Well hello there friends and neighbors, let me thank you all as well as the Board of Federated Distinguished Trustees at Muddy Colors for allowing me to be part of the community. I work in comics (thanks, ten-year-old me, for choosing this career) and I will get into some process blogs in the future, so that you too can learn how to become a comics superstar and pay for all of those expensive boats and and solid crystal bathtubs you’ve been saving in that bookmark folder. But today, I’d like to splash you with a quick hit of fun and bring to light some art books that I consistently reach for as sources of inspiration, as ways to reverse-engineer new art goals, and chiefly because they are wonderful examples of Humanity, Elevated. I grew up in a rural place, and my exposure to art was almost solely from comic books and animation. I thought I loved Batman and the X-Men, but what I subsequently discovered to be my true passion was drawing and the drawings themselves. Perhaps lastingly, I have seen visual art through the filter of comic book style ever since. Lines in ink and liberal use of symbolism. I would argue that the production schedule of comic book art makes work of the quality of these books almost impossible to sustain in comic interiors, but the style and flavor and juice of the comics approach are here by the truckload. These aren’t sleepers or deep cuts, necessarily, I make no claim of being a tastemaker. Nota bene, you will find it profitable for them to appear on your radar.
Ruins and Roots by Ian McQue
God, do I love this book. Is Ian the Background King? Hell yeah he is. I want to live in these places, ghosts and all. Each piece in this book can be a zen meditation, a haunted koan to be pondered. Just stare at one until your thoughts gravitate to the bottom like sediment in still water. If you could draw comics backgrounds like this, folks you haven’t heard from in years would start calling you, asking for money, because you would now be a trillionaire. Drawing roots and trees is about as fine a pleasure as I know, and this book primes that pump. I think it’s generally bad practice to noodle and scribble in drawings- that’s usually a sign you’ve got something to hide. This is not what’s happening here. Here we’re seeing pen rain sheets of notes like a Coltrane sax solo. Chum, I hear the music.
Drawers 2.0 by Claire Wendling
Before I was a professional, I had the privilege of visiting Sanford Greene’s (no relation, we were too poor for that last ‘e’) studio. We were talking about Frazetta and Sean Murphy and other ink virtuosos. “Bruh you know about this lady? She can draw anything.” He produced a Wendling book from his bounteous shelves. The natural figure work and storytelling in each image struck me so briskly I thought I had accidentally offended Will Smith. The animals, god, the animals. Master Kim Jung Ji (deservingly) gets the lion share of glory for being the Chopper Supreme of draftsmen, but Claire does the same achieves the same qualities- extremely complex subjects with no construction lines or underdrawing. I do not know anybody, past or present, that can dominate animal art to the level that Wendling does. I’ve had the joy of meeting her a couple of times at the big conventions, and the people waiting in line to meet her and buy her sketches are the who’s who of comic, animation, and concept art professionals. They know. Her talent is…unchartable. This book is very hard to find, but get it, and you will extend your life by decades. It will heal you.
Sketch by Katsuya Terada
Katsuya Terada, put simply, has been in a sustained state of Supernova status for quite some time. He’s…prolific. This book, Sketch, is a FAT collection of his weird, stream-of -consciousness pieces. Some people might think that hundreds of pages of beauties with greeble-covered helmets and dragons might fail to entertain after a while. Nope. His tendency to pile on immoderate and unrelated elements, in ink without construction lines, is nothing but awesome. Try doing it. It’s harder than dehydrated steel. This artist is a sorcerer, welding dreams to nightmares. His pen will be bringing ideas into manifestation eternities after the heat-death of our universe.