Joe Shenton got his Kickstarter funded for his current book project, and on Tuesday I received an awesome ink drawing from him. My modest contribution earned me a steampunk monster drawn in the style that will appear in his book, with the option to choose what the monster would be based on. I requested an electric eel, and Joe delivered!
UPDATE: You can now buy a high-quality print of this piece from Joe’s Etsy Shop!
JULY 30 UPDATE: I’m pleased to report this project was fully funded! ~M
Last year, Joe Shenton sent me original artwork for supporting a Kickstarter campaign. I told him I like outer space, pirates, and octopuses, and he created a drawing I absolutely love. UPDATE: You can now buy a high-quality print of this piece from Joe’s Etsy Shop!
This year, Joe is working on something a little different: producing an illustrated book with an original story, and adding watercolor paints to his ink drawings.
The Last Forest will be a tale about a boy and his fox caught up in a conflict between nature and industry in a future world Joe’s creating by blending fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction.
Here are a couple images from the project’s Kickstarter page. If you like what you see, head over to Joe’s Last Forest Kickstarter Campaign and show him your support! Get there before July 27, because the campaign ends soon.
I didn’t set out to make this Kindle book. My mission was only to create an hour-long audiobook version of 50 original poems that work well when read aloud. But when I went to set it up on Audible, I realized I forgot one important thing, something so important that I need to revise my article on Ten Things I Learned from Making My First Audiobook. To create an audiobook on Audible, you need to have either the print or ebook version already listed on Amazon.
Oops! Fortunately, it was pretty easy, since all but two of the poems previously appeared in Kindle books. Mostly it was a copy-and-paste job from earlier files, and a little re-formatting. Plus, I needed to take my audiobook cover, which was formatted at 2400×2400 pixels, and recreate it in Kindle-friendly dimensions. Since I had saved the original source file with all the image elements and text in separate layers, it took only minor brain surgery to reshape it.
Kindle got their version listed on Amazon in less than 24 hours after I uploaded files, which is pretty amazing. Then I could carry on with the audiobook setup. But the event reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my oldest and most commercially successful artist friends last week. He ran into all sorts of unexpected technological problems with a current project, and he encountered major frustrations with contractors he’d enlisted to do some of the work.
After a little venting and commiserating, we realized no one tells you something very important when you decide to create art: you will need to be a hell of a lot more things than an artist, and learn about many more things than only what you need to know to create in your chosen medium.
You’ll need to learn how to manage projects involving other people. You’ll need to learn marketing principles if you ever hope to get your work in front of other people. You’ll need to learn tools and technologies to create and sell your work. You’ll need to become a researcher.
We agreed the research aspect is especially universal, whether you write fiction or build mosaics, and even if you work entirely solo in a cave and don’t need to learn project management. You’ll research software, practical techniques and theory, ways other people have already tackled your subject, vendors who might supply you, how to ship art to other countries, potential online platforms to sell your art, and a million things that make a comprehensive list impossible to compile.
My friend does a ton of research to create physical objects, and you would not believe the multitude of things I’ve researched to write fiction. From Asian gangs in San Francisco in the 1990s, to gambling and horse racing in the American colonies in the 1700s; from how gunpowder works, to the mathematics of gravity; from the history of launching animals into space, to octopus biology—sometimes you set out to write a simple scene and learn nothing is quite so simple as you assumed.
Maybe the worst advice I ever hear given to new writers is, “Write what you know.” What we know is such a tiny fraction of all possible knowledge and experience. Writing what you currently know, or only making art you currently know how to do, is a surefire way to make sure you never grow. Better advice is summed up in the title of the short but insightful book, Writing to Learn. If I stuck to what I knew at age 20 in 1993, I’d still be stapling together photocopied pages of hand-written poems. I wouldn’t have a clue about why gunpowder works in a vacuum. I wouldn’t know a thing about the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order that lies at the heart of recent headlines about net neutrality.
And I wouldn’t know a thing about using audio and graphics software to produce this collection of 50 poems, which was the original point of this post. Am I now the expert on all things? Absolutely not. But I learned a hell of a lot and vastly expanded my skills and knowledge, so much so that people now come to me for consultation on producing their own works. Do I have room to grow and improve? Undoubtedly. There are so many things I am not as good at as I want to be. But with every project I tackle, from painting mountains to doing a book cover to writing a poem, I’m on a mission to learn and improve.
