Sunday, August 14, 2016


Recently I had an artist friend relate an uncomfortable interaction with a random person who basically wound up being a jerk – not just a critical review of works on display but pretty much outright harassment (one reason to pack bear spray at venues like that). It’s times like that when I can totally empathize with the majority of acquaintances who prefer to stay behind the canvas or drawing board, as being a visual artist is a lot of times diametrically opposite the skillset of being a successful performing artist.

A lot of folks don’t realize how hard it is peddling wares: it takes a certain kind of artist that is used to working alone the vast majority of the time to be able to turn around and effectively be on stage in public for hours – it can be really demanding if not totally draining. And that’s all above and beyond the physicality of packing up inventory and setting up at gigs to take it all down again after a few hours to set up again somewhere else some other time, over an over again. In many ways we have an affinity with musicians who tread the same routine, though I can’t say I’ve ever been pelted with bottles by drunks, at least while at a table that is. And like the cartoon posted above, there's the subset of performers who stay so wholly focused on their work to the extent that it becomes a defensive maneuver in itself, if not a self-parody.

I remember one of my first booksignings in Anchorage where I never sold anything and one dude picking up a book, flipping through it and tossing it back on the table saying “you’re not funny” and walking away laughing (some small irony there I thought). Or having it slowly dawn on you after ten minutes of conversation that the other person has actually mistaken you for another artist. But experiences like that are way overweighed with countless moments of pure awesome, like a fan who once drove all the way from Delta Junction just to have her book signed, or a guy showing up with a binder full of every single thing you’ve ever drawn that’s been published etc.

The flip side is that probably just as hard as dealing with the total schmucks is realizing that even if your table is inundated with hundreds of people all day long, each and every single one of them is always an individual that you’re meeting for the very first time, and should always be treated in respectful accordance with forming such impressions. Like even standing up and simply saying hi to someone even though it’s been hours since anyone visited the table. That being said it takes a lot of effort and perhaps a certain type of personality to come across as genuine as opposed to the fake salesperson syndrome.

Maybe being trained as a waiter for all those years has something to do with it, but besides the challenge it’s a humbling responsibility to interact with complete strangers, open up as an artist, expose yourself through selling your work: more often than not it’s far more rewarding than a sale. But that helps too.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Yield" + Field-tripping: Dead Hairy Animals

This could be construed as much a commentary on local construction as the everyday habits of resident drivers… Last week while running late I ran smack into a flagger line on Miller Hill, then detoured on account of the closure of the Sheep Creek crossover to the Parks, then another detour to reach the Post Office, then another detour to get to Safeway to grab some supplies, then the usual, ongoing construction fiasco on campus. That’s five points within five miles/half an hour of travel. College Road is sure nice though, as the thing is, like complaining about the weather, folks will gripe about how bad the roads are, and rage about construction. Bullish nature, all too human.

Speaking of moose, here's a handful of images scanned from the sketchbook: all demos done while out on field trips with the Beginning Drawing class to gather reference material for our semesterly assignment on rendering textures during the introduction to basic pen + ink (see previous posts here: 2009, 2010 and last year).

"Pink-eyed Greenhorn"

I worked up the moose one, just as an experimentation, especially since I've been playing with a new toy in the toolbox: ordered a Kurosawa synthetic brush to compare against the Pentel Pocket Brush that's been in frequent use as of late. Must say I'm impressed with it, excepting the fact that it's water-soluble, which belatedly was discovered after the fact, much to my dismay. Still, nothing beats the traditional Winsor + Newton Series 7 Kolinski Sable.

The goose I kept as a pencil sketch, after working up some of the lines and value just a touch. Much as I start getting turned off at the commercialized context of these mounted animal displays (especially in conjunction with all the weapons), there are some pretty nice specimens in the store of a flock of Canadian Geese in flight. Requisite studies before attempting the real deal out in the field. On the other hand the otter I left alone, which is normally a good idea anyways. Total time estimates are: 15 minutes for the goose, an hour for the moose, and a couple hours for the otter.

