Our friends at Fathme records have commissioned Niall McClelland and I to do their next ten album covers and backs, which is alright by me, as they are always over-the-top gnarly and fun to make. Here is the back of Vankmen's new album "Carpathian Death Rights". Now, Carpathia is not a real place, although it certainly sounds real, and Ghostbusters II gave it real evil conotations. There is a mountain chain called the Carpathian Mountains that runs through Romania, Poland and the Ukraine, but these mountains are about half the height of their neighbour Alps, and are barely evil, save for their ominous cragginess. The Romanians get a bum rap for being evil, but it's only because they look like they've been wrought from the dark stone of the Earth's mantle, and because they don't smile a lot.



This is a clock, which is very badly designed by the way - it is a wall clock with a plug - but it was given to me to paint for a useless art show, and the proceeds go to charity, so both the designer of the clock and I have done a good thing. In fact, the designer of the clock sent one of these time boxes to a great many artists, thus despite his lack of oversight regarding the impractical design (which I'm sure was a result of budgetary constraints), he has done a very good thing. You can do a good thing too, by purchasing one of these clocks, or by donating your time or money to any one of the vast number of registered charity organizations that work very hard to keep people out of harm's way. Don't have a bake sale or go collecting door to door though; you'd be better off working a day and giving the money you'd earn to your favorite cause, and you wouldn't be having so much fun. Charity isn't supposed to be fun; it's supposed to be satisfying. Hard work is satisfying. Having a laugh and raising a couple bucks is nice, but it's kind of self-serving, right? Maybe not; maybe people can have fun and be charitable all at the same time. Do want you think best, but try and understand why you're doing it. I painted coloured shapes on this clock because I thought it would look pretty. That's the only reason why I painted these shapes. They are meaningless in so far as prettiness is meaningless. I'm sure you can find meaning in pretty things, but I'd be wary to dig an inch.

A Poem: Givers Circle

Givers Circle

If you’re hungry
There’s always food
Always plenty
Of bread,
And Potatoes
At the park across
From old St. Annes Church
Where the circle of givers
Give what they can
And the crowd of Takers
Take what they want
All in good grace
It’s a give and take kind of place.

If you’re looking for something
There’s plenty of something
Trinkets and blankets
And Wallets
At the that park
Just across from old St. Annes
Where the circle of givers
Meet on the weekends
And leave plenty of offers
For the rest of the week
Full of good grace
It’s a give and take kind of place.

There’s an old French woman
Baking cookies
For sweet teeth
And a farmer with a
Tophat trading Barley
For a smile,
The nationa’s flag is
Handed out on little sticks
And used for either
Silent prayer or
Firewood (kindling)

All in good grace
It’s a give and take kind of place.



Are you one of those people who doesn't read all that fast? Do you have trouble putting letters together in sequence accurately even though you know how to spell a word? Do some words allude you when you need them most? Do you have a tough time understanding specifics, but can full and well grasp the big picture? If so, then you may suffer from Dyslexia, and, according to some sympathetic professors at Yale University, you might be better off than you think. You see (according to Dr. Bennett Shaywitz), despite an acute inability to understand the written word, Dislexic people often have a creative capacity that dwarfs their (hold on I'm thinking of the word...I'm...looking...for, and it's...) apparent disability, and as a result many high-level thinkers and successful artistic and cultural innovators have been and are currently imbued with dislexic powers. Notable among the chronic mispellers of our time are John Irving (who scored a 475 on his SATS - which means he might have got his name right and successfully guessed at a few multiple choice questions), Pablo Picasso (although he hid it under the guise of the cubist approach) and Billionaire space invader Sir Richard Branson.

