Monday, May 18, 2009

Cartoonists Northwest + "Fluffy"

Couple weeks ago I finally added my name to the roster of membership in a regional group of fellow peers: Cartoonists Northwest out of Seattle. They have a new site up now along with an online forum. It's been fun checking out other creators' websites and blogs of aspiring and established talents, and what they've been able to sustain with a monthly newsletter and meetings with special guests and workshops is really admirable, and something I envision for Alaska at some point. Definitely helps with at least feeling somewhat connected; besides the internet we're pretty much cut off from the scene up here in the North, so knowing that there's others out there working away, toiling in relative obscurity can be a inspiration. Count this as my first semi-professional affiliation, next I'll get around to applying to the National Cartoonists Society, which has a rather convoluted (for us geographically challenged practitioners) process that requires sponsorship by two current members. Maybe I need to get outside more...

As a bonus post-script, here's a rare color Nuggets that I did yesterday, which I'll submit to my editor for use in the paper whenever there's an opening on the handful of allotted pages that run color photos. This is one of the freedoms I've enjoyed over the years with this feature in our local paper, a real luxury especially compared to the majority of (syndicated) cartoons; aside from completely random content and no established characters, I'm also not restricted to any predictable panel size or number, and so the cartoon can flex to fit the concept: if it needs two panels or more, or even color, there's always that option. Habitually I've settled on a default horizontal rectangle for the majority of cartoons, but throwing a curve-ball every so often makes life a little bit more interesting for the paper's layout artist, and at times space is the simple factor behind any editorial decision affecting which cartoon runs when and where.

I traditionally do a color piece every Xmas holiday, plus whenever the specific joke warrants the need for using color as a crucial storytelling element. IMHO many of the cartoons running these days don't use color well, or effectively, and it winds up as pointless, aesthetic eye-candy, an incidental detraction, or crutch to compensate for the drawing or inkwork (in some instances completely burying it). Technically for the most part it's still a mystery and calculated gamble as to how good it will look when it appears in the paper; newsprint isn't exactly the best substrate to print on, as it tends to muddy up, and the file conversion process inevitably mutates your original palette into a different animal than you envisioned. Fortunately the samples I proofed at the digital print shop look fabulous and shall make for spiffy-looking prints.

Below's the initial doodle scanned from my sketchbook: you can see how I added a couple panels to pace the sequence out better, along with the practical design choice to fill a page, as opposed to a horizontal strip layout. After scanning the pen & ink drawing and converting it to a vectored line art to work up in Freehand, it was the usual black & white piece, but at the last minute I added just spot orange, and then lost control and started coloring everything else in with Photoshop. I liked alternating the shots to imply motion without using the usual shorthand squiggle-marks, and the whisker/muzzle spots morphing into mosquitoes at the end reveal is a subtle touch that just happened.
And yes, it's based on reality (except for the training) while observing one of my cats attempt to seek + destroy in the cabin, while simultaneously and inadvertently clearing my shelves of miscellaneous items. Cute.

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