A Peek into the Process

For all you process geeks out there, I’m opening the studio up for a little virtual tour. Today we’re highlighting the making of comics.

My process is a blend of physical and digital. Over the years, I’ve gleaned my ideas and skills from a variety of in-person and online learning. There’s also a fair amount of trial and error, as you might imagine.

I’m going to skip over the writing part, since that’s a wild-assed mess. But, once there is a rough draft of a script, the making of the pages begins.

To start, I make a pile of “layout sheets:” regular sized sheet of cheap copy paper with little boxes to represent the entire page. The boxes are about 25% of full size. I leave lots of room to scribble notes or sketch out things on the side. Then the scribbling begins, sometimes it just flows and the page just appears in miniature. Other times, it takes a few tries or I even leave things hanging to come back to later. Up to now, I’ve gone in order first to last. That may change as I try longer books.

It may seem like this is just the warm-up for a main event. In reality, however, this is where the magic really happens. Where experimentation and iteration are key. What happens here sets the stage for everything that comes after—if this part is off or lacking, the final result will suffer.

Once I have the story or book laid out, roughly, I start back at the beginning and draw full size, or larger, line art on the Cintiq (a combo tablet/monitor designed specifically for drawing). I like working digitally at this stage as it’s freeing. Mistakes and do-overs are less costly. Repeated elements are more easily copied and modified, and so much more. Think manual typewriter verses a Google doc.

Once the page is completely drawn, art and words to meet for the first time. I shift here from Photoshop to Illustrator for a first pass at adding in the dialog, captions, and sound effects. The script undergoes extensive revision at this point—usually a trimming of verbal fat. Things are still very fluid at this stage so I take full advantage of that to create the most cohesive blend of image and word that I can.

Here I leave the realm of the digital and return to the physical. I print out the line art created in Photoshop. I chop up some watercolor paper, or use a standard size, depending on the project, and lightly trace enough of the line art onto it to guide the painting that’s to come.

Here’s some visuals to show the progression from blank page to finished art. There’s a lot that goes on here, a lot that changes from page to page depending on what I’m painting and the story I’m trying to tell. For the most part, it’s watercolor, but I’m happy to use whatever the situation calls for. A single page is a full day’s work for me. This is neither mass production nor the road to riches.

Once the paint is dry, it’s into the scanner and back to the digital realm. I’m not working on art for display here, the goal is reproduction. And this last stop on the tour is where it all comes together in preparation for that reproduction at the printers.

What I’ve just described here varies pretty widely from what happens at DC, Marvel, or Image. I am charting my own path and creating something that doesn’t look the same. I confess to moments of doubt, to desires to conform to gain the validation that might bring. Yet, I keep coming back to this way of doing things. Time, experience, and different stories will each pull and push on this process I have no doubt. It will be an interesting journey, I hope you come along for the ride.

Audacity

2021, 12 in. x 16 in.
Oil on paper
$200, unframed


A classic torso, inspired by a spontaneous pose a model took during a figure drawing session. He held the pose for only a few minutes before moving on, but it captured my imagination and wouldn’t let go. It’s the audacity of simultaneously demanding adoration and totally ignoring the admirer.

If you’re interested in purchasing this work, or just have questions, hit the button below to send me an email. I also have DMs open on Instagram and Twitter, if that’s your jam.

Physical Resonances

You may have noticed, if you’ve wandered around this site before landing here, that I am given to an exaggeration of muscularity in my depiction of the male figure. It happens to coincide, and is surely informed by, current widely held ideals in Western society. I’m not bringing this up because it’s problematic, necessarily, or something I want to change. I bring it up because it’s worth examining a little. To hopefully elevate the proclivity from unconscious bias to conscious choice.

This prompt to examine attractions and their effects in my art-making comes from an interesting question from our friends at the art collective Doable Guys. “What makes a guy doable to you?” This prompt, or some variation on it informs their work as a collective: shows, publications, figure drawing events, and more. They’ve published a painting of mine in an anthology and I’ve had works in two of their shows.

See my work along side more than 40 others at this fabulous show–in person in NYC and online!

I like to take moments like these as an encouragement and reminder to stop and examine aspects of my experiences. Time spent reflecting, especially on something as powerful as attraction, is always beneficial. There is no right or wrong here, just a constant unfolding.

Overall, it’s the sheer intensity that appeals to me the most. Watching that intensity creates a resonance of the physical efforts required to create such a physique. I feel this is a huge part of the depiction and, I hope, of the response in the viewer. I’m also deeply intrigued by the purposeful creation and investment involved in this form of body modification, a practice I engage in myself via calisthenics, martial arts, and yoga. So, of course, it finds its way into my art—and vice versa.

And now, for the moral of the story. Problems arise when an individual allows their attractions to solidify into judgement: notions of right and wrong, good and bad, natural and unnatural. Often, at this point, the solidified judgements are wielded like weapons. And when one artist uses this icy dagger of deeply personal judgement on another artist, a grievous wrong has happened. A great harm has been done.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend what little time I have on this earth celebrating instead of judging.

Cover image from an untitled torso study, 16 in. x 12 in., oil on paper, 2021.

Thoughts on queer representation

In order to encourage inclusivity and a sense of belonging, the company I work for hosts an informal zoom call once a month where individuals give short presentations about passion projects outside of work.

I was encouraged to take the plunge and do a quick demo of my comics. I was terrified since, as you may have noticed, my comics are very queer and very adult–quite literally NSFW. And yet, there I was discussing them at work.

They loved it. What’s more, the theme of queer representation emerged as I was preparing my presentation. I included it, briefly, since it’s so central to my storytelling. Having a mere 10 minutes I didn’t spend much time on it. With your indulgence, I’d like to do so now.