We value the ability to read very highly in our crusted culture. Upper crust is smart and special because it reads well. Lower crust isn't considered much good at any sort of critical thinking as it doesn't read well. Any way you slice it, it's difficult for any of us, even those of us who are dislexic and fully aware of a latent but potent mental capacity, to utter the phrase 'slow reader, smart guy' with any sort of conviction. It's doubtful that our standards for measuring intellect will renovate their testing space to allow for fair trial any time soon, and that's fine, as life is not fair, and life is not accomodating (that would negate a lot of evolutionary principle, right?). Rather, life is adaptive, and there is plenty of evidence to show that dislexics'll do just fine despite their societal stigma. In fact - we should pay heed to the little knowledge of Dislexic success that we have available to us; in fact, we should be gravely concerned. As the propensity to learn a spoken tongue has been hard-wired into our genes, therefore allowing us to automatically aquire language traits whether we want to or not, the ability to read is not intrinsic; it is a talent that must be learned. Should a dislexic trait (as dislexia is genetic) find an increasing foothold in the rock of our higher cultures, it could potentially reduce many many of our word-processing men and women to the already teeming position of illiterate free-thinkers, and this would be disastrous. Imagine a world full of mentally-eccentric unlettered geniuses and catachrestic executive-types, and you'll begin to understand why 'slow reader, smart guy' will never find purchase in our descriptive soil of success. If we have not the guidlines to measure intellect, then how are we to compare one another to a culpable standard mean? How are we to find our place among our peers? How are we to live, knowing good and well that our neighbor bumbles through newspaper columns like a third-grader, but not being able to lable him or her as unintelligent? How indeed. I'm a slow reader, by the way.

(Apologies to any dislexics that struggled through this blog and didn't find it rewarding. Know that I struggled to write it,
though I suffer only a mild form of the condition at worst)


The Lifetime Sewing Machine by Fighting

I just got done with this old lady this morning. According to the Russian Junk collector who sold us this relic, she's a Singer peddle-op master seemster unit from before the turn of the 20th century. Everything about this machine is grand. A problem arises when you find yourself in the position of having to enhance something that is already extraordinary in its unmodified form. This sewing machine provided me with one of those problems, and I think the problem was solved by giving to the machine the things it didn't already have - colour, simple geometry and soft texture. Concentrating on symmetrical composition provided the necessary limitations from which good ideas could gel without getting out of hand, and now the Lifetime Collective has another sewing machine (Ben Tour did the first one) that fits with their brand concept and works well as an art piece. And that's a good thing.


Native Vee

I made this sublime character for the Manvils and their new run of promotional items. Indians do not actually pray like this, or at least they've yet to be illustrated praying like this - but it isn't often you witness an Indian praying to the Gods of Rock and Roll. The typical sort of gestural native prayer is performed with arms outstretched from their sides, perpendicular to the body but slightly behind them, and palms facing upward. I understand "Indian" isn't the preferred nomenclature (Goodman, 15:43) in this day-in-age, but in attempting to preserve the sensational aspects of the stereotype (and by forcing an unnatural pose onto my model) I've drawn here an Indian, not a native American. Native Americans pray to the Gods of Rock and Roll just like anyone else: Fist in the air bearing the horns of the devil.



These are photographs of some of my friends.
Their names rhyme so well I wouldn't dare change
their order. They go like so:

(From the Top):
Niall Catherine Chris Jana,
Lia Dylan Dan Roxane.

A Few Words About Collage

Collage is a medium that can create some very unique creations. It's kind of the melting pot art form. Regardless of how you came to get to the pieces you've assembled, the pieces find themselves on a new plane, as citizens of a new kind of imagery. Your pieces may have been a photograph in a magazine, or a drawing in some scientific publication; they may have been torn from their home in an unspeakably violent manner, or carefully tabbed and photocopied, their shape surgically removed from its environs by a steady hand; they may have been a scrap, discarded and readied for recycling, or they may have been an important piece of something greater, without whom the something would cease to function as a complete thing. It matters not where or whither of whence they came - they are now part of a collage, and this is the only identity they'll keep in their current context.
You might well reason, and you're right to do so, that it's not always easy for collage bits to get along. As the builder of a collage, it is your responsibility to create a balanced and cohesive habitat for your displaced bits and peices. If your intentions are true, and your goal includes the successful coexistence of even the most meager of pasted scrap materials, then there is no reason your collage should not grow and one day become a full-functioning work of art.

