Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Another Pint"

The Alaskan penchant for being #1 in binging on ice cream - and, for that matter, alcohol (#3 for alcoholism/#8 in consumption) is well-established, and is a recurring topic good for many a gag. Unfortunately for me, a long-established inclination (for either) has now caught up to me and resulted in some dietary restrictions. But to be perfectly honest I never would have ever imagined getting equally sated from a cup of Greek yogurt. No, seriously. Really.

Didn't doodle this one out beforehand, it just kinda oozed on out the other end of the pen directly onto the page, then scanned from the sketchbook and shaded before emailing off to the editor.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"Blood Sugar" aka My Disease Is Not a Punchline (... it's the setup)

By way of an appropriate New Year's-ish panel, I'm posting this rather lengthy recap of the most momentous incident that happened to me in 2018, one that will have repercussions for the rest of my life. Which is all to say, of course, I treat it like a damn joke.

Back in midsummer, on the first day of Visual Art Academy, I noticed I felt just slightly more crappier than usual. As in, sweating and shaking... blurring vision and constant trips to the bathroom were a couple other red flags in retrospect. Hell I just assumed I needed even more coffee than usual to right the ship.

Yeah/no: turned out after a trip to the doctor and a subsequent testing revealed my blood sugar levels were 496. Since the ideal was under 100, apparently I should've been a coma, much less trying to get through another day operating under the pretense of life as usual.

Even before returning to the doctor's office for follow-up consultation the pharmacy intervened with the urgent message my prescription was ready ("Wait/What prescription?"). Turned out a combination of genetic predisposition and blissful ignorance + my love of cooking & food + recent period of inactivity with increased output at the drawing board = walloped by a big reality check straight outta left-field. As in, start paying fucking attention or you'll wind up dead much sooner than expected. Another caveat is how for months before all this drama, I had successfully quit smoking cigarettes (again) after trying Chantix (with much trepidation, as my previous experience with Wellbutrin didn't go so well). Problem was, I didn't feel any better at all, and was like, what the hell is it worth?Again, I had no idea that meanwhile in the background my body was fighting a losing battle that undermined everything else.

Long story short, was that within one week of I dropped ten pounds, then thirty-five over another month. This was accomplished without any exercise, as working ten-fifteen hours M-F kinda left me tapped out at the end of the day. So no sugar, nothing fried, and tons of water in conjunction with portion control was what's making the difference. I also basically graze my way through the day with nuts, fruits and veggies. I hadn't ever seen a doctor actually happy before - it was probably a real treat to have a patient actually follow through their advice and pull a complete 180.So I was taken off the meds (godawful stuff) and put under long-term monitoring program. I'll never forget after that first week the sensation of walking from where my car was parked on campus to the building where I teach, and the full onslaught of sights, sounds and smells hit me like some kind of sensory overload. For the first time in years I felt alive, and started to have massive bursts of energy. Which is being channeled into lengthening walks and increased outings with the bike + canoe. Only eighty more pound to go...

The coupon on the receipt after buying my first diabetes cookbook

All that being said, I still get hit with some pretty savage withdrawal cravings... like literally drooling my way past my favorite stromboli joint on my way to the health-food store next-door. There are times when I get so damn depressed and angry, especially when I think about all the associations I have with food. Especially cheesecake. And I'm also really gonna miss pie in other forms, plus hot dogs, pizza, chicken wings, clam strips, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, fried chicken, BBQ (slathered in sauce), lasagna, gyros... the list goes on and on. And also the ritual of breakfast sammiches from my favorite coffee drive-through, or any of the other huts I haunt for that matter, hell even the traditional mochas, not to mention the seasonal eggnog lattes that get me through the long winters. Another example of how it's quite a shift in having to adjust my thinking away from downing an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's for dessert to instead discovering the unexpectedly luxurious joy of Greek yogurt instead. Still, I used to be a vegetarian for many years, and have just as strong a history as an avid outdoorsman to merit much in the way of hope for maintaining a positive attitude about meeting this challenge. Still, sometimes it really, really sucks.

Homemade tzatziki sauce to go with baked falafel in spinach wraps

But on the bright side I now get to make fun of myself in new ways, much to the consternation of the contingent that thinks none of this is funny at all. Hence the preemptive “My disease is not your punchline!” is a big hint at my own personal coping mechanisms, much in the same manner I somehow still manage to struggle through each and every damn depressing day and live to laugh about it. Like humor, hope is everywhere if you know how to look.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


Bonus round: This is one that won't actually run anywhere but here, as even I have limits as to what passes for regionally-appropriate humor. Using anthropomorphized Alaskan animals is about the only aspect that will connect with my usual audience in the local newspaper, but as far as any readership demographics that just-so happen to be familiar with postmodernist deconstruction, well, there's only a couple that I know of that would appreciate, much less "get" the gag. Not to mention, at its heart it ain't funny.
(more below the fold)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

"Open It!"

