Friday, November 21, 2014

Empty Basket: Pippen (1999-2014)

“But the best death, quick and crystal-pure, set so glaringly open before us, is hard enough to face, even though we feel gratefully sure that we have already had happiness enough for a dozen lives.” – John Muir

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pie-hole (Diner Doodles)

   I've done some of my best work while sitting in diners (and cafes and pubs, but that's another post or two). It's not so much a matter of ambiance, it's more often just routine, a passively inspirational setting complete with creative juices. It's a comfortable corner to let the background white noise of conversation, clinking dishes and coffeecups wash away the accumulated mental detritus from sitting in the studio. And there's pie.
   Locally there's Sourdough Sam's where I'm a regular fixture, and also I haunt Deb's Diner (best biscuits + gravy in the state), and the Hilltop Truck Stop (best pie ever).

   Elsewhere in Alaska: the City Diner in downtown Anchorage and Gwennies too, plus the Valley Hotel in Palmer (more pie). Diner-wise I often miss Sylvia's in Maine, Clary's in Savannah, the Ellery Country Cow in WNY, and the infamous All Night Eggplant in East Syracuse.

   Bonus Trivia: the best cinematic diner scenes (including pie): Michael Mann's 1995 Heat (not the famous scene with DeNiro and Pacino, but with "Want some pie?" Waingrow); Oliver Stone's 1994 Natural Born Killers (Mickey's "Well, let's give that Key Lime pie a day in court"); and Tony Scott's 1993 True Romance ("I'd love some pie").

   Honorable Mentions (sans pie): Woody Allen's 1985 "The Purple Rose of Cairo (Mia Farrow as Cecilia in her hellish waitress job "My specialty are mice and silverfish."); Brad Bird's 1999 The Iron Giant (art-hipster Dean McCoppin "Squirrel's in my pants"); Harold Ramis' 1993 Groundhog Day (Phil's omniscient description of the patrons in the diner); Clint Eastwood's 1997 Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Luther Driggers at the counter with his leashed flies); Quentin Tarantino's 1992 Reservoir Dogs (Mr Pink's rational for tipping); David Lynch's 2001 Mulholland Drive (Dan's nightmare description); Gregory Widen's 1995 The Prophecy (Christopher Walken as the arch-angel Gabriel and his brief exchange with Madge); and last - but by no means the least - the Coen brother's 1998 The Big Lebowski (Walter Sobchak's "enjoying my coffee" scene).

Image: Polygram Filmed Entertainment/Working Title Films

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"Watering Hole"

Hearkening back to the advise of my longterm art adviser while getting my BFA: "Jamie, it's okay to fantasize, just fantasize correctly." Meaning, the elevated point-of-view for this panel was completely fabricated, as I didn't have access to a crane for reference shot, just residual memory from many, many trips to haul water (a ritual for those of us living the dream of a dry cabin lifestyle). In one way that is the essence of a cartoon: drawing "visual shorthand," ie just enough information in the marks to trigger an association in the viewer's mind. So it rarely, if ever, has to be "realistic" in the sense of exact photographic depiction. So through linear perspective it's possible to literally fill in the blanks and make it up, at least to the point where it's believable... so that "it works."

And I needed to deliberately arrange the elements in the composition so as to clearly delineate the foreground (people + pickups), the midground (the structure), and the background (the looming presence of one of the delivery trucks pulling around behind to fill it's tank).
This pencil (posted below) is also a great example of where you can see how much I just "draw through" things, like they are transparent, and successively build up layers of overlapping shapes and objects, working roughly from the back to the front of the pictorial plane, from largest object to smallest, and then and only then fill in the details. In this way one effectively sets the stage as it were, building places to put in the people and props.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pop Con 2014 (Updated)

The folks at UAF Student Activities are resurrecting Pop Con, and I’ll have a table today (Friday the 14th) from 3-10pm, plus again tomorrow (Saturday the 15th) from 2-9pm somewhere at this gig. The plan is to showcase some of the archives with a display of samples from previous student works in both the Summer Sessions Cartoon & Comic Arts course (the upcoming season/2015 will be its 9th year), and also feature fabulous material from the Visual Art Academy Cartooning classes.

Stop by for a visit (I’ll be doing public demos both days on advanced doodling/penciling/inking/watercolor) & bring some folks by that might be interested in either of these opportunities with sequential arts.

It's been many, many years since I sat in on one of these - back in the day it was called ArcticCon, and I was a little outta my element what with the overwhelming focus of the event being on either gaming or manga/anime, neither of which I'm terribly interested in, as basically all I do is basically sit around and draw cartoons. Weirdo. Though it is kinda funny feeling out of place amidst people who are usually too nerdy or geeky to fit in with other folks - which is still a wonderful place to be anyways. Maybe if I wore a big beaver suit? Hmmm....

Update: day one went great with good turnout and lots of folks dropping by, taking a peak at some pages and asking questions. In the meantime this is the best cosplay I could come up with:

Next year I'll sport a tail...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Alaska Book Week 2014

Image: Kris Capps/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

For Alaska Book Week this year I was invited to peddle wares at the Fairbanks Arts Association's Bear Gallery in Alaskaland the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts during the "Author Reception & Book Sale." There was a veritable smörgåsbord of talent on hand, including Cynthia Hardy, John Morgan, Eric Nichols, Neil Davis, John Hewitt and David Marusek. It was a great setting to host such a roster of writers as we were ensconced within the current exhibition of imagery from the 64th Parallel show. Aside from rubbing elbows with the luminaries we got to meet some visitors who happened by, including the Lu family pictured above.

Hatched by the 49 Writers collective, the event is part of the growing celebration of literary talents that abound in the Interior and across the state, and dovetails with the efforts of other organizations and institutions in showcasing the works of a diverse and impressive roster of writers who make Alaska home.
Still not entirely sure what I was doing there, but as usual, had a lot of fun... especially as soon as my handlers left me unsupervised at the table. Probably too much fun, come to think of it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

"Tiananmen Ptarmigan"

Perhaps it's somewhat fitting that the Willow Ptarmigan is the official bird of the state of Alaska, given its inherent propensity at ridiculous situations that don't exactly inspire confidence in its intelligence. Or, on the other hand, it exceptionally illustrates the fate of many animals at the hands (or in this case, under the wheels) of the dominant species. Not to mention our nasty habit of turning on ourselves, given the iconic imagery of the original Tank Man.

This particular panel is based on a true story, one that's not all that rare for anyone who's trundled about the back roads of Alaska. While on a midnight excursion by vehicle into Denali National Park we ran across - or as it happened damn near ran over - one of these birds blithely blundering about. While we were the only other creatures sharing the road that particular evening, this scenario does happen with some frequency, and excepting the odds of surviving the sheer mass of a moose, people in our neck of the woods barely skip a beat. That is, if they even bother enough to slow down. That said, the sight of a guy flat on his belly in the middle of the road might have given some pause.

In so far as linear perspective is concerned, this is technically a "worm's eye view" as opposed to a "bird's eye view," but it of an actual bird's eye view. At any rate, I did score one exceptional portrait of a magnificent Great Horned Owl who had staked out a treetop alongside the road. Most folks covet any sighting of Alaska's photogenic megafauna, but myself I'm just as pleased and awed at encountering any other denizen of Denali.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Workshop: Alaska Art Education Association 2014 Conference

The Alaska Art Education Association has an annual statewide conference that rotates amongst different communities, and it's been five years since Fairbanks hosted one of these gigs. I was honored to be offered a slot to teach a workshop "Comics In The Classroom" - which dovetailed quite nicely with this year's theme, "ThINKing About Art."
There are always opportunities to regularly work with interns, teachers and other literacy organizations on both the local and statewide levels, but this was a particularly wonderful chance to network with actual art educators and hopefully inspire them in turn to utilize this "uniquely engaging" medium in their own classrooms.

