Sunday, October 1, 2017

Incoming books slowing to a trickle now

I'm glad it's slowing down - no way could I keep up with it otherwise!! And of course this stack is long term - it' gonna take me at least a year if not more to read them all. My plan is to spend a month or 2 reading, then when I get burned out on this stuff take some time off and get back to it when I feel the urge. That way I'll keep refreshing my interest and my understanding - it's designed to make me really absorb and learn this stuff.

The Aion book is not really new - I ought it in the early 90's when I first started to get interested in the more intellectual pursuits but I never got past the introduction. I think it was too complicated for me to understand at the time, but now I have a pretty solid grounding in Jung's theories and how it all works. Now I'm not having any trouble at all with it. And it's one of his best that I've read so far - it lays out clearly what the main archetypes are - the Shadow the Anima/Animus and the Self. These are the keys to Individuation.

And I'm really loving all the Qabala/Tarot stuff! I got the laminated poster as a study guide as I learn all the Sephiroth - the spheres on the Tree of Life diagram. Interestingly, Sephirot (the singular) is the Jewish root for our word Sphere.

I've already finished The Spoken Qabala - amazing book. I'm now working on all the others seen here - Edith Hamilton's Mythology that tells the most well known and a few lesser known of the Greek and Roman classical myths, Paul Foster Case's Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, and Aion, along with the companion book Edinger's Aion Lectures, which explicates it so we mere mortals can comprehend Jung's meanings.

Kindle purchases:

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I'm back on ConceptArt baby!! And Drawing like Tex!!

I recently started posting again @ Conceptart - decided it might help me break my dry spell, which was heading into its ninth month. First I put up all the stuff worth posting that I've done since last being there 2 years ago. That turned out not to be very much really. I had a bit of a shocker when I checked the numbers of posts for each year, shown in the sidebar of my blog. 2014 was far and away my most prolific posting year - 293 posts!! That's pert durn near one per day!! Since then it's dropped off sharply - 73, then 40, and only 18 so far for 2017. Of course it ain't over yet..

So then I did this Texeira emulation - sort of. Not going for his style of caricature obviously, but I did use the thick tailored outlines, built up from a series of lines which generates some energy and allows you to get really subtle shapes, and to go thicker and thinner, lighter and darker where needed. Especially when you bust out the eraser like I always used to do not just for corrections but as a drawing tool too. In fact this all feels incredibly familiar - I'm drawing a lot like I used to do in the 90's. Something I kept wanting to do and tried a few times but never really accomplished. Somehow I had become too entrained with the ConceptArt methods - well, the mix of Watts, Proko and Vilppu methods that comprise the basic ConceptArt approach, at least the one I've been learning. But this time I succeeded. In fact this is something I've been wanting to do for a long time now - marrying some of the new knowledge with my old drawing methods and skills. It seems to have happened almost effortlessly - like it just took 5 years for it all to come together and meld into a comprehensive whole.

I also decided a few hours ago to see if there are any YouTube videos showing Tex drawing. Found this one:

Really I was hoping for an inking video, but this was extremely enlightening. I'm sure he learned his stuff using a pencil for the most part, and that's how I plan to do it as well.

I noticed he slides his hand around most of the time, and just uses his fingers to hold the pencil loosely - only occasionally drawing with the fingers, mostly for detail work. This agrees with the easel drawing stuff I've learned, done on newsprint with charcoal pencils. It explains why his outlines are so free and loose. He also draws really fast, but then he's a comic book pro - they all do. For this one he started entirely with the outline, built up energy by going back and forth to thicken in places, and only when it suggested the form pretty well did he start in on the interior shading. That's the way I do it, at least when I'm doing my Texeira Emulations. Yes, I actually do that, and that's what I call them lol! It sounds pretentious and funny at the same time.

