King of the Blues Woodcut

Woodcut: King of the Blues

A woodcut marathon this weekend!

Working for the first time on MDF board, I completed an artist proof hand pull of an image that I almost did as a small linocut, and I am so glad I took the plunge with larger MDF board!

“King of the Blues” is my tribute to not only B.B. King, but to his (and my) home state of Mississippi. The blues were born in the Mississippi Delta, and many of the greatest blues musicians were as well. By using the shape of the state as the borderlines for the main image, I tried to convey that feeling of coming forth from it.

King of the Blues Woodcut

King of the Blues Woodcut

Now, as this was the first time I used MDF board, let’s discuss its pros and cons…


  • Inexpensive for it’s size (a 24×48 board ran me less than $10)
  • Very easy to carve and cut
  • Absorbs ink well


  • Dulls your blades quickly
  • Absorbs ink TOO well
  • Difficult to seal, as it absorbs so well
  • Seems somewhat brittle at times, especially if you dig to deep

So clearly, it would seem that I think the pros outweigh the cons, but here is the thing, I enjoyed it.

This image will ultimately be a limited print. I pulled a few section tests on butcher paper and then one Artist Proof test on 20×33 inch, 140lbs watercolor paper. The butcher paper was continually coming back lacking full saturation, and I felt that was the fault of the paper and the wood.

However, when I got ready to pull the first Artist Proof, I found that the MDF board was soaking the ink up as an amazing rate. I ended up using more ink that I ever have before and was actually worried that I still did not have enough on it. As you can see from the above image, I may not have. But, this is also the fault of my pressing method, which involves a rolling pin and body weight.

What I found interesting was my first worry proved false; that the wood would resist the ink due to the shellac layer I used to seal the design down. Nope, but again I wonder if this was part of the spray shellac I used or the MDF’s high absorption rate.

Currently I am planning on making a few adjustments, those include thinning my ink slightly and pre-watering the paper. Both of these methods combined should raise the absorption rate of the paper, but may do the same to the wood. Anyone out there with MDF experience feel free to drop me a line and share your experiences or techniques.

That said, I did get a little crazy with the inking, and inked WELL outside of the image area. I have to do some cleaning up outside of the outline. The above print was large, larger than anything I have done, and I ended up getting a little assistance in placement from my wife.

After I clean it up some, I have a novel way of printing the run, and will start that with just a little research.

It may be offered as a limited print, the size of which will be determined by how long the wood cut lasts. I really don’t think its lifespan will stretch much into the double digits, and I’ll be ecstatic if I can get a run of 10 after another Artist Proof.

If you would like to be informed when the run is available for purchase, including prices and other information, feel free to let me know in the comments and I will start updates as soon as they are available.


Printmaking tonight…

A few weeks back I finished up a series of linocut pieces for the classic EC Comics three horror host, The Old Witch, The Vault Keeper, and The Crypt Keeper. Tonight, I prepare to hand pull some prints.

The original art graced the covers of many of the EC horror comics, mainly Vault of Horror, Tales from the Crypt, and the Haunt of Fear. Jacks Davis was the original artist, and I based my #linocuts off of his work. I love the Graham Ingels art that came alter, but The Jack Davis work had a simplicity ot it that appeals to me.

The first one I did was The Old Witch…

The Old Witch

Kinda tough, the color adds a lot in the original, but I was able to transfer it and got close to the original look.

The next one was The Vault Keeper…

The Vault Keeper

This one I was not as happy with, I shaved off a spot on the chin I did not need to, and they eyes are suspect. I need to do a repair on the chin and we will see how this one comes out.

The last one was The Crypt Keeper…

Crypt Keeper

This one I am extremely happy with! My transfer came out great, my hand did not start cramping up, and it was very representative of the original.

The point is that I am about to sit down and do some really-real prints of these tonight. The image area is 7×5 and will be printed on 8×10 paper 100lbs printmaking paper.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.



A Mandalorian reference in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Last night I watched the trailer for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie on my phone, as I was already in bed.

