Sunday, August 14, 2011

"What Now?"

Self Portait of The Artist as a Hairy Man

Phew! I'm not sure where to begin. As usual, I kind of disappeared into my cave for a while. I've been meaning to get back on here and post. I just don't like to if I don't have anything to show you guys. And, frankly, I've been in a rut.

To be honest, since the comic for Flight I haven't been doing all that much personal work. Actually- alright, there was a rash of Jellybots designs that kept me occupied for a bit. Fair enough. But specifically these last few weeks after returning from San Diego Comic Con, I've been feeling pretty bone-dry, creatively.

I suppose I should start there: SDCC was pretty incredible. I think the most fitting word is "Intense". In every sense of the word. It's such a manic time full of rapid-fire events and meetings both wonderful and exhausting. I returned to Rhode Island very much in need of a nap and a homecooked meal...and some non-threatening cartoons...and my teddy-bear blanket. Bon Iver has been helping me recuperate ^___^

A special thanks must go out for those of you who read this blog that came up and said "hi". It was SO encouraging to meet you guys in real life! Nice to know this isn't all going out into the aether completely unattended.
It was such an amazing experience to sit at the booth with the other Flight artists, meet them face-to-face (pairing each face with the work I knew and loved was really fun and enlightening!), and sign books. Very humbling to stand next to some of my heroes.
Anyways, I came back with new friends, some great new books, and a lot to think about!
One thought in particular: Everyone kept asking me what the "next step" is...where is this all going?
"What Now?"

Heck if I know! If anyone has any experience with that question, you probably know it can be one of the most paralyzing. I seized up a bit.

Part of the paralysis has to do with process, and some of it is just listlessness and emotional baggage. I've felt pressure from myself to decide: should you start work on a book? What is Jellybots going to be? Why isn't that done yet? How are you going to follow this up? Do you really feel like working, with no deadline? Do you really feel like sitting down at the Cintiq and forcing your way through all the limitless possibilities of a blank, digital page? Why? Just to prove to everyone that you can? Ew.

I wanted to follow up my last few "On Process" posts with a third one: A treatise on "Faith and Art". An exploration of how my faith intersects and drives my art. Honestly? I don't think I'm up to it tonight. That seems a bit grandiose...too ambitious for one blog entry? (that, itself, was paralyzing :p I'm a mess!)
But here's what I do have to offer on the topic, just today:
My sketchbook and my prayer-journal used to be two books, now they are one. Which means, lately, there have been pages and pages of frantic text and barely a sketch between paragraphs. I just haven't felt up to it. But yesterday morning my prayer time became my art time. Often I find my prayers bleeding into writing...playing with story ideas and themes, but this time it was sketching. You ever wonder why people sing in church? The sunday-school answer is: "to praise God". But isn't that sort of arbitrary? Why music? Why not dance? For that matter: why not drawing? writing? story? color? Really: why not?
Anyways, my time praying segued right into a sudden inspiration that came out of nowhere: I picked up my watercolors for the first time in 2 1/2 years. It was...a thrill. As a result: all the sketches above and below have been generated since yesterday. I feel like a real artist again. Artist block: broken. Praise God. Really.

I've been trying to let go of the things that I always do. Sometimes when I think of making art I get too intimidated by the process; before I even start I know how much rendering It's going to take to get the digital piece to look good. Honestly: I am sick of rendering. I have been so jealous for years of people who are just...loose. Gestural. Notably an early obsession with Dave McKean, and a growing appreciation for Hayao Miyazaki's storyboard work.
I have always loved the sort of things watercolor does in seconds without you even trying. The sort of textures and effortless gesture you can't get in digital if you spend hours. That sense of ease.
Jellybots was a step in that direction: a move towards simplicity. But this was another step.

And it seems like the right time; after a talk with Kostas Kiriakaikis at SDCC, a few years of telling myself "I miss watercolor", watching my friend Elise sketch in fountain pen without reaching for ctrl-z, jealously eyeing Cory Godbey's work, and finally purchasing Enrico Casarosa's "The Venice Chronicles", I was poised to move.

I'm finally realizing it's, like, a THING I am allowed to just sketch loosely and let go. To stop assuming that my lines have to be immaculate and clean for them to be worth looking at.

But it took a nudge in prayer...without which I would have remained exactly as afraid of change and flexibility as I have always been. And, to paraphrase Chariots of Fire, "when I draw, I feel his pleasure" ^___^

SO: what next? who the heck knows. I sure don't. But that's ok. I'll keep drawing if you'll keep reading, deal? I hope you like watercolor! :p

Well, THAT was wordy and introspective. Blog therapy. UGH: this is my blog-where-I-ruin-the-magic-of-things-by-talking-them-to-death. You guys just ready for me to shut up and post some art? I'm ready to shut up and post some art.

