Saturday, May 31, 2014

Special Guest

He worried if the integrity of the circle would hold. It wasn't his first time casting but never had he felt so nervous. It was a beautiful evening, clear sky and little wind. The surrounding trees felt like the perfect guardians.
    He was taught to respect the boundaries of the circle, coming in and out of it only with specific gestures. The Special Guest, he noted, didn't seem to respect the bounds. They crossed where they liked and nobody corrected them.
    It took a lot for him to play along. He was naturally skeptical and deciding to participate in group ritual was something he made effort to achieve. If I am going to do this, he thought, I will do it how it's supposed to be done, how we were taught to do it. Why should others get special privileges especially when there was not even an attempt made at explanation? If the sanctity of the circle could not be upheld by the elders then why should he uphold it ? He couldn't help but question his role in all this, and the authority of those who invited the guest.
    Everyone was inside, building a mood of solemnity. Those assigned a task were at work. The others breathed deeply. The Special Guest though was muttering about something, He couldn't hear about what but it was snapping him out of whatever relaxed mode he strived for. This is not going to go well, he thought.
    Finally all the candles were lit and everyone was quiet. He felt his tension dissipate. Why do I always worry ? He thought, I have to learn to just go with the flow, not get so rattled up over time.
    The thunder clap came from nowhere and shook the trees. The leaves at the forest canopy felt the first drops of rain strike hard.

Friday, May 30, 2014


Wake up, take the child so his mother can sleep, after a while give child to mother so I can sleep. I read and fall asleep. I wake and take the child for a stroller walk so he can sleep. I get a coffee so I can wake up. After and hour or so strolling around, the kid does not sleep. I have to go to work. Uncle is waiting for us, he holds the boy while I ready the shop for opening. Mom comes home and soon takes her son. My brother and I look trough books he's getting rid of, some gems, some trash. He leaves. I tend shop.
    The day passes, nothing exciting. Some sales but no where enough to justify doing this anymore. It's pathetic. We survive on compliments and hope. I surf the net more than I need to. And by surf the net I mean back and forth between three social networks. I photoshop a couple of bunny images for my bunny blog, I have a couple of visitors, I excise some unwanted magazines destined for the give-box down the street. I look through a huge bag of donated children's clothes for the boy.
    The piles are installed in the back lot. one step closer to balcony installation. the workers cut down the only surviving honey suckle bush to do their work, the heartless bastards. We'll salvage what we can. I pay bills, I cut them a check for their labour. I have a half hour left to go.
    The lunch i ate today was a submarine sandwich and a chocolate bar. My breakfast was steamed kale and mushrooms garnished with finely chopped mint and parsley and grated carrot. Of course I had my warm cup of milk and my tablespoon of ghee.
    This life can be so much more.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hang Out

Friends coming over with beer and food. Table and chairs for those who want them. The game may be turned on as a tip of the hat to the greater world we seldom care about. Music more probable but music to talk over. Some laughs. Doors open. I'd say monthly but years go by and nothing. Hard to plan an event around doing nothing. We work, we have families. Whatever. It happens when it happens. You're invited. But don't bring anyone else along, ok ? It'll just be us.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The House

I'd take that corner out, smooth the edges. Knock the ceiling higher and clean the stairs. Rip out extra useless features and streamline that space between floor and wall. Redo the floor in hardwood, seamless. Windows open into extended patios, stairs to the roof where the deck awaits, vines growing over the whole area, making groves where tarpaper once was. Drain pipes leading right to the garden, grey water flowing back into the soil. Front door opens onto the street where friends can find us sipping tea and reading comics, can come up and join us, bringing with them juice and bagels.
    I have a room with a door and a window, the window is large and opens well, letting summer breezes rustle my papers. The door lets me in and invites others out when I need to work, otherwise sit on the daybed and chat with me while I sort through some details. My room has a desk in it, grande with cubby holes and pigeon holes and drawers for my things. One walls is lined with bookcases filled with my precious volumes, my tattered research materials and my collage piles. Another wall keeps my jars and collections. Filing cabinets keep my papers, my mock-ups and my manuscripts. I think I'll get a small table here so we can sit together and collaborate. Clients can visit and we can discuss projects.
    There is an altar in this room spilling with the objects that inspire me, it's near the window and gets dusting often enough.
    The kitchen leads into the garden of course, herbs abounding and vegetables a step away. There is a brook nearby leading to the lake. She goes swimming every morning.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Still no new art supplies. The to-do list shortens slowly nowadays. Each task gets waylaid by the matters at hand. Today I managed to buy a pair of shorts to wear in the house this summer. All my other shorts seem to have been given away in some fit of spring cleaning last year. We also managed to visit an art gallery and sit with a friend while there. The main task was getting the kid to the clinic to see what the spots were about. Seeing spots appear on the body of your kid is not pleasant. He wasn't too whiney so we knew it wasn't serious but still. One wants smooth babies not blotchy ones with fevers.
    We found ourselves too hungry to make the right lunch choice. We chose crappy pad thai from Thai Express, a chain whose photography far outshines the slop served up on paper plates. We made it home without getting too wet from the rain, the child napping in the stroller. As my lady went home and tried to rest I spun around the neighbourhood with my little man, keeping him aslumber while I poked around the give box and the mini book trading box. A few interesting scores for the store. Nothing I'd keep around for too long.
    It's tuesday night. Tomorrow I'll be in the shop dealing with the tetris of new display cabinets. Hopefully our girl friday can show up and give me a hand and some moral support. I'm anxious to redesign a portion of the shop but will have to wait for some art to come down before a certain corner is tackled.
    Yesterday my folks left for Greece. They'll be gone all summer.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tone Poem

