The Lord of the Rings books by J.R.R "Epic Gift To Mankind" Tolkien
I would like to start this Boromir booksketch by saying that if you continue reading past this sentence, you will be subject to a very bad pun. Now, with that out of the way...
I get the impression that a lot of people out there don't like Boromir. Is it because he tried to chase poor tee-tiny Frodo around and take the One Ring? Really? Is that a reason to hate someone? Hobbits are so chase-able. I mean, who wouldn't be tempted? Plus, you have to factor in how tempting the Ring is. I mean, it literally tells you to covet it.
But with the Hobbit-assault aside, Boromir is pretty likable. Let me persuade you:
First, he's a tank. Did you SEE how much of a lickin' he took whilst continuing to tick? And deliver licks in kind, I might add. He had a very proud-warrior upbringing. This was expected, being a son of the Steward of Gondor (who was ruling in the stead of the true king, who had yet to rightly claim his throne), Denethor II.
Pardon my language, but Boromir was a bad-ass. If you don't wish to pardon my language, then replace that last sentence with "Boromir was a bad-mule." He was very passionate about his country and his position, and would do anything to defend both. A very noble noble. He put many a hurt on Sauron's forces.
Second, he loved wind instruments. Well, maybe not, but he DID carry around the Horn of Gondor, which was passed down in the lineage of Gondor's stewards. It makes me think back to the horn in the famous poem The Song of Roland. Or at least I remember there being a horn in that piece of literature. Well, if not, then I remember someone using a horn as a weapon of mass destruction in some story. Sheesh.
Thirdly, he was probably the most realistic character in the series. He's human, for one. He also makes mistakes, isn't immortal, gets pretty angry and is very passionate in his beliefs. Sure, he betrays Frodo, but he also makes up for it in a big way. He did want the Ring, but one big thing about the Rings of Power were that humans were very drawn to them and were pretty easily corrupted. Hence the Ringwraiths. The Ring tricked Boromir into thinking that he needed it to save his country. He probably thought he was Mir-ly going to Boro it.
That was the pun I warned you about.
The Lord of the Rings books by The All-Powerful J.R.R. Tolkien
Calm down, ladies. Here's Legolas.
I'll start off by saying that this Grey Elf was actually one of my favorite characters. Not because he was an unstoppable killing-machine. For one thing, there wasn't much mention of his battle prowess in the books. The movies turned Legolas into this untouchable warrior after test audiences responded favorably to him surfing down a staircase on a shield and shooting arrows. I'm not going to deny being very entertained by this, as well, haha.
What was interesting about Legolas was how separated he was from the rest of the Fellowship. For example, when the gang was truding through snow-packed mountain passes, Legolas was indifferent to the snow and cold. His endurance was way above any others in the group, as well. He was often off scouting ahead. And he was usually the one to remain in high-spirits. Or, at least, not in utter despair.
I believe the main purpose of Leggy as a character was to show that even staunch enemies can become friends once differences are reconciled. I mentioned in the Gimli post that dwarves and elves had this bitter animosity towards one another. Well, when the Fellowship was forged, Legolas and Gimli were none-to-happy to be in each others' company. But towards the end however, they formed a steadfast friendship and were willing to defend this with blood.
Also, you have to love their little wager. Even if I still think Gimli cheated. I think the fact that there was a high orc-body count on both sides shows that Legolas actually did do stuff in battle, but it just wasn't focused on in the books. I guess they were more of "off-screen" actions. Off-page? Haha.
About the illustration:
'Twas done in Prismacolor pen and then colored in ye ol' Photoshop.
The Lord of the Rings books by Fantasy Funkmaster J.R.R Tolkien
Since I've decided to draw the entire Fellowship, here's my take on Aragorn, aka Strider. I know that Aragorn was a bad mamma-jamma throughout the entire series, but I personally loved his "Strider" persona. Some dark, hooded figure shows up at a tavern at the beginning of the story and wards the wee hobbits from certain doom at the hands of the Nazgûl (Ringwraiths). Why's he helping? What's he doing? Where does he come from? WHO IS HE? Well, he's simply Strider.
A very strong character. It's interesting how the movie imposed all of this self-doubt upon him. As if he was afraid to take the crown that was rightfully his. I guess they just wanted to add another element? Anyway, he was one of my favorite characters. Maybe THE favorite. I need to read the series again and decide once and for all.
Anyway, here's the rundown on Aragorn:
1) Mostly man, wee bit o' elf. That means he can have a pretty long life (as did all in the line of Númenor), and has other qualities of the elves, and was even raised by elves. But since he's mostly Man, he has the "Gift of Men," which is an eventual death.
2) In line for the throne of Gondor. Which is a large kingdom of Middle-Earth, and has the largest force to stop Sauron (the baddie of The Third Age).
3) Pretty tall and scruffy. All those years as a Ranger of the North add gruff to a character! He befriended Gandalf The Gray during his stint as a Ranger.
On a side note:
I tend to get Aragorn and Lan from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series slightly confused. This being because Lan was modeled very similar to ol' Ary. Both were ranger-warriors, both were rugged and battle-hardened. They share a bunch of qualities, even up to the "slight bit of gray in the hair." Though I think Lan was less of a spring chicken.
4) I think my Aragorn illustration turned out a bit like Russell Crowe...
5) Oh man, I've got to draw a Ringwraith after the Fellowship is penned!
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien, aka "The Fantasy Funkmaster"
Don't mind that faux-title I gave Tolkien. But if you're a fan of epic fantasy (which I am, of course), then you pretty much owe your entire fandom to him.
I've put off doing LOTR booksketches for a while. I thought that the movies did an excellent, EXCELLENT job of portraying the novels. And yet I couldn't go through my life without putting some of the characters down on paper.
Do you know why the brave dwarf Gimli was picked to be illustrated first? He's not my favorite character. I even liked Boromir better! In fact, I was a staunch Legolas supporter throughout their competition. I still can't believe Legolas didn't win. HE HAD ARROWS, for crying out loud.
But I digress. Wait, one more thing. Legolas had arrows. Ok. You don't want to hear me complain about the small stuff. That is not a shot at Gimli's height, by the way.
Speaking of dwarven characteristics: There are only so many ways to imagine a dwarf. I mean, sorry little guys, but you've been stereotyped. Big bushy beards, stocky/muscular, wield axes. You guys like pounding stuff. You like blacksmithing. You live in mountains and are very tempermental. Don't like elves. I think that every fantasy book out there has some sort of prejudice between elves and dwarves. What's up with that?
Alright, so why did I draw Gimli first? Because he's one of the most fun to illustrate. Look at all that stuff! And it's pretty fun to render crazy facial hair. You should try it.
Side note: I have this LOTR riddle book. The first question asked me to translate a sentence from Elven to English. I don't even think they had a codec. What the heck??? That crushed my soul.
About the illustration:
Gimli was drawn with Prismacolor pens and colored in Photoshop. I used a sweet rock texture as well. Textures are so helpful. For a great texture resource, check out www.cgtextures.com. I really like how it came out, and I'm excited to take on some of the other characters!
Ok. The above bookpainting is actually pretty old- probably about 6 or 7 years. I found it in my closet while cleaning and thought I’d post it, since it's inspired by Crime and Punishment.
Even though I’m sure everyone has been forced to read (or sparknote) C&P at some point in your lives, I’ll give a (really) short synopsis anyway:
To the sketch: Raskolnikov has a dream that he’s a young boy that watches a man beat his horse to death in the middle of town. None of the townspeople care about the horse or the beating or Raskolnikov’s tiny protests. Raskolnikov is heartbroken over the horse’s death and everyone else goes on their way. The horse is HUGE, I know- The disproportionate size is supposed to symbolize the gravity of what the horse represents to the dreamer. Just go with it.
