Last night I read Eddie Campbell's Black Diamond Detective Agency, which is fairly new from First Second Books (which produces some really amazing works!). I was too overwhelmed at Comic Con this year to visit Campbell (I think my brother said he was there, but I never crossed paths with his table). So alas, I did not get a signed copy, but I'm glad to have bought a copy at all. Campbell was the first "comic" artist who inspired me to think that I could actually draw (probably From Hell was one of the first graphic novels I ever saw aside from Spiegelman that had a distinctive art style that wasn't traditional superheroes. I immediately fell in love with his inks and washes and later developed a similar affinity for his watercolors. Black Diamond Detective Agency is one of only a few full-color books of his, and I love the gritty palette he's chosen for the end of the 19th century ~ it goes well with the industrial aspects of the storyline and keeps the tone somber and noirish) like a detective book should be, right?

There's problems with the script, I think. I mean, the story is good: exploding train, missing wife, framed mystery man, even a good old-fashioned chase in a gas-saturated mine. But given another twenty pages or so, some of the more crashing scene changes and bafflingly curt dialog might have flowed more smoothly. There's also some lengthy explanations at the end: wherein the villain explains all ~ very Victorian in construction so I'll give it props for the formula, but as Campbell was working from a script by C. Gaby Mitchell and perhaps either as a difficulty of editing or a limitation of space, certain information and character development feels a wee crammed up. Or it could just be that I wanted to savor the book longer (or ghoulishly wanted more 'splosions, which is always a possibility).

Nevertheless, this is a beautiful little book and I hope we'll see more like it. I tried (perhaps in a desultory fashion given my awareness of my own personal artistic limitations), to emulate this style in at least one incarnation of Reconstruction. It didn't work out. But I'm glad to be able to admire the work here ~ even if it's something I can't reproduce, it continues to inspire.

lookingland: (angel)
( Apr. 19th, 2009 10:02 am)

Let's see ~ a list of things that might make a book delightful: under 150 pages long (check), illustrations (check), George Washington (check), snow! (check), Christmas (check), Valley Forge (check!).

With a list like this, S. Weir Mitchell's A Venture in 1777 can't help but be satisfying!

Okay, so the story isn't all that much. Young Tom Markham and his twin brothers (but mostly Tom) conspire to steal an important military secret from Colonel Grimstone and relay it to Valley Forge just after Christmas. Their house is occupied by the British and they'd like very much to get rid of their unwanted guests ~ and get their father back (he is currently a prisoner of war).

Mitchell apparently enjoyed writing "historical" fiction and has a number of books set during the American Revolution and Washington's term as President. This particular little tome, he wrote for charity with the proceeds going to the Philadelphia Church Home for Children. The book isn't terribly fancy, but it does have some nice vignettes and illustrations (spot colored in cyan). The artist, unfortunately is uncredited, but you can see what nice work was done in the image below.

I have to say it was especially nice to read this simple, uplifting little story after what's been passing lately as bedtime fare. A little Mitchell is a good tonic for the ills of research. Though there is mention of the privations at Valley Forge in this book, the story is clearly written for a young audience and so the hardship and violence is kept to a minimum. That does not mean it isn't full of adventure, however, and the capture of Grimstone, especially, is a good time. I especially like Tom's sense of "fairness" in handling these matters (oh chivalry, thou art dead). Tom as a principal character is nicely restrained and his interview with Washington is the best part of the book (totally expected, of course, but also totally satisfying).

Near as I can tell, the story is entirely fictional outside of the circumstances of the war. General Washington would appear to be the only "real-life" character. I've haven't yet read any of Mitchell's Revolutionary War novels, so I don't know whether he's predisposed to adhere to much fact. His Civil War novels are certainly grounded in fact, but the historical people who appear in them generally pop in and out of scenes rather quick (much like Washington in this one).

