Thursday, March 29, 2012

The life of an Artist, and Magic Cards Decklist: BloodBane

Whew… Been a busy few months, and I have barely been able to put up a decent post. But I hope to turn that around and dial up the productivity again. I’ve really only been doing the bare minimum of what I should be doing, and trying to pace myself, spend a bit of time on recreation, in between family, work, and work. In an effort to avoid getting burnt out. My workload has been growing quite a bit, and is becoming a task of herculean proportions. It’s a great problem to have, but I have to learn to manage myself better, pace myself and stay organized. It’s inevitable that a few things will slip through the cracks, but I hate that it happens.
             The real cost of doing what you love for a living is that the line between your work and your personal life becomes blurred, then it disappears entirely, until it just turns into “what you do”, then “what you are”, and eventually you realize you have become a “Slave to the Muse” and everything you do becomes part of the expression, part of the being of creation that a person becomes as they follow the path of the artist. Like anything else, it can often seem glamorous, magical and desirable to be an artist, and in some ways it is, that’s why we do what we do. But once you get a good look behind the curtain, and work there, and become the responsible party for all that magic and glamour. You will understand why many artists are insane, or at least very odd. Usually, this is because we’ve seen too much, and there is no turning back….
We have to "Be the bunny". But then there are time when it's time to unplug and enjoy ones self, to recharge, as it were.

Even though, most of what I do for entertainment and escape is typical; movies, news, a book from time to time - I don’t read as much as I used to tho… and I don’t play a lot of videogames, a bit of PSP when it isn’t lost, more Minecraft these days. It all turns into a "project". Then there is my favorite of all games, Magic: The Gathering. A customizable card game that is constantly evolving andinvolves a dynamic strategy that requires focused troubleshooting, problem solving and forward thinking skills, as well as the ability to understand probability and how to be adaptive to random chance. And the art on the cards are just badass. I have been consumed by this game at times, and it has also kept me out of trouble. I have been inspired by and referenced Magic Card art many times for tattoo designs and other work. It’s a personal dream of mine to do some magic card art. Maybe someday I will get the opportunity. Until then, I do from time to time make my own fake magic cards, and am working on a small story based Magic expansion for my own personal enjoyment. (the pull of the creative being, drives me to turn all the stuff I enjoy into “projects”, I don’t do this in a voluntary way, it just happens, where I will spend days or weeks caught up in some story idea in my head or a visual concept, or magic card, or a movie, book, or comic idea… I have just never been able to shut off the flow of ideas… my problem is that I seem to always have too many ideas!) I have sketchbooks and idea journals all over the place, someday I imagine my collection of ideas and images will be like the one in the opening scene of se7en, just not as crazy.…

So that is what I am getting to, the actual intent of today’s post… Magic: The Gathering. Magic is likely to become a regular part of the blog, though not a focus. One of those options I have to pick from when figuring out what I want to post for the week.
I love this game, as I have explained above. And I have a lot of my own theories and ideas about the game. I’ve been playing it since 1993, since the beginning, and it has only gotten better. I did stop playing for about ten years, caught up in life, work, and ambition, but got back into the game with some influence from my friends who were getting back into the game themselves or just starting to play more often. They call it “cardboard crack” for a reason, as it is very addictive.

For those readers that are not familiar with the game, or are not particularly interested, this is probably where you get off. This is when I whip my Dork out, and I warn you, it’s big.

I have been working on a post specifically about Magic, and my own theories and strategies. But I have to rewrite it a few more times. And that’s not what this post it. I pretty much just wanted to post a decklist of one of my favorite Decks, and share a bit of my love of the game.

This Deck is Called BloodBane, and it’s gone through more than a few modifications, and will likely go through more. The first versions had more vampires, and knights, as a kind of Tribal Deck. So This one I will call v1.2.

