Sunday, October 23, 2016


Kinda recalls the "Tusk Envy" panel from last year, as it has a similar sentiment.
No preliminary doodles, no rough, no sketch, no thumbnail - just one of those random ideas that comes straight outta left field while in the middle of something else completely unrelated. That's what happens when you just-so-happen to have a pencil in your hand, which is always a good idea, as much as possible. Also it was an excuse to break in a new watercolor sketchbook pad.
I did however have to spend some time doing a color chart, and the related research on specific species of both toucans and puffins. Turns out the first choice for a stereotypical puffin as far as colorful beaks, are over on the other coast. See, we here in Alaska have the horned puffin (and the tufted too) - the usual species most often shown is the Atlantic puffin, which sports a more colorful beak. I still think the visual link between the two birds would have been stronger and more effective had I went with the initial idea, but for some strange reason I deferred to scientific fact.
Which if you think about it was a dumb decision, as there's no damn toucans up here either, Speaking of which the illustrated one also deviated from reality as an amalgamation of a few different species so as to get a beak with bands that closely approximated the iconic image of Toucan Sam, regrettably the most easily recognizable sample representative of the species.
Basically in the end it all came down to 1) coloring fun and 2) the winning caption, which was worthy enough of a line to merit something. And yeah, they're related.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Recap: Cartoon North II

Way back in May of this summer we had a fantastic month-long exhibition here in the Interior that featured cartoon and comic art at the Fairbanks Arts Associations Bear Gallery (the official landing page for the event with participating artist links + roster of activities is posted here).

There was significant media coverage of the opening reception and, additionally, overwhelming turnout for not only opening night but also the extracurricular workshops which supplemented the show. Everything came together, and we pulled it off all on account of the volunteers who hung, hosted and helped by simply showing up.

Unfortunately the majority of my own images + video from the opening reception were tragically lost inbetween the recent computer crash and a gap between the latest hard-drive backups: fortunately there were some folks (mostly on account of The Significant Otter) who snagged a handful of precious moments.

Jose Mojica has a GREAT YouTube video recap of the entire exhibition, also check out Peter Webley's Theta 360 take on a workshop here, and The Art of Lucas Elliott also has a quick spin from his table at the opening here.
Hopefully you can somewhat get a sense of what the overall intent of the gallery layout was: basically an impression of walking right into the pages of a comic book or opening up the pages of the Sunday funnies section in the newspaper. It was the first time in the history of the gallery that all of the hanging room dividers were removed so as to facilitate a better logistical flow around the exhibitor tables on opening night, and provide visual breathing room on account of the sheer volume of work on display.

We proved again that not only can sequential art in all of its manifestations go toe to toe with any other form of art in the gallery scene as a legitimate form of artistic expression: its success isn't just measured in terms of popularity (although we had well over 600 folks come in through the front doors on opening night); or in monetary terms (thought gallery sales eclipsed everything aside from the annual fundraiser for the association); but it demonstrated beyond any doubt the breadth + depth of just how unique and potent the medium cartoon and comic art is.

I lost track over the ensuing months how many random people would still come up to and comment on what a powerful, eye-opening experience it was for them to attend the show. "I had no idea..." on how many artists were working in this particular filed, or how many different ways to do it, or how incredible it was to discover the various ways to tell a story using images + words there were (and still are). So not only were viewers able to appreciate each of the individual works on display for themselves, they walked away with a deeper appreciation of what's out there collectively.

That professional and personal validation encapsulated my entire motivation behind putting up such an exhibition, and extends into the classroom as an art teacher as well, not to mention behind my own drawing board at home in the studio.
We also proved another hope I had: there was more than enough material to draw from right here at home - we didn't have to solicit submissions from outside the Interior. This as opposed to the first Cartoon North show (2007) which in retrospect took on way too much, being statewide in scale, and historical to contemporary in scope. This exhibition was testament to the amazing amount of creative talent we have nurtured in our own neck of the woods.

I must confess to being taken somewhat aback at the turnout for the spin-off series of workshops. The first one I was caught by surprise at the volume of folks in the community who sacrificed a beautiful, sunny summer day to spend an afternoon indoors. I honestly expected maybe a few people but was greeted with the sight of over forty folks waiting in the gallery for the inaugural Saturday session.