Even though I reflexively try to take reference pictures, I never use them anymore. Either as a result of getting good enough on-the-spot at taking "visual notes," or (more likely) I've simply stopped caring about faithful depictions of reality. Then again, this is the state where we actually have libraries where one can check out taxidermy models.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Final/Last Frontier"

I'm unabashedly old school, or in this case, Original Series. Over the years I've grown to embrace the Next Generation though, and this opportunity to incorporate the bonus classic meme was too good to pass up. But you know you're dated when your Significant Otter asks if you have a copy of "the first Star Trek" and you spend a while digging through boxes to excavate not only that one, but the next nine as well (for a proper binge), and she says "No, I meant the first one" meaning the other first one instead.
Now get off my lawn transporter deck.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Walrus Selfie" + "The Alaska Penguin"

I am the walrus, in the sense that I just wish I was on a beach somewhere else. Oh well... this is as good as it gets, which works just fine.

Probably one of the more common and erroneous misconceptions of Alaska would be the presence of penguins: wrong pole but it is a prevalent stereotype given such a similar climate. To say nothing of the tendency of other two-footed residents around here to waddle around amidst the ice fog while swaddled in protective layers of bulky clothing (we'll leave alone the topic of blubber for now).

Which is certainly not to say it can serve as fodder for perpetuating the myth of their previous existence in Alaska, much less the story of their eventual and unfortunate demise.

To be sure there are a host of legendary penguins that populate the media: as a stock character they provide much in the way of comic relief, but it is critical to remember their endangered status, especially given the predicament of many polar species in the face of climate change.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"Hump Day"

The Alaska Wood Bison has been in the news up around this neck of the woods, and so popped up on the cartoon radar and was added to the eternal mix of random topics percolating away in the subconscious. The tipping point was one day while on an field-trip expedition with a Beginning Drawing class to the Museum of the North (part of the semesterly pen + ink assignment to gather reference sketches of textured artifacts & miscellaneous critters) I did a buffalo as a demo. It being Wednesday I ad-libbed a coffee cup and the accompanying caption.

That in turn beget a doodle, which eventually gave birth to another panel. Funny how these things work. Funny: How these things work.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


I got the idea for this panel while sitting at one of the usual satellite studio locations and staring out the cafe window. In the parking lot was a friend's pickup truck, and his beautiful Alaska malamute was patiently awaiting his return while hanging its head out of the back window.

A funny side-note was how I'd been experiencing withdrawl from not having an iPhone on me at all times, so similar to a phantom limb syndrome, I kept reflexively reaching for a resource that wasn't there anymore when I was wondering how to spell "malamute." The original joke was a caption that read "malemute/femalemute" which, even without an accompanying image, I thought was a funny concept. But it turned out that was based on a misspelling, so this idea was next in line.

One method in achieving a nice, soft sepia tint to ones washes.

I actually love the sound of dog teams baying in unison, as there are a fair number of mushers in out neck of the woods, so at certain times the valley is filled with a harmony of howls, as each lot successively daisy-chains off its neighboring pack. It's the Official Soundtrack of The North.

There's a bonus B-side remix to that soundtrack: Years ago I had the rare fortune to sit on a hillside right across a small valley from a pack of wolves who were vocalizing while lounging about on the tundra. Accompanying me on this trek out to the White Mountains was the Significant Otter and Bird-Dog, who kept tipping her head in quizzical perplexity at the howling. Perhaps it triggered the dormant, ancestral connection with a spirit pack, or maybe she couldn't quite understand the regional dialect.

On a similar note (literally), there has been several occasions at our new digs back out in Ester that we've heard a resident pack of coyotes yipping away up in our neck of the woods. In marked contrast to the dog, however, the cat couldn't seem to care less.

In theory, only one of the objects on the table is intended to be a cat toy.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wear The Fox Hat

A project that was a long time coming, as it was a suggestion made by an acquaintance for years in idle conversation over beverages. I get that a lot: "You should draw a ____" and it usually goes in one ear and out the other (aside from the 1% of the time it sticks and gets shoveled into the mental mulch-pile). But eventually with enough persistence and pulling out a wad of cash, I'll take anything more seriously, and a spot opened up on the studio schedule in between several other gigs for me to work up a design. The tshirt was commissioned on behalf of the Maclaren River Lodge via a mutual friend who essentially wanted to see his idea actually realized as a finished product.

