Saturday, December 26, 2009

With a few days of vacation time ahead, I've decided to at least test out the idea of a publishing a compilation of my digital sci-fi and fantasy art. I'm still not sure if it will be a portfolio book, or a journal, or a how-to book. Writing and designing it from scratch will be a challenge. Book design is not one of my strengths, and I can already see myself adhering to a conservative and fool-proof approach to layout.

It's fair to say that I've had this project in mind since childhood. I always imagined being asked to do a retrospective after many years of success as an illustrator. So in a way, I'm definitely putting the cart before the horse, and gambling on hunch that says that people around the world have been waiting this since my first posts at Elfwood so many years ago.

Six years of creating, not for a popular game or film, but for myself and others who enjoy viewing and commenting on my work online. The Musewo, Mega Slaves, the Axen, the Grothgith, little Elega and the White Woodsman, Boggermen, Clitoriths, so many ideas and stories, all of which have been received with enthusiasm an support. Although I cannot include all of them in a volume of digital works, I should mention them in the introduction. I've also saved a lot of high to medium in-progress shots for some of my favorite pieces.

The possible sections will be as follows:

A discussion on making the transition from traditional to digital
A section on at least three successful digital repaints
Commentary on my approach to pin-up art and depicting women in fantasy art
Versions of
A section on staying inspired and what I like to call the "California School"

I'm shooting for 150 pages of typing, which means about twenty pages a night over the next week or so.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hung Up

The good news is that they've opened the AIGA SF Fall Gala skateboard deck auction to member submissions for a "People's Choice" competition. But, I have less than a week to come up with something.

The Gala is called "Hung Up" so the idea of a little white penis I immediately came to mind. As a complete outsider to skateboarding, I've always seen it as an angry world of arrested development, withered masculinity and self-deprecation. I still remember when skateboarding suddenly made a comeback back in the early 80s. At the time it seemed to be the exclusive domain of wealthy white kids from the hills who had enough access and funds to indulge in books and videos on skating, along with and the boards themselves. I remember the ugly, grating sound of the wheels rolling on concrete, and boards being slammed and scraped and hurled against anything public, and the marks, and the decals, and tagging, and open wounds. And, I remember not understanding it at all. Skateboarding came across as weirdly self-centered, even antisocial at times. A lot of those kids are adults now. Some still skate. Some are phenomenal artists and designers. And I can't complain too much about an outlet that promotes outdoor physical activity. I've seen more than a few parks with play structures gutted in favor of gardens and benches.

So, I've decided to do submit a design, and to avoid any snarky digs at skateboarders or the subculture. I also won't be including any social commentaries on society, politics, class or identity. I've decided to draw or paint something rich and inspired and beautiful.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Unfortunately, I will not be at this year's Artist's Colony at Silicon in San José. I had a great time at last year's Silicon, but I got the impression that my art wasn't quite a fit for the majority of the attendees. So, I'm going to have to diversify my portfolio a bit, and include more traditional themes and images in addition to my my MetaQueen series.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

MetaQueens Return to Air Lounge, Oakland

The world of the mighty MetaQueens return to Air Lounge in Oakland for Bacchanal De Afrique on Sunday, Septermber 20, 2009. I will be there as a vendor with several prints from my MetaQueens series.

BACCHANAL de Afrique!!
September 20th, 2009
Air Lounge 492 9th st. in Oakland

Friday, September 4, 2009

APE 09 & TAOLB 2010

I just received the application for next year's The Art of Living Black, a huge art show held annually at the Richmond Art Center in Richmond, California. With the overwhelmingly positive responses to my work in Sunday's show, I think it would be a good idea to participate in the next TAOLB.

On the other hand, I'm still on the fence about the Alternative Press Expo. I haven't heard from the folks at Ka-Blam and I'm worried that I won't have books before mid-September. APE would be a great place to promote Afroid and Guila, but I need books in hand, or at least to know that they're on the way. APE happens October 17-18.

On Sunday, August 30, I was a participating artist in the first Art, Brunch, Culture event at Air Lounge in Oakland, California. This was my first ever showing of gicleé prints from my warrior women collection. The image area on the prints ranged from about 11" x 17" to 7" x 10", and each one was presented in a simple, white acid-free mat in poly sleeves. The larger prints were mounted on 18" x 24" mats, and the smaller ones 16" x 20".

