Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Hitchcock's Alaska"

"They just don't make __________ like they used to do"
This has happened to me more times than I can remember when it comes to music. Movies too: not too long ago I underwent a Renaissance with silent films (Chaplin in particular) so as to develop a keener appreciation for the range and power of pantomime in humor. This translates well into cartoons. With Hitchcock (besides the analogous story structure as applied to longer narratives ie graphic novels) I'm also left wanting when comparing contemporary horror's sad and sadistic torture-porn with the work of the masters.

There's an exercise I sometimes spring on my drawing classes that involves sharpening one's observational skills (part of the trinity). Students look (I mean, really look) at an object for a minute, then try and recreate it purely from memory. Field-sketching works in the same way too: countless times we take field-trips to do reference sketches, only to discover late in the classroom or studio we forgot to faithfully record a miscellaneous detail.
The next step is to recreate an iconic image - or any object really - relying only on what you remember, and then match this visual memory with the source material to see what aspects align with reality. That unto itself is a lesson in how much leeway cartoons have, as many times all you have to do is merely trigger an association in the viewer's memory for the piece to work.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Wild Arts Walk 2017 + Quick Draw

Last weekend saw a large flock of birds-of-a-feather gather outside to celebrate part of what makes Fairbanks a great place to live: The Friends of Creamer's Field with the support of Design Alaska hosted a 50-year anniversary "Cows, Cranes and Conservation" and it was a fabulous event.

Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is such a special place that's nested inside the city. Besides solo gigs,  and special events, I always make a point to usher my drawing students out on field trips to sketch various aspects of the place, as there are endless opportunities to gather reference material or simply sit and enjoy artistic observations.

This was the fifth time attending the Wild Arts Walk for me (see backposts for 2015, 2014, 2013 here and here, and 2009), and the fourth time as a participant in the Quick Draw challenge. The logistics necessitated setting up a table out on the trail early, and bailing for the requisite time spent under the big-top by the visitor's center for an assembled crowd of observers. Some of the cream of the crop of Interior artists were on hand (Todd Sherman, Carol Wilbur, Randall Compton, Vladimir Zhikhartsev, Scott Hansen and many other species represented a diverse range of styles) to bang out a piece for auction in one hour + 15-minutes of framing.

Working from a fresh doodle, my concept literally illustrated the concept of "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" which aside from the Latin, injected a little bit of a political statement. Given the unfair advantage a cartoonist has over other mediums, I had the relative luxury of enough time to rework a second piece as a horizontal composition (much better looking in my opinion), trading off between the two so as to facilitate drying time between the inking and the wash application. This panel - done in pen + ink w/watercolor - for once won't be appearing in the regular newspaper feature to make it a bit more unique as an original collectable. Not to mention the value-added cost of a $32 dollar frame (minus a 40% off coupon) hastily purchased that same morning right before the gig.

Performing under the watchful eye of a crowd as they circled about seeing the artists complete their respective works adds to the mounting tension + drama, which might be uncomfortable to some (on both sides of the table) but as there were several other educators at the event it's something you eventually get inured to - if not perversely inspired by. In the end we raised some money, maybe even making a little on the side as well, and had some serious fun, all for a good cause.

Image: David Gerrish

HUGE thanks to the volunteers who hosted + set up/broke down everything for the artists… so much unsung energy behind the scenes goes into pulling off this event. Met many visitors to the area and made new acquaintances along the way as well: always great to see all the folks, friends & fans turn out on the trails... thanks to all for supporting for this wonderful community resource.

Action shots courtesy Laura Nutter

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Bubble Net"

Sometimes I really, really have to wonder at my own basic sanity, or at least seriously question my priorities in life. And it usually occurs after investing time and effort into drawing fart jokes.
As to that, all I can do is quote on of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood: “…everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
PS: The science is here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mental Clutter + Back to the Grind (Coffee)

