Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Booty" + "Partial Eclipse"

Bonus leftover post from a celestial event that happened a while back: got a lot of feedback on the street from this one, mostly on account of it not being gotten. It's easy enough to understand from the perspective of someone (cough, cough) who somehow manages to wind up with this particular and peculiar point-of-view while out walking the dog. Had to be there I guess...

Given last year's restart of the Iditarod to Fairbanks in addition to the usual Yukon Quest and Open North American Championship activities which have been going on, our town is awash with the annual mushing fever.

Like a lot of my panels, this was originally done first as a doodle in the sketchbook which was consequently worked up as a demo for a classroom show & tell. And again, it's another example of debatable aesthetics as far as the comparative superiority of the digital variant over the wash.

Either way, as long as the spirit runs true, it works out in the end. Cue the horn section...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

"AK Genie"

I'm actually reminded of this wonderful, regional phenomenon pretty much on a weekly basis during the depths of winter, as the back door to the cabin is right off the kitchen, so it's a routine annoyance to grab the brass doorknob with a wet hand while dumping the slopbucket after doing dishes. If not briefly alarming on its own, it's a fair indicator of the temperature outside depending on how long your skin sticks.

I also hold this panel up as an example of how the aesthetic pendulum can quickly swing back in the opposite direction, as more often than not my tendency is to go with the wash variation over the digitally shaded one for the print version to run in the paper. That said using the water-based medium lends itself quite handily to messing up (particularly under pressure in public while doing classroom demos). But then it serves a secondary purpose in pointing up the win-some/lose-some mentality that's an absolute must when making art. Instead of throwing a fit, which I suppose is a stereotype of the tempestuous creative personality, like a lot of things it's better to laugh it off. That is, unless it's stuck to something.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Google Maps" + Process Short

Time for another tutorial of sorts... I partially documented the work-in-progress of this demo panel (similar to previous process posts like "Ruminate," "Cabin Fever" and "Smokey the Bear") mostly doing screen grabs of the shading-in step done on the computer in Photoshop, and uploaded the 2-minute short to the YouTube channel (see link below).

There are are a few glimpses of the initial doodle scanned from the sketchbook, then the penciled panel on Bristol board (Strathmore 400 series), and then the line art inked in by dip-pen (Hunt 102 nib + Sennelier India ink) and lastly, the watercolor wash variation on the original. As usual, there's debate over which variation works best: on the one hand I have been steadily including raw sketches as the "finished" piece and publishing it with minor tweaks, as an argument can be made for preserving the spontaneity + relative rawness of the doodle. On the other hand, I do so enjoy the cumulative stages in penciling + inking, refining it on the fly, watching it evolve into a more cohesive + effective panel. Then again, the final treatment with wash more often than not results in a combination of the two aforementioned aesthetics: refined + deliberative linework juxtaposed against looser application of value. Either way I wind up with several options in the end, which means triple the work, or I'm backed up by triple redundancy.

Bonus trivia: all this was inspired by a homemade sign posted just down the street by an irate neighbor who obviously was frustrated at the inadvertent trespassing by migrating herds of tourists seeking UAF's Large Animal Research Station (aka "the muskox farm"). Guessing there's either a few missing details on Google's end - which obviously happens a fair amount in Alaska given our areas of vast ie unmapped wilderness, or, more likely - the technology's fine, it's just operator error.

Due to the inherent complexity of the design (comparative to other, simpler cartoons) this panel took a bit more deliberative dinking with than usual. Or, in the studio vernacular: Delineating objects in the fore/mid/background with successively lighter line weights so as to emphasize depth, in conjunction with using linear perspective, foreshortening and overlapping of objects. Then, on to crayons utilizing value to further enhance the composition through contrast and gradation for volume.

Here's a direct link to the YouTube video - enjoy + thanks for watching!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Call of the Mild" + Non-Profit

This one was an odd piece to run in the newspaper: it doesn't bear the usual "Nuggets" masthead, plus it's a stacked strip format, and last but not least there's no shading, as it's just the original line art scanned directly from the sketchbook. Makes me really grateful I'm not beholden to the restrictive formula of syndication-sized panels - every so often I just like to run with an idea and let the narrative unfold and expand at its natural pace - the Accordion of Cartooning®™ in action.