It may have been late last night or early this morning when a forgotten phrase re-entered my thoughts. Tone poem is a musical term, I'm not sure if I knew that. I'm shamefully unschooled in proper classical music and its tendencies. A tone poem, I just found out, refers to some piece of music that takes as it's inspiration a poem or a painting, something that once was considered unsuitable to write music around.
    Since my interest in the term came with an ignorance of its meaning, I was free to consider what it may mean to me and my creative process. What a privilege! Instantly I saw an extended mood or tone being explored -in comics, for example. Panel leading to panel, all working out a sense of something rather than a plot. This is done constantly in comics and I have indulged in it as well. It came to me, I will accept, as a reminder to reconsider this approach to making comics.
    Shifting sequential images do not necessarily have to show action. Abstract comics have strung together tableaus of line or form evoking movement or change without showing much else. That's an extreme example. Good ol' regular story telling comics can use multiple landscape scenes or a roving camera eye over details to paint a picture, set a mood, etc.
    I am relishing the idea of slow comics, panels morphing slowly, action taking a back seat. Of course, what one is showcasing better stand up to a plodding movement. Would it work ? Is it gimmicky or wanky ? Maybe tomorrow I'll finally go buy my paper and supplies and start preparing myself for actual work and not whimsical considerations.

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Write a word, a phrase. Followed by another and another. I'm not convinced. All I want to do is read. Summer windows wide open, stacks of books beside the couch, in my lap, cool water and fruit in a bowl. Reading theory and history and folklore, science fiction and fact, fantasy and myth, Gorging on it, drowsing as if with too little beer. Luxuriating as if no one will call, for hours, for days.
    Roll me over, call me for supper, pour me a drink again and again, I have notes to take, breaks maybe for coffee and dreamy walks.
    Let the words flow into my sleep, let me start with a nod and try again to polish off the chapter before I lay the text, splayed open, on my chest.
    My yearning pulls me here, to this desire. So simple that if indeed I had days to squander, I'd be a fool and seek diversion elsewhere, forgetting this one true love and seeking distraction in some shiny, moving thing.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Alchemy Of The Shoebox

My purging gets followed by new acquisitions. I have a bit of buyer's remorse for one over-large item. On the plus side I also have been given a whole whack of new items, some keepers, some pass-alongers. Easy come, easy go.
    Matter proliferates.
    New things are exciting and beautiful. Garage sale season is upon us. I am confronted daily with my desires and my failings. It is my job to accumulate and sell items but I must also be wary. Matter multiplies faster than it dissolves away into money.
    This week I have reduced some vital collections greatly. These gestures are instrumental for me, they signify gaining control over a compunction to collect thoughtlessly, to value things reactively, as if simply because I've collected something there is an inherent value there. Wrong.
The value must be revisited. I must check in with myself and see why it is that I'm keeping something. Maybe what once was precious is now weighty and crude. Maybe what once was a drop in the bucket is the star of the show. And so on.
    I will continue to refine, to boil away, to distill until all I am left with is gold.
    First with my stuff, so that I'll have a clue what to do with my soul.

Friday, May 23, 2014

These Three Words

An article I read  a few weeks ago put a small bug in my ear. The piece described the need to move away from the ironic stance that has swept not only poplar culture but contemporary art these last several years. The author made a case for meaning, hope and mystery. These elements have gotten a bad rap by certain arbiters of taste, coming off as sentimental.
    I have jotted down these three words and have reminded myself how much my interests relate to them. Separately, I've never been too strong on any one of these words. together, though, they are better.
    I invite one and all to meditate upon these three and see how they can be further inserted into the life.
    That Reiki workshop sure is taking it's toll on me.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moving Matter

The consistent monotony of retail is not something to build a journal around. The days leak banality. I forget what happens or what happens isn't too noteworthy. I refused antique cigarette prints. The picker saw them on the internet for 900 dollars each. how does one negotiate starting there ? one doesn't. I don't think that guy will come back. My regular picker brought me a load of antique photos, a persons entire life saved from the trash. Some beauties in there. I bought a flat file that is way too big for my space. Where will it go ? What will be dismissed to accommodate it ? It led me to redesign one corner of the shop that I now think works better but that still leaves the file out. I'll find a corner, I'll fill it with prints. When and how i don't yet know. I continued going through my large collection of posters and flyers. I reduced the collection by more than fifty percent. I donated the rest to a local archive intent on documenting independent culture. I al so relieved. My perspective has shifted. I don't care much anymore about clogging my life with other peoples achievements. I'll keep what I like or what I can sell, the rest gets passed on.
    That was today. Like most every other day. A slow shifting of material, around, sometimes in, sometimes out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Time For Reduction

The days sneak right by me, whistling and side-eyed so I don't notice. They be all nonchalant and before I know anything I'm yawning with hardly any time left but a list still full. Write some shit down, draw a damned cartoon bunny, heat up some almond milk and stir in some ghee, meditate for forty fucking minutes with hands of light over my eyes, my temples, the back of my head, my throat, my heart, my solar plexus, below my navel, at my groin, on my knees, my ankles, the soles of my feet. Breathe in, breathe out slowly, six times a minute. Counting the whole time, nodding off, entering some dream place, left it too long, tired.
    It's quarter to ten in the pm. Nine is the new midnight. Every half hour past that is a whole hour in this new reality. I haven't stopped since six am. No, lies, I had a nap from 8 to 9:30 this morning. I found a book, an anthology of diarists. I read some of it, book leaning on the stroller, in the shade of a big tree on L'Esplanade. Stroller rocked back and forth as kid slept. I'm getting the hang of this. The tiredness is setting in deep. The first few months were nothing. It's starting in for earnest now. My lady has never slept and I'm slowly catching up to her. There is no question, you boy up and get dressed and find the wipes and do the changing. Walk the baby to sleep, rock him, stroll him, shush him. Hours and my voice is strong, my rhythm near perfect.
    The days fly by. To slow them I sort through paper, I rip into my archives, collections of garbage i've held onto for years for no other reason than compulsion. No more. Piece by piece, sorting through the piles, separating gold from dross. Reducing it down. A fine sauce. The rest ? Pass it onto better hoarders, committed ones who see value where now I see weight. Get it out of my house, these stacks of paper, these bits of someone else's press kit. See you later.
    Thankfully I have a friend who can help me, who can watch and suggest and support me as I reduce my keepings by eighty percent. The days go fast. The nights are fleeting. My dreams forgotten. But when I finally rest, I'll know I'm no longer surrounded by bullshit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Needing Distance

