Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This is all happening soon. Very soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Every shirt I've done for The World/Inferno Friendship Society

I used to do a lot of band merch. I do not anymore. However, my door is always open for the kids in The World/Inferno Friendship Society.

I even did a video for them what seems like a million years (1 and 3/4 years) ago.

I'm working on a bunch of new shirt designs for them as we speak. So, in honor of the ongoing retrospective thing I've been doing around here in preparation for my 30th birthday this friday, I will now post every shirt design I've done for WIFS in the past 5 years. Oh god. 5 years. I've been making tshirts for this band for 5 years. Half a decade. Longer than I was in high school. Almost as long as I've been married.

I have not put these in chronological order. Try to pick out the oldest/newest. HINT: the older ones are not very good. And most of them are old.

I'm still not sure how I feel about these.
SO DARK. The kids liked it, though.
Not sure what's happening here with the Cup 'o Tentacles.
Great song.
That stem is weirdly veiny.
This is an oldie and it is way too close to the reference material.
Ugh. This was a low point in the long history of my struggle to draw hands. We have since found ways to coexist.
Poor Peter Lorre. Totally melting. Coming apart at the seams.
I don't know if this one actually got made, but I do like how friendly and helpful the pumpkin guy looks.
Mischief! City on fire!
Not quite sure what style this is, but I still like it.
Another defeat and the hands of hands.
Look at that cat! That is an action-cat. I remember the printers screwed up this shirt and I was disappointed.

You know what? This isn't even all of them! I'm missing a few here and there.

I'm not what you would call easily influenced, but this band has left such a mark on me that I dare say they were the most important single band I discovered in my 20s. It would be hard to come up with a soundtrack to the last decade which did not heavily feature them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Showing My Work: Hemisphere Boreal

So I had this idea awhile ago, and thought that this would be a good time to try it out. You may find it interesting but it may also be terribly dull, so feel free to skip it and watch something fun.

In general, I like knowing how people make things. If like to know how the trick is done. I like to know what their influences are, what inspired them, what ideas they got from where. That's not always easy to do. You draw a picture of a horse not realizing that it owes a great deal to a children's book you recently saw. Or you draw a map that is really influenced by one you saw in a state park or something. With the recent print I made, it's actually somewhat easy to trace my influences, so I thought I'd do a post about what I used to make it and where I took those influences from.

Beyond simple curiosity, I have a few other reasons for wanting to do posts like this and for encouraging other artists to do the same. Firstly, to show that there is nothing particularly magical or superhuman about creative work. That is not to say that there aren't incredible, numinous-seeming moments of inspiration, brilliance and connection. That's my favorite part of it, and one of the things that keeps me coming back. But the vast majority of it is simple, unglamorous work. It's like writing or playing an instrument. I wish someone had showed me that at a younger age; it would have saved me years of wondering why everything seemed so much like, well, labor. It also gives you an interesting look into the mind of the artist, and perhaps it can give a sense of how their mind mixes things together. Secondly, in an era where seemingly every piece of art ever made can be viewed and saved, there is more straight-up plagiarism than ever before. Yes, everything is in some loose sense a remix, but you all know what I'm talking about here. So it's good to call out your sources and give credit to the elements that you are "remixing". Acknowledge the shoulders on which you stand. Thirdly, introducing the elements that go into your work allows others to discover those elements and points the way for them to make their own thing. If I hadn't read books about the techniques developed by early animators, I wouldn't know where to being to make a walk cycle. Showing how something is made helps others make things as well. I know a lot of artists get really insecure and protective about that kind of thing, guarding their secrets and techniques because they are afraid that they will be devalued if everyone knows how to do it. And sometimes they are right. But if we all do that, art slows down and becomes an exclusive club. And I never would have been able to make anything if there weren't other people who were open about how they make things.

So anyway.

