Sketchbook Skater

Skater

f you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time it is painfully obvious that I am comics fan. I’m not a universal fan – I pick and choose my books carefully for content and (mostly) art. It should also be no surprise that super-heroes and (again mostly) super-heroines figure prominently in my sketch book.

What might be a surprise is that I love watch ice-skating as much as reading comics…but then again given my Alaskan boyhood it shouldn’t be THAT much of surprise. How much do I love skating? I would literally break into tears whenever Kristi Yamaguichi got up on the ice during her all-too-short career.

…so that’s why drawings like today’s image show up in my sketchbook.

I Am The Axe-Man!

Ax-man

Every weekend my Star Pupil and I try something new and this week it was use of an ax. It was a skill that really wasn’t on the schedule but a box of tools I recently gave him unfortunately included a sort of multi-tool-on-steroids that inexplicably included an ax blade…and as anyone with kids will  tell you glaciers can be moved by hand before you’ll get a five-year-old boy to change his mind about something like this.

After a safety briefing we spent about forty-five minutes in the shop chopping away and eventually produced the sundered one-by-two you see in this photo. The process could have been faster but one too many roadrunner cartoons convinced him logs literally jump into with one direct chop with an axe held straight on. I’d demonstrate alternate chopping at an angle but then he’d politely correct me and attempt to bludgeon the board in half.

We finally succeeded in parting the one-by-two and now he’s out with his mom visiting friends while I am busy hiding every other cutting implement before he gets back.

1972: Subterranean Spring Break

This week’s Saturday re-run. Funny story: not long after I first published this post I came across a solicitation for articles from the UAF alumni office – they’re coming up on an important milestone for the Wood Student Center and were looking for observations and memories of the building over the last fifty years. I sent them a copy of this…and never heard back.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

There are very few times when the words “Alaska” and “spring break” appear in the same sentence, but the University of Alaska does indeed have a spring break. At least it did when I was a student at The University of Alaska (This was when there was only one university and several community colleges). We got two days off in March, which coupled with the regular weekend gave us a four day spring break. The problem was there was no place to go and as it was a holiday there was no food service. You’d think that we’d have been starved into docile inactivity during that week but as you will see it was one of the most exciting weeks I spent on campus that year.

There was another major drawback to spring break: as a high school student my Best Friend still had to go to school – and keep weekday…

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Coming Attractions

(Be honest – after reading that title visions of  anthropomorphic movie snacks dancing across the screen while singing “Let’s all go to the lobby…” popped into your head.)

If it seems like new material has been a bit sparse lately you’re not mistaken – I’ve been caught up in some other endeavors that have taken me away from my keyboard.  Some of these activities involve visual art, but my biggest iron in the creative fire is a book project that should see print sometime between now and the Fourth of July. It involves reworking my stories from 1962 to 1967 into a volume dealing with growing  up in Alaska in the 1960s.

More than that I’d rather not say, other than it will be available in both e-book and dead-tree versions. I’m also doing the cover and interior spot illustrations.

I will keep you posted.

Square Peg 2.0

My sister Robin and I both spent most of our teens out of step with our own generation.  I’ve never been able to figure out exactly why that happened – it could have been the frequent moves, our parent’s influence or our own inclination – but at the end of the day it worked out simply that we had more in common with our parents’ generation than our own.

It made for some interesting experiences in the classroom and I’ve often wondered what life would have been like had I fallen in line with the rest of my fellow post-peak Baby Boomer peers. I wonder about that because I see the same thing happen with my Star Pupil AKA my grandson Jayden. He gets more time around grandparents than most kids – a slightly skewed experience that will be even more skewed because of my own square-peg-round-hole experience.

For example – his experience with personal electronics differs from that of his friends. Oh, we still have to use a crowbar to peel him away from phones and tablets, but he also has plenty of non-digital influences surrounding him. Case in point is his tool kit. He’s intensely interested in my activities so in an effort to preserve my own tool kit I’ve made up a set of his own, to include a hammer, pliers, some odd combination wrenches and both types of screwdrivers. I’ve also prepared a two-by-four with pre-drilled holes and several screws of both standard and Phillips flavors.

I think he may come out of my youth a little more “handy” than most kids his age.

JaydenTools1

 

Velma Howell 1935-2019

(It seems like the punchline to an old Henny Youngman joke, but I actually was asked to deliver the eulogy at my mother-in-law’s funeral over the weekend.)