He also starts pretty light and with thin easily erased lines and gradually builds up the forms. This method creates a sort of envelope of skin, if that makes any sense. Rather than starting by doing the standard art school mannequin forms or a gesture, he goes right for the shape of the body first. This seems to give it a lot of character right off the bat, and it works because as you're moving the pencil sort of rapidly back and forth and letting things take shape almost unconsciously, it begins to create an image in your mind's eye. It's like you can start to see the shape it needs to take on and adjust it to look like that. At least that's how it works for me, and I've done most of my best work like this.

One of these days I'll dig out the sketchbook with my earliest Texeira Emulations in it and scan them up for posting. Somehow as soon as I tried drawing like him something clicked and my work started looking better. It seems to agree with me. Lol Texeira Emulations - I like the sound of that. It sounds all technical, like the Eiger Sanction or the Rockford Files before I knew what those terms meant. Like something mysterious that would happen in a secret lab somewhere.

Mark Texeira

I featured a few scans of Mark Texeira's art in a previous post, but I wanted to go into more depth and talk about what it means to me. To be honest, I'm a little divided, because on the one hand he does these ridiculously overdeveloped superheroes and his women are often insanely sexy, but on the other hand, his art is astonishing! In many ways I'd have to say he's my favorite superhero artist. But yet his work always has something really juvenile and embarrassing about it. 

The way he does faces!!! My god, I've never seen a comic book artist do such great faces and expressions. And yet it's very caricatured, despite all the subtlety. There seems to be no separating the 2 elements of his work - you always get two for the price of one. His figures are the same way - double aspects. Some of what he does with them is incredible, and yet at the same time he seems limited to only certain poses and angles. I suppose that's because of the very extreme way he caricatures them. However, the poses he can do are often unbelievably well drawn - often with uncanny levels of subtlety at things I've never seen comic book artists attempt. 

I don't know if I'm expressing myself very well - I feel like I'm just groping for words and coming up blank more often than not. And overusing a handful of superlatives. You know what - I don't really know what to say about Texeira's art. Talking about art is literally, as the saying goes, like dancing about architecture. The reason people create art in the first place is because they have something to express that can't be done through conversation or ordinary writing. If I keep working on it I might be able to write something better up at some point - but for now I think I'll just post the images. 


Oh yeah, and he's really good at drawing celebrity faces too!

 Ok, a few more words dropped in the bucket:

 His work is often bold, astonishing, fresh, exciting, and yet at the same time there's a subtlety and a sensitivity there. Some of the best artists tend to embody a paradox like this. Also, about the flow of his pages for the purpose of storytelling - to me it looks very cinematic and very well laid out. Excellent design sense and use of cinematic tropes, plus a very innovative use of long narrow frames interspersed between the more traditional rectangular ones, often vertical! Innovative and often very difficult camera angles, usually handled easily and with panache and aplomb. The skills this guy wields are legendary!

And the characters - well, they have a lot of character! These people just brim over with personality - you can see it in every line.

As for the drawing style itself - the mix of incredibly bold thick brush strokes with that intuitive sense for where to go thick and where thin, and then the unbelievably fine pen work that manages to sculpt subtle forms on faces and bodies as if they're landscapes. Man, I have no idea how he figures out how to do that pen hatching - it must be completely intuitive. It's like the guy was born with a dip pen in his hand and was using it before he started breathing!

 Hmm - well, I suppose I ended up saying something after all in a big rush at the end there. Still not sure it means much though - but I'm one of the people who feels compelled to try dancing on the parapets and crenellations whether or not it does any good. At heights like this though I just have to hope I don't fall off!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Batman in the 70's

Back in December of 2014 I did a post about a couple of my favorite comic book artists from the 80's and early 90's. To be specific it was Marc Silvestri, Dan Green, and Mark Texeira (< link), all of whom were featured artists on Marvel's X Men and/or or Wolverine.

Well I decided it's time to snap some nice HD pics of some of my favorite DC books from the 70's and post them here so I can talk about them a bit. These are all from Batman titles - there were several of them being published including Detective Comics which is where most of these came from. Detective Comics was a big digest where Marvel used to print up lots of old stories form the Golden Age - many of them starring Batman but occasionally they'd throw in other main characters such as the Elongated Man (A takeoff of Plastic Man but not as comedic, and a precursor to Mister Stretch Reed Richards) or something. These were thick books - there were usually 6 or 7 of the old stories plus there would always be a new one at the beginning to kick things off. And for these they used some of my favorite artists of the time. 

