Sunday, April 27, 2014


   While attending a group training session, each of us in the room were asked to draw a picture of "how we see ourselves." All I could come up with on the spot was an image from that very same morning. Shit happens... sometimes right in front of our very eyes.
   Or alternately, right underneath us. Another local spring ritual just toppled with the tipping of the Nenana Ice Classic tripod, netting the jackpot winners a cut of over a record $350k. Personally I lost out on a pool of $5 when a far more important threshold was breached....

   Essentially the Classic is state-sanctioned betting pool on when the ice goes out on a major Interior Alaskan river, heralding a windfall for the lucky prognosticators. On par with a divining rod, residents who try and calculate the mathematical spread of their statistical chances might first consider that the iconic tripod itself has technically nine supports, thus is an ennead, or perhaps more accurately described as an enneapod.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Inspired in part by a heartbreaking post of a friend's pooch with a muzzle-full of quills, juxtaposed against some notable body modifications encountered while walking about campus.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Message to Men: Harassment in Comics

“It is wholly and rightfully and crucially up to men in this society and especially in this subculture to speak out and watch out. To end the cycle of bullying, harassment and violence.”
Andy Khouri over at the Comics Alliance has written an account (read it) from his perspective of an infection amongst the comics industry, which is a particularly virulent strain of a societal-wide issue. There are many informative hyperlinks within the article that reinforce the point.
“It’s important to note that the vast majority of men in comics – pro and fan – aren’t predatory. The problem is that the small number who are predatory get insulated from the consequences of their actions by the passive behavior of other men (and sometimes women): those who dismiss or minimize the behavior, decline to support the person who has been attacked – or worse, attack her instead. These men don’t directly harm women; they just create the culture that allows it to happen.” - Laura Hudson 
The distressingly large overlap between male privilege + rape culture and fandom (ie geek culture) is like an ink-blot on the entire community. To our credit, it’s one that is being increasingly pointed out, publicized and self-policed within our own ranks. As long as folks keep stepping up to take responsibility there’s a good chance we can all help to make comics – the books, stores, websites, characters, stories and studios – supportive, inclusive, respectful and safe for everyone, creators and consumers. I love cartooning way too much, on both sides of the desk, to see it soiled by the actions of a disproportionally influential vocal minority.
“And that’s the thing I feel like a lot of these internet assholes miss. I’m not saying men are the worst thing ever or even that men in comics are the worst thing ever. I’m so lucky to have a lot of amazing people in my life, male, female, and non-binary, who constantly support me. There are men in comics who understand how not to be a condescending asshole. But right now, the problem is that too many other men think that they are in a crowd of like-minded men who are super sick of this feminazi bullshit. The truth is that you are on the losing side. Women in comics aren’t going away. Even if you continue to talk to us like this. Your threats and insults do nothing more than make me want to stick around and shout even louder. So thank you for that.” - Janelle Asselin

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Spinning Wheel of Death

"By default, events (and any actions they initiate) are processed sequentially. This design works well when each event leads to only a trivial amount of processing, which causes the application to appear responsive. However, if the processing takes too long, the spinning wait cursor will appear until the operation is complete." - Wikipedia

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"WTF?" Process: It's a Wash

     In the picture above you can see the original doodle in the sketchbook, and almost hidden underneath the plexyglass sheet lies another pencil in wait of the next panel in line. Also sheet of crib notes on the order of things, made while sipping the first cuppa joe before erasing away last night's lines (everything was inked in the night before). The slightly off-white goop is from Winsor & Newton Colourless Art Masking Fluid so as to stop out certain areas when doing a wash. It's all done on a 7 4/5” square block of Sennelier “Papier Aquarelle/Grain torchon” (Watercolour Paper/Rough grain) 140lb, 100% cotton paper.
More process after the jump/below the fold...

