Spidey was my jam as a young Martian. I must have crafted this masterpiece near the end of the 1970s, when I was five to seven years old. Clearly, I had a lot to learn about architecture and anatomy. Feel free to mock me now for those ridiculous hands!
Well into my early adolescence, if you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, “A comic-book artist.” I designed different characters and drew them poorly, no matter how many drawing tutorials I attempted to follow. Eventually, I became reasonably okay-ish in various visual, musical, and literary art forms, but I still can’t draw sequential art to save my life — unless it’s stick figures!
Someone on Reddit suggested this could be a super-rare variant cover, so I ordered a five-dollar copy of the blank version of Non-Stop Spider-man #1 using some of the store credit I earned at MyComicShop in the last couple of months thanks to this blog’s readers. I’ll see if I can get this image printed on it.
In other news, I finished drafting episode 34 in the ongoing Adventures of Meteor Mags and Patches this week, and I had a blast writing it. It’s really two stories in one. In the “present day” of February 2032, the interspecies telepathic band Small Flowers performs their final concert in the asteroid belt. That story is spliced with flashbacks about the musical friendship between Mags and Alonso, who is the only human in Small Flowers and one of the people Mags loves most in all the solar system.
July 2022 Update: The story is now collected in Meteor Mags: Permanent Crescent and Other Tales. For sale on Amazon in ebook, paperback, and hardback editions.The ebook is also available on Smashwords and coming soon to other major retailers.
Bonus points to anyone who gets my silly Spider-man drawing printed on a t-shirt before I do. Until then, Cadet Stimpy and I remain stranded on the planet Ballknob. We had to eat what was left of the ship.
Sketchbook Sundays used to be a regular event here at Mars Will Send No More, but then I got into writing fiction. Recently, I’ve missed drawing, and I always wanted to be better at drawing animals. So I picked up a few inexpensive books by Lee J. Ames. Each page has a different animal to draw, guiding you through the process in six stages, from outlining the basic shapes to the final shading and detail. It’s a bit limited by only having one pose per animal, so it isn’t like a master class in anatomy. But it’s fun to learn some of the basics and quickly produce a decent sketch.
When I was a kid, I used to get these books from the library, but I could never get the proportions right. Results were disastrous and crushed my youthful aspirations of illustrating comics. Decades later, I better understand what Ames is trying to tell me about basic underlying shapes, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to be loose and even sloppy in the early stages — kind of like pounding out a rough draft of a scene without worrying about whether it’s perfect. Later, you come back and revise, smooth out the rough edges, and put the final editorial polish to it.
Anyway, I practiced on a bunch of sharks and cats lately. Birds and bugs are next in line.
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.
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 fromJoe’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.
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.
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 artwork, which I designed using scans of an acrylic painting and an ink drawing, came out really nice. 2022 Update: This compact disc went out of print in June 2021 due to changes at Amazon, but you can download it for free as an MP3 album from this blog’s Music Albums page.
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!
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.
Toy Robot. This wind-up toy dutifully marches through a sky filled with Kirby Krackle in tribute to the 1978 toy created by Tomy. For a photo reference, we used a picture taken for our eBay listing which sold this robot a few months ago. This black and white drawing was created with Micron 05 fine point pen, various Sharpie markers, white gel pen, and black pastel. 5×7 aspect ratio, from a high-resolution (300 dpi) scan of original art.
For today’s Sketchbook Sunday, let’s take a moment to spotlight these cute animal cards Mom sent us. In 2010, Mom had never had an email address. We encouraged her to get one, and then she started discovering the joys of Google – especially for finding images and materials for her preschool classes. Last year she took her first online course, a class in digital photography to support her animal photo enthusiasm. Now she is having her own cards made from her digital pictures. Pretty cool! Here are three of our favorites, below.
Readers of Mars Will Send No More may recall how we collaged our table with pages from old Jack Kirby comics a few years ago. The Kirby table has served us well, fueling our inspiration and filling our life with Kirby Krackle as we paint and eat. But now, it is time for a little refinish.
