10-27-17 The Drowning

Little tale from my Art Studio:
I set out this week to purposefully do a painting “wrong”.
First, I didn’t use a pre-sketch. Then, I got scared to use a good piece of canvas or wood, so I ended up using scrap plywood I found in the alley and new-to-me materials, different weird paint colors, and a super-wide composition and complex subject matter. Three days in, and despite my best intentions to mess this thing up, it was turning out quite nice. I was having more fun painting than I had in a while.
But that wonky alley plywood was too wonky to ever be able to “frame out” So, I decided to cut the piece “square”.
Almost half-way through the cut, my saw blade buckled and snapped, leaving a horrid gash in the worst damn place. Subsequent attempts to fix it just got it worse. Now the plywood is still wonky and my composition isn’t as strong because I removed too much.
I succeeded. I played and made mistakes. I learned some valuable lessons: Go ahead and play, Use new stuff, use colors that scare you, don’t worry so much about the pre-sketch, and use quality materials if you want a quality piece.
No piece is precious. Maybe don’t cut it up, but if you did, oh well.
Now, I’ll go get my daughter her Halloween costume before I mess up something that actually matters!

A Show Of Hands: The Making Of A Drunken Telegraph Video (7-6-14)

For this edition of Drunken Telegraph, we decided to use illustrations of 'hands'.

For this edition of Drunken Telegraph, we decided to use illustrations of ‘hands’.  This defied our unspoken “no-figure” rule, but Megan relented. Concepts > Rules!

(You can view this as a slideshow, or scroll down to read it as a post. Options!)

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Every successful drawing begins with a "thumbnail sketch". This is where I work out the basic forms, values and composition. I ended up flipping the orientation.

Every successful drawing begins with a “thumbnail sketch“.  This is where I work out the basic forms, values and composition. I ended up flipping the orientation.

This hand is in a pencil rough. I then trace over the image with ink refining it as I go. ink.

This hand is in a pencil rough. I then trace over the image with ink, refinement!

In looking back over my old hand drawings for this post, I realized that prior to 2003, my hands were hidden or clenched in a fist. This was the level of hand construction typical of the way I drew hands "pre-Whaletown".

In looking back over my old hand drawings for this post, I realized that prior to 2003, my hands were hidden or clenched in a fist. This was the level of hand construction typical of the way I drew hands “Pre-Whaletown”.

I began work on a still-as-yet-unfinished graphic novel called "Whaletown " in 2003. This forced me to face my inadequacies of my hand-drawings. I bought a book called "Hogarth's Dynamic Hands". http://www.amazon.com/Drawing-Dynamic-Hands-Burne-Hogarth/dp/0823013677

I began work on a still-as-yet-unfinished graphic novel called “Whaletown” in 2003. This forced me to face my inadequacies of my hand-drawings. I bought a fantastic book, “Hogarth’s Dynamic Hands”.

I began to use a rough sketch to capture the gesture and energy.

I began to use a rough sketch to capture the gesture and energy.

I use the rough sketch to refine the forms...

I use the rough sketch to refine the forms…

Then I build the hand using simple shapes to construct the hand.

Then I build the hand using simple shapes to construct the hand.

This technique can be applied to any hand position. This was for a poster I was working on.

This technique can be applied to any hand position. This was for a poster I was working on.

Here is a hand I drew for a medical diagram we use in our Vascular surgery department.

Here is a hand I drew for a medical diagram we use in our Vascular surgery department.

http://brittonsukys.com/2014/06/28/earthling-1-chapter-1-8-2012/

This is a hand I was proud of. This is the ink work for a Earthling comic panel. I often use my own hands as models, because, well, they are always around!

http://brittonsukys.com/2014/06/28/earthling-1-chapter-1-8-2012/#jp-carousel-156

Here is the Earthling panel fully colored and illustrated.

Here's my sketchbook page of all my work-ups for the Drunken Telegraph teaser video.

Here’s my sketchbook page of all my work-ups for the Drunken Telegraph teaser video.

