The Not-Huffington Post by Jaz Malone

"Make good art." Neil Gaiman's quote, spoken at The University of The Arts 2012 commencement, makes the rounds on my social media feed every so often. It's a great speech. The part passed around most often is the bit near the end:

"Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong, in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship, and in health, and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.

I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you can do best. Make good art. Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days, too. And fifthly, while you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do."

I sometimes feel the need to write a detailed response, but that's my ego trying to take over. His speech stands on its own without think-pieces and opinion articles (although Gav of Zen Pencils had an amazing interpretation, because Gav of Zen Pencils is himself amazing). But, it did pop into my head again today. So here's my ego-driven response, chiseled down to a palatable two paragraphs, far more for me to tell myself than to say to anyone else - because who am I to have think-pieces?

I try to surround myself with people who make good art. I don't mean hyper-realistic art, or multi-million dollar art, although that can be good. I mean art that comes from love, and from effort. Art that the artist made because the artist wanted to make it. I try to remind myself that while nothing lasts, these things make an impact.

And even that word, "impact," makes people shrivel. They think they have to change the world if they are to change anything, and so, at the pressure, do nothing at all. There's something else that gets passed around artistic circles, though it began in the U.S. Navy: K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Small ripples turn into big ones. Make one piece of good art. Then make another one. And then another. Repeat until you are physically and mentally unable to, and then try again. It doesn't matter if someone on the other side of the world never sees it. Make good art, because good art needs to be made. What you think is "good" will never be universal. That, too, is perfectly OK. Make it, anyway.

With all that said, here's a dumb thing I made to practice vfx, in which The Kraken threatens a beach. Buddy was a good sport about it.

Saint Nik by Jaz Malone

Traditionally, saints are people we may or may not have met, that have blessed the world with their presence. They are positive, negative, or anything in between, and they have specific personality traits that make them the face of a particular state of being. 

With this in mind, I realized a while ago that I have a few saints on my social media feeds. They are not necessarily of the highest morals, and they don't guide me in any particular direction, but they present distinct qualities that have become synonymous with their names in my head. Some are continuously salty toward everyone and everything; some are cuddly; some are heartbreakers. The list, and its possibilities for paintings, is endless.

Nik Hampshire, whose painting I completed first as a test run (above), was completely on board with me canonizing him (thanks, Nik!). He's a Philly-area model, known for his lush beard, large gauges, and tattooed body. Most people I follow online are visual artists or musicians; but Nik? Nik is just pretty to look at. He knows it, and so does everyone else. And so, he became a saint: a person with specific traits that bless my feed every day.

When they're done, I'll upload the whole set. There are a lot of saintly characters in my life.

Through The Trees by Jaz Malone

Continuing my creep factor, I made some motion edits to another found photo. This one is from the...early 2000s, I think? Someone took a lovely walk, took a photo to remember it, and then discarded said photo.

Comics For Choice by Jaz Malone

I'm excited to announce the launch of a comics anthology I took part in a few months ago! Comics For Choice is a collaboration of many artists and writers, featuring stories about women and abortion. For my submission, I worked with a doctor and writer on the story of Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown, a Tennessee surgeon and legislator who, even before Roe V. Wade, pushed for safe, legal abortion in her state. She cared for women who had sought out unsafe methods of termination, and realized a need for change.

The Indiegogo campaign to print all the books is now live. If you can spare a couple bucks for a copy, that would be amazing. If not, share the campaign!

 

<3

Mad House Cover by Jaz Malone

Mad House is a Philadelphia-based literary magazine that features local poets, writers, and artists. Including the cover, I've got a few pieces in the upcoming issue. It's my first publication, which is pretty cool.

The cover for the upcoming issue

The cover for the upcoming issue

I'm all about that local love, and it feels great to be featured alongside so many hard workers. The release party starts at 7pm on May 31st at Tattooed Mom. A lot of people put a lot of work into this mag. Come out and show some love!

Born To Leave The House, At Least by Jaz Malone

A friend of mine convinced me, over several conversations, to watch Yuri!!! On Ice. I hadn't watched any new anime in a very long time. I'd been disappointed with a lot of recent shows; maybe it's my bad luck in picking the worst, or maybe I compare so many shows to Cowboy Bebop that it's difficult to enjoy anything (See You Space Cowboy...). Regardless, although the thought of an ice skating anime sounded cute, I did not truly believe I would enjoy it.

Like many other people who binged the entire 12 episodes in one or two sittings, I now believe I can conquer the universe. Sometimes, I find myself feeling low. Then I remember that Yuri!!! On Ice exists. It's kind of like what happened after watching Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann for the first time (Row Row, Fight The Power!), or growing up watching Rurouni Kenshin and deciding to be a master at something...anything.

