Mid-Week Musing

Being exposed to so much senseless violence and other terrible things via posts on places like Facebook often has me taking pause and giving thought to the human condition. While we can easily spot the down-side of prolonged heavy drug use, I’m beginning to wonder if narcotics pack a serious amount of calcium or other vitamins.

For instance, I can’t watch a guy take a nasty spill, or fight off a few cops or get hit by a car and walk away unscathed without thinking “Say what you will about heroin, but those addicts have some strong bones.” Teeth, not so much. But arms, legs and so forth, by golly they’re tough when fortified with household chemicals and a general lack of common sense.

Aiden and the Toy Aisle

Digging through a folder of assorted notes I’ve written, and I stumbled across this gem:

“A cacophony of flip-flops, crying kids and a loose shopping cart wheel that goes clackity-clackity-clackity-click-click-thump-thump-thump-thump-clackity-thump.”

One might think I’d remember just what in the fuck that was all about; much less that at some point I was writing a Disney musical number. Phil Collins is going to have a hard time writing the score for this, but hey, that’s on him. Hit me if you’d like to purchase the rights to a brilliant idea for a Walter Mitty meets Toy Story meets Full Metal Jacket meets an Un Chein Andalou/Tarzan-esque animated spectacular.

You Win Again, Camera

TLDR paparazzi

“Camera-Friendly”

There’s a shitty phrase. As someone who’s face isn’t classically “camera-friendly”, I have to wonder just why in the fuck I’d want to be friends with the camera in the first place. Consider: The camera is a liar. Or, more appropriately, the camera’s marketing guy is a liar. The present-day camera, anyway, suffers from a serious case of identity confusion. It’s that whiny emo kid that just can’t be itself because everyone is making it be something else, but in this case it’s perfectly justified because people are making it into something it shouldn’t have to be. But more on that later.

You’re sold (in the old days, anyway, when the camera wasn’t too busy receiving sales calls for life coaching (Unrelated But Yet Related And Certainly Worth Exploring Sidebar, or “UBYRACWES” — which, in hindsight, looks eerily like “you be racist” — but we’ll roll with it because, well, fuck you, you privileged son of a bitch: The person making these spam calls to help coach your life is probably making $13./hr, working from a call center, and pushing some book on you that, while probably very vague in its own right, will never have you reaching any higher than the call center person, and you’ll be $49.99 deeper in the hole, rendering you unable to afford to send photos of the following), status updates regarding meaningless trifles in the life of some bastard you would never have a beer with and their lunch salad that was “off the chain” (truly a description better reserved for that “chicken” you had at the buffet, or calls that you’ll ignore anyway on some cheap box of mirrors that will capture your awesome life, and the memories and all of that nonsense. Yet the reality is, you’re going to find that many of your subjects (i.e. “children”, “relatives”, “drunken friends”, et.al.) will be less than “photogenic”, rendering many of your life’s memories in a less-than-flattering light.

In the old days, when you had to use film and have it processed and wait for the results of your shitty photos, there were no “on-the-spot-do-overs” or “let’s do that again’s” (ooh… UBYRACWES time; or more appropriately “SCRACWES” — or “Somewhat Closely Related And Certainly Worth Exploring Sidebar”— the “retake” photo. Remember these in school? “Hey, all of you less-than-average-looking/non-camera-friendly types, be in the Library next Wednesday during the middle of the Chemistry final that Mr. Arminstrinberger won’t let you out of for the ten minutes it would take to re-shoot your graduation photo now that – not mention saving  some poor motherfucker with an airbrush and a bad sense of humor like fifteen minutes to fix in post the agony of having to look at – the remnants of that zit you tried to rush along, but at the time of the original photo looked like a terrifying cold sore  has healed enough to hide with that flesh-toned Clearasil –matched, obviously to someone with far “whiter” genes, like what’s-her-face from that Regis Philbin show… something Gifford. Kathie Lee! – but that’s another UBYRACWES for another time – and the odd wind and rain-styled ‘do you were sporting that day to play some distraction”), you simply dealt the hand you were given because film was expensive and every shot COUNTED, and waiting for the magic elves in the FotoMat to develop them so you could drive up, get them in your hand and promptly throw them out along with half a weeks’ pay, learning the valuable life lesson that not everything is best printed on quality Kodak paper. The camera was an unforgiving prick, and it often coupled with a partner, the “unflattering flash cube”, which was like the shit-sandwich combo of the big doofus in third grade who would point out your flaws to everyone (especially if they involved your poverty, which in turn was a direct cause of you wearing uncool sneakers and hand-me-down Toughskins with weird little patches in the knees that the corners would slowly peel back on), with the added bonus of his Salacious B. Crumb-like sidekick adding that extra layer of bright light to help magnify the flaws, should anyone have missed them on the first click.

