Jayden gets the lion’s share of write-ups but I do have other grandchildren that can lay equal claim to my heart. Last week I received a packet in the mail from my older son and his family in Maryland, a packet full of letters and pictures that were all equally wonderful…but there was one image that really fascinates me.
It was created by a grandson I call “Hank the Tank”. It would be natural to assume that I favor him because he bears the strongest resemblance to me as a child, but he also has a slightly tilted outlook on life that I love. He brings to mind another square peg in a round hole from decades ago.
Some of the imagery is recognizable but there is an element of the surreal that is very intriging. I see whales, submarines, Zeppelins and rockets …and I have to wonder about the story behind it all.
No – you’re not seeing things – the masthead illustration HAS gotten sharper and brighter, thanks to the efforts of my good friend Kent Gardner. Kent is a crackerjack designer from Vermont and he kindly took the time to clean up Emma and John for me. Gardner is also that rarest of commodities in the creative world: a designer who actually knows what he is talking about.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my creative career was that the last few details take almost as much time as the main process – and it turns out be much the same case with publishing. However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and as far as I can tell it’s not the headlight to an oncoming locomotive.
The checklist for finishing “The Life and Times of A Midnight Son” isn’t too overwhelming:
- Three interior illustrations
- Cover artwork
- Final edit
We still have to hammer out marketing details but for now I will share the the illustration that accompanies the final chapter.
You could call this Re-run Saturday+1, but then this isn’t a repeat of something I’ve written or created. This poster graced the wall of the room I shared with Scott Dickinson in Lathrop Hall at the University of Alaska in 1972. It did play an important part in my professional development – I was so entranced by the image that I switched majors from pre-law to illustration.
The original poster was close to 24″x36″ but this copy measures 11″x17″. I held on to my first copy for almost ten years but lost it in one of the three moves we made between 1987 and 1990. This smaller copy actually works well for me as the sloped ceiling in my studio puts hangable wall space at a premium.
The book-thing is still in the works, though it has been a more placid progress than I had imagined. I may have said this already but at the outset I hadn’t planned on illustrations but there were one or two chapters that really needed images to clarify the action. Before long it was a matter of one thing leading to another – now the whole book is getting illustrated.
This will accompany 1966: Fighting Crime on Scout Lake Road – which you can still find on this blog if you search back a bit.
Despite my age and girth I still have a soldier’s mindset – I can plod on through just about anything:
- When I developed a tremor in my hand that made painting problematic I switched to cut-paper sculpture.
- When I lost my teaching gig in Nashville I started teaching creative workshops out of my studio.
- When I
fractured destroyed my right ankle I taught from a wheelchair.
…but for some reason this fire at the Notre Dame has shaken me and I can’t figure out why is proving so hard for me to deal with.
- Maybe it’s the unsettled state of our world today.
- Maybe it’s my age.
- Maybe its because I love Gothic architecture.
The only Gothic cathedral I’ve seen in person was the Duomo and it’s probably just as well that I saw only the one because my heart couldn’t hold up – I think I went into full-body Stendahl’s syndrome. I studied Gothic Architecture from Mark Hamilton at BYU and I usually dwelt a little longer (than usual) on the subject in my own art history as befits living art you can walk around in.
Stephen Royale created this cardstock model for my class and I think should be shown again given the circumstances.
(…not exactly a Re-Run Saturday, but definitely an older creation.)
I was quite surprised the first time I encountered the melodramatic Boy Scout version Batman from the 1950’s. The creative collision came about late in 1964 in an 88 page Giant full of older stories that were quite a bit different from the tightly written, masterfully penciled New Age Batman and Curt Swan World’s Finest stories that had first drawn my attention. I didn’t quite know how to deal with story elements such as:
- Ace the Bat-Hound
- A Batwoman and Batgirl with clutch purses and masks resembling our school librarian’s glasses
- A Batmobile resembling an inverted goldfish bowl on wheels.
Camp elements just got “campier” with the 1966 Batman TV series and I found myself slowly easing over into the Marvel and Charlton circles until some of the Dark Avenger flavor started to return with superstar penciller Neal Adams.
Years later I find myself not quite so critical – as I get older and the world gets more and more chaotic I find myself more accepting of the pure escapism found in those Bat-titles from fifty or sixty years ago. I like the idea of a world where an middle-aged of debatable athletic ability can don a set of mauve leotards and instantly become a vigilante hero. As my protesting knees and back plot to confine me to a sitting position I become more and more accepting of a world where no one ever gets hurt very badly during fights and the good guys always win.
I also look back at the creators with more respect. Contractually the name of series creator Bob Kane figured prominently on all the covers, but I soon figured out that the best work came from associate Dick Sprang. Sprang’s “perfect storm’ of creativity combined strong design skills, wicked caricature and a compelling sense of narrative that put him head and shoulders about all the other members of Kane’s artistic stable. I particularly enjoyed the facial expressions he drew and literally triggered a “charley horse” in my cheek when trying to match the gloat of one of his penciled villains.
Below are two figures taken from my 2012 sketchbook, figures drawn after the manner of Dick Sprang a gesture of creative respect. I came up with the basic concept while getting stuck at a red-light (my best ideas seem to always happen at traffic lights or bathtubs) and somehow came up with a plot thread about time-travel back to the Napoleonic era.
Most people don’t realize that my Beautiful Saxon Princess is an incredible artist in her own right, that we first met in an art class, and we worked side-by-side as freelancers for twenty years. Unfortunately my struggles with A/S and repeated bouts with upper respiratory infections got us both wondering if I’d see the other side of 55 so we jumped through all the hoops to get her moved into education and a more secure income.
She still takes time to make art, only now it is art-for-art’s sake rather than commerical work so she gets to pick-and-choose and can take as long needed with each project to insure stunning results. This folksy decorated table was a small metal shop table I inherited from Dad that is being put to much better and more colorful use.
Last Christmas I wrote about Unrequited, a Batgirl-themed cut-paper piece I did almost ten years ago. While I’ve always been fond of the concept the main figure quickly cooled off for me so I decided to extensively rework the project, keeping the Bat-Mite figure and the odd utility belt pouch but disposing of everything else.
I finished the new main figure today and as I look at it three things come to mind:
- While the differences are not screamingly obvious I am very glad I re-did the Batgirl figure.
- I’d forgotten how challenging cut-paper work can be.
- It’s been a great warm-up for my upcoming book cover-to-be.
It’s been a while since my last large CPS but I’ve thankfully retained, even refined all the pertinent skills. The next step is to create a new environment then reassemble all the components into a single composition
As I wrote last winter I’ve never been happy with the Batgirl cut-paper sculpt that I put together five or six years ago so it should be no surprise that I am up to my elbows making a new version, based on the original sketch. As I was taking pictures my Beautiful Saxon Princess suggested that I make a video presentation about my technique…and I think it’s a good idea. I’m in the “baby-steps” stage of planning right now, still researching video production and funding options like Patreon but it may be that this is the direction my teaching career will take now that I am no longer in the classroom.
…but for now I will share a snap of the work in progress, which starts with a drawing that I cut up to use for templates when making the individual parts.