Marvel Team-Up #2 is a riotous mix of 1970s superhero nonsense and insanely dramatic confrontations between the Human Torch and Spider-man. The villains take control of Spidey’s mind and turn him into a weapon against his friend, Johnny Storm.
Oh, the pathos! My suspension of disbelief is only hampered by the fact that Spidey was, by that point in comics history, established as being so strong that a punch from him should have killed Torch immediately. Spider-man isn’t strong on the level of Hulk or Thor, but he packs a wallop that could take off your head.
Regardless, this scene inspired me to use a couple panels as ink studies for chisel-tip markers I’d recently acquired. They create broad, angular lines but also finer lines when rotated 90 degrees. I found I could get a mix of bold shapes and detail lines if I worked at the appropriate scale for the brush width.
I cut the pages from my sketchbook and hung them in a prominent place where I see them a few times a day, as a reminder. Sometimes I feel so wrapped up in and trapped by all kinds of stuff, focused on negative things about what’s wrong while my brain tries to solve problems, that it’s nice to have a buddy like Torch: someone willing to yell sense at me when I totally lose the plot. Someone to remind me who I am.
Johnny Storm stands his ground even when mind-controlled Spidey is trying to kill him. Sure, Torch could crank up his flames, “go nova”, and incinerate Spidey to a pile of ash. But it wouldn’t be enough for Torch to save himself. He wants to liberate Spider-man, too. That’s true friendship.
The friendship and occasional rivalry between these two heroes has been going on since the 1960s, and I enjoyed Jonathan Hickman’s treatment in his run on the Fantastic Four. When the Human Torch ***spoiler alert*** dies to save our universe from an invasion, Spider-man takes his place in the FF. Spidey honors his old pal’s last will and testament, and also completes a lifelong dream of joining the FF, a dream that began in the very first issue of The Amazing Spider-man where a much more inexperienced and arrogant Peter Parker tried out for the team—and failed. One especially heartfelt tale on Hickman’s run has Spidey share with Johnny’s nephew, Franklin, about how Spidey lost his uncle, too.
I got so into Marvel Team-Up #2 that I cut up a copy in really poor condition I got for fifty cents. It’s a crazy expensive comic in better condition, but it retails for about $5 in the condition I found it. I definitely got more than $5 worth of artistic inspiration from it, doing a few other ink studies and also the first painting in my 2013 dream journal series which has a partially visible underlayer of panels concerning the argument between Spidey and Torch, a battle not just for their bodies and their minds but the very essence of their friendship.
Panels of their conflict fill the angry rift running from the upper left corner to the bottom right of the painting. Over them, I painted and textured layer after layer, including found objects from small pieces of hardware to a dead, dehydrated lizard I found on my porch, adding color washes until they became like a soothing balm for the raging argument below, brushing and pouring and splashing until a peace came over me and I knew that despite what had happened to them, Spidey and Torch would be okay. Their lives and friendship had been torn apart by anger, but they would heal. Their friendship would heal.
In that sense, the painting became a way for me to work though some dark things that had come up in my dreams until I could see the light again. It wasn’t just about anger, as I later titled it. It was about regaining one’s senses and overcoming that emotional disruption.
Another of my dream journal series of paintings began as a collage of the same issue’s cover and random interior images, plus a few add-ins from other comics I was sacrificing on the altar of art at that time, including beat-up copies of Marvel Team-Up #5 and #16. The central panel is a John Byrne and Karl Kesel illustration from a six-issue DC series in the 1980s called Legends.
Spidey’s dialogue “Face it, creeps! This is the pay-off!” appears twice, which suggests I had not one but two copies of Marvel Team-Up #2. But maybe the second occurrence comes from a different and far less expensive Spider-man reprint issue, from which I repurposed a bunch of pages.
Later, I added more and more layers of paint and texture until the original collage was almost entirely obscured. The collage centered on a panel where a character thought, “Perfect! The master will be well-pleased!” Over the years, I kept adding to the canvas, trying to bring it closer to some perfect form. I awoke one morning to see what I had wrought upon the canvas in an inebriated, late-night state.
“Perfect,” I said. “Perfect!” Then I laughed like a maniac, probably convincing my neighbors that a real-life supervillain lived next door, because I could not keep a straight face while trying to say, “The master will be well-pleased.”
Years later, I still say this to myself when I feel stressed about some artistic decision. It makes me laugh and reminds me to not take things so dreadfully seriously. But I’ve also learned to build in a buffer of time to step away from decisions made in anger or fear before carrying them out, then come back to them a day or two later with a fresh perspective.
Do I see improvements I could make before acting? Have I realized some potentially negative outcomes I didn’t consider before? Could I improve the ways I plan on communicating with others about the situation? Do I need to do some research to back up my convictions or expose places where I might be wrong?
Then let’s attend to those things now, before we damage friendships and end up punching each other’s lights out in some science-fiction hallway where our actions only serve the villains who seek to destroy us.
