Jul 14

Alone with myself

Altered StatesIt wasn’t long ago that I would have done anything to avoid being alone with my own thoughts. The thought of what might bubble up, when I wasn’t trying to look away to everything else, terrified me; if only because I had spent so much time avoiding myself. For years I was sleepwalking through life. If I happened to catch a glance at my doppelgänger self in the mirror, I didn’t linger.

But, my circumstances have changed. Many things that once scared me and drove me, have collapsed down to smaller proportions. The more I ran toward my own fears, the smaller they became, much like my own shadow. I still have fears and worries, but my worries are concrete and I am more grounded. And, after much work devoted to untangling various knots and maybe just making friends with the knots, I started to reconnect.

One of the first things to go, when you disconnect from yourself, is any creativity or sensitivity. When you detach from your own feelings, you develop a state of numbness because you want to avoid anything that might overwhelm, which could be anything when you’re holding it all down with white knuckles.

But, once I started to be more happy, I wanted to find out more about myself. I wanted to build a timeline of my own life, mainly because I could not remember much for long spaces of time. Even if I could remember the facts of my past, it didn’t feel like it belonged to me. I grew interested in knitting together a sense of my own story. I wanted to explore my own inner world that I had boarded up and abandoned. I wanted to move back home, I wanted to clear away the weeds, open up the windows, and dust out the various corners.

I came up with a plan to kickstart this inner exploration: floating in an isolation tank. Floating in complete darkness and silence with nowhere to go and nothing else to do; just alone with my own thoughts. If you’ve seen the William Hurt film, “Altered States“, you’re probably familiar with the concept. Luckily, Austin has a place where you can purchase 60-90 minute sessions of sensory-deprivation, Zero Gravity Institute. I don’t feel like saying much about it, except that you might give it a shot. The first session I had was very rewarding. After adjusting to the novelty of the situation, I had some of the most creative moments in recent memory. That’s where I arrived at the realization that it has been exactly 20 years since I started a small zine with two of my high school friends. It was called the Incredible Flaming Mechanism. We created 7 issues from 1994-1995, when we all went off to college. It was one of the most creative, exciting times in my life. I realized that I was coming full circle… from happy to unhappy to happy again and from creative to uncreative to creative again. So, my current idea is to do 7 more issues… from 2014-2015, so that I can close the loop. What do you think?



Oct 07

Webcam plus wacom plus wackadoo

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve barely touched my Wacom tablet since it arrived a few weeks ago. Despite the best of intentions, I have yet to start drawing like a tornado. I’m still getting the hang of all the buttons and settings, which are fairly complicated. Also, as I intimated previously, being creative is more a meditative and experimental state of mind more than what tools you have. This meditative state of mind is difficult to achieve and requires setting aside time to slow down, which is hard for me. When I was a bored kid, I used whatever cheap pencils and paper were at my disposal. (Note to self: post a few childhood drawings to website.) One tendency I have as an adult is to make everything overly complicated. As you know, most of life is deceptively simple.

Anyway, here’s something I doodled in a few minutes. Drawing on photos is fun in that you get an interaction between the fantasy of the drawing and the realism of the photo. I think the Disney biography I’ve been reading is having a positive effect on me. It has really gotten my juices flowing. Even my dreams have been better. For someone who aspires to be both creative and successful, Walt Disney’s story is a real inspiration. At their best, most biographies have this effect. Almost as if they are whispering to you, “Come on! Follow my example. You can do something big, too, if you just want it bad enough.” The question is, do you want it bad enough?

webcam weirdo

Oct 07

Wacom Intuos3 Review

wacom doodlingMore than a decade ago, I used to reach out to the world through little home-made publications we called zines. Apparently, it was a movement, although in retrospect it seems fairly minute as movements go.

For the younger people: Making zines was a way to self-publish and share your thoughts and creativity with other people like you. You basically produced a compilation of drawings, comics, writing, etc. and bundled it together with a cover. Then you xeroxed the whole thing to make a few tens or hundreds of copies you could sell to cover the costs or give away. It was very limited and the community was pretty insular, but that is what made it fun.

This was before the Internet incorporated all culture. With the Internet, you no longer have to work to find like-minded people. I’m not complaining. Just sayin’. That was the whole point of zines, after all. For me anyway.

