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November 26, 2006

Working on Volume III

So I flew back from Denver on Friday so that I could get a leg up on illustrating Volume III of Idiots'Books - it's a particularly complicated project this time around, so I need all the extra time I can get. Of course, we are on a compressed schedule because of the First Friday book signing that is happening, ohmygod, THIS FRIDAY. We figured if we're going to pretend to be all legit by signing books at the Book Plate, we should probably have more than two books on hand for review. So, we're rushing Vol. III in hopes for a big holiday gift push. Go ahead. Raise your eyebrows and say, "yeah, right." I've already done it myself several thousand times.

I was able to fly back early because Southwest was selling crazy cheap tickets from Denver to Baltimore for $59 one-way. $59!! Seriously, how can that plane afford to fly at that price? I sure hope they weren't skimping on the gas. Well, I made it home, anyway. Anyway, back to what I was talking about - I've been working up some sketches for the next book. I was going to go to bed now, but I'm realizing I have to get these inked and colored and laid out and printed and trimmed and bound before THIS FRICKIN' FRIDAY.

Ok. Let me go and have a heart attack, like right now.

While I do that, you can look at one of the sketches:

This is Igor. He wants to be a ballerina. It's my favorite bit of writing in the book, but maybe not my favorite illustration.

Um, and, yeah, I'm still hyperventilating about this FRIDAY so I better get back to work. Just wanted to update you on the fashizzle.

er, whatever.

oh, ps has anyone noticed how I always start my entries with "So -" ? It's kind of annoying. But, it seems strange just to jump right into the action. Perhaps someone can assist me with some new conjunctions, or adverbs, or whatever. But not like, like. I use that one too often, and not really correctly, and it's a lot more annoying than so. And, now that I've written it down like that (like, like), it looks like a weird frickin' word. Like it's all nordic or something. Like some kind of Norwegian pickled fish. Like, like - like.

Posted by ribbu at 11:20 PM | Comments (1)

November 20, 2006

Kansas City, Here I Come!

So, I'm in Kansas City. We are here to visit Papa John and Judy for Thanksgiving. Actually, we are here to visit them for pre-Thanksgiving, then on to Denver to visit cousin Katie (just back from a Peace Corps stint in Azerbaijan) for Thanksgiving. But first, while I am in KC, I am attending a training course in Dreamweaver and Fireworks at River City Solutions. Two full days of computer software-o-rama, and I can see how my students must just get technical overload after 2 and a half hours of this stuff in the evening. However, I am learning a lot from Frenetic Bryan who managed to keep things interesting for a full SEVEN HOURS. This is no small accomplishment.

After several full days of manic printing, collating, stapling and gluing to get Vol. II of Idiots'Books out before "vacation", we headed west on Saturday. As usual, we ended up making the 19-hour trip in one pathalogical go. There was a time when we thought we would stop in St. Louis to visit Davey, but once we actually came close enough to seriously consider it, we realized we only would get to see him for about 12 minutes before he had to leave for the show. So, we passed by St. Louis and waved to all the criminals. Anyway. We made it, and now we're here.

Okay - so I learned a lot about dreamweaver and fireworks and now can maybe build a website without losing all my hair. But the coolest thing I learned about was this. It's frickin' awesome. I added it to all of the Idiots'Books pages (incidentally, paypal is now available!) so we can see how many people visit, what they click on, what part of the country they're from, how many times they visit, if they're wearing underwear when they visit, etc etc etc. Now, I already have associated stats for the site bundled through our awesome hosting company but this google thing has PIE CHARTS. There's nothing that makes me feel more official than pie charts. I feel, now, that I could probably attend Harvard Business School and do pretty well. I mean, I've got the pie charts to back me up. That's all they do in business school anyway, right? Supply and demand graphs and all that. Well, actually, it's a little sad right now, because it hasn't updated yet, so I don't actually have the pie charts yet. I just have big 0s everywhere, which is probably exactly what I would see if I did go to Harvard Business School. Well, anyway. I can't wait till tomorrow, when I can check out how everyone has been looking at the site.

FYI, I couldn't figure out how to add the code to this site, so you - in and out of your underwear - are safe for now.

