Archive for the ‘personal work’ Category



Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

It’s been a weird couple of months. Back in December I broke my ankle while riding my bike, and if you know me at all you know that this is a big deal. Bikes are therapy. Getting out of the house and studio and into the woods, getting a little exercise, and getting out of my head for a bit. When the doctor told me it was broken and I’d be off the bike for ten-to-twelve weeks I nearly lost it.

Well, fast forward nine weeks, and we’re at the tail end of the long national nightmare. And I’m making some lemonade here. First, the weather. It’s been pretty bad since mid-December. I haven’t really missed much. I’m not one that worries much about weather, as I will go out and happily ride bikes in the worst of it. But I stay off the trails when they’re slushy and muddy, and I think they’ve been slushy and muddy since Christmas. Second, I’ve had something of a mini-creative renaissance the last two months. Work, real work, has been slow, and I’ve had the time to dig in on this super-hero picture book I’ve been working on all year and play with technique stuff. I’ve been so busy the last decade that most of the work I’ve done has been on tight deadlines and I haven’t been able to, or had the wherewithal to experiment much. I draw, scan, digital-color, done. But with this book I’ve been wanting to get away from the computer.

To that end, I’ve been re-learning how to paint and color and make things with pencils and ink and paper, and it’s been kind of great. Scary, but that’s what makes me realize how much I’ve been using the computer and photoshop as a crutch.

As part of the same line of thinking, Sacha and a few colleagues convinced me to start a second Instagram account focused on my illustrations and creative work. My original account is more of a day-to-day visual diary: dog photos, vacation pictures, Friday-night cocktails, and a lot of pictures of bikes. People actually complained. But mostly, I think, people just didn’t follow. Say someone sees my work somewhere and goes to instagram to see if I have an account. They find it and see ten pictures of bicycles and Negronis and Sacha and the dog punctuated by one drawing from a sketchbook, and they move on.

So, fine, I started a new account. This one dedicated to drawings, illustrations, books, making things. And so far so good. Knowing I have a hole to fill makes me work. After breaking my ankle, I worked from home for four weeks, and spent an hour or so every morning drawing for fun. Just stuff that was in my head. I know, it seems like this wold be a normal activity for me. But it wasn’t. Instead, I bicycled. Or read the internet. Or… worked. Remember, I’ve been busy for the last decade. Time to just screw around and draw wasn’t at the top of my to-do list. (This might be the subject of another post one day, but for years I had no interest in drawing for fun. If I wasn’t in the studio on deadline, I wanted to be doing something else. Riding bikes, for example. Or playing guitar. Or watching tv. Anything. So I’ve been coasting, creatively, and that’s bad. But let’s move on.

One of the interesting things about the new account is that the work it feeds to me to look at is different. Rather than bikes and bike things, I was finding new illustrators and artists. Really lovely stuff. Inspirational stuff. And I started drawing. Drawing drawing drawing.

Somewhere along the line I started drawing a lot of fish.

And then somewhere else I started thinking how cool it would be to have these fish be a thing. A thing that can be held and looked at and turned around. An object. How would I go about this? Wood. I’ll make it out of wood! How hard could that be? It was right before christmas that I watched a YouTube video about carving wood and ordered a few tools. The videos I was finding were all “whittling” and most had little gnomes and country-folk as their subject matter. But nevermind, the techniques were the same. I watched. And on January 16 I started carving.

That was fun! Something clicked. I made another one.

I painted them and made little stands for them.

Next, I wanted to try a different kind of wood. Basswood is fine, but it’s like using crayons when you know there are oil paints out there. My friend Kirk found a nice block of butternut at a lumberyard and gifted it to me with the request that he get a fish. So I cut a block and went to work on my third.

Butternut is more satisfying, but more difficult as well. Here, you can get a better idea of the size. It’s a little larger. The teeth/mouth were the tough end-grain of the block (lemons/lemonade) and I painted this one with acrylic, following a coat of linseed oil to protect the wood. Kirk named this fish “Beulah.”

Without question, this is incredibly satisfying. It’s exactly what I wanted when I started down this rabbit hole two months ago. My head is full of ideas. Different fish, birds, skulls, things that move… I even picked up a collection of old doll legs and arms off eBay, cause I have some ideas

Where is this gonna take me? Who knows. Who cares. Maybe I’ll sell some. Maybe I’ll just give them away to friends. I know I plan to give each of my siblings a fish, and make some birds for our Christmas tree this year. I’m feeling ambitious…

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Ten years ago I made a series of six race car collages that screwed up my brain. See, I draw. I’ve always drawn. The idea of making images with cut paper seemed so foreign, and making these race cars was so crazy fun and weird and maybe 10% scary. It’s not digital, there is no undo, and it’s like trying to learn to communicate effectively in a different language. I know how a car looks when I draw it, but how does it look if I make it with paper and glue?

