Monday, January 31, 2005


Geez, I'm sure sorry... That last post was a real downer--in spite of the quirky Gibson caricature... I'll be back in my happy place tomorrow!


Since the Academy Award nominations were announced last week, there has been a wee controversy surrounding the supposed "snubbing" of Mel Gibson's film, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. I feel like adding my own humble comments to the fray given that I am both an avid film-goer and a devout Christian (although, I lean WAAAAAAAY far to the left of many of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters).

First, PASSION is undeniably an important film. Whether you share Mel's religious world view or not (I, as it happens, do not), it's hard to argue otherwise. PASSION was one of the most talked about, studied, debated and argued over films in the last decade. Religous leaders were encouraging congregants to attend this film en masse even as others, including Jewish activists, denounced it as anti-Semetic and gratuitously violent. Up to and well after its theatrical release, PASSION was a hot topic of discussion and debate.

I, myself, have mixed feelings about the film. I don't know how best to view this film--through whose eyes? As an artist and someone who appreciates good film? As a Christian?

As an artist, I think that THE PASSION is a beautifully rendered, however flawed film. Technically, the film is masterful. The beautiful cinematography by Caleb Dechanel in particular stands out. Somehow, even the most brutally violent scenes in the film retain an almost sublime beauty as John Debney's haunting score wails in the background. The performances are great--and not just for the actors adeptness in delivering lines in Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew. Jim Caveziel's performance, though buried under prosthetics and, in the last half of the film, enormous amounts of gore, is still appropriately nuanced. There are no Charlton Heston moments of oratory--nor are there saccharine moments of doe-eyed adoration. His performance is, in a word, human. The story however dwells far too long on the graphic and brutal. There is little attention given to Christ's work and ministry. I sometimes wondered how people who had no biblical understanding or background would feel watching this film. Without the context of Christ's works, his suffering is simply suffering. The audience is left to wonder what exactly it is we are gathered to watch. By the time the film reaches it's brutal crescendo, the viewers are rendered numb and with a burning desire that it just end already. The compassion and sadness that we as an audience are supposed to feel upon Christ's march to Calvary is strikingly absent--which is unfortunate since we have already invested over an hour and forty minutes in this journey. By film's end, I am more troubled than I am uplifted...

Which brings me to my take on the film as a Christian. The film is, to my best knowledge, a pretty faithful interpretation of the Gospels. Christ's final moments are, for everyone to see, terrible and beyond the pale of human suffering. I am a Protestant (United Methodist), a denomination which chooses to de-emphasize the gory truth of Christ's suffering and death and, instead, focus on the Resurrection and Christ's ultimate promise of everlasting life. Mel Gibson is a Catholic, in fact an adherent to a particularly devout branch of Catholocism which entirely embraces Christ's suffering as an essential component of religous observance. Personally, I believe that Christ's suffering and death are important, yes, but only within the context of his works and ministry--especially in his fight for social justice on behalf of the poor and the cast aside. I found little of that in this film. For me, to separate Jesus from his works and simply focus on his torture and death is to separate him from his divinity-- to separate him from the good news that his ultimate resurrection brings.

It's tough to be sure. I still don't know where I stand or what I think... I do know that there is no way I'll ever be able to sit through that film again...

I realize that I have not yet addressed the question as to whether or not the film deserves more attention from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I don't know... I don't think it's up there with MILLION DOLLAR BABY or SIDEWAYS... We'll see...

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Thanks everyone for all the comments about my Illustration Friday submission. Here is an old illustration that I think also illustrates gluttony. It was originally intended to be a poster for a Clemson University Theatre Production...

I received several inquiries as to the medium and techniques used to create the previous Gluttony Illustration. First, it's completely digital. I create most illustrations in Corel Painter these days--which is almost impossible to manage without a tablet and a stylus. First, I create a very tight sketch which I then copy onto a seperate layer. I ususally paint underneath the sketch layer with the sketch layer set to MULTIPLY so the everything but the blackline is transparent. Once the color block-in is complete I then go in and refine the image and blending and painting over the original sketch. Then it's just a process of tightening and blending and refining etc...

It really helps to have a rudimentary understanding of painting techniques and different media. Painter is pretty good at mimicking traditional media but it helps to use a little ingenuity in creating and setting different brushes etc... Anyway, I HIGHLY reccomend Corel Painter for illustrators. It's a LOT less messy than oils and there's no smell:).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Here is my latest submission for Illustration Friday. The topic was "gluttony" and this is what sprang to mind. It's also sort of in keeping with my latest series of drawings and sketches on aliens and monsters. I am culling my old sketchbook and refining images here and there and hoping to post some as I get them done. Anyway, y'all let me know what you think!