BloodBane v1.2
Type: Modern
Colors: Black and White
Cards: 60 – Control-Combo
Creatures: 18
Spells: 13
Artifacts: 5
Land: 24

Creatures (18)                                                             Land (24)
Blood Seeker – 2                                                        Swamp – 11
Vampire Nighthawk – 3                                             Plains – 9
Kitesail Apprentice – 2                                               Evolving Wilds – 2
Lone Missionary – 2                                                   Kabira Crossroads – 1
Suture Priest – 2                                                          Piranha Marsh – 1
Gravedigger – 2                                                         
Brass Squire – 2                                                         
Stoneforge Mystic – 2                                                            Artifacts (5)
Baneslayer Angel- 1*                                                  Sword of Feast and Famine – 1
                                                                                    Sword of Vengeance – 1
Spells (13)                                                                   Whispersilk Cloak – 2
Disfigure – 4
Doomblade – 2
Undying Evil – 2
Suffer the Past – 1
Journey to Nowhere – 2
Sunspring Expedition – 1
Quest for the Holy Relic - 1

Concept: A low cost, quick start control deck, with aggressive tendencies. This version uses what I have on hand to fill it out with a bit of synergy cards to make up for other cards that would be here if I had them. More on that below.

Win Condition: Attacking with Creature Equipped with Argentum Armor, either Sword and Whispersilk Cloak. Suffer the Past to finish off opponent.

Play Strategy: Limit your opponent’s field of creatures while assembling the combo needed to build an unstoppable attacker. The deck only has one heavy, and a few midrange creatures, so whatever gets out has to be the guy, or if he doesn’t survive, then move the equipment to the next guy. Attack every turn, unless there is no advantage. It’s better to kill your opponents creature than keep your own. Once a Stoneforge Mystic gets in your hand, hold it until you are positioned to pull off the combo, hopefully with a Brass Squire ready to attach an equipment card as well. ALWAYS use the Mystic or the Quest of the Holy Relic to fetch the Argentum armor, unless you already have it in hand. The best way to pull the combo is to take two turns or less to set it up, limiting the amount of response time your opponent has to break your combo.

            The life gaining effect in the deck is used to buy a bit of time, while working out the right cards, other than your combo creatures, don’t hesitate to attack, or block. Even if the creature dies, you need to keep your opponents battlefield empty the best you can. Hold a Gravedigger to get that good creature back if you have to. A costly but usefull defense strategy is to use the gravediggers on themselves, to ensure you have a creature to put down when you need to.
This has been my strongest deck in modern since getting back into the game, it has it’s weakness, specifically dick(direct) damage decks, and it has no way to deal with enchantments or artifacts, but to compensate, I try to run the deck as fast as it can go. If you plan to copy it, or modify it, keep that in mind.

I know this deck can be cut down to the Rule of Nine. However, I prefer using ten slots instead of nine, especially in a deck with such a low mana curve, the deck needs very little land to function, having been able to win with only three lands played. But I just don’t have all the cards yet to round it out to a “perfect deck”

This is the version I would do though if I had all the right cards: The 20-20-20 split seems to work well for this concept.

BloodBane v2.0
Type: Modern
Colors: Black and White
Cards: 60 – Control-Combo
Creatures: 20
Spells: 14
Artifacts: 6
Land: 20

Creatures (20)                                                             Land (20)
Brass Squire – 4                                                          Swamp – 7
Vampire Nighthawk – 4                                             Plains – 7
Kitesail Apprentice – 4                                               Evolving Wilds – 2
Gravedigger – 4                                                          Kabira Crossroads – 2
Stoneforge Mystic – 4                                                            Piranha Marsh – 2
Spells (14)                                                                   Artifacts (6)
Quest for the Holy Relic – 4                                       Argentum Armor -2
Disfigure – 4                                                               Sword of Vengeance – 1
Journey to Nowhere – 2                                              Whispersilk Cloak – 2
Suffer the Past – 2                                                      Sword of Feast and Famine – 1
Doomblade – 2
I use the cards I have, and prefer to build my stock from buying packs versus singles. Though I do buy singles from time to time, I like the self imposed handicap. And enjoy the excitement of “finding” bad ass cards. Though I am just a casual player, and have never played a tournament, though I have been thinking about it. I do think of myself as being pretty good at Magic, though nothing close to some of the top world players.

Thanks for reading!