I found a neat monotone under color while scanning the drawings that really helped unify this set of images. I offset that color layer a bit, creating a print-like process.

I found a neat monotone under color while scanning the drawings that really helped unify this set of images. I offset that color layer a bit, creating a print-like process. Embrace those happy accidents!

I inked this series primarily with a brush. I like the moody contrasts that technique creates.

I inked this series primarily with a brush. I like the moody contrasts that technique creates.

I shave almost every day, so I figured I could draw this, but I still ended up using my wife's hand for the model!

I shave almost every day, so I figured I could draw this, but I still ended up using my wife’s hand for the model!

I couldn't get this pose right, so I let Megan show me. She grew up with a swimming pool in her back yard. But I used my memories of youth for the feeling and tone of the skinny-dipping!

I couldn’t get this pose right, so I let Megan show me. She grew up with a swimming pool in her back yard. But I used my memories of youth for the feeling and tone of the skinny-dipping!

This is a very rough thumbnail. Megan wanted the car in the background, so that also took some figuring-out.

This is a very rough thumbnail. Megan wanted the car in the background, so that also took some figuring-out.

The pencil rough for the purse image. I used my own hand awkwardly clutching a backpack for the model. Megan shopped for the right purse to copy.

The pencil rough for the purse image. I used my own hand awkwardly clutching a backpack for the model. Megan shopped for the right purse to copy.

My favorite drawing of the set. I love the lines on the car and the nearly op-art way the eyes want to make it 3-D. Pink and Green is a great combo, by the way.

My favorite drawing of the set. I love the lines on the car and the nearly op-art way the eyes want to make it 3-D. Pink and Green is a great combo, by the way.

For the background music, I recorded a bunch of lonesome guitar tracks, but Megan didn’t think any of them fit well, so she asked for something more “Spacey”. This is a track I recorded in 2011, I thought this tune had a “spaghetti-western spaced-out folk” sound, so I suggested it. She loved it. I guess it pays to keep that old experimental stuff sometimes! (Britton: Guitar and Harmonica).

 

And here is the preview video.

Hear all of the amazing and powerful full-length “Crossing The Threshold” stories at Drunken Telegraph.

 

The Company Of The Wet Stone (8-30-13)

(This is the waterfall, where The Company later freed an imprisoned Turtle-Dragon)

Waterfall Canyon.

Grandor had been walking too far in ill-fitting boots and his chain-mail was chafing the tops of his thighs. His purse was empty and so was his stomach. So he tried the only magic trick he knew.

He lit a fire. A fire of New Beginnings.

He used his last pipe smoke to light the mosses off a dry branch. They in turn lit an abandoned bird’s nest. That caught the birch twigs and eventually a piece of an old wagon.The smoke filled his belly and the heat warmed his pain.

Just then a woman stepped into the clearing. She peered out from under her wide-brimmed hat. “You got room for two around that fire?”

Grandor smiled and slid his shield away to clear room for her.

As she sat down she pulled two dead rabbits out of her sheep skin cloak. “You any good at skinning?”

Grandor looked at her deer-skin dress, her leather boots and leather gauntlets, and that wild sheepskin cloak. “Probably not nearly as good as you are.”

She smiled and said “I’ll share the meat, I just don’t want to do all of the work.”

Grandor pulled a sharp knife out of his belt. “I got this whole thing covered.”

Grandor then performed a second magic trick, A pair of hare prepared for an affair.

 

Grandor and the Woman-in-skins shared her pipe smoke as the rabbits roasted on the fire.  As the aroma reached it’s climax, there was a loud clattering in the trees.

A young man came crashing through the underbrush, swinging through the thicket with an old sword, and singing loudly to himself.

I of Smoon, They’d call me boy, Nay!

I am a man of one and twenty

So along this knotty trail I roam

killing giants by the plenty

I care not where my Ma and Da are

I know not where my sister dwells

I lead this bold life in the woodlands

hunting down the best of smells

 

He stepped into the clearing, put his hands on his hips, thrust out his chest and said, “I am Marthyn, from Smoon, at your service”. He took a step forward and bowed deeply before the fire. “Can I join you in your adventure?”

