Monday, February 28, 2011


I don't frequent theaters like I should. Throughout the entire 12 months of 2010, I experienced three movies on the big screen. They were "Avatar", "Crazy Heart" and "Best Worst Movie". So far, this year I have seen one (Rare Exports). I can make assumptions why this is. Most films I don't care to see and definitely don't think they are worth the price of a theater ticket. But there are many films that I find to be an amazing experience. I guess the excuse for me missing these have more to do with my own quirky personality traits. I prefer to not go out. I don't like being among large numbers of strangers. I forget things. It usually hits me at once to see a pile of films that I missed in the theater. That time is now.

"I'm Still Around" was among the many great, good and mediocre pictures that I brought home from the video store (Yes. I still rent movies from a local independent video store and have not succumbed to the world of Netflix. Nor will I ever). I'm not surprised at the mixed reviews and reactions it has received. But I think it's brilliant.

A film by Casey Affleck, I'm Still Around is a mockumentary that takes jabs at our many societal inadequacies. If you haven't heard of it, you must recall the controversy involved with it. At the end of 2008, Joaquin Phoenix made a stunning announcement to the press. After a huge award winning career as an actor, the bearded Joaquin mentioned that he was retiring from film to pursue a career as a hip hop artist.

We then watched him self destruct for two years in media appearances from The Late Show, TMZ and every news station in between. He became overweight and unkempt in his appearance. He grew out his hair and beard, which became a tangled mess, and dressed in sloppy rags. The few glimpses we saw of his hip hop career were a train wreck reflecting an incoherent and amateur lout.

Then, in 2010, after the release of the film I'm Still Here, Joaquin made another appearance on The Late Show, to disclose that his behaviorism was due to a role he was portraying in the film. It was all a hoax. Why do people hate the film so much? Because the film shows a dark side of our society that we are all a part of. And when people leave a movie, they don't like feeling like shit.

That being said, I don't think it is a great film. But the genius behind it lies in the originality of it's approach and not it's perfection as a whole. Far beyond Sacha Baron Cohen, Jackass or Tom Green, Joaquin played a role for the entire world that lasted two years and endured much scrutiny to prove a point. What was the point? It says many things. I'm not a film critic and have no intentions on telling you what the film was about, why it was successful or why it failed. But I came out of it with two thoughts that really stuck with me.

First, is American's delusion of reality. This is not anything new, but our bases of comparison has become so convoluted. We live in an entertainment world where the majority of television is either reality shows or shows imitating reality. We've been completely duped by filmmakers and networks to accept these shows as absolute. But they are as scripted and thought out as The Cosby Show. The ghost hunters take smoke breaks during peaking supernatural activity. Survivors out in the wild are well taken care of by craft services. Talent competitions are navigated by scouts and agencies. The president finds himself in office regardless of the popular vote. Oh wait...that last one actually is reality. It is only because this garbage is shoved down our throats around the clock, that a filmmaker could actually achieve such a grand hoax and get away with it. We don't know what's real and what's fake. That is why America sat and watched with apathetic expressions as the twin towers collapsed. It all looks the same.

Comedians Sacha Baron Cohen, Tom Green and Johnny Knoxville will develop a character unknown to the world to capture unprepared audiences in a candid camera trick. But between takes, they can take off the mask and go back to their lives. Joaquin didn't create a character. He put himself and his reputation on the line for two years. Some of us suspected tomfoolery afoot and questioned whether it was a hoax. Most of us bought it completely. But all of us where taken for the ride.

Secondly, and similarly to the first, was that we as a society applaud mediocrity. This shocks the hell out of me. We see this in the film when Joaquin has his hip hop performances. The audience is packed with Sycophants nodding their heads to the beat, snapping pictures with their phones and braying like sheep. We will applaud poor music, incoherent films and bad acting if they are created by a star. Average becomes the accepted.

