Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday at The Lakes...

Yesterday's event, ART & LITERATURE AT THE LAKES in West Covina, was part picnic and part creative endeavor. The focus of the event was the fundraiser for the West Covina library. The Library had several tables set up where they sold books, and Rubio's Mexican Grill donated proceeds from the day's sales to the Library. There was a DJ and several musical acts performing that day, as well as a series of live poetry readings, plus a Lazer Tag was provided for fun and games. We Cartoonistas were there to dazzle people with our Live Art and some of us set up a table with our goods, comics and art prints.

During the set-up that morning, the sky was overcast, but I was glad because outdoor gigs in California can be killer! Luckily the sun never got too bad that day.

We were provided with our own canopy, which made for a cozy little Cartoonista Cabana. Steve Romo and Grasiela hard at work drawing, while I'm prepping my table display to be just right!

Cartoonista co-founder Jim Lujan showed up on his bike early on. He and his wife had an event to attend to later that afternoon so he had to sit this gig out, but he drove over from his home to say 'Hi'. It really was a refreshing blast of sunshine when he showed up. He and myself are usually the ones who have done every single Cartoonista gig, so when one of us doesn't show the other gets down and blue.... :(

Also showing up later that afternoon was Raul Aguirre, the Cartoonista's Ace in The Hole! Raul's wife Hortencia was kind enough to bring us an ice chest full of water and soda pop, and two huge sandwiches of ham and turkey with heavenly cheese and fresh, juicy tomatoes and lettuce! Man, we Cartoonistas know how to eat up a feast!

One of the performers that day was a young man (from my town of Whittier!) called Christopher who recited some poetry. Raul drew him as he performed and later presented the art to the poet. Both poet and artist were happy with the results. These are the type of things that make live appearances so memorable.

The only Live Art piece I made was Terminator. It's funny, at one point after I finished the drawing, the DJ (Donald) and I were talking about the state of the shattered California economy and all the state budget cuts. Located right next to Donald was my drawing of Arnold as Terminator. So weird that the person I drew was also now the Governor of the state with the apocalyptic budget scenario!

Since I didn't draw much, most of my time was spent talking to people about the Cartoonistas and my own comics work. One of my sales was to a lady who hosts a local cable access show, and she asked me to appear on her show for an interview. The old adage proved true once again: One gig sometimes can lead to another opportunity!

There were also some musicians in attendance who had a Conga line available for people to participate in. Among the participants were some folks from a galaxy far, far away!

I attended some of the early meetings with the Chamber of Commerce in organizing this event, along with some of the other organizations involved. And it's interesting how much behind-the-scenes work must get done beforehand. Once you're actually at the event, you realize how awesome it is that something on this scale gets started simply with and idea, then one day becomes reality. I'm glad the focus was on fundraising for the West Covina Library (which actually hosted us Cartoonistas there several months ago).

And once again, I had a really good time just hanging out with my friends in the Cartoonistas. We're all fairly different in terms of personalities and what we want out of our art, but there's a pretty special camaraderie between our group of artists. Sitting out there in the cool weather, surrounded by all that music, all that great food, drawing, talking art. It's no wonder we bust ourselves sometimes lining up these gigs. In the end, we're just having a great time. It's like we get together for an outdoor picnic, but we happen to be drawing and attracting looky loos!

Friday, May 29, 2009

This Saturday: ARTS & LITERATURE AT THE LAKES in West Covina

Among other artists and performers, the Cartoonistas and I will be participating at the ARTS & LITERATURE AT THE LAKES event in West Covina, this Saturday from 11am - 5pm. I'll be performing some Live Art as well as selling my comics and DVDs! Come on down for good times, poetry, books, music and more.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Color marker sketches...

This afternoon,out of curiousity, I bought a pack of 3x5 blank, White index cards at the office supply store. Amongst my drawing tools I had bought for my Live Art tool box were packs of Highlighter Markers. For a while now I've been wanting to try drawing some quick little color sketches with index cards and markers. I've always loved looking at color comps (those really rough,loose drawings with quick slashes of color marker scribbled over the image, just to get a sense of the final design with color).

