Saturday, July 30, 2011


I went to a figure drawing session for the first time in awhile today, and boy did I suck! I don't think I produced hardly anything worthwhile. I was geared up for drawing, too, but sometimes it just doesn't come. The thing is, it's not like I've gotten rusty. Even though I haven't been to a life drawing session for awhile, I've actually been drawing quite a bit. Lots of buildings and architecture, and random stuff. Here's a sampler:

Finally, here's a card I drew for my good pals Karl and Kelly's wedding this week. Congratulations, you crazy kids!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Captain America!!!!!

So I saw Captain America: The First Avenger on Friday. I liked it a lot. I think Marvel has been very smart with this series of movies; they're all pretty good as stand-alone action movies, while simultaneously building up to the big Avengers movie. That's not an easy trick to pull off. Captain America: The First Avenger may be my favorite superhero movie of the summer, which is saying something, since both Thor and X-Men: First Class were really good. I seriously think it should be an Oscar contender for all the production design categories.

I haven't seen, and probably won't see (unless it's free on TV), Green Lantern. The only good things I've heard about that one are from people who saw it and said it wasn't as bad as they expected, given all the terrible, terrible reviews from critics and fans alike. It used to be that I would see a superhero/comic book-related movie regardless, even when I expected it to be bad, just because. It really says something about the power of film in our culture that so many people crave having their favorite books, plays, comics, games, cartoons, et al adapted into live-action films, as though that somehow conveys some sort of cultural status on the original material.

For example, two years ago, I attended an academic conference about the 19th century militant abolitionist, John Brown (no relation!). After two days of discussions on the historical legacy of John Brown, the abolitionist movement, the political and economic culture of antebellum America, and the nature of political violence, the final panel was an interview with Russell Banks, author of a fictionalized account of John Brown, Cloudsplitter. It's a bona-fide Great American Novel, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Banks is in general one of our greatest living American writers. During the hour-long interview, he briefly discussed his interactions with Hollywood in optioning the novel. It's in 'development,' which of course only means that someone paid a lot of money for the rights to make a movie that they may or may not actually intend to make someday. The audience was almost all serious academics and historians, amateur and professional, yet during the Q&A session, almost every question was about this hypothetical movie version of the novel. These academics at Yale University were even floating casting ideas just as comic nerds dream-cast superhero movies. They were just soooo excited to see a big-budget movie about their favorite historical figure.

By the way, the general consensus was that John Brown should be played by Tommy Lee Jones, who was excellent in Captain America: The First Avenger. So ... Captain America! Go see it.

Here's the scan of the pencils, and the digital inks.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Imagine a drawing of a boat . . .

So today I was in downtown Manhattan. I did a sketch of some architecture in the Wall Street area that turned out so-so, then went over to Battery City Park to watch some dance performances by the water (Streb Extreme Action and the awesome Strange Fruit from Australia, and ... a juggler). It's been awhile since I've been down there. I've seen the new World Trade Center rising from the distance, but seeing it up-close drove home how much progress they're making on it. Finally.

Anyway, afterwards, I decided to do a little more sketching. I walked down this pier and started to draw a yacht that was moored there. After awhile, an old man came up to ask what I was drawing. I said, "That boat." He said, "Oh, our boat." Then he went and got his son (who was the boat's actual owner) and the rest of their family to come look at me draw their boat, and on the spot they offered to buy it off me. So I sold a commission on the spot. I should have charged more. That guy was a millionaire, at least. Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera to record the drawing before I turned it over. Just picture a big white expensive yacht.

Rich people sure like to look at their stuff. This guy is going to have the drawing framed, and I guess he's going to hang the picture of his boat in his boat. Or maybe, in his office or at home so he can think about it while he's on land. Several years ago, I worked for an events company. We were setting up a birthday party for the owner of a mid-Manhattan skyscraper. It was in a tent with a clear roof, which made it like a greenhouse to work in, in the plaza in front of the building. The skyscraper had a famous five-star restaurant on the ground floor. Why did this guy want his party outdoors in a tent, instead of inside the five-star restaurant? So he could look up, through the clear roof, at his skyscraper, while he ate his birthday dinner. They served lobster and every table had silver dishes full of cigarettes for the guests. F. Scott Fitzgerald sure was right when he wrote: ""Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." Word.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vadim at Spring Street Studio

Finally got back to a life drawing session a few days ago, back at the old Spring Street Studio. The model's name was Vadim. I was relatively pleased with some of my drawings, particularly the sixth one of him with the staff, and the fifth one.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My X-Men First Class

I still haven't seen X-Men: First Class. I was skeptical when I first heard about the project, but everyone seems to dig it a lot.

In case you're not familiar with the X-Men, the premise is that there are all these mutants around, people born with fantastic super-powers, and the general populace fears and hates and persecutes them. So Charles Xavier, a telepathic mutant, starts a school where he can protect and train them in the use of their abilities. Which, of course, entails them becoming superheroes. (The X-Men exist in the same world as the Fantastic Four and Thor and Iron Man, who the world doesn't fear and hate, for some reason.)

The original team was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1963. The X-Men actually weren't very popular until 1975, when a new generation was introduced, and since then there have been multiple iterations of the group. X-Men: First Class, set during the Cold War, tells the origins of the team - the first class of X-Men. Get it?

I was only dimly aware of the characters as a kid. I was primarily a DC kid, probably because DC had done a lot more media licensing than Marvel, so you were more likely to see their characters on TV and cartoons, and in those pre-internet, pre-comic shop days, I only knew about what I saw on television and at the 7-11 spinner rack. Somehow I became aware that the X-Men was a popular title and bought X-Men #148, and was hooked.

The team at the time consisted of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Cyclops, and Kitty Pryde. The X-Men were part of the Marvel Universe, but seemed to live in their own little off-the-beaten-track corner of it. The group was multi-cultural and multi-national. Storm was African, Nightcrawler was German, Kitty was Jewish, etc. While I probably wasn't cognizant of it and couldn't quite articulate it at the time, for this non-white kid in a nearly all-white town, that diversity substantially upped their coolness factor.

Unlike the professional associations of the Avengers and the Justice League, or the family unit of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men did indeed resemble a class. You didn't see them actually in class, except for their super-power training in the 'Danger Room,' and except for Kitty Pryde, they were past school-age. But they had the same group dynamics you find in any school clique. There were shifting friendships, romantic triangles, rivalries, and frenemies, the types of bonds that form between random people brought together in the common rubric of a school grouping.

It wasn't until a bit later that I learned that I'd just missed what is still considered the high-point of X-history - and superhero comics in general - the Claremont/Byrne run, culminating in the epic Dark Phoenix saga. And a few years later, I lost interest and dropped the books just before they became even more popular, due to the overall comics boom, a popular animated adaptation, and whatever it is that makes a property tickle the zeitgeist's fancy. That era featured characters like Gambit, Jubilee, Bishop, and Cable. I know their names, but really have no idea what the characters were about.

 Gambit and Rogue. Superheroes in the 90s always wore jackets 
with lots of pockets. I know he's Cajun and throws 
exploding playing cards, and that's about it.

It's been said that the Golden Age of comics is whenever you discovered them as a kid. I found the X-Men books of the early '90s unreadable, crushed under the weight of Chris Claremont's increasingly overwrought stylization, byzantine mythology, escalating spin-offs and crossovers, and over-rendered Image-influenced art. But to a certain generation, that is the quintessential X-Men. For kids right now, it's probably the movie franchise version. For me, the cast of X-Men #148 was always be my 'first class.'