The weather has gone from cold to warm. The windows are left open now. The noise from the street comes in and makes itself known to us. It doesn't want us to forget about it. It is so nostalgic that way. I wish, I hope, that one day the noise from the street can just grow up and live life without us. That it can stop worrying about getting our attention and move on. There must be other ears for it, ears welcoming, maybe even ears deaf.
    The noise from the street comes in many voices, tones and moods. It so often isn't satisfied to murmur or lull. It too often insists on sudden claps, attempts to get our notice.
    Maybe it's us ? Maybe we should just ignore those advances. But it's hard. This is a long and complex relationship.
    Maybe we all have to move on.
    It'll be a while before it gets cold again and the windows close.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tune Up

Last night I practiced the relaxation technique I learned this past weekend. In combination with deep breathing and particular postures, I came out of my forty minute reverie feeling like a million bucks.
    I hope to add this to my daily routine as a slow lead in to physical activity and spiritual practise. It is well situated between both.
    For many years I have hoped to learn techniques that would enable me to harness the energy I've glimpsed stirring in the palms of my hands. I am committed now to finish at least three weeks of daily meditative practise. I am unconcerned if the lengths of my daily text pieces decrease. I am unconcerned if my daily drawing habit skips a beat. I will still upload a text and a drawing daily knowing that my health takes precedent over these other concerns.
    I have proved to myself that writing is beneficial and that I am able to maintain some sort of discipline. Much clarity has ensued.
    The bunnies come and go with quality and I am ok with that.
    The meditation has been needing to start for far longer than I care to admit to myself.
    I am curious to see how it will affect the rest of my life.
    Stay tuned as I tune myself up for a future full of present days.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Slow Walking Thanks

To walk streets slowly is a gift. Every step intentional, every sidewalk crack another line in a vast sprawling poem that each new walk reveals another stanza of. The houses, the homes, the buildings themselves creak with character. The hockey stick garden posts, the porch furniture sagging, the paint jobs and the rusting banisters, bicycles teamed up like herds, chained to each other. The chalk drawings on walls and in alleys, on sidewalks are all blessings. The children are safe and they can scribble, they can add to and better the ill thought out sprayings of their elders. They can write games, inviting slow walkers to take note, reminding fast walkers to slow down. Where are you rushing off to ? Yoga ? Coffee ? Don't rush to where you can slow down. Slow down all the way there.
    The trees are waking up. The blossoms cascade over lawns. There are book boxes, sharing spaces, places that reaffirm our humanity. There are so many things to give thanks for every step on the long way roundabout  towards home. Gratitude comes with breathe, with slow and careful steps. Thank you.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

That's Right

It's not that late at all. I'm more tired than yesterday. I came home after an energy healing workshop and found I had to attend to things instead of lying back and absorbing what I experienced. That mean that this text is meaningless to me right now. I put down my two lines, kept the ball rolling however slowly and will pick it up again tomorrow. Adios.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Good Night

It's late. I'm tired. I was at a workshop on energetic healing. My homework was to not go mental, do nothing strenuous, go home and absorb what unfolded during the evening. So I will.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Trying to write about art with zero references around you is kind of a dumb way to do things. There are so many nuances lost that even memory of beloved pictures falls short and fails. The scholar, I'm sure, has all the right pages marked clearly with post-its, all the right references lined up in a row.
    Huddle and limp, just tell the world you love something, tell the people there is an idea somewhere in your head.
    The things I love in no particular order: King Kong, the original 1933 film, the first Star Wars movies - they're called something else now but fuck that, The Lord Of The Rings books (the movies make me seethe and or kind of entertain me). How, I cannot imagine, can a director decide to make a 12 hour long movie mostly consisting of ring in hand shots, decide to completely remove the arguably most important part of the trilogy - the scouring of the Shire ? Anyway….I love crappy superhero comics of the seventies but not enough to care who is who in regards to artists, letterers, writers. I love paranormal shit, never got into ghost stories too deep but it's not too late. I love fantasy and science fiction, I love the shape of reported ufos, I love monster sightings but not enough to call myself an expert. The internet clearly shows that there are experts for every niche, and many to boot. I'm a luke warm Fortean.
    I love black and white logos, symbols and charms, type and noise, stamps and seals. I love mystery tongues and wizards, robots and villains, heroes and queens. Horses, tigers, dogs and elves. I love plant life and rock life. I love planes and gods, people and things. I'll keep Britannica open to my favourite page, the one I can rip out and scribble on. I love lost and found paper, old books and puzzling lists. I love the shape of lips and legs, clouds and bricks. I love poetry and songs, paintings and objects.
    I forget what I like, I lose lists like I make them. I love fantasy art. I love words. I love stories and myths, fables and tales, lies and jokes, pranks and hoaxes.
    I read and I forget details. I give the books away, I've forgotten which ones I've read. I don't keep score. I keep score. I'm no scholar, I'm a scholar without an index as of yet. Or a bibliography.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fantasy Art