I really enjoyed the conversations we had about science fiction and fantasy art, and the pieces in general. I'm including in this post a second version of the Soldier Queen concept. It's still a work in progress, though I've posted a version at Elfwood. I just want to get the face and overall anatomy to work better.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


After enjoying about 90% Transformers 2, I decided not to allow myself to get pulled into the fanboy ruckus regarding G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I saw the first handful of teaser shots of the actors in costume at Comic Con International last year in San Diego. Honestly, I was very skeptical about where they might be taking the film. I saw the film on a Friday morning at Hilltop Mall in Richmond. The crowd was mixed and a little low-energy, which was the complete opposite from the Transformers 2 audience I sat with weeks before. The following is an edited version of a post from my DA journal on the topic of the G.I. Joe I knew and loved back in the 80s:

G.I. Joe was always weird. But it was also original and forward thinking in the design of its characters and vehicles. I'm still not sure if it was a team at Hasbro or writer Larry Hama ( at Marvel Comics who had the biggest influence on the toys, but the comic book earned a huge and well-deserved following. The G.I. Joe I knew was born during the post-Vietnam/Ronald Reagan era, so it was a bold move to promote a "real American hero" through a toy line comic book to the children of parents who came of age during the 60s. Films like "Platoon" and "Full Metal Jacket" tended to emphasize the horrors of the war in Vietnam. And no one dared wear an American flag at the Berkeley public schools I attended. Expressions of patriotism were a big no-no. The 80s were also a time of new technology, particularly in the area of military hardware. A fierce arms race with the U.S.S.R. produced an number of mechanical superstars, including the F-14 Tomcat, the Harrier, M1 Abrams, A-10 Warthog, AH-1 Super Cobra, Apache Longbow, and several others. Hasbro always seemed to have one foot in the present, and one firmly planted in the future. When they reintroduced G.I.Joe, they started with the basics: artillery, ground vehicles, jets, and helicopters. But it wasn't long before wild mix of machines hit the shelves. We were treated to a hovercraft, hydrofoils, space shuttle, leaping mechs, flying bubbles, cyborgs and ATVs. The Battle Force 2000 line even featured eight vehicles that combined into a single base. It would seem that Cobra and the Joes were locked in an arms race of their own.

My first Joe toys were a Cobra H.I.S.S tank and Snake Eyes. The attention to detail was what really got me hooked. Prior to that, I had come across issue 17 of the comic book which opens with Hawk with an oozing gunshot wound to the chest and Cobra Commander speeding off in a H.I.S.S. tank. That Christmas my collection grew to include the MOBAT, MMS, a F.A.N.G. gyrocopter, and several figures. A few of the figures didn't have the swivel-arm battle grip yet, a feature that added a swivel joint to the upper arm and allowed the figures to hold rifles and other weapons with two hands. I would sometimes resort to gently biting down on the hands to improve the grip on certain weapons. But as with all plastic toys, there was limit to the amount of abuse their little bodies and the black rubber band that held them together could handle. The same went with everything else. In fact, a lot of really important parts would snap off, like the rotor on the Dragonfly helicopter, or gear-toothed fin on the H.A.L. that held the laser in position. (By the way, has by far the best online archive of Joe toys from the 80s, a well as documentation of parts that were easily broken or lost.) Another thing that really gave the toys a sense of realism was the set of blueprints and character file cards that came with every toy. It was always cool to know what something was, even if it was just molded into the body of the vehicle. I had been into building military models since the 3rd grade, so my fascination with seeing big machines in miniature developed at an early age. Around the same time, I discovered robot models from Japan, which also included stats and detailed isometrics, cutaways, and perspective drawings of the mechs and other vehicles. The illustrations on both the model kits and the Joe toys were another feature that gave the products an unforgettable "gotta have it" vibe.

G.I. Joe was also a deeply character driven story told through the file cards printed on the figure and vehicle packages, and the comic book. Everyone had a story. I think this is one of the under-appreciated aspects of the G.I. Joe story. They made a genuine effort to depict the Joes as a diverse team that included men and women from many different walks of life. They ranged from graduates from West Point to quirky misfits, but the common thread was expertise. They were each the best at what they did, and often excelled in areas that would seem ironic or out of character. My favorite example was Tripwire, the nervous, clumsy mine detector who only calms down when dealing with explosives. My guess is that the creators wanted to depict soldiers as human, but also awesome. Many were arms and martial arts experts. (My own martial arts studies started the same year I became a fan of G.I. Joe.)

Cobra, on the other hand, being a homegrown terrorist organization, relied on a few tired villain archetypes of the "Boris and Natasha" variety. But interestingly enough, Cobra's secret base of operations at one time was a quiet town called Springfield. Looking back, I wonder if Hama's message may have been that these model, suburban communities were being too good to be true, and that seclusion and homogeneity was on some level "un-American"?

One of the earliest forays into weirdness in the comic book involved Dr. Venom and his mind-altering S.N.A.K.E armor. Both Snake Eyes and the Inuit mercenary Kwinn were used in the armored suits against the Joes in a major battle. Zartan was another strange, shape-shifting character who might have been more at home in an X-Men comic. Tomax and Xamot had a psychic link that enabled one to feel the other's pain (like Cheech and Chong's Corsican Brothers). Characters like the genetically engineered Serpentor, and Globulus from the Cobra-La story from the G.I. Joe movie, really took things into the realm of science-fiction and fantasy. Similarly, Destro's origin story described in the television show features a monstrous creature living at the bottom of an ominous well.

