Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strychnine and Spaghetti Strand Slipknots Tour poster

A revised version of my tour poster. This one has the exact dates my gallery show at Dark World is taking place.

Feel free to print the promo off and pass it along to your friends or anyone you know that might be interested.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Another April Art Week in the books!!


After a long week it's time to kick back and relax before I continue with my normal teaching schedule.

This year wasn't that bad. Not many crying kids except one and no major behavioral problems whatsoever. Not to mention I didn't come down with the H1N1 like I did last year. So, that made the week a definite plus for me.

My last day was an absolute breeze. I had a computer class in the morning and a comics in the afternoon. A lot of the students from my morning class ended up taking classes in the afternoon. And they were all great!!

The biggest surprise of the week was how well my 5-7 year old class went. That can be a bit dicey because I don't normally do that age group. And those classes can be murder trying to stop kids from crying or fighting with one another. I hardly had any of that this year. A little bit of a "He's pushing me/no she's pushing me" at the beginning of class. But otherwise, no problems one I got them working on the art lesson.

Needless to say, I was very grateful for the week I had. It was a completely pleasant week for me. And now I'm going to get to enjoy sleeping in tomorrow morning.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My computer is up and running again!!


I have two computers I work with. One is a Dell Optiplex GX280 and the other is my Mac. Both of which I got because the companies that had them were upgrading and getting rid of their old computers. Both are a couple years old but have worked great for me.

I primarily use the Mac for all my graphic work. All my Photoshop and comic art work is on the Mac. It's been really nice the last couple of years to be able to be doing lettering or doing coloring on a comic page and NOT suddenly get a Scratch Disk warning, have the computer freeze up on me or have Photoshop just suddenly and inexplicably disappear on me. Which I had happen to me nearly every hour when I used to do my Photoshop work on my old Hewlett Packard Kayak before that finally died on me.

The Dell I use for my scriptwriting and going on the internet. I like writing on Microsoft Word a lot more than Appleworks. As a matter of fact, I hate Appleworks. I've hated it since College.

However, I had started fiddling around with Flash Animator and laying out books on Adobe Acrobat on the Dell. I've created the frames on Photoshop on the Mac and then I've animated them on the Dell.

I've sort of been creating the animations the old fashioned way drawing the frames, scanning them into my computer and then coloring them on Photoshop. I still haven't figured out how to do actual Flash animation. I probably will in time.

Well, a couple weeks back the Dell finally went. I turned on the computer one morning and I got an error screen. Not the usual blue error screen of death. But the one that tells me there's a problem and gives me the option to restore my computer to my last good setting.

Didn't work.

I began to fear that the hard drive went on it. Like I said, I had gotten the Dell from a company that was throwing it out. So, who knows what problems I inherited when I got the computer. And I suppose it was only a matter of time before everything hit the fan.

Well, I gave my cousin Jared a ring and asked him to take a look at everything. I told him what I was going through and that I feared for the worst. Having to shell out for a new hard drive.

Well, he took a look at it and discovered that it wasn't a hard drive problem but the memory had gone in my computer.

Relief set in. He saw how much memory my computer could take and discovered that the computer I had wasn't that old of a model. Like I said, I had got it used and the people who had this computer before me gutted it out pretty good. So, it looked like I was working with a 20 year old computer.

Not the case at all. Not only was the computer I had not that antiquated, but I could put a lot more memory into it than I already had in it already.

So, I order memory off of Newegg.com which cost me $14.99 a piece. Yes, that's right!! Two sticks of memory at Newegg cost the same as one stick of memory at Wal*Mart or Best Buy!!

I got the memory back into my computer and Jared got everything back into working order last Saturday.

Unfortunately, I couldn't save any of my script files. But I believe I saved most of my stuff to CD's a while back. But I told him not to worry about it. As long as I have the computer up and running again, that's fine by me.

Which he did. So, basically now I got myself a brand new computer for $31.98!! Running better and more efficient than before, all the programs I back in tact AND with the latest virus protection and spyware blockers to keep all those nasty little Trojan Horse's, worms and pop-up's out.