I know I'm just linking anime soundtracks at this point. It's a good thing. The opening theme to YOI was nice at first, and a fight song now. It won't sound like that at first listen. It will.

I don't know why it took me two months to make fanart.

Yuri1.jpg

Speaking of theme songs: I know these animators better do what they do when they do what they do. That's not rotoscope, by the way. 

Old News by Jaz Malone

There arrives a point in everyone's life when they decide to revisit old work. For me, this point comes often, and usually ends in cringing out of my skull. It's probably a little masochistic to continue the cycle, but art is a little masochistic to begin with.

At some point, back in college, I made a couple short documentaries as part of a class. I would not call myself a filmmaker, and at the time, I don't think I was getting enough sleep to call myself anything. My camera work was shoddy, and the footage is grainy, but the characters I chose to highlight are still charming. One short features a group of competitive board gamers. There are a million things I'd do differently these days, but I'd say for being half-dead from my senior thesis (which I won't even talk about), it's not the worst thing I've made. 

Nowhere close to the best.

Still...not THE worst.

Maybe.

Tata?/Auntie? by Jaz Malone

In Bondy, I stayed with a very nice family. It included a 2 year old. As it turned out, 2 year olds are exactly the same in every language. Franglish and English versions of our daily interaction are below.

Franglish!

Franglish!

English!

English!

I really lucked out with my host family. They're the nicest people, and since the parents are originally from West Africa, the food was incredible. I'd gladly go back one day!

I Lost My Hat. by Jaz Malone

It's not a great tragedy, but it's annoying. My ears are chilly.

First World problems aside, I'm nearing the end of my excursion. I soon won't need to process almost every sentence in French, then English, then French again. Thank the ancestors for multi-lingual French people. I'd be stuck without them as soon as my brain tired of constant translation, which is about halfway through every day.

I've been spending a lot of time doing the same things I would be doing at home: mulling over my life's direction, drinking too much coffee, etc. I suppose that's helped by the fact that people overseas fall into the same categories as anywhere else. The good, the bad, and the ugly all exist in their variations, as do the majority - the somewhere-in-betweens. I haven't posted my run-ins with these characters. It's not necessary. Humans exist. The end.

That said, I do have a few decent sketches to properly scan when I return. Two months is a long time for a sketchbook. Not long enough, à mon avis, but I can live with it. My family, and the connections I've made over the years, have been infinitely supportive of my mental and physical departure. It's overwhelming. The only thing to do with gifts is to pay them forward, which I try to do as much as I can. And it's best to remember and understand the bad moments, but live for the good surprises. "Guten pranken," as Jim from The Office would say...like the fact that my English is starting to sound like translated French. Actually, I haven't decided if I like that yet.

I can buy another hat. 

The International Comics Fest by Jaz Malone

After New York, I hopped across the ocean to Angoulême, France, for the International Comics Festival. I'd never been to the castle town, and was under the impression that this would be like other comic conventions, where one large building is designated as the place for vendors, exhibitions, etc.

Nope. The entire town stops what it's doing for 4 days to celebrate comic art.

The train station. This guy just stays here forever, I guess.

The train station. This guy just stays here forever, I guess.

The whole town.

The window of a hair salon.

The window of a hair salon.

Everyone.

Straight-up castle town comics takeover.

Straight-up castle town comics takeover.

As it turns out, they just like comics here. Everyone I met was an artist or an arts appreciator. Comics weren't the favorite pastime for some people in the town, but no one seemed to think they were pointless. No one seemed to think any artistic endeavor was pointless. Of course, this country also has universal health care and proper sex education, so...

Condom vending machines on the street!

Condom vending machines on the street!

...but I digress (Psst!).

The festival featured exhibitions across town, huge vendor tents, films (Last Man!), and exhaustion from walking up and down as many hills as humanly possible. Those castle-builders weren't kidding about security - they made it as tiring to walk to the top as they could. 

One long series of hills.

One long series of hills.

Since I'm horrible with directions, I got myself lost 5 times in 4 days. That's just how I roll, I guess. But overall, it was a great time. I bought way too many (and yet, not enough) comics from the crazy talented individuals there.

Aw yiss, look at all dem comic booths

Aw yiss, look at all dem comic booths

I got to hang out with an African collective whose members hailed from several countries, and met some cool LGBTQ+ folx from the city. I'm still in France, in another city (Bondy) for the week. I'm still accepting portrait commissions for $35 to pay for daily expenses. If you're feeling generous, drop me a line at jazimated@gmail.com. $10 from each portrait goes to the ACLU.