My great friend Jason Martin, creator of the comic book SUPER REAL, has done sketch cards for several editions of the MARVEL MASTERPIECES series, and seeing his stuff had given me the idea of drawing quick, color sketches on a smaller canvas.

(click to enlarge)

So I drew these 3 cards featuring my characters EL MUERTO, MAN-SWAMP and DEMOLITION DOVE. I'm thinking of perhaps having these type of drawings available whenever I do conventions or signings. Maybe charge a very modest price for these. I've always been willing to give anyone a sketch, usually in pencil or with a black marker, at no charge whatsoever. I'll often sketch on one of the comics folks buy from me, or on a flier I give them or even in their own sketchbooks. The fans always appreciate it, and I really do enjoy the opportunity myself! But perhaps a little color drawing would entice someone to drop a buck or two in the 'tip' jar!

What I like about doing these sketches is the tools I'd limit myself to. Just plain, white 3x5 index cards, a blue pencil to sketch out the drawing, and a collection of markers: Sharpie Highlighter Markers, a couple of Sharpie Extra Fine Point markers, a black brush pen and a thicker black Sharpie to fill in blacks. Basically the materials you may find in a well-stocked office desk drawer. I really like the bright fluorescent colors of the Highlighters, and the fact that I would use those colors as regardless if they don't really match the established colors of the characters I'm drawing. I'd only use a regular Red, Blue and Green fine point marker to provide a bit of texture (Man-Swamp) or specific color accuracy (Demolition Dove's red strap across his T-shirt).

I've got a good enough stable of characters I've created (even if they haven't yet, or maybe never will, appear in a comic of their own) where I probably wouldn't use established characters. These color sketch drawings would be used to promote my own art and ideas. If someone wanted to commission me to draw a really nice Green Lantern or Spider-Woman, then we'll talk!

Ultimately these sketches are just another form of expression. And if they could raise some money for the ol' Los Comex Treasury, why not?!

Monday, May 25, 2009

MAKING BELIEVE art show Pt. 2

Pt. 1 of this blog report was done yesterday, please scroll down one post below if you haven't read that one yet...

The Opening Night Reception for the two-man exhibit, MAKING BELIEVE, brought in lots of family, friends and people interested in artwork. GEEKS had their usual spread of refreshments available to all, and all evening folks would wander around looking at the art and mingling and sitting in the comfortable chairs and couches spread throughout the store.

My brother and sister were there, along with mom! My mother was certainly happy to see her little Javi and Christianito working together in an exhibit.

My older brother Albert was of course influential in me getting into comics and art. If it wasn't for his collection of comics he gave me in the early 70s, and his own cartooning skills I emulated, it's very likely I would never have gotten into comics or art. Which means I wouldn't be exhibiting artwork, which means I probably wouldn't even be blogging.... Who knows, right? Thing is, I am eternally grateful to Albert and make a point of mentioning him in interviews I do.

My younger sister Imelda, here with here two boys, Christian, my fellow artist, and David (on my right), who doubles as my Godson. Christian's girlfriend, Nicole, also came out to show support. I hope one day David comes up to me with some problem he needs help with and calls me "Godfather..."!

My jaw dropped when I saw my lovely niece Carolina (yeah, the little blind circus girl
in EL MUERTO:DEAD & CONFUSED Pt. 1 is named after her!) sitting there reading a Dark Horse collection of THE MASK! Never seen her read a comic book before, including mine!

Several times that evening, groups of students from Cantwell High School would track me down and ask me to sign the promotional flier/postcard. Turns out that their Chicano Studies teacher let them get extra credit for attending the show. Not only was I glad that these young students were checking out our artwork, but I'm glad that the instructor encouraged them to attend the show. Here's Christian playing the role of rock star artist! At one point he turned to me and said "I'm going to have to get used to signing autographs!"