I enjoyed drawing comics and making the zine. I even enjoyed motivating my friends to participate and trying to manage the whole production side of it, so we could push out a new issue every so often. In some ways, it was a precursor to what I do now in web design and development. Funny how that works.

Anyway, the point is, as most of my hobbies have migrated to involving the computer, I’ve found it difficult to pick up a pen and paper. No more drawing, no more hand-written letters, no more mix tapes, no more zines. As special as it was, it just doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s like asking people to ride horses to get from place to place.

But, I miss drawing. I miss seeing pictures emerge from my brain that don’t look like I leaned on a computer to get them. It was always a surprise to see something good come out, almost as if something was working through you not as a result of anything you did. When you sat back and looked down at the page it was very satisfying. It felt creative in the sense of CREATING something.

Normally when I get the jones to draw, I go drop some money on fresh art supplies, which I mess with then ultimately abandon. This time I thought I would stop trying to fight the tide and buy something I could use on the computer. So, I broke down and bought a Wacom Intuos3 6×8 graphics tablet. Here’s my review in a nut shell: it’s harder to use than I expected. If you’re drawing every day, it might be a good tool to get familiar with. For me, I’ve used it 2-3 times in the two weeks I’ve had it. I plan on giving it more attention, but it wasn’t the computer drawing revelation I expected. For illustration, it might work better as a good way to color your work. The effect is definitely more fluid than controlled, in my experience. That being said, you have a lot more control than you do with the mouse.

Above is something I drew with the tablet. I’m going to keep at it.

Mar 06

Wish I was in Austin for this…

March 4, 2006: Staple! The Independent Media Expo:

An event to promote independent creative media: comics, mini-comics, zines, art, and self-published literature. Building a community to encourage communication between creators and their audience. All the while having a damn good time in the Live Music Capital of the World – Austin, TX.

Apr 05

Drawing with the mouse

Drawing with the mouse is a lot like drawing with Prisma Design Markers, except you have somewhat less control.

Feb 05

“Comics is about memory”

I came across a video from a French television program on comics featuring Chris Ware. You can download the torrent here.

A number of things he said struck me, namely about how drawing comics is more about how you remember things than the things themselves and how he feels that drawing comics is an inherently difficult and depressing art since you are busy drawing while everyone else is living. Maybe that says more about Chris Ware than it does comics, but it is true to a certain extent. Drawing comics means being an observer, more so than other art forms because your main task is to tell a story with words and pictures. This position as observer dictates a certain amount of distance from life and then the sense of alienation he describes as you retreat into memory and the past.

His home is lined with antique photographs and he fiddles with a phonograph while he explains the superiority of bygone times when people knew what life was really about. His nostalgia for and idealization of the past reminds me of Robert Crumb with his identical collection of ragtime 78 RPM records. In the same way, it is not his own past he is nostalgic for, but the remote past from the stories of his grandmother. Is it easier to be nostalgic for a time you never experienced? If you feel like you don’t fit in, is it easier to construct an idealized representation of a dead reality? Retreating into the past is a strategy for avoiding the alienation and uncertainty of the present. Even though the past is dead the imagination can imbue it with an almost mystical reality. In a sense, the past is the ideal framework for the imagination since it has a more definite form in the mind and can be more easily controlled as far as its meaning. The future is unlimited in possibility and in definition.

Dec 04

Must See TV: ‘Peanuts’

Christmas would not be complete without ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. ABC is showing it this Thursday along with a behind the scenes documentary:

The classic half-hour animated Christmas-themed PEANUTS special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” created by late cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, will air for the first time on the ABC Television Network on THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET). In addition to the original Emmy Award-winning special, a behind-the-scenes story of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, will air immediately following the special.

On a related note, Jonathan Franzen wrote a nostalgic homage on ‘Peanuts’ in the New Yorker recently.

By the way I hope this neverending animated gif is not making your eyeballs bleed.

Jul 04


I loved Dorothy’s latest Cat and Girl strip. Meaty.

Jul 04

Article on Cat and Girl: Girl on Overdrive

Here’s an article on Cat and Girl. I didn’t read it, but judging from the website design I’ll bet it’s pretty good. It’s a good article, and makes a few good points I hadn’t noticed.

No one correctly answered the question to yesterday’s post, so I will have to give away the answer. Greta Garbo is the actress in the new banner, but I’m not sure what film the image is from. Here is another good photo of her:


Jul 04

For extra credit:

Can you identify the following Spiderman villain? Leave your answer in the comments.