Now that mediocrity becomes a subject of praise, it opens the arena for more clutter. We've brought talented stars down with interactive networks like twitter and in their place, we have risen the youtube discoveries. Little boys who smear make-up on their face and cry over celebrity drama are getting record deals. Commercials are being handed to individuals who perform parlor tricks (that in the past would only receive an applaud by friends and family during the holidays). Parents are noticing these crass opportunities and have risen up to exploit their own children on the web.

Where will it all lead?
"I'm Still Here" was produced by "They Are Going to Kill Us Productions". This brings to mind a blog I posted a couple years ago during the hype of Michael Jackson's death called KILL THE POP STAR. The theme here isn't so much that "they" (the media, the sycophants, the public) are killing the celebrities, but that we as a society must kill or abolish what we have created the celebrity to be. Let them be an inspiration and a source to aspire to be. Just let them be.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Less than a week ago, Guillermo Del Toro announced to Deadline that we are taking Pinocchio out to the studios. If you haven't been exposed to this announcement, you can read it here:


Since then, this news has begun to unwind like a jiving mummy on the dance floor. Film sites including horror, geek and general Hollywood enthusiast websites have done spin-offs from the original article. Here's a little background on where this all started:

I came up with the idea to make Pinocchio into a stop motion film about seven or eight years ago. A group of friends and I started to put together a little pitch to present the idea to studios. At the time I had no interest in directing and one of my choices was to ask Guillermo Del Toro if he would be interested.

As fate would have it, I received a call from a gallery that was selling artwork from my Pinocchio book. They relayed to me that Guillermo Del Toro was just in the gallery and purchased a piece of Pinocchio art. I said "You have to be kidding me! Can you set up a lunch meeting with him?" They did. And in a couple days I was eating giant shrimp the size of rats (heads and all) across from GDT while presenting him my film.

This was before the first Hellboy movie came out (so a long time ago). I told him I wanted to make Pinocchio into a crude stop motion film much like my eastern European influences. Jan Svankmajer is one of my favorite filmmakers. If you are familiar with his work or that of the Quay Brothers, you can somewhat see how I envision Pinocchio. I told him about the color palette, tone and texture the film would have. Then I asked him if he would direct it. But due to my enthusiasm and vision for the film, he could see that i didn't need a director...I needed a producer.

He said he would produce it. Shortly after that, I was called into the Jim Henson company to meet with a producer there, only to find out that they were interested in turning my Pinocchio book into a film as well. I said, "That's funny. I just met with Guillermo Del Toro about the same thing and he's interested in producing it.

Things moved slowly for years, but moved nonetheless. I was working with another animation Director, Adam Parish King and a few writers at the time. But it was about two years ago that things really moved along. Guillermo wasn't happy with the treatments that he read. He didn't feel that they captured the true nature of the book. And after meeting with him, I agreed. He brought on a writer, Matthew Robbins, whom he has worked with before. This ended up being the push that got us back on track.

In the spring of 2010, three things happened. First, I went to New Zealand to work with GDT and Matthew on the treatment. This was a rough week, but after a few days of pounding out ideas, we created a springboard for the script. Secondly, I was teamed up with an experienced animation director, who would direct along side me. This was Mark Gustafson who worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox. The two of us got along great (for a couple of cynical old bats) and shared a cohesive vision. Third (and most importantly) we received a development deal from French Studio, Pathe.

This development money was used to build a team of artists and place them on the Jim Henson Company lot. Together, we developed the look of the film during three months of the summer.

Now, onto the studios...

Monday, February 21, 2011


I was asked to design a poster for burlesque performer/producer Victoria Vengeance, to sell as a limited edition silkscreen print. The only instruction was that it should be themed around a recent photo shoot Victoria had with the Munster Koach. If those two words don't immediately ring familiarity, you either don't know the name or have not been exposed to television for the past 50 years.

The Munster Koach was the family car that was used in the old 60s television sitcom, The Munsters. you know what I'm talking about. The infamous hot rod (cut from a Model T frame) was designed and built by famed Hollywood customizer George Barris.

