Monday, June 20, 2016

Shelf Life

In keeping my promise of doing one new piece per month for 2016 along with my regular work here is a recent pencil. It was inspired by a class assignment called "Shelf Life". Using 3-5 objects that represent who you are produce a black and white 11 x 14 self-portrait.

I did a similar one last year and could not decide on how to proceed. I took this opportunity to do a number of hand studies instead. So I kind of did the assignment…sort of.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Completed Cover

Below are a few stages of the children's book cover I just delivered. I posted the pencil drawings last two posts. Here is the finished inking, which I then scanned and brought into Photoshop. After approval I added color, but Ruby's clothes did not match 1800s Colorado. An oversight where I needed to patch in a dress. I added some dirt to it and little touches on the back. Then I added the front cover copy (back cover type is being handled by someone else) and uploaded with Dropbox. Any questions or comments please write.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Reunion Station

This is the spot. She knows this is the spot. Even after nineteen months she could not be mistaken. No, this is where they are to meet, reunite to be accurate. She sits on the ledge watching the passengers file pass. All the trains exit this way. If he were on one he would have to be here, unless…no this is the spot. This is the day.
She tugs nervously at the hem of her dress. It is the floral one she wore when they first met at the USO club, blue with big red poppies. He teased her saying she looked matronly. Now, sitting on the cold green subway tiles she regrets choosing it.
She could hear another train pull into the station. The wheels echo along the arched ceiling. Military men and civilians trickle then stream through the dark corridor. Their shoes clicking on the tile like hail from an approaching storm. The dampness makes the air heavy and still inside this traveler’s tomb. Napkins stick to forearms. A torn placard with a white horse hangs on the wall opposite. Where is he?
She takes the letter out of the small pocket of her dress. It is his last letter and she sees hopes and dreams. He wrote less and less but she knew how much he cared, how they would spend their lives together. But that was three months ago. A lot can happen in three months. A lot happens in three days overseas. He must feel the same way. He must.
A piercing scream turns her head to the left. Two young girls in matching burgundy outfits run up to their father. He scoops them up as if they are bubbles in a bath. A couple embraces right in front of her. Have they no decorum? She cranes her neck around them. A few rush pass, a cigarette in one hand, duffle in the other. They all look so familiar.
The subway ride here made her nauseous earlier. Her head rested on the cloudy window as the stations blurred by. She had not eaten much the last week or two and slept even less. But she tried reading his letter over and over looking for something extra, something that would tie her over until she saw him. She rehearsed what she would say to him. During that ride she checked her make-up with the small compact she keeps in her clutch. The loudspeaker rasped out Grand Central. She reapplied the blood orange lipstick and stepped over the gap and into the terminal.
Now she sits, squirming on that hard ledge. It felt nothing like their last night together. The cool breeze from the passing summer storm brought a germinative relief through the open window of her apartment. Even the tattered curtains that danced about seemed buoyed with hope. How comfortable that spoon felt. How soft his kisses were. How strong his hands held her. How uncomfortable it was when he left.
Another train rolls in and pulls her back to the present, another champagne pop of passengers. Rubbing her shoes together causes a scuff she tries getting out with a little spit on the handkerchief that she wears around her arm. She can’t have him see her like this. She stands on the ledge hoping the extra height will cause him to appear like a white rabbit out of a magician’s hat. It doesn’t as she nearly topples over. 
She begins to pace. Nerves and the cold will do that to a person. With each step she takes questions creep into her head. Maybe he missed the train? Or maybe it was delayed? What if he changed his mind? What if, what if…the questions go round and round without answers, because there is only one. She looks at her watch. It’s late. The handkerchief around her wrist becomes soaked with tears and mascara. She rises and tries to walk out, but instead collapses her head landing on the ledge. “What’s happening?” she says to the ceiling lights shining down at her. “It’s just that I haven’t eaten…yes, that’s it,” she tells herself. “I’ll just rest a bit, close my eyes. Then he’ll be here and everything will be alright. He’ll be here…I just know it.”