My motto: don’t include straight characters unless the story needs it.

If you feel I’m being a tad ironic there, you may be right. Though I do center on the queer and let everything else move to the periphery. The inverse of what happens in most mainstream storytelling. There’s no real process here. It’s intuitive, even unconscious, as I work. Up to this point, I haven’t set out with then intention of building a queer world in my comics, but that does seem to be what’s emerging. Over time, as the stories come and go, worlds built and sent off to live in readers’ imaginations, this will likely morph. I won’t try to predict how. Better to simply observe.

Just like process over product, think creator over creation.

While it’s tempting to focus our attention on the work itself when discussing representation, that’s actually secondary, in my opinion. It’s the creators, not content, that should be the focus of our efforts at improvement. When you widen the breadth of who’s telling the stories, you’ll find more wholistic, novel, genuine, and organic representation. True equity comes from range of creators telling their own stories, and being able to take control of their work and its dissemination. Achieving better representation will necessitate a paradigm shift towards plurality and collective decision making and away from rigid hierarchies controlled by a small (usually white, cishet-male) in-group.

Let’s wrap up with some baby steps.

Creators: engage in collective action to lift each other up. I’ve had the honor to participate in collectives of different shapes and sizes over the years and can say, with confidence, that a committed group of people sharing a vision and resources can move mountains.

Consumers: Kickstarter has become the world’s most interesting comic shop. Dive in and support the creators there. You know where your dollars are going and you can form direct, lasting connections to continue your support beyond a single project.

Cover photo by Joshua Hoehne.

Returnings of the year

Life outside the studio may be on hold, but the art-making continues. I’m grateful for the manifold privileges of health, safety, and security that allow this. The last year held challenges for all of us, but it would be the height of ignorance and arrogance for me to complain without at least some acknowledgement of wide range of impacts the events of the year had.

Curtailing outside activity means more time in the studio which means more exploration. Currently on tap: further study of human anatomy and deepening my painting skills. I will continue to experiment with transparency vs. opacity through the less prominent medium of gouache. It’s got a lot going for it, despite being somewhat overlooked by artists. I find myself drawn to its protean nature, living in a liminal space between oils and watercolor.

While I play with light, I’ll await returns. The return of spring’s light and warmth, of course. I also hope gentler temperatures and longer days in the Northern hemisphere will co-arise with fandom gatherings, selling in person, browsing by touch, and all the surprise discoveries of the bazaar. Whether by karma or disposition, it is in these contexts that I feel I do best–not the rapidly swirling and chaotic kaleidoscope of the digital realm.

Alas, also visible on the horizon are looming economic storms. Those storms tend to bring serious cultural fallout. The first and favorite target of the austerity champions is always the artists–not the arts, mind you, but the artists themselves. How will queer expression, particularly of a sexual nature fare? I don’t know and I vacillate between hope and despair. The despair of yet another round of the same tired arguments. But hope, yes hope, because we saw this last year a dramatic awakening, of renewed calls for true, and long overdue, social justice. I hope deeply this year sees the return of the tide of justice, too long out, that truly lifts all boats.

Doable Guys, vol. 5

A little book filled with big…

Ambitions! Yeah, that’s it, big ambitions. It is, in fact, a fabulous collection of art ambitiously exploring a wide variety of male beauty and sexuality. My own Beloved and God #1 is included, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the company it’s keeping between these covers.

Head on over to doableguys.com to purchase your copy. Proceeds benefit the LGBTQ+ charity GLSEN. So, go ahead and indulge, it’s for a good cause.

When the art is the wall

We like to think that walls are solid, permanent, that they endure beyond us. Some do, and some don’t. We feel much the same about our art. Same here: some does and some doesn’t.

When a work of art is deeply integrated into its space, when it is the space—a mural for example—then its fate is the same as that space. So, say a mural is created inside an office. It lives in that office, with the workers carrying out their lives and work in its gaze for five years. The vicissitudes of the world intervene and the office is abandoned.

Once an office is abandoned, it rests for while. Its stains and monuments, dings and detritus, offering distant, mysterious echoes of prior inhabitants. Then it’s picked up again and remade. And the first step of remaking is, usually, destructive. Alas, our mural, silent but colorful resident, comes to an end.

Dear reader/viewer, I present some digital echoes of that mural I helped create five years ago and is soon to be no more (perhaps already no more as you read this). While its physical presence is gone, I hope our memory will give it some bit of life and continued reality in the years to come.

Join me in raising a glass to a work of art created with love, by a group of people coming together, trying to make the world a better place, and then moving on—to make new art and find new ways to make the world better.

Untitled mural, 2015
12 ft. x 15 ft., acrylic and found objects
In the former offices of New Music USA, New York City

Doable Guys Online Art Fair

August 1-9, 2020
Visit my gallery!

The ‘Rona isn’t done with us yet. Not by a long shot. So, our friends at Doable Guys have moved the art show originally planned for this summer online. I’m thrilled and honored to be part of the show, selling no less than six original paintings.

We live in a society that teaches us to compartmentalize the erotic. Pack that sh*t up, lock it away and only let it out when it’s “safe”. While not all of our challenges as a society stem from this dubious advice, it’s fair to say we’d be a lot better off with an attitude of celebration instead of this faux-celebacy performative BS we’ve got now.

And here’s a whole art show celebrating the erotic joy of the male form and the artists who play with it. 

From The Beloved and God Series
Some ancient myths, some Tom of Finland, mix it all together for this slightly surreal confection that explores the intersections of love, worship, and power.

From the Handful Series
In our erotic moments, just as in all of our interactions, we speak a lot with our hands. Here we have a bit more abstract exploration of the nonverbal messages we send each other.