Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fun_WhatItEase


I'm sick of seeing people write "it's" because 999999 times out of that-plus-one they're using it incorrectly.

It's simple. Even a Magic-playing moron like you should be able to understand.

IT + IS fused together make IT'S.
The apostrophe--the "sky comma"...ugh, the "floaty period-with-a-tail"--tells you words "fused" here.

ITS means possessive.
Just, whatever you'd normally do whenever you see the letters I, T, and S together, do the opposite.

Educate yourselve's.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Monday, December 5, 2016

Fun_TokyoComicConStory


I used to do a "shake" after SD Comic-Con, to use our old Herald terminology, where I sort of analyze what we learned from the event--so here are some things I got out of Tokyo Comic Con that I hope to keep at the forefront into the new year. I should note, while the event was much, much, much, much, much smaller than SD, it was even smaller than I was realistically hoping for, so there weren't a lot of review or meeting opportunities at all. I also don't get how some people would refuse to review...there was nothing going on a good part of each day. I've been on the other side of the table multiple times, I know there are thumb-twiddling, not-accomplishing-anything moments at every event, and people were not being hounded for reviews here as they might be in SD. If I am ever in the position to help anyone, carve it in stone: I will help whoever I can, whenever I can, if approached when I'm available. What cruelty otherwise.

Anyway, first thing off the bat, it's been a while since I've "showed," and I had an absolutely gross, roller-coaster feeling in my stomach all event--I could barely sleep (just laying in bed with my eyes closed, a phenomenon I absolutely hate, hence I tend to go to bed only when I'm about to collapse...I hate being in bed and not being asleep, but trying to go to sleep), so I just need to power through that..I'm not a social person, so it could be a "crowd" of one person, I still dread it. San Diego's easier because the days are longer and it a 5-day event, so you have plenty of time to numb your nerves. So, to try to deal with the nerved, I drew the little Zero sketch above the night before the event because I couldn't sleep or focus on more productive work, like prepping my files for print.

During reviews, I tend to focus almost entirely on note-taking, but I feel I should have asked more questions and generally been more active. The first reason I tend not to try to ask too many questions is above all, I feel awful taking up people's (anybody's) time, and asking questions always feels like a blatant "spend moar time on ME!!!" demand--this includes anything from an art review to asking the dude at 7-11 to microwave my bread. But I suppose if they're deciding to take time to review me, then I should take some liberty of ownership over the time they're granting me.

The second reason I hesitate to ask questions is that I don't want to give any whiff of excuse-making, and I feel like pros are quick to sense that from reviewees, and this is something I myself see in less experienced artists. Almost immediately with rookies, there're qualifiers and explanations and all this fluff, rather than letting the art speak for itself. I frankly hate that, so I don't want to give any impression that I'm trying to lead their interpretation of a piece by asking something after they've given their commentary. It's just like in Magic--never make excuses; take ownership of your decisions and just accept their results, and learn from that, not monologues on manascrew. So even if I feel I have grounds for a question or disagreement, I always second guess myself because I feel it'll come off as I'm making an excuse or trying to influence them in some way. I know this is absurd because I am capable of stepping back and reading a situation as a third party, and because when I would venture a question, we'd subsequently have a productive discussion, but I still can't shut off that "how dare you speak" voice in my head.

That said, I do feel this was the first time I've felt like I was in a conversation with a pro, though, not just a pure student. I get so nervous, though, I totally blanked on Splinter and Coverage Draft, comics I've worked on for months...as if I was just improvising the story on the spot...it was the same way at school--I could know a subject front to back, but if having to deal with a human (not a paper) it was a coin flip if I could pull it together to present myself as informed and as prepared as I was or if I was going to come off indecipherable from some rando off the street riffing on a whim.


The other big takeaway was, as I had feared, I don't have enough variety in composition. All my stuff, as I was assembling it--even pre-assembly, as I was shorlisting files--tons and tons of bust shots; I ended up putting stuff in just because it had more body present. So top priority, I need to pull the camera back, more than just waist-up shots. People liked my comics, though, since those of course have more mobile vantage points. The other thing was one reviewer said I ought to put more story into the images, another suspicion I had during assembly. I've been trying to put more narrative into backgrounds, but the advisory seems to be to hit it head-on with multiple characters in one piece, for more apparent intrinsic storytelling. Appropriately, the last drawing I did before Tokyo Comic Con was that Zero bust sketch above, so to counter that, the first drawing afterward a sketch on the train of Fred and Vicky in front of a news kiosk, trying to put together a quick exploration of what I learned.