Layla Lawlor and Alex Bates giving presentations

Again I would express my appreciation for the facilitators and friends who stepped up to lead many of the workshops - there was a sincere interest and appreciation from people all across the community, and support from fellow aficionados who had a chance to connect with others who shared their passion. It was also a great little reunion to boot, with many new friends and fans included in the festivities and celebration.

Minicomics workshop

Another aspect that I really enjoy is the egalitarian and inclusive nature of the artform, which is reflected in the broad spectrum of personalities and abilities who participated, regardless of gender, age, culture and experience. That diversity is such a crucial foundation of comics, and gigs like this are an opportunity for everyone to come together and share in the energy which is normally channeled as a solitary personal pursuit, whether reading or creating.

Greg Hill lecturing on Graphic Novels

One final point was made in the meta-observation that when artists have a show, it's the norm to make one appearance at the opening, and then disappear for the duration of the exhibition. This experiment proved how much potential there is to capitalize on the venue as a space to keep promoting the art and the artist(s). Hosting workshops and doing public demonstrations throughout the allotted time and space is an an under-utilized - and lucrative - opportunity to maintain the impetus generated by the show opening, maximize/capitalize on accessibility and interest, and expand the reach of the viewership beyond the usual network of First Friday attendees.

The gallery gift-shop nook featuring the work of participating artists

 Synergy is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and everybody who was a part of Cartoon North definitely made it not only possible, but a shared experience that really made a big impact on the community. Thank you all!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Peabrain" (aka Tundra Chicken)

Chicken as in both playing in the road + a slang term for the ubiquitous state symbol. Prompted by an afternoon visit to the cabin by a pair that scared me almost as much as they were startled by my taking a leak off the porch.

There was an interesting sequence of events surrounding the somewhat surreal experience of sitting in a cafe and querying acquaintances on the technicalities of of relative brain sizes.
You'll note the succession of crossed-out options when the analogous size of the brain evolved from the initial walnut, to a peanut (there was also a lentil phases that was debated) until arriving at a consensus. Just proved on how weirdly wonderful random sets of strangers experiences can be as it turned out a surprising number of folks had actual firsthand knowledge of just how big a birdbrain is.

Or even lentils, come to think of it. After debating the finer points of ornithological anatomy I was left to ponder how only in Alaska would a random survey would yield such relevant insights.
I also had to slightly tweak the composition so as to better imply the sense of directional travel, instead of just looking at the impending vehicle. Another example of what's obvious to me not necessarily translating into reality, or simpler, more effective visual communication. Above and beyond that, it's relying completely on the resident familiarity of just how dim-witted these critters can be, as most Alaskans will relate at some point to driving through a gauntlet of ptarmigan speed-bumps.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fairbanks Sketchers VI/VII: Arctic Bowl + Clay Street Cemetary

   Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps? Here's a digitally enhanced version of my sole contribution to the evening's activities at one of the Fairbanks Sketchers group meetings I was able to attend this season.
   And I broke the damn rules again as far as failing to do a finished piece on-site. I barely managed to do one composite sketch in pencil, which I took home and inked. Still wasn't terribly thrilled with it, and went ahead and colored it in with some wash pencils. Then it got scanned and tweaked with some filters and cut shadows for more contrast + depth. Compared with the raw page (pictured below) it's at least a somewhat bland illustration for bowling now.

     For once I also managed to spend the majority of the time socializing, which is different for since I'm usually the guy either outside in the parking lot on his own or with my sketchbook blinders on, busy, you know, actually drawing. Anyways, I really wasn't fully engaged after a long day of drawing at home all morning, and then teaching drawing in the afternoon. You could say I was feeling a bit drawn out. So that explained the White Russians, jumbo hotdogs, and playing Prince on the jukebox. 

   Seems I already hang out an awful lot in bowling alleys for a non-player, from grad school days, cartooning classes for a storyboard exercise, and the semesterly drills for linear perspective in beginning drawing. There were some super friendly people working at the establishment, and I met some new artists (after six months there always seems to be new people dropping in to check out the group) and we had some really good conversations and connections.