I’ve heard this dream explained a number of times. Raskolnikov = Raskolnikov, Horse = his new way of life, Man = his Guilt, townspeople = cops/townspeople. I’ve also heard it analyzed in more detail as Raskolnikov = 12 apostles, Horse = Christ, Man = Romans, Townspeople = Jews, etc. Or you can combine the two analyses and tie everything together. Yay for reading between the lines.
Whichever way you look at it…it was still a pretty intense dream with some very imaginative visual potential.
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
I'm tempted to forgo the explanation of this booksketch, for comedic effect. An old man hurdling a baby carriage? Vat in ze vurld?
Well, I can't do that to you. The old man above is Professor de Worms, a German professor as old as death and perpetually on his last legs. He is one of seven individuals on a anarchist council-of-sorts, one individual for each day of the week. The main character in the novel, Syme, was thrust into the council as part of an undercover sting set to bust the anarchist and their leader, Sunday. Syme ends up being Thursday, hence the title of the book.
Each of the council members is very peculiar in his own way. Professor de Worms appears to be always on the brink of death. Syme was very surprised to find the Prof tailing him one day after a council meeting. Try as he might, Syme could not shake the Prof. Now, there was no baby-jumping in the novel; I just threw that in there to make myself laugh, but the chase did involve some pretty strenuous physical activity, which perplexed and unsettled Syme as much as it did myself.
I can't tell you the reason for the sudden instillation of life into the old coot, but I will say that that Chesterton is an amazing author, haha. This book has plenty of fun twists.
About the illustration:
Originally inked with Prismacolor pens and then colored in Photoshop.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
First off, I apologize for the lack of booksketches as of late. I've been having to do a lot of preparing to move into my own house, and spent a weekend out of town, and just have been busy in general. It has been a stressful/down couple of weeks. I'll be trying to move this weekend, so hopefully things will settle down after that.
Lord of the Flies is a novel that places children in an extreme situation and lets animalistic instincts play out and snowball. Without the presence of adults, the children on the deserted island have to cooperate, organize, and communicate to survive. When their makeshift society starts to break down, immaturity morphs into a dangerous tribal sensation. Craving for power and control where there is essentially none. You want to control the conch and the fire and the meat; you don't want the "opposition" to have it.
Once the conch-led democracy dissipated into the more savage tribe-led society, the rules changed. That's because whoever had the power made the rules. And the power belonged to young boys hefting sharp sticks and sporting painted faces.
About the illustration:
Haha, sorry, this image popped into my head and I just had to draw it. The ultimate representation of authority on the island: a conch wearing Piggy's glasses. If this combination would have come into existance, maybe they would have worshipped it! The true "Lord of the Flies," eh?
This illustration was done using Prismacolor pens.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Since the movie is coming out next month, I'd thought I'd revisit the novel. One of my friends recently mentioned how the part of the book where the predatory roamers were first described and how it unsettled him. In a future where food is ultra-scarce and there is no law, roaming bands of dirty, hungry people can't be a good thing. Especially when some of them wear gas masks, right?
I read recently a comment on a message board complaining about how the scavengers looked too "healthy" in the movie stills that were released. Well, my first reaction was that those alarming characters had a source of nutrients that others did not: humans. Yep, they just ate people. No age discrimination, either.
I remember a part in the book where the main character finds a shriveled apple tree that has produced shriveled apples. He was so happy to bit into the bland, dried ghosts-of-fruit that he pretty much teared up. Like they had stumbled upon a great fortune.
Anyway, I drew one of the road-prowlers. Equipped with sunken eyes, wonky hair and gas mask. I like to believe that this character drew the teeth on the gas mask himself. It's something he'd do. He eats people, for crying out loud!
About the illustration:
Done with watercolor and some new Prismacolor pens that I just bought. I like!
A Need For Gardens by Richard Brautigan
To tell you the truth, this particular Brautigan short story from Revenge of the Lawn still has me thinking "What the heck?" But in a good way, of course.
I don't mind tell you something about the story this time, since it can only prepare you a little, haha.
ALRIGHT. So, every year the characters in this story try to bury a lion. Why? I don't know. The Annual Lion Burial has been going on since the lion was itty-bitty. At first it scared and surprised him, but eventually he got used to it and just sat through the process looking rather bored.
What happens is every time they dig, the hole ends up being too small. So only a portion on the lion is covered. Then they give up until next year.
About the illustration:
Well, this one was done with that Pentel V5 pen as well. But I also went over it with some Prismacolor pencils and some Copic markers. It's an overhead view of the partially-buried lion.
Ok, so I just googled "lion" and saw that they don't have big pink noses. Woops!
The Wild Birds of Heaven by Richard Brautigan
I'm still reading Revenge of the Lawn and have already found a couple more illustration inspirations! Since the stories are quite short, I won't talk too much about what goes on. I'll just say that in this booksketch, a man is having his shadow removed by a blacksmith.
Yep. You read that correctly. Why it was removed is something you'll just have to find out for yourself, eh?
On a side note, I love how placid he is during the whole process. The guy goes to buy a new television and ends up having his shadow replaced...Oh my, I think I might have said too much!
About the illustration:
Haha, this one was just done with an ordinary Pentel V5 pen. I forgot my usual art pens at home and this was all I had on me!
Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan
"Revenge of the Lawn" is the titular short story from a collection by the same name. I've read a few so far (there are QUITE a few in the collection), and this was the most entertaining one yet. The main bit of humor is about how a once-beautiful lawn has become cursed and barren through neglect, and now inflicts harm upon one of the characters, through various bizarre ways.
In wonderful Brautigan-fashion, a gaggle of geese stumble upon a moonshiner's mash (which I assume is the leftover pulp of apple cider or whatever they ferment) and consume it heartily.
This, of course, gets them drunker than the proverbial skunk. There are no skunks in the story, however.
So the geese pass out, and the moonshiner finds them and assumes they are dead. So she plucks them and puts 'em in her basement. Well, the geese wake up and freak one upon finding themselves naked and hung-over.
Wonderful situation, right? I thought so.
About the illustration:
Done all in watercolor. Quick watercolor. I probably should have pencilled it out a little first, though, eh? Haha, it came out alright. I scanned it and tried to take out the paper wrinkles in Photoshop, but it was just too much of a task because the midrange gets all blown out. And all attempts ended up looking strange. But this way, it looks like the geese are kind of weighing down the middle of a blanket or something, haha.
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
I started reading this book Sunday morning and finished it Sunday night. It was that good. And, not only did I finish it in a single day, I also was inspired to do a booksketch that same night.
If you're familiar with Mr. McCarthy's work, you'll know what you are in for. Amongst his other (dark) works are No Country for Old Men, All The Pretty Horses and Blood Meridian. Oh gosh, and his latest work, The Road, from which I have also drawn a booksketch.
I won't go into what happens in the book, but I'll just say that it is a study of a human being being degraded and likewise degrading his humanity. Lester Ballard succumbs bit by bit to the hard path that was cut for him in a mountainous region of Tennessee. Isolation conflicting with society when the two are forced to meet. Depravity uninhibited by any moral foundation. Disturbing actions that apparently do not disturb the main character. Things like that. Realistic, sparse dialogue.
The momentum snowballs and when the turning point of the book came, my mouth actually dropped open a bit. Way to go, Cormac!
The illustration above is what I figured Lester Ballard, a man of about 27 years, would look like after a few days cave dwelling and many years of isolation. And maybe reacting to a snide comment from the townsfolk.
About the illustration:
I used watercolor and Micron pen on this one. That seems to be the Burt trend lately, eh?
Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures by Walter Moers
Walter Moers is a modern German illustrator/author whose novels tell tales from the fictional land of Zamonia. "Fictional lands" are always much more fun and creative than non-fictional ones.
