24 x 30; acrylic poured on canvas
No, it doesn’t require much technique, but it’s a fun way to cover a few square feet of empty wall. I did this as a sequel to Parallels since I had leftover paint.
Regular visitors to Mars Will Send No More know I am a big proponent of using journals and sketchbooks as tools for nurturing artistic and poetic inspirations, personal growth, and ideas for writing projects. In 2015, I published a 150-page dream journal called Three Years Dreaming; and in 2016, I published a 100-page, full-color retrospective of drawings and paintings called Sketchbooks Volume One.
But my first publication of 2017 is devoid of words and pictures of my own creation. It’s a blank book called Journal & Sketchbook: A Place for Creativity, and it features 100 lined pages and 50 unlined pages—all waiting to be filled with words and images, at a conveniently portable 8.5 x 5.5 size.
The cover to this paperback features a scan of an abstract acrylic painting, one of a dozen 8 x 10 canvases I created in the last two months with the intent of making unique, colorful backgrounds and textures for book covers, business cards, website banners, compact disc covers, and anything else that needs a personal, artistic touch.
The title page, instead of displaying my name, has a blank line where you can write in your own, and places to write the dates when you start and finish filling the book. In other words, this isn’t a book by me. It’s a book by you!
My Venus flytrap is a year old now, and it’s been a wonderfully green, insect-killing addition to the office. But I almost let it die.
Back in February, I posted the picture below. It shows a stalk growing among the various fly-eating leaves. I didn’t know flytraps made stalks, so I left it alone to see what would happen. I might as well have signed the poor thing’s death warrant.
That stalk is meant to become a flower. Fortunately for my flytrap, that never happened. The stalk only turned black and shriveled up like the leaves do on a regular basis. I say “fortunately” because when a second stalk sprouted a few months ago, I did the research I should have done in the first place. It turns out that when a Venus flytrap makes a stalk that flowers, it really puts its murderous little heart and soul into it. Once the flower blooms, the plant has done its job and gives up on life. It dies.
As soon as I read that, I cut off the new stalk and, per the article, placed it into the sphagnum moss beside the rest of the plant to give it a chance to sprout and flower on its own. It didn’t. But hopefully I cut the cord in time to keep my plant growing. It’s hard to say, as this wintry time of year is a dormant phase for flytraps.
Is there a lesson to be learned from this? Maybe it’s “Do your bloody research.” On the other hand, how dare I interfere with my plant’s attempt to create its ultimate biological masterpiece: a beautiful flower that is the apex of its existence and its entire reason for living? Why should my goals for the plant be more important than the plant’s goals for itself? Shouldn’t I just let it do what it wants?
After pondering this problem in relation to mammals I have known and loved, be they human or feline, I realized I am projecting my personal problems onto my flytrap, and that the solution isn’t mammalian in nature. What would actually make my little plant happy is not pointlessly dying, nor my trying to rescue it from itself. What it really wants is a mate: another plant, with another flower, with whom it can share pollen and create new flytrap seeds together, and spawn a whole new insect-killing generation.
So, besides “do your bloody research”, the other lesson here is: Even flytraps need a friend.
I’ll put it on my list of things to do next year. Catch you in 2017!
Blue & White Nebula
Notes: Created on an 8×10 canvas mounted on board. Using a trowel, I smeared on a thick layer of white semi-gloss acrylic house paint and let it dry. Then I sprayed it with water and dropped Golden brand liquid acrylic artist paint, in Prussian Blue. It made these interesting patterns as it diffused through the water.
Now let’s have some rock from the band Nebula, from the Nebula/LowRider split album:
I’ve been experimenting with a new method of creating colorful, visually interesting backgrounds for things like book covers, business cards, and blog headers. It begins with painting 8 x 11 canvasses which are mounted on a board instead of a frame. They fit nicely on my scanner, so I can digitally manipulate the images later. This one began as a collage of pages torn from a proof copy of my new poetry book. It ended up as the cover to a new book.
Throw a filter and text on it, and it comes out like this:
It looks pretty awesome in print with a matte finish. Once I get a few good scans, the canvases can be recycled by adding layers of different materials to create cracks, swirls, and other interesting textures. Below is the same canvas as above, but in the process of getting a new, messy layer of krackle over it.
Here’s one I haven’t used for any backgrounds yet, a basic color wash with acrylics.
I had some old acrylic varnish and played around with pouring it and liquid paint at the same time, splashing water on them while they were drying, and mixing them together before pouring.
It isn’t going to hang in a museum or anything, but it’s a fun way to get unique backgrounds and textures. I sampled a section of the image for the current header on this blog. The image’s right half is simply a section of the canvas with its colors inverted.
I haven’t painted in two years. But I recently rewrote a couple old memoirs as a poem about painting, and it felt like time to take some pretty colors and make a big splashy mess in the kitchen again. The blank canvases in my office aren’t going to paint themselves, after all. The working title for the painting-in-progress is The Legend of the Frozen Coast, partially in tribute to the Frozen Coast painting I sold on Craigslist a few years back.
