Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Big Draw + Campaign For Drawing

Pic: Brooke Sheridan

    Some mysterious panels have begun popping up at various locations around campus: keep an eye out for a "Community Canvas" and take a minute or two to add a drawing of your own. This is part of a global event called The Big Draw, which is hosted by the Campaign For Drawing. Read more about the local event and organizers in this weekend's issue of Latitude 65 in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (hat-tip to Brooke Sheridan at UAF's eLearning).

"The Campaign for Drawing has one aim: to get everyone drawing! Drawing helps us to understand the world, think, feel, shape and communicate ideas. It is fun, accessible and invaluable - in education and everyday life." 
   Not having had a clue about the event or anything about the gig or the organization I read up on their history and learned some interesting things about them (along with some invaluable educational ideas like TEA: Thinking, Expression and Action).

   After teaching Beginning Drawing for well over a decade I have a personal penchant for dispelling the many myths surrounding the medium: it's my job is predicated on the assumption show anyone can and everyone should draw, and be creative - just create! No different than cooking or automotive repair, it's a skill that can be learned, and enjoyed, and used for a myriad of reasons. It is lamentable that back in the day, everybody was considered a certain, special kind of artist, but now, what with such specialization, an artist is considered a certain, special kind of person. Plus "drawing" itself is at times held in comparative disdain within the Fine Arts, viewed as somewhat of a gateway or mere stepping stone to other, more prestigious and respectable artforms within academia. 

   When the question was posed in relation to this event from my editor "Why should people draw?" and I offered up the following perspective: The urge to use the end of a burnt stick (or in my case, a Sharpie) and leave a mark on a cave wall carries throughout the ages, arguably all the way down to the graffiti on bathroom stalls, defacing classroom desktops and textbooks, and our first instinctual experimentation with crayon on our childhood bedroom walls. Most weeks I can be seen in many local establishments from cafes to bars bent over a sketchbook: while drawing out in public isn’t so much of a “performing art” and many artists aren’t comfortable on display, demonstrating it dispels the mystery of making art, and points up the accessibility of it for anyone, regardless of age or skill. Plus there are the studies that show the “white noise” of a background in a public place paradoxically improves focus, and it gets you out of the cabin studio, which can help the creative process. 
   It's all good: there are as many different reasons for drawing as there are personal styles. Perhaps the pertinent question from my side of the easel is not so much "why draw" as "why aren't you drawing?" and this Big Draw event is a great opportunity to, well, literally illustrate the objective.

“The Campaign for Drawing was launched in 2000 by the Guild of St George (website here), a small charity, to commemorate its founder, the great Victorian writer, philosopher and artist, John Ruskin. An independent art education charity since 2006, the Campaign still upholds Ruskin's belief that drawing helps us to understand the world and respect it more.
The Campaign for Drawing raises the profile of drawing as a tool for thought, creativity, social and cultural engagement. The Campaign has created a new regard for the power of drawing to help people see, think, invent and take action. [...] Its long-term ambition is to change the way drawing is perceived by educationalists and the public..." 
   Locally - their Google+ Group info is here - there will be a Drawing Jam at the spiffy new digs in the expanded/renovated UAF Wood Center at Arctic Java on Wednesday, October 22nd, from 7 - 9pm. I'll be hanging out doing demos, so stop on by for a cuppa joe and joke.

"Drawing is a means of obtaining and communicating knowledge" - John Ruskin 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"Beaver Scat"

I had the pleasure of drawing this as a demo for a small class of students, most of whom were too young to get either allusion, jazz or poop. Also yet another example of the waffling/transitioning between a wash on the original pen + ink piece versus the usual digital shading on the final print version.

Trivia: the phonetics are from a transcription by Justin Binek of a 1954 Sarah Vaughan improvised solo "Shulie a Bop" (over "Summertime").

