Monday, August 7, 2017

Batman #194, page 3 -- Details

I am just about to take all my Batman pages to Seth's brother Asa who will curate and keep them in a much better way than I could do here.  I am glad for Asa to be in charge, but I will miss being able to thumb through them from time to time. However, others of Seth's family pass through Asa's studio more often than they do here, so it's better for everyone.

But as I was getting pages out to pack them up, I happened upon this one.  Not an exciting page, one that in opera would be called a "recitativo"--a passageway from one incident to another. But in Seth's oeuvre there are no throwaway images.

As an artist I have to confess that I hate perspective.  That is, I admire it, but I heartily dislike making all the little measurements that would make perspective true enough to make the picture come alive.  I don't mess with it if I can avoid it. Seth refused such squeamishness.  When he had a room to draw, he put all the objects in the room in correct size and from the correct angle. And the ceilings!  Sometime I would like to do a study of ceilings in Seth's work.  They are endlessly interesting, as they elaborate upon the kind of room where the action is taking place.  The ceiling in this room is parquet--as befits a dining room in Bruce Wayne's mansion--and we see it from two different vantage points (and almost a third one in the top left panel).  We see this room from one side, and then from the other.  Everything has been imagined: the kitchen from which Albert emerges with food, the breakfast table with much left uneaten, the two windows with their drapes, the buffet with its plate racks, lovely floors, and--because Seth is the artist--framed portraits on the walls of people with funny egg-like heads.   And a bunny that follows Albert wherever he goes in Seth's Batman world--the bunny got edited out from the official ones.

In any case it's a lovely page where not much is happening, but the ambience is the star.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Seth's 45th Birthday

Twenty years ago--1997--Seth's third and last year of being the JET Program English teacher at the high schools in Oki Islands in Japan, he decided to make t-shirts to sell as a fundraiser.  I think he was raising funds for a two week summer program they did every year for students who wanted to raise their English language skills up to another level.
The images I am posting here are his roughs for that project, working up to the actual image. (Unfortunately I don't have an actual one of these T-shirts anymore.)  He sent me the image, and I did the color separation and found a printer to print the shirts for him here in San Diego. He picked them up when he came home during the summer, and took them back with him to Oki.
Summer at Japanese schools are not the time between grade levels.  Since the school year starts in April, summers are just time off for students and teachers while it is TOO hot to study.
Clearly this is a very preliminary drawing.
He had the idea of doing a pretty Japanese
girl in full dress, and was working out how
to make his mind's image effective.
This rough sketch shows that he originally
had the idea of giving her a mask; maybe
her exterior was more refined than her real
person (note the red nose).

This is his roughly inked rendition of the image he ended
up using.  

The final image.

The final image in color.  I think I painted this one, according to his specifications,
just to make sure the colors were right before I had 500 of them silkscreened.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Flowering Nose Day 2017 Batman SNOW 196, page 10

I am late posting this.  On January 30th (Monday) I was up at the abbey where Seth is buried.  It is quiet, clear, and chilly there in the wintertime.  I didn't have a camera with me, so I don't have any photos from that visit, but I suspect that whatever readers visit this blog would rather see his work than his grave anyway.

BATMAN SNOW issue 196 page 10
So I thought it might be nice to post a page of his work that I hadn't posted before.

It is, of course, one of the more thrilling pages in his whole oeuvre.  All the lines in the page are angular, diagonal, showing fast, brittle movement, like ice cracking.  Even the space between the two panels makes them look as though they have been broken apart.

Batman's legs and Mr. Freeze's weapon are part of that angularity.  Even Batman's cape is less fluid and more straight-lined than usual.  That's what happens when it's this cold: everything freezes and becomes breakable.  If you have ever seen an exhibition where a balloon or something soft is dipped in liquid nitrogen, you can appreciate how cold it is in these pictures.  The balloon, or rose, or whatever it is, is dipped in the liquid nitrogen; it freezes, and then they tap it with with a ruler and the thing breaks into shards like glass.