Anyways, my friend Lauren had told me about a new book by this author, whom I had not heard of previously. The novel, The City of Dreaming Books looked infinitely interesting, but since it is new, I decided to order one of his older books for cheapsies. And a week later Rumo arrived at my house and quickly became one of my favorite books. Top three. It's that creative.
It feels a lot like one of the old Grimm's Fairytales, with its fair share of darkness and more than a fair share of violence. The characters are all unique and many are illustrated by the author throughout the book. Moers takes liberties with the page layout sometimes, in very creative ways. He also messes with words themselves, and speech in general, which adds to many characters' personalities. Such as the Dwarf King of the Underworld. He is so insane that he can't speak a sentence without flipping and jumbling words and letters. So, for example, instead of saying "Help me decide what to eat," he would say "Phel em diedec what to tea!" Luckily, his personal attendee was there to repeat what he said in normal-talk, if you didn't feel like deciphering the code.
Anyways, the story is of a Wolperting (basically a cross between a deer and a dog, that can do anything a person can do) named Rumo that is mentored in his "childhood" by a 14-armed shark/grub hybrid. Lots of crazy stuff happens and there is a good bit of fighting and eating. And love, too! And Non-Existent Teenies. Just read it.
About the illustration:
One of the few characters that was not illustrated by the author was General Tick Tock, who was created by a mish-mash of alchemist, engineers and chemists who happened upon the aftermath of a great battle. They used their respective professions to save what was left of the armies. The survivors were part machine, part human, and were dubbed The Copper Killers. General Tick Tock was forged to be their mighty leader, and soon proved his self to be both mighty and completely evil.
He is always searching for more ways to increase his armaments in more creatively deadly ways. And he speaks like this "Hello. [tick] I am General Tick [tock] Tock. Surrender and you will have a [tick] relatively painless end." How fun!
And that is Rumo he's facing. Rumo is holding his talking demonic cheese-knife. Hahaha.
The illustration was done with Micron Pen and colored in Photoshop. The chain-link fence texture was also added to the cape in Photoshop.
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
My wonderfully well-read girlfriend recently suggested that I read her favorite book, Pride & Prejudice. Honestly, I was expecting girly stuff. And to be honest, there IS girly stuff. It's about a bunch of sisters and their marriage escapades. But it's about much more than simply just that. Other girly things such as flirting, courting, gossiping, jealousy, etiquette and clothing are featured. It makes for a very interesting read.
I had actually seen the most recent movie-adaptation right before starting the book, but I tried not to let the actor's appearances influence what I saw in my head as I poured over the pages. My favorite character was, or course, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. My least favorite character being the little twit Lydia (whom I refuse to draw).
What I illustrated was one scene that was repeated often in the novel: Darcy coming off as proud and indignant to Elizabeth, whom he secretly loved. And of course didn't know how to show his true feelings.
One point that keeps coming up is the social barrier between a few of the characters. The Bennet family is not very rich, but very pleasant. The wealth factor induces both pride and prejudice amongst the characters, especially where marriages are concerned. You can't have people marrying down, apparently. That's just un-classy. Snootyville, England.
Though it may seem like I'm poking fun at the girliness, I'm really not. I rather enjoyed the novel. It was, of course, very well written. Though I did struggle some with the ornamental period language, nothing was really lost in translation. All the rules of etiquette, manners, procedures, and social guidelines in the novel are rather non-applicable to us today, but one can imagine how stringently society adhered to them back then.
About the Illustration
This booksketch was done using Micron Pen and watercolor.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
As if I'd pass up the change to draw an airborne whale.
I'll first start off with the title of this particular entry. I think it's a play on the song "Jump, Jive N' Wail," by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The whale pun is obvious, but NOT so obvious is the allusion to warp speed motors, also known sometimes as "jump drives." In reference to a hyper jump, or warp drive, etc. But maybe I'm just trying to hard / not trying hard enough.
Alright, so in the booksketch entry before I mentioned a missile being turned into a whale. That obviously wasn't the entirety of the scene. Another missile was turned into a pot of petunias. Very high in the sky.
Does that explain it? No?
Well, our rag-tag bunch of protagonists had just located this mythical planet, when its defense system sprang to life and launched missiles at them. Guided missiles, at that. Well, their target was none other than the Heart of Gold spacecraft that one of the main characters happened to steal. What's so special about this ship? It runs on an "Improbability Drive."
So, in other words, the harder you crank the engine, the more...improbable things become. For example, a pair of guided missiles turning into seemingly random objects/creatures seems highly unlikely right? Even downright improbable. Luckily, the engine was randomly turned on to a high improbability factor (the main character, Arthur saw this as their only means of escape).
SO, I hope that explains it. And I hope it inspires you to read the book (if you have not already). It is pretty probable that you'll enjoy it!
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I've actually just read HHGTTG for the first time recently. Until a week or so ago I assumed it was a kid's story about a child that gets hold of some universal guide, and goes romping around the galaxy getting into zany alien-scapades. Apparently I was wrong! There aren't any kids to be found. But there are lots of other things, like death, improbability and manic-depressive super-genius robots. Lots of quirky humor and imagination. Missiles turning into whales, and the like.
I quite enjoyed it.
The aforementioned moribund robot's name is Marvin. He simply loathes humans. And, well, most of everything. Mostly because he is so much smarter than everyone. And everything. At one point in the story, he is assigned to stand around and watch over an entrance to a subterranean passageway. Then the main character, Arthur, calls him up a hill to join him, but changes his mind when Marvin is halfway up the rock face. Sighing in resignation, Marvin trudges back down the rocky hill and returns to his station.
Lots of head-hanging and dropped shoulders. And sleeping, haha.
About the Illustration
This booksketch was done using Micron Pen & watercolors. I had it in my head that Marvin kind of resembled Helper from The Venture Brothers cartoon, haha. One thing I took for sure from the book's description was that he had downward-facing red triangle eyes. And he was humanoid in appearance. And he was metal (of course).
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake
Remembering what fun I had reading Titus Groan (and thinking about how many booksketches it produced), I decided that it was time to enjoy the second book in the trilogy. Gormenghast continues immersing the reader into the sprawling titular castle and wonderfully unique characters. At the point of this creating this booksketch, I am halfway into the novel, which continues to chronicle the life of the young 77th Earl of Gormenghast, Titus.
I find it so interesting that these books don't have any real plot. Or, at least none that you can really point out. They are all about exploration. The only thing that remains constant is Steerpike and his desire for more control and power. Such devilish ambition!
In this novel, though, Titus is old enough to go exploring the character of the castle itself. He has this craving to explore both inside and outside it's walls. One point to take note of is how Titus thinks of his title negatively, and feels constrained by his well-monitored heir-to-the-throne life. Everyone else, however, freaks out if he shows any sign of disdain towards his "duty." He's a kid! Let him run around or climb a tree or something.
One rather large focus of the novel is Irma Prunesquallor's soiree. Irma decides to host (along with her brother, the Doctor, whom was previously booksketched) a party where she would invite only bachelors of her choosing. You see, Irma has never, how do we say, has known the love of a man. Or, really, has never flirted or spoken to a man. Besides her brother, of course. And she feels that she is being wasted. That her long, milky neck has been wasted. Or sharp beak-like nose. Etc.
So she convinces her brother (he loves to humor her) to co-host this party. The objective being to find her true love. Whom does she invite? The castle's professors, of course. Scholarly gentlemen, and such.
Except the professors aren't very scholarly, or gentlemanly. A nice portion of the book is dedicated to showing us a dozen or so of the professors and how eccentric and lazy they are. Each one possesses a unique personality and disposition. Leading the pack is the noble and elderly, but not too respected, Headmaster Bellgrove. With his silky white head of hair and perpetual toothache. Keeping up his facade of a dignified noble, has a tendency to turn away or hide his face whenever he feels a smile coming on.