Friday, October 17, 2014

This Weekend: Cartoon & Comic Art Documentaries

Just a brief announcement on a Review + Discussion of a couple documentaries that we're hosting tomorrow (Saturday, October 18th) at 12noon in the Media Classroom (room #340) at the Rasmuson Library on UAF campus. This is in conjunction with the Cartoon & Comic Art course offered through Summer Sessions, and we will be analyzing the content of both films in terms of how the diverse cast of contemporary creators and their respective work efforts can relate to and inspire our growing creative community here in the Interior. It'll be a nice opportunity to network with some other local talents at varying stages of their careers, from amateur to professional, whether practitioner or fan.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cartoon & Comic Art: Resources

Sharpie shrapnel: leftovers destined for the mental mulch-pile

   Following up on a previous post on the Cartoon & Comic Art course, thought I'd reply to a couple queries and credit a specific handful of the many resources that were culled from to construct the class. Of course, that got outta hand, and this link-heavy page is the result. These range from countless encounters and interactions with individual cartoonists working both in the field as creators and educators, as well as experiences in workshops where one has the opportunity to pick the brains of other artists. Institutions such as SCAD, MCAD, The Center For Cartoon Studies, SAW and others provide a great place to develop lasting professional relationships and gain insight on different techniques, and gain invaluable, personal perspectives on the many fascinating facets of the field.

   Disclaimer: there is simply no end to the number of material out there, and so this is only an abbreviated - by no means definitive (see here for another excellent roster) - sampler from literally looking over my shoulder in the studio at the stuff on my own shelves. Some are out of print, but there always seems to be a new crop budding in the bookstores, which is a fabulous occurrence. Even from many overall duds there is usually - sometimes - an idea or two worth copying to add to the mix, at least for the accruing compost-heap that constitutes a defacto textbook.
   Also this list is slightly skewed towards an emphasis on generating material for single-panel
ideas, and is most decidedly not appropriate for all ages - classroom usage requires prudent editing. Plus there is the list of resources linked on the right-hand side of the blog too.

The Cartoonist's Muse: Mischa Richter and Harald Bakken
The Naked Cartoonist: Robert Mankoff
Cartoonist and Gag Writer's Handbook: Jack Markow
Writing With Pictures: Uri Shulevitz
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures + Mastering Comics: Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
Understanding Comics + Making Comics: Scott McCloud
Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice: Ivan Brunetti
Comics and Sequential Art + Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative: Will Eisner
How To Make Webcomics: Guigar/Kellett/Kurtz/Straub (the Penny Arcade folks)
Cartooning: The Art and The Business: Mort Gerberg
The Art of Humorous Illustration: Nick Meglin
Wizard: How To Draw
Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Cartooning...: Christopher Hart
Comic Book Design: Gary Spencer Millidge
The DC Comics Guide to Writing: Dennis O'Neil
How To Draw and Sell Comic Strips: Alan McKenzie
Cartooning The Head and Figure: Jack Hamm
The Pen and Ink Book: Joseph Smith
How To Draw Cartoons by Clare Briggs

Anthologies: Flight, Titmouse, MOME, Popgun, The Best American Comics, Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, Dark Horse Presents etc. These are my preferred method of showcasing the range of subject matter and diversity of style that are possible within the world of contemporary comics.

Panelists + Strippers: Harry Bliss, Shannon Wheeler, B. Kliban, Don Martin, 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), J.N. 'Ding' Darling (editorial panels), etc.

Graphic Novels: One could say this is a "desert island" list of sorts, though it would have to be a pretty good-sized island. But I try and take these titles with me to classes as examples, the number of which is dependent on the size of the bag, box or bin (and whether or not a parking spot close to the door can be had, or if I use my new little luggage-roller setup):

David Petersen, Linda Medley (Castle Waiting), Jason, Seth, Tony Millionaire, Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), James Kochalka, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Johnny Ryan, Alison Bechdel (Fun Home), Carl Barks, Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland), Vera Grosgol, Shaun Tan (The Arrival), Grant Morrison (We3), Robert Crumb, Harvey Pekar, Eddie Campbell, James Sturm (Market Day), Craig Thompson (Blankets), David Laskey (Don't Forget This Song), Fiona Staples, Art Spiegelman (Maus), Maurice Sendak (Where The Wild Things Are), Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Charles Burns (Black Hole), Jim Woodring (The Frank Book), John Porcellino (King Cat) Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese), Ben Towle (Midnight Sun), Joe Sacco (War’s End), Barry Windsor-Smith, Bill Willingham (Fables), Joshua Cotter (Skyscrapers of the Midwest), Rutu Modan (Exit Wounds), Jim Ottaviani (Bonesharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards), Daniel Clowes, Jeffrey Brown, Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Neil Gaiman (Sandman), Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth), James Vance/Dan Burr (Kings in Disguise), Raymond Briggs (Fungus the Boogeyman) etc. etc. etc.