The last noteworthy thing I can glean from the event was that I need to pick a lane. This was floating in the back of my head, but hearing it out loud solidified it. I don't know what my "thing" is...am I painting or doing lines?...I love lines, I want to be a killer with linework...I feel pressured into painting and even coloring. But the unanimous winner was our linework stuff. In fact, our little monochromatic Zero was the breakout piece. I included him almost at the very last minute, but ended up putting him on the cover of the packet when assembling leavers in the hotel on TCC eve. I had intended to paint him, but secretly really loved the monochromatic treatment. I included him mainly just because it was as near to a full-body image as I had. But this was the one everybody responded best to, which was quite gratifying, though the Admiral was our best painting piece). Zero means more to me than anything else I could possibly do, so it was a pleasant, if quiet, victory. What were we talking about again? Oh right, pick a lane.

So the vibe my packet gave off was schizophrenic. I have to pick an aspect to focus on and just go all in on that, it seems--one reviewer said that piece to piece, they look like they could have been done by different people. The problem is I don't exactly-laser-focused know what I want, and I've always discarded notions of "style," since that was always like n00b code for "I suck, but these pieces all suck in a similar way, so that makes them good," it's like a type of intolerable excuse-making discussed earlier. I had always learned that style comes over time, eventually, naturally, and unintentionally...only amateurs try to force it. I don't know what my "style" is, and I dread even thinking about thinking about it. I draw as I draw. I don't know. It was unthinkable to try for style. But now, I have to? That's like learning that mothers drinking vodka actually helps their babies grow strong.

What is the goal? I just want to make people happy with art. I'll dance like a monkey to do that, whatever jig it takes, disregarding any personal happiness in the process, as I have for the past decade. My personal wishes don't hold much weight in my mind. But I do know I like lines, and I want to be insane at that more than being an insane painter. Color has always been a lower priority to me that I've felt pressured into. I don't even like most color comics to be perfectly honest...especially in the west, colors too often destroy lines, or even just act as a crutch for poor linework. I love JP comics because it's pretty much all black and white, so you live and die on your lines. Obviously when they do color, it's only a few pages and covers and stuff, and it's gorgeous, and that's more the pace I'd like. So I guess that's the decision, huh? Focus on linework. The rub is that nobody cares about lines. Everyone wants colors...

So as we look to next year, I have to pull the camera out, do more implicit storytelling in images, and tighten up (spam?) a style. Art, like Magic, isn't fun. It's a technical endeavor in the pursuit of perfection. So we need to be more perfect. Oh, also, while I grapple with these art issues, my country is destroying itself and reverting into an abominable amateur-hour version of itself from half a century ago, so good beats.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fun_FlightZero


10 years to the day since his first airplane ride.

Wonder where he was going. Wonder what he was thinking.

Wonder what he's doing.

Wonder if he's ok.

Wonder wonder wonder.

Reuxben

Friday, December 2, 2016

Fun_Calt.TCCID


I should be off to Tokyo Comic-Con if everything's going correctly. I don't have any updated business cards, so I made a couple by hand, but probably won't even need them.


I'm writing this on Thursday. Feel like throwing up. Quite nervous. Hate talking to people and hyping myself, and now I have to do nothing but that...hate having to pick which pieces to define myself by, too, for the portfolio stuff...like...just tell me what you want and I'll do it...my gosh...hate this part of doing art.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

SLS_Home


Grin and bear it, it's Sick Little Suicide #26, "Home," in which we bask in the glory of the United States of America.


It is disgusting what that orange clown represents and enables. And it is disgusting that people eagerly contributed to the ideologies that perpetuated him, such as this outrageous Crosschecking scam, created by a Yalie of all people (though he's not the only defender of evil), that trashes minorities' voting rights.


Anyway, this started as fan art to my favorite poem, Paul Laurence Dunbar's "We Wear the Mask," which I find myself thinking on every now and then, but especially recently. I imagine President Obama--the President of the United States of America--has to do this. Even this great man. I don't like using the word "man" because it's such a loaded word, but he definitely qualifies. And now he has to entertain that orange idiot to fool him into not ignoring the one adult in the room. He has to wear a mask for a treasonous villain. That's where we are in 2016. But I'm confident he'll ultimately be victorious. He is good. And evil can't win.


From all the anger and disgust I got from reading those articles and stuff, I just wanted to draw a defiant black person in a smiling bandana covering her mouth, but then it turned into Alexis Blight, which made it more personal and painful for me. She's Nigerian, but from New Jersey, so she'd likely face this kind of stupidity at some point. She went to Harvard and Yale, and still has to deal with this garbage.

Anyway, it was fun just getting in there with the colors on the jacket and hair. I used to test colors quite extensively before, but I'm feeling more comfortable coloring from the gut. She's wearing reds and stuff because she's a Cantab at heart of course, but her mask is purposely a callback to the blackface caricatures of my country's illustrious past.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fun_ReddyToGo


Preparing for Coverage Draft with a sketch of Vicky. This is digitally adjusted to more closely reflect her actual skin tone, since the "final" felt a little too misleadingly light, despite the originating parameters.