Here's a hilarious catch (hat-tip Julie): our humble newspaper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has underwent a change in status, which may or may not have any implications for the publication and its features - like Nuggets - but in theory portents a better fate than many in the industry, least of which is local ownership. But of all the imagery associated with our paper, for this one in particular to be chosen - from 2007, was... interesting to say the least. Maybe cartoons - or artwork in general - are the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to "non profit"?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Meta: 7-Year Anniversary Post & Weekly Updates Update

   At the five-year benchmark I scaled back posting to weekends only, then for the six-year anniversary I made the command decision to limit activity even farther to just Saturdays + Sundays. Going off that trajectory it's become an inevitability that Ink & Snow now evolve into a weekly posting schedule on Sundays. Kinda like the Sunday funnies. There will be a certain period of bleed-off while some mothballed posts work their respective ways out from their pending status (kinda like a verbal hairball, it takes time to cough it up). From an editorial standpoint it makes sense to combine any further commentary with cartoons, either one as a sort of supplement to the other. Even if either one doesn't make much sense.

   Another aspect is the dawning realization that, not to put too fine of a point on it, I'm just about done. By that I mean pretty much everything I've wanted to say has been said sometime somewhere on this website. From random trivia to relevant resources, rants to revelations, I think it's documented in detail, sometimes excruciatingly so, I must admit. Still, from the perspective of someone who writes in the same fashion as I draw, cartoonish and caricatured, random and crazy, I'm fairly satisfied with the overall end result of this experiment. Namely in that it's been fun, and my thanks for everyone who's found some enjoyment at some aspect of the endeavor. Make no mistake - I really appreciate the eyeballs and the occasional feedback + input from the core readers that have been a constant presence over all these years, it means a lot to know there's interest and support out there.

   It's akin to my advice to Beginning Drawing students in my studio courses: ostensibly there's little to no practical benefit to taking another class with me, as in theory I ought to have imparted everything I know within the one semester. Though I usually forget stuff. So excepting the occasional news item and barring any unforeseen event that merits special mention, it'll be much more streamlined (not necessarily focused, mind you) venue for posting pontifications and insights on the creative process with particular panels. And I'm still ever-so-slowly but steadily honing in on the handful of bigger, longer works that have been in either hibernation beneath the creative compost heap or simmering away in the proverbial crock-pot of constant ideas. Diverting and divesting some crucial time, energy and attention to these projects is exciting evolution to the studio schedule. So along with the weekly installments on Sundays, I'll keep you posted - so stay 'tooned folks, and my thanks again. Cheers everybody!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sketchbook: Waiting Rooms + "Physical Therapy" + "Sad & Empty"

That feeling that no matter how fast you go, you just can't catch up

It's a funny thing, having a sketchbook out in a public place. Waiting rooms are dead zones where people are washed up or otherwise becalmed, by definition someplace that we are in-between events or activities, a sort of Schrödinger purgatory. Reminds me of all the lost hours spent daydreaming in classrooms - and that is where it all started for me, and still to this day remains one of the the single greatest sources of inspiration... boredom.

Now that unto itself isn't the entire picture, more of a causative agent that triggers the creative process (ie the first flip in a Jacob's Ladder). I simply can't relate to a common complaint of "I'm sooo bored" when there's an entire world waiting, inner + outer, for us to draw upon in the literal and figurative sense.

You want to try a quiet act of insurrection sometime, turn off the omnipresent television in any waiting room. Even if everybody else is simultaneously glued to their own respective personal hand-held device, that background white noise serves a purpose in effectively walling everyone off from others and where they're at. I suppose I'm no better since I take advantage of any opportunity to crack open a sketchbook, but arguably at least I'm staying connected to some degree.

I'll reflexively walk out of any establishment that is regurgitating the vile effluent known as Faux News, but these days almost any station is just as bad - the divisive content of the news stories (pick any issue) alone will cause subtle tension among a group of strangers. Add to the mix an objective perspective that comes from many, many years of not watching television programs, and the experience becomes somewhat surreal, which perversely commands attention like an ongoing accident scene. It's almost impossible to explain unless you've been long removed from the communal ritual of passively absorbing the constant flow of media: the talking heads with forced expressions and patently false, contrived personalities, the never-ending advertising of things that define us as a superficial society of mindless consumers, the voyeuristic culture of celebrity worship + disaster fetishism. All these things cascade in furiously flickering frame-rates across the screen so fast that nothing really ever registers and we remember nothing except a lingering emptiness, an impression that we are somehow incomplete without the latest ______, that we are comparatively less than, unimportant and inconsequential.

