Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.


What’s Left Behind (Blog Archive)

Since Apple has effectively killed Dot Mac my old ArtBlog is no more. However, there were many posts on the old blog that I think some of you may still enjoy. So I thought I would re-post a few of the old posts here in the new blog, appropriately labeling them Blog Archives in the title.

Originally posted:
Sunday, March 4, 2007

When I was studying at Pratt Institute back in the early 1980’s I had an anatomy class taught by a wonderful teacher by the name of Sal Montano. I also had Sal for drawing. These courses were six hours long and he really worked our asses off. You would crawl out of that class, totally wiped out, having truly done some serious work. Sal reminded me, visually, of the character Degas that Dustin Hoffman played in the movie Papillon. He was a great guy and very open-minded when it came to looking at various artist’s with whom he was not familiar. I wish I knew more about Sal and couldn’t find much about him on the web, but there was a mention of him by Ephraim Rubenstein who also studied under Sal in a much more intensive way than I ever had the pleasure of. Here’s his response:

Hi George,
    Good to hear from you. Yes, Sal was a fantastic teacher, and I learned a tremendous amount from him. He was, indeed, a very gentle, unassuming man, but a powerhouse of knowledge. What was so beautiful was that his anatomy was functional- he wanted you to know much more than origins and insertions, but actually what the muscles did. That was the key, I think. We did a lot of joint workshops with a physiologist named Al Somomine (sp?) from Rutgers in ‘the anatomy of movement’- that was great as well. We tried to analyze walking or even twisting- it was marvelous.
    Sal was also very concerned that you were able to express what you knew in your drawings. It was all very well and good, he thought, to know your anatomy, but did it translate into better, more informed, more beautiful drawings? He always talked about ‘graphic language’- he would analyze something like a Schiele drawing and show how all of his distortions were so informed.
    Sal used to keep his skeleton in the truck of his car, and I remember walking with him late at night through the streets around Pratt and being stopped, skeleton slung over Sal’s shoulder, by the cops. What a riot.

Sal was also the guy who, if I remember correctly, did the dissections for Columbia University. One of the great opportunities for me was to go with Sal to Columbia and work with the cadavers. It was a singular experience for me, as the study of anatomy in this way was something I’d read about and knew that the great artists had done, on pain of death had they been found out.

My one trip to the Columbia University lab (1982) made such an impression on me then, and has continued to exert an influence on me since. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. One cannot work among the cadavers and not be changed in some fundamental way.

There was quite a bit of trepidation among a lot of people to go to this. We were told to bring a sack lunch with us for later, and many were fearful that they might not be able to take what they were going to see and would toss their cookies or whatnot. We were all pretty nervous.

On arriving at the theater where this was to take place, Sal gave a lecture. He spoke about the fragility and power of life. The wonders of the human figure, the body, and that we should all remember that the individuals that we were going to study from that day were human beings: Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters and that now, more than ever, they deserved our respect. They had donated their bodies so that others could study the inner workings of the human machine. What a powerful enervating speech that was. He made you feel as though you really were part of the larger world and history of art.

What we were noticing more than anything was the smell of formaldehyde which permeated everything. We were all trepidatious about seeing a real dead body, something that you only read about in the newspapers, heard on the television news or saw in movies. But it was exciting, too. How many people really do get to see this beyond doctors? It was a rare opportunity, to be sure.

After the speech a gurney was rolled into the theater by a couple of lab technicians. They were dressed in white lab coats, as was Sal. On the gurney was a body covered by a white sheet. The sheet was pulled back and there was our first cadaver. It was the body of a large black man who had been dissected down to reveal his musculature. What we had seen in rare medical texts was there before our eyes. Revealed were the complex systems that we’d been trying to understand as seen rippling under flesh.

The lab technicians hoisted the body and basically put it into a pose. A model stepped into the theater, disrobed and assumed the same pose. Here was a side-by-side comparison of the muscles! Incredible! It was fascinating to see.

At this point we are just watching, taking it all in. Seeing those muscles move without skin. Unbelievable. After a while of this we were invited to come up and actually touch the muscles, to wedge a finger beneath a tendon and tug it gently to see a finger on the hand move. A miraculous machine. Hard to believe it works at all, so intricate.

Now we were enjoined to spend our time drawing, inspecting, exploring. At some point a buddy and I left the theater and wandered into another room. It was dark inside and in the feeble light we could see rows of gurneys with sheet-draped figures. It was quiet and antiseptic inside, still.