As a mid teen I tripped out on the paintings of Boris Vallejo who signed his slick fantasy paintings simply Boris. Any budding fan soon discovered that he and his wife served as models for the paintings, both being what is called in our society, attractive types. Boris himself was athletic and was a few leather and rivet gauntlets away from being a fantasy hero himself.
    The paintings were direct, glossy and tightly rendered. He would play with the usual colour fields as backgrounds and the occasional paisley shaped abstraction acting as body jewellery for his savage warriors queens.
    I knew, of course, of the work of Frank Frazetta, but somehow clicked onto Boris. In hindsight, a hindsight that is now over twenty years old, it is evident that if Boris is for mid-teens, Frazetta is for sophisticated people twice or three times that age. Boris is Menudo to Frazetta's Rolling Stones. Other lame analogies may fit as well, we'll leave them for someone else to pen.
    Frazetta's fantasy paintings, reproduced as prints, book and album covers, lovingly airbrushed on vans and motorcycle gas tanks, are art. Solid, complex, deftly executed pieces of art. He can be as tight as he needs be, but his classic paintings seems thrown chaotically onto the board, almost hastily. Quick dabs of paint, rough almost blurry forms and edges give his work energy and life. They move, they shimmer. The colours are moody and dank, swampy tones for primeval heroics. Boris, on the other hand, is candy clean and well lit. His work got more well lit, more staged as the years went by. I recall getting disappointed in his continued direction. The fantasy painter most akin to Boris at the time was Rowena, her clean line and light of day approach followed directly from Boris. By highlighting his style, Rowena showed me what I missed by siding with Boris while not immersing myself in Frazetta. He work was too staged, his heroics were in the photo room. Frazetta's heroics clearly clashed axes in his own psyche. This stuff was real. It was threatening to a fourteen year old. It was FM rock radio late at night, high on drugs.
    I write all this because yesterday the deaths of two great fantasy artists were announced. From the shadow came H.R.Giger, discussed briefly in the previous post. From the faerie realm of baroque phantasmagoria came Patrick Woodroffe. Both these greats and their passing reminded me of my early love for fantasy art, how as a teenager their books enthralled me though I often couldn't afford them. Giger had a cheap edition by Taschen but Woodroffe always eluded me. I looked at his work and marvelled but I never took it home with me. I took home Boris. A few months ago I lucked out on two books by Frazetta, the classic editions I never picked up as a kid.
    The other books that I fear I'll start collecting are the Paper Tiger oversized paperbacks, Roger Dean et al. This house published both Woodroffe and Boris !
    But the main artists who totally captivated my attention from the age of fourteen or so until my late teens were the inimitable Brothers Hildebrandt. From their spot on depictions of Middle Earth to their impossibly pretentious name to their feather in cap coupe of a Star Wars poster, they made me stop and look. I outgrew them though and now poring over their pages, I stop at the early Tolkein work. Urshurak and beyond just left me cold.
    Fantasy art. One of my dear strong early loves. I'll come around some day and try my hand like I did back then.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Shadow Visions

Visionary art is a label that has been bandied about these last few years and tends to get stuck to folks painting psychedelic blow-outs, ayahuasca visions, elaborate symbolic cosmographies and the like. Most of these visions are light-driven. The artist has ostensibly seen through the veils separating this world from the greater unseen one and has come back to report on their discovery via affordably priced giclée prints on canvas or sometimes lenticular blinkety-blinkies. Alex Grey, of course, is the name most often associated with this movement.
    Digital artists too using high resolution fractal software also create moving visions, allowing the viewer to tunnel into other-worldy realms. These visionary artworks so far discussed reach for a realm many yearn for, a realm of the light, angelic superstructures, shamanic bestiaries and cosmic unification porn. They are also undoubtedly related to the large and still growing body of fantasy art, from the paperback cover, the comic book, the airbrushed van to the album cover, the scratch built kit, fan art and beyond.
    Fantasy art has always embraced the mystical vision, the world beyond ours. It has also always shown us something other than the light of good vibes. There is a flip side to these visions. There are artists, rarely called visionary but are undeniably so, that choose to paint the shadow side of the cosmic dream. Nightmares, visceral architecture of body parts, spinal landscapes, creatures horrific and vast, the bad trip.
    H.P. Lovecraft sowed many seeds of unspeakable cosmic horror and set the stage for artists to bask in shadow. Heavy Metal album art often showcased the fantastical, Death Metal album art went to town, playing in the guts.
    Recently the world lost a visionary artist of great caliber. H.R. Giger played out nightmares of bio-mechanics on every scale. Vast cathedrals of terror or isolated bodies bound by bone and cable. His visions fused the body and the machine, not some quaint steam era machine but the living machinery of alien wizardry. Part fetish wank painting, part study of much-used operative function, part landscape, all nightmare. Beautiful, lush, infinite, original nightmare. Bravo maestro, you saw and you executed your visions perfectly, true visions that resonate strongly with many viewers. You will be missed.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Starting Right Now

Do I have the time to show up at the office and churn out a short paragraph about my thoughts and feelings ? Do I have the time to moisturize my face after working outside with sun beating down and pallets of earth moved across alleyways? Do I have the time to worry about Antarctica and the ice sheets and the people and Hydro Quebec and radical skepticism and ill informed rationalism and people who think way too much ? Do I have the time to consider and reconsider and reconsider still my contribution to what seems like a confused and collapsing civilization? Do I have the time to make a comic book and dream of a career in the arts instead of selling everything I have and moving to a small cabin in the countryside?

    Ask me what I would do if I had five years to live and I wouldn't answer 'what I'm doing now' so why am I doing what I'm doing now instead of what I'd do if I had only five years to live ?
    Tell me about it. Tell me about my choices and my decisions and my set backs and cop outs and excuses and fears and paralysis and devil you know. Devil you know will strangle every last breath out of you, five years or no. And by you I mean me.

    Here we are accumulating garbage for the big parade. Accumulating garbage to tuck into the loose corners of our coffins. And coffins ! What an extravagance. We'd be so lucky to get a nice lacquered wooden box to rot in. Some folks never get the option. They sink into the field where they are struck down, maybe thrown into the ravine with the others.

    Sure, go back to school to get a masters degree, join the post docs in line for food and clean water. Wait for the corporate overlords to have their ghost of Christmas past moment, wait for Dick Cheney to shudder at his reflection and take it all back, take it all back, restore the droned children to life, restore the forest to it's majesty, restore the women to their humanity.

    Let's work a tad harder, let's do a little spring cleaning all year round, let's whip it out and get it on, let's high five until the sun rises, let's sort the recycling, reuse the reusables, take out the trash, forgive our shitty neighbours, rejoice with our cousins and see where that takes us.