Posted by ribbu at 11:10 PM

November 17, 2006

Almost Famous

Well, I just got off the phone with Crystal, who is in school getting her design/illustration/communication/drawing/art degree - she was interviewing me for a class project. She is a friend of good Jim Shepard's (who, in person, looks much less like a scary badass, though is, in spirit, a scary badass), who gave her my info perhaps in an attempt to flatter me into a free Idiots'Books subscription (free subscription on its way!). We (Crystal and I, not Jim and I) had a very nice chat about being a freelance illustrator, starting your own crazy book project, and everything that comes between. She did an excellent job of making me feel like a seasoned pro, and agreed with everything I said. This made me feel 1. smart and 2. awesome. I liked that.

Crystal had lots of good questions about how to become an illustrator, and I have to say I answered them all like I knew what I was talking about. Frankly, I fell into drawing in so many different ways that it would be foolish to think I had any sound advice to offer (I'm sure this isn't what anyone really wants to hear) (especially Crystal). I have been so lucky to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way that I go through each day waiting for catastrophe to come knocking, and remind myself, on an almost bi-hourly basis, that when bad shit happens, I'll have to remember that it was because all of the stuff that is happening now is getting me back. I'm in serious karmic debt.

So - anyway. It was nice to talk to someone who so clearly is excited about what I'm doing. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Crystal! I feel like a rock star! I'm gonna buy a Corvette! I'm gonna steal candy from kids! I'm gonna rule Minnesota!

(because, you know, if Jesse the Body can do it, so can I!)

Posted by ribbu at 02:36 PM

November 10, 2006

Johnny on the Spot

So for the final project I assigned for my class, the only requirement I made was that the image contain some sort of layered texture. It can be pulled from photos or scans or whatever, but there needs to be something in there. So far a lot of the work I've had them do in Photoshop has been to make transitions and spaces believable, so I'm trying to get away from the photo manipulation and head more towards the art/collage stuff a la the Rauschenberg lithographs. We'll see what they come up with. So anyway, I thought that just for kicks I would bring the camera out this morning and see if I could find some textures. Texture is one of those things you don't really think about until you're looking for it, and then, of course, it's everywhere. The macro feature on my camera (the best point-and-shoot camera ever that I love so much) is extremely gratifying. I spent a lot of time crawling around on the ground, much to the consternation of the crew team (or some bunch of guys lurking around the boat house potentially stealing long boats on trailers). At any rate, the camera was in hand, and I always forget how much fun I have with the thing.

Here are a couple favorites (the first one is less about texture and more about my dog, but whatever) (actually, come to think of it, the second could be about my dog too - dog's best friend and all...)

But the real coup was this one. Not because it's a good photo, but because of the absolutely spectacular company slogan. I found this one on the side of the lone port-o-potty near the entrance to the park. Classic.

Posted by ribbu at 09:40 AM | Comments (1)

November 05, 2006


This weekend was "Downrigging Weekend" in C-town. A bunch of tall ships arrive en masse, tie up at the docks, and take folks on short sails and dockside tours before bundling up their sails and lines and blocks and flags and various yards and masts for the winter. The Sultana is the only one that winters here in C-town, the rest just come for the festivities and then head off to their respective ports of call. We had the family Westbrook for the day on Saturday and had a lovely time visiting and bearing witness to the fruits of good parenting. More details yonder.

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 8:30 (we had a 3:00am lights out last night, probably due to all the amounts of sugar that we ate with the westbrooks) - I had set up my brand new back-up hard drives last night and crossed my fingers that all the backups went well, so couldn't resist the urge to check on them. Of course, I screwed something up and the backup hadn't worked, so I had to figure it all out. By that time, Iggy was hopping up and down on one leg to get me to take her out, so I got dressed and faced the morning. At the last minute, I thought I should grab my sketchbook and see if there was anything good to draw (it's not every day that you have a tall ship tied up in your backyard to draw).

I warmed up on a bench at the park and did a sketch of the pavilion, which is owned by the college and is host to special events and regatta spectators (and, currently, some weird installation that purports to tell me which road to take in the proverbial wood - I have the feeling that the installationist is young, idealistic, and hasn't actually spent much time on any roads in any proverbial woods, but it was a nice thought anyway):

I had let Iggy off the leash and she was very patiently keeping herself busy until Kelly the Schnauzer appeared, and then I had to get up and keep her from trying to convince Kelly to tear herself off the end of her leash and go running. So, the pavilion went unfinished.