Leaving off the requisite pile of pencil sketches, I did something a bit out of the ordinary in that, after the core concept was approved by all parties, I worked up most everything fully colored. That is of course the most expensive route to take as far as getting tshirts printed up, but on my end as the creator it was a crucial component to help in visualizing the end result, and simplify the process by reverse engineering it down until a decent-looking, balanced compromise is reached. That being said, the traditional rule of thumb for me is ensuring the design can still hold up and function as a black + white image.

The question at this stage was twofold: what style of lettering/particular font is appropriate, and also should it all be on one line wrapped around the top, or divided above & below? Symmetry + balance is important especially with these circular designs, and the contrast of the lettering should be taken into consideration with regards to it's line weight, and organic feel versus hard-edge etc. and not forgetting the basics like legibility. Another speed-bump was mulling over seemingly inconsequential details that actually had a very subtle but important impact as far as any initial impression: how to phrase the statement: "Wear The Fox Hat" vs "Wear The Fox Hat!" vs "Wear The Fox Hat?"

At this point the beard had undergone a bit of a trim, as I pulled it further back up inside the core circle area so as to be able to draw the bottom text further up against it, and make for an overall tighter, more unified composition.
Then it was assembling a buffet of possibilities with color, so some sample swatches help to illustrate variations using a 1-color (dark ink printed on top of a colored tshirt background), a 2-color (black + white ink printed on top of red tshirt background), a 1-color reversal (white ink printed on top of red tshirt background), and my personal aesthetic choice, a 1-color tone-on-tone option (darker red ink printed on top of a lighter red tshirt). This would be awesome on a 100% cotton pigment-dyed garment, and would age really well too as an organically distressed tshirt. It also has the advantage of combining the economic advantage of being only a 1-color print, but still incorporating the crucial element of red.

Along with accompanying emails, everything in the end gets printed out as hardcopy, backup CD's with all the image files (TIFs and vectored Illustrator) are burned, and some bonus signed prints included in the final package ready for delivery. It's a good sign for me to feel excited about wanting to wear one myself!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"The Sixth Seal"

Proselytizing polar bears aside, no, I haven't had a come to Jesus moment nor embraced any other deity (besides His Noodly Appendage). It's just another cultural reference that makes for good fodder, so praise the lord and pass the muktuk. I even resisted the urge to render copious amounts of gore out of respect for the eventual reposting in a church bulletin. Hallelujah.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


When a rejection letter actually makes your day: actually having a juror write out the title of one of your submitted pieces. Always remember to give 'em your best shit, I guess.

But seriously it brings up a point on how my father always used to council me to not ever bother hiding who I was at job interviews, since if you don't really want to waste any time working for anyone who doesn't appreciate you for who you really are. Life's too short to work for assholes in other words. And that certainly extends into the art world as well.

And as far as rejection goes, it always reminds me of my broken-record mini-lecture I give each and every semester to aspiring talents when it comes time to submit to the student art show. You got rejected? So What! Big Deal! You got in? So What! Big Deal!

Actually sometimes it is a comparatively big deal... egomaniacs with inferiority complexes notwithstanding. Impartial, objective validation of your work is a nice bonus (informed opinion), but never necessary. In fact, said rejection is more often than not an even better inspiration when it comes to motivation. The above letter graces the studio corkboard right above the drawing table. And immediately upon opening the envelope, I turned around and waded right into a new panel. Take that! And that! (repeat... "odd" infinitum).
Basically, be the Weeble.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ribald Roundup: Edits

Here's a handful of errant panels that didn't even make it out of the pages of the sketchbook to the drawing board, much less to the official submission stage. Not so much issues with insecurity and lack of self-confidence (which may or may not be a learned behavior for many artists from de/formative dating rituals in highschool), but just prudently knowing full well in advance you'll get rejected. Join me below the fold for the risqué, ribald and rude.