Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wasted Days and Copyrights

Here's a piece of ancient history about ancient history. Four score and seven years ago I was asked to contribute to a copyright-themed show at the Black Lab Gallery in Seattle. I'm sure I was contacted because of my piece in the infamous Illegal Art show (the last-remaining online remnants of which are here), sponsored by the dearly-departed Stay Free magazine. It seemed I was destined to lifelong association with the "information wants to be free" crowd.

But while I'm deeply interested in copyright, public domain and fair-use issues, I'm not a copyright abolitionist. As such, my contributions to these copyright shows was generally more subtle in message than "Starbucks sucks," and needed some explaining.

And as they say, if you have to explain the joke...
Lincoln the Railsplitter
These illustrations appeared under the heading "AOL-Time-Warner Presents the Life of Abraham Lincoln." (Remember the brief period when AOL was part of Time-Warner? We were all so young then.) I was thinking about corporate sponsorship of public school materials, including text books, and considering how the promotion of a company's media properties might override their responsibility to present accurate information to the schoolkids. (This is a real issue: math books that are all about counting M&M's and so on.) Hence, Abraham Lincoln is here portrayed by Batman, star of the summer blockbuster The Dark Knight Jangles Your Nerves or some such CGI extravaganza.
Lincoln Frees the Slaves
This was back in the days when there still remained a distinction between corporate media culture and the real, actual world. By this time I'm sure there are few historical reenactments in which Batman does not appear. And look, I'm not saying that's good or bad, Batman being all kick-ass cool and everything. It's just that, well...historical accuracy and all that. I'll agree that Spielberg Lincoln movie perked up whenever Honest Abe slipped into his cape and cowl to battle the Joker at Gettysburg. Or am I getting my Oscar contenders mixed up?
Lincoln is Assassinated
Obviously, these illos were created when the development of my digital art stylings was still in its infancy. Come to think of it, the process really hasn't developed much since those dark days. In fact, I still think of myself as the John Wilkes Booth of the MS Paint spray can.

So, watch out!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Are We Good?

I was contacted out of the blue last year by the production guys from Marc Maron's IFC show. They wanted a portrait of Marc to use as a title card for a series of online videos, promoting the upcoming (and final) season of the show. I was jazzed to the gills, seeing as I'm an avid listener of Maron's WTF podcast.

"This looks fantastic! We'll get back to you!" Of course I know that, for show biz folks, this actually means, "We hate this, and we're never going to contact you again." Or maybe the whole online video promo scheme got canned anyway. Ah well, such is the life of an illustratrix in these aggressive times.

Knowing Maron's tastes, he probably wanted Drew Friedman.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Here's what happened. In advance of Halloween 2016, I was invited to contribute my art-like doodlings to a group show at Gallery East here in Sparkle City. This was the now-infamous Show of Monsters, which was, oddly enough, a show of monster art, featuring the regional all-stars of the Upstate art community - Kris Inman, Jeremy Kemp, Deede Cohen, Rich Ponder, Christina Ramsey, and the rest - or, as I like to call them, the Foothills Factory.

After dismissing a few of my usual, infantile ideas, I decided to resurrect an long-dead impulse from my art school days: illustrating Mary Shelley's novel, Frankenstein. Why create illustrations for this early-19th century novel, which has been republished, repackaged and re-imagined countless times? The same reason the great B-movie schlockmeisters of yore have eternally tapped the Frankenstein legend: Shelley's novel is in the public domain.
And so, these drawings for the Show of Monsters become the launch of this probably-never-ending project. I may release it in installments on my way to the final book. Too soon to tell. (One thing that's slowed progress so far is that I redrew these three illos since the Gallery East show.)

Those who have never read the novel will find it quite different from the famous Boris Karloff films. For one thing, the monster not only talks, he won't shut up. Page after page of his agonized monologues. His is a depressing life among a whole cast of depressing lives. The monster is sad, he's alone, and nobody likes him (so he reminds us compulsively), but Dr. Frankenstein himself is even more angst-y and poetry-prone. I'm surprised this novel isn't more popular among suicidal teenagers, they of the Plath and Salinger fan club.

Wish me luck on my travels through Frankenstein. This novel covers a lot of European territory, and requires a bit of research. But the real question for anyone embarking on the task of illustrating Shelley's Frankenstein is: how do you feel about drawing lots of icebergs?