I wanted to draw Vicky using only black and white and red all over, leaving the skin completely colorless, but what started as a nose mask with my darkest red colored pencil ended up extending over everything.


I went to move my paper to get a better angle while coloring her ID when I accidentally lifted the paper up to my open Copic, hence the stray mark on the nose. I contemplated leaving it vs. digitally removing it, but decided to try to muscle through, first with a failed white pen coverup, and then a colored pencil mask.


Originally it was just going to be strictly limited to BWR to reflect the newspaper/journalism theme, but I can never just keep it simple...I'm trying, but I always want to add more and end up overdoing it.


Anyway, I think we've got her down design-wise, at least...the photo in the background is from when I went to go see Motion City, by the way, outside Toho Cinemas, one of the very first places we visited during my Yale summer in JP.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fun_IfOnlyYouCouldSee


I made a GIF, like those emoriffic opening/ending themes from my childhood animus. The song I was thinking of for this was Jimmy Eat World's "Drugs or Me (Styrofoam Remix)," which is just emo enough to feel accurate to the mood, and just techno-y enough to feel animutastic.


It's supposed to look like an ending theme credits screen at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it's mainly nonsense on the cusp of meaning, to feel like those wacked-out dictionary vomits you see sometimes in JP stuff. They think English looks cool the same way we think kanji look cool, so like us, they just plop rando text wherever.

I was transferring over some art to prep for Tokyo Comic-Con, when I came across this Shinjuku study sketch (which I just found out is near where I always used to play FNM!) and thought it'd look cool animating the lights. Then I came across this figure and thought it would be neat if I foregrounded her and made it all look like an ending theme.


This took 34 frames with the PS animation tool, each of which I made by arranging the elements and CTRL+Shift+ALT+E merging all visible layers per "cel." I started by wiggling the background hand-camera style, as I wanted that to be the main focus, and used that as my animation base. I then recreated each of those frames with the added "dressing" elements on top--traffic lights, credits, and figure work--and merged those into my then invisibled base frames. A little tedious and more ball-jugglingly than technically difficult, but still a satisfying experience.


This left layer panel above shows some of what's in the right panel's "cels" group, including notes on when to cue certain effects as I went on my second pass incorporating the dress elements. Again, it was a lot of juggling to keep track of, but nothing actually difficult. Not pictured, but I also used the color-coding option on the layers to tell me when to change the lights. All these little notes were essential to keeping it mainly a matter of tedium than difficulty. Limited animation like this makes me feel excited to try something a little more complex, which just means more juggling, but once you have the elements you want to use and knowledge of the effect you want to create, it's just lots of clicking and arrow-button pushing.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Fun_TrixiGetDown


Feeling kinda glum, I just started scribbling around and ended up painting a cave-like place, eventually arriving at a sort of screenshot-style piece from like when you're talking to someone in an RPG.


I named her Trixi because Yuki mighta been a little too weeabooish (Yuki's a cool name that also means snow, in reference to her 'do, but it lost points for potential misreads with "yucky").


I figure Trixi's more of a sweet joker type anyway, hitting you with sarcasm and witticisms rather than actual advice and clues (though she sneaks them in there)--the red text sprinkling was a throwback to games like Zelda that did the same for ADD players.


I didn't realize the lines were from an old Inktober piece, but this process's exactly what I'm hoping to do more of down the line, especially with this year's more complex pieces.


That is, this piece was exciting because for a while now, I've been thinking about trying this technique of remixing pre-made inked lines into full-color, polished pieces.


I knew from the get-go I wanted to try coloring the background via gradient maps, another KNKL technique.


Background paintings with traditional cel-shaded figures is a nice combo, and the painting itself is really relaxing cuz it feels like you can't screw up too much, as opposed to more obvious figurework mistakes.


Bonus Twitter version.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fun_WolfInWool


Sorta distracting myself from the main pieces we need to get done, and then these side sketches invariably keep kinda taking over, so one last piece inspired by Adrian Simon--specifically "You and I," off of The Ivy League, The Ivy League's second and apparently final album, though the first one I listened to. It seems they broke up right around when I first got into them...I want to say I remember seeing an ad that they were playing with The Rollover Motive one night, who I was far more familiar with at that point, but I didn't/don't know New Haven terribly well and didn't want to risk running around the city at night looking for the venue, so I missed my chance to see them live. Unrelated, remember that night some guy started firing a gun near my dorm? Good ol' yaleprombles.


Anyway, I love "You and I" for three reasons (at least). First, it's a great song, obviously--the soft, unassuming guitar intro, the soothing yet aggressive drive to the end, and the gutting repetition of the ending itself. I especially love the sweeping, super long "I" syllables used throughout, as in, "And I, I don't want to live like this for the rest of my wasted life....hide...you and I love you and I." It's a perfect song for night drawing (probably night driving, too), when the world feels asleep and you have all the time in the world to sit and think. This song is like a nightlight that casts slightly spooky shadows that are nevertheless harmless. It makes me think of those 4am strolls in my old rural Japanese "Miyazaki movie" town. No danger, but you feel like there should be--or that you've been conditioned to think so, like all the clues tell you to move more quickly, but the reality is it's just a calm, pitch-black night. And the stars are insane and infinite above.