I already spoke about the original inspiration - a big glow in the dark star chart I had as a child. I loved it so much and wish I had kept it. Imagine a big old print of the night sky. It had a few more colors than mine, but it was mostly black, white and blue. It was much larger, and it used these lovely classical-looking images for the constellations. Like line-drawings of marble statues, only instead of standing still they were whirling around the north star. So lovely. I couldn't find an image for it (it was probably from the 50's or something - I had retrieved it from a garage sale), but National Geographic has done successive versions that bear some resemblances. I found this image of a much different 1970 edition on another blog:

Still the same kind of constellation drawings. So you can already see the resemblance.

I had worked on a video earlier this year (MORE ON THAT IN A FEW WEEKS!) and in it ended up making two simple constellations of my own. That got me wanting to do a whole chart of my own original constellations. About a week into working on it I received in the mail a copy of one of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library collections. And what do you know, a few pages inside he had also done a glow in the dark constellation chart with his own constellations. His was different enough from what I was going for, but it still gave me pause. He is already a huge influence on me and we also share a lot of influences (particularly old turn of the century ephemera, full of detail and ornamentation). I had no hope of surpassing his ideas and execution so I abandoned the idea. This happens to me a lot - I start something and, a week or so later, see something I like that is similar enough to it and it takes the wind out of my sails, perhaps out of intimidation and perhaps out of a fear of inadvertently ripping it off. I'm sure other people have similar issues. I couldn't find a good picture of Ware's incredibly ornate star chart, but here's a sketch of it, courtesy of this site:

And another print he did with his own constellations:

Again, you can see the influence.

I started over, less interested in making my own constellations than doing something of a classic chart. I really love art that is in some way informative or educational (and I'm not alone in this). I once met a girl who was a cartography major and after the initial wtf moment, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was also one of the only times in my youth in which a girl approached me, but I didn't notice because HOLY CRAP YOU'RE A CARTOGRAPHY MAJOR? Who doesn't want to just make maps and maps and maps? I think she gave me her number (shocking, I know!) but I was still just interested in hearing about map-making. Anyway, back in the present, I regrouped and started looking for some good reference material. Thankfully, I had the internet!

Dopplemayr's atlas was a great place to start. When working on something like this it's nice to remember that you are merely the latest in a long, long line of people who have done it. We all look back and find the vocabulary that works to express something.

Fortin gave me a name. Well, it's not really a name, it's just a label. It means northern hemisphere. I think it was attractive to me because I've always found the term aurora borealis to be one of the most beautiful word pairings ever conceived. Screw your cellar door, Donnie Darko.

I knew also that I didn't want to do one of those perfectly round maps. Something close to the Mollweide projection was what I was after. The shape of it always reminds me of an eye. In trying to find a way to get the exact view of the heavens I wanted, I discovered one of the best things I've seen this year.

Stellarium is an open source planetarium program. It is free and it is wonderful. You should be downloading it now. Seriously. Do it. I'll wait. It was incredibly helpful to me in terms of figuring out the placement of the constellations and how they related to one another. I wanted there to be some little bits of interplay between them, so this was invaluable. Stellarium has some lovely constellation designs, as well.

After finding all of that, I just sat and drew and drew and drew. I added the phases of the moon because every big map needs those 4 corner bits. Old world maps had the four winds, Dopplemayr had little angels, Ware had his virtues, even the old National Geographic star charts had different planets in the corners. It just felt wrong to leave them bare. I wanted to stick with things you could easily see in the night sky, and we just so happened to have a massive full moon on the night I was making this part. So the moon crept into the corners of the chart. I wanted something to read as well, and constellation lore is fascinating and not particularly well known, so it went in.

And that was pretty much it. Well, that plus a lot of drawing and redrawing and checking and obsessing and worrying that it wasn't very good. I do too much of that.

