Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Bill Willingham

You have no idea how much the back cover of X1 deeply impacted my 14-yo mind.

I mean... what's to be said about Bill Willingham? He's a god damn legend. And he's a legend in two distinct domains. He's legendary as one of the artists of TSR's golden age, lending his talents to such immeasurably influential works as the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic and Expert D&D sets and seminal adventure modules such as X1: Isle of Dread. He's also more legendary (to the wider public) as the creator of many comic books ranging from the early 80s' Elementals to the 2000s massively popular Fables (and including the 90s' deliciously pornographic Ironwood, for which there was in fact an RPG based on the Theatrix system).

It would be easy to say Willingham is high on my list of favorites merely because of nostalgia. And it is absolutely true that this has something to do with it. If he hadn't been present in the books I was looking at as my own artistic voice developed then I would certainly not have him on my list. But there's more to it than that. Like Frank Frazetta or Vaughn Bode, Willingham's style, line work, and overall approach to the subject matter resonates with me. I love how he draws forms and shadows. And people in capes.

This front piece from X1 perfectly illustrates Willingham's wonderful use of shadows, I think.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Girl and Her Bot


Michael Golden


Michael Golden! I first ran across his work probably via Micronauts, though in those days as a wee lad I didn't pay much attention to who was doing what. The first time I recognized his work (as in, knowing his name) was his Savage Sword of Conan covers, which I loved. Soon after, there was the absolutely badass reboot of Savage Tales featuring his work. Boom!

I always put Golden in a category with Richard Corben. They had some similarities in how they drew figures that resonated with me. There's something about the way Golden creates shapes that I am drawn to. His work is detailed and crunchy but also has an element of cartooning and exaggeration that isn't quite as excessive as what would come later with Image Comics.



Saturday, May 30, 2020

But Robots Are Not Human

Robots are people. Robots are not human. These are the first premises of My Metal Skull, an RPG about robots.

Robots are people because that's the only way you can have character. And character is essential to an RPG. I can't imagine an RPG in which I slip into the role of an object that has no character. But all of that is kind of moot because we're all people and no matter how hard we try, we cannot possibly "play a role" that isn't a character. So robots are people.

Robots are not human because duh. They're machines originally designed and built by humans. They're not human, but their fundamental purpose, architecture, and design are based on the needs and desires of human beings. Robots are not human but they speak to the conceits of humanity.

But robots are not human. So it's OK if they act kinda funny. Kinda weird. Kinda odd. They are not human. They're gonna have quirks that we humans don't get. Especially after we humans go extinct and the robots continue on, evolving in their own ways over long stretches of time. This game takes place in an uncanny valley epoch where robots are becoming their own species, for lack of a better word, but are still fundamentally the playthings of humanity. Their behavior is going to be all over the map.

And it's those two ideas that I find most interesting about this project. Both in the process of drawing robots and in designing a game about them, I find it fascinating that robots are people and are not human. I hope the game speaks to that concept in an adequate way.


Friday, May 29, 2020

Masked Crusader


So. I have a desk. And on that desk are some stress marks because the desk top is cheap. Probably ripped some tape off. Anyway, I kept seeing a face in this image (on the right... I know there's a face on the left). So I sketched out a face (on the left, see?) based on what I saw in the stress mark. While playing Call of Cthulhu, actually.

Mitch Byrd

I don't remember Mitch Byrd's work at all prior to the mid-2000s when I picked up Mitch Byrd's Notes to Draw From. I instantly fell in love with his clean linework, soft pencil drawings, and round, sexy women. Plus his advice is pretty solid, over all. He does a great job of explaining simple things, such as vanishing point perspective or the way gravity affects bodies. All of his books are solid if you're looking for tutorials and primers on basic art shit.

Plus you get these delicious chicks to boot. And who doesn't need this in their life?










And dinosaurs, oh my!



Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Robots Are People

As is my wont, I suddenly had a fixation on a thing in recent days and that fixation is only growing. You may have noted my many posts in the pinup art vein, a fixation I've had since I was 20 years old. That's not new or sudden, that's just me.

But now robots. Why robots? You know, I didn't even like the animated movie Robots. I can't remember why, exactly, but it felt disjointed and ungrounded to me. Or it was just too generic. I don't know. I didn't even love all the robot stuff in it.