(These darn, photogenic artist types!)

My fellow Cartoonistas showed up of course!

(left to right, back row)Raul Aguirre, Jim Lujan, Will Caulfield and (left to right) Bernyce Talley and Grasiela Rodriguez. What an awesome group these people are. They really are my Super Friends!

Speaking of Super Friends, it wouldn't be a true night to remember without this guy, Rafael Navarro, creator of SONAMBULO, Emmy Award-winning storyboard artist, my movie/comic nerd partner, etc.:

I actually sat with Raf at his debut show, the Alternative Press Expo in San Jose back in 1997, one year before I went back to the same show and debuted EL MUERTO. We've been in the trenches of self-publishing for years, driving all over the state and collaborating on many shows and projects. He's got that same die-hard passion for DIY comics as I do, and there's very few people who can top him for being in complete synchronicity with me about our love for Jack Kirby, Silver Age Marvel, superhero movies, film quotes and other inane hobbies! I told Rafael that one day, by the gods themselves, one day we are going to produce a Treasury-sized SONAMBULO/EL MUERTO epic that features Heinrich Himmler, zombie Conquistadores, a Nazi Muerto and more thrills and chills you can shake a luchador mask at!!

Local artist Gerry Bonilla, who actually had the previous exhibit at GEEKS.

And just to show I'm not only about promotion and networking, sometimes ya gotta take time to dance a tango with a pretty lady during a show!

Speaking of pretty ladies and the Man-Swamp.... I swear, this wonderful gal, Sandy, brought her son to the show, and after we started chatting about my work and her tattoos, she told me straight out that she wants a Man-Swamp tattoo on her arm!! Right below this mass of roses she had inked. I figured Swampy would fit right in with her red and green rose artwork, so I'll be contacting her for the details. That is trippy for many reasons, primarily because she doesn't even know what the comic book is about!
Needless to say, I'll keep this blog updated with developing details! (See writers, the cool part about comics are first and foremost the visuals!!!)

What a night, that's the best way to put it. What a fantastic, wonderful night! Thanks to everyone for visiting, my friends and family and fans of our artwork. Thanks to GEEKS for hosting me yet again at their fine establishment. And thanks to my newphew, Christian Silva, for inspiring me with his own amazing artistic skills. Love ya....

Some nice video courtesy of filmmaker, animator and bicycling Olympian, Jimmy Lujan:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

MAKING BELIEVE art show Pt. 1

Saturday night, May 23.....Whatta night! My nephew Christian and I had the Opening Reception for our two-man art show MAKING BELIEVE at GEEKS comics shop in Whittier, CA.

The event ran from 7 pm to about 10:30 or so. Least, that's when the last of the guests left. Having a two-person show with my nephew, his first official art exhibit actually, and having so many friends and family in attendance was wonderful. I can't stress enough how important it is for us artists to get out of the studio and actually share our art in person with the public. And I'm not just talking about standing there and discussing your artwork, I mean just the new people you meet and the discussions that follow give you a good, positive dose of humanity. Least it's always been that way for me.

I'm going to spread this post over two separate entries, as there is so much to share. Today I'll just share the actual artwork with you, and tomorrow you can see pics of me and Christian with our family, friends and fans!

Here's the statement/bio page, written about an hour or so before the show opened!

Christian Silva, standing tall and proud! This is my favorite piece of the whole show, his "Nicole's diary":

This one's called "The Strangers", which Christian tells me is inspired by the novel THE STRANGER by Albert Camus:

I actually never read that book, but I looked it up on Wikipedia and made an interesting discovery. Apparently, the late comic book writer Steve Gerber was partially inspired by Camus's book when he created his signature comic book character, Howard the Duck! Howard the Duck is one of my all time favorite comic series, and I first read the comics back in the late 70s. Here's what Gerber said about Camus's influence: "It relates directly to that sense of alienation I mentioned. Howard is Mersault with a sense of humor, an existentialist who screams and quacks as a hedge against sinking into utter despair. The very first line that ever came out of his beak, back in Fear #19, had to do with the absurdity of existence." (This is taken from the actual online interview linked at Wikipedia). It's funny to me that at age 12 or so I was reading Howard the Duck getting a comic book version of existentialism in the form of a cranky, cigar smoking talking duck, and Christian is getting it from a classi French novel at age 18!

