I recently got word that my octogenarian father is in the hospital again for the third time in the last three months. I am fairly sure the end of my father’s long and epic life is near. And though I have basically come to terms with not only the coming end of his life but my own life as well, human beings, real ones, were never meant to live forever.
But I do not welcome the coming sadness, never-the-less. There will always be something in the mysteries of death and darkness that is to be feared… and avoided for as long as possible.
One of the most important avoidance measures is to light a few candles. A candle holds back the darkness for a while. And of course, I mean that in only the most metaphorical of multiple senses.
There are many ways to light a candle. I have lit three in this essay. I lit them with my ink pen and my drawing skill (modest though it may be). And drawing alone is not the sum total of the ways a candle may be lit.
Each of the novels I have written is also a candle. They may be useless piles of pages that nobody ever reads, but they are the summation of my already long life and work as a writer. I may not be well known, and probably am not as talented as the better-known writers, but I really do have something to tell. And being published where someone may eventually… even accidentally read some of it, there is no telling exactly how far into the darkness my light will reach.
And the even-more-amazing fact about the reach my candlelight into the darkness has is this, my candles were only lit because my father first lit the candle that is me. As I have passed the candle-lighting responsibility on to those who read my writing, and to my children who have many more candles of their own to light.
I love you, Dad. Raymond L. Beyer. My next novel is dedicated to you. Let’s continue to hold off the darkness for as long as we can… together.
As I continue to draw nearer to publishing my comic horror novel, The Baby Werewolf, busily polishing paragraphs and tweaking the format, I had to find time to do some drawing, some colored pencil cartooning, actually, in order to draw even closer to a comprehensive understanding of the title character, Torrie Brownfield.
I decided that what I wanted to draw was a full-bodied portrait of Torrie, displaying in short pants the full impact of his “werewolf hair” caused by his full-body hypertrichosis syndrome, a genetic hair-growth disorder.
So, I began by printing out a reduced version of the scan of Torrie’s face and shoulders that I created from the drawing I made of him back when the story itself was merely in outline form. I pasted that colored print onto a larger piece of drawing paper and first penciled and then inked the rest of his body. I then used my colored pencils to go all Crayola on the bulk of it, ending up with the complete Torrie Brownfield, holding the one and only copy of Dr. Horation Hespar-White’s recipe book for Magical Airborne Elixir.
Now it doesn’t make sense to create an image like this for no particular reason. Was it just something I was doing to keep my hands busy while watching Netflix? Well, yes, but I did get something out of it after all. I was able to think seriously about my monster theme as heavy-handedly I continue to beat the reader over the head with it. I am obsessed with this particular portrait because, minus the facial fur, it actually looks like and reminds me of the charming little former student the character in the book is actually based on. He was a thirteen-year-old Hispanic boy, naive, innocent, and thoroughly sweet-natured. And he shared with me a history of abuse during childhood. He was not sexually abused, but psychologically and physically abused. And that, of course, led me to the revelation while drawing that the monster of my horror story is not a real werewolf. Not even the murderer who is the villain of the book. The real monster of the story is a systematic abuse of children. It can have two possible results. It can make you into a sweet-natured determined survivor like Danny was, and like Torrie is. Or it can turn you into a vengeful psychotic potential serial killer lashing out because of mental scars and lingering pain. Believe me, I knew a couple of that kind of kid too. Drawing can, in fact, lead you to revelations about yourself and the universe around you. And so, this little obsession has done that very thing for me.
So, I end with this scan of the completed artwork so you can get a better look at it than you can from my crappy photography skills. Drawing something obsessively does have its uses.
I am tired of reproducing my artworks in a way that gives you nothing but glops of brownish gray. My scanner isn’t large enough to get most of my pictures converted into a crisp digital image. Too many shadows and streaks sneak through the cracks. So I have been experimenting with lighting and camera quality.
This is my 300 watt bulb that I use for bounce lighting off the white bedroom ceiling. It effectively puts a low-glare patina of white light on an artwork that makes for a crisper photo.
Here’s an old D&D picture of the Pyromancer and his cat-man friend taking an early morning magic carpet ride. It has a variety of primary colors and colored-pencil surfaces that easily reflect glare, so the softer bright lighting makes a more pleasant outcome.
The real test comes from this graphite pencil drawing. Everything in this picture of Poppa Mouse coming home from work at the mouse post office is merely a shade of gray, no pure blacks or pure whites.
But as with anything in the world of making art, it is an on-going process, a work in progress. So I will continue to work at it.
I joined an art challenge Facebook group that regularly pits doodlers against each other with four minutes to doodle in and a place to post the results. And we do it for absolutely no prizes or titles or even ranking, just for the love of doodling. So here is a recent 4-minute doodle by Mickey posted on that selfsame super-silly group;
If you are having trouble believing that I dragon-doodled this in only 4 minutes, please notice that that the left side of the dragon’s face is clearly the area I was rushing to complete as the time was running out. I doodled this in black ink with a ballpoint pen. I timed it. And I have drawn numerous dragons before. So you could rationalize that I really worked for hours upon hours to be able to do this four minute doodle.
I began this journey in 2013 as author of Catch a Falling Star, using a blog to promote the book at the prompting of my publisher. They basically set the blog up for me and then handed me the steering wheel. And I drove right into the deep pool of creative liquid filled with my own writing, artwork, and goofy thinking.
One thing that was critical was adding pictures, especially my own colored-pencil art, to the blog. And so, I had to start converting my portfolios full of colorful scribbling. I bought a digital camera and started my quest to reproduce in digital form the most important parts of my soul.
Here is an example of one of those first reproductions done in sunlight with my digital camera.
It was acceptable enough to post, but look at the unicorn’s muzzle. Do you not see the glare? And how about the overall graying of the picture even at the most careful aperture settings? Not to mention the camera’s penchant for posting the date in the corner if I don’t ask it not to politely enough.
This one is so much better, having managed the settings better, having bought a 100 watt and a 300 watt light to light it better, and having practiced repeatedly.
This one is even a little better. It is done on my cell phone camera with a carefully selected and tested app that retains and enhances color so much more easily than the digital camera.
It is entirely possible you are looking at these three digital images and not seeing any difference. But the differences are noticeable to me. And I am proud of the progress I have made in four years, even if it is all in my stupid old head.
A simple, black-and-white drawing done in pen and ink. Elegant. Easy to understand. At least, if you can get past the weird little kid inside a birdhouse who has apparently saddled a mutant pigeon-sparrow. The black and white is the essential underpinning. The bones of the idea.
So, adding color makes things a little more complex. I started with the girl’s face. Here is where I establish the basic color-theme. And give more character to the surprised face peering through the portal of the bird house.
Much of the work in coloring this little articus projecticus is a matter of pattern. I like doing wood-grain patterns in colored pencil. It looks good when it’s finished. But it also takes time to do line after line.
The last step is to color the bird-riding fairy-kid. Here I am completing the color-echoes and the pattern-making. More lines. More care with giving the shapes volume by using light and shadow. And now we are at the final destination. The picture is complete.