Friday, January 21, 2005


Been busy folks--but not so busy that I couldn't whip up a little alien for ya! I started this as a doodle in my sketchbook a while back while I was watching CASABLANCA on AMC. I decided to take it to full color. Let me know what you think.

I'm beginning to realize that I love creating characters--designing characters. I look in my sketchbook and amidst the sketches of our animals and other meaningless doodling are tons of characters. Still trying to figure out where to go with all of this but I'll keep you all posted!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


I've been pretty busy this week which is why I am posting art by another artist. Okay, SOME MAAAAAAD PROPS HERE to this guy. For those of you who don't know, Craig Mullins is a Hollywood concept artist. He also happens to be a master with Painter.

What amazes me about this guy is his almost preternatural ability to convey such drama and detail in just a few strokes.

As I stumble through life looking for inspiration wherever I can find it, it's nice to run across a genius like this.

Monday, January 17, 2005


I just wanted to take some time and thank all of my artsmear peeps who took the time to offer their thoughtful and, as it turns out, helpful comments on my latest creative dilemma. I don't know, we'll see what happens. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I thought I'd post this long lost painting from several years ago. It was rotting in some flatfiles next to my studio. I think I sort of hated it at the time I finished it but now that it's emerged from hiding, I think I kind of like it. Y'all let me know what you think--and thanks again for the support and comments!


Friday, January 14, 2005


Well, faithful readers, you are all going to bear witness to my grapple with this dilemma--whether I should push forward as an animator, or whether I should concentrate on honing my skills as an illustrator. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. However, I do find the process of teaching myself the craft of animation to be INCREDIBLY frustrating... All of this in spite of the fact that I have people like Ward and Jared to guide and mentor me... I am too impatient and I find myself too zeroed in on the drawing rather than the WHOLE process of animating (drawing, performing, thinking, planning).

I don't know, weighing the two together, there are several pros and cons. On the pro side, animation can be a new and exciting evolution for me as an artist and storyteller. I can call on my love of acting and theatre as well as bring a whole new "dimension" to drawing--that being time. It would be a process of breathing life into some of the more interesting characters I create. Illustration is finite in terms of performance and storytelling and this would be a great opportunity for me to break through into something different. Also, I feel like I was destined to work with the moving image in SOME capacity. In theory, it sounds like a no brainer...

However, then we have the con side. I draw well. Pretty well. Well enough to make a living. However I could ALWAYS be better. I sometimes find happy accidents sketching and drawing--things totally unexpected but delightful, that make the whole process worthwhile. I have yet to find this feeling (perhaps due to my impatience with the process) animating. Animation also seems to shine a glaring light on what my weaknesses are as an illustrator and I am at a loss as to how to address those things--as an illustrator would or as someone who is still "learning" how to animate. Another con is that animation is VERY time consuming and I make my living as an illustrator and graphic designer. In the time it takes for me to cobble together a horrible piece of animation, I could be kicking out much more interesting illustrations--getting better at the craft of illustrating.

Animation is a truly AMAZING art form. People like Ward and Jared and others who have the fortitude and patience to see it through truly have thr right stuff. It's almost like a religon with its ritual and the devout nature of the wonderful artists who bring these images to life. These mad monks of animation have my undying respect. They are indeed, a breed apart. Based on my understanding of the craft, I will make this analogy (with apologies to those in the medical field): Illustration is to animation as internist is to neurosurgeon. I don't know...

Back when I used to harbor the notion of becoming a professional actor, a wiser, older (and much more accomplished) actor once said to me, "If you can picture yourself being happy doing ANYTHING other than acting, then do that." He was a good deal older and had been working as an actor since he was in high school. He was single, nomadic--constantly moving from place to place. His car was held together with duct tape and he never had any money for beer. But he was the happiest person I knew at that time. He was a working actor.

I'm not sure what the lesson there is for me except that I feel like I could be happy being a better illustrator as opposed to a terrible animator... I don't know... I really need to think about it a bit.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I was watching ATTACK OF THE CLONES with a friend's kid yesterday and I was inspired to whip up my own sith lord. Too busy to write much but I thought I'd shar this with everyone. Basically, the costume consits of a long-sleve form fitting lycra material. The headgear is just a kind of wrap worn by the bedouins in north Africa--only, it's made of leather. The face is ghost white with black tattoos around the mouth and dark shadows in the face (under the eyes, etc...). The gauntlets are wrapped leather or other material with some stray strapping coming off. They come half-way up the arm. On the shoulders, there are matte-metal armoured plates. The pans are dark grey pantaloons with typical black riding boots or black leather puttees. The lightsaber handle is curved as a foil would be and is weilded one-handed--okay, I've already spent too much time on this. I am SUCH a geek but I CAN'T HELP IT!!!!! (Sigh)...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


This friday my documentary CHASING THE SWAMP FOX will air on South Carolina Educational Television. Check out the feature on ETV's website at This illustration is featured prominently in all the press and it's one of the illustrations I'm LEAST proud of. Anyway,...