A small crowd forms around her prone body. A policeman writes in his notebook. Age. Name. Address. Who is she? What is she doing here? They open her clutch but find only the compact and lipstick. A man in uniform pushes his way through the crowd. He drops the bouquet he was carrying on the ground. “Do you know her?” someone asks. He answers, “I do.” He sits next to her cradling her lifeless head. The passengers disperse and continue their trip leaving these three alone in the corridor. A whistle sounds as another train approaches.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Squirrels and Why I hate them

I have a guest writer this month who supplied me with a poem.

Squirrels and Why I hate them
by Larry O’Roarke, Irish Terrier

There is no purpose to a squirrel
No reason to exist
And if I travel ‘round the world
My opinion wouldn’t switch

They’re short and hairy with tails too long
Their chirps give me a pain
Without the trees I’d catch them all
And chew their little brains

On top the fence they act so brave
My anger will not sway
I’ll leave my mark, I’ll have my way
Along the palisade

Every day they taunt me so
At night they haunt my dreams
I twitch and whimper to and fro
I hate those little fiends

They make a mess all through the yard
Eating bulbs and tubers
When I get old, my health all marred
I’ll learn to shoot a luger

Next step in my cover. Finished pencil.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die

This has not been a good year if you are a rock star. Every week seems to bring another musical tribute. The latest of course was Prince.
Years before I met my wife she was living in Minnesota. While having dinner with her mom one evening, Prince was sitting across from them with his entourage. He tried buying my future wife a drink and made a pass, which her mom quickly intercepted and sent back to him. She wasn’t having any of that for her nineteen-year-old daughter. Her mom never had an issue with me, however, and this has caused her judgment to be suspect ever since.
Now Prince is dead and I’m still here. No longer can he entertain tens of millions with his songs and performances, while I can still blog to tens of people. Who’s laughing now? Probably not my wife who might have become the Princess of Minnesota and inherited more than I could ever leave her.
Some what related to that we attended an ‘80s dance party this past weekend. Although the crowd was manageable it was hard to hear the music over the replaced hips and creaking knees. Of course, yours truly danced just like I did all those years back, like a drunk in the midst of electro-shock therapy. I haven’t lost it.
There was a costume contest, which I apparently won, even though I just grabbed some things out of my closet. Wear them until they wear out is my motto. Along with a few Material Girls, I saw several members of Miami Vice, preppy boys, Bruce Springsteen, and even a Magnum PI.
Every few songs the DJ would play either Prince or Bowie, and an audible moan was heard above the din. Dancers moved a little slower. Spectators lifted their drinks. Then he switched to Billy Idol and life sped up to 45 rpms again. It was like a non-linear conga line that slows down once in a while to avoid a table or chair.
But, when we lose an icon from our youth they take a part of it with them. Especially if they were the voice of their generation; voices like Lennon’s, Mercury’s, Holly’s, Joplin’s, Strummer’s, and now Bowie’s and Prince’s just to name a few. They spoke; no they screamed what we needed to hear. What we wanted to say ourselves.
How sad it is they are gone, but sadder still is what this generation will have to look forward to: A Bieber tribute. A Miley Cyrus channel on Sirius. You probably don't even know where the title of this post comes from. Oh you poor bastards. Imagine a child raised on Timberlake instead of Etta James or The Kinks. I ask, how can the youth of today give a metaphoric middle finger when they listen to Adele? And they need to. Every generation needs its rebels, its anti-social dissidents to make sure we don’t lose our way, to keep us on track, to tell us old guys off.
Well, go ahead, I’m listening.

I wasn’t able to get my monthly project done in April for a variety of reasons. Mainly, since I was commissioned to do a third cover for the Ruby and Maude Adventure series. Here is the rough for the wraparound cover. I’ll post the finished art in May.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Ghost Tribe