Cleaning off the desktops: virtual on the computer + snowlike drifts of notes and scraps of doodles that accumulate around the studio) feels good. I’m in a perpetual state of being behind on shit, and when there’s a slackening of pressure from daily work routine, there’s always a corresponding resurgence of busywork to fill in the gap left by the tide of stuff to do. I know I’m a cartoonist by simple virtue of the fact that it spirals into a compulsion: especially it seems when there’s other far more important duties to attend to, I’ll find myself increasingly drawn into the vortex of concepts. In other words, I get the greatest ideas at completely inappropriate times.
Part of the creative juices is the elixir of life itself: coffee. Last summer I set about recording what my intake was for five days of the week (slightly less on weekends) at the height of insanity:

Half a pot at home
4-shot 16oz mocha en route
16oz drip from campus (morning class)
24oz drip (lunch)
two coffee-flavored power drinks (afternoon class)
other half of pot at home

Compared and contrasted with "normal" behavior:
Coffee Cup Consumption Per Day:
Average of 1.6 cups per day.
Among coffee drinkers, the average consumption in the United States is 3.2 cups of coffee per day.
The average coffee cup size is 9 ounces.
"A “moderate amount” of coffee for healthy adults that is correlated with health benefits would max out at 500 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about five cups of home-brewed regular coffee." (Dr. Axe). Which puts me somewhere waaay up high in the stratosphere as far as estimated milligrams.

I also didn't know that there now is an actual category in the DSM - 5 for withdrawal, which is definitely something I developed familiarity with. According to some statistical charts I ought to be dead, but fortunately the resurrection properties of such a volume can evidently keep a corpse animated long enough to make it through to the weekend. This summer though, the schedule is scaled as far back as possible, and as mentioned earlier, the return of much more healthier, organic inspiration has come welling back to the surface of attention. Cheers!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"Flat Abs"

Even though ostensibly the "Nuggets" feature follows the approximate seasonal variations (ie cold weather gags in the winter) sometimes I'll jump the rails and switch locations to a more neutral environment that transcends time + temperature. As in what's going on independently underneath the water van be a nice respite from the usual stock in trade of winter material, but still be tangentially "Alaskan."

This is one of those panels that someone outta the blue came up to me while hanging out at the cafe to say how much they and their husband really, really like it, and it was clipped out + hung on the fridge (location, location, location: second only to the outhouse as a high-visibility/high traffic zone). That made my day, which is why it's good to be able to try and do unto others.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fairbanks Sketchers: Gone to the Dogs + Going to Church

Here's some doodles + pics from last month’s fabulous, fun & furry Fairbanks Sketchers meetup @ the Tanana Valley Kennel Club’s dog show. Definitely a unique venue “fur” drawing such an amazing range of different people + pets…

The day we went was Sunday, the weekend's big finish with the best-of-breeds winners all lined up for the final showdown... Basset hound won the day! It was the first ever dog show I’ve been to… just amazed at the range of different breeds on display – and just how professional + serious everybody was – even the dogs.

Well, obviously SOME of us weren’t so serious… but there was a veritable cornucopia of inspiration on display.

Never petted so many pooches in my life… and every single one was a splendid example of the best of their respective breeds… also the #3 ranked Akita in the whole country was in-house! We commented on the observation of how very impressive it was to see the sheer numbers of dogs in attendance all together in one place - with virtually no barking and no fighting between all the different breeds. Now if only humans could get along so well...

Along with finding some interesting scrap paper to doodle on, I mulled over the old adage that owners look just like their pets...

…or is it more the case that opposites attract?

Bitches be like “Yo dawg… I don’t get it”

The next meetup will be on Friday, June 16th from 4-6pm at yet another sacred, historic landmark in downtown Fairbanks: the Immaculate Conception Church.

Meta: All related backposts here on Ink & Snow are now all under a new "Fairbanks Urban Sketchers" tag for easy perusing, plus here's a link to the group's official Facebook Event Page and the group's Flickr pool collection as well (and here's my own personal Google+ portfolio of Urban Sketches).

Sunday, June 4, 2017

"Breastfeeding" (Mother's Day Alaska)

Here's a digitally enhanced illustration of a panel done after a pastel demo for a class. I really like the additional manipulation of imagery done after scanning the original linework, which in turn frees me up to experiment in other media (like with graphite, or wash or watercolor), which then finally leads right back into playing with the resulting work on the computer for a hybrid third or fourth variation. By then the work certainly qualifies for that nugatory label "mixed media."

