Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I’ve been working for the last six weeks on a Web-based art piece for the Halloween countdown calendar Gothtober.com. The calendar releases a new art piece by a different artist for every day of October, and mine will open tomorrow, October 21. I’m very grateful to the creator of Gothtober, Julianna Parr, and to all the Gothtober staff, for giving me an invaluable opportunity to experiment and push my work to a new level, and to share it with a wider audience.

My piece, titled “Black Waters,” tells a touching -- yet creepy! -- story of a monster’s love for a beautiful blonde backpacker. In this piece, I’ve used still and animated charcoal drawings along with voice acting and sound effects to create a sort of hybrid of graphic novel and movie.

I created this piece to go with Gothtober’s theme for 2009, “Drive-In Movie.” I took inspiration from the basic idea and monster image for the 1954 film, “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” to come up with my own aquatic monster story. “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” is such a part of American movie culture that although I’d never actually seen the film, I’ve always been amused by the image of the monster and the general idea of the story.

In fact, I had already written the first draft of the script for my own piece before I watched the original “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” film for the first time. I was surprised by how similar some elements in my story were to the original storyline and film. In particular, I was intrigued to find that while I had spontaneously decided to set my story in a Florida lagoon that (naturally!) adjoins a cave, in the original “Creature” film, which is set in Brazil, the underwater sequences were actually filmed on location in Florida (!) in a lagoon that leads to, guess what: one of the largest underwater caves in the United States.

The piece incorporates over twenty-five individual charcoal drawings, so designing and executing these illustrations was a large part of this project. On a good day, I would produce five or six drawings, and had the charcoal-coated fingers to prove it. There were some moments when, while deciding whether to use a 2B Conte crayon or a 6B charcoal pencil for a certain shadow, I felt like I was back in art school, stroking and blending my way through a figure drawing – except that I didn’t have a nude monster posing on a platform in front of me. By the way, some of my favorite drawings from this piece are the ones featuring armadillos... I had to do a bit of research in order to depict them properly, and I discovered that armadillos are quite cute!

Working with actors (recruited from among my friends) and sound has been a delightful part of this project, and I’m truly grateful for how generous Dia, Bobby, and Canyon were with their time and creativity. I gave them free rein to portray the characters however they wanted and I was really tickled by the results. It’s just incredibly fun to hear how each person plays his or her part, and to combine the sounds to create the illusion of events unfolding. I only wish I had a photo of Dia and me in front of the mic, Dia screaming and lowering her face into a bowl of water while I grabbed her leg, pretending to be the creature... ah, the things one does for art! In fact, I'm especially grateful to Dia, not only for playing the part of "Marissa," but also for recording me and putting the perfect effects on my voice to create the voice of the creature.

Please take a look at the piece, and let me know what you think. I’m really pleased and excited to share it with you. And don’t worry – the piece opens October 21, but you can go back and view it again later too.

To view it, go to www.gothtober.com and click on the square that says “21” (that’s 21, not 31).