Mainly, I loved the process and I couldn’t wait to do more. But somehow ten years and about 35 books went by and I only periodically messed around with the technique. I have stayed in touch with collage, from afar. My friend Kevin Mercer makes lovely work, and I’ve read a bunch of books and seen some exhibits while I waited for the opportunity.

Well, waiting for opportunities is dumb. You don’t wait for them, you make them. So after finishing a picture book a few weeks ago, I blocked some time and got to work. The excuse here is an alphabet book I want to pitch, and these are practice images. Both are cut paper on pine boards. One is 10×10 inches and the other is 12×12. Both utilize magazines, comics, scanned images from an old plumbing and heating manual, and other printed ephemera. And the enjoyment has not slipped away. This is fun stuff and I can’t wait to make more.

Here are some process photos of how these things come together. The two pictures of the book are from “Audels House Heating Guide 1948” which was used for the robot parts in the rear of the blue truck, as well as the rear of the truck itself.



Friday, May 26th, 2017

I’ve been doing some updating on the site. Two months ago, we changed servers from Laughing Squid to some kind of custom thing my teenage son made with Digital Ocean. I don’t know if you’ve notice the difference, but it’s huge. Much quicker, more responsive. We had some email glitches but those are fixed and all seems to be working well.
The only remaining issue is in converting my old illustration galleries to new formats and getting them to work. I’m also going through and finding out-of-date media and trying to convert it to modern stuff. Namely, Flash animations to anything that isn’t Flash. One of my first attempts at animation was in 2004 with the trailer to a little French book I made called Un Mode de Transport. Today I nailed it down using a .FLV file I found in my archive hard drive, and converted it using Adobe Media Encoder. The soundtrack was made using Propellerhead Reason, which was the first electronic music software I played with. Here I sampled my own voice for the first part, and used a bunch of accordion and percussion samples for the second. It’s always nice to use hot-stuff electronic music software to make something sound like it was recorded in a kitchen with pots and pans.

Enjoy.

Un Mode de Transport from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Recently designed a couple of posters for some bike events that i’d like to show off. One is for a ride taking place this weekend called Lu Lacka Wyco Hundo. It takes place over three counties in Pennsylvania, Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming (“Lu Lacka Wy Co”) and is more or less 100 miles long (Hundo). I’ve ridden it the last two years and I’ll be at it again on Sunday. These posters were printed by Ralph Stollenwerk at Pinkbikeralph here in Philly, and they look so good. They’re only available for riders, and have already sold out.

The second ride takes place in the fall, up near Williamsport PA and is called Keystone Gravel. It’s about 65 miles, and was the center of my favorite weekend on bikes last year. “Chainsaw” Donnie Breon puts this one together, and got in touch with me looking for a flier. I’d originally designed these two posters with Lu Lacka in mind, but when we went with the map idea instead, I told Donnie I had a better idea. There is a “his” and a “hers” and they look good hanging on the wall next to each other. These two are for sale on Etsy, together or separately, and will be printed by me mid-summer.

Here is a link to an album of pictures I took last year at Keystone Gravel.

And lastly, here’s a picture of me just after finishing Keystone Gravel last September, taken by the mighty Abe Landes of Firespire Photography.

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

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This has been a long time coming.

Long time readers might recall that I took a screenprinting class at The University of the Arts way back in 2009. This class was taught by Greg Pizzoli, and got me all fired up to do a lot of this kind of thing. Class ended, Everything Goes began, the kids turned into time-sucking teenagers, I hit a creative funk, new books came along, Tinyville Town begun… and I never got around to getting this together. In the meantime, I bought a crappy old exposure unit that sat in my studio here collecting dust for a year before I gave it away to a punk band, my box of Speedball inks waited patiently on my shelf, and I kept telling myself that I’d get back to this, eventually.
At the end of last year, I invested some bucks into a nice new Ryonet exposure unit and a bunch of appropriate chemicals (screen reclaimer, ink wash, emulsion, and some other stuff). Six months later, I began to worry that this was going to sit here forever, as well.

Then, two weeks ago, my friend Michael stopped by for lunch. Michael is pretty handy and has kind of a “just get it done” attitude, so I decided to hold him hostage for the afternoon and see if he’d spend some time helping me put my printing table together. I had an enormous piece of plywood with a couple of hinges screwed down. All I needed to do, I thought, was just cut the thing down to size. We did this, but we didn’t stop there. We re-fastened the hinges with bolts rather than screws. We even decided to cover the plywood with some laminate I’d bought a couple of years ago but never got around to gluing down. In two hours, the table was done and I was inspired.

It only takes that first domino to fall, right? In the next two weeks, I built a screen-drying box, covered the closet window to make that room the dark room. I ordered some nice industrial legs for one of my tables and with my kids’ help I put that thing together. Then, earlier this week, my daughter and I coated a couple of screens with emulsion and ran step-tests with the exposure unit. Once I knew that two minutes and fifteen seconds was the magic number, I burned a screen yesterday afternoon and was beside myself when it washed out perfectly. That meant that today was printing day.

