This is me… from the beginning of my senior year in high school to this morning. There are a few gaps in the series – 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998 and oddly 2002 are missing. I could probably fill those gaps with something if I looked hard, but what you see are the “official” portraits of those years. Time flies… click on the image to see a bigger version.
I pawed through some archives and managed to fill the collage out a bit more. I’ve added years 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. In addition, I’ve added the year to each image to make it a bit more viewer friendly. Some of these are not “actual” self portraits…in that, they may have been done for a strip or an illustration… but the evolution still holds.
To me, these images are more telling than photos. Sure, a photo can convey some emotion, but a photo can’t tell me about line. For example: 1999. The lines used on that portrait are pretty uniform. There is some hatching in the hair and beard but for the most part the lines are tentative. There is nothing that I was sure about in drawing that. In fact, maybe by not getting into detail, I was hiding something. What that something may have been isn’t too clear.
2000 finds me confused. Am I supposed to be doing this?
2001 makes it seem as though I was happy… if only for a brief moment. I’m not absolutely certain of when in 2001 this was drawn, but it’s a same bet to assume it was before September.
Between 2005 and 2008 and possibly into 2009 I’m trying to figure out who I was not only as a person but as an artist. Am I supposed to be a cartoonist or so I want to be a “fine artist”? This was the period where I was living in a tight rope… my marriage was starting and ending, life changed for me… grad school and a new life. New life means a new face and int he process, trying to figure out what the old face was.
By 2010, with an MFA on my wall, I had myself all figured out. Sort of.
Wonder what the next 20 will look like.
I will try and fill the gaps in this collage as I find them. 1993, 1996-1998 and 2002.
i’m listening to hootie and the blowfish right now…
i’ll pause for those of you that feel the need to expel a groan or complete an obligatory eye roll…
hootie music has traveled with me through my various incarnations since my sophomore year of undergrad… 1994…it’s been there with me as i finished my BFA, spent the summer of ’97 doing nothing but playing guitar, working two jobs and dreaming with my best friend of one day being in a band like hootie and the blowfish… hootie was there when i got a real job, ended relationships, got married, got divorced and started grad school. hootie was there when i finally realized the love of my life was sitting two desks away from me…hootie was there when i accepted that someone out there thought i was the same to her… hootie cds were among the first things i packed when i left my life… they were among the first things i put on the newly installed shelves in my new studio… the first cds i converted to mp3s when i got a new laptop…
because, no matter where i end up, i know i’ll have this music with me… to remind me of where i’ve been…and plant the seeds of wonder of where i’ll be in the future.
it’s good stuff. music and art have the amazing power of time travel. the music never changes, the perception and associations surrounding those 4 minutes does. awesome.
just thought you should know that.
i created bob the squirrel over 7 years ago. through thick and thin, good times and bad, the little tree rodent has always been there for me. i know it may sound bizarre to some… but if you spend as much time with your imaginary friends as i do, they become real. really real.
in all those years of drawing him, writing him, putting him in a thousand situations…(over 2500+ strips at this point) i never drew him with walking in mind. i mean, let’s face it… he’s a wise ass…the limited space you have in a daily strip doesn’t really give you much play as far as movement…you move the story along, try to be as artistic as you can and get to the next day. a daily strip is a grind that would make most mortals cry.
so, bob rarely moved. sure, he would climb trees, climb frank, chase, get chased but for the most part he was just there. he’s bob. he’s always there.
for my next semester in grad school, i’m animating.
i’ve never animated before in my life. ever. so nerves are exposed and the learning curve is steeper than well, it’s 90 degrees straight up. in talking with my artist-teacher last night, i was thrown a revelation: he’s not all that familiar with the bob character…i need to make him walk.
i knew that. if i’m going to animate he needs to walk. but frankly, i was avoiding it. maybe i was afraid that this character i spent so much time with would change once he moved. maybe he would move away from me… walk into the sunset as a chaplin silhouette.