But I love me some god damned robots. And I've been drawing a lot of them lately. I think the impetus was that I can just start drawing a robot straight to inks without a sketch. I mean... who's going to call me out on bad anatomy? It's a damn robot. Show me the correct anatomy.

Drawing robots is like drawing monsters. You can invent as you go and it's a brilliant, freeing experience. So I'm continuing to draw them daily. And of course, naturally, I'm noodling an RPG out of it.

I haven't made much progress on the RPG. I don't have a plan. I just have some notions.

Working title of the game: My Metal Skull

I flirted with My Metal Head, but the ubiquitous nature of "metalhead" signifying heavy metal music didn't mesh with my concept. I mean, I am a metalhead... but the game isn't going to be metal in that sense. It needs to be more fluid than that, not quite so locked-in to such a specific cultural aesthetic.

Some early game design beats*:

1. Like, this is a game about being given an identity (you were built, after all) and then having the autonomy to change and grow into your own robot. So it should have elements of random character creation along with choices (point buys, maybe). But the real meat of it is the way you evolve through play. No levels or anything like that. You just change organically. You find modules you can add to your body, or you lose them. And the catch is that adding a module alters you fundamentally. So you have to constantly make decisions about what kind of robot you are and what kind of robot you want to be.

2, It is RPG adventure. So there's a focus on danger, exploration, etc. But also it's got to have a strong social component. These are robots without living human masters. They are trying to figure themselves out. You need social mechanics.

3. Weights. I don't usually give a damn about encumbrance. But here I'm leaning into it. Your body will be composed of various elements (chassis, CPU, modules) and each will have a weight given in kilograms. You'll have to keep up with that stuff a little bit because you're a robot and knowing your physical parameters is important.

4. Lots of cool modules. Like skills, spells, magic items, etc. The modules you can acquire or build speak to who you are and certainly what you can do. So these are important and I want to have a ton of them pre-written with nice clean rules for making your own.

5. Setting. All I know right now is that humans are gone. So it's "post-apoc" in that sense. But I don't want to call this a post-apoc game or make too much of the fact that people are gone. People had their time and that time is over. Now it's robots' time. I'll lean into the fact that robots can trace their origin to people and thus "humanity" is something perhaps many robots seek to emulate. Also, I'll lean into the far-future nature of the setting and have some funky cool evolutionary stuff with wildlife and with wild tech. I have not decided if this will be space-faring yet. It kinda makes sense to make it space-faring. But it's "hard" sci-fi at least in the sense that there's no FTL drives. So the robots may tool around the solar system, making the setting the solar system and not just Earth.

6. Some have asked if this will be a Troika!-based follow-up to Supercalla. I certainly have had that Troika! that make it less ideal for this project, as much as I love that game. So no, this will not be a Supercalla expansion**.


*I was noticing recently that "beats" is a term used by various people when talking about their RPG projects. I found that interesting because it's a thing I've used in my private journals for decades. When would noodle a comic idea I'd write down "five beats" about the comic and then riff from there.

**I say that, but I'm in the earliest possible stage of development. Everything could change tomorrow.

Duane Bryers

I think it was the early 2000s when I laid eyes on Hilda, the pinup creation of the late Duane Bryers. Hilda was a pinup girl in the 50s. But unlike most other pinup girls, Hilda had some junk in the trunk. She was chubby, and lovely, and fun.

Bryers' style is akin to a lot of painters at the time and, to my eyes, reminds me very much of Norman Rockwell. Because everyone who painted in that style at that time reminded everyone of Normal Rockwell. Rockwell was the Frazetta of American culture painting.

But I think it's more fair to say Bryers was akin to Gil Elvgreen, a contemporary whose style is more similar to Bryers than someone like Alberto Vargas... all of whom are best known for painting pinup ladies. God bless 'em.




I don't know much about Bryers outside of his Hilda work. I wish I owned some of those old Hilda calendars. I wonder how much they go for on eBay? Anyway, I know he painted other stuff, such as western scenes, and perhaps Hilda wasn't what he wanted to be locked into. I don't know. But he did a lot of paintings of this one character and she seemed to be very popular.

