Tinged with nostalgia. That’s what the glasses I’m looking through are. I say that because I decided to pull out some old artwork to write about and I picked some painted comic book pages that I made sometime in the mid 1990s. I really wish I had dated stuff back then but I didn’t. These pages are from when I was first learning to paint with gouache and I decided to paint a short ten page comic story. I figured that was the best way to do a lot of painting at different sizes and get a good learning experience. Looking back at the pages they are solidly mediocre but I can see the beginnings of how I later painted with gouache in a much better way.

I pulled out just two of the pages to look at because that’s all I need at the moment to give them a good examination. Each page is thirteen by nineteen inches and the first has five panels on it and the second six. That’s eleven small paintings. That’s a lot of painting.

The first page has the general style of the whole piece. There is an illustrative realism to it. I think I photo referenced a lot of the figures in the story so they came out a lot more life-like than if I tried to make them up out of my head. I think the first panel is pretty good. A close-up on a face and hand. I worked best with this technique at a larger scale. Every artist has a scale and mine tends to be large rather than small. The hand is a little thick and clunky and the hair lacks technique but I like the mouth and teeth. Still, I was never that good at realism. It doesn’t suit me. I like the geometry of the objects in the background better than the face in the foreground. I could have really made something out of that poster behind him.

Page one panel two is adequate at best. I like some of the shadows on the floor but the foreshortening on the arm and hand do not thrill me. I almost pulled off the rest of the figure but didn’t get any good shadows to root him to the spot. It’s not like he and the bed are floating but they almost are.

Panel three might be the second best panel on the page. The guy is painted okay and this time I almost pulled off a good hair technique. Illustrative painting is all about technique and I didn’t know enough of them. Of course that’s why I was doing this story. To learn. I like the hand this time and the watercolor marks behind the figure. The coat he has his hand on is only meh. Over all it’s the middle of the road.

Panel five is a complete failure. I did not get enough form in the coat he’s putting on. This one makes me wince.

Panel six is not terribly interesting. I can tell I put a bit of work into it but in the end it’s just a door on a screened in porch. The screen technique is almost there but not quite. I barely even noticed the car driving away in the background.

I was actually surprised when I flipped the page and saw the second page of these two. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at these pages but I bet it was twenty years ago. I don’t remember much of the story and it hasn’t sat well in my memory. I mostly remember it as a learning experience and not something to be proud of and show off. So it surprised me when I saw this bright green, red, and blue page.

The first two panels are more typical of the story. The close-up on the face is well done this time. I like the way it’s cropped and I think the sun glasses add some visual interest to it. Panel two is a solid little landscape. It isn’t spectacular but it’ll do.

It was panels three through six that surprised me and made me feel nostalgic. It looks like a flashback dream sequence (I’m not even sure since I can’t bring myself to read all the pages right now) so I moved it into the realm of the weird. As it turned out later in my artistic life the realm of the weird is where I excel.

In panel three the black shovel is particularly powerful. There are black borders throughout the pages but otherwise I wasn’t using much black at all. It was all color paint. So the sudden intrusion of a black silhouette is startling. The black shovel continues into the next two panels but mostly as a storytelling thing rather than a big presence like in panel three. Its presence gets bigger again in panel six as it gets bigger and cracks the dream head. I’m not sure about those shovel motion lines though.

It’s the color and line work that I like in panels three through six. The line work is mostly lines following the planes of the muscle forms but they vibrate well with the blue, red, and green all making my eyes go kablooey. It works. The story got interesting for me here.

It was these panels that triggered the feelings of nostalgia for me. The rest of the story was okay and an learned a lot doing it but in the end it was the weird panels that were my way forward. That’s not to say I didn’t try my hand at other realistic type techniques. I did continue with that after this but they all ended up nowhere. I’m just not a realistic artist.

Oddly enough despite realism not having a big place in the fine art world it’s generally the most encouraged form of art around. I think its that people respond best to it. If you can paint a chair that really looks like a chair people say, “Cool, that really looks like a chair.” But if you paint an odd creature from the edge of imagination they often have no idea how to react. So the real gets encouraged by default and artists try to paint that way even if it doesn’t suit them. And it didn’t suit me despite my trying.

What suited me was this dream sequence. I had drawn many dream like things before but I think this one showing up in an otherwise realistic endeavor made me realize I should abandon the real and enter the dream. It suits me. Now I’m nostalgic for that epiphany.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.

