Ink Is My Perfume
an art blog by Clayton Hollifield
Ink Is My Perfume

A Personal Calligraphy

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An in-progress panel from an upcoming comic story.

I've been trying to track down this quote that sums up why I produce the artwork that I do, in the manner I do.  According to the internets, this is from the introduction to "Escapo," a long out-of-print graphic novel by Paul Pope.  He wrote:

"Handwriting is the closest thing to cartooning, I think.  The best cartooning is like a very elaborate, highly personal calligraphy.  The best comics are like love letters, emotional, personal notes written to an intimate other.  That's what I want.  For my comics to be like love letters."

Even when I was producing comics consistently, a decade ago, it was completely anachronistic to hand-letter one's comics.  "Escapo" came out in the late '90s, and it's a brilliant piece of work.  Of course, the story resonated with me, but so did Pope's assertion that comics should be personal.  I've interpreted that to mean that the ideal is to create work that no one else can, in a manner that no one else can.  Since comics is a visual medium, doing things in a distinct manner should extend all the way to the lettering, but rarely does.  

It might be quicker to digitally letter my stories, it might be more on-model.  My own lettering work doesn't have the professional polish that a top-tier letterer might be able to provide.  But dammit, when you're looking at one of my pages of artwork, I want it to look like something that only I can provide, all the way down to the smallest details.  I don't want someone else's handwriting (or worse, someone else's font) to be transmitting words into your head.  My words, my pictures, my handwriting, my hands.

When you read an issue of "Usagi Yojimbo," you're getting Stan Sakai's handwriting; when you read "Sin City," you're getting Frank Miller's.  There are even examples of letterers pairing with artists (like Howard Chaykin and Ken Bruzenak, or Walter Simonson and John Workman), where seeing anyone else's lettering on those artists' pages is jarring and distracting.  That's what I'm aiming for.  That's what using a computer and some commonly-used, impersonal font takes away.  Would you dictate a love letter, for someone else to transcribe, and give that to the love of your life?  Would you pour out your heart into a word processing program, would that get across what you were feeling?


Tinmen - a new anthology

Hey, I've got work in another comics anthology!  This one's called "Tinmen," and here's the preview:

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This one is also available through, too.  There's no new work by me here (although there's 24 pages of it), but if you haven't seen it before, it's new to you!  This material was published as "Lost Robots" years ago, they're fun stories, and you might like them.  Also, the book that came out in November that does have new work by me, "Loincloths," is also available through Lulu, so maybe you can order both and save on shipping?  I'm not exactly sure how their shipping situation works, so consider that speculative.

I've committed to doing new stories for at least a couple more of these themed anthologies this year, so keep your eyes peeled for more new sequential work by me!


This Ain't the Summer of Love

"This Ain't the Summer of Love," 12" x 18", intaglio etching, 2014.

Now that the "Love in Print" show at Bite Studio has come down, it's time to put my piece from it up on the interwebs!  There's a couple of things that I'd like to point out about this piece in particular.  First, it's pretty big for an etching, and yes, that's a lot of empty space.  That's 100% on purpose.  Secondly, the title comes from a Blue Oyster Cult song (you'd probably know them from their hit song "Godzilla" from the '70s), because this is based on something that I saw at a BOC show last summer.  It seemed fitting to give this piece a title from one of their songs.  You might expect to see another couple of pieces based on their song titles, because their songs have awesome titles.  

If you like this particular piece, I have it all framed and nice (because it was in a show, you see), and if you've got three hundred bones laying around AND an empty spot on your wall, why not shoot me an email or a tweet or something?


Two Day Warning: Portland show

Hey!  I've got a print in a show that opens up on Friday!

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I've got a brand spanking new print in this show, which is great and jam-packed with talented printmakers every single year.  Ignore that Feb. 7th nonsense, the recent Snowpacalypse knocked the show (and many others) back a week.  I'll be at the opening for a little while, so if you see a giant redhead looking uncomfortable and trying to avoid attention, feel free to say hi and we can chat about how much I hate BFK paper or the Seahawks or something!


