Wednesday, March 14, 2018


Baa, ram, ewe, fleece be true blue, it's Sick Little Suicide #39, "Lamb Chops," in which we slaughter polling deficits.

This piece is inspired by Conor Lamb (D)'s presumptive victory in the Pennsylvania 18th district's special election, overcoming a deficit of 20 points in favor of the orange fraud in 2016. As of this writing, Mr. Lamb is not yet technically the winner, but with 100% reporting, it is mathematically extremely improbable he loses since his opponent would have to dominate the remaining 1,195 absentee ballots severely, to the tune of an astounding 70%, last I heard from the frantic smartboard scribbler on TV. This is especially unlikely since this election has shown a massive evacuation of Republican votes in this district as compared to 2016, but a powerful showing from voters willing to D 'em up.

Anyway, the concept of the piece is pretty straightforward. Playing with the dichotomy of lion vs. lamb, we have a cute but mighty lamb embodying the spirit of a fierce lion, hence a sketched-in, "imaginary" mane. I wanted this to look scrappy since the mood is of an underdog putting up a fight (see the $12+ million dollars the Republicans spent on this special election, vs. the comparatively tiny support Lamb took in. To help convey the mood, I made sure to make the lines feel as guerilla as possible, while still being "neat" in its own way (the askew color was a tricky balance of tidy and slapped-together, for instance.).

Fun Facts: I had a dog that looked like a lamb, but it was actually a poodle. Also, this election came down to the wire--at one point there was a 94 vote difference!--so this supports my belief that we should treat elections (including how I felt about 2016) like games of Magic, in that you don't give up until the game is over and you make your opponent "slit your throat," meaning you don't give up until they definitively close the deal. You can often buy yourself at least one more turn to draw a solution if you don't let your opponent know you're Lou Dobbs, because as long as you force them to have to land the finishing blow before scooping, you're still in it to win it.

Similarly, in every election, we need to freaking turn out like we're fighting uphill, no matter where the election is. We can't rely on polls to say anything's in the bag, or believe the "blue wave" hype is guaranteed and will rescue us from this present orange nightmare--let the wave talk keep your spirits high, but act as if nothing's guaranteed--and turn out in masses to run up the score on them. Only lose because they overwhelmed us with voters. But do not give them the game by taking the win for granted and counting on others to do the actual voting. If the Republicans should win, make them only ever actually win it; don't scoop, don't stay home, don't vote third party.

Easter Eggs: Much like "Funny," we used a lot of blue for the Democratic color.

Not normal,


Friday, March 9, 2018


A quick illustration inspired by Emma Gonzalez of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for International Women's Day.

The Parkland students have been a huge inspiration. It really feels like this is a moment of legitimate change. I've felt for a while that it kind of comes down to having to wait for corrupt, evil people in power inexorably to die out--the momentum as it exists is that they will simply go extinct while more rational people gradually grow to outnumber them as a matter of course, I have no doubt over the long term, that's how it'll go eventually. But the Parklanders represent the other, more active side of the equation: newer generations are not only going to displace the bastions of evil over time, but they now will actively vie to dethrone and defang these sinister elements, accelerating their extinction. What I love about Japan is that you can walk to 7-11 at 4am and not give it a second thought aside from wondering if it's cold enough to bring a hat. That should be what it's like in the US. That is freedom. But we can't get there as long as merchants of death call the tune. Fortunately, the chorus of kids from Parkland sound like the slapper we've been waiting for.

In all seriousness, this moment feels different because it appears to be the point of a perfect confluence of crucial factors that seem poised to manifest in actual change, but that have never all concurrently been present before--I think of this as a Malcolm Gladwell-style Outliers moment, that just by chance, these factors at the right time and place will yield results. There are at least five factors I feel that are contributing to this unabashedly optimistic outlook from this ordinarily cautiously pessimistic optimist.

