31 December 2014

Clearing Out the Mind Clutter

Introspection seems to be a reoccurring process for me this time of year, as it is with most people I'd suppose. 2014 hasn't been a difficult year, but it hasn't been a walk-in-the-park either.

I've learned many lessons about myself; work habits, work personality, that a passing interest doesn't always become a new passion. I've admitted to myself that writing is more the core of my being than illustration. I've discovered quite plainly that I hate working on cars. I've embraced minimalism as a lifestyle (which I'm transitioning into slowly... hard to clean house when it's 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I've become active again. I've given up Facebook and it's changed me for the better. And, I don't always half to have a project going on (which I still do have many).

The biggest thing, quite possibly related to minimalism, is that sometimes you just need to let go of the people who were a big part of your life... whether it be family, friends, or past aggressors. All three for me in this case. Sometimes, as much as you love them (or dwell on them), it's just holding you back from growing as a person. They know you only as one way, and that's the whole dynamic of who they think you are and how your relationship is with them. And for those that have passed, I guess the same can be said for their memories.

So, there are many things I'd like to accomplish in Twenty-Fifteen, but if anything, this will be a year where I realign myself- a reassessment of all my beliefs, desires, thoughts, attitudes, plans, and even memories. I'm taking stock and reinvesting in my life. In short, I'm rebooting.

I will say this for certain: expect more posts this year. I will be writing more, and becoming more and more involved with this website. I've been writing a ton of flash fiction, now it's time to share it and get some opinions. I think it's time to lift the filter and really say what's on my mind.

Happy New Year!

10 December 2014

Kindred spirits everywhere!

Toronto Comic Arts Festival: Pencil it In from Toronto Comic Arts Festival on Vimeo.
When it comes right down to it, there's nothing like the feel of the pencil dragging across slightly toothed drawing paper. Or the satisfaction of seeing an inked piece pop from the page. There are no substitutes, and these fine artists exemplify that.
I am continuing to work out my next big project, though the delivery might change. I am considering going with a webcomic again... another shot so to speak. Still in the initial planning stages, but the work moves on.

19 November 2014

Inking, drawing, inking some more...

Brush, pen, india ink, white out over col-erase pencils.
Buzzfeed posted an article called It's Totally Mesmerizing To Watch Artist Draw Comics.  This is my life right now- learning to ink better. This goes hand in hand with cleaner, more detailed drawings. All this comes from studying and observing.

Actually, that's pretty much all I have been doing lately is trying to soak up techniques like some of what the artists have posted here. It's easy to get caught up in other ways to create art- like digital painting- but I remind myself that will come back as a need in time. Right now I need to get better at inking.

So far, I think I've been doing alright. I just need to keep it up!

16 November 2014

No Plan B's.

Pen and India Ink study of protagonist from graphic novel.
One of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard- one that hit me right between the eyes- is one that I heard recently. Will Smith said, “There’s no reason to have a Plan B because it detracts from Plan A.” It’s so true. I’ve always had “lots of irons in the fire” but I could never figure out why I wasn’t making any headway into anything. I mean, I was busy, I had a lot going for me… but success just seemed to elude me.

Fear is a big part of it. I was screwed over by people I trusted, and instead of getting up and dusting off, I used excuses and blaming others for not moving forward… when really, it was because I was fearful of being taken advantage again.

For what? Fear may have kept me safe, but it’s also kept me hidden.

I’ve recently tried concurring my fear for many situations. I am finding confidence in my art and writing. Conversely, I am discovering people don’t always want to know how you feel. The price of facing your fears is high, but the benefits are far-reaching… John Steinbeck once said “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.” Fear of loss keeps you from moving forward.

Also, knowing what your Plan A should be is a gift. Not everyone knows what they want to do. “Follow your passions” doesn’t really mean much if your passion is something that isn’t sustainable. I’ve had many passions. I spent much time trying to decide what was the best fit for my life, so I experimented and made many new friends along the way.

