A Life of Better Off Dead

Better Off Dead (1985) written and directed by Savage Steve Holland and starring John Cusack, David Ogden Siers, Kim Darby, Diane Franklin and Curtis Armstrong. I have my favorite movies. There are films I've seen over and over. But nothing comes close to B.O.D! In my family it's still a Christmas tradition. 

I won't get into trying to explain why this movie means so much to me. It's not fully explain-able. I guess it just clicked with my sense of humor at a time when I was still wondering what it's like to have new romances and adventures as a goofy suburban kid. 

So imagine my excitement when I saw that this year's Sketchfest includes a Better Off Dead 30 Year anniversary Live Read!

Right Off!....On! 

Language Lessons. This piece is featured in Gallery 1988's book, Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2

Language Lessons. This piece is featured in Gallery 1988's book, Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2

If you have kept up with my artwork, you already know about my obsession with Better Off Dead. Two of the pieces I've done for Gallery 1988, Crazy 4 Cult shows are B.O.D. inspired. Language Lessons was part of my series of Weirdoes in Love which also featured Harold & Maude, Pee Wee Herman & Dottie, and Sailor & Lula from Wild at Heart.

Painting, It's Got Raisins In It involved a lot of tricky, wet-into-wet print transfers in order to get the rain-soaked recipe onto the illustration board. I'm very happy with the results. This one hangs proudly in our kitchen.

This 30th Anniversary Live Read is coming up faster than a paper boy, owed his two dollars. If I can figure out a way to get involved and help with some new merchandise, I will. 

-Ben

It's Got Raisins In It, from Gallery 1988, Crazy 4 Cult, 2008

It's Got Raisins In It, from Gallery 1988, Crazy 4 Cult, 2008

Art School Contemplation

I recently sat down with writer, Chris Jalufka. He asked me about my experiences in Art School and my thoughts on it all. Here are his questions and my previously mentioned thoughts (plus some of my student work).

 

1. When the time came to venture off into college, was art school always your first choice?

Yes. I was never a very good student, at least not with the three Rs. So there was never a time when UC "blah blah" was on the table.

I did not enroll right after high school. Instead, I spent a few years drawing underground comics by day and I made balloon animals by night. It actually worked out pretty well. Eventually I got swept up in the dot.com tech boom. When the economy tanked around 2000 I found myself not only out of work, but laid-off from an industry I never sought out in the first place. "graphics grunt work" I called it. I had gotten so far away from what I loved: painting and drawing stuff that makes people laugh. I was eager to learn how to do it better. So I decided to go to art school.

Enrolling in art school takes a level of humility that I didn't have as a young adult. Seeking instruction means swallowing your pride and admitting you have a lot to learn. I had a puffed up sense of my abilities and got very sensitive when anyone critiqued my artwork. Being professional, even a professional student, means putting all that bull aside, putting 100% of your efforts into your work AND not being so attached to the final product that you can't rip it up and do it all over again.

 

2. Do you think an art education helped get you to where you are today, at least skill-wise?

Clothed Figure Drawing, 2004

It definitely did. But it's funny to think back on what I thought an art education would be. I had these odd ideas that there were a few very specific rules and secrets I needed to hear. Then after four years in school I would walk out as the best artist I could ever be.

The more accurate way to see art school is as a solid start. Art school is FIVE years of total immersion into whatever craft you're taking on. It is constant practice, experimentation, discussion. It's your time to fail over and over. That's how people learn.

Probably the main thing I learned in art school was what hard work really looks like, and how much hard work it takes to even make a dent in an art career. Art education is just the beginning. The boot camp that gets you practicing, teaches you how to start and finish projects on a specific timeline.

A typical assignment in your final year as an Animation or Illustration major might be: Re-imagine the characters from The Wizard of Oz. Then the instructor waits for you to come back with your artwork and he tells you how it could be improved a bit. That's it. That's when I realized an artist doesn't necessarily need an instructor to tell him to create projects. Anyone can pick a tidbit from history or a story that's in the public domain, a Grimm's Fairy Tale maybe, and draw a comic, do some character designs, make a picture book. Anyone who continually takes on their own projects (and finishes them) will do fine eventually, art school or not. Half of my artist-friends are proof of that.