I'm known for illustrating many things (mostly monsters) but hot rods are not one of them. I'm a car enthusiast. I love old classic cars, hot rods, dragsters, rat rods, choppers and bobbers. I would be a happy man if I opened the garage and saw a 60s Lincoln Continental with suicide doors, a Cadillac Hearse and a custom bobber inviting me for a joyride. It just hasn't been a theme in my artwork.

When it comes to car culture, I gravitate towards the monster hot rod scene (Ed Roth, Odd Rods, Weird-Ohs and Nutty Mads). When I am given a job to illustrate a vehicle, I give it the same warped abstraction I give my characters. I finished up the piece, inspired by Ed Roth and the Monster Hot Rod scene as well as vintage racing ads and exploitation posters like Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, The Mini Skirt Mob and Drag Strip Riot. Here's the concoction that spewed out:

Copyright 2011, Gris Grimly

Saturday, February 12, 2011


In my previous posting "INLE PAINTING PROGRESS PART 1", I explained how I work when it comes to painting with watercolor. In this posting, not only will I go into detail with how I work when it comes to inking a painting, you will also get a sneak peak at the final art piece I did for Greg "CRAOLA" Simkins' INLE show.

After I mopped up the bloody mess I made painting the piece, I sat back and watched some horror films on VHS. It's a good way to unwind and clear the brain for the night so I can start fresh the next morning. In this case, I only made it through 20 minutes of a horrid 1988 film called Blue Monkey. I'm not sure where they got the name from because there isn't even a monkey in the film - Just men in giant rubber insect suits running through the halls waving their arms around. Usually these types of parlor tricks highly entertain me. But this just put me to sleep.

Freshly rested, I rose from my crypt to finish up my Inle painting. I sat at my desk with a cup of black coffee to observed the chaos presented to me on the canvas. I asked myself, "What was I thinking". I often feel this way looking at my work the next day with a new pair of eyes. This is never cause for alarm because the painting is never finished until it is inked.

First, I approach inking with a brush and black Indian ink. I have found a liking for a Windsor Newton brand that has a spider on the packaging. But that is my personal preference and to each their own. All ink brands react differently to the surfaces they are painted on. I use a brush and a variety of wet and dry brushing effects to place the ink down where my instincts guide me.

Secondly, I go in and capture all the line work. I start out with quill pens and nubs. Quill pens can be used for other reasons then just stabbing people in the neck. I have discovered that they work great for getting a variety of line widths with an organic feel. Once I lay down the thicker lines with a common homicidal weapon, I go in and capture tighter chaotic scribbles with a mechanical pen. I get asked what kind of mechanic pens I use all the time. Take note so I don't have to repeat myself - I USE RAPIDOGRAPH. These allow me to exercise my OCD impulses on the finishing touches of the piece. After I'm done scribbling all over my art, I step back and come to find that it looks nothing like what I had set out to accomplish.


Okay, so it's not the best picture of my Inle painting. It's a little off center and my desk lamp got in the way. I guess you will have to come out to the show to actually see what the final piece looks like.

The INLE show will be March 12, 2011 at Gallery 1988 located on 7020 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Copyright 2011, Gris Grimly

Friday, February 11, 2011


This blog was set up as a fitness gym to exercise the gray muscle in my skull with creative writing in forms of short stories, opinions and criticisms. But as an artist, I feel that occasionally it should be used as an informative or instructional column in regards to my illustrative work.

Almost a year ago, I was asked to partake in a group show curated by artist Greg "CRAOLA" Simkins. I've known of Greg's work for a decade now, through my friendship with Alex Pardee. I remember our early career days of zines and little back alley art shows in San Fransisco. Every comic convention was like a reunion. When I finally met Greg, I really took to his genuine demeanor. There are people I like to see reach success and others I would rather see fed through a corpse grinder and made into cat food. It's been nice to see these two deserving artists move forward in their accomplishments.