Clayholio on Instagram


Yeah, I'm late to the party, and I don't even know why I got dressed up in the first place.  But just in case you like to party this way, I've opened up an Instagram account.  So come find out if I ever figure out why the heck people Instagram!


Death's Head ATC

Been reading a lot of old comics lately, and decided to whip up a quick Art Trading Card of Death's Head, an old Marvel UK character that was popular for a minute in the '90s.

There might be a few more of these kinds of things coming in the next couple of weeks.


December 2013 Movie Roundup

New year, same old synergy.  Movies: I watched a bunch of them.  This is what I wrote about them...

Hitchcock - 2012
Rockshow - 1980
Lenny - 1974

What did you do with your holidays?


Clay's Top Ten Albums of 2013

Here it is, my lightly anticipated top ten list of my favorite albums from 2013.  The usual disclaimer: these are the albums that I enjoyed the most this year, without consideration to artistic merit (sorry, Kanye!) or trying to look cool ten years from now.  This is just what I liked and listened to, released in the year 2013.

Bonus track:  Aceyalone - "Leanin' On Slick"

Aceyalone has a newish album, called "Leanin' On Slick," and it's pretty good.  Check it out if you like this video.

Okay, let's get sexy.  Time for the list!!!

10. Major Lazer - "Free the Universe"

I listened to the first Major Lazer album, and it didn't really click for me.  The second one is a different matter.  Honestly, there were about five albums that I was considering for this spot, but only one of them has a guest verse by Peaches, and a separate song called "Bubble Butt."  Those were deciding factors.  All in all, it's a good album, danceable, and it will rattle your trunk.  Plus, Peaches.  We all win with this one.

9. Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite - "Get Up!"

I'm a long-time Ben Harper fan, I've been on board since album #1 (that's no joke, when I was DJing in college, I brought my own copy of his first album to play on-air because the station didn't have it in their collection.  And I've consistently enjoyed his work over the years, as well.  Obviously, there are songs and albums that I listen to more than others, and "Get Up!" was one that I've listened to more than anything Harper's put out in years.

This album is a collaboration with blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite (whom I didn't know of by name prior to this album), and what we have here is a modern blues album.  It would be easy to poke into Harper's personal life to see why it seemed like a good time in his career to veer so heavily in this direction, but the more important thing is that "Get Up!" is a good album.  Is it a great album?  It kind of is, when you're in the right mood for this sort of thing.  Ben Harper might not have played straight-up blues much over the years, but knows about vibe, and this album vibes just right.

8.  Queens of the Stone Age - "...Like Clockwork"

A universe without Josh Homme is no universe I want to be a part of.  So after surviving some rock start stuff and some non-rock star stuff, it's just good to have him back in the saddle, spouting lines like "I blow my load at the status quo."

And  "...Like Clockwork is a good album.  Not QOTSA's best, but good.  Even at their worst, it's still musical comfort food.  When they're on their game, it's magical.  There's a little of both here.  Plus, Elton John as a guest star.  This is a good album.  I like it.  You know what QOTSA sounds like.  I don't think I need to over-explain this one.

7.  The Night Marchers - "Allez!  Allez!"

As once was written on one of the Rocket From the Crypt CDs, crank it or spank it.  Also, Garth Brooks is a dick.  But that's neither here nor there.

Maybe you're familiar with some of John Reis' work, maybe with Rocket From the Crypt, or Hot Snakes.  Maybe you're an OG, and have an album by Drive Like Jehu or Pitchfork.  Then you'd be familiar with his punky garage band stylings  And you'd also know that when Reis delivers an album, no matter the band he's with, he brings it hard and loud.  "Allez!  Allez!" is the sophomore album for The Night Marchers, and it's best summed up by two songs.  The second song on the album, called "Loud Dumb and Mean," explains that's how most of the things he likes can be summed up.  Fair enough!

The other song, the one that immediately caught my hear, was "All Hits."  It's a blast of genuine punk swagger (I kind of hated writing that, but there it is), the kind of pep talk you might give yourself on a day when you needed to manufacture confidence.  When Reis says he stands twenty feet tall and forty feet deep when he stands on his knees, who cares if it makes sense?  The only thing that matters is not getting bogged down with what people are saying, because everything you do is all hits.  ALL.  HITS.  As long as you know that, everyone else will figure it out in due time.

