and kind of vaguely wanted to learn more about, but when you finally got one, all you wanted to do is get rid of it. Number one.The dumpster. This is our dumpster. It is about the size of two smallish cars parked in tandem, or one good sized limousine. It currently contains a large part of the roof of World Headquarters, but who knows what other horrors are going to end up in there. Like all dumpsters, it is liberally decorated with warnings in several languages about the dangers of “playing in or around”, but, frankly, it does not look that amusing to me. The hydraulic (?) crane thing mounted on a semi truck with a flatbed trailer that was used to deliver the pallets of new red shingles was much more fun.
(Bonus fun fact: In England, a dumpster is called a “skip”.)
People who keep dogs have a share in a secret. To outsiders, dogs seem straightforward, even simple, and it’s true that they are. And that’s one of the reasons we like them. (There is nothing quite as challenging as that rarest of creatures, a complicated dog.) But if you live with dogs, day by day, you start to see the other side. Dogs are mysterious beings. Every so often, even the best behaved dog will do something completely strange.
This is probably due to the influence of the dog’s powerful senses. Ordinary house pets can see, hear and smell* things we can’t even imagine, things we don’t even know exist. When they react to things that just aren’t there (as far as we’re concerned), the effect is strange, sometimes even spooky. One of the commonest of these reactions, and a great favorite of mine, is Dogs …Look …Up. Sometimes you can tell what they are looking at, or listening for — I once had a corgi who was very interested in aircraft, particularly helicopters– but sometimes they just Look … Up.
This afternoon I was taking pictures of the rear facade of World Headquarters, for reasons that will become apparent in the next few weeks, and the camera caught the Dire Corgi on the back stoop, doing a classic Dogs … Look … Up.Whatever he sees and hears has all of his attention. Knowing him, I suspect it is a bee, but until dogs learn to talk, the truth will always be a mystery.
(*Dogs can also taste things that people can’t taste, but considering the kinds of things they will eat, we’re almost certainly better off not knowing.)
This is a test post. New gear is coming on line, and here at World Headquarters we are trying to figure things out. If there is some kind of image below this text, things are starting to work. If not, back to the drawing board. Regardless, you are cordially invited to stand by.
“Is it red or is it blue?/ You’ll never guess what I bought you/At Amazon.com.” For some reason I have vivid memories of that stupid song, which cluttered the airwaves one holiday season soon after Amazon began its transformation from an online bookseller to the place where a lot of people buy just about everything. Talk about a permanent, years-long ear worm.
I suppose I’ll try to look up the rest of the words later, but for now, remember it if you can, and let it play if you can while you look at something sort of funny I saw on my walk today. I got you– yard waste!
(posted from the Tiny Internet via the iPod Touch. photo taken with the Touch using the Moment Camera app, which I am liking a lot.)
This week’s “best of …” is Floating Jack #1. And it depicts Jack, floating.Jack, as in Jack Swann, that is, aka the superhero Foursquare, and one of the Kekionga core cast. Jack is actually pretty hard to draw, since I can never figure out how buff to make him. I often start out giving him a “super” physique in the blocking out phase, decide that he is suffering from superhero-with-a-tiny-head syndrome, make his head bigger, decide he is too buff, reduce him to a more human set of proportions, and so his head ends up too big. This is almost certainly what happened here, and it illustrates the perils of drawing a character from memory without references, much less a proper model sheet. But I like the drawing anyway, particularly the rough linework with a big fountain pen. It’s faulty, but it’s lively. Jack was going to be floating on a potential book cover I was thinking about at the time, and I think the his legs and his right foot give exactly that impression. His left foot, not so much.
You know, I think I’m going to make Jack a model sheet, or at least a couple of master sketches I feel good about. I’ve almost given up on my goal of modeling everybody– someday I will, but that time is not yet come. But it just doesn’t seem as important for everybody else, as the others seem to be fairly easy to draw consistently: Bud is a burly former fighter gone slightly to seed, Iowa a curvy and zaftig young woman, Gideon a lean, hairy and snarky werewolf. Jack’s the only one who is all over the place. (Anatomically, I mean– I think I understand his body language well enough.) Anyway, he doesn’t deserve it. If he needs a model sheet, he should get one. Poor big headed guy.
It’s done. I’ve made a choice and locked it in. The Book’s title is Junkyard Moon, and its cover will look (sort of) like this:Eagle-eyed readers will notice that the central element of Iowa in the chair with Josef and the Professor is my drawing of the day for May 20th, which was posted here on May 30th. It was only when I saw it on screen that I flashed on the idea of using it as part of the cover.
And that led, through various twisting mental paths, several sleepless nights and at least one major artistic hissy fit, to the reconsideration of a title from the very first list. It is evocative of the spirit of the stories, it sounds good, it’s easy to pronounce and spell, and best of all, if I use it I can make Bud into the Man on the Moon on the cover. That was one of those lucky ideas that just feel absolutely, totally, perfectly right the moment you make them.
