Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Warlord of Mars

The first time I heard of the John Carter of Mars series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs was my first year of art school. One of our teachers, Mark Pennington, gave us an assignment that had us drawing a scene from the first book, "A Princess of Mars".

I really had no idea what to make of some of the descriptions I read from the manuscript he handed out. The men and women of Mars wore no clothes, save for their armor and weapons. The creatures John Carter lived among and fought, the Tharks, were large green Martians with four arms, bug eyes, and huge tusks.

So, I did my best. I'm not sure how the piece turned out because it's been lost after all these years but I wish I could see it now.

So, it was the memory of how much Mark and a few of my other instructors really loved the John Carter books that made me seek out the stories now and read them for myself. Luckily, I found out that the stories, because they were written so long ago, are now free of copyright and in the public domain. After searching around the web for a good place to find the books I found a website called the Guttennerg Project. It's a project that has taken a lot of the old stories that are now in the public domain and posted them for free use on the web. I downloaded the first three John Carter books and printed them out to read.

I'm almost through with the first book and, I have to say, I'm really loving it. Just the images alone that this book brings to my head is amazing.

It also made me wonder. If these books are in the public domain, could I do twenty or so illustrations for the book, take the original manuscript, and publish my own version of the book? Something like an "Edgar Rice Burrough's Princess of Mars with illustrations by Sean Tiffany"? If any lawyer type person out there has an answer I'd love to hear it. Most people, when posed with the question answer, "sure, sounds like you could do that...it's public domain and all." But, then you mention the book you want to do is something like Tarzan. That's when it's fun to watch them back peddle a bit and step over their own feet.

Not that I plan to do a book of illustrations for the John Carter series but it would be interesting to see if it would be possible. Besides, not only was I first introduced to that fantastic world back during my first year of art school but I was also introduced to the artwork of Frank Frazetta.

And, if you have any idea about how great Frazetta is, then you know my illustrations of John Carter woudn't stand a chance.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I Know...

The inking on the OilCan Drive pages is going well. It's been a grind at times but I've widdled away at it and I only have seven pages left to go. The ink seems to have been flowing really well these last few days so I'm hoping I can keep it up and have the whole interior of the book done in the next week or so.

While riding my bike around town tonight and listening to a band called the Outlets I realized it's been a while since I talked about the music side of OilCan Drive. So, I finally got the guts to put up another very very rough idea for a new song. It took a while because, while I like the idea of this song, I'm actually singing on it as well as playing the guitar. And, like I said, it's rough.

As before, these recordings are really just meant for me to get my ideas down for the music before I forget them. Too many times, even if I write down the chords and the progression, I'll forget how the melody goes or how I'm actually strumming the guitar. So, recording these ideas has been a God send.

The idea for this song came to me really quickly on a day when I had to run out of the house in ten minutes. It started with one simple chord and when the melody came into my head I knew I had to capture that little snippet on tape. And, I had very little time. What happened from there is interesting.

What started as just one chord and a simple melody changed as I played it. You can actually hear me changing chords as my voice struggles to keep up and change the melody. And then, from no where, a chorus appears.

I think it's clear in the playing and my voice that I was definitely channeling something for a few minutes. I listened back to it and a driving drum beat easily came into my head. When I got home later that night I arranged the whole thing in a few minutes. For now, it's working title is "I Know."

So, this is a song I am dying to do a full recording of. But, like most songs, it has very humble beginnings. I hope you can hear something fun in the first attempt I had at remembering how it went. Don't judge me too harshly :)

And, if the embedded player doesn't work, you can find the original MP3 file HERE.

Friday, June 26, 2009

From the Vault - Exit 6 Alternate Covers 1999

After I ended my self published comic book, Exit 6, at the end of 1998 I thought that was it for the concept.

But, along comes 1999 and a start up comic book company approaches me and wants to republish the existing issues of Exit 6 as well as pay me to complete the series. Long meetings were held to hash out the details, contracts were signed, and we agreed that I'd do new covers for the new series under their comic label.

These are the new, alternate covers I came up with.

The good part is it really gave me a chance to rethink my initial covers and do something new on each of them. As with most of my personal colored work before 2001, these covers were all done with traditional means. I would ink by hand and the logos and comic information were pasted up by hand on the original. Then I would go to a place that had a photostat camera and have them shoot a stat so I would have a clean service to airbrush on. Then I'd airbrush up the whole thing, cover and logos included.

All in all, I was happy with the new covers.