Love those panels of people freaking out in a morass of cosmic crackle! But as you can see, the well-loved surface is now a disaster, and it’s impossible to even tell if the thing is clean enough to eat on or not at any given moment.
So, we sanded down the big chunks with some 60 grit and a palm sander, then gave it a black and white starry cosmos finish with some old spray paint from a box of leftovers in a friend’s garage.
This week, our pillows arrived. Below you see a 20×20 throw pillow featuring the image of Meteor Mags playing piano in her black dress and silly pirate hat.
The pillows are nicely made with a sturdy outer cover. The image is printed on both sides. They have a zipper on one edge. It opens to reveal a polyester pillow. The pillows in the 20×14 products are much cuddlier than the 20×20 products. They are stuffed more. The 20×20 is beautiful, but the 20×14 pillows are more snuggly.
And that’s all we have time to share this weekend! Thank you for dropping by ~ and happy sketching!
This Sketchbook Sunday, let’s take a trip down memory lane. I made an auction listing for the last surviving remnants of my sketchbooks from the 1990s and early 2000s. I’ve scanned and reworked some of them into new art, and I’d like to re-do a few with fine-point pens. Even though some are pretty ragged by now, I’m sentimental about them. Maybe they will find a new home. [Update: They did find a new home! SOLD.]
The business coach we’ve worked for the past seven years often reminds us to take time to celebrate our successes. This carries a special importance when you work independently. After all, a sole proprietor works without any sort of company hierarchy to hand out employee-of-the-month awards, bonuses, or other forms of recognition. Artists working independently face the same challenge.
Plus, you can easily focus on all the things that haven’t yet worked out the way you hoped. If you try ten different things and one succeeds wildly, you might be too caught up in your nine other failures to really appreciate it. It takes a certain mental fortitude to keep moving forward, and celebrating your successes plays an important role in that.
Last week, we had a wonderful chat with a local business owner referred to us to discuss some potential ways we could work together. We mentioned, somewhat dejectedly, that we had only sold about five pieces of artwork since we began seriously attempting it last fall. She said it was funny we viewed it negatively, since she found that number quite impressive.
That made us pause and remember to celebrate our successes. So, we hope you don’t mind if we take a moment to review what pieces have sold in the last nine months. On a side note, our little poetry book has been selling a couple of copies each month, mostly overseas. Though that isn’t a phenomenal sales figure, it certainly does make us happy that the collection is getting out there.
Let’s have a look at what we’ve sold so far.
Guitar #1 sold in October 2013 through Etsy to a MWSNM reader in Canada.
Guitar #7 sold in November 2013 through Etsy to family in the USA.
Guitar #15 sold in November 2013 through eBay to a buyer in the USA.
Instead of sketching this week, we devoted our sketch time to framing and listing several of our favorite pieces from the past year. It turns out to be quite a process: selecting and ordering frames, photographing each piece, and coming up with something compelling to say about them for the listing. Add to that unpacking, assembling, packing, and uploading, and you’ve suddenly got a pretty big project on your hands.
But, at the end, the final framed piece of art gives you a feeling of satisfaction. You’ve taken an idea and made it real. In today’s world of goods and services performed virtually and delivered by email, we sometimes lose an important reward: that day you can step back, take a look at what you accomplished, and know it as a tangible thing.
Ellie the Studio Cat advised us that it was entirely too nice a day to be drawing inside, so the two of us chilled at the little picnic table outside sketching prehistoric animals. We’re doing some very rough studies to get a feel for rendering these ancient critters with a combination of Sharpie and fine-point pens. And yes, Ellie does look like she’s scowling in this photo, but she is just relaxing, contentedly hanging out for sunshine and sketching.
Anyway! Trilobites seemed like they would be simple, but their unique anatomy presents some conceptual challenges. Since this sketch we found some more photo references from the Burgess Shale that depict a few different types of trilobites with anatomical variations. We will master the trilobite yet!