    This is a moment of missives, this is the time for all times, we've made so many children, let's scrub the sidewalks for them so we don't have to pick glass shards out of their kneecaps. Let's turn off the power so they can breathe. Let's stop with the filth so they can eat some decent food and make their teenage parties something not tinged with ragged desperation born of hopelessness.

    We'll turn around in circles until we straighten out this mess. We'll pull the plug and wear extra sweaters in the winter. We'll collect family members to live with us. We'll turn this boat around, I swear, and plant gardens in every cop car.

    Starting now, starting right exactly now.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Me, Myself & I

Little bearded heads, simply drawn, speaking text, unpanelled, 6 or more to a page, narrating action that isn't seen, memoir, opinion. Subtle differences in the shape of the face and expression of the features moves the reader's eye along. The text is without balloon, loose next to the drawing, short bursts. The shape of the face can change radically, the head can reference these changes in the text, formalist experiments that are easy to read. The head can refer to other cartoons, other characters can burst in and talk back to the head. Other characters can blaze a trail ahead of the bearded head and tell other tales.
    Two bunny creatures, names withheld for the time being speak in snippets and solo words, rife with inside jokes and wry nods to each other. They engage in a half telepathic dialogue, finishing each other's sentences, riffing and making word plays. They are simple contour drawings, text spoken by each critter directly above. They form sentences rather than panels, sometimes they are living in discrete spaces, two heads a panel, four panels a page, maybe more.
    A finely rendered little ceremonial magician embarks on a quest. Detailed pencil work, replete with smudging and erasing as graphic tools, four panels to a page, each panel originally drawn at four by six inches. The world this character lives in is a small town, plenty of greenery, parks and old brick walls. His home has many rooms, hard wood floors and ritual objects. Furniture is zen hippie. Unlike the other two proposals above,
he has two books to his credit, one full length graphic novel the other a collection of shorts.
    Do I here 'stop inventing', ie: instead of launching into unknown territory, I make my next graphic novel using characters and a cartoon universe that already exists in print, reinforcing the brand, as you'd say. The temptation to somehow weave all proposals into one work sounds good in theory (maybe) but may also be a disaster in reality. Better the straightforward production, low on razzle dazzle and high in storytelling.
    I apologize for using this forum to outline and clarify my intentions regarding graphic novel projects. It is useful for me to do so. This is a journal of sorts, and I'm writing simply to maintain the habit and by chance, maybe hone my skills. This next big project in comics is much on my mind and I need to clarify my many conflicting thoughts about it. Scribbled notes aren't cutting it anymore, I have many of those. This process of writing about what I may do puts my thoughts in order, one after the other. I'm banking that at night, while I sleep, the proper decision will surface.

My first full length graphic novel was published by a house unfamiliar with the form and unfamiliar with how to sell it. Granted, it was a silent book and possibly quite oblique for people who don't make a point of reading comics. The book that followed it employed the same character and was a small run of three hundred copies. It was a collection of shorts that possibly didn't have enough breathing room between them and so came off crowded and possibly confusing. My very first comic book which came out years earlier than both of the ones mentioned above was a collection of radically different strips that may have made a groovy wtf reading experience but also didn't give the reader enough of any one thing.
    This upcoming and so far hypothetical fourth book cannot be doomed to obliquity. It would be good if it was easily read, simply enjoyed and provoked wonder enough to be reread. I am forced to admit that by over planning I get anxious and that if I simply trust the process and begin the final work straight away, a decent enough story will emerge. My one recurring issue is that I am starting to think that text in the body of the book may enable a wider audience. I am not convinced that silent books by my hand are not dismissed as too difficult to read or to 'get'. In my experience, many folks don't 'get' my work whereas the very few really 'get' it. For what's it's worth, I'd like more getting to happen.
    I have a possible publisher lined up and I'd like to provide something that they will feel confident is a book they can reasonably sell. Anything too inaccessible I may as well publish myself in a tiny run rather than blow a chance at wider distribution with something that doesn't sell or is limited to a small audience. At the same time of course, I am incapable of making a teen soap drama.
    Thanks to anyone who actually read this over long and fully naval gazing post. I am becoming overly self conscious about how often the word 'I' pops up in these missives.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Church Day

Church is an odd thing. I don't buy a male creator god whose model of creation is mostly ladies making babies. I don't buy the dogma, the creed and all that. Not a bit. Always drawn more to the esoteric schools than the exoteric. I'd be happy to see the Vatican catch up, give away it's gold and start becoming a force for good in this world. I'd also be happy to have most Christians become environmentalists and start seriously protecting this garden of ours. Not going to happen ? Maybe.
    Today I was in church because my partner and I decided to get our 7 month old son baptized. Small affair, a few family members and friends. Baby took the ritual like a champ. I'm not a Christian, neither is my partner. I think I did this for the photographs, for the nostalgia of photographs. I don't need a ritual to remove sin from my spotless baby boy. I love ritual though. I love the incense and the iconography of the Greek Orthodox church. And I love a good post ritual feast with family and friends.
    I'm going to take the kid to church once in a while, let him suss it out. There are good things there. It's not all evil and backwards.
    That's it for today. Church isn't all bad. And it was the godparent we chose for our baby that had to renounce Satan, not us.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Art Advice