I'm posting here a copy of the workshop outline + catalog description that I had the pleasure to conduct: here's also a backlink to a breakdown of the process for a sample 60-minute classroom session here plus a master list of resources here. I think it's a fairly good introduction to the diversity of material that can be customized for classroom usage, and as per my usual caffeinated volcano of enthusiasm I went and took up the entire allotted time just skimming the surface of all the possibilities, from 175 images on screen, a big ol' bag of sample books, and a multitude of examples from former students and classes I've had the good fortune to teach over the years. I can easily get carried away and end up shorting the actual hands-on demo portion of a presentation when there's a few folks who are first being introduced to the breadth + depth of the medium... there's simply so much out there to see and do.

Workshop Outline
1) Show & Tell: Sampler Mix
2) Contemporary + Historical Overview of creators
3) Materials + Character Development
4) Cartoon Jams + Think Before You Ink exercises
5) Gags/Single-Panel Cartoons
6) Editorial/Caricature
7) Comic Strips/Syndication
8) Comic Books/Collaborative Page
9) Children’s Books
10) Storyboards/Animation
11) Commercial Applications
12) Graphic Novels
13) Minicomics + exercise

Selected Bibliography/Resources
“Understanding Comics” + “Making Comics” by Scott McCloud
“Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice” by Ivan Brunetti
“Comics & Sequential Art” + “Graphic Storytelling & Visual Narrative” by Will Eisner
“Drawing Words & Writing Pictures” + “Mastering Comics” by Abel/Madden
“Comics Art” by Paul Gravett
Nickelodeon Magazine

Noel Wien Public Library
The Comic Shop of Fairbanks

The Comics Reporter
Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index
The Comics Journal
The Graphic Classroom
ALA/Young Adult Library Services Assn.

Off The Shelf
Dan Piraro (Bizarro), Hank Ketchum (Dennis The Menace), Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Patrick McDonnell (Mutts), Mark Tatuli (Lio), Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), Richard Thompson (Cul de Sac), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Linda Medley (Castle Waiting), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis*), Craig Thompson (Blankets*, Good-bye, Chunky Rice), David Laskey (Don't Forget This Song), Bryan Lee O'Malley (Scott Pilgrim), Alison Bechdel (Fun Home*), Carl Barks (Donald Duck), Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland), J.N. ‘Ding” Darling (editorial), Art Spiegelman (Maus), Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Nuggets in the House: The Alaska House Art Gallery

   I’m very pleased to now be officially represented by The Alaska House Art Gallery (website here and Facebook page here) in downtown Fairbanks: along with some framed pieces on display, there are also original works available for sale plus the full catalog of my books.
   Besides being one of the only three major galleries remaining open in the Interior (the other two being the Bear Gallery and Well Street Art Co.), The Alaska House is one of the oldest in the state and, prior to a brief hiatus, the longest in continuous operation. Originally opened in 1960, the gallery moved into its current home in 1964, a beautiful structure built in 1939 of rock + “hand-hewn logs, oak floors and leaded windows” right in the heart of downtown Fairbanks. Inside this venerable institution of the arts is an aesthetic and cultural smörgåsbord of delightful collections “exhibiting Alaska Native and resident artists, paintings, artifacts, carvings and sculpture, masks, fabric art and hand-crafted jewelry.” (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 8/10)

   It is also a repository for the legacy and work of Claire Fejes, one of the significant artists in Alaskan history: “an original and formidable talent” and “one of the rare female voices reflecting the woman’s side of Arctic society.” Alaska House Art Gallery is owned and operated by her daughter Yolande and Ron Veliz, whose hospitality and knowledge makes any visitor feel welcome and at home. Being picked up by these folks is a humbling advancement in my personal career as an artist and I look forward to future opportunities from this creative liaison.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

"Count Castor"

Sure, technically it's the day after the official holiday (and this is one of the very rare incidences the panel's posted here the day before the print version runs in the paper), but hey, it ain't like you stop eating candy after Halloween. In fact, if you're like me, now's the time to stock up on all the leftovers on sale.