And past that, this is a fun, loud album that's great for cranking in your car with your windows down.  I mean, probably in May or later, because it's way too cold for that sort of behavior now, but definitely do it when the temperature raises above 60 for the season.  And this album has the kind of energy that not much on the radio has; "Allez!" is a great cure for the modern soft rock hits that plague eardrums and airwaves everywhere.

6.  Eminem - "The Marshall Mathers LP 2"

At different points in an artist's career, there are different expectations.  Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP" was a wall-to-wall classic, but he was an artist with something to prove at that point.  In 2013, Eminem is an established brand, a guaranteed money-maker.  He's had hits, bit albums, the slump and the comeback.  He's done the mega-tour with Jay-Z.  So after all of that, when someone like Eminem releases an album, he's got a resume to stack up against.  The easiest way to put it is, how many songs on this album are going on my Eminem playlist?

My answer is something like six.  I'll be honest, I've listened to the album a couple of times, and there's songs you need to hear once, and then the ear candy that I want to listen to a bunch.  The material about his mom and dad are artistically important, and if you've been following his career, it represents important growth.  But to be clear, I don't want to cry with Marshall and relive his coming full-circle with his mother.  I get it, and it's an important part of the album as a whole.  But I'm probably listening to this batch of work as an intact album five times tops in my entire life.  Otherwise, it's whatever pops up on random, or if I listen to my Eminem playlist.  Just being honest here.  Sorry, Em.

I love the stuff that has big samples.  That means "Rhyme or Reason," that reworks the Zombies' "Time of the Season."  That means the big first single, "Berzerk."  "So Far...," which reworks a Joe Walsh song, and "Love Game," too.  Those are songs with giant hooks (borrowed, but paid for, so still good), and Eminem does what he does best, which is be one of the greatest technical rappers ever.  There's also that Rhianna sequel, which tamps down the Slim Shady and seems sure to be a huge hit.

But the thing that I like best about this album is that Eminem is still Eminem.  He's 40 years old, so who gives a shit if the kids like him?  They still will, but why bother trying to keep his references up to date?  Why pander?  Eminem should just be himself, even if that means twenty year-old critics bemoan his timeliness.  Grow your own rap heroes, for fuck's sake.  I love the fact that the chorus to "Berzerk" takes a dig at Kevin Federline repeatedly.  The fact that Federline is irrelevant make the reference that much funnier.  And Eminem is a funny guy.  There are so many great turns of phrase throughout the album (on top of his verbal dexterity), it's the gift that keeps on giving.

So, by my expectations for a musician as far along in his career as Eminem, this album is a complete success.  Six great songs?  And that doesn't even count "Rap God," with his problematic continued reliance on the other f-bomb, yet technically accurate title.  Well done, sir!

5.  Elvis Costello and the Roots - "Wise Up Ghost"

Elvis Costello is someone I know I should like more than I do.  It’s not that I dislike him; I’ll listen to “Radio, Radio” or his version of “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding” any time.  But beyond his greatest hits, he’s not someone whose catalog I’ve really dug into.  On the surface, he’s someone who I like the idea of (being smart, knowledgeable, always game for an oddball collab), more than I actually do.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but there it is.  I’m pretty familiar with The Roots; I usually buy (and listen) to their albums, I read Questlove’s book.  I don’t listen to them all the time, but I do listen to them.  So when I heard they were doing an album together, an eyebrow raised.  Costello has a history of interesting collaboration albums, and the Roots are the greatest band in late-night television.

The resulting album, “Wise Up Ghost,” is pretty good.  That’s not right.  I keep wanting to say it’s pretty good, and then I keep putting it on, and really enjoying it.  I don’t know why I keep underrating Elvis Costello, and this album, but it’s something approaching a nervous tic, and I should probably seek some help regarding this problem.  The first step, of course, is to listen to “Wise Up Ghost” again, and hopefully repeated applications will resolve the issue at hand.  I mean, this is a really, really good album.  The beefier, more soulful low-end really works with Costello’s delivery.  It seems weird to bill this as “The Roots,” considering their lead vocalist isn’t on this album, but I guess it’s no weirder than Neil Young borrowing a Vedder-less Pearl Jam for an album in the ‘90s, and I’d strongly prefer not to see anyone shoehorning rap verses into this album.  What’s here is just right, and I wouldn’t mind seeing another album down the line from this lineup.