First, never before have the victims of the tragedy been on the cusp of--or have just freshly attained--the right to vote. Further, as exemplified by Emma Gonzalez's famous speech, this generation has grown up seeing the blatant nonsense (and dangerous cost) of today's horrific state of dialogue and are prepared to call it out in frank terms because they risk death not to. But it's not simply that they can speak out in their immediate community. For the first time, we have a group of victims who themselves --not parents, relatives, or even themselves years later after the immediacy of their tragedy has faded from the public memory)--they themselves are fully capable of reaching out to people at large across the country and even around the world, for that matter, via their fluent ability to take their fight online.

Second, the party in power has blatantly been outed incontrovertibly as various flavors of cartoonishly unacceptable. We have seen they are hypocritical: the party of "moral values" has backed and defended adulterers, spousal abusers, child abusers, etc. They have similarly demonstrated refusal to act in good faith: see (R-KY) Senator Mitch McConnell indignantly acting as if he was observing regular order on his "healthcare" and tax scam bills, when in objective reality he was satisfying the exact accusations he levied against the plain period of study, debate, and compromise provided in preparing Obamacare. Along these lines, we've seen other acts in bald-faced bad faith, such as silencing legitimate questioning during various hearings (see the multiple, outrageous shooshes to D-CA Senator Kamala Harris, for instance), and the absolutely disgraceful runaround R-CA Representative Devin Nunes has engaged in out of ostensible "concern" for truth. These are just a few outrages in this vein of dis-ingenuousness rotting the party.

Similarly (because hypocrisy seems to be the underlying factor in all of this) the oath-defying party has also proven itself to be plainly, dangerously beholden to entities other than the country and the Constitution, and are thus incapable of genuine leadership: they decried deficits while a black guy was in office but then gleefully plunged the government even deeper into debt for the appeasement of their donors: see public comments, such as "adult in the room" (R-SC) Senator Lindsey Graham's admonition that "financial contributions will stop" if they don't pass their tax scam, or R-NY Chris Collins relaying a donor's instructions that they pass the bill or "don't ever call me again."

And most abhorrently, the party has demonstrated an inability to insist on fair play in order to win elections solely on the strength of their ideas: see them going so far as to endeavor to impeach supreme court judges in Pennsylvania for ruling to void severely gerrymandered Republican-favoring districts. Perhaps more grotesquely, see also the party's insistence on disenfranchising people on a massive scale, particular minorities because they know they can't win if everything's fair and square and people just get to vote. I've written about this before, but denying the vote and claiming you're representing the will of the people is like stacking your opponent's deck in Magic so they get mana screwed, and then you start acting like you're Jon Finkel. I'm not even discussing their constant covering for that orange fraud's clear negligence (at the minimum) during his campaign, which will all come out eventually, I'm positive.

For these reasons and (much) more, this party feels like it's only sustained itself on "angle shooting" and "running the cheats," as we say in Magic. I recall in the Hillary Clinton interview on Pod Save America, she vocalized what I had suspected for a while ever since I've been paying closer attention to politics: there's a good chance that the Republican party might have died out by now if it hadn't been able to prolong itself with all the above techniques and more, since it seems there really is no substantial need for what they profess, and no general beneficiaries of their self-destructive policies. I've always loved history, just not necessarily politics, but believe it or not, it hasn't always been D vs. R (in fact, one of our earliest parties was called the "Democratic-Republicans!")...parties indeed emerge, grow, and die throughout our history, it's not radical or unprecedented--as national moods shift, parties come and go. Presently, it feels like for the most part, one party is generally (obviously not everyone) trying to do what it can to help the country improve itself while the other is primarily just out to hurt people and benefit itself, perhaps in that order, but who even really knows? It should be that the parties have different methods of the same end goal: improving the country. But one party is just checked-out and even worse, is actively bringing harm to us. That party should be shunned and let to die out so we can have a new party that will at the bare minimum be interested in national improvement and capable of checking the other party in good faith. My frustrations with that party is what I gather is also taking hold nationally, when people see what they are doing so brazenly and publicly and can no longer justify their (in)actions.