Well, a rumor is started among the professors that Irma is gunning for Bellgrove. Which gets into his head, of course. And before you know it, the two are overdramatically thrown together, and all of this high-school crush stuff starts happening between a 50+ year old lady and a 75+ year old man. It's hilarious.
And that's why I had to draw it.
About the Illustration:
This one was done with Micron pen and Prismacolor pencils.
The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
First, I would like to point out that I was under the impression that everyone voluntarily read and loved The Thief of Always in junior high. I am slowly learning that this is not the case. Thus, proving my theory that you do, in fact, learn something new every day. Second, I must give credit to Burton for the punny title of this sketch. Many thanks, Burton!
Harvey Swick is a typical angst-ridden ten-year-old that has unfair parents and doesn't like school and can't ever have anything he wants ever. So, given the opportunity to go to a magical house that will give him just that, he jumps at the chance. He finds that if he imagines something he wants, it eventually appears in the house. The day is divided into all four seasons with spring in the morning and ending with winter at night. Halloween and Christmas are celebrated every night and he does whatever he likes during the day- every day.
Harvey meets a girl named Lulu who has lived in the house the longest out of all the children there. She is mysterious and sad, even though it appears she has everything she's ever wanted. When Harvey drops a toy arc filled with little wooden animals into the spooky lake behind the house, Lulu retrieves some of the pieces for him (from the bottom of the black lake). At this point, Harvey begins to realize that something fishy is going on at the magical house...
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Here's the aforementioned Part 2 of the DJ&MH illustrations. Dr. Jekyll is all sophistication on the surface, and to his friends. On the inside, however, he has been leading a double life. While he is mostly an upstanding citizen, a part craves to be immoral and indulge in guilt, shady pleasure, and debauchery.
It is mentioned in the story that Jekyll had been leading a secret life to explore some of this hidden displeasure. So when he started stumbling upon some chemical concoction that was able to bring out the duality of man, to separate it physically for some time, he became excited.
At first he reveled in the notion of becoming Edward Hyde, a figure of anti-morals. As he started losing control of Hyde, and sensing the wildness and hatred swell, he became fearful and panicked. Who wouldn't, really?
About the illustration:
For some reason I drew Jekyll as being rather young, even though he isn't really. I guess it was his giddiness to experiment with the potion that made me skew towards a more energetic, youthful appearance. Or maybe I wasn't thinking when I drew it...
This booksketch was done with inkwash, a little Micron pen and made to be a duotone in Photoshop.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
This was my first time reading DJ&MH, and I'm really surprised about how distorted the image of Edward Hyde has become. From the many, many imaginings and re-imaginings of the story through the years, from plays to cartoons to movies, Hyde has taken on a larger-than-life, more-brutal-than-a-chainsaw kind of image. Remember seeing Jekyll clutch his chest and fall behind a chair only to emerge as a monstrous brute with crazy hair, glaring eyes, and an imposing figure.
I remember seeing that! And I was rather surprised to find out that Hyde was actually smaller in stature than Jekyll! He was shorter, littler, but very stolid. The reasoning behind this was brilliant. You see, when Jekyll drank that concoction of his, it allowed his repressed immoral side to take control of his body's steering wheel, for lack of a better term. Since Jekyll had only recently started dabbling in those "earthly pleasures" and, well, displeasures, this "Hyde" part of his persona was rather like a newborn, or smaller in proportion to the rest of Jekyll's "good-natured" self. So this is why Hyde's physical representation was smaller.
Of course, he isn't just smaller and more imposing. He's described as having "some sort of hidden deformation that makes you instantly loath his being, as if he weren't human, or were pure evil. As if he doesn't have a conscience..." I'm just paraphrasing that, but it's the gist of a bunch of eye witnesses testimonies. Since eyes are the "windows to the soul," I just made my illustration have black, shadowed eyes.
One spine-tingling moment towards the end of the novel was the reveal that Hyde had actually grown between one span of transformations. Eeeep!
About the illustration:
Following my recent stylistic trend (well, except for my last one), this booksketch was done in watercolor and Micron pen. Edward Hyde is looking smugly at the key to the rear entrance to Jekyll's house, which is through the old, unused lab/dissecting room.
"The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira
and Her Heartless Grandmother"
Gabriel García Márquez
Her life was a tale of sadness
until she met Ulises.
A young man
bearing gifts of oranges —
the most beautiful oranges
with diamonds hidden inside.
He waits outside her tent
where her grandmother has
An owl's call
is her sign
to escape into his waiting arms.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
It's about time I did an illustration from American Psycho. I'd say it ranks in my top five novels. It's a rather brilliant, if extremely shocking satire on the materialism and disparity of New York upper class in the 1980s.
Our psycho, Patrick Bateman is doing pretty well for himself as an investor on Wall Street. Living a rather high life, with an expensive apartment and extravagant lifestyle, Bateman describes to us his daily routines. These routines show us how shallow the environment is: drugs, sex, lies, etc. No one can remember anyone's name, even their "friends." Everything is disconnected from everything else, and people just focus on themselves and their credit cards.
But that's not the entirety of it. Bateman is also a serial killer. He knows it; he factors it into his schedule. He detachedly leads the reader through some very intense, very graphic scenarios. As the novel progresses, his cravings increase and so does the danger of being discovered. But in such a calamitous and uncaring society, who will take the time to stop a killer? Probably no one, as long as their is money left to spend.
This novel was adapted into a movie, starring Christian Bale. It's about a third as shocking as the book, maybe even a fourth, but still gets across the same effect. You have to love that scene near the end with Bateman frantically leaving a voicemail.
"Tonight I, uh, I just had to kill a LOT of people..."
This illustration was done with Micron Pen and a dab of red watercolor.
Don Quixote by Cervantes
These past couple of days have brought two or three Don Quixote references to my ears, which spawned the desire to do another booksketch tonight.
While I don't think this particular illustration is directly taken from any scene in the novel, I could picture ol' Quixote insisting on sleeping in his ratty armor to always be at the ready, should danger or villainy rear its ugly head. Lest any windmills sneak up on him.
Now that I'm thinking of this illustration, I guess there's another layer to it. The novel (or two novels, technically) is mostly about The Man From La Mancha's spiral into his dreamworld, losing sight of reality and becoming enamored with chivalry and knighthood. It's interesting to picture this dreamer actually dreaming, wrapped in his armor. Armor from what? Reality.
The illustration was done with inkwash and Micron Pen.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
I first read this novel (Wilde's lone novellular work) in early high school and then again within a couple years of graduating college. I remember my friend Tim mentioning how it was one of his favorite books, which led me to recall how excellent it really was. Please discount any reference to Dorian Gray in the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Blyuck.
Anyways, I'd consider this a "Gothic Horror" work, being that the setting is nice "turn o' the 20th century" London. You know, when people still had names like "Lord Henry" and stuff. Sherlock Holmesy in nature. Goings see many plays and wearing frills and flippery and all that fancypants stuff. I'm doing a great job of describing it, I know. Wait, I have it: The Late Victorian Era. Voila!
Alright, so Dorian "I'm young AND handsome!" Gray has a portrait painted by an artist, and it turns out quite nice. The artist falls in love with Dorian's beauty. Mr. Gray, meanwhile, becomes enamored with the world view of another character: Lord Henry. Henry ol' chap believes that one should only pursue beauty and pleasure in the world. And Dorian readily jumps on that ship.
This is really a classic and you should read it. And I shouldn't spoil it. So I won't. The book does deal with a few topics, the most important being "Inner vs. Outer Beauty." If one pursues worldly pleasures and looks, he may have to sacrifice his soul in the process.