The "Inked Collage" Debunked

When you take a nice bunch of things and put them together and make a wonderful collage out of them, it's great. And then when you ink that collage using a pen and a light table and you're imagination to connect the muddy bits, then it's even greater! This is what I like to call an "Inked Collage", sort of a fancified name for a tracing. If you remember the character Jason Lee plays in Chasing Amy, then you might remember that he makes a big fuss about his job as an "inker" and how his skill plays a hugely integral role in the aesthetic of the comic, and it's true. However, there are less things to concentrate on when you're tracing, and you can do things much faster, and you can't call a tracing a drawing, though you can call it art. And a hundred years from now (or tomorrow for that matter) no one really gives shits and nickels as long as they like how it looks. I still don't like tracing, but it is often the most efficient way to achieve your result (and that's the bait - use it to acheive greater efficiency, not to acheive figuartive accuracy you'd not otherwise be able to achieve, and you'll swim clear of any of those Fraud anglers' hooks).


Evil Compass

This here evil compass won't point you in the right direction; in fact it is sure to get you lost and into an awful bit of trouble. I wouldn't use it for orienteering this side of the old Acheron. But it was used as cover art for a Directors DVD collection from (Ican't remember the name this morning).


Holiday Food

If you eat big meals for a week, you will get fatter. This is a phenomenal fact that the majority of us witness during the holidays, much to our chagrin. Although the traditional period for adding fodder to the larder lies in and after Christmas, my journey to Ruben's folly began on the first night of our perennial family trip to Florida, more than a week before Christmas. Here are the details of my four day expedition into exceptional fare along Interstate 75 and parts south:

The first night on the road we had a chance to eat at the Waffle house - a southern American tradition that our family never really took part in, though it's never too late to start. Unfortunately my parents have been dead-set against diner-style dining since the mid 80s (when a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast cost $1.99 and there was no reason to eat anywhere else. We made an effort to get to know our breakfast buffets somewhere in '88 or '89 but the two flavours of whipped cream at Shoney's didn't agree with carte blanche dining authority and our parents vetoed the whole lot of discount American family restaurants - Friendly's, Kelsey's and even Bob Evans), so our table was set for two. There were some special people serving us at this particular Appalachian location, people you might not find anywhere outside this perticular battered hotspot except in a hollywood movie impecably cast to rightfully depict those people, and though the cook covered my browns with cheese as opposed to smothering them in gravy, onions and mushrooms, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. My brother and I enjoyed our meal of grilled chicken (grilled to satisfaction on the griddle), eggs, browns and double pancakes, and we especially enjoyed having a cigarette afterwards, as this is a rare treat these days, primarily because I'm not an avid smoker but also because restaurants outside of Appalachia have unanimously decided against seasoning their ambiance with the sultry scent of tobacco. This Griddled spithouse could still empathize with the life-affirming conduct of the stick and filter crowd, to the point where there was no discernable smoking section throughout the diner's box (please note that on Sunday, Kentucky pays homage to our lord and savior by challenging the devout and refraining from serving alcohol. The lord rewards those locals who think ahead, those travelers who possess prescient knowledge of the policies of their destinations, and those lucky few that are addicted to vices other than the consumption of poisoned libations).

The second great meal I ate was a beautiful plate of biscuits and Hillbilly gravy along with a helping of browns covered in cheese, which I tacked on to the order cause I liked em so dern much last night. My mother insisted that putting flower and water into my system by the small shovel-full would do me no good, however I kept from her heeding call and cleaned my country fare lickity straight off its plate. The dessert for this meal was an extravagantly realistic Appalachian Rabbit doll made in modern-day China - we didn't eat her though, we bought her, as she looked uncannily typical of something someone might've pulled from yonder mountain crib a hundred or more years ago; and although she was not food, I would not have traded her for the lascivious decadence of Chocolate apricot layer cake or the sweet comfort of Georgia pecan pie.

