Tuesday, October 30, 2012

679 - The Roman Way

Today's JSVB post features a nude self-portrait!  Yes, you read that right.  If you do not want to see male Jeffian nudity, please do not scroll this page down.
Loyal JSVB readers will know that earlier this month, my wife and I enjoyed a quick junket to fabulous Las Vegas.  Although we enjoyed the usual tourist spots along the famous Strip, perhaps the highlight was a spa day at the end of our trip.
For the record, I'm not much of a spa person.  However, Vegas does things big and bold, and the Qua spa in Caesar's Palace is no exception.  They advertise Roman-style pools, and I have to admit that the idea of bathing as the Romans did is an attractive prospect.  As an artist, I've long been fascinated with ancient Rome.  I've even visited the Roman ruins of one of their largest and most famous bath-houses.
If you are unaware, the classical Romans placed a high personal and social value on bathing.  Bath-houses were owned and operated by the State, so that admission was free for any citizen.  Bath-houses could be large enough to hold thousands of bathers at once, so they tended to become the focus of Roman community.  Typically, a Roman bath would have a caldarium, tepidarium, and a frigidarium.  These are pools that feature hot, warm, and cold water, respectively.  As in contemporary spas, the bathers would move from pool to pool and feel invigorated and relaxed by the changing water temperatures. 
Another thing the Romans did was to bathe nude.  The Qua spa in Caesar's Palace is "clothing optional", so when I partook of the baths, I decided I might as well enjoy the entire Roman experience.  The naked truth is that Roman bathing is very enjoyable and... liberating.
Since my spa experience, I spent considerable effort deciding on how to frame my experiences for a blog post here on JSVB.  Using an Internet search engine, I decided to see how many other bloggers have chosen to publish nude self-portraits.  It turns out that bloggers aren't shy, although a predictable and comforting number have chosen to disguise their self-nudity through clever artistic means.
When I worked on my own nude self-portrait, I decided to deflect attention to my naked self splashing in the Roman pools like a water nymph by adding a cute Webster inflatable swim ring.  When we were in Vegas, my wife and I took in David Copperfield's magic show.  Webster the Duck is Mr. Copperfield's feathery sidekick during his performance.  If you go to Vegas, make sure to say hello to Webster for us!

Monday, October 29, 2012

678 - Archangel Michael, Part IV

Here's what I know about angels: not much.  I think by choosing Michael as the focus of this icon, I was hoping to gain some insight into the mystery of angels. 
Today I painted in the armour, making it appear metallic if not golden.  I made a push to get it all done at once because the four colours I mixed, earth green, golden orange and yellow, and a warm white, are close enough to the four colours needed to render gold.  Once mixed, these colours are not so easy to match the next day. 
Angels, in particular the main named angels, equally work towards the glory of God as much as they also form a military unit of supernatural warriors.  They bear armor, swords, and shields against the minions of Hell.  This makes their iconic form much more martial than most other saintly biblical characters. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

677 - Vegas Va Va Voom!

Only one thing to say for today's JSVB post...
... Va Va Va VOOM!
Ah-OOOO-Gah!  A-OOOO-Gah!

Friday, October 26, 2012

676 - Make The Fat Guys Run

"Make The Fat Guys Run" is the slogan for Nova Bar & Grill restaurant in San Francisco, located a couple of blocks from AT&T ballpark.  That seems to be the theme for this year's World Series, as well as what looks to be the surest recipe for victory. 
This years batting stars, Pablo "Kung-Fu Panda" Sandoval (5'10", 240+ lbs), Prince Fielder (5'11", 275 lbs), Delmon Young (6'3", 240 lbs), and Miguel Cabrera (6'4", 240) are what could be described as the "meat" of any batting order.  They seem less like your basic toned athelete, sharing the beefy physique of many gravity-enhanced sports fans.  To me, this seems to make the big men seem a little more heroic, at least in terms of baseball.
One of the greatest hitters in the game, Babe Ruth, was far more likely to pick up a beer, a steak dinner, and a cigar than he was a set of dumbbell weights.  Among his many feats, the Sultan of Swat once managed to hit three home runs during a World Series game.  Two nights ago, the giant Giant's third baseman tied that record, a truly amazing feat in modern baseball. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

