird primates I'd never seen (and believe me, I keep close tabs on the primate world). My favorites were these guys that could literally flip their (huge) flaps of skin over their gums up to expose their (huge) gums. It was simultaneously terrifying and delightful. I got so excited during the program that I had an impulse to throw the TV out the window (it doesn't make sense, I know).
Man, oh man! I was very disappointed to not get that job doing 1,000 illustrations for the South Korean textbook, but I received very amazing news today:
Gail Eisnitz, author of the incredible book "Slaughterhouse" has given me permission to adapt her expose into a graphic novel. Now I need to get permission from her publisher (so I suppose I shouldn't get too excited just yet). I can only describe my mood as "giddy".
If you haven't read this book, please do so immediately. It's incredibly powerful. Most books I read about animal welfare issues (and I read a lot of them) tend towards being dry and factual. "Slaughterhouse" is informative yet highly gripping...it's hard to put down. I would imagine that if I weren't already vegan this might do the trick.
Oh man, Karen and I finally made it to The Village Pet Store And Charcoal Grill art installation by Banksy. It was the last day (halloween, appropriately enough), so I don't know if the capacity crowd was an anomaly. If you missed it or don't live in NYC, I highly recommend visiting the website to watch the videos of the exhibits posted there. It was a series of animatronic scenes dealing primarily with animal welfare issues in a humorous yet thought provoking manner. Truly amazing.
The proximity of my favorite restaurant, Red Bamboo, was also a nice bonus to the day. Oh yeah, and we ran into the halloween parade led by a gay & lesbian marching band precluded by around 150 cops. The sheer amount of police lined up was so overwhelming that I had to run back and film them. I walked at a normal pace, and it took me around 38 seconds to reach the end of the line of cops (they were packed together 3 or 4 deep!).
I got some more work done on Tatum's scottish terrier (R.I.P., little guy). The fluorescent lights really throw off the color in this photo, but you get the idea. My father-in-law's suggestion to obliterate the ochre/greenish color at the bottom helped immensely. That guy's a genius when it comes to painting. Some of the drawings he did during the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott were bought by a museum in Oberlin, OH, so if you happen to live there, be sure to keep an eye out!
I'm not spreading the gospel, I'm (hopefully) spreading the English language. I'm in negotiations to do about 1,000 illustrations for a South Korean textbook that will be used to teach English. So far they seem receptive to my cost and enthusiasm for the project, so cross your fingers for me! It would be a TON of work, but I sure could use the money.
The Halloween Dog Parade at Tompkins Square Park was out of control. Each year it grows exponentially. When I was trying to get past the gatekeeper to get to my "post" (I stand right by the gate opening and hand out my promo cards to every person that walks in...they probably think I'm giving them official registration business) people were basically rioting to get in. One older lady was literally yelling at the gatekeeper to let her in even though the event hadn't started yet. When I was allowed in, she became even more visibly and audibly enraged.
This snapshot doesn't do justice to my favorite entry to the contest. There was even a little stereo playing old-timey barrelhouse music. Karen pointed out that the main attraction had a raging boner.
That morning I got to catch up with an old high-school friend of mine, the honorable Chad Wiener. In high school he was in a punk band called "The Midget Farmers", had a giant tattoo on the side of his head (keep in mind that this was in the early 1990s) and wore a kilt every day. Now he has a PhD in philosophy and is a respected teacher.
The Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade has been moved to tomorrow (it's supposed to rain today), Sunday at noon. I'll be there handing out promo cards for my pet portraits, so come say hi. If you dress your dog up in some embarrassing manner, or better yet dress both yourself and your dog, you could win a variety of prizes including a gift certificate from yours truly, an ipod, or a plethora of other stuff.
I too lazy to find my photos from last year's event, so instead I present to you a series of photos taken while Karen dressed Pony in his winter clothes (he only makes the angry face for the four seconds it takes to put the coat on, so I have to act quickly to capture the intense anger). Once he's in the clothes, he's totally fine with it.
I just finished another pet portrait in the traditional style. It's my childhood friends' dog "Pete Meat". I think it turned out pretty well. I don't know why I'm drawn to keeping the backgrounds so vague and ethereal. Is it because I'm lazy or is it because I want to draw all attention to the subject? You decide.
Now I'm working on a posthumous portrait of Tatum O'Neal's scottish terrier. I liked the very very loose quality of just blocking in the darks that I did the first day so much that I'm tempted to stop working on it and leave it as is. I should probably take it as a sign that this portrait will go well, though, and keep going.
In honor of Snoop Doggy Dogg's birthday today, I present a stunning portrait painted by Alex Melamid now showing at The Forum Gallery in L.A. This current show features paintings of various hip-hop stars (50 Cent, Kanye West, Russell Simmons, Lil Jon, Reverend Run, etc.) done in the old masters style.
I can't wait until the show comes to New York (January, I think).
In order to somehow incorporate a shameless plug for myself into this thread, I'm also posting a photo of one of my traditional pet portraits of...Pony Doggy Dogg!
Editors Note: I just realized that Snoop's birthday is actually tomorrow...sorry, Snoop!
I sent out a bunch of cards with this image and a written plea out to some of my favorite comic artists in hopes of getting feedback/criticism on the comic collection I've submitted for the Xeric grant. So far I've sent it to Chris Ware, Jordan Crane, James Kochalka, Jeffrey Brown, Julia Wertz, Graham Annable. I'm planning on also soliciting Paul Hornschemeier, Raina Telgemeier, Jeremy Tinder, Kevin Huizenga, Seth and Renee French.
I already feel star-struck.
I'll be handing out promo cards for my pet portraits at The 18th Annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade. It's next Sunday, so start sewing your poor dog's costume. They give away lots of prizes (including a gift certificate from me), so why not degrade yourself and your loyal companion?
Also, while you're in the neighborhood, walk by The East Village Groomers (Ave. B between 13th & 14th sts.) and check out my pet portraits and prints hanging in the window. Hell, bring your buddy along and have him/her shaved. I got Linus the "lion cut" there, and look how sharp he turned out (see photo)!
So, being the masochist that I am, I've applied for a self-publishing grant from the Xeric Foundation. I've gathered a bunch of my comics, including a long one loosely based on an old man that comes into Utrecht Art Supplies (I work there one day a week). He breaks my heart every time I see him. Getting old is a bitch.
Part of the process of putting together the application was getting cost estimates for printing. This has been a real eye-opener for me. It's no wonder nobody makes any money from publishing graphic novels! It also makes me that much more appreciative of the bells & whistles people like Chris Ware and Jordan Crane work into their book designs. Anytime you see a die-cut cover or even something as simple as an untraditional sized cover you know it cost some bucks.
I'll hear back from the Xeric Foundation in November (I think), so wish me luck. Or don't.
You can see most of the comics I'll be including here. I don't think I'll be able to afford to print them in color, so revel in the dizzying full color while you can!
I've always hated the word "blog", and it's prevented me from starting one. I am also a luddite, but it's a hurdle I've had to overcome in the name of making a living. So, welcome me to 1998 or whenever it was when people started to blog. I like to stay a good ten years behind technology, so I'm actually right on time. My wife forced me to have a cell phone about two years ago, and now here I am blogging. Sigh.