'Power lacks moral or principles. It only has interests.'
- Horacio Castellanos Moya
Here's an assortment of oddities and orphans. I don't keep sketchbooks, but I do a lot of experimental collages. So I put together a handful of recent pieces. The power piece found a home in an upcoming issue of The Baffler. Thrilled to connect with Patrick JB Flynn.
Startup! A new piece for The Baffler.
More in the Mecanismos series...
Selfie - this was part of the portrait exhibition at the Pictoplasma conference.
Here are the numbers:
21 Days - July 5 to 25
10,072 km (6,258 miles)
115 hours of driving
1,036 L of Gas (281 Gallons)
2 parents, 2 kids, 2 bikes, one car
They are just numbers. Like looking at a map. If you want to understand something, you have to immerse yourself in it. If you want to understand the country or the continent where you live, you should drive it. You can see pretty mountains from an airplane, but if you climb one or drive through a mountain pass, then you know what they really are. So allow me to share some experiences along the way.
Windsor/Detroit border, supercells in DesMoines, cornfields in Iowa, a long & lonesome road east of Omaha
I've been planning an epic road trip for a couple of years now, but was hampered by a bad back that required surgery and the day-to-day realities of working. This spring I booked my attendance at ICON in Portland and started to dream again. I thought about driving out to the the venue, pulled out maps and started looking at possible routes: Salt Lake City, Yellowstone Park, Mt. Rushmore popped up and I connected the dots. We all dream of the open road, an empty highway with and endless horizon: freedom. Being self-employed implies that you should have that choice. To pick up and go, and not be tied down. My sons are growing up to be young men, and I know the window for spending time together as a complete family is shrinking. So we decided to bring everyone along for the adventure, Griswold style.
Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes... or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?
- Clark Griswold
The first leg of the trip I drove solo. I managed to arrive in Salt Lake City after three days. I was dodging tornadoes in DesMoines, Iowa (no joking) and decided there was no need to stop in Nebraska for any reasons other than food & fuel. After an 18 hour marathon driving session I landed in Utah. I was super road-weary, but Leo Espinosa was kind enough open his house and let me relax for a couple of days. Leo has an ultra-cool house, studio and a fantastic set of cycles. We even went mountain biking and hiking. Man, what a beautiful city and setting. Totally going back there, it's the best, if you are looking to be active.
Mountain biking with Leo, all vertical, hiking the canyon and the fabulous Espinosa studio.
Life is short and the world is wide' -Simon Raven
Leo and I drove from Utah to Oregon. We took two days to get to Portland, driving across the endless horizons of Idaho. Everything disappears, everything falls away. It's incredible to watch mountains and valleys rising and falling as the road unfolds over hours & days. It was a joy & relief to roll into the green Columbia River Valley and Portland.
What can I say about ICON? It's incredibly immersive and inspirational, and you always meet one or more of your 'heroes' in the business. Ellen Weinstein had a great recap of this year's conference. I logged my travels for the ICON website, and used the hashtag #PECtoPortland (Prince Edward County to Portland) to document the experience on Instagram.
Brian Rea's tape mural project, Jason Holley's stage sets, picnic on the lawn, Portland Art Musem
My family flew to Portland on the Sunday after the conference. We took in the food carts, gardens, restaurants and shopping. I could live in this city, the arts community is fantastic! We also took a trip to the Columbia River falls - if you are in the area you have to see this. The weather was hot and sunny, great to be out walking, cycling and exploring. And eating. Lots and lots of eating.
A stop at the Land Gallery, Bridal Veil Falls, enjoying the food cart cornucopia, Columbia River Gorge.
The trip from Portland to Jackson Hole is like travelling through two or three different countries. The landscape keeps changing and there was lots of oohs and aahs strung together with long desolate stretches. I like to see everything open up to the infinite. But the mountains are the best. When we got to Wyoming we were truly rewarded. My son Jacob suggested the Museum of the Mountain Man, in Pinedale, so we took a detour. The drive up there alone was worth it - Pronghorn antelope everywhere and an encounter with a large mule deer buck. The next day we took the tram to the top of the mountain when we got to Jackson Hole. Snow on a hot sunny day. I used my panoramic feature to capture the vista.