Two more pieces from 'the kid':

We also worked on a jam piece. I gave Christian a canvas and told him we would both work on it. I didn't have any pre-planned method for how we would do it, only that I would retrieve the canvas from him at a later date. Well, when I saw the piece, I figured I wanted to use his painting as a background for a drawing I would create. So I pulled an idea from my sketchbooks (yet another character I have floating around the 'back burners'!) and placed him in the environment Christian created. I thought it was a great mash-up of our styles. My graphic, bold comic imagery mixed with his free-form style of design and color. In the interest of not publicizing the character's name just yet, we called this 'untitled'!:

Here are the pieces I had on display. First one is yet another idea I have for a comic, this one created to be an ARCHIE comics-type story, based in a future Super-Mexico, revolving around this trio of friends!:

This one is the old 1960s/70s Frito Corn Chips mascot that was pulled once it was deemed 'racist' toward Mexicans! This was bought by a lovely Mexican couple with a sense of humor (fellow Cartoonista Raul Aguirre and his wife!). "Frito Bandito":

Two more, including a character that I will forever be linked to (at least, I'm trying my damnedest to!):

The other painting I debuted that evening was 'Man Swamp', which is the image I'm using for the cover of my upcoming comic book. Not one to let a promotional opportunity pass me by, I also had this little flier on display at the front counter:

Some folks told me they would be returning to GEEKS to get their copies of the comic, and let me say, to my complete surprise and gratitude, a lady at the exhibit wants to commission me for a Man-Swamp tattoo on her arm!! Tune in tomorrow for more on that little bombshell!!

Additional opening night reception pix and commentary on Monday's entry, please come back and check them out. Thanks to Jim Lujan for providing most of the above photos!

Friday, May 22, 2009

sneak peek of tomorrow's MAKING BELIEVE art show

This evening I put up the two-man art show me and my nephew Christian will be exhibiting at GEEKS comics in Whittier.

When I proposed the show to my nephew he was extremely excited (which turned into nervousness once he realized the show was set in stone!). He's shown his work at student art shows in high school and has displayed, and sold, some pieces at his local art walk. But this is his first proper exhibit, and in conjunction with me, his good ol 'Uncle J'.

For the last several weeks we've both been working on our paintings. Some of mine were based on ideas I've has in my sketchbooks featuring the many characters that I come up with. Sometimes I think the ideas may work as a comic, maybe even a cartoon. But for now they'll have their debut in the form of paintings. Here's one (which regular readers of JAVZILLA will remember from this previous post):

The lurid colors for this piece came to me from discussing with some friends the funky color choices from old 1970s cartoons, in particular the wonderfully wild palette for the PLANET OF THE APES cartoon:

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blog post!

Here's the piece, by Christian Silva, my nephew, that I think is the star attraction of the show (and the pic doesn't capture the detail and nuances of the piece)...

I really love this piece. It's packed with emotion, and I'm sure, insights that only the artist who created it has. Strong clash of color and a free-form style of expression that really inspires me. I was comparing his style from the way I usually paint. I often go for one bold image with a strong choice of bright colors, and some sort of symmetry in the design. Christian's approach is to layer a painting with several images at a time, often with an underdrawing showing through. He'll add text throughout the piece, and all the while using different mediums: acrylic, marker, even ballpoint pen. I started thinking that since I do comics, I use that medium to tell a story with pages and panels and word balloons. His pieces remind me of one-panel compilations: text and images are all overlapped together on the canvas, giving the viewer fragments of the whole story known only to the creator of the piece. I'll have to ask him on Saturday what he thinks of my 'theory'.

