Thursday, March 7, 2013

Batphone RED

Coming home from (read "escaping") school when I was a kid was something to look forward to.  I'd come home, starving, fix myself a peanut butter sandwich and sit down in front of the TV.  I'd catch "Gilligan's Island" reruns, "Flash Gordon" serials and maybe, Batman.

There's nothing that sticks in a child's mind like something imaginary made real.  That's what Batman was to me...a comic book come to life.  Sure, there was campy humor rampant (and to be honest, the comics weren't that great), but that didn't matter to me...Adam West and Burt Ward WERE Batman and Robin.  They were the heroes I wanted to be like.  I mean....the Batcave and Batmobile were AWESOME!
(Every kid in America should have one of these!)

As I grew up, I took a dim view of the 1960's Batman series...they seemed like stupid things that poked fun at my love of comics and my heroes.

Then, I grew older and realized something.....Adam West is a genius.  Seriously.  He took a campy character, embraced it, and delivered the most hilarious lines with a straight face that made it all look easy.  I don't think anyone else could have done it.

(As an aside, if you want a SERIOUS hero tale from that era, go watch the GREEN HORNET series.)

So, where's this all going, Dave?  Well, I'm glad you asked.
I belong to a group of artists that post on a website called PLANET PULP.  There are seriously talented people there who, every month, take on some pop culture topic to bust their chops on.
Jayson Weidel , who runs the collective, came up with the idea of Planet Pulp to have its own, physical show.  People got really excited about the idea, and it looks like it will be happening in June (expect more from me on this later).  The theme of the show is RED.  You can do any pop culture subject you want, but the color red should figure prominently in the artwork.

So, I started thinking about Batman.  I went to a small convention once where I stumbled upon Yvonne Craig who was selling autographed photos of herself as Batgirl from the 1960's series.  She was a wonderful and lovely lady, and my framed picture sits on my book shelf ("Best Bat-wishes, Dave!").  I decided that, since I had Batgirl, I should have Batman, shouldn't I?  So, I tracked down Adam West and ordered an autographed photo from him.

The photo became the reference for my creation for the RED show.  I call it "Batphone RED".

I like how it turned out.

The image is not of a gonzo Batman, but one that is somber and reflective..even though the color scheme does have that "mod" sort of sensibility.  It feels moody and intimate, and I can almost imagine that blinking, red Batphone sitting on a table in front of him.

Although it wasn't intentional, the piece also reminds me of the wonderful portraits by one of my favorite Monster artists, Basil Gogos...which isn't a bad thing at all.

So, there you have effort to give this version of our caped crusader a little justice.

I'll see you all next time...
...same BAT time...
...same BAT channel!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Artist: Failing Accidentally vs. Failing Intentionally

Hello all!

This is a strange post.  Typically, I post artwork that I have done, or post thoughts on art that have been blubbering around my head.  Seriously.  They blubber sometimes.

Today, it is both.

In the small town where I live, there "has always been" (ie. that I can remember) at a local car dealership, a vintage, 1950/60's neon sign dedicated to the Oldsmobile Rocket.

Now, for those of you too lazy to take time to Google "Oldsmobile Rocket" before reading the rest of this article, The Oldsmobile Rocket V8 engine was an 8-cylinder motor that had some modifications from the traditionally produced engine design that delivered more power.  It really was part of the birth of the "muscle cars" that we think about in the 50's, and like all things 50's, had a cool, space-age name "The Rocket V8"!

So, imagine me as a boy, if you will.  Other than time spent in a small, elementary school, I spent most of my time in pastoral trees, tractors and happy cows.

Then, on a ride into town for come ice cream at the local Dairy Queen, I see something like this:
(only the sign I saw was mounted on a taller pole)
Pretty space-age, right?  That thing looks like it was ready to launch at the moon....or the Commies.  You know.  Now at night, the thing is completely different....lit up in pulsing light, shining like a pink, neon star.

And it's still there.

So, stupid me, who never learns from other people's mistakes thought "Hey, I'll bet getting a photo of that rocket sign at night would make a really cool watercolor!"  Idiot.  But what the heck, right? 
So, I go down with my camera and tripod and snap a few shots of that neon beauty.  I work it up in watercolor, and after a few days of work, come up with this:
(Click to view it large)'s ok.  I actually thought I was done at this point.  I knew the background wasn't dark enough to really pop the neon light like it should, but I enjoyed the blue color and the texture of the otherwise blank, night sky.  I was just going to leave it alone and move on.
And I would have Failed Accidentally.
What I mean, is that there comes a time when an artist needs to know when to leave a piece alone to keep from ruining it....before he pushes the thing beyond the hope of salvation.....but there's also the danger of stopping BEFORE going far enough.

Tricky, isn't it?  I mean, how far is far enough?

Well, this piece nagged me.  I wasn't happy with the outcome.  Sure, I liked PARTS of it, but on the whole it wasn't doing much.  In short, it was failing.
So, what to do when a piece is failing?  Well, the great thing is, since it is ALREADY failing...what's the harm in pushing it?

So, that's what I did.
(Again, bigger is better, so click!)
I slammed the background into black.  Well, it's not ENTIRELY black...there's plenty of subtle colors and textures back there...but it's definitely dark.  I also pushed some of the darks in the sign itself to bring out the angles and to fade the top into the sky.

Maybe I destroyed the thing, but I think it focuses the eye on the bright, electric lights of the piece instead of bouncing around the background.  There is less motion, perhaps, but it has that icy stillness like that frozen moment before a rocket makes its jump for the stars.

So, it may still be a fail, but at least it is a fail because I did TOO MUCH and not because I lacked the guts to DO ENOUGH.  
My advice to you is to be gutsy.  If you screw it up, you can always do more art.

More later,