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JORDAN CATALANO MUST DIE [Jan. 27th, 2012|11:18 am]
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A shadowy figure goes around killing slacker icons from the the eighties and nineties. Dante, Randal, Bill, Ted, The Dude, Bender, Claire, Dick Ritchie's roommate, Mikey and Trent -- everybody dies. The story has a Watchmen-like trajectory in which the idea of being a slacker is rapidly deconstructed and the villain turns out to be one of their own -- Ferris Bueller.

Ferris Bueller was the best slacker, because he wasn't a slacker. He wasn't above planning, or making an effort. He didn't use the existence of hypocrisy as an excuse to live a life he didn't want. He had mastered the art of picking battles, and then winning those battles before they were fought. That was part of being a 'slacker' -- leaving yourself the headspace to live deliberately in relation to incomprehensibly massive systems.

I feel like that part of the slacker zeitgeist dissolved when 9/11 happened. There was this feeling that we had just found a pile of dead babies in the trunk of Cameron's dad's Ferrari because we were bad people who didn't care. The disciplinarians had been right the whole time, and now the Huns were at the gates. Like, HOW DARE WE!!!

But now, Gen X and Y have learned to deal with the punishing crucible of their thirties. There is a new crop of smart, creative young people. The post 9/11, total doomsday mentality is thawing out a little bit. I can feel a wave of creativity starting to swell and it will be interesting to see how and when it breaks.
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Barron Storey Speaks at Massachusetts College of Art [Oct. 25th, 2011|02:15 pm]
I heard Barron Storey speak. He went off. It was invigorating and life-affirming. I was reminded what it means to be fully committed to making images.

A mixed crowd of art students, artists and teachers gathered in the Tower Auditorium to hear what the master illustrator had come to tell us. The woman sitting next to me had a thin white sketchbook. She had written on the spine in inky black letters -- MY SPIRIT ANIMAL IS A BANANA.

I first learned about Barron Storey when I was a student at Mass Art. He has been cited as an influence by some of my favorite artists -- Dave McKean, Kent Williams and others. He worked with Neil Gaiman on Sandman. He is loved for his illustrated journals.



He now teaches at the California College of Art. It turns out that I had actually seen a lot of his work before I ever knew who he was. He made the classic cover to the Lord of the Flies paperback, did a lot of illustration for Boy's Life magazine, and he made this:




Baron doesn't like this image. He painted over it. But it's the image that flashes in my mind whenever I hear 'Fahrenheit 451.'

I've been reflecting on his talk for the past few days. I've distilled it down to three core ideas. These are small ideas, but have massive implications for a dedicated creator. The quotes are directly from Barron Storey. The explanations are mine.


I. "Don't just DoooOOOooo Genre! USE IT! Use it to say something about life! Use it to say something about what you believe!"


This is easy to say, less easy to do. Using genre requires mastering it. Also, self-expression can derail the narrative structure of genre. If your too obvious about 'using genre,' it's likely you will default on an audience's expectation and alienate them. But, if you can pull it off… well… the results are transcendent:







II. "Decrease the claim and increase the proof."


This is the theatrical version of the business cliche "under promise and over deliver." Use your audience's expectation as a tool for creating effects in your work. It's the reason a magician will intentionally screw up a trick. Reduce the claim of what you are going to present and people will take a step towards you. Their sympathies will be with you.

What does this mean in terms of creating an image? Storey's recommendation is to use the available evidence -- draw what you really see, draw what you really feel.

There are other way's to do this depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Gary Larson was a master of this effect.







III. "Nobody gives a shit about your work. Nobody! The best you can hope to do is to increase their perception of what life is."


If you are an artist, and you have not come to terms with this idea then it is out there waiting for you. It sits around the next corner like a hungry beast with blood and fat dripping from its teeth. There is no way to prepare for it or avoid it. You just have to confront it.

The real challenge is healing enough to carry on after the beast tears you apart. Can you re-establish motivation to create? Can you press on despite the pain? The good news is, if you survive, the competition gets a lot thinner. Almost no one, no matter how talented, or lucky, or young, or experienced survives.