675 - JANET Spotting

I took a break from JSVB this month, and the reason was a quick vacation to Las Vegas, USA. 
One thing I wanted to do in Vegas was to spot the movements of the mysterious black-ops JANET flights which originate from a private, high-security terminal annexed to McCarran International Airport.  Not five minutes into our cab ride to the massive and outrageous Caesar's Palace, an almost non-descript JANET airliner flew final approach over the highway, prompting our friendly Russian driver to launch into his own theory of Roswell, UFO's, and high-level government conspiracy.  At that moment, I knew our vacation was going to be a great one!
"JANET" is reportedly the call sign for a number of airliners possibly operated by EG&G, a defense contractor that may or may not be owned by government services megacorporation URS.  The JANET craft are typically painted pure white with a long red stripe over the windows across the fuselage.  The JANET fleet is supposed by conspiracy theorists to be used as commuter craft for thousands of top-secret workers who live in the Las Vegas area but work in facilities such as Groom Lake/Area 51.  JANET has its own air terminal which is guarded heavily against trespassers and the general public. Presumably you could watch some of the action on the JANET jetway from the comfort of the nearby Luxor Hotel, provided you had the use of a good telephoto lens.   
The Internet suggests that the US spends upwards of $56 billion a year on so-called "black" operations, ranging from secret military missions to clandestine arms research.  With such a massive amount of money at their disposal, I can imagine  that running JANET as a top-secret airline operating in the open would only use a small fraction of this budget.  Even so, only Russian cab drivers seem willing to offer any accountability. 
You can try using Internet resources to track the various JANET flights, some of which are regular shuttle flights from Vegas to who-knows-where, while others fly flight plans that are completely conjectural.  Maybe someone at the URS head office wanted to see Donny & Marie at the Flamingo Showroom?   When you run your own private secret airline, you get to fly it however you like. 
Nobody can definitely say what "JANET" stands for.

Monday, October 22, 2012

674 - Archangel Michael, Part III

I am starting to believe I know more about UFO's than I do angels, and that I know more about both than I do about writing icons.  Today, I made progress on my icon, getting in some of the flesh tones.  It's still dark, as they need another pass.  I've also begun to block out the clothing and armour.  The project is hampered by my thoughtless misplacement of my colour chart, so I'll have to create a new colour reference before I can get the clothes right.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

673 - Hamster Heaven, Frog Hell

The 13th of every month is Ungood Art Day on JSVB, a celebration of art pieces that stopped being good before long before they were finished.  Coincidentally, the 13th of October is also my wife's birthday, so there has developed over time a bit of an uncomfortable overlap between these two events.  Today, I have forged a reconciliation.
Out from the bottom of my picture morgue, I found an artwork we worked on together many, many years ago.  My wife, the eternal romantic, drew the imaginative and fanciful tableau of flying angel hamsters in love frolicking beneath the lucid arc of a midnight rainbow during the new moon.
I recall thinking that I had to draw something gross to balance out the sweetness of my wife's design, so I rendered a bursten and flattened frog as roadkill.
Now it's our first Ungood Art collaboration, Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Friday, October 12, 2012

672 - "The X-COM Files"

"The X-COM Files":  this is a mash-up of two different but somewhat related intellectual properties.  The X-Files has been one of my favourites for quite a long time (although I hated the show when it first came out in 1993, go figure).  It's the story of a couple of crusading FBI agents who chase after supernatural consipracies. The flying saucer episodes are the best, in my opinion. 

Then there's X-COM, which is a videogame that first came out way back in 1994 and just recently got a major sequel.  In the game, the player leads a squad of well-armed tactical UFO hunters in a  desperate race against alien invasion.

So what if you combined the two?  Man, would that ever be sweet!  This is my interpretation of what it would look like.

X-Files are the intellectual property of 20th Century Fox Television, and X-COM is the property of Microprose,  Hasbro Interactive, Infogrames, Atari, and 2K Games, whew!  All those legalities mean that I doubt we'll ever really see Special Agents Mulder and Scully on the X-COM trail. 

For MortalKomic!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

671 - Ecto Into Darkness

I've added another complete character to the tableau.  I had to digitally add workspace becasuse my original composition was too cramped.  I'll have to do it again to make room on the far right for a third character.  A minor inconvenience in our post-modern electronic age.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

670 - Ecto In Ink

I've inked in the ectoplasmic pose from a couple of days ago.  I have a couple more elements to draw before the composition will make sense. 
Click here to see the ruff for this pose. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

669 - Ungood Dog

My wife twigged me onto the concept of "dog shame", where you pair a picture of a guilty mutt with a written caption that cheerfully describes its foul act. 
I had the opportunity to design a hand-drawn pose since Duke the Dog found a way to break out of his kennel and go on a rampage through his house when his owners were away.  I think the event is most effectively described as Duke's shoe-chew-&-poo. 
Later, I discovered the official "Dog Shame" website.  While it is amusing, it's also very protective of itself with pages of legal disclaimers.  Apparently, it's an off-shoot of Tumblr, that hip young blog juggernaut.  Since I don't like things that are hip, young, or juggernautish with a ton of lawyertalk in the small print, I don't see the sense of linking it to JSVB.  Anybody who can operate a search engine should have no trouble finding it. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

668 - Ecto Sketch

The character stuck his hand into some goop on the floor, and now it drips from his fingers in a slimy trail.  Only I haven't gotten around to drawing the slime yet.  The flashlight is gripped uncomfortably low, but I don't think I'll gain much by moving it.  I'll show more progress later. 
For another sketch that shows how to hold a flashlight, please click here.