Wherever I Go, There I Am by Jaz Malone

Currently, I am in New York. Thanks to the extreme generosity of a friend, I have settled into a small corner of an apartment in Queens, where I will remain for the next month. After several days of venturing out of said corner for food and libation as needed, I've started feeling out what this city has to offer. It's a lot.

I've been here before, many times. In most of those times, I had a distinct purpose. This time, I have nothing specific to accomplish; I have only a broad, "Do I want to live here?" curiosity. The answer has yet to be settled. There are certainly far more career opportunities here than in Philadelphia. I'm enjoying Queens, and quietly noting how it compares to other boroughs where I've stayed - Brooklyn, Manhattan, etc. As many times as I've gotten lost in the Bronx, I may as well have vacationed there.

But one does not come to New York to sit in a corner. Favorite pastime be damned. I'm here for a couple more weeks, so I should make the most of it...whatever that means for me. First task: go back to corner and figure out what that means. Then leave corner.

If for whatever reason you'd like to help me leave my corner, I am offering color portraits for sale. Feel free to email me at jazimated@gmail.com, or DM me on Instagram. You can see examples on this site, under "Work."

Tally ho.

"We," The Second Installment by Jaz Malone

I have completed the second of four installments of "We," my documentary comic based on interviews I held with recent U.S. immigrants of the African diaspora. Each installment comes with its own challenges and surprises; I am grateful to the interviewees for allowing me to document their stories. This particular story comes from a man named Maurice, from Guinea. Some of our discussion was uncomfortable to hear as a Black person born and raised in the States, but I needed to hear it. Click that "We" link in the menu and enjoy.

I Hope It's Never My Year. by Jaz Malone

Today, I'm choosing to focus on the better moments in recent history, e.g. the announcement of a new Tribe Called Quest album, and the discovery that I can take a few minutes extra on my lunch break at work without anyone pitching a fit. I realize that next week is Election Day here in the U.S.A., the Dakota Pipeline is still a thing, and Black lives don't matter very much to an alarming amount of people, but Lin-Manuel Miranda's upcoming mixtape will be butter to my ears, and so I'm going to focus on that.

Towards the caps of every year, social media floods with "(fill in the date) will be my year!" Certainly, at least a handful of people really believe that- or at least, believe that if it's written down, it'll become true. I make lists to goad myself into finishing projects. It's about the same. 

Truthfully, I hope it's never my year. The minute I start to believe that any moment is solely mine, one of the little voices in my head tells me to shrink my giant head before life shrinks it for me. I'm not advocating self-hate. Confidence is one of the big differences between making strides and staying still; luck is the other big one. I am advocating, however, for a realistic view of my (our) place in this world.

Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot and the jellyfish creation myth from Ishmael come to mind. While the thought that we mean nothing to the grand scheme of things should be the spark to my bi-weekly existential meltdowns, it usually arrives at the end. We are alive for a finite amount of time, teeming on a floating rock, circling a giant ball of fire. It barely makes sense. So if I get an opportunity to not be an ass (every moment of every day), I should take that opportunity. Everyone else is also an organism teeming on a floating rock, circling a giant ball of fire. We're all stuck here, so why be a dick about it? I don't want a year just for me. I'd love a year for a big handful of us. 365 consecutive days where everyone I care about is either on the come-up or in the up is a lot to ask. It's most likely impossible. But I'm not going to focus on the impossible. Dave Chappelle will host SNL with Tribe Called Quest soon. 

Just so it feels like an art post, here are some figure drawings from a session at The Sketch Club the other night. 

I'm A Creep. by Jaz Malone

I've completely accepted that several of my fascinations give other people the willies. I like to read and talk about macabre events in human history, I frequently do things that, if life were a film, would invite ghosts into my home, and on most days, I sport a bird skull necklace. So far, I haven't been murdered in my sleep by an angry spirit. I'm hoping for the best.

Most likely, my creepiest hobby involves purchasing old photos I find at thrift stores. Collecting other people's memories is probably the mark of the villain in someone's novel - or a bad SyFy special - but after so many trips to the various resale shops around town, the salespeople have started giving me piles of them for free. It worries me a little that they support my hobby so much, but I won't question it. Every odd duck needs an enabler.

At some point, I'm going to have to put all my weird little hobbies to good use. I've started with one photo I pulled from my latest score (a pile of 30 or so that the salesman plopped into my hands with an indifferent, "Why doesn't the lovely lady take all these on the house?"). It's a sailboat:

I assume whoever took it was on a family trip, based on other photos found in the stash. I don't know what they were thinking, or why they were alone that day looking out at the only other boat on the water, but for whatever reason, they wanted to remember that moment. Since it's not my memory, I can remember it however I want. And so, I did. I highly recommend a full screen, as there's a lot more detail that way.