Please take the drawing above with a whole teaspoon of salt– it is a cover rough that is very rough indeed. It’s particularly difficult to add a figure to a finished drawing–the proportions never seem to come out quite right if you don’t block everything out at the same time. Everything that’s going on around the figures is very much a placeholder– I will have to think carefully about what two or three objects will fill the space, and I may go back and mine the stories for ideas. In addition to the spirit rock (I’m pretty sure there needs to be a spirit rock on the cover) I think there definitely should be a steaming mug of coffee or tea, and perhaps a flying junkyard rat. But that will come later, when I sit down with a decent sheet of paper ruled with the actual image area of the cover and start making real-world layouts, ones that include elements missing here, such as actual lettering.
Thanks very much to all the friends who have put up with my near constant badgering and whining on the subject of book titles, and especially to my long-suffering husband who has had by far the worst of it. But he was the winner in the end: Junkyard Moon was his idea– he suggested it quite early in the process and stuck by it quite loyally. I think he was glad to hear earlier today that he was right all along.
The title search for the book has lead me, in my spare time, to search through strange notebooks. Today it was the notebook that lives next to the computer and is filled with, well, computer stuff: deadlines, online shopping notes, serial numbers, phone numbers, top-up dates, the margin settings for typesetting certain obscure minicomics components, and other digital detritus. It is not a work/personal notebook for writing down story, art or blog ideas or the kind of found art bits and observations-of-the-world-as-I-see-it that sometimes end up here under the “notebook” tag. This is not a promising notebook.
But even so … I spend a lot of time in the studio and most of the time the radio is on. So I guess I must have had this notebook open one Saturday evening when I heard Garrison Keillor offer up this wonderful list.
Garrison Keillor’s Five Elements of A Story
Character development and motivation, plot hooks, thematic elements: the items on this list are raw materials for almost any kind of story. Most of the good ones are made of at least one or two, and there are plenty of classics that are built of all five. “Family” can be expanded to allow for the kind of friendships that mimic family relationships, and “Religion” could be replaced with “Philosophy” or “Humans Search for Meaning in Life and a Place in the Universe” if you like. That covers just about everything.
Except death, specifically, which seems like an odd omission on the surface. Two element lists on the same subject will tell you that all stories are made of love and death. Far from me to put word in Keillor’s mouth, but maybe love here is made up of family and sex, and death is made of religion and mystery.
Have you ever found yourself, quite suddenly, in the pages of a thriller?
It was just after lunch, about one in the afternoon, and I was leaving for a walk, strolling down the driveway with two dogs on their leashes. We passed my car, parked at the end of the line, and the Dire Corgi paused in his usual headlong gallop out to the street. He tugged all of us to a stop. He started air scenting all around the back of the Buick, then stood on his hind legs, sniffing hard at the gap between the trunk lid and the bumper. He would not be pulled away. This is a dog who Smells Something.
This isn’t good. There’s only so many things that can be smelling up a car trunk badly enough to attract the attention of passing dogs. At best, there’s something rolling around in there that fell unnoticed out of a bag of groceries. And I hadn’t put any groceries in the trunk in weeks– when I’m picking up a few things, I just drop them in the passenger seat footwell. At worst, well, nobody wants to think about that.
I had my car keys in my pocket. I didn’t really want to pop the trunk, but I knew I should.
And you know what was in there? Not a darn thing except the usual cardboard box, old towel, and other random items that are always in the trunk of my car. I should have paid more attention to the older brother, who is a calm and responsible corgi with a very good nose, and who didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary, even after a good sniff around.
I think that Dire Corgi is messing with my head.
I found more notebooks! This trove is older than the last one, with some dating back into the 90s. I haven’t found any potential titles to go with the “big chair” illustration I am working on, but there’s a fair amount of weird stuff and philosophical stuff, stuff I’ve found and stuff I’ve made up. And, most important for our purposes, the highly elevated category of stuff that’s good enough to blog.
Today’s sound advice: “Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.” It’s a little obvious, but worth thinking about. You can promote the heck out of your work, but if the quality isn’t there, people either won’t buy it at all, or if they do, they will be disappointed. And the more disappointed people there are, the faster your project will sink. Like a stone. Glug, glug.
Makes me want to tweak the script of that story one more time.
It’s 1799, and don’t you wish you were off to the Exeter ‘Change to visit Pidcock’s Menagerie? This started of as one of the many typographic examples I’m mining for ideas for the lettering on the cover of the book, and it’s become a minor obsession. There’s so much to think about:
- I’m pretty sure those elephants are clip art– and the poster maker (or the publicist, if they had publicists in 1799) got them from different sources.
- They may call it a Grand CASSOWARY, but it looks like a Grand Ostrich to me.
- I bet that black swan came from the same place as the kangaroos.
- The Curious Horned RAM is probably a Jacob’s Sheep.
- I feel sort of sorry for the COW with two Heads– she was probably a big star on the rural livestock fair circuit, but here at the Royal Menagerie she’s at the bottom of the bill.
See more of what I’m looking at on a visit to the Coelacanth Gallery. I found this image on one of my very favorite tumblrs, heracliteanfire, which in turn linked it back to our great friends at the British Museum. Click on the last link to find out a lot more about the poster– Mr. Pidcock (his first name was Gilbert) was his own publicist and hired a printmaker named Thomas Bewick to make these wood engravings of the animals in his collection. He used the blocks not just in posters and handbills like this one, but as illustrations in a guide to the animals which which he sold to visitors to the Menagerie. I would probably have bought one.