This is a pretty dark book, as you can see! If you've read the novel, the sketch will make sense to you. And if you haven't then it should make you want to read it, right? Or make you have nightmares. This illustration was done with watercolor and Micron Pen.
On a final note, I will say that I wish it were titled "A Portrait of Dorian Gray," because "portrait" has a stronger connotation than "picture." Especially in this case.
Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin
Have you ever had a dream from which you wake up disoriented, thinking "Yikes, that felt so real!"? And come to find that your dream actually changed reality to accommodate what your mind had created in its sleep? No? Well, then you might not be able to relate to this story.
But you COULD imagine what it'd be like, right? The main character, George Orr, has the ability to dream alternate realities for the world. And he fears it. Because no one can really CONTROL dreams. Not even under hypnosis. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
The novel opens up with him being busted for using too much sleep-related drugs to stave off his dreams. He is forced into therapy with a dream psychologist, Dr. Haber. After a few hyno-dreamy sessions, Haber actually manages to suggest something to Orr that changes reality. And it doesn't just change the present day. It changes the whole history of the world, in relation to that dream. And only Haber and Orr know of the change. So now they have two sets of memories.
Haber refuses to believe what has happened at first. Once he comes to terms with Orr's power, he sets out to try to "improve the world" through suggesting things to the hypno-dream-induced Orr. Which never really works out the way it is intended because no one can fully control dreams. What you end up is kind of a genie-in-the-bottle effect:
Say you want to stop your neighbor from blaring loud music at all hours of the night. You want to dream that the neighbor stops playing music. In the dream, that end is met by you not living next to that individual. Instead, you now live across town in a penthouse apartment. Or, your neighbor has been struck by lightening when he/she was ten years old. Now he/she is deaf, and therefor can't listen to music.Stuff like that.
Well, possibly much WORSE stuff. Lots of huge effects come out of Haber trying to "improve the world" through Orr's latent power.
And Orr just wants to be cured.
About the illustration:
Through a series of events (and dreams), aliens are introduced into our reality. They are nice, and left a good impression in my head. They are about nine feet tall and their perpetually-worn bodysuits make them appear turtle-ish. They are assimilited into society and everyday life, and have become good salesmen (sale-iens?) and shop-owners!
They haven't mastered communication with humans, but they understand the power of dreams and the trouble Orr is having. Near the end, when things REALLY get crazy, they give help to Orr by means of a gift. It's a vinyl of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends." And it really is a help! You want me to spoil Lathe of Heaven for you? In your dreams!
Sketch done in Micron pen and inkwash. Oh my, I am proud of this entry's title!
Cenotaph is a book of poems by Eric Pankey. Although I wouldn't describe the poems as particularly excellent or earth-shaking, its a nice read. The above sketch was inspired by the poem The Kingdom of God Likened to a Deer Carcass.
I don't know what else to say about it that the title doesn't already explain. Its a short poem that describes the deer's sun-bleached bones to the ruins of an abandoned church, whose pieces are subject to destruction by carrion birds and wild dogs. While I could probably dissect the poem for symbolism and hidden meanings, etc., I just thought the image of a deer skeleton as a church was sort of neat.
Not all of the poems are morbid, but most are sort of dark and resentful of certain things like parents and lovers and religion. There is one about spring, but that one didn't have any distinct imagery that stuck in my head. Besides, I already knew what a deer skeleton looked like.
The Abortion is another Brautigan work. I'm sure that frequenters of this site are becoming quite familiar with Brautigan's work and if he were still alive today, perhaps he would be grateful for so much publicity. I digress...
Despite the controversial issue of a title, The Abortion: A Historical Romance 1966 is a sometimes light-hearted, sometimes pleasantly sad, mostly happy story about a couple traveling to Tijuana for an abortion in 1966. The woman, Vida, is a woman so beautiful, that men have been killed trying to stare at her. She hates her curves and good looks because she doesn't feel like she fits her own body. The man, whom Brautigan modeled after himself, I think, is one of the only men that doesn't stare at her lustily...so they fall in love. She finds out that she's pregnant and they make the decision to have an abortion in a very calm and cool manner and make a very non-regretful trip to Mexico.
They met at a library where the man (if they say his name at all in the book- it's not often and I don't remember it if it was indeed mentioned) is the librarian. He never leaves the library and has lived there every hour of every day for the past several years. The concept of this particular library is that all of the books in it were brought in at any hour of the day, by any author, and about any subject the author desires. One man wrote an entire book about the history of leather clothing on a leather bound book made entirely of leather, a five year old wrote a book about his tricycle, another teenage girl writes a book about her cat- and all are admitted into the library and placed on whatever shelf the author chooses. Once every few months, a man named Foster comes down from the desert in his van, picks up a number of books, and brings them to the "caves" for storage. None of the books are ever destroyed and the whole operation is funded by this organization called "The America Forever, etc.", which is never really seen.
The sketch is inspired by the opening chapter of the book, which introduces the kooky nature of the library. An old woman rings the doorbell at 3 in the morning to submit her book, "Growing Flowers by Candlelight in Hotel Rooms". She's described as old, approximately eight, and very shabbily dressed. She lives in a hotel and walked three hours all the way to the library as soon as she finished after five years of writing her book- in crayon, complete with illustrations. As she turns the book in and its registered, she tells a little story of her life and how she loves to grow flowers- but her hotel room has no windows. After a short chat, her book is registered, she places it on a shelf full of mostly children's works, and leaves at 3 am for her three hour trek back to her hotel home.
I think that this part of the story struck me for several reasons. First, I have a soft spot for old people, especially those that live alone. The old woman seemed to have such a sad life, living in a hotel room with no windows and whatnot. The book that she'd worked on for five years seemed like a sort of validation and a great triumph for her, even though probably no one would ever read it. Her book, like many of the others brought in to the library, was something that meant volumes to the author, but most likely wouldn't matter to any other person. The librarian's job is to make certain that it does matter, or at least make the various and quirky authors feel as though their work mattered. I think thats nice and fuzzy.
So, as the sketch shows, I pictured the old lady sitting all alone in a dark hotel room tending to her flowers growing by candlelight, feeling proud that she'd written an entire book about them. I think that the image inspired by the description of the old woman and her book set the tone for the entire story: a little bit sad, but pleasant and satisfying at the same time. I read the book from cover-to-cover in one sitting, as I've done with a couple of other Brautigan works. Having said this, I will declare this as one of my favorite Brautigan works. Then again I would probably say that about all of them. I will still declare it a favorite, however.
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Continuing my lighthearted illustration streak, I decided to booksketch from one of the nine or so Vonnegut books that I have read. Going through my library, Cat's Cradle was the first one I happened upon, so here you go.
To be honest, I remember liking it, but couldn't recall anything but the ending. So, flipping through the book helped refresh my memory. Like how the story is narrated by a fellow who wants to write a book about the direct kin of the man who (fictionally) helped invent the atomic bomb. Through investigation, he learns that this scientist had also invented a deadly substance called "ice-nine," which turns all water it touches into solid form at room temperature, by means of a molecular chain reaction. As you can imagine, this would be bad news if it were real. Well, in the novel, it is real. Deal with it, Earth!
Trying to track down more information on the substance, and ice-nine itself, our narrator is lead to a third-worldish island that is run by a dictator. This dictator wields a hook. Which was my initial booksketch thought. But the island isn't ALL dictator-centric.
On the island is an interesting religion called Bokononism. It focuses on people working together as a group (karass) to do God's will. And to spread love in general.
And finally coming to the illustration:
One way the Bokononians spread love is an intimate ritual that involves rubbing the naked souls of the feet together.
I know, right? The narrator participates in this ritual, boku-maru, with a rather captivatingly beautiful woman (who happens to be the daughter of the island's dictator, I believe). She was offered to him as a wife, should he wish. But because of culture clash, he instantly demands she cease foot-loving anyone else and only share her love with him. This, of course, goes against her religion and hurts her.
