“Today, in our field, there is so much talent and recognition that we are reaching a saturation point. An artist should no longer strive only for breathtaking craftsmanship; he should, instead, try to help us live better, either by dressing the wounds that are constantly being opened by society, or by offering solutions to get us out of the mess we’re in…But it’s going to be difficult and we have a lot of work to do.” - Jean 'Moebius' Giraud

Friday, December 26, 2008

A CONVERSATION_update


Eric is out of town and has left the care and update of his blog to me.

And because I know how much he'd hate seeing this stuff up, I'm posting his unfinished work for all of you to see. Thank me later.

I've also included a small article/interview I've written for Eric's new book called 'PREMIER[e]', which will include many if not ALL of the images from his blog in it (you asked for it and now you've got it), a few sketches, and the introduction of our new company called LIGHTBOX. Yes, we know he's said he'd never release a sketchbook again , but wait until you see this thing. A "sketchbook" it definitely isn't. More details on that later, as well as previews of the book itself and what it's all about.

Until then, here are Eric's mistakes. Enjoy.


-Jon

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On any given day, in any given week, I can walk around Eric's work area in our office and I'll see the floor littered with abandoned commissions or discarded images for cover work or personal sketches or whatever else didn't look as good on paper as it did in his head. And on more than a few occasions I've watched him as he's outright just started over on a 90 minute exercise about eighty-seven minutes into it. He just starts over. It doesn't matter how close he is to finishing or how good it looks to everyone else, if he "...isn't in love with it" then it's not worth finishing off.
"What's the point of finishing a shit drawing!?, " he's said to me more than once. "I know that when I'm done with it, it'll be terrible and when I post it on the blog everyone will get to see it and confirm my thoughts about how atrocious it is. So why bother finishing it? I figured, if I don't finish it, then I'm almost cutting it off before it really gets a foot hold, you know? I don't legitimize it by putting a final line on it. And I don't care how far along I am: bad is bad. I'm just too retarded or too stubborn to realize *how* bad it is until I've spent way too much time on it."
I've seen him do it. Most recently to a "Batman/Green Arrow" commission he just started which he was asked to do a year or two ago. Last weekend, I walked in and there were ten images strewn all over the place, all in different stages of completion. One of which he even started to ink. It was upsetting and laughable at the same time.
"They all sort of work. Green Arrow's face here and Bat's pose in that other one. They just...I dunno...they just don't matter to me. I'm not in love with them"
I point out that he's drawn Batman before and asked him the difference between then and now. I also tell him to stop being such an art fag and just draw the image already. He laughs it off.
"Nah...I've drawn an *idea* of Batman before. Or I've drawn a Batman based on a conversation I had with Dustin (Nguyen) or I was trying to come up with an image that has a new approach to it. This thing...this is...it's dead like Elvis, that's what this is. It's got no juice to it. I'm trying to find something cool to draw, I'm trying to find something I can really salivate over and want to take head-on. I've got nothing. It's a f*cking guy with a Robin Hood feather with a boxing glove arrow and it's all I can do to not draw a picture of Batman kicking GA's ass for letting his sidekick Speedy do heroin. And it's not working, so before I waste on any more paper, I'm gonna stop and do something else."
And before I could stop him, "RRRIIIIPPPP!" He tears them all into small quarters. I make a face like I just saw a man rip payments to my next credit card bill, but there's nothing I could do about it. He says it's bad mojo to have it lingering in the office. "Besides, " he mentions, "I don't want this shit to start piling up."


Of the few I've managed to salvage from the recycling bin, here are just a handful of attempts at the 'MySpace Dark Horse Presents' TPB cover Eric had done over and over again. I saw maybe five variations on this thing and there would have been a sixth if his deadlines didn't force him to finally settle on one That he ended up coloring. When I look at this rough compared to the finished version above I scratch my head. The changes are minuscule. His reason for starting over?
"It's too close to the top to accommodate for the logo, " he explains. "That's what they'll tell me."
"Move it in Photoshop, " I suggest.
"F*ck that," he laughs. "Why should I deal with Photoshop if re-drawing it is ten times as easy?"
The thing is, it's not ten times easier. I know this man and the way he works. It's never like this. Especially if he knows it will see print. He'll find something that will need fixing. Move Conan further away. Or flop/reverse the monster and Captain Hammer. Or how many bullet hits should the monster have? Or change the perspective slightly so the image will be an upshot. And so on, and so on.


That said, as much attention to detail he puts into his drawings, as meticulous and ADD he can be, Eric doesn't seem to care and isn't too precious about his originals. The image above is evidence of this. I had accidentally stepped on it (that's my shoe's foot print circled in red in the upper left hand corner) and proceeded to apologize to him in a panic, only to have him explain it as, "...one of the retarded ones that makes Conan look like Richard Moll from Night Court." Thank god for Richard Moll, I guess.

It's a mystery to me how someone can be so exacting and analytical in one front, and be so careless and unscrupulous in another. There are no special acid free storage boxes or vacuum sealed containers that hold his collection. Whereas I would make sure to set aside these originals, successful or not, he'd rather just toss it aside and start on the new one. As a matter of fact, you could easy mistake an unfinished, abandoned image with one that he's done and happy with. They all somehow end up in the same place: the office floor.