This is this year's Xmas card... meant more as a bleak, post-season commentary on consumerism.

Maybe it's on account of having a birthday fall on this holiday that, from my perspective, nothing else symbolizes the wanton waste and short-sighted greed of humanity than the wrapping > unwrapping > trashing of gifts. Any visit to the local transfer site after the holiest of orgies is depressing as hell, and a stark reminder that collectively, we as a species, are literally throwing it all away.

Speaking of recycling and never letting go of things: this particular stick is almost thirty years old, and it's still in my little tool-box I use for classroom demos: a fitting implement by which to render trees. 

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Misc. Artsy-Fartsy (roundup redux)

“The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.” ― T.S. Eliot
“The purpose of cartooning is OW SHIT DAMMIT” – J. T. Smith

Following up the start of the new year with another random batch of imagery & associated mullings. Based off of the recent scenario pictured above I briefly entertained the idea of changing the name of this blog to Ink & Blood, but all sorts of other connotations arise from that imagery, (not to mention it's been done before) so I settled for a bandage instead. But it goes without saying how much of myself I literally put into my work.
(more below the fold)

Friday, January 4, 2019

"Fur-mented 2019" 4th Annual Retrospective

For the fourth year in a row now (see previous posts 2016, 2017 and 2018 + the official event page here) my local libation location Ursa Major Distilling is hosting my annual cartoon retrospective. There's a little homage to the very first show in this year's logo, as seen in this sampler video:

For this year seventy panels will be up on the walls, and the opening will be from 5pm to 8pm tonight. And of course it will remain on display the remainder of January, as a perfect backdrop to sampling refreshing beverages.
(more below the fold)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Process Short: "Car Warm Yet?" Demo Reel

Saved the best for last... one final post before turning the page on 2018.

Scroll down memory lane: The original premise behind this blog was to ostensibly document the behind-the-scenes process of teaching a beginning drawing class. Then over the ensuing years that mission statement has evolved mutated more into a cartooning platform, not that that's necessarily a bad thing in itself. But I'm still seeking to pull back the curtain a bit and focus on some of the little details that all add up to producing a panel. My hope is still that all these snapshots, taken from many varying perspectives, ultimately makes for a sort of patchwork tapestry of content, all knit together like a Frankenstein made in some crazy arts + crafts lab.

Exploring the video aspect has meant a few entertaining forays into a different medium: "Google Maps" (2016), "Cabin Fever" (2015), "Ruminate" (2014),  and the very first attempt, "Smokey the Polar Bear" (from 2011). Lastly was the penultimate collaboration with banjoist Seth Danielson "Noosance Moosance." They're obviously - painfully so in places - all amateur efforts, entirely homemade with iPhone, iPad, iMac and iMovie. Lots of problems in retrospect, but as with the cartoons themselves, over time they get easier to do, if not clearer to understand.

Now here's what I think is a perfect capstone, as it really emphasizes the foundation of so much when it comes to basic drawing: namely structuring a composition, and utilizing linear perspective to those ends.

The bulk of this project happened over the same extended holiday weekend as did a background binge-watch of one hundred and eighty episodes of Looney Tunes, all from three Golden Collection DVD boxed sets. To quote Daffy from the classic 1953 Merrie Melodies “Duck Amuck,” emerging from the cabin and re-entering society afterwards made for a curious effect: "That's strange. All of a sudden I don't quite feel like myself. Oh, I feel all right, and yet I... I uh..."

But while working on this very process demo video I was focusing in particular on the methodical approach I have to creating settings for many of my panels: lots of overlapping layers using linear perspective to “set the stage” for characters + props. Simultaneous to this I kept getting drawn into so many of the designs created for Looney Tunes (Paul Julian, Maurice Nobel etc.) – such gorgeous scenes that often go overlooked. It really made for a big “a-HA” moment connecting the dots in a direct line of influence to my own work… that and MAD’s Don Martin + the sense of humor from Jim Henson’s Muppets (speaking of nostalgia I also often binge on every single season of the Muppet Show) completes my personal trinity of aesthetics.

