Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Teddy Bears"

So this one perhaps requires additional commentary, except that there really isn't all that much more to add other than it's simply based on a random encounter with a local vehicle with quite the collection of stuffed toys crammed in the back window. Needless to say it occurred to me what a strange perspective this would be for any passing bear.
See, I'm not weird, it's other people. I just take notes.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Alone in a Crowd" + "Dear Bruno"

A mark of distinction with this particular panel, in that I remember vividly putting down the eraser after the final cleanup, and sat there filled with a rare feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction - the surreal experience of being suffused with happiness and peace over creating a really depressing piece.

I was recently giving a show & tell to a group of folks, including some young kids, and this original panel surfaced amongst the usual batch of samples I rotate through the demo portfolio for such gigs. Given my location at the time + the statistical propensity of some Bush communities, especially off the road system, I mentally hit a speed-bump before gambling and talking about this particular panel. One angle was how animals can sometimes be used in lieu of people to broach sensitive subjects that might not otherwise ever come up in conversation. Also breaking the taboo of silence is more often than not an important part of the healing process.

And it's not so much my wallowing in melancholy or artistic purging of inner demons that leads to such work, but the reality of personally losing several friends and acquaintances: not to put too fine  point on it, when three folks I know shoot themselves within a two year span I start to get pissed, which is basically giving cover to just being scared.

Alaska has usually leading stats on suicide due to any number of factors, and it's important to know about the resources available in our communities, such as crisis lines and keep an eye out, and be willing to lend an ear if not a helping hand. And I'm certainly not above the random sucker-punch to regular readers who expect entertainment and are instead given a piece to really think about.
It was also just World Suicide Awareness Day and National Suicide Prevention Week... but aside from promoting awareness, so is every day and every week.

I'll end on this poignant panel: Chuck Legge down in Mat-Su draws (update: drew) excellent editorial panels for the Frontiersman, and now has his own page over on Facebook.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Medley: Dalton Highway

"There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.
In a civilization which requires most lives to be passed amid inordinate dissonance, pressure and intrusion, the chance of retiring now and then to the quietude and privacy of sylvan haunts becomes for some people a psychic necessity.
The preservation of a few samples of undeveloped territory is one of the most clamant issues before us today. Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books ... To avoid this catastrophe demands immediate action." - Robert (Bob) Marshall, Co-founder, The Wilderness Society 
Posting a veritable smörgåsbord of random notes, snapshots and sketches from a recent road-trip up the haul road. Above are two spectacular panoramas: the one on top is of Atigun Gorge, which is an entry point to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge accessed off the Dalton Highway, and the bottom view was from a feeder stream to nearby Galbraith Lake, also looking over towards the Refuge. If I would have turned around the view would instead be of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, so it is quite the magnificent vista nomatter where one looks or what direction you face.

Our small group of National Park Service seasonal trainees + accompanying ranger for the Fairbanks Public Lands Information Center (down at the Morris Thompson Center) took a run up the Dalton Highway for a few days early this spring as part of training on the various recreational resources that abound in our neck of the woods (or tundra in this case). After making base camp in a Coldfoot cabin we ventured further up north, through the infamous Atigun Pass. Spring was just a couple weeks behind us in the Interior, and snow still blanketed the sides of the road and greenup was just getting underway.

Early risers: Saxifraga and Black bear emerging from their winter slumber

The Bureau of Land Management's Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is an absolute must-stop for anyone seeking more information about outdoor activity along the pipeline corridor. A couple of the sketches posted here (the Dall sheep + wolverine) were from mounts on display in their exhibit area.

These are some quick sketches drawn while sitting in the passenger seat of the SUV as it bounced along the gravel road and we wound our way through the Brooks Range and emerged at the edge of the Arctic plateau that stretched on and on until the eventual shore of the Arctic Ocean.

Looking back on the experience of viewing a horizon line that was well over half-full of the north face of one single mountain range was certainly illuminating and a powerful vision. Equally important but infinitely more personal was sitting down and watching a pair of Arctic loons through binoculars, as they swam along a river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, far above the arctic circle no less.

Mount Sukapak is a popular pulloff attraction what with it's distinctive profile: it was cool to finally get to see it in person especially after working it into an earlier commissioned design and having to resort to photo-reference.