The woman looked at Marthyn’s smooth face, his oversized leather armor, his too-small pants, his shoes, split open at the toes. She looked back to Grandor. He smirked, and poked at the fire. He kept his head down.

“This isn’t an adventure, this is resting,” she said, “You are barely older than a boy. What could you bring to an adventure anyway?”

Marthyn from Smoon, knelt before the fire holding his sword in front of him,

“I lived in Smoon with my family, until the Dragon came. They all fled to the castle, but I thought I smelled something good in the woods, so I went to investigate.

“While I was going along the road, I happen to find my Grandfather’s sword, I don’t know how it got there.

“Then I ran into a Giant. He swallowed me whole. I went down his throat, but when I got to his heart, I pulled out my Grandfather’s sword and sliced it in two.

“Then I ran back up his throat and out his mouth before he fell dead to the ground.”

The fire crackled but no one spoke for a moment.

Finally, Grandor pulled the crispy meat from the fire and said, “That’s a good story. My name is Grandor.”

Marthyn looked at the Woman and said “What’s your name? What’s your story?”

Grandor looked at the woman with interest, he’d been wondering too.

…Then they find a small elf-child and end up following a Unicorn through the woods on a life-changing adventure…Just a campfire story, right?

1-4-14-Unicorn-ForestWEB

Yeah, well, sort of…

I introduced my family to the amazing first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the summer of 2013. I guess all the recent dragon imagery and Hobbit movies sparked my old interest in fantasy role-playing games.

 

I grew up right outside of Lake Geneva, WI, home of TSR, the company that brought us Dungeons & Dragons. I grew up knowing the legendary Gary Gygax, and I was fortunate enough to intern for TSR in high school. I got to know some of the artists (Brom, Easley, Robh, and others), my mentor being the awesome Dana Knutson (famous for designing the Shadowrun logo). They even let me contribute in some small ways to designs they were working on at the time (I think they found it advantageous to pick the brain of an enthusiastic sixeen-year-old kid).

Anyway, I thought my Green Dragon decapitating days were long in the past. Although my gaming friends were really great gamers, they were replaced by girlfriends and then a wife.

But, before I got to finally kiss girls, I was a serious Dragon Slayer. Once apon a time, you see, I even decapitated a great Green Dragon in one shot by using an enchanted +3 Vorpal Sword, named Noslom Nedlog (which is just Molson Golden in a mirror, duh).

NoslomNedlogLogo

But after sitting around the campfire in the werewolf and vampire infested forests of Forks, WA, I started to weave the tale of the Company of the Wet Stone.

I would assume the duties of Dungeon Master (running the game portions and controlling the actions of the non-player characters and monsters), and I would be playing the scruffy, broken reluctant hero of the group. The down and out illusionist on-the-run, Grandor.

06-12-13GrandorColorWEB06-12-13MadameColorWEB

Megan took the name Madame Franz, a former wizard, raised by cougars, who was now learning to avoid using her magic metal arm and embrace nature’s magic.

My 8-year-old Son, became the wandering, giant-killing ranger, Marthyn from Smoon. And my daughter became a six-thousand-year-old elf-girl, named Pink (who is permanently six-years-old) and only wishes to get to Unicorn City

So in our secluded cabin on the Olympic Peninsula, far away from anybody, and let our imaginations, and Glow-in-the-Dark 20-siders, roll.

12-14-13-Royal-Tower-OverviewWEB

When I got back from the vacation, I started writing and drawing out our adventures searching for the City of Unicorns. 12-14-13-Unicorn-City-Overview-MapWEB

The game-play was good, and the life-lessons were even better.  I thought they’d make a good fantasy novel at some point, or at least a silly, family friendly game-module. But most importantly, like our ramshackle characters, we learned to work as a team. And we rediscovered that we truly are a family. The real-life Company of the Wet Stone.

8-30-13MonsterwithSword8-30-13SkeletalSpearman

8-30-13Spider

 

Baddies! Deadies! and Creepy-crawlies! Roll for initiative!