Rod Ruth has a pencil drawing in Album of Prehistoric Animals that makes a great reference for Diatryma feathers and anatomy. This was the easiest one of the bunch to pin down where we would want fine lines versus bold chisel-tip inking. Smilodon smiles on, with Rod Ruth’s cover of the same book giving a perfect snarly pose to work from.
The skull of Dunkleosteus appears in one of our favorite books, Extinction. The interesting plate structure of this placoderm’s head easily lent itself to bold black lines.
An Archaeocyathid from the same book was rendered in ink by one of the contributing artists, so we studied the way light and shadow define the curves.
Here is our first rough pencil study of a panel by Bob Powell with a whacky sci-fi wasp from another planet who comes to earth in a globe of pure force. The sketch isn’t so great, but this is how we get to know our subjects.
Our previous posting of Somewhere Between Mars and Earth got some encouraging response. We returned to it and filled in the lower right corner with more mega-doodle madness. Framed, it looks pretty darn trippy.
Our first Sharpie study of And One of Them Was Destroyed felt good enough that we want to do a more finished version on some high-quality artist paper. While we get materials together for that endeavor, our two-page sketch can enjoy this 12×18 frame!
Last but not least, we framed our little frog from our book of watercolor paper postcards. It will list on eBay soon, and we will be picking up another book of those blank postcards. In the next round, though, we will take care to leave a border around the edges. Frog looks great, but another one of our cards really needs to be matted to a 5×7 frame to preserve the details at the edges. Live and learn! UPDATE:Diving Frog sold on eBay to an overseas buyer. Rock on!
Somewhere Between Mars and Earth. Micron fine-point pen and Sharpie marker.
We began this 8.5 x 11 mega-doodle as a study of Ian Miller’s line work in the illustrated edition of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. It soon took on a life of its own! Peter Deligdisch advises “keep calm and draw lines” in his collection Line of Thought, a work that Amazon groups with “zentangle.” We hadn’t heard of zentangle before, but that’s exactly what our art teacher called it when we started making textures with tons of lines. It may be a hot new art thing, but dig the way Ian Miller zentangled us on the road to Mars decades ago.
We like the energy effects and dynamic lightning bolts in the heart that Miller drew for the chapter called May 2003: The Wilderness. By drawing lines in one direction or the other, Miller creates distinct spaces and shapes. The lines serve as texture to give the area form or identity. Miller uses stippling and tiny circles to achieve a tasty variation of our favorite thing in the universe: Kirby Krackle. And, because so much of the page is “textured” or rendered, his empty white spaces also become solid objects. We have long admired this artwork, and approaching it analytically with the right tools for the job turned out to be fun and educational.
The Ian Miller edition of the book includes this quote from the Bradbury text as a preface: And somewhere between Mars and Earth everything of the message was lost… and his voice came through saying only one word: “Love.”
Here it is framed:
And here is an early version where we almost stopped and left negative space in the lower right corner. But, something told us to press on.
Sharpie Marker study of a comic book panel from The Eternals by Jack Kirby (Marvel, 1976.) I don’t recall exactly which issue, since this page is lacquered onto my table top. Here is my digital restoration of the original splash panel (two-page spread) from a scan. So much Kirby Krackle!
An art magazine arrived in the Martian Mailbox with this full page ad featuring paintings by Michael Reafsnyder. Since we don’t yet have the space to produce large-scale abstract expressionist canvases like this, we just drew one. Thus, imaginary studio. Besides gigantic canvases full of splashy splattery modern art, our imaginary studio also contains Ellie the studio cat, random sculptures, and a giant work-in-progress of the Silver Surfer zooming in front of a sun.
Ellie the studio cat cares less about what goes on the canvases than about how fun it is to make cat forts out of them.
Aardvark’s The Puma Blues from 1986 features the artwork of Michael Zulli. Zulli drew some of our favorite Ninja Turtles pages in the story Soul’s Winter, taking those silly cartoon characters and imbuing them with a totally different, darker spirit. Here, however, Zulli portrays wilderness and the animals that live there, and the borders where they contact the human world.