This was before I was paying attention to the names of the artists - I didn't know who was drawing them at the time and it was only later when I looked back with nostalgia at this period that I became interested in that. This first one, Night of the Stalker, was plotted and pencilled by Vin and Sal Amendola - I'm not sure if Vin wrote it and Sal penciled it or if they collaborated on both chores. It was inked by Dick Giordano. This was at a time when Neal Adams had come along and significantly changed the way comics could be drawn. Adams had introduced a whole new look - the heroes were now exceptionally tall, sleek and handsome and had a sort of elegant look to them. Reader reaction to this change was overwhelmingly positive, so Marvel and DC both found a bunch of guys who could draw like Adams and put them to work on different titles, including many in the Batman line.  

This was also at a time when Batman was fighting against the stigma created by the 60's TV show starring Adam West. Because of that show, Batman was largely seen as a joke, as something ridiculous and not to be taken seriously, and in fact the sales for the books were dropping off rapidly. 

That is, until the new, darker and grittier Batman stepped out of the shadows. From the beginning Batman was the most interesting of DC's characters anyway - he was really the only one who had any character flaws. He was haunted by a tragic past that had scarred him and made him vow to fight criminals like the ones who had killed his parents - to protect Gotham from them so other kids don't have to go through what he did. The rest of DC's stable - Superman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern and the Flash etc, were all good to the core - too good to be true in fact. Sterling heroes with perfect character who were so good they just decided to use their powers to help people. Like saints with superpowers. And saints are the most boring people on earth. But I believe Batman was influenced by The Shadow, and thats why he wears a costume designed to frighten the bejeebus out of bad guys and why he haunts the shadows of the night. Ok, enough introduction - let's move on the the actual comics, shall we?

All of these factors I mentioned above - Batman being darker and more interesting, trying to throw off the satirical feel of the TV show, and the influence of Neal Adams' art style,  combined to make the Batman of the seventies some of the most awesome books I've seen. They really wanted to make it stand out, so Batman became more and more like some kind of semi-human creature. He was also incredibly acrobatic - I used to love seeing him vaulting off roofs and spinning around flagpoles on the sides of buildings. That's a Batman we still have never seen in any of the movies - I suppose the directors are afraid it would look goofy to see him jumping around all the time, so they instead present him as a frightening night stalker who blends into the shadows. But I sure would love to see him done like this!

But there was even more going on in the art than that. It was atmospheric. In fact, as I was shooting the pics today, I noticed that some of these artists could have easily drawn for the black and white horror comics like Creepy or Eerie. Or here's an interesting idea - how about Batman and Vampirella? Hmmm - no, I guess that's a weird mix really, but interesting all the same.

In these stories the environments are as important as the characters, if not more so. It's literally like Batman is a specter stalking a moody horror landscape. This creates a situation where shadows and darkness become very important, and that creates mystery as well as setting up a nice dynamic balance of black and white areas for good design. I mean I know - not white really since these are in color, but often the color is pretty muted and a very limited palette is used.

Another thing I appreciate about comics from this period - especially these in particular - is the relative simplicity of the art compared to what would come later. In terms of both line work and color, the 80's ushered in an age of dizzying complexity that often got on my nerves and destroyed the kind of subtle simplicity I had learned to love in the 70's, when less was more and good design sense and subtlety took precedence over spectacle and noise. With the simple flat coloring here, what stands out is the skill of the artists - the expressive ink work. Often those tiny little landscapes are masterpieces of calligraphic excellence.

Ok, I think I've said most of what I wanted to say now - I'll just introduce each story and then let the art speak for itself. 

Bat-Murderer is drawn entirely by Jim Aparo - pencils and inks. Many of my favorite artists ink their own work - it preserves their original vision better than letting someone else do it.