Next week will be something tattoo related. We’re overdue for a Collector Spotlight.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Grand Re-Opening of Artistic Tattoo

A sample of our paper flier for the Grand Re-Opening party.

Recent Work

A few recent pieces to get the Thursday post out of the way. I'm swamped with projects, and not much time to put in here. Enjoy!
A Mockingbird. A very solemn memorial piece.

Naruto. Work In Progress.

Derringers and Sparrows.

Simple Coverup.

So there it is.A few pics of my most recent work. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Few New projects.

Just a few pics of recent projects.

Bitchin Skulls

GateSkulls, Stage 1.

Vine name with ladybugs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

News Update

Massive upheaval in the personal life lately. I have faith everything will work out for the best though....

In other, less vague news, The new(old) Shop is doing very well, and we're continuing our improvements and efforts step by step. We'll have a bit of construction as we take on structural improvements, so there will be a day or two of disruption as we can't expose our finest canvas' to dust and chemical exposure. Updates on when that will happen will be posted on our facebook page

Also, getting the new website up and running. you can check that out here.

Otherwise, I'm swamped with new custom designs, and many that have taken far too long to get worked out... Lots of work with the shop, getting the new branding underway, along with planning construction, events and a marketing machine, putting together new designs and materials... Still have so much to do...

So not much to this weeks post. I just don't have time to put in a decent bit. maybe I'll do another SkullHead and Bunny midweek.

I have a new rule about the blog. I will not do a post without a picture. regardless if it's related.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New Artistic Tattoo Wallpaper

So far, this is what I have come up with for the new branding effort of reestablishing Artistic Tattoo as one of the  best, and most creative tattoo shop in Phoenix.

We got a ways to go in this endeavor. The previous manager made it a point to run this place into the ground as hard as he could. No worries tho. My Crew and I are a hardy lot, and the one thing we're not good at is giving up.

Feel Free to grab a copy of this wallpaper and add it to your collection!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why I am an Artist. Pt2

I'm wondering why in the hell I am doing this segment in the first place. I've spent some time thinking it is far too self-centered of a task, and at the same time, thinking that it's exactly the kind of thing I wanted to find and read as I was discovering who I was as an artist, and wanted to know more of the experiences of other creative minds. So know that while I feel generally uncomfortable doing this kind of thing, I also think it is impoirtant. not just for my audience to know me and my motivations better, but to share my expereince so that it may help other artists along the way, whether they identify with or against my journey and how it has influenced my work.

So, We left off with me enrolling in Art school... At this time I had felt pretty confident in myself, I felt that I had payed my dues as an artist and was on my way to a long carreer in art. In a few ways, I was right, but I was also very, very wrong. I hadn't paid shit in dues, not in the world of art, and a bit of tragedy in my life was only a prerequisite for the field I was entering, a non-qualifying footnote. it was the first time in my academic carreer that the passing of my brother andsister was irrelevant to the organiation I was engaged in.

Art School wasnt  the rock and roll fantasy that I thought it would be, and at teh same time, it was. Plenty of parties, girls, drugs and strange places to go around, but now it was all in the context of expression and creativity, everyone spoke the same language,and I learned very quickly, that I was not special, nor particularly skilled. Some of the people I met were incredible artists, dedicated to a craft they took very seriously. I met other students that could care less and only used art as a way to get out from under their parents and be "free" without going to a "hard" school.

I was in a much bigger pond now, and I noticed how small of a fish I was, and that I had a lot of work to do to get "caught up" as I saw it.

A few things got me through Art School as far I did get. the most important were the friends and colleagues I made, while in attendance at the Art Institute of Phoenix, Artists of a different caliber, and shared a view similar to mine. we didn't want to just get jobs in our desired fields, we weren't looking for an easy route. You could tell the artists that were beholden to their work as a point of human existence as opposed to monetary or social gain. The kind of artist that will let himself be hit by a car three times in a row to "get the shot" for an art school video assignment. Or the people that helped with so many assignments that they weren't assigned, because they liked the process, and the effort.

It was incredible. and the people I met became far more important to me than the classes or projects I completed. I learned more from these different artists than I did in class. and they became my point of approval that beyond my grades.

