Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Cold Nose"

Recently I was wondering about the accuracy of the old adages about whether or not the warmth of one's pet's ears and/or nose is a reliable measurement of ailing health. Factually - at least as far as numerous surfing sessions diagnosing on the internet could ascertain - there are any number of other factors and symptoms that cumulatively indicate potential issues.

Fortunately cartoonists make lousy veterinarians, or for that matter, armchair psychologists, who project their hypochondriatic tendencies using anthropomorphism instead. Still, we're cheaper than either.

And speaking of cold, we here in the Interior are battening down the proverbial hatches in the face of a pretty deep cold snap.

Middle Tanana Valley Severe Watches & Warnings NOAA Weather Radio
Watches & Warnings
Special Statement
Issued: 2:53 PM AKST Jan. 10, 2017 – National Weather Service
... Significant cold spell coming to the interior... 

Confidence is increasing that many areas in the interior will see
40 to 50 below low temperatures by early next week. 

Temperatures will cool through Friday with lows around 30 below,
but will briefly warm up this weekend with lows around 20 below. 

Colder air from the Arctic and Canada will surge south and  
settle over the interior early next week. Temperatures will fall 
to 40 to 50 below with the coldest area being in the upper Yukon 
Flats. The middle Tanana Valley, including Fairbanks, will likely 
see lows around 40 below by Monday morning. 

The degree of cold will depend how cloudy the skies will be. 
Under mostly clear skies, temperatures will be as cold as 
forecast. However, if skies are cloudy, overnight lows will be 
warmer than what is currently forecast. 

High temperatures will not be much warmer as there is very little
solar heating to help warm the atmosphere and break the strong 
inversion that will develop. 

For the latest forecast go to to weather.Gov/Fairbanks. 

Which all brings me to this “Forecast of Faces” a medley of teaser swatches from upcoming Nuggets: Way back when I submitted my panels for the feature to the newspaper to run in January, two were specifically 30-below zero gags and another one was for -40. I had almost edited them for higher temps, even just saying "subzero" instead of specifics, but thought, nah…

And if that map graphic is to believed, the warmest place to be in Alaska by at least fifty degrees is evidently on the Pacific Ocean or the Bering Sea? But seriously, if the forecast bears out, it'll come full circle right back to the first cover for the newspaper I ever did back in 1989... the last time we bottomed out in temperatures.  
Stay warm + well folks!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Recap: Beginning Drawing/Fall 2106

"You always say that." Evidently I always say the same thing when asked about any given semester's class: "this is the best group of students ever." And yet it's somehow always true... according to the few folks I've confided in over the many years of teaching drawing - the Beginning Drawing studio course in particular.

Speaking of repeating myself: remember back in the day when this blog was supposed to be all about what it's like to teach a drawing class? Way back eight years ago now, January 15th 2009. My how things have changed - but the one constant thread throughout it all has been how much it hasn't.

So starting with the above-posted sample swatches of the final assignment (some relevant backposts + samples about the final critique from 2009 here, here and here, plus another few from 2010 here, here and here) I went through the archive and did some comparing and contrasting.

And they're right: seems every semester whenever everything starts to wind down, I make the inevitable, proud pronouncement that "this is THE BEST class EVER." And it's true.
A side-note that occurred to me while putting this post together was how I absolutely love having the technological tools at my disposal now to instantaneously review the irrefutable evidence. Used to be such an arduous task to meticulously document student works with a camera + film + slides, in days of yore.

For another prime example of consistent amazement, consider the "Image + Text" assignment and variations thereof. I've recently dropped all the pretentious terminology on the parameters of the original critique and now just simply say "draw a three page comic." Of course all the accompanying justifications and examples are still included in supporting lectures and demonstrations, because the "Vignette" is still one of my favorite segments of the semester to explore, inspire and challenge students with. 

The cresting of such a perspective - the feeling of solid satisfaction at a group's overall progress - happens especially upon review of the final portfolios or reviewing the student art show, or feedback from other faculty and staff on the amazing amount of pieces up on display in the hallways at any given time, there is a collective perspective where I am just flat-out astonished at all the works I've been privileged to participate to varying degrees in the creation of.

Observation, Experience and Imagination is still a capstone in-class exercise: call it a quiz if you like, since it's essentially an on-the-spot assessment of their skills and seeing how well they can assimilate everything they've learned (and it's also a hand-in-glove opportunity for me to remind them of the same.

The self-portraits - among the many others assembled here - in particular always stand out, as they should, since they're ostensibly the crowning accomplishment that highmarks an intense period of sustained output. The same could be said of gauging effectiveness as an instructor: it's one metric to assess one's methods and their respective value in the classroom.

