Friday, October 9, 2015

The 52 Weeks Project presents: THE WHITE LODGE

-By Greg Ruth

So. I am an OG Twin Peaks fan. The show landed like a weird hammer blow at just the right time for my generation back in the early 1990's- I remember how each and every saturday night at ten pm how the Pratt campus shut down for an hour or two as everyone scrambled to any classmate's dorm room that had a working tv, piled on top of each other and went graveyard silent watching the show- and busting out in loud boisterous rantings during the commercial breaks.  We didn't know it then, but we were sharing one of the last fully united pop cultural moments like we did when Thriller came out, or Rock N Roll existed. Now this show was ABC, (I cannot express how insane it was to see a show that even by today's standards is one of the strangest, darkest and most terrifyingly brilliant tv narratives to have ever hit the small screen. Yet there it was. I had only just began to come to appreciate David Lynch as a director, so this was my first real deep dive into what he could bring to a story. It blew our minds. It was a total national phenomenon. The pilot episode alone is one of the most accomplished in tv history- test this by pausing it after about 15 minutes and count how many characters you've been introduced to, and their relationships to each other. It's nuts. Though our tv narrative landscape is MUCH improved and vaster and more specific, the themes, characters and shows still deeply resonate.

For me the series taught me the essential value of character in story making. When I tuned in to see the show I was in many ways there for the characters as I was there for the mysterious tangled plot. It was literally a town I wanted to visit, and people I was simply happy to spend time with. I got to know Dale, Harry, Pete, Andy, Donna, Audrey, Shelly, Bobby Leo and all the others with relish and dreamed of one day trying to craft characters of my own as deep and rich and looney as these kooks were. In many ways THE LOST BOY is the most reflective of this maybe even more than SUDDEN GRAVITY was- despite the fact that SG was originally inspired by the creepy hospital in Twin Peaks. Walter Pidgin is like a young Dale Cooper, talking to no one and to us via his back pack tape recorder with a stoic determination and curiosity for the strange and dark worlds he ventured into. So it was no real surprise to take this show on in a series of portraits, I guess. I had over the last few years thought of doing something like this but never found the right moment or avenue. It seemed bent for a daily series, rather than the 52 Weeks Project rules of weekly drawings. The sum ink wasn't ethereal enough I think, and so it got put off over and over. Until now.

Having literally just completed drawing all the 250 principle story pages for INDEH, my massive graphic novel with fellow collaborator Ethan Hawke, I wanted to take a break. I promised myself to take a whole week off from work and go.. I dunno... lie in the sun, or read a book. Something the terrible last 15 hour days, 7-days a week schedule to finish INDEH utterly prevented. Instead, since I am clearly an art addict, I decided to do this. One drawing a day each and every day for about a week. Small pieces, as the graphite drawings are far slower to execute than the sum work, and basically straight on, face-front portraits of each of the main characters. I had assumed I could only survive a week of this so it would be just the most essential characters, and really it was all about who might be the most interesting to draw a picture of. The first one of course, had to be Laura. The girl around which the whole series spun showed up dead in the pilot, and then we got to find out who she was. Cooper and Laura's mother, Sarah Palmer were next. I wanted to give the recently adapted blurry-graphite drawing technique to a more narrative purpose for these next two.

Each drawing was only about 6" x 6" and so that forced a basic limitation of scale and scope that was interesting to play with. So things began to change as to how best to approach each one. Doing a bunch of standard face front photos didn't quite seem enough to be interesting to me as the captain of this goofy ship- and if it's dull to me it can't be interesting to any of you. So I tackled Leland in his mad frenzy state- and did two of him, took on probably the biggest missed opportunity of the series in Rosette Pulasky and tackled after a series of failed attempts, the fan favorite ingenue, Audrey Horn. The series was beginning to find it's sea legs and with the passing of the first week, it was clear I wasn't near done fooling around with these people.

Next up, I tried a sort of statuesque negative portrait of the Giant, knowing I had in mind a straight up portrait later, and another Audrey where I felt like I finally grabbed a bit of her character. And then of course Mike, the dancing dwarf and sort of chief operating officer of the Black Lodge where Bob lived.

Next was Donna, Bob and the second Giant picture- the latter a total homage to my favorite portrait of Matt Smith from the 13 Doctors series previously. Donna was all about how she started to find out who she was after her beast friend's death, and Bob... well Bob was all about the darkness.

Next was a return to Leland in his most ferocious glare a sort of practical reverse of his previous portrait. A very handsome blurry picture of Bobby Briggs and a post-fire survivor, Pete Martel.

I was no easily pushing past a second week of these to my great surprise and felt like it was still humming on all cylinders and since I hadn't yet broken my habit of waking up at 5 am to start my workday, was able to get these tackled and out of the way well before 7am when the work-work had to begin. I had finally decided to stop waiting to take on Margret Lanternman, The Log Lady herself from whom I was inspired to quote in a previous 52 Weeks Project series offering up funerary pre-mortem portraits of some of the handsome firewood we burned to keep warm during winter, LOGS I HAVE KNOWN. This one was the weirdest in that I learned just three hours after her picture was completed and posted, that Catherine Coulson had died. A very weird moment of coincidence. Spooky. But it seemed part and parcel of this feeling that the series was now self steering. It was a thing determining its own fate, governed now by forces not from me as all long form art projects do when they're done right. Next was posting Annie, who was oddly the very first actual drawing I did for the series. It seemed funny to start with her, so she waited patiently for her time.

Largely, at this stage, the choice of drawings became more about how they might respond to their previous and post neighbors. Pulling back to a more full bodied Log Lady meant it was a good time push in on a close face, male to female to male, etc... Dark to light. I wanted each one to be both unique to their characters, rather than simply drawing the actors who played them, and unique and apart from each other as well crafted individuals are.