 

Shake

6-10-95 IndividualityBannerSalter

Shake would put inspirational quotes on large paper banners. I wish I had the rest of this one, but nonetheless, I get the point.

Open a tube of oil paint and you get that smell. I first really smelled it in high school.

Mr.Salter, “Shake” (the nickname we all used), gave me a box of Utrecht oil paints from the darkest corner of his supply shelves. They were crusty, hadn’t been opened in fifteen years, likely some surplus he thought would be great for high school painting students. But with the students he had now, he’d better stick to something non-flammable, like tempera or acrylic. So they lived on a dusty shelf, until “Ol’ Sukys” showed up and needed that spark.

I commandeered my own drawer in that art room. I hoarded a few of the best brushes and kept my own supplies, far away from the burnout kids who took art as a way to fuck-off: the kids who used X-Acto knives to carve swears and pentagrams into the big wooden art boards, the kids who used their BIC lighters on the other kids’ drawings, the kids who would stick their chewing gum on your paintings, kids who tossed the good drawing pencils into the air so they stuck in the ceiling tiles, kids with mullets and chain wallets who wore all black, or maybe ass-sagging jeans and backwards LA Kings hats. They’d smoke weed and make-out in the dark room. They listened to Megadeth, or Dr. Dre. Then they’d eventually get in a fight, get suspended, or get somebody pregnant, or whatever, and drop-out.

My school record wasn’t that much better. It consisted of D’s, F’s and Doodles. I barely survived grades 4 through 12. I passed because the teachers collectively knew I wasn’t stupid and figured I’d work it out eventually. School just wasn’t a good fit. I drew pictures through every class. I never-ever did homework. I never studied. I did score well on quizzes, and all of the standardized tests (except math – I once drew a picture of girl I liked in the dot matrix and scored a 12%. The math teacher yelled at me, “Monkeys guessing should score a 25% on averages alone!”, “Okay, sir, but can monkeys draw cute girls like I can, using nothing but circles?”).

I listened to the Dead Milkmen. My parents were divorced, my Dad moved to North Carolina, and I had a shaky relationship with my step-father. I wasn’t violent or destructive, I spent my time drawing comic books or busty girls with swords. I had only tried pot a few times, and though I liked the hell out of it, I couldn’t afford it at all. Anyway, without some spark, I was dropout city.

So, like the other misfits, I found refuge in Shake’s art room. It was my home. I tweaked my schedule to include as many art classes as I could get away with. I spent all of my early arrival times, lunch periods, study halls, mandatory assembly times, all in the art room. Every day. Four years.

Shake controlled the boom-box cassette deck. So, no Megadeth, no Dr. Dre, and no Dead Milkmen. Instead, he’d BLAST the Texas Tornadoes, James Taylor, and Fleetwood Mac.

 

Shake was a Painter.

Hunter Bear (Richard’s Brother), by Richard Salter 1978

He was from Arizona and spent time in Mexico, and his work incorporated Southwestern themes and tones and his own Native American heritage. He would attach feathers to his canvases. He contrasted dull oranges with electric turquoise, and open empty spaces with deep blacks. He’d set-up a still-life featuring cowboy boots, wine bottles, cattle and deer skulls. He incorporated instant coffee stains and old receipts and scraps of paper to make mixed media collages. His office had xerox photographs of Mexican revolutionaries and famous painters taped to the walls. He would let his lunch rot and sketch it over the month on his over-sized desk calender. It would start with a green-yellow banana on the first, and end with a moldy black mass on the thirtieth. He’d draw the decay over time. “You should draw your self-portrait every day” he’d say.

6-24-95 Desk Calender Doodle

June of my senior year (1995), I was able to slowly doodle across these panels of Shake’s desk calender. I would try to hide it, when he finally saw this, he played angry. We’d be out of school by the 24th anyway.