Another aspect I didn't touch on in the video was how/why I didn’t just simply copy + paste the first panel instead of laboriously redrawing it all for the second panel. Hell if shortcuts to save time was of any importance to me then I’m in the wrong business to begin with. Hence my amusement at the logic behind folks using custom-made fonts of their own handwriting, or best of all, this humblebrag effort bemoaning how much more efficient the artist would have been with hindsight. Give me a goddamn break: as an artist you already surrendered the high ground when it comes to wasting your time (and entire life). That's a cynical extreme, but the point remains - abandoning the craft in the name of speed leads to fast-food, art that is high on eye-candy & caloric content, but deficient in essential nutrients, so you wind up aesthetically starving.

I really wonder at how many folks actually missed out on the overall intent here: in retrospect I suspect that I ought to have rendered everything even more, ah, well... cartoonish, and really exaggerated the explosion. Like with added chunks of flying debris and maybe even sound effects. But then that would have run contrary to my usual deadpan approach, even if playing it underhanded for comedic value runs the risk of going unnoticed, especially in contemporary society's constant overkill on sensory overload. After daily, even hourly viewing of an unending deluge of streaming information that punches us repeatedly in the eyeballs and slaps us upside the brain for entertainment, something that just statically sits on the page just can't compete with the demands of today's attention-deficit-driven consumer market.

One of the new features I added to this demo reel was including subtitles, so as to provide something in the way of closed captioning. This was first done by typing in directly off the working script, then modifying it in accordance with the segments the words were tagged to appear in synch with on the screen. That took some toggling back & forth, but it helped juggling the overall timing + pacing.

Then I just simply read off the subtitles to get the narration, and lastly plugged in another perfect background piece performed by Poddington Bear, my go-to composer on Free Music Archive.

If you hold it up to your ear you can hear the faint, far-off sounds of laughter

Actually this endeavor triggered a cascade of other miscellaneous crap: Firefox was all buggy and not even loading the upload page for YouTube – a common problem on many sites with a slow internet connection (dialup speed) that we have out here at the cabin on the hill. Note: Even uploading the mp4 took almost three hours!

So I did clean reinstall, which took a while, and wound up not being the problem anyways. So switched over to Safari, which meant finding and looking up all the account log-in info that is autofilled in Firefox. This solution looked good to go, but by then the editorial feedback I got on the beta version meant wrestling - then ultimately scrapping - any idea of text. Bummer but also kinda good riddance as it was a pain in the ass – but now after deleting everything it was back to shifting all the segments into lengths in time with the voice-over alone. Which in turn meant finding where the iMac microphone was, so as to redo the recording a bit more louder turns out REALLY REALLY LOUD and easier to understand. All in all a vast improvement on the first take.

Enjoy... and the transcript is below the fold

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Xmas 2018 (+ 2017/1990 bonus!)

There's nothing like drinking Genny Creams for breakfast, nine months before today, and thinking about whether or not at some point over the intervening days you die but your pre-programmed blog posts keep on appearing as scheduled. Weird.

This panel is now our households official annual Xmas card, along with an insert of next week's design. So bright & cheerful to lighten up what for many is a dark time of the year.

Here's a bonus peak at the process (better explained in painstaking detail here) behind using water-soluble pencils for a watercolor wash on the original pen + ink piece.

This year's festive offering is an extension of the festive carnage from 2017, which I totally neglected to upload at that time, so, here you go dear reader... a bonus xmas gift for you + your loved ones.

But wait - that's not all: here's a little something from back in 1990, before I learned how to color in. Really need that red...

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Return to the Tors

"Being an Annotated Account of a Weekend Excursion to the Granite Tors"
at the Chena River State Recreation Area, October 5 & 6, 2018. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

Repost: "Digital Beards - How to Cartoon"

Recently tripped over an old post that has actually aged okay: turns out the vodcast of me produced by Digital Beards way back in 2013 is now the fourth most popular video of all time on UAF’s eCampus YouTube educational channel. I spend most of the time (over an hour long!) talking down to the off-camera sketchbook - one of my handicaps in the classroom is not directly engaging an audience with eye contact, as I was raised on traditional slides and am infinitely more comfortable narrating from behind, in the dark. Awkward.

Protip/Note to Self: Start adding rodents to my tutorials.

Sorted by popularity, with over 5.8k views, this little lecture now ranks just slightly ahead of “Handling Procedure for Laboratory Mice” …but still not as popular as “Module 14.4 – Narrated Elevated Plus Maze” (very excited scientist narrates mouse navigating a maze).

Thanks again go out to host and producer Chris Malmberg, and here's a bonus supplemental post that followed up the vodcast with the completed panel as published in the paper. And stay 'tooned for a new video tutorial that should be ready sooner than later is actually uploaded here if you wanna check it out before the accompanying backstory is posted in a couple weeks.