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Sifter: Part 1 – Free for 3 Days

 

 

My book, Sifter: Part 1, is free for 3 days: http://amzn.to/xry1mH

It’s pretty awesome fantasy and adventure – you should check it out.

 

Archer Elves, Demon, and Some Studies

I had a dream about some archer elves, so when it was time for some quick character studies, this is what you get.

 

This is the kind of thing I paint when I’m upset.

And some photo studies…

Got lazy with the foreground trees. Shame on me!

Concept Roughs – Temple, Cities, Tribal Warriors

I’m working on maximizing quality while minimizing time investment to facilitate more rapid iteration of concepts. Normally I like to take my time with research, gestures, design, and rendering, but moving through the whole process more quickly, in a number of styles simultaneously, helps push me both artistically and professionally.

 

A quick color thumb exploring the idea of a forbidden temple.

 

With these, I challenged myself to quickly rough out two different cities, one that was “happier” and more at home in a social game, with the other one being more industrial and grim, something you would see in a modern shooter. I’m liking the direction they’re headed in, but the images are still coming out a bit rough for my taste. I’ll have to work on refining my production processes.

Character Ideation – Evil Bakers

Once in a while, I come up with an arbitrary concept and quickly develop a few different versions of the idea. This time around – EVIL BAKERS. The goal is not to create highly refined illustrations, which I can do with enough time, but instead to focus on quickly communicating the essence of a few different incarnations of a character concept as quickly as possible. This way, the client can provide feedback early on.

With these roughs, it’s about demonstrating the different paths we can take in developing the character, the first stepping stone of many.

Environment Sketch

Trying out a new technique. I think it has potential!

Morning Ghost

 

New short story published! You can pick it up on Amazon for a meager $0.99

It’s about a girl returning home to a small town in New England. And Native Americans. And… yeah, you should read it!

A New Era

A newly minted website, and a renewed spirit. Good things to come!

Blood For Culture

Check out my book, Blood For Culture. You can read a lot of it for free, so give it a try!

Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Critique

SPOILER ALERT – read after you’ve seen the movie.

“Nazis ain’t got no humanity. They’re the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin’, mass murderin’ maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. That’s why any and every son of a bitch we find wearin’ a Nazi uniform, they’re gonna die.”

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Quentin Tarantino is a man that knows his craft, knows his medium, and knows what guys want. I am no Tarantino scholar, and I haven’t seen the whole of his oeuvre, but I feel that one of his biggest weaknesses is overindulgence – in violence, in simplistically violent characters, and in his own quirky artistic flourishes. For example, both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction are exceptional films, but both have their problems. Reservoir Dogs is filled with interesting, but ultimately one-dimensional gangsters. In Pulp Fiction, the characters seem more fleshed out, but Tarantino indulges more in his own weirdness, sometimes with fabulous results, sometimes not. With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino has attained a greater mastery and control of his own personality, and channeled it into a more sophisticated, refined and original film.

Tarantino describes the work as a spaghetti western with World War II iconography, and just watching the trailer, this is obvious. In a way, it’s not even about World War II at all, at least in comparison to a movie like Saving Private Ryan. It’s not about history; it’s about the emotions, values and ambitions that drove history, recontextualized. It’s an examination of cruelty, cowardice and the nasty things people do to one another not necessarily because of ideals and ideologies, but because of human nature. And it’s a lot of fun.

Why is it fun? Because of those magical things Tarantino does. Like introducing a WWII Nazi slaying character with a freeze frame and huge 70s style letters exclaiming: STIGLITZ. Or having a Mexican standoff in a cellar bar with men pointing pistols at each others’ testicles under the table (one of them being Stiglitz, of course). Or like having a David Bowie track in a WWII film. These are just things you would never find anywhere else, and the dosage is perfect, as well as the execution.

