Tuesday, February 26, 2013

One Step Closer

Each time I make art, I feel one step closer to...something.  

Now, let me say that I don't want to pollute your blog reading time with grand philosophical ideas, and I also don't want to come across as one of those chemically altered hippie artist types, but this feeling is hard to express - so please forgive my vague dreaminess.  There just isn't an exact vocabulary to accompany this line of thought.

"What?," you ask.  "Are you stoned/drunk/sleep deprived/from New Zealand?"  

No.  Sorry.  I am not any of those things.  I can only clarify my point by saying that when I spend my time making art, it feels significant.  Maybe not in the grand scheme of things.  I mean I make pictures.  I don't do cancer research.  I don't practice medicine.  So, how can the cupcake I drew be significant?  I don't know.  But when I spend my time doing this, I am overcome with the notion that I am doing exactly what I'm meant to be doing.  And that feels good.

Of course, there's always the option that I'm just tricking myself into believing that it's the right thing just to justify the fact that I've managed to hold onto my love of coloring for about 25 years longer than most people.  Who can tell?

I guess we'll just call it significant.  Hooray!  I win.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Creativity Hangover

I drew all weekend.  I colored and sketched.  I blended and shaded.  I finessed watercolor.  I commanded line.  I bent value and defined space.  

I was on fire.  And now I'm tired.

I think sometimes the mental acuity it takes to really draw things can lead to a kind of brain melt.  I can't imagine what surgeons go through.  You hear things about surgeries taking 12 hours or something, and it makes me wonder if, at the end of that process, the surgeon just slips into a coma.

The brain melting work at hand was the second sample illustration for my book.  Once complete, I'll be able to send it off to literary agents, and hopefully someone will sign me, get me an amazing book deal, make me piles of money, and I'll live happily ever after.

Until then.  Coffee.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Signs of the Times

1993 Apple Advertisement
I recently inherited a batch of old Rolling Stone magazines from the early/mid 90s.  And they're hysterical.  The clothes, the pop culture, the cutting edge technology (see right)...everything.  I giggled all the way through them.  Which makes me wonder, why is expired pop culture so funny?

In my work, I obviously have a healthy (or not) obsession with the past.  But that all exists in a memories of moments/The Way We Were/ documentarian sort of way - I hope.  It's when we look at pop culture at large that it becomes so very entertaining.  And even though we know perfectly well, we ask "What were we thinking?"  The answer of which is of course - the same as it would be today.  We're thinking that we're awesome, and forward thinking, and interesting.  And we might not be right.  

Trends, in general, are destined to be a train wreck.  They're like those ideas that you get when you've had too much to drink that seem awesome at the time.  "I'm going to climb on top of that building!"  It won't be until later you remember that you are neither a) Spiderman, b) fully in control of your fine or gross motor skills, or c) properly stretched out or limbered up.  Trends are the same way.  Hasty.  Immediate.  But still a little awesome.  I can't wait until the future looks back on the 00s and asks, "Why the fuck did they all have stupid sayings on their t-shirts?"  Or, "Why does every d-bag in the world have aviators on?"  Actually, let me make a disclaimer: I hope aviators last forever, because they're the only sunglasses that look good on my big giant face.  

Anyway...I can't help but think about the nature of trends, and all of the things that we do that will NEVER, EVER stand the test of time.  Bubble tea?  Please.  No one wants to chew a drink.  Hipster glasses?  Nope.  Even Buddy Holly gave up on that one eventually.  $5, 1000 coffee beverages?  Not unless fat diabetics become the new chic.

But I guess, when we come down to it, no trend is unthinkable so our wildest ideas of what could happen are, in fact, possible.  Nothing is unthinkable, which is reassuring in a way.  We, as a culture, could come up with some crazy creative things - and we will.  And we'll hold them tight until the next great idea comes along, and we'll keep going.  

Because at the end of the day, these things don't last forever because they become the identifiers of an individual era, the signs of the time.  At the heart of it all, it really is a fun custom.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm still trying to wrap my brain around Gangnam Style.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Drawings from Sketchbooks

Is that a rapper hanging out with flying french toast?  Yep.  Sure is.  And why is there a rapper hanging out with french toast?  That I'm not so sure about.