Brian Michael Bendis is the consummate example of how to achieve massive success in the face of overwhelming apathy towards your work. He was able to commit to the hard choice of abandoning the visual aspects of comics and focusing entirely on writing. He molded his projects into a career and a huge, relevant body of work. Compare Jinx to his run on Daredevil -- that kind of transformation doesn't come without sacrifice and pain.



***



After the talk I crowded around the stage with a handful of other die hards. Baron knelt down at the edge of the stage and guided us through some samples of his journals. One of us asked "Why do you call it a journal and not a sketchbook?"

"Because it's a daily act of journalism. It's not about how well I can draw a foot."



Driving in silence on the way home, I thought about what I had seen and heard. What was the real message? was there any subtext? Context? What WAS that? And here is what I came up with:

Unbridled enthusiasm for creating sophisticated images.







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EVOLUTIONARY WAR! Marvel Comics At Starbucks [Oct. 20th, 2011|02:12 pm]
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We needed a break last night. Beth left the kids at her mother's house and met me at Starbucks. I made sure to get there early so I could steal a few minutes to do some writing. I waited on buying a drink, found the perfect seat, broke out the laptop, and logged onto Starbuck's free wifi network. Then I saw this:



At first I thought 'Cool! I'll read some comics… for free!' Undoubtedly this is the effect they were going for. Before I found my way to actual content, however, a big question had dug its way out of my subconscious:

What is stopping Marvel or DC from setting up a system like this for comic book retailers?

I can think of two good reasons.

One, there are some technical limitations. A retailer would need to be able to manage their network so that customers could only access the content when inside the store. They would also need some way to update and deliver content. Starbucks has already solved these problems and has dedicated resources to developing and maintaing their networks. Despite the fact that many computer geeks are also comics geeks, you can tell by looking at just about any comic book shop's website, that resource goes completely untapped.

Two, Starbucks presents an opportunity to open a new market. The comics industry has always lusted after 'new' readers. Partly out of a healthy desire to keep the fan base refreshed and partly out of the self-conscious belief that we -- the scruffy, chubby disenfranchised geeks who so love the medium -- couldn't possibly be the only ones interested in comics! So, branching out into a place where you almost never see comics (like Starbucks) and trying to convert civilians into casual readers makes sense. It's admirable, in fact.

Then there are the uglier, harder to accept reasons.

You put digital comics in Starbucks because that's where the tablets are. Let's face it, there is a certain 'type' of person that haunts a Starbucks. This person prefers Jeopardy to Wheel of Fortune, might read the New York Times, and can typically spend $60 a month on coffee and not really notice. It's likely that this person owns a shiny new iPad. Why invest in making digital comics available to customers in a comics shop, half of whom can't afford a tablet computer yet? This will change as the price of tablet computers and digital comics comes down, but by then…

Most brick and mortar stores are doomed. This is a sucky but inevitable reality. Despite the spike in retail sales that accompanied the DC relaunch it's hard not to see it as KY jelly smeared on the long thick shaft of their Digital Content strategy. Why did DC make a huge retail marketing push at the same time they started releasing their comics digitally? Because they realize the need to ease the transition. There is an evolutionary timeline at work here. Tablets are getting cheaper. Wifi networks are becoming ubiquitous. Every day more and more people become less squirrely about reading on a device. A publisher thinking three or four years down the road realizes any long-term investment in the infrastructure of a store that specializes in the selling of printed products is going to be money lost when the stores cease to exist.

Is there is an opportunity here? Maybe an ambitious, forward thinking company like Graphicly could partner with a small group of retail stores, equip them with the proper networking gear, and sell them digital content wholesale. I could imagine a comics shop of the (near) future offering discount digital products alongside high-end print products, but they would have to move fast. And they would have to do it now.

I never ended up reading the digital comics at Starbucks. Beth showed up and we ordered $18 worth of drinks and snacks. Almost 2X what I had spent on new comics earlier that day at the comic book shop. For some reason I try to limit myself to $10 per week on new comics. I have no such notion of limitation at Starbucks… so maybe Marvel knows me better than I know myself.
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Crazy Talk [Nov. 5th, 2010|12:06 pm]

crazy_talk, originally uploaded by cocopiazo.

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Jordan [Oct. 30th, 2010|12:03 pm]

Jordan, originally uploaded by cocopiazo.

