Monday, December 24, 2012

Blue Christmas Carol - LEOG 2012

Below is the illustration that I did to break the creative dry-spell this year.  I had the layouts from last year (I didn't get to do this last year because gifts that I was giving out as Xmas gifts took up all my December drawing time) So I was kind of all ready to go.  It was taped up and I pencilled in my free time for a week and a couple of days.  I started to ink the right-most portion while I was still finishing the pencil work on the left-most portion. 

It's a BIG piece, biggest one that I've done in a very long time.  18x24, inked in Windsor Newton black ink and black Micron Pigma pens on Strathmore 300 series bristol. 

A LOT of faces and likenesses to capture.   'twas a ton of work,

This is of course starring folks from the League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen at

We've got Leon as Ebenezer Scrooge (seen 3 different times in the piece)

 The Ghosts:

Cyrus as his business partner (and ghost) Jacob Marley
Cat - Ghost of Christmas Past
Harris (also of Paging Dr. Nerdlove) - Ghost of Christmas Present
John Rubio (also of The Beerists) - Ghost of Christmas yet to cum

The Past:

Randy (also of Lounge Geeks) and Suzanne Lander (visit Rogue's Gallery & buy stuff from them!) as Mr. & Mrs. Fezziwig.
Kayla Kromer (also of Lounge Geeks) as Belle
Greg J Amani Smith (has been on LEOG in a long time, but he wrote the theme!) and the fictional Dickens backing band
and the other partigoers of LEOG members and Spillios:  Beau, Elliot, Chicago John, Christian Alvarez, Kyle Scott, and Toshi "Nakato" Nakamura (also of Kotaku)

The Present:

Grant Davis (big cheese at Lounge Geeks) as Bob Cratchit
Jason "Fish" Fisher as Tiny Tim  (thinking "seriously, I've graduated college, and I'm the one cast as Tiny Tim?!")
Joe Parsons with guest John Erler (both also of Master Pancake Theater) As the Alms collecting Gentlemen
Peter "Fungusmonkey" as Scrooge's Nephew Fred
Kelly White as Fred's Wife
Johnny Neill and your host Nate Bliss as the poulterers (someone has to sell the prize Turkey to Scrooge's errand boy on Xmas day)

The Future:

Our intrepid gravediggers
Brian Salisbury (also of Film School Rejects)
Luke Mullen (both also of 'Remote Viewing') 
John Sitton (big cheese at Geek Bombast), and last but certainly not least,
Amanda "Mandy Savage" Arias (also of Console Crashers) as the Washer Woman, going through all of Scrooge's awesome TShirts.

Merry Christmas!  Anyone who dug this, please link back here.  Many thanks!

The Xmas Fee. (a Rant re: my complicated realtionship with this holiday)

Oh Xmas fee, oh Xmas fee... 

Each and every year, you frazzle me...

No matter what I try to do, there's always something about this time of year that will sap my energy and whittle away at my patience and tolerance.  I'm often a grumbly muttering Grinch this time of year.  There's always something to make me twist up and scowl as only my (and thousands of other's) new spirit animal can...

Oh Tartar Sauce.  You are the best.

But contrary to my mutterings and kvetching I do not HATE this holiday.  I do love that warm fuzzy feeling, the food, the hanging out with friends and family, surprising people with a gift they weren't expecting... There's a lot to love about Christmas.

But there's also so much about this holiday that make it so easy to hate.  

- Christmas Creep: The phenomenon where Xmas decorations start to go up before Halloween...
- The lines and commercial frenzy that pops up anyplace that accepts money in exchange for goods and service.
- - And of course the complaining about it... and spreading your sympathy thin for your friends or family who might work retail or customer service... (and sympathy is not an infinite resource, there's not always enough to go around)
- The same debates and arguments you hear every year start up again! Coming from people who are just asking the questions for the first time, and others who forgot what conclusions they came to last year...
"Should you be happy or annoyed when someone wishes you Merry Christmas if you're not Christian?"  
"Should you be happy or annoyed when someone wishes you Happy Holidays if you ARE Christian?"  
"Should you punish yourself if you get it wrong when you wish "Good Holiday" wish to someone else?  
"Oh shit, they're Jewish, but I said Merry Xmas!"
"Hey... hey... it's not X-mas.... it's CHRISTmas..."  
"Christmas is just the appropriation of old tribal and pagan customs!" 
- The music.... Oh god.... OH GOD THE MUSIC....  THE @#$@#$%ING MUSIC....
Yeah!  You tell em, Tartar Sauce! 

I could tape headphones to my ears and shut myself apart from it all, but then my own Christmas worries start to kick in... Have I gotten everything I wanted to get for people?  Some token of appreciation and thanks for helping me get through this year?  NO?  Why?  Did the shop/website run out?  Will the post office lose a package?  WIll I run out of money? Will I run out of time?

The X-noise hits from all angles, external and internalIt makes me boil and simmer.  It doesn't let up.  It's inescapable.  It makes me want to smoke again.  The Xmas Fee takes it's toll.  THAT makes me a fucking Grinch.  


