Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Studio of Darkness

I've posted videos and photos of my closet studio on the blog before, but I tend to get restless and change things as often as I can. Also, there are quite a few new visitors who perhaps have not yet seen where I work. Since Heart of Darkness is a significant and involved new project, very different than Moby-Dick and the bits and pieces that came in between, I've made a few changes to hopefully better suit this new endeavor. There is not a lot on the walls yet, but I expect that to change as I go deeper into these illustrations. I'm currently looking for a cheap book of Henri Rousseau's paintings because that kind of simplistic but claustrophobically smothering sense of greenness is very close to what is in my head for these illustrations. So here, as I begin the project, is the Studio of Darkness. Which is a walk-in closet. Which measures about 4 feet by 7 feet or so.

What it looks like from just outside the door...

Walk inside the closet and shut the door. Turn to your right and you'll see, in the corner behind the door, a photo of myself as an infant, a camera tripod, my trusty (and very real) harpoon, and several pads of watercolor paper and Bristol board...

Turn and face the back of the closet again. Your back is to the door. A corner of my drawing table, with glasses of Micron pens and Prestel markers, a row of acrylic paints, my ever-present Hello Kitty metal pen case (opened up), a framed photogravure of a Chinese nude by Heinz von Perckhammer that I've had for longer than I can remember, and my silly medals for running 5k obstacle races through the mud in the summer...

Turn slightly to the left so you can see the other wall and corner. Up top, rows and rows of inks. Below, a drawing lamp and several resin Buddhas. Incense burners. Pads of paper and a green iPod. Hangin on the wall, an instant camera, a mini-megaphone, a lighter, a steel ruler, several Half Price Books employee tags (never did turn those in), and a Guatemalan woven pouch. Also, a painting of a heart that my wife made and a bulletin board which we'll see more closely soon.

You may have noticed the rather large white Ikea Billy bookshelf on the right wall of the closet studio as you walked in. I am always and without fail fascinated by the contents of people's bookshelves so in the spirit of openness I share these images of one of my own shelves. The books on this shelf have been specially curated for inclusion in the studio. The majority of the titles are books I enjoy reading and re-reading and are more or less directly in contrast with the spirit of Heart of Darkness. These books, to me, are a remedy and a bulwark against the depression, loathing, stasis, and cynicism that immersion in a project like illustrating Heart of Darkness will bring. And these are some of my very favorite books. The top shelf...

The next shelf down. One rather awfully embarrassing title on this one...

The next two shelves down. These shelves have less vertical room so the books are not standing up. I use these shelves for the books that I feel I will refer to the most while working on the art. These books, contrary to the graphic novels and collections on the top two shelves, are fuel for the project in some way or another. Well, all except for the three Les Souris collections by Pierre Clement which had just arrived and I was eager to look at before storing. Those are really gorgeous books, but utterly alien to what will be happening in the studio. And the hand exerciser is to keep the drawing hand limber, especially with all the tiny little pen and ink lines I'll be making...

The shelf in the top of this image is almost entirely art monographs and collections. I look at these quite a bit as well, but slightly less than the titles on the middle two shelves above. Each of them speaks to me in some way, and some of them are the inspiration for projects I hope to start later in 2012.

The bottom shelf. Large or oversize collections of my favorite comic strips ever. Do you have any idea how brutally and impossibly tough Popeye was in those early Segar strips? Unbelievable! And amazing...

The drawing table itself. I've already indicated most of the contents. This was just before I began the illustration for page one of Heart of Darkness, which found a home on that blank piece of watercolor paper there. I am not sure if I am satisfied with it so it may be re-drawn tonight. I'll post it in a bit. Above the paper is the Signet Classics paperback edition of the book I will be using as my guide, plus a ludicrously overstuffed Norton Critical Edition underneath which I will probably never touch because I tend to despise academic essays and deconstructions of books...

Finally, my bulletin board. I cleaned this off entirely before beginning the project. All that remains are essentials, and room for more to grow organically as I move through these hundred pieces. You can see in the upper left hand corner a dollar bill I painted on as a bio for a comic anthology I had a story in, a large and beautiful drawing of Moebius by the artist Enki Bilal which ran in the French paper Liberation soon after the artist's untimely passing (many thanks to my good friend Lizzy G in Paris for sharing this with me - Moebius is a tremendous inspiration to me in all things), an itinerary for my July trip to Nantucket as a guest of the Nantucket Historical Association, and an instant photo of my wife who is my best friend and my entire world and makes all these things possible.

Well, was it what you expected?



    Intrigued by the heart painting.

    You were a recognizable baby.

  2. I tend to despise academic essays and deconstructions of books...

    One of the things I resent about the university system is its idea that a purely deconstructive reading is the only intelligent reading.

  3. I can't believe this asshole, he needs TWO copies of the Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics!

  4. HARPOON indeed. It means a great deal to me, in every way (symbolic and otherwise) that you might imagine.

    I will take a more detailed photo of the heart painting. It is quite old with what some might see as a rather silly and overly emotional message of romance painted on it, but that, to me, is exactly why it means so much. It is PURE.

    I do seem to have changed very little since infancy. My father told me I looked a great deal like Broderick Crawford. Hm.

    And I concur absolutely with your academic resentments. This "Moby-Dick" project has brought me into contact with a number of academics and scholars, some of whom, I am sorry to report, seem to have been decidedly offended by my lack of interest in reading thousands of pages about Melville's life, deconstructing the novel, or a Marxist-Feminist analysis of the homoerotic relations among the sailors.

  5. Joe, one of them is missing a dust jacket! You know I am ever the completist! At least you didn't rip on me for the two copies of the Mervyn Peake art book. Ha!


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