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Big Worm [Oct. 29th, 2010|11:07 am]

Big Worm, originally uploaded by cocopiazo.

Two thoughts that don't seem related, but might be.

1. I don't have any dabble time in my life right now. Everything is planned out. I do, however, have the need to dabble in digital inking. I can't see struggling to learn to work with new materials on a *live* project. Or maybe that's just what I need. I don't see any long stretches of sketchbook time in the near future.

2. There is a crime spree going on in my town. In the last month there have been a rash of house break-ins, car break-ins and the bank in the center of town was robbed. I live right in the center of town. The center of town is a pretty finite space. It occurred to me that I could spend the night in my car and probably catch a glimpse of some crooks. Then it occurred to me that if i saw someone walking through town peeking in windows or trying car door handles I could grab a baseball bat and chase them off (or beat their ass). Pondering this has given me a clearer idea of the inspiration behind the masked vigilantes in comics.

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Morlock Pancakes [Feb. 3rd, 2010|11:11 am]
cough cough 'ahem' tap tap tap 'is this thing on?'

Like a lot of people I disappeared into the facebook/twitter nexus which is in most ways more consuming but less satisfying than livejournal. I suppose livejournal is doomed, but after scanning my friends page for a few moments I can see that, even in it's dying days, it's still so much cooler that what we are working with now.

Everybody is on Facebook, that's the worst and best thing about it. I've reconnected with people, we've hung out, had times. But there are people that have found me, that I really wish I could have left behind.

Prolonged exposure to twitter has me feeling like I'm going to wake up some day in a vat of red gel with my head shaved. The machines will be using my body heat to power the future.

It's a different crowd. A more normal crowd. People yell there. They are super amped up.

For some reason Twitter seems to stimulate a pedagogical urge in people. Complete morons act like they've swallowed a pile of wisdom and can't stop themselves from barfing it all over the internet.

Facebook users tend to believe that their life is a reality show that everyone can't wait for the next episode of. Everybody is Snooki on facebook. I cringe at the number of exclamation points I've used in facebook replies.

So today Robin and I made pancakes. We used a skillet that had happy faces debossed into it. Some of the pancakes came out perfectly round with golden, delicious looking faces. Some of them had too many or unfortunately placed blueberries embedded in them. Some of them ripped or became deformed as we pulled them off the skillet. Several were plagued by air bubbles that caused massive gaps in their features. When the pancakes were stacked in the serving dish the perfect looking ones were placed on top while the ugly ones were shoved to bottom or trashed. I explained to Robin that these were the Morlock Pancakes. Then I had to explain what Morlocks were.

There's no metaphor here. I just couldn't put something like that on Facebook or Twitter. People there don't smirk enough.
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Giant Robot Armageddon [Mar. 20th, 2009|03:29 pm]
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Working with the Wacom tablet is totally fucking with the look of my brush lines. I've been casting about for good examples of process. This thread got my attention. I'm trying to decide if this is really a direction I want to go in. It kind of runs counter to my whole, self-imposed SHORTEN THE PRODUCTION CYCLE mandate.


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To Do... nah [Mar. 20th, 2009|01:25 pm]
Books, routers, cables, computers, cell phones -- I have lots of old stuff that still has a modicum of value that I would like to extract. I entertain the fantasy of selling it on ebay but in reality that process is just way too time intensive. I'll keep all the crap until the pain of storing it outweighs the pain of losing whatever slight value it still holds, and then I'll throw it away.
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Ready my Special Place in Hell [Mar. 19th, 2009|12:21 pm]
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Today I ordered a double short latte at the Sudbury Starbucks. The woman at the bar made a double tall latte and tried to give it to me. I said 'this is supposed to be a double short.'

'Can you except a tall? It's bigger.'

'No.' I said.

So her helper poured some of it into a short cup and added a shot of espresso.

A double short latte is supposed to have two shots of espresso, not one shot plus whatever happened to be an arbitrary portion of some other drink. So I refused the drink again.

The third attempt was foamless but I let it slide.

Sudbury is on the shortlist of places we are looking to move to but I never thought I would actually end up living there. It's a town of tiny, attractive-but-somehow-sexless women and repressed-but-entitled man-like beings.  After my performance in Starbucks today maybe I'd fit in well with that crowd.
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