With this being the final week before school starts up again, my time has been divided between prepping for the coming classes and getting as much drawing done as possible to finish up Chapter 3. Because of that, I've remained pretty unplugged from the world around me.
As you will soon be able to tell, my musical tastes swing wildly and often between the intense and the bucolic. The type of music I listen to often depends on what I'm doing while listening. This ends up being more nuanced than merely stating activities like "walking the dog" or "drawing" or "hanging out." Since I've been stalled on a page, the intense, loud music of heavy metal or rock actually comes off as grating, raising my stress more than calming it. Last week, I wrote about one balm, the music of Pallbearer (and bands like them). While still, technically, heavy metal, its slower, droning, and distorted guitars were offset by the melodic vocals and generally open air sound, which really speaks to a peacefulness rather than rage as is commonly associated with the genre. However, as I waded deeper into the weeds of artistic stagnation, the dire tone of bands like Pallbearer or Dawnbringer (my personal favorite) tended to add weight to the travel instead of taking it off.
Neko Case is one of my wife's favorite musicians. Period. Case is an alt-country badass with the same no-care attitude as someone like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. She does what she wants in the way she wants to do it and, quite often, the result is a pleasant listen. In 2016, Case teamed up with two fellow musicians, k.d. lang and Laura Veirs, and made an album so sublime that the first song, "Atomic Number," actually took my breath away the first time I heard it. It hit me in the pit of my stomach, churning within me a feeling that couldn't be placed. Did I want to be sad? Happy? Happy-sad? Joyous? All of these things, kind of. It was, plainly, just hitting the spot. Even on repeat listens for over a year, the song is at a particular frequency that lines up with the one in my head, creating a sense of existential chill, but almost on a spiritual level. There are a few songs like that which I've collected over the years, ones that strike a chord in me (pardon the pun) which really evens me out for the few minutes while they play, leaving me with a sort of existential hum in my head that puts a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye.
The benefit of Case/lang/Veirs is that there are a few songs on the album that do that to me, but that first song is the rare exception that rings my core all the way through its play time. It was a much needed bandage, even if I still struggled with the page in front of me. I don't expect this song or album to have the same effect on anyone reading this, but I'm sure you have your songs that do that for you, the one's that just make you feel; this is one of those for me and I was glad I had it.
It was the rare occasion that I went out this week, meeting up with my former comic collaborator, Eben Burgoon, at New Helvetia Brewing Co. to see what its weekly get-together, "Comic Books and Craft Brews" (aka CB^2), was all about. Organized by Eben, he had large-scale print outs of pages from the comic he is currently writing, B-Squad, in black and white and brought markers to allow attendees to color them. Not really knowing what to expect, I took a sketchbook and a pencil down there, but soon after arriving just used the paper on the table to let the mind wander while talking to Eben and meeting some new people.
Eben and I stopped making our comic, Eben07, back in 2013, but I've been drawing those characters ever since I was about 15 or 16, so they're easy to summon when the need arises. Since the comic was a humor-action comic, they usually come out when I am drawing around a joke; such was the case at this week's gathering:
It was also fun just to just work with graphite. When comicking, I stick to the waxy struggle of blue lead and don't really work with traditional lead very often anymore (due to its ease of smearing), but it's fun to see what I can do, especially with these old characters filtered through whatever lens that is my current style. It was fun, but I'm more eager to get back to Long John.
LONG JOHN UPDATE:
The two-page spread stall-out really knocked me down, and even though I'm not quite standing again yet, I am definitely in the process of standing up. I go into the new semester with a few pages left to draw of "Making Smoke," and I'm confident I'll be able to get them––and the book––done.
As I said in the Chapter 3 cover reveal video, "Making Smoke" has been a wild time in terms of creativity. The highlight, undoubtedly, was when Josh Tobey was down visiting from Oregon this summer and I was complaining about some pages I had to ink that were basically landscapes. I was scared to draw them mostly because I knew it would be a situation of them looking better in my head than they would on the page. I could draw landscapes fine, but rendering them convincingly––and, more importantly, interestingly––in ink was way out of my comfort zone.
To these complaints, Josh replied, "Man, that's the fun stuff. I hate drawing and inking people doing things."
"Really?" I asked, completely shocked at his distaste for my favorite things to draw and ink. Laughing at the seeming synergy of our artistic tastes, I threw out, as a joke, "Well, I should just have you ink these landscape panels and we'd both be happy."
"Are they drawn?"
"What? Yeah. I mean, they're loose, but they're on the page," I said.
Josh put his thumb to his chin, which he often does when seriously pondering. "I'll do it."
I laughed. He didn't.
"Are you serious?" I asked.
"Hell, yes. Put pages in front of me and I'll ink them," he said.
I've been doing this long enough to never let an opportunity go stale, so I ran upstairs and got the pages and, because of that, I have two pages of Chapter 3 inked by Josh Tobey and they're gorgeous. There are even a few panels where we are both inking. It was a liberating and energizing experience and I could even see a project where we do that on every page in the future could be a serious possibility.
Until next week, that was The Week.