By the way: Two amusing things about the illustration above: Tom is fifteen (nearly sixteen). In the picture he looks more like twelve! Also, do you really think Washington wore stockings at Valley Forge? Much as I like the picture, the shoes, I had to laugh at.
lookingland: (fellas)
( Feb. 11th, 2009 07:34 am)

Tomorrow being the 200th anniversary of the man in the funny hat's birthday, I sat myself down and read something that wasn't about him getting shot (yes, it's possible to find such a book in my house, believe it or not!). This is a little book written by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews after the turn of the century called The Perfect Tribute. I believe it was originally published in 1906, but my own personal edition, a well-tanned ugly duckling, is from 1908 (and has an owner's stamp of "J. Lewis Riggles" which amuses me).

The story is not badly written, but is bad in general. It's a fictional account of Lincoln's day at Gettysburg and how insecure he feels about his pithy little speech and how no one applauds and therefore it was a complete failure. Scholars have interesting things to say about why no one applauded, but I love to read the reactions from people who actually heard the speech (which is why I really love Gettysburg Remembers President Lincoln). But this isn't a review of that book, it's a review of Andrews' fictional account, so I will leave it at her interpretation for now.

The story goes from there back to Washington where Lincoln runs headlong into a young boy in a dither over his dying brother: a Confederate prisoner who needs a will so that he can leave his property to his sweetheart and she will therefore be forced to accept it (otherwise she's too prideful). Lincoln, being a lawyer, volunteers his services and they go to the prison where he draws up the business for the bravely suffering young man. In the course of their conversation, the soldier brings up the Gettysburg speech, which is in all the papers, and he talks about how astonishing it is, blah blah blah. And of course he says that not clapping was the perfect tribute because the words were so perfect and so solemn. He talks about how he'd like to shake the President's hand, he's so dern grateful. Then the fella kicks the bucket holding Lincoln's hand, never knowing it's him.

The story works, even if it is melodrama. Its apotheosic (is that a word? I doubt it) bent is only mildly disturbing and the depiction of the two southern boys as righteous, indignant, but well-meaning is a rather dull stereotype. But in 1906 I can certainly see the appeal and I enjoyed the story despite my own prejudices.

So happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln. Enjoy your celebration year!


Nucleus LiveJournal Plugin © Evgeny Lykhin

This little book is just six verses of Lydia Maria Child's Thanksgiving Poem famously known by its opening line: "Over the river and through the woods". Forget for a moment that this books combines a number of my favorite things: snow, horses, holidays, and a 19th century sensibility ~ it's just a gorgeous treatment of a classic favorite. From the faux endpapers and throughout its 26 pages, the woodblock art is vivid, brightly colored, and full of wonderful little details on the journey to Grandfather's house. All along the way are wonderful vignettes of ice fishing, logging, a farrier at work, ice sailing, and more. The borders are very simple, but vary every page, which keeps it from having a static boundary and the parchment-like background lends to its overall old-tyme feel.

I had seen this book at Barnes and Noble some time back and wanted it, but couldn't justify the cost. Last weekend, however, I found it at a bargain book closeout for a couple of dollars. Having it now, I know it's worth more than I paid for it, but I'm always glad for a bargain. This book is still is print and available from Amazon.

I've been reading a lot of children's books lately, dissatisfied (as always) with my own style of work. I'll be sharing a number of the ones I have enjoyed best in the last month or thereabouts, so you can expect to see more of these while I try to slog forward toward something like inspiration. Part of my problem at the moment is that I am feeling impatient. I want things to move a lot faster in my world (not time, accomplishment). And at the moment I've been drawing the same story for over a month ~ a story which is just a tiny drop in the whole bucket. That worries me. I'm not drawing fast enough, I'm starting to get meticulous and critical about the process, which is one of the symptoms of dying enthusiasm (or causes ~ it's hard to tell). Anyway, I stared at the computer screen all day yesterday (intermittently staring at my desk between feelings of hopelessness). Today I'm going to try to do better. Just don't know exactly how yet.