Sam Hounder. The latest iteration of the character who may-or-may-not be a Dog in a story that will-likely-not-still-be-called Wanderhome. I am...fond of him.

(above) Waterfire in Providence: it's for snuggling.

Today, inspired by Enrico Casarosa, I went on a sketch-trip to Bristol, RI with some friends. I brought my watercolors along and felt properly artsy. We ate fresh sweet-corn from a roadside vegetable stand (illustrated below. God, I love roadside vegetable stands), wandered through a graveyard, and sat by the water as my friend played the bagpipes. U JELLY?

We snuck into this mansion, and were eventually caught when the old-ladies who give the tours realized we didn't have stickers. :D

I got DEVOURED by mosquitoes while painting this lake. And the paper got rained on. Worth it.

A moment in the graveyard, and the roadside veggie stand complete with colorful attendants. This painting, and our youthful charms, won us some free tomatoes. It was a good day.

Oh, right...and also, I drew this kid. (below) He's kind of a big deal. I also made my own watermark. I know, I're impressed. :P

And that's the show for today, folks. I am honored that you have read this entry at all. I hope it has been in some way edifying. (Speaking of edifying, if you haven't seen BBC's Sherlock THEN YOU SHOULD MAYBE SERIOUSLY CONSIDER IT. I haven't geeked out about anything as much as I have about Sherlock in a while. It's- augh. It's good.)
Alright, it's late. I'm outta here. Thanks for reading.

Be blessed!



Michael Regina said...

Thanks for the great post, Nic! I love your watercolors!

Anna said...

I, too, always feel burned out after cons - and the Swedish cons I've been too have been TINY compared to SDCC. It always takes me a while to recover afterwards, get back on my feet and DO something.

I'm glad to see you're enjoying your new adventures in watercolour. That threshold - the one where you finally overcome the need to be somehow perfect in every line and every completed piece - is a tough one to get over, but it's such a wonderful feeling when you finally do.

I love the watercolours; they look like they were a lot of fun to make. :) Which naturally makes them a lot of fun to look at.

scruffy said...

i am truly glad to have (digitally) made your acquaintance. To find an artist who has made the connection between art and worship, who prays in his sketchbook and one who agonizes over what to do next... i needed this right now.

Love that i'm bumping into you just as you've gone back to traditional media. Can't wait to see what comes of it. God speed.

Melissa said...

Hey Nic,

I'm so glad to have found your blog. Your artistic style is so rich and whimsical. The watercolors you've posted are amazing!

Kirby said...

I saw some of your old watercoloured monster designs over on your deviantart a while back and I remember thinking how much life and vibrance they had to them. It's true, things like texture, that affect the whole feel of the piece, are such a "thing" in digital art, a stage of the process whereas with traditional it's just an intrinsic part of it.

Great post to read, I'm glad you're getting out of your rut! Looking forward to seeing some more :)

Gabi Dimaranan said...

the title of your portrait just won me over.

also, thank you for the post. it was indeed edifying and inspiring. if you would read my recent post you'd know why this entry of yours was like rain to my dry desert of a mind on things related to art and stuff.

thank you. thank you...and a million thanks to God for making you post this. :)) may He bless you more and give you a lobsterfest on your birthday. haha!

parker people said...

I love your blog - just read this post , and was reminded of "Praying In Color" - a book and class that helps even non-creative people praise the Lord while drawing, painting, or just doodling. I love that you found the method on your own. What a blessing!

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Ernst said...

So, I've been silently reading your blog for the better part of two years now (stumbled over your airship-captain while looking for Steampunk-themed stuff), and your utmost honesty about your art and your faith still impresses me. Thanks for sharing all that. Be blessed! Regards from Germany.

Heather said...

Hi there! I've consistently been impressed with your art ever since I stumbled across you a couple years ago- but that's not news because I'm sure everyone is impressed with your work!

I actually just wanted to drop you a line to tell you that you've inspired me to start a prayer-journal! I've never kept one, but I really like the idea of art and story intersecting with faith :)

(Plus, I always notice that I absorb more in church if I'm writing or doodling. Moreover, maybe some meditation and prayer will bring some strong inspiration my way for NanoWrimo haha)

Anyway, thanks for the idea! It's a really beautiful one!