I'm guessing he just really likes french toast.  I know I do.  It has a curly mustache and a beret.  What's not to like.  I have a tendency to draw flying/floating food with faces.  That would probably set off some sort of red flag/warning buzzer to someone who knows lots about the inner workings of the human psyche, but I can't be bothered by that.

The rapper is vaguely reminiscent of the time in my life when I had a fake hip-hop person known as Big Champagne, but that's a whole other story.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy V.D.

Valentine's Day Sucks, 2007
Valentine's Day.  A day of romance and love.  A chance for your sweetheart to make you feel special and loved.


I made the illustration to the left back in 2007 when I was trying to establish a relationship with a potential book partner.  She was writing a book about sad children and I was going to illustrate it.  Last I heard she still hadn't finished it.  My point though is when thinking about sadness and disappointment, I thought about how rough affection can be on the people who aren't getting any.  In a kid's world, that can be pretty devastating.

Now, I'm not necessarily a proponent on the whole "everybody gets a trophy" culture, but there might be some merit to the practice of making sure children give a valentine to everyone if they're giving them out.  

I do want to admit though that giving the unhappy girl not cute hair and big glasses was trite.  Although it does make the point.

So Happy Valentine's Day readers!  I hope someone grabs you, holds you tight, and won't let go.  And I hope it's not a stranger in an alley.

Distractions & Me: A Love Story

Male House SparrowSo, I'm pretty easily distracted.  So much so that I haven't blogged in almost a week.  Inexcusable!

It does make me think though. I have been ruled by distractions for the better part of my life.  In a normal day, I bet I get pulled away from what I've intended to do a hundred different times.  I used to fight it.  These days I say - embrace it.  I mean, I can't do anything about it.  My world is an active and...

Are sparrows mating right now?  Outside of my window there is a flocking flock of sparrows going crazy and some of them seem to be "attached."

Anyway.  My world is an active and chaotic place.  It has a lot going on in it.  Sometimes that means I forget to do things for long periods of time.  Like drop off the water bill, or shower, or blog.  I mean this week alone I've taught my classes, has some rehearsals for a competitive drama piece that my students are working on, ran the soundboard for a local production, walked my dog about 40 times, done the dishes, went to Chipotle, worked out, watched like 6 episodes of Walking Dead, and still managed to work on the next two illustrations for "Sometimes...I Like to Make Things."  I've even managed to find time to not make any great Valentine's Day plans.  That's impressive for someone who couldn't write a blog without googling the mating habits of the common house sparrow.  I'm just sayin'.

Ultimately I find it a much better solution to go with the flow.  Life is a crazy roller coaster, and I am already buckled in.  So I'll write myself little notes on scraps of paper about all the things I've been pulled away from and trust that I won't wash those scraps of paper, will accidentally see them again, and will get back to what I'm supposed to be doing in three to five months.

What was the point of this blog?  I'm not even sure anymore.  It was sort of an explanation for how I'm easily distracted and haven't blogged all week.  Mostly I think it was just an important notice to make sure you watch out for mating sparrows. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Killing Your Babies?

While I was in college, I had a painting professor who gave us a simple, but sound bit of advice - "You've got to kill you babies."

What kind of advice is that?

What he was referring to was a derivative of the William Faulkner quote, "In writing, you must kill your darlings."

Seriously...W. T. F?

What both my professor and Mr. Faulkner were attempting to explain is a fundamental truth in creativity.  If you, as the artist/writer/creator are too precious with your work, it will inhibit your ability to grow past it.  If you have decided that something you've made is precious and lovely and wonderful, you are tying yourself to the conditions under which that product was created either stylistically, circumstantially, in terms of subject/content.

In other words, you limit yourself.  

If your immediate response to this notion is that you like what you make and you don't need to grow past it, then I'm not talking to you, for you are now, and will continue to be limited until you accept that growth is critical to art.

If, as an artist, you tie yourself to the conditions under which the "darling" was created because you want to repeat the success, you won't see ways that you can move forward.  To grow artistically, you have to understand that each creative endeavor is a stepping stone to the next.  To get to that next step, you sort of have to "kill" your last.  Sell it.  Give it away.  Paint over it.  Get rid of it.  You can't pollute your life with ghosts of your former self - and let us not kid ourselves into thinking that each thing we make is not, by proxy, and extension of ourselves, because it is.


