May 31, 2012

Terrifying Children's Books

Jenny Colgan of The Guardian has a great collection of children's books that are, for some reason, nightmare inducing. She wonders why in the world France would want to scare their children with such creepy imagery.

Good question! 

May 28, 2012

Life: Backwards

This is a fun little video that shows what the world would be like if everything went backwards. It's surprisingly mesmerizing.


May 27, 2012

Vice-President Shares His Loss With Families

This clip made me misty, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

On this Memorial Day 2012, which for me holds so much promise, it seems important for me to share this with you, and I hope you will share it with others, especially those you know who have lost a loved one. Vice-President Joseph Biden shares quite candidly the death of his wife and daughter to a group of families who have lost family members in combat. This is no politician speaking, this is a man who is sharing his deep loss with a group of people who know how it feels, and he tells them that it gets better.

This is as real as it gets.

May 26, 2012

Tim Burton Zeotrope Cake

Cake maker Alexandre Dubosc created this fantastic zoetrope-themed cake that pays homage to Tim Burton, complete with a Jack Skellington on top. Very cool!

To learn more about zoetropes, what they are, and how they work, click on the link below:

May 22, 2012

What Is Cosplay?

Regular followers of this blog know that costuming, or cosplay, is one of my interests; I am a member of the 501st Legion, the global Star Wars costuming group, and I have another costume I wear to Dragoncon every year, and I'm currently working on another costume.

Some people consider this a waste of time, or just don't understand the whole costuming thing. Some people think it's downright weird, and that's fine. I kind of like it that costuming is out in the fringes. I wouldn't want it to gain complete social acceptance, what fun would that be??

Below are some videos, and a link to my Dragoncon podcast to show you why costuming is so much fun and why otherwise-rational people do it. Enjoy!

This video is from the New York ComicCon and has interviews with attendees explaining their interest in costuming:

This isn't the official Dragoncon video, but it should be! This is the big event I attend each year, and this video demonstrates why it's so much fun:

This is the podcast I created last year during Dragoncon with a report from the con and interviews that gives you a good sense of what Dragoncon is like. Listen on your PC, download it to your iPod or favorite MP3 device:

This is my blog entry from my report on Dragoncon from 2011, filled with pictures and links. Enjoy!

May 18, 2012

Lecture Making Case That Rich Create No Jobs Banned

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that freedom of expression is the issue I am most passionate about as an artist and photographer, not to mention a drawing instructor. While I never discuss politics or my personal beliefs in my classes, I try to keep my blog readers informed about threats to their free speech rights.

So, I'm posting this video on my blog only because TED, a non-profit entity devoted to spreading ideas, refused to put it on theirs, claiming it is too controversial. You can view this post as an act of defiance against the forces of censorship, always a valiant endeavor. In this video, economist and business owner Nick Hanauer makes a very compelling case that rich people, and the tax breaks they seem to get in greater abundance, do not create jobs at all, but in fact do just the opposite.

Whether you agree or not, I encourage you to watch, if only because someone tried to keep you from doing so.

May 15, 2012


Here's another original piece I started awhile ago, but never finished until today, based off a sketch I did years ago.

May 13, 2012

Armor Party

If you've ever seen the 501st Legion at an event, you know how impressive our costumes are; members' costumes are in some cases of a higher quality than the their counterparts used in the movies, because they are designed to take much more wear and tear, during many events.

Members of the 501st Legion have all been bitten by the costuming bug, and spend a lot of time creating, improving, and modifying their costumes, so that when Legion members appear at events, their costumes are as perfect and movie-accurate as possible.

All of this takes a lot of passion, not to mention skill, and there are some truly talented Legion members who know a lot about creating costumes, and costume parts. An armor party is a get together at a member's house during the weekend where members bring tools, props and ideas, and work on their costumes. It is a way to get ideas and advice from other members, and learn new costuming techniques. 

In short, armor parties are a fun way to learn new skills. This will be a fun peek behind-the-scenes, so to speak, of a typical 501st Legion armor party. In the picture above, Mark clowns around with a head mold that will be used to make a Wookie head for a full Wookie costume, from the Star Wars movies.

Left: a mold for the head of a Wookie costume (at right). The large nose cutout is so that the eyes can be as close as possible to the backside of the mask.

The Wookie costume is, as you might imagine, a very time consuming project and involves a lot of work and skill. This mold has a hinged jaw so that the wearer can open the mouth a bit.