But there IS a time when it eases up.  It can take a while.  Sometimes it doesn't arrive until Xmas itself. When it does arrive it taps into that feeling of "the longest night of the year is behind us.  things are cool.  have some cider.  you're among friends and/or family.It comes in different forms.

A few of such "moments" from the past:

 Early-Mid 2000's- After a month and a half of working two-states away from home working long-shifts at a Mall Santa-booth in Nashua NH, deep in the enemy Xmas territory... driving from MMassachusetts to Syracuse on Xmas day... NO Traffic, a radio station playing Christmas songs (not the insipid common drivel, but DEEP CUTS, music that was really good).  Just enough snow to make things look pretty, and not create dangerous driving conditions.  In the passenger seat a Plate of home made donuts from the McClaine's (still warm)... Driving home with my family and an Apple pie waiting for me... It washed over me.  I couldn't stop smiling.  

- December 2010 - My last Christmas as resident of New York.  Months of working, saving, dealing with one of the worst winters Syracuse had ever seen, I had a BAD day at work, the snow was TERRIBLE and I had waited 3 hours for a bus to take me from Downtown back to Liverpool (my parents house, where I was staying, previous to my big move to Austin).  

I finally arrive in Liverpool, the heat on the bus was broken and did NOTHING to reverse the cold that had pierced every layer of my winter-guard. I had had ENOUGH of my then Day-job, had ENOUGH of Central New York, and ENOUGH of Christmas.  

Then walking home from the bus stop I turn instead to a local restaurant "The Retreat" and get a hot roast beef sandwich and a Chocolate Stout.  I'm seated right by a heater.  I hear a little Vince Guaraldi through the noisy chatter of the bar.  The heat washed over me, the sandwich was really good (and so was the beer) and I realize that in the past month I had been able to reconnect with one of my oldest friends, was able to see extended family that I don't always get to see, and discovered that while I hated my then day-job, it was filled with a lot of awesome people (and enjoyed many a Blue-Tusk Happy hours the weeks before I left).  Got that fuzzy "Werther's Original" feeling that lasted me til Xmas of that year.

And this year's moment... 

It's still somewhat fresh.  It got me thinking about the topic of this blog post. There are aspects surrounding this "Moment" that still might not be clear to me.   And it's also REALLY late and I'm rambling up a fucking storm.  So bear with me.  Thanks.

2012 was a year of treading water for me.  Every step I took seemed to have been paired with a step back (or for many months, not being able to take a metaphoric-step forward at all.)  without getting into all the drama, It was really rough on my friends, it was really rough on my family, and really rough on me.  There was good, there was bad, but lording over it all there was a MAJOR LACK OF PROGRESS (like not being able to save money fast enough.  Not having enough time to do anything... And not creating...)  

Not creating. Holy shit,  Okay.  A quick back-story: The desk I had been using since I moved to Austin was a spare desk, belonging to my roommate.  When we moved from our old-house to the new house, I "carefully" dismantled my roommate's desk for ease of transit (and to get it up the stairs)... but broke during the move.  So he had to use the spare desk, and I had a card-table (which is not remotely ergonomic) I hadn't been able to create a substantial piece of artwork since MAY (the last Blog post)

The treading-water, the seeming lack-of-progress took it's toll.  But I was finally able to scrape together enough pennies to get a proper workspace... two weeks before Xmas... and I started right away on a piece that I had originally promised a friend in 2011...

I hadn't realized how grouchy I had become from a lack of progress with creativity.  Months before the Christmas Creep started, I was getting embittered.  

After getting the new desk, I found that Zen-like center again.  I worked on the illustration, using almost all of my free-time for two weeks straight.   Pencilling, Inking, Inking, Inking (Scanning...Photoshopping) but I got it done.  Shook off the cobwebs and cleaned away the rust.  Captured 20+ likenesses of real people, perspective, four inking styles, 18x24 in size.  I got it done.  I fucking created something.  

Just in time for her big Christmas party.  And my friend loved it (and so did everyone else who was drawn into it) and I got a big flood of that artistic satisfaction that I had been hungry for since May.   

The heady buzz of being around friends at the party, finally feeling like I can relax...and the absence of the angry feeling I'd direct at myself for not getting anything done... I made it.  We ALL made it.  What a fucking year it has been.

One more thing:  

I will share the Illustration in question TOMORROW.  The Photoshop stitching took forever, and made me ache.  This Blog post took a long time to write (and I should probably edit it... but NAHHHH.  I'll just click "publish"

But the last thing I want to share is a song that helped bring about this year's Moment.  I accidentally discovered this song.  and I'm glad I did.  First time I heard it, it felt like I was singing it to myself.  Click play, my fellow grinches, scrooges and grouches.  It'll be OK. and....just a suggestion, take a breath, get out of your head, get over your bitterness.  Have a hot cider.  play that ONE seasonal song that doesn't drive you nuts.  Let yourself relax.  Just a little bit.


Merry freakin' Christmas, everybody :)