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 Infantino...you cannot be. They are them...you 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 become...now 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 important...it 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.
"Understand.
"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.

Monday, February 10, 2014

When an artist pours his or her whole self into their artwork, it becomes something alive.  That living entity draws people.  The people who look close are rewarded with a relationship. I had a very wise art professor in college who said that you have to live with a work of art; you only come to know it when you live with it.  Then it brings you into its own circle, and you become richer because of it.

The people who are fans of Seth's art are those who have seen the life that is in it, and want that life in their lives.
Occasionally someone wants to give back.
J(ay) has been someone who has over the years given back in many ways to Seth's memory and Seth's family. Regular readers of this blog will remember other sketchcards commissioned by J(ay) and sent to me for Floweringnose day.  Above is this year's crop of cards, a particularly fine selection, I think.

In order to give back to the memory of someone like Seth, one has to find some form that is both generous, quirky, and is part of one's own artistic scheme.  In this commissioning, J(ay) has hit on the perfect combination.  I suspect that J(ay) traded his own sketchcards for each of these, so they are all done by different artists, with their own take on the Flowering Nose. Then J(ay) sent them all on to me.  Generous, quirky, and his own oeuvre.
A beautiful tribute.  Thank you J(ay).

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A new review of Seth's Big in Japan artwork



Click here for the link to the review.

How glorious to know that Seth's work is not disappearing, but still giving the careful viewer a thrill that is visceral.  It's too bad that comic books are so small.  For someone reading only for the plot, the visual details that tell the inside of the story are easy to miss.  In Seth's work, no details were arbitrary: every piece of wall decoration, every nuance of positioning has been considered and has meaning.  It has meaning for the story, and it works visually (though occasionally there are details he inserted just to amuse himself).  In the panel above, for example, the room is made of body parts.  The floor is a series of hands, the wall is eyeballs and teeth and tongues.
The reviewer, Greg Burgas, is one of those careful viewers who notices everything.

I am glad that people like him are out there, looking carefully at comic books, and pointing out to the rest of us the fine points that make Seth's work so much more than just nice pictures to go with a weird story.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Flowering Nose Day 2014

On Falling


A couple of small delights from Seth's oeuvre.
The above page from Happydale is interesting and maybe a bit foreboding, because the person they are talking about in the top panel is a picture of Seth himself, falling (on rollerblades) down the library steps. When Seth was in college he was an expert skater.   I have a photo of him on skates with a LOT of air underneath him. He used to jump over cars and the like.  He always wore knee and elbow pads, and since he didn't like to be hurt, he was always careful, no matter how high he jumped.   But he did do a lot of jumping, and maybe he learned to fall, and did like it.  Falling may have represented freedom to him.

And speaking of falling, below is page 9 from Seth's only Spiderman story.  In the story some knuckleheads are playing at being like Spiderman; they seem to be looking for the stupidest possible way to die.  This page shows one of them, whose safety rope has broken, being rescued in mid-fall by Spiderman himself.  The subject matter notwithstanding, it's an incredibly beautiful page, with the action at the top of the building at the top of the page, the middle at the middle of the page, and what is happening below at the bottom of the page.

On this Flowering Nose Day, let us use our energies to fall in love with each other and with all that is good, to encourage each other, and to do kindness with reckless abandon.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A BRAND NEW (to me) drawing of Seth's

Look at this!

Intrepid watcher for Seth Stuff, Jason Gerstein, sent me this image of a picture he found for sale the other day, a convention drawing done somewhere between 2003 & 2005.  (The seller dated it c.2003, but it looks to me more as though it was done during his monster phase, which would have been while he was drawing Big in Japan: 2005.)  A very Sethish monster, with mouths and heads in the wrong places, but turning his cluster of heads around to let you know how much he loves you.  And flowered skin besides...

I thought I had seen everything Seth had done. Finding something new makes me realize there is probably more out there, in people's folders, drawers, and closets. That's nice to know.