True to my reoccurring assignments in drawing classes, I have a penchant for dead hairy animals and will always try to catch a mount wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. No wait, that sounds really weird. Just like my frequent assignments in the classroom I'll always get few quick sketches of stuffed critters, and the visitor center in Coldfoot had some very nice displays set up. This wolverine made for a good study with pen & ink + wash.

At the crest of Atigun Pass, looking back at the North side of the Brooks, and ahead at the arctic plateau.

These recent snapshots dovetail quite nicely with the collection of other excursions (see more here) I'v collected on my treks about Alaska over the years, and setting foot back on the tundra roused a too-long dormant sense of connection to head for the hills again.

But lest anyone think this road trip was all fun and games, some serious interludes were devoted to channeling raw inspiration from the primeval wilderness...
Occasionally keen-eyed readers will often catch specific locations snuck into compositions: bonus detail in that mountain range in background is based on reference sketch shown earlier.

Friday, September 16, 2016

24 Hour Comics Day 2016

That time of the year again: Grab yer Sharpies and join our group of local cartoonists for the annual challenge where we each attempt to create our own twenty-four page comic within twenty-four consecutive hours!

This will mark the tenth time Interior Alaska has participated in the world-wide event. and we're always joined by a wide range of talent and skill, from aspiring amateurs to seasoned professionals, and it always puts a great perspective on what one can accomplish in just one day of intensely focused output - not to mention fellowship + fun.

Hosted once again by the awesome Comic Shop of Fairbanks, we'll be meeting Saturday, October 1st @ 12noon and wrapping up on Sunday, October 2nd @ 12noon. As always the public is invited to participate and attend this free event: drop on by to check out the works-in-progress or to supply companionship, support, or always-appreciated libations + victuals.

Here's an archive of previous posts: 2015 (recap here), 2014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 (there's no record of 2007, and I was outta state for 2011), or for more information visit the official page here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Road Trip" (and Atticus the Omnipresent Edtor)

Only been able to take a few extended road trips this season... usually reminded of the Bird-Dog's habit of sticking her head out of the window, and the attendant pin-striping of drool down the vehicle. Always wonder when seeing other folk's animals doing the same thing if it's the nasal equivalent of speed-reading for an air sniffer.

Speaking of the many endearing habits of pets, this particular panel had the bonus editorial assistance from the omnipresent editor who supervises the studio. And yes, cleaning up a cat's paw from India ink is just about as fun as it sounds.

As alluded to in the previous post, it's been a challenging summer what with the workload and numerous other speed-bumps thrown up along the way. One of which has been the discomfiting scenario of not having a studio since we migrated back out to digs in the community of Ester. Which was three freakin' months ago now... first-world problems and all but there's nothing quite so disruptive to an artist who tends to work in an established routine, if not the least in a settled environment. But slowly and surly surely the new studio is taking shape, and the compost-heap of material has been steadily growing and ripening away just in time for the fall harvest. There'll be quite the catch-up series of posts recapping many of the awesome events + experiences coming up sooner than later. In the meantime... back to herding cats!

"Please Paws"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

"AK Artist's Palette"

So here's something new: many months years ago I started ever-so-gradually incorporating both touches of wash (either watercolor or just black & white) and also more and more original doodles scanned directly from the sketchbook. Problem was, quite often the two of them combined would wind up looking kinda crappy, as the brand of sketchbook I've always used (basic Strathmore series 400, 8.5x8.5" ring-bound) was too lightweight to handle wet media, and would always buckle and warp a bit.
So I finally made the jump to a medium-weight Multi-Purpose pad instead, so as to accommodate doing more finished work in my sketchbooks. Hopefully this will ultimately close the annoying gap I've been constantly wrestling with as to which version of a panel to use, as they've all had their relative aesthetic qualities, whether wash or digital. Or maybe it's just going to simply add even more possibilities, which is always usually a good thing. Anyways I broke in the new sketchbook with this one, right on the first page.
And for those of our viewers keeping score at home, yes, all eleven of the browns are uniquely distinct (Derwent brand water-soluble pencils): brown, saddle brown, russet brown, tan, madder brown, cocoa, chestnut, bark, oak, baked earth and autumn brown (in order).

Atticus approved

Update: Apologies on missing the past two weekend postings... the summer season has been rather insane with 65+ hour workweeks AND I've moved to new digs without any internet AND also completely fried the hard-drive on the home computer... but never fear, as remedies are underway on all three accounts, and I'll have many adventures & experiences to share in forthcoming posts (not to mention funny pictures too). CHEERS!

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.