inspiration

Tatemae / 建前


Tatemae

Hey everyone! I’m, uhhhh, not DEAD. I finally made a new illustrated-photography piece. (Well, I made a quick one two years ago in ink over inkjet print, but this is my first digital one since 2013.)

 

Honne (本音) and tatemae (建前) are Japanese words used to describe the contrast between one’s personal feelings (honne) and the facade that one presents to the world (tatemae). While it certainly depends on the person, in Japan it’s often difficult to get past the wall that people put up and get to know someone’s true feelings. Generally this “wall” is a friendly one, mind you, but sometimes not genuine. I don’t think this is a uniquely Japanese thing, and I think we all conceal parts of our true feelings. I thought I’d explore this idea a bit since I find it both fascinating and frustrating.

 

One thing I often found unsettling while teaching English in Japan was how many of my students would wear a mask, not just when they were sick, but in general. Some kids wore it every day. Once in a while, during flu season, I’d walk into a jr high classroom and every single kid would be wearing one, and I’d be unable to fully “read” their social cues. I think for most people it’s a matter of stopping germ transfer when a bug is going around, but for the folks who wear them every day, it seems like the tatemae mask takes on a literal form.

 

Anyway, as usual these days for a lot of my art, you can pop on over to Society6 to order a print of it, or cell phone case, pillows, tote bags, whatevs!

 

In other news, this has been a crazy busy year so far with manga lettering, but pretty front-loaded. From now on I’ll have a bit more free time here and there to make more art and hopefully music. One of these days, I badly need to update the lettering section of my design page since it only reflects four of the 17 different manga series I’ve lettered, but that’ll have a wait a bit more. Right now, after a nice stay-cation, it’s time to get to work on the next book.

 

I will say, I got to work on a dream project earlier this year. I got to re-letter Akira for the 35th anniversary boxed set that Kodansha is putting out this fall! It was amazing! I’ve always deeply loved that manga, and it was a huge inspiration on me growing up, and to be able to observe Otomo’s art with the level of intimacy that working with it on my own computer brought, was a truly special experience. More on that later.



A new chapter


a new chapter...As I type this, big changes are afoot in my life. Good changes! I’m mentioning them here because they will have an appreciable effect on my art and my workflow – I’d imagine for the better. So what’s happening?

 

On January 22nd, I’m moving to Japan!! A month ago, only a brief time after moving to Los Angeles, I got a surprise phone call from the JET Program, asking me if I could come to Nagasaki to fill in for one of their Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) who would be leaving the program early. Of course I said yes. I’d actually applied for JET a year prior, had interviewed back in February ‘12, and hadn’t gotten picked for the initial wave of hiring. I had thus moved on to “Plan B”. I was finally starting to get some traction going in LA with more contract work in the photography business, but the truth of the matter is, things weren’t going smoothly enough with regular enough pay for me to pass up a rare opportunity such as this. I’ve been wanting a steady paycheck, structure, health insurance, and something new for a while now, and this will fit the bill.  I’m crossing my fingers that the US economy will have rebounded a bit more by the time I get back to the states, but this new English teaching job will give me financial security for the near-future, and I’ll be living in a beautiful area of Japan!

 

The whole experience so far has been like what I would imagine it would feel if you spend all of your teens and early twenties trying to be an actor, but it never really happens, so you move on. Then, at the age of 32, a big movie studio calls you up to offer a leading role in a summer blockbuster. Well, that metaphor might be a bit hyperbolic, but it seems somewhat apt. I studied the Japanese language from age 13-23, at first on my own, then in after-school classes in junior high & high school, then in college. I’ve been to Japan five times thus far, in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2007. Despite my love of Japanese culture and the language, I’ve become a little distanced from it in my day-to-day. I’m 32 now, and it’s been almost ten years since my last Japanese class. I stopped studying the language due to having taken all the classes my university offered, as well as a lingering question of how the skill was really going to help me in life, especially since art was my main focus in life. I got pretty cynical about Japan, and didn’t see how I could fit into that world in a way that would also nurture my creativity. My interest in pop-culture & traditional culture used to be very Japan-centric, and in the intervening years it has become about 10%-20% of my cultural intake, with an expanded interest in the rest of the world. I no longer have the otaku tunnel-vision of my youth, and you know what? I think that makes the 32-year-old me a much better fit for living and working in Japan, than the 20-year-old wearing the rose-tinted glasses.