Here are some selections from Greg's letter of invitation:

When I was 12, my Grandfather bought me the book Watership Down to read on a road trip we took together. Since then, I have read this book and its' sequel numerous times. The characters and the struggles in this book were more about society and conflict than the rabbits used to portray these things. The story sparked my imagination and it was this book that fueled my obsession with using rabbits as a tool of art. One rabbit in particular stood out...the Black Rabbit of Inle.

I am inviting you to take part in a group exhibition that I am curating because I really admire your work and would love to see your take on something that has been such a big part of my artistic journey. I am asking for one piece that is your interpretation of the Black Rabbit of Inle, which can be literal or loose. Also, feel free to paint from our own memories of Watership Down if that grabs you. I appreciate your consideration and would be honored by your participation.

Yours truly,
Greg "Craola" Simkins

So naturally, I agreed to be a part of the show, even though I have not agreed to any other gallery commitments for the past year due to my involvement in the production of Pinocchio. I've ventured away from my illustrative comfort zone, painting with acrylics on wood opposed to my usual medium of choice - Watercolor and ink. But for this piece, I thought I would bring it back to my roots and express this piece the way I am best known and comfortable.

I started with a rough sketch of my interpretation of Inle on watercolor paper. I get asked this question all the time, so please take note so I don't have to repeat myself. I USE MECHANICAL PENCILS. No special brand. I like the precision I can get with a diameter of lead that never seems to get dull.

After that I will throw down an overall tone. This is usually a nicotine wash that I like and prefer to use on almost all my watercolors. It gives the painting that dingy smokers feel that I remember my uncle's house having or a seedy bar. Then I'll go in and paint in other shapes, usually starting with my darkest color which is a black coffee soot.

Once that's done you can really see the negative and positive shapes pop out. Then I'll throw in some other colors - Like blood red. I like blood. It cuts the sweetness of my coffee in the morning. People ask what I use for watercolors. I usually find myself painting with Windsor Newton.

One of the last things I do in the form of painting is add little touches of splatter. Sometimes this is an accident when a cut to a victim's throat too close to the painting ends up spraying everywhere. But I usually look at the piece and say to myself "That works lovely."

At this point, the painting is complete. It is time for me to move onto the inking stage. This is the stage that I have not yet started on with my INLE painting. So you will have to check back with INLE PAINTING PROGRESS PART 2 to see how that all turns out. I'm curious myself.

Mark your calendars. The INLE show will be March 12, 2011 at Gallery 1988 located on 7020 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038.

Copyright 2011, Gris Grimly

Sunday, February 6, 2011


The sun crawled away from us behind the black Nevada mountains as we drove towards an alcoholic sky mixed with Grapefruit, mandarin and Hpnotiq. Although the 3 of us were poker faced, I knew we were all shitting bricks. I've made many trips to Vegas, but only 1 of those trips made me an outlaw.

Jared was doing good. He drove the 20-year-old Honda steady and always 2 miles an hour below the speed limit. Both hands on the steering wheel-10 and 2. "Slow and steady wins the race" they say. But not too slow. You don't want to look suspicious or draw attention to yourself. His pink lucky rabbit's foot swung from the ignition. I'm not sure how lucky a rabbit's foot really is. It didn't bring the rabbit too much luck.

No one said a word. I wasn't wondering what Jared and Nick were thinking. My mind was recalling our drive to Vegas 2 days ago. That's when this bad beat story all began.

- - -

"We're all made up of energy," continued Nick as we passed Whiskey Petes on the 15 north, "which gives off heat. Call it energy or a soul or whatever. But it is what makes us alive."

The 3 of us were on our way to the neon oasis with pocket cash to burn. I needed to get away for a while. My brother died a few months ago and the days of mourning were hard on me. It beat me down like I'd been dusted off at the tables. I needed an escape and there's no better escape then the city of sin.