Nucleus LiveJournal Plugin © Evgeny Lykhin

lookingland: (angel)
( Oct. 22nd, 2008 07:32 am)
got a last-minute ticket to the Vatican Splendors exhibit last night. considering that at this rate i will never get to the real Vatican, this was a nice chance to see some very cool pieces, including a few that have never been exhibited before. it was especially nice to see pieces from the collection that belonged to Pope John Paul II (his pastoral staff was especially wonderful).

votive plaque from the tomb of Saint Peter

i love museums and looking at old crap (right?). i was also excited to see numerous items from the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX, who was Pope during much of the Victorian era (1846-78) and the longest reigning pope (John Paul II comes in a close second). also, there were some delicious hand-written books and wonderful bits and pieces from all over the world. all in all a good deal of feasting for the eyeballs was had.

not feeling terribly creative otherwise. i have to work on my brother's gallery now. gotta get that done.

happy wednesday all!

: D
lookingland: (ghost rider)
( Oct. 20th, 2008 08:10 am)
[ profile] smurfb1ue shared this feel-good video this morning, which prompted me to start the day with a double dose of what the internet is really good for, like where the hell is matt?

if you have never seen the above video, watch it immediately and your day will be filled with good things. and if you have seen it before, watch it again to start your week off right. it's worth many multiple viewings.

that is all!

: D

The original writer is not one who imitates nobody,
but one whom nobody can imitate.

~ Francois René de Chateaubriand
lookingland: (angel)
( Jun. 24th, 2008 08:44 am)

the picture of the day is Van Gogh's "Blooming Plum Tree", which is a copy from japanese painter Hiroshige. you can see it compared to the original here. i think it's pretty nifty. love the colors.

if other news, i am still slogging my way through projects (endlessly, it seems). in fact i must go slog even now.

that is all.

: D

p.s. oh! i nearly forgot! it might amuse some of you to read this recent chat interview about Reconstruction over at the EpiGuide: inarticulation ensues.
lookingland: (ghost rider)
( Jun. 6th, 2008 05:45 pm)
sorry about random goofiness ~ if anybody's been seeing posts come and go in a weird way from me. i've been tinkering.

please tell me i did not just spend the last couple of days rebuilding the Reconstruction website (which i destroyed by accident some months ago).

oh well, i guess i did. and now i am rebuilding the Here There Be Monsters Press site.

the good news is: it's looking pretty fab. i'll share later when there's something there to see and i've figured out what i want to put in the menu.

rainy rainy rainy here. but i have muchly enjoyed my first of all fridays off.

oh, and: it should be blackberry season all year 'round.

: D

picture of the day is a little bit of ars moriendi for you (i have death on my mind).

this is from a Book of Hours
belonging to King Rene of Anjou
circa 1475
it's update day, so of course i am posting, but look: there's more!

like, for instance, it's been a revelatory week so far. unsubtle things in the cosmos have redirected my brain in interesting ways: [ profile] bachsoprano's comments on some pages i sent have reminded me to stop trying to be a linear story-teller (my brain just doesn't work on a nicely aristotelean model), [ profile] utter_scoundrel's recent post about a sherlock holmes book reminded me of my passion for ephemera, and a conversation about cannibalism at work reminded me that i have a rather prurient interest in the grotesque (in the most faulknerian sort of ways).

i am always telling others to be fearless, but looking back at all the online variations of Reconstruction that have floated around for the last four years, i am amazed at how utterly tame they are. it's like i've been writing the disney rated-G version of my own work. pretty bizarre for a series with a pathologically violent protagonist and a central theme of sexual psychosis.

i reinvented Reconstruction as a webcomic because i was having a hard time finding a balance between illustration and narrative ~ i thought that was the problem and that making a choice one way or the other would solve it and i could move forward. but it didn't and i realize now that 1.) what i have always wanted was a hybrid ~ something narrative with storyboards, for example), and that 2.) the only time this stuff has ever worked has been in an impressionistic style (i won't say non-linear because impressionism can be linear).