Anyway, now that you've read this whole thing, I have an assignment for you: make your own. Take these influences and whatever else you like and make a chart of your own. It's a big undertaking but in the end I think you'll find it was worth it. And I'd love to see it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tadly Weeklies #12

Tadly can sing mostly on key, and the bear can almost play the concertina!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hemisphere Boreal and some notes on the ghosts of bad art past

Look! I made a print! It's a nice one too, I think. It's available for sale here. It's a big 18x24 3-color print on 140lb black Speckletone French Paper (ooh la la!) and it GLOWS IN THE FREAKING DARK. It contains 32 labeled constellations, 4 phases of the moon, some constellation lore and a bunch of other details. It's in a limited edition of 100, signed and numbered. When they're gone, they're gone. This thing is quite thick and substantial-feeling, too. If you bought 5 or 6 of them, i do think you could construct a sturdy little house out of them. Proceeds from this will mainly be going to getting set up to make loads more prints regularly. The plan is to do giclee prints on a regular basis and big scary screenprints every couple of months. You can help make this happen!

Earlier this year I did a music video (which hasn't been released yet, but you'll definitely dig it when it is). The video involved a constellation as a central element, and it got me wanting to draw some more. When I was young, I used to get boxes of old National Geographics from garage sales. One of them had this big fold-out star chart that glowed in the dark. I loved mythology and would stay up reading about constellations and the myths behind them in our Collier's Encyclopedias. It was so cool to look up into the sky and see the same things people saw there millennia ago, and read the ways they made sense of them.

As a side note, I think my greatest achievement as a child was reading our entire series of encyclopedias front to back between 2nd grade and 5th grade. It's one of those things you can't boast about without sounding like a self-satisfied jerk, but seriously, I think you should have some bragging rights for such a feat. Other kids were all-county in track, or won a spelling bee, or actually did homework. I sat in my room and read the encyclopedias. I remember one of the yearly supplementals (88 0r 89) had this big awesome section on bats for some reason. That was great. I did an extra credit report on bats to make up for the homework I didn't do.

Anyway, my fond remembrance of those olden times and my evergreen love of cool semi-educational stuff lead me to want to do a star chart of my own.

I drew it in early April, right after completing the aforementioned unreleased music video. I used a large amount of resources for visual reference and read much more about the stars and the constellations themselves than I ever had before. The whole design took a couple of weeks to get through, partly on account of the work I was doing for Riverlife at the time.

As mentioned earlier, like all good star charts this one glows in the dark. The designs are different in the dark - the moons have faces, Hercules is wearing the head of the lion, and so on. The glow in the dark looks like faded grey in normal light, but when charged this thing really shines in the dark.

In making this, I also learned how to photograph glow in the dark stuff. I am ashamed at how long it took me to get it looking good.

Anyway, this the first print in what is hopefully a long series. I have a lot of ideas I'd love to do! Stay tuned. In the meantime, if so moved, go and grab one for yourself. Bethany, Ico and I would very much appreciate it.

Bethany not included with purchase.

Oh, and the print was hand-screened by my friends at Commonwealth Press. More on that specific process soon, but for now let me say this: they are just fantastic. I've known those guys for years, have worked with them a few times and will continue going back until they grow tired of me. If you are ever in need of some expert print-makers, do make it Commonwealth Press.

Note: I used to sell prints at my Etsy shop in 2006, and 2008. If you were ever interested in how my art has evolved over the years (ie:how awful I was 5 years ago), looking at past sales there is as good a way as any. I had only really started doing a digital art in 2004, and I really had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was a late entrant into this whole world. You younger guys and gals who are reading this - you've got time.


I think I'm making some statement here. I'm not sure.

I suppose I didn't really come into a style of my own that I was happy with until 2009 sometime. I spend about 5 years trying to draw like other people. That's a long time. It makes me happy/wary that the things I make now may seem to me in 2016 as things I made in 2006 do to me now. That was a confusing sentence. There was one print from 2008 that I still dig and would like to rework.

We'll see...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy 25th, Metroid!

Super Metroid. Be still, my heart. I want to go play it now.

Gametrailers did a decent-sized video series on the Metroids a couple of years back. I think it's worth a watch. Check it out here.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Tadly Weeklies #11

He doesn't even meow correctly.