Friday, June 30, 2017

V - The Videogame Experience (Issue 1, 1993)

Here is one of my earliest published works: a videogame-themed fanzine that ran from 1993 to 1996. V: The Videogame Experience. Video game zines flourished in the early 1990s, inspired by Arnie Katz (one of the pioneers of video game journalism) in the pages of Video Games & Computer Entertainment. A vibrant underground community emerged and grew, writers and editors creating their answer to the commercial "prozines" of the day.

Our scene had a wild punk spirit, and it was tremendous fun to create our own publications, finding other like-minded peers, receiving official recognition in the prozines themselves. Eventually, the fanzines were accepted to the Consumer Electronic Shows as official press, and this, in turn, led to many professional careers in the video game industry. For example, Chris Kohler, the editor of Wired Magazine's Game|Life, began as a "faned" ("fanzine editor") called "Video Zone." Other writers who found professional work include Chris Johnston (EGM, and now Adult Swim Games), Ara Shirinian, Tyrone Rodriguez...and myself. I wrote game reviews for GamePro and NewType Gaming magazines - my first paid writing jobs.

For me, the style of my zine changed radically during its run. I began writing exclusively about video games, with articles, editorials, reviews and strategy guides. With the fourth issue, I began to incorporate more artistic themes, including hand-crafted artwork for the covers, music reviews, and personal poetry. Sound familiar? Lately, I've been wondering if I'm caught in a 20-year fractal time loop. But I must admit that I've looked back to those later issues for inspiration lately.

I'm really happy to share this first issue with you. I worked so hard to create this zine, and felt it was a personal breakthrough as a "solo" artist. It's funny how your dreams consume you at such a young age, isn't it? I didn't have any formal training or education in editing or publishing. I loved writing and felt I had a talent for it, ever since early childhood. And so I just went out and created something. Reading Arnie Katz' zine articles inspired me greatly; I owe my entire writing and publishing career to him.

Back in 1993 and 1994, I would print out 100 copies of V, and would feel ten feet tall. I was so famous! Today, the internet enables instantaneous global distribution...for free. Thanks to Ghibli Blog, I now reach more visitors in one day than I ever reached with ten years of fanzines. What a miracle! Keep that in mind the next time someone tells you that "blogging is dead." You can become a world famous publisher in one hour or less. Dead, my ass.

After the jump break lies V issue #1, in its entirety. The cover was printed on thicker paper stock, and colored. Everything was created on Microsoft Publisher on desktop PCs at the University of MN-Duluth computer labs after classes. Beth Partin, who's listed in the page-two masthead, was my college girlfriend at the time. I wonder what ever became of her? Where have the last 20 years gone? My head is spinning. Enjoy the fanzine and the glimpse into my 20-year-old self.

Art Gallery: Allison Krause

Allison Krause (2003)
Digital media

Allison Krause is named after one of the four victims of the Kent State shooting incident in 1970. As I was creating this 2003 Digital Artwork series in light of the Iraq War, which was waged recklessly and dishonestly, I sought inspiration in similar historical events. The protests and turmoil of the Vietnam War was one such source for ideas.

I should point out that naming my artwork in those days was the final act of creation, and I often found titles long after the paintings were finished. I wanted to avoid the typical naming cliches of abstract art, usually "untitled" or catalog numbers, instead seeking a title that would compliment or clash with the piece. Perhaps my inspiration for this idea was Kurt Cobain, whose song titles would have little to no direction connection to the music or lyrics. I really liked that idea, and wanted to bring those ideas to the world of modern art.

I really love this one. Definitely a favorite of the 2003 Digital album.

Here's what I wrote about this piece in in late 2003: "This is a really great painting. I managed to create an almost textured effect, like pre-rendered wool, that also shows a good mix of light and color. Maybe I'm repeating myself here, but it's a good piece that works well with the other four. As long as I could create something that didn't look obviously computer-generated, but more natural, I would be happy. You know that plastic Photoshop look I'm talking about."

Art Gallery: The Great American Sellout

The Great American Sellout (2000)
Watercolors and liquid paper on canvas, 16" x 20"

I wrote the following for this Watercanvas painting on my arts website (, so I decided to share it here. I believe I wrote it in 2003 when the site launched. Enjoy:

The Great American Sellout was my second painting after Mario and Luigi Are Jerks to use watercolors on canvas. You'll notice that the colors are much stronger in this sophomore effort. There is a reason for that. For the first painting, I used one of those cheap kiddie watercolor paint sets. You know, a long tube with ovals of dried watercolors; just add water with the brush until the paint dissolves, and you're ready to go. This time, I went back to the tube watercolor paints (remember my Watercolors collection before this one).