so that's a lot of seemingly random potatoes flung all over the grill, but i think it's getting me somewhere, oddly enough. a plan is forming (murky, but a plan nevertheless). yes, the plan calls for much slashing and burning of "things that don't work". yes, the plan means overhaul once again. but i'm going to keep this one close and quiet for the moment. we'll all just pretend for now that it's status quo.

meanwhile, this is a detail from my favorite picture at the moment. you can see the full deal in all of its glory right here.

i know it's not an earth-shattering picture (frankly i have no idea what it is even of, actually), but i love the color palette. and look at the dog!

: D
i don't think i have plugged this webcomic, and since i follow it, i prolly ought to!

The Dreamer is a fun fantasy-time-travel thing in which a contemporary girl (Bea), sleepwalks into the past to the American Revolution. goofy as the concept is, it works. the artist lora innes draws professionally (in fact, this series is her full-time gig at the moment). it's fun stuff ~ the art has great energy, and the story is kinda a riot if you're into history, etc. it's the kind of work that makes me want to just chuck it all and wash windows for a living.


meanwhile, i'm off to work on something this morning. anything.

so much to do. so little time.

: D
lookingland: (octopus)
( May. 10th, 2008 07:50 pm)
beautiful rainy day. blackberries for lunch. rosemary chicken for dinner (life is good!)

my desk just isn't looking any better yet (but no worse, thank God). i have no idea how picky fire inspectors are, but i hate the idea of my landlord coming in here and wondering what sort of nest i am building.

i really like where i live ~ in case i haven't mentioned it. my landlord is very laid back, the downstairs neighbors are practically invisible, and though i haven't shared many interior pictures of my domicile, it is beautiful and spacious. even though i don't use the second bedroom for anything (it's empty except my dining buffet, which i don't need here), i like having it just to feel there's room to grow. my kitchen here is larger than the one in my house back in texas.

i am almost done cleaning. fell off the coffee table trying to take a picture of my couch, so you get no pictures of the rest of the house, but here's my workspace.

cleaning has made me appreciate my home here. a thing as simple as replacing a missing light bulb has made the place bright and new for me again.

now if i can just get motivated to put away the laundry and clean the floors (yuck ~ floors are the one thing i don't really care for doing).

a couple more under the cut )

thank you again to [ profile] faynudibranch, who sent me the fabulous poster of Tudor Hall. i framed it a couple of weeks ago and tomorrow i'll see about hanging it (though i am wary about falling off any more furniture).

i am going to see about clearing that other desk of mine! lots of project stuff i want to get to tonight, but the cleaning's gotta happen as well!

happy sattidy all!

: D
i had the most amazing orange ginger pork chop for dinner. it was sooooo good. i'm not kidding. this was a pork chop broiled in the ovens of nirvana by the hands of seraphim. pigs are lining up to martyr themselves just to make this pork chop, it's so good. i feel like making a "pork chop" tag just to commemorate this day and for all time.

i've always loved pork chops. but i never knew it could be this good.

[does a snoopy "sup-sup-suppertime" dance all over the house in post-pork chop ecstasy].

anyone on my flist who has a Lunds in their neighborhood should go immediately and get a pork chop of their very own. and if you don't live near Lunds, you should get in your car and begin a pilgrimmage now. they won't last!!!

no seriously, it was a really good pork chop. like, it never made it home. i ate it in the car before i'd driven five blocks from the store. it was scandalously good. i almost ate the bones.


here's another picture of Fort Snelling! cool huh? yeah, that's really why i am posting.

this guys just wishes
he had a pork chop
i have fallen tragically behind on my flist. i'll try to catch up, promise. yesterday i read my list without logging in so i missed all the flocked posts. der....

i've been reading a lot of books on what i would categorize as "American terrorism" (19th century-style, of course). finished three books this weekend (two of them rather short). dunno if any of these would be of interest to anyone on my flist, especially since i don't necessarily recommend two of them. first up:

Victims: a true story of the Civil War by Phillip Shaw Paludan ~ The problem with this book isn't that for its 130 pages it's quite the dense, lumbering behemoth (reads more like a academic dissertation than anything else). The problem is that it sets out with a thesis that it cannot seem to prove.

