Monday, January 25, 2010

Emerald City Blues Issue #2 Pre Orders

As some of you may know I created a comic last year called Emerald City Blues. Emerald City Blues is my post modern take on The Wizard of Oz. ECB started as a one off story for the 24 hour comic day marathon.  In that first 24 hours I had drawn 17 pages and inked 11 of them. After looking at the amount of work I had done I decided I should do something with it and started posting it on the web as a sort of web comic. I ended up getting a really good response to the story and eventually I published the entire first chapter in printed form.

I didn't go through comic stores I sold directly to the readers that had been enjoying the work so far. I was humbled by the amount of support I received on the project. I sold out of issue one and I am now printing issue 2. So look below and enjoy reading my hype text and if you know anybody that would enjoy reading a new comic or they are a long time Wizard of Oz fan than please point them in the direction of my comic.

Pre-Orders for Issue #2 of Emerald City Blues.

Issue #2 Pre-Orders!
Official release date February 29th!
Convention Debut
Emerald City Comic Con 3/13/10

The saga continues as Dorothy and
Tin seek out the Scarecrow for answers.
Meanwhile Glinda reveals there is more
to her plan than ruling Emerald City!

Emerald City Blues is a post modern
take on The Wizard of Oz by
Writer/Artist Karl Altstaetter
(Q-Unit, Deity, Bloodstrike)

Three covers!

Main "Yellow Brick Road" Cover
28 pgs-$5.50 + $4.95 S.H.

Alternate Dorothy Cover
28 pgs with a card stock cover
$10.50 + $4.95 S.H.
Alternate Dorothy Sketch Back Cover
Comes with a custom sketch on the back!
$25.00 + $4.95 S.H.

“Emerald City Comic Con”
Version of Issue#1
Your chance to get the sold out
Issue #1 with an exclusive new cover
made for the Emerald City Comic Con!
28 pgs.
$5.50 + $4.95 S.H.
Sketch version
$25.00 + 4.95 S.H.

Combine shipping! Up to three books
for $4.95!
All versions signed upon request.
Paypal at
Retail and large orders contact me at

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pay Yourself First

There is the old saying when it comes to money "always pay yourself first." Which means always put your savings away before you pay bills. That way you know you will always have something in reserve. It's the reason why we work. To make money for ourselves not constantly spend. Or so I was told..but this is America. Not sure if that holds true anymore.

When it comes to art. "always pay yourself first." What do I mean by that?

I mean do artwork for yourself first.

I'm assuming this is being read by artists that do commercial work. As we all know you can get so caught up in doing work for other people you forget to do your own artwork. Which is what the whole thing is about right?


The most important aspect of doing artwork for yourself is that it's the testing ground for new techniques and new ways of thinking. Often times on commercial gigs you will get asked to do the same thing you've been doing for the last ten years over and over again. Where is the room for innovation and expanding your repertoire of artistic skills.

You've got to pay yourself first. Pay into you bank of artistic skills and refine your imagination.

One way to do this is to be religious about the daily warm up sketch. Set a time limit. 15, 30, 45 mins before you start your daily work and just go off.  Draw or paint whatever comes to mind. This will free your mind and get you in the mood to make art.

Some people dedicate one day a week to learning and trying new things. With life such as it is that's not as easy but if you can manage it all the better.

Take a class. Every Community College has a life drawing class or if you live in LA throw a rock and you will hit a nude model sitting in front of a group of artists.

This morning  I did some personal work to wash the bad taste of a week of tough clients and mindless blood money art out of my mouth.

The lesson I learned today. Calm down and don't rush your own pieces. I had this feeling I was on a deadline. I had to take a step back and remember how to enjoy the process...and enjoy it have.


ECB #2 Alt. Cover Work In Progress

Friday, January 22, 2010

Spawned By The Dozen

Got lots of push back and changes from the clients today.

Changes are the death of a freelancer's margin.

Plain and simple.

Every minute and every hour I spend making changes is time I'm not doing other profitable work or hunting down more money making gigs.

It's a double punch to the to speak.

It's not like I hack out the work either. I do my best on this stuff.

My biggest weakness as an Illustrator: I'm not a mind reader.

I can't look into a client's mind and see exactly what they want. I just give them what I think they want based on what they say

...but that's about as easy as speaking Dolphin.

I never understand when a client hires you for your particular ability or style and than constantly questions that ability and instinct throughout the process. You can try and walk them through it and be the Politico but at some point it's not about customer service. It's about the client needing to show respect for your time and expertise.

Let the artists do what they are capable of doing.

I know clients are not artists and they can't always give you the information you need up front until they see what you have done first. That being said the relationship is really about me helping you achieve your vision. If you don't know what your vision is until you see it than you should be willing to pay for the time it takes for me to find it for you. Often times the client gets it twisted. They project their frustrations with their own inability to describe what they wanted or know what they wanted with your efforts to "give them what they want."

