It’s been a little while since I drew something for Michael Kimber at Colony Of Losers. The first few images I made for him drew from the frenetic energy and nearly desperate inspiration present in his writing on his daily battle with anxiety and insomnia. I took full advantage of the free creative reign he gave me to make pretty far-out interpretive images to accompany his stories.
Since that time Michael has in large part overcome his struggles, and his writing took on an accordingly different tone. More considered and deliberate, and more centered on the wider public issues of mental illness in general. He seemed to have broken through from his past frame of reference.
This image focuses on that change, presenting a visual metaphor for the way ideas and even personalities can change with exposure or a change of environment. In this case I felt that the more exposure Michael’s story was receiving and the more his environment stabilized, the more his writing – which had been quite molten at the outset – became tempered and solidified.
Interestingly, Michael actually wrote the piece which this illustration accompanies partly in response to the image itself. We had talked a little bit about where I was coming from with the piece and it seems to have resonated with his feelings at the time. It’s interesting to note how the style of the piece shows a bit of a return to his earlier voice while still clearly coming from a different place further along in life than where he started.
Recently I had the time to finish up a personal piece that had been sitting on the back burner for a while, mostly done but lacking those final touches. This piece is one of a series of -so far- three images based on myths and stories in the world of hockey, along with The Winnipeg Falcons and The Playoff Beard. This one deals with one of my very favorite of hockey’s weird stories, the Detroit Octopus.
The tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice at Detroit Red Wings playoff games was started in the 1952 Stanley Cup run, by the Cusimano brothers of Detroit. The legend has it that the octopus’ eight limbs represented the eight games the team would need to win in order to capture the Cup (it’s now sixteen games). The Wings won the Cup that year in eight straight games, and two more Cups in the next three years. Since the first octopus was thrown in 1952, the tradition has been carried on every single season. The NHL has tried to curb and even stop the practice, but it persists as one of hockey’s oldest and weirdest traditions.
The illustration shows the great Detroit goalie Terry Sawchuck in action against the Montreal Canadiens, with a little help from the Octopus. I wanted a composition for this piece reminiscent of the crammed battle scenes of Utagawa Kuniyoshi or the one-panel samurai fight drawings of Stan Sakai, but with hockey sticks in place of swords.
Prints of this image are available at Thumbtack Press
I was very pleased to work with AD SooJin Buzelli for the August issue of Plansponsor magazine. Plansponsor‘s content is very dry financial stuff, incomprehensible to most of us, and SooJin does a great job getting great work out of illustrators by using very simple briefs for the complicated subject matter.
In this case the article had to do with the impact of aging on retirement income, and the brief was simply ‘a beautiful image of someone getting old’. Had I attempted to illustrate retirement income I don’t doubt something very forced and probably painfully corny would have come out of it, this way I was able to really get in to the image.
Also on the table this past month was a book cover for a relatively new independent publisher Chômu Press. I had never done a book cover before, and I haven’t been asked to draw in a horror vein for quite some time (though I used to do it fairly often for CD covers) so this was a fun project.
The book is The Orphan Palace by Joe Pulver, an occult psychedelic horror tale in which the main character is possessed by an obsessive pyromania and scarred by childhood memories of electroshock torture. The idea I worked with here was to portray the character’s inner devil that drives him to arson and murder, and work in a few of the things referenced in the text like the noir paperbacks he gathers along his way, Anubis’ jackals, and of course the houses he burns as he goes. AD Anil Nataly also added another touch, placing a small rat in amongst the title lettering on the front cover. A rat becomes an important character in the story.
Below are the mock-ups of the paperback with and without lettering. The book will be released in p-o-d paperback and e-book. I think this very well may be the way of the future for small press, so that was another interesting facet of this job.
My description certainly doesn’t do justice to all that’s going on in the book, so if you want to know more and especially if you’re a fan of horror and weird fiction, I suggest you check out the details in the above links.
I’m happy to announce that I have prints available for sale at last. I had been looking for a way to meet the requests I’ve had for prints in a higher-quality, more reliable and flexible manner than I would be able to making and selling the prints myself. Enter Thumbtack Press.
Thumbtack Press, which had already been an excellent and popular online source for quality art prints for some years, came under new ownership this year and has just this past week relaunched with a new structure and design. There are expanded customer options now, including the ability to preview how a given piece might look on your wall, either with Thumbtack’s stock room photos or by uploading your own. There is also a full range of framing and matting available, and searches by artist, genre, keyword and color.
I encourage everyone to drop by and have a look, and I welcome any suggestions if there are pieces of mine you don’t see which you’d like to be available in my Thumbtack store.
Things get hairy at this time of year in the NHL, both figuratively and literally speaking. The post-season is physically and mentally grueling, and Winning the Stanley Cup is as much a testament to sheer endurance as it is to skill, probably more so.