The third great meal I ate can be experienced nightly at JL's, on the outskirts of Macon, Georgia. It consisted of an all-you-can eat Rib fest and salad bar, along with the most salubrious sweet potato and southern beans I've yet to taste. Brown sugar seemed the telling answer to bland food at this particular Rib house, and by my right foot I'd be wary to doubt the catch-all soluble properties of brown sugar ever again. I would have been plenty content with the contents on my plate minus the salad bar and as many extra ribs (I started with three whopper pork ribs that wouldn't’ve embarrassed a cow's carriage) as I cared to take to the toilet with me. But the salad bar required a visit, and my brother insisted on more ribs which I was then obliged to devour alongside him, and thus I became the fullest I'd been since our Town and Country Christmas buffet eating contest a fortnight ago. That sordid night at the Town and Country led four of our party to throw up at least some portion of their dinner, but not until everyone could make it home and find a right private place to do the deed.

The fourth large feast on the road was not as large by any means as JL's Ribs, but was still substantial (and it was held responsible for some very heavy bloating, as this meal fell only hours before another meal of stature). My aunt Gaja had put together the first of two smorgasbords (the other would be breakfast brunch the following morning) upon our arrival at her house in Gainesville, Florida. It successfully married a bowl of corn, guacamole and black bean salsa to a bowl of corn tortilla chips (the bowls were about the same size, which meant a lot of topping for every chip). Also attending was a hearty chicken noodle soup with vegetables, various spreadables for two distinct types of grained breads, and also an assortment of meats and cheeses with which we could further substantiate our slices of bread. This meal was a real sneaker, as we hadn't yet eaten that day and it was into the afternoon. As a result we filled ourselves to a comfortable brim, knowing full well tonight's fare would be served long and thick.

That night's meal, a proper European home-cooked treat (with a bit of American flare of course) was prepared by my cousin Ron and his wife Amy at their glade-green Gainesville ranch house. It consisted of barbequed pork chop served with apple sauces, Potato Latkes served with sour cream, Corn on the cob, and a house-style salad. Any home-cooked holiday meal exploits economies of scale and thus consists of more than one portion-per person-per item, and this meal was no exception. Add wine, cookies and He-brew beer (strong ale), and that's another heavy shipment of foodstuffs perched at the GI's doorstep. (A fantastic new invention came to my attention during this meal - a small pat of butter placed on a large square of bread was used to butter the corn on the cob. This pragmatic arrangement allowed for even distribution and a butter-soaked piece of bread to eat after the corn had been fully flavoured. No messy butter tray, no clumsy knife work to embarrass those of us less adept with cutlery. Simple Genius. If this method seems elementary to you, that's a real treat. To me it's something new and utterly remarkable in its efficiency).

The following morning saw us back at our Aunt's table, under the watchful eyes of a pair of hungry dogs, eating once again to our heart's content, uninhibited by our previous days' indulgences. What a big heart I've got, for despite my lack of needing more kilojoules, I ate once again like it was my solitary duty on this here Earth to put as much of what's on any given table into my very able belly. I took to the spread of scrambled eggs, sausage links, French toast with syrupy strawberries and bananas, and also tomatoes, cucumber, bread and cheese as any proud young buck should, and my reservoir was once again gilled to its upper gates.

This was the last great meal I ate on my flavourful passage from Toronto to South Florida. I refrained from mentioning the lesser victuals and snacks eaten during the trip, of which there were enough to supply me with my requisite number of daily calories. The majority of foodstuffs aforementioned went above and beyond the call of nutritive duty, and this is the reason why I am now fatter than I was before the holidays.

The photographs in this missive were taken during our real Christmas dinner, which I didn't talk about (because everyone eats a big Christmas dinner), but they fit.