Kind of a jerk thing to do to a potential wife, eh?
Anyway, I thought it'd be kind of humorous to just draw the woman in an alluring foot-love pose, and just allude to a male's presence. Maybe he's shy. Or has his doubts. Or maybe he's already done!
Well, whatever you pull from the sketch, I think it stands on its own feet.
This illustration was done using a Micron pen and Copic markers.
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
After posting my first illustration from Einstein's Dreams, the wonderfully well-read Alison Moon mentioned that she'd like to see a drawing from the chapter that features a world where Time is embodied in the form of nightingales. I hadn't yet gotten to that part, but anxiously awaited it. Of course, it turned out to be the final chapter (except for the short epilogue, of course)!
So, picture a world where people are able to pause any moment in their life. How do they do this? Well, they trap nightingales under a bell jar. Nightingales in this world are the embodiment of Time, and if one catches one, Time is caught as well. This freezes the moment, and the trapper can essentially live out one happy moment for a good while.
In an interesting note, elderly people can't catch the nightingales because they are just too slow. Which is rather unfortunate, since the elderly are the group that most desires to hold onto moments. Children really have the best chance of trapping the time-birds, but they don't really have a will for it. What need do they have of pausing Time? They just want to play and such.
There is one more important point to the chapter, but I will not go into it. I'd rather not spoil the entire world for you, right?
This book was a brain-massage. It makes you think about all of these short little "what if" universes, but doesn't require you to analyze much or dive into research or theory. Lightman just flows the ideas over you, and you can wade in them if you'd like.
I'd like to add a little time-world theory of my own for you. Well, I guess mostly for Alison, since she suggested this book to me, haha.
Imagine a world in which Time moves like the turning of a page.
In this world, people live their life in sections, much like a page spread in a book. While your life is open to a certain page, you can view everything that has happened on the two pages facing you. You can skip around and revisit anything on those two pages for as long as they are visible. You can reread parts over and over, or skip whole paragraphs if you'd like.
Time moves in brief spurts, so you are free to "reread" parts from your life that are open. Re-experience graduation, or getting a raise, or spending the night with someone you love. Experience everything you've felt when your son scored three goals in his soccer state final, or how good you felt when someone you've had your eye on complimented your sense of humor.
Gloss over any parts you wish, as well. Who would want to experience a nasty bout of food poisoning again? Getting rejected while asking a crush to a high school dance is no fun (at least I assume... I never asked anyone). When your long-time pet passed away, just leaving you with a few pictures and a memory.
But eventually the page would be flipped. You would not be able to revisit anything from the previous page of Time, because Time decided it was time to have another spurt. Now a new spread is open for you. You can look ahead and see what will happen a few sentences down. You can begin to read through, or even reread passages once again. Don't be afraid to try new things! If they turn out well, you'll be able to experience them often. If you fail at something, you'll be able to pass over it in memory.
This world would make passionate readers of us all.
Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
I don't know if you're a fan of science fiction (or science in general). I am, but then again, I own a Star Wars belt. You don't really have to love sci-fi to really enjoy this book, since it is really more about thinking than testing laws of physics and whatnot.
Actually, I haven't finished the book yet. Immediately after soaking up the chapter that inspired this booksketch, I broke out the inks. Einstein's Dreams is a delightful collection of short chapters where the author kind of just bounces these neat ideas off of you. What if time in our universe was just one big loop, and we'll forever repeat our joys and sorrows? What if there were two sorts of "time?" What if there was a city that worshipped the flow of time?
One chapter mentioned how scientists measured that time actually is ever-so-slightly slower at high elevations, and quicker nearer the Earth's core. The author poked my brain when he suggested that in an alternate universe, people took this idea and ran with it (or climbed, rather). They began to migrate to the mountains and build their houses on tall stilts as to prolong their lives. Height becomes a status symbol. People hate lowering themselves to the Earth's surface to run errands. So when they have to do that, they really RUN errands. As fast as they can.
Height matters, I guess!
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
This novel kicks off with a surreal bang, with our "invisible" narrator going around and busting heads because his invisibility grants him freedom from being held accountable. He wants to explain how he became this way, and the majority of the rest of the novel is his story.
Starting out as a young and exceptionally talented speechmaker at a southern university, the narrator relates to us the trouble he gets into as a young black man dealing with racial issues, catch-22s, and tradition. After a particularly disastrous incident involving one of the rich white university trustees, our narrator is first admonished for fouling up the reputation of the university and then sent out to New York to work.
Having always looked up to Dr. Bledsoe, the university administrator (and also one of the few black men that the narrator has seen in a position of power), our narrator is crushed to find out that he was actually expelled and exiled from the school. Facing his anguish and anger, he decides to strike out into New York by enlisting in a paint-making factory.
After another incident, this time involving an insecure mentor figure at the factory and pressurized machines, our narrator ends up at a hospital. His mind and identity gets erased due to an experimental treatment by white scientists.
Let loose upon the streets, he is taken in by a wonderfully kind older black woman named Mary. She tends to him and won't hear anything about taking rent money until he can find a job.
Well, he does find one, eventually. After making a potent speech at the site of a rather public eviction, a man approaches him and asks our narrator to join up with a Brotherhood, which fights for the unity of all people, regardless of race. The rest of the novel tells about the narrator's struggle up the ladder, his success, ideas and thoughts, cautions, betrayals, and much more. Dark humor, provoking thoughts and actions, and excellent plots abound.
So, only at the very end does he explain what it took to make him realize he could be invisible, and what that means for him and society.
This sketch is of the character Ras the Destroyer, an powerful speaker who embraces his African heritage and spurns oppression. At the end of the novel, he changes his name from Ras the Exhorter to Ras the Destroyer because he's done preaching his words and starts tearing down society as he sees fit. Throughout the book, Ras has opposed the Brotherhood that our narrator has championed. He staunchly believes that since the Brotherhood was started by white people, it was only a sham and affront to black people everywhere. In his eyes, the only way to help his race was to fight those that always brought the boot down upon them.
Amid an all out race-riot, Ras leads an army while mounted upon a great black steed, brandishing a shield, spear, spurs, and pistol. Very visual, isn't it?
Other issues that are explored:
- Women's sexuality as a tool/danger
- Manipulation and deceit under the guise of "good"
- Using emotions and ideas to unite people
- The creative and destructive power of organizations
- Destiny in relation to class/race
- How different societies see thing in variation
- Trust and Betrayal
- Action as opposed to religion
On a side note, the majority of the book takes place in New York city, which is where I read the last third of the book! I just happened to be on vacation and visiting friends up there, and I got to walk on some of the same streets the narrator walked on! Haha!
The Music of Erich Zann by H.P. Lovecraft
A couple of days ago I found the urge to do an illustration featuring violin. Mostly because violin takes up a nice chunk of my time these days. So I racked my brain to think of something I've read that included a violin, and I remembered a wonderful short story by Lovecraft that I lit upon when pouring over a collection of his works.
The story is only about ten or so pages long, so it is hard to explain the booksketch without giving away major points. But I'll try my best not to ruin the story for you, should you want to read it.
A university student in a European city finds a cheap apartment on a strange little street. He meets another one of the residents, a lean, bent old man named Erich Zann, who plays violin in a small cheap theater orchestra nearby during the day and cranks out some eerie/mystifying notes at night.
The student is intrigued and eventually befriends Erich. One evening he gets invited in to Erich's room for a bit. The conversation stops as a distant musical note enters from the curtained window. Erich Zann immediately zones out and breaks out his violin, as if to compete with the approaching ghostly music.