 

A few years in the workforce, having to handle the full brunt of the recession and its underemployment and insecurity, have strengthened me greatly as a person, and taught me some valuable lessons. If the overly-idealistic 20-year-old me had to deal with the ups and downs of working in a foreign country, I think I would have cracked under the pressure. For so long Japan was just a vacation / study-program destination for me, and I didn’t have to deal with the negative aspects, as I was just “sampling” the country for a while, each visit. As I’ve grown up, experience has taught me that every job sucks in some ways, even the ones you most enjoy. The trick is to use the knowledge of that occasional suckiness to help you better appreciate the good times. Also, when you live in one of your dream places, as I did in San Francisco for several years, not every day is going to be paradise. Even dream cities contain exhaustion, heartbreak, parking tickets, noisy neighbors, and worrying about paying the rent. As an adult, I can view Japan as what it is: a country with good and bad traits like any other, and not as the everything-is-perfect “nerd’s paradise” I once might have. Plus, I’m planning on using this opportunity as a way to turn around and enhance my life. I’ll finally be able to put money into savings each month, as I’ll have enough money to live on and then some. I won’t have my car with me, and with a ton of cycling, walking, and eating better, I intend to get in great shape again. I also intend on getting my Japanese ability better than ever. I used to be pretty good, and nowadays I can speak on the level of a Japanese 4 year old on a good day. Good enough to get by, but I can’t discuss deep things. When I visited in ‘07, my language ability came back quite a bit, and I imagine with living there, it’ll rebound and become much better!

 

So what does all of this have to do with my art, and why am I posting this blog entry on my art site, and not on a seemingly-requisite “American in Japan” blog? Well, it means a few things….

 

I’m not sure what my workflow / productivity will be on new art while I’m there. It’s hard to say because I don’t know yet if I’m going to be one of those ALTs who is very busy all the time, and has a lot of extra-curricular things going on outside of work, or if  there’s going to be a a lot of free time to make art. That said, my productivity this past 3 or so years has been a pale shadow of the pre-recession days, and maybe now that I won’t have the malaise of unemployment / money stress weighing down on me, maybe I can embrace my creativity again. Also, I traditionally get super inspired in Japan, and tend to at make art a lot when I’m there. I think that may well balance out with the potential lack of free time.

 

The kind of techniques I will have at my disposal for photography will change while I’m there. I can’t bring very much at all with me, and will only be shipping a small amount, so much of my usual supplies will be back home. For example, I won’t have my strobes with me, so that’s going to put a limit on the lighting I can do in my photography. I’m thinking at some point I’ll buy a second Speedlite, and a remote transmitter, and have sort of a lower-power, more portable strobe solution, but that’ll have to wait until I have paychecks coming in. I’ll be relying more on available light that I have been with my more recent shots, and continuing to use my Speedlite to make things “pop” a bit.  I also don’t know what the situation will be with models over there, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of my photography & illustrated-photography even includes people. It would be a nice challenge to get back into more abstract work again, or at least non-people subjects supplementing my portfolio.

 

I intend to return to some neglected kinds of art that I can make on my own, in my apartment… music, comic books, and illustration. I’ve been planning out some new comic ideas, and have been waiting for a time where things stabilize so I can dive deep into a graphic novel, or at least some short-form stuff. My illustration – my first artistic skill, sort of neglected due to my focus on photography – needs to make a more prominent return in my life. As for my music, I’ve been itching to make a new album. After making a noise album a year ago to get back into practice, I’ve been spending a lot of time, building parts of new songs. Having some new toys at my disposal, and feeding off of the inspiration I feel in Japan, I intend to return to music in a major way soon!

 

Okay, I’ve rattled on long enough. I’m not sure exactly yet how long I’ll be in Japan, but at least through JET, it’ll be a minimum of six months, and as long as four and a half years. I’m hoping to put in at least a solid 2-3 years, to save up a good nest-egg of money, and I don’t see myself as a “lifer”, but who knows? The future is hard to predict, and who knows who I’ll become? Anyway, thanks for reading this. Unless I manage to make some new art in the busy next couple weeks, my next update will most likely be from Japan. I don’t know exactly how long it’ll be until my next content update, but I’ll try not to let it be too long. See you soon!



PROBE + more new art!