Yellowstone Park is something you have to experience to believe. We loved everything, although the altitude can get to you. We had sunny, clear, beautiful weather. The roads were not as crowded as we expected but the popular spots - Old Faithful and the Prismatic spring, were pretty crazy. See it!!! We drove on the melted road that caused a buzz - happy to report it was a tiny section of road that was quickly repaired. The park is not melting. The bison have not left. We had a standoff with a huge hulking beast walking down the middle of the road. We survived. The kids survived. We made it home. Did I mention we moved three days after we got home? It's been that kind of summer.
Crowds waiting for Old Faithful, Prismatic pond at dusk, the 'hoodoos' and Mammoth Hot Springs.
I am about to escape the studio - taking the month of July off - I have an epic road trip coming up, driving across North America to Portland (and back) with stops in Salt Lake City and Yellowstone Park. First and foremost is ICON 8. Looking forward to connecting with some old pals in the biz and making some new friends! Then it's off to Yellowstone Park, camping with my family.
It's easy to get weighed down by assignments and paperwork. I have been lucky to have an incredible workspace and studio, in an old barn that I renovated. But after sixteen years, I am sorting through piles of books and old illustrations, filing boxes and recycling bins and getting ready to relocate. I will be moving right after I get home. I scouted out my new space and it looks promising. I will provide some pics once I get settled in. So, I am escaping from my current digs in more ways than one. As an artist change is a force that drives us, spurs creativity and opens up new opportunity. Plenty on the horizon to look forward to.
Here's the latest illustration for the New York Times. Gravity is the least understood of the universal forces, yet it controls us and threatens our well-being in so many ways. I have been working on this series and the writing is top-notch. Challenging and rewarding work. You can read the full article here: Still Exerting a Force on Science, by George Johnson.
I might as well jump in and talk about an exciting project I recently completed. I was invited by art director Jim Burke to participate in this year's Frogfolio calendar project. Creative freedom and a fun subject. John Dykes posted his piece the other day & mentioned the eight medals have been awarded by the Society of Illustrators. It was a real honour to have been invited.
Earlier this spring I worked on a collage called Spring Peeper. Winter was so long this year and extreme, I love the sound of frogs in the swamp that come out after the thaw. You can hear them before things turn green, and it's always a chorus of hope for warmer weather, and an explosion of life and activity. I wanted to capture some of that energy in this image.
This year's calendar is available for purchase in September. Details to follow soon. A great lineup of artists including Bill Mayer, C.F. Payne, Victor Juhasz, Wesley Allsbrook, John Dykes, Melanie Reim and more!
I will be blogging photos from the road trip on the ICON instagram feed. See you in August! I am out of here.
I like to dabble in collage, building my own imaginary machines. I collect a lot of old technical catalogues and manuals, and see anthropomorphic images in the diagrams and objects. I don't keep a sketchbook, but I have a lot of open illustrator files, where I create new combinations and characters.
There is something fascinating about the click and whirr of analog technology. Springs, flywheels, gears and levers. A ticking clockwork or adding machine. There is also a romance built into fiction along the lines of H. G. Wells. I don't have the attention span to assemble and repurpose old machines, but I do like the aesthetic, and have dabbled with it in my Mecanismos series. These images are always evolving and have taken on a life of their own.
It's fun to take a technical story and incorporate these robots into the illustration. Here's a recent assignment for the Christian Science Monitor, about human error and mistakes made by officials in sports. Should we replace humans with machines in order to get the call right? Is it foolproof? Will it improve the game? It's your call.
Recent assignment for Hemispheres magazine above, about designers repurposing our modern technology with a steampunk aesthetic. Juicy topic! Thanks to art director Claire Eckstrom, she was great to work with.
'Your worship is your furnaces Which, like old idols, lost obscenes, Have molten bowels, your visions is Machines for making more machines.' - Gordon Bottomley (1912)
He is enigmatic. He is misunderstood. He is benevolent. He is a primeval archetype. His origins are shrouded in the mists of time...
