Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Doodles and a Moleskine in Review... Kinda

After nearly two years, my first Moleskine notebook is finally complete. I think this is perhaps the second time I've finished a blank book in my entire life, and though this was a tiny notebook, I'm going to give it credit anyway! Flipping through the pages, I enjoyed seeing how the book evolved. It started out more as a journal and notebook. I was keeping a lot of ideas from things happening around my deskjob at the time.... oddly enough, I felt there were fascinating things to write about as an insurance claim adjustor in the worker's compensation industry.

In hindsight, a lot of it was my desperate attempt to get through the day by finding humor in even the most mundane situations. I was also reading a lot of J.D. Salinger and Catch-22 at the time, so I tried to come up with my own witty observations (and run-on sentences) in everyday occurrences. One line that sticks out to me was my take on writer's block, though it was actually in reference to my own block as an artist who had essentially been out of the loop for three years:

He was a struggling writer who never struggled over what to write, but to actually sit and write about his struggles. He didn't write about them because he knew the effort would indicate he had enough energy to do something about it. He didn't do something about it because he spent all his energy contemplating how to write about it. So he sat instead. And he stared. He sat at his desk and stared blankly at his monitor as it stared back in its malignant cathode ray gaze, piercing the sheer layers of moisture in his eyes that gave up long ago, seeping through the tired brittle nerves, shocked and unaffected by the searing sensation of the utmost indifference.

Other times, I was filled with plain, outright desperation without the longwinded prose, as evidenced by several slips of adding machine paper taped inside my notebook, tallying up the bare minimum I needed to make per month if I wanted to leave my job. Around the time I started painting again, there were more doodles. One of the first doodles was this cheery self-portrait:
There were also quoted passages out of a book I was reading at the time, The Fountainhead, which fueled my restlessness as well as my eventual decision to leave. About twenty pages into the book, I gained a more optimistic perspective on things. There's a line I wrote on the day I put in my two week notice of resignation that says,"And suddenly, time slowed down again." I started sketching more ideas. There were also diagrams, plot maps, and bulletpoints outlining my plan of action to get my illustration career going. It's nice to look back and see some of those items crossed off!

The bulk of the book from that point on documents various road trips I've been on, doodles or ideas for large projects I jotted down.... for instance, on my largest project, there is a page of various ring designs I came up with when I decided I was going to propose to Alex - another story for another time.

Anyway, my attention span is slipping fast, and so I'm pretty sure yours is too. To make a short story long, I'd like to share a page of doodles out of the old book, as well as a couple from the new book:
I wish I could go into explaining the various degrees of style or subjects, and where I plan on taking some of these sketches, but I've honestly worn myself out.... I guess it's a good thing I chose to be a starving artist rather than a struggling writer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Happy Cycling

I finished the illustrations for Cecilia's Wheels today. These were all done in Painter or Photoshop. Here's a brief synopsis of the story from a previous update.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable project despite the limitations in trying to cram the whole story in just six illustrations. Cecilia is actually the client, and this was a story her father wrote when she was a child based on her true experience of learning to ride without training wheels. The book was supposed to be a Christmas present to her father, but we started the project way too close to the deadline to make it possible. She did show her father the sketches though, and told me that it nearly brought tears to his eyes. I had a similar experience recently with another story, so I can say that although I'm not yet a parent, I can relate to Cecilia's father, knowing how personal and affecting a children's story can be even in adulthood.

When I first took this project on, I was inspired to do a bit of bicycling myself. As a housewarming gift, Alex's uncle gave us a pair of bikes that he bought secondhand and restored himself. I hadn't ridden a bicycle in years, and the first pass up and down my block felt like childhood all over again, accompanied by an almost delirious form of laughter.

Eventually, I began to explore Berkeley, and though I've lived in or around this city for years it was like discovering a new kingdom. My first time out was the perfect "Day in the Life of" montage. I rode down to a lake that sits beside the freeway. I've driven past this lake hundreds of times, and my impression has always been that it's just where shady men pull up and park along the surrounding brush, pretending to wax their cars when they're really looking for something much more sinister. Entering the park from the bicycle path, however, and I was introduced to a realm inhabited by a sense of innocence like the one I found when I started riding again.... well, at the very least, people were doing the kind of things people ought to be doing in parks. As I rode along the path, I noticed the pedestrian overpass spanning across the freeway. I've always driven underneath it, catching brief glimpses of people overhead; someone walking their dog, another chasing their hat as it made a bid for freedom on a gale force, or another holding a protest sign against the chain link fence to the zooming cars below. It was a strange realization, knowing that from my new vantage point, I was now one of those persons, a blur to the sea of traffic. The thought seemed to make time slow down for a moment as I soaked in the scenery that I've too often neglected.

