Memorial Day doodling

Image

I had intended to spend most of my Memorial Day weekend working on my new novel. I did make a lot of progress on it … but I also spent huge chunks of time watching Vsauce, a YouTube channel devoted to geek culture. (One of the videos is featured in my previous post, the one about children growing up in outer space.) When I watch one Vsauce video, I usually end up watching four or five or six. It’s like eating candy out of a bag, one piece after another. Even though I enjoyed watching all of them, a little voice deep in my head kept whispering to me, telling me I should be doing something more productive with my time. This little voice plagues me whenever I watching anything on YouTube, preventing me from fully enjoying the experience.

Earlier this evening, after I put the finishing touches on Chapter 3, I drew a picture of Jake Roper, one of the Vsauce guys. This is the latest drawing in my Moleskine sketchbook. I also attempted to draw Michael Stevens several times, but he always ended up looking like Steve Jobs or James Lipton. Oh well.

Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

As usual, you can click here to download a copy of my science fiction novel, Under the Electric Sun.

Advertisements

Floating in a most peculiar way

My friend Jill London sent me a YouTube video this afternoon of a dog floating inside a plane in zero gravity. The dog clumsily drifted around and bumped into the back of someone’s head before disappearing behind a seat. It was brief but hilarious. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I watched it.

A minute ago, after I watched the floating dog for the nine-hundred-and-fifty-third time, a suggestion for another “zero gravity” video popped up inside the YouTube window: “What If You Were Born in Space?” I clicked it on a whim — and I’m glad I did. This is fascinating stuff. (And kind of sad. And kind of horrific.)

This post wouldn’t be complete without a quick blurb for my science fiction novel, Under the Electric Sun. You can click here to download a copy to your Kindle, laptop, or iPhone. (You may need to download the app first.)

Hannah

Hannah Johnson, 2004

I haven’t posted any drawings lately, so I decided I would share this one with you. This is an old colored pencil drawing of my friend Hannah. I did it back in 2004, when I was in my early 20’s. I worked as a sportswriter for the local newspaper at the time and she was on the high school soccer team. I also talked to her at the barber shop I always went to, which is how I got to know her. She was kind enough to let me draw her. This is one of two pictures I did. The other is a close-up of her face. I absolutely detest it, so I’m not going to display it here.

Actually, I’m not totally crazy about this one either … but, at the same time, I do like it. Ten years ago, I wasn’t trying to draw people (or anything, for that matter) in a truly realistic way. I wanted everything to look “hyper real.” I loved making the colors as smooth as possible — and, as a result, the people in my drawings looked almost like plastic dolls. For some reason, I like her smooth, shiny, polished look. It reminds me of a magazine ad from the 80’s.

I haven’t seen this drawing (or the other one, the bad one I was telling you about a moment ago) since I gave them to Hannah in 2004. A few weeks ago, she scanned them, posted them on Facebook, and tagged me in them. I was flattered … and horrified.

Seeing my old artwork is like seeing a photo of myself from high school. There’s a flutter of nostalgia as well as a painful sting of embarrassment. I see several things in this picture that I would do differently now. Oh well. There are also several things I like about it too.

I haven’t blogged as much lately because I’m busy working on a new novel. I’ll tell you more about it later, as it takes shape. If I don’t comment on your blog as frequently as I did before, please don’t take it as an insult. I’m just directing my creative energy toward the book right now, rather than WordPress. I’ll get back with you.

Spicy Cajun Crawtators

Image

Thirteen years ago, I worked at a potato chip bag factory in Rome, Georgia. I worked two or three nights a week, for twelve hours a night. Looking back on it, the job wasn’t really that bad — but at the time, I thought I was in Purgatory.

Most of my memories of the job have faded away, but I do remember making bags for a brand called Zapp’s. The bags had a distinctive look about them. I remember the shiny vertical stripes and the funky way the letter “Z” was scrawled. Zapp’s offered a peculiar array of flavors. The two that still stand out in my mind are “Gator Tators” and “Spicy Cajun Crawtators.” I was so intrigued that I went to Kroger and bought a few bags. They were delicious. Back then, kettle-cooked chips were rare.