   For more information on our outings + escapades see my previous post here including more backlinks. Speaking of, here's a link to our Facebook page which will host any posts about upcoming venues + samples of work by other, more serious (and talented) attendees. There's also our Flickr page, and I've set up a my own personal Flickr page for my own work, in tangent with the usual Google+ webfolio for the sketches done while on our outings.

Urban Sketchers blog

The Stranger: I like your style, Dude.
The Dude: Well, I dig your style too, man. Got the whole cowboy thing goin'.
The Stranger: Thankee.

   The absolute best part was not only the bartender knowing EXACTLY the reference when I ordered a “Caucasian,” but apologizing for not having any Sarsaparilla. Dudeism level: Dudeist Priest.

Also at the tail end of the season - at least for drawing on locations that are outside - we checked out the Clay Street Cemetery in downtown Fairbanks. A very cold + gray scene greeted the few of us who were brave enough to rough it.

I penciled out a remix from several points of view, and mashed up elements sampled from strolling about the grounds. What really caught my eye was a mass of mushrooms spilling from within a cradle of birch trunks, plus the wrought iron gates and a few weathered tombstones.

A wash awash w/Tullamore DEW

Next week, Thursday October 20th we'll be meeting up at yet another place listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Chena Pumphouse. Check out our Facebook event page for more info here.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"Moose Luggage"

One recent panel that ran so as to dovetail with hunting season around this neck of the woods. Not that TSA would approve this sort of baggage. And over the years I've pretty much resigned myself to just simply staying away from vast areas of the Alaskan outdoors for a few specific weeks of fall.
Posted below is the sketchbook doodle and also the penciled panel that hints at some of the linear perspective underpinnings behind the composition.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

"Vocal Fry"

Multiple layers to this one - hopefully on the Venn diagram of relative obscurity in references there's at least some overlap between speech pathology, pop stars and ichthyology. As in: Pink the singer versus Pink the fish, and also the life cycle of salmon versus controversial (to some) speech patterns/vocalizations.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

24 Hour Comics Day: Alaska 2016 (Repost)

Reposting this as it's where I'll be hanging out for the weekend:
That time of the year again: Grab yer Sharpies and join our group of local cartoonists for the annual challenge where we each attempt to create our own twenty-four page comic within twenty-four consecutive hours!

This will mark the tenth time Interior Alaska has participated in the world-wide event. and we're always joined by a wide range of talent and skill, from aspiring amateurs to seasoned professionals, and it always puts a great perspective on what one can accomplish in just one day of intensely focused output - not to mention fellowship + fun.

Hosted once again by the awesome Comic Shop of Fairbanks, we'll be meeting Saturday, October 1st @ 12noon and wrapping up on Sunday, October 2nd @ 12noon. As always the public is invited to participate and attend this free event: drop on by to check out the works-in-progress or to supply companionship, support, or always-appreciated libations + victuals.

Here's an archive of previous posts: 2015 (recap here), 201420132012201020092008 (there's no record of 2007, and I was outta state for 2011), or for more information visit the official page here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

"Teddy Bears"

So this one perhaps requires additional commentary, except that there really isn't all that much more to add other than it's simply based on a random encounter with a local vehicle with quite the collection of stuffed toys crammed in the back window. Needless to say it occurred to me what a strange perspective this would be for any passing bear.
See, I'm not weird, it's other people. I just take notes.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Alone in a Crowd" + "Dear Bruno"

A mark of distinction with this particular panel, in that I remember vividly putting down the eraser after the final cleanup, and sat there filled with a rare feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction - the surreal experience of being suffused with happiness and peace over creating a really depressing piece.

I was recently giving a show & tell to a group of folks, including some young kids, and this original panel surfaced amongst the usual batch of samples I rotate through the demo portfolio for such gigs. Given my location at the time + the statistical propensity of some Bush communities, especially off the road system, I mentally hit a speed-bump before gambling and talking about this particular panel. One angle was how animals can sometimes be used in lieu of people to broach sensitive subjects that might not otherwise ever come up in conversation. Also breaking the taboo of silence is more often than not an important part of the healing process.

