Sunday, July 12, 2020


Chalk up yet another one with a very, very narrow overlapping demographic for the intended audience here with this one. And through exhaustive field research I have concluded the vast majority of reader once again had no idea what the hell I meant here.

Evidence that I seriously needed to do some research for reference images

One theory is that I spend so much time in an environment where such a specialized carving tool is used in the studio in the Native Arts department, so the term is fairly ubiquitous in usage.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Cartoon & Comic Arts: Recap 2019 (2020 Drawing With a Phantom Limb Edition)

Unfortunately ain’t gonna be no posts about the 2020 Cartooon & Comic Art course on account of there not being any more of those classes anymore. That’s mostly due to it at long last reaching its allotted academic lifespan as an elective. Well, technically it exceeded the duration of a “Special Topics” class, as it’s supposed to be offered for no longer than one semester, so off by only eleven years. And after a dozen years of one of the top, uh, draws in the department, routinely the first class to get waitlisted, and a favorite of many successful art majors and future professionals, I entertained the novel idea that perhaps this might be the year my value as a faculty member would be recognized.

I felt more than justified by my decision to hold out for any forlorn hope to maybe get a real job with benefits etc. out of all this. Administration repeatedly attempted to entice me into completing the paperwork needed to legitimately add it to the curriculum, as in include it in the official university catalog. I would dutifully counter with the proposal to hire me something other than an adjunct, since this course was only one of the many strong, proven assets I could bring to the department. I was also encouraged to develop an on-line version of the course for a few grand, but that would have given up control one of the aces up my sleeve as far as retaining my bargaining position and unique abilities + experience. Not that any of it mattered in the long run, as bureaucratic academia pretty much takes advantage of anyone for as long as possible before burning them out and discarding the empty shells.

So instead I’ll put up a list of backlinks to a selection of the best-of previous posts about the Cartoon & Comic Arts course (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018), and also put up a handful of images here that were left over from forgetting to write up a recap. Seventy-five initial pictures in fact, which were whittled down to a much more manageable 50-odd (and I do mean odd), most of which are ganged together or excerpted samples, but still quite the data dump. Who knows, this might be my very last post on this topic as well, so I’ll make it a doozy. Eight pages of annotations typed out beforehand in a Word document and over an hour of uploading & formatting this post with about a billion hyperlinks also alludes to the in-depth expose that awaits.
Have fun faithful reader, and follow me after the jump…

Friday, July 10, 2020

2019 VAA Recap: Drawing With a Phantom Limb (2020 Edition)

Sadly because of the plague sweeping the country the 2020 Visual Art Academy was canceled – it would have been the sixth I’ve taught cartooning for (two morning classes). Beyond the disruption to routine the social distancing hit teachers pretty hard, as I found myself really missing the annual experience. On the other hand, it was an opportunity to get a little distance and reevaluate participation in such events. Not to mention continuing to recap these gigs as it’s approaching the broken wheel stage of blogging – aside from the usual refining tweaks, reshuffling of exercises and testing out the occasional new activity, I’m really just repeating myself. Fortunately the students and their work will always entice me to continue, and their energy + enthusiasm never fails to come full circle and inspire me back in my own studio.
Here’s a list of backlinks to linkage about previous posts from the Visual Art Academy experiences (2013, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)
*Join me after the jump for a condensed recap from last year’s gig… especially seeing as how I never got around to posting any samples from 2019!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

"Bear-Trashed Room" + Cartoon Kitchen/Stovetop Session #1

Yet another fine example of how to endlessly complicate a cartoon - the inherent paradox of rendering a composition so consciously cluttered with details it defeats one of the core definitions of what makes a cartoon a cartoon - simplicity.

*Also note the QR code embedded in the final print version that links to the 907nuggets Instagram page. If it somehow manages to make the transition to newsprint and still retains enough resolution to actually work, that will be hilarious. We’ll see…

I've long since given up any resistance to what has over the years evolved into my own particular approach, but I'm admittedly still jealous at the gestural quality a good cartoon has that still retains the power of less-is-more while still getting the essential job done: rendering recognizable objects. I look at other cartoonist's works sometimes and think to myself now that's easy why can't I ever leave well enough alone with my own stuff. There are times I wish I could just let the initial doodle in the sketchbook stand on its own without redoing it, and there are certain instances it gets published under the "Nuggets Sketchbook" banner as an example of primal purity in the process. In a perverse sense this pursuit of an as-yet intangible aesthetic is what motivates all artists, that wait-just-one-more-thing and by god then it'll be done.

Anyone paying close attention will pickup on another homage to the great George Booth's work, who never failed to impress me whenever being exposed to his meticulous drawings appearing in the pages of the New Yorker magazine that casually illustrated the concept of a chaotic mess (and crazy cats as well).

Another subtle but crucial aspect of the characters interacting in the setting is contingent on manipulating the viewer's eye with deliberate gaze cues. As a visually reliant species we will always instinctively first lock eyes with another animal, and I believe this is a subconscious reflex that can play a part in arranging compositional elements so as to facilitate easier and rapid assessment of the situation (ie "getting it").

This piece lent itself handily to another demo, especially as the inaugural broadcast of a new feature: "The Cartoon Kitchen." Stovetop Session #1 made its debut during the first few weeks of quarantine lockdown at the cabin. The convoluted setup was actually conducive for a unique tripod arrangement with a special rig adapted to using an iPhone. Problem was, I forgot to keep the orientation the same as whenever you first hit "record" and so after entering the title + description for a Facebook Live event I then switched to a horizontal/landscape format, and so the ensuing recording has the classic look of a newbie. Added to that was the fact that livestreaming anything from our location in the hills outside of Ester is doomed to look as low-fi as the rest of of our way of life. Meaning all the painstaking attention to detail was rendered useless with a pixelated and ragged resolution. I might try again using the router instead, but the assumption is that it will presumably be even be poorer results. So I'll compensate with a bigger Sharpie, or just stick to using my Forever Stamps for any distance delivery for my doodles.

Aside from flipping the orientation back to landscape, with judicious editing I was able to cut the overall length by over half the original file size, down to just over 2gigs/15min. Mostly that was accomplished by cranking up the inking sequence to 2000% and crunching it down from twenty minutes to sixty-seconds. Plus I cut out the accompanying monologue and dropping in a beat instead. Also added bonus chapter markers so viewers can skip straight to the high-def stills and avoid most of the crappy live stream footage.

But if you think the resolution is crappy then you’ll love how long it took to upload the damn thing to my channel from the cabin: try ten freakin’ hours. At least it gave me an excuse to finally get around to backiup. Got an external drive that could take not just the current stuff on the iMac, but also soak up my previous external drive’s archives AND everything off the old external drive – the badass backup with a whoppin’ 320GB of storage capacity, man. We’re talkin’ early 2000’s here – some of the original raw image files won’t open anymore on contemporary software - doesn’t even read them).

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Return of Castor Canadensis

A dozen new pelts to post for your perusal: Join us below the fold for another bevy of bodacious beavers…

Sunday, June 28, 2020

"Lone Wolf"

So this particular panel was mothballed for more than a few months, repeatedly pushed back in the production pipeline for publication - almost a year after drawing the damn thing. I usually have a handful of "filler" material - ones that can fill in any accidental blanks in the schedule. Kept bumping this one mostly on account of it not being particularly appropriate for the Nuggets®™ brand genuine homemade cartoon. As in, it's pretty much a political panel, and I usually wait to suckerpunch readers with something really serious until an issue comes along that merits muddying the water. And as of late, a series of them have. So this is another unpublished exclusive to Ink & Snow, since it's too serious for a funny and too obtuse for an editorial but just perfect for posting.

Folks normally like their entertainment unsullied with any current events, untethered from reality, which most of the time I'm all about anyways. More and more these days I exist as an existential observer - not ignorant or disengaged, but detached and objective as possible. But, above and beyond any "Dixie Chicks effect," there are some things one has to take a stand on, regardless.

Way back in 2018 when things were normally crazy

Like, for example, my personal central issue of literacy - perhaps one of the last truly neutral topics we have left. Unfortunately we have seen the politicization of previously apolitical topics. And even though environmentalism issues are, in my opinion, the most important ones facing us as a species on this planet (aside from a few others that are lining us up for extinction) there is a crucial step beforehand that needs to be cleared away first. And I think that applies to every other cause under the sun, be it bigotry, social justice, rights etc. - each of us needs to step up to the plate as informed and aware as possible, and give what we can, do what we must.

These days I have really come to a love/hate relationship with the internet, and have been withdrawing more and more, which is at odds with my usual instinctual engagement, so it winds up the proverbial "between Scylla and Charybdis" dilemma. So much toxic crap out there, and it  oftentimes seems to foment more trouble than it's worth - as illustrated by the panel posted above. On the other hand it enables the sharing of so many potential solutions, promote much positivity, and empowers so many more to take courage, and to take care. So I'll share a few more items along those lines.

Speaking of bigotry, we do well to study and learn from what has gone before, as history tells it. Failing that, which happens more often than not, even in popular media there are trails of breadcrumbs: last week I finally got around to checking out the HBO series Watchmen, and was just simply blown away. I'm a big fan of both the comic and the movie, and this was amazing, an outstanding homage and achievement unto itself. It's been many years since a television series had such a deeply personal impact on me - it was surprising how much was packed into such a comparatively short series, and it will require multiple viewings to unpack.