Probe

Hello everyone! I’ve just posted a bunch of photos from an extremely enjoyable photo shoot I did in Detroit last month.  I’ve been Flickr buddies for a long time now with Tyler Linner, a transportation design student at CCS. Recently he purchased a winter beater car, a first-gen Ford Probe, and has been customizing it into a hyper-miling aero art car (complete with dazzle camouflage!) I knew, once I saw it, that I would have to photograph it!

 

Probe

We found a suitably angular backdrop, and were joined by the lovely Amanda Faye Cain for some avant-garde photo fun-time. She did an amazing job, and I’m hoping to work with her again very soon. Special thanks to the folks across the street at Threat Management Center, for providing me with power for my lights.

 

Probe

Anyway, click on one of the above images, or here, to see more photos. If you want to see even more photos from the shoot after that (27 total!), check out this Flickr set.

 

In other news, I snuck some other new work on the site recently… Some new photography and some new illustrations. Let’s stay on the photography topic for now.

 

Shower

A friend of mine posed for some pin-up photography a few months back, and she approved of me posting a couple of our more interesting & abstract shots, on the condition that she remain anonymous. Click here, or above, to check out both of them. Perhaps you’ll see more from the shoot further on, if she gives of the OK, but for now, enjoy these steamy (literally in this case) photos. (sort of nsfw)

 

I also did some illustration. We’ll stay on the topic of nsfw for this one, although it is also quite tasteful…

 

Loona

Recently Electric Ant posted a collaboration between a good bunch of indie comics artists, many of which are buddies of mine, in honor of the recently departed Jean Giraud, aka Moebius. I loved his art, growing up, and was saddened to hear of his passing. For this tribute, we all picked an image from a collector’s card set that Moebius made, and did a “cover” of the image. Click above, or here, to see my interpretation of “Loona”. Also, be sure to check out the post on Electric Ant, to see a ton of AMAZING art by other Moebius-lovers!

 

One last piece to update here… A collage / illustration that I made out of shipping labels:

 

shipping labels collage

Just something fun I whipped up in 20 min in my journal. Click above, or here to see the whole image (it’s not NSFW, but I sort of like this sneak preview format!)

 

Anyway, I hope you cats and kittens enjoy the new stuff! I’ve been absolutely swamped lately with two big freelance book design / typersetting gigs this year so far, so it’s cut down my workflow on other things, but hopefully I’ll post some more fun stuff here again soon, before the next century!



“A Love Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self”


Guess what kids, I’m not dead. Although I would forgive you for thinking that due to the conspicuous lack of updates around here lately. Let’s just say that life punched me in the face, but it wasn’t a TKO, so here I am posting some new art! At last! You may remember in my last blog post (6 months ago, argh!), I posted a little sneak preview of this in it’s very early stages (after only 2-3 hours of illustration / compositing). Well, 60+ hrs of work later, spread out over several months, here it is:

 

A Love Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self

In the midst of an epic battle, twin psychic school girls deal a decisive blow upon a towering giant robot. Pretty much my magnum opus thus far… It’s the third in my giant robot series, but there’s more to it than just that. From my middle school days until the early days of college, I was a huge anime nerd. I also read a ton of manga. These two mediums have had a profound effect on my art style, techniques, and favorite themes to this day. Though I am still being a big manga fan, I don’t watch much anime anymore. I got sort of burned-out, and didn’t feel like I was seeing enough variety in the modern-day anime (with the exceptions of auteurs such as Satoshi Kon, Mamoru Oshii, and Katsuhiro Otomo).

 

Despite the disaffection with modern anime, I still have a strong love of the stuff I grew up on, tracing back to being a 4 year old and watching Robotech with my older brother. That had a profound effect on me. In this piece, I pay tribute to that, as well as Mai the Psychic Girl, Gundam, Domu, Project A-Ko, Cutey Honey, and other bits and bobs of Japanese pop culture that I grew up with, as well as a little dose of Transformers. Basically as you can see, giant robots and psychic battles are two of my favorite subject matters!

 

I shot this (the girls and part of the background at least) with one of my favorite models, Raven Le Faye, in Berkeley over a year ago. The robot is made up of over 20 different cars that I shot in Michigan and California. I shot the distant background in Los Angeles. Lots of stuff going on in this… I’m very pleased to finally be releasing it into the world after so long.