So what I'm saying is - to take a step forward, you can't keep looking back.  For those of you who know what I paint and that understand the irony of me saying that.  Congratulations.  Practicing what we preach is a topic we'll address another time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sometimes...I Like to Make Things

I don't see any reason to keep a secret, so I'm going to share the text for my picture book with all (both) of my loyal readers.  What's the harm, right?  I figure if anyone poaches it, it would be complimentary in a way, and I'll sue their asses off.  Woot.

Be forewarned, it doesn't really stand very well without illustrations, but you'll get an idea of what I'm working on.  So.  Here goes:

Selling Yourself

So what's going on in the studio with E. Bell today? Well, I'm trying to sell myself. I've been advised that to proceed with this book concept, I need an agent. Part of finding an agent is to send letters to agencies telling them why I'm cool. As someone who sometimes doesn't feel cool at all, this can be a challenge.

Another thing that I have to do it pitch the book. Here's what I have for that:
Sometimes…I Like To Make Things is the first in a series of picture/activity books targeted at children from age 4 to 8, and is at its core an art book for children.

The following 100-word manuscript encourages children to look at art-making from the inside. Focusing on the many ways in which children can choose to express their own creativity, this book represents the creative process as well as educates the reader about art materials and techniques. Each illustration will demonstrate fun and approachable ways to make art - representing a variety of children winding their way through the creative process, and inviting the reader to express his or her own thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

In addition to the narrative prose and illustration pages, the book would also contain an appendix filled with activity plans, instructions, and information on materials and techniques used, and artists referenced in the book’s illustrations.

Come on...admit it. You'd read that book. Right?

Monday, February 4, 2013


Sometimes...I Like to Make Things, 2013
Mixed Media on Illustration Board, ©E. Bell
I didn't blog again this weekend, did I?  Bummer.  I hate it when I do that.

When we last met, I was discussing my new book concept.  To the right you'll see a sample illustration.  I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that it's a drawing of drawings, etc., but I'm going to learn to live with it.  I'm reacting negatively to the work within a work vibe as it is a bit stiff, but I recognize that it does serve a purpose, so it has grown on me.  As the first illustration of the book, this is an intro.  A prelude.  An overture - the purpose of which is to give the viewer/reader a taste of what is to come. 

This illustration represents a wide variety of art making techniques that are to be further explored later in the book.  Pencil shading, watercolor, colored pencil, collage, pastels, painting, crafts, clay, and photography (plus several other techniques not shown here) will  be addressed in a series of illustrations that guide children through ideas for how and why art can be made.

Over the next few months, I'll post some of the text, with the corresponding illustrations.  More on that later.

Friday, February 1, 2013


I wrote a book.  Don't get too excited.  It's a 100-word children's picture book.  I didn't write Moby Dick or anything.  I have no plans of making my mark on the literary fabric of this our modern times.  No.  That's not the intention here, but I am quite interested in children's books, which I have mentioned before, but there's something I don't often discuss... I have actually written a number of children's books already. 
A number? Really Eric? Tell us more.
Okay, I will.  There are maybe four or six of them.  There's one about maintaining individuality within a friendship, a Halloween one about conquering fears, the one about the boy in the blue cape, one about flying.  It goes on and on.  Most have sketches that accompany them.  I was excited about each one as I was hatching the idea, but it always seemed to fade.  I'm not a writer.  Not really.  So each concept I tried to develop felt forced.  I lacked the confidence to believe the story was good enough to proceed.  So I didn't.  They got shelved.

Over Christmas break however, I started thinking that I wanted to address creative process.  Not specifically, like "this is the moment when a glorious idea comes into fruition."  Kids don't need that.  Kids have that.  It's adults who need that.  Kids already understand that their thoughts are valid.  They're willing to bravely bring their ideas to life.  Maybe they just haven't been beaten down by life yet.  Who knows, but there is a courage to the way children develop ideas.  No, what I wanted was someone to help them see, when self-guiding their activities, that there are lots of options to choose from when being creative.  So I came up with a little prose.  It talks about process and intention, and I'm pretty excited about it.

Tomorrow, a sample illustration.

To Be Continued...