We had an informal Hall Pass system. I would get Shake to sign passes so I could get out of study hall or whatever and go to the art room. 6-11-95 Salter Art Pass

Every day, I’d get him to sign a scrap of paper, “Britton to Art” which I’d take to the study hall supervisor. I still have a few, meaning I’ve lost hundreds. Each one bought me an hour away from the impending doom of adulthood. It gave me one more hour to explore myself. What I thought. How I saw the world around me. He never kicked me out. “Christ on a wooden one! Don’t you have anywhere better to be?” 6-10-95 Salter Art Pass

I painted fantasy and sci-fi illustrations, hardly fine art, so he’d do his best to get me to paint from life. I was a product of early 90’s comic book and fantasy art, and I saw art as a career in illustration, and less a pursuit of the soul. But I did it constantly, and prolifically. “You are a real old Crank, Sukys.” Painting is a spiritual thing, and Shake was a real Shaman. He’d get cranky at the class for ignoring his lessons, and close himself off in his office. But the kids didn’t really need Art, they needed a Dad.

A kid who was having problems would go into his office and talk. He’d tell them what he thought of their future plans. “That will go over like a pregnant pole-vaulter.”  Kids would be able to cry in there, bitch about life in there, laugh with an adult, as an adult, in there. You could tell him the crap you couldn’t discuss with your asshole parents. He’d treat you like the adult you were going to be, not the mess of a teenager you were.

I needed a father-figure, too, but I needed to find myself more. Shake saw this need in me, in the way that only a painter can see in another painter. I never discussed parental problems or life-choices, or girls. I’d ask about composition, or brush technique. “You are standing too close. Hold the brush from the end and paint from your shoulder. Don’t choke it.” I’d ask about how to mix skin tones. “Yellow ochre, cadmium red medium and white.” I’d ask what to do when I got ‘stuck’ with a painting. “Dirty-up the canvas, Dammit! Make a choice!”

My work matured, and by my junior year I didn’t want to draw comics like Jim Lee, or paint like Larry Elmore anymore. I wanted to paint like Britton Sukys.

My senior year I took the bare minimum of what I needed to graduate, skipping out on science classes for “independent study courses” in the art room. Six out of eight periods. Both semesters.

How I managed that and graduating, I still don’t know. I never checked my transcripts. Understandably, the University of Wisconsin system didn’t accept me. Oh well. Sometimes you got to say, What the fuck.

It was then that Shake gave me the oil paints. “I love the smell of oil paints”, he told me one day when we were alone, “They remind me of painting outdoors with my father.”

John Salter (Frank Gray), Richard’s Father, by Richard Salter

He stared out the big front windows, as if in a dream-trance. I waited for the next part of the lesson. But, he turned towards his office and left me in front of the easel.

Cinder Hills by John Salter/Frank Gray (Richard’s Father).

Shake came to my graduation party, where my Mother had displayed all of my paintings, especially the larger oil paintings I did that year in those “independent study courses” in the art room. My mother told me years later that Shake spent a lot of time looking at the paintings. He told her privately how truly good he thought they were.

He gifted me a sketchbook and some watercolor pencils. I took them to Europe with me that summer as I left Wisconsin for good. I never saw or spoke with Shake after that day, and I have been blessed with many amazing teachers after him. But Shake was my Obi-Wan Kenobi. My Merlin. My Spirit-guide.

Shake as Obi-Wan, 1995

Shake, the Jedi Master, who instructed me. 1995

That’s where I was again, after hearing the news of Richard Salter’s passing January 24th, 2014. I cried like a misfit teenager. Over the past two months I’ve written notes to myself in his voice. I’ve seen my collection of blank, white canvases staring me.

“Dirty-up the canvas, Dammit! Make a choice!”

1995-Shake-yearbookWEB

 

*Post-Script (6/29/14)- In thinking of Shake, and discussing stories with old friends, My old studio-mate, Nicole, reminded me of this Sage advice;

“Salter said that as long as you are thinking about your next piece you’re still okay and if you stop thinking about it then I guess you’re okay then too…”

6-1-14-Shake-in-Studio-Web

“Shake in the Studio” (8″ x 11″) collage with photocopied photograph, ink, instant coffee, gouache, and crayon – (6-1-14)