Three pieces of art advice that I have gotten over the years stick with me, surface from time to time. The most recent one, received at an artist residency around seven years ago from a visiting curator has proved pivotal to my practice since then. The first two, received from my brother maybe ten or fifteen years earlier helped me get through the intervening years.
    He looked at a drawing I was working on and simply said, 'use more black'. I repeated this to a friend or two for a laugh and they carried the wisdom around, inserting it into any remotely relevant conversation. I indeed started using more black and I found the advice fruitful. Too much space left untouched can leave a drawing free floating. Fear of blocking in white space with ink can stop a young artist from just going for it - fill that page, thicken those lines, shade like you mean it, like you don't care if something goes overboard, you can always make another one. The advice of course pertained to a specific drawing. The advice became abstracted and took on other finer meanings. It meant, roughly, work it. Or finish it, or make it more of itself. Another piece advice that my brother gave me has been told elsewhere, was issued when I was down after not getting a mainstream job drawing editorial cartoons. It was a 'use more black' tailored just for me. Brother John said, 'Bill', he calls me Bill not Billy, 'you can freak out better than most people can freak out, so … freak out'. I've been freaking out better since.
    The result of freaking out led me to continue feverishly a program of rampant experimentation begun in early adolescence. This then led to the third piece of advice, given to me by someone who hardly knew me personally and only knew the art that I made during the seven week residency. He told me, simply, 'stop inventing'. This threw me for a loop as I have always prided myself on what I perceived as versatility. The curator showed me the flip side to that. He was suggesting that instead of constantly churning out new ideas I may want to hunker down and refine a select direction. This would lead to a better grasp on my overarching themes and a honing of my skills. I don't think I've stopped inventing but I certainly keep the advice in mind. I often find myself spinning a whole new look instead of refining one that has served me well in the past. Since that day I have made a conscious effort to understand my various tendencies, to group traits and relate them in a cohesive manner.
    I have continued to invent but have become much more proficient at contextualizing, refining and understanding the art that I make.
    Thanks guys.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Local Cult

The people outside are wearing hockey jerseys in support of their team. This team, it can be argued, is also my team except I don't really follow their antics too closely. I have friends who do, who jump out of their seats at prime moments during a game, or match I think it may be called. These friends are good people so I don't begrudge them this simple pleasure. I can't say I don't care about sports because I can easily be coaxed into watching a bit and I'll get into it. It's easy to get into. It has to be. The only part, I suppose, that I may never understand is how one can continue to be excited by the win hours into the night if one isn't drunk.
    As a kid I was into it, I suppose, because I was a kid and mythology loomed large in our minds. Great players, newspaper photos, hockey cards, us and them, older siblings and fathers who were into it. All this made one lockstep into gear and follow along. Some of my little friends knew way more than the occasional name like I did. They knew scores and who was playing who and when. Divisions, play-offs, player numbers, the whole bit. I'd limp to their confident parkour.
    I had a jersey of my own. I still have it, rigid and tiny. Quality stuff. It used to mean something. Now, post bitter irony mass culture hate on, I've mellowed a bit and understand the role these things play. I won't have it but I'll dip in once in a while, a tourist in my own town.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I was born in 1968 making someone born in 1972 a mere child. This of distance has somewhat diminished since I've accrued decades. As a kid one year apart makes a huge difference. My brother was born in 1967 which is altogether a cucumber year as opposed to a tomato year like 1968. These distinctions are crucial until all of a sudden they aren' anymore.
    Being born in the late sixties gives one, if they manage to survive, an early to mid seventies childhood. One understands iconographic images like blunt tipped stars trailing rainbows, pinball machine graphics and bubble windows on chevy vans. One is torn between disco and rock until one isn't. One is iron-oned, bell bottomed, bowl cutted. One has a 1980s adolescence. The eighties took me from twelve years of age to twenty two so any subsequent eighties revival made me cry foul for it's revisionism. This also made me wince at the nostalgia for the mid seventies that also came about. I still wince seeing certain trends return from the grave at revolving door speed.
    I too am guilty. I adored the 'sixties'. I idealized LSD research and crash pads, underground commix and sitars. I also read up enough about it all to be cynical, knowing Death Of Hippie preceded The Summer Of Love, Altamont followed Woodstock and Speed Kills. I also knew that the patchouli and dreadlocked didgeridoo hippies of the 1980s were way off base and nothing I could relate to. As I aged I gravitated towards the early seventies for my music. As I grew my hair and experimented with my mind, man, my friends were getting into punk rock. I'd tag along and also loved that scene to a point. As an amateur rock historian it was my duty to find the roots of things and dug those early raucous sounds that of course i missed out as a five year old. My personal aesthetic was long haired t-shirt patched and ripped jeans suede or corduroy jacket and a bit of a sneer to my smile. I'm not  hippie and I don't love you was my line, though I may have passed pretty well.
     In the eighties I was up on what my very up friends were digging. I was sick of U2 by grade eight, way before you got sick of them. The local scene was revealed by the end of high school and with it forms of music I recognized as part surf and part garage and part just plain weirdo. It was a revelation of course. My eighties were Bauhaus not Joy Division, Smiths or The Cure. They just made more sense to me. They fit in better with Jon and Vangelis.
    Right now when I'm browsing books I can spot a 1972 poetry chapbook from  four feet away. I now the typefaces and the design. I collect them if they don't suck.
    I have friends that were born in the seventies, eighties, nineties. They are all just as mature as me. They teach me about all the art and culture I've missed out on while I was on my own path. Music from the twenties. Painting from the fifties. Time behaves funny as one ages. It wiggles and changes places. It isn't a steady stream, it's a many armed river and it flows backwards and stays still.
    I stopped wearing baseball hats when I was ten.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Moving Into Sleep

I love nodding off while reading. The words blur and the dreaming self continues the sentence in ways unexpected. I've snapped to and seen that the last words I read were nowhere on the page.
    Falling asleep on the bus is a pleasure I haven't had in years, since I was a daily long distance commuter. I'd bring a book, hike my knees up against the back of the seat ahead open my book and eventually nod off.
    Again, on road trips, the car getting silent as the driver focuses, the shotgun co-pilot drifts off and I, in the back seat, bob my head, never quite making it, half trying to stay awake for the nebulous benefit of the driver.
    In my father's arms, a mere child, mostly asleep as he takes me from the bed full of coats where we were crashed out to the car, after a family party. Pure pleasure, easier than making the walk on my own.
    Staying awake, bordering on sleep, as baby wakes up again and again.
    Doctor's waiting room, Chatelaine in hand, eyes closed. Almost but not quite.
    On the acupuncturist's table, breathing deep, twenty needles in me treating heat in the body. The doctor leaves me for twenty minutes or more, I drift into dream.
    Getting back to bed, tired from a day of hardly sleeping and working hard. As soon as I hit the pillow and pull the blankets over me, teasing tastes of last night's dreams rush back. They've been waiting for me, soaked in the bedding, dreams woven through the thread count.
    Right now, asleep at the keys, tapping notions, eyelids drooping heavy. Needing a book jammed under my chin, splayed open on my chest, the best pillow. Read a paragraph, something about something and I'm off.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fear Of Threshold

