Sunday, September 21, 2014

Perspective + Illusion

It's all a matter of perspective: we all look at the same things, just not the same way. Sharing a point of view can be illuminating, as in a group exercise I once participated in while attending a healing workshop at the first annual Gathering of the Tribes event in Tok, Alaska. Everyone sat in a large circle with an object that was symbolically representative of the issue facing the tribe/village/family in the center. A "speaking stone" was passed around the circle, and whomever held it had the floor as it were and spoke of their particular take on the problem. The theory was by the time the stone had traveled around the circumference of the group, a full picture of the issue would have then been created by the sharing of each person's unique perspective from their own point of view, since for example I couldn't possibly see things the same way as someone sitting across the circle from me, nor could they necessarily relate to a facet as seen from where I sat.

Another "trick" taught to me by an instructor in an art class was to hold a pencil at arm's length (held at one end so it is vertical), then extend a raised index finger (think "you're #1" gesture) and then, while closing one eye, move your finger about half the distance between so that it is centered over the pencil, effectively blocking your view of it. This is how most folks see the world. Now, as a metaphor for expanded vision, open both of your eyes: that is how meaning is revealed. Wooo...

Additional insights can always be gained through additional pursuit of different perspectives. Years ago I attended a lecture on UAF campus as part of a class in metaphysics: a traveling creationist was extolling the failings of science by way of bolstering his religious agenda. As part of his presentation he showed us the infamous perceptual illusion of an old woman/young lady figure as a way of insisting that our biases would color our interpretation of data.

The lecturer didn't have anything to say when I mentioned the picture he showed was actually created by British cartoonist (it figures) William Ely Hill, who drew the image in 1915, based on other popular incarnations of the original design, as a deliberate example of illusion - as in it is both. Point being through a little research one can often arrive at a truth, sometimes even the truth. Asking questions is a start, listening to answers is also a part of the process... as is making fun of it all.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


So here's another one of the recent Castor canadensis-themed series that also points up the crack that's widening between the original versus the digital print-version. Eventually I'll just have to stop with the Photoshop and trust the process.

This strip in particular was actually published in the newspaper twice - repeated a week after the black & white version ran on account of some real-estate opening up on the color pages (that and the graphic artist doing the layout - who always makes me look good - dug the color one so much she snuck it in again!).

Friday, September 19, 2014

Takes A Village

Image by Sara Bernard

Another slightly off-topic PSA that has ostensibly nothing to do with comics but nevertheless deserves wider exposure to as many different demographics as possible. It dovetails with an oft-repeated theme I've posted about here before with the issues of sexism, harassment and equality as they relate to women in the comics culture.

On September 11th The Atlantic published a moving, insightful and alarming essay, "Rape Culture in the Alaskan Wilderness" by Sara Bernard, on the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska, triple the national rate. Within the context of our state's double-than-average suicide rates, plus our rates of violent crime and firearm ownership (note who's #1), it paints a pretty grim picture.

On a related note, over the weekend I noticed and screengrabbed an ironic - and thoroughly depressing - juxtaposition of articles from the News-Miner website this weekend:

Astonishing willful ignorance + patriarchal privilege on display… rare to see examples like that letter-to-the-editor so simply and effectively rebutted right there on the same page. Connect the damn dots. 

Victim Services resource list is here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

24 Hours Comics Day Alaska 2014

Grab yer Sharpies: This year marks the eighth time The Comic Shop of Fairbanks, Alaska  (Facebook page here) is hosting the international challenge where artists of all ability meet to create their own twenty-four-page comic in twenty-four hours. So far there are venues in 23 states and 12 countries around the world joining in.

Here's a sampling of backposts on the event in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. We usually start out with a minimum of a couple dozen participants with at least a half-dozen folks completing their pages – but everybody has fun nomatter how long you can hang out and draw or how much you get done. Stop on by and check out the works in progress!

The local chapter's Facebook event page is here, for more information on the event and FAQ here's a link to the 24 Hours Comics Day official website (and their Facebook page here).

