30 years ago I moved to Los Angeles to become a character animator. Early in the game I recall a senior effects animator suggest this theory: "You character guys are trying to understand yourselves and the people around you. Effects and layout people are more about trying to understand their whole surroundings and environment."
True, untrue or moot, the theory hit home with me, especially way back then. Even now I notice people first and places later, but back then as a small town transplant to Los Angeles, I was so overwhelmed by my surroundings I literally could not process them. L.A. is universally synonymous with sun, fun, glitz and glamor, all of which can be found here, especially on vacation. But the reality of living here can be harsh. People smile more and honk less here, but other than that you're basically on your own. Naked ambition and the cold shoulder weren't born here, but they took up full time residence long long ago.
Despite these misgivings, somewhere in that first decade I surrendered and found myself gradually adjusted. After a long trip I found I even missed the place and landing in LAX felt like settling into a favorite chair, albeit one immersed in smog. Los Angeles is geographically vast, culturally opaque and constantly self-contradicting: we have the ocean at our disposal, but much of the rest is bone dry. I've lived in the hills, the flats, the 'burbs, in town, and even briefly at the beach. Each has its unique pros and cons. The architecture can be tasteful and discreet one minute, hideously tacky the next, and dumpy and dull in between. Dreams die here but denial lives on. The weather becomes monotonous and sometimes overbearingly so. Yet I always console despondent newbies to watch out: the worst thing about Los Angeles is that it grows on you. I have come to think of it as a friend I have learned to love but not to trust.
More recently still I have finally begun to notice and appreciate the physical aspects of the place, in scope and in detail. The plant life (including the ever present and sky-scraping palm trees) is so colorful and diverse that I never cease to be amazed. The buildings and neighborhoods have a charm of their own. No matter how hard developers try to overhaul the surface with new-ness, the gothic past keeps leaking thu, like the laugh lines cracking thru the botox on a movie star's face. Some days I find myself fairly smitten with wonder at it all.
Lately too I have been spontaneously unable to resist getting some of it down in drawings and color sketches. Some of them are very cartoony (openly influenced by Herriman, Gross and Sterrett) others are a lot more literal, others are just little designs and details. Nearly every night I make time to turn on the tap and see what comes out, and it's turning into something of a backlog. Due to the range of them and the de-emphasis on characters, I have decided to start another blog just for these. Small Room will remain my main blog and dedicated mostly to cartoon art, history and related blather from me.
I'll announce the new blog here when it's ready. In the meantime I'll be posting the usual stuff here and listening to Randy Newman's I LOVE L.A as I do.