The Green Man is an ancient motif representing the cycle of the seasons, transformation and the rebirth of spring after a long winter. Most often found carved in wood and stone in European gothic cathedrals, he is represented by the face of a man made up of foliage or spewing leaves.
On July 4, the Nook Collective (hosted by Julia Breckenreid and Steve Wilson) in Toronto are featuring the work of over 40 artists. Should be a killer show. I am thrilled to be a part of this and will be hanging several pieces. I am working with Dimitri Levanov to produce the work in the show.
I let loose on these, using a skull as a template and working with collaged ornamental foliage, giving the work a gothic feel while retaining a sense of fun and playfulness.
This one's a bit sinister and sophisticated. I thought each had its own personality. They both look a bit like the tangles of weeds sprouting in my garden this year. All this rain and I am fighting a loosing battle. So while our American friends are celebrating red, white & blue, we will be lighting it up green. Really looking forward to the show. Thanks to Julia for putting this together!
I also have another show opening this weekend, at Oeno Gallery. Another plant-themed group show called 'When the Bough Breaks: Re-imagining the Tree'. Oeno is a lovely venue, where I had my Mecanismos and Birdhouse City shows.
On a different note, I have had a busy summer so far, with some great assignment work that I will be posting later. Some good news - the work I did for SubTerrain Magazine was a winner in the illustration category at the Western Magazine Awards. This piece is called Detachment, it accompanied an excellent short story by Lee Kvern about a young girl, a stray dog and life on a remote RCMP outpost. A cold, wintry image to keep you cool in the heat of summer.
Creativity can be daunting at times. Sometimes it's like reading a compass without a needle. What direction to take? I am working towards filling sketchbooks with drawings, but I struggle with the routine. When I am busy working, the sketchbooks sit on the shelf and gather dust.
Most of the work that I do is digitally based, so I do find the time to experiment with vector-based images. A sense of play that I have used in the CMY-X series and Retrobots. This series springs from my digital sketchbooks.
Over the past couple of years I have been working on a series of screenprints. These are collages based on my collection of dusty old science textbooks, hardward catalogues and do-it-yourself magazines. Animating the inanimate. Bringing out the mad scientist in me.
When I started this series, I felt a strong need to experiment. I've worked on a number of small edition prints, working towards consistency. With this series, I wanted to produce 100 unique prints, using the same elements throughout, but mixing and remixing the different pieces. The heads and bodies are mixed and matched, in and exquisite corpse kind of way. It was exciting to play with different combinations of color, shapes and expressions.
45 background elements
Thanks to Chrissy Poitras and Kyle Topping at Spark Box Studio!
I am putting the first ten in the series up at Illogator. Or you can contact me directly and I'd be happy to send one along to you.
The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is held at the Central Library every May. I've been attending with my son Jacob for the past couple of years. It's an incredibly intense pooling of talent. I started out as a cartoonist and walking through this event is humbling and awe-inspiring at the same time.
Chris Ware, Jillian Tamaki ( who did this year's poster), Chester Brown and Michael Cho, to name a few, were amongst the exhibitors this year.
Toronto is a central hub for a lot of independent comic publishers. What I love about this festival is that its focus is on the indies and not the traditional muscle-bound underwear clad superheroes. And hey - it's free, too! This year's festival is a bit crowded, the first floor of the library is undergoing renovations, so the attendance was elbow to elbow.
I ran into Aaron Leighton, drawing on a huge mural with Trio Magnus behind the winding central staircase.
My find of the day wasEven the Giants by Jesse Jacobs (Adhouse Books), beautiful and hypnotic drawings. I also had a great time seeing PEC Comix Jam collaborator Niall Eccles and his Character of the Day exhibit, who designed a 3-D poster to commemorate the event.
Last year we went Sunday, it was much less crowded and there was a lot more opportunity to talk with the artists. If you are in Toronto, it is a must-see event.