It becomes less about your artistic ability and more about something nobody has. The ability to read minds. Some clients want your vision and those jobs are easy. They hire you because they see what you do and they want that look for their idea. It's like apple pie with ice cream. It just works.

Others hire you on the strength of your ability and they assume that ability can be shaped into something that it's not. Those are the clients that seem to be spawned by the dozen in the cold brutal final circle of hell where all the showing of teeth and baby eating goes on. 

It's truly a balancing act. I sometimes wish I had a buffer. An account rep that would deal with the nut balls and take all the bullets for me. I don't think I'm bad at interfacing with clients in fact over the years I've gotten pretty good at selling my services. I've also learned that it's not okay for a client to run over you. Which is my second worst ability as an Illustrator. I demand respect for my time and ability.

I'm beginning to wonder if this is really the part of the art business I want to be in. I know that almost all art is commercial. If you sell it or it sells something it's commercial art. I'm not going to escape that. I like the business of art I'm just not sure I like being in the "art hands" business.

Maybe I need to become a bartender. I hear they make good money on tips. Plus I want to toss around vodka like Tom Cruise and the guy from FX in Cocktail..

Don't act like you never saw Cocktail!

Time to rest up. Do some personal work this weekend and than get back to the grind next week.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is That A Mouse!?!

It feels like I've been working as much as the rain had been falling in LA.

I was in a slump a couple of weeks ago. Partially brought on by a cold but I've bounced back like a Phoenix rising from the ashes to claim my place amongst the stars!!!!!!!

Okay...the lack of sleep is seeping into my writing. In all seriousness  I have been working a lot. In fact I've been going mostly without sleep for the last few days. Which has it's side effects.

This morning I was getting out of the shower and I swore I saw a white mouse. I looked down and it was a tiny piece of tissue paper.

Starting to feel like Al Pacino in Insomnia. Things are getting twitchy.

Ironically the more my body gets tired out the more I'm able to focus on art. My body relaxes and stops wanting to go out into the world and enjoy stupid things like sunlight and human interaction. It settles down. My primal art mind kicks in and pretty soon I have 5 pages done.

No wonder I like drawing at night.

It's cooler.


Nobody to bother you with offers of food and companionship.

I have another 12 hours in me before I wrap up this weeks work and surrender to the weekend and some much needed sleep.

Is that a mouse!?!?


it was a renegade cable bill.

Back to work.

Designs for a Rev. Run from RUN DMC animation pitch.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reinveting My Creative Self

The good news is I have already surpassed my entire blog output for 09 in a week.

Yeah it was that bad. What can I say 08-09 was crap for me.

I feel good about 2010. Bouncing back.

I was working for a toy company in late 08 and was tossed out with 150 other people on the same day. I won't lie I was happy to go. I had seen the writing on the wall for a couple of years and the day to day not knowing if the company was going to crash got on the tedious side.

I knew the minute I was sprung I was going to try some different things with my art. I had already expanded what I could do by leaps and bounds over the five years I spent working for the toy company. I was surrounded by an amazing group of talented and creative people so opportunities to learn were everywhere.

The first thing I wanted to tackle was drawing and painting digitally. I knew that the spots for 2d Illustrators were shrinking and to compete in that world I needed to be able to do more than just color in Photoshop. I needed to paint and be able to create stand alone images that could serve as inspiration for 3d and set the mood of a game or movie.

Coming from a background in Comics you are pushed to create a style that people like but that is also a visual short hand with lot's of systems built in so you can keep a monthly schedule. Stylization is encouraged.

I come from an era where all comics were hand penciled and hand inked and just in the last 20 years have they been computer colored in mass. I was brought up in an analog era. A tweener in the art world sucks.

For those of you that don't do art it may seem like no big deal to switch one tool for another but so much of your artistic identity is tied into how you create your work. Not to mention you spend most of the early part of your artistic development creating a decision making mental construct that you can reference to create the desired results in your art work with speed and confidence.

Old habits die hard. If you can't rely on the process you worked so hard to create than what is this jumble of work on the computer screen? Is it your work or just a bunch of random assumptions and decisions?

I was forced to reinvent my creative self.

I had to rebuild my work from the ground up.
Learn new tools.
Find new ways to get results.
Develop an aesthetic that can be produced with your digital tools.
Use the "undo" function till my finger fell off.

I should have seen this coming because I had been on a creative quest for the last 6 years to reinvent myself.

I had been taking life drawing classes and trying to drop all my old drawing habits.  The jump to doing more digital painting and drawing was just another small step in that direction. An important one but it was all part of the larger vision I had for my work.

Why did I want to change my work so much?

I get asked that from time to time. It's not like I can't do my old style. I can. In fact my ultimate goal is to find some common ground between what I did and what I'm doing and learning right now.

