Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter

(Deep, booming voice of God)

Attention Republicans: Some things have come to My attention that we need to discuss. Though I am a vengeful God who demands absolute loyalty, perhaps it wasn't such a hot idea to chase a moderate like Arlen Specter out of the party of Me. You hounded and threatened him and called him a Democrat and, guess what, he decided he may as well be a Democrat. Nice going, fellas.
You just handed this Obama character a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. I don't know if you even want to bother showing up for work for the next couple of years. That is all.


Okay, I was just told that they don't have the 60 seats yet. They still have to seat Al Franken. Maybe God jumped the gun a little on that. Let's not make a big deal out of it. And please don't make Me bring up Al Franken ever again. I can't stand that little troll. I let him coast as an unfunny SNL writer for about 20 seasons and this is how he repays Me.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Life Drawing at SVA

Leland and I went out life drawing and boozing the other night, and had a typically great, rowdy conversation on every topic we could think of. It reminded me of grade school days a million years ago, when we used to take night classes together at an arts center in Multnomah, OR. We'd spend the whole class loudly arguing about George Lucas and Frank Miller as we drew, much to the annoyance of the continuing-education ladies in the room, who were too polite to tell us two kids to pipe down or get out. How great that to this day the two of us can carry on a much more sophisticated and cultured conversation about, well, George Lucas and Frank Miller.

The two models--a man and a woman--were great, not shying away from active poses that aren't easy to hold. They worked off each other inventively and created scenes that, as Leland said, you could see stories in. Most of these drawings were done very fast; even on longer poses I tend to get bored and move around the room drawing the same pose from several different angles (still annoying people no doubt). The drawings are actually in black pencil--I thought it might be fun to scan in a few and throw some digital paint on them.

The models at SVA are usually very good in my experience. Only one session I've attended there sticks out in my memory as being unfulfilling. Years ago at a session hosted by an animation association we had a model who wasn't exactly giving it his all. Maybe he didn't understand that he was posing for a bunch of animators who wanted to see something more active than 20 variations on, "man sitting in chair staring straight ahead". In any case, people started to complain midway through the session. Rather than take the suggestions to heart and step up his game, the model chose to get defensive and surly. At which point the students became openly hostile to him.

It's always a little sad to see a performer lose the audience, but watching a nude model have a roomful of people turn on him is really a unique kind of uncomfortable. If, say, a stand-up comic eats it on stage, he at least still has the microphone and can maintain some semblence of control. This guy had exactly one piece of equipment up there with him which was quite visible, and he was clearly at a loss as to how to make use of it to turn the situation to his advantage.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

LOST: Kate

All these drawings are based on scenes from the most recent Kate-centric episode, “Whatever Happened, Happened”. Drawing Kate turned out to be a colossal pain in the butt, with many more ‘misses’ than ‘hits’. Attractive women are always a problem to draw, and trying to express Evangeline Lilly’s unique pixie quality without distorting her horrifically, proved to be a huge challenge. I’m anxious to publish the results I finally arrived at, good or bad, and move the hell on.

There’s been a lot of development in the longtime characters this season. Many of them have come to personal turning points, and it usually feels well-earned, it’s not cheap catharsis. We humans have to go to difficult places to confront the delusions we’ve spent our lives laboring under, and we have to get humbled and defeated many, many times before we start to get the message. Therefore it’s gratifying to see characters who have made the same mistakes throughout the series (and throughout their lives, via the flashback structure) actually make some progress.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how meaty the character-focused episodes have been. It was apparent that we were in for several episodes detailing how the O6 all wound up on the Ajira plane, but I wasn’t sure they’d really deliver the goods when the time came. The writers really had their work cut out for them this episode. They had to plausibly motivate Kate to leave her adopted child behind and get on the plane with the hated Jack, for no readily apparent reason. Not only did they do so, but they did it in a way that got to the heart of the character’s fundamental issues.

Kate’s fundamental flaw is emotional selfishness, and her tendency to justify selfish actions as altruistic. This episode beautifully orchestrated a series of events that led her to that crucial understanding of herself. Her love for Aaron—and consequent guilt about lying--was such that she had to stare her own weakness right in the face and be changed by it.