It it interesting to me that though Hilda was often painted in comical situations, such as farting next to the stove, wearing a flour sack for a bikini, and falling off of logs, she is quite often painted in quiet, peaceful moments of bliss or even in overtly sexy poses. There's a shitty trend in media to present the fat girl as comic relief or a figure to be aided by the protagonist to make them look better. How often is the fat chick on TV allowed to just be hot? Or to just be, for that matter?

Hilda is great. I'm happy Duane Bryers created her and dedicated so many paintings to her adventures.


What Would I Steal?

Willingness to be goofy, charm, and those lovely paint strokes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Robots



Drawing a lot of robots lately. I have no idea why, but damn sure am thinking about a robot RPG now.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Robots



Hannes Bok


I don't remember when or where I first encountered Hannes Bok, but I'm glad I did. There's something magical about fantasy art created before fantasy became a codified genre. The expectations I have are subverted, the approach the artists take to their subjects is alien, and the work generally feels exquisite in a way that contemporary artists just can't manage. It's some kind of time lensing effect. I guess.

Bok's work is just unique and otherworldly. He goes from lush color work to black and white stippling with ease. His figures are odd, almost cartoonish, like something out of a freaky children's book from two centuries ago. And I love it.


What Would I Steal?

Weird shapes, odd figures, nightmare creatures. Willingness to abstract more than I'm comfortable with.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Richard Corben

Like many people, I probably laid eyes on Richard Corben's work for the first time on the album cover of Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell. Epic pic for sure. Left an impression, kind of like David Fairbrother Roe's unforgettable cover for Nazareth's Hair of the Dog.

(Ahhh... what happened to great album cover art? Like so many book genres, I suppose the switch to digital and the need for clear thumbnails has lead to a decline in cover art and a rise in simple design. I'll proudly wear my grognard suit on this one and say I miss great covers on books, music, etc. These days it's just a bit of graphic design with huge letters. Then again, I haven't really LOOKED at album art in a while. Maybe I'm wrong? Tune in to the end of this post for the answer.)

Richard Corben's art is weird. It's in that category with Frazetta and Vallejo (two artists I do not consider to be equals, sorry Boris but you're often boring) as sort of "epic" and "fantastic" but also it's underground. Richard Corben was a comix artist, after all, and he liked to draw tits and schlongs on his characters. His figures were also in the "I just stepped out of the gym and boy am I ripped" category, while also being in the "I'm big and soft and round" category. His proportions were strange while not being exactly wrong. And that inspired me. I have said many times how much I despise things that are too clean, trim, and polished. Corben's art, even when it has a careful polish on the surface, is never perfect. And I love that.

I keep saying things about Corben in the past-sense, as if his life is over. But he went on to achieve great things in the 2000s, doing Hellboy arcs and being inducted into various halls of fame. He is one of those great artists, like Vaughn Bode, who achieved greatness but not flatness. He was never a household name. They say Rush is a band's band. Richard Corben is an artist's artist.


Album Covers

Well, I did some Google-fu on recent album covers. What I found was that things haven't changed so much. Most of the pop type stuff or hip-hop is a face shot or body shot of the artist with the title. Kind of normal. Metal album covers are same as always... lots of epic themes, Satan, sci-fi landscapes, etc. So not much has changed. I suppose it's mainly the book market, particularly fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, that has changed in response to digital books. You need a clear thumbnail for your e-reader so you can see the author and title on a screen of a dozen books. That's the function that a book's spine used to serve on the bookshelf. Then you'd pull it out and see the awesome cover art. There's a lacking of awesome cover art in books right now. /rant

Friday, May 22, 2020

That Which Harsheth My Mellow: No GM

This is a mini-rant and an internal discussion happening in my brain. You are invited to join, respond, disagree, whatever. I may be wrong. I may be crazy. It's ok.

What I think of when I hear "GMless".


No GM? Are You Fucking Kidding Me?

I mean, who the fuck is supposed to stock the god damn dungeon? It's not gonna stock itself.

I have spent the last 6 or 7 years of my RPG life deeply involved in the OSR* as a creator of games, adventures, game zines, and as an artist contributing to a slew of OSR and other RPG products. But my first foray into any sort of organized RPG scene was at The Forge in 2000 where RPGs were being discussed as serious art. Pretentious? Sometimes. Opaque? Very. Important? Definitely.

I was enamored with the indie-RPGs movement and I contributed one idea to it that resonated. That was The Pool, and a subsequent follow-up called The Questing Beast.