Next up was the Giant's avatar in the real world, The Waiter, Chief Gordon Cole in one of the best cameos on screen ever as played by David Lynch himself. And finally Agent Cooper's former partner now turned enemy, Windom Earle- whom could not be drawn without including the game of chess in some form.

As the full cast of the series started reveal themselves it became clear I could literally run this series well past the Christmas Holidays if I wanted to, but I felt determined to establish a proper endpoint before that came to pass. It had been 25 years since the show concluded, and the new one was gearing up. 25 years was the promise from both Mike and Bob/Leland that he'd see us again, so 25 portraits seemed exactly right for a stopping point. Since the goofy picture of Deputy Andy and his personal nemesis Scotch Tape was done, it was time to tackle Shelly. And it was time to start thinking about how to end things. I had originally thought to do another bigger scale portrait of Dale Cooper, and may still do later, but I needed to tackle a few other otherwise undiscovered portraits. The Owl was one done simply as a lark, not really thinking but just drawing a forest shrouded by fog... then the owl showed up and as I was finishing the drawing it told me it wanted curtains beneath. Turned out to be one of my favorites int he series and of them all the most narrative in terms of capturing the ethos and spirit of the project as a whole. Next, to counter the owl was Sheriff Truman- a fairly flat and simple character thrown into a world he just couldn't cope with.

Moving on I realized I was going to blow past my initial 25 mark a touch... but you know when you're the boos you get to break the rules without consequence. And Nadine Hurley needed her time. I confess I put her off for a good long while as it was far too easy to just draw her and her insane eye patch... so instead I thought to go to that moment where her grief came to a head at the season one finale, and her suicide-by-pills turned her into a psychotically strong woman who thought she was still in high school. Her sadness made her a superhero! I had decided to do another portrait of Lynch for the final piece because it was at its best times a single vision of his work with Mark Frost. A nod to Gordon Cole from the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, when he was describing his mother's sister's girl. And at least a final Mike, joyously reflected in a cup of fresh hot coffee, black as the night.

In the end, like all good projects I leave it feeling like there was more to do. Leo never got a portrait, nor did Josie or Katherine, Benjamin or his brother, Black Rose, or the Renault brothers, or Deputy Hawk. Not even James showed up here. Maybe I'll get a chance to finish it with them all- seems a touch wrong to leave them out, but as with all these series unless theres a promised number or practical deadline, it's good to leave when the parties over. It felt like it had done it's thing: allowed me space to draw everyday something that had nothing to do with Apaches, and allow me to further expand my techniques with the graphite pencils. Each drawing was in keeping with the project's spirit, far below my usual price for original graphite drawings, but still managed to fill in some financial gaps left by too long focused on Indeh. And yet another series in the bag of the codified act of playing hooky that The 52 Weeks Project is at is heart. We may be getting very close to enough work now for another book collecting all of these. I hope so.

So thanks for following this series as it unfolds. They rarely do so with the kind of intent and planning you all deserve, but I think it's kind of fun to sit with you and watch it unfold being just as surprised by it as you might be. The 52 Weeks Project was never meant to carry on this long, and is not the longest running single effort I have ever done in my entire life as an artist- and I already have at least three more series to take on in the coming months and years, so it doesn't look to be going anywhere soon. But being able to show this work to you all is what makes it int o art in my book, so thanks again for being such an important part of it all.

There are still a handful of originals available in my online storefront, and the last three will be posted there each day thru Sunday at noon sharp. You can get there from here, by clicking, funnily enough,  HERE.

If you'd like to see the pieces in a clearer higher rez format, please be sure to visit the project's homepage by clicking HERE.

I will be setting up a new, devoted page to collect all the various sub projects of The 52 Weeks Project drawing series, but it's a massive thing to tackle and will take some time. Hopefully it can be completed by the new year- until then- get out there and draw something, every day.


  1. Nice to see fan art given its due (as a personal project). I completed a 365-day art challenge doing daily fan art for a favorite show of mine, a couple years ago.

  2. Beautiful drawings, Greg! I'm curious: do you have to wrangle copyright/use permissions in publishing or selling these, as they're based on David Lynch's series? What challenges, if any, are there in making/marketing 'fan art' (although I think your artwork here far exceeds what I'd call 'fan art')? Thank you!

    1. Well I usually follow a simple rule based on my experiences in the past- if it's original art, no one really takes issue with that. It's a net plus for them. Marvel tried to go commando against this at SDCC a couple of years back and it blew up in their faces in the most spectacular way- and that codified this. If you're making t-shirts or mugs... essentially anything that's a product, that's a different thing. Merch is not art in that strict sense. For this I have in the past had some contact with certain principle people there who I've traded some originals for their work back when I was doing the LOGS I HAVE KNOWN series and reached out to confirm this one and got nothing aside from enthusiastic support. So if there's a way to have a relationship, that cuts through a lot of trouble. Ultimately it depends upon the situation, person or company. Some are really tight about that stuff- the Marlon Brando estate or Toyo as an example of extremely protective, whereas say the Wachowskis love it and support most or all I've seen. It's situational, really... but stick with original art and you tend to be fine. That's why there's no open ended print run. There may well be a box set I'm doing, but it's such a complicated art piece unto itself, and such a limited number it tends back to being art again.

  3. I've loved seeing you post these, wonderful stuff and very well done. The misty quality really matches the "feel" of Twin Peaks and the Pacific Northwest.

  4. I love this series so much! You captured the spirit if Twin Peaks so well with each drawing. Beautiful and eerie.

  5. Thanks so very much- This has been more fun and fulfilling than even I imagined. Thanks as always for your support and comments.