Second, this track feels like two songs in one: the split occurs appropriately at a palindromic timestamp, 3:13's grand pause, and then the song switches from a sort of outward conversation or narrative to an inward confession or calibration. And that second part's opening line always stuck with me, "I'm a wolf in a woolen robe..." The repetition is overwhelming sometimes. Again, listen at night--dark, dark night--it can gobble you right up. It starts, "Well, I'm a wolf..." but that nonchalant take ends up outnumbered and at the more fatalistic conclusion, "And I'm a wolf..." This song's somewhat harsh lyrics--the subsequent line is "My heart is black, my blood runs cold"--contrasted with such a gentle delivery are just wonderful. It's like how Justin Pierre delivers such bitter news via such chipper tunes. The attitudinal contrast, embodied in the song's two-in-one split nature...like some kind of creature A wearing another creature B's attire (forgive me, a suitable idiomatic expression escapes me)...makes this an unforgettable track.


The third reason I love this song is that it feels like it sorta initiates the finale to the album (disregarding how gorgeously the previous track, "Dancing Shoes," ends on such an abrupt quietude, perfectly setting up the track of the hour; that song feels just distinctly separate enough for the vast majority of its run to feel like it still primarily occupies the body of the album, not the finale). I love long, "epic" songs (not nec. the album's final track, though epics do tend to make the best killing blows).

For reference, some of my all-time favorite epics are like Weezer's "Only in Dreams" (which holds a special place for me as the ending track to the "Blue Album," whose opening track, "My Name is Jonas," was in the little JE welcome DVD they sent us to get us hyped for move-in day) and "The Angel and the One" (from the first album I ever bought in Japan!), Jimmy Eat World's "23" (from the first album I got in SD, winning it off of 91X a few days after moving to SoCal), and of course Motion City's "Hold Me Down" (my first MCS album!).


Anyway, I've always said AS can end albums like nobody's business, and the self titled album feels like it boasts a three-part finale starting with "You and I" as the intro, seamlessly powering into "Silhouettes and Heartache" (man, oh, man, best track? Tough call.), and concluding with the breathtaking epic, "I'll Wait for You." Obviously we're counting "BUAD" separately as strictly a bonus (though just as excellent) track. These songs are so powerful individually, but run so beautifully together, you almost have to take all three as one, despite the burning desire to hit repeat on each (plus "BUAD" of course).

So I love this song for how excellently it ends one of my all-time favorite albums, how carefully it packs in a dark richness, and how beautiful it is unto itself. Today's sketch only clumsily captures some of what I feel when I listen to it. I wish I could do it more justice, but hopefully the gist is there. Oh, hey, it's raining tonight, too. Love the rain. Rain, music, night, and art...これは人生。

Not normal,

Reuxben

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fun_AdmiralHomie


Ok, here's the real piece we were working on to get us back into art mode. It's like a mock-up hype poster for Homie Airport, based on my old Cancun Kid character design, though oddly enough, I finished this piece first, then that sketch, then the Pocky piece. The story behind this piece is oddly complex. I couldn't draw anything anymore--that stupid election just made everything seem meaningless and futile, especially art.


This was the first time that I've had zero will to draw in a long, long, long time. But I knew I had to force myself to snap out of it because of the upcoming hullabaloo. Eventually I inched my way to sketching, but everything that came out was utter gutter garbo balarbo. So I thought I'd baby-steps it by being super specific, giving myself a clear template to follow, namely tracing and refining my old Homie Airport sketch.


Now here's the twist, drawing this was punishment. I usually use things I like to sort of punish myself. Like, back when I was playing Magic regularly, if I ever screwed up heinously, I'd force myself to buy single cards, something I seldom do cuz I don't like Constructed. If I'd screw up again, I'd buy more expensive or voluminous cards, sorta like the classic dad punishing his cig-sampling kid by making him smoke a whole pack--just heap on the "good" thing in a sarcastic "take that" move.


So in this case, I knew I had some other important pieces to get to, but as punishment for not being able to control my emotions, for caving into misery and not channeling it into productivity, I dove into this piece. It was therapeutic, of course, listening to Adrian Simon's catalog and drawing fan art, so it was definitely a positive experience. But obviously, it was time away from what should have been my main focus. I still have a lingering feeling of uselessness as always, so I have a hunch it doesn't make a difference either way.