That movement lead to the questioning of every assumption about gaming. One of those assumptions was the role of a GM or the need for a Game Master at all. And that lead to RPGs without GMs. Now, the idea of fucking around with the GM role was not new. Ars Magica had a rotating GM concept (which I suppose could be ignored). I would argue that Amber Diceless (gods! diceless!) also fucked with the GM's role a bit because it encouraged so much creative participation from players. After that, The Pool was certainly a game that blurred the lines between the role of GM and the role of Player. From my memory, Universalis** was the first RPG that actually went into the deep end of the pool (pun!) and basically removed that line.

I ducked out of the scene by maybe 2002 or 2003. I was doing this zine called Random Order Comics and Games and my interest in creating/talking about games was waning. This wasn't because I was losing interest in games, but because I realized I am not a game theory guy. When it comes to gaming, I like drawing skulls and rolling crits. I don't enjoy dissecting and critiquing and reinventing. I enjoy making shit up and sometimes - sometimes - I make up something actually good. Other people are much better at the "jibber jabber what make with them talkie words"*** than me.

Fast forward. I do some webcomics. I get into D&D again and DCC RPG. I make Black Pudding. I start sideways-looking at story games stuff - a scene I had been a part of so long ago. Things had progressed since my departure. I noticed in some discussions, particularly on the Twitters, how the idea of a game with a GM was becoming antiquated, gauche, and crude. "I don't play any game with a GM" is a phrase you can definitely find in multiple and frequent conversations.

And that is why I wrote this rant. Because it touches a raw nerve. I'm absolutely in favor of expansion, progress, change, and evolution (good, bad, ugly). I am absolutely not in favor of snooty fucking snoots snooting down on shit they consider to be passe or trite or, heaven's to fuckin' Betsy, regressive. Donald Trump is regressive. The 700 Club is regressive. Steven Seagal is regressive. An RPG arranged with a GM and Player setup is not regressive. Neither is a guitar amp, a mechanical pencil, or a coffee bean grinder.

In short: we can do both/and.

Now, I don't want to sound like an asshole who doesn't want people to express their views. By all means, if you seriously do not like GM games and don't want to play them then that's perfectly fine. I'm not complaining about you. It's only when you take that a step further and say that GM games are repressive or they represent a toxic hierarchy that I have to call your bullshit. Such games can be toxic in the same way a Twitter discussion can be toxic. But they are not inherently so and I wouldn't even accept the claim that they are more likely to be so. (You mean a table of co-game runners can't be toxic shits?)

The thing is, I've never played a 100% GMless RPG. I'd like to try one, just haven't. But I have written and ran games and played in games where the line between the GM and the Players was a little blurry. And that's a lot of fun for me. These days I always include some kind of line-blurring in my game designs. GOZR, the project I'm currently "working" on, includes mechanics that are akin to The Pool in that they allow Players to have some input/agency toward facts about the game world. I love that shit.

But most of the time when I play or run a game I just want a traditional GM/Player setup. Most of the time.

FOOTNOTES

*OSR =
Old School Rennaissance
Old School Revival
Old School Roleplaying
Oh Shit Run
Etc.

Practically speaking, the OSR manifests as games and game products that are largely or completely compatible with older versions of D&D. People will argue about this fact, but that's what you see with boots on the ground. The higher philosophy of OSR is often stated as a gaming movement that seeks to emulate the feel of older games. And you will see OSR described as any playing of, love of, or riffing on any older games.

Also, by "deeply involved" I mean I've mostly been creating stuff within an OSR framework. I haven't been involved very much socially and since the OSR has a strong social element (as does gaming in general) I didn't want to suggest I've been neck-deep in Reddit threads or hanging out at the most popular OSR watering holes. I have not. I was very active on G+, but mostly posting my own content and commenting here and there. I do my thing, some people like it.

**Memory lane. I was approached to do the art for Universalis but at the time I was in a funk or something and I didn't want to draw for someone else. So I put the creators in touch with my friend David Hedgecock, an exceptional artist, and the rest is history.

***I have an obsession with footnotes. Comic books taught me this. Anyway, that's a quote from Squidbillies.

Robot


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Psi Battle

I drew this for Dyson Logos' Psi World zine Communiques From the Psi Underground. This came about because one day I happened upon some Psi World art and within a day or so I had purchased the PDFs and we were playing the game.

