Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Myth of Tolkien and Lucas

Tolkien and Lucas are two of the great modern storytellers. Both have influenced generations of new storytellers. Their lasting mark on world culture will be remembered by future generations like The Odyssey of Homer is remembered today. Tolkien and Lucas are at once so similar and so incredibly different.

On receiving a screenplay for a proposed movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in the late 1950's by Morton Grady Zimmerman, Tolkien wrote:

"I would ask them to make an effort of imagination sufficient to understand the irritation (and on occasion the resentment) of an author, who finds, increasingly as he proceeds, his work treated as it would seem carelessly in general, in places recklessly, and with no evident signs of any appreciation of what it is all about."

Tolkien was adamant about the methodology by which his mythology was created. He spent over ten years organizing the pieces of history and lanquage that gives the Lord of the Rings it's "impression of depth". He was absolutely determined to give his story a life of it's own through a thickly woven tapestry of myth.

Lucas started out just as adamant. During the writing and filming of A New Hope, Lucas was in constant contact with Campbell. He was checking up on his myth, making sure all the pieces fit into Campbell's theory of the Heroes Journey.

So what happened with the Prequels? We have the Silmarillion and the New Trilogy. Tolkien had this to say:

" I am afraid that the presentation will need a lot of work, and I work so slowly. The legends have to be worked over (they were written at different times, some many years ago) and made consistent..."

There is quite a bit more to that quote, but this part speaks to what I feel is the greatest failure of Lucas' Prequels. No consistency. This is in part due to the the fact that Tolkien was working nearly alone on his great work. Where right from the beginning, Lucas allowed many writers to tell many stories about Star Wars. Before the 90's there wasn't a lot of talk of canon. Then all of a sudden authors had to follow a relatively strict set of guidelines, including that almost no one was allowed to even mention what would become Prequel history.

I have spoken about this many times. I am disappointed that so many authors were discredited when the Prequels were released. These stories had laid down the basis of who major characters were and why they acted the way they did. Only to be, in some cases, completely erased, and then replaced with Jar-Jar Binks, Qui- Gon Jinn, and Jango Bango Fett.

Some say Lucas had every right to tell the story the way he wanted to because it is his story. I say I would agree with this, had he not allowed so many others to imbue the myth of Star Wars with their own creativity. When that happened he passed the torch to them, and became one of many who would be an influence to the myth. This may have been his biggest mistake.

Tolkien had the sense of mind, and maybe the neurotic need to complete his myth the way he, and he alone saw fit. Had he been alive to see Peter Jackson's vision of his myth, I believe he would have been disappointed. He probably regretted till the day he died selling the movie rights at all. Tolkien would probably be disappointed in general to see the way that storytelling has progressed since he laid down the first history of the Children of Illuvatar.

Much of today's storytelling uses mythology in a bastardized way. The pieces are all there in many cases, yet only as a surface to cover for the marketing of merchandise.

The relative opposite of this is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Considering this is a post about Tolkien and Lucas I won't get too far off track, but bear with me. Rowling's genius is in the fact that the story ends. As of now there is a supposed 8th book that was written for a charity event, but is not an actual part of the Potter myth. Otherwise it is a contained story, no unnecessary T.V. shows or expanded universe garbage, other than fan fiction. Hopefully it will stay that way. Because Rowling seemed to know that to go beyond, would be to stretch the story too thin.

Which is what exactly has happened to Star Wars. There is no way to keep up with the amount of comics, games, T.V. shows and other spin-offs that are constantly created. So much so that there are people today who don't know that there was an original Star Wars trilogy!

The saddest part about this is that the majority of the creators of these spin-offs do not care about Star Wars, or mythology, or storytelling. It is all about the money. Therein lies the true difference between Tolkien and Lucas.

Tolkien refused the initial screenplay offer from Zimmerman. Why? Because he knew it would destroy the myth he had worked so hard to create. Lucas apparently is the one who "showed no sign of appreciating what it is all about". I hate to say it, but it certainly shows in the Prequels.

How many lightsabers, lunchboxes and t-shirts can we sell with this thing? A lot, and people won't even know that they have been duped into buying all this crap. George should have known better. He should have treated his myth with the same sensitivity as Tolkien and Rowling. Why he didn't is something we fans will probably never understand.

That is why it is up to us. It is why I am so glad to see so many Prequel Rewrites out there. That fact shows that Campbell's belief that myth springs from within is true. We knew that it was wrong and now we are doing our best to put it right.

Hopefully, the rest of the world will see this and start to think with more sensitivity themselves. Probably not, but there will always be rebellion in the empire.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine!

Thanks everyone for continuing to check up on my progress here! Sadly there hasn't been a lot of Star Wars action for me lately. Those of you have kept up on my posts here will know how busy I have been! For those of you who haven't I'll give you a brief update!

I currently work for a company that cares for disabled adults. I work in a home and help take care of four men. When I applied for this job, the idea was that I would be able to make a decent pay and have all the time and energy needed to make my art, my way. For a while this was true, and it was good! I was working overnights and my job was to sleep! I would get out of work in the morning, go straight to my studio space, make art all day with a fresh mind and head back to work around 11 pm.