Anyway, I concepted Homie as a cocky, but laid-back, fun-and-music-loving hippy-dandy admiral guy. He's the boss/only DJ of a deserted island radio station, where he plays tunes (the AdSim catalog) for all to rock to. He can manipulate space and time through music, warping the very island to his taste, but unfortunately he can't ever leave cuz the signal only extends to the coastline. Rather than bleep for help all day, he just plays his jams and enjoys absolute command over this, his island HQ (and de facto paradisiacal prison).


What he doesn't know is he crash landed here and is going (or has gone) insane alone on the island. Even the real-world audience doesn't know this, unless they read and interpret the liner notes carefully. So while they only see a suave admirally guy playing those slamming grooves for all the chipper islander chaps, away from his musical magic he's actually something like an unkempt hobo raving in the night from atop a broken-down radio tower on a lonely, lush island. Fortunately he plays music nigh constantly, rarely breaking the illusion.


Working on this piece was just the thing I needed. I don't feel back at 100%, but I do feel there's enough juice in the tank to get us going again. Excited for the new album. Don't actually know if it's going to be released as Homie Airport, but fingers crossed there's more rock afoot.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fun_HomieScratch


Ok, moping does nothing. To get me out of the crippling ugliness, I thought I'd trick myself into getting back into the swing of things by starting easy, basically just tracing my old Homie Airport sketch, adding sparse colors, and capping it off with limited design elements like you might see in JP fashion ads.


I deliberately told myself to keep it simple, just Steve Ahn's storyboarding brush, flat colors, and a super loose coloring style, like one of those hand-printed deals. The idea was to make it look like a magazine ad or something hyping the new album. The tagline is a little pun: reading the Japanese characters for "music" in Japanese is literally the characters for "sound fun," so it's like a sarcastic, "Music is fun, huh?" sentiment, playing off of the "fun/しい" character in "music/音," though again, zero reason for him to be so serious, wherein lies the humor.


Anyway, I got carried away with the main piece I was working on, which was actually meant to be simpler than this one, but their complexity swapped as I switched from today's simple piece to that complex one (the funk was so bad, I couldn't even finish today's trace job, so I distracted myself by jumping to the other piece). That complex piece ended up getting inspired by this piece (but I finished the complex one first, though I'll post it last for this week). As for this piece, it's just Homie Airport looking tuff/cool.

I love drawing characters with orange hair. The quest continues to do it well.

Not normal,

Reuxben

Monday, November 14, 2016

Fun_PockyToMe


Here's a little Pocky Day design I wanted to do to trick myself into doing art again, like everything's back to normal. I'm actually writing this Friday 11/18, well, technically Saturday now (JP time). The stupid election has plunged me into such a funk, as I haven't felt in a long, long time.


Just the thought of doing art felt like...I dunno, disrespectful? Certainly useless. Meaningless, etc. Obviously, I had wanted to get this done in time for 11/11, but...I physically couldn't draw. I tried to latch onto something easy, a stupid Pocky Day piece, but even pooping out sketches to get to the piece was laborious, mocking me with how impossible drawing has become.


Fortunately, this Friday's piece snapped me back into it. I just finished that piece, and then did a quick follow up, which I'll post Wednesday, and since I was on a roll, I finally snapped off this Pocky thing. So I hope we're back in working order now.


Anyway, all I know is we cannot let this idiocy ever feel normal. Normalization is almost treason. That orange fraud hopes we all forget. But this is not normal.


So from now until the next presidential election, I will alter my signature to remind myself constantly that this is not normal, no matter how many months and years into this garbage we get. Don't forget the sorrow and anger and betrayal and disgust and dishonor this orange fraud has gifted the country.


I hope I can look back at this post and remember exactly what it was like. To that end, here are the things that I can't say I necessarily take comfort in, but are like having something with which to take comfort in:
Dave Chapelle's 11/12/16 SNL monologue
Stephen Colbert's coverage night sign-off
Seth Meyers's election day remarks
Conan's historical perspective
Stephen Colbert's conviction
Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World

Not normal,

Reuxben

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fun_SimonDays


I don't usually like posting up such rough sketches if I don't have a final to go with them, but I just learned that the one and only Ayysimon has a target date for his next album, and I'm overdue on Friday's post, so here we go. Plus, to be real, I have been unsuccessfully trying to get in the spirit to draw for days now, but I just can't muster anything worthwhile, it's all garbage, and I'm running on empty. So given the oddly coincidental timing of my randomly sketching these last week and his announcing the next album just now, mize post these rather than leave them to rot away in their sketchpad, as I don't think I can collect the drive to finish any of these any time soon. I have to get some other pieces done first anyway, assuming I can still do what it is I was put on this Earth to do anymore.