About ten or so years ago I came to realize how much computers have become a part of our lives when my first computer went down for the count the first time. I suddenly felt completely cut off from the world without e-mail and chat. Something that wasn't even a thought to be two or three years before that.

Now it's one of these things that I do most of my business online. Half the projects and jobs I'm working on are via the internet or over the e-mail. I probably wouldn't have had five books published right now if it weren't for networking online.

So as much as the internet has made our society anti-social, there's also great benefits to it as well. And promoting yourself is one of those things.

And I guess I could put more memory into the Dell. Although, I had also been thinking about getting more memory for my Mac as well. It's been running fine and all. But it's always good to have a bit more breathing room.

Again, I must thank my cousin Jared for getting me up and running again. I don't know my way around computers so any help I can get when I can get it I take it. Thank you Computerrepairman!! You saved the day once again ;-)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oh how I love teaching at the Art Museum. Let me count the ways...


I've been doing a comics class at the Worcester Art Museum called Villains Rule! for 11-13 year olds on Saturday mornings. It's a class I am very pleased to say I helped to create along with it's counterpart Create Your Own Superhero.

I think this is either my second or third Villains class I've done since it was created. And that's a big thing I love about teaching youth art at the Museum is that they're opened to class suggestions like that which give students something a bit out of the ordinary (and not to mention more fun) than the normal art class.

Where else outside a college class can you go and take a class in Cartooning, Comic Art, Claymation, Traditional Drawn Animation, Create Your Own Graphic Novel or Pop Art Painting and receive instruction from some of the best teachers I have the pleasure to know? The Art Museum has been offering classes like this for years and years at a price where you don't have to mortgage your first born to get some really top-notch art instruction.

Well, this weekend I had decided to show the students movies and television shows which had great examples of great arch-nemesis's. The reason for that was to show how a great villain was a character that you like nearly as much as the hero. Historically, you will find that the best villains are the ones you want to see return in movies, television shows, novels or comic books.

The shows and movies I chose to show clips from were The Final Problem from The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett, Star Wars: A New Hope, The Laughing Fish episode from Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man 1, Doctor Who The End of Time Part I and The Horror of Dracula.

Before each clip I gave a bit of a history lesson behind the clip and a description and what makes this villain so memorable.

From The Final Problem I showed them the confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. Which I feel has become the archetype for the modern villain. Moriarty is an interesting case. You would think from all the books and movies written with the character that he returned in every Sherlock Holmes tale. But in actuality he only appeared in two stories The Final Problem and later in The Valley of Fear. But Holmes only physically faces him in The Final Problem and only really appeared as a shadowy figure in the later story.

The I showed the confrontation between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars: A New Hope. Which I described as having shades between the Holmes Moriarty confrontation as well as a little bit of Flash Gordon and Lord of the Rings.

From there I showed one of my favorite episodes from Batman: The Animated Series called The Laughing Fish. I had debated between showing that one, the Tim Burton Batman movie or The Dark Knight. As much as I liked and enjoyed Heath Ledger's Joker from Dark Knight, I chose not to show that one only because I felt the violence might be a bit too much for the 11-13 age group.

Sure they probably watched worse things on television, but I didn't feel like having the Art Museum getting angry calls because of me.

From there I showed them the climatic battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin from Spider-Man 1. Which is taken almost note for note from the original comic book story. This one I showed to show how there has to be some sort of physical and intellectual match for the hero. Which you get in that scene between Spidey and and the Goblin.

Then in a decision to indulging in my own uber-nerd tastes, I showed them a clip from ending of Part One of the Doctor Who episode The End of Time. To my great joy I immediately hear one of the students in the back row exclaim "YES!!" when I showed them the DVD box. I explained a history behind the characters of the Doctor and the Master and how the character was pretty much created in the 1970's to be a Professor Moriarty type character for the Doctor. I also chose it as an example of a villain attempting world domination. Here's a snippet from the clip:

I stopped right before the camera started to pull away from the earth and immediately my entire class exclaimed together: "Aww! Don't stop it!! We want to find out what happens!!"