The Comic Shop 418 3rd Street/Eagle Plaza 452-5780

SATURDAY, October 4th at 12noon…
...we finish up SUNDAY, October 5th at 12noon

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I was on track to major in Philosophy during my (de)formative years in college. Then I decided that I would instead invest in a career that could afford me a sense of usefulness and command respect amongst my peers, if not actually provide me with the means by which to earn a decent living just kidding (a joke that my art major friends found rather funny).

But seriously, cartooning does afford one with the opportunity to occasionally grapple with the deeper issues in life, for example on "the possibility of unperceived existence." More often than you might think we are kept up late into the night with these... gnawing questions. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Castor Canadensis: The King's Beavers

I recently worked at a job which had its share of surreal moments, or at least ones I just-so-happened to notice. It's the little things, like checking in the contents of teacher kids to ensure all the educational aides are accounted for. For example, this bag of beaver scat. The texture was perfect - if not a wee bit on the chewy side.

Here is perhaps the most epic rendering of beaver I've ever seen illustrated: Kent Monkman's "The King's Beavers" (2011 acrylic on canvas). Born in Ontario, this was a "gift of the artist and Bruce C. Bailey in honour of Nathalie Bondil to mark the 150th anniversary of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts." Spectacular analogy and, in my humble opinion, one that exists on the same level of poignant metaphor as Spiegelman's Maus.

Some days it's all you can do is keep treading water and desperately keep stuffing the holes in hopes of slowing down the flood of information. The steady deluge of media and people at times triggers our inner beavers to start gathering materials for a mental blockade, just as the instinctual sound of running water does in reality:
-->The sound of running water motivates them, indicating a threat to their lodge. Since a beaver lodge must be in water deep enough to permit entry below the ice in winter, any flowing water must be stopped. In one case, a tape recorder playing the sound of running water was left in an area populated by beavers. Within hours, the device was “dammed”—buried in mud! - “Consider the Beaver” Stuart Wachowicz, Tomorrow’s World-->

Lastly, here's a splendid section of samples from Simpson's animator Liz Climo on Tumblr and on her Facebook page. Rarely do I ever even consider using the phrase "too cute" but her critters are the cutest ever.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Party Poopers" Walker/Mallott

Okay: So let me see if I got this right: Alaskan Democrats abandon their principles to endorse a candidate because he's promising to not act on his Republican principles... so they can defeat a governor that doesn't have any principles. Got it.

But seriously, there is a sizable contingent of folks who just saw our votes invalidated by behind-closed-doors tactics. One way to view this is that after the results of the recent primary the will of the electorate was circumvented. Regardless of party affiliation the result of that is to further disenfranchise voters from participating in the electoral process - and at a time when our previous two elections had around 40% turnout. Basically what has happened was the Alaskan Democratic Party panicked over polls that saw a three-way gubernatorial race resulting in a win for Parnell. But rather than tackle the problem of attracting and registering new voters to their original ticket they instead opted to subvert the voting process with back-room negotiations where a “Central Committee” decided everything in the end.    And speaking of the last, most recent election, if Walker’s glamor is running on essentially being Mr. “Yes on One/Repeal the Giveaway” personified, in case people have already forgotten… that ballot measure lost. And they certainly won't get more voters to the polls for essentially a revote on the same referendum after undermining trust and confidence in the process.

   So far there are a handful of other serious concerns with this new "Unity" ticket, not the least of which is a reminder that Walker’s push for Alaskan Firsty-stuff includes the development of Pebble Mine. He is also for continuing the war on drugs (opposing the legalization initiative), has adopted the ol' intrusive-Federal-overreach sovereignty language of Tea Partiers (“Uni-Tea Party?”), and if you think for a single minute his right-wing perspective on woman’s rights, gay rights and other social issues will remain off the legislative table during his tenure, then I have another bridge to nowhere for sale. *Update: ...aaand the salmon has turned around and begun to go with the current.
   Now what I would sincerely question anyone supporting this ticket is: where exactly does one draw the line before compromise turns into selling out? Any of the above issues? All of them? None of the above?
   Lastly, take a long look at who the gubernatorial candidates had running with them as their respective picks for Lieutenant Governor: Walker had selected Craig Fleener, versus the one that Byron chose - Hollis French. The latter was incidentally the candidate I personally had the highest hopes and most enthusiasm for... what motivated me to go to the polls to vote before the ticket was effectively shredded.