The third factor as to why now is different is related to the second one: because the party in power has submitted so consistently and helplessly to a dangerous lobbying group, we've seen these tragedies at a disgusting regularity and at a soul-crushing reach. After seeing all venues from every level of sacredness from outdoor concert venues to within church walls, and victims from all walks of life, including a baseball field of Republican congresspeople, and of course children who were just barely learning how to write the alphabet, there is a feeling that the need for gun reform is simply no longer by any strain of logic able to be hand-waved or shrugged away.

Fourth, and perhaps the most all-encompassing factor as to why now is different: we are in a climate of finally pushing back in general at the systemic abuses that hoarders of power have been subjecting us to. The Women's March was an inspirational, massive declaration that this disgraceful state of oppression and inequality was not a figment of anyone's imagination, or even just a small hiccough in an otherwise humming machine. The MeToo movement has been bringing justice to people abusing positions of power in professional settings. The overall recoil from the outrage and dishonor of that orange fraud taking the White House and populating it not merely with inept people, but people antithetical to their posts in so brashly public a display has made more people than ever (such as myself) cease apathy and derive direct concern with what's going on. Regardless of what particular interest people may have (interest in women's rights, healthcare, minority rights, science protection and advancement, maintenance of global power, preservation of history and prestige, the administration of justice), in general, we all have one or more stakes in paying attention and doing what we can to try to right this storied ship in stormy seas. More engagement means this disgusting blemish in our history has more people alert and questing for reform, none more obvious and popular than gun reform.

Fifth, this is all culminating right around a midterm election year while a severely unpopular party and historically loathed head reign either incompetently, dangerously, or both, and in any case, disingenuously. People were growing fed up and looking forward to midterms enough as it was, but then this happened and it feels like it's the final straw just as we enter the midterm year itself.

The momentum for gun reform has been building for years, and now given an articulate population that can vote almost immediately following their personal tragedy and who can meanwhile also reach out on a massive scale to a network of similarly interested forerunners and recently activated once-apathetics, and given a clear opponent in a dangerous and inept ruling party, and a widespread climate of yearning for positive change just as we turn the corner into midterms, this time it indeed feels different. This time it feels like these young voters will get it done. Perhaps not immediately, but in their lifetimes for sure, and perhaps even by the time they graduate college we'll be living in a comparatively different world. I can feel it. It feels so obvious. And I certainly hope some of their number chooses to move into law or politics so we can get people genuinely interested in public good in positions of power. We need it; we need them. They can do it; we can do it. We must do it.

But, you know, to be totally frank, these students also kinda bum me out! I remember growing up watching Gundam Wing in particular, and specifically thinking (as a child, no less), Wow, when I'm a teenager, I'll never change the world like they are. I'll never do great, consequential things like that. The students bring me right back to that deflating insecurity, though now I'm on the other side. I see them giving speeches and advocating for something greater than themselves, and I feel as useless as I did as a kid watching Duo Maxwell throw it down on TV. Like I missed my chance to contribute. That's what eats at me about art. There's only so much I can do to help the world. I'm not a doctor or politician, or even a teacher. How's that Yale degree treating you?

I guess we should talk a bit more about the art itself, since this is an art site after all. I did some early portrait studies during some practice recently, so I'll just include some of those in this post (it's just practice in inks, no pencils, so we let the jank flow). But about today's main illustration, it uses the female symbol in the background, but it is also presented vaguely to resemble an Ankh, the symbol of life. I see the new generation (and females in general) as the hope for life in an abstract sense after seeing the destructive nature of older generations and male-dominated leadership. In having the symbol circle the head, there's of course the connotation of a halo from classical art, too, but it also subverts the symbology of a chalk outline of a victim who fell for the ascension of a victim who survived. All positive things. The pose is reminiscent of that classic painting of JFK, though rather than a male President who fell to a gun, we're witnessing a new generation of leaders rising to challenge guns.

Not normal,


Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Sometimes you just have to walk right into the mouth of it all.

This is the first piece I've done that's made me happy in a long, long, long time.

I've been pretty depressed lately. For a while, actually, but after finishing this piece, I just felt such a relief. Quieted everything, all the worry and doubt, if only for a day or so.