I stepped outside of my usual comfort zone of materials, and created the original using a restricted palette with chalk pastels, both stick and pencil, with lots of blending stump work and layering with workable fixative. But I couldn't resist some tweaking with various Photoshop filters for special effects ("sponge" to be exact: "It's a technique that's taught in some of the finer preschools and kindergartens").

After a prompt from a friend whose partner is involved with a local nonprofit agency (the Fairbanks Breastfeeding Coalition) I mulled over the topic for a few weeks before doodling out some concept sketches. The above image (pencil > ink) was a first take, after which I quickly realized I really ought to do some more research on the subject matter. At the very least maybe details like the proper way to hold an infant, as opposed to hauling around a sack of kitty litter or birdseed (the limits of my personal experience).

That explains the somewhat surreal situation with a model, who I had take a brief deviation from normal duties and reenact the pose so as to get the shirt folds and hand placement correct. I also believe it's an important meta-lesson for students to see firsthand the creative process as a piece unfolds in various iterations. Hey, you make do with whatever resources you have on hand.

Yes, it's a cartoon. That being said, no, it doesn't mean that the facts of basic biology should be forgotten. As in pretty sure moose milk doesn't come from their armpits.

Here's the pen + ink made with a dip-pen (a single heavy nib) + Micron (.08) for stippling, and the preliminary flat-color  before wading in with brushes and cutting contrasting shadows. You'll notice two subtle tweaks that are different from the original: the first was a compositional edit in flipping the direction of the moose tail - a visual pointer - from leading the eye out of the panel to pulling it back into the piece, thus maintaining the overall cohesiveness of the design.

The second was a slight shift in the gaze cues: all of the mothers are each looking at the neighboring offspring, creating a triad, which follows a progression of 1- 2 -3 in the number of youngsters. Details, details. Please note I did not add any nuggets - a deliberate psychological repression on my part. The iconography of Madonna with child however, was purely subconscious and not my fault.

Rolling the fully digitally colored variation over into a Nuggets panel was an obvious way to get more mileage + exposure from the design. Another note in the importance of always retaining copyright of your artwork.

Here below is a snapshot of the piece in the show, which was housed in the Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center. where the piece, along with an impressive number of other talented submissions, was displayed at the Fairbanks Breastfeeding Coalition's First Friday gig.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Editorials: "Digging Holes" + "Strategic Pathways"

So this is a two-pronged post, as is the double-edged cartoon, as I see these elements as inextricably intertwined: the national priorities are hand-in-glove with local + regional ones. And all politics being personal, there is a definite cause & effect with regards to funding. And these are choices that reflect priorities, which say more about us as a society.

First is how one of our Senators from Alaska is pitching for more Ground-Based Interceptor missiles, and like all the other war pigs lined up at the trough, doesn't hesitate to ignore the obscene immorality of spending money on bombs over bread.

This will cost billions (after the estimated $40 billion to the initial installment): approximately 2.5 by my back-of the-envelope math, based on the first round… meanwhile the state faces a budget deficit of $2.8 billion – with million in cuts to education alone. Speaking of which:
"University of Alaska has eliminated fifty academic programs in the last couple years," said UAF Chancellor Dana Thomas. "With that, 900 positions across the state, 400 of those with the Interior Alaska and our community campuses associated with the university Alaska Fairbanks."

With that perspective as a backdrop, another dimension can be added with a second element, or another piece to this puzzle, at least as far as how such priorities impact us on a local level. The closure of a Fairbanks institution (note that at this point the triage is restricted to the cafe and not the bookstore as a whole) is a proverbial canary in a coal mine, or more appropriately, a ptarmigan in an oil field. For many, many semesters as a both a student and as an instructor, I've stopped off inbetween classes at The Second Story Cafe. This is to say nothing of the regular visits for any number of other reasons: from cartoon jams, meetings, sketch groups, signings, browsing books and doodle sessions, it's been a second studio to me for decades. To say that over the years I've become a fixture at the establishment is an understatement: countless numbers of my panels have been worked up while sitting at a table in this particular setting. with innumerable postings on social media documenting what an integral part of my process it has become.

