Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What You Talkin' About? Coraline

"...And he said that wasn't brave of him, doing that, just standing there and being stung, " said Coraline to the cat. "It wasn't brave because he wasn't scared: it was the only thing he could do. But going back again to get his glasses, when he knew the wasps were there, when he was really scared. That was brave."
-Neil Gaiman"Coraline"

When my wife and I first saw "Coraline" in the theaters we were amazed. This movie was everything we look for in a film. Excellent story, beautiful visuals, the sound track fit was a movie that we knew we were going to own and share with our daughter(s).

So my first female character for little girls to look up to is Coraline Jones, from the book (and movie) Coraline. Just in case any of you has not had a chance to lay your hands on either telling of this story, I'll not spoil it for you by going too in depth here...The story revolves around a young girl who, just having moved to a new home with her parents is bored. Everything seems colorless and dull. She has no friends, her parents are busy with work, and (like many tweens) she feels like she never gets what she wants.

However. Behind the peeling wallpaper in the great-room, she finds a little door, and behind that door is another world. A world that is so much more...interesting than her own.

Coraline Jones gets my vote as a female character to look up to for three big reasons. She's clever, she's brave and she's compassionate.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Daily Life 017: The Fence

More new boots... What can I say? My daughter loves shoes. And she's not a baby anymore, she's a big girl now. Today when I got home from work, Amy and Abby were outside sitting on the porch swing. Abby has on a red sweatshirt (over a Batman T-shirt), purple flowered pants, bright yellow puddle jumpers with monkeys on them, and quite possibly the ugliest greenish-yellow felt bunny hat... ever. Apparently, she's been very into opening and closing the fence gate into the backyard today. She spent a couple of minutes showing me (over and over) how good she was at it until we walked across the boggy ground to the shed so I could give her rides in the wagon.

The one nice thing about this ridiculous time change, is that there is still plenty of daylight after work to do a little playing outside before time to make supper.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Science is about ideas and preparation

A few years ago, my oldest brother got me a book for Christmas called "Build Your Own Humanoid Robots", by Karl Williams. There is a sort of pattern with the two of us... a set of gift buying rules, I guess. Generally, everything is off the beaten path, and touches on our interests and sensibilities in unobvious ways. The use for this book is nearing as Abby gets older, and some of the little boys I know are approaching an age where little fingers are less clumsy, and interest and attention can be held on a project through completion. This leads me to the title of this post.

I was thinking about making a robot. This brought to the surface of my brain a memory of my youngest brother (he was about 10 at the time) collecting old electronic junk (literally parts of VCRs, Stereos... I think he might have had part of a CPU in there) to make a robot out of. None of these things were really useful to his final goal, I think. This was an idea without preparation, and looking back on it I wonder how things would have turned out differently with a few less encouraging "mmmm-hmm"s and a little more guidance... I take my share of dropping the ball on that one. So... let's say you wanted to make a robot that had legs like a crab, and moved like one. (idea) Part of the preparation is obvious robot stuff (programming, servos, actuators... remote control), but part of it is less obvious. Stuff like biology (studying the muscles and joints of a real crab and how it moves), fabricating (parts have to be made somehow) and drawing. So many of the best ideas fall apart due to poor planning.

Mostly this post is set-up for next week. Your homework this week is to think about what the word "Subversive" means to you. I'm going to endeavor to adequately explain where I'm going with it (with a little help from my local library). There are some ideas and thoughts that have been weighing heavily on me of late, that I think I would like to share with my friends.
This weeks drawing is basically just practice for my next cover for Hex, trying out some new brushes and inking techniques, and practicing my color work. The colors on this one are still pretty rough. I'm hoping to grab a couple of minutes this week to tidy them up a little bit and push this drawing to a better finish. Her shirt was originally just going to be a big red circle... maybe with some text in it. The Eggplant graphic was totally accidental, but once I saw it it was too good to just let go.