Verdict? Great!

I then watched it again on my television through the YouTube app. Glorious 51 inch High Def. I almost cried. I mean, I really did get a little choked up.

I watched it again today at work, and noticed something, at the 1 minute, 39 second mark, there was a sight that made me gasp!

References to the Mandalorians and Clan Fett, in the Force Awakens trailer?

References to the Mandalorians and Clan Fett, in the Force Awakens trailer?

Here is a shot of the Mythosaur, which is featured on Boba Fett’s armor…

Boba Fett Merc

And here is one of the Clan Fett symbol…

Clan FettThe meaning of these references in the new canon is not known. But, in the Expanded Universe, these symbols where clearly linked with the Mandalorian way of life. The Mythosaur skull first appeared in the original run of Star War camics from Marvel in issue #69, which introduced the Mandalorians as a conquered people, enslaved by the Empire. Fenn ShysaTobbi Dala were introduced as freedom fighters and ex-Mandalorian Protectors (or Super Commandos) who fought during the Clone Wars under the leadership of Boba Fett. This being before ANY Expanded Universe product was put out, beside a few novels, the Marvel Comics, a couple of Audio Dramas, and the various cartoons, this is how people were introduced the idea of the Mandalorians.

Could they be walking into an ancient Mandalorian Temple? An overrun Jedi Temple? A Pirate Base? Who knows. At this point we know nothing for sure. All I have to say is that I may have been excited about The FOrce Awakens before, but the slightest possibility of Mandalorians, as we knew them and they were celebrated by groups such as the 501st and the Mando Mercs, prior to the Expanded Universe being revised, gets me excited!

Maybe I could still make my Mando armor one day!

Peace, God Bless, and as they say on Mandalore, Ib’tuur jatne tuur ash’ad kyr’amur

The Enemy of Creativity…

Artistic types, successful or not, often have issues in getting their works recognized. Some have issues with being recognized as being artistic in the first place.

Often family and friends just see it as a hobby that a person has. “It’s great that Bob has taken up <insert artistic endeavor here>, he even painted/carved/built/sculpted me this little <insert artistic product here>. That was sweet.” or “I remember great aunt Eunice used to make stuff too.” They oh and ah and nod their heads when you try and explain what exactly you are doing or did. They even give encouragement in the form of praise and adulation and point out to their friend that, “Oh, I think my Bob could do better than that…” when they see similar art in the real world.

They encourage up to a point. Quite normally that point is when it diverges from how they see “adult life” and “real world”. When you start to try and explain how it feels to not be able to create because of all the constraints and “responsibilities” which have been place on you, or which you took up yourself in an effort to do the right thing. But once you talk about pursuing it, whatever you own personal dragon is, you get those head shakes and reminders of, “But does it pay the bills?” or “What about your kids? How will you support them?” or worse yet, “Don’t you think it’s time you started growing up?”

Those friends and family mean well, they really do. They lived their lives how they felt they needed to, and they watched those around them live the same. They were happy, but happiness for one can be a far different thing for another.

The Enemyof Creativity

The Enemy of Creativity

Personally, I have issues with self-confidence when it comes to my artistic endeavors, and that stems from self-doubt. Growing up where I did, you rarely got a lot of people pushing you to follow you dreams. It was much more often you were pushed to conform. Deviate from the path, and you were told you were starting to act like a hippie or flake. Get that job, punch that clock, collect that paycheck was the normal mantra. Even when those few people showed encouragement, it was always up to a point.

I think a lot of my issues with this come from a youth were I stopped following my dreams and wants and took up the dreams and wants of someone else. I simply put myself and my needs second. Later, when it became clear that I needed to pursue them, that someone I supported so much belittled them to the point where I still have problems giving myself permission to work on my artistic endeavors.