The thrill of arriving in Vegas helps the 4 hour drive from Los Angeles go by faster than chips at the roulette table. Somewhere around Barstow California our conversations started getting deep, talking about life's great meaning, God and the afterlife. Somewhere around crossing the state line it got weird with talks of psychics and reincarnation.

"When we die," Nick carried on, "our energy leaves our body and rises up to the skies. There it intermingles with other energy before being placed into another body. So when we meet someone that seems familiar to us, it's because that person is made up of some of your previous life's energy."

I thought about this for a minute and then replied, "How does that work with the world's population ever growing. There's not enough souls to recycle into all the new babies being born."

Jared and Nick were stumped so I continued my thought.

"Maybe that's why kids today are so apathetic and uninspired. After generations and generations, the strength of a soul becomes diluted in order to spread throughout the growing population. It's like cutting blow with adulterants so you have twice as much to sell."

Nick replies, "I never thought about that."

"So what you're saying," chimed Jared, "is that kids today don't have a complete soul. That their souls are laced to fill the human shells. What are they laced with?"

"Air," I said naturally.

As we weaved our way throughout the dark Nevada landscape, we came to see a glorious beacon shooting out into the starry skies. No, this was not a UFO drawing up subjects for anal probing. Nor was it a soul leaving an empty shell to join up with the many other souls floating around in space, get "stepped on" with air and recycled into a newly born baby. It was the Luxor - That grand 20th century pyramid saying welcome to Las Vegas. This is the last warning you get to turn around while you still have money.

I'm not going to go into the details of what went on in Las Vegas. It's not any different than all the other stories you've read - The ups, the downs, the debauchery, the flowing alcohol and the waking up and saying "What happened". But there is one incident that holds relevance to my story. Unfortunately, my "What happened" scenario didn't involve intoxication to hold as an excuse.

It was Saturday, our coming home day. We never come home on Sunday because every other looser comes home on Sunday and the drive takes twice as long. We packed our bags and scanned our hotel room 1 last time, making sure that there were no cell phone cables or other important items lost amidst the rocky landscape of empty booze bottles.

With our hazy-throbbing eyes behind dark lenses, we moseyed through the casino to the check-out. That is when it happened. If we had left straight away then, all the debauchery that occurred wouldn't have amounted to anything more than every other visit to Vegas. But I had to see her...and him.

Jared was taking care of our room, arguing about some charges that were made that nobody recalls it's whereabouts because we were all probably so blackout drunk we don't remember. When it comes to nights of drinking, I was on the downswing. The probing in my brain was a constant reminder of all the drinks I forgot I consumed. I found myself in a zone, scanning the casino for any last opportunities. The cruel city left me with a single green chip. I was most likely going to lose it on a bet before making it to the cage.

That's when I saw her. That blond bombshell singer - You know the one. She was walking through the casino with a pot belly pig on a pink rhinestone leash. The triangle shaped shades concealed most of her face. But her tight leopard print dress drew all eyes from their playing tables. I don't really give a lick about the diva. I could care less about celebrities. It was the pig that fascinated me. There was something familiar about him.

I made my way through the casino and stood at the cage. There wasn't a line. But when is there ever that many people who have money to collect from a casino. Nobody ever notices but if you stand and observe the cashier long enough, more money comes in then they ever pay out. I was distracted by the pig only feet away. He sat next to the poker table as his master was firing bullets left and right. It was then, that I saw in his eyes, the soul of my brother.

I know. You're thinking I'm crazy. But I was certain it was my brother. We were inseparable. I knew that look. And using the theory of reincarnation it could be possible. This small pig couldn't be more than a few months old. My brother died just over 4 months ago. Could it be?

"Can I help you!" croaked the cashier probably for the 4th or 5th time. I snapped alert. But when players' eyes, including the blond bombshell, turned to look at me I panicked. I said something like no and hurried away.

We hit the casino buffet for brunch before the long trip back. Nick went on about a psychic he met who worked as a parking attendant in his office building.