I'm just so disgusted we collectively decided to spit on our country's history and honor, its future and legacy, and that we even have to entertain the idea that we should condone and understand the hatred represented in that fraud's election. The key word is normalization--it cannot be that what has come to pass is ever deemed normal. We cannot forget how he conducted himself and others; what shame upon us if we forget. I hope I can lock the emotions I'm feeling right now into these words so that I can forever look back to these past few days of posts and refresh exactly how I feel when it's time to vote or make a creative decision or whatever else later on. Remember the ugliness you feel right now and use it when it's time.

It's funny, I was so pumped when I drew these sketches--I was deliriously tired on the last string of trains home after a meeting in the city, but I spontaneously churned out pages and pages of ideas--and now I can't bring myself to draw anything. What a difference four days can make.

Hey, let's tie all this rambling into what today's art is actually about, what a novel idea. I feel it bears repeating, this site is above all for me: I post the art for people to discover, check out, or ignore as they wish, but the text is mainly for me to remember what I was going through at the time, and to note any secret things I hid in the art so I don't forget years later. This "time capsule" approach is similar to how I engage with music. Since I listen to music constantly, music invariable intertwines itself into different beats of my life. Sometimes, when I recognize something significant is occurring, I'll even "program" myself with music. Just last week, I finally came across Bleed American, which I never actually listened to before, aside from the usual suspects--ironic since I hold Futures as one of my all-time favorite albums. So, given this timing, I know I'll listen to "Cautioners" in particular and it'll unlock precisely what I'm feeling, as if it were just Wednesday again (Japan's a day ahead).


So bringing it back around, I can listen to Mr. Pizza's music and remember what it felt like that night as a tiny ant on a star-speckled Mt. Fuji, or nervously reviewing my notes for the millionth time during the drive to LA for the interview that got me to Japan in the first place. I associate his music most tightly with that period starting right before Japan, almost my very last memories of the US--man, the last big dinner in the US with the family, his music is right there in my mind. I live in nostalgia, and music is an extremely important part of that existence. He was there bridging Yale into Japan. And of course he was the soundtrack to my YouTube stuff through my early, rural Japan days. Really special memories in that tiny town, scored by that dude. Mundane memories no other human will ever know, between me and the music.

The Ivy League (band) era stuff especially captures that lonely, adventurous feeling of being on the outskirts of a new, utterly non-Western country, where you discover you are immediately and entirely illiterate. It captures the pioneer's isolation felt in uprooting from California to the east coast for four years, where everyone else already seemed to have some lingua franca--I didn't even know what Princeton was! I never feel homesick, and I love being alone, but I can still feel that stinging nostalgia embedded into the music. Motion City's Justin Pierre is the absolute master at this, but AS can go for the jugular just fine. If you're ever walking down the street and listening to either, you always run the risk of one of those little nostalgia nuggets bursting open, and sometimes there's good memories, other times not. Tricky business, loving music.

How embarrassing, by the way, in terms of gulf of skill that this guy was in high school when he made this (first!) stuff that resonated with me, meanwhile I was a college upperclassman--and am now a hermit in Japan? What's always got me is that wire-to-wire, he's got such incredible closing tracks right up there with Motion City; I would put him ahead of Radwimps, who themselves started in high school, and I'd say he beats the spotty Hosomi Takeshi's various projects, even Arctic Monkeys, Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Man, "I'll Wait For You" just came on as I'm writing this--you can't beat it: the steady, driving drums into the finale, the swelling backing vocals, cut out to just the guitar, silence. You can't beat it. Ugh...then fade up to BUAD, the bonus track! It's just perfect. A human being made this. A kid! Haha! Makes you reevaluate your life.

Ah, I love this guy's music. You know, he's so good he made me hate '80s music less, though I guess Glitter & Bones is technically '10s music...so '80s music still sucks? Not sure on the math there. So, yeah, my point is: I wish I could be more excited about his announcement, but it's just hard at the moment. Justin Pierre just indicated MCS might reunite in 4 years for the election, and I could only register that as "this is a positive development." That's where we are right now. I usually look to art in my never-ending quest to escape this ugly world, and AdSim music has long been one such escape, but we're in the depths of a serious, legitimate, (inter)national black hole right now.


I should talk about the sketches at some point, huh. But first, the backstory, because I'm still eagerly fleeing from thinking about reality right now. I had a meeting in jolly old Shinjuku last Friday, so afterward, for the first time in at least half a year I got to play Magic since I was in town near my old LGS, just in time for FNM (shout out to whoever scheduled that meeting so opportunely--oh, wait, it was me). I had stopped keeping up closely with the game as I plunged into focusing on art full-time, so drafting a set you have almost no content, let alone strategic, knowledge of, all in Japanese, was quite an experience.