Sometimes it’s painful to look at earlier works and see how many things I could have done better. But that’s a good thing, because it means I learned something along the way. At age 44, if I had any one piece of advice to give younger artists and writers and musicians, it would be this: put your ego aside and be open to criticism, and be willing to learn and improve, because your journey as an artist never ends. The horizon is forever receding, and the only way to keep up with it is to keep learning.
This October’s witchy brew was my first home brew: a gallon of mead. At less than 30 days from start to finish, it came out sweet, clear, strong, and absolutely delicious. Cheers!
At first, it was too cloudy and, because I had tried to jumpstart it with extra yeast when I thought it had stopped fermenting after a week, it tasted way too yeasty. But I watched a video on clarifying it with bentonite clay, and that method cleared it right up by pulling out the offending yeast particles.
It goes great with homemade cinnamon-sugar donuts made from deep-fried buttermilk biscuit dough straight out of a can. Couldn’t be easier.
No black cats this month, but here’s a black guitar. This road-worn axe from 2000 was feeling sad, so I stripped off her hardware, taped up the neck, and sprayed her with flat black auto touch-up paint. Oddly, the sound improved once I had her back together.
Then I tried my hand at more mountains, but with a spacier vibe. Here they are in progress, while waiting on a coat of highlights.
October 31 is a good day listen to Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. Enjoy!
Working with color has always been a challenge, because I have a form of red-green colorblindness. According to a recent test, my specific variation comes from weak green receptors. Green isn’t the only thing affected; I have trouble distinguishing some purples from blues, light pinks from white, browns from greens, and many more. But guess what?
Mountains; acrylic on canvas, 24×30
I love playing with color anyway. I still see it. My world isn’t black-and-white. That would be an even more extreme colorblindness. Mine is like color “confusion” compared to that. But because color remains a challenge, I was thrilled to learn Bob Ross recorded a landscape painting demonstration designed just for colorblind artists. It’s very much like his other work, but all in one color: a grey tone mixed with white to create lighter values.
I watched it twice in a row, utterly mesmerized, and then tried my hand at his techniques on a much larger canvas with acrylic paint. Ross used oil, and many of his techniques don’t translate to acrylic. Acrylic dries faster, so you don’t have the luxury of blending as smoothly as Ross did with oil.
On the other hand, you can do a few things with acrylics that Ross never did with oil: layers of color washes, splashes, and other “wet” effects you get from making a mess with water and paint. My art teacher loved Payne’s Grey and first suggested it to me as a color for painting the mountains in Sedona at night, just at the end of sunset. I love it too, and when the little tube she gave me ran out, I bought 250ml of the stuff. Payne’s Grey is the only paint I used in this piece, plus white: an ultra-white interior house paint (semi-gloss) from the hardware store.
Ross uttered an especially memorable line in his monochromatic demonstration of building mountains: “All you need is a dream in your heart. And an almighty knife.”
Watch and learn!
Get ready for asteroids, anarchy, and excessive ammunition, because Meteor Mags and Patches are back—bigger, badder, and louder than ever!
On the asteroid mining frontier of the near future, a hell-raising space pirate and her indestructible calico cat rage against the forces of law and order, “liberating” cargo and racking up a massive body count—until they come face-to-face with an alien invasion!
Join Meteor Mags and her criminal crew, the hard-rocking Psycho 78s, in fifteen tales of interplanetary piracy and total destruction. Run for your life in the tornado that wipes out Ceres! Thrill to the savage mating rituals practiced by the evil space lizards! Learn how to smuggle cigarettes and shoot pool with the solar system’s number one dancer! Witness the unearthly energies of the machine that transforms Patches the cat, and merge your mind with a telepathic space kraken!
From rescuing a pirate radio DJ in a hail of bullets to dancing naked with a tribe of Russian space monkeys, Mags and her outlaw friends rock the Belt. But how long can they survive when everyone on Earth wants them dead?