I'm going to stop there. Lovecraft considered this amongst his favorite works produced, and I can see why. While many of his works tend to go overboard in ghastly detail of supernatural (and just plain other-wordly) creatures, The Music of Erich Zann is more subtle, and it strikes an especially eerie note. No pun intended. Ok, maybe a little one.
The illustration above is of Zann playing feverishly to fend off what waits outside his window.
Blood Relatives is a short story from the book The Littlest Hitler by Ryan Boudinot. I bought it because the synopsis online for the title story was about a little boy and girl who dress up as Hitler and Anne Frank for Halloween and become friends. The actual story (and book, for that matter) is much more depressing and dark and sometimes funny at the same time. This is OK though, because the short stories are also completely awesome, for the most part.
Blood Relatives is actually a combination of two stories involving a family member being a serial killer. The first story (pictured above) begins with a mom and her son shopping for food with the usual happenings. He asks for sugary cereal, she says no, he wants pizza pockets for dinner, she says no, etc. The mom is somewhat of a health nut, but only cooks a meal from scratch on Wednesday nights. This meal is labeled "the fancy meal."
The story sounds normal enough in the beginning, but we soon find out that the "fancy meal" involves ax wielding and the phrase "go fast...my mom used to run track." Ultimately, the crazy antics end with everyone living life as normal, as though the crazy and morally inept "fancy meal" is business as usual. A very entertaining little story! The second story is equally dark and comedic and also involves more dark humor.
Note: no. She is not doing the "Rock-out hand" while holding the ax. I just thought it looked really dainty for her to have her pinky out.
Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
My second imagining of a section from Trout Fishing comes from a chapter where our narrator recalls the time he was a sixth grader. He and a posse of his classmates devised a plot (out of boredom) to write "Trout Fishing in America" on the backs of all of the first graders they could find at recess.
So, armed with pieces of chalk and a sixth-grader mindset, they set off on their tasks and swept the playground. Complaints started arising from the campus, as well as confusion. What did this phrase mean, and why was it on the backs of every first grader? Was it some sort of evil plot? Who did it?
Well, the principal eventually got around to grilling the sixth graders. I won't spoil the outcome for you, though. I will, however say that I loved the paragraph that you could tell which of the students' mothers didn't feel like washing clothes every day. The day after the mass-chalking, you could still see the faded remains of the graffiti on some first graders' backs!
Brautigan books are chock-full of fun imagery, so you can expect more booksketches from them!
Watership Down by Richard Adams
It was brought to my attention that I had a nice bleak illustration streak (rhyme!) going there, so I decided it'd be best for everyone if we brought some color back into the equation. And bunnies. Easter just passed by, so why the heck not? The title of this particular illustration is purely for pun purposes, so don't get all worked up about the rabbits' welfare. They're fine. Well, most of them. My rabbits do look rather sleepy. Well, what do you expect! They're tired from laying all those Cadbury eggs.
And the best bunny story I know is Watership Down, hands down. This is my second booksketch inspired by it. The illustration actually was supposed to be much simpler, but I kept adding things because the rabbits and the watercolors were giving me a tough time! But I think it turned out pretty interesting.
At one part in the novel, Hazel and company are hastily escaping down a river when their small raft becomes stuck, and they have to swim for it. So, there you have it. Rabbits swimming!
Rabbits = cuter than rats = cuter than post-apocalyptic cannibals?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Oh, I've been wanting to do an illustration about any McCarthy novel for a while now. But it has been a meandering road, and I've only just gotten to it.
That pun is the only lighthearted thing that will be ever be associated with this book. Be forewarned.
The Road is a gripping, haunting post-apocalyptic story about survival, humanity and the lack thereof.
To start off the novel, the main character learns that America has just been nuked in various places. He immediately goes fill his bathtub up with water. That gave me an indication of what lay ahead. Without rules and something in place to keep everything in check, things basically go nuts.
When most of the crops fail, when all the energy goes out, when food goes scarce, what will become of society? This book paints a pretty...bleak picture, but you can pretty much believe it. Heck, I believed it instantly after that bathtub was filled with water, turning it into a large canteen.
I'm trying to give you the impression that this book is a brutal account of a man and his young son trying to make their way south to the Gulf of Mexico while traversing a dead, bleak, dismal and dangerous land. It is always cold in this world, because the sun is blotted out. Very cold. You have to scrounge for whatever food you need to get by on (I remember one part when they find shriveled, pathetic apples, and they are SO relieved and revived). Shoes are very important, and you should worry about their condition. People are dangerous because, well, they might be cannibals. There are several scenes and situations which push this upon the reader.
But what makes this book, and Cormac McCarthy, so genius is that it's not REALLY about all that bad stuff. It's about digging through it and finding the hope and humanity. The dialogue (all done with no quotation marks) between father and son is startlingly straightforward and heartfelt. Here's a sample that takes place right before the section that my illustration is from:
(son speaks first, then father, then you can follow from there)
We wouldnt ever eat anybody, would we?
No. Of course not.
Even if we were starving?
We're starving now.
You said we werent.
I said we werent dying. I didnt say we werent starving.
But we wouldnt.
No. We wouldnt.
No matter what.
No. No matter what.
Because we're the good guys.
You read this book and you sigh relief along when the characters when they find respite from their environment. They find food one day, and you smile because they smile. In the illustration above, they by chance happen upon an underground bunker/storeroom behind some abandoned house. And it's like heaven. And it is heartbreaking when they have to leave it to continue on. Because, as the father says, everyone else is looking for the same thing, and it wouldn't be good to be caught unawares there.
Upon finding the bunker, they are cautious about opening it. When the father finds that it is chock-full of supplies and empty of hazards, he can barely contain himself. And when he tells the boy to come on down, the boy hesitates. Which is the moment I tried to capture. I can picture him just looking around and checking to make sure no one is watching them. They had just come from a rather traumatic encounter in another house...
This is probably one of the "happier" moments in the novel. I've also read Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses, both of which have that same wonderfully dark, dangerous feel to them. Bad things happen. Good things happen. Really great stuff. Must have more.
1984 by George Orwell
Ah, the dystopian genre. While definitely not uplifting (at all), these bleak looks at humanity and society and control are often great works of literature. And, being a great work of literature, 1984 has been promoted on high school reading lists for a while now. So, it's pretty interesting how many people you know that might have read it!
I actually didn't experience it in high school; I waited until I was somewhere in the middle of my college branding. To make matters more dystopic (I love messing with words), I read Brave New World right after that. It was a very bleak period! Hahaha.
Anyway, this novel is about how the world is divvied up under the control of three huge super-powers. One of these, Oceania, is where the novel is set. Specifically, in London. The government tells everyone that they are at war with one of the other super-powers, and that terrorists are constantly trying to sabotage daily life. Big Brother watches every citizen's ever move. Oh, you just have to love hand-in-fist propaganda. Whatever the government deems "unsafe" is permanently deleted from every record, and thus from history. This is one of the tasks assigned to the Ministry of Truth.
Yes, the Ministry of Truth. There's also a Ministry of Love that... well... makes people like the government. By any means necessary.
One citizen, Winston Smith (who works at the Ministry of Truth) ends up straying from the set path and finds out all sorts of chinks in the machine. This leads to a whole mess of events, one of which may involve rats and psychological "conditioning." Definitely stuck in my mind!
So yeah, if you are deathly afraid of rats, I apologize. And you probably will want to skip a chapter or two of this book. On second thought, just take my word that it's a good book (KIND OF a downer), and go get some ice cream.
Never Mind The Pollacks by Neal Pollack
A fictional account of a the world's greatest unknown fictional rock critic. Funny, lewd, zany, rockin' and most definitely rolling something at any given point in time. Usually followed by smokin'.
Alright, enough with me trying to be witty in describing this book. I'll just paste the disclaimer from the copyright section of the book. It does an excellent job of giving an idea of what this book is like to read.
