(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.
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.
I thought a background would be involved at first.
Working out color stuff.
The big tight sketch that becomes the basis for the inked art.
Inked and scanned, ready for color in Photoshop.
The printed card.
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…
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.
Photographer Jon Barkat dropped by the studio last night with his guitar. By chance, I happen to have some things in to which we can plug his guitar and record what he plays. Also by chance, I had one of my ukuleles at the studio and a new microphone into which I could record it. So we started noodling around, recording said noodling into Ableton Live, and made us a little song. 090918: ukulele & guitar by dance robot dance
So as you listen, you can hear me on the ukulele picking notes, then thumping on the uke like drums, then at about :32, strumming a simple little C-F chord change. At :50 Jon kicks in with his guitar, then at 1:06 it’s Jon again with the same guitar but playing a bass line.
Things get repetitive around 2:20 so Jon suggested adding drama. Listen and see if you can identify the dramatic elements.
Normally, I’m known to not stray far beyond music of the electronic synthesizer variety so this was a departure. Hope you like.
I’m in Arkansas for a while this month. I get a little stir-crazy when I don’t have my studio and stuff around me so as to make the things I make. I’ve got some deadlines so I am working, mainly out of the public library here in Fayetteville. I borrowed my brother-in-law’s video camera and made a little ha ha movie on Sunday evening. Hopefully more to come during this trip.
The video was recorded with Boinx iStopMotion and edited in Adobe Premiere. The music was made with Ableton Live and the Microtonic drum machine. Aaah. Technology.
If you’ve explored my site at any length, you might have stumbled across my audio page, labeled “noise” on the menu up there. This is my little hobby area where I play out my secret life as a dj and electronic musician. I have a small room in my house with a red desk on which lives a pile of devices for making sounds. These include a turntable, a synthesizer, a MIDI keyboard, an old Casio thing, a touch-controller, and wads of cables.
Recently, I registered a domain name for the sole purpose of making an internet home for the things I make in this room. My plan is to move the noises away from MrBiggs dot com, and onto this new domain, which is DanceRobotDance dot com.
My friend Marc, who I know from back in the wild and wooly comics days, is also an electronic music guy. He’s had a wbsite for as long as I can remember called Disquiet dot com on which he writes about music, and which is one of the few sites to which I have subscribed via RSS. I’ve discovered a lot of terrific music via Marc’s site, and even when I don’t love what he’s got up there, I like reading what he has to say about it. When I got a few tunes up on Dance Robot Dance the other day, I sent him the link.
Today, Marc made Dance Robot Dance and my use of the web site Soundcloud.com for hosting my sound files the subject of a Disquiet post. Check it out.
A year or so ago, the amazing Keri Smith dropped me an email asking if I’d take part in a project that her husband, Jefferson Pitcher and two of his friends, Christian Kiefer and Matthew Gerken, were working on. It’s a collection of 43 songs, each about a different president. So, you know, there’s a song about Eisenhower. And one about Lincoln. And Reagan. Etc. I asked if I could have the one with the sideburns. And so I was asked to illustrate Chester Arthur, our 21st president.
So then yesterday, Oct 8, I hear a story about the project on National Public Radio and I find that they included my Arthur in the nice slideshow. You can read more about the project here, with links to buy the thing. Enjoy.
Went out riding with the kids this last Saturday. Then I spent some time with Wilson yesterday in my new Premiere CS3 checking out the features. We remapped the time and sped things up, added titles, and imported a new version of an older tune. See it all here. If you aren’t happy with Vimeo, see it on Youtube as well. Enjoy.