When I was snapping the pics for this one something struck me. That splash page above reminds me of the art that would be done in the following decade by John Byrne and Terry Austin for the infamous X-Men story arc called Days of Future Past, which has been turned into a movie of the same name. And I mean it's almost exactly the same - a nighttime scene in the city, spotlights aimed at dark brick walls with graffiti. Even the way Batman's name is X'ed out - in Days of Future Past there were wanted posters of the X Men and the ones who were already dead had been X'ed out. Very interesting. I never realized how influential these stories and this art were, but I suppose it laid the ground work for what was to come. Including Byrne and Austin, who became the first team of artists I would know by name and search for when I hit the spinner racks in the grocery stores.

The above splash page was drawn by Jim Aparo, but the art in the story itself was done by Howard Chaykin. Look at those trees, the fence - the grass - the way's it's drawn. Even the thin pen strokes in the sky representing the wind. So simple and spare - so effective. Just like the art I used to love so much in the horror comics drawn by the Spanish artists for Warren.

Here again we have spotlights on brick walls and graffiti. I'm actually sad to have to downgrade the originality of John Byrne for that amazing cover. But it doesn't reduce the awesomeness of his pencil work though. He remains one of my favorites, especially when Terry Austin was inking him.

Those interiors - this is a freaking haunted house! Not something you usually see in superhero comics.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The (Jungian) Books Keep Rolling In

These are all new except for Becoming- not sure how that one got in there!

I've also got the entire Bible now - including the 4th volume, which is an index.

The Qabala is the source for both the Tarot and Astrology apparently, or so I keep seeing. But there are all kinds of claims made about it by various groups - many of which seem weird and cultish. For me it's another source of symbolism to enrich the inner artistic world.

Aurora Consurgens, which means Rising Dawn, is a medieval text about Alchemy attributed fascinatingly to Thomas Aquinas, and supposedly written in a feverish state in his final days after suffering a blow on the head and experiencing some kind of profound enlightenment. Von Franz believed he was undergoing individuation and had realized that in fact that is the mysterious process the Alchemists were really engaged in. If she's right, they believed they were transforming base matter but were actually transforming their own personalities by coming into a more open and honest relation to the unconscious Self and projecting that process onto the matter that they were so busily mixing and melting. The physical transformation of metals became a stand-in for the inner psychological transformation. My God I love this stuff!! That said though, I don't recommend Aurora Consurgens - instead I recommend the green Alchemy book listed below, for reasons I'll explain in a moment.

I had already linked to The Religious Function of the Psyche by Lionel Corbett in my last post about books, but I've bought it since then, so I added in to the list here even though it isn't visible in the picture - somehow it ended up too far down in the stack and is hidden behind the already-been-reads.

These are the ones I've finished - and the one on the front of the bundle is new since last time:

Alchemy with the striking green cover is my favorite of the bunch so far. Von Franz wrote it after wading laboriously through Aurora Consurgens (in the top picture). That one was a hard slog through dense territory - written essentially to analyze the very difficult material. Only after doing that was she able to condense the symbolism and pen this much more readable and in fact amazing little book. Though I don't think I would have understood parts of it without having read a few of the other books on these stacks to get a grounding in the Jungian concepts.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Eliza Ivanova and Kent Williams

Discovered an amazing artist today through the Bud's Art Books email:

Eliza Ivanova:

Here is her first book, just released:

And while I was in there they suggested the 2 latest books by Kent Williams which I haven't picked up yet, so I ordered those as well:

And Not Strangers: Drawings in Mixed Media (of the same model):

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Possibly the best book yet - and it's a freebie! Plus 2 bonus books that also look amazing

The Archetypal Imagination by James Hollis

Free PDF download (Official and Legal)

I was looking at this book on Amazon (link below the image) when I discovered a link to a free PDF version on the publisher's website. A godsend, because it's a fairly expensive book, and though it seemed like the best of all the books I've got in this recent spree - the one that speaks most personally and profoundly to me - I wasn't prepared to shell out more money. Not $20 plus shipping anyway. But the preview really did stir my imagination deeply, so I grabbed the PDF and started in on it (though I'm currently into about half a dozen books already hah!)