via Goodwill Librarian

Full of sound + fury, loud and fast, even a half-hour of exposure to the boob-tube (and at times even the web) can leave you spiritually and aesthetically exhausted. Print media, in the form of the ubiquitous stacks of glossy magazines cluttering up the end tables, probably aren't much better, but again, they can be rich sources of ideas, and an indispensable short-cut into what's important to other people, or at the very least the psyche of unbridled consumerism.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Long Winter" + End-of-the-Year Review Lists

Protip: do not, under any circumstances attempt to reenact this scenario at home, say, with a cat. At least in the interest of promoting a more harmonious equilibrium within the confines of the cabin studio. Just sayin'...

Finish out the year and the post by sharing a few annual end-of-the-year lists which have some astounding talent listed on them: one of the things that I really love so much about cartooning (aside from the obvious vested interest in creating them) is the range of expressions and experiences that can be had by reading any number of contemporary comics.

As posted above, good news on the Library of Congress appointing cartoonist Gene Luen Yang as our ambassador: great selection as well, and give a listen to the 5-minute interview with him on the PRI site here. The Comics Journal has a standout roster of twenty samples from the past year of publication, and Kristian Wilson over at Bustle has another outstanding selection in "25 Graphic Novels Written by Women: A Guide for Beginners." Both lists, besides sending me back to the local bookstore to shore up my own collection in the studio, also exemplify how much comics, like art, music, reading... always has something for everyone... and anyone.

"Exhibit A' for ignorance & misogyny

Update: And yet there's still so much work left to be done. I've written extensively before about the state of the industry from the perspective as a creator, a fan and an educator, and it sometime progress on issues such as sexism seems to be three steps forward/two steps back. At a grand event on the scale of the Angoul√™me International Comics Festival it's inexcusable, and it's about time the organizers of the prestigious gathering (and others no doubt) take notice and begin the inexorable change of evolving into contemporary society, one that reflects their readers. The argument offered by officials is particularly lame: "the Festival cannot remake the history of comics" - I would beg to differ as I have done this in my own personal history... not by going back in time, but through changing my actions each and every day, which has a cumulative, retrospective result in effectively changing history. Or, as would happen in this instance, herstory. Not to mention "It’s risky for any festival to ignore 50% of the population when it comes to its greatest prize."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Teacher Tweaks: Virtual Critiques

Especially in such a vast state as Alaska the idea of distance ed conceptually makes sense, but after years of mulling it over and flirting with on-line experimentation like vodcasts, at least when it comes to studio courses in art still work best when rubbing elbows with other folks while sharing meatspace, I'm still hesitant to embrace virtual instruction. Might seem odd coming from an art teacher that runs a blog on drawing, and as a practicing professional that regularly enhances my own promotion + education with useful tools such as YouTube channels and the innumerable resources available on the web. but what I mean to say is that one of the primary factors that distinguishes taking a class from other modes of learning/instruction is the indisputable advantage of being there actually watching firsthand while someone does it, and having them in turn watch you do it too, then the comparison + contrast with the efforts from other students who are also all doing the same thing, or at least variations thereof.

Technology may very well evolve to address some of the logistical difficulties, but so far I'm manifestly unimpressed with anything other than real-time exercises except in a supplemental sense. Metaphorically it's on the same level a experiencing imagery at 72dpi on a computer screen versus standing in front of a painting and reveling in each individual brushstroke. That said it's simply awesome to be able to utilize a handheld devise that can stream data about what it is you're looking at - like using reference photos in conjunction with your sketches, you'd be a fool not to take advantage of the best tools available. As I frequently admonish students in the classroom or out on a field trip, no, it's not "cheating," to utilize Google Image searches et al, even though I personally feel there is quite an aesthetic distinction between works created on-site as compared to patently inert but technically proficient works derived solely, or even mostly, from a photograph.

So the inherent advantages of being there applies equally in art when it comes to education. The current gold-rush mentality and debatable results (its effectiveness is always a hot topic for debates) of emphasizing on-line/distance education has led to some systemic failures of what is at the core of teaching, and when learning. Never mistake virtual for the real: catch me camping out with a sketchbook at any cafe or pub and ask me about it in person to get the full effect. But again, I'll take great pains to distinguish this opinion from Neo-Luddite positions - as one of the first teachers in my department to incorporate on-line elements into the curriculum (though I draw a line at using Blackboard) and who continues to mandate a strong web presence as a critical aspect of marketing for any and all aspiring artists, it's inarguable how effective and potent a tool it can be.

Case in point here being the constant back + forth with students who take advantage of the opportunity to simply take a shot of their work-in-progress and email it for input. A couple recent examples of digital tweaks on beginning pieces are posted here: a few minutes with Photoshop can illustrate a couple concepts that quite often either save a piece or significantly improve upon the assignment. This presupposes engagement at every point along the continuum, from initial rough sketches, observing demonstration of technique by the instructor and subsequent in-class exercises for practice. And again, absolutely nothing beats the original and best way to critique: physically present in front of the veritable buffet of imagery.

As an aside, I was wondering at maybe how much is too much when it comes to constantly wearing a set prescription glasses that automatically filters the viewing of any artwork. Case in point being spill-over into other arenas where reflexive critiquing can hamper enjoyment of an aesthetic experience, for example viewing the latest Star Wars (two viewings was a cure for getting over much of my initial mental commentary ie shutting up and enjoying it as entertainment). This might be a personality defect or a simple result of teaching and facilitating at least over fifty formal critiques a year in a studio setting. Having standards and recognizing bias is important, but there's a meta-lesson here in that it's sometimes okay just to like (or dislike) something on a visceral level. So nyeah.

Another excellent example of the balance between these two complimentary realms is here in this sampling of some of the advanced works from this past semester that highlight the breadth + depth of talent, vision and skill present in the studio. After another semester is over and the final critiques are finished, portfolios reviewed and grades turned in it's a pure pleasure to sit back and reflect upon the exemplary works that were created: collectively and individually there are some exceptionally outstanding students in our program who really produced some amazing artwork.

 So what to do when one can no longer enjoy the pieces in person? The next best thing: check out their respective websites for more, or better still, attend one of their openings (not to mention purchasing the original). Works by Amy Huff, Chaweinta Hale, Tara Maricle, Melanie Post, Devante Owens, Saeko Kuwabara.

Last but certainly not least is a mix of some images culled from the semester of Beginning Drawing: exercises & critique pieces from transparent/reflective surface, interior space/linear perspective, organic composition/contour line, article of clothing/value study, Xerox face/value study, figure study, caricature, landscape/view from window, personal still-life/wash exercise, final self-portrait. Now just about every single aspect of my class(es) and the processes therein and the overarching rationale behind them has been detailed here on this blog for years - all of the information is there. Is that in any way remotely equivalent to the experience of taking one of my classes? Fortunately, as I've hopefully elucidated upon here, it's not either/or, it's more of a hand-in-glove relationship

Works by Jason His (1,2), Elise Stacy (3,4,5), Kelly Wilson (6,7), Carie Navio (8,9), Amanda Johnson (10)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Big Questions & Beaver Farts

Hat-tip/tail-slap Holly!

Perhaps the most surreal experience of last semester: I had abandoned my bag of beavers while wandering around campus in an exhausted fugue state (mental magic pumpkin phenomenon kicks in around the 15-hour mark). Maybe a month later a photo pops up on a friends Facebook feed about an ongoing office prank being played out in another department in another building... I realized that hey - those are MY BEAVERS! Normally the bag is stashed under my desk in the adjunct office and used once a semester for reference props in the intro to pen + ink (an in-class exercise where students experiment with rendering various textures in preparation for our semesterly "safari" field-trips). Via the power of social media they were all safely rounded up & returned after their adventures.
More pelts below the jump...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Noosance Moosance" Video + Pages

   Introducing a very special production: once again I joined forces with the talented Seth Danielson (Frontier Scientist up at Troth Yeddha/UAF) , whose awesome picking brought the infamous Buck Henry to life. Always a total honor & joy to collaborate with another artist with his skill, and such an outstanding experience to hear a piece come to life so completely.
   Here's a direct link to the tune, and some tech protips for YouTube viewing that some folks might not be aware of:
-->There's a little cog-wheel symbol under the main screen that you can click on to show a range of playback settings – hit “quality” and then select the top one ("HD/720p") instead of the default resolution. It'll take a bit longer to load especially with a slow connection speed like I have at the cabin but it's worth it. Also next to that is a little box icon to change a setting from "normal" to "theater" mode so the viewing window is bigger. Enjoy!(more below the fold...)