In the foreground, a bare Wookie mask is ready for the next step: adding hair. The black netting is attached to the mask, and bunches of hair are painstakingly tied to the netting until the entire mask is covered. Foam padding is glued to the inside of the mask so that it sits on the wearer's head properly, with the eyes in the right position.

Behind the Wookie mask is an unfinished TIE fighter pilot's helmet, which will eventually be painted with primer, then painted, before the decals are added.

In the background, Jason brushes the fur on a completed Wookie foot, which is built around painter's stults, to give the wearer greater height. Walking in a Wookie costume requires some practice.

Left: Tim, wearing the Wookie feet, ducks as he exits the garage, to practice walking in them.

Right: Shad and Tim in their Wookie feet. The costume means lengthening the arms as well, because with the added height, human arms would be way too short

Below: a video shot by Inkstress, a 501st member of Tim and Shad in the Wookie feet

A view of the back of the Wookie feet before the calf pieces are put on. When walking in the feet, you have to walk a bit bowlegged to maintain your balance.

Left: clowning around with the gas mask that will be part of my Half Life 2 Civil Protection costume. I picked up some great ideas from members about how to modify the mask to make it more comfortable, and more "game-accurate".

The mask is incredibly tight, so I will have to cut a U-shaped divot out of the chin to make it more comfortable (I'd pass out after half an hour in its current state). 

I also removed the plastic membrane from the front grille for airflow, and will use a shower drain grille to cover the lower protruding air vent. I'll use a rubber compound to fill in the filter screw hole on the side, and sand it down until it's smooth, and then use glass tinting film to black out the lenses. I'll also have to get a shower cap that matches the mask color to disguise the openings at the top of the mask.

A point of pride with Legion members is making their costumes as accurate as possible. Armor parties are what takes place behind the scenes to make that happen. It's a hobby, but it's also a labor of love, like any creative endeavor. The payoff is being able to wear your costumes in public and see the costumes of others.

May 12, 2012

The Sketchbook Project

This post is about sketchbooks, specifically an innovative and very cool project called The Sketchbook Project, which is a way to share peoples' sketches and drawings with the world. 

Whether you're an artist or not, keeping a sketchbook is a fun, enriching practice, and one that does not even require you to be an accomplished artist. A sketchbook is a way to express yourself, without judgement or reservation. It is a place for your mind to run free, to unshackle your creative spirit without worrying whether what you put in it is "good enough".

Keep a sketchbook. It's good for you.

     The Sketchbook Project is a six year old project with a very cool mission, one I might participate in. For $25, anyone, artist or not, can fill out a custom sketchbook they send you, return it, and it gets added to the Brooklyn Art Library, where anyone can read through it. The project offers intimate glimpses of people all over the country, and hosts roadshows in various cities where people can see these sketchbooks for themselves. The library has roughly 12,500 sketchbooks on its shelves. For an additional fee, it will scan and digitize your sketchbook, so that anyone with an Internet connection can see what you've created. Pretty cool, huh?

To learn more about this project, click on the banner above, or HERE. This is a short video explaining The Sketchbook Project:

What do people draw in their sketchbooks? Lots of things! Memories of their childhoods, dreams of future plans, images that popped into their heads they want to explore, ideas for a comic strip, drawings of their friends or partner, or a cool building they happened to see while having that double mocha latte frappacino at Starbucks (or whatever the heck one orders there; I hate Starbucks).

The point is, there are no rules, no limits, and no judgments. That's what makes a sketchbook so liberating and special.

Keep a sketchbook. It's good for you.

I recently picked up an excellent book called An Illustrated Life, which is a book about the sketchbooks of artists. I find artists' sketchbooks utterly fascinating. The artists describe how they view their sketchbooks, their creative processes, and and how sketching helps them. Some view it as a form of therapy, others see it as a way to try out ideas and practice their art without worrying about if it's good enough or not.

I highly recommend this book. 

I have kept a sketchbook for years, and after reading this book, and seeing other artists' sketchbooks, I have started a smaller one that I take with me everywhere and sketch in almost daily. Notes, diagrams of costume ideas, funny anecdotes, you name it. Below are some sketches from an earlier sketchbook:

This is a page where I was working out how to arrange the dialogue and panels for a graphic novel I never finished. I find having this work space to figure this stuff out is very helpful and allows me to produce a higher quality page when I create pages for my graphic novel.

[click on pictures for larger size]

This is a charcoal pencil study for a painting I might do; I wanted to see if it was possible to create two worlds, one upside down, the other right side up, with a seamless joining. 

Strictly a design exercise. Note the two figures on the wall on the right, who share the same pair of eyes

Here I'm working out some random concepts to see if they will make good illustrations. Some of the best stuff you will do are doodles that you draw not caring a bit if they are good or not.