The bad news is that after I finished these covers the guys I signed the contracts with disappeared.

Now, like most of the work I did for shady, fly-by-night companies in the late 90's who had me do work for them, not pay me, and then disappear, you'd think the story might end there. But, it didn't.

I'm not sure how long, maybe a few months or a year later, I got an email from a fan telling me he was really happy to see I was doing something with Exit 6 comic again through a company, if I recall, called Ice Comics. He had read the news on the companies website. I had no idea what he was talking about, where this website was located, or even who "Ice Comics" was. So, I clicked on a link he sent me to check out this news.

What I found was a comic called, again, if I recall correctly, "Goon Toon".

And, it looked vaguely familiar.

OK, it looked a lot familiar.

What this company had done was take the first issue of Exit 6, recolored it, and repackaged it under a new name. It listed a separate creator, writer, penciler, inker, and colorist. And, guess what? None of them were me.

I was furious. I wanted to hit somebody. The gall of some people. To just take a person's personal work and steal it in such a way made me sick. Luckily, I had some recourse. The first issue of Exit 6 was actually registered for a copyright with the US Government so the ownership of the property was all mine. I drafted a letter to Ice Press telling them as much and told them to take my work that they had stolen down off of their website or I'd have my lawyer get in contact with them. I never got a response but, the next day, "Goon Toon" was nowhere to be found on their site.

So, Exit 6 was finally done. But at least I got some new covers out of the whole mess.

The funny thing is, this wasn't the last time someone would take my work and pass it off as their own. But, that's a whole other story.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Inks

The inks on the new OilCan Drive project continue.

It's not until I'm right in the middle of doing a new comic book that I remember what a grind it is to get one done. Most single illustrations you can get in, get out, and start the next one.

But, with pages and pages of story, it just never seems to end.

The good news is that I have surpassed the half way mark and am now on the back end of the story. The bad news is that most of the "fun" pages have been inked and it's harder and harder to pull a page from the pile that turns me on and makes me want to ink it.

So, I just close my eyes, grab one, and keep inking.

Just keep inking...just keep inking...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


After a day of drumming away (I take drum lessons every other week) I found some time Tuesday night to ink the newest pin-up girl. You can click on the image to see a larger version of the inks.

I always like doing these pieces. When dealing with a nude body there aren't a lot of lines and tricks to hide behind. No clothing folds or dense shadows. Every line you put down has to be perfect because all you get is that one.

And, not only do you get the simplicity of the lines on the body but you can get a bit more detailed with the hair and the face. It's a fun exercise all around and is a nice change of pace from doing the client work, the kid's books, or the OilCan Drive project.

Next step, onto the colors.

The last pin-up girl I did I colored with a grayish purple skin. Maybe this time I'll go green...or blue...we'll see how it comes out! Stay tuned!

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Nudey Magazine Day!

Well, not really, but that is one of my favorite lines from Adam Sandler's "Billy Madison" and, given today's photo from the art table, seemed appropriate.

I found this piece I had penciled a few months ago and never got around to finishing. I guess the OilCan Drive project as well as client work got in the way and I forgot all about it until I found it today while rummaging through some pages I had in a pile.

So, now that I've found it again I think it's time to ink it up and paint it.

I really love the cheesecake aspect to the piece, how it's sexy, but still all of the naughty bits are covered. I'll take more photos and scans as this piece comes along but, for now, I thought it would be fun to share the promise of a new piece.

Have a great Monday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

From the Vault - HeavenFall 1999/2001

Back when I worked a regular 9-5 job I used to take naps in the afternoon. I'd get off of work at around 4pm, go home, and crash until around 7pm. Then I'd get up, eat some dinner, and do art all night long. I'd end up going to bed around 2am and getting back up at 7am to start the day again. In essence, I split my day into two work days, waking up for both "days" at 7am and 7pm. One day for the job type job and one day for my art. It seemed to work for me.

A lot of "regular" people said I was messing up my sleep cycle and probably wasn't getting the REM sleep I needed. How did I go into a deep sleep in such short spurts of sleep? How did I dream?

How did I dream?

I actually dreamed quite well, thank you.

The concept of Heavenfall came to me one afternoon in a dream, almost fully formed and ready to go. The dream had a gateway to Heaven, angels and demons, and Heaven's chosen champion, a kid with nothing left to lose, as the main character.