It was probably my proudest moment. I feel like I have secured another generation of nerds like myself ;-)

Finally I showed the class the climatic fight between Peter Cushing's Dr. van Helsing and Christopher Lee's Count Dracula from The Horror of Dracula. A particular favorite film of mine. This was to show them how you can take characters out of classic literature and add a superhero and super-villain dynamic to them.

On an interesting side note, the last two Dracula films in the Christopher Lee Hammer series which were set in the 1970's were written by Doctor Who writer Don Houghton. And for a fan of Doctor Who, there's a definite Doctor/Master angle added to the characters of Professor Van Helsing and Count Dracula.

I've also been using this book my friend Rori got me How to Be a Villain as the textbook for the class. It's a lot of fun and I'm sure you can get it quite inexpensively on Amazon.com!! But a lot of the descriptions and activities in the book have been great for getting the students to create their villains. Especially the name generator, which is loads of fun!!

For any of my Art Museum chums who don't have the book but would love to teach the class at some point, I would be very happy to let you borrow it.

But it's doing classes like this that has made working at the Worcester Art Museum such a pleasure since I started there back in 2003. And getting to do classes like that and working with some of the greatest people on earth continues to make the Art Museum one of the best jobs I have ever worked.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April Art Week


Well, I'm doing another April Art Week this year. Which can be somewhat of an adventure. I've done most of the Worcester Art Museum's Vacation Week classes since I started at the Museum back in 2003. Most of the people who sign their kids up for classes are usually new to the Museum. What Feb Fun and April Art do in a nutshell is gives those people a taste of the types of classes that are being offered such as the mixed media classes or a painting class or a fashion design class or the computer classes or the comic/cartooning classes.

Last year I was thrilled to be able to do my very first drawn animation class. And although I had to work through the usual misadventures of learning programs such as Flash Animator which the Museum uses for Animation classes the results were fantastic and it made it all the better when I taught my very first Traditional Animation Class over the Fall.

April Art, much like Feb Fun has always been sort of a mixed bag as far as how smoothly the classes go. It's also probably the only time of the year I do a class with 5-7 year olds. Which REALLY can be an adventure.

Especially the uncontrollable crying. I've found that usually takes place because of one of two things:

1.) The kid is right on the 5 year old mark and this is the first time he's/she's been dropped off at the Art Museum. The kid loves to draw and the Art Museum seems like a great outlet for him. So why not sign up for him/her. The April Art Week classes are fairly inexpensive and what better way to find out if this is something that they want to do. BUT this is the first time in a strange building, they just saw their parent walk out the door and two hours is pretty much an eternity to a five year old. So, immediately they're crying even before their parents leave.

This is the nice thing about having the younger assistant. And I've had some of the best for the most part. After I've talked a little with the child to calm them down, I have the assistant take them for a walk and by the end of the class you would think they've been going there for ages.

2.) And this is can be the most difficult. The kid doesn't really draw at all but he/she scribbles stick figures and likes cartoons. So, the parent decide to sign them up for a class. Nothing evil about that right? What makes it bad in this case is a lot of times I have found out that the parent has gotten their child wound up before classes and insist that the child not only has a finished piece of art when the two hours are up BUT they also figure after one day of classes that the child should be drawng at a professional level and anything short of that is utter failure.

So, by the time I've finished doing the demonstration on the blackboard, sheet of newsprint or dry/erase board I can see one of the childen with their head down on the desk sobbing because they don't know how to draw. And then I've come to find out that their parent done exactly what I mentioned above.


THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN PEOPLE!! I'M NOT GRADING YOUR CHILD ON THIS! THIS IS AN ENRICHMENT AND SOMETHING THE CHILD SHOULD BE DOING BECAUSE THEY ENJOY IT NOT BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO DO IT!!

Not to mention the child doesn't really want to be here because art is just not their thing. But their parents had this attitude that they're going to take an art class whether they like it or not.

NO!! Art should be fun. Your child is cooped up in a classroom 8am till 2:30/3pm from August/September till June being forced to do things they don't like to do. Now they have a week off to breathe deep and get away from all that. And now they get the opportunity to take an art class that offers something they wouldn't necessarily learn in their regular art class. Not to mention get a chance to maybe draw what they like.

