Ritual, and The Midas Touch

Working ahead often feels like falling behind. The first stage is thinking—thinking as an active pursuit, as a game of memory and links and embarrassing self-awareness. I hate to be inside my own head for too long: I quickly start to feel like I'm just recycling obsessions, doodling in circles. It's a relief to go blank, and I often need a book for this. An article won't do. I need a nice little object with a faint smell that is both like and unlike all other books.

The True Deceiver by Tove Janssen, popular Finnish creator of Moomin, which I admit I've never picked up, was a recently successful one. Each time I opened it I was absorbed, and calm, no matter whose elbow was perched against my ribs on a packed train. I even went back to Dave Sim this past week. I know, I know, everyone hates his perceived misogyny. Whatever that means in reference to someone who speaks primarily through an anthropomorphic aardvark, I am greatly enjoying Going Home this week, one of Sim's weighty "telephone books." I'm really reveling in the mastery of the pacing of each page and the reward of each finicky facial expression. May I have one more? Oman Ra by Viktor Pelevin. It's strange and personal and perfectly sized for my hour of daily, dystopian commuting.

After my head is less full of myself and more full of something else—something newly dear or revisited and feeling new or jarring enough that I've locked onto it as a temporary fixation—I draw again, looking at earlier thumbnails for reference but eventually forgetting to reference them at all. And I start actually enjoying myself. And something happens, something new, in my own head. I break out of the old loop. It may last all afternoon, or for a couple of days.

I don't know how playwright August Schulenburg works, but I'd love to. His writing overflows with every sacred human emotion and the wonder of trying to sort out their tendency to overlap and bind together like grafting organs. August, co-founder of Flux Theatre Ensemble and an energetic blogger on themes of theatre, community, and personal obsession is a contributor to issue four of Carrier Pigeon: Illustrated Fiction and Fine Art (warning: there's sound on the site upon loading, due to an introductory video), and I've read something of his that you haven't. Yet. The monologue "The Midas Touch," along with five corresponding illustrations of mine, will be available as part of a grand tome to be released in summer of 2011. Peeks from "The Midas Touch":

"Our jobs are to imagine lives as heroic arcs, and what you do every day becomes you, right, so it's natural that our delusions of grandeur would be grander than everyone else's."

". . . he looked more than just beautiful, he looked just . . . like I had rendered the judgment of God on him and it was really good."

August is one of those people who was born to write in a way that is obvious to the reader no matter what the example or current enjoyment level of that example. Maybe you've experienced this with Michael Chabon or Paul Auster or Brian Evenson, who is due for an update soon thanks to Astrophil Press. Don't judge by the sentences I posted from the monologue! I was more concerned with not giving anything away than with making a point, in those instances. Just trust me. 

I'm thankful for the brief moments when I can go outside of my head and into theirs. It's like being given the gift of reincarnation without any catches.


Dog Act

I've just submitted a finished illustration to represent Liz Duffy Adams' play Dog Act, tickets for which are on sale here. The brilliant Flux Theatre Ensemble is taking on the challenge of bringing an inventive story to life on the New York stage, and I can't wait to see it in person on opening night.

This image, which will be made available at first as a promotional postcard, is the first in a three-part series representing Flux's full season. Each postcard will fit together seamlessly. Read part of the collective thought process behind the imagery here.

Walking backwards through the rewarding, collaborative process:

Final image with .125" bleed. Click to see larger version.
Before submitting the final image I took a day off and then revisited it with my eyes open to how color leads the eye. I also responded to the group concern that, for the sake of the integrity of the larger season image, the action of this first stage should be pushed farther back (I had previously utilized a harsher crop but had given myself wiggle room in anticipation of just such a conversation.) I recommend clicking the image to see the larger version.

As soon as I started experimenting with application of color I submitted a jpeg of progress to the group, hoping to set minds at ease. Whether that was a totally successful move I don't know, but here we are today, hopefully happy at large with our final product.
The final drawing was pencilled, inked and scanned on a rainy Sunday that was memorable for the number of people bustling around my apartment/studio space, as there was—no lie—a film shoot happening at the same time. As I drew I watched the crew express collective emotions of curiosity/nervousness, skepticism, preparatory feelings of resentment aimed at the uncooperative weather, sleepiness, and, finally, an acceptance of having generally enjoyed themselves. 
After my first meeting with members of Flux Theatre Ensemble I sketched this image. I had read the play, but there were aesthetic concerns outside of the play since the image will be integrated into a larger whole, and we discussed the larger themes tying all three plays together. 

There are unending benefits to a collaborative plan of action. After the Dog Act image was well on its way I had the chance to see the press photos taken by Flux core member Isaiah Tenenbaum, and I feel, happily, that the aesthetic worlds are as similar as could be. I expect the world presented by the play itself to continue validating Flux's commitment to open dialogue.

Coming soon: illustrations for Ajax in Iraq by Ellen McLaughlin and Menders by Erin Browne, whose play Trying is featured in 2010's New York Theater Review. 

Incidentally, Flux Theatre Ensemble core member August Schulenberg, who is directing Ajax in Iraq, is also featured in 2010's New York Theater Review, for his play The Lesser Seductions of History, which was directed by core member Heather Cohn and the introduction for which was written by core member Kelly O'Donnell. I think 2011 will be their year.