We flipped on the lights and moved from table to table pulling back the sheets. Under each was a different tale. Under one was only a torso, split up the center, the ribs splayed out. Under another was an old woman whose cranium was open, the skull cap lying like a bowl behind the head holding the scalp. The face had been cut down the middle along the forehead, down the nose and on through the lips and chin. One half of the flesh had been pulled aside to reveal the muscles beneath. Pretty jarring stuff, to be sure. But, just as with a live model, there is a certain detachment that presents itself, this is business. I had to remind myself, sometimes, that these were once live human beings.

We pulled out our pads of paper, our brushes, pencils and watercolors and began working. We went from gurney to gurney, each presenting a new visual problem to solve, a scene to capture. We were the only two in there and it was actually strangely peaceful. Every once in a while the reality of what we were doing would steal into us and chills would run up and down our spines, but it was just too fascinating.

At one point Sal came into the room and admonished us for having left the theater. We weren’t supposed to be in this room at all. But he came over and looked at what we were doing and saw that we were being incredibly respectful. He nodded, then left us alone to continue our work. That was pretty damn cool!

I don’t remember much else about that day, really. I know that I could not eat my sack lunch, which consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a coke and maybe some potato chips. I also couldn’t touch roast beef for a week. But I do remember feeling as if I had seem something so spectacular, so singular that I would never really be the same. I had been let into the back room of reality that few get to see. Privileged to witness what we’re really made of.

I’ll try and dig up my original drawings from that trip from so long ago and scan them for inclusion in this entry.

And that leads us to my visit to USF’s Department of Anatomy. Joe Thiel is one of the instructors at Ringling’s Illustration department and he has been talking about their program with USF and asking if I’d like to go. Of course I would. I hoped, too, that the number of students that were interested would be fairly large as well.

We decided that I’d drive Joe and myself to the campus, the students getting there on their own steam. The weather was getting a bit colder (for Florida) and the sky was threatening rain. After arriving we waited a bit outside on Paul Glass, whom Joe has worked with on this over the years. The students began showing up and we stood in the cold for just a short bit.

Paul Glass finally showed up and handed us all release forms to sign. These stated that we understood the rules of the laboratory and all that.

The Ringling Program has been ongoing for 14 years under the auspices of the USF Department of Anatomy.

The program was originally pushed by Alan Cober, one of the great illustrators of our time. The idea was welcomed and encouraged by ? , a Swedish Doctor of ? who sat on the Nobel Prize Jury Committee, who thought it an excellent idea. One that expanded the knowledge of the human form to those outside of the medical field.

Paul Glass is a photographer, specializing in microscopic and Electron photography. He’s also the manager of the laboratory. He led us into the main entrance of the lab where there were large sinks and piles of hanging and discarded lab coats. He gave a lecture very similar in content to Sal Montano’s all those years ago, to respect these individuals and the importance of the donations of their bodies for others to learn more about the human anatomy.

He informed us that we were arriving late in the term and that the dissections had progressed further than usual. He said, too, that since these were students working on these dissections some of the things we would see were not necessarily well done, some things torn rather than expertly cut with the scalpel, etc., etc. The bodies were also in an advanced state of dissection. This would progress until there was nothing left to dissect, basically. All parts of an individual, he told us, were kept together in large containers. When the dissection was complete, the remains were taken to a crematorium and cremated. The ashes, if not claimed by a family, were taken to the Gulf of Mexico and scattered in the ocean. They go to great lengths to make sure they were well taken care of he said.

He then opened the door and let us in. We began at 9 AM and would continue until 3:30 or 4 PM. Inside was a large room with many high gurneys. On each was a cadaver. Some were lying on their backs, others turned partially over on their sides, others on their stomachs. Some had no heads, others no legs. There were several with heads cut down the middle and pulled apart, revealing a cross-section of the face, skull, brain, etc. Alarming at first. But then the clinical detachment kicks in and the desire to know more comes to the fore. An awesome sight.

On the walls of the laboratory were various framed pieces of artwork from previous years of the program. It was great to see that the medical school valued the work in that way, that it was a constant reminder on the walls of the lab. Very nice.

The first body I saw is the one that I found myself wanting to stay with. There was a grace to this figure that was so interesting to me. I was not able to do as many drawings as I’d have wished, but do think I captures some essence of that grace fulness. The body lay on its back with the head turned to the left. The left arm was thrown aside, the hand in a gesture very peaceful, as in repose. A flap of skin was pulled up and  back from the skull, and a smaller flap pulled down just below the right eye. Again, that odd sense of calm grace kept me with this figure. I did several drawings of this figure then moved on to a couple of other bodies.

There were also several large tub-like things there called “tanks”, one of which Paul opened for the students. Inside there were several heads and a torso. I didn’t wander over there until later, but the students gravitated to this spot and stayed there practically the whole time.