Yep. Hard work. Day in, day out. You face it, and you work at it. You work towards it. I used to be so afraid of using the croquill pen. I tried using it when I was starting out, as well as a brush for my inks. The results were a big, gloopy mess. It scared me. I would look at magnificent artists work like Mark Schultz and dream the worlds I could create if I could just master those tools. But daydreaming isn’t enough. So, I finally took my fear head on and practiced. At first, I used ball point pens- innocuous enough. Then moved on to the more fountain type pens. I began to get annoyed with the limitations of those implements, and one day I took out the 10 year old croquill and ink (which was still fresh) and went to town. All those years of working with the ballpoint and fountain pen paid off- and my hand was steady. Now, when I use the croquill, I have a steady hand- and steady hands come from confidence- confidence which came from practice.

It is progressing. I am tidying up the plot, and twisting in some juicy subplots. I want to use a number of realworld props to help me illustrate my world better. One book- “Imaginative Realism” by James Gurney has been a wonderful guide to creating things to use as reference.

25 October 2014

The Space Opera sings!


I've been putting as much of my best art on my new Instagram account @lostskies7. I deleted my old account a few months ago (no clue why...) but instantly regretted it. SO- since I couldn't use my old handle, I've opted to stick a 7 at the end of it since it is my lucky number.

So, remember all those previous posts over the years where I kept eluding to my "space opera epic"? Well, it's finally happening. I have shoved everything under the bed and out of sight so I can focus and do this thing! I'm still not ready to announce the title, much less any details about the book, but I will give some insight into it:

It takes place in the far future- against a galaxy spanning, Earth controlled empire. There will be giant robots in it. Certainly lots of action- from space battles to martial arts to gunfights and chases. There is a large subplot of unrequited love, and the major part that plays within the context of the story. The art style is my house style- an attempted mix of Al Williamson and John Buscema, with a pinch of Frazetta mixed in.

Not sure when it will be finished- I haven't imposed a timeline to it yet. I am rewriting the original script though... I have a way of making it even better. I DO, however, want to get it ready in time for next year's Salt Lake Comic Con, and San Diego Comic Con would be just as good! That's the plan, anyway.

So, that's where we're at! More to come!

20 October 2014

Journaling Your Life

The above video’s first few words, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future…”  How do you do that clearly? Read on.

People are often amazed at how I remember things that had happened far back into the past. It’s because I have kept a journal ever since I was 11 years old, which I refer back to my old journals probably every couple of months. Does that make me self-absorbed? I guess so, but it’s my life, and I want to be cognizant of every part of it because in the end, that’s all we are—our memories and actions. Also, it’s a way towards extending my memory past my lifetime… perhaps my grandchildren’s grandchildren will know who I am and where they came from.

Some events have happened lately that, frankly, surprised even me. You’ll forgive the vagueness, but it’s a highly personal situation with problematic consequences. That said, I asked myself “How did I erupt into doing what I was always too afraid to do?” Then, after meditating on it, I went back through my journals and traced the journey that led me to it… and realized that it was an inevitable outcome. My thoughts, defined by others actions, gave rise to my own action. I goaded myself into action- one I would regret had I not done it. While I stand by what I said to the other person mentioned, I was most surprised by their surprise. How could they not see it? And I realized that perhaps I was fully aware of the entire scope of our interactions, while they had only regarded it one day at a time, often forgotten in memory but still had an emotional connection.

My point is, if you’re on a life journey, or simply trying to self-improve, you need to keep a journal. Journaling is the best way to track your progress, it gives you insight into yourself and into others you’re close too. It’s not unlike being a historian giving detailed clues to your future detective. It also gives you leverage when you know you’re right in an argument, and answers questions when you discover you’re wrong about something.

This one feels oddly as straightforward as it is tricky. If you’re a visual artist, chances are you keep a sketchbook. I sketch, and date the sketches in the corner. I will also write notes to myself about what I like that I’ve improved, and what I dislike in my evolution as an artist. I treat a sketchbook as a drawing journal. Sure, it would be nice to keep something pristine that others would enjoy, I have no responsibility to them. Leonardo Davinci wrote furiously in his sketchbooks- it was surely a peek into his genius. While I am no genius, I certainly emulate my heroes as much as possible and keep notes- ESPECIALLY with the successes. It’s an attempt to bottle lightning… and weak attempts are better than no attempts at all.