 

On a semi-sad note, this is going to be my last “super epic”, super detailed piece for a while.. It took me too long to make (over 60 hours) as I work much slower in Wacom than anything analog. Most of my illustrated-photography pieces take me between 15 and 30 hrs, which is also a long time, but this one was ridiculous. Just the robot on it’s own would have normally been a piece on its own, but I decided to take this piece farther. That said, I really need to buy a Wacom Cintiq, for a more 1:1 drawing experience – as opposed to the disconnect one gets from drawing on the desk and looking at the screen. I think this would speed up my workflow considerably. Problem is, I’m broke, so until I can scrape together the extra cash, I’m going to have to stick with more simple pieces for a little bit, otherwise I’ll only get one new piece done every several months, which is not enough for me. Good to pause this era (for now at least), with a BANG! (literally, in this case, hence the explosion)

 

the making of

I decided since this new work is particularly special to me that I’d throw in a little bonus. Click the above image, or here, to see a detailed “Making of” / behind-the-scenes for this work.

 

Special thanks to Raven for modeling for this. You’ll see her in a couple other works on the site, and you will be seeing her in more work soon! For example, another illustrated photography piece, a much more simple one that I’ll be getting to soon… Also, she modeled for a pin-up / alt / fetish / nudie set that I’ll be submitting to Zivity soon. That’s very new territory for me, and was a fun experience. Once I get that posted, I’ll direct you there (all of you over 18 yrs old, at least!). Also, I’ll be posting an EGL shoot I did with her soon (and if you didn’t see these really cute pics from a year ago, you should!) Thanks also go out to Ryan Sands, David Murray, and Dawon Kim for giving me feedback at various stages along the way of the creation of this beast! Also thanks to Lady Gaga, Skrillex, Wham!, Dschingis Khan, Arabesque, and the TalkRadar and Gamespy Debriefing podcasts for supplying background sounds for the big push this past week.

 

In other news, I have more stuff to post soon. Other stuff that I’ve been working on over the past few months, but haven’t had the time to organize into gallery pages yet. A shoot with Beau (some of which is edited and done, some note)… Also the ongoing product photography work I’ve been doing for my buddy Seibei / David Murray, and also product photography I did for Babushka Designs / Tatiana Jimenez. Both of those coming soon (or you could just look at those links and buy some awesome stuff!) You’ll also notice that I upped the font size on the last stuff I uploaded. I’ll be doing this throughout the site soon, I’m just super lazy right now. the old text looked great on lower-resolution screens, but I’m finding it hard to read on my 22″ Samsung, and I’m guessing you might too! Okay, gotta get a little sleep now! It’s after 7am and I’ve been in a creative trance!



“Lady Galaxy”


Okay, it’s definitely been a while since last post, but here’s something brand new and very shiny…

 

Lady Galaxy

It’s called “Lady Galaxy”, and is my piece for the upcoming Lady Gaga fanzine “Prison for Bitches”, being published by my buddy Ryan Sands.  This was a lot of fun to create, and since I’m really into Lady Gaga, it’s exciting to be in on the zine. I guess you could say that it’s the second in my series of musician-inspired pieces, following “Lionheart“, my Kate Bush inspired piece from 2006.  Special thanks to the lovely Raven Le Faye for modeling for it.  We shot five different shoots that day, so look for more work with her in it over the next couple months.  Here are some details from the work:

 

So in other news, believe it or not, I’m moving back to Michigan again for a few months.  Times have been tough, money-wise, and I have to help my parents get their house ready to sell (lots of painting and varnishing), so I’d rather just do it now when the weather there is really nice, and while I have no career commitments in San Francisco (other than occasional freelance work that I can do remotely).  Of course, it’s very hard to leave my friends, my girlfriend, and this beautiful part of the country, but I don’t have much choice about it really. The plan is to help out as much as possible, make as much art as possible, and come back to California in the fall – more than likely to LA this time. We’ll see though… I’m trying not to think too far ahead this time, since life is anything but predictable.

 

Anyway, I’ll be on the road starting this Saturday, and will be busy at first, but look for a lot more art soon, as I will be much less stressed-out this summer hopefully (stress does not equal good art for me).  Ciao for now cats and kittens!



“Takarazuka”


So this one’s a pretty different style for me. This piece was inspired by Japanese Takarazuka theatre, in which every role is played by women. I find such androgyny interesting, so with my model Katie’s help (she plays both the guy and the girl), and the very talented makeup artist Aiko, I wanted to try my hand at the aesthetic.

 

Takarazuka

I’ve included some examples of Takarazuka Revue posters, so you can see how the real thing looks:

 

Takarazuka inspiration

original shots