I woke up and wrote the whole thing down. In the months that followed, I fleshed out the story, did research into angels and demons, did character sketches, and wrote out a full story. I did sample art for the project and a few pages. I sent the project proposal out to every comic company I thought of to see if anyone might be interested in publishing it.

And I was rejected by every single one of them.

This is one of the pieces I did in 1999 as a sample for the proposal. It sat in my portfolio for two years before I dusted it off and scanned it into my computer to play with Photoshop. It was the first image I fully colored in Photoshop and I think it took me three days to complete. I figured, as a final touch, I'd make it into a movie poster. At that time the project seemed dead and I had nothing left to lose so why not?

I still really love the story of HeavenFall and would love to revisit it someday. After having so much fun writing an OilCan Drive film script last year I always thought, if I write another script, it will be a HeavenFall script. So, yeah, someday something more will be done with this idea.

And, the dream...I still have fond memories of that dream. One of my favorite parts was near the end. Like most of my dreams my perception shifted from watching the story, like a viewer watching a movie, to me actually inhabiting the main character. Near the end of the dream the main character, or I, was standing on a scorched desert-like landscape. The sky was covered with beautiful, fire colored red and orange clouds. It was like the end of a movie. Above me, a group of angels alit and flew into the sky.

As I looked up at them, they whispered to me from the sky...

"Just remember, we love you...we always have..."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Monkey Versus Robot

It wasn't until I took this photo today that I realized that one of the elements behind the latest OilCan Drive story is the classic battle between monkey and robot. Well, Henry's not really a monkey, more like an ass kicking, bass playing gorilla, but you get the idea.

And, in my story, at least where Henry is concerned, the poor robot just doesn't stand a chance.

This is the first page I've done in a while that just felt right. Up until now, I let a few comments about my work invade my brain. It actually slowly drove me crazy to the point where I was being super critical of every pencil line and brush stroke I put on paper. Art was no longer any fun. It was just something I did to pass the time during the day.

But, today was different. Today two pieces of wisdom came my way and made all things right with the world.

One was from a podcast interview with Brian Stelfreeze. He had two really great pieces of wisdom about art.

One was that the only one who cares if the line is exactly right or if an eye is a touch too far to the left is the artist themselves. No one else cares. As long as the art serves the story than all is well. One of his observations was that, to most people out there in the world,
Rob Liefeld and Adam Hughes look just the same. Now, I don't know about that but I can understand what he is saying.

The second piece of wisdom is that, somehow, what the artist is feeling and what they are trying to convey comes through in their art. An example he used is when he opened up a book of Japanese Manga with an immensely detailed cityscape. His first thought was, "wow, that looks difficult!" and his thought was that somewhere, sometime, the artist who did that piece was probably thinking, "wow! this piece is difficult!" So, his thinking was that if you put your heart into your art and have fun, that will show, even if the technical side of the art might be lacking.

So, that got my mindset back into just having fun. Especially with my own work. There are enough art directors and clients out there who are ready to tell me what is right and wrong with my art. Enough people out there with a million ideas of how to "fix" my work and make it better. So, why should I be one of those people when there are more than enough of them out there ready to do that job for me?

So, step one....have fun again.

The second piece of wisdom came from a six hour long interview I've been reading with Jim Steinman, the man who wrote all the music behind Meatloaf's "Bat out of Hell" albums (which, by the way, take on a whole new meaning when you learn the ideas behind almost all of those songs comes from Steinman's concept of a futuristic, x-rated, Peter Pan).

He was telling tales of his life in the music business and his dealings with Jimmy Iovine (head of Interscope records and the guy who recorded and mixed Springsteen's "Born to Run" album). It seems Jimmy Iovine always had little pearls of wisdom. And this is one of my favorites:

"You know, I always describe it as, and I'm referring to Jim Iovine again, 'cause another thing that always has stayed with me when he was mixing with me one time, every time at the same point in the song he'd get up, he'd suddenly pounce up and he'd go to one of the dials of the console and he'd turn it wildly from left to right.

He did it like eight times in a row. Every time we'd do a mix of the song. I finally said, Jimmy what are you doing? Every time that comes around you go, oh I gotta do that. He'd turn the dial left and right. He goes, oh that, well that's for the kid in Wisconsin. Every record I do I figure you should put in one thing for the kid, the teenager in Wisconsin who's in bed listening on headphones 'cause his parents don't want to hear the music and he's got, he's smoked a little dope and he's got the covers over his head and he's listening in the dark.