Here's the thing we've learned about this game. It doesn't want you to do psionics. I know this because if you create new characters by the book and you try to use your powers in the game you will very very quickly run out of juice. It feels like the starting Power Points are just too low for lots of psi action. Characters tend to have 20 or 30 PP, but even relatively minor powers often eat up 10-20 points per use. It feels like the equivalent of an old school D&D first level Magic-User... one zap and you need 8 hours sleep.

There are other weird things about the game. For example, the power called Detect Emotion costs 5 PP and lasts for a minute. Which sounds OK, except that you can't just detect emotions in general. You have to name an emotion and then detect it. So if you say "fear" and the GM decides the NPC is not afraid but is angry, you won't detect anything at all. Which, to me, seems to fly in the face of classic psychic characters. I want my PC to pick up on emotions in general. I want to scan a person and say "He's feeling scared, but more so... angry!". You can't do that with rules as written.

They do not want you to use psionics. They make the game very punishing to Psis.

Oh there are other oddities. The hit point calculation system is bonkers, for example. But overall it's a fine little game. It runs pretty smoothly. Just has some hiccups.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Break Time


Here's a chainmail chick enjoying some zzzs after a furious battle with a pesky serpent. You can check out the black and white version below.


Face


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sean Aaberg

I'm trying to think of words that describe Sean Aaberg's art, to me. Here are some words off the top of my head that I believe fit: garish, lurid, loud, underground, comix, punk, metal, rude, ugly, beautiful, sexy, and badass. They all fit.

I love this art. It speaks to me on so many levels. I am, at heart, a base motherfucker. I like my lowbrow. I like fun stuff. I like stuff that isn't trying to be clean and pretty and nice*. Sean's art does it for me in a big way.

Man, I should try to score some copies of PORK. Makes me pine for my old small press days when people traded zines through the mail like candy.

*Which is odd because I'm not a fan of gore. So while I'm all into an ugly looking wizard or witch, if you throw maggots and vomit into the mix I'm not quite as interested. I can handle it to some degree... particularly when it is cartoonish, as in Sean's work. But a fan of grotesque horror in general I am not.




Mad Witch


Mad Witch! Why is she mad? Dunno. But she'll be a nice addition to the Meatshields of the Bleeding Ox for Black Pudding #7 (no idea when).

Monday, May 18, 2020

Vaughn Bode

What can I say about Vaughn Bode that I haven't already said ten times? He was a legend. He was a shooting star. he came along, did amazing shit we're still talking about, and died very young. He was a visionary, an iconic creator, and a damn weirdo. I love him.

I didn't actually discover Bode until I was in my 30s... probably older than he was when he died. I had picked up his vibes as early as 1981 or 1982 through the osmosis of art as other creators such as filmmaker Ralph Bakshi filtered his work into theirs. But there was no Bode for young JV to be had. I didn't know it, I didn't see it, I couldn't have found it in my circumstances. Not until much much later.

In the 2000s I was going through some serious changes, which included an absolute rebirth of myself as an artist. So finding Bode's work at that time definitely left a huge impact on that rebirth. Some of his spirit definitely was folded into the mix that was to be James West 2.0. And I'm glad for it.


Waka Waka Man


When you get a flash of an idea and force yourself to see it through.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

A Change of Power

A Change of Power

On this one I just wanted to see if I could work with a limited pallet. So I chose about 6 or 7 warm colors and rolled with it. I appreciate artists, such as Sean Aaberg, who can work with 1 or 2 colors and make it pop. It's fun to limit yourself and work within strict bounds. Fun for me, anyway.

Musical Musings: Gaskin

Here's another odd old heavy rock find. The album starts out letting you know exactly what you're in for with a straight up 1981 heavy metal/rock riff that makes your Camaro start without a key. The rest isn't bad. I'll have to give another spin but I didn't hate it. There's a cowbell. And the bass player can be heard, which is super cool. Too many albums in the mid to late 80s decided we don't need no stinking bass for some fucked up reason. I blame Metallica. Fuckin' Metallica.

But the cover art. Hmm.. "End of the World" is the title and we see two people who seem to be huddling near burning houses. Who is burning their house? Nay, ALL the houses. And why are they in their undies? Were they awakened from sleep and rushed out to avoid the flames?