But I am trying to overcome. With the loving help of a wonderfully understanding wife and kids, I’ll eventually be able to overcome it. But the enemy is always lurking, just below the surface, waiting to throw shade. It might be a stranger, it might be a perceived rival, it might be well meaning family, or it might just be that little voice in your own head. Whoever or whatever it is, you got to fight it. Create and Show

Peace and God Bless.


The Vampire's Ghost, from Republic Pictures, 1945

Forgotten Horror: THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST

1945 was a banner year for classic horror fans: Universal Studios released THE HOUSE OF DRACULA starring Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine and Glenn Strange as the Wolf Man, Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. RKO Pictures release ISLE OF THE DEAD with Boris Karloff as well as THE BODY SNATCHER with Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Horror fans of all ages where squirming in their seats as they prepared to be scared by some of the greatest names in horror. Even the legendary Rondo Hatton had a movie out, JUNGLE CAPTIVE. It was a high time for horror fans, as all of these movies are now considered classics of the genre with actors who have their name whispered in reverence.

It was bound that a gem or two would slip between the cracks.

One of those gems was THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST, released by Republic Pictures in 1945 on a double bill with THE PHANTOM SPEAKS. Although now known primarily for matinee serials and westerns, Republic released a number of “horror” based films and this is one of the great, if forgotten, ones.

THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST is set in the small African village of Bakunda where a rash of murders has caused the native drums to beat continually in warning. Bodies have been found nearly drained of blood with two small puncture wounds to their necks. The workers of the Liberty Rubber Company’s M’Ktuba Plantation have been refusing to work, causing plantation owner Roy Hendrick (Charles Gordon) no small amount of concern. We are introduced to Roy and his fiancée, Julie Vance (Peggy Stewart) shortly after she returns from aid work in a nearby hospital. Quickly rounding out the troupe are Julie’s father, Tom Vance (Emmett Vogan) and Father Gilchrist (Grant Withers.) After some discussion on the fact that the natives believe the murders are the work of a vampire, Roy decides that it may be a good idea to speak with a local bar owner named Webb Fallon (John Abbott.) Despite Fallon’s short time in the area he has learned much of the local underworld, and Roy believes he may have some knowledge of the situation among the natives. With that, we are set off on an adventure which rivals the classic Universal Monster movies: vampirism, curses, voodoo and religion are showcased as the stars try to vanquish the vampire and restore order to the region.


     THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST was directed by Lesley Selander, who was better known for his plethora of westerns than for his few horror and science fiction movies. In fact, out of one hundred and twenty-seven films, one hundred and seven of them were westerns.

Selander’s western roots are easily visible in THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST. Like many westerns of the day, there is gambling at the local watering hole, accusations of cheating, a bar fight, a jealous dancing girl, and even a trek to the neighboring Indian reservation, sorry, native village, which ends up in an ambush. Once you are aware of Selander’s body of work, seeing the re-occurring themes and obligatory plot points which define classic westerns stand out all the more. However, rather than harming the film, those beats make the foreign setting more familiar.

Father Gilchrist comforts the Vampire

Father Gilchrist comforts the Vampire

One of the major positive points that Selander had to work with was a script by John K. Butler and Leigh Brackett.

John K. Butler had gotten his start in the early twenties as a script reader at Universal Studios during Carl Laemmle’s tenure at that famous studio. He eventually became known as a writer for a multitude of westerns and contributed many scripts to the pulp magazines of the day, including Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Detective, Black Mask and Double Detective. His career stretched past the silver screen and into America’s living rooms as a television writer for series such as The Gene Autry Show, Casey Jones, 77 Sunset Strip and many others.