"One day, I took his offer to meet up for coffee. He told me that he travels the world, taking on odd jobs here and there. After he meets the person he was destined to enlighten, and feels his purpose is complete and moves on to the next place. I was that person."

I couldn't stop thinking about how my brother was somehow now reincarnated into a pot belly pig owned by the Billboard chart-topping pop star. And now with talks about destiny and purpose and serendipity, I couldn't help but feel that I was here for a reason.

I don't know why events played out like they did. I guess it was just meant to be. But after brunch, I had to take a major dump. Jared and Nick decided to take the luggage to the car and pick me up at the front of the casino. As I waited for them, dissolving a stick of tobacco into my lungs, I watched the valets do their business. They ran about like rabbits, swiftly getting the new Saturday victims into the casino to lose their cash as quickly as possible. That is efficiency.

In complete synchronicity, Jared pulled up with the Honda, I put my cigarette out on the desert scorched concrete and that woman walked up to my side with my brother. I slowly scanned up to see her distracted at removing a cigarette from her Gucci bag. Jared and Nick waited with the engine running. I glanced over at my brother sitting there with a bulging belly. I swear he winked at me with a burlesque dancer's eyelash. PING

It all happened so quickly. I pulled the trigger. I grabbed my brother, knocking her Gucci bag out on the ground, and jumped into the car like I was throwing pocket rockets. I yelled "Go!" and, as if planned, Jared reacted. Hands on the steel wheel, he flipped a bitch and we were on the 15 south before she even noticed her purse wasn't the only thing that slipped out of her hands.

- - -

The sun ran away from us, showing disdain. Either it was evading our company or helping our getaway by concealing us in the dark. Nick turned off the radio because the consistent news alerts involving pig robbers was putting us on edge. He then broke the silence.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"This is my brother."

Everyone looked over at the content pig, concealed under my jacket grunting up a storm.

"What are you talking about?"

"I realized in that moment that the reason I came to Las Vegas was to rescue my brother who was reincarnated into this pig."

Jared was obviously not okay with this. "Do you no how stupid that sounds?"

It doesn't matter how stupid it sounded, because we were quickly approaching the agricultural check point. The thing about leaving Las Vegas is you are always so hung over you never remember that you have to go through an agricultural check point to get back home. This usually doesn't effect you if you are in a car. They only stop trucks and larger vehicles. But due to the recent events of wanted criminals escaping southbound on the 15, the searches applied to everyone.

We quickly got stuck in a gridlock moving at the pace of a slot club member. I realized the stakes were high and there was no turning back. Arguments having to do with "accessory to a crime" came to a climax and then settled down as we inched closer to the guard stand. Can you blame them. I was the fish at the table and they got a raw deal.

We all calmed down and concluded that it was a "no win" situation, but if we played it cool we could possibly hold our own. I put the pig under my feet and covered him with a jacket. These weren't the usual minimum wagers at the check point. They brought in the state troopers. And they were mean.

The car ahead of us was getting their trunk checked as an overweight overfed desert pig approached our Honda. Jared rolled down the window, and poker faced asked. "What's the problem officer."

The pig wasn't being friendly. He asked us to pop the trunk as he shined his flashlight around in the car. My black denim jacket surprisingly concealed our loot. The bumping of the car was clearly an intense anal search of the '91 Honda Civic. With nothing but smoke-soiled alcohol-soaked clothes to convict us of having a good time, the pig slammed down the trunk.

This was the moment that they walk by and say, "You are free to go." Only, as the pig was passing by the window, my brother broke his cover by asking me if it was clear to come out in Vietnamese Pig.

That was the final hand. Sometimes you know when to fold em and sometimes the dealer gets you down to the felt. The pigs took my brother, no doubt, back to that horrid pop artist. What the hell. He always did have a thing for floozies. Me and my friends? We got pinched. That doesn't mean it's all over. Maybe I'll get out based on insanity. My brother is still out there and I'll find him one day.

Besides, I still walked away from Vegas with a $25 green chip in my pocket.

Copyright 2011, Gris Grimly