And then you see it. You zoom in and you see it clearly. That chick is topless. WHY is that chick topless? I guess we'll have to email Danny Flynn and ask him. Like, did the band request she be topless? I'm not complaining, Danny. You know me. I'm all about it. But it's kind of weird, right?

Oh, and we can see the white dove of peace flying away. So is this wartime? If so, how inefficient is it to go around burning individual rural homes? Takes serious dedication. Maybe they're using smart bombs. Fuckers.



Floatation


In this one, I was explicitly trying to mimic the style of old men's magazine cartoons, such as those found in Playboy. I think I pulled it off. Both in the look and feel of the art and in the gag itself.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Purple Girl


Another in a series of pinup style art. Here I question the term "pinup" only to the extent that there's nothing parciuarly salacious here. I'm not making a Playboy Magazine joke. It's just a drawing of a woman in a dress (I called her "Purple Girl" for some reason... is that a purple dress? Not really.). Sure, there's cleavage. And she's hot. But y'know...

So here's the thing about this one (and this one). I want to draw more like this. And I'm not just talking about "fat chicks"*. I'm talking about drawing people that aren't constrained by social expectations of beauty. Which is, in my opinion, about 99% of everyone you have ever met in your life. Seriously, when was the last time you knew someone personally who looked like the average person on a TV show? Television and movies skew our perceptions, they lie to us about what people are really like. Sure, there are nods to diversity of appearance beyond the diversity of race and sex and gender. There are the token fat chicks, for example, who almost always play the role of best friend or helper. But where are the cool as fuck fantasy action movies wherein the actual protagonist is a fat chick, fat man, someone with a huge nose, a person with an overbite, or just someone who looks like they came from someplace other than a Hollywood casting call?

People are beautiful. I mean, people are bastards, but they are also beautiful. Flaws are not ugly, fat is not ugly, moles are not ugly. I actually have a hard time just sitting and watching any TV shows because if feels like the equivalent of listening to an over-produced metal album with all the rough edges smoothed out. I hate that shit. Give me something real, even in my fantasy.

The root of all this is pretty simple, though. Men (I can't speak to the experience of women) love to look. And when we look, we judge. We are either attracted to a woman or we are not or it is somewhere in between. Then two important things happen that causes the whole god damn problem. First, we assume that the job of the object we look upon is to please our senses. When a woman is in a role that isn't inherently meant to be sexy, such as the frumpy fry cook or busybody, then we don't have much to say about her appearance. But in other roles, especially love interests, we have a LOT to say. And that brings us to the second problem: social expectations. Advertising, TV (which is advertising), Movies (which is advertising), etc, all inform what we collectively learn about beauty. We are told that Gwyneth Paltrow is one of the most beautiful women in the world. OK. She's a pretty lady, but not my cup of tea. So I don't crush on her. Go back a few years and maybe I'm younger and the woman is Cindy Crawford. I have no problem with Cindy, but I don't find her attractive at all. But if I said that in front of a bunch of guy buds I'd get flack for it. I'd be the odd man out. I'd be the butt of the joke. EVERYONE loves Cindy because she's the ideal form.

Fuck the ideal form. Fuck the commercials. Give me real or fuck off.

So... ranting aside... I want to try to keep this in mind much more explicitly when I'm drawing. I want to draw what I want and I want to be fearless about it. It's hard, though. That judgmental eye feels like it's always upon me. If it's not the eye of the twat who thinks fat = ugly, then it's the eye of the prude who thinks the boobs are too big. Fuck 'em.

I wanna be more like Dave Cooper. I don't know the guy at all, I have no idea if he's a total dickhead or a saint. But he god damn well draws what he wants.

*I use the term "fat" often when describing the characters I draw who are not skinny. I don't see a problem with that because I don't stigmatize the word. "Fat" isn't code for "ugly" in my world and it makes me sick to my stomach when I hear people use it that way. For example, I get physically uncomfortable when watching movies in which fat = ugly. It pisses me off. It's the dumbest shit in the world and it reduces human beings to nothing... including the men who weaponize the word. So stop fucking doing it, asshole.

Space Ranger


Here's one I did recently. I have posted it on FB and Insta but I keep forgetting to mention that it's actually a finished version of a very old sketch, posted below. Not that it matters to anyone but me. But there it is.