Look, broadening your child's horizons and introducing them to something new isn't a bad thing. It's a great thing. But please don't force your child into something because all you'll succeed in doing is making your child hate art.

If your attitude is just looking for a baby-sitter for two hours in the morning, you might as well just give your child the $20 the class costs in quarters and send him down to the arcades for two hours.

It's fine that you want to introduce your child to new things and I'm very happy to maybe give him something he can use down the road. Even if it's just a hobby. But please!! Don't put demands on them. It doesn't help me and it won't help you either.

Like I said earlier, the Vacation Weeks can be a mixed bag. Like this year with Feb Fun. I've had Feb Fun Weeks which either leave me wanting to rip my hair out or were a breeze. This year's was a breeze!! Mind you, my last class of the week was a bit like Romper Room. Strangely it was the older students who turned out less focused than the younger ones. But the week on a whole had to be one of the more enjoyable Feb Funs I've had.

Last year's April Art was definitely a mix of the two. It started out fairly crazy but ended really great with the Animation Class. And then I got the H1N1. It started out as a cold that whole week and I thought I finally shook it by weeks end. The following week, I was pretty much bedridden the whole week. And even when I went into the Art Museum to teach my Thursday class I was totally out of it. And not much better for my Saturday class. It took me probably a good week or two to finally shake it. And even then it took me a longer time to get rid of my cough and regain my strength.

I couldn't even open a bag of chips without getting the jaws of life.

That's the other bad thing about April Art. Many of the kids are coming back from tropical family vacations bringing home more than just a t-shirt. And guess who they end up sharing it with ;-)

But what's nice about this session of April Art is I'm teaching a lot more cartooning and comic art classes. It seems like they're tayloring a lot of the classes around the instructors comfort zones. Not to mention I don't think last year's slew of classes really grabbed students attentions. Especially the 14-17 year olds.

Needless to say, if you post anything with the words cartooning or comics in the title, it's like shooting fish in a barrell.

But as I get over this cold right now I'm getting prepared for April Art Week. And as long as you haven't made your child think if they don't draw SpongeBob properly they're out of the family will, it should be a great time ;-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Family, classes, catching Rori live, catching a cold, Doctor Who and everything else in between...


Well, the last week came and went way too quickly for me. It usually does when my Aunt Mary, Uncle Steve and cousin Jae come out to visit from California. They're great people and always a lot of fun to be around. There's a good 18 or so year between my cousin Jae and I but we can still have some great conversations about movies. Especially superhero movies like the last Batman film and Iron Man.

Some weeks you just can't wait to be over. But this was one of those weeks you wish you could just bottle so you can take it out on a rainy day.

Now I'm back to work and I have a nice new cold to start off my Saturday class. Which I'm somewhat grateful that I didn't catch a cold during their visit. I would have been MORE grateful if I didn't catch a cold at all. But nonetheless, I'm once again coming down with one and I would much rather have it happen now than when I was having fun with family and friends.

Actually, last week was pretty much a great week all around. Which had me getting to see my best friend on the entire planet Rori playing live at the Webster Underground down in Hartford Connecticut. I was also thrilled to have some really good friend come down and check out the show with me. That meant a lot.

It was good to see Rori again. I suppose if I were to ever have a long lost twin, it would most likely be Rori... or perhaps my second cousin Christine Herholz.

But despite coming off knee surgery a few months before this, Rori yet again rocked. And if you didn't happen to check out the show, you missed out.

Now after probably one of the nicest and most pleasant weeks I have enjoyed in some time both with the quality of the people I have shared it and the quality of the weather, it's back to planet Earth. And apart from the cold, it hasn't been that bad.

I've enjoyed both the last two episodes of Batman: The Brave and the Bold AND I've been checking out Matt Smith's long anticipated debut as the Doctor in Doctor Who.

The Power of Shazam episode which featured Batman teaming up with Captain Marvel was really great and the last episode which once again delved into the events which made Bruce Wayne become Batman was great!!