I did well in art school. I got pieces shown in the school gallery, and was singled out a time or two for being creative, skilled, or having a uncommon approach. Other students appreciated my work, though I was nowhere close to the upper echelon of skill or dedication. There were a few assignments I turned into  expressions of social, political, or artistic argument, and others I just slacked off. I passed an animation midterm for a fellow student, and lost 50 hours of 3D character modeling and animation work due to a low quality media storage (ceramic platter syquest disks really sucked back in the day) I produced a nice collection of oversized pieces and did a few female nude studies outside of class requirements. also on the list is a 5 second traditional animation I spent 80 hours on, realizing that traditional cell animation was not something I wanted to do. Then the untold hours working a good friend and fellow artist on his videography work, which later led to efforts to make movies, music videos, instructional videos and advertisements. This was also the time that I developed my comic Simple, and the characters involved into something cohesive along with yet another friend of Mine, Kenny, who since high school had been helping me out with comic book and role playing game ideas. That project has since turned into "A Sleight of Mind" a weekly webcomic that Kenny and I are still working together on.

But then I dropped out of Art School. Too expensive, and taking into account my mental state at the time along with working full time, partying full time and going to school full time. I just couldn't afford to keep attending school. Of course I could have, and had I been thinking in more rational way (not something a 19 year old is known for) I would have knocked off my bullshit and finished school.

Instead I dropped out, went to West Virginia for a couple of months with friend of mine, Sean. Which resulted in a short stay in a county jail for the both of us. (An experience that I count as one of the most important in my life, that I wont go into here, this story is getting long enough.)

After my return to Phoenix, I stayed with a few friends and bounced from couch to couch until Aaron, my videography friend from Art School, who had moved back to Las Vegas, offered me an opportunity to keep working with him on some big projects in Vegas he had going. one of which was the plan to make a movie. We worked well together, Aaron and I, and his confidence in me re-instilled a sense of determination in me that has seen me through to this day. Never had I met a person who HAD to be an artist in much the same way that I did, as Aaron. We both work on our art as if our lives depend on it.

.... I had no idea how long this segment would get... I have a lot more to go but I am really getting tired of this bit. I don't mind talking about my art and how I make it. But so much talking about myself makes me a bit uncomfortable, though the point of all this (yes, I have a point to this)  is to connect who I am to the work I do, and share my life path as an artist.

BUT. I am done for now. pt3 will come out in a few weeks. I want to post some pictures!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Why I am an Artist. Pt1

I often have the same conversation about talent and skill, specifically regarding art (imagine that) and over the years, I have developed quite the stance on this subject of talent, skill and interest in regard to one artistic ability, or ability in any activity for that matter.

I do not believe in talent. What most people refer to as talent I see as interest. It is interest that leads to dedication, practice, skill and mastery, that people typically interpret as some kind of extraordinary natural ability. I realize this is a very narrow view, and I always fear that it's viewed as abrasive or elitist, but I think it is objective and accurate.

My personal view on my own ability, comes not from talent (I did not start out drawing any better than anyone else) but from intense interest, practice and developing skill. Beyond that, the art I produce, they way I produce it and the reasons or motives behind my work, and effort explains much more about the kind of artist I am. After all, it's the artists personal story that always ends up explaining their work.

So I'll tell my own personal story of how I became an artist. A bit self-serving I know, but then after all, a large motivation behind my behavior is to express my experience to the world. I'll try to keep it interesting....

The earliest notable piece I did, was when I was about 3 or 4, I had drawn a bear climbing up a hill. it was the kind of work you would expect from a kid of 3 or so (for the first time, I wish I had a photo of the drawing, which my mom still has. Maybe someday) My mom was impressed with the drawing for one particular feature,  the legs of the bear bent in the front and were shorter than the rear legs, I guess to show it was going up the hill. and that is the example my Mom has used as my start, though I don't see it as remarkable, I figure that's the official point of my "emergence". Since This age of 3 however, I was surrounded by my Mom's collection of comic books, a collection that ranged from Archie and Pep to Vampirella and House of Mystery. Which were the first things I had ever read.