Seth loved physics, and so I can be pretty sure that he had that whole idea in mind when he did this freezing page.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Happy birthday Seth

Seth's birthday.
These days when I think of Seth, I am hugely appreciative of what he gave me from his life.
I think I was a very ordinary mother, but he took what he was given and saw it all as beautiful and wonderful, and was grateful.  He thought that everything people did, they did for his benefit, and he loved them for it.   Since he didn't have to worry about whether or not people loved him (he knew they did), he used all his efforts to discover things and make beautiful and interesting things.
When he was about six years old he told me that when he grew up he wanted to be a person who discovers things.  He did grow up to be such a person, though maybe not exactly in the way he thought about it as a six-year-old.

His sister Sarah posted this photo on Facebook recently, of Seth at about age 10 delightedly taunting her (~age 5) with a fish.
She thinks it's funny now; clearly she didn't think so then.

I have probably posted images before from his Father & Son Slug Album, but they are quite wonderful, and worth a second posting.  I wanted to put up images that were not comic book related.

At this point Seth's birthday is for us rather than for him, a day for us to remember him and be glad that he was in our lives with his own brand of humor, his own stories, his ponderings, his efforts to bring the world into his joy.

Happy Seth's birthday to all his friends, family, and fans.
I am glad for all of you!

Love,  Vicki

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Happy 43rd birthday Seth (yesterday)

To celebrate Seth's birthday I made a cake (with fresh blueberries and lemon peel, iced with whipped cream--he'd have liked it) and invited the neighbors over for cake and comic books.  --a chance to introduce new people to his artwork.
When Langdon was here for Comic Con, I had talked to him about Seth's work hiding in boxes where nobody could get the pleasure of them unless they hauled the pages out and one by one lifted them up to view.  Langdon suggested getting some presentation portfolio books, so that you could slip pages into them and someone could read them like a large, black & white book.  I found one such portfolio at Dick Blick (ONE!  The rest had sold at Comic Con.), but that was enough for two Batman issues.  More are on order.

So for the neighbors last night, that portfolio of originals went out on a table, plus all the comic books, so they could see what he did.  It is a great pleasure to see people go through his work (even if they don't understand just how good it truly is), and exclaim over the details, the various perspectives, the drawing of buildings, just the amount of work that went into Seth's pages.  A stranger may read a comic book just for the story, but when the artist is someone you know, then you focus your attention on the artwork.

It's all I wanted: to introduce a few new people to the pleasures of Seth's artwork.  His life is less easy to describe, but he put a lot of himself into his artwork, and showing it to some new people suffices.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Belated Flowering Nose Day post

Here it is already past Flowering Nose Day, and I just haven't had time to post anything here.
What I was afraid would happen has happened.  Seth's memory has grown dimmer; the grief that attended his death has become less, and we have moved on to other things.  As Robert Frost said in a poem called "Out, Out--"
"And they, since they
were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."

However.  In my affairs, I never forget Seth.  When he was small I taught him, and then when he grew up, he taught me.  The letter I am posting below is not only the heart of what he taught me, it is, I believe, the heart of what we have proposed as the meaning of Flowering Nose Day.
And so I give it to you, dear readers who love Seth and his art, as a gift from Seth.
Here it is:

 "Art is not the end in and of itself. Your art is a reflection of the way you view life, and if you EVER settle and decided you have arrived, then you have died. Your art is the most important thing in your life and you must give it everything you have every moment of you waking and sleeping life. It is only a SYMBOL. But it is the symbol you have chosen, so if you do not honor it, everything else in your life will reflect that. Suppose that you fall in love and suddenly you find girlfriend asking for more of your time when you really know you need to be drawing. If you are unable to balance these priorities, it is your life that will suffer. Your art is only a foot print that reflects the whole of your experience. If your art falls it is because you are struggling for a foothold in your spirituality (or whatever label you want to put on it.) If your art succeeds it is because you are connecting with the universe.
  "STYLE. Style will come naturally, but remember that no matter how great or accomplished you become you will never be Seth Fisher, or Alex Ross, or Carmen cannot be. They are are you. They will help you, but ultimately you must accept yourself while simultaneously never being satisfied with yourself. A paradox? Perhaps, but understanding the self requires you to let go of the rules of logic that you have been taught by so many misguided people. You must love yourself WITH your faults...then you may fix them. One by one.
 "I see the heart in your work. But if you want to be a professional comic artist sadly you must balance HEART with POLISH. Polish is what you give your work that tells people, i spent enough time on this that it proves that what i am saying is worth listening to. Ultimately heart is what people are searching for, but they need a method for sorting through the piles of soulless art, and most people choose to look at the time and care and polish put into a work and use that to choose what they will let affect them. Do not confuse polish with heart!!! Polish is the package...heart is the contents of the box. An empty box wrapped in many bows and ribbons is a waste of time for everyone.