The illustration is one I made a few years ago that I always thought would be a good print. This was playing it safe, today, as it’s merely one-color on colored paper. I had a nice purple ink from the class back in 2009, and I’d ordered some Lemon Drop 100lb cover from French Paper. The image isn’t exactly child-friendly, but future prints will be, at times.

The print run is an edition of 25, ten of which I’m selling in my Etsy store. The others I’m saving, and giving a few away as gifts to some people who have inspired this stuff.

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Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

I’m currently writing and drawing a book about a bridge for a pretty big series of books I’ll be talking about a LOT at some point. I’ve learned more about bridges and bridge engineering in the last three weeks than I thought I’d ever want or need to know.
Last week I was in New York, leeching off a trip Sacha had to take for work, and taking advantage of it to spend a few days meeting with some editors at Abrams and Roaring Brook. When we arrived at the hotel on Delancey Street, I noticed immediately that we were right at the pedestrian entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. So while Sacha headed out early for her client stuff, and since I didn’t have my first appointment until noon, I spent that morning meandering to Brooklyn and back.

The Williamsburg Bridge is the bridge over the East River I guess I think about the least when I think about those bridges. (Don’t you have a list, in order, as well?) For me, it’s the Queensborough Bridge, otherwise known as the 59th Street Bridge first. Woody Allen saw to that. Second would be the Brooklyn Bridge, of course. It was the first bridge I walked across when I was 17 visiting NYC in 1985. Third would be the Manhattan Bridge, mainly just because it’s next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Several years ago, the pedestrian and bikeways were redesigned and rebuilt, and now the Williamsburg carries more bicycles on any given day than any bridge in the world. I think every single one of them was crossing at the same time I was.

So here is a collection of the photos I took on the walk. I was fascinated with the pink color of the walkway against the grey and blue of the bridge and sky. It was morning, about 10am, and the light was fantastic. Last but not least was the graffiti. It was everywhere, covering nearly every surface, to the point where it became just texture.

The pictures were taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 and with my iPhone.

See them on Flickr here or click the photo below.

a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Muertos

(Click the images to see them bigger. In some cases, much bigger.)
I was recently asked by Steven Malk, my literary agent at Writers House, to create a promotional card for the upcoming holiday. No, not Halloween. Rather, the Day of the Dead, or Díos de los Muertos. I actually volunteered for this — he is putting together a series of these promotional images for the lesser-known holidays. Arbor Day, Grandparent’s Day, and so on. When I saw Muertos on the list I jumped at the chance. I’ve long admired the work of J.G. Posada, whose wood-cut skeletons and other imagery I associate with the holiday.

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cyclists---Posada

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Originally I thought I might even play with some printmaking techniques to pay a little homage to Posada as I make this image, but I quickly realized that with the looming deadline for the second Frank Einstein book, this would not be possible. I had to do what I do the way I know how to do it, and go from there.

I pretty much knew what I wanted to do from the start. The festive atmosphere of a Day of the Dead celebration is one that everyone should at some point experience. I don’t love the goofy goth-horror side that Americans have sort of adapted over the years, and I wanted the story told here to be less about the costumes and more about the idea of this old guy moving from this life to the next. I went through a few phases with the sketches but it came together pretty quickly.
Below I post various steps in the process, in order that I made them, and some details from the final art.

The first sketch -- just two guys.

The first sketch — just two guys.

I thought a background would be involved at first.

I thought a background would be involved at first.

Working out color stuff.

Working out color stuff.

The big tight sketch that becomes the basis for the inked art.

The big tight sketch that becomes the basis for the inked art.

Inked and scanned, ready for color in Photoshop.

Inked and scanned, ready for color in Photoshop.

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The printed card.

The printed card.

The reverse side with the necessary information.

The reverse side with the necessary information.

The printed card is only 4.25″ x 6″, so I’m sad that a lot of the detail of the line-work is difficult to make out. I’d love to print this thing bigger at some point. Maybe when I get the mythical screen-printing gear in my closet here set up and running…

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

I did a Day of the Dead job recently that I’ll post next week — in the meantime here’s what I think of as “skull practice.” A couple of sketchbook things, and a small painting for my brother’s baby daughter in The Ukraine.

Roxane skulls

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Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Some things take a lot of work, and some things just fall right there into place. This is of the latter. Just had an idea one morning to do some identity work for my ongoing music project, Dance Robot, Dance. This started out years ago consisting of only computer-based electronic music made with software and has expanded into a sprawling thing that covers all the instruments I know how to play as well as interesting recording techniques and editing processes. I chose my main four tools to use here: electric guitar, accordion, modular synthesizer, and sax.
The result here was created digitally, but I’d like to use it with rubber stamps and screen-printing, for starters.

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Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

self portrait

self portrait

Have a safe halloween.