I continued on, each new stop offering an entirely different scene: An old man seated at a bench along the pier with his terrier, looking at the ground in front of him rather than the gorgeous bay view. Kids out of school, attempting to fly a kite on the grassy hills of the Eastshore. Back at the lake, an elderly lady slowly trailed behind her granddaughter, who just discovered the largest jungle gym fortress anyone could ever hope to find (myself included). Disc golfers rummaged the lake shores for a lost frisbee. A painter who discovered this place way before I did, worked at his french easel on a view I wish I saw first. Even the freeway had its own "sweeping" view.

It's been a few weeks since that first adventure. Bicycling is now a little more routine, especially in conjunction with a certain plan to lose some holiday weight, but I still see something new every day. Unfortunately, just this past weekend I snapped something in the gear system while stepping a little too hard on the pedal, so I'm currently bicycle-less. But, taking a lesson from Cecilia, you can bet I won't go through the seasons sitting on my front steps.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Brothers McDutton

I'd like to introduce my two brothers and what they do in this update, since I'm still wrapping up my own work. I'm also very excited about some of their recent work and thought it'd be a great time to share what they've been up to.

Henry is the youngest brother. He produces music loops, beats, melodies, samples, and so on. His work is probably most closely associated with indie hip hop. He has a few credits under the alias, SwayShah, with Bay Area hip hop artists. Lately, he's been collaborating with our other brother, David, in producing soundtracks and scores to short films. Much like art, there's a lot of subtleties involved in his music, and even his seemingly simple beats are often times composed of various sound samples finely chopped, played backwards, or made from scratch. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a webpage for his own work, but here's a YouTube sample of music he created for a short film by David.

David's our middle brother, and is an aspiring filmmaker currently in his second year at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Way before art school, Dave used to take our old family Sony Handicam and make music videos and other short films, using the camera as the sole piece of editing equipment.... meaning he'd press play on a stereo placed near the camera during a shoot, start filming, then cut both the camera and stereo at the same time to keep the timing right. He's come a long way since then, having directed several short films and music videos and numerous personal projects. He was even runner up in the Mini-DV category at the Epidemic Film Festival at the Academy. His latest piece of work is one that, to me, strikes a particular chord where music and imagery go seamlessly hand in hand: A music video with Orukusaki, another Bay Area hip hop artist and old high school friend.

We're planning on doing a collaboration project between all three of us, which is something we have not done since the time we formed our own bowling team, The Brothers McDutton, and took home 1st place in our first league series ever (thank you, Handicap Scoring System). So look for that somewhere down the line.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Some Drawr-ings

I'm in the middle of wrapping up a few projects, but during my 'breaks' I've been playing around in a couple of my sketchbooks. I usually don't use color in my sketchbooks, but I took a chance on a page I absentmindedly sketched at the dining table the other night while my wife and a close friend of ours were up watching YouTube videos. It's taken me several years, but I think I'm finally warming up to acrylics!

Hopefully I'll be showing a lot more of these since I'd really like to find more time to experiment with this medium. It's also a great way for me to enjoy being spontaneous with colors, textures, and design.... things I love in illustration, only here I'm not worrying about putting out a finished product. And more likely than not, a lot of the techniques I discover will end up in my actual illustration work, specifically addressing some of the limitations I've been dealing with in my digital work lately.

I also went to an early breakfast this morning at the Tartine Bakery in San Francisco with Alex and a few of our friends. The end of the line was actually inside of the bakery rather than outside, thanks no doubt to an epidemic of New Year's Resolutions floating around. Afterwards, a few of us went to a cafe to read, study, or sketch. I doodled a bit before it was time to go home and work.

I rarely seem to sketch publicly anymore, mostly because I spend too much time stuck in my own head these days (see left page versus the right). But I did enjoy myself, and it was great to spend a morning in the City and break up the usual routine of spending all day in my studio.

Aside from my job projects, the other big thing I'm working on is redesigning my website. I've got a pretty clear idea of what I'm going to do, and it will involve a few characters from this page:

Hopefully you guys will have a decent place to see my work in the very near future. Until then, thanks for visiting (whether it's my portfolio or this humble news page). Have a great weekend, everyone!

p.s. And if any of you can tell me how to get rid of the borderline in these last two images, I would be most grateful!