I don’t know what other painters think about when they paint, but I have been imagining The Legend of the Frozen Coast as a pirate adventure story starring Meteor Mags’ great-grandmother and read on a radio program. Explore Nordic debauchery in the icy wastelands! Witness the fate of a ferocious kraken frozen in a glacier for 10,000 years! Set fire to a fleet of brigands and mercenaries! Throw in some insults and salty language from The Pirate Primer that arrived this week, and the tale almost writes itself.
A storm hammers the forest.
The wind rips down his tent.
He can’t make any sense of it in the dark.
The painter drags his sleeping bag to a rock ledge.
It gives no shelter but is clear of the trees.
Electricity tears the sky to shreds.
The rain carries out its assault
not in drops but one continuous torrent.
He huddles in the soaked bag for nine hours,
powerless and small.
Stillness, yet never-ending motion.
The calm shadows of trees on a lake
draw lace stockings on a nightmare.
The struggle for life rages below the surface.
A bee caresses a flower intimately.
He cares nothing for the coming storm.
He is within her and she is within him.
They are one and the same.
Step away from industry. Obliterate
the underlying colors and textures
even when they persist. Use an avalanche.
Give them landslides. Drench them in
thunderstorms of black and broken skies
until they recede. The painter and the canvas
are the cyclone and the shore.
You don’t need to paint this canvas at all.
Do what comes naturally. The painting
will take care of itself.
Meteor Mags continues her space-pirate adventures in The Lost Crew of the Volya IX. This 20,000-word story picks up where the collection Red Metal at Dawn left off.
Join Meteor Mags, her cat Patches, and her pirate-radio friend, the shotgun-toting Dr. Plutonian, as they face horror in a not-so-abandoned asteroid mine! Thrill to the savage combat of the alien mating ritual practiced by the invading dragons! Rock out as Patches takes over the digital turntables at an asteroid dive bar! Find out what Mags’ informant Kaufman takes with him on his last day as Chief Administrator of the Port Authority on Mars!
And cover your ears, because Mags and her crew are back—bigger, badder, and louder than ever!
This drawing is based on a photograph of Ellie the Studio Cat. Ellie here is modeling for Tesla, the pirate radio DJ’s Siamese cat in the Meteor Mags series. The Psycho 78s album cover she is lying on needs to be finished, and then it can join the recent crop of drawings for the next set of stories in the series.
It’s been slow going on this drawing, not due to technical factors but emotional ones. Ellie disappeared last month on March 20. I’ve posted her on numerous websites and put up 150 flyers in the neighborhood, talked to many helpful folks in the area, and responded to dozens of phone calls about cat sightings. But no luck.
Ellie was my constant companion through life’s storms for the better part of six years. I miss her more than words can express.
I suppose that’s why we have art.
Amazing Arizona Comic-Con was well underway by the time I showed up for my four-hour volunteer shift. Holly gave me a volunteer t-shirt and sent me off with Amy, who had an assignment for me. From the original description of the volunteer position, I expected to be moving fifty-pound boxes around all afternoon. But Amy explained to me that Mat Nastos was scheduled to moderate the Chris Claremont panel on the main stage, and I was going to watch his table for him!
I’ve never been to a comic-con in my life, so this was quite an unexpected way to spend my first hour. Mat told me to feel free to sketch, and pointed to his bag of pens and markers. It held several Sharpie markers and one of the same Pigma micron fine point pens I like to use. This launched a discussion of brush tip pens in which Mat showed me his refillable Pentel brush tip and told me about a refillable kuratake pen from Japan with a sable tip, not synthetic like the one I’ve been using this year.
As if having a chance to discuss tools of the trade with a professional wasn’t fun enough, I then spent an hour on the artist’s side of the table instead of the fan’s. Thanks to my bright white volunteer shirt, only two people mistook me for the real Mat. Everyone else I greeted with a smile, asked them how they were, and let them know Mat would be back at 4 p.m. Several of them stayed and chatted with me about Mat’s artwork and prints on the table, or indie comic books, or a new tattoo, or that it was their first comic-con, too.
But what most impressed me in that hour was the unfailing enthusiasm Rob Liefeld showed each and every fan in the massive line waiting to meet him. Rob’s table was the next one over from Mat’s, and I have never seen anyone so genuinely cheerful to be posed and photographed over and over and over. I was in awe of his ability to project a positive energy and make every fan feel like he cared.
From Mat’s table, I also had a view of the other biggest line that afternoon: the one to meet George Pérez. Once Mat got back, I got sent to “float” for a bit and check on other volunteers, see if they needed anything, and lend a presence to any lines that needed tending. After making a few loops around the hall and chatting with people, I relieved the volunteer who was watching over George and his fans.
George’s table had no merchandise or books on it. He only had his sharpie markers, pads of Bristol paper, a donation jar, and flyers for the charity he works with: The Hero Initiative. That’s it. It was explained to me that people had numbered tickets in this line, and we were accepting them in numerical order, and anyone without a ticket could get in line but there was no guarantee we would get to them.