One of the more salient moments I had was when I was sort of roving a bit from the body I began with, just scouting the rest of the bodies in the room. There’s an odd thing that happens here in that the figures all sort of become genderless, and, in a way, ageless, though the age is more along the aged side rather than youthful. I was passing by one figure and noticed fingernail polish on the nails of the visible hand. That little bit of reality, of vanity and mortality hit hard. It brings it back home to you that these are people who have lived their lives, laughed, cried, everything. Very powerful.

Hand Drawn Monocyte Plates Completed

Completed my five original watercolors to be sewn into the Monocyte special edition today. Did them with  water soluble Graphite and watercolor. I’ve never used the water soluble Graphite before but enjoyed playing around with it on these. It reminds me in no small way of working with liquid tusche in lithography. That same sort of gritty way it breaks up in places. But I like the velvety flatness of black. Very nice.

Anyway, hope you like them!

The Black.Light Project

Where to begin? I’m on the return trip now from Erlangen, Germany where I spent over a week working with an incredibly sensitive and powerful group of artists. I’ve admired the work of two of these artists from afar, and the other artists I’ve only just now been introduced to, yet already have a fine appreciation for. We have been brought together to lend our talents to give voice to those in West Africa who cannot speak for themselves. The project is entitled Black.Light and deals with the Charles Taylor wars and their aftermath. The project blends photography by Wolf Böwig, text by Pedro Rosa Mendes, and art by the various artists.

Above: The original book by Pedro and Wolf.

Here is a link to the project for more information:

The Beginning
I was contacted a year or so ago to participate in this project and immediately agreed due most certainly to the story itself which is so moving, and to be involved with such extraordinary talents: Wolf Böwig, Pedro Rosa Mendes, Danijel Žeželj, Benjamin Flaó, David Von Bassewitz, Thierry VanHasselt, Nic Klein, Stefano Ricci and Lorenzo Mattotti.

Wolf Böwig is an extremely gifted photojournalist whose “beat” includes many of the distant places of trouble most of us only read about in articles: Sierra Leone, Monrovia, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq. In his pictures one is confronted with violence and its aftermath. His pictures are emotionally charged, sympathetic and ultimately empathetic with his subjects. I spoke with Wolf over the phone and he impressed me as a soft spoken yet strong individual. He talked about the project and what the team was trying to accomplish. I was/am flabbergasted that such an accomplished photojournalist as Wolf even knew my work, much less would want to have it associated with his project. Wolf assured me that we would have everything we needed in the way of research, including his own photographic files to dig through.

Wolf, unfortunately, was unable to attend the workshop due to health issues. We were all very saddened that he couldn’t make it, but hoped he would get better soon. Occasionally we get encouraging emails from Wolf about the project and the progress of the workshop. A quote from one of those letters is powerful:

“So there will be no more deaths in the darkness.”

A couple of months before this trip I received in the mail a large box containing a dummy book for this project. It was beautiful! A large black clamshell case protecting the oversized horizontal format coffee-table book Black.Light.

What has ultimately happened is the Black.Light Workshop here in Erlangen, where we could all come together to discuss and work on our various chapters and the book as a whole. It’s been extremely rewarding.

Sketchbook drawing I did on the plane going to Erlangen.

(I found little time to write while at the Workshop, so the account below comes from after, while traveling home)
On the plane back to home:
So I’m headed home now after participating in the Black.Light Workshop, literally a makeshift studio space in the conference room of our hotel. The floor was covered with painters tarps and walls have been added to allow for pinning artwork up. We hhad everything in the way of art supplies at our disposal (and a trip to the art store in Nürnberg to complete our arsenal). There were tables scattered about and we could set up where we liked and make the space our own.

The first artist I met was Benjamin Flaó.

Benjamin Flaó

I was not familiar with his work before meeting him, but it’s wonderful. He came over and introduced himself to me and we spoke at length about drawing and traveling. I’m jealous of his books which are basically published journals of his travels. They are packed with beautiful observational drawings and watercolors.

He has a keen, sensitive eye for the telling detail, and his drawings are lively and inventive. We hit it off immediately, our love for art and travel winning the day. Benjamin speaks eloquently about the things he sees and feels and he is generous with his praise and time.

As he was going to have to leave the workshop early, Benjamin arrived a few days before anyone else so that he could begin his prodigious output. The man is a machine!


The amount of work he produced was inspiring. Ideas flew from his brushes, pens, watercolors and crayons. He worked in a sort of feverish frenzy, paint flying, oil crayons scribbling about. Pictures were fleshed out then obliterated to make something stronger than before. It was a joy to watch him work (as it was a joy to watch everyone work!).