As a side note. Everyone as a kid draws, it's a fundamental thing of childhood; coloring, painting, and drawing. Children have always been naturally drawn to art, I would say this reveals an innate interest in people to create and express their experience, even when we're not aware that, that is what they are doing.

Like any kid I drew all kinds of stuff, and I always wanted to draw more, and to do it better.

But a few things happened in my childhood that dramatically reshaped what drawing meant to me. I won't go too far into these events here, other than this: when I was 7 years old, my 6 year old brother, Scotty, was hit by a car and killed on our way to school, and When I was 11, my 1 year old sister, Charity died due to complications of a heart surgury she required because of birth defects. It goes without saying that these events affected me in dramatic ways... and notably, for the purpose of this story, my art.

After Scotty passed away, my whole life changed. I began seeing a grief councilor at the time, and wasn't able to express in words how I felt, and what was going on in my head, so my councilor asked me to draw what I was feeling and thinking, and it opened a floodgate. Many of those drawings don't exist anymore, destroyed to keep private my emotional state, but it was a form of relief that helped profoundly. I drew pictures of my brother being hit by a car, and how I wanted the whole world to die, so my pain would go away. I continued to draw images of death, destruction and horror from that point on to this very day. Introducing Art Therapy into my grieving process gave me my only psychological outlet that wasnt destructive or violent. In many ways, I needed to draw.

As a kid my family moved around a lot and I switched schools frequently, so I always seemed to have to reexplain my experience and condition to councilors and teachers, something I quickly grew tired of, but was necessary when you're a young kid drawing pictures of death all the time. There were more than a few teachers that were put off by my "art".

After Charity died, the artwork grew more intense and grotesque, as my interests began leading into horror movies and magaines like "Fangoria" and "Movie Monsters" After her passing, we moved to Oregon, where I re-enrolled in grief counciling, now a vet in this kind of experience. An incredible coincidence occurred in one of the schools I attended in Oregon, the grief councilor I had was the very same councilor that I originally saw when my brother died in Phoenix, and she (damn I wish I remembered her name) knew just what to do and let me draw, and encouraged me to get into other art classes, and to start drawing things that I felt were fun in addition to the darker stuff I was putting to page. And though I was drawing regularly well before this, it was the moment I remember thinking, I wanted to be an artist, and show the world how I feel. It became a mission, and in many ways, it saved my life. I drew my first comic book then, called "Super Flea".

We moved back to Phoenix, and I continued to draw, but at this point I was drawing more stuff from comic books; The Ninja Turtles, Spider-Man, and Batman, stuff like that, I began to study the comic books I grew up reading, and copying whatever I could, showing off my drawings, original and plageried at school, hoping to use them to make friends (It worked. ha!)

In 8th Grade, I met a guy that also liked to draw a lot, and he was quite a bit better than I was. One day he had showed me a few things about how he drew, and I stole those techniques and made them my own, (thanks Ray!) showing him how it had changed my work, and to a degree it kind of pissed him off. But I was relentless in my desire to learn and improve, and I continued this trend as I went into highschool and met many other artists, whom I learned a great deal from. And as many of these guys got bored with drawing, or just moved on to other activities, I never let go of my mission. I took every art or creative class my high school offered; ceramics, basic art, theater, newspaper and then took independant study classes and teacher assistant electives when they ran out. It was all I wanted to do. my high school Art Teachers, Rex Pelleran and Mike Helmstedder as well as my Journalism Teacher; Maryellen Ohrnberger shaped my ethic and concepts of integrity as an artist and my approach and style of producing it. While close to graduation, and exploring military service, my art teacher, and biggest direct influence as an artist, Rex Pelleran steered me toward Art school, and provided me with my first moment of validation as an artist. He said I could be good. and from the teacher that crumpled up my drawings and threw them away, it meant volumes. Before Graduating, I was voted most artistic and most creative of my senior class and off to Art School I went! It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be convincing my Dad that it was what I needed to do.

...That's enough of that. For now at least. I'll finish the story next week. The next part won't be so damn dark and depressing.