Clinch River Sturgeon

Our local PBS station, WCTE, hosts the Great TV Auction ever year, with proceeds benefiting the station. Along with many of the other talented Art Prowl artists, I donated a piece that will be auctioned off on the evening of Sunday, June 9th. Anyone in the area should tune in for a great opportunity to get some cool art and support your local public television.

My piece is titled “Clinch River Sturgeon,” and depicts a vibrant green lake sturgeon. Much like my Cryptid Americana series, it is acrylic paint on a stained pine plank, with india ink penwork for all of the details. Below is a step-by-step photo progress gallery.

And as an exclusive tip to my blog readers, I’ll clue you in to the fact that the fins and underbelly of this particular fish have a phosphorescent tendency, all thanks to a little experimenting with glow-in-the-dark paint:]


Show and Con Catchup

I’m way behind on show report posts! In the interest of completeness and simultaneous brevity, I’m going to upload a couple galleries of photos from Art Prowl 2012 and Omnicon 2013, and do my best to avoid my usual long-winded explanations.

Art Prowl: My dad and I were lucky enough to display at the Putnam County Library, which was pretty great, considering it’s where I spend all my weekday work days. He brought a slew of his awesome abstracts, which you can peruse in much greater detail over at his blog. I brought an assortment of my digital prints, as well as four new pieces I created in my Cryptid Americana series. These are a combination of acrylic and ink on stained pine planks. (previous post with more detail) The show was a blast, it’s always great getting to show your work to your community, and even better getting to do that alongside your dad!

This March was my fourth time displaying at Omnicon, Cookeville’s local Sci-fi/Comics convention, held at TTU. (posts from last year) I brought several new prints, as well as a collection of newspaper comics I produced a few years ago for TTU’s own “The Oracle.” But I was most proud of how I re-envisioned the Die of Destiny monster prints. This year emerging as the Tower of Tribulation, it is now a full-fledged micro RPG. I came up with four hero archetypes, each one with an accompanying character sheet complete with stats and special abilities. The player would choose an avatar, and then challenge one of the 8 available monsters (4 from last year and 4 brand new ones) to a duel, involving the Die of Destiny. As they advanced, they could win more prints, and eventually were either vanquished or victorious. It. Was. A. Blast. The wheels are already turning for ways to improve it next year!

Omnicon Aftermath: “A Hero’s Journey”

My entry for the Omnicon Art Contest this year was a large story mural entitled “A Hero’s Journey.” For some time I’ve been aware of Joseph Campbell and his Monomyth theory, but have never done any real research into it. I recently found time to watch his “Power of Myth” interviews, which I found fascinating. And so my piece is an incredibly boiled down version of his Hero’s Journey. It is composed of seven story panels, laid out vertically to be read from bottom to top, each depicting a step in the journey. The seven stages I chose/combined are The Call to Adventure, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Trials and Tests, Descent into Darkness, The Final Confrontation, and Salvation.
I wanted to use very stylized and minimalist characters and layout, to show the generic and all-encompassing nature of the story, though I was certainly influenced by outside forces. When I decided to color-code the three main characters, that of the Hero, the Villain, and the Princess, I went with a green/red/blue pattern as a tribute to the Legend of Zelda series (which is also very obviously influenced by the Monomyth). To further iconicize them, I attached a basic shape to each of the big three, respectively a triangle, square, and circle. I used these shapes as central features, as well as a guiding force in the physical design and layout for each character’s form. In retrospect, it may have been a mistake to make the Hero both green and a triangle, since I was regaled all weekend with “That’s a cool Zelda piece!” and “Neat, but you got the Link and Ganon wrong.” Oh well:]
Another symbolic choice was using the same brown color for both the scenery and the Mentor figure, to imply that he was of the earth, and something of a primal force (I wanted a solid Old Ben Kenobi vibe about him). Furthermore, once he bestows the Mystic Power on the Hero, it creates an immediate change in him, which we see stays with him even once he has let go of it, and is also passed on to his love.
As far as art technique goes, I started with a six foot long and one foot wide pine plank, which I sanded thoroughly and stained liberally. I used a gloss polyurethane coat to make sure my ink would not bleed, which, unfortunately, also made it quite difficult to photograph. My apologies.
Once the stain had dried, I went in and measured out my panels and borders, and then penciled in each of my scenes.  A lot of my technique here has been refined on the smaller drawings I do on wooden plaques. If I’m careful and keep my pencil lines fairly light, they’ll usually erase right off.
After everything was penciled, I mixed up copious amounts of each ink (terrified that I would not mix enough, and have to try a color match at the very end) and went in to ink each figure. I used a dip pen with a basic drawing nib, first outlining each shape and then going through to fill it. For some reason a brush does not get good coverage on top of the stain, instead making little beads everywhere, so I actually had to go through and scribble each solid shape full.
This took For-ev-er.
Once all of the figures were filled in, I then went back and added the horizon and foundation lines. And when these had dried, I tediously painted in the borders with gold acrylic paint. Once that was all finished, I was fortunate enough to retain assistance from The Gentleman Philip Fox, who went back and quite carefully erased all my pencil lines and smudges.
Then, it was finished! All told, I believe this took a little over a week to complete, and that was with some Very sleepless nights.
Whenever I work on a major piece like this, especially one in which I’ve invested so much thought, it is important for me to surround myself in inspiration the entire time. Normally I do this through thematically and emotionally appropriate music, but for this I ransacked my DVD collection for some of my favorite epic hero stories. Imbued within the ink are equal parts A New Hope, Never-Ending Story, The Rocketeer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Mask of Zorro, Hellboy, Conan the Barbarian, and more I can’t currently remember. As I worked, I noticed just how many this basic outline could fit over. Certainly Star Wars, as Lucas is a long-time supporter of Campbell’s. But also most of the others, perhaps with some slight rearranging of the steps’ order. And videogames equally well, when you think on it. The Super Mario series is basically a starter course in Monomyth.
All said and done, this was certainly a labor of love, and I am quite happy with my results.