Rather than just simply repeating a tried-and-true formula that works best for the largest number of students, give that they're all individuals with varying levels of skill, ability and interest, there is an overall evolution with constant and numerous tweaks to the roster of exercises and assignments. I learn, I'm tested, and I've flunked my share of lessons - the day or the semester or the class that stops happening will be the day it's time to move on to doing something else.

Figure drawing is the last section (see backposts here, here and here) addressed in the Beginning level, and as with all the other areas it's a cursory introduction at best. Not only is there a meta-purpose to jumping from different mediums, techniques, formats and subject matter in sustaining interest, but it exposes the class to a wide variety  of possibilities that is designed to hopefully entice and encourage further exploration in other courses.

There just simply isn't enough time to cover everything I'd like to and do justice to the topic, but in theory it's more like opening up a door for them to look around and return to for more detailed and focused study for another semester. Or planting a seed, even caching the knowledge and experience for them to return to later on.

One thing that also consistent is my hope that each and every one of the folks in any of my classes just stays with it. There ought to be an vague feeling of discomfort the very next day after the last class when they are out & about doing normal daily activities and they realize it's the "phantom sketchbook" phenomenon: they ought to have been well-trained by that time to never leave the house without it. And also, whenever reaching for that way to express a thought, it should also be instinctual to grab a pencil and sketch it out.

That's the way it has worked out for me, and all of my approaches and processes continue to get results on either side of the table: whether facing outward to a group, or turned inward on my own artwork.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Sue & Lou"

Man did I ever have too much fun with this one. In fact, it was my personal favorite of the year. Not just the usual wordplay with homonyms, but some homophones and homographs thrown into the mix as well.
The drawing itself is a thing of elegant simplicity: figurative poetry in the simplest of compositions. Honestly, with this one, I have no idea whatsoever as to where it came from: despite years of mulling about the process, sometimes the how and the why are a complete mystery even to myself. I suppose just watching with wonder at what comes out the other end of the pen is one of the primary reasons we keep on drawing them.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Recap: Eagle Residency

    Here's a follow-up to the previously mentioned (link to more information here) Bureau of Land Management Eastern Interior Artist-in-Residency program I completed back in August. It's an abbreviated post as there's a full 45-minute presentation of assorted photographs, sketches and drawings plus supplemental maps and a portfolio/sketchbook show + tell that accompanies the images. Since I'm obligated by the terms of the residency to have a public component this is a sampling for social media excerpted from that main presentation. I already got to give a test-run to the Fairbanks Watercolor Society as a special guest artist at one of their meetings, and will do so again presumably for the grand unveiling of the poster design I'm working on, which will probably happen at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center at a later date TBA.

    After a hectic and overloaded summer, what with teaching classes at both Visual Art Academy and Summer Sessions, hosting openings and putting on a major exhibition, plus back working a stint with the National Park Service ...oh and on top of it all, moving, this was a sorely needed respite from an insane schedule. So after panic packing and second-guessing supplies I jumped aboard a pickup with my official host for the 400-mile 10-hour road trip to my new digs for the last two weeks of August.
(more below the fold)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Dog Hitching"

One of my favorite reoccurring gigs is for the folk at Parks Highway Service & Towing 
(previous posts here, here and here). This year's design was testament to the power of spontaneous inspiration as I had basically spaced the assignment out until the last minute (one of the many reasons I have a great deal of empathy with my Beginning Drawing students, natch).

I had gentle reminder via a query as to whether I'd given it any thought, which was promptly buried under an avalanche of other stuff ("oh yeah - I'll get right on that"), and so when the time came for the "how's that going?" email I set myself up for a rush job by replying I'd have concept roughs done that night. En route to campus I camped out at the cafe with sketchbook in hand, and after a few false starts, this one came out the other end of the pen. So I gave it a quick wash + a few blobs of white-out, scanned it right before class and emailed it off for approval. The students also got to see the condensed process unfold in real-time as they were privy to each step, since I got a thumbs-up and immediately set about improving the panel's composition by penciling it out (including the detail off to the side as posted above) and then inking it in all in one sitting.  Not my normal MO but on-the-spot deadlines sometimes make for good focus under pressure as a creative catalyst.

After scanning the line art as a precautionary backup I took it home for a watercolor session, and that variation worked out better than expected, so the final piece got rescanned the next morning, and away it went. The print version in the newspaper that ran as a Nuggets was a wee bit small + muddy  - still looking awesome though - so it was a nice contrast to see it appear in a different context and sharp, crisp color (hat-tip Graphic North).