The results, obviously, speak for themselves. When I finished this piece, I knew I was really onto something. Here's something that can be visually bold and complex, allow for improvisation, and seriously stretch art into new territory.

Here's a great anecdote about this painting. When I exhibited at Chicago's Skokie Art Fair in summer 2000, I brought this painting (along with Mario and Yoshi). There was one old woman who fell in love with it. Turns out she was a retired art teacher, and she still shared a passion for making art. She was so enamored by what she saw, she promised to go immediately home and learn how to paint like this. That's a great sense of satisfaction.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Art Gallery: A Tribute to Jasper Johns

A Tribute to Jasper Johns (2003)
Digital media

The second (in alphabetical order) piece in my 2003 Digital Painting series. This one was very clearly a tribute to one of my favorite abstract artists. I don't remember how this one came about, or how long it took to discover and refine the image. These pieces were very often a journey of discovery for me, like riding along a long jazz solo. There was always a degree of intention, but also combined with intuition. Very often, the most important editorial decision was to know when to stop.

It was always my intention that these digital paintings would be blown up to a much larger size and printed on canvas. That remains the vision in my mind. If we were to display these in a gallery exhibition on digital screens at their native resolution (512 x 512), that would translate to 5.5 inches square. Unfortunately, every one of these paintings was created at too low a resolution to be successfully printed and expanded. You need at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) for that, and these are roughly half that. If you blow them up, they'll become pixelated and fuzzy.

I'll have to work out a solution to this problem. I have a couple ideas.

Art Gallery: The Cookie Incident

The Cookie Incident (2001)
Watercolors and liquid paper on canvas, 18" x 24"

I wrote the following description for this painting's page on my old arts website, in 2003. Enjoy:

So, now, what is "the cookie incident?" Here's the sordid story. In early 2001, a restaurant called the Loring Pasta Bar was opening in Dinkytown (where I live). The Pasta Bar was an offshoot of the Loring Cafe, one of the more well-known upscale-hipster places in Minneapolis, and the owner was expanding. Anyway, I arrived for the "open auditions" for waitstaff. When I came inside, the owner greeted each person in line with a cookie from a large bowl of homemade cookies. After having my picture taken, I filled out the application, and then took my turn taking a "mock" order; listen to an order, then carry a tray around the restaurant and return, reciting the order back. I didn't do too well; I think I remembered one or two of the items, but for the most part, this was food I had never heard of.

Oh, well. I stood in yet another line, this time to wait for interviews. While I was waiting, I saw the large cookie bowl. Most everybody who wished to apply had already arrived, and the bowl was still half full, so I walked up and grabbed another cookie. Apparently, this wasn't only my idea; as the restaurant owner grabbed the bowl and offered everyone another round. Good news for me!

That's when he noticed the other cookie in my hand.

So what does this owner do? Nothing much. He only starts bawling out loud, "Hey! You've got a cookie!" This grown adult then starts running around, finding any employee who will listen. "This guy has another cookie! He took a cookie!" This went on for at least a minute.

Turns out he was the owner of the place. I didn't get the job. Go figure.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I Have New Books Coming Soon!

Good News, Everyone! I have three new books coming out this year! I'm not sure if anyone is still around to be reading this, but I wanted to share my current plans with you. Each of these books are based on my writings on this site, with heavy revisions, rewrites and expansions, and I'm very excited to share them with you.

Right now, I am planning to move my family from Minneapolis to Chicago, so my money is being saved up for that. Hopefully, I will be able to find a good apartment and a new job, and will then be able to hire cover and layout designers to finish these book projects. Expect this to happen this year.

Now here are my new books:

Zen Arcade: Classic Video Game Reviews - A collection of 140 classic videogame reviews for NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, NEC Turbografx-16 and SNK Neo-Geo. These are based on my review column for the Virtual Console service on Nintendo Wii. These new essays have been almost entirely rewritten, updated and expanded to reflect current trends and my current moods. I'm really excited to see how this book is received. At least two more books in the series are planned, as I wanted to cover every game released on the various Virtual Console platforms.

Pop Life - An anthology of essays on all aspects of popular culture: film and television, music and audio, videogames, current events, and the joys and sorrows of life. These essays began as online articles on various websites, including this one, and now they're all collected together in one double-album volume (120,000+ words). Everything has been revised and expanded, as well. This book is more personal for me, and captures a writing style that I've pursued since my high school days.