 

3. When you started school, what was your main focus? Did your major change over the years?

The Ghoulds Character Design, a pitch I sent to Nickelodeon 2005

I remember my first day in school. It was an orientation day, I think. They told us "OK Animation majors stand over here. Illustration majors over here." I still had not decided and suddenly felt all this pressure to decide, like where I went to stand would decide my whole future. So dumb. I soon settled on Traditional (2D) Animation, but the program was so similar to Illustration that I teetered back and forth, creating my own program that focused on concept art, background painting, character design, storyboarding for animation.

Like I said, it's your time to fail. Not on grades and assignments, I always kicked ass. But as far as choosing directions. You can take a class and when it's over say "Alright, I was curious about ____ but I hated doing that. I never need to delve into that again."

 

4. The big question: Would you do it again knowing what you know now? What would do differently? The same?

I don't worry about re-writing history. Maybe the better question is would I recommend going to private art college?

The short answer is yes IF you really know that you can't/won't do anything but your art whether you can earn a living from it or not AND you do not go into debt in order to attend said art school. If you have a full-ride scholarship or the most generous, wealthy parents ever or you got into a gnarly car accident and the settlement will cover your tuition, then go for it.

If you are going to take out Federal or private loans to do it? No. So many of my fellow students had never drawn anything before enrolling in college but they loved watching anime or Pixar movies and thought it would be fun to move away from their parents and learn how to make cartoons. "Computer! Begin rendering amazing animated movie...Now!" 

Tiki Treehouse, created for a Layout class, 2005

Private art schools, while offering some great instruction, are mainly in the business of talking young people into taking on enormous loans. Prospective art students love art, not math. We go in seeing these loans as numbers on a form, with only a vague sense that this money needs to be paid off, with interest. But that future date that seems like a million years from that first day of enrollment. "And besides, by then I'll be a super-successful animator or painter and money won't be a problem. Right?!" The truth is, student loan payments hurt for even the most successful graduates and never quite to go away.

There are two main things we get out of art school:

  1. Total immersion. Nonstop practice doing what it is you want to be good at. Constant feedback and encouragement (at least, more than you would get outside of college).

  2. A large network of professional artist-friends. It's great to have friends. It's even better to have artist-friends. Aside from the general comradely in shared interests, it is your employed artist-friends who will help you get in on jobs. 

Art school is a very expensive, packaged set of experiences that someone could technically replicate on their own. But it takes a very special kind of person with an incredible amount of drive, organizational and social skills to make it all happen without the structure of a school. 

See more from Chris Jalufka at his site, EvilTender.com and on Redubble.com

Picture This! San Francisco

Alright I'm ready to admit it. I have been sneaking out of our apartment at night and doing open mic comedy. It's a world I have always been fascinated by and now that I'm in it, I can't get enough. 

For now, I'm just showing up and doing open mics wherever/whenever I can (2-3 times a week). Nothing on the books specifically. However....

I will be drawing Live as part of PICTURE THIS! A new kind of standup show where artists draw live and their doodles are projected behind the comedians.  They're taking the show on the road This special San Francisco edition will be at the ultra-sexy Doc's Lab in North Beach.

Don't miss this! 

Get tickets ($10-$12 cheap!) at DocsLabSF.com
More pictures and info at nakedcomedy.org 

5 Jerks You can Identify by Their Halloween Costume

Grown-ups love Halloween because it's the day we get to dress up like someone or something entirely different from our true selves. Nope. It's actually the other way around. The truth is, people dress more like their true selves on Halloween than any other day.

Did I just explode your mind?

You see, what a guy choses to wear on Halloween can give us insight into what's on his mind, what he wants to be and what he wants from others. (Yes this article focuses on men. I ain't trying to unpack women's minds or fashion)

There are (at least) 5 kinds of jerks that can be identified by their Halloween costume.   

Do you have a second date with someone on Halloween? Or are you going to a party in the hopes of meeting somebody? Nice job! You will have the advantage of seeing what's really inside your date better than if you could administer a polygraph in that TSA security machine that sees people naked.

I now present your 5 jerks:

1. The "I don't really dress up for Halloween" Jerk

The "I don't really dress up for Halloween" Jerk has committed to going out for Halloween but has purposely put off procuring a costume. The night of the party, he rifles through his dirty clothes hamper and quickly puts something together that "works."

Don't believe this guy when he says he "just isn't into celebrating Halloween." If that's true he should have stayed home. The truth is this bore has no confidence or imagination.