A best of both worlds situation.

Unfortunately sometimes you have to drop some things to make room for something new.

On a practical level I knew I had hit the ceiling as far as the type of jobs I could get and the amount I could get paid for those jobs. I didn't want to be like countless Comic "only" artists that reached a point in their career where nobody wanted their work anymore and it all ended just like that. No retirement parties for comic artists just dwindling job options.

Who want's to be the Allen Iverson of Comics?

I've seen countless artists fall out of a career and not have the energy to reinvent themselves later in life. It's a fact, companies are hiring younger and cheaper. They would rather build the artist they want from scratch than hire someone with preexisting ideas and experience. The only way as an older artist you can trump this is to have something only you can provide. You need to have a bankable ability and vision...but now on a level like never before.

There will be no handouts or cushy gigs.

You will have to fight to get them.

So you better have more than one weapon.

Time to go back to square one and learn how to fight again.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The First 24-2.0

As I was reading the reactions to the post "The First 24" on my Deviant Art page, I got to thinking how I left out an essential bit of the story...or at very least the deeper moral of the story. Which is that the gentleman who told me this was a seasoned pro. He had the ability to summon his creative powers on a moments notice. As in the night before a project is due. He also ran an entire cattle ranch that as he told me just about broke even. The Disney work was how he really made his money. The cattle ranch was his passion. 

I didn't realize it than but what he was talking about was being a professional and having balance in your life. Having the confidence in your work and ability to know that when the time comes you can turn your creativity on and off. That's no easy ability to master.

Every artists struggles with generating the energy for commercial work but knowing you have the ability to perform on demand in the clutch is what separates the pros from the unemployed. 

I've been in the art game for more than 20 years now. I often get asked questions by younger artists about where they should go with their career or art in general. The only advice I can give is to work really hard. It's like anything else. Becoming a doctor or being a pro athlete. You have to want it really bad and be willing to suffer through the process. If you don't love the process of art...I feel for you because everyone loves a finished piece. Not everyone loves the work it takes to make one.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The First 24

I was lucky enough to do work for Disney Imagineering  in the 90's. While I was there I spent a week working with an artist who was one of the top concept painters at Disney.  When he wasn't painting he owned and ran a cattle ranch. Ranching was his true love. He did the paintings for Disney on the side or as he put it "for the money".

I was just getting started as an Illustrator and I was struggling making my deadlines. I still do but much less so. I had this experienced artist's ear for a week so I figured this would be my chance to ask him questions hoping to get some insight into what it takes to have such longevity in the art game.

I asked him how did he approach a deadline on a project?

He said this.

"When you first get the assignment do as much as you can in the first 24 hours. Than wait till the night before it's due and finish it."

I was shocked.

I was expecting him to tell me about time management and creating a work flow.



...other than what I had already been doing.

The truth of the matter is as artists we enjoy the rush of ideas that comes with a new project. Your mind starts boiling over with concepts and solutions. After awhile the shiny newness of the gig rubs off and the reality of doing it sinks in. The notes from the art director start flowing in and what started as a straight forward elegant solution is now a jumble of tiny jobs that need patience and execution. So you run away from the work like a Gazelle running from a she lion in the Serengeti.

As the deadline grows near the fear vs. I need money scale begins to tip and you head back to the studio determined to get it done and out.

It's all about motivation.

If it's not the creative juice.

It's the money and or the fear of blowing a deadline..

either way it's time to make some decisions and finish things up.

Dr. Phil talks about a moment of clarity. Forget a moment. An artist can generate 24 hours of clarity when the deadline is looming.

So it goes and you make choices you could have made days or weeks before in a few hours and it turned out well.

The moral of the story...

"When you first get the assignment do as much as you can in the first 24 hours. Than wait till the night before it's due and finish it."

I'm joking.

Create a work flow..timeline...milestones....

or go get a beer and live a normal life.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Meta Me-Deity

I like the idea of taking an existing genre and compartmentalizing it and giving it a new context within the structure of a new story. Meta storytelling. I'm not the first one to do this in comics but for those of you that read my late 90's early 2k series Deity you will see my first efforts at putting this type of story together.

On the surface Deity is a coming of age story set in the not to distant future. A girl named Jamie doesn't know it but she is the daughter of a very powerful inter-dimensional Sorceress/ goddess. As the goddess dies Jamie begins to inherit her powers and takes her mother's place in the grand scheme of mystical energy of the multi-verse. Sounds complicated but the way Robert Napton and I structured the story we kept it very down to earth. Or at least as much as the story of a typical teenager in the future becoming a goddess can be. Within that we tapped into several different story structures and weaved them into a narrative that hinted at things you knew but presented them in a new context.