Until next week. Take care and be good.
Your friend,
(in an effort to be more searchable) Jeffrey Johnson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What You Talkin' About: Role Models

One thing about growing up and having kids... you want them to have strong role models. When my first daughter, Abby was born, I noticed that there was a general lack of female characters out there to really look up to. Sure, there were I guess the Disney princesses, but by and large they seemed to just let events happen to them. I guess you could say that some of the pantheon of mythical gods could be considered strong female role-models. They were strong, clever, independent... but they were also... bitches.

Fortunately, as I've been paying more attention to such things, I've noticed this trend changing. Does this maybe have something to do with our changing views on woman's role in our modern world? I don't know, but it does make me feel a little better to know that there ARE some very good examples of strong, clever, capable, compassionate, smart, friendly... girls who are independent and powerful without losing their femininity.

The reason I'm bringing this up this week, is that my second daughter is due to be born soon, and I think it might be a nice way to look forward to that event to spend a couple of weeks showcasing some of the wonderful female characters out there today. I have a few picked out, but would love to hear who you all think would make a good role model for a little girl (both real and make-believe.)

Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Now that I'm in my thirties, I can look back on some of the people I knew in my twenties with a little more... Perspective. This is the final interior illustration I did for "Waxmans warriors". As much as I enjoyed the other three, this one was the most FUN. It did not stress me out, and the ideas just flowed. Ha-ha-ha! I imagine this guy would be a bit of a disappointment in most respects. One thing that I didn't put into the drawing that I considered but just didn't really have time for is his mother. I sort of pictured her character as Marie from "Everybody Loves Raymond" (except played by Madeline Khan). She loves her first-born son to the point of being blinded by his faults. She was going to be bringing him a bowl of cheese-doodles.

Here's a shot at the pencils for this pic as well. I remember this episode of "The Simpsons" where Otto, the school-bus driver gets kicked out of his apartment. He asks the landlord if he can at least go in and get all of his stuff. The landlord tells him that all that was in there was a car magazine, and a jar of mustard. Bemused, Otto asks "I have mustard?" It's funny how some things just stick with you. The reason I bring this up (aside from the obvious pot-head reference) is that I had a minor epiphany today. The difference between McDonalds hamburgers, and everybody else's... Mustard. Everybody else uses Mayonnaise to add zip to their burgers, but McDonalds uses mustard. I guess it's not as monumental a realization as I make it out to be (you should've seen Amy's mom when I told her. She was like "So?") but I thought it was interesting.

Okay. That's it for today, I'll talk at you a bit tomorrow with a new "Daily Life".
Take care and be good.
Your friend

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What You Talkin' about? Mark Zug

There are several conversations that I have carried with me through the years that help me through rough patches. Overly simplistic as it may sound, they take on a sort of mantra quality, and even thinking about them can often calm my thoughts.

I remember once talking to my friend Nathan about working on our art... our skills. There was a desire there to work doing illustration for roleplaying games, media and ourselves... and to make a living doing it. He said something to the effect of, "Do you think all those great artists like Brom and Mark Zug were always amazing? No. One day, they pretty much said to themselves that they were going to learn to paint really well. And then they did it." Like I said, I'm paraphrasing there, but that's the gist of the conversation.

Whenever I feel like I'm maybe not good enough, or I need to get better, work harder, or practice more I think of Mark Zug. And I get to work.

I first ran across Mark Zug's work in the Shadowrun 3rd edition handbook. The quality of his painting and his characters was just simply... stunning.

Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend

Links: Mark Zug
Nathan Miller

Monday, March 1, 2010

Daily Life 016: Chainsaw

I read in the manual that this is the face you're supposed to make when you are chainsawing stuffs. Grim and purposeful... this face has nothing to do with the fact that I spend faaaar too much time sitting in a chair working with virtual things, and not enough out showing real stuffs who's boss.
I keep on telling myself that it will all be different in six months. Maybe I need to change some of my habits now. Ha-ha-ha!