A couple of years later, in 2003, I dated a girl named Ashleigh. One day, I was telling her about my experience at the potato chip bag factory and I mentioned the Spicy Cajun Crawtators to her. She laughed and rolled her eyes. She thought I was making it up.

I said, “No! I’m being completely serious! There really is a potato chip called a ‘Spicy Cajun Crawtator.’ It’s a crawdad-flavored chip! I’ll prove it to you! I’ll go to the grocery store and get some!”

But I couldn’t find any when I went to Kroger. They had disappeared from the shelves. It was as if the Zapp’s brand had never existed. I looked like a liar.

This afternoon, I was roaming around in Ingle’s. I don’t normally set foot in there, but I wanted to see what it would be like to buy fresh groceries and prepare food at home, rather than living on a steady diet of fast food and vending machine trash. While I was searching for beef chunks (for a stew I planned to make) I suddenly found myself face to face with a ghost from my past: Zapp’s Spicy Cajun Crawtators. There were a few other flavors on the shelf too … but I grabbed the Crawtators.

And now I have proof. I took a photo. Look, Ashleigh. See? See? They’re real. I wasn’t lying to you. I didn’t make it up. Spicy Cajun Crawtators are a reality. After ten years, I’ve finally been vindicated.

 

My e-book, Under the Electric Sun, is available on Kindle. It’s a young adult science fiction novel about a boy, an electronic raccoon, and a giant insect from another world. The story takes place in a high-tech underground city beneath the burned-out ruins of Washington, DC. (I don’t recommend it for young children.) Click here to download a copy to your Kindle, computer, or iPhone. You may need to download a Kindle app if you want to read it on your computer.

Yard sale treasures

Image

Image

Here are some more pictures I’ve drawn in my new Moleskine sketchbook. The top one is Matt Smith, the star of Doctor Who. I told my friend Jill I wasn’t going to post it, but I changed my mind. The other picture is my blogger friend Sophie Bowns. I put a lot more time and energy into the Sophie picture. The Matt Smith picture was just a spasm of silliness.

This afternoon, as I was walking out of the bank, I noticed there was a yard sale going on at my church — which is a stone’s throw away from the bank. (If you really want to get technical, it wasn’t a yard sale. It was actually a parking lot sale. But never mind that.) I shuffled over to the church parking lot, where my pastor and his wife had arranged clothes, coffee mugs, DVDs, and several other knickknacks on tables under a canopy. The first thing I saw was a purple coffee mug, situated at the very front of the pile, with the words “Ich liebe dich” printed on it. (That means “I love you” in German.) There was also a picture of a German cartoon character called Diddle Mouse on the mug. I thought this was amazing because I bought a Diddle Mouse doll when I was in Germany fifteen years ago. (For my little sister, not for myself. I want to clarify that.) I was just wondering the other day if Diddle Mouse was still around. And there he was, on a table in the church parking lot, a LONG way from home. So I snatched up the coffee mug.

I also bought a movie called Murder on Flight 502, starring Farrah Fawcett and Sonny Bono. It looked exactly like the kind of thing nobody in their right mind would ever want to watch, so I’m sure I’ll love it. Judging by the picture on the front of the DVD case, it looks very melodramatic … and very 70s. I might write a review of it later.

Drawing Esmeralda

Image

This is the first illustration that appears in my novel, Under the Electric Sun, but it’s actually the last picture I drew. I did this one back in late January, when it was cold and rainy outside. Like the other illustrations, it’s a colored pencil drawing. I keep saying I’m going to learn to paint, but I still haven’t done it yet. The thought of painting intimidates me, honestly. I’m afraid I’ll fail miserably at it, so I just cling to my box of Crayola colored pencils instead.

The girl in this picture is named Esmeralda. She lives in an underground city that looks very much like a vast shopping mall with lots and lots of floors. She works in a “pet” store that sells electronic animals. Her job consists of greeting customers and making sure all the animals have fresh batteries. She’s not one of the major characters in the book, but she’s still a crucial part of the story.

I’m digressing, though. I didn’t intend to tell you about Esmeralda in this blog post. I wanted to talk about the way I kept my mind occupied while I was working on this picture. Colored pencils are extremely time-consuming and tedious, as you might know. (If you’ve never used them before, just imagine you’re holding a regular old Number 2 pencil in your hand right now. And then imagine what it would be like to color a whole piece of paper with it, covering every square inch of the page in graphite. See what I mean?)