Beware of:

  • The "Sports fan" Costume
  • The Half-ass (Afro wig and aviators only)
  • The 0-Budget Half-ass (Something "clever" written in Sharpie on a T-shirt)
  • The Clark Kent (This guy just doesn't want to change out of his suit after work.)

 

2. Too-Cool-for-School Jerk

The Great Escapist

Not to be confused with I don't really dress up for Halloween Jerk, The Too Cool for School Jerk puts effort into his costume. Well, more thought than effort. But the Too-Cool-for-School Jerk is driven entirely by the need to be desirable to the opposite sex. He is super-cool and available every day so he is going to be ultra-cool on Halloween.

The executive version of this guy got the idea for his costume from his favorite men's style blog complete with links to where he can purchase the (un)necessary, expensive, costume items on-line.

This guy is over-compensating for his fragile ego and should be avoided.

Beware of:

  • The Bob Dylan
  • The Paul Newman
  • Motorcycle Racer
  • King of Vampires
  • The Crow

 

3. Hall of Horrors Jerk

This Halloween jerk is tough to nail down. On spotting obscenity, a Supreme Court judge once said, "I know it when I see it." It's the same way with Hall of Horrors Jerk. Lets face it, at it's core Halloween is about being spooky. Horror-themed costumes can be great. But there are dudes out there who are WAY too into scaring people (particularly women). If he's wearing a rubber demon-monster mask with a hooded cloak, beware. If he stays in character all night, aggressively goth dancing or just silently staring at people, No. Fuck that guy. Hall of Horrors Jerk hasn't gotten over being picked on for playing Magic: The Gathering in the High School cafeteria. This guy had his dream job as a scarer at the local haunted house but was fired for "making inappropriate comments and touching patrons in an un-welcomed way."

Avoid:

  • The Fangoria-level monster mask
  • The Plastic Invisible Man mask
  • Anyone carrying a chainsaw
  • Scary Clown
  • ...You'll know it when you see it.

 

4. The Ultra-Clever Costume Jerk

(Yes, it's my idea, you can take it if you must)

You could do worse than Ultra-Clever Costume Jerk. At least, it's very unlikely that he will take you home, drill a hole in your head and pour the hole full of Mountain Dew in an attempt to turn you into his sex slave.

Then again, dressing up as Bitcoin is a billboard advertisement making sure everyone understands this guy has superior intelligence. What are the chances this guy is going to let you get a word in edge-wise in the conversation? Ultra-Clever Costume Jerk will never ask about your hobbies or job because he will be too busy telling you about the genius idea for a start-up he is going to launch as soon as he finds some angel investors. Or maybe that solar system costume, complete with working, orbiting moons is just a ruse to hide his gross body.

Specific costumes are tough to warn you about because these guys are "one of a kind." You will know Ultra-Clever Costume Jerk by his overly elaborate, clunky costume which usually boils down to some kind of word-play or punchline you have to ask for. "I'm One Night Stand!", "I'm a Cereal Killer!" ugh.

Watch out for:

  • Anyone with signage explaining their costume
  • Anyone who's costume requires help getting through doors

 

5. Whatever is in the News Jerk

This guy is a bit like Ultra-Clever Costume Guy in that he thinks he has come up with something that will get a laugh. The problem is he doesn't have the brain-power to pull off anything truly clever and he is definitely not one-of-a-kind. Last year there were 500,001 Robin Thicke costumes. This year there will be none. Because these jerks have moved on to dressing as Ray Rice or Ebola Hazmat workers. Whatever is in the News Jerk should be avoided because he has a short attention span and is not smart.

Keep your distance from:

  • Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Anything Ebola
  • A Bent iPhone 6
  • iClouds
  • i-Anything

Bonus: Made-in-China, Store-Bought Costume Jerk

Do I have to explain why these are lame? Bonus-Bonus lame points for store-bought sexual innuendo costumes. You're a key. Your girlfriend is a lock...awesome.

 

-Written & Illustrated by Ben Walker-Storey

Trail of the Jackalope - Honeymoon Fund

I'm getting married in about a week. After that we are exploring the American West (Colorado and beyond) to track the mighty Jackalope.

If you would like to receive a Jackalope postcard (hand-drawn and personalized) while we are on the trail, just contribute any amount to our HoneyFund account. Be sure to let me know where to send your card! Don't worry, the postcard will be sent in an envelope to keep it from getting jacked up. Thank you in advance!

-Ben & Amanda