Looking over my list, fully half of it is made of albums that make sense most as an album.  By that, I mean there’s a consistent mood and tone that plays out over the course of the entire work, versus something that’s got a bunch of huge singles, or is a collection of disjointed, yet excellent work.  That doesn’t even include a couple of albums that were near-misses for me (like the Atoms For Peace album, for instance).  Most of these albums are low-key (but not in that over-earnest, be-vested way, like the Mumfords or whomever), but there remains a tension to these albums that isn’t necessarily entirely resolved by the end of the work.  This album is a very good example of that.

I’m not saying that “Push the Sky Away” doesn’t have it’s highlights, they frequently come from lyrical turns of phrase, but they’re definitely there.  But there’s not a monster single to catch your ear.  You could call it an antidote to random playlists, or whatever Pandora’s coughing up.  Beyond that, it can be easy to dismiss late-career work by musicians, but it would be a mistake in Nick Cave’s case.  He’s been on a tear lately, including the Grinderman albums, and this is just as good, even though it’s not nearly as noisy or wild as those albums.  Every time I’m done listening to “Push the Sky Away,” I’m a little wound up, a little disquieted, filled with a little nervous energy.  Who knows what comes after that, but that’s the mark of a good piece of art.

I’ve never purchased, nor intentionally listened to one note of anything Justin Timberlake has sung (well, “Dick in a Box” has to get a free pass, right?), prior to this album.  And I was totally prepared to live the rest of my life contentedly ignoring Timberlake the musician.  And then, like a loose thread on a sweater, one detail changed my life.  Upon half-listening to “Suit and Tie,” one sonic detail popped out.  Was that a sonar blip used as percussion?

You clever motherfucker.

And that was it.  I was hooked on this album.  It’s lush, it’s stretched out, it’s three steps past pop music; listening to this album is submitting to luxury.  It’s audio Calgon for my ears.  I have no idea how Justin Timberlake arrived at this point in his career, I’m just glad that he did.  Oh, how I wanted to hate this album, but that sonar blip changed everything.

“AM” is an album, like Nick Cave’s, that has a consistent mood and tone to it.  It also has a couple of songs that are giant radio-worthy hits, so it’s like the best possible version of an album this year (except it’s #2, for me).  Also, this is an album that sounds like sex.  Sex that’s about to happen, sex that just happened, sex that’s being pleasantly reflected upon.  It sounds so much like sex that it actually smells like sex.  That’s pretty much rock and roll in a nutshell.

When I first started thinking about my top ten list this year, I didn’t really think there was a crystal-clear winner.  The more I thought about it, there was a pretty easy top five, and among that, the top two album rested a bit above the others.  Of all of them, this is probably the only album that ought to come with a warning sticker, letting you know not to play this album in public unless you’re okay with getting laid, and not by some raver dude or chick.  This is a filthy rocker album, all denim barely constraining throbbing appendages and pleasing curves.  It’s a forty-two minute leer.  “AM” isn’t vulgar, exactly, unless you count that guitar line from “Do I Wanna Know?”, which somehow hits that part of your brain that knows.  I feel like if someone made “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” today, Damone would tell you to play this on your iPod, instead of side two of Zeppelin’s “IV.”

So, you know, take caution when playing this album.  “AM” is how babies get made.


This year, I had a harder time picking a run-away winner for my favorite album of the year.  I actually had to sit down and think it through, go over the list, and take it from there.  There just wasn’t anything that I latched onto in the same way that I have in previous years (plus, there was a lot of bleedover from last year’s albums for me - I still had Aesop Rock’s album from last year in heavy rotation until summer).  The calendar felt like an arbitrary division, in terms of what I’ve been listening to this year.  But there must be a winner!