Seems redundant, doesn’t it? Well, I also keep a log of “Writing Prompts”- pieces of unfinished prose that helps me work on my writing style. They’re completely freeflowing, often only reaching five or six paragraphs, a bit more beefy than an excerpt from a novel. They can be considered FLASH FICTION, and I enjoy them because they don’t really require commitments. I can kill off characters or make them demigods, and it doesn’t matter because it’s a quick ‘sketch’ of prose. Sometimes, the entries are bits of evolving stories and I find as I go through a few months of writing, there are connections that could be puzzled into a larger story. It’s a non-linear way of writing and conception, but it requires a lot of patience and a fair amount of time tending to it.

Sometimes, between writing prompts, I’ll write notes to myself about what I liked, what I don’t like about the evolution of my writing. I might also find I am having a hard time with prose and I’ll just list events and reactions of characters that I might choose to flesh out later. It’s also a self-perpetuating idea machine- sometimes when I am hung up on something, I’ll refer to either my journals, sketchbooks, or writing prompts to get myself unstuck.

Ah, the hardest thing to do in this technological age we live in. I am writing in Word right now, sometimes I use Celtx, I have many hardbacked journals lying around that I write in manuscript (handwriting all caps) or cursive, and I have two manual typewriters that gives me a more tactile feel. The stack of papers from my typewriting sessions have a distinct, robust voice that I don’t see with my ethereal computer bits… It’s a different way to work. You make a mistake, it’s there to stay even when you xxx it out. The only alternative is to throw it away.  I am more mindful when I use the typewriters, but I am also a bit more constrained. The other thing is that it’s a real, physical item. They might outlast these digital musings… you never know.

Unplugging gives me a chance to really get to the meat of a problem. No distractions, no immediate self editing. I do the same sort of thing with my sketchbooks when I sketch with a ballpoint pen- it’s the same idea- permanence as soon as my brain- through my arm, dislodges ink out of a pen and creates symbols and instances of my thoughts. It’s truly a wonderful, mystical, and spiritual way of experiencing the world.

You NEED experiences as an artist to have something to birth as you create. Going back to the situation from the last week- I suddenly have plenty to put into my stories. However, living your life means you need to deal with your fears. Fear keeps me form finishing projects, or experiencing life. Fear keeps me from dying prematurely, but ironically, too much of it can keep you from living. It takes a purely courageous person to walk away from a bad relationship, to step up the game of current one, or to explore and discover (or rediscover) new paths and hidden talents.

I’ve had this conversation with many of my friends. One very, very old friend of mine in particular is discovering that he doesn’t need to create for the market to scramble for money, but if he truly looks within himself and create art based on his own desires, he will find an audience for it. Your mind is like a garden- it can grow nourishment or poison, it doesn’t care either way… so it’s up to you to be aware of what you put into it.  He has so many creative outlets, but I see in him the same thing I see in myself- you want to do so much because you feel like you’re bursting at the seams, it can lead to prolific work if you focus and finish. Otherwise, it’s a tangled mess of unfinished works, anchors that can leave you feeling resentful and sorrowful if left to rot… again, like a garden with overgrown weeds- and journaling is a way to tend garden. He’s now narrowed down his path to two options on how to keep living, and either way- if he sticks to his guns- will be very successful.

Another friend, who got a Bachelor’s in English when she was younger, had stopped writing because of the constrictions of her life. Now, twenty years later, she’s using her experiences to really dig deep and use her talents to blossom. I know she’s dealt with plenty of life situations, and I can only imagine the incredible tales she’ll yarn. Though I’ve yet to read any of her work, through knowing and talking to her I see such unbridled potential… and coaxing that passion will take time. It’s only natural to be fearful and want to give up because she sees others work and may feel intimidated… but she’ll need to realize that she should never compare herself to others. Her voice is incredibly unique and even if she has very little writing, like a small white star, one teaspoon of mass has the gravity of entire planets- and that comes directly from what she’ll have to say. I’m excited to see it come to fruition. I strongly believe that keeping a writing prompt journal and regular life journal will help her ten-fold.