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"The Princess and the Pee"

One of the biggest corporate players in the travel industry, Princess Cruises ("the worst environmental record in the Alaskan waters"), was busted covering up the deliberate dumping of contaminated waste since 2005. A whistleblower engineer alerted Australian authorities which has resulted in the largest fine ever for such violations.
Of course Princess and other unconscionable businesses will now have friends in high places that will actively seek to dismantle protections for wilderness areas and abolish regulatory agencies such as the EPA.
Gallery of other editorial panels here.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Distilled Nuggets: Annual Retrospective 2017

Wait, what? Has it already been a whole year down the proverbial tubes?
Actually, to flog the metaphor a bit, our awesome landlord installed a septic system in the fall, which promptly froze up at the first subzero snap... so back to the ol' slop-bucket routine. So no, once the icy sphincter clenched itself up there ain't nothing going down any tubes until spring. And besides, the more I think about it, the more I like "greywater" as a much better metaphor for a year's worth of backlogged material.

Sample pages from the 24-hour incoherent weirdness

So once again the fine folks at Ursa Major Distilling are hosting another humble little show by yers truly: approximately one-hundred pieces covering everything from the regular Nuggets feature - both black + white panels and some splendid full-color prints on display as well; a handful of editorial panels (every one of which was rejected for publication); the full 24 Hour Comic from this year; a sampler section scanned from my Fairbanks Sketchers outings; a reprint of the Arctic Science Summit piece; and of course the ever-popular "edits," consisting of not-suitable-for-publication material.

Speaking of retrospective introspective perspectives, a reminder that the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner now has a slate of Nuggets on their on-line Sundays section up again... almost as cool as getting to actually see it in glorious print. Or reading about all the behind-the-scenes trivia here.

"I got yer nip right here buddy"

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Xmas 2016

An odd confluence of timing this year means that since it's Christmas there isn't a newspaper out today, and since it's also a Sunday - no new Nuggets either. But it just so happens to be the one day a week we here at Ink & Snow faithfully execute our duty to bring you a new posting. Meaning, of course, that there's simply no such thing as a holiday (or day off really) for a cartoonist.

As a side-note here, you might notice the inclusion of a cat on the final print version... that's Luna-Bella, who was a member of our household for a month back in November. We adopted her from the local shelter in hopes of providing young Atticus with a buddy. But unfortunately, despite a lot of effort into creating a harmonious coexistence (even trying pheromones to no avail) there was too much friction and fighting, not to mention territorial pissings (literally). There was an age (2 years vs 6) and gender difference, which may have been a major part of the issue.

Really tore me up to take her back, as after half-a dozen adoptions I'd never had to experience the horrible feeling of failing in providing a forever home. It certainly made it worse that it was the fourth time she made her way back to the pound. I paid the fees forward... and within an hour she was picked up by a newlywed couple without any other animals in the household, which made the guilt somewhat dealable. Though I now know tears flow just as easily at thirty-below.

She was named that in honor of Luna (above), who was an adorable kitten we had scored shortly before... well we never got to even take her home, as during the intermediate step of a routine checkup and neutering at the vet, they discovered she had a rare, incurable and fatal disease known as Feline infectious peritonitis, which I had never even heard of. So that was a sad development, thanks to an unscrupulous breeder in the Delta Junction area who has been behind the recent rise in cases seen by veterinarians in the state. So we're gonna take a break on the heartbreaks for a spell...
Oh nevermind....

Not that there's any shortage whatsoever of kitty cuteness in the cabin, as this little (well, getting bit bigger now) purrball certainly enjoys getting spoiled. So from all our fuzzy hearts here at the cabin, please have a safe + warm holiday season!
Creative assistance courtesy Atticus The Omnipresent Editor

PS: Here's a sneak-peek at what will probably get rolled over into next year...

PPS: And of course no family-friendly holiday would ever be truly complete without an added bonus edit panel... CHEERS EVERYBODY!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Out & About

Happened to glance up at the wall of the local watering hole, and caught sight of a classic. Made complete sense given that it was twenty-below, dark, and at a saloon.

Bank on it: Seen at Denali State Bank

Kinda like wandering around campus and seeing all the cartoons posted to faculty office doors and staff cubicles, I get a real kick outta seeing my work make it's way to displays at reputable establishments around the community.

This semester's field-trip to the Bear Gallery was as insightful and rewarding as ever - we used it as an excuse to experiment with some random association for the vignette assignment (previously posted here, here and here) by warming up with sampled imagery excerpted from the work on display + juxtaposed with edits from the curator's statement (always a wealth of cryptic artsy-fartsy).

And as another semester/year uh, draws to a close it's time for a brand-new sketchbook... which means in turn NEW STICKERS. Hat-tip to Lee Post and Brianna Reagan for the latest hipster accoutrements!