May 7, 2012

Welcome To City 17

UPDATE! My Half-Life 2 costume for Dragoncon 2012 is complete! Video at the bottom of this post!

This is going to be a total geek post, an homage to video games, specifically the video game Half -Life 2, which has spawned an incredible fandom and several fantastic fan-made films (embedded below).

If you're not into video games you may not find this interesting. If you are, read on!

Half-Life 2 is the groundbreaking sequel to Half-Life, a game that shattered video game records and is considered one of the greatest video games of all time. 

Half-Life stars Gordon Freeman, the protagonist who worked in an enormous, top secret facility deep underground called Black Mesa. During an experiment at the beginning of the game, a hole is torn in the fabric of reality, flooding the complex with alien creatures. Freeman must fight his way through the ruins of the complex to get to the surface to summon help.

Half way there he encounters the military, which, rather than saving the scientists at Black Mesa, are intent on covering up the entire incident. Freeman eventually travels to the planet from which the aliens are coming to destroy the head alien and save the planet.

In the sequel Half-Life 2, Freeman, who never speaks, finds himself in City 17, in a world in which mankind has surrendered to the aliens introduced in the first game. A small band of resistance fighters are determined to strike back against the military forces that oppress the city's citizens, and Freeman is soon involved in guerrilla warfare. The urban combat in the game is so realistic you feel like you're actually in battle amid the city ruins. Below is the beginning of Half-Life 2, which slowly introduces you to the misery that fills City 17 (jump to 1:40 on the video):

Along with Alyx Vance (pictured), Freeman fights to evacuate citizens from the city before the citadel, the tall, needle-like building at the heart of City 17, melts down and destroys the entire city.

It is a race to evacuate citizens and battle the soldiers intent of killing anyone trying to leave.

With powerful graphics and animation programs that are available now, and using the Half Life 2 source engine to create their own graphics, fans are creating their own films to tell more City 17 stories, and some of them are remarkable. Enjoy these videos embedded below.

Half-Life 2 has spawned such devotion that some fans have made an independent tribute film called Escape From City 17, made on a budget of $500, and has been rated one of the top YouTube videos of all time. Valve, the company behind the Half-Life series, was so impressed, it flew the film's creators to their company. This is a truly remarkable bit of film making. Enjoy Part One, below. You can see Part 2 by clicking on this link:

This is another fan film called Singularity Collapse, darker and more intense but extremely well done:

Beyond Black Mesa has some pretty impressive action sequences, and the acting is pretty good for a fan film. Unfortunately you have to sit through a thirty second commercial, but it's worth it. Enjoy!

This fan film has a slower pace and is a quieter film, obviously shot in a city in Europe somewhere. It helps a lot that the streets were so deserted when they were filming. Abandon buildings are great shooting locations for films of this genre. The character finding the crowbar is a reference to Gordon Freeman's primary weapons.

For Dragoncon I am creating a Civil Protection costume; I have already ordered the gas mask. Civil Protection are the masked police that enforce the dictatorship of the human-combine alliance in City 17.

And as promised, below is the video of my completed Half Life 2 Civil Protection costume. 

Just in time for Dragoncon 2012.

May 6, 2012

Sunset In Paradise

For a better experience in watching this post, open a new tab in your browser and click on this link. Enjoy the music while you look at the pictures.

There is nothing like being on the beach watching the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico. Sunsets in paradise have to be seen to be believed. Enjoy these pictures I took on a beautiful Saturday evening on Indian Rocks Beach.

Below, two laughing gulls stop their foraging to watch the sun go down

May 4, 2012

How To Create Your Own Graphic Novel

This is a brief overview of some of the common steps and considerations involved in creating your own graphic novel, including creating compelling characters, plotting, use of panels, dialogue and word balloons, as well as helping engage your readers.

This is just a brief overview. There will soon be a regular How To Create Your Own Graphic Novel class at select art centers in Pinellas County, during which students will complete their own two-page graphic novel, starting with plotting the story, creating engaging characters and plots, drawing the layouts and completing the artwork. To be kept informed about the progress of such classes, send an e-mail to to be put on an e-mail list (which will not be shared with any outside organizations).

May 2, 2012

Art On Display

My painting Human Resources hanging in the Safety Harbor Library, as well as other original art and photography, in preparation for the upcoming Safety Harbor ComicCon, an event at which I will be conducting two workshops, a graphic novel and a cartooning and drawing workshop. Stay tuned for a full report on this fun event.