  • East of West – 36
  • Frankenstein Alive Alive – 4
  • The Highest House – 1
  • Uber: Invasion – 12
  • The Walking Dead – 177
  • The Wicked + The Divine – 34
  • Strangers in Paradise – 2
  • Check them all out here:

    It’s a lot of work to look through photos. Especially if I’m looking through photos for ones I want to work with. To make into something. To create something out of. In these digital days it’s actually easier to look through photos than in the non-digital days but digital also means it’s a lot easier to take photo so therefore I have a lot more of them to look through.

    I took my first photo class back in the Spring of 1985. I learned how a camera works and how to print black and white photos in the darkroom. Though I enjoyed working in the darkroom I only had access to one for that semester and the two after it. Since then I haven’t done a lick of darkroom work. I still took photos back in the film days but brought them to one of the many photo processing places that were around then. I would drop the film off and in a couple of days it would come back developed with four by six inch prints of each photo. Usually I would get double prints because it was only a dollar or so more.

    What I took pictures of in those days were mostly friends and family at parties and gatherings. I kept the good photos in photo albums. Maybe half to two thirds of the pictures in any given roll of film were good enough to put in the album. I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the bad photos because often there was some piece of it that I liked. A face here, a figure there, maybe a part of the background, I could find something to like in most of the bad pictures. So I threw them into a box.

    It wasn’t until sometime in the mid 1990’s when I saw some photos that David Hockney was doing, he was cutting them up and pasting them down, that it occurred to me that I could use just the good parts of the bad photos. I began cutting up my bad photos and rearranging them into something new. In order to do this I had to look through all the photos.

    I had a box full of a few hundred four by six photos. It was a chore to look through them. Eventually I arranged them into a few topics, single person, a few people, a group of people, landscape, buildings, objects, and whatever else I could think of. That made it easier but it was still a chore. Especially since they weren’t good photos to begin with. But whenever I needed some pieces for a new work I trudged through them.

    These days it’s a lot easier to look through photos on a screen. When I first went digital back in the late 1990s it was much harder. There weren’t many photo organizing apps and I had to open each photo in Photoshop to look at it. After a few years I found an app called Photogrid that I used all the time. It was made just for looking at photos. I’d point it to a folder of images and it would display them in a grid. Being that it was somewhere around the early 2000s the app was slow. I had to make 72dpi versions of all my hi-res photos in order to speed up their viewing.

    These days there is all sorts of photo management software. Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and others make apps to help organize, view, and edit photos. I don’t use any of those. I organize my photos on the file and folder level. I decided, back before any of these programs came out, that I didn’t want to depend on one only to have the company change or discontinue it. I was spending a lot of time scanning and organizing my photos and that time would be wasted if I had to start over again because of some app I was using.

    I mostly shoot street photos these days. I still take photos of my friends and family but there are not as many get togethers as there used to be. That and when I shoot street photos I use burst mode and shoot for a five or six hours on a Saturday. I can easily end up with four thousand images shooting that way (that would have been an impossibility with film and photo paper) and end up with a ton of photos to look through.

    When I get home from taking street photos I make a new folder with the date, place, and any event that might have been happening. Usually it’s Bryant Park and street photos but sometimes it’s other parts of the city. It’s easy enough to look through the photos in the folder nowadays. I don’t even need an app. I just open the folder, hit command four, and the folder switches to “Cover flow” view and gives me a large preview of the photos. The I hit the up or down keys on the keyboard to scroll through the images. I can even look at them on my iPad these days. I have an app called “File Browser” that lets me use my iPad to look at files on my computer. It preview the photos on a grid and I can enlarge any one of them I want to see.

    So now the physical aspect off looking through photos is much easier but the mental aspect is harder. I used to have a few hundred photos in a box. Now I have four thousand photos in a folder. And that folder is just for one day’s shooting. I usually choose just one day’s shooting at a time to look through. Today I picked the folder from September 10, 2016. It took me hours to look through and find something I wanted to work with. I scrolled through each photo, one by one, and as something caught my eye I’d look at the photos surrounding it to pick the best one. Then I’d mark it with a label and move one. Over and over until 4400 photos were looked at. Now I need a break.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got three new comics.

  • Saga – 49
  • The Amazing Cerebus – 1
  • Multiple Warheads – One Shot
  • Check them all out here:

    I decided to revive an old favorite this week and do some drawing on stretched canvas. The first time I drew on stretched canvas was back in my art school days in and around the Fall of 1987. I started painting on stretched canvas the year before and did some drawing on the canvas then but that was fairly perfunctory drawing. It was a little bit of drawing that had to be done in order to complete a painting. But then in the Autumn of 1987 my paintings got more complex and so did my working drawings.