Next I met Nic Klein whose work sort of covers the gamut of comics styles. He can do more above ground work like DC and Marvel, and then rove into more independent and edgy territory. Nic speaks fluent English and sounds like a native. He’s a big guy with a full beard and reminds me of a German soldier from an Eduard Thöny drawing of the First World War.

Nic Klein

Nic (along with his beautiful wife Katrin) became my sort of copilot during the trip. We had a great time together. Nic, like me, was sort of floundering about at first struggling to figure out how best to approach the art for this book. I think we both have found our way thanks to the workshop and the opportunities it afforded us to see and work with all the other talent.

Benjamin spoke with Nic a few times and seemed to give him excellent direction but Nic was still struggling, it seemed to me. I threw in my two cents and handed him one of my putty knives to draw with, something that’s totally not about control. He took it and did a very nice portrait of one of the police force leaders or rebels.

It had a nice chunky solid quality to it. It pushed him to explore more simplification and then to work with various textures in the same piece. I don’t know if it really solved any of his problems but he did some nice work with it and maybe it opened up the possibility that we didn’t have to rely on what we know — something I found my own way with during the workshop. 

The beauty of the workshop was that if you were struggling with anything at all you could wander just a few steps and see what someone else was working on and be instantly inspired to try something new.

I know that when I first arrived at the workshop I had little idea what was actually expected of me there. My thoughts were that I would spend a pile of time doing thumbnail layouts of the chapter, breaking the story down visually, which is my usual method before doing any final art. I would then shoot reference and then begin painting the final work. Instead, I felt I was better served by just developing imagery that might be used in the final work, but more importantly could act as a springboard for what would come later. I figured that just by working through imagery I might stumble onto something that I could hang the whole chapter on, either stylistically, or sequentially. I found that I got a little of both, really. I’ll talk more about that later.

Next, I met Thierry Van Hasselt whose work I knew from the dummy book I had been sent.

His dark suggestive paintings feel like rich underpaintings or monotypes and illuminate an eerily silent world that in some ways, emotionally, reminds me of Bosch’s strange scenes. It is work entirely appropriate for this dark story. Thierry is a tall quiet guy and was always painting away on his compositions. He had a ready smile, but was a man of few words.

Thierry Van Hasselt and Henning Ahlers

Next was Danijel Žeželj from Croatia. I’ve admired Danijel’s work for a number of years now. 

Danijel and his wife Jessica

His stark, powerfully graphic black and white world is visually immediate and imminently readable. He’s a solid storyteller and whenever I read his work I leave satisfied not only because of the visual storytelling, but because I feel artistically nourished as well.

Danijel working on one of his large panels.

I was looking forward to meeting Danijel and was glad to find that he is a super nice guy and very humble about his work. He had already completed his chapter for the book which is about Morie, the Prince of the Dead. An incredible tale of one child’s terrible experience during the war. 

The rebels had come to the town of Bendu Malen, killing it’s 1,100 inhabitants — save one small boy, Morie. They forced Morie to find his mutilated family amidst the slaughter to confirm that they were all dead, then they proclaimed him the Prince of Bendu Malen. 

What Danijel was doing here, since he had already completed his chapter was a mystery to me. But he had three large wooden panels which he painted white with housepaint and rollers. One of these he screwed into the wall, then set up his camera in a fixed spot, surrounded by a taped boundary to keep people from accidentally bumping the camera. After getting his white balance and lighting correct, he began pouring out black and white house paint into painter’s trays. Using two rollers, one for black and one for white, he began work on the first panel.

Danijel working on one of his large panels.

It was interesting to watch as he slowly worked the panel. Graphic black began to crisscross and undulate over the panel. After a few strokes he would take a couple of frames of the piece with the camera. This continued over the next several days, alternating with black and white paint to flesh out the images. A powerful image would appear, only to be obliterated to allow yet another stark image to be revealed, all the while the camera recording, frame by frame, its slow progress.

Father John Garrick watches Danijel work his magic.

Sometimes he would use sheets of paper to help create hard edges and angles, at other times he would employ a brush and work traditionally. At the end of the workshop he had worked over the three panels, each having something like four or five beautiful pieces beneath the last image.

He then downloaded his photos and put those into Final Cut Pro and began the process of editing the work for timing and transitions. In addition to the artwork he brought in various sound clips from his wife Jessica’s saxophone playing, and various other instruments. In the end he had produced a subtly unsettling animated portrayal of his idea of Morie’s waking up in a room in our hotel in Erlangen, and what it might be like for him. A very powerful presentation titled “Parallel Morning”.

Danijel working on his MacBook Pro editing in Final Cut Pro.

When I left America to go to the workshop I had no idea that Stefano Ricci had agreed to participate.

I’ve been an admirer of Stefano’s work for many years after first seeing it in Brussels. I love his exploratory nature with materials. There’s definitely an intimate dialogue with material going on in everything he does. Inspiring work.