Thus, I am not “camera friendly” in either the classical sense (read as “homely”), or even the more esoteric sense (as in “hey, camera, thanks for all of the great memories! Let’s be pals!”). The camera can suck it. In fact, I hope that Hell for cameras is when they end up in the Colonsocopy room. I can bear witness to having hoped that on one or two occasions (making this another UBYRACWES, but with a Too Much Information twist) that the camera in use was the reincarnation of my seventh-grade photo (“How you like me NOW, camera?! See anything INTERESTING? Oh… you do. Fuck. You win again, camera.”). I do wonder, however, just why we have yet to apply technology to video in the way we have to sound. Consider just how many “singers” aren’t exactly “microphone friendly” without the aid of processing and Auto-Tune and all of that. I can see someone like myself being overlaid (and consequently “over LAID” if you catch my drift!) with a little computer enhancement, and starring on a TV show. Sort of like Jar-Jar Binks (I’m getting a bit excited for the new Star Wars movies. Deal with it.), but like 11.2% less endearing. And probably less pants during sweeps week, but I digress.

I’d suppose that people today have it better, camera friendship-wise, thanks to re-takes and Photoshop (and possibly due to the slowly dwindling eye broccoli class of folks — another UBYRACWES with serious Darwinian subject matter) have it far easier than our generation with the Instamatic and flash cubes, making it easier to be friends with the camera. After all, I never once got driving directions from a Minolta 35mm that were worth a shit, although I did manage to lift the Katakana for “Film Goes Here” from one and convince a girl to have that tattooed under the impression that it meant “beautiful blooming orchid” (adding another layer of irony, consider that this was done as a tramp stamp, and I’d bet that few things have bloomed in that vicinity even remotely resembling an orchid – a lactose intolerance on her behalf could provide at least half a chapter of laughs via one of those SCRACWES with a grand TMI kicker). I can only hope that one day she’s having a Colonoscopy and that Dr. Fong gets a little chuckle as that camera gets another taste of its own medicine, courtesy of her cave of unholy winds.

What’s in a Name? Interview at Car Art Spot

If you have a few minutes to spare, be sure to head over to CarArtSpot.com, and check out my recent interview with Marcel. It was a fun and laid-back time, and the man certainly can host a fantastic interview.

I always rate an interviewer by their demeanor and ability to converse naturally, and Marcel raced to the top of my list almost instantly. It was like talking with an old friend, and his manner of asking questions was relaxed, and it made that awkwardness that usually accompanies talking about oneself disappear entirely. I found a certain sense of introspective peace at the end of our time talking, and a smile on my face.

We talked cars, art, design, inspiration, and future plans and dreams. Truly a little something for everyone!

While you’re visiting the site, be sure to check out the many other great interviews and artwork from some truly talented artists and designers! It’s educational and inspiring in many ways!

Again, my sincere thanks to Marcel for his time, consideration and graciousness. A big tip of the hat for all that he does to celebrate and promote the working automotive artists!

The Darkness Amid the Sparkle

A lot of talk the past few days regarding the car show world, from politics to rules and more. I had been writing a piece about this very subject prior to Detroit, and then felt it best to hold off on publishing it, as there were things afoot that could have made my post look, well, far more bitter for all of the wrong reasons. Rest assured, this is nothing more than my observations on the whole car show/industry slide toward oblivion, and not some “oh, they didn’t give us a trophy” or other nonsense. For fuck’s sake, we’re adults. And yes, it’s long. Should you happen to be some illiterate shit, or far too busy looking up memes or fail videos to read a few paragraphs, well, there’s the wonder of the internet, Billy Bob: Scroll the fuck past. Nobody asked you to chime in with your “I dun dint read, cuz it were long” reply. It’s a safer world knowing that the likes of you stick to looking at pictures anyway.