Along with industry honors such as the Eisner Award, Harvey and the Ignatz Awards, comics have been picking up increasing amounts of accolades from related fields like the Hugo, Locus, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy Awards, even the Caldecott and Hans Christian Anderson Awards. Aside from self-publishers, some standout publishers of alternative/independent material include: Image Comics, Vertigo, Dark Horse, Top Shelf, Oni Press, Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly and Last Gasp.

Probably the closest I've ever come to deviating from the longstanding compost-heap approach to generating a default "textbook" for the class has been a masterful overview recently published in Comics Art from Paul Gravett. At the very least it'll be required reading for the advanced students, as I haven't yet come across such an excellent survey that touches upon so many facets of the artform.
Comics Art is a new book by British comics expert, curator and historian, Paul Gravett, published on 7th November by Tate [Publishing, who describe it partly as:] “Richly illustrated with many images taken from original artwork and rare artifacts, Comics Art gives a fascinating, accessible guide to some of the special properties of sequential art, such as panels, page layouts, speech balloons and wordless or ‘silent’ narration. It addresses concerns about how comics perpetuate stereotypes and support the status quo, while assessing their growing significance, notably through autobiography and reportage, as vehicles for provocative voices often silenced in other media. Comics Art also explores the diversity of styles, media and approaches now possible in the medium and exciting developments in digital comics and in comics conceived for galleries and installations.” – Rich Johnson, Bleeding Cool

Back in 2009 I briefly mentioned in a post about the only DVD I routinely play for classes: "Independents: A Guide to the Creative Spirit" by director Chris Brand. It's still a must-see in my book, especially for the aspiring comic artist, though any art student would benefit from the commentary and insight from the wide range of creators.

An important supplement to the daily exercises and weekly critiqued assignments within the studio is constant exposure to websites, YouTube videos and podcasts of creators and their respective works (many of which are posted on the blogroll to the right). And of course the time-honored, traditional methods of studying and deconstructing the works of the masters, historical and contemporary, and most importantly, the time and space to practice.

But in the end, one of the best selling points about comics is you really don't need much at all (re: degrees, classes, textbooks, training) of anything else other than some paper and a pencil, some pens, and eraser. And a library card. And maybe a photocopier, and/or scanner + computer. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Never too early to start thinking about the inexorable pull indoors as the days grow darker and a chill sets in every evening.

I attempted in earnest to resist the current fad of nostalgic binge-watching episodic installments of shows, since unlike books I generally start to lose interest if not momentum in a series that spans over years. Only one of the listed shows I bother to stay current with, the others failed to capture my interest long enough to merit maintaining any attention. But as usual, participation in fads isn't a prerequisite to commentary.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Troll's in Town!

Fairbanks will be host to the annual Alaska Art Education Association's statewide conference "ThINKing About Art." The keynote speaker for 2014 will be Ray Troll: catch his show & tell at UAF's Schaible Auditorium (in the Bunnell Building) tonite at 5:30pm.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Teaching Artists/Artists Who Teach

"Trust the Process"

Recently attended a four-part series of workshops to certify potential artist-in-residencies with the Fairbanks North Star Borough school district.

In one of the sessions we were asked to fill out three Post-Its with what we thought were examples of what it meant to be: 1) an artist  - the creative,  2) an educator - the educational, and 3) an entrepreneur - the business. I got a laugh when I purposefully stuck my notes up in the "wrong" areas of the board, deliberately putting them in different topics, as the point being all the attributes - in theory - should be interchangeable. Well, could be. We were also tasked at one point with making and illustrating a little book by utilizing some provided materials to create imagery that echoed these three overlapping arenas. I "failed" in not finishing in time - somethings never change - but here are a couple pages from my efforts.