The narrative starts off really strong with a very good overview of the community of Shelton Laurel, but by the time it arrives at the killings, the ambiguities of guerrilla warfare have been presented in such a way as to render me undecided on what actually went down. People were killed. Probably without cause. But while I couldn't possibly condone summary executions on any level, one has to wonder at the fear and frustration (and utter incompetence) of those who ordered and carried out the killings. We see it time and time again: some small thing that sets off a chain of events more extreme than warranted. The maze of offenses and retaliations in this arena in particular are incredibly hard to untangle.

So there's a lot of new information here and that's fabulous, but the way in which it's presented left me feeling like the author meant to take a strong stance against the killings, but actually failed to make the point that this was a bona fide war crime. While I accept that the burden of guilt is on the prosecution's head to prove (and they don't prove anything beyond reasonable doubt), it's hard to judge anything in a case in which a degree of reason is entirely lacking on both sides.
A good springboard for further investigation, but between the heavy-handed and too-often discursive writing style, and the failure to effectively make its case, I was disappointed.

for a super-short overview of the "battle/massacre", you can read a quick summary here that gives a somewhat fair context for understanding the events that lead to the heinous deed. they call it a "battle", but in fairness, i think the bushwhacking feud was really too dirty on both sides to be called a battle proper. "massacre" more accurately covers it, regardless of the circumstances by which it came about.

i ain't saying it didn't happen.
i just don't think paludan proves that it
was done without provocation.
this seriously weakens his case that these
men and boys were "victims" as opposed to
obstructive patriots and/or partisans.

on a lighter note, in completely unrelated news, if you haven't read this article on a recently authenticated picture of W. A. Mozart, you oughta, because it's pretty cool. i especially love the closing:

One of Mozart's friends described him as a man "in whose personal intercourse there was absolutely no other sign of unusual power of intellect and almost no trace of intellectual culture, nor of any scholarly or other higher interests." Yet that same man was to music what Shakespeare was to theater.

How can we turn this mysterious and unsettling fact to use? What lesson can it teach us? One thing comes to mind at once: humility. You don't need a portrait of the composer of "The Marriage of Figaro" to know that next to him, nobody looks smart.
click here to check it out!.
[ profile] ironichles asked me to take pictures of the sherlock holmes display on the fourth floor of the library where i work. this was a temporary display that used to be in a different library on campus, but i guess they liked it so well, they wanted to keep it around a while. it was much nicer in its original space because it was with its actual book and art collection (a lot of really cool stuff ~ and none of which came over).

it's a hard space to photograph, so these pictures aren't great, but it shows some of the fun little details including holmes' chemistry set, drug paraphernalia, the bearskin rug, the slipper on the mantel, etc. it may be too hard to see, but the stuff on the secretary is fun: telegrams about the baker street irregulars, a photo of a peg-legged man, etc. i couldn't get a good shot of the fainting couch on which the violin is resting. i suppose i could have stood on a chair and tried to do it, but i was shy.

anyway, enjoy!

more when you click! )
lookingland: (ghost rider)
( Mar. 9th, 2008 02:30 pm)
we interrupt your otherwise restful Sunday with this moment of justification for an otherwise uncharacteristic fangirl squealing that might have been heard 'round the world.

thank you for your attention.
lookingland: (ghost rider)
( Mar. 1st, 2008 03:15 pm)
one day i will have some money and i will buy fireman toys because, c'mon, these are the coolest things ever!

from code 3 westchester collectibles: get outta town!