James Hollis seems to be one of a group of recent-ish post-Jungians who have absorbed and advanced his work in ways that I personally find exciting. As much as I like Edinger for his incredibly clear and well delineated explanations of Jung's ideas, Hollis just has a knack for writing that captures the numinous spark - he's more of a creative and inspired soul, or so it seems to me anyway.

I would say the same about Lionel Corbett - author of these books:

The Religious Function of the Psyche 

(Sorry, no free version)
Traditional concepts of God are no longer tenable for many people who nevertheless experience a strong sense of the sacred in their lives. The Religious Function of the Psyche offers a psychological model for the understanding of such experience, using the language and interpretive methods of depth psychology, particularly those of C.G. Jung and psychoanalytic self psychology. The problems of evil and suffering, and the notion of human development as an incarnation of spirit are dealt with by means of a religious approach to the psyche that can be brought easily into psychotherapeutic practice and applied by the individual in everyday life.
The book offers an alternative approach to spirituality as well as providing an introduction to Jung and religion.

Psyche and the Sacred: Spirituality Beyond Religion

(Nope, this one either!)
Lionel Corbett describes an approach to spirituality based on personal experience of the sacred rather than on pre-existing religious dogmas. Using many examples from Corbett's psychotherapy practice and other personal accounts, the book describes various portals through which the sacred may appear: in dreams, visions, the natural world, through the body, in relationships, in our psychopathology, and in our creative work. Using the language and insights of depth psychology, he describes the intimate relationship between spiritual experience and the psychology of the individual, revealing the seamless continuity and intermingling of the personal and transpersonal dimensions of the psyche. Corbett also discusses the problems of evil and suffering from a psychological rather than theological perspective, and suggests some of the reasons that traditional religious institutions fail to address adequately these problems. Based largely on Jung's writing on religion, but also drawing from contemporary psychoanalytic theory, Corbett describes an approach to spirituality that is gradually emerging alongside the western monotheistic tradition. For those seeking alternative forms of spirituality beyond the Judeo-Christian tradition, this volume will be a useful guide on the journey.

Monday, July 24, 2017

All Booked Up!!

I've been on an insane book-buying spree. All set up with long-term reading material. If you click to enlarge the picture you should be able to see all the titles - if not you can download it and blow it up on your computer. Or I'll just grit my teeth and type up the entire list here:

*Still waiting on the first volume of the Bible to come in - they sent me another copy of vol 2 by mistake. 

Oops - looking back I see I had already shown 3 of these books in the last book-related post. My bad! With this many coming in it's hard to keep track. I should have checked the blog before snapping the pic. 

I've now made most of the listings into links. I didn't just buy them full-price but found decent used copies. In the case of Existential Psychotherapy I found it cheaper on eBay than on Amazon. I didn't post a link to the Reader's Digest Bible because there isn't a listing on Amazon or elsewhere I could find that really explains what it is. I learned about it from Jordan Peterson - it's essentially had the repetitions edited out and things explained in a way that's understandable to a modern readership. Also it reads like a story - straight through rather than being broken up into numbered chapter and verse. I think it will be much easier to understand - hopefully anyway. The other versions can be pretty incomprehensible. 

I also got myself a nice centennial Smith-Waite Tarot Deck, arrayed here on top of the Jung and Tarot book. In the case of the Tarot cards and the Bible, it's important to note that they are not to be taken literally. For Jungian purposes the Tarot is not for telling the future - rather it's a complex and extremely useful set of symbols that can be used to explore and come to an understanding of the contents of the human psyche, in the same way dream symbolism can. Same for the Bible. In fact Jung stated that before science switched our understanding of the world to one based on reductive materialism and practicality, there came the great age of Religions and Mythology. This was a time when humankind was very unconscious and had a strong tendency to project the contents of their psyche out onto the stars (as constellations to be divined through Astrology), into the Heavens (Religion), and into the Mysteries of Matter (Alchemy, soon to transmute into Chemistry).