Friday, October 5, 2012

667 - Kick It Up

A protoype for our Grey Cup party invite, seeing as we aren't travelling to The Big Smoke (Toronto) to experience the event in person. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

666 - "Possessions"

Today, I post my 666th post on JSVB.  I'm glad it wasn't yesterday's post with the religious icon.  The number 666 is problematic for several religions and cultures.  Popularly, it is said to be "the number of the Beast", Satan.  Recent archaeological study bears out the possibility that the early translations of Christian scripture may have been in error, and that the evil number is actually 616 and was likely a coded reference to the Roman Emperor Caligula.  To see JSVB Post #616, please click here.
The more value we place on information, whether we seek to share it or to withhold it, the more powerful symbols become.  Today, we accept symbols of good and evil at face value in large part because we don't appreciate where they came from.  For instance, artists such as Albrecht Dürer and William Blake have provided us with archetypes of demonic creatures that we see copied in today's popular media.  In the Renaissance, Donatello was considered primarily responsible for creating the popular form of angels, along with Botticelli's mystical influences.  We place comic demons and  angels on our shoulders as funny stereotypes of how the human heart becomes pulled in diametric opposites.  We don't put much reasoning into what these symbols truly represent.
Some years ago, I found myself going to an unfamiliar church.  There, the priest was very new.  In his homily, he was explaining his favourite office decoration, which happened to be a cheap-looking witch doll of the type you see for sale when Hallowe'en rolls around.  Witches and priests generally do not mix, as Christians consider the Wiccan faith as paganism. 
The priest told the story behind the doll.  It had originally belonged to a little girl he had known.  The girl was in a cancer ward for treatment.  She had been living in the hospital for most of her young life.  Last year, she had decided on dressing up as a witch for Hallowe'en.  Her course of medication had caused her hair to fall out and her skin to become lumpy and discoloured, so she figured that a witch costume would be a logical choice.  She  planned on stomping around Oncology in her pointed hat and cape and scaring the other children into better health.  Chemotherapy forced the little girl to be bedridden at the end of October, so she couldn't be a witch for Hallowe'en.  To make up for this, her parents picked up for her as a present a small toy witch doll from the hospital gift shop. 

The witch quickly became the girl's pet mascot.  She kept it day and night through the following months, and it became a silent bedside witness to treatment after treatment for the cancer that refused to abide.  By summer, the girl was at peace with the fate that waits for us all, and she decided to stage a small ceremony to divide up and give away what remained of her belongings.  She chose to give her best friend the witch away to her priest.  It was a gift of purest love. 

Since then, the witch has been the constant companion of the priest.  The witch symbolizes many things: the commercialism of Hallowe'en, and perhaps the long-standing pagan influences on our culture.  Above all, to this man, the witch was a reminder of the peace and love that the child had shared from her hospital room.  At the end, the girl had discovered a depth of spirit that swept away her physical cares and the enabled the means to share herself with complete freedom and love.  The witch had become more powerful as a statement of love than it ever would be as a toy. 

As an artist, I frequently work with symbols and semiotics.  I try to reflect my own values into the graphic representations I create.  Pictures and least of all words fail to express the emotion and power suffusing that strange and nervous priest on the Sunday he felt the need to justify his witch doll to the congregation.  There are powerful hidden forces at work in our world, I believe, for evil and for good.  The values that we place on our own everyday possessions and interactions become much greater with the personal discovery and nourishment of spirit.   Put in words, this statement seems to me sentimental and trite.  Put into action and shared freely, this seems to me a step to becoming a better artist, a better citizen, and a better person. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

665 - Archangel Michael Part II

Today, I applied the sanquir, the base coat colour for the skin tone, which comes to an earthy olive green.  This isn't a big icon, so that did not take much time.  I spent much of the day re-organizing the linear black lines.  It seems the armor and tunic were all goofed.  It's better to catch big mistakes now rather than at the end.  If you look closely, you can see where I blipped out the faulty lines. 
Unfortunately, the process was time consuming.  I could not just "liquid paper" out the mistakes like I would for any other piece, since that would leave visible bumps and wreck the smoothness of the finish.  I had to lay down a dozen layers of thin white paint to erase lines, waiting for each layer to dry out before I could attempt the next.  I spent much of the evening watching paint dry.