Did I have enough fun while I was single and childless ? Did I misspend my youth adequately ? Did I party in a way that my 90 year old self will look back and crack a contented smile ? No, across the board, no.
    Sure, I had fun, I partied, I had a gas at times. Most often though I sat in a room with friends who held guitars and passed reefers or passed reefers and watched bad movies or funny movies or good movies, but movies all the same. At the time, that's what was done, that's how the friends gathered. Looking back, what a waste of getting wasted. What a load of boring non-events I sought out night after night. I should have gone dancing when I said I didn't feel like it. I should have made a pass at her, him, them when I had the chance. I should have said, yes, I'll visit you in Vermont, yes, I'll eat those mushrooms, yes, I'll meet your friend, yes, I'll go camping.
    Too often it was sorry, I don't feel like it. In reality I was nervous, anxious, afraid. Afraid of novelty. Fear of threshold, I called it. I'm afraid of stepping over that invisible line and into a new world. Once I'm in the new world though, big deal ! Oh this ? Why was I afraid of this ? This is nothing.
    It wasn't the new world I was afraid of, it was stepping into it that sounded my alarms. Why is this ? Why should novelty be such a terrifying thing ? Devil you know will bore you to tears. I was often so bored and it's true what they say, it's because I was boring. I still may be boring but I think I'm actually a little less so nowadays. We'll see how this plays out.
    I was bored, I sat and scribbled while my friends sang songs together. I was too nervous to sing along. I wasn't good at it, so I drew to the beat. I was a visual artist insisting on hanging out with this bunch of musical people. I could have been sitting around a table and laughing and drawing with other drawers but they weren't the ones who were my friends. It's complicated. Yes, there is regret.
    I can't get into all the shoulds right now because I'd run out of pixels and life is too short to boot, but I should have had more courage. I should have got up and left. I should have sought out another scene. I should have stayed home and I should have gone out. I should also cut myself some slack, now I know about that whole youth is wasted on the young thing, 20/20 hindsight and all that. At the time, all I was doing was hanging out with my friends. I didn't think that I was actually making decisions or that I had options or choices or any of that. I was hanging out with my friends. Passively. Repeatedly. Boringly.
    Man, get out there and try out people. Go to parties, meet strangers, buy your own drugs, sing out loud even if the whole world knows you suck because by doing so you won't. It's not to late for me, near forty-six and father to a baby boy. I'm learning new things and trying things out, slowly maybe but surely. And I don't want this kid to be too afraid of this old world of ours. I won't push it but I hope he falls farther from the tree than I did.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Before Work

I've always had a problem with what can be called branding. I like a lot of different things and have had a hard time corralling all those things into the same personality, or more accurately, into the marketing of that same personality. My artistic tendencies are varied, I'm at peace with all my takes and all my interests but the art world, it is said, needs things cut and dried.
    So I like making little books and I also like making larger ones. I have also been driven to understand the necessity for solid narrative. My complaint would be that I have a desire to incorporate all my interests in one and the same art project. How do I make a book that relies upon narrative yet also incorporates a myriad different styles and techniques ? There is the rub.
    This artificial problem only exist in the planning phase of any larger project. Once the work gets under way, things fall into place and what the story demand, the story gets. In the planning phase a veritable buffet of options buffets me about - there must be an abstract sequence, there must be some text, there must be full classic cartoon style for a few pages, there must be collage, there must be free form, there must be must be's. The list goes on and I stand paralysed, in front of reams of cheap paper scratched with half-starts, notes, sketches, thumbnails.
    This happens each time and signals the fact that I have to really start working on the project. I dream big, fold outs and cut aways. I want every facet to be fully represented. This is an ego game. I'm proud of myself. I like that I explore divergent tendencies in the visual arts. I want props for this. I want to make work that is unassailable. What I want is meaningless of course if the work never gets off the ground because I dream too big to accommodate a daily work routine.
    I see a pilgrim, moving through landscapes, shifting landscapes. I see interactions with creatures and magic. I see language games and psychological puzzles. I see formal structures deteriorate into shambles of noise and abstraction. I see abstraction build itself up into cohesive meaning. I see redemption through a willingness to engage with mystery. I see all these things and I feel like snapping my pencils.
    The only way any of these visions, this one overarching vision, will be manifested is if I get the good paper for the final copy, sharpen my pencils, treat myself to some new smudge stick or eraser, consolidate my notes into one pile and just dive in by drawing a panel. One random panel, probably of my character walking. Another panel will follow it and soon enough the notes will be forgotten and I will be on my way.
    I forget each time that I must trust my process. My process, roughly put, is devised between anxious planning and straight forward work. The work itself always, and I mean always, shows me the way. It shows me how to incorporate my love for gibberish or chakras, for lost details and shifting t-shirts. Before I know it, when I'm actually working, all my loves and all my desires make a cameo or even get featured outright. I'm in the storm before the calm, when ideas are whizzing about threatening to take themselves elsewhere, to some other artist who will honour them. I have to trust that they will come around when needed, that i simply have to get my paper cut to the size I need and start drawing a little character about to embark on a massive journey.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