On to the docks. The most impressive boat that showed up this weekend was the Kalmar Nyckel. It is just a remarkable hulk of ship. The other night we stopped by to see it, all lit up - the sky was clear and the moon bright behind the snapping flags at the tops of the three masts, and looking at the stars through the unbelievable tangle of lines the thing made the world look like a movie set. I guess it was the nearly-full moon that gave everything that weird blue glow that they use on TV to show that it's nighttime, but life was really imitating art, and it made me feel like my eyes didn't belong to me. That used to happen to me a lot when I was little (no idea why) but it's really disconcerting when you're old enough to try to wonder about it. Anyway. It's just a beautiful ship (and I'm not the type who gets all crazy about boats, either). I started this sketch of the masthead (is that what it's called? oh no, wait, I mean figurehead. Masthead is something else. That goes at the top of a letter? No, that's letterhead. Oh, wait, masthead is the newspaper title head, right? ... checked with dictionary and yes, I've got it all straight now):

Well, it wasn't going well. Iggy was again being very patient - hanging out at the end of her leash, as close as she could to the shore end of the dock. Lots of people were coming by and, though it wasn't their fault that my sketch was sucking, I'd like to think it was. Marc Castelli showed up, which is kind of like Einstein showing up when you're trying to work out a simple multiplication problem. He's the preeminent local internationally renowned artist (you know, like mom), and does a lot of work featuring fishermen and boaters. I love how he does water, but his sketchbooks are the things I really covet. They are just beautiful. So anyway, apparently he sketched the very same figurehead three years ago. Which is like Einstein telling you, "Hey - 15.5x132? It's 2,046, and I just did that in my head." Not that Marc said it like that - he's actually a very cool and unassuming artist - I guess you have to be to have the access to watermen that he does. They don't go for that artsy-fartsy bullshit. So, Marc was going out in a boat with someone from the Sultana (I think) to get some photos of the ships from the water, and they headed off. I lamely finished off the rest of my sketch - the only part I like is that little sailboat in the background.


So then I figured the detail stuff was getting me down, so I headed back to the little boardwalk area and sketched from farther afield. Iggy trotted around at the end of her leash and got a lot of admiration from people passing by on their way to the boats. She got better and better about people petting her, so I'm guessing she still needs some socialization work. Only once did the leash go springing out from under my flank, and that was when she was trying to skitter away from an old fat basset hound who was apparently too intimidating for her. She stuck her nose in my sketchbook a couple times, leaving some muddy streaks (she likes to eat dirt) as evidence. I think it added to the whole je ne sais quoi.

I'm much happier with this one (saved it for last, you know) - though it's really all wrong. But it gets the general sense of things pretty well.

Posted by ribbu at 08:22 PM | Comments (1)

November 01, 2006

Trophy Wife

I've been working on some illustrations for a piece that will be featured in the Washington College Magazine - my first illustrations for a work of fiction (matthew's gobbeldygook notwithstanding). Washington College has this great creative writing program, perhaps most notable for its wildly generous Sophie Kerr Award (and maybe some other important literary-type things, but the glitter of cash dollars is really what catches the eye), so there's lots of literary-ness running amok around here. The story that I am illustrating is the winner of a prize given to a junior for excellent writing in any field - this year's winner happened to be part of the WC lit mob. The story is aptly titled "The Trophy Wife" and is one of those self-aware-late-adolescent-discovering-the-dark-side-of-the-high-life-gatsbian-type deals, if I even have the literary know-how to describe it as such (don't, really). At any rate, I was given fairly free artistic reign (why, thank you!) and came up with the following:

After sketching them up and sending them over, I was called into the art director's office today, without much of an explanation as to what was up (I believe she said "so I can show you what we have in mind") which indicated to me that what they had in mind was entirely different from what I had in mind (so much for free artistic reign). It turns out, she just wanted to show me the pix in the layout, and it also so happens they'd like both. As mom would say, "Whippee!" So, since I've got them all comped up, I just have to complete finals before next wednesday. That is much more humane than I had previously thought.

In other news, I don't have class tonight (advising day) and matthew is out of town for the night (visiting pappa John who's in DC for a business meeting or something), which means that I should get some work done on the next Idiots'Book. Instead, I'm going to make dad fried tomatoes and maybe pass out from all the ingested grease. Right on.

Posted by ribbu at 02:42 PM