This is a work of fiction. References to real people, including the author's friends whose lives have been ruined by major label record deals, as well as events, establishments, organizations, or locales, are intended only to let you know that corporate rock still sucks. They are all used fictitiously or satirically, but especially the stuff about Kurt Cobain. All other characters and all incidents and dialogue are drawn entirely from the author's fertile imagination and are not to be construed as real, even if they, against your will, stir up unbearable waves of sexual desire.
After I finished the book, I went back and pored over the copyright page and all the credit information for little gems like that. It's something that I'm pretty sure a lot of people glossed over. It's like in great comedies (like my personal favorite, Top Secret) they'll hide funny stuff in the credits for people who look for that sort of thing. Well, yay.
Never Mind the Pollacks is an over-the-top helping of rock culture, served up to you by a journalist searching for the true story behind Neal Pollack, infamous rock critic. We find out a million unbelievable things about Pollack, such as being run over and befriended by Elvis. And giving many now-famous and well-known artists their start. Like getting the Velvet Underground their first gig. And letting Iggy Pop find is identity. And being in the Ramones for a short time. And becoming a father figure of sorts to Kurt Cobain.
It's a book that's purely for entertainment, by means of a satirical kick in the teeth. Laced with vulgarity and outlandishness for comedic effect.
This booksketch illustration has a little conceptual twist up at the top. Hope you like it! Ahhhhh, rock.
The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
I found out about this novel from a friend. He suggested The Invention of Morel to me because he had heard it had a similar feel to the spectacumondously awesome television show LOST. Since I'm a huge fan of that show, I ordered the novel on blind faith.
I chose it as a booksketch inspiration because on the "Eggtown" episode of LOST, one of the characters happened to be reading the novel in one scene! I also sent Ben and Ralph over at the Dharmalars LOST Podcast an email saying that I'd try to do an illustration inspired by the book.
And it was excellent. I can't really tell you anything about what happens, without giving anything away. The entire 90-or-so page novel builds up mystery and mood until the ending. I guess I should try to explain a little so I can justify doing a sketch about it, right?
OK, so the main character is a fugitive who has been hiding out on a deserted island. The island is made up mostly of swamp and marsh, but has some high land, on which a museum, chapel, and swimming pool sit. There are tales of some mysterious disease associated with the island, but the fugitive doesn't really have a choice of better living conditions.
One day, he finds that some strange tourists appear on his island. He doesn't want to be seen (and maybe turned over to the authorities), so he hides and spies. He observes numerous weird and puzzling things, and as the novel progresses, details are revealed pertaining to the nature of the "tourists."
A scientist, Morel, is among them. He seems to be their leader, and it is revealed that he has invented a great machine. I refuse to tell you what the machine is; no spoilers allowed. I don't believe they ever really described the invention, just various parts and workings of it and related inventions.
This sketch is my imagining of Morel's invention.
Also, if you like LOST, you'd probably like this book. And probably the Dharmalars podcast! Check 'em out.
God is Dead by Ron Currie Jr.
When I was given this book, it was actually described to me as a comedy- so I decided to look past the title and give it a shot. The premise of the story is that God comes to earth as a starving Sudanese woman in search of her brother. In his/her travels, he/she ends up murdered (hence the title).
The humorous part is that the world doesn't know quite how to deal with the revelation that God is dead so all sorts of wacky things start happening. The chapters are ordered in a short story fashion so each one is about some different wild and crazy thing that goes on because of God's death. For example, adults start to worship their children and the animals that ate God's dead body start speaking in tongues, etc. I actually haven't read it all yet, but so far it's fairly interesting and it gives you the opportunity to tell all of your religious friends how hilarious things would be if God were dead.
The sketch is God as the Dinka woman. When I first showed it to my friend that gave me the book, she was appalled that I pictured her happy and bubbly (and white) since the story is set in Darfur (seriously, this book is a comedy) and goes into the atrocities that are occurring there. However, I wasn't quite in the mood to draw a lady getting raped with a torch or something like that. I also felt that no one would really be in the mood to view any pictures of a lady getting raped by a torch, so I decided to go with the happy, bubbly lady instead.
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
As I mentioned in the post below, this is one tough cookie to read. Not that you read cookies. Anyways, there are 400+ characters and countless subplots and tangents, so it is basically like reading 15 different books at once. Which isn't the best for a straightforward storyline, but is quite good for illustrating!
The aforementioned Slothrop is rather special: Apparently, whenever he "gets intimate" with a female, a bomb strikes whatever location the action took place soon afterwards. This "ability" sets off a number of things, one being that people want to keep tabs on him. Another is that he gets dubbed "Rocketman" and sort of has a superhero status.
I'm sorry, I don't think I mentioned that this takes place during World War II, and Slothrop is a young (and promiscuous) lieutenant in the British army. There we go; consider it mentioned.
People send him off on various missions. The sketch above depicts Rocketman, in his Rocketmannish attire (a white Zoot suit and a helmet made from the nose cone of a rocket), stealing a bag of hashish for one of his fellow soldiers. He runs into Mickey Rooney there, in a comical scene where nothing is said, and pretty much nothing happens. But how random is that? Imagine stuff like that for 800 pages. I didn't draw Mickey Rooney because I really don't know what he looks like. Or what he looked like during World War II.
All that being said, I think I might have one more Gravity's Rainbow sketch in me. It will be from a very small part in the book (maybe three pages) that made me laugh out loud. Think three stooges, but in fighter planes. Check back soon!
Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
If you manage to read this book, you automatically enter an elite brotherhood (sisters welcomed, too). As soon as you flip over the final page, sigh, and ask "What the hell?" a courier arrives with a shiny medal emblazoned with a flaming book. This signifies your burning love for literature.
Gravity's Rainbow has been hailed (by some) the 20th century's greatest postmodern work. It has also been branded (by some others) as "unreadable." And while there are over 400 characters, oh-so-many plots and subplots, uncountable references to science and culture and history, you could get your kicks out of just reading the wonderful prose (and not actually trying to draw anything from it.)
It is about 800 pages of...topsy-turvy this-and-that madness, topped with humor and crazy scenarios and images. It is the hardest book I have ever read. I have also read Pychon's The Crying of Lot 49, which I found was a little easier. Maybe that was because it was a LOT shorter?
OK. So, anyway. This sketch is from one of the few scenes that I was actually able to retain. One of the main characters, Slothrop, aka "Rocketman," aka a bunch of other things, drops his harmonica in a restroom at a ballroom. He really doesn't want to lose it, so he dives in the toilet after his beloved harmonica. He enters a world inside the toilet, with all sorts...toilet world things. There are all sorts of symbols and parallels and what-have-you down there. The movie of Trainspotting even pays homage to this with a similar scene!
Ah, my head hurts just thinking about this book again. But as I type this companion text to my sketch, I look up at my coveted Fiery Book award, and smile proudly.
The Spire by William Golding
When I found this book (hardcover, great condition from Alexander Books) I thought "Well, Lord of the Flies was excellent, so this will be also." While it was a good, psychological book, I didn't fall in love with it. It kind of drug on and wasn't quite as tense as you'd think.
It might help if I summarize the novel. Jocelin, the dean of the cathedral, receives funding to build the largest spire ever. Everyone sees that it cannot technically be built (without collapsing utterly), but Jocelin drives them onward. As the story progresses, he becomes sick and starts having delusions, thus only adding to his fanatical drive to see his impossibly tall spire built. I recall several parts of the book where the construction workers say that they can hear the walls singing and screaming under the pressure of the spire above. Creepy!
The sketch is just an imagining of the spire, near completion. I am not an expert on architectural drawings, as you can see, but it is pretty fun to make up stuff as you're going along.