My first attempt at prose fiction was a couple of pages of fantasy lit, something about a young person moving through the market place. He had a name that I made up and everything. It didn't last. I was rerouted into poetry and lyrics for a number of years.
    What I could call my second attempt revolved around a character loosely based on me. It was to be fantasy lit as well but with all the tropes of psychedelic subcultural urbanism thrown in. He may have made it into ten pages tops, but in my mind he was way bigger than that. He was my Hero. Young, curious, adventurous. That's about it, he wasn't fleshed out. No family to speak of, no origin story, just a boy in a context. The context was mostly empty urban spaces, loading docks and parking lots. I've discussed my fetish for those places in another entry here.
    Two young male characters, fleeting but satellited by feelings and associations.
    Since those guys, I developed a recurring character for my drawn narrative fiction. He's a little kid and maybe not really a he. He has a boy name, he has 'boy' in his name but I'm still not sure. Maybe just a little kid, gender aside for the moment. Now, I've been writing about myself, some memories, some attitudes and opinions and I'm not what one would call a young man anymore. I'm not an old man either. I'm in the middle, I'm middle-aged. I find that I think I've already exhausted my memories, at least the ones I'm comfortable writing publicly about. I've already decided to leave my sex life out of it, to spare the guilty and innocent alike. I've decided to not get into any hairy details about my family life. This writing exercise is more about practise and daily discipline than about airing dirty laundry, mine or not.
    It stands that I've made some small false starts with fiction, here in the context of this blog. I write a line or two, notice I am struggling and there is no ring of truth about it and hit delete. One reason is that I'm starting cold, I don't yet have some hero percolating in my brain. The two characters first mentioned lived inside me before they ever emerged. The next guy will probably take a page out of everyone's book, aborted teen fiction and graphic novel. I don't make up steady characters. I just dwell on attitudes and fragmentary moments. The next step may be to consciously build up a character or two, actually draft out somebody's life.
    The next graphic novel I'm considering may feature 'me', some floating bearded head going on and on about words and identity. But that aside, if I were to seriously try my hand at straight up fantasy fiction, I'd have to venture a bit further than my own front door. At least, I think I'd have to.
    This place is becoming my launch pad and scribble sheet. I am ordering my thoughts as they occur to me and doing so in public - meaning, in a place someone may stumble upon them, unlike in my indecipherable notes and stacks of paper.
    So here I find myself, a myriad of potential projects poking me with their will to live. The strongest ones involve drawing, either 'billy heads' or 'bunnies' without he text being mostly strings of absurdist bumper stickers, in-jokes that are clear to me and maybe inaccessible to someone else. Narrative tends to occur my accident and I'm wondering if that just won't work anymore. Maybe it's time to actually plan some sort of actual story, fill it in with action and characters and see how they improvise.
    It's daunting because it seems like work. I tell myself to just begin inside my head with scenarios but it's not happening, I don't make it happen. I may have to start writing things down somewhere else, secretly, and hope something gels together. I may have to start drawing panel after panel of graphic narrative and see what comes of it. These things make me worried and get me excited at the same time, but mostly worried.
    My fantasy is to pull off a solid young adult fantasy novel, like the kind I enjoyed reading, the kind I still enjoy reading. I just don't know if I have to cross the street to write it or if it's already written and I have to exhume it. And if I have to exhume it, which I feel is most likely, first I have to find where it's buried, and that may take some dirty work.
    I hope you'll follow me along for this ride. I cannot guarantee that the pieces to follow here will not be fiction.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Keep Going

Don't walk into the lion's den. Look straight ahead and avoid the bars, make a beeline for the bus stop. Go home. Do not get tempted by the lights, the thought of one last drink. It will only unravel you, it will send you down, you'll probably vomit, get into a fight, make a scene.
    It will bring danger.
    Danger seeps out from every night spot. Don't turn your head right or left unless you're crossing the street. Wait for the light. Breathe deeply. Cross like a lawful citizen. Hold it together. No snacks, no drinks, do not respond to the threatening teenagers or the calling ladies. Go straight home.
    Do not ask anybody for a cigarette. Do not respond if someone asks you for a light. It's ok to be a jerk just this once. Get going.
    Ignore everybody around you. The only thing on your radar should be cop cars. Don't walk too fast or too slow. Keep breathing, you're almost there. Almost free from this horrible place. This Saturday night hell downtown.
    Don't walk into the lion's den. There be dragons. No eye-contact tonight. One foot in front of the other. To the bus stop.
    On the bus you can relax your shoulders, you can sigh relief, you can slump down in your seat, you can even let yourself nod off though you'll be awake for hours to come.
    Just get home, no distractions. Keep going.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


This could be a short one, I'm tired and I've had maybe four beers which in this post baby world makes me feel like I've pulled a lost weekend bender.
    We hosted an art show today and went to an interview regarding co-operative housing. Did some shopping and the kid hardly slept. These things add up into a maelstrom of activity that wipes you out whatever your intention.
    We have help from friends great and near. We have support with kind words and deeds. We are surrounded by blessings in the form of these friends. They come and they pitch in and they ask for little in return if anything. The fellow who lives in the pirate ship next door, he shuffles and cough and chain smokes the cheapest cigarettes he can find. He hasn't slept in months, he's a wreck. I lent him twenty dollars today, his smoke supplier was here and he was broke. He smokes like a madman because he used to do drugs but doesn't now. This morning he tried to give me ten dollars for the few times I've lent him twoonies. He comes back later asking for twenty, he doesn't do this kind of thing, he tries to keep it all square. I gave him the twenty, says he'll come back tomorrow morning an pay me back. He just might.
    That's the day. Interview where my lady is in the hottest, getting her second language tested, is she good housing committee material. I'm in awe of her. She's using a whole new language to describe her experience. Who can do that ? Not everyone. I'm a proud man.
    The baby hasn't napped today. She's nursing him now so he'll drift off. Reading all the conflicting baby material will make you think science is bullshit. No one agrees about what to do with kids and sleep or kids and food. We have lost the thread but bad.
    Art show in our space. The friends come out and the friends of the friends. Candy is eaten and beer is drunk and here I am, keeping it short and disjointed. Just showing up to the office, I'm telling myself. It doesn't matter if what I'm churning our sucks or not, just do it.
    Outside, yahoos are screaming because hockey. Our team was leading then tied now what ? I don't care. I have to remind myself over and over again, I don't care what the sports team is doing even as I google results. I still need to know what my town is feeling tonight.
    That's my day. Not all of it, I've left out the part about coffee quick with a friend, about eating grapes and getting a sandwich with my love. The details are stacked upon each other. The baby is asleep now.