Then my world was turned upside down. I won't go into the dirty details. I quit during the summer of 2008 to spend three months traveling the United States.

After my adventures I got right back into taking care of the disabled for the same company. Instead of third shift, I chose to work a second shift. The change was immediate, and I rose to the challenge. I had nearly no time to make art. My mind and energy were forcefully diverted.

I did my best. That wasn't enough. The job has continued to drain me physically and mentally. Making art was beginning to become a past time, a hobby rather than a focus. Thankfully, I noticed this and knew that it was not what I wanted.

Early 2010, my aunt Chandra was getting work done on her back tattoo. She was my eye-opener. Flat out she said "Caleb, you could make a lot of money doing tattoos!". I have been making art all my life. I have had a lot of people ask me to draw up tattoos, and many told me I should get into tattooing. Yet, I never seriously considered becoming a tattoo artist.

For the past ten years I have been literally giving my art away. One of my reasons for this was the belief that, up until now, I had not earned the right to put a price tag on my work. I love giving my work away. Literally, hundreds of times I was given the opportunity to make someone's day. Friends and others would come into my studio, they would see a painting and connect with it. I am very grateful for the ability to see when this happens. The only option was to make sure that when I saw that connection the work went home with that person.

The obvious problem with this is that it is very hard to put food in my belly this way! The best benefit is that I have developed a strong following! Tattooing came to me at the time I needed it the most. It is a career defined by making art, that is also a viable way of making money. The main downfall is the high amount of very poor tattoos that many people want.

I am willing to deal with that because I know that there are a great many people out there who want amazing works of art on their body. I want to be the artist that creates that art!

So I am now a part of a great tattoo shop, Mom & Pop Tattoo and Piercing in Fall River, MA. My apprenticeship has been an excellent experience. I am being taught about the fundamentals of tattooing, and I am teaching about the fundamentals of fine art.

You might think that fine art would be the basis of tattooing, but it is not. In fact in my area that is the exact opposite. I am proud to be one of a number of artists working very hard to raise the standards of the fine art of tattooing.

So, what does any of this have to do with Star Wars? I love Star Wars. I hate the prequels. I am willing to do anything that will get me to the end goal of making this comic to bring back the high art of storytelling and mythology.

Right now I have to sacrifice nearly my entire life so that I can make a 180 degree turn around. I need food in my belly and a roof over my head, not to mention for my beautiful wife! This is only attainable through hard work and a willingness to learn!

See you there.


Next week, Tolkien and Lucas.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Will he finish what he begins?

Damn straight I will! Though unlike Luke I am more than willing to admit my fear and the need to overcome it! First and foremost, thanks to everyone who has continued to visit my little blog here!

Ready? Here goes!

The Han Solo Benefit Art Show my wife and I put together went amazing! We couldn't have done it without the good folks at Mom and Pop Tattoo and Piercing, or without all the excellent people who came out to party with us! We raised a lot of money for a very worthy shelter in the city of Fall River, MA. I painted over 30 works just for this show! The Yoda painting at the top of this post was one of the works sold!

I recently decided to do a 180 with my life! I have worked with disabled adults for the last 4 years. The job is great, pay is great, the benefits are great but the stress and drain are not. For a while I let my fear control me and keep me paralyzed. Gotta have a job, gotta pay for food, art supplies, rent, car, stuff and all the rest of life's costs.

There are many fields of artistic creation. Many of them do not pay well, there are a million other young hopefuls competing for them, and are extremely constricting on the artist. I have avoided the gallery scene, and stepped far away from the realms of web design and graphic arts. I have always chosen to do things my way.

For the last ten years I have given away my art. Rarely, if ever, selling a piece or taking on commissions. I focused on spreading my name and giving people the ability to get to know my work. This has returned good things for me in many, many ways. Only now have I begun to feel I have earned the right to sell my work. The success of the Han Solo Benefit Art show was definitely fuel for the fire!

Recently my aunt Chandra suggested I become a tattoo artist. Many people in my life have suggested this to me, and always I brushed it off. Partly because of arrogance, and partly because of fear. (The Dark Side) Her words really inspired me. "You would be amazing at this and people would fall over to get in line!" (less important but just as nice, she said "You would make a lot of money!")

I have always felt that things happen exactly when they are supposed to. I do not believe that life is predetermined, but instead just waiting for you to be ready. When the time comes, bang! You just know it.

So I started looking into Tattoo apprenticeships. A shop in Fall River, MA was accepting and I went down to check it out! The master artist and owner there immediately accepted me, based solely on my work and reputation! I offered to trade a mural painting for their shop, The Ink Clinic, for the apprenticeship.

The story doesn't end there! My friend Sean Theroux owns Mom and Pop Tattoo and Piercing, another tattoo shop in Fall River. (You can tell I spend a lot of time in the city!) When I told him about the apprenticeship he was a little shocked that I hadn't asked to him about it! He immediately offered to have me apprentice at his shop!

