Thursday, January 4, 2018

[ t h e _ b o n e _ g a r d e n ] - postmortem

so this one took a while.

one night in early 2013, my then-fiancée J suffered a brutal and haunting nightmare that became the black seed crystal of "The Bone Garden." she described a lone Civil War soldier discovering an abandoned cabin on a hilltop, surrounded by a grove of bone-white trees that pressed closer and closer. they assimilate and corrupt anything they touch - that poor cardinal! - and the soldier eventually resigns himself to the grove.

we each continued developing the story in our own ways... her from the pure and bleak original, me from the diseased fancies it gave root in my head. she may get around to telling her version someday, and suffice it to say that we took very different paths. i want to read hers. i crave it.

the earliest files for the "Bone Garden" are time-stamped mid-April 2013. i worked on this thing feverishly throughout the summer of that year with the intent of producing a new work in the style and vein of "Deep of the Well," 2012's Halloween offering. the story flowed, if too verbosely at first. i'd wanted to write something echoing a classic Weird Tale for a long time, and one with an unreliable narrator checks so many of my boxes my leg starts thumping like a dog's.

the art was a different matter.

i finished the first ~2.5 pages in the style that i'd been pursuing since high school, first in pencil and then digitally, maxing out my skill and texture folders in a doomed attempt at what could charitably be called "stylized verisimilitude." whatever. it was killing me and it wasn't right.

i'd hit a wall. i was getting "better" at an asymptotically slower rate, but i didn't (and don't) have the chops to pull off what i'd wanted to do. i'd ended up constraining the art based on model photos i could find, the panels didn't work together, and most crucially / damningly, the style just didn't fit the story.

i showed J my work.

she hated it.

she was right. i shelved the whole damn thing.

memory is fuzzy about how i got back on track. there was a wedding, there was a house, there were dogs, there was eternal overload and calamity at work. somewhere between 2013 and summer of '16, i grew a pair and became comfortable with throwing away months of work to start again and do it right. it took another year and change, but i did it. love and credit to the inestimable Emily Carroll, probably the indy artist i most worship, for giving me inspiration in style, pacing, and beautiful brevity (you know i enjoy me some words). after J, this one is for her.

i intended to go into the second build with a "monochrome economy" approach; stylized and cartoony lines, heavy shading, simple colors. after over three years (at the time!), i wanted to get this thing done. i slipped from that back toward my old ways pretty darn quick, but refrained from using texture overlays and tried to rely on bold lines where i could. i think it worked in general, and i've had some nice feedback from various corners (including Art faculty!).

here are a few more cuts from the first run. alas.

there was a long break between pages six and seven, which i picked back up for the final sprint last summer. it shows... of all the art, p7 is just about the only one that doesn't fit the original concept in my head. i'm getting better at that, and it's exciting to be able to finally give you, my audience of between zero and ten-ish, a more direct line into my shadow-stricken psyche.

the greatest compliment was that J thought the cardinal scene was perfect, straight from her dream.

works for me.

the Next Big Thing is in the works; after playing through "Bloodborne," i feel a powerful urge to try my hand at a short allegory through cosmic horror. see you in thirty years.

/.na [while listening to Halfbreed, formally inaugurating the Halloween season[

Thursday, November 2, 2017


This isn't an art post, but it's something important to me that I wrote in the wee hours last night. It's reprinted here so that it won't be instantly lost in the morass of my FB feed.


I have a hard time getting invested in teams anymore.

The Astros are different.

My earliest memory of a pro sports event is when I was little kid in the mid-80s, clutching a Starting Lineup figure of Mike Scott after a game at the Astrodome. The little plastic pitcher is long gone, but I still have an even older Astros puppet (a dog… why a dog? why not??) in my dedicated 'stros cabinet. Nolan Ryan, Scott, Glenn Davis (whom I met many years later at the Trop). I think of my mom befriending Billy Hatcher’s wife at the park. Clay and me hassling the third base coach from the stands because his name was “Cubbage” and we thought it was fun to shout “CUB-BIIIIJJJJ!!!” at him for ten minutes at a stretch. Sneaking up to the closed upper deck, dodging security guards, and dancing in front of the Jumbotron during the last days of the ‘dome.

Watching the Astros close out a series for the ages tonight, I could imagine the excitement of the ‘stros fan in me going back, back to the beginning. From today’s cynical old man trying not to set myself up to be heartbroken, to that little kid marveling at the sheer audacity of a building like the Astrodome and its original animated scoreboard.

I remember watching live at one of my high school jobs while the friggin’ Braves put us out in the first round every. single. year. in the late ‘90s. The Killer B’s, from the now-Hall of Famers Big-gi-o and Baggy, whose autographs I treasure, to the half-forgotten ones like Derek Bell. My folks went to Biggio’s induction ceremony. I miss one-time heroes taken too soon… Cammy, Lima-time.

Sitting in every major section of MMP in its first season, from the Diamond boxes to so high in the nosebleeds I felt the burn from the lights. Walking the warning track. My family’s last night together in Houston was spent saying goodbye to my hometown with a ‘stros win at MMP.

The perforated-ulcer-stress of the ’05 postseason (tragically underrated) in my first semester of grad school. Driving down to Kissimmee for Spring Training solo or with a crew, and gaining a true brother and Astros devotee in Dr Dynamite. Watching my boys play in more cities than I can remember, from randomly meeting then-owner Drayton McLane (who called me Superman) on a cold and rainy night in DC, to fist-bumping Hunter Pence and crew. About half of the photos of me in grad school feature an Astros hat, which I didn’t quite realize until digging through old pictures while writing this post. I wore one over my long, ratty hair every day I lived in Japan.

It was a lifesaver.

Watching these boys, #1 overall picks, come through my local low-A QC River Bandits squad. My Puerto Rican “mom” Judy bringing Carlos Correa to heel (who, as I write these words, just proposed to his girlfriend live on tv). Mean-mugging Ed Wade from two feet away in Florida, then keeping the faith in Luhnow’s Moneyball schemes during three 100-loss seasons of misery. The first time I saw Altuve in person was with Jillian at a poorly attended preseason game at Wrigley when both ‘stros and Cubbies were at rock bottom. I thought there was a kid out at second.

He is a tiny god.

My city needed this.

It’s hurt being away from my people. Seeing Harvey displace friends and family and random strangers who will always be MY PEOPLE still makes me feel sick months later. Seeing how we’ve rallied around this team, these Astros, has been beautiful. Schoolmates, from Harvey survivors to international diaspora, are all reveling in this win with me tonight.

Today is a day that I was truly afraid that I would never see. My cynical little heart has grown three sizes.

We are Houston Strong.

This team, this ridiculous squad of talented and hilarious kids who have never known when they weren’t supposed to win (see: damn near doing it back in ’15!), inspires me. This isn’t some joyless, moneypit empire. These are brothers on the field, and I couldn’t love them more. I’ve been blasting Houston rap to keep me fired up (Paul Wall has offered free grillz to the ‘stros for making it to the WS), and even the official Astros Twitter feed honored DJ Screw back in June. You can’t help but smile.

I love my city. It’s a glorious mess, a cosmopolitan gumbo of bullshit and hustle and heart.

This series was legendary, and I’ve grown noticeably more gray since the postseason began. Full respect and love to the Dodgers - this was probably the most evenly matched WS I’ve ever seen, and you acquitted yourselves extraordinarily well. You’re going to be good for a long time.

Race you next year.

Tonight is ours.

#astros #earnedit #hustletown #houstonstrong

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

[ p a l e _ f a c e ]

Happy Hallows.

savor it, like crimson wine from an old goblet. this is literally what i am doing right now.

so it proved fortuitous that i finished "The Bone Garden" on August 1. just a couple weeks later the new semester began, in which my nearly half-faculty-line of overload became further... complicated... by a broken foot.

good times.

haven't had much opportunity to draw, or even particularly get into the season [the power ominously cut out as i typed these words], but ol' Rossi-time hit me up for a late cover commission. here she is.

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mayyybe you can tell that i've been playing Bloodborne, which is spectacular and frustrating and regularly haunts my dreams.

postmortem on "The Bone Garden" in early November. i am proud of my child.

go 'stros!

/.n [while watching House of 1000 Corpses]

Sunday, October 1, 2017

[ t h e _ b o n e _ g a r d e n ]

this one has been a long time coming.

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commentary later. happy Halloween.

/.n [while listening to Misfits, "Halloween"]

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

critical communiques; also, musings

at last, at last! Spooky Basement is out in the wild in dead tree form. and there are t-shirts! there are all of the things. here is the complete cover, complete with implausible endorsement from an Eisner Award-winning creator (in earnest):

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here is what it looks like in person! the glow on the right is not sunlight, it is purest, unfettered joy radiating from these golden pages.

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kid bro has been hitting the circuit to promote his work, to which my art is loosely adhered in the fashion of a modestly committed remora. next one up is Flashback Weekend Horror Con in Chicago in a scant few days. let us infect the town with these subversive stylings.

seriously though, the booth is rad and features a Spooky Basement video game (!):

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oh. but here is the big news.

THE BONE GARDEN is done. yeah. 3 or 4 years late, sure, but it is what it is. i finished it this morning. i cried a little. it will be available to the public on October 1, which is i think a fair compromise between my competing desires to (1) get this thing out there already and, to (2) ensure that people's Halloween pump levels have been primed just a touch.

i've been waiting to write those words since 2013.

there are other things in the works. i'll get around to them.

/.na [while listening to Garbage]

Monday, June 5, 2017

[ f i c t i o n _ i n _ f i v e ]

as mentioned below, Phil is back in the game and some of my stuff is getting new play. check out his Patreon page - it's a full frontal assault of my stylings. presumably, much of our work going forward will be behind a paygate [you should offer him your patronage! but if not...], so i'll continue sharing my contributions here.

embarrassingly deep now in the ancient past, i posted the first plates from a book we were working on together between 2011-12 (yowza): an illustrated compendium of some of Phil's "Fiction in Five" microfiction works. first up was "Anamelech" (Halloween 2011!), followed by "The Watchers"(6 Jan 12) and finally "The Artist" (24 Nov 14).

the book may still happen someday, but for now Phil has been piecing it out as subscriber content. no time like the present, i suppose. here we go:

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"Touch Button Life"

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"Got A Light?"

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"The End"

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i need to get back on this. "The Bone Garden" is a lurching machine with grinding gears, creeping toward the finish line. i've said that before. i mostly mean it.

/.na [while listening to White Zombie]

[ c l o w n _ m o t e l ]

partner-in-crime Phil is finally back in the game with a monthly Patreon campaign, which means new opportunities and exposure for my little corner of these electric internets. here is the first new piece from [...looks...] back in March. this was a last-second job right before i had to bounce to co-lead study abroad in Belize. escaping Iowa required me to accomplish about three weeks' worth of work in five days.

that week sucked.

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the story is called "Clown Motel," and hopefully my cover properly expresses its heart as a light-hearted romp. yeah.

/.na [while listening to Paul Wall]