What I liked about it is it brought back the whole Lew Moxon element behind Bruce Wayne's parent's murder. The original story had readers find out that Joe Chill didn't act alone when he killed Thomas and Martha Wayne. But was a hired gun for Lew Moxon who made it look like a robbery but was sent to rub out Thomas Wayne for getting Lew Moxon arrested at a costume party.

What made the episode even better for a Batman fan is the fact they had Batmand and Catwoman themselves Adam West and Julie Newmar as Thomas and Martha Wayne.

A really fun episode if you get the chance to see it.

I've also had the chance to catch the first two episodes The Eleventh Hour and The Beast Below of Doctor Who on Youtube since the series won't debut on BBCAmerica till next week.

I've been pleasantly surprised. It was kind of difficult to see David Tennant go. He had done such a good job carrying that series. Especially after the previous actor Christopher Eccleston left the show after just one series.

I wasn't sure about Matt Smith at first. At 26, he's the youngest actor to play the part. But then again, there was the same question when Peter Davison who was 29 at the time he took over the role from Tom Baker if the show would last. Which it did.

But I've been enjoying what I've seen both with Matt Smith's performance as the Doctor and the quality of the writing in two episodes I've seen thus far. And even the revised "into the mist and mystery" new opening credits is starting to grow on me.

For me, the episodes seem very similar to what the production team wanted to do with Sylvester McCoy's Doctor in his last season as the Doctor. Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor is not dark and manipulative as the Seventh Doctor. But there is a bit of that gothic horror quality of episodes like The Curse of Fenric and Ghost Light.

But Steven Moffatt has made it clear that he wants this to be a family event. So, it's not so dark you can't find the way home. And I think some of the best Doctor Who is like that. And many of the episodes Moffatt wrote during Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor were very much like this.

You had these very creepy tales like The Empty Child which in the end you find out it's just a frightened little boy looking for his Mummy.

And not only that, much like Russell T. Davies time producing Doctor Who, Steven Moffatt seems to be surrounding himself with really great writers.

One of which, for my comic buddies, will be a tale penned by Neil Gaiman next year.

Well, I've gone on for way too long. Time to take some Tylenol Cold and get ready for bed. I hope you all had a great week as well.

Friday, April 9, 2010

221B Baker Street Test Page


Pencilled and inked by me with coloring by Rori Shapiro.

Another test page for a Sherlock Holmes project I am currently working on. I like the overall look of the page and natually Rori's coloring is always nothing short of amazing. But I want to rework the Holmes figure. Especially the scarf. After looking at one of my earlier Holmes illustrations THE VALLEY OF FEAR, I want the scarf to wrap more around Holmes's body and less around his neck.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Messageboards and finding an audience for your work.


Messageboards can be a great source of promotion for any of you young artists and authors out there. Some are better than others. Comic Book Resources and Comic Related are probably the best two I have found. Holmesian.net and Scarlet Street are also two really great Sherlock Holmes forums for those of you writers or illustrators who wish to promote your Sherlock Holmes related artwork and books.

All four of those I have found to be very artist and author friendly.

Newsrama is probably the worst of the bunch. Mostly because unless you're not a DC or Marvel type book or a big named artist you kind of get swept under the carpet as far as promotion is concerned.

It's not like your posts will get deleted or anything but your posts and promotions don't get as much notice as the first four forums I mentioned.

Since I'm not a Jim Lee or a Frank Miller, not many people really care about my work on Newsrama. But that's understandable. Jim Lee and Frank Miller have been paying their dues for a lot longer than I have and have a larger body of work than I do. Besides the fact they have a great deal of quality work on their resume. So naturally they deserve all the recogniton they get.

But it all comes down to finding your audience. Which means not only finding comic related messageboards but also finding messageboards that relate to your particular genre of work. As I mentioned earlier, I have three or four books that are mystery related. One of which is based on William Gillette's play Sherlock Holmes. So, I find blogs that are either mystery related or Sherlock Holmes related.