It seems to me that once she had to honestly face her less-than-noble motives for adopting Aaron, she might start to acknowledge her pattern of doing whatever is emotionally convenient for her. She might look back over the rest of her life and see that she’s behaved selfishly in other important moments. For starters, the act that changed her life, the killing of her stepfather. She preferred to believe that she did it for the sake of her mother, but most likely she wanted revenge for her own reasons. She also might be inclined to look at her history with Jack and Sawyer: She kept them both on the hook because it suited her, and now she has to live with having lost both.

It also seems to me that this episode throws a new light on Jack’s abandonment of Kate and Aaron, similar to the Sun/Jin episodes that made Jin’s behavior more sympathetic. Jack basically went crazy and walked out on Kate and Aaron, boo hiss. But consider the fact that Kate’s motivation for adopting Aaron was to fill the emotional void left by Sawyer. Jack had to have realized on some level that he wasn’t who Kate wanted to be with. He was Kate’s partner in raising Aaron because, once again, it was convenient for her to have him around.

Evangeline Lilly was called upon to really sell the heartbreaker of a climax to this episode, and she did. I wanted to try to do a picture from the scene with Aaron, but when it came time to watch it again I had to turn the sound off, I didn’t want to revisit the place that scene took me. It was a hell of a painful scene, requiring some serious acting, and she killed it.

Next in the barrel: Ben Linus.

Mahalo at'cha boy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

beanbots #2

(Click to embiggen.)

UPDATE: A redrawn (more "on-model") version of this strip is up over at act-i-vate:

Click image for full strip.

Monday, April 06, 2009

LOST: Sayid

The drawings in this post are from the most recent Sayid-centric episode, "He's Our You".

Sayid sure is a dashing fellow. Not to continue to dwell on the good looks of certain male cast members, but I think of Naveen Andrews as one of Saddam's enforcers in the same way I think of Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist: It's nice to imagine that people in that line of work could be so photogenic, but I kind of doubt it.

Sayid is in many ways more evolved than many of his fellow survivors. Unlike Kate, Jack, Locke and Sawyer, Sayid is perfectly capable of getting out of bed in the morning and putting on his socks without suffering a crisis of identity. Unfortunately this leads him to get sidelined a bit by the writers because he offers less dramatic potential. He's generally a can-do, helpful fellow to have around. He doesn't add complication to the plot by making ten baffling, self-sabotaging decisions before breakfast.

Sayid's identity problem revolves around one thing: the fact that this sensitive, cultured, and compassionate person happens to be a brutal thug by trade. He's understandably uncomfortable with the fact that he used to torture and kill people for a living. It's not a deeply-held neurosis, it's more like a sizeable black mark on his employment history. Or so it seemed. This episode's function, character-wise, was to show that Sayid has struggled all his life with the question of whether he's a lover or a killer.

Appropriate to this season when many of the characters are learning giant, soul-searing things about themselves, this episode gets to the heart of the question he is asking about himself: Is he a brutal thug by circumstance or by nature. Ben maintains that killing is Sayid's nature, however much he pretends to shun it. This could be Ben saying whatever's convenient to get Sayid to do what he wants. But I think that the Others are very much concerned with the acknowledgement and integration of the shadow parts of the personality.

In terms of acting, I was struck by the "war face" that Sayid wears when he's carrying out an execution. His eyes get several degrees colder as he does what he's best at, and he seems to show no remorse. I tried to capture that chilling look in these last two sketches, but I seem to have failed because everybody who looks at it thinks it looks like he's Jesus, or he's stoned, or both.

Next up: Kate. Mahalo at ya boy!

Rain Dogs on the Prowl

The baby fell asleep in the carrier, in the rain. Rather than take her home why not play hooky for an hour and let her finish what she started. The days when I could spend a Sunday walking the streets and decompressing are long gone, but a short walk with a sleeping kid can be just what the doctor ordered.

In the course of her nap we managed to work our way through Alphabet City and over to see the piles of mud from the construction on East River Park. It's funny how the world can sometimes seem to open up to you at the most mundane times. Sometimes for a few moments I can forget about things, and all the scarred bricks and dead branches can seem to jump with life. After many years in New York it's easy to take it for granted, but sometimes I can get back into that head where everything was so new and full of strange wonder, where even a gray, pissy morning on the Lower East Side was potentially a film noir masterpiece waiting to happen.

The rain stopped as we passed some former haunts on Avenue A. My daughter woke up, looked around, and buried her head in my neck.