As to politicizing its closure, as I see both of these as part of a pattern that's inextricably linked with the inexorable, cascading clusterfuck courtesy of many of the incompetents in the legislature, and I think it's crucial for folks to connect these dots. Besides myself, there are many of us who fit squarely in the demographics (university affiliated) of affected people in this continuing fiasco of Alaska’s slow-motion budgetary implosion.

To be sure, there’s more than enough blame to go around: elected officials are accountable on every level, from the office of the governor, the state legislature, the dolts ensconced at the federal grade, to the university administration as well. Guess losing the elitist ivory tower avocado toast clientele isn’t important to legislators (many – not all - as there are notable exceptions particularly in the university district). No worries though since the market for alcohol, drugs and guns will only continue to rise (see Anchorage).

It's Economic Domino Theory in effect: the Alaska State Legislature fucks around, guts the education budget, the Legislature continues to fuck around, cuts impacts local schools + universities, the Legislature fucks around some more, landlords extort obscene business + residential rents, the Legislature fucks around in overtime, the ripples widen, people lose their jobs, our community suffers, folks leave. And – surprise - the Alaska State Legislature keeps on fucking around. Rinse, repeat.

And there doesn't seem to be much hope in the Strategic Pathways initiative underway at the university either, as it continues to foster a Lord of the Flies balkanization among faculty, staff and students who suffer from impacts on the classroom, job insecurity and loss of morale. Notwithstanding widespread protests, and viable alternatives, an impending shutdown seems imminent, and given the systemic failure of government, it falls to us as individuals to organize and to resist.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"Stick It To The Man"

Oh how I do so loves me a good, punny caption disguised as a title. This one works on a couple levels, and is by extension in the lineage of the classic "The Humble Beaver."

It took a an unusual amount of preliminary sketching in conjunction with photo reference, which since nothing existing in reality corresponded with my mental picture, I wound up making up the architecture anyways. Structural impossibility to be sure, but it works as far as triggering an association. Some folks might have to hunt around for a few seconds to see the gag buried amidst the environment, but I think with linear perspective in conjunction with value + contrast the eyes eventually wander upstream.

I also indulged in a wider array of inking implements for this particular panel, in part on account of varying the line weights so as to imply or enhance pictorial depth in the composition of the panel. Also employed a variety of Microns for judiciously applied textural effects - not too much seeing as how the dimensions of the original was approximately 11x13" and regardless of how impressive it looks (and serve as a sort of stippling stress relief),  at some certain point one has to say dam it all and move on.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Update: Fairbanks Sketchers

If it seems that I've been remiss in posting about our little group of sketchers it's largely on account of not being able to make a couple of the more recent outings. But last month I was finally able to, and it was an unusual scene as we visited the ruins of Gold Dredge #3 out in Chatanika, right across from the local lodge. In operation from 1928 - 1958, this hulking antique was hit by a fire back in 2013 - but aesthetically speaking it retains much interesting character and texture. The Fairbanks Arts Association's Literary Arts group also held their annual "Poetry at the Dredge" event at the same time, so it was wonderful to have pooches, poets and song as a cultural backdrop.

The weather was nice, excepting the brief spat of snow/hail/rain at Cleary Summit, and I was treated to the sounds of a Ruffed grouse off drumming in the woods when I moved apart from the group to get a different perspective on the setting. Patches of snow + ice were still clinging to the massive undulating piles of tailings that scar the landscape for miles in all direction, spotted throughout by the occasional dilapidated structure from another era. Well, given the massive open pits in the neighborhood, the obsession with mining riches at an obscenely destructive scale is still with us.

Meta: All related backposts are now all here under a new "Fairbanks Urban Sketchers" tag for easy perusing, plus here's a link to the group's official Facebook Event Page and the group's Flickr pool collection as well (and here's my own personal Google+ portfolio of Urban Sketches).

The next meetup is this upcoming Sunday, May 28th at the Tanana Valley State Fairgrounds for the AKC/Tanana Valley Kennel Club's annual all-breed dog show! Please remember to leash your cats...