Maybe I’m out of touch, but I have no idea where this album is supposed to fit in.  I don’t think there was any radio play to speak of, I don’t know who pushed this on TV, all I know is that it came out on the heels of a pair of fantastic albums produced by El-P last year - Killer Mike’s “R.A.P. Music” and El-P’s own “Cancer 4 Cure.”  So maybe Killer Mike’s and El-P’s careers live on the internet, where you can grab this album for free (and it’s not a disjointed mixtape, it’s a cohesive full-on album).  On the internet, where you’re probably see a lot of love for this album on year-end lists much more credible than mine.  

How is this the album of the year?  Here’s the deal; “Run the Jewels” is both an experiment, and exactly what these two men have been doing for years.  The beats are fucking perfection, but don’t sound like anything else you’re listening to right now.  This thing will rattle your speakers, but there’s space and atmosphere in them, and there’s even a couple of moments that hit where the music will disjoint your existence if you play this at sufficient volume, and you’ll momentarily be unmoored from the Earth (those come on “36” Chain” and “Get It,” to cite my references).  Lyrically, both men are doing pretty much exactly what they will do, but the combination of them brings something new out of both.  Neither are slacking, they’re both in peak form, and I can’t even tell you who busts better lines here; there’s a long list to choose from.

So the result is something that’s a bit of a juggernaut, and not by design.  Kanye needed his album to be talked about and worked backwards from that, Jay-Z settled for getting paid with his album, Eminem pulled new tricks out of an old approach, but Killer Mike and El-P made something, gave it away for free, and the universe responded.  I didn’t go to a ton of concerts this year, but I made sure to buy a ticket to see Killer Mike and El-P; it seemed like the least I could do in return.  El-P made a point of pointing out that their tour was made entirely possible by fans spreading the word and buying tickets; there was no label tour support, there was no one advertising on their behalf.  No publicity stunts, just a couple of vets doing their thing better than they ever have, and they packed out that club in Portland, which isn’t even a big rap city.  They packed out clubs all over the place.  People downloaded the album and spread the word.  That’s something special, and I’m happy to try and spread the word a little further.

Thanks for indulging me.  Catch you next year, around this time, for another batch of whatever I've been listening to.


"LoinCloths" anthology

So here's the deal.  I totally didn't "win" at NaNoWriMo this year.  The piece of artwork that I posted yesterday (and this deal here) are the reasons why.  So why not scope out "LoinCloths?"

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My story in the book is the first sequential story (fancy talk for comics) I've drawn in six years.  It's a new character called Barqito, a six-page story that I wrote and drew all by my lonesome, with my bare hands and naught but analog tools.  Yeah, that means I even lettered it by hand (which is why my hand felt like an oven mitt for two weeks I finished drawing it).  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, generally speaking.  Is there going to be more Barqito?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm not very quick at this stuff, so we'll all find out at a point in time that is much later than any of us would like.  All I know is that I drew this, it's done, and loincloths are pretty funny.  So is Barqito.

Maybe a glimpse at one of the panels would help?

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So maybe head over to Lulu and order one, if you're in the mood.  



Finally, a new piece of work.

"Woo!!!" 18" x 24", mixed media monotype, 2013.


Lately, the kinds of prints I've been interested in making (in terms of technique) are ones that involve using color.  The natural path to follow is that of monotypes, which is sort of a printmaking bastard technique to appease painters (by incorporating more means of applying both different colors and different types of mark-making) and printmakers (by literally transferring the ink from one surface to another, even if you can't really make multiple originals, like is the general idea behind most printmaking techniques).  So, by combining monotypes with drawing techniques on the actual print, it's a way to make a colorful print without the cost, tedium, and technical torture of making and aligning multiple plates.  

As for the image itself, it's a mash-up of the old Coppertone ad (do people even know about that image anymore?) and of Ric Flair (and one of his signature bits - another wrestler would pull down the back of his trunks, and Flair would continue on with the match, seemingly unaware that he was mooning the entire crowd for an extended period of time).  I thought it would be funny, anyhow.  I submitted it for a juried gallery show, and the folks in charge didn't agree.  Oh well.  That's life in the fast lane.

Hope everyone's having a good holiday season.  It's cold as hell out here.


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