Saturday, April 25, 2009


Click on the image for full sized version. Preferably on a different tab than the text below.

This is the work process that I went through. The initial reference was this:

But as you can see I didn't trace it or follow it too much, actually. I just wanted to reference a real space to avoid specific issues of depth perception that would reduce the effect of feeling like you're actually in the back seat, I didn't want to fake a higher skill level than I actually have.

Generally, tracing an image is in my opinion bad form. However there are exceptions. The next shame image I am going to do is going to be a full-fledged trace of a photograph. I will discuss why it's not alright generally and why exactly I did it when that image is done and on the blog.

Using an image just as visual reference however, is as important as the artist feels it is for the viewer to directly recognize the minutia of a scene as apparent, fitting objects. Had I not used a photo of an actual taxi as reference and just went from imagination, I'd have probably completely forgotten about the voicebox, that is I think even a stronger visual confirmation of 'this is a taxi' than the running meter. However as you can see I wasn't shackled to reality here and I enlarged and simplified the meter and put it in a place where it would contrast white against darkness so as to drive the point home. Hopefully not many viewers has problems realizing this is a taxi, and the character we're going to be following is in the back seat of it.

Here I am trying to diffuse certain problems in the first small shame image where some viewers did not realize the thoughts were coming from a viewer on the street and not the sitting man himself. On the street it's difficult to implicate the viewer simply by having a vantage that befits the normal height of a human being (as I did in small shame part one) because viewers are used to these vantage points in movies all of the time and they certainly not always mean 'you are looking from the first person'. In the taxi situation however, almost all movies and comics and other visual media that employ this shot convey that the protagonist is in the back seat. So here I hope I've been more candid about what I'm going for than in the past image.

On A you can see how I space and sketch things out. Recently I've sorta abandoned working with broader, freehand brushes when setting up a scene. I have come to dislike the ambiguity of where a final line will be when you have a fat thick brush stroke that means 'here is an edge, somewhere'. There are too many potential final lines in a big fat sketch stroke, and it seems to affect my spatial relations between my various objects too much. And perhaps even worse, it seemed I had began to ink with too fat lines on the computer as compared to my hand-inked work to try to follow these ambiguous sketches, which I didn't enjoy. So I've sorta 'devolved' into working with straight, thin but strong lines for setting up a scene.

On B you can see what effect A has, with the two layers overlaid. I made various mistakes about judging the eye level of the driver and position of the steering wheel that I had to fudge around with. I'd prefer if in the future I didn't make these sort of errors, they just waste time and diffuse the clarity of the piece. On other parts of the image the inking remains very close to the sketch version, which is for my intents, a good thing.

On C we have the final inks, before I put on any gray tones. I debated leaving this piece at this level as there was something appealing about the way forms were dictated by smaller or bigger lines according to how close things were and I knew I would only hurt this effect when I laid on the gray tone. However, as you will see two steps below on the final image, there was an emotional effect that I wanted to convey that was worth the damage to the linework.

On D you can see the first layer of tone and grain. Again I could have stopped here but I felt that the scene was lacking a bit of weight and layer clarity so I added more dark grain in specific places to separate the levels. Note that I removed the insignia of the car brand on the steering wheel. I feel that any benefit the work would enjoy by using brands - in that the viewer will immediately feel this is a realer place because they recognize them - is offset unfavorably by propagating the mentality that brands dictate a realer world. They do not, the whole marketing mechanism in fact rests on the assumption that if the buying public (for the term 'people' does not occur in their lingo) integrate brands into their daily lives on the instinctual level they would be more successful in peddling their shit. There is a lot of semiotic dissonance that occurs for every human being that has to suffer through this process just in daily life, getting from place A to place B while under constant attack by brands and I'd rather not encourage it further, even if it hurts the realism of my work somewhat. The merit of the work will survive and I'll sleep better.

On E, the final image, the emotional effect I had to add is now hopefully apparent. The white glow of a beautiful day is bleeding through the edges of the glass, onto the spectral speech bubble of the driver. I can't exactly explain why this effect was so important but it came to me about midway when working on the inks and it really felt important to include. A strong separation between outside (bright beautiful and promising) and the guilt-ridden thoughts in the inside, conveyed in black and grain, the apologia of the letters in startling contrast, sharp against the forgiving blur.

One fear I have about the final image is that I might have described the car just a bit too much and instead of functioning on the emotional level the image looks a bit like a car commercial. That's ironic given my rant about branding, but I couldn't think of a different way to convey this shame without very very clearly showing a taxi in naturalist detail.

Also, I forgot to add arm hair to the taxi driver. That's probably a bigger hit on the intended realism than anything else.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Small Shames, part the second

When I showed this to my friend Graham Lackey last night he said "I like that these small shames are so small, because they are perfectly relatable, and perhaps seeing a small thing like this given time and care in art airs it in a useful way."

The single-panel page is the perfect format for an examination of a single moment, because its timespan is negotiable. Like a nagging memory that keeps coming back to you in inopportune moments, its importance and interaction with the whole only as severe as your subconsciousness demands. Small shames aren't small because we hide them under the carpet, where they accumulate to something bigger. Their denominator is the same. The phantasmal perfect lives of the perfect people we like to use as an excuse do not exist. Even worse, we like to extrapolate from the comfortable "dude what are you bitching about, there's children dying in the third world and you're worried you ignored a taxi driver?" because against that Spectacular misery ours seems farcical. Then we go on to loathe ourselves for feeling self-loathing.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Small Shames, part the first

This is new. There will probably be a catalogue of similar pictures for the next few weeks.

I have talked before of how I am resolved to rid myself of my social shames and apprehensions. I am trying, but often I find myself failing. I am keeping a recollection of when this happens. What I want to avoid is that familiar effect where you do (or do not do, more often) something and that makes you feel shame, but as time passes you rationalize it and end up finding some lame reason for what you did, you feel at peace with it. I make these now and I make them as well as I can so I will not have this opportunity to ever lie to myself.

When I have a number of them I will have them silk-printed stickers and place them in the heart of what has made me feel these shames in the first place: downtown Athens. It has taught me to hate and fear other people and this will be one thing I can do to have a bit of a proactive revenge. The ultimate goal of such endeavors is to act rightly in the moment and not to just make stupid art after it, though. Self-coaching. I will let you know of how that goes.

Keep reading



Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Here's a really old one.

Status update soon.