I have an endless supply of "memories" to enhance or destroy as I please. I'm not sure I should be allowed that much power, but the salespeople of this city haven't said otherwise. I trust their judgement. I doubt they care that much about it to lie.

By the by, if anyone reading this has any photos they no longer care for, please do not send them my way. I might be a hoarder. Time will tell.

Architect by Jaz Malone

I waited a long time to watch Bojack Horseman. I thought it would be a Seth McFarlane-esque disaster, with few chuckles and even fewer urges to power through it. Instead, it was a relatable ode to depression, addiction, narcissism, and self-inflicted pain. I'm not a former sitcom star living in luxury, but feeling hopeless and lost in life is something we all understand. Bojack keeps making his own life worse and worse, and he brings down everyone around him, including the actors who worked with him on his old sitcom.

Sarah Lynn was a child actor who went the way of many. In the show, she is heavily addicted to drugs, alcohol, and anything else that will keep her from stopping to think about her life. I won't give spoilers, but her character's plot was one of my favorites. She often laments that she didn't become an architect, so when I decided to do a Bojack Horseman fanart for an upcoming show, I focused on that piece of her background. 

A portion of the illustration, featuring Sarah Lynn

A portion of the illustration, featuring Sarah Lynn

The show's theme is pop culture tarot cards; I picked Wheel of Fortune. Sarah Lynn's fortune is tragic, no matter what path she picks, because she remains friends with Bojack Horseman.

The catalyst for everyone's misery. I made sure to include the heroin from "Bojack Kills" in the wheel.

The catalyst for everyone's misery. I made sure to include the heroin from "Bojack Kills" in the wheel.

I don't know how worried I should be that I didn't need to find references for any of the drugs I included on the wheel. Eh. Every artist has stories. Will Arnett sure does. He does a scarily-good job as a voice of Bojack. 

Bojack Horseman is copyright Raphael Bob-Waksberg and Lisa Hanawalt. Shoutout to Patrick and Ralph Carney for the incredible opening theme song, Grouplove for the ending theme, and Jesse Novak for the beautiful music in-between. 

Color Portrait: Kate Faust by Jaz Malone

This warmup turned into a longer exercise than I expected, but I really enjoy the color scheme I ended up with. Kate Faust is a Philadelphia-area singer/musician with an enchanting voice and a serious stage presence. She just released a new song and video, called your body (breaking) - go give it a listen and a watch. 

I'd already completed the version on the right, but this morning added the left, because variation is life.

I'd already completed the version on the right, but this morning added the left, because variation is life.

Philly Zine Fest by Jaz Malone

This past Sunday, I had the great pleasure of taking part in Philly Zine Fest for the first time. The convention was organized by Dre Grigoropol and Ken Amato, both Philadelphia-based artists, and attended by about 600 people. It was a fantastic opportunity to mingle with the public and other artists. I met a good number of talented people.

Even better, I got out of the house. When your business centers on staring at a piece of paper or a computer screen for hours at a time, you can forget to interact with other human beings once in a while. Although I have a day job (who doesn't?), I still make less time for talking to other people about my and their work as I should. Like many artists, I'd rather wallow in a sea of self-loathing, coffee, beer, and art supplies. Occasionally, my cat puts one paw on a page to denote her extreme dislike of anything taking my attention away, but that doesn't count as conversation.

The Zine Fest gave me a chance to be proud of my work. Say what you will about artist's egos, but it's really nice to hear that a person you've never met actually enjoys what you do. It's an even better feeling when more than several strangers express that feeling.

I got to sit next to Corey Bechelli, who is one (artistic) half of Blown Away, and Andrew Rothman  of Ink Brick. Tia, a local artist who draws in a distinct creepy-cute style headed up the table across the way. A full list of the artists showing work is online, but there was a lot of talent there. I wish I'd taken pictures, but I do have a quick sketch journal entry of the opposite table:

The ramblings of the intensely caffeinated are not to be taken too seriously.

The ramblings of the intensely caffeinated are not to be taken too seriously.

I sold out of the majority of my stock. That's a good feeling. :)

This Week's Read: The Experts by Jaz Malone

Having built a rapport with the people who work in and frequent my usual comic shop, I wasn't too surprised when I walked in one day and was immediately handed The Experts by Sophie Franz, with no explanation other than, "You'll like this." 

The Experts is empty, in a great way. Franz created a story with what has to be at least 70% negative space, in a strange, sci-fi universe where almost nothing is explained. It's more confusing for the characters than the reader. The story is melancholy, as are most stories I enjoy. The main character's hope for reason and progress dwindles to nothing in 24 pages.

It's not a long comic, but it's a good one.

You can stare at Sophie Franz' other work here.

Go read.