If you're in the Whittier area, please come visit us at GEEKS, Saturday night, May 23 from 7-10pm for our show!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Big hit at the Whittier Library

By far, the most rewarding gigs I've been involved in with the Cartoonistas are the library appearances we do. And yesterday's gig at the Whittier Public Library was no exception.

Bonnie Weber, Head Librarian for Children's Services, and her staff were absolutely exemplary in taking care of us. I may have written this before, but library staffs respect and appreciate the talent that performs at their facilities. So right off the top we were already enjoying our appearance there in t he Nixon Room (named after Whittier resident and the former President!). I was joined by Cartoonistas Jim Lujan, Raul Aguirre and Grasiela Rodriguez (although for reasons unknown she sat and enjoyed the show from the audience seats!!).

One thing about the library gigs is that you get the perfect crowd, kids aged from 8-12. They're at that age where they go along for the show (as long as you're entertaining!) and are still open to speaking up and sharing. It's always great to see parents attending with their kids because you know they're spending some quality time together enjoying the performance.

Among the attendees was a young man whose been a fan of my work since he was 16 (he's now 20), when he first joined the Message Board I used to host on my El Muerto website. I actually met him in person last year when I was up in Portland at the Stumptown Comics Fest. This time he happened to be in Los Angeles on vacation with family and was able to make it to this event. There was young kid who was familiar with El Muerto via the local comics shop GEEKS, where my comics and DVD sold. (Maybe now he'll go back and buy them!)

What do we actually do at these gigs? Lots! I started with an intro about how the Cartoonistas formed and talked of my own childhood growing up in Whittier and as a kid using the Library to study the Norse mythology I first discovered in Marvel Comic's THOR. I started with an interactive comic making project. I told the kids we would make a one page, four panel comic book with Lollipop Kid (easy to draw, you see!). I started with the Kid walking down the street and via the suggestions from the audience, the Kid found a shiny penny on the floor, got swallowed by a dragon, and then was spit out because he was orange flavored! I don't think I'm gonna create the next Jack Kirby with these exercises, but it's fun hearing the kids contribute elements to the creation of a simple story.

Jim (above) dazzled the crowd with his trademark 'Doodle Challenge'. He asks a kid to scribble a doodle on a piece of paper, the trickier the better, and then he makes a drawing out of it. He's amazingly good making really clever choices with his drawings, and his rapport with the kids is fantastic. These prove really popular every time.

Raul, in his debut library appearance as a Cartoonista, talked to the kids about his work in animation for such studios such as Disney, and also gave the kids some quick lessons in cartooning.

This guy's not only amazingly talented in his drawing, but he's also a master at communicating with the audience and playing back and forth with the kids. He drew the Hulk eating a burrito, and was bantering with this little kid, David, about the drawing. David told us he was the 'best green colorer', so Raul asked him to color the drawing! That kid was awesome. Probably about 6 or 7, but with a real vocal and expressive way about him.

At the end of our 2 hours (and boy what a workout it is to be 'on' the full time!) we auction off our artwork and doodle for the kids.

One lucky young lady won Raul's Punisher art, and she actually wanted it! One kid won a Wolverine I drew, but traded it for the Muerto drawing another kid has won! That made me feel really good. I also got requests to draw Venom, Cyclops, Black-suit Spider-Man, the Flash and my two favorites: a rabbit (!) and....the Planter's Peanut dude!?!

Raul's debut performance in a library gig was a grand slam. The kids loved it, we loved it, and Mr' Aguirre himself loved it. The fact that his lovely and creative wife was there was icing on the cake. A Cartoonistas salute to the Aguirre's, the Diego and Frida for our times! And thanks to the Whittier Library, the parents and kids who showed up, and my friends in the Cartoonistas for this great day.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Live Art at Whittier Library and Art show at GEEKS!