This is sort of in the wheelhouse of old school "men's magazine" style pinup cartoons wherein you draw a sexy lady and have some kind of pithy, funny gag written at the bottom. Just for giggles.

This was OK. I like the image fine, but it isn't thrilling me. Might just be that the composition is static. I have a bad habit of doing static figures when I really kinda want to do more dynamic scenes. And I don't mean action scenes, necessarily. You know how Frank Frazetta or Mike Ploog can have a figure just standing around and the image have movement and action? Like that. Things in motion, even when the figure isn't leaping or fighting or running. I feel stiff.

Another thing I was conscious of when drawing this was faces. A lot of artists have developed such a style that their faces are immediately recognizable. In some cases its because they seem to draw literally the same face on every figure (maybe Dan DeDcarlo comes to mind)*, or it's because their line quality and general style just shines through even though they draw a wild variety of figures (maybe Dave Cooper). So what are my faces like? I went through a phase between 2008 and 2012 where I was drawing a lot of huge eyes and cartoony faces. Which is good... I like cartoony. But I was being influenced by art that I didn't necessarily love and I backed away from that just a little bit. And it just strikes me now that I don't have "a face" that I draw. For example, I draw different noses all the time and I don't know if that's a problem or not.

Various JV West eyes and noses over the years. Trends?

*Now, I'm not suggesting that artists who draw the same girl over and over in different clothes is bad. It isn't bad. It's fine. Dan DeCarlo drew amazing girls who all looked alike. I have zero complaints about that. Hell, lots of cartoonists draw exactly the same face on almost every character for decades. Whatever works.

State of the Random Address

Hola! What have I been up to during the global pandemic?

Y'know. This and that. I have been consistently working from home for my job, which both a blessing and a curse. I dislike having the realities of the day job invade my creative physical space. But alas, these are strange times and I'm just thankful to be employed.


On the creative side, I spent a few weeks working on GOZR, which I'll talk about more at a later time. It's a fairly time-intensive project because each page of the game is art, fully lettered by hand, illustrated, etc. Plus the creation and writing of the game's mechanics all wrapped into that makes it a slow, slow process with a lot of revising and tweaking after the fact. When I'm done, I'll have something like a 24-32 page game book in comic book physical format (it's not a comic... it's just that I'm planning to print it in the physical form normally reserved for comics).

I took a step away from GOZR a little while back and started drawing a lot of more detailed pinup art. I went on a kind of pinup art spree actually, both in terms of drawing and collecting it. I have been obsessively gathering images from the web and organizing them into folders by artist. It's been a fun distraction, almost a passion.

Hell, it is a passion. Always has been, though. Thinking back, I remember my first real D&D character. Her name was Catina Catrid. She was a black-haired warrior-thief who wore a tiger-skin bikini and had magical claws as weapons. I drew her a lot. Fast forward to my early 20s and I was collecting and drawing adult comics. I have been into sexy fantasy art pretty much since the moment I laid eyes on the back cover of X1: The Isle of Dread. Damn you, Willingham.

Here's a REALLY OLD drawing from the 90s.

But of course friends of this blog will already know that I frequently go off on rants and tangents about this topic.

I have been gaming quite a bit. In addition to gaming every Monday night as I have for over 5 years (!), I have been running DCC RPG once or twice a week and playing in a Call of Cthulhu game once a week or so. And I've been running Psi World, which I don't think I could have seen coming. It's been a blast.

Moving forward, more of the same, I suspect. I'm in a mood to improve my craft. So I've been spending a lot of time studying and appreciating other artists' work and practicing my own craft. I've been thinking about what it means to be an artist and what I want to leave behind. Perhaps I'm more aware of my age and mortality these days. I dunno.

I haven't been in an OSR mood for quite some time. I wrapped up Black Pudding #6 and haven't touched anything related to OSR or D&D in general since, other than playing it every Monday. I don't think this means anything important. It's just part of the natural flow of my  mind. I go through long phases, and I often repeat them. The things I love the most repeat the most often. I have been a lover of D&D and RPGs since 1984 very consistently so I don't see myself "quitting" it, just stepping back a little from time to time. When I think about RPGs right now I am thinking about original systems, not OSR games.

That's it for now.