"The size of your audience is relevant only as it pertains to your ability to make a living. Perhaps it is too soon, but eventually if you wish to retain your heart you must give up attachment to the idea of fame. People will buy ANYTHING. Your popularity is not a gauge for your worth. Seek to make work that makes people reflect on themselves. Then eventually even that will cease to be relevant. You exist as a human being to be a mirror for others because we (in own minds which we perceive to be imperfect) are unable to see our own perfection. But when we look at others we are able to see our own godliness. You will be the world’s mirror and in turn the world will show you who you are.

"And you thought we were talking about ART?!?!

"You are talking about your eternal soul. Do not let your art EVER cease to be the lifeline that connects you to your humanity. If you let this passion fall away, it will be reflected in every step that you make. You will fall away from the path that you know exists and begin to wander. You know what you need to be it. Every step that you make is painting. Every movement that you make is a brushstroke. YOU are the masterpiece, your comics are just the inevitable footprints that you leave behind you. Take care in every movement that you make in your life. Speak with every vibration of your body. The only way to do this is total honesty. This, i think, you have naturally. DO NOT LOSE IT!!! Wear on your chest proudly those things that you most want to hide. People will flock to you because they are dieing to make peace with these things themselves. Speak only with honesty. This is very will become your base if you let it.

"No matter how inspired you are at any moment, you will forget sometimes. You must use your dedication to your work to remind yourself everyday of why you are struggling. This is a vow you have taken and you should treasure it. It is not a burden it is a gift. You will hate your desk sometimes when you see your friends outside having fun, but this is when you will make progress. This is a spiritual journey. And one day you will suddenly understand the secret (that i should probably not tell you now): all this time your art work was YOU trying to teach YOURSELF something that you already knew (and that we will discuss when you arrive).

"Gather Wisdom.
"See yourself in others, especially those you deplore.
"Give freely.
"Never cause harm to others."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Seth's 42nd birthday

Forty-two sounds old, doesn't it?
I thought that for this birthday I would talk about some ways that Seth has helped me with my own artwork. If there are readers who would like to do the same, please let me know; I'll be glad to donate a day or two (or more!) to others who have learned from him.  I know that there are art teachers who have used his work to teach various lessons: perspective for one...  What other things have teachers used his pages to teach their students?

When I was first trying to illustrate books, and just doing some preliminary pages--this was maybe 17 or 18 years ago, before Seth had gotten recognition for his own work--he looked at what I had done and said, "You could put some things in the picture in front of your characters, so the people are not always in the foreground."
Seth illustration for a Cicada story

The image from Cicada is a powerful example of this sort of illustration.  The single person in the picture is in the middle ground doing something fairly innocuous: knocking on the door of a cabin.  The axe stuck into the meandering-rooted tree stump in the foreground as well as the bare trees and huge moon in the background give an ominous feel to an illustration for a story that has a twist at the end.

I haven't learned to do it in such a powerful way as Seth could do, but I have tried to put his advice into some of my work, for example, in this illustration for a story about a girl who is looking for some lost ducks.

Vicki illustration for story "Quack and Daisy"
Another thing I learned from Seth is that no one is responsible for the shape of the illustration except the artist.  He simply said, "You are the master of your page."  That means to me, if something doesn't fit, it's not because there is too much that you have to include; it's because you need to rethink how it all should go together.  If the parts don't cohere, there is another way to use them.  Seth seemed to be able to put disparate parts together in a way that made an image beautiful, dramatic, clear, and dynamic.  This is one of my favorite images of Seth's, for just that reason: disparate parts put together to tell the story clearly and in beautiful form.   
Seth illustration from Vertigo Pop Tokyo, issue 1 page 24
From my own work I can only say that there are some times when the picture just doesn't work, either because it doesn't include the same information as the story does, because it is in a horizontal format and what is needed is vertical, or sometimes just because it is dull.  
Below is one of the pictures I struggled with.  The one on top is the first try, and the one on the bottom is the final.  There were two inbetween.  You have to be willing to toss what doesn't work, even when it has some good parts.  More that I learned from Seth.