The last person I’d like to talk about is certainly no friend... though he pretended to be to get what he wanted. I found this out after the fact- and only looking back, connecting the dots, could I see a pattern of how he treated others the same way I was treated. He had put out the peace treaty- lots of history with this guy… but even after he had apologized for all of what happened so long ago, and things seemed like they were okay, I immediately recognized the same modus operandi when he started asking for things again… and then after writing for him within constraints of another’s work, put forward my work to an industry professional who ripped it to shreds and tainted my name a little bit. I was judged on someone else’s merit and another’s idea- and that so-called friend took no responsibility for it. (Huge run-on sentence there, so you can tell I feel rather strongly about this situation).

You discover through your history and journaling that there are those who are just simply creeps. They might not think they are, and genuinely believe they are good people- wife, kids, good standing in their church, etc etc, their actions had consequences. Their thoughts and actions are who they are- if not to the world, definitely to their dealings with one person. It’s a matter of character. I could go on and on about this person, and I am admittedly bitter. But I am more mad at myself for letting him have real-estate in my head. Dealing with him defined how I dealt with all future creeps and people in general, it is a huge challenge, a big wall I find I have to climb once in a while when I have lack of motivation. That wall was in there way before he came into my life, but because of his actions, his face is plastered all over it. I don’t blame him for anything, because I take ownership of all my shortcomings, but it’s nice to know because I journaled all the facts (through my lens of life) I can spot a scumbag when I see one. I have dealt with plenty worse ones since, but you always remember the first that popped your cherry ;)  Because of my dealings with him, I let the poison grow rather than tended to the garden. It’s because of this person that while I am more cynical and bitter, I am certainly stronger. The last instance I had with him, he wanted more work from me- often attached with promises of awards. I simply told him I couldn’t with a new baby in tow. All I got was a “Okay… Okay. Thanks.” Hang up… and haven’t heard from him since. I unfriended him on facebook… I don’t even know if he’s still doing what he’s doing and haven’t given him much thought until I came up with this article. My whole point of it is this: Journaling saved me from being duped again.

In the end, journaling is a lot of work, but it's just a little each day. It helps dump all the garbage your brain accumulates, and helps you see things in perspective once the lens of intense emotion fades.

Let me know what you think, and what your experiences are in the comments below!

19 September 2014

Lifestyle changes

So, I have been writing quite a bit. I was writing a bit of flash fiction every night (which I'll share in my next few upcoming posts), but I've bought a couple of manual typewriters to stay off the computer and focus more. It certainly takes more awareness of the process- the only spell checker is a handy dictionary to my left.

Here's what they look like:

The black one is actually brand new- it's a Royal Epoch Manual I bought off Amazon for $153, it has a meaty feel to the keys and is fairly robust. The characters jump a little bit, but it doesn't have any other real issues other than the tab coming undone after five or six uses.  It didn't do that before, but I now have about 200 pages worth of use out of this thing.

The off-white one is an older Royal Safari III. The key action is very light and delicate. I had to replace the ribbon and I think the scroll bar is off a hair, because the lines of type skew upwards a millimeter as I write a line of text. I found it at a thrift store for $6.

I hate clutter. I detest it with every fiber of my being, but yet I live in it. I feel like a hoarder sometimes. In all actuallity, though I may have quite a bit of stuff, the majority are books and art supplies, and some holdovers from my filmmaking days.  I decided that I needed to simplify and have been paring down my possessions so I can focus on writing, my health, my family, and my long forgotten interests in the great outdoors.

While I doubt I'll ever be able to bring down the amount of items I own to 100, I'd be happy with the 300 range. It's silly to count, but right now I need some sort of goal to shoot towards.  The items that I will keep will be high quality and multifunctional.

Other than the fact of cleanliness, why do it? I'm adopting a conservationalist attitude.   I don't want my items to weigh me down, to anchor me in place.  Plus, I want to lead by example, and perhaps one day my children will find that activity and skills will trump recreational shopping any day of the week, and lead to a happier, more fulfilled life.

Yesterday, I gave a number of artbooks to my friend and fellow artist Mark Green, and tomorrow I plan to take some old paperback novels and clothes to Goodwill.

Upward and onward!!

29 June 2014

The Direction of My Heart

Anyone who claims they've never any failures is lying, delusional, or has never truly tried. Hard work and successes are built on layers of misfires, rejections, and failed aspirations. I've had the opportunity to do much soul searching in the last six months, and with it has come the realization that the one common denominator from all my crazy schemes, all my projects, all my attempts at getting some sort of production going, is that they all stem from my writing.

I have always written, but have never taken it seriously enough to see it as its own vehicle. To me, for the longest time, writing was an afterthought to the next Great Big Project—which rarely made it out alive in the execution phase. Case in point: all the filmmaking projects- plenty of scripts, plenty of research, failure to lens. From my filmmaking days I had written two feature length screenplays with three in development, a dozen short film scripts, a couple of tv pilot treatments, and had plenty of ideas on the shelf. Another was multiple attempts at making some sort of comic book series: either print or web... sometimes it was my loss of interest, other times it was due to a lame partnership. My first attempts can be traced back to high school, when I was designing an paper and pen RPG game.

A friend of mine had told me years ago that my success will come from what I do with my storytelling. I've had teachers tell my parents that my writing reminded them of their work when they were in college. I gravitate toward writers, and often they become my friends... I've edited many a script, offered crucial feedback, and critiqued many stories while I was in the guise of a storyboard artist.

It's time to follow my true self... my true calling.

18 May 2014


You may have noticed that the Lost Skies webcomic kind of went kaput. I can't explain it, other than I lost enthusiasm for it. While trying to create a world of a realistic future, I had to omit elements that I normally put into my stories- some sort of fantasy/magical element... and without being able to do that from the constraints of the story, I lost interest. It was turning into a film noir in space, and frankly, I didn't want it to go there. C'est la vie.

So, I'm quite literally back to the drawing board.

I am taking this hiatus in personal projects to really go through and separate all the crazy ideas I have in all my notebooks and put them into their own special binders. This is really helping me organize my thoughts- which are in dyer need of organization!!

I have a bunch of fragments that I'm assembling into a jigsaw puzzle- a new storyworld. It's going to be some time before I do anything with it. Aside from conjuring up the story, I need to go through the entire pre-production process- not a short cut of one like I did for the Lost Skies webcomic. The characters, locations, and stories need to be ironed out. This is likely to take me a year.

So, I'm resurrecting this blog- you'll see drawing updates here or at my Instagram account.

15 January 2014

"Tales from the Lost Skies" webcomic

Early concept for Carlo Leonardi, one of the main characters from "Tales from the Lost Skies".
On my end-of-the-year post I had done, I realized that I had lost sight of what I wanted to do specifically with Lost Skies as a brand. Then I realized, I will put it to good use- as the title for the webcomic series I had been planning for years.

"Tales from the Lost Skies" is a space opera adventure comic strip that takes place 200 years from now in our solar system. An inciting incident sets a path for some intrepid spacers, who through an epic adventure uncover the cause of the cataclysm that nearly wiped out humanity.

The webcomic will post twice a week- Mondays and Fridays. The scripts are written, many of the designs have been done, and onto actually scratchbuild modeling some of the spaceships for some accurate shots! I know I could have used a 3d modeling software, but where's the fun in that?

So there has been quite a bit of movement around the Lost Skies sites lately. I've began building a wordpress blog at lostskies.com so it can host the comic series. The first comic is set to premiere on Friday, March 21st, 2014. Each post will have a little bit of some behind the scenes photos and sketches.

This blog will survive- but it will be pushed to more of an archived function. I will still continue to post here, but I'll announce when we're wrapping this blog up!

2014- here we come!!

10 January 2014

Throwback Thursday... plus a day.

I meant to do this yesterday but I got hung up on a project.

Since I was paying for the space on lostskies.com anyways, I decided to upload an older version of my site. I realized I'm missing a couple of images and the Twitter feed isn't working, but other than that, it's certainly the direction I want to move forward with Lost Skies. It's just a reflection of where I want to focus on. Expect an update in a month or so.

04 January 2014

Gallery Recap

Well, since lostskies.com is down for a bit, here's a link to my current portfolio- right here on this blog!

2014 seems to be shaping up with new opportunities, and I'm open to them. Aside from a personal project that I've been wanting to work on for some time - a webcomic.

In the meantime, you can view my gallery on this site- The Art of Juan Maestas.

SO, here's an old familiar illustration- my Steampunk Sky Pirate that I painted a couple of years ago. I particularly love how the painted sunset clouds worked out.  Enjoy!