He turned out to be a great guy, quiet and fully focused on his work, but genuinely warm and friendly. Another bonus! I enjoyed watching him work on his chapter and the mess he created all about him while he worked. Made me feel okay with my own chaotic mess about me as well.

Throughout the workshop we were unbelievably fortunate to have there with us Father John Emmanuel Garrick, the Catholic priest who witnessed many of the atrocities in Sierra Leone.

Father John Garrick

Indeed, it was his parish where much of the terror occurred. To have him narrate his memories to us personally was a rare privilege.

Usually my research is through dusty old tomes and crazy internet searches. I’m reaching through the misty residue of, say, the First World War, digging through old firsthand accounts from long dead individuals and faded photographs. But this is something that happened fairly recently, and Father Garrick lived through it! So he would talk to us about what he saw, what he experienced, and we, too, could ask him personal questions about how he handled seeing such horrible things. How does one live with the first hand knowledge of those horrors?

My portrait of Father John Garrick for the book.

He was very articulate and was able to distill his thoughts into very substantial and meaningful impressions that would give us vivid mental images of what went on there in those dark turbulent times. One could see the sadness in his eyes, though his mouth smiled.

He told us of how the rebels would enter a village and cut the hands, arms and legs off of the villagers. “They would ask them, ‘do you want long sleeves or short sleeves!'” he said, motioning to his own arms, making cutting gestures at his biceps or at his wrists. “They gave them a choice which was no choice at all.

He spoke about the rebels slowly killing a man in front of his family, then cooking him and eating him with a bowl of rice. “They used the most powerful evil to make sure the people complied. ‘This could happen to you!’ They were saying.”

I tried to capture John effectively with my cameras, but he proved elusive. He was always smiling, and incredibly generous with his time and his thoughts. But occasionally I would see him just… leave. He withdrew into himself and one could see that he had gone to another place. A darker place, for sure. And my heart ached for what he must have lurking in those dark corners. These moments did not last long, but they were there all the same. And who would be able to hold back those thoughts continuously from the forefront of one’s mind?

John had a reunion with his brother whom he had not seen in thirty years. His brother had gone to study in London and had stayed there all through the horrors. John was excited to see him.

John and his brother Roland

He also had a birthday while we were all together so an impromptu birthday party was had by all. Neat.

John blowing out his birthday candles.

Another interesting thing was John wanting to go to Nuremberg to see where the Nazi’s had their war trials. So John, his brother Roland, Christoph and I travelled there and took in the various sights and sites. We visited where the Nazi’s held their rallies. Interesting and scary.

Where the Nazi’s held their rallys. Shot just above where Hitler would stand to deliver his speeches.

Next we visited the courtroom where the Nazi’s were trried after the war. This was especially moving for John as he wanted to see it to reassure himself that justice could be served.

Courtroom 600.

John listening to the recorded tour while sitting in courtroom 600.

Back at the Workshop: After working a good day we would all retire to a nice restaurant for food and spirits. The talk was lively, the food very good, the beer even better.

Sketchbooks were brought forth and everyone, including Father Garrick, got in on the action of filling them up. We played a game really, though I can’t remember who put it into play, (Nic, Benjamin or Stefano?) but the first drawing was supposed to be the intro to a story and every image after that was to carry the tale further. It was a lot of fun and the threads went to some pretty interesting places.

Yay! I’m finally in a shot! Me and Father John having a beer.

Henning Ahlers

Henning Ahlers, Yours Truly and Nic Klein

Danijel and Father Garrick

Time was relaxed and we just let the night unwind through laughter, beer and liquor. Very pleasant. And we talked about the project as well, about the work we were doing and what we wanted out of it all and if we felt we were making headway. Nic got me to try various local dishes and that was fun. His fiancé, Katrin, was fun to be around too and she seemed to blend right in with all the artists. This was her first introduction to a festival, I think. She was shy about being photographed, so of course it became a game to capture her with my camera.

Occasionally several of us would venture to yet another bar and more drinking and sketching, or we’d make our way back to the workshop studio rooms and do a bit more work. It was all relaxed, really. There was a schedule, but it was flexible and fluid. We’d meet in the mornings at the surprisingly varied breakfast of Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, meatballs, baked tomatoes with melted mozzarella, croissants and other pastry items, fresh fruit, cold cuts, crepes, etc. Coffee, tea, orange juice. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning! And outside our studio the hotel kept a continuous service of hot coffee, tea, sandwiches, pastries, juices, etc. Pretty wild. We did not break for lunch, just kept working, only wandering outside the room to grab a sandwich or another coffee, carrying it back in to continue work. Nic and I would venture out into Erlangen on occasion to snag a bottle of Coke, then back to the studio.