uncle sam wouldn't object to me spending my tax refund on toys, would he?

i don't really need to eat or clothe myself!

i am making a fireman paper doll (circa 1880s or thereabouts). you can see the preliminary undressed character under the cut. i ain't painted him yet and i am still working out of the details on his clothes (they are just sketched in at the moment). by the way, [ profile] bachsoprano, this is the character who owns the smelly horse named Dung.

show me the pixture! )
lookingland: (snow)
( Feb. 23rd, 2008 05:30 pm)
the internet is up, the internet is down. it's been goofyland here for the last few days, so i am sorry if i haven't been responding much, etc. but without internet, i've washed dishes, washed laundry, made a macaroni casserole, done a lot of reading, completed a couple more pages for Reconstruction, and watched a few movies. sometimes it's hard to remember what life without internet is like. then you realize it's probably a great deal more productive on some levels.

all that said, this guy is my latest hero. i like to believe that anyone who is truly dedicated to something will eventually "make it". i like to believe that the only thing between me and success is a willfully obstinate laziness and lack of discipline. anyway, read his story and be inspired.

: D

on the creative front: i'm working, i'm working. slowly but surely. 5 days to launch. i'm sorta excited, i guess. nervous too. too many false starts last year. feeling a wee shy.

doodling today, i made this scribble of a couple of very random young lovers wandering in the countryside on an auspicious evening for the amusement of good company over at [ profile] jwb1865.

more and more i am considering just randomly doodling the Poppet book digitally (without regard to trying to make "art" of it), and just sort of pastiche-ing it together out of quotes from 1001 sources. and making it a wee more epic in scope ~ kitchen-sinking it, in other words. i dunno. prolly just off on yet another looloo with this. so i will let it sit until a more concrete game plan comes along. a local friend has threatened to buy me a summer "outfit" and make me wear it every week if i don't finish a draft within the next few months. anyone who knows me well knows this a seriously horrific threat.

: o p
lookingland: (picasso)
( Feb. 7th, 2008 07:35 am)
spiritual matters: welcome to the year of the rat! the year of the pig (my year) is over (i wasn't especially lucky, but i guess i could have been otherwise hit by a bus). and it ended on ash wednesday, which is good for me: start fresh today. went to mass at the university, which was odd ~ first time at a "triage" mass not in an actual church. also, the fastest mass i've even witnessed (twenty minutes, tops). but father jim was a personable fellow and not the least bit slapdish and the crowd who showed up was respectful and serious. it was nice to see so many young people (moslty men!) coming to celebrate. i haven't been to confession, so i received ashes, but no Communion. i'm going to try to be prepared for confession this saturday. please pray for me, my flist friends who are thus inclined!

update on the mugshot from yesterday: my friend mooey did some research on Claude F. Hankins. she found out some further information about his case: namely, that Claude shot an older man who made nasty advances on him (yick), that he served 10 years in san quentin (not 4), and that after he got out of prison, he married, had a family, and lived to a ripe old age, dying in 1965. photographs are so evocative. the paths they take you down are filled with such pathos. i am sad for Claude because of his childhood lost, but hopeful for him that the remainder of his life was full.

fun projects for all: [ profile] gwyn_hwyfar is doing this fun book meme. i hope other people on my flist will also do it! i'll try to take pictures as well.

progress of the day: i'm off to go draw right this minute. anxious to get posting, but i want to make sure i can get over the hump of the eight-page slump (i'm on page 6 currently). i recycled old art for the last three pages, so i'm not 100% sure i like it, but i don't want to get bogged in self-criticism.

meanwhile, go check out Loyalty & Liberty from the fabulous [ profile] redcoatcat. if you dig historical dramas, this is an online wonderful graphic novel set in the late 18th century (American Revolution! lobsters! tea parties, boston-style! cats in gaiters!) with exceptional painterly artwork!

p.s. all you midwesterners suffering from too much snow: SEND IT TO MINNESOTA! : o p