Grinch Bulletin Board

Another one of my art duties at the library involves designing and constructing bulletin board displays in the hallway. I’ve done several over the last couple years, ranging from a giant marker drawing on a single sheet of paper to intricate collages of multiple painted components. One of my favorites is the holiday board I made, depicting How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This is the third time I’ve displayed the piece, and every year it changes a bit. Most of the individual components are saved from year to year, but the landscape and text has to be recreated each time.

First step is to put my background paper up. Then, I take two long sheets of white, cut wavily for hills, and staple them up in layers. (I like to be a minimalist on staples, not really a fan of how they look. As I add elements, I will put staples underneath for hidden support. Like ‘Spanks’, I suppose)
Next, I add the bag of Christmas Contraband. This actually hangs from the ceiling, so I need to put it up first to establish my height levels. The sled and giant slope are then put in underneath. I also slap up the Who Hill, with the jubilant Whos behind it.
I add the Who village in a haphazard fashion, just randomly grouping the Who Houses. From this point out, all elements are attached with heavy duty clear tape (bookbinding tape) with staples behind to make sure the paper will hold up. These huts, and the later trees, were all made on construction paper and laminated.
Now for the Grinch himself, as well as a smattering of Seussian trees. It’s hard to see in my poor quality photos, but I’ve also gone in with a few cool-colored crayons and added simple shadows under the different elements, as well as some differention between the rows of hills.
The last step is to draw in the letters, and it’s done! I play around with the lettering a bit every year, sometimes with more success than others. There are a few on this rendition I might have done differently, but I’ll live with it. And there’s always next year!
Close up of my Congregation of Whos. I had a lot of fun drawing these, just free-handing the silly little things off the top of my head. I found it works best to draw all the bodies, and then I go back and join up the arms and hands. I also enjoyed putting a few fun cameos in there, for those of you who know my IRL people.
I’m proud of most of the elements of this piece, but the Who Houses were by far the most fun. Really, sometime when you have a few spare hours and some Seuss books handy, just start doodling characters and scenery from his pages. After a couple tries, you’ll probably start absorbing his style, and all of a sudden everything has soft loopy curves and odd angles. Fun!
The Main Man was interesting to assemble. The body is just basic thick cardboard, painted with tempuras. I then fitted some red vaux-velvet around him, and hot glued like crazy. Topped it off with a little white felt and fuzz, and I went back with an ink wash to add in some folds and depth. Honestly, I’m pretty surprised he’s held up to three years of kids tugging on that coat.

Have some Happy Holidays!