A few other items that dovetail quite nicely with this piece accompanying post. One is an interview with Henry Rollins who succinctly summarizes my exact situation with regards to so much these days ("There are a few men who can have the other half of my sandwich any day"). Add to that a sobering and passionate performance - direct link here - by Dave Chappelle ("This isn't funny at all"), bookended with this - direct link here -  full-length interview with Kimberly Jones that was excerpted on June 7’s “Last Week Tonight” w/John Oliver.

They both have powerful words that hurt to hear, but need to be said, and most importantly, listened to. This is one of the few time in my life I need to constantly be on guard against the instinct to offer my vaunted opinion: as with so many other areas in my personal life, and along with many others screaming at each other in the public arena, this is a time I really need to just shut up and hear things out from other perspectives.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"Let That Be Your Last Moulting Season"

Doodled this out after watching “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” (season#3/episode#15) which originally aired fifty years ago.

Uhura: "It doesn't make any sense."
Spock: "To expect sense from two mentalities of such extreme viewpoints, is not logical."
Sulu: "But their planet's dead. Does it matter now which one of them was right?"
Spock: "Not to Lokai and Bele. All that matters to them is their hate."
Uhura: "Do you suppose that's all they ever had, sir?"
Kirk: "No… but that's all they have left."

Been background binging in the studio the complete Star Trek TOS, working backwards through all three seasons: keep getting reminded at how subversively progressive - and eerily prescient - some of the shows were… boldly going where no one had gone before as it were...

BELE: It is obvious to the most simpleminded that Lokai is of an inferior breed.
SPOCK: The obvious visual evidence, Commissioner, is that he is of the same breed as yourself.
BELE: Are you blind, Commander Spock? Well, look at me. Look at me!
KIRK: You're black on one side and white on the other.
BELE: I am black on the right side.
KIRK: I fail to see the significant difference.
BELE: Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.

“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms." ― Gene Roddenberry

Friday, June 26, 2020

"Magic Bus"

On a related note, nominations are now open for the 2020 Alaska Governor's Arts and Humanities Awards. I have no idea why I’ve never won. But seriously, our long-lasting nightmare is over. Well, one of them at any rate (more info on recall drive here). The panel was rejected on account of promoting violence. Which I blame an upbringing during my deformative years raised on a steady diet of violent media.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

"Bear Hugs"

Studio Editor sez: "Let me sleep on it"

Here's an example of the convoluted train of thought (see: Jacob's Ladder) that results in seemingly random imagery coming out the other end of the pen.

And I also wanna start the new year off on a positive note full of enveloping warmth. Before getting eaten alive.

I haven't the faintest idea where this excerpted panel originated from, but at some point during my trolling the tubes for inspiration + amusement it caught my eye.

Then a friend (hat-tip Sherri) posted a link to this wonderful piece by Russian artist Natalie Rukavishnikova.

The Alaskan version of a monkey on your back

Which in turn triggered another causality. Things start getting pretty hairy.

Mental doodles mean future fodder.

True story: After Atticus was done editing the sketch version of this panel, it disappeared. All I had was this picture from a year ago, which was mothballed as a draft for this eventual post.

Finally got around to working up a new one, just a few minor modifications (as can be plainly seen by all the aftermarks from erasing + repencilling on the fly)... and we have a scenario that many if not most folks can relate to. There's always "that bear."
Wakka wakka wakka.

And if I had to republish it now with the benefit of hindsight, the new, improved caption would say instead "First night after self-isolation."

Saturday, June 20, 2020

"Bear Communication"

More of a comics poem than a formal strip. As in, it's linear, and sequential, but there's no standard setup > punchline. Each of the panels illustrates something specific and real to me personally but that's as far as that goes, and my intent here is only good for the initial inspiration. It was abstracted from an article on how bears can often broadcast their intent through nonverbal means (this is another reason I did horrible in school on account of constant slipping out of mental gear and daydreaming random associations).

However when juxtaposed with imagery, a convoluted meaning began to emerge, with plenty of room for personal interpretation.

This post is another in a recent series of Ink & Snow exclusives - not available on any other social medium. These one-offs are always a great way to keep the creative juices flowing. And a reminder that even if you don't entirely understand exactly what you are doing or why, one of the wonders with making art is that's not really required.

Also including here an example of just how horrid my handwriting (as opposed to lettering) is: this was scanned straight from my sketchbook, and the text was done using a ballpoint pen (not my normal 08 Micron/0.8 Copic marker). Took a lot of cleanup afterwards to make it legible, which is crucial when the concept itself maybe isn't intelligible.