Week 1: Starting a habit

Still trying to get into the habit of writing weekly summaries of what I’m reading and making.


RIP, Syd Mead.

Master concept artist and hero of industrial design students everywhere. When we learned to render with markers, we referenced him a lot. Not only did he draw extremely well, he designed some incredibly cool-looking things.

“All ideas go through three stages,” he told The Boston Globe in 1985. “The first stage is the idea itself. Thinking of that is a whole specialty in itself, because if something exists someone had to think of it.

“After that,” he continued, “the next stage is documentation. That can be anything from a set of sketches or an oil painting to a written description to a working model. The last step is manufacture. Making it real.

“Me, I’m hired to do the first two steps. I worry about the ideas, not the facts.”

Interview with Chris Ware

If I pay attention to what occurs to me as my drawings appear on the page, however, it will all eventually connect in ways that would otherwise be impossible to predict or control. I believe it’s the role of the artist not to impose a structure on one’s art but to let the structure build itself – and it always will, if you let it.

Pulp illustration

A funny look at Mort Künstler’s 60s pulp magazine illustrations.

These illustrations aren’t the Mona Lisa, but they have a style to them that Künstler’s historical work completely lacks. They feel so much more human, so much less weighted down. It’s as if the artist was liberated by the fact that his subjects were so thoroughly tawdry — as if, without the burden of depicting Great Personages, he could just let his imagination run wild.


(Still reading horror.)

There was some money underneath the Christmas tree this year, so I spent some of it on my Amazon Wish List. The latest haul:

  • The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. Got it for two reasons: 1) I love libraries 2) Kleon keeps recommending this. Haven’t started reading it yet, but can comment that it’s beautiful object – the kind of book that reminds you why a book is a nice thing to hold in your hands.
  • Tried to green up my fingers a little last year, but there’s so much to learn! Went to the worst garden center a while back, and got some nasty surprises over the following weeks: the Dracaena had spider mites, the Schefflera was infested with scale bugs and the Croton? The Croton had dodders. Ughh. Now I have Caro Langton & Rose Ray’s “Root, Nurture, Grow”, a beautiful book about houseplants and getting them to make small houseplant babies, so no more parasite-infested garden centers for this guy.
  • How to Raise a Reader” by Pamela Paul, since our toddler’s starting to get into books in a big way.
  • Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style” by Benjamin Dreyer. Educational and hilarious.
  • Murder by Remote Control” by Janwillem van de Wetering and Paul Kirchner (after reading this interview in TCJ). Surreal murder mystery with jaw-dropping art by Kirchner.
  • Felt I should know more about Robert Crumb and his work, so I got a used copy of “The R. Crumb Handbook” by Peter Poplaski and the man himself. Some of the comics are filthy, but there’s a lot of funny, trippy and thought-provoking stuff in here as well.
  • Feeding my Lynda Barry obsession with her latest, “Making Comics”. (Currently reading “The Greatest of Marlys”, too.) Not so much a “how to make comics” as another “let’s free our inner children and be creative, you guys!” and it’s inspiring as heck.