His collaborator on THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST was a novelist and pulp writer by the name of Leigh Brackett. Brackett had started making a name for herself as a writer of fantastic science fiction and solid detective stories when she worked with Butler to adapt her original story, THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST, to the screen. It was far from her last time writing for the screen, as she later was hired to work on William Faulkner’s script for THE BIG SLEEP, which lead to writing scripts for several major John Wayne films, including RIO BRAVO, EL DORADO, and HATARI. During the seventies, Leigh Brackett was approached by a young George Lucas, fresh off the success of STAR WARS, to write the script for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Sadly, she died of cancer shortly after turning in the script and today Brackett’s contribution to Empire has been questioned. Some say that Lucas hated the direction she was going in and hired Lawrence Kasdan to rewrite the whole thing. Others say that the descriptions of The Force and the scenes involving Yoda are classic Brackett, and contributed to the success of the sequel. Either way, she received a writing credit beside Kasdan. Brackett’s original script has never been officially released, and it is said that the only place it can be read is at the Lucasfilm Archives and at Eastern New Mexico University. It is not available for check out or copying.

Adela Mara dances as Lisa in THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST

Adela Mara dances as Lisa in THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST

The actors involved in THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST are a mixed bag. Charles Gordon, who plays the “hero” Roy Hendrick, seems to be overwhelmed much of the time, coming off somewhere between a spoiled frat boy and a spineless coward. His leading lady, Peggy Stewart, is portrayed with more compassion and fire as Julie Vance. In fact it is just over halfway through the movie that Julie finally has a break out moment as she unknowingly stands up for the villain before quickly succumbing to him. Roy, on the other hand, never seems to progress past a plot tool. Even his realization that the vampire does not have as much a hold over him as he thought was done off screen, and that struggle and realization is something that we are sadly deprived of seeing. Equally, Emmett Vogan, with his long and varied career, is completely forgettable as Tom Vance, and seems to only serve the purpose of playing host for dinner parties and as an ineffectual chaperone to his daughter, Julia.

At first viewing Father Gilchrist seems to have been intended to be the essential “Van Helsing” of the film, however, it is a role he does not quiet fill. He is not as knowledgeable as others in the film in regards to vampirism, but states that he does know evil. He is the one character that seems to give our vampire pause and seems to uncover a chink in his immortal armor. Sadly, his only real contribution is giving Roy’s character that vital boost that makes him almost rise to hero status. I say almost, because he seems to be helpless even after he breaks the vampire’s hold and his fiancée is kidnapped. He requires the assistance of Father Gilchrist, Tom Vance, and Simon Peter.

Simon Peter is native on the side of the angels in our movie. Played by African-American actor Martin Wilkins, Simon Peter seems at first to be rather stiff. Sadly, in that day, no one expected the minority actors to be a major part of the movie. THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST, intentionally or not, bucks that trend. Yes, the stilted speech is there as is the muted emotion, but Simon Peter rises beyond the expectations of 1945 audiences. While I stated earlier that Father Gilchrist may have been intended to fulfill the “Van Helsing” role, Simon Peter is the one who actually succeeds in the role. It is Simon Peter who, after the vampire causes a mirror to shatter in the Vance home, to plainly state that evil was the cause. He and his fellow native determine the identity of the vampire with a deduction that escapes the “hero” despite the incident happening right beside him. And it is Simon Peter who, relying on ancient lore, takes the first steps and actually strikes the vampire down. Unfortunately, the witless Roy undoes all of his work and falls under the vampire’s thrall moments later. Later in the film, Simon Peter comes back to hold the hands of the colonials and take the major actions to save the day. Martin Wilkins had parts in over around forty different films and television series from the 1930s to the 1960s. He is probably best known for his roles in several Bomba the Jungle Boy films, but was uncredited in many works, including AFRICA SCREAMS with Abbott and Costello and several Tarzan movies.

With such a sparsely inspiring heroic cast, you may be asking why to take the time to watch this film and why I start off referring to it as a forgotten gem. The answer is simple: Adela Mara and John Abbott.

John Abbot as Webb Fallon

John Abbot as Webb Fallon

Adela Mara was an actress and entertainer who started in show business at the age of fifteen with the Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra as a singer and dancer. She was eventually spotted by talent scouts and signed on to make movies. Her role in THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST is not a big one, but it is memorable. As Lisa, the dancer in the vampire’s bar, she performs what at the time would have been considered a highly erotic dance. The producers wisely use her dancing skills and exotic beauty to enhance the foreign aspect of the movie. You get a strong sense that she has some plans on the vampire owner of the bar, but it quickly becomes clear that she is looking out for herself when she teams with a vengeful ship’s captain, played by Roy Barcroft. Her death at the hands of the vampire is practically a given after such a betrayal.

