Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sketchbook Project Special Edition 2012—Cupid #sketchbookproject

Here's the next page of my Art House Co-op Sketchbook Project Special Edition. I'm still working with markers here, and it's hard when you don't have the colors you need. Cupid ended up being yellow, which I really didn't like. I went over him with a lighter colored pencil to take off the edge, but I don't know that it helped much.

The whole idea of the Sketchbook Project is to try out something new. They don't expect you to make a masterpiece, so I need to cut myself a little slack.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm looking for my sharp cutting implement right now.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Smokey Bones

My napkin @ Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, 100 Power Line Dr, Greensburg PA.

Weird is the new normal, part 2 #weirdwins

In my last post on Tuesday I gave you an idea of the weird I am now; I have toys. Lots and lots of toys. And I'm winning. Not in the Charlie Sheen kind of way, more like the Rotty kind of way.

But I wasn't always winning. I guess to be a winner you have learn to be a loser first.

Like lots of kids, I looked kind of funny, which made me terribly uncomfortable in social situations. I had a unibrow that I wasn't allowed to split until I was in seventh grade. I also wasn't allowed to shave or wear pantyhose until then either, which meant I gave up on shorts and dresses and staying over at friends' houses. I had teeth with gaps so wide I could slide my tongue between them. My skin started breaking out early, which was bad enough, but other kids actually accused me of thinking I was a big shot because I had something everybody else didn't get until they were teenagers. (Yeah. Zits.) I was flat-chested and never grew out of it. I had (and have) nine toenails. One just decided it didn't want to grow any bigger than a pinhead. Swimming in public (meaning, without shoes) just wasn't happening for me.

Adding to my self-conscious looks was my abnormal interests. I didn't like shopping with my friends. I didn't really know how. Their moms would take us to look at clothes, and I would follow them around the store without looking at anything. I would have rather been playing baseball with my uncle, which didn't go over well with the girls I knew. I played drums, I didn't want to wear makeup, and I certainly didn't like talking on the phone.

To fit in, I found myself trying to be smart and funny. Smart and funny for me combined into smart assiness and, at the time, that didn't help. As I grew older, I realized the people I considered to be my best friends all those years all considered somebody else to be their best friends. And that hurt.

So I withdrew inside my little world. I became quiet and observant and geeky. I drew pictures. That was something I could do by myself. And for years I drew what people would have expected me to draw. But then, almost overnight, I found myself ready to give up on trying to be normal. The characters I had been drawing changed from what was considered normal to characters that came straight from my innards. I decided it was time to embrace my weirdness.

It was time for The Rots.

The view in my hallway.
The Rots are twisted little characters that don't even attempt normality. They are who they are and I think they enjoy it. And I think other people out there must, too. Last check, 4,000 people out there are liking The Rots Facebook page. 4,000! After seeing The Rots for the first time on Facebook, a person I used to think of as a childhood friend asked me, "How did this happen?" as if it wasn't normal.

I never got back to her.

The first book I ever illustrated was called Yikes! Wow! Yuck! Fun Experiments for Your First Science Fair, and I probably wouldn't have gotten the job if the art director had thought I might have been normal.

I wrote and illustrated my first book, and that wouldn't have happened if I was living the 50% gray life of normality. The book is called Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol 1, and the people at the Midwest Book Review like it. So do the people at Publishers Weekly. And Kirkus Reviews. The people at Kirkus liked it so much they asked to do an interview with me.

The poster in my office space.
Forget normal. Normal is overrated. Normal is gray and boring and unflavored tofu. Normal doesn't get to have this in its office space. (Thank you much, @ParaNorman!)

Do yourself a favor and go see ParaNorman, and every time you read the name "ParaNorman" convince yourself that it actually says, "ParaNora."

Because, really, it does.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weird is the new normal, part 1 #weirdwins

I've been paying maybe a little too much attention to the release date of the new ParaNorman movie, and I think time is actually slowing down as we get closer. So to pass the time, I've been thinking about my own normalness and whether or not my normal would be acceptable in mainstream circles.

As I was writing this, I realized I had too many things to add, so I broke it up into two posts (unless I find more as I go). Part two should run Friday.

If someone were to look around where I'm sitting now, they would be hard pressed to find a space that didn't include some sort of inspirational toy. I don't know how normal it is, but it's definitely healthy. This is the view right in front of me:

Left to right (and back to front): Stain Boy; iFrank; a hand carved skull from New Orleans; ParaNorman; Ice Bat; an ugly stuffed animal that shall remain nameless; American Gothick; ParaNorman postcard (I'll show that better on Friday); Mr. Gosh, Lenore, and Pooty and Ragamuffin.

To my left sits the Danny Elfman/Tim Burton boxed set which has its own dedicated table, of course. This is the vault that gets raided when I have to read or write because I have trouble putting words in my eyes or sending them out my fingers when I have words already going in my ears. Mostly music-only, totally minor key.

Inside a TV stand that would normally (there's that "normal" thing again) hold a DVD player and DVDs: Two sets of Tragic Toys; Tim Burton playing cards; Nightmare Before Christmas figurines; and a Gashlycrumb Tinies lunchbox (a gift from my daughter; apparently she's accepted the twistedness).

Inside that same TV stand, looking from the other direction you might see the Tim Burton MoMA exhibit program; Nightmare Before Christmas Trivial Pursuit game; more Nightmare figurines, a keychain and a zipper pull (I've always wanted to attach that to a zipper, but I was afraid I would lose it, so it's still sitting in its plastic package); Lenore toys; and two more sets of Tragic Toys.

Above me hangs my Animal puppet that I've had since the '70's (O.K. There's my age.) Around that same time I wrote in and asked for an autographed photo of Animal, and they actually sent me one. I was pretty surprised when that happened. I still have it somewhere, and when I find it, I'll post it.

On the shelf below Animal sits a Jack Skellington which was handmade for me by my daughter (I'm not sure the effect I've had on her normality) and a face sculpture you're supposed to put in your garden. I'm not really sure how it works, but I liked his face sticking up from my shelf so he never made it outside.

You know that scene in E.T. where Elliot brings E.T. into his bedroom and starts showing him all his toys? That's me with somebody new. These are a few of my favorite things, and you're my somebody new. On Friday I'll show you more and maybe even a little of how I think I got this way.