Wednesday afternoon I was able to visit the Clayton Brothers studio, part of a small group from ICON 6, including Edel Rodriguez, Cathy Bleck and Ann Field.
It was an incredibly inspiring visit, Rob and Christian took the time to explain their work process, answer the obvious questions about their relationship to each other and their work. The studio was filled with small studies and larger works.
The studio is a sparse but open and organized space, with moveable walls for an expandable working area. The walls were covered with work varying from sketch to large finished pieces.
Rob and Christian were good enough to give us wine, beer & snacks (thanks guys, cold beer on a hot day goes a long way!) . We were guided through the works on the walls, the processes involved in creating their gallery work, how they relate to each other and work progressively towards finished pieces. Collaboration lies at the heart of what and how everything gets done.
As a group we were invited to get involved. Rob and Christian had prepared 20 color sketches, rough outlines as starting points. The challenge was for each of us to contribute to each image, to collaborate and create 20 finished pieces. Take one, work on it, pass it on to the next person. When the pieces were finished we all signed the back of each of them.
There was a flurry of flying paint, pastel, ink and pencils. Here are some of the finished pieces. I love them all.
I’d like to thank ICON for organizing this, and of course the Christian and Rob for being such great hosts. My mind has been expanded in new & unexpected ways.
I was interviewed by Chrissy Poitras for an article in Square2 magazine, showcasing my recent screenprint and illustration work.
The magazine is a document of our local arts scene in Prince Edward County. We have a burgeoning and vibrant arts community, this area is attracting winemakers, chefs, authors and artists from far and wide. Square2 magazine hosted an arts crawl on the night of their launch featuring live music, performance art and a gallery show. It was a really fun and inspirational evening.
Rene Dick from Scout Design was good enough provide me with the article published below. Take a moment to flip through.
No end in sight for the millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico. The looming cleanup raises an ugly shadow. How toxic is this brew? Where do the cleanup crews deposit and treat this disaster? Every day the confusion and disorganization builds. How many years/decades will this be a blight on the ecosystems and economies?
Every day I hope for some signs of an end to this mess. When will it end?
I took my son Jacob on a canoe trip to Temagami. I think I opened his eyes to a different world, something unique and beautiful. A bit of wilderness off the beaten path.
Temagami lies on the edge of the great boreal forest, mineral-rich hills blanketed by pine and spruce. Some of these stands are the last remaining old growth forests in Ontario. The lakes and rivers are pristine and unpolluted. If you travel by canoe, you can connect the dots with a well-worn network of portages and campsites. Over the years, many areas have been threatened by development whlle many portions have been protected or set aside as nature reserves through hard-fought, ongoing efforts.
Early morning on Blueberry Lake
I've done a number of trips with my brother Robert. He supplies the tent and equipment. This year I supplied the scotch and espresso, and my 17 foot kevlar canoe.
The longest leg of the trip involves turning the canoe upside-down, strapping it to the roof of the car and driving north for seven hours. I was hoping for a break in the cool, wet weather we've had so far this month. Jacob is venturing out for his first canoe trip, so I wanted to be able to rough it, but not have to be wet and miserable. He just turned twelve and I thought he'd be able to cut the umbilical from our plugged-in world for a handful of days.
Jacob is ready for launch. All we need is the canoe.
We set out from a launch on Cassels Lake in grey, breezy, cloudy conditions. We took a short paddle to White Bear Forest trails and took a hike into the forest. Jacob was really impressed with the landscape. I spotted some pink lady slipper orchids blooming at the foot of some of the tall pines.
We set up camp as the clouds separated and the sun came out. For me the canoe trip doesn't really start until you get your first swim in. I took the first chance and went in. The water is unbelievably clean and refreshing.
I put aside my sketchbook on this trip. Jacob and I decided to see how many fish we could catch.
Camp humour. My brother nearly took the end of his thumb off chopping wood for our fire. Once we bandaged it up and cooked dinner it was time for some cheap shots.
Success! This one took three attempts to land. By the time I got it, it was too late to cook it up.