NERO Magazine

Nero magazine is a free publication you can find in Italy. Niall Mclelland and I had a chance to do some illustrations for them, as well as the cover for their new issue. It's got a some sort of elegant brute design style that's very appealing. you can download the entire magazine online, here. If you can read Italian, then you're in for a treat. If not, you really don't need to spend much time browsing through the magazine, as the majority of the words are in a language you won't (and I don't) understand. Not understanding a language is a bonus perhaps if you're a cynic and are sure that, were you able to follow the content, you'd be dissapointed (this is common and more factually true than cynically biased when it comes to song lyrics. Take, for example, any foreign-language band in the history of rock and roll). Below is one of the type treatments I did for the magazine.


I'm not sure how excited you are about shapes, but I really like working with them. These shapes have yet to be used for anything constructive outside of their own construction, but I guess they serve the purpose of showing how well circles, squares and triangles can get along. Rectangles are kind of left hanging out on the cusp of these groups, but rectangles are solitary creatures, not bound by so many laws - they are the free birds in the sky of simple geometry - or the bastard children of squares and mongoloids that bare majority resemblance to their pure fathers, and take only the exaggerated length of their longer sides from the tainted blood of their less uniform progenitor. Either way, I still like rectangles.


No Mine or Thine Divine

That is the title of this piece here, which you'll see atop all this writing. The title comes from one of main themes of Thomas Hobbes' critical political theory concerning men and their poor judgment when left to fend for themselves, which generates the need for a social contract between the lot of us to agree upon doing more than just trying to kill one another.
To speak truth, men don't actually show poor judgment in a natural state, it's just that there's nothing keeping one man from brutally slaying the other for the things that he has. There is no justice in a state of nature (so says Hobbes), and so we've all got to spend the hogshead of our short time on earth defending ourselves from our neighbor’s axe. Luckily, we've got options. Hobbes' solution is for all to agree to a social contract, wherein a small portion of individual rights is given to an authority (a king) in order to receive defense against harm from your countrymen.
Hobbes thinks this king's authority must be absolute, and that it comes from the all-seeing, all-knowing grey bearded man of eternal all (God), and as a result a king is accountable to none, but should consider his moral obligations before doing anything rash. This was kind of the weak part of Hobbes’ argument (as the King is the only one left in a natural state, and there's nothing physically stopping the old robe and crown from grabbing at whatever he may please, so long as it's cool with God; and God's not very good at saying 'no', outside of Old Testament accounts, so when the king plays the "I'm going to bathe in the blood of whomsoever I choose, and if you agree, just say nothing" game, a game we all figure out is rigged and unfair by the time we're ten years old, there's nothing keeping him from drawing a daily bloodbath and soaking his crotchety old bones in some poor farmer's right to life). But nonetheless, his basic precept was 'do no harm' and his social contract theory is a (can there be more than one cornerstone? is it always 'the' cornerstone? It seems like the most basic of structures would have at least a couple) cornerstone for modern western politic thinking.
The title 'No Mine or Thine Divine' is a reference to that state of nature I mentioned earlier; a place where no one can lay rightful claim to anything because there's no higher power imbued upon anyone. All these silly monsters have no good reason to keep away from one another's throats, and so they've become a big bundle of battling brutes. Try and spot the edges of a page where you can barely make out the date 1651 (the date of Leviathan's publication) in my drawing. It's not easy to spot. In real life the edges of the little page in my drawing glow in the dark, so it's easier to spot. The one goblin figure who's perusing the page, he's about to figure it out, so don't worry, these poor monsters won't be pulling hair for much longer.
I will be offering Gyclee prints of this image in an edition of 100 in the near future, so please write me if you're interested.

Please visit often

This is my new blog. Hello, this is my new blog. Having no idea what to write at this point in time, but knowing I will end up writing a great deal on this page (which is one of the reasons I refrained from setting up one of these blogs when it seemed fashionable to do so - there's plenty enough nonesense on the internet already, and now I'm afraid there'll be another tub of strange brew mixed into the digital punch bowl for the world wide to imbibe), so I'll keep this short. Please look at my drawing s and paintings and photographs whenever you like, and please comment if you've got your wits on hand. Thank you.