    That Fall I made a series of about a dozen twenty four by thirty six inch paintings on stretched canvas. Or at least I think that was the size. It’’s been a long time since I painted them. I’m not even sure if I was drawing on the canvas for these or just transferring a working drawing over. There is a difference. If I was transferring a drawing then I would have made the drawing on paper and then used a grid to copy it onto the canvas. This is more like reconstructing a drawing on canvas rather than actual drawing. It’s more like putting a puzzle together than making art.

    The following semester, in the Spring of 1988, I have a distinct memory of drawing on stretched canvas. That’s when I started working at a larger size, around three by four feet, and drawing directly on the canvas. I didn’t want to make working drawings and transfer them. I wanted to compose at the same large size I was painting at. Sometimes that makes a difference. I can work a composition out at a small size but then when things get blown up to a larger size the spacial relationships can change. What looks good at four by five inches might not look as good at four by five feet. That’s not always the case but sometimes it is.

    Drawing on stretched and gessoed (a white paint used as a primer) canvas with a pencil is a little like working on rough sandpaper. The surface is really textured and it can wear a pencil down quickly. If I wanted to work on a smooth surface I’d have to add multiple coats of gesso and sand it down in between coats. That’s something I never did. I was okay with lots of surface. That’s what I was looking for with my paintings.

    I can remember a fellow student, whose name escapes me all these years later, once wandered over to my part of the senior painting studios to admire one of my in progress paintings. It wasn’t even a painting yet since I was working on the pencil drawing. One of the things that happens when drawing on gessoed canvas is that you can’t really erase on it very well. I found that a brown gum eraser worked best (and crumbled fast) but even then there were grey smears left behind. That didn’t matter because they were going to be painted over but often I’d move things in the composition and I’d have to erase and that would leave ghost images behind. It was the inclusion of these ghost images that my fellow student was admiring. It gave the drawing a dimension of time that usually isn’t present in a work. He even suggested that a make a bunch of drawings on canvas that I didn’t paint over. I thought that was a good idea but never got to do it.

    The drawings on canvas I’ve made since are not nearly as large. I haven’t done a lot of them either. I drew a few of them back in the mid-2000s when I started making eight by ten inch acrylic on canvas paintings. Those small paintings meant I had to do a little drawing on canvas (mostly transferring drawings though) and inspired me to make a finished drawing on an eight by ten inch canvas. That drawing was one of my female figure with lots of decorative elements around it. It ended up coming out okay but I only drew a couple of them.

    Now it’s ten years later (after the eight by tens) and the memory of drawing on canvas came back to me. On some level I wish I could finally make those large drawings on canvas but I’m not that ambitions. I don’t have the energy, space, or money to make them. So I settled for some eight by ten inch ones. I already had a stack of blank canvases so I was good to go.

    One of the reasons I wanted to draw on a stretched canvas was to make the drawing more of an object. A drawing on paper is flat and light. A Drawing on stretched canvas is however thick the canvas is. In this was the canvas is three quarters of an inch thick. That makes the drawing more of an object that a if it was on paper. It makes the drawing seem a little more important since its solid.

    I can remember using a soft 6B pencil back in 1988. I use a 4B or 6B on paper all the time. I tried using one again on the smaller canvas but I found the pencil to be too soft. It made too much of a mess as a lot of the graphite didn’t stick to the canvas. I ended up using a much harder 3H pencil. A 3H is very light when I use it on paper but since the canvas really shreds the graphite it is much darker on the canvas.

    The process is simple. I made a drawing on a six by nine inch piece of paper, scanned it, blew it up to eight by ten inches, print it out, and then transferred the drawing to the canvas. I used graphite paper to transfer the drawing. That means I put a sheet of graphite paper between the printout of the drawing and the canvas. Then I took my 3H pencil and drew right on top of my drawing. The pressure of my pencil transferred the graphite onto the canvas. It only makes a light line though so I have to pay attention.

    After the drawing was transferred I had to redraw the whole thing. I had to press down hard and dark, give it some line weight, figure out a little more of the design, and fill in the dark areas. All while trying to keep the canvas neat and clean. It took me about three hours to make the drawing. I think it would have taken me half that time if I drew it on paper. But I wanted an object.