During the triple Kaladesh Draft, I had to read just about every card in every pack at every pick; the judge eventually had to hover over me to monitor my speed and prod me to make my picks, like a sad parody of a professional event (this was FNM of course, the "open weekend pickup kickball club" of Magic). I almost always try to go black when I draft, but seeing nothing of apparent quality, I started with and unwittingly ended up going almost monowhite with a nominal amount of blue cards, allowing me to splash a single green card (either the UG legend main or the GW modal pump spell SB, prolly shoulda reversed since I had a lot of token-generators). I had to calibrate and contextualize all cards on the spot during the draft, only going on hunches of synergies, forget about trying to plan for how this new "energy" resource fits in. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did have that distinct, gross feeling you get when you know your deck does nothing, but you sleeve it up, and try to do your best.

I sucked just about as hard as one possibly could, making n00btacular mistakes like playing the white ETB pump a guy after a defenseless attack, and even started the night losing to a lands-in-fronter dirtbag. This guy always walks around the room and scouts decks during construction (recall this is FNM, not the Pro Tour), doesn't answer when you talk to him in-game unless you basically shout (you must honestly answer direct questions about public information), does not represent the board state clearly so you wouldn't have to talk to him in the first place (I don't like talking in-game myself aside from narrating my actions, so out of consideration I play such that the opponent has all public information as readily available as possible so they don't have to ask me), and he generally treats you like a lesser player for not being Japanese (you either lose to him as expected or didn't deserve the win). Plus he speaks in English to you erroneously, as if you don't know at least "Magic Japanese," as if that's actually being helpful (it is illegal to lie about public information, and guess what, there's a difference between "blockable" and "unblockable," so rather than accurately describe his creature's evasion in Japanese he technically lies to me in English, leaving me to Sherlock Holmes what he's misrepresenting).

The stereotype that Japanese players are all super polite is simply untrue (heck, some of the game's most infamous and widely acknowledged cheaters are Japanese), some of the rudest humans I've ever met are JP Magic players, much like the same is true in the US. Jerks exist everywhere and can suck the joy out of something as wonderful as Magic. So 97% are nice, 3% make you want to burn every card you own and lobotomize the area of your brain that holds any knowledge of Magic. Note some overlapping percentage are those are players with the animu girl sleeves and playmats. I had to play a couple! like that one prerelease, with coordinated mango gear...like did the girlfriend not get the memo from her eyes about the merch she and her boyfriend had been using all day? I digress. The point is, no country is immune from jerks.

Anyway, I basically never blame losses on opponents, least of all on this, my first rust-crusted games since the Shadows Over Innistrad prerelease, so needless to say, I was full of self-disgust after the event for playing so poorly I couldn't even manage a single game win (particularly when I got close against the lands-in-fronter--nothing sucks as bad as losing to actively rude players), so of course I looked to art for escapism from the horrible, no-good night, and my headphones were already on with no delay.


I have no idea why, but I just wanted to draw AdSim ideas after that miserable experience. It might have been because I've been listening to a lot of Gorillaz lately, and I've long been in awe of how they could marry visual and audio art so excellently, so I might have subconsciously been hypothesizing about that kind of treatment set to the AS catalog, especially since the Plastic Beach and Cancun Kid aesthetics are tangentially similar in my mind's eye--sort of a roguish, pirate-radio schema where anything's possible. I imagine Homie Airport as a guy (we don't know his real name, though the closest clue we get beyond "Cancun Kid" is his youngest personality, Davenport) on a lush island, living large. He dresses like a laid-back admiral or something, but he's actually alone, and it's all in his imagination. If we ever flash to what he really looks like, he's disheveled and hobo-like, but we almost never, ever see that, we just see his imagination. That's why on his abandoned island he can wear squeaky clean threads and designer gear, have any guest vocalist, cover any song, hit any genre, utilize any instrument, adopt any aesthetic. Ultimately, we don't know if what we're seeing is imaginary or memory or both. The truth is just backstory, merely hinted at in the liner notes.

Maybe he's playing tunes for us on the radio, but in reality he's actually screaming hoarse into the night for rescue at the top of the island's abandoned radio tower. Whoa, what if "glitter and bones" is actually the key to everything--it's referring to the worthless doubloons he found on the island, and the remnants of whoever crashed landed with him (losing this person snapped him into insanity, triggering his imaginary world) and he constructed everything, the entire catalog, his varied personas, and their invented(?) histories (previous albums) to mask that fundamental horror from himself? Maybe he's the Aristotelian tragic hero--he was rich in his old life and on vacation in a private jet (glitter), but then he crashes and loses everyone and everything (bones), and now he has to deal with infinite wealth (imagination) but tangible poverty (reality)? As a commentary on modern culture, he chooses to reside in imagination to escape the horrors of his actual life, in turn granting others the same ability by being an audio artist--the epitome of intangible escapism: you must see a picture, book, or movie to actually experience it as an artform, but you can never see or touch music, it's cruelly, beautifully all in your head.


Ok. Got off track, back to the sketches, then we outtie. The sailor/beach motifs obviously reflect his most recent incarnation, the dominant Homie Airport, which is more...I dunno what you'd call the Cancun Kid EP, tropical? Absolutely not reggae, ska, etc., though. You can't even safely call it rock...it's an experience, it plays like a movie with no certain narrative, but you have to listen to the entire thing, like one super song in four movements. You still won't understand it, but you'll be plopped in the world it describes, at least peeking in on it. Anyway, I wanted to sketch ideas for mock poster designs, and had hoped to take at least one to finish, but blah, who knows. Everything feels meaningless right now.

"Boom," the first design above, was an ironically action-packed, tough-guy treatment to contrast with the more laid-back vibe from the Cancun Kid era (the explosions are "taped" onto the background of an otherwise placid beach, and the Kid is all serious for no reason). Again, there's never willing/overt acknowledgment of the non-imaginary world, he's just doing a PR photo shoot and it's just supposed to read as a cool, ironic, humorous image.

"Kingbaby" was just a power pose on a tropical throne. No particular meaning on the name, it just has a funny ring to it. I figure Homie Airport likes to be kind of cocky in his photo shoots.

"Tally Ho! That Wavy Fellow," was more of a purely care-free concept, like a One Piece Color Walk illustration. Color Walks are the exact tone I'd go for. You see Luffy and crew out of regular costume, in different time periods, on all kinds of implied adventures you'll never see in the actual story. You can do that with the imaginary radio station framing device. Meanwhile the fun little secret between those in the know is that it's all fake, every line and pixel.

"Shadezzz" was sorta imagining the poster as a glamorous fashion spot. There'd typically always be some humorous element, even in "cool guy" imagery, so like here, he's posing all cool-like, but then you notice he's wearing three pairs of sunglasses for some reason. For the real thing I'd have to look up some stylish sunglasses, since I don't actually know about fashion, but I love the research phase of illustration. By the way, JP has some great fashion magazines, with the most bizarre-sounding names you'll ever see. For example, my copy of Men's Fudge is my go-to source for preppy fall male costumes. The cover model even looks like el Sr. Pizza, actually.

But I was really excited about the last concept, "Simon Days." It was obviously going to be a take on that iconic Gorillaz album art, but with the different slices of personas he's used over the years. There's Homie "Cancun Kid" Airport (leader, bass), Charlie Christmas (keyboard, backing vocals), Midnight Pizza (drums, unclean/rapping vocals!), and Davenport (lead vocals, lyrics, guitar). A supergroup of one dude, haha. Pretty sure Patrick Stump did something like that already...one guy on every instrument for an album? Anyway, I love Gorillaz as a group and as a concept, not to mention Jamie Hewlett's style, and this one woulda been a fun homage to these artists I admire so much.


(The piece above was a garbo live-ink sketch from June, inspired by "I Wanna Break Ur Heart" from Glitter & Bones. I'm including it just to break up the wall of text.)

Anyway, I'm trying to snap out of this funk...it's not artist's block (I don't believe in that), it's just the sheer lack of will. I can usually channel even my most hideous emotions into art, but this one is especially crippling because the epicenter is not just me and my woeful little life, it's an entire nation, one that the whole world looks upon in some way, and we just outed ourselves as stone ignorant, hateful, gullible idiots. You either bought into that fraud's message, or felt its overtly hateful message was not as bad as a quantitatively less bad alternative (protest votes, etc. would be the latter). People are already being attacked, some are dead, as I understand it.

This isn't a case of, "oh dear, the black guy didn't beat the white guy," or "oh darn, the man beat the woman." It's about the specific person who won and what that thing represents. It means, "having had a black guy in charge just shy of a decade, we now condone and exalt hatred, and jubilantly rip progress from ourselves and willingly at our own peril." Replace the present winner with almost anybody else and instantly: who really cares who wins? It's politics, whatever is whatever, the winner will try to do what they honestly feel is best for the country and will limit their personal interests. I love President Obama dearly, but if he didn't win his second term, I'd be like, well, fair enough, good luck to the new guy, let's see he does. It would not cross my mind for a second that his opponent could ever be or even resemble--let alone embody--dishonor or danger upon our country. This present person is fraud incarnate.

I hated how with every election, they call it the "most important election of our generation." Even Obama's first election, what was actually at stake if he lost? If he lost, whatever, a war hero's in office, boo hoo. This time it was the most important election we could have, but they rendered the sentiment meaningless. I hope sincerely the superlative-spewing nature of our generation is dead. Now the presidential election focus must shift to 2020, where hindsight will play an excruciatingly important role, and at which point we'll have to act not to prevent but to cure, hopefully stronger after the check up in 2018.

So, my gosh. I'm getting there, I can feel the will to draw coming back on the strength of the anger and disgust I feel. Writing about these rando concepts to music I love helped. Writing's not drawing, but it's close. Hoping to be back at it Monday. I must snap out of it. Less writing, more drawing. Yes. Way too much writing.

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