About a day or so into the process David Von Bassewitz arrived and was yet another welcome artistic addition. I didn’t know David’s work, but, as with everyone I met there, loved what I saw and enjoyed the opportunity to talk with him about his processes, etc. David rode with Henning and I to Nürnberg to get art supplies and it was great to get to know him better during the trip.

David was working on his roughs which I thought were his finishes, so beautiful were they. He had large sheets of paper on the floor and was working in pencil and pen with some crayon.

Later, though, these images were refined and executed on even larger sheets of paper that were tacked to the walls. His story was like one linear visual narrative piece, rather than normal, panel by panel sequential work. There were no panels but just a long connected drawing that told more than one thought. Very cool stuff. His work is much more abstract than my own, but when you get closer to it you can see the strength of his drawings coming through. Very gestural work too, which reminded me in many ways of the work of Feliks Topolski in his “Topolski’s Chronicle” broadsheets from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I’ll try to include some images of Topolski’s work here. Beautiful stuff. I have no doubt that David would love Topolski’s works.

I had a great time talking with David about drawing and the need to cut loose from the moorings of the classical schools of drawing. I mentioned my own struggles with making things “correct” and the need to get away from all that, feeling it was an empty victory for me. He agreed and said he had many of the same struggles. But working with his son had helped him out. Quite often they pin up large sheets of paper and just draw and paint. He said it was watching his son work that allowed him to open up and be more free with his line work. 

He mentioned having had a lesson with Baru, a comic artist with whom I’m familiar and whose work I enjoy. Baru quickly drew a figure running. It was not a classical figure at all, but something more crude and to the point. “This is a figure running! It says what it needs to say. To refine it adds nothing to it, ultimately.” So it was about giving one’s self permission to be simple.

So much of what we were all striving for seemed to be simplicity, without a loss of power or emotional content. This falls perfectly in line with what one of my favorite teachers has pushed constantly in his teachings. Barron Storey took from his teacher Robert Weaver the notion of “high resolution content with low resolution execution. Content trumps technique.”

Benjamin Flaó leaving the Workshop.

Benjamin Flaó left early and the rest of us continued through the week. Seeing so many directions was inspiring and, too, sort of unnerving. It definitely made me think about my own approach to the chapter that I was to illuminate. I initially was doing drawings as I have always done them, brush and ink, or pen and ink, very straight forward. But the more I began to take stock of the raw material of the story, and the rest of the work being done around me I wanted to break away from doing what I knew, what I was comfortable with and try to stretch a bit.

Small acrylic paint sketch of the previous pen and ink.

I got some putty knives and using large sheets of paper from a carton that Henning Ahlers had brought with him I began to experiment. I had to do a lot more thinking about the marks I was making, but the thinking was with my gut and could not rely on muscle memory at all. I could not go on auto pilot or go quickly. And I was excited! It got my blood going! I love not knowing what’s going to happen, and this was pushing that even further. It was a joy, really.

I had begun a couple of paintings, and again I felt I was doing what I know. I’m happy with the pieces, but the beginnings had so much more abstract mark making in them that I wished I had the foresight to just stop sometimes.

I love the beginning of this painting. I should have stopped right here.

Where I left the painting.

Detail of the previous painting.

Another small acrylic study.

And that, too, led to these putty knife drawings. They were a beginning for me. I revelled in their crudity, so like cave paintings. There was an immediacy to them that I loved. So I focused on those for the rest of the workshop.



Henning Ahlers (Project Coordinator) and Christoph Ermisch (Layout, Design, Website), wandered throughout the workshop from artist to artist and had sitdowns with them to discuss the directions of their respective chapters. Also, they conducted interviews with each of us throughout the workshop.

Christoph Ermisch, the designer of the project.

When the Erlangen Comics Festival began, we cleaned up the studio, laid all the art on the tables (though some, like David’s and Danijel’s remained on the walls), covered them with large sheets of glass and the room became an art exhibition. During this time as well we had television and newspaper reporters coming through doing interviews with us all about the project, it’s scope and our own directions and feelings about it. 

Father John Garrick being interviewed for television. My drawings and paintings in the foreground.

At the festival we gave a press talk with a large screen which presented Wolf’s photography. There were television news teams there and newspaper reporters, along with festival guests and attendees. Father Garrick was a bit nervous in the beginning, but delivered an impassioned description of the events which impelled Wolf and Pedro to begin a project of this scope.

It was sad to leave everyone after having such a focused amount of time working together. New friends found in a foreign country struggling to make sense of another country’s genocide. Each of us carrying back home with us our own memories and thoughts of our time together along with the horrors we were trying to visually record.