There had already been thorough studies into comparative religion and comparative mythology (finding similarities between various ones all around the world), but Jung discovered WHY all the similarities. In his own words (well - loosely - don't feel like looking up exact wording), in the 15th century God fell out of the sky and into the human psyche. For modern people, it's vitally important to understand religion and mythology, otherwise you can fall prey to nihilistic despair.

For example, dreams that seem terrifying can suddenly reveal themselves to be profoundly healing and transformative if you have some knowledge of creation myths. Bloody, violent dismemberments - especially of giants or figures that refuse to die - often represent the killing of the old god who needs to be destroyed and whose body gives birth to the new world, in which the new god can grow and prosper. This is actually a very positive and reassuring dream, and it's only through an understanding of mythological symbols that it can be understood properly. So I'll be filling my head with as much as I can stuff in there.

And my most recent Kindle purchases:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

About Jung scholarship

A comment found under the listing for the book Carl Jung (Critical Lives) by Paul Bishop @Amazon:

A stimulating amplification of the "textual Jung," not another "Red Book" auntification
ByHapax Existentiel on December 14, 2014
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

As a reader of scholarly books and articles on the history of psychoanalysis and C.G. Jung, I would have to say that Paul Bishop's book is the most fascinating volume to appear since Richard Noll's "The Jung Cult" back in 1994. For me, Jung simply does not make sense outside of his German historical and cultural context. The rather fulsome, uncritical Jungian literature sidesteps German cultural influences and tend to portray Jung as a mystical prophet who somehow lived and worked outside of history. In recent years Sonu Shamdasani's early efforts at scholarship have been replaced by weakly footnoted coffee table books and New Age spiritualist dialogues with James Hillman passing as "profound" intellectual discourse. Additionally, Shamdasani's relationship with the Jung family and estate as their "approved" court historian since 2000 renders his Jung scholarship unverifiable and open to a round of charges of being yet another "auntification" and protective whitewashing of Jung's image (he's now an aesthetic literary figure like William Blake, apparently). Jung is big business, after all. No one will be allowed to check the original archival sources against Shamdasani's claims unless approved by the Jung heirs. Good luck with that. This throws much of The Red Book research into question.

So thank god for the many high-level books on Jung by Paul Bishop. This one, however, is his best.

Paul Bishop is now the undisputed "preeminent" Jung scholar.

Bishop securely places Jung in the archaic stream that also carries Goethe and Schiller. He engages the textual Jung, not the biographical or even (much) the historical Jung. But Bishop make the case that it is the ideas of the man that are important, and he does so in a judicious manner, citing the major authors of the secondary literature (Ellenberger, Homans, Kerr, Noll, Shamdasani). Bishop also uses primary sources by German and French authors who may not be familiar to readers of works on Jung because they do not write specificially about Jung but about themes found throughout his work. These are excellent.

This is it -- the best critical biography of Jung in existence. Highly recommended

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Latest haul of books

All this reading I'm doing is an antidote to the reductive and mechanistic nature of rational materialism that has overtaken Western civilization.

  • Shadows of the Sacred - Frances Vaughan
  • Cosmos and Psyche - Richard Tarnas
  • The Eternal Drama - Edward Edinger (Reading Greek Mythology as an expression of the human psyche)
  • The Discovery of Being - Rollo May (Existential psychotherapy)
  • States of Grace - Charlene Spretnak
  • Ego and Archetype - Edinger
  • The Psyche in Antiquity book 2; Gnosticism and Early Christianity - Edinger
  • The Bible and the Psyche; Individuation Symbolism in the Old Testament - Edinger

I'm really loving the Edinger books right now - he's a great explicator of Carl Gustav Jung's ideas. 

Jung's great discovery (one of them) was that in pre-Enlightenment times, when mankind's psyche was still rather primitive, he tended to project it out into the void to create myth and religion, as well as early philosophy and alchemy. By studying these ancient sources we can witness the inner workings of the psyche itself. Each of Edinger's books delves into a different era, but they all demonstrate that the psyche is the real source of the numinous and the miraculous.

Kindle purchases: