Sunday, January 12, 2020

"Baked Alaska" #13-16

First off, an important message to pass along: The fine folks over at Alaska Cannabist magazine just compiled a dozen of my best "Baked Alaska" feature panels for their official 2020 calendar. (Link + more art/commentary below the fold)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Morris Thompson Center Residency Recap

Year-end cleanup in the backlog of mothballed posts. I still owe you folks a follow-up to the epic experiment with my month-long/weekends residency down at the Morris Thompson Culture & Visitors Center that I pulled off last year at this time. Over a hundred folks dropped by for the First Friday opening, added to the other hundred already there, which was in all respects a decent turnout given that I had just had an opening + show just the month before, and there was an insane number of other events going on around town that same night.
"February’s Artist of the Month is Jamie Smith, creator of the Alaskan cartoon feature “Nuggets” which has been appearing weekly in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Sunday edition) since 1988. He does freelance illustration out of his cabin and teaches studio art classes in drawing and cartooning at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, along with artist-in-schools residencies. In addition to the pieces on display in the exhibition hall he will be doing live, on-site public demonstrations of drawing and showing samples of works-in-progress in the lobby each weekend of the month from 8am – 5pm."

Here's a shot of the layout on my little side-table which supplemented the main table of show & tell/demo material. Clearance items included remnant tshirts, the catalog of books (five titles currently in stock), the new "Castor Canadensis" calendar, some random card designs and a selection of original artwork. That varied from black & white/pen + ink line art, to black & white/wash, and finally full-color/watercolored pen + inks. These also reflected my new prices which went into effect this year: $100/$125/$150 respectively. There were also on display some free samples ("business cards" panels which sported contact info on the back side) and the new tri-fold portfolio showing some of the many clients and businesses that have commissioned logos and such from me.

Drool-soluble media

What was different about this gig was pushing the boundaries of expectations for an artist-of-the-month. I frequently lament the passive nature of artists who conduct shows like it's a latent opportunity that will magically, spontaneously attract viewers and interest. The vast majority of the time our artwork is about as effective as a mounted trophy: the work is dead. It sits there like an inert background ad in a bus station - more often than not just ignored amidst the aesthetic din of the daily commute. Instead of putting up and walking away, work it. I challenge artists, and my students, to look at an exhibition as more of a residency: it's an opportunity to directly engage and cultivate relationship - however fleeting - with viewers. It's a potential space that can be utilized in a myriad of creative approaches: private receptions that cater to specific, targeted special interest groups. Hosting topically related or thematically associated events, even "Final Fridays," anything to squeeze every last possible interaction with the public as possible.

Speaking the international language of laughter - no translation needed

You never know who, when or even why sometimes a connection is made. This is not to sell anything, as most folks have a healthy aversion to someone randomly peddling wares on a sidewalk. What artists have to offer instead is something unique and special - their perspective and talent.

All this presupposes the creator has a personality that isn't just a visual artist but more of a performing artist. And that's a zone a lot of practitioners might not be familiar with - but it's an example of pushing out past the insular comfort zone a lot of us have. The instinct to avoid interactions is ofttimes second nature to introverts, and it can be so awkward - there's a fear of coming across as too pushy or arrogant. I see it as the second phase to making art - just get it out there, put it up and let it go. Another way to describe it is affecting the persona of an "egomaniac with an inferiority complex."

"Drawing a Blank"

The line I used in marketing this experiment to the hosting folks was that it's not anything different than I'd normally be doing at home in the studio anyways, so why not just transplant the whole shebang every weekend for the entire month of the show? Not too many people ever get the chance to observe a wild Alaskan artist at work... and it's a mutual moment to invite strangers into sharing not just the work itself, but opening a little window into the process itself. In the end it was a great experience with wonderful folks in an amazing venue.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

"Odd-ka Tonic" Walkthrough

Uploaded a 20-minute clip skimming over highlights of the "Distilled Nuggets #5" show, with bonus director's commentary. Previous experiments w/Facebook Live have had connectivity issues w/streaming (spotty coverage here in the subarctic), so we just went with a straight-to-YouTube videoshot with a hand-held iPhone. This is for friends, fans & family far away who couldn't make the opening, which was quite the turnout of wonderful, supportive folks. And a couple big ol' crockpots of hot munchies like Hawaiian Rum meatballs and urns of nacho cheese always helps to take the edge off a relatively balmy -35°F... not to mention tasty libations like the Ester Caucasian annual special (hand-crafted Long Winter Vodka + homemade coffee liqueur + heavy cream = The Dude approved). Special thanks again to the crew behind the bar @ Ursa Major Distilling for hosting: cheers! 

*Update: Those of you in this neck of the woods who plan on dropping by sometime over January, there'll be a stash of selected original art + posters + stickers on-site for the remainder of the month.

Recap 2019: Artist of the Year, Instagram, and Gingerbread Houses

“Oh yes, I'm at my happiest when I have a good idea and I'm drawing it well, and it comes out well and somebody laughs at it.” ― Charles M. Schulz, “Charles M. Schulz: Conversations” (2000)
Perspective: Call it a look ahead, with a quick look back over my shoulder while sitting working at the drawing table. There's a few items of interest to share with regards to current events and a bit of backstory as well.
(more below the fold) 

Saturday, January 4, 2020

"Luminous Mooses"

One of the more interesting panels on display for the month at the "Odd-ka Tonic" show: A collaborative piece from myself and Maryanne Babij, who has consistently portrayed Fairbanks in a singular style with her outstanding perspectives on urban imagery. Put another way, there isn't any photographer/digital artist in the 'Banks that has made me look and really look again at the spaces & places I've long grown aesthetically anesthetized to over decades of exposure. That takes some serious skill, and an eye for inner doorways that are closed to most of us trudging to and fro in the frozen north. When I initially doodled out the moose, there was no other possible environment for it to inhabit than one of Maryanne's connatural mandalas. Sure enough, after submission, a perfect harmony resulted in this piece. That's something that's only happened maybe a couple times over my entire career.