I’m excited to see this book completed, and am proud to be a part of it.

Below is a link to my own work for the book, which I’m just finishing. This is all the work done since returning. I’m sure they’ll include the work done at the workshop as well in the final volume.

Please feel free to leave comments there. I’d love to hear what you think about the work.


The Team


was born in Hannover, Germany in 1964. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the TFH and the FU both at Berlin. In 1988, he became a war photographer. His reports are published in (alphabetical order) du, Expresso, Facts, Guardian, Internationale, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatic, Lettre International, Liberation, LFI, NY Times, NZZ, mare, Publica, Stern, taz, The Independent, and Visao. He reported from conflicts in (alphabetical order) Afghanistan, Balkans, Bangladesh, Burma, Cuba, DRC, Ethiopia, France, Guinea Bissao, India, Ivory Coast, Kenia, Liberia, Namibia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tadjikistan, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Zambia.


was born in Cernache do Bonjadrin, Portugal in 1968. After his jurisprudence studies, he worked as a journalist, mainly for the daily Público, the Portuguese partner in the Worldmedia syndicate of newspapers, and a reference newspaper in Lisbon. He reported from conflicts in (in alphabetic order) Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Balkans, Bangladesh, Burma, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissao, Indonesia, Liberia, Mocambique, Rwanda, Sâo Tomé e Principe, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

project coordinator

was born in Hannover, Germany in 1970. He studied graphic design with an emphasis on editorial illustration and graphic storytelling. He has worked as a storyboard artist and conceptual illustrator for television commercials, short films, and music videos. During the last decade he designed and art directed numerous animated feature films and served as a consultant on several live-action film projects.

coordination, USA & Africa

was born in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1967, and is the author of  the recently published, Kalashnikov in the Sun (Pika Press), an anthology of Sierra Leonean poetry. 

She also co-authored the anthology, Walking Bridges Using Poetry as a Compass (Urban Adventure Press). Her writing has appeared in international literary journals and anthologies. An independent photo-graphy curator and book editor for 20 years, she has coordinated more than 375 exhibitions, and 75 books and catalogues.

coordinator Europe

was born in Hannover, Germany in 1980. He studied history and political science at Leibniz University of Hannover, with ann emphasis on current peace and conflict studies of Western and Central Africa and Southeast Europe. In 2004 he began working for different local daily newspapers, and since 2006 for Neue Presse.

layout, design, website

was born in Varel, Germany in 1965. He studied Industrial Design at Fachhochschule Hannover and Brunel University of London. He is a member of the design group METAmoderne. Since 1998 he has worked as a communication designer at ermisch I Büro für Gestaltung based in Hannover. He is working – from conception to realisation – on all facets of the Blacklight Project, the exhibitions, corporate identity, multimedia, and internet presence.


was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1966. Žeželj studied classical painting, sculpting and printmaking at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. His comics and illustrations have been published by DC Comics/Vertigo, Marvel Comics, The New York Times Book Review, Harper’s Magazine, San Francisco Guardian, Editori del Grifo, Edizioni Charta and others. In 2001 in Zagreb, he founded the publishing house and graphic workshop Pettikat. Four years later he became the first comic book artist ever to have a solo exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. His work has been published and exhibited in Croatia, Slovenia, UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and the USA.


born in Brussels, Belgium in 1969. Van Hasselt teaches the subject Comics at the Ecole Superieure des Arts St-Luc in Brussels, where he also studied. His main focus is graphic-specific literature. Together with Vincent Fortemps he founded the Belgian comic book publisher Freon, which merged in 2002 with the French publishing house Amok to Fremok. For his first album, Gloria Lopez in Angouleme, he was awarded the Prix Etranger Alph’Art. In 2009 he was one of the co-authors of the book Game of Catch at Vielsam which Fremok published in cooperation with handicapped artists of the ECC Hessen. Van Hasselt cooperates for his work extensively with the choreographer Karinne Pontier or the writer Mylene Lauzon.


was born in 1978 in Desseldorf, Germany and works as a freelance illustrator for the comics and entertainment industries. His work has been widely published in the United States, and Klein’s clients include names such as Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Wizards of the Coast, Radical Comics, Panini Comics, Bantam Dell Publishing Group, Microsoft Games, Ehapa Comics, and ImagineFX. His Viking mini-series, published by Image Comics in 2009 became an immediaate independent hit and is now available as  an oversized hardcover edition. Currently Nic is working on Doc Savage for DC Comics.


