Sunday, October 22, 2017

"No Bears"

A lot of the cartoons that I draw are over and done with really quick. This includes the reading of/looking at, as well as also in its creation, as in it doesn't take much time to render at any stage: from conception, doodle, pencil, ink, shade, edit and prep for publication.

All this to say on occasion one come across the drawing board that takes a LOT more time, particularly to render. But it's an opportunity to really get into the panel, lose yourself in the lines. 
That's probably the closest this medium comes to what ranks with a comparatively long investment of time + attention other mediums, like say painting, sculpture, ceramics, metalsmithing etc. Close, but still not as much - there are times I have to remind students or folks watching a demo that it's only with experience that you can knock out a finished drawing as fast as it might appear from the perspective of anyone who doesn't do it themselves on a regular basis. What seems quick to them is an infinity to me.

Something else really subtle I pick up on a very small number of random folks (a high percentage of which are other artists natch) who get a peek at the process, especially when looking at the inking of the original: their eyes linger across, around and into the piece, and I can tell they aren't just doing the usual superficial visual/perceptual consumption. Like they are really looking.  

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Speak Out/STFU

Been internalizing and reflecting on this as it's unfolded across social media, which is the point. By all means, men need to speak up, and speak out. It’s incumbent upon us to effect change.

That being said, there’s also the perspective that perhaps this is also a real good time to just simply shut the fuck up and listen.

Yeah, it hurts.

Sunday, October 15, 2017


No doodle for this one: a good example of spontaneous creation while in the process of working on other panels. It's like a mental announcer comes on and says "we interrupt this broadcast with this special breaking report" and BIFF! from outta left field when you least expect it the muse reaches on over and takes the wheel

But instead of a sketchbook scan of any idle inspiration I do have a rather funny anecdote to share about this particular panel. After a critique of ongoing student projects I caught myself saying to them "what's the worst that can happen? You screw it up and start over." This was in response to some apprehension amongst a few folks who were commenting on how intimidating using pen + ink can be if you're not used to using it, and are unfamiliar with the occasional learning curve that gets splattered all over the place. 

Penciled version #1

So what I said wasn't exactly either a vote of confidence nor much of a consolation. But in retrospect it did highlight what may be a fundamental divide between the experienced artist who doesn't suffer through the dreaded "paralysis through analysis" that I see hamstring many a struggling student. From my personal perspective it's only a slight speedbump in the overall process - oops, oh well... just redraw it (or let it slide as you go on to the next one): progress not perfection!

Penciled version #2

I mention this only because I had to eat my own damn words when I "lost" the original penciled panel for version #1, and after wasting a couple hours of tossing the home, studio, office, classrooms and car, I just had to resign myself to re-creating it. I had already scanned the first version, as evidenced by finding a jpeg file of it on my desktop - hence the "Penciled version #1" first posted above.

Cat-Scan: "cold cat-hode fluorescent lamp"… no worry about any cat-aracts

Occasionally I utilize a glorious tabloid-sized scanner that I have access to, as opposed to piecing together scans from the letter-sized Epson at home (an skilled artform unto itself). In theory every time you redraw something it ought to to improve.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

24 Hour Comics Day 2017 (In Absentia) + "PSilence"

Last weekend I got up extra extra early, grabbed a box o' donuts, energy drinks + bfast sammiches and snuck over to the ongoing annual 24 Hour Comics Day event, hosted once again by the local Comic Shop. Since there was just a relative handful of hours left I only managed to pencil out a few new panels in the sketchbook, transcribed from scribbled notes shoved into the omnipresent man-purse. Also worked up the above-posted page: recently been thinking of a new series of one-pagers that play around with silent letters (ie "dummy letters" in this specific instance).

As I was teaching and up on campus for a ten-hour stint on Saturday I really missed out on reconnecting with friends & folks, most of whom had succumbed to exhaustion long before I showed up. Mikaela (Capricious Caribou), Chaweinta (Do All Your Thinking In This Box), Tara (Tara & BunBun) and Hannah (The Daily Delilah) were the finalists still on-site right up to the bitter end. Two outta twenty-two successfully made the challenge - but, as always, everybody was a winner by just participating for however long they could.

Here's a backlink to a previous post recapping last year's event, and a landing page with linkage to other years is here.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Goldfish Spawn"

Just the other day I was visiting the restroom of a public lands organization, and noticed the profusion of publications in the stall which were all hilariously stereotypical and appropriate to the institutional mission. As in, piles and piles of hunting + fishing mags. As it happened, I had also just finished snacking on some crackers. JUXTAPOSITION!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"Now What?"

This would have been one of those comparatively rare instances where I recognized in advance that it might just be better off scanning in the doodle stage and using that instead, as opposed to meticulously rendering each & every member of the whole damn herd instead.

Also makes for a really short blog post. Especially when there's no accompanying insights or observations. That is, aside from the obvious political implications. Ah crap, I swore I wouldn't go there for once.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Meanwhile, at Alaskaland

A recent commission for a local theatrical production, Meanwhile In Alaskaland:
Meanwhile, in ALASKALAND... is a themed, LIVE storytelling show and fundraiser in Fairbanks. We help bond our community through shared tales of real life in Alaska. Stories are selected in advance from our audition opportunity night or by appointment. In addition to being a fun way to spend a Friday night, you’re helping raise funds for a local charity associated with our theme.

The non-profit selected as a recipient for the month's theme of "animals in Alaska" will be Loving Companions Inc., a local animal rescue group.