corny and insane… i know. but like i said, i’ve spent more time with bob than almost anyone else in my life…
this morning, i did it. it took me four sheets of typing paper and a crapload of erasing, but i did it. i made bob walk.
it wasn’t as scary as i thought it would be. and after i got the one i wanted, i smiled. he was always living, but now he’s on his way to being alive.
i started working on my graphic novel “better man” in mid-february. i gave myself two weeks or so after my second graduate residency to get my head together and figure out which plate i want to eat off of. the original concept was to be a documentation of my family’s immigrant roots… almost a really short italian version of alex haley’s “roots” — only probably not as good, long and with pictures.
i was calling relatives to set up tentative interviews, mining the family archives (re: closets) for family photo references and even dug out a research paper my aunt did about our family from 30+ years ago. i was gathering and gathering… concentrating solely on the collection— leaving the herculean task of sorting it out for a later time… in other words, put it off for as long as you humanly can.
when i turned around to look at what i had collected, i got scared. there’s no shame in my game… i freaked out. (one of many, many freak outs over the course of the semester). there was no way i was going to do whati wanted to do with what i had in the time i had and actually make it good.
so what does one do? shut down, cry, get into the fetal position, lay on the floor of your pitch black studio and listen to tom waits by the light of your lava lamp and laptop? hell, i do that anyway. doing it because of a specific project would be redundant.
i regrouped. my mentor and now good friend ray billingsley agreed.
i wrote a 7 page, single spaced script… more of a map really. once that was done, i sketched out all the pages— almost completely filling two moleskine sketchbooks: 150+ pages.
this was in april.
i went to visit ray on april 25th to show him the completed book in sketch form. he really dug it. but he has some guarded optimism, not in my drawing or storytelling ability, but of my physical ability to actually complete the finished inked pages in the time i alloted myself. i told him that i would have all the pages done for him to see when i rolled back into town on june 27th.
that’s about 9 weeks, give or take a day. when you see it on a calendar, it LOOKS like a butt-load of time.
it’s not. it’s not even a pimple-load.
it’s not when you have a 7 day a week comic strip, a full-time job, a full-time family and life and smoe other full-time stuff that you never fill a time card out for.
if you’re a cartoonist without a titanium level work ethic you are not a cartoonist… you are a doodler.
so again, you can either shut down or get down.
i got down.
it wasn’t easy. nothing worth doing ever is. i was determined to meet my deadline, just as i have been since i decided to be a cartoonist. which meant that working on this book pissed a lot of people around me off. not in a sense of hate, but a “you need to step out and smell the roses before they die for the season” sense. i was always working –if not on the book, on bob or my research or a freelance gig here and there. it was a long, hard, physically exhausting 9 weeks. i actually had to stop for a couple days… my drawing hand was so swollen and painful it even hurt to hold a fork.
and in the time from april to june, i estimate i drank between 450-500 cans of coke zero. not proud of that… but i had to do something to stay awake… and i hate the taste of red bull so this is what i had to do… ripping the lining of my stomach to shreds in the process.
2 days before i had to see ray again, through 11 broken pen nibs, half a pint of india ink, two liquid correction pens, 12 non-photo blue pencils, two kneaded erasers and 8 pads of bristol… the book was done (except for the cover). i had done it. through everything life threw at me along the way i did it.
and i was all by myself when it happened. just as it was all along the way. the moment i erased the last mark, i was all alone in my house. no marching band played, no fireworks… just me. even the dogs were out in the backyard. just me.
we do the things we do because we’re driven to do them. while on the surface this book looks as if it’s an assignment it is. i did the book for my 2nd semester studio project. but it turned into much more than that. it made me appreciate the process. it made me CRAVE the process. the fact that a book resulted from the process is great… but it’s not everything. i hate to be cliche but it’s true…it’s not where you’re going, it’s how you get there and what you learn along the way.
so now ol’ frank is in his post-project funk… taking a few moments off before planning the next journey… the next process.
now, where did i put those tom waits mp3s?