While the overall structure of the story was moving along we introduced characters that were sent by Jamie's mother to protect her while she learned how to use her powers. There was a female Latin gunslinger named Diamond Diaz with an android arm. A Cyber-Shaolin monk/ wizard named Johnny Lone who downloaded spells from a hard drive and deck he carried with him. There was also a vampire-esque character called Lucius Ego who could turn from a man into a gigantic Dragon. A were-dragon so to speak. All of these characters had a familiar story but with a slightly different twist to them. They had story arcs that we didn't really need to see because once the readers had heard the basic idea they filled in the blanks with story bits they had pulled from existing source material. We were banking on the collective story matter that our audience had collected over the years. The fun of reading Deity was in that you'd seen everything in there before but never in this way. It's as if the story had always existed but you had just never seen read it. Something borrowed turning into something new.

In retrospect I think Deity was a story that had a certain amount of issues built into it. Maybe 12 and than move on. We did nearly 20 different issues and as it went on the in joke of re-contextualizing familiar stories began to fall short and Deity in the end became more of a parody than a statement.

I'm proud of the work I did on Deity. I explored and expanded what I was capable of as an artist and I sold a lot of comics. I also learned the benefit of telling a story and than moving on. I know the medium of comics thrives off the never-ending story but if you look at story creation on a broader sence, the way you end the story is more important than the way you begin it. Especially when you are interacting with an audience the way we were. It can go from an in joke to a cliche' very quickly.

Lesson learned. Never overstay your concept's welcome.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rub The Blood!

Some of you may know that I used to draw a book in the 90's called Bloodstrike. It was about superheroes who get brought back to life by the government to do whatever black ops stuff they need done. Zombie super heroes before that was a hot trend.  The cover of the first issue of Bloodstrike read "Rub the Blood" because there was a cover treatment that made the blood feel like velvet. Till this day I think that was one of the best gimmick covers of the 90's

I enjoyed working on the book.  It was my first monthly comic job and I really grew as an artist during that run. Recently the creator of Bloodstrike Rob Liefeld and I sat down and discussed the idea of bringing the book back. I guess similar to the dead heroes in the book everything can be brought back to life.

Hopefully the project will come together. In the meantime here are some new designs I did for the book. I used my more "concept art" style. Let me know what you think.

"Rub the Blood!"

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Day at the Office

Spent most of today going to meetings with clients.

I am designing two different toy concepts for a leading toy company..can't name names  and can't tell secrets...shhhhh

Landed another gig doing some key art for another toy start up.

Made that deal over the phone in what's left of my Pathfinder aka my mobile office.

How did I go from drawing comics to being a toy product designer?

I guess the 5 years I spent working at a toy company helped that happen. I didn't go to college for it. I learned on the job.

I really enjoy designing toys.

I like the puzzle aspect of it.
There is an audience
a price
and a yes or a no.

It's my job to make all of those work while making something people want to buy. It's not easy but it sure is fun.

Here is a little thing I'm goofing around with. It's called L8ter Haters it's my take on the dark side of the fanboy culture.

When I was in high school I did comic strips for the newspaper and for lack of a better word...they sucked! I didn't have a handle on the gag idea. I was too focused on the drawings not the concept.

Hopefully I've learned a thing or two.

without further ado..

L8ter Haters:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dust Settled

Now that the all the end of the year hoo ha has come and gone I decided to relaunch me blog with a new name.

Irresponsible Pictures.

I like new ideas and fresh comics. I like when comics push you out creatively more than other mediums. I love the DIY spirit of comics. How you can make a book at Kinkos or throw it up on the web and see what happens. I like the energy and the access you get to pure ideas without the filter of producers and corporations. I like when comics are a little shifty and a little shady. It's part of their mystique. From Manga to BD and back to American Indies comics own the fringe.

Comics have always had that edge to them. They shine when they investigate visuals and story ideas that scare the other mediums away.

The feeling I got when I saw Ronin by Frank Miller for the first time.

Or when I was introduced to the work of Mobius.

Seeing Akira in raw black and white.

Experiences that changed my artistic life and till this day influence what I create.

 I want comic creators to bring me into their world and surround me in their imagination. Viewing every detail through their unique style.

Tell me stories I can't get anywhere else.

I am willing to pay for your creative bravery.

No excuses.

Show me what you got!

I won't lie. I'm tired of the old characters. I grew up on them and in my heart of hearts I love them but every story needs an ending.


To make room for new ideas.

Fresh blood.

New readers.

A future for the industry.

I don't want to read about Peter Parker anymore. There I said it.

Peter has had a great run and he's had his 50 years on top.  Move over Pete. You were a great idea that is now just a toy selling slave to a corporate master that plays off my childhood love for you.

It's time for something new.

This year I plan to keep creating comics I enjoy and hopefully entertain those of you that join me on the journey.

Here is to 2010 a year or new ideas and more irresponsible pictures.


Big ups to the book  Manga Sixty Years of Japanese Comics for influencing the new name for the blog.