But beneath its entertainment values, Inglourious Basterds presents some interesting material to work with. This is a movie about murder, betrayal and brutality, but man does it have style! Everyone has ample reason to hate Nazis, so when they are slain by the Bastards in such artful, hideously delightful ways, you don’t have to even worry about feeling guilty; after all, the only good Nazi is a dead Nazi, right?

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Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of the film is the fact that the Bastards are presented as real badass Nazi-killers, and you end up rooting for them, yet their brutality, under other contexts, would probably be seen as downright evil. When the Bastards gun down men in a car, when they slice throats, when Stiglitz takes us through a sequence of bedtime murders, it’s okay. When the Bastards rescue Stilglitz from the prison, and the one Bastard blasts a groaning, half-dead Nazi on cue, it feels like an artful flourish rather than a murder – but then, it’s interesting to consider that these Jews are commiting atrocities themselves, are murdering, are scalping, are bashing someone’s head in with a baseball bat, watching, cheering, and so are you – for you, viewer, are rooting for a group of people who mirror Nazi behavior, who call themselves the Bastards, and what does that say about you?

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“Say auf wiedersehen to your Nazi balls!” -Stiglitz

This idea of death, killing, murder – it inspires me to think about my own morality. Why is it that killing someone is generally wrong, but then there are times when we feel some people deserve it? What is it about empathy that makes us utilize it so selectively, where we can switch it on and off given the circumstances? Some people we will empathize with, while others, we won’t. And as peace-loving as you want to be, you cannot help but geel compelled by the warm gleam of justice and tranquility in the Bear Jew’s eyes as he mutilates Hitler with his sub-machine gun, and as he fires into the crowd randomly, you know that the Bear Jew is finally at peace, and you yourself feel no sympathy for the fallen Nazis. Whereas if a troubled young man goes into a mall and opens fire at the crowd below, it is utter atrocity.

This passivity to murder is reiterated throughout the movie. For example, there is the awkward, gawky Frederick Zoller, who has killed like three hundred people, and uses it as a pickup line on Shoshanna. It’s a clever allusion to men such as, perhaps, Audie Murphy, the real life American who slew some two hundred forty people during WWII, and was one of the most highly decorated soldiers of the war.  And yet when this Nazi asshole Zoller kills our beautiful Shoshanna, there is such severe pathos in her death; it’s heart-breaking, to see her murdered so spitefully, by someone who holds human life with such little value. It’s a very Tarantino-esque death, an aesthetic, even beautiful depiciton of murder, and probably one of the most meaningful, striking, haunting deaths he has ever written. Why? Because finally, we have a death of someone who really just didn’t deserve it. But then, well, wait…

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Beyond this notion of violence and murder, there is the idea of cinema running throughout the story. It presents me with a question: can a fictional narrative change history? Well, not literally, but consider how the film within the film about Frederick Zoller, The Nation’s Pride, and art in a broader cultural, political context can influence perception and the beliefs that people consequently come to hold. The nitrate film prints used as explosives – film itself, burning the hell out of everything; it brings to light the temporal nature of history, how past atrocities can be “erased” from memory or distorted by its documenters. There’s great power here, and Tarantino uses it in a way that others might consider blasphemous, but it’s still within his power nonetheless, and within yours as well. Oh, and it’s also interesting to note that Audie Murphy also made a movie about his career, just like Frederick Zoller. I haven’t watched it. And I don’t intend to.

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In the end, Aldo the Apache, after carving a swastika in the Jew Hunter’s forehead, says that this might be his masterpiece, and one can hear Tarantino speaking to the viewer wryly through the voice of his character. While Inglourious Basterds may not be a masterpiece, it’s something with a fair degree of sophistication, something I could write a twenty page paper on, and certainly something worth watching and treating seriously.

In conclusion, it’s brutal, unsympathetic, entertaining, original, and pretty awesome (not to mention the spot on soundtrack). A strong step in the right direction for Tarantino. And no gangsters! Huzzah!