Now we come to the vampire, Webb Fallon, played by John Abbot. He was not exactly the dashing figure that we think of now when we think vampire and he was more along the lines of Rick from CASABLANCA than Dracula. He possessed the foreign accent and the dapper clothing, but his relationship to the Dracula vein of vampires is remote. He ends a barroom brawl in his establishment by mesmerizing the previously mentioned ship’s captain, but due to unfortunate camera angles, the result is slightly comical. Other than that, Webb Fallon is a more fully developed character than nearly any other vampire up to that point, save Countess Marya Zeleska of DRACULA’S DAUGHTER.

Webb Fallon also has something which was usually lacking in vampire stories at that time, an origin story. Nothing is explicitly stated, but you are given the following framework: Originally a ship’s captain in service to Queen Elizabeth, he fights the Spanish Armada and is rewarded. At some point, presumably in Africa, it is implied he causes the death of a young woman and is “doomed to roam the earth due to a great evil committed in life, forced to live off the blood of the living.” His current mission in his accursed afterlife is to break up the romance and love of Roy and Julia.

John Abbot manages to convey a duality to Webb Fallon that at first is a little odd. On one hand, you have the bar owner who seems world weary and jaded, and on the other, you have the vampire who is determined to survive and indulge in his own base desires. This duality is part of the reason you can almost forgive the majority of the characters from not realizing he is evil. You find yourself feeling for Webb Fallon, even as you realize that he is plotting to kill everyone.

The Vampire is Foiled

The Vampire is Foiled

Overall the film is head and shoulders above other b-movies of the time. It walks a fine line with its mishmash of genres, but the directing of Selander combined with the script by Butler and Brackett, as well as the acting of Abbott, create a memorable movie which you will enjoy right up to the blazing end.


     There is so much attention paid to the Universal Monster movies that it is often easy to forget that other studios were out there making horror movies. If you take a little time, and give a little chance, you would be surprised at what you could find. THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST is such a find, and I would highly recommend it.

That first encouragement…

When I opened this page up I had a completely different post I had planned on writing. Funny how the mind can wander and take you someplace you did not expect but you just possibly needed to go.

I remember my senior year, ’90-’91, as one that was all over the map. There was a lot of drama along with a lot of good times, just like most peoples senior years. But that year I was blessed with three amazing teachers that I still think about to this day, one of them was my English teacher named Ms. Ann Habeeb. She was passionate about literature. She made us look at it and turn it around and realize it was more than just words on a page, that it was an experience to be lived. I was always an ravenous reader who devouring anything I could find, but she made slow down and appreciate it. I learned the language of the words above and beyond the feelings they could invoke.

I had one of those moments which, years later, could only be called a turning point in her class. We had been assigned to write a story, I can’t remember the guidelines, but it was only to be about a page or so. I wrote about a deserted town and a young boy who was the only one with the power to defeat the rolling evil that was coming down the shadows of Main Street. I wrote it, turned it in and about forgot it. The next day, or maybe a few days later, Ms. Habeeb was passing the assignments back out to the class, walking up and down the rows of desks as she did. She matched the story with the writer as she handed them back, sometimes with a comment, sometimes not. When she came to me she stopped and looked down at me.

“I am so mad at you.”


Boat on the Ross Barnett Reservoir

This past Sunday I went out with my camera for the first time in around 9 months. You see, I’ve kinda hit a point with my photography where it feels like I just can’t advance.

Boat on the Ross Barnett Reservoir

Boat on the Ross Barnett Reservoir

Maybe to go forward I am going to have to go backwards.

Boat on the Ross Barnett Reservoir
Ridgeland, Mississippi