A little background. Sean would have been great friends with Han Solo. He's the definition of a heroic scoundrel. Side show magician, licensed piercer, justice of the peace and a thousand other titles follow his name! With him there is never a dull moment! For example: He blew a tremendous fireball with oil and flame hidden in his trick bible after he married my wife and I!

When he offered me an apprenticeship I knew I could not turn it down! So I jumped in, head first and have been loving it ever since! Not only am I learning from the master tattoo artists there, I am also teaching them my knowledge of painting, drawing and all that goes with 2d studies!

I am also painting the mural for the Ink Clinic! A giant work based on the history of tattooing. With many styles and themes represented!

So for the next year I will be working seven days a week. 4 days working with disabled adults, and 3 at Mom and Pop learning the craft once I finish the Ink Clinic Mural. The sacrifices are great, but worthy. I have had to put 90% of my life aside to focus. It feels great. I feel charged and ready.

Star Wars is always on my mind. Like a best friend, always ready with advice, and always offering a new way to look at the world. Everyday life constantly influences the work I am doing with the Improved Prequels.

While technically alone working on the Project, there are a few people I am in contact with who I bounce ideas off of. Kind of like having a few Joseph Campbell's around to guide the myth. One you all should really get to know is Tony Pacitti, the author of the best selling memoir: My Best Friend is a Wookiee.

He recently has been a great inspiration and a beacon in the darkness. It was great reading his book and finding parallel experiences that helped to bring new understanding to my own. His love for Star Wars is true and excellent!

Patience is the key my friends. I hope that any and all of you feel free to contact me! I love to talk Star Wars! The Improved Prequels are my life's work. Like George in the early days I will defy the standards of the day, I will do things in a way that most will think is crazy. Hopefully it will be! Whether it pays off or not is completely irrelevant! The point is myth, storytelling and that 10% everyone else gets to see.

Thank you George, Jim, Frank, Joeseph without you I would not be who I am today. Thanks also to Douglass, who taught me how to Not Panic. 42.

Much love

The Forest is with you, always


Monday, August 9, 2010

Star Wars for a Good Cause!

Star Wars for a Good Cause!

I will be having my first Solo gallery show opening this month! I have been working very hard to prepare some awesome new works for this event! This show is also a benefit fundraiser for the Fall River Family Center. A homeless shelter near where I live that helps families get back on their feet. They work very hard for the families they support, let's show them how much we appreciate their work!

My friend Sean Theroux kindly offered me the opportunity to put on this show. He is the owner and operator of Mom and Pop Tattoo and Peircing, where the show will be held! This is not your average Tattoo Shop! Sean strives to create an open family atmosphere that breeds creativity, and he does it well!

The Show!

There will be almost 30 works in this show! There will be original drawings, inks and colors from the Improved Star Wars Prequels! Prints will be available! I will also be displaying a limited series of Star Wars paintings!

Alongside the Star Wars works, I will be displaying more of my own original artwork! These include wonderfully strange hand and foot creatures and some very pretty landscapes!

There will be a musical accompaniment provided by Looks Realistic, a local casio funtime band that will delight your ears with musical adventure!

Many of the works in the show will be for sale! Some have already been sold! A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Fall River Family center. I will also be painting live! The painting that I create that night will be raffled off, with all proceeds from the raffle being donated to the Family Center!

If you want a sneak preview of the types of things you may see, go check out my Deviant Art gallery, there's a link in the side bar!

Make sure you check out this weeks title enclosure link! It links to the Facebook event page for the show! Directions and contact info can be found there!

Thanks to everyone who has been following along on this adventure with me! Come hang out, see some killer work, listen to some great music and take a fantastic opportunity to help a worthy cause!



P.S. ~ details

Location: Mom and Pop Tatoo and Peircing: 288 Plymouth Ave, Fall River, MA 02721

Date: August 22, 2010

Time: 7:00 - 10:00 PM

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What would Master Yoda do?

Colors coming soon!

May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

So what I told you was true... From a certain point of view...

I want to say thank you to all the people who have been surfing by to check out what I am doing! It means a lot to me that people are seeing the work and thinking about the project.

I am now working alone. My cousin Joe has begun a musical venture with our friend Ryan and they are screaming off into lightspeed like the Rebel fleet bound for Endor to make realistic looking music!

This means that I have double the work as I am now penciling and coloring. Sadly this probably means I will have to push back the release of issue one, again...

Thankfully for all of you I am obsessed with this project AND I got a fortune cookie that said "Never Quit!" = D

"Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try."


Friday, July 2, 2010

The Best Star Pilot in the Galaxy!

I can only take part of the credit for this image! I took the pencil of Anakin, colored it in using Photoshop and then superimposed it over a Ralph Mcquarrie painting!

The painting is of an early concept for the Millenium Falcon. Yes, we are using that ship, though as yet unnamed, for Anakin's ship in the Prequels!

This is a very rough test drawing with a basic color job. I wanted to experiment and see what Anakin would look like in a highly detailed and well rendered environment. Enjoy the tease!

(If you haven't guessed, Ralph Mcquarrie is one of my favorite artists and the biggest inspiration for the imagery of The Improved Star Wars Prequels!)