And it's not so much my wallowing in melancholy or artistic purging of inner demons that leads to such work, but the reality of personally losing several friends and acquaintances: not to put too fine  point on it, when three folks I know shoot themselves within a two year span I start to get pissed, which is basically giving cover to just being scared.

Alaska has usually leading stats on suicide due to any number of factors, and it's important to know about the resources available in our communities, such as crisis lines and keep an eye out, and be willing to lend an ear if not a helping hand. And I'm certainly not above the random sucker-punch to regular readers who expect entertainment and are instead given a piece to really think about.
It was also just World Suicide Awareness Day and National Suicide Prevention Week... but aside from promoting awareness, so is every day and every week.

I'll end on this poignant panel: Chuck Legge down in Mat-Su draws (update: drew) excellent editorial panels for the Frontiersman, and now has his own page over on Facebook.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Medley: Dalton Highway

"There is just one hope of repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every niche on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom of the wilderness.
In a civilization which requires most lives to be passed amid inordinate dissonance, pressure and intrusion, the chance of retiring now and then to the quietude and privacy of sylvan haunts becomes for some people a psychic necessity.
The preservation of a few samples of undeveloped territory is one of the most clamant issues before us today. Just a few more years of hesitation and the only trace of that wilderness which has exerted such a fundamental influence in molding American character will lie in the musty pages of pioneer books ... To avoid this catastrophe demands immediate action." - Robert (Bob) Marshall, Co-founder, The Wilderness Society 
Posting a veritable smörgåsbord of random notes, snapshots and sketches from a recent road-trip up the haul road. Above are two spectacular panoramas: the one on top is of Atigun Gorge, which is an entry point to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge accessed off the Dalton Highway, and the bottom view was from a feeder stream to nearby Galbraith Lake, also looking over towards the Refuge. If I would have turned around the view would instead be of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, so it is quite the magnificent vista nomatter where one looks or what direction you face.

Our small group of National Park Service seasonal trainees + accompanying ranger for the Fairbanks Public Lands Information Center (down at the Morris Thompson Center) took a run up the Dalton Highway for a few days early this spring as part of training on the various recreational resources that abound in our neck of the woods (or tundra in this case). After making base camp in a Coldfoot cabin we ventured further up north, through the infamous Atigun Pass. Spring was just a couple weeks behind us in the Interior, and snow still blanketed the sides of the road and greenup was just getting underway.

Early risers: Saxifraga and Black bear emerging from their winter slumber

The Bureau of Land Management's Arctic Interagency Visitor Center is an absolute must-stop for anyone seeking more information about outdoor activity along the pipeline corridor. A couple of the sketches posted here (the Dall sheep + wolverine) were from mounts on display in their exhibit area.

These are some quick sketches drawn while sitting in the passenger seat of the SUV as it bounced along the gravel road and we wound our way through the Brooks Range and emerged at the edge of the Arctic plateau that stretched on and on until the eventual shore of the Arctic Ocean.

Looking back on the experience of viewing a horizon line that was well over half-full of the north face of one single mountain range was certainly illuminating and a powerful vision. Equally important but infinitely more personal was sitting down and watching a pair of Arctic loons through binoculars, as they swam along a river in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, far above the arctic circle no less.

Mount Sukapak is a popular pulloff attraction what with it's distinctive profile: it was cool to finally get to see it in person especially after working it into an earlier commissioned design and having to resort to photo-reference.

True to my reoccurring assignments in drawing classes, I have a penchant for dead hairy animals and will always try to catch a mount wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. No wait, that sounds really weird. Just like my frequent assignments in the classroom I'll always get few quick sketches of stuffed critters, and the visitor center in Coldfoot had some very nice displays set up. This wolverine made for a good study with pen & ink + wash.

At the crest of Atigun Pass, looking back at the North side of the Brooks, and ahead at the arctic plateau.

These recent snapshots dovetail quite nicely with the collection of other excursions (see more here) I'v collected on my treks about Alaska over the years, and setting foot back on the tundra roused a too-long dormant sense of connection to head for the hills again.

But lest anyone think this road trip was all fun and games, some serious interludes were devoted to channeling raw inspiration from the primeval wilderness...
Occasionally keen-eyed readers will often catch specific locations snuck into compositions: bonus detail in that mountain range in background is based on reference sketch shown earlier.