was born in 1975 in Giessen, Germany. He studied Cinematography at Erlangen University and Illustration at the UUniversity of Applied Sciences in Wuerzburg, Germany. His drawings are published in Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, stern, Le Nouvel Observateur, The New Scientist, BBC History Magazine, Sciences etAvenir, Jung von Matt, Grabarz&Partner, SidLee Montreal, Birkhaeuser Verlag, HoerBild Verlag, Lerzer’s Archive: The world’s 200 best illustrators, Die Automate-Hoerbild Verlag, Licht für Städte-Birkhaeuser Verlag, ADC Sushi-Magazin, Freistil, 3 x 3 Magazine, and Taschen: Illustration Now. He was awarded the ADC Auszeichnungen, Golden Award of Montreux, Silver Lion of Cannes, and Le Grand Prix de la Bande Dessinée Européenne.


was born in Beaumont, Texas, USA in 1960.  He studied at Pratt Institute in New York, and since has worked as an illustrator for various art and comic books, including Batman, Sandman, Magaines and exhibitions. His first graphic novel, Enemy Ace: War Idyl,  which he wrote and illustrated for DC Comics, was nominated for both the Eisner and Harvey Award for Best Graphic Novel, as well as Best Foreign Graphic Novel in Angouleme, France, where it won the prestigious France Info Award for Best Foreign Graphic Novel. In England it wond the SpeakEasy Award for Best Foreign Graphic Novel. It was published in 9 foreign languages, saw four editions in the United States, and was on the Required Reading List at Westpoint Military Academy. His mini-series Wolverine: Netsuke, which he wrote and illustrated for Marvel Comics was awarded the Eisner  Award for Best Painter at Comic-Con International in 2003. His work is in many private collections and has been exhibited internationally. Most recently his work was exhibited at the Hanami After Dark exhibition in Washington, DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival. 

With Steven Budlong and James McGillion, George created “See You In Hell, Blind Boy”, a documentary film about hhis travels through the Mississippi Delta researching his blues novel of the same name. The film won Best Feature Documentary at the New York International Independent Film Festival, and was accepted and shown at the Santa Barbara, Nashville and Hot Springs Film Festivals. The film subsequently aired for over a year on the Bravo Channel on television.
He is listed in the Walt Reed’s definitive coffee table book “The Illustrator in America 1860-2000”. he was also awarded a Gold Medal in the Spectrum Awards of 2002 and has had his work exhibited many times at the Society of Illustrators in New York.


was born in Nantes, France in 1975. When he was 14 years old, Flaó left state school to  enroll at the École d’arts Graphiques de Saint-Luc in Tournei, near the Belgian capital of Brussels. Two years later he joined the École de Graphisme Publici-taire in his home town of Nantes. In 1994 he went to Lyon in order to specialize in comics, cartoons and illustrations at the famous École Emile Cohl. Under the psuedonym Hekel & Jekel Flaó led jointly by YanNick Chambon varied illustrational works such as murals, caricatures and graffitis. In 2003 Flaó won whith his travel diary about the Mam-muthus Expedition of Siberia the Travel-Book-Price of the Biennial Lonely Planet in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. Since 1998, Flaó undertook several motorcycle travels through Africa, especially Burkina Faso and Eritrea, which he regularly documented through drawing.


was born in 1966 in Bologna. Since 1985 Stefano Ricci has collaborated on several magazines such as Frigidaire, Avvenimenti, Esquire, Panorama and Nova Express. In 1989 he published Dottori and in 1994 Ostaggi. In 1995 Doon Giovanni and Il Magnifico Libro del Signor Tutto appeared. One of his short stories, Tufo, was translated into German and French magazines and selected for the Prix International de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels. In 2000, for the magazine Glamour, “Anita” was created. Stefano Ricci is the editor of magazine “Mano”, together with Giovanna Anceschi. He lives and works in Hamburg.

Yet more ProCreate!

I know I’m like a broken record, but I’m really having fun with this damn app! Anyway, decided to make some brushes in the app today and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. Now I have some brushes that approximate more of what I love about painting. If you click the link below you can scope out more of the iPad work.

iPad Painting Album

When you’re at the album if you click any of the images you’ll see larger views of them.

The piece below was done the other day from life at Starbucks. She was totally caught up in texting with someone and I was able to knock this thing out.

Hope you like the stuff!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

ProCreate is killing me!

Can’t get over this fun iPad app. It totally gets out of the way and let’s me just draw and paint.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

iPad sketch

Here’s a sketch I did of Steve Taft at our faculty meeting today. Still enjoying playing with ProCreate.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

More iPad pieces in progress

Here are a couple more iPad pieces in progress using ProCreate. This software is really sweet. Very intuitive and a lot of fun to use. Everything is real time, with no lag. You can have 16 layers if you need them and it exports PSD files. Pretty cool.

Anyway, these are in progress, but I’m having fun with the brushes.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad