Sep 202015

Artists, and creators in general, can be a strange breed. Notwithstanding all of the devious and unusual things we come up with, especially as a horror creator, our actions often seem unusual to the general public.

For example, I spent a good amount of yesterday looking for a new pencil.

sketchset_dec12-4Now, for most people, a pencil is a pencil. In fact, I have dozens of pencils, all of which have their particular values. I have what I would call a crapload of Prismacolor Turquoise pencils, from 6B all the way to 4H (there may even be a 6H in there somewhere). I have quite a lot of General/Kimberly HB pencils (not my favorite), and quite a few generic, yellow HB pencils. I have several mechanical pencils, from Koh-I-Noor engineering pencils to ratty old single use mechanical.

My very favorite though is the Pentel mechanical that is always clipped to my Moleskine, as seen at right.

The great pencil of old

That’s the one that I use nearly every day, for a decade now. It’s heavy, it’s made of metal and not plastic, and it’s thicker than most to fit my fat paws. Its durability is unquestioned, the beating it has taken in the last decade is amazing.

It has been in pockets. It’s been shuffled around in my backpack, itself thrown around like a kid’s ball. It’s been sat on, knocked against various furniture pieces that I’ve bumped into, and dropped several times a very long ways.

Only now has it started to slip a little when I’m drawing, and so the search for a new one begins. A new one that has to be as durable as this one is.

But it’s just a pencil, right? In many ways, of course it is.

In the strange, often unusual mind of the artist, it can also be a lot more than that. Creating art can be a difficult, terrifying process. That first line, the start of everything, can put a lot of pressure on an artist to get things moving in the right direction.

Worrying about reliability

Part of my brain, probably the psychotic side that can’t keep the million things in my head quiet for even a moment, starts thinking about how the tools I’m using might fail me. The pencil might stop working, or I’m out of ink, or the computer might die. A portion of my brain is always taunting me like that, ready at a moment’s notice for some piece of equipment to stop working.

A trusted, long-term item solves that problem. This pencil has been trustworthy for so many years, I just pick it up an go. Sure, I have to swap lead in it every so often, but I have a metric ton of graphite in my desk (and always in my backpack). That trust that my pencil is going to always work, that seemingly no manner of beating is able to stop it, gives my mind ease, and I can focus on my work without those worries.

It also stays firmly clipped to my Moleskine sketchbook. The sketchbook gets tossed on desks, bashed around in my pockets, and crushed repeatedly in my backpack. But that pencil’s clip is as strong as ever. It’s not cheap plastic, or metal that’s been inserted into cheap plastic. It doesn’t slide around on the Moleskine, or even popping off. It’s always there, just like I left it.

Any replacement pencil is going to have to perform physically just like the Pentel, and be a consistent call to action for me. If it breaks, or if I have to continually dig around for the pencil that falls off, it could kill the moment. I have enough parts of my brain trying to kill the moment as is, I don’t need help there.

What it means to me

Perhaps the biggest problem in buying new equipment, whether that’s a new computer, more ink pens, and especially the daily pencil, is that I have taken a decade of journeys with it.

That heavy blue pencil and I have been a lot of places. Literally, of course, it’s been through many states and cities. I have it with me whenever I can, and in many ways it’s seen as much as I have. Moleskines run out of pages, sketchbooks get full, but the pencil persists, ready to start a new adventure. Whether it’s sitting at a coffee shop in Santa Fe, or at lunch in Florida, even just here at home on a quiet day, it’s ready to go.

The most important thing for me is not just where it’s physically been, but where it’s taken me through my art. The blue pencil has seen monsters, beautiful women, terrifying landscapes, funny little characters, even the beginnings of stories and ideas jotted down instead of sketched. Much like the computer that I used for seven years, the pencil has seen the genesis of so many ideas.

Not just final works, either, but rough ideas that never went anywhere. Quick sketches of things best left unsaid, or even forgotten over time. Rough sketches that were so terrible I almost destroyed the pages. Stupid ideas, or even offensive things, laid down in sketchbooks that I haven’t even seen in years.

Replacing a friend

Any new equipment has to live up to the legacy of what came before it. In the case of the pencil, the old one has seen a lot. But it’s finally getting tired, finally reaching the time where I need something to start a new adventure with.

It can sound silly to those who aren’t creators, but these things are really like old friends. They make things comfortable for us, so that we can get on with the act of creating the things that you love, or that we need out of our system. It’s a writer’s old notebook, finally filled up with ideas. It’s the old headphones a photographer listens with while editing photos. It’s the old computer that a videographer has edited all of their movies on for the last few years.

For me, it’s the old blue pencil. A friend that has reached the edge of the world with me, and returned to let me tell all of the stories it has in it. A time that is ending, and a time for me to see if a new friend will carry me on the next decade of journeys yet to come.

Jan 052015
The best steak sandwich I've ever had

Twenty-five years ago, as of yesterday, I had the very best steak sandwich.

To be honest, I wasn’t hungry at the time. It was well past dinner time, past 8 o’clock at night even. There’s no real reason that a steak sandwich should have even been offered, and yet, it was the right thing to have.

Read more on The best steak sandwich I’ve ever had…

Sep 292014
Unimaginable is not a word in my vocabulary

When I was standing in line at the local coffee shop, I overheard a couple of people talking about something awful. That happens, certainly, it’s not unusual at all (I often stand in coffee shop lines). One of the women in the group, after hearing the full details of a plane crash, said, “That is just unimaginable. I could never imagine that happening to me.”

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Sep 122014
The Devil's Footprints: Creating Oddities From The Mysterious

For my entire life, from the stone ages until now, seemingly, I have been fascinated by the strange and the weird. Growing up, nearly all of the books that I read were about mysterious happenings around the world.

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Sep 092014
The texture of zombies and the dead

One thing I love about art is seeing the different interpretations that artists have. A different take on a sunset, or a new way to paint buildings, and even new ways to paint monsters. These new methods and creative views drive what I love in art. Let’s face it, especially where monsters are involved.

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Sep 082014
Weird is the new normal

I constantly look at other artists’ work, in fact I make it a part of my day to at least check out art or illustration boards on the web. There’s something I’ve noticed, and I’m not sure if it’s a trend or if it’s something that’s always been there.

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Sep 052014
Your monsters change, even when they never do

I was particularly enamored the other day with the newest trailer for the film Pacific Rim, and it made me think of something other than giant robots and giant monsters.

Originally published by Apex Book Company, April 2013

Aren’t these the same giant monsters we’ve seen for years?

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Sep 032014
Perception of the visuals: the look and feel of noir

Picture this: there’s a former cop standing in one spot, with a beautiful woman standing behind him. His gun is drawn, and he’s waiting for the bad guy to show himself so they can have a “final showdown”. It’s a tense scene, where quite a lot of bad things are about to happen.

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Sep 022014
The strangeness of trying to give something away

As it turns out, I’m an artist. An artist that has, luckily, convinced others that he can do art. Thus, I produce covers, interior illustrations, and whatever else folks need. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’m not done beating it into the ground just yet, but it can be an up and down game. One that’s filled with happiness, regret, satisfaction, depression, and quite a lot of other feelings.

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Aug 292014
Oh. You're one of “those” kinds of people.

Whether I’m creating some new piece of art, or taking a photo, even writing a story (wait, “he writes?”, you say), I have always loved creating things. I especially love to create things that have, shall we say, an unusual feel to them. I love the fantastic, the supernatural, and all of the strange things that people don’t like to admit exist.

Read more on Oh. You’re one of “those” kinds of people….