Whenever I draw, I like to have something playing on TV (or YouTube) to keep me company during those long, lonely hours. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I prefer to watch things that other people find horrendously boring. Old VHS tapes, for example, are like gold mines to me. I love the sitcoms, commercials, news segments, and station identification blurbs from the 1980’s. (You might think I’m stark raving mad. If so, you’re not alone. My cousin Ellice agrees with you wholeheartedly.)

For some reason, I’m especially fascinated with The Weather Channel. I can’t really explain it, but The Weather Channel gives me the same sentimental tingle as hot cocoa or chicken noodle soup. That’s why, as I was drawing this picture of Esmeralda, I watched one YouTube video of The Weather Channel over and over again. It’s a thirty-minute clip recorded on July 17, 1982. There’s something so quaint and charming about it. The set is cheap and simple. (And very, very brown.) The people are dressed in matching suits and ties. You might even call them uniforms. And the computer graphics are extremely dull and low-tech. Sometimes they even display lighthearted chalk drawings on the screen, telling you what’s coming up next. (Well, I assume they’re chalk drawings. I don’t really know what they are.) It’s interesting to watch these “vintage” weather reports and see how far The Weather Channel has come in the last thirty years. Today, they dazzle you with sophisticated graphics and cutting-edge computer animation … and, of course, the beautiful Stephanie Abrams.

Anyway, that’s how I kept myself amused while I did the last (and first) illustration for Under the Electric Sun. I’m including a link to the video here, even though I’ll be very surprised if anybody actually clicks on it. Nevertheless, here it is.

(You can click here to download the novel. Since I wrote this post, I decided to cut out all the illustrations. They gave the book a childish appearance.)

Another drawing

Image

Here’s another page in my new sketchbook. This is supposed to be a picture of my blogger friend, Carl D’Agostino. (He’s a wonderful cartoonist. Check him out.) When I first started assembling Carl’s face on the page, I was looking at his photo on my laptop. I was sitting in McDonald’s, nursing a milkshake, watching the news, and cruising around on the internet all at the same time. It was a pleasant afternoon. A few hours later, I went back and did most of the shading, fine-tuning, and fiddling — but I didn’t have his photo in front of me at that point. So, unfortunately, the guy in my sketchbook evolved into someone slightly different from Carl. Oh well.

I still plan to draw a few more people I’ve met on WordPress. Drawing portraits and posting them isn’t really the “standard format” of my blog. I’ve just felt like doing it lately. On Monday, I think I’ll post one of the illustrations from my novel and tell you about the ridiculous way I kept myself entertained while I was drawing it. I think it will be an interesting (and somewhat embarrassing) story.

My new sketchbook

Image

When my German friends, Wolfgang and Regine, landed in Georgia last week for a quick visit, they surprised me with a couple of neatly wrapped presents. They gave me a Moleskine sketchbook and a set of Faber-Castell colored pencils in a fancy metal case. (They actually gave me three gifts, if you count the Haribo gummy bears. It was like a mini-Christmas in April.) Even though I was thrilled with all three gifts, my favorite was the sketchbook. I’ve heard a lot of artists talk about Moleskine sketchbooks, but I never knew exactly what they were. Now I have one. The pages are thick and heavy-duty, but soft and smooth at the same time — similar to the card in the back of a library book with all the due-dates stamped on it.

On the first page of my new sketchbook, I drew a caricature of Matt Smith, the current star of Doctor Who. It looked terrible. I almost tore it out, but I didn’t want to cheapen my brand-new sketchbook by ripping out the first page. So I reluctantly left it in there. On the second page, I drew a picture of Billie Piper. This one also turned out to be a hideous train wreck. On the third page, I did a sketch of G.E. Gallas, one of my blogger friends I met here on WordPress. She’s a writer/illustrator who lives in San Francisco. I was actually happy with this one. Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt to draw Carl D’Agostino, a new friend of mine in Miami.

I still plan to draw a few other citizens of the blog universe, but it will take time. I haven’t forgotten you, I promise.