We woke up in a misty cloudbank where the horizon over the water completely vanished. The sun rose, slowly burning off the fog, revealing patches of shoreline and water.
We paddled about 5 km over a lake without a ripple. Cooked up some lunch and then portaged about 700 m into Blueberry Lake. Absolutely nobody around. We set up camp on a gorgeous site, great for swimming and a fire pit perched up on a huge boulder overlooking the lake. The only problem: fish weren't biting, but the deer flies were.
I really have to thank Robert for finding this lake. There really aren't many places like this left.
We had a bit of a tough go on the way back. The wind kicked up some whitecaps and waves on the homestretch, but I've never been on a canoe trip without a good headwind. It was worth it to hear how excited Jake was when he dipped his cup in the lake and tasted the water.
The 1970 GTO Judge sported a kickass decal and came in 'Orbit Orange'. It rolled off the production line with a 360 horsepower Pontiac 455 engine and Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. Vacuum Operated Exhaust, which increased the volume of the rumbling engine. Rally wheels, bucket seats and on-hood tach. Pure muscle car.
Arguably Pontiac's greatest achievement, and perhaps it's apex. It's been downhill since then.
I found these exercises in penmanship in a dusty hardbound edition of the Farmers Manual, published in 1895.
They trend from the ornamental to the bizarre.
From the book:
'The copies of the penmanship department are from the pens fo the best penmen in America. They should be carefully studied and used as copies for practice. A few months of faithful work will make a good penman of the the poorest writer.'
Harry and Mark suggested starting a show of Robot drawings in a recent post. So fire up them up and let them go to work!
Let's see your interpretations - good benign, and evil. Contraptions, automatons, gadgets, apparati & visual creations of all shapes sizes are welcome.
"The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession, we are forecasting slow growth."
Ben Bernanke - January 2008
“Not only have individual financial institutions become less vulnerable to shocks from underlying risk factors, but also the financial system as a whole has become more resilient.” — Alan Greenspan - 2004
"You know, in this business, you don't have any control over what the press says and how they portray things. And that's their prerogative. But I think anybody who looks at it objectively has trouble making the case that somehow this is a bad economy."
"The American people should remain confident in the“soundness and resilience in the American financial system."
“We will continue to act to resolve this crisis and restore stability to our markets”
I brought my sketchbook along on our last trip and scribbled down these notes. Our local Drive-In opened during the boom in the 50's and rode through the slump and sleazery of the 70's & 80's. The guy who operates it runs it as a family business and makes things fun for everyone & shows first-run features. It has not only survived, it has thrived.
Happy Canada Day! I know there's more than a few Canuck Drawgers. I'm just getting ready for the bike parade, hot-dog eating contest and fireworks later tonight.
In honour of the arrival of summer, I've put together this tribute to the local drive-in.
There is a scene in 'X- the Man with X-Ray Eyes' where the character played by Ray Milland stumbles across the desert, trying to make sense of the world around him. The good Dr. Xavier, in the model of any good mad scientist, has pushed things a bit too far, using himself as the guinea pig. He could have settled for every young comic-book readers' dream of peering through clothes at a swinging party. He could have stopped when his new vision allowed him to see the inner workings and even malignant growths deep inside his patients... but no. He just had to keep pushing the boundaries....
The scene was filmed in a ground-breaking, state-of-the-art special effect billed as 'Spectarama'. We saw through his eyes as he descended into madness. While I was working on this series of drawings I was reminded of it.
Growing up i was addicted to b-movies, especially horror and sci-fi. I was just a kid at the time when I saw this Roger Corman opus. The idea of a mad scientist always appealed to me. The lone visionary working late into the night, at play with gadgets and bright shiny objects, lots of dials and levers....does that sound familiar?
These illustrations are all dialed up to 100 percent C - M - Y - K (and all combinations). I was playing around with the transparency function in Illustrator and overlayed a number of different drawings. Many years ago I worked in a screen-printing production department, putting together color separations together manually, using rublithe and halftones. With that in mind, I can truly appreciate what my computer lets me do.