Greatest Hits - A "greatest hits" anthology of chapters from four of my books, including Zen Arcade and Pop Life. Also included are two book projects that are still in production, Videogame Classics (reviews of the greatest videogames of all time) and Conversations on Ghibli (essays on the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata). The e-book edition will be "perma-free" on Amazon and similar vendors, and also given as a free gift to everyone who joins my mailing list.

In addition to all of this, I am also building my own indie publishing label, DT Media. A website will follow, which is likely where this blog will migrate. Ghibli Blog, my other website, will continue at its current home, and I'm very busy everyday on Facebook and Twitter.

So, anyway, those are my current happenings. Oh, and I also worked on the DVD and Blu-Ray of Horus, Prince of the Sun, wrote essays for a two Studio Ghibli books in Spain, contributed to a Time Out London article, and wrote essays for a Lupin the 3rd DVD set. Whew.

Art Gallery: A Love Supreme

A Love Supreme (2003)
Digital media

The first (in alphabetical order) of my Digital Artworks 2003 series, which was created entirely in Paint Shop Pro on a standard desktop PC. The title refers to the 1964 John Coltrane album, one of the true masterpieces of jazz music. As you can see, my titles often aimed towards popular culture, usually film or music. All part of my long impulse to marry Andy Warhol pop art with abstract expressionism. Or perhaps I just always wanted to play in a rock band. Either explanation works.

One more point about the 2003 Digital series: many, if not most, of these pieces were created as tiles. This means that multiple copies could be connected to create a large, seamless pattern. I spent an enormous amount of time in those days playing Quake 3 Arena and Unreal Tournament on my PC, and was especially inspired by the thriving fan community, who created their own levels and worlds for everyone to play. These user-generated maps were immensely inspired, far more creative and inventive than anything seen in the official videogames. It was like running through an endless array of virtual art galleries by underground digital artists.

Art Gallery: The Cocoanuts

The Cocoanuts (2000)
Watercolors and liquid paper on canvas, 18" x 24"

Third in the "watercanvas" series (I'm working through my photos in alphabetical order). This piece, like Animal Crackers, is also named after a Marx Brothers movie, and both were created in successive order. This has always been one of my favorites from this series, with multiple layers of paints and water, and a richly colored landscape with a decidedly cosmic flair.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Art Gallery: Untitled

Untitled (2005)
Digital media

The first of ten pieces for my "Digital 2005" series. I created a large collection of digital paintings in 2003 and 2004, and wished to continue the series for a third year. Unfortunately, I either ran out of time or fresh ideas for new pieces, so we only finished with ten.

I wish I could remember how these were made. I had a solid technique for creating these on Paint Shop Pro, but it's mostly forgotten. Maybe one day I'll give another go, but I've always been inspired by new ideas and styles.

Art Gallery: Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers (2000)
Watercolors and liquid paper on canvas 18" x 24"

Part of the "watercanvas" series of watercolor paintings on canvas, and one of my favorites. The title refers to the Marx Brothers movie. I was a big fan of their movies in those days.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Art Gallery: MAY 2107

MAY 2017
Pens and markers on paper

Here's the latest piece in my long-running "Desk Calendar" series. Think of this as a mashup of desk calendars, high school yearbooks, indie comic books, abstract paintings, street graffiti, and Scott McCloud.

Ideally, these will be blown up 2x-4x and printed onto canvas or paper stock. I've always envisioned them being a larger size, but even at the standard size, it's very readable and densely packed. All the monthly pieces in the 2017 series will follow the same visual style, with blue pens and red highlight markers. Each of these are also being completed in the month seen on the calendar, which means JUNE 2017 will be completed by the end of this week.

Art Gallery: All Your Base Are Belong To Us

All Your Base Are Belong to Us
2000, watercolors and liquid paper on canvas

Yes, I've decided to dust off my ancient (and long dormant) blog, Daniel Thomas Vol 4, once again. If nothing else, I wanted to post my artwork on this site, if for no other reason than to show off to potential galleries and patrons.

This painting is part of my "watercanvas" series, created from 2000-2002. It uses watercolors on primed and stretched canvas. The canvas is laid down flat on the ground (with plenty of paper or plastic to protect the floor), and the paints are layered directly onto the canvas. Various amounts of water are required, depending on the effect you want to achieve. The water and paints usually require a few hours to fully dry. "Liquid Paper," or correction fluid (my favorite was the Kinko's brand) is often used as a top layer, drawn out in Jackson Pollack style.

Creation of a watercanvas painting is very quick and fluid, much like Japanese calligraphy art. If you move too slowly or too quickly, mix too many paints, use too much water, you'll end up with mud. What can I say? It's an art.