The hardest thing was the simple logistics of being in training that whole week from 8-5am for the "day job,", and then heading off to another training session after that. In other words, no different than the scenario that confronts any working artist who has to summon the time + energy after meeting all the responsibilities of a regular, normal life. Along those lines, one point I would make is in how, above and beyond artists, art teachers still never fail to inspire me, as a person, an artist and an educator, and how this respect and admiration has grown alongside each and every behind-the-scenes experience. And I don't mean just as folks who work - and work hard - in both the classroom and their own personal studios, and not just as people who change lives, instill passion and vision, plus teach requisite artistic skills. What I'm talking about here specifically is seeing an art teacher long after hours when they are completely fried, it being well past the "magic mental pumpkin hour" (say somewhere around the 16-18 hour mark) yet they still somehow manage to put in an appearance in a supportive role at these sorts of functions.

"It's all about sharing"

Saturday, October 4, 2014

24 Hour Comics Day Today!

Bumping today's regularly scheduled Saturday morning funny for a reminder that at 12noon today straight through until 12noon tomorrow there will be a buncha likeminded folks drawing comics at the Comic Shop for the farthest north outbreak of 24 Hour Comics Day 2014: drop on by to see some works-in-progress!

One thing I really dig doing every so often is checking out the main Facebook page for 24 Hour Comics Day and scrolling through the “Posts to Page” to see all the other venues around the world – some of whom have already started like in Rovaniemi, Lapland, Madrid, EspaƱa, and - as seen here - Surabaya, Indonesia. 

Even if you don’t understand the language but you totally know what’s going on. Also cool that Alaska is not only the last place to clock out in the U.S. but I think we're literally the last place on Earth to finish too. Update: looks like the current tally is over 70 participating groups from 16 different countries!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pics: 2014 VAA Cartoon Class + Residency Certification!

Image: JR Ancheta/UAF Marketing & Communications

Just recently got a handful of spiffy images from this past summer's gig with the UAF Visual Art Academy: it's one thing to constantly be reminded of the awesome talent of the attendees by pure virtue of their collected works - it's another to see snapshots of the intensity, focus and fun we had. Not so much in retrospect either... it's still an ongoing inspiration.

Note that if you missed it the first time posted, please peruse at your leisure the couple boards dedicated to student samples up over at Pinterest: Cartoons + Comics, and recaps on the blog from VAA 2013 here and here.

Also a fabulous opportunity has opened up after recently completing certification to take part in our local borough district's Artist In Schools program. The Teaching Artist Training Academy offers professional development for local artists, and is hosted by the Art Center, and the Fairbanks Arts Association. It is truly an impressive and inspirational experience, as there are a lot of folks who dedicate so much of their time + energy to advocate for the arts, and it is so humbling to learn how hard it is to not only teach art in a classroom, but what goes on for many, many hours behind the scenes as well.

I'm honored to earn a spot on the roster of the artists in our community who share their work with students in our public schools. And I'll have an upcoming post specifically about Comics In The Classroom for another educational event I'm conducting a workshop for next weekend.

Image: JR Ancheta/UAF Marketing & Communications

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Slick Outside!

'Tis the Season: A friendly little PSA from all of us at Nuggets®™

   It was an unexpected bonus to have this little doodle done early in the week on one frosty morn, and then after posted on Facebook watch it go relatively "viral" (which always makes me think of an infectious plague). Some small satisfaction in knowing tens upon tens of thousands of people maybe got a meta-message under the guise of an innocuous cartoon. And yet another example of the three-part harmony in marketing one's work as an artist: in person, in print and on-line.  

   On a more somber note, earlier this month a moose was killed just around the corner from us. Probably one of the most saddest sounds I've ever heard was a few days after, later at night, hearing the yearling in our back woods plaintively calling, lost and alone.

   Slow down, please. The neighbors will thank you.