Going with the theme of both storytelling + critters, my idea was for a group of regional-specific animals gathered around listening to someone with a tail. The above image is a snapshot taken after a quick concept sketch (done while on a short break at work) so as to get a thumbs paws-up from the client.

The pencil stayed fairly true to the initial doodle, with the exception of swapping out and shifting around a couple species. I personally like the fact that the cat is the only one with his back turned to the viewer, which is commonly exhibited behavior familiar to any cat-person.

A common question I'm asked when doing public demos + show & tells is how long it takes me to do a drawing, and that's always a hard one to answer as the overall process is spread out not only over time but shuffled amidst a constant flow of other projects in the proverbial pipeline. But this one happened in relative isolation, as a priority job, and I did keep an eye on the clock as it were while at least inking the piece: 20 minutes at the most (according to the iTunes soundtrack going in the background). Add to that another ten minutes for the sketch, ten minutes for the pencil and half hour scan/cleanup/shade, plus maybe around another hour spent manipulating the banner text (both my cartoony one and the group's stylized font) and upload time, the whole gig ran just over a couple hours total.

There was a slight amount of tweaking after the scan - most telling in the cat's tail over the beaver's foot, which was a domino effect following the resizing of the cat on the horizontal axis, which allowed for pulling the bird out away from behind the beaver nose (got a little cramped up compositionally at that particular point). Which demonstrate how, in the words of John Muir, it's all interconnected:
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

And hey whattaya know, I'm still struggling with damned porcupines. Even after the previous couple of renderings (documented processes here and here) they still come out looking either like a mutant hedgehog or some miscellaneous and mysterious rodent. Hence the seperate study (also done while on a short break at work at The Day Job), and some playing around with on-hand office supplies (scented markers... mmm).

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Pelts" (aka "The Beard Trapper")

Another example of comparative overkill on a cartoon: As of late I'm frequently alternating between really simple panel design (in other words, more of a traditional cartoon as far as detailed rendering) and then switching it up to a relatively complicated composition for the next one in the cue. Think of it as a sort of artistic version of doing reps, plus it's always good to have some pieces on the proverbial drawing board that require a modicum of discipline to complete.

In other words, slogging through the process when one becomes too attuned with banging out a panel in a single sitting: there's often a tightrope between ease and complacency versus frustration that it's taking too long or maybe is just too hard. In that way I tend to have a lot of empathy with my Beginning Drawing students, who confront and surmount such challenges with assigned work, and I always make sure to relate this perspective during a critique (whether one with what's up on a wall or the the more insidious inner ones with the committee.

Compare and contrast with a recent piece - "Got It" - that integrated the context of clutter as it was more central to the point the gag, as opposed to an environment, or basically a stage full of supporting props. Which are all made up: usually I don't use any photo-reference, just rely on imagination as to what a frontier mercantile would look like maybe based on latent, residual memory from pictures and/or movies.

Sometimes the longer I spend on such elaborate concoctions the more I really wonder what exactly is it that I'm doing and why. Especially when they're a little weird. And then I stop and think about all the pioneer beard trappers of yore, and how important it is to honor a small slice of history - one pelt in a patchwork of Alaskana.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Winter Guide +

One of my previous panels was solicited for reprinting in the official winter guide to Fairbanks, a publication of Explore Fairbanks (the former convention + visitors association). After this “unexpected” exposure now many thousands of folks will know of the sublime inspiration we Interior artists get from seasonal affective disorder (reaches for another pint) (…of Cherry Garcia).

Also now seeing as how I’ve evidently become a posterboy for marketing Interior Alaska’s beverage industry, I’m announcing my services-for-hire as an artistic prop available for posing at any fine establishment. Serious inquiries only: please contact my agent to schedule an appearance. Sketchbook doodles sold separately. Offer not valid in Lower 48.

image: Heather Shade

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Science: Set Yourself Apart From The Pack"

This was my remote contribution to the March For Science. Not to inject a thin veneer of politicization here with this, but in my own small way it's lighting a cartoon candle against the coming return of the dark ages in regards to science. The loud + mindless background baying of the superstitious and ignorant, versus the disciplined, contemplative pursuit of knowledge + fascination of discovery.

Gutting the EPA, censoring research, appointing climate change denialists to administration positions while abandoning other key agencies, astonishingly stupid policy reversals, ignoring experts like overruling scientists to approve pesticides linked to birth defects, etc. etc.

This piece was featured as another classroom demonstration in materials + technique. It also doubled as an example of what one can do with with a sustained, focused period of time in achieving a range of textures and experimenting with varying line weights so as to subtly emphasize foreground/midground/background layers and push depth in the picture plane. Oh yeah, and a meta-lesson in getting shit done, since more than a few folks commented on it afterward: you just did that? Yes, and so can you, or at least would do if you just did more of the ass in the chair thing. usually that's "all" it takes, and is the bare minimum that defines relative success at creating anything.

Afterwards turned it around for another demo for a different class (a lot of the time pieces get rolled over into another level for a different group of students) and cranked out a wash version on the original pen + ink. It's always a bonus to be able to put hand-in-glove with a series of panels for interrelated show & tells: I find it facilitates a faster connecting-of-dots for a meta-lesson in process.

PS: I was recently playing some Rush in the background, and one of my favorite songs came up, and this lyric stuck out since I was looking at this particular panel. "The Pass" is some powerful stuff.
The line "All of us get lost in the darkness/Dreamers learn to steer by the stars/All of us do time in the gutter/Dreamers turn to look at the cars" alludes to Oscar Wilde's "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" from his play Lady Windermere's Fan. - Wickipedia