Many of the original action figures, including Snake Eyes, Hawk, Stalker, Grunt, Short Fuse and Breaker shared a basic uniform with subtle variations, different weapons and equipment. Zap and Grand Slam also shared similar padded uniform designs. The uniforms clearly were not from a specific branch of service, but still had an authentic battle fatigue look and feel. Greens, tans, browns, blacks, and jungle camo were the norm. Scarlet was a noteworthy exception. She wore a grey body suit with tan boots, gloves and something that resembled a custom one-piece tan swimsuit. Girl Joes held their own in terms of design and popularity. Cover Girl operated the Wolverine missle tank. The Baroness sported an all black, gorgeously reptilian uniform and a really big rifle. Lady Jay sported an open collar jumpsuit, sporty cloth cap, and a wicked-looking javelin contraption. Future Joes would also deviate considerably from the basic grunt design in favor of expressing the individuality and expertise of character. Similarly, the movie designs have a uniformity, but it will be interesting to see how the Joe designs evolve in future films. The new look blends a slick, high tech armored look with a general purpose MARPAT fatique. The team looks like it belongs in this era, or at least the near future. The Delta-6 accelerator suit is the sort of thing that has been mentioned in technology news as the future of infantry warfare. So featuring it something like that is consistent with the tradition of the G.I. Joe being a few steps ahead.

Cobra was little more than a mindless, faceless horde led by a few key, twisted characters at the helm. They were also the embodiment of evil: totalitarianism, militarism, war profiteering, world domination, biological and chemical warfare, and anything a mad scientist could imagine. Recently, Dreamwave's Transformers/G.I.Joe depicted Cobra as something comparable to the 3rd Reich. And it's an easy comparison to make. The helmet on the basic Cobra trooper looked a lot like that of a WWII German soldier. They also carried Warsaw Pact weapons, such as the Dragunov sniper rifle and the AK-47. Cobra's minions mostly wore masks, which might have been a way to tap into our cultural aversion to losing our individuality, or possibly even our fears of masked terrorists from in news reports from the Middle East at the time.

The cartoon on the other hand was never great, but being a true fan, I tolerated hokey dialog and choppy animation. The thrill of seeing the characters and toys on television was enough to keep me watching. The recent anime-styled G.I. Joe: Resolute raised the bar a bit and showed how good an animated Joe story could be, at least for fans. It will be interesting to see how fans respond to the film and the new toys.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I just finished another elf painting today, or at least I think it's finished. The background is so complex that I could probably work on it another week and still not be satisfied. My new coloring technique was even more successful on this one, so I plan to stick with this new process for future pieces. I have a bit more to do on Nymphs and Satyr, and I also have another reinterpreted old master painting to finish up.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Time to Paint

I'm looking forward to a few days of relaxing and painting. I've mentioned elsewhere that the recent piece "Black Seed" is a nice return to the kind of fairy art I started with at Elfwood several years ago. I also finished "Kaitlin's Run" in which I applied an alternative coloring technique over a monochromatic underpainting.

Tonight I will treat myself to a few hours of figure drawing. Derwent's line of conte-like drawing pencils work well on my recycled kraft paper sketchbook, especially the longer drawings.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I've been sneaking in a little time to paint. I completed a full-color portrait inspired by an Elftowner's photo. The results were for the most part satisfactory, but my habit of extrapolating from reference, rather than following it accurately led to some distortions and flaws in the piece. So I've set it aside, possibly for good. But several days ago I was inspired to attempt another portrait, only this time one based working more closely with the reference. My only copy of Show Magazne has more than it's share of goregeous models to practice from. I found one in a typical pin-up mag pose, looking over her shoulder with long hair and stunning blue eyes. Some slight adjustments to her features could give her a slight Asian-Pacific Islander look, or at least make her look a bit less like the original model. I used a grayish-green base color for the underpainting, and I've been experimenting with different overlays of color. An older version featured the wreckage of a Foss-ish starship, but now, with the simplified sky, and flight jacket, she still reads as a space girl. Some simple details in the background might add to the narrative.

I got yet another rejection e-mail from the folks at Ballistic, this time for Exposé 7. But the idea of them having to wade through over 6,000 entries from around the world makes me appreciate just having been considered. It also tells me to keep pressing forward and improving in areas like narrative, anatomy, and composition.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Once again, I've connected with Nate Miller at Dominion Press Comics for another series of digitally colored character sheets. It appears to be family-friendly cyborg concept, and the colors are right in line with my rediscovered fascination with popular Japanese mech designs.

I also may have some good news regarding another piece being featured in a digital art book. An invitation to submit to the book arrived this morning, and a specific piece was requested! It's just the first stage in the process, but it's exciting to have gotten the invite!