Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boy Blockhead's Big Book of Outer Space Aliens

It was 1993 when I first started kicking around the idea of making some kind of alien-zoo art project. I wasn't really sure what form the project itself should take. I was keen on making some paintings, or maybe even some shadow box constructions. It was the first time I started really thinking about art that was outside of my book cover, illustrator niche. Maybe it's because a couple of my friends had success with their own book projects, that I thought a book proposal of my own was the best way to help this alien menagerie happen. I have to admit though, I didn't have much of a story to tell. Well, I did think that a collection of paintings under the title "Boy Blockheads's Big Book of Outer Space Aliens" might be a way to approach it. Boy Blockhead was a character I would occasionally doodle, and it seemed logical to enlist his aid in hosting my alien menagerie. I had a couple theories about his role in the whole thing; one had him finding a mysterious book of aliens, the other had him traveling in his spaceship documenting the aliens he encountered. A later, more surreal concept is that the box environment each alien is depicted in, is actually the inside of Boy Blockheads noggin. I still like that one.

I was typically painting more than 20 covers a year during this period, so making the time to do more than the occasional sketch was a big problem. I'm sure this is a pretty typical scenario for any busy freelancer too. It's really difficult to carve out time to indulge personal projects, and I was still finding a lot of satisfaction in the cover work as well. Another problem I had though was trying to imagine how "alien menagerie" and the other work I was doing would coexist. Here's a slice of the work I was doing in 1995, and my aliens were coming from a pretty different direction.

Without a solid plan, I would work on the idea every now and then. These are from a sketchbook I started in 1995. The sketchbook itself, is a really handsome, bound book that completely intimidated me. Of the 100 pages, I filled a dozen. I'm sure that available time took it's toll, but i was really afraid of making a bad drawing in that book!  After a couple of these partially filled in sketchbook debacles, I took to drawing my aliens on loose leaf paper and tossed them into a box for future reference. It certainly helped me keep a more steady stream of sketches coming, and eventually I got over my fear of working in a bound sketchbook too.

An awful lot of time would pass before I finally got around to painting the first one. Even today, I still run into periods where other work keeps me from my alien menagerie for much longer than I like, but I'm glad I never gave up on them either.