Some may be offended by my opinions/observations, and that’s cool. The truth can pack a nasty stinger.

Think back to the first indoor car show you attended. Chances are, you were a young and impressionable gear head who was floored by the kandy and chrome ocean you found yourself dropped into. Take that a step further, and consider the first ISCA-type show car that made an impression on you. Chances are, you went home and drew that car, or built a scale model of it, or simply daydreamed about it in class. I’m betting that to this day you can picture the car, and still get a little blip in the heart rate from it. It’s etched somewhere in your car psyche. It plays a role to this very day in what you like or don’t like on four wheels. It’s IMPRINTED on the very part of you that’s tagged “CARS” on that dotted-line diagram of your brain.

Custom cars, to anyone just discovering them are MAGICAL. They have a power far beyond propelling people across the pavement. They take on a life beyond their perceived purpose. They tend to grow with us. I’d bet that your memory even skews a few facts about them, and maybe even glosses over a flaw or two, lifting them even higher in your memory of their perfection. You do that with nearly everything you grow attached to. I’m betting my wife does that about me. Thinking about this, I should go give her a hug. And clean the living room.

Compare the above to recent shows, assuming that you still attend them. Any cars that simply “do it” for you like that? Do you still feel that emotional attachment or charge? I certainly don’t, and I’m smack dab in the middle of this whole thing, designing custom vehicles for a living. I try to create the kinds of things that some kid will recall 30 or more years down the road, and bring up in bench racing sessions. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some in the recent past that come close to “doing it” for me, and continue to inspire, but the industry as a whole has changed… the whole mood is dark lately.

Let’s not sugar coat this:

Car shows are the NFL of our world. A money-making enterprise. It makes sense, as they are a business, and the purpose of any business is to make money. I’m all for success, and doubly-so if your mission is to pocket some coin, and you happen to be doing that. Good on you. But the focus on the money changes things… It’s warped the very spirit of this car thing, and dragged it so far away from celebrating the automobile as art, and taken us to the automobile as return on investment or a showdown of who can spend more or grab the most ink in some magazine that’s months behind the times, and struggling to tell you that it’s still somehow relevant and that the internet is killing it, when in fact, they’re killing themselves and the industry by celebrating this push downward with third-rate articles and seven page features on uninspiring cars that would have been better served as a savings account. Again, don’t get me wrong. We are in a time of incredible talent with regard to the builders and designers and tools we have available to us in this industry. Yet, we’re losing the youth. Involvement is dropping among the next generation. And it is most certainly NOT because some kid grew up in the back seat of a Honda, or inherited a mini van as his first ride. That is a bullshit cop-out. Not every major builder or designer today grew up riding shotgun in a pro-street Chevelle, or had some Boss Mustang dropped in their lap for a first car. We drove uninspiring shitboxes. If you think that somehow more inspiration to build a ground-breaking, next-level beast of a ride comes from looking at a non-functional fuel gauge in a cracked dashboard in a rusty ’73 Monte Carlo any more than it does from the same situation in a third-hand Subaru, you are brain damaged. The next self-righteous motherfucker to use that excuse gets a foot in their ass. Allow me to shed some light on the REAL problem:

Today, it’s all nothing more than some bullshit cool kids club. Gone are the days of the “car as design statement” or even “rolling testament to craftsmanship” for the most part; we’ve hacked and slashed the soul from it all, and would up in a wasteland of cubic budgets and branding. It’s not about a fun build that pushes the limits of imagination, or thumbs its nose at conventional transportation, or even inspiring some budding builder to go and do likewise. Rather, it’s intimidating at best with endless checkbook builds where the goal is closer to making a name or a shop or builder, or trading damned-near a million (ad sometimes more) dollars for a trophy and a check that covers the transportation and week-long lodging and food for the crew supporting the car than it is to build for the sake of pushing skill. What in the serious fuck?! You expect ANY kid to want a part of that? Unless daddy is a CEO and is bankrolling the project, the odds get slimmer as we venture further down the income ladder. And don’t throw me this bone of plopping some car into the top five that doesn’t belong there as some gesture of “giving the average guy hope”. We all know it’s bullshit, and you can bet that you aren’t doing that guy or some kid attending his first show any good. He can see though the “everyone is a winner” bullshit. He has to each day at school.

Like anything, the moment it becomes more about money than the challenge of creating something, all is lost; it becomes a caricature of the very thing it used to be. We’re creating a hobby and industry filled to the brim with reality show-grade celebrities and hucksters, some with legions of fans who are undereducated enough to praise mundane and often idiotic design choices. And seeing the shows pander to one or two big-name builders, well… If you’re going to tell me that you can’t, without some degree of near pin-point accuracy pick put the cars that will be at the top of any show before the gates even open, then you’re either a lying sack of shit, or you’re holding onto that childhood innocence, and hoping to be inspired again. Perhaps the Pearl Paint Fairy will leave an airbrushed monster shirt under your pillow tonight, too. Innocence is lost. And it ain’t going to be found in the direction we’re headed.

The irony here is that we live in the greatest time, technologically speaking anyway, for production performance cars. 707 HP Challengers and Chargers??! While we were wandering the show indoors, looking at ‘flake paneled and blown bad-assery, outside in the frozen parking lot was a dismal (at best) display of smog-choked, poorly assembled and designed garbage. It was depressing. 170 HP was considered “performance”, and there wasn’t any sunlight poking over the next hill. That glow was from the flashers on the broken-down heap that couldn’t make it up the next grade. And maybe, just maybe THAT is what makes it all so fucking soft today. We DON’T HAVE TO AIM HIGH ANYMORE. We’ve managed to settle into a world of instant gratification., and that creates a laziness, and an unwillingness to try to raise a bar that we’re told is already so sky-high. That in mind, we’ve abandoned the things that brought us all here in the first place, and instead are chasing the lowest common denominator, the “my dick and checkbook are THIS BIG” attitude.

It’s a dark time, kids. Replace the breaker before it’s too late.

Fast, Cheap, and Terrible: You Really CAN Have Everything

photchopping hell

I see far too much of this bullshit on the interwebz:

“I’ll do your rendering for $100!”

With “rendering” meaning “a loosely cobbled-together bunch of photos I Googled and then made attempts to stitch together with the two tools I can sort of use in Photoshop.”

cheap rendering

One last time, kids: NOT a rendering. Not on the best day of your life. And if you’re paying for, and supporting this crap, well, you’re not “on a budget”, you’re “A BIG FUCKING PART OF THE PROBLEM”. While it’s great that some cars have a huge-by-enormous budget for exotic and one-off parts, you simply need to realize that care and planning can make even a home-built ride a stand-out. If you’re willing to cheap-out on the very design of your project, well, it’s a given that you’ll do likewise in the build. And please don’t come to me in the eleventh hour of your SEMA proposal deadline with some fucking sob story about how you need a rendering, but you already threw money away on the photo-hack you just received from the kid on the forum. You knew going into it that some $100 rendering wasn’t going to make a manufacturer all hot and bothered, and squeeze out a new car for you. Too many things wrong with that mindset to even approach it here.

There are professionals out there who do great things in Photoshop, should that be the look you’re after… and plenty of other artists working in all media (should one of those be the look you’re after) who can craft something to actually be proud of, versus bragging that it only cost a few bucks. A rendering is a work of artistry and design, and a good one brings years of experience and knowledge to the table… Not simply some shit that your seven year old could pull off in 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the photo-hack of the Hirohata Merc will always be just a photo-hack of the Hirohata Merc and not YOUR Merc, no matter how many layers of flames or how big a set of smoothie wheels with poor camber and perspective some douche pastes on there. And for the record, you’re not “helping some new artist get a start”. You’re simply enabling yet another talentless hack with either a trial or pirated software to further soil a part of the industry that works its ass off to be continually undervalued. You deserve a series of ingrown toenails and festering boils on your heels, you dirtbag.

A rendering should represent YOUR vehicle, and showcase the pride and planning of your project. You know, thinking about it, maybe some projects are best left at this level anyway.

/drops knowledge AND the microphone; heads off stage.

V8 Radio Podcast!

pck studio card

Spent some time with Kevin over at V8TV (and V8 Speed & Resto!), and we recorded a podcast for your enjoyment.

We talk design, cars, the future of the custom car industry/hobby and more… before devolving into custom vans, and a plan for the ultimate SEMA show display vehicle and and interactive pavilion to house the thing. It’s genius.

I had a blast talking with a good friend, and can’t wait to do it again! HUGE thanks again for having me on!

Give it a listen here: http://www.v8radio.com

Marker Time!

sci-fi pinup marker sketch

It has been a while since I posted anything here to really do with the actual drawing of cars… I mean, shit, that is the name of this whole mess, after all. I suppose that I could throw a few doodles into the mix now and then, right?

Of course.

Going through some of the older sketchbooks and whatnot, I’ve compiled a little peek behind the scenes; the stuff that goes on before the vector and digital voodoo-type sorcery. Let’s start with this piece:

cartoon car sketch

I had wanted to do a cartoon-y piece for a while, and the opportunity presented itself back in ’08-ish, so I went at it with some gusto, and created the ultimate swap meet find moment, with this happy gent scraping his way home with a brutal ’55 Chevy in tow. From markers to the scanned and re-drawn, vector art, you can see the importance of staying as true as possible to the original work. All pen tool… no brushes, auto-trace, meshes or other preset nonsense. It’s all about retaining the original line quality, and saving that hand-drawn looseness, but gaining all of the good things that a vector piece can supply!

digital cartoon drawing

I do a lot of t-shirt work, and to be honest, I enjoy it a lot more than the hot rod work, especially as things progress with my neuromuscular condition (more on that soon), and it really gives me a chance to play around in my imagination. There are so many things you can get away with, stretching reality on a graphic, versus having to make things work on the street!

This piece was a fun one in so many ways:

sci-fi pinup marker sketch

My pal Jon had wanted a cool tee for his shop. He knew he wanted a pinup girl with a retro feel, but wanted to include two of the more well-known cars they’ve painted… However, those cars are decidedly modern Pro-Touring style rides, so the challenge was on to make these elements work. I decided that I’d use the opportunity to include elements from some of my favorite science fiction spacecraft, lending a little bit of a retro/space feel. And what space-age pinup would be complete without a glass dome helmet and a ray gun-turned-paint gun? Naturally. Sketch to color-blocking in marker took what seemed like forever as my hands weren’t cooperating too well at the time, but I had managed to bust this out over a couple of days (from sketch to final vector work):

vectior tshirt pinup

Speaking of tees and posters, here’s a little one from 2012:

poster sketch

This is a peek at that weird moment where the sketch meets the digital work. For me, this is a bittersweet moment at times, knowing that some elements in the original design will probably change, be it to make things more print-friendly, of due to a client’s request… And some of the really neat little bleeds and whatnot in the marker stage will be lost forever to the super-smoothness of a vector curve. I pay a TON of attention at this stage to keep as much of that hand-hewn character and personality in there!

The completed vector art:

poster design

Let’s peek at the rendering side of things with a little ’50 Chevy pickup piece. Starting with a pencil sketch (you can find the whole process on this particular illustration as part of a quick tutorial, if you’d like), I refine it to a point where I feel confident that I have enough information to move into the digital side. This one got a bit carried away, as I was putting that how-to together, and thought I’d have an expanded version for the upcoming book:

truck rendering sketch

Mostly pencils with just a touch of gray marker making its way in, just to nail down the shading.

Once it’s all vector drawn (again, I’m a strictly pen tool kinda guy on these personal pieces, as it’s more about getting m,y own hand and style into the art, versus banging out a piece to feed the kids. After a bunch of hours and hundreds of layers and detailing, we get this:

chevy tuck rendering

One last piece for this installment, if you’ll indulge me:
truck pencil sketch

Sketching on-site is always fun, and this piece was the highlight of a fun weekend, hanging in Burbank. While the plan was to go full digital with this one, I decided that it just had too much going on to lose the feel, and decided that markers just fit the bill, and, well…

truck marker rendering

…it worked out pretty well! Experimenting sometimes with a technique or style that’s outside of your everyday working methods can often bring exciting results! In this case, I had really intended to keep it looser, and get that cool plein air feel… but in the end, I forced a bit of my tighter rendering style in there. Maybe next time!

Hobbituation

Dear Peter Jackson, kindly head forth and fuck yourself one more time, please.

Oddly enough, I lost the battle of the five Stupskis a few weeks ago, and found myself staring at the screen in utter disbelief for three hours, once again, trying to figure out just how you managed to turn the shortest book in a series into the longest trilogy of all time. Seriously, WTF??!!

At least there was popcorn. And the soothing sounds of the morbidly obese couple to my right struggling to force both oxygen AND nachos past their strained thoracic diaphragms in one shot, creating a subtle (yet soothing and nearly hypnotic) low, whistling-meets-gurgling cacophony that grew to nearly orchestral in arrangement at one point. It was a magical journey, and I soon found myself imagining that I was shrunk down, all Fantastic Voyage -like (OK, the mental picture was a lot more Dennis Quaid in Innerspace, but humor me), riding one of the chips on a sea of cheese and other things, to discover that the guy’s stomach was probably like that of a shark, containing boots, a sofa, and perhaps a tire or two, judging by the bouquet emitted as he belched, yet I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for stretching the living shit out of a story… but damn, man, you really took some liberties. It opens the door for others to do likewise, which is fantastic news for those of us waiting patiently to see Stanley Kubrick’s eleven-part adaptation of Judy Blume’s immortal work Superfudge. I can hardly wait for the part about Superman and the Transformers as they battle on Endor. Oh, that wasn’t in the book? Who gives a flying fuck? It’ll sure as shit be in the second part. Why not?

I’d imagine that the first creative direction meetings would go a lot like this:

“Hey, this book is only 190 pages long. It barely warrants a shitty animated version that we can stretch to 45 minutes.”
“We can add a battle scene. And a sub-plot about two characters you could give a shit about falling in love. A lot like ‘Titanic’, but this ship will sink a lot slower. We’ll have Oprah reprise her role as that sun-burned, obese meth addict that crashes though walls.”
“I think you’ll find that Rosie O’Donnell played the Kool Aid pitcher.”
“Good call. If she’s unavailable, we can just get the fat kid from Superbad, and deepen his voice in post.”
“Are there any parts that we can market to theme parks as a ride?”
“Not especially.”
“I’ll whip-up something that can work as a log flume or roller coaster, but using a shopping cart.”

If you haven’t yet seen this third-in-a-trilogy of time wasting, by all means, bring closure, and sit idly by as your brain is turned to goo through poor dialogue and phoned-in-at-best acting. The visuals are great, for the most part, but again, did we need THREE MOVIES, reaching nearly EIGHT HOURS (7.9, to be exact) ?! No… no we did not. Eliminate the second movie entirely, squeeze in the attack on the town and subsequent death of the fucking dragon to the first three minutes of the third helping of Hobbit droppings, and presto! I save $8.50 a head and three hours. Or, if you’re going to elaborate and make shit up, present me with some mystery, something to take home and ruminate over. Let my brain work as it was designed… not be lulled into near slumber with the fat guy next to me.

And THAT FACT ALONE would have brought me back to see another Jackson film. Instead, well, I believe it’s time for Peter and his dragon to piss off. I may forgive my clan for involving me in having seen this slop, but rest assured, on my death bed, my final words will be “…and I hated those movies. You know that, right? Oh yeah… ‘Rosebud.’”

Merry Christmas

A Merry Christmas to you and yours. Or those you may rent. Or happen to have on Lay-a-Way. Or may be thinking of purchasing soon.

…or should we say “Kiss-mas”?

Whatever. Enjoy.

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