Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter Cleaning

Looking through my Deviant Art gallery I realized that much of what I had there was extremely old. Although I realize that people often enjoy going through a gallery to see how an artist has progressed, I think I need to do a bit of cleaning. This means moving quite a few pieces over to the Scraps section of my gallery

The upside is that I’d also like to fill my gallery with newer works that are more representative of my current skill level. Therefore, I’ll be pushing hard to submit frequent updates.

The drawing to the right is the first of these new pieces. She’s a cobweb fairy, drawn in ink. She’s fairly representative of the kind of piece I would do as a character commission.

Monday, November 29, 2010

RLF Issue 1

     That's right! RLF as a comic book! And it's coming soon! All the files are prepared. I just need to finish a few dingbats and the credits page and then it'll be off to print! Of course, printing may be its own adventure, but I hope it'll go smoothly. I plan on using Comixpress. I thought about using Lulu, but they charge people far too much. Five or six dollars for a comic book? No thanks! Their interface also isn't quite as user friendly.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I just baptized a new sketch book. Lately I’ve really been trying to work on my anatomy skills. Musculature is tricky business. It helps to think of human muscles as strands woven in a basket, or braided hair. The major muscles wrap about each other, slipping over and under in mischievous ways that are, at times, counter intuitive.

            Drawing muscles can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it. Getting extraordinarily detailed renditions such as d’Vinci requires a lot of study of individual muscles. For this, I recommend “Anatomy Drawing School” by Andras Szunyoghy, which you can pick up at Borders in the bargain bin section for $10. It’s actually a reprint of an earlier book that I got long ago. Be forewarned, however, this book is deadly. It’s so hefty you could use it to beat undead with in a zombie apocalypse.

Otherwise, Christopher Hart has an very useful book called “Human Anatomy Made Amazingly Easy” for drawing simplified-yet-graceful muscles. The real boon of this book is that it looks at how muscles act in different positions- raised arms versus lowered ones, tilted heads, etc. It’s also a wee bit lighter. I suggest that you only use this book as a study for bodies, though, and not heads. For some reason the faces in it are very awkward.

            Actually, I didn’t use any reference for this drawing, and it shows. But I did this exercise to test my memory of human musculature, not how well I could draw them. In that respect I think I am improving. What I truly need to work on is how they act in different poses.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


     One of the most common questions I get about Real Life Fiction is whether Manicorn is gay or bi. There isn’t a simple answer to this, I’m afraid.

     The source of all Manicorn’s comedy lies, of course, in gender paradox. Part of him comes from the toys that I so loved when I was six. Hot pink things with so many hearts and rainbows they’d give Thomas Kinkaid a toothache. The other part of him arises from the hyper-masculine heroes that are oh-so common in comic books and action movies. In short, he is preposterous. And the fact that he is preposterous illustrates how preposterous gender is. For instance, adolescent girls are told they should like ‘pretty’ or ‘girlish’ boys. See: Justin Bieber. And yet boys are told to act like ‘real’ men, to man up, to take it like a man…and they often pick on any boy they deem girly. If that isn’t preposterous, I don’t know what is.

     However, gender and sexual orientation are two separate, though interconnected, elements of a person’s nature. Whether you like pink, blue, both, or neither does not necessarily determine whether you love boys or girls. So I do not plan on ever explicitly stating what Manicorn’s sexual orientation is. If I did, whether or not he was gay would become the subject of the joke.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back to Basics Part 1: Misshapen Things

Have a look at the pictures below. Can you tell the difference between them?

One is clearly better than the other, yet I drew them both. The difference is laziness.

Remember back in grade school when men were boys and most of them ate paste? You were probably told that everything you draw is made up of basic shapes- circles, squares, and the like. Then the art teacher probably had you draw an egg-shaped face with creepy, serial-killer eyes and no nose. Well, your art teacher was right. Everything you draw is made up of a couple of basic shapes joined together. If you lightly sketch these shapes first they will help you with the proportions for your drawing.

The thing is that artists are lazy. At least, I know I am. Drawing these basic blueprints is boring and lame. We’d rather skip right to the juicy bits- chins and fingers and eyelashes and things! But when we do this, our quality suffers. The first of the two drawings is what happens when I work without those ever-helpful guiding shapes. Sure, all the individual bits are there, but they don’t go together. One eye seems to be making a break for the ear, and the hair, I’m pretty sure, is really a toupee. She also has a broken neck.