I'd like to give a nod to my brother Robert. His show is opening this Thursday in Toronto at Susan Hobbs gallery. He's a very talented and humble guy who has always been a real inspiration, the artistic trailblazer in the family.
I've had the chance to travel with him collecting photographs and images in Temagami, an area of towering old growth pines and breathtaking wilderness. I have a collection of photos, notes and sketches from our canoe trips here.
He's also great to play hockey with, picks me up on the way to the rink every Monday.
Tonight I dragged my son Jacob out onto the front porch to see the last sliver of light disappear from the eclipsing moon. Beautiful red tinges and plenty of oohs and aahs. During the eclipse the stars really shone bright. I was inspired to put together this little tribute.
Orion looms overhead all winter long, from the first frosts in autumn until the last snowflake melts in the spring. I spend a lot of time looking up at the sky, checking out the stars, when I am out flooding the rink or just going out to the studio. I like to connect the dots.
Orion, the hunter, is a constellation where the blanks are not hard to fill in. Betelgeuse, a red giant, forms one shoulder. It is a star that could supernova at any given point in time. Three perfectly aligned stars form a belt. Below the belt is a blurry grouping of stars, a sword dangling from the belt, where the Hubble telescope has detected rich birthing grounds for stars and planets.
Those who created the star maps we live by took a few creative liberties. Here's a few more.
My favorite winter sport
What if constellation maps were created today? What would we project onto the skies?
Remember the good old days when a computerized flight simulator filled a gymnasium with vacuum tubes? Brilliant minds were engaged in the development of a nuclear-powered wristwatch and the flying car was just around the corner?
Well look at what just rolled off the production line from the future that never was...
Announcing the all-new models from Positronic Industries!
I collect diagrams. I have stacks of old textbooks and science manuals, as well as shelves full of Popular Mechanics from the 40's and 50's. Spring cleaning in my studio this year gave me a chance to put some of this stuff together.
Lost in the depths of winter despair? Cabin fever setting in? Dreaming of the warmth and joy of spring?
Well, these exuberant seasonal banners from creative genius Jim Flora will surely brighten your day!
I came across an obscure pharmaceutical publication called 'What's New' (December 1952) in my favorite used book store. These were part of a five page feature, with Flora's illustration framing sheet music and lyrics.
They provide a lovely tableau of seasonal change from deepest dark winter to the romance of springtime.
Words and music by Harold Rome
Though there is winter in you heart, and love has taken wing, Though storms have drifted two apart, Remember this one thing. As spring must come with soft caress, When icy winds are through Love will return in a greener dress, Once again to you...
April will come again....
From a Song for December, although February would also be a suitable title.
Anyways, I forwarded these illustrations to Irwin Chusid who was putting the first Jim Flora anthology together at the time. He said that there was no record of these and Jim's son had never seen them before. So consider these a Drawger exclusive...
The last comix jam was a cut and paste extravaganza, devoted entirely to collage.
Once a month the locals get together for the Prince Edward County Comix Jam. It's a mixture of young and old and artistic talent isn't required but it does go a long way.
Last night we celebrated Comix Jam's second birthday, complete with sugary cakes. I brought my kids along and a good time was had by all.
The whole thing is organized by comic afficianado Niall Eccles. Bravo!
Collaborative creativity in action
The event is all about collaboration. Work on a drawing, pass it on. Add and embellish. It's great way to loosen up a bit and find some spontaneity.
Next month we will be hosting an exquisite corpse night. I will keep you posted...
If you are in the neighborhood, drop by! It's fun! www.myspace.com/thecomixjam
I am currently working on a project for a company promoting 'zero energy' housing construction. I have posted a few of the illustrations that were produced to promote the technology involved. The idea is to combine leading edge technology and materials and a system of solar collection to take houses off the electrical grid. These images play around with zeros and very simple house shapes.
New solar panels can be built into the structure of the roof-- not those clunky box-like structures that come to mind.
This sort of thing offers a glimmer of hope for the future, a small step in the right direction. Eventually we will all have adapt and change our energy habits or they will be changed for us.