I was probably ten when I first heard about the ghost tribe.
It was on a Sunday while visiting my grandparents up in the Bronx. They lived on a quiet tree lined street that was just blocks from the El. On the corner was a luncheonette where my grandmother often took me to get a comic book. This time a Justice League 80-page special. It was one of those odd shaped stores nestled among brownstones. The red leather stool cushions worn and the tin ceiling bent. It was perfect.
Afterwards, we headed back to their apartment with my grandmother returning to the kitchen and her sauce. My grandfather was sitting in front of the television holding a jelly glass filled with homemade red wine. A Civil War movie was playing on a small black and white tv. The freshly vacuumed rug smell filled my nose as I stretched out. Flipping through my comic I glanced every so often up at the screen.
“You know we almost lost that war. If it wasn’t for the ghost tribe that is.”
“Ghost tribe?”
He gave me a look that landed somewhere between disgust and incredulousness. “Don’t they teach history at your school?”
“You’re making that up,” and I turned back to the retreating rebels and superheroes.
“Hmmph. I suppose you think we just got lucky? I was just about your age when my uncle told me about them. He fought for the New York 69th Regiment. It was during the second Battle of Bull Run when he first saw them.
“It was just after dawn with a thick fog sitting in the dells when his platoon got cut off. Pin down on all sides. Bullets whizzing passed their heads. Horses shot out from under them. It was quite a mess. Then the shooting stopped. Suddenly, the still air was filled with screams and yells he swore he never forget. When it became quiet again a figure appeared out of the fog. My uncle raised his rifle ready to shoot, when a soft voice behind him told him to lower his gun.
“There standing before him was an Indian, but not like any Indian he knew. He was over six feet tall, with thick red hair and a braided beard flowing to the middle of his chest. In one hand he held a double-headed axe, and the other a knife. He slung a rifle across his red back. Naked from the waist up he was covered in blood, tattoos, and war paint. One by one other tribesmen appeared out of the fog, similarly dressed, some had blond hair. Many wore beards.
“He explained to my uncle that stealth is sometimes best for battle, and therefore chose not to use their rifles. There were thirteen in all. The rebels numbered forty-five. None survived. They saved your great granduncle’s life and many more in that horrible war.”
My grandfather sat back in his chair placing the jelly glass on the small folding table besides him. It took a minute for it all to sink in.
“Indians don’t have red hair or beards,” I told him.
“So you say.”
Then he told me about the tribe. How they were a mixed race from sailing men coming out of what is now Canada. Fierce beyond any other tribe, they were feared and hunted by settlers. My grandfather then told me how they entered the war.
“It was 1863. Things were going badly and the North was desperate. While those in Washington argued and quarreled about using native tribes,” he continued, “Lincoln pressed on. He made a deal promising them land in the Pacific Northwest in return for their help. Of course,” he became sullen, “he couldn’t keep that promise.”

I always like that story of his, but never gave it much credence until years later when I stopped by a flea market in Virginia. I picked up a battered and torn book missing its cover and front matter. It appeared to be a memoir written during the Civil War. Flipping through the pages the words ‘ghost tribe’ jumped out at me.
From what I could gather it was written by a Confederate soldier serving under General Longstreet. He went on in great length about the tribe, how they fought and died. Just a handful of them were feared more than any regiment of Northern soldiers.
They told him how their forefathers first came out of the northern waters on wooden boats bearing dragons at the bow and sails twenty feet tall. They lived together with the natives for hundreds of years until other Europeans came and settled the coast. How when other tribes died from plague and disease brought by the white man their tribesmen somehow survived. Other tribes believed they were cursed. The memoirist went on in great detail about their customs and way of life.
He described living with them after the war, a very rare occurrence, for he fell in love with one of their women. Just as fierce as the men he needed to pass a test of fire before joining their clan. But he failed and was banished from the tribe, returned home and never saw them again.

Could there still be members of this tribe living today? Did the Norsemen really land successfully in North American some four hundred years before Columbus? Many artifacts have been found that suggests iron tool making not in sync with Native Americans. But without a written language it is hard to piece their story together.
I tried to find other copies of the soldier’s book intact with names and publishing information. I spent years researching this phenomenon, my grandfather’s fish story, without any luck. Maybe that’s all it ever was, a tall tale of early America, a specter, a ghost story.

Two more pieces this month. 
One done at our local garbage dump. Hardly a plein aire!
And one for a contest at SCBWI. You are given a prompt word each month. This one LUCKY.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

February Art Project

My second in a series of art projects. This was planned for a client but never got past the pencil stage. I liked the way it was coming out so I finished it myself. The process was my standard of traditional ink and brush work with computer color. In this case Photoshop.

Next month I am planning a book cover for a classic piece of literature. Maybe by that time I'll have something to write about as well.