Collector’s Guide: The original issue appeared as Marvel Team-Up #2 in 1972 from Marvel Comics. It was reprinted in the far less expensive Spider-man Megazine #2, which you can get for about $2. It also appears in black-and-white in the Essential Marvel Team-Up, Volume 1.
I recently shared a couple poems from the 1985 illustrated edition of Pablo Neruda’s poetry collection Art of Birds. I guess I got lucky last year, scoring an old library copy for less than $20, because prices on any edition of this book are now pretty steep. Here are four of Jack Unruh‘s bird drawings that accompany Jack Schmitt’s translations of the poems.
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 fromJoe’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.
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!
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.
Blue & White Nebula. 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!
Every year, the Burton Barr Library, the main hub of the Phoenix Public Library system, dedicates its first-floor art gallery to a Dia De Los Muertos exhibit. The exhibit presents altars made by locals in remembrance of family, friends, and others who inspired and influenced the altars’ creators before dying. This year’s exhibit features not only tributes to artists like Jim Henson, Salvador Dali, Sylvia Plath, and Shel Silverstein, but also memorials to grandparents, cousins, and co-workers.
The brightly-colored altars contain images and objects of meaning to the departed, from books they loved to food they liked, from memorabilia of their favorite sports teams to images and quotes that meant something to them. Every altar has an artist’s statement about what the departed meant to them on a very personal level. These are intimate statements, and one cannot help but be moved by their candor and affection.
Traditional motifs of Dia De Los Muertos abound: multi-colored paper marigolds, candy skulls, and sculptures of people and animals painted black and then painted over with skeletons. The exhibit always contains a piece where people have written names and messages on bright paper butterflies and hung them on lines stretched below a colorful arch of paper marigolds. I imagine the butterflies are symbols of transformation, and also flight and rising above—a deep contrast to the familiar Halloween imagery of graveyards and haunted houses where spirits remain trapped.
Halloween holds little appeal for me. Halloween focuses on fright and creepiness. Halloween imagines the dead come back to haunt us. Halloween portrays the dead as tortured souls come back from the grave to share their torment with us. Perhaps that is one way people confront their fears of death.
But Dia De Los Muertos imagines the dead quite differently. Rather than the dark and gloomy colors of Halloween, Dia De Los Muertos revels in color and brightness. Dia De Los Muertos imagines the dead continuing to do the things they loved to do in life. The dead joyously ride bicycles, make art, love their pets, and play musical instruments. Los Muertos are quite happy, and the day celebrates the joy and love they felt in life—and that we felt for them.
So, I like to make an annual trip to Burton Barr to see this exhibit. I always find it profoundly moving in the way it celebrates those who have died. Though tinged with sadness, the altars focus on why we loved those we have lost, and what brought them joy while they were alive. This year, I took my camera phone to snap a few shots for this blog, but then had second thoughts.
Instead, I took one of many copies of the Lakota prayer, scanned below, from one of the altars. I did not know Carole, but she worked in the public library system here, and worked in libraries all her adult life. Her multi-level altar—created collaboratively by friends, family, and co-workers—includes a diorama of Carole in skeletal regalia seated in a comfortable chair, watching her favorite sports team on television, surrounded by shelves of books and the pets she loved in this life. Above this diorama is a poem composed for her. It tells of her life and her eventual death from cancer. It mourns her passing but celebrates her life. If, as the mythology of Dia De Los Muertos says, the dead do gain permission one day each year to visit their living loved ones, then I have no doubt Carole would be touched to find the exhibit made in her honor. I found the following verse much more meaningful than any spooky and scary Halloween imagery.
Oak Toad on a Leaf. Micron 05 and 01 fine point pen.
And that’s it for my drawing pad of 6×8 paper! Though I have a couple other blank sketchbooks waiting, I might get another 6×8 pad to have around. I like working in this size for several reasons. One, it takes less time to go from concept to completion than it does with a 9×12 drawing. Two, the dimensions make it easier to crop to a 5×7 aspect ratio for custom-printed greeting cards. Three, I can find mats and frames for a much more reasonable price at this size, compared to the relatively exorbitant cost of matting a 9×12 to an 11×14 frame. And four, since I draw all my mid-tone lines by hand without a ruler, it is less challenging to cover large areas of the drawing than it is in a 9×12. Just try drawing hundreds of straight lines across a 9×12 sheet of paper sometime, and you’ll see what I mean!
Like last week’s damselfly, this toad had as its photo reference one of my mother’s recent nature photographs. She’s taken some especially crisp and detailed photos of small animals lately, and it’s been fun using them as inspiration for opportunities to practice inking with fine point pens.
Damselfly. Micron 05 and 01 fine point pens and Sharpie marker.
You can tell this is a damselfly, not a dragonfly, by the folded wings. A dragonfly at rest would hold its wings out flat. Damselflies fold their wings above their thorax like this.
Mom deserves credit for taking the original photograph this drawing is based on.