Leading the way into any endeavor involves what we referred to as “spiritual growth” in the mission field and “good training” in the Army, both of which are innocuous terms for an experience that will terrify or put you through an emotional wringer. Being the first to marry into the Howell family brought on plenty of spiritual growth for me. The first time Velma laid eyes on me was at the gate in Dulles Airport twelve hours before I was to marry her oldest daughter Lori and I think the prospect of relinquishing her eldest to some wild man from Alaska was causing some concern.

She was quite vocal about the situation and would cycle through admonishing, questioning and teasing me, which was beginning to wear thin when it all came to a head a week later here in Huntsville. We were out buying paper goods and plastic ware for the reception and as we were driving around town Velma decided to share her philosophy on family relations. She said ” I like to think that I have gathered my family into a shiny bubble away from the world and its influences, where we are all happy all the time and nothing bad ever happens.”

As I sat in the back seat all I could think was “This chick is nuts”

It was an understandable reaction, given all the wisdom and insight I’d gained in my twenty-four years on earth as the oldest son in the family that put the “fun” into dysfunctional. Most of my family experiences involving shiny things also included pop-tops or lines on a mirror so I had no way of knowing that what Mom was really saying was

  • She loved her family and wanted the best for them.
  • She loved the Lord and wholeheartedly embraced every aspect of the Gospel

That was the pattern for her entire life. She was born and raised in southern California first San Bernardino then Colton where her family first met the missionaries when she was quite young – a trend that continued until she was almost twenty-one when she snagged one particular missionary by the name of Elder Howell as he was headed home. As a young lady she worked awhile as switchboard operator but once she was married her life’s work was being an excellent mother for her five children and supporting or serving alongside her husband in his callings as stake president, mission president and counselor in a temple presidency.

Outside of her family the Gospel was her whole life and she led a life of worship and devotion that is an example to us all. Look up the term “stalwart saint” in the bible dictionary and you’ll probably find her picture. Sometimes that degree of devotion can cause a person to become overly serious with that stern Bruce R. McConkie eagle-eyed look but Mom was able to keep a pleasant demeanor – and laugh.

She loved to laugh and could be quite a tease – but there were other things she loved as well.

She loved:

  • ice cream,
  • quilting
  • flowers
  • ice cream
  • birds
  • kaleidoscopes
  • Ice cream.

More than anything else she loved her husband Parley and was at this side whenever she could  be there…. in fact the words Parley and Velma Howell should be just one word “PARLEYANDVELMAHOWELL”.

I will miss her laugh and I will miss her.  Regardless of our faith we all have that inner Cro-Magnon straining to howl at the separation of death. But because of that faith we know that Mom is blessedly free from pain and much happier now that she was in the shiny place she always sought in life.

So…Run free Mom. We love you,

 

 

1970: …very early on!

1970sWarriors

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started my training as a “commercial artist”. Few schools offered any sort of specialized training, but I was lucky enough to snag  a spot in Richard Bird’s ground-breaking design program when it first started up at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in the mid-1970s. Despite my good fortune I remained essentially clueless – while Richard was refining a traditional illustration and graphic design program I was aiming for more adventuresome forms of expression featured in comics and the covers of books and record albums.

…and when I say clueless I mean clueless. I’d struggle with an overwhelming sense of despair as I looked through my collection of cover illustrations knowing that I’d never be able to render such tiny yet perfect images like the ones rendered by Frank Frazetta…never realizing that those gems were the phot0graphically reduced copies of larger  and more manageable works.

While my first tentative efforts were heavily influenced by Frazetta and his contemporaries I made no conscious effort to emulate that work to the exclusion of other styles. I just thought it looked cool and I wanted to see more of the same, even if I had to make the stuff myself.  Sometimes there was some actual risk involved. The vivid colors you see in this drawing were made by Flo-masters inks…which I don’t think are legal to use anymore. The intensity of the colors stemmed from the use of several exotic solvents in the ink’s preparation.

…just to give you a hint of what I was working with: the pens had interchangeable nibs, and when I’d put a used nib back into it’s slot in the carrying case the ink would spot-weld that used nib in place. 

Fireball XL5 (CGI version)

 

While shuffling through YouTube the other day I  found this CGI adaptation of Fireball XL5.  HarborsidePress LLC has produced a first and second half of the Granatoid Tanks story along similar treatment of the Planet 46 episode. All four offerings are a qualified success; it’s incredibly cool that someone would rework Fireball but there are several aspects of the production that have been done better.

While I kind of like the jet-bikes it’s a given that I am going to prefer my own reboot designs , and Venus’ clothing feels more like off-duty dress than a uniform. There are serious problems with both the structure and animation of the faces but in Harborside’s defense no one has come up with a decent treatment of a human face working through speech.