Neither the ticketholders nor George were in any hurry. This line barely moved, because each and every fan got George’s full attention. And I realized that made their wait worthwhile. In the meantime, whoever was in the front of the line got to chat with me about things like Perez’s work on Crisis on Infinite Earths and Teen Titans. One fan told me he had been in line for six hours, and laughed when I suggested that instead of a sketch he request a full-body Sharpie tattoo.
George was gracious and cheerful, and even addressed one fan as “my son” when posing with the sketch he had drawn for the young man. Fans brought up entire stacks of comics for George to sign. One fan had a large Bristol paper full of empty panels, and George drew Batman in the center panel. He signed a two-meter-wide Marvel poster one fan had collected many signatures on. One fan had George sign a huge plastic infinity gauntlet. One had his comics bagged and boarded, but with areas of the bag sliced out and bordered with electrical tape so George would know just where he wanted a signature on the cover. And George delivered sketch after sketch after sketch after sketch. For hours.
I have never seen anything like it in all my life.
Before the night was over, everyone with a numbered ticket did make it through that line, and the donation jar was full. In honor of the tireless joy and attention George and the other creators at the convention showed their fans, consider donating to the organization George was promoting: The Hero Initiative. Funds for Hero Initiative are raised and disbursed by comic book artists and industry leaders to comic book artists in need, especially aging artists who need major medical treatments or surgeries. Please visit HeroInitiative.Org.
Along the top edge of the photo, you can see the… uh… I don’t really know what is going on here, honestly. I’m tempted to Google it, but sometimes it’s fun not knowing what’s next.
Flytrap has been steadily sprouting and “shedding” its highly specialized leaves. That stalk has been growing for a couple weeks now. She has not caught a second fly yet. The first is still locked inside the trap at the lower left of the photo.
I didn’t get any sketching done this week but I stamped and addressed a ton of these Wayne Static postcards. Friends and readers of MWSNM will be receiving these in the weeks to come.
If you haven’t seen Wayne in your mailbox by the end of February, it means A) I don’t have your mailing address, or B) you live outside the USA and a single postcard stamp isn’t enough! To get on my wonderfully anarchistic mailing list, just go to the Contact Page and drop a line.
A friend of mine bought the original Wayne Static drawing (framed and matted) from me last year. If you dig Wayne Static or his band Static X, you might like to order this drawing as a print, t-shirt, shower curtain, or whatever else your heart desires.
Oh, by the way. I turned 43 in January, and my sister sent me this sweet mountain lion mug. Mountain Lions Forever!
The portrait above is based on a photo I saw after googling “flock of seagulls haircut.”
Below are two sketches based on drawings my friend Brian did for a comic book we made a few years ago. These beasties will be models for the “dragons” in the Meteor Mags stories.
Here are the brush tip pens I’ve been experimenting with this year.
You can get them cheap on Amazon.
Seven Crescents: Instrumentals and Guitar Solos
by Matthew Howard
CD Booklet Exterior (back and front)
Seven Crescents’ predominantly hard rock tracks show progressive influences like odd time signatures and exotic scales. The guitar playing dares to get experimental in search of the ultimate solo, incorporating techniques like slide and two-handed tapping with electronic effects and a loop pedal.
The live and home studio recordings of Seven Crescents span five musically productive years of performing and recording music with friends, from the jazz combo shows to the semi-acoustic album to the rock trio jamming live on the art scene. Many of the tracks on Seven Crescents either became performance pieces for these groups, or resulted from jamming out ideas with them. Seven Crescents includes tracks never before released on compact disc, and also the best of several albums which were sold as concert-only promotional items.
Due to the live nature of many of these recordings, sound quality may vary from track to track.
CD Booklet Interior
While My Guitar Gently Annihilates: Electric Improvisations
CD Booklet Exterior (back and front)
While My Guitar Gently Annihilates is a seven-year sonic journal of one guitarist’s quest to play the ultimate mind-bending guitar solo. These improvisations ignore conventional song structures, instead employing drones, soundscapes, and layered guitars to propel the fiery fretwork to new heights of shred.
The tracks on While My Guitar Gently Annihilates come from live and studio sessions. In the live performances, the guitar gets run through a loop pedal to create layer upon layer of rhythms, melodies, and ambient sounds. While My Guitar Gently Annihilates would be well-suited for fans of heavy, progressive rock and ambient post-rock.
Due to the live nature of many of these recordings, sound quality may vary from track to track.
It’s time to pollute more perfectly good blank paper!
Guitar guy is Michael Gira of Swans, using a video still as a reference. It might be fun to do an 11×17 on bristol board.
The Marvel Value Stamp of Electro (in the top pic) is a rough for an idea of doing a Value Stamp Series as 11×17 pieces. Then again, it might be more fun to do a series of 11×17 Meteor Value Stamps, with characters from the Meteor Mags stories instead of Marvel classics.
It’s time to start picking poses for the next series of Meteor Mags illustrations, so we’ve been trying out some different things. This silly tribute to Church of the Subgenius made it onto the refrigerator.
The first printed copies of Red Metal at Dawn arrived and they look great. And, proof copies arrived for two music albums to be released on compact disc this month. They look good, too. Once Amazon gets them set up to buy, we’ll take a look at them here.