Some of the best advice I ever got ten years ago as far as promoting your work is that there is an audience for everything and the key is finding that audience. Which I have along the way. And also doing the shows my audience has also found me.

Naturally, there is the downside of messageboards. The fan sites in particular.

I was reading a writer Jon Blum's blog. He and his wife Kate Orman have written a great deal of Doctor Who books and audio plays which I have greatly enjoyed. He had written a blog on how he has made a decision to frequent the messageboards a lot less. This is what he wrote and I agree with him:

I've spent so much time here in an environment where peoples' postings are basically attack or defense; as Kate once put it, we wear our opinions like gang colours. No matter how much I try to step away from the conflict, I'm still part of it. I'm tired of having to defend what I enjoy, when I could just get on with enjoying it. Plus over the years, I've become hyper-critical of the sort of mishegoss we all indulge in in fandom... especially the underlying assumptions that our criticisms, our obsessions, our priorities and values in storytelling, what those of us in this little room will think of these episodes in twenty years' time, is what really matters about Doctor Who.

That is probably the reason I stopped frequenting many of the messageboards dedicated to shows, musicians or sports. What irks me is the elitist attitude some fans have on some of these sites.

Some fans act as though if you don't know every little detail of that person or that show you're not a fan and therefore don't deserve to live on planet Earth.

Why can't people just enjoy something without being judged? I don't know every little detail about Doctor Who, the Beatles or David Bowie. But I like them and I enjoy them. Isn't that enough? Apparently not.

I can remember 10 years ago frequenting a Paul McCartney site and having some of the club members getting really (and I mean REALLY) upset with me about posting a picture from The Rutles. The picture was a parody of the Beatles Abbey Road cover.

You WOULD NOT believe the response I got. It was as though I had just posted a picture of John Lennon lying in the morgue.

Incidentally that picture of Lennon DOES exist. And it was used in a music video for his song Woman.

They thought what I posted was disrespectful because the guy who was supposed to be George Harrison wasn't wearing pants. REALLY??? Are you kidding me? When the Rutles came out in 1978 all the Beatles were still alive and well. And not to mention George Harrison was a fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus not to mention a very close friend of Eric Idle who wrote the Rutles.

And the scene was making fun of the whole Paul is Dead rumor. In the original Abbey Road Cover Paul McCartney is not wearing shoes as he walks across the street. Some people back then saw this as a symbol of death. Paul is passing over the River Styx or something.

Well, Eric for the Rutles changed it from the Paul character to the George character having the death rumor. So, he had the George character crossing the street with no pants on. Which he said in the film was the Tibetan sign of death.

Why? Because it was funny. Apparently not, because these Paul McCartney fans found it in poor taste. Despite the fact George (as I mentioned before) was a fan and friend of Eric Idle and Monty Python AND appears in the film.

For people who claim to know everythin there is about the Beatles, that kind of shows a lack of knowledge.

But many of the reasons Mr. Jonathan Blum stated in his blog are really the reasons I stopped frequenting the messageboards from the discussion aspect. You just get tired of arguing with people over silly things.

I have connected with some really great people online who not only buy my work but are also really fantastic artists and writers as well.

But then there are some really nasty little toadies who live for nothing else but picking fights on messageboards, people's blogs and even Youtube.

Which I suppose we are all pretty brave from behind a computer monitor a thousand miles away. Especially when we snipe people anonymously.

But with that said, it hasn't deterred me from posting on messageboards. Everything is a great promotional tool if you use it right. E-Bay, deviantart, web blogs, messageboards, chat rooms (do they still exist?), Facebook, Myspace, Youtube, Dailymotion and Twitter.

I've found I really started to get a much broader audience by selling artwork on E-Bay and I highly recommend it to young artists. Not only is it good for giving you a little extra scratch to take your sweetie out to dinner and a movie. But also it'll help you build up a fanbase.

I have people as close as Worcester to as far as Australia buying my books and my illustrations thanks to E-Bay.

There's no excuse for not getting your work out there. Especially when there's so much technology at your fingertips to allow you to do so. So, stop picking fights with other people on messageboards and their blogs and START PROMOTING YOURSELF!!!