Now Available on Amazon as a 588-page paperback featuring black-and-white art plus Asteroid Underground articles and interviews with the crew. Also available in a text-only version for Kindle for $9.95, or get the Kindle for free when you buy the paperback.
No actual mermaids appear in this abstract painting, but it was the last wash of turquoise that made me think it might be the kind of place they’d like to swim. The other two colors are quinacridone magenta and ultramarine violet. The colors are liquid acrylics from Golden, and the black and white layers underneath are semi-gloss acrylic house paint. A couple coats of gloss varnish from now, she’ll be decorating the wall. 15 x 30 in., acrylic on canvas.
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!
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.
Line of Thought by Peter Deligdisch is long overdue for a spotlight here at Mars Will Send No More. For maybe two years now, Line of Thought has inspired me. Filled with complex and often abstract drawings, this completely black and white book gives me an instant trip to an art museum. It’s the cup of ink-black coffee that wakes me up when my artistic spirit is lagging.
Peter’s newest work is called Almanac, which you can see at http://www.peterdraws.com/#almanac
Maybe you’ve already discovered Peter’s artwork on YouTube or, like me, on Reddit. Line of Thought collects many of his more polished works alongside a few odds and ends that make the book feel like an intimate look at the artist’s sketchbook. I like that kind of thing, but some reviewers criticized the book for not being print-quality reproductions and for including what they felt were doodles.
I enjoy Line of Thought‘s resemblance to underground and indie comics, and to zines, and to publications like Seattle’s Intruder which is entirely comics and art. (Intruder will soon publish its final issue after a pretty amazing run.) This book fits right in with works such as Rick Griffin’s Man from Utopia. It’s an art book, and I think my fellow comic book fans might dig it, too.
Peter works in several distinct styles, but most of his work fits in with what have recently been called zentangles. They are ornately detailed renderings of the plane along shapes which can be either swirling and chaotic, or geometric and orderly. You can make a zentangle out of something representational, or it can be abstract. And when you see Peter’s ink drawings, you can’t help but imagine coloring in all the tiny shapes.
Although I love this book, it may be a mistake to have it categorized in the coloring books category. It got some negative reviews for not really being a coloring book, and that sounds fair. On the other hand, many of the pieces in Line of Thought could totally work as coloring book pages, with a few alterations to the current format. That might include enlarging many of the pieces currently filling half a page (and thus sharing it with another piece). And, pieces with grey-scale shading could be omitted in favor of only pieces created in high-contrast black and white.
That’s not to say it would make me love the book any more, but it would position Deligdisch more accurately in the coloring books category. I’m perfectly content to pick up Line of Thought and flip through the pages whenever I need a reminder that anything is possible in art, that both chaos and order are beautiful and intertwined, and that it’s possible to create pure magic with only a pen and a piece of paper.
Making art quickly makes chaos out of your walls. Things get hung at random and, over the course of a year, lose all sense of order. Closing out 2015 required a bit of wall patching, cleaning, painting, and re-hanging.
Yesterday saw the arrival of the proof copy of a music album I’ll be publishing this month. The CD looks and sounds great, but I found the volume to be too low compared to most of today’s music. I plan to return to my master files, crank the volume a bit, and resubmit the audio before making an official release. The artwork, which I designed using scans of an acrylic painting and an ink drawing, came out really nice. I’m excited to get this album and one more music album published before the new semester begins.
I don’t do the tree thing in December, but the art studio desperately needed some suitable greenery. Here in the desert, we get ordinary house flies all year long, even in the winter. Otherwise the weather is so nice you can open windows and doors and let the cat come and go as she pleases and enjoy the sunlight and play guitar on the porch and… then the flies. It doesn’t take but a couple in the house to drive me mad. But, when life gives you flies, grow Venus flytraps.
Nothing says seasonal festivity like a carnivorous plant. I ordered this one on eBay from “Joe’s Carnivorous Plants”. She just ate her first fly yesterday. I was so proud. The leaves are thin enough that when the sun shines on them you can see the pesky little fly trapped in there.
That should keep the freshly cleaned and organized sketch room from devolving into pestilence and infestation for another year! Go, little flytrap!