   Indeed it would be ironic to see “Democrats” pull the levers for a "Republican" candidate, but the hypocrisy is somewhat stale after the last shenanigans with sacrificing McAdams for Murkowski. Already many who are nominally sympathetic to Democratic, Progressive or Liberal principles + platforms have begun to proselytize for this pair of politicians, all the while avoiding the literal elephant in the room, and - insult to injury - completely ignoring the unethical sleight of hand the Alaska Democratic Party committed, all in the name of winning at any cost. Or put simpler, politics as usual.
   Certainly now neither of these two has earned my vote for this fiasco. On the other hand, this cynic would love to be proven wrong: see here for a succinct perspective on the topic from "What Do I Know" (it sure as hell beats agreeing with Paul Jenkins et al). Update: and an excellent cautionary overview from John Aronno on Alaska Commons re "social issues.".

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shows: 50th Anniversary Of The Wilderness Act + Faculty Exhibit

Excerpted teaser from the original on display
I'm honored to have been invited to contribute a piece for tonight's 1st Friday exhibition (opening is from 5-8pm) at the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor's Center in downtown Fairbanks, hosted by the local office of the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers. Dovetailing with "Voices Of The Wilderness," a traveling exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be showcased for this particular display, which is ostensibly the subject matter of my own pen & ink + watercolor wash panel created especially for this show. Hey, it's only the single most happiest piece I've ever done, so, just sayin'.

If yer in this neck of the woods please stop by to say hello and check out some of the many other works on display - in particular some truly epic imagery from photographer Jeff Jones. Coming from my history of trekking hundreds of miles across the Brooks Range and other wilderness areas across Alaska, I personally have yet to see someone come even close to capturing the totality of the experience like these pieces do. Short of actually being out there immersed in the place in person, they are bar none the best at depicting the vastness of scale in these panoramas. Of particular note are areas of deep cast shadows which help describe the pictorial depth of field much better than the usual money-shot landscape centerfolds that are much more common representations of these areas. Having such aspects included in the composition adds an aesthetic richness and depth that I wish more artists would be aware of and incorporate into their work.

Photograph by Jeff Jones

Given that this particular series is tucked away inside the Federal Building, it's a rare opportunity for the general public to enjoy these pieces in a more accessible setting. And there will be a sampling of other works on display for the rest of the month if you can't make the opening tonight.

And there's also a spiffy exhibit up in the UAF Fine Art Complex's gallery of assorted faculty works, including a few funnies of mine. Following the recent experience with the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner raffling off an original as a fundraiser for Newspapers In Education, I was impressed at the presentation of the piece, and had the folks at the Art Center frame up a few more for me. There is a certain sublime irony at having the framing eclipse the cost of the original, but they sure look amazing and professional now. That show's up for the rest of the month as well, so if you happen to be on campus, drop in and check it out.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Student Links: Drawing + Cartoon & Comic Art

Image: Katian Stark

Here's a veritable smörgåsbord of samples from a few select folks that took classes this past Summer Session (both Drawing + Cartoon & Comic Art). Since the paradigm has shifted from the traditional gallery-based model for the marketing of art into the hands of the creators, it's crucial to cultivate an on-line presence. To those ends I assign students to upload imagery to any one of the number of hosting sites (Tumblr, Imgur, Pinterest, Picasa, deviantART, Facebook, SmugMug etc.) or their own websites. Usually at least one of our critiques over the course of the semester is "virtual" - galleries are loaded onto the studio computer and projected on the screen for review - and assignments and works-in-progress are always proofed over the internet. So a computer is as much an important teaching tool in any drawing class, like a ruler or a pencil, as it is one to digitally create work with as well.
Take a moment to peruse the galleries linked to in the respective captions and enjoy the imagery from some of these talented artists.

Image: Chelsea Roehl
Image: Brittney Tabone
Image: Brittney Tabone
Images: Anita Ashbaugh
Images: Anita Ashbaugh
Image: Tara Maricle
Image: Tara Maricle