I think you gotta have something where it goes fast, left to right. He goes, holy shit, wow. That was the first thing for the kid in Wisconsin. To this day I've metaphorically expanded that to every song, anything for theater or a film or music that I do. I always think of the kid in Wisconsin. There's gotta be something for him and basically I always think the kid in Wisconsin still exists in the widower in Miami, the nurse in Kansas, the 50 year old business woman in Texas.

I just, thus again the teenager who never dies. I think it's the kid in Wisconsin. That's the metaphor for me. With the covers covering his head, the headphones on, escaping in the dark and you want to put the little thing where he travels back and forth, and that came from Jimmy."

So something about idea of having some kid in Wisconsin digging what you're doing resonated with me. Maybe it's the idea of the audience out there who, someday, will really enjoy your work, and doing it for them.

So, from now on I am trying to do my best to have fun with my work and put a little something in their for the kid from Wisconsin.

After that, everything seems easy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Full Circle

The new Yamaha digital piano I bought a week ago has finally found it's home in the house.

We had to do a little bit of rearranging but it's found its place in front of the blocked off fire place (that badly reproduced Back to the Future poster was good for something...keeping the wind out). It's not perfect but it's out of the way yet still close enough to play anytime I want to hit the ivories.

So, I've slowly started learning how to play. Most of the stuff I am doing is using what I know on guitar and transferring it to the keys. The keyboard, which once looked like a mess of black and white keys that I would never understand, is finally making some sense to me.

I've also started looking for songs and albums that feature piano riffs that I can learn. Right now, stuff like Bach and Beethoven don't do much for me and, honestly, seem a bit out of my league. So, I've looked into my own record collection to find a few albums that turn me on.

And, I've found two. Two albums that feature piano riffs that I love and am eager to learn. Two albums I came to know in an odd way.

When I was a teenager and living back on Peaks Island, off the coast of Maine, I held a job at the local grocery store. I would stock the milk, beer, and soda coolers. I would take out the trash, man the small video counter, and stock the shelves.

And, I would do the deliveries.

Now, the delivery truck was the first real standard transmission vehicle I learned how to drive well. It was this huge old bread truck and the only thing I can compare it to these days is the big UPS trucks. It was awesome. The gear shift actually came out of the floor so you'd have to do these massive moves to get the truck from second to third gear. I loved it.

The stereo system in it was another matter. It had this stereo that someone had probably ripped out of an old car and rigged to work in the truck. It was an old system that had only an AM/FM radio and an 8-track tape player. Yep, you heard me, an eight track.

And, it only had two eight track tapes to choose from.

What I find funny is that now, all these years later, is that these two albums that I was introduced to on eight track tape, the same two albums that kept me company while driving this behemoth of a truck around the island, are now the same two albums I am looking to for piano playing inspiration.

Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" and Meatloaf's "Bat out of Hell".

Power chords and single note riffs, here I come!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chunka Chunka?

I've been thinking a lot about music lately.

I've dusted off some old demos I've done, pulled out some old sheets of lyrics, and started looking at the bits and pieces that I hope will someday make up the first full length OilCan Drive album.

It's easy enough to post the little sketchbook thumbnails I do to work out my ideas for pieces of art. But, how do you get across the idea of a song before it's written? Unfortunately, unlike some people I've read about, the songs don't fall out of my head fully fleshed out. Most of the time they start with me mucking around on guitar. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, a melody will sing out in my head as I'm playing that riff. I just plunk around, work it out, and hopefully something worthwhile comes from it.

Monika, for Christmas, bought me a small digital recorder so I could record some of these riffs. Too many times I have a great idea for a song but, even if I write it down, I have no idea what it is a few weeks later. There is still a song title on a mocked-up OilCan Drive album sleeve that reads "Chunka-Chunka". If you water-boarded me right now I would still have no idea what that riff sounds like. So, the digital recorder has been really great.

So, here is a clip from the digital recorder of me mucking around on my acoustic guitar. It shows a bit of the process. On the recording you can here me playing the main single note riff. From there I'll figure out what chords I would play over that riff. And, in the case of this session, you can hear me even trying to figure out a decent bass line for the whole thing. All on one acosutic guitar over the course of a few minutes.

One of the things I have learned to do is after I record the riff I'll go through it and call out the chords and what I am actually doing on the guitar. It's like a little lesson from "past" me to "present" me. "Present" me can be a bit of an idiot sometimes so "past" me has to help me out as much as I can. Thank you "past" me, thank you.