"There's a method to my madness, Jon," he explains. "The ones I wanna keep are closer to those portfolio sleeve thingees you made me get. The ones I don't care for are sort of closer to the trash bin."
Well, he's right. Being his close friend and the closest thing he's got to an official 'art dealer' I suggested that he invest in these protective Mylar sleeves to use for when he sends out originals to the people who commission him. In the past, it was six sheets of cut-up FedEx boxes taped together, with the original image sandwiched in the middle. And that's all there was! That goes via USPS Priority Mail to its new owner. So, I guess I am a bit off. He *does* care. As long as it's not something he's going to keep for himself.



Andre Szymanowicz was the recipient of the final version of this image, but before the finished version that Eric posted on his blog, there was the version I've posted above. I asked him what was wrong with it.
"Sometimes I draw something and think, 'Okay....that's how that's supposed to be drawn. It's straightforward, it's obvious and it's exactly what everyone expects. That's really lame. Now how would *I* draw it?' Then I start over again."
"Isn't how you drew it...um...how YOU would draw it?" I asked slightly confused.
"Well, yes. And no. There's the version that I will draw because I know I need to get it out of my system. Like I said, it's really obvious and it's really just by the book. There are lines that I draw in the first version that make me think, 'Oh, right...yeeah, that makes sense why I drew that line that way.' But then I realize I don't care for that way, the regular way, too often. So I'll mess up that line just so it's different, so it's not so conventional. I mean, everyone can do that, do the obvious thing. You screw things up and suddenly it's alive again."
With this image, Eric says he was trying to work out a scene that had a narrative hearkening to the one in the actual movie, AKIRA. "Why abandon this image? Was this what you call an 'obvious' approach?"
"No. I don't think that was the reason why I didn't finish this one. I think it was because it had too many elements, man. Too many elements, too many things for the eye to get lost in and not enough resting places, you know? The idea is okay. The composition worked and it sort of had this little story within a story. But the moment I inked that kid's hand in the foreground, I knew this was lame. I should have thought it out better and rather than draw it again (apparently, Eric had drawn this thing four times before he got to inking this one), I abandoned it and approached something else from a different perspective."


I don't know exactly what this image was for. I've searched for it on his blog a couple of times, but I haven't found the one he's posted as his final piece. I do know that there are two of these in Eric's portfolio, a.k.a. : the floor next to the supply closet, one that's completely inked (which I'm assuming as the one he liked best), and this one. I'm going to tell you based on my own personal preferences, that I like this one better. There's something about the girl on this image that makes her more...warm and more appealing to me than the 'finished' version.
"Go f*ck yourself, Jon." he says.
Classy as always.


And finally, there's this one entitled "Waterlily". This one is all done. It's all penciled and ready to go, ready to be inked. It's also very surprising because if you know anything about the way Eric works, he never pencils this tightly. Most of the work is done by that brush pen, so to see an image from him that looks like he's going to leave it as-is in blue pencil rather than put an ink line on top of it is different. And yes, it's sometimes off-putting. It's like the version of his work that's trying to be fancy instead of the utilitarian version of itself that it is now. It's like Jordan wearing #45; it's just not right. So I had to ask, "What was wrong with it?"
"It was too close to the top of the sheet of paper."


Seriously. That was his reason. And I guess he just wouldn't stand for it.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

7 comments:

RAWLS said...

Thanks Jon... what an interesting look into E's mind! Hope you and Eric had a great Christmas and have a fun and safe new years!!!

mikolaj said...

very cool update my friend :)
peace !

PauZak said...

now that's a post I was waiting for a really long time.. nice! ★★★

Von Toten said...

Wow amazing post, nice to know someone starts over as much as me, accept his discarded ones are gold

Andre Szymanowicz said...

Wow just crazy. It just confirms what I always thought; that Eric is a mad genius.
I love that unfinished Kaneda sketch too by the way. Its still a great scene to visualize and the perspective really pumps up the drama!

j_ay said...

Hell of an update, thanks for the behind the scenes peek.
Looking forward to the sorta-sketchbook!

davidjamescole said...

ah, this old struggle.

on one hand, you have a vision in your head that you're REALLY excited about and want to put down IMMEDIATELY. just hit it and leave it alone. with that often comes an amazing gestural and visceral quality that should really be valued.

on the other hand, it can often result in poor (or no) planning, compositions that are lacking, hilarious anatomy, etc.

but dammit, when you do thumbnails, then tighter comps, then gather reference, then study some anatomy, clothing, work out some perspective or whatever else, you 'lose the fire' for the piece before you've even begun the final image. it's stale. it's boring. it's tedious.

i think eric has an interesting way of working. it seems he's ALWAYS working on the final image, just re-thinking and editing as he goes along while maintaining the hyper energy and excitement of the initial thought. he just doesn't ever slow down. it shows.

keep going, eric! you're brilliant!