One of the superstitions which take effect in hockey come springtime, and one of the most readily visible signs of the playoff grind, is the Playoff Beard. For those who hold to the tradition, the face goes unshaven until one is eliminated from post-season play. Not unlike the warriors in the current hit TV series Game Of Thrones, who only cut their hair when they lose a fight, a big beard in the playoffs is a sign of victory.
If you’re a hockey fan you’ll notice that in this image is Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, playing in the Stanley Cup Final series starting this week. He may seem a strange choice, as goaltenders are not as much known for the Beard due to the inconvenience of growing one under the mask (though his opponent in the Finals, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins, has been sporting a fine Playoff Moustache). But this is in fact a primary reason I chose him for the image: a goaltender sporting a huge beard is not something we’re used to seeing, which gives the image more punch and highlights the weirdness of this ritual. Also, Roberto was quoted saying that with his Italian genes it would be a dangerous affair to let his facial hair grow unchecked, I thought this was pretty funny and couldn’t resist letting my imagination run with it.
Luongo is, in my opinion, under more pressure than any other player in the post-season. His performance has been under constant scrutiny as the team’s highest-paid player and after some bad breakdowns in past post-seasons. The burden of overcoming the team’s past failures seems at time to be squarely on his shoulders. This year he has carried that burden brilliantly and has come through for the Canucks so far. Luongo’s beard in this image, along with the black eye and bandage, are symbols of all he and the Canucks have been through so far and will have to go through in the coming weeks in order to win the team’s first Stanley Cup.
As I worked on this image and added the swollen eye to the picture, the news leaked that star centerman Manny Malhotra, sidelined for much of the season with a brutal injury to the left eye, is making a near-miraculous recovery and may in fact play in the Final series. I’ll be taking this little coincidence as a good sign for the Canucks.
If my previous Canucks portrait ‘The Twins’ can be considered a sort of good-luck charm for the Sedin twins’ scoring production, this piece is a similar kind of invocation: for determination, focus and solidity between the pipes for Bobby Lou. And we’ll throw a little of that good voodoo in for Manny as well.
Inking in progress, before the decision to add the swollen left eye.
Flat color areas dropped in under the ink drawing in Photoshop. The color choice is nearly random, the purpose of this stage being to establish the separate color areas. I choose colors in high contrast to adjacent colors in order to facilitate selecting and adjusting individual color areas with the Wand tool.
Each tree is as unique as each human, with its own character and singular shape. When drawing trees, it’s all too common that we lose sight of this and draw generic shapes, almost symbols of trees rather than individual, believable trees. Eyes and hands are likewise things that often escape closer attention in drawing.
With this in mind, and wanting to get back to some raw drawing amidst all the project-and-commission-driven work, I took the time yesterday morning to visit one of Vienna’s many beautiful parks and draw a venerable old chestnut tree. I focused on this tree’s particular lean, its proportions and the distribution of its leaves. Notable at first glance is the way the foliage is much heavier on one side – next to it on the other side was another chestnut, and it seems to have chosen to spread its leaves to the open side rather than compete with its neighbour for sunlight.
In the end my attention to detail was concerned with the tree’s character and form, and I’ve taken liberties with the leaf forms and the color.
Yes, it’s another hockey drawing. With the Stanley Cup playoffs ramping up and my Vancouver Canucks doing better than they have since I was 12, and in following Marshall Arisman‘s famous advice to ‘draw what you know’, I’ve been taking the time to put a little bit of my favorite game into some illustrations.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin, more fondly known as Hank and Dank. are twin brothers from Sweden playing on the same Vancouver line. They have developed a nearly-psychic kind of Jedi teamwork on the ice that only brothers with identical DNA could manage, and it has resulted in their unprecedented domination of the scoreboards in the NHL. Unfortunately, they were slumping early in this year’s playoffs.
While the Sedins’ performance at the time I drew this in the 2nd round of the playoffs didn’t really justify their portrayal as headhunters amongst the skewered masks of the defeated goaltenders in their wake, I thought of it as positive visualisation. A little bit of illustrative voodoo if you will. As it happened that night’s game wasn’t quite the Sedin goal-scoring explosion I had hoped for, but Henrik did score the goal that won the Canucks their series against Nashville. Since then the brothers have returned to full form and are working their magic on the San Jose Sharks, one win away from the Canucks’ first appearance in the Stanley Cup finals since 1994.
To up the superstitious anty on this year’s playoffs, a member of the Canucks’ official messageboard CDC observed that last night’s victory over the Sharks – in which the brothers combined for 7 points – came the day after the Zodiac turned to Gemini, the sign of the Twins.
The Sedins themselves are in fact Libras, and I don’t really believe in such things anyway. But it does add yet another delightful bit of superstitious drama to a game already riddled with the stuff. The strange little personal routines and superstitions of the players and fans are one of my favorite points in the sport, and I chose to make one of my own with this image.