What your art teacher probably didn’t tell you is that drawing using basic shapes doesn’t just give you a sense of proportion, but also its perspective. A case in point: our mutant girl in the first drawing has her eyes at a more frontal angle than her face allows for. That’s why one eye looks like it’s in the wrong place.

Her better looking sister, on the other hand, benefited from a blueprint of basic shapes. As I drew her I realized that the head was actually tilted down slightly and that all her facial accessories should follow suit.

Most artists I know get lazy at some point and skip this most basic of steps. We really shouldn’t be surprised at the monsters we create as a result. Perhaps we should unleash them on Tokyo…

Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Artist’s Guide to Tendonitis

            For three years now I have battled tendinitis in both my arms. At its worst, I could barely lift a pencil and couldn’t drive. And just when it was getting better, I relapsed. I put off seeing anyone about it for a long time because I, like so many in the US, have terrible health insurance.
            It’s funny…if you break a bone a bone or crack a rib, you heal in six weeks. But tendinitis can take years to heal. But although I still wrestle with it, it has gotten better. Every month there’s some amount of improvement. So for anyone out there who’s fighting this same beast, let me tell you that the pain you feel now will go away. Don’t give up. Even if you never completely heal, as some do not, you will still improve dramatically. The trick is to face it head on.
            What I mean by this is that you need to be proactive in finding treatment. I don’t just mean going to the doctor, although certainly you need to do that. You may even consider cortisone shots if your doctor suggests it. But you need to seek a range of treatments. Often there is no one magical fix, but rather a host of options.
            What has worked best for me is a three pronged approach which is as follows:
  • Physical Therapy
    A good physical therapist will give you exercises to slowly but surely regain strength, flexibility, and toughen up those tendons and muscles. They will be able to better pinpoint the exact muscles that are affected by your tendonitis. I recommend going to a physical therapist that runs their own practice, as they have seen a variety of injuries from all walks of life. They are the seasoned veterans. So many clinics these days just focus on sports injuries and the like.
  • Stretching
    I cannot emphasize this enough, but you need to do stretches. I recommend picking up a book on myofascial stretching. Although your problem may not have to do with fascia at all, I have found that the stretches in these books target specific muscle groups and do wonders for tendonitis. The trick is to perform each stretch for a long period of time- 90 to 120 seconds, 3 times each.
  • Massage Therapy
    A lot of people think of massages as a luxury. For those of us with a soft tissue injury, however, they are a critical weapon to have on the road to recovery. You see, when your tissues are injured your muscles tighten up and spasm. In later stages of tendonitis, this is usually what perpetuates the cycle of pain. A good massage therapist will be able to work on those tight muscles and loosen them over time. This allows your muscles to relax and breaks the cycle.

    Just be sure to go to a reputable massage therapist. Avoid anyone who claims to do crystal healing and opt instead for therapists who do deep tissue massage. A word of forewarning, though: you will hurt the day after a massage...but it's a good kind of pain. 
Bare in mind that I am not a doctor, but rather a fellow sufferer. My suggestions are not a replacement for proper medical advice, simply a litany of things that I have found to be useful.

The Mighty Crustacean

Artropod! A blog of class! Art and crustaceans together at last! For the first time, for the last time, forever and always! Well… no, not really. Actually this is a blog about my art- all of it.
Lobsters aside, people keep telling me I should start this thing. I’ve been a little intimidated, though. After all, there are already a lot of good art blogs out there. But in reality my trepidation comes down to horror vacui.
In baroque art horror vacui refers to the fear of empty space. That is, when the artist felt that they couldn’t possibly leave a single bare space in their work for the eye to rest and instead filled every nook and cranny with little curlicues and cherubs farting rainbows.
In my case, horror vacui really refers to the empty screen I have in front of me that I’m supposed to fill with…well, with what, exactly? That, you see, is the horrible question. Should I just post my very best work? The pieces I’d put in a portfolio? If I did that, I’d post only once every few months. I’d worry so much about what I was going to do that I’d never actually do it.
So, no, this must be something else. This will be a blog about the process of my art. My comics, my masks, my forays into crafts unknown. Be it an elaborate painting or a little doodle I did in the margin of my shopping list, I will post it. I will talk about it. And maybe I’ll improve by doing so.