Sunday, October 25, 2020

"Outhouse Tech" + "Frontier Hoop-Skirts"

 2-4-1: A couple thematically linked panels that both came to me in a sudden surge of inspiration while ruminating upon the repository of all great ideas. Some of my best shit ever.

In all seriousness I had a tussle with my conscience over the usage of the term "frontier." It just keeps falling a little flatter every time you use it, especially once you've eaten a bite of the forbidden fruit (see Howard Zinn) and ignorance about the insidious persistence of colonialism is no longer an excuse. If the entire premise is a joke to begin with, will the only folks left to riddle us with hidden truths be the fools, our jesters in the court of contemporary criticism?

Sunday, October 18, 2020


I saved posting this one until now because I'm pretty proud of how it turned out - it's Exhibit A in persevering through the self-doubt. And that's what art is good for, and also one of the factors why some people stop. Don't ever let relatively minor things like skill ever hold you back. Especially if drawing musical instruments is challenging. Just put on some appropriate motivational tunage and work through the self-doubt. Especially when you get the inevitable backseat commentary that technically moose have antlers as opposed to horns. But that begs the question what the hell a ska band would be doing way up high on a mountain with Dall sheep, when everybody knows they'd be high down on the tundra instead.

Also only just this past year discovered The Mavericks, and this song is now the entire reason I want to be accompanied by a personal horn section in the studio.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

"Two Trips"

While drawing this panel I distinctly recalled a couple times of logistical trepidation: “Why the hell do I keep insisting on doing this to myself.” Oh wait – that was while unloading groceries from the car and hauling bags down the cabin path. Not the first time I wished for a handy set of horns.
Also not the first time I remembered afterwards that I shoulda packed (or at least drawn) the reusable cloth bags instead.But seriously, it was a basic advanced art whine where you sit and stare at the problem and watch it grow bigger right before your eyes before you even pick up a pen (“pole-vault over a moose turd”) and hype the complexity so much it stalls out right there on the drawing board.
And yes it was somewhat of a clusterf*ck from a design standpoint, and at a few key spots I entrusted tweaking during the digital phase to save the day, or at least clean up the damn mess I made.Bonus: Here's an image for during the lockdown and/or self-isolating during any recent (or future) period of prudent quarantine.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

As a cartoonist...

Alaskan Mad Dog of 2020

This needs to be said. No joke – it’s serious and sad. Cartoonists everywhere ought to step up and speak out. Now, because there might not be a later.

There is an alarming rise in America of the threat from extremism and authoritarian rule. From pervasive and systematic attacks undermining its legitimacy to threatening the safety and lives of reporters, one of the first targets in this campaign is the freedom of the press. Relentlessly assailing publishers and demonizing journalists by constantly calling them "fake news," “the enemy of the people” and “enemy of mankind,” is a deadly serious red-flag warning about this administration – and its supporters and enablers.

From a cartoonist’s perspective: Support the news media

Cartoons historically have been long associated, hand-in-glove, with newspapers in a symbiotic relationship for mutual support. It concerns us greatly, as citizens and practitioners of the craft. A threat to the press transcends partisanship, and it requires all of us in the industry to stand up and speak out against it. Many of our democratic norms and institutions have been corrupted or broken, and Constitutional rights weakened. Granted, there are any number of dangerous conspiracies being fomented and irresponsible, hurtful policies being put into place, and no end to the daily horror show of toxic bigotry & ugly white supremacy and more, but the First Amendment is first for a reason.

“The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to a democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. A free media functions as a watchdog that can investigate and report on government wrongdoing. It is also a vibrant marketplace of ideas, a vehicle for ordinary citizens to express themselves and gain exposure to a wide range of information and opinions.” - 

Whether for editorials, illustrations or entertainment, I’ve had the privilege and good fortune to be printed by, and have my work appear alongside, many good friends and acquaintances over several decades in print. They have without a doubt been some of the most intelligent, critical and dedicated journalists and all-around decent, hard-working folks that I’ve ever met.

“If you are willing to take up arms against your fellow American in response to an unwelcome election result, that is the very definition of un-American and unpatriotic: you are opting out of democracy when you do that” - Baratunde Thurston

Now I’m a relative nobody way the hell up here in the middle of Alaska. But I am one of many who are in the field of cartooning, and who, as a member of the media, will stand with the press while they are under attack. De-legitimizing, threatening and arresting reporters are a part of a wider effort to undermine the rule of law and our freedoms. This authoritarianism threatens the foundation of America, and of democracy itself.

It must end with this election.

"The Alaska Mansion"

This particular panel is an ideal example of how a compositional arrangement of visual elements can create the illusion of a 3-dimensional space on a flat piece of paper. That's one of the fundamental reasons why a working understanding of linear perspective can be really helpful when "setting the stage" for your actors and props. Other aspects like foreshortening and the use of value can also be used to enhance depth on the pictoral plane.

Here's a doodle of the design done for a demo while on an Artist In Schools residency - I remember getting the idea in the middle of drawing some other panels using the concepts of huskies and sled-dogs and mushing (in line with their mascot/logo). So I did a quick rendering off to the side on some scrap paper, which never even got transferred to the sketchbook, just straight to the pencil stage on Bristol. The only real difference between that and the published version was in changing the number of "bedrooms" (assuming the cabin has just one bedroom we only needed five doghouses) plus the people underwent a little change and, most importantly, more dogs were added. It's always an improvement adding more critters to the composition.

There's a more serious aspect underlying the humor: that being Alaska can be viewed as essentially the northernmost extension of the Appalachian stereotype when it comes to so-called third-world living conditions compounded with inherently problematic issues of colonization.

Amidst the supposed might of American exceptionalism we have right here in Alaska a situation that mirrors the class issues and poverty that defines our society and accompanying systemic injustices. But here on the mythical "frontier" there's a current of nostalgia that hypes a rugged individualism + simpler "pioneer" lifestyle. In other words, what previously rented for $250 a month will now, a few decades later, will run a minimum of $650 to have a one-bedroom cabin without running water. You think about that a lot when taking a dump into a hole in the ground while outside at fifty-below zero.

Bonus: Here's a 60-second demo reel that touches on digital shading + a few more behind-the-scenes sneak peaks on the process. I sped up the process of compressing a half-hour sequence of screen grabs into half a minute, and I'm getting more comfortable with iMovie. There's still some issues like the soundtrack levels competing with the voiceover for example, but way better resolution than the recent experiments in streaming media. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

“Yukon Traffic Jam (circa 1900)”

Some things are well worth the wait, which is good because I was four freakin’ years late with this. Further on in this post - after the jump - I’ll do a deep dive into some behind-the-scenes and backstory buildup, but briefly, this is a long overdue component of my 2016 Artist In Residency with Bureau of Land Management up in Eagle. It hung briefly in the UAF Faculty exhibition, and also doubled as a Nuggets panel captioned with a few lines of additional text about the program. It’ll also get a nice print run as an official agency poster promoting the AIR program – I'll keep y'all posted on any upcoming artist’s talks and other events.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

"Frost Heave"

Long a ubiquitous hallmark of modern subarctic civilization, these "organic speedbumps" are nature's way of reminding us to slow down a little as we careen about our daily lives at a headlong pace, not to mention exceeding your limits. Last year it got so bad around this neck of the woods it merited special mention in a panel, and this season I have been thinking about the state fair, which has plenty of situational topics ripe for ideas. I remember a long time ago during the Freeze-Frame era doing a panel about an Alaskan cowboy riding a moose bull at the rodeo (it just kinda stood there unaware of any rider, placidly chewing it's cud). I honestly never paid any attention as to whether or not there's even a mechanical bull available in the rides, but such details don't concern cartoonists.

Earlier this year a local auto repair shop posted a hilarious meme about a particularly notorious section of road out in the Goldstream Valley that everybody knows all too well. Utilizing my mad Photoshop skills I offered up a different solution to the seasonal asphalt affliction.  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

"The Alaskan Facepalm"

This is an outhouse knee-slapper fur shure. I will admit to having done this. Not this early in the spring, mind you. These are the first wave of slow-moving bombers that you can reach out and grasp one-handed from the air mid-flight, as they are large and cumbersome having just crawled out from overwintering under bark.

It's the next assault - the first hatching - that gets ya good up around these here parts. Aside from running across the tundra or hoping for a siff breeze, the only respite is better living through chemicals. The smell of pine tar for me is an olfactory trigger to my youth spent tromping around the woods of Western New York, everything saturated with Ole Time Woodsman bug dope.

But seeing as how I tend to sweat incredible amounts with such activity, any anointing will rapidly prove useless, and so the other tried and true method of gritting your teeth for a couple months works as well.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

"Nugget AF"

Based on true events. As in, one of the first times emerging from isolation and encountering a friend and engaging in actual conversation.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

"He's Legal"

Here's another angle on how to cartoon: When creating a scene, a background setting for your characters and their props, first sketch out the composition relying purely on memory, as opposed to the majority of the time when we use photo reference and/or Google Image. This forces you to use a visual shorthand and render only those readily remembered elements that add up to give an impression of - in this instance - a corner store.

So in a way cartooning dovetails quite nicely with stereotypes and icons - components of residual, shared memory + cultural symbolism = short-cuts. Ho-ho's, gas-station quality coffee and ubiquitous creamers + sugar, the overhead a cigarette rack, newspaper rack, an ice-cream cooler. It's a puzzle where you also have to design and draw each of the pieces. Some assembly required.