So, here is the riff. I have no idea of what it might be called or if it will ever turn into a full blown song. The tempo is all over the place and every little mistake is in there. Like a little thumbnail sketch on a piece of paper, this is how I start most of the songs I write. Enjoy.

And, if the player above doesn't work, the link to the file can be found and downloaded HERE.

Friday, June 12, 2009

From The Vault - Spider-Man 2008

I know this image was put up on my previous blog but since it hasn't shown up on this blog yet and isn't anywhere on my website I figure it was fair game to be called "From the Vault".

This piece was done as part of the "Jelly of the Month", a collection of artists who, once a month, chose a random topic and then went off into their own corners to create some art. The month I did Spider-Man was, of course, for a Marvel Comics month.

It was always great to have some kind of art project that wasn't for a client and wasn't for some personal project that I could just do for fun. Unfortunately, near the end I just got so busy that I had to skip a few months. The last month the Jelly was running was March and the topic was "The Watchmen". I guess a lot of us got busy because Rob Kelly was the only member who submitted anything.

Since then it's just been quiet.

And, even though I didn't contribute much near the end I still miss the fun of just doing a fun piece of art for the sake of doing a fun piece of art. I think I really need to do more of that. Something that's not for a client, not for a kid's book, and not for the OilCan Drive project. Something that's totally random and fun and I can finish in a day or two.

Yeah, I need to do more of that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Starting the Day

The pencils for the covers of the new Jake Maddox books have been approved to it's time to get down to the inking.

These two figures did need a little tweaking so I had to draw a couple of extra legs on each of them that I'll add after I scan everything into the computer.

But, the pencils are a good start.

Now, I just need to keep it straight in my head as to what I need to ink and what I can ignore. The figures will be easy. It'll be when I get to the penciled pieces that are just legs where it might get tough. Who wants to just draw just legs, dangling there in space?

Hmmm...ghost legs....it's kind of creepy when you think about it.

OK, off to get my hands dirty with india ink!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Working Away

Not much to tell these days.

Just working away on the new Jake Maddox covers, chipping away at the OilCan Drive project, and spending time with friends.

Oh, and I bought a piano...a digital piano.

It's a lot of fun to play when I need to take a quick break from the drawing board.

It's late so I'm off to bed. I'll try and take some photos from the studio tomorrow.

Friday, June 5, 2009

From The Vault - Dark Angel 2001

I did the black and white illustration for this piece back in 2001 for a girl I was seeing at the time. At her request, she wanted herself drawn as both an angel and a devil. Me, being very much into her at the time, just couldn't refuse.

So, I did the piece, gave it to her as a gift, and was then dumped. Well, maybe not so much dumped as much as she disappeared from my life one night and I never saw her again. I think the lesson I learned is that, when a girl is moving, and she DOESN'T ask for your help in packing up her stuff and moving it from place to place, she doesn't really want you to know where she's going.

So, with her went the original but I still had a photocopy of the black and white piece. I took that copy, scanned it into the computer, and started playing around with the color. Previous to this piece I'd maybe done a few color tests in Photoshop and maybe one complete colored piece. But, even that first piece was very airbrushy and had me trying to match the effects of my physical paintings at the time. But, this was the first time that I tried doing an animated cut color technique.

And, I have to say, it worked out so well that I still use this style of color on the majority of my art to this day. It may be a bit more refined and thought out now but it all started with this piece.

So, even though the relationship went down in flames I do have to say that this girl was an artistic inspiration and I'm always glad she was a part of my life, even if just for a short time.

So, thank you Daniella, wherever you may be.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quick Breather

The first book of the new four book Jake Maddox series of kid's books has been put to rest so I've had a day or two to myself.

And, what do I do when I have a free day to myself?

OilCan Drive, baby, OilCan Drive!

After wrapping up the inking on this page I'll be a little over a quarter of the way done with the new story.

Getting there...slowly...but, it's getting there...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dracula Musical...Woo!

Well, it wasn't Bach, Beethoven, or Brahms. It wasn't Elton John, Billy Joel, or even Coldplay.

After playing around with guitar, bass, and even drums, I've always figured the next instrument I'd tackle was the piano or keyboards. Up until now looking at all those black and white keys just baffled me. But, finally, something caught my attention that made me want to start tickling the ivories.

And, no, it wasn't any of the classic composers mentioned above.

Nope, what made me finally break down and want to start learning piano was this:

God, help me.