Bonus trivia: The tile (at least until we either start a band with that name or someone else fits the bill) is an oblique homage to B. Kliban's seminal collection published in 1983.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Odd-ka Tonic: Opening Tonite!

Little twelfth-hour reminder about tonight's gig that opens 4pm - 8pm Update: Heads-up: By special invitation any Friends who wants to beat the crowd and get a jump on all the 1st Friday gigs (as there are an unusual number of outstanding venues this month) are welcome to drop on by an extra hour early, as we’ll be opening @4pm. Here’s a sneak peek at the smörgåsbord & CHEERS everybody!

On the wall: Forty of the year’s best Nuggets panels… plus bonus material…

…and a dozen each Baked Alaskas & classic Freeze-Frames + handful of editorials & illustrations

…revised forecast calls for warming temps up to only -20°F…

Original art + stickers galore will be for sale & fresh homemade coffee liquor + handcrafted Long Winter Vodka mixed for the traditional Ester Caucasion libation.


Sunday, December 29, 2019


 Gonna finish out 2019 with a post breaking down one of my personal favorite panels of the year. This was the primary demo piece for the summer session's Cartoon & Comic Arts course. I signed a set for each of the students that contained all the images posted here (excepting the snapshots of the actual squirrels - that's exclusive to Ink & Snow readers).

It all began with an endless inundation of rodents, wave after endless wave, triggered by the ousting of a  long-term resident that decided to raise a family. Right under the cabin as it happened. So after enough episodes of scavenged for bedding from shredded toilet paper in the outhouse etc. we had had enough, and out the whole extended clan went.

Ever since moving to Maine we switched to entirely indoor cats, so there was no way to control the population with the help of our own kitties. Given the roving bands of coyotes, flocks of hungry owls and other raptors, the omnipresent threat of traffic, and an increased threat of a deadly disease, it's been a good call. Especially for the birds - whose feeders around the cabin were yet another reason to begin the season's program of depositing squirrels down the road or up the highway.

Now the Significant Otter, who hails from Iowa and is of noble farmer stock, would just as soon have shot them all and simply be done with it, but we procured one of those "Havahart" humane live traps instead. I will admit though, that after dozens of relocations my sense of humanitarianism has some bare spots worn through from the incessant shuttle service. I even think back upon the evil advice from a former student to try leaving crucifixions up on tree-trunks in warning around the property might actually be a desperate last-gasp option (the neighbors might wonder). Maybe, while I'm at it, in conjunction with stringing razor wire around the feeder.

Note: My humble numbers are tempered with the knowledge of one friend (and patron who purchased the original) whose wife has so far ousted “...286 (and counting) Eastern Fox Squirrels” in Boise, ID. One must have role models.

It caught the attention of this dude whom I always seem to run across on a frequent basis working outside on the campus grounds, who rumor has it was a poetry major, and I mentioned that the caption was in all likelihood gonna go away. I mean, who the hell has even heard of that ancient aphorism (not many of us left based on my impromptu polls), much less any familiarity with the author. Well a few weeks went by, and on an offhand chance we crossed paths again, and to my pleasant surprise he offered up another vote in favor of retaining the philosophical proverb. And so it stayed. Unlike these little rat bastards.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

"Odd-ka Tonic" 2020 Distilled Nuggets #5

A heads-up that this next upcoming first Friday, January 3rd, will be the opening for my fifth annual year-in-review show from 5-8pm. Hosted once again by the fine folks down at Ursa Major Distilling, this best-of exhibition will boast over one-hundred panels.

Bears, Birds and Beavers... oh my!

 Along with the usual Nuggets feature, there will be some editorials, miscellaneous illustrations, the 2019 24-Hour comic in it's entirety, and the infamous edits.

And there will be the usual buffet table of original art for purchase, some limited edition Baked Alaska posters, and a medley of new stickers as well.

Here's a landing page of previous recaps from the gig, and here's a highlight reel here from the very first year.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Xmas 2019: "Santa's New Coal"

I struggled (about as much as one possibly can over a cartoon) with whether or not to add in some nuggets. Not for the least of reasons that it would easily tip the gag into an much more easily understood holiday offering. But going on the theory that sometimes forcing the consumer to assemble all the requisite pieces of the puzzle themselves makes for a much more satisfying experience when they actually have to invest a little effort. And what a reward eh? Also another rule of comedy is to never underestimate the intelligence of the audience. Besides what more of a bigger hint is there than a bigass moose butt? But here's both anyways... fodder for mulling over the theory of humor.

Either way, dear faithful reader, be safe, stay warm + well...

*Update: After a protracted period of reflection, I made the command decision to edit in a handful of nuggets. One of the most sublime insights ever this profession is the realization one has actually devoted time + energy on trying to decide what is the exact number of moose turds is not enough, too much, or just the right amount. There are times when I just love this job.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Single Mother's Day"

This one got quickly worked up from the pages of a sketchbook, so no preliminary doodles as usual. And aside from the last-minute, on-the-fly additional elements in the published panel as contrasted against the penciled version, no process pieces either.

I drew it out of exasperation at all the predictable platitudes expressed on Father's Day. It bookends quite nicely with a previously expressed perspective on this largely undeserved adulation, which after the passing of my own father, becomes increasingly more of a frustratingly sore point. And since I'm uninsured, this is cheaper than therapy.