Yesterday, my co-producer and very good friend Wavy Davey taped a radio interview for Walter Edgar's Journal. It was quite an experience for me--I've never done anything like that before. Walter Edgar is one of South Carolina's most prominent historians if not THE most prominent historian. Our interview was really just a conversation with Davey and me and after awhile I forgot that I was even taping a radio show. Apparently I was quite animated and passionate--although I was unaware until Davey told me so. After the radio show, we traveled to Orangeburg South Carolina to tape a television program for a smaall local-access show called Orangeburg Inside Out. We'll see what happens.

I'll post more stuff about my latest forays into animation later this week. I am SLAMMMMED today and will be most of the week!

Friday, January 07, 2005


Still working on some animation at the moment but I want to continue with the posts so here is another selection from the sketchbook. Hands can be a real bitch to render believably. Whenever I am creating a figure rendering, I always try to pay particular attention to the hands and feet--mainly because hands are a big area of focus in any figure rendering. They can be as expressive as any face. The masters used hands to convey a whole spectrum of emotions. Look at the delicate way that this hand, from a painting by Da Vinci, cradles the ferret(or whatever the hell this thing is). Peep these examples--also by Da Vinci. Geez... You can see how these sketches influence my sketchbook style. Why mess with what works? Anyhoo, I have a hell of a time drawing hands. At one point, I got a small sketchbook and filled the thing--front and back, with drawings of hands. Some of them are little more than gesture drawings. Others are full on renderings. Some are better than others and some I will never show anyone because of how bad they are! Hands still give me a hard time but I do feel much more confident. Now I feature hands as much as possible...

Thursday, January 06, 2005


Currently, I am working on some animation tests based on the characters I've mentioned in previous posts. Man is it hard work!! I am trying to teach myself to be an animator--learning by doing and from some great books by Richard Williams and Edweard Muybridge. I'll post some as soon as get something worth showing.

In the meantime, here is a page from my sketchbook that I doctored in photoshop. It started as a drapery study but sort of turned into a kind of character sketch. I sort of like it. Kind of reminds me of King Lear for some reason--or maybe some other sage-ish character from Shakespeare. Prospero? Who knows? Anyway, here 'tis. Lemme know what y'all think!

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Continuing from yesterday's post, here is a sketch of one of the savage dinosurs that will be chasing our hero through the dark woods on his way to school. I am spending way too much time on this but I can't help it! I dig dinosaurs and any excuse to create some cool stories where evil, twisted, mutant dinosaurs chase children... Who doesn't want to see that?

I am currently storyboarding some of this stuff. Luckily, I am between freelance gigs at the moment so I have the time to fritter away on this. It's either this or fritter away hour after hour playing video games:)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Here are a some sketches of a new character I've been cooking up for some small animated tests. I'm not really an animator, but I am really wanting to try some different stuff and animation, it seems, is a logical evolution for me.

The big idea is that this kid, call him Jimmy, is sort of getting into all kinds of scrapes on his way home from school--out-running rampaging dinosaurs and large apes, etc.... I haven't really storyboarded much of it yet but I hope to as my schedule permits. It's sort of a homage to the old Ralph Phillips cartoons which were directed by the great Chuck Jones. It will be a great opportunity to hone my skills as a storyteller as well as to create some cool characters and stories.

I have no idea what this will lead to or if I'll even ever finish any part of it. After immersing myself in the American Revolution for the past several years, I just want to do something totally different. I just feel myself being pulled in this direction at the moment. Luckily, there are a ton of communities and resources on the web for resourceful artists and budding animators. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 03, 2005


Well, the date for the big premiere is set! After three years of researching, drawing, painting, reading, traveling, speaking with historians, filming, editing, etc... CHASING THE SWAMP FOX will finally air next Friday at seven o'clock on South Carolina Public Television. Check out their press release here:

This will be the first substantive production of this type on Francis Marion (that I know of) ever. The show is an hour long and highlights Marion's partisan (or guerilla) campaign against the British during the American Revolution. He is one of the most well known, if not THE most well known historical figure in South Carolina--and yet, very little is actually known about him. Hopefully, this production will help to increase scholarship about Francis Marion and the Revolution in South Carolina.

I couldn't be more excited. Hopefully, this will lead to similar projects in 2005. We'll see. Right now, I'm just happy that this thing is finally going to air! My very good friend Wavey Davey has been a tremendous partner in this and without his hard work and advocacy at ETV this would never have come into being. Anyway, I have some cool stuff coming up in the near future--a couple of radio interviews and an appearance on a small, local access television show in Orangeburg, SC. It all sounds like a lot of fun... We'll see what happens!