It's a double-whammy for me and my hometown of Whittier, CA! I've got two consecutive art gigs coming up the next two weekends. One is with the Cartoonistas and the other is an two-man art show I'm doing with my nephew Christian. The art show will be held at GEEKS comics shop, and we'll both be exhibiting new paintings!

Coming up first is a Live Art event May 16 at the Whittier Public Library. The same library where about 30 years ago I used to spend a couple of saturday's in row reading books on Norse mythology! At the time I was going through a big kick on Thor, the Marvel Comics hero whose based on the Norse god of thunder. I was fascinated by all the mythology presented in the comics and so I wanted to learn more about the Norse legends from the source.

I approached the library some months ago regarding an appearance for myself, but I also mentioned that I was a member of the Cartoonistas and they ended up booking the group as well. The library gigs are my favorite of all the events the Cartoonistas do. The kids are always responsive and the staffs are very attentive. If you're in the area on May 16, pleaese come by and watch us do our magic!

On May 23 GEEKS will be hosting 'Making Believe' the two-man art show for my nephew Christian Silva and myself. Christian will be out of high school a few weeks later, but he's really excited to be doing his debut art show.

I'll write (and show!) more about this exhibit as we get nearer to the date, but mark this one on your calendar as well! I'd love to see any fans at either of these events!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Friday evening Wolverine/LIVE ART gig

Busy weekend for me! A Live Art gig with the Cartoonistas on Friday evening and Saturday morning found me at the Pasadena Library during their FREE COMIC BOOK DAY event. Here's news on the Live Art show:

Friday night's gig was a fundraiser for The Nuvein Foundation for Literature and the Arts (of which I'm proud to say I'm on the Board of Directors). We partnered with Rubio's Mexican Grill and held a Live Art event. Conveniently, WOLVERINE was playing at the Edward's Theatre located right across the courtyard!

The line-up of Cartoonistas for this mission were, left to right, myself, Jim Lujan, Steve Romo and Raul Aguirre.

I was really excited about this event because not only was it outdoors in the evening, but we had a DJ spinning tunes and we were going to focuse on drawing Wolverine. In preppeing for the show and looking at the old Dave Cockrum and John Byrne comics for reference, it really struck me how truly awesome a character Wolverine is (or was?). Something about a short, feral, adamantium-clawed Canadian badass in a super bright yellow and blue spandex outfit really screams comics purity. Too bad over the last 20 years an increasingly number of inane writers and editors and fans have devolved the character into a ridiculous poser with a horribly convoluted backstory. That's the problem with so many creators nowadays though: they get their hands on a great idea and feel they have to stamp their own 'mark' on the character and then eventually leave and another batch of creators continue to bury the character under even more ridiculous contrivances!. But I digress...

My first drawing that evening of Wolverine, with a nod to the current movie....(plus a surprise visit with the real Wolverine!)

Jim Lujan (who has posted some great videos he shot that night) created this cool piece on the classic Hulk vs. Wolverine battle:

I was not even aware that Jim was drawing this when I started my own Wolvie vs. Hulk drawing! I was consciously thinking of the legendary Sal Buscema's version of the Hulk as I drew mine.

Thing about these Live Art events, sometimes I get lost in my own private world when I'm drawing, even though it's a public performance and we had some music blasting (actually, the 80s New Wave music took me back to the last decade I was enthralled by the current Marvel Comics of the day). When I'm drawing these Marvel characters I'm reliving the sheer joy and wonder I got out the comics. The fanciful gratuitous fights, the totally improbable origins, the unending melodrama, etc. Basically, it's a pretty selfish act! But if someone can respond to the piece, and actually buy it and take it home to enjoy, well, that's pretty ideal.

Steve Romo, above, and Raul Aguirre, below, lost in their own worlds.

A color piece I did:

It started drizzling a bit at about 9pm, so we packed up an hour earlier than planned. Considering we had to be at the Library the following morning, it was just as well. I had fun drawing that evening, and glad the event helped raise scholarship money for the Nuvein Foundation. And the Rubio's Shrimp Burrito was excellent!