She's just heading into this cave (actually a dinosaur mouth, probably lightly inspired by Ixalan's dino theme). Just bring it on, let's go.

I was really pumped to try this new coloring technique: just a soft brush for two tone layers, then I colored those locked layers, and applied various gradients and adjustments above them.

This piece came together pretty quickly too, not enough time to start second-guessing myself and hating everything. Happy this one worked out. Minimal, but with plenty of punch.

I kept listening to Michael Jackson by Das Racist to get the attitude right, but it kinda started as a flash of an idea about negative space in this quick sketch. I also wanted to practice drawing an Asian character for an upcoming piece. The Ellegarden connection is probably because I was also listening to their adventurous The End of the World, which made me think of dinosaur worlds like Ixalan.

Not normal,


Friday, March 2, 2018


I use Steve Ahn's incomparable, essential Photoshop brush (Steve Ahn's Ultimate Brush, or "SAUB") just about every day, particularly for linework and sketching, so I am eager to do some fan art with it of his new, independent animation series, Blossom Detective Holmes, whose Kickstarter is in its final day! Investigate it here!

I thought I might try drawing this exclusively with Steve Ahn's Ultimate Brush, as I've don't this sort of thing before, but I can easily get carried away, so I decided to merely use it extensively. The background, however, is a great example of how I like to paint/draw directly with it though--just get a basic shape and then draw/paint right over it. I honed this technique on my GDS series's costumes.

I had a few concepts for this piece in mind, but I wanted to do something unconventional, yet grounded. So I did a composition of Skyler and Jamie jamming through the city, like in the pilot episode, but the emphasis here would be on their photos, not their faces. I wanted to accomplish this by covering their faces with Polaroids of the opposite character. My original concept for this was them holding the photos in front of their faces with their teeth for a goofier, more playful vibe, which you can see in the thumbnail section.

The poses and compositions for the photos themselves actually came from photos I saw of some people I know. But I haven't spoken to them (or anyone, really) for years, so I'm sure they'll probably not So yeah, anyway, I went heavy on the filter effects on the photos, which was fun, cuz you usually just want to treat illustrations lightly with such effects, but since they were supposed to be photos, we could really go to town.

The city setting was inspired by the pilot Blossom Detective Holmes episode, but also by Yale and our famous Harkness Tower. It isn't a direct copy of the signature statue-clad bell tower, but it's in the spirit of it, with similar semi-circle, arch, and spike motifs. The building on the right is similarly in the spirit of my old residential college, JE, but not quite a copy.

From the thumbnail, my original composition had them facing in opposite directions. This felt cooler for its natural tension, and because it could let me capitalize on Jamie's flowing long hair to direct the motion and balance of the piece, but I ended up switching her to face right since it just wasn't working after inking the rough poses. Now there's a nice loop of action from the moon, scooping down along the tower to Skylar's jewel, up to her eye, then over to Jamie.

These are the thumbnails I was working with. They are pretty tiny, but I enlarged the one I decided to go with into my usual 9inx9in canvas. As you can see, I was trying to arrive at some composition that used photos in lieu of faces. I desperately wanted to avoid just drawing the characters floating in space, since it feels so cheap to go simply with characters rather than a full illustration with a logical corresponding background. I had considered just plugging them into one of my SAUB pieces, but that too also felt a little cheap...

Just for fun, here's the piece with no lines. The lines were also done with SAUB of course, but this shows how I paint with it. The piece is almost entirely made with this brush, but I did allow for some small tweakables like gradients and more blatantly non-SAUB smoke and stars. I am on the fence about the smoke. I wanted it to feel noiry, but maybe it just looks washed out...

I was also on the fence about completely illustrating Jamie since a large part of her would be blocked out by Skyler. I ended up coloring her more or less all the way since I kept having to disappear Skyler so I could make more convincing, flowing choices on Jamie. This "drawing through" method involves ignoring elements in front of whatever you're working on, so you can make unbiased decisions. You can see this quite well with the background elements that have strokes trailing off into nowhere. Thus I consequently ended up basically coloring Jamie accidentally, out of necessity.

Not normal,