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Kelly Kits"

Living in Alaska pretty much is job security for an editorial cartoonist, what with another Republican once again giving us national coverage:
“…instead of just relying on wimpy approaches that your liberals support, like “education” and “outreach” and “funding women’s health clinics,” he advocates a somewhat more robust approach to the problem, like maybe the state paying to make pregnancy tests available in restaurants and bars, or perhaps really getting tough by committing women who drink while pregnant, though that one’s just an idea that he’s floating, you know? On the other hand, he wouldn’t be in favor of the state providing contraceptives in bars, because people who use birth control are just so darned irresponsible. Yes, that is what he said, yes really.”  - Wonkette
If experience is any guide, another Kelly in another gerrymandered elected legislative position will prove to be a veritable cornucopia of comedic material. And as I explained to my editor, regardless of the timing of this specific issue and whether or not people forget the original context, the opportunity for satire will surely (and unfortunately) be repeated many, many times over during the term.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Frantz's "Fantasticality"

Just happened to drop in this last 1st Friday round of art openings in the 'Banks to the annual Up With Art Exhibition in the Bear Gallery. What an awesome surprise to see an eight-page spread of sequential art on the wall: "Fantasticality" by Maria Frantz. She was in last year's 24 Hour Comics event and has a great webcomic too: Blue Street.
Kudos to the jurors (Jeanne Mars Armstrong + Annie Duffy) for recognizing and awarding such fine art, and a big congrats to Maria for the spectacular spotlight! Check out both her website and the show while it's up for the rest of April.

Image © Maria Frantz, 2014
Also this past week up at the UAF Fine Art gallery was the BFA Thesis show "Well, This Is Awkward" by Courtney Huston... featuring an obvious favorite "Rose's Beaver (Paint Me Like One Of Your French Girls)."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jeff Pert, in Passing

   In lieu of my weekly panel, I'm reposting a remix of thoughts + comments left across other threads in regards to the death of artist Jeff Pert, who put his pens down on Friday, April 4th. Awful news, and a tremendous loss to the cartoon community and and to Maine. Mike Lynch has more here, the Kennebec Journal has a great writeup here, and more of Jeff's work can be viewed at his websites here, here and here.

   Jeff had a signature style, and tapped into a regional flavor of humor that made his work as indelible a product of his environment + culture as anything else found in that neck of the woods. He was a tremendous inspiration, not just his gags but also in his one-man marketing efforts that left a successful presence in print, on-line in merchandise all across New England. One of the reasons I very rarely say no anyone expressing any interest whatsoever in the medium of cartooning is that, like virtually every other practitioner of the craft, Jeff was so open with sharing his time, experience and opinions and advice. When I had migrated to Bar Harbor for an extended hiatus, he was welcoming and gracious to another single-panel gag cartoonist effectively set up shop in his (surf and) turf: it was with no small sense of trepidation when we met that he was more than an established local personality, he was "the lobster cartoonist" - yet he literally went out of his way to support and encourage me.

   Our paths first crossed at MECAF 2011, and we had stayed in touch even after returning to Alaska, corresponding a lot last year about his making a more concerted effort at moving into the classroom as a visiting artist + artist-in-residencies, and it was so exciting to and gratifying to read of the tremendous success of his book that was published in 2012.

In good company...

   After the awful news I raised a private bottle of Cap'n Eli's (which one of the supermarkets here in town actually carries by the individual bottle for two bucks a pop) in his honor, and chowed down on a solo lobster roll. Actually since I couldn't afford the real thing, it was imitation lobster - which seeing as how it's actually made from Alaska pollock, I though he'd appreciate the irony. (Update: believe it or not, as it turned out none was to be found anywhere (lotsa fake crab though, go figure), so I had to shell out (sorry) eight bucks for one little tail. And it was created as a white-trash special, so culinary purists out there can, well...

   Just this past February Jeff had made a poignant, if not prophetic comment "Why is it that everyone who dies was suddenly the best person in the world? Really? No faults, never pissed anyone off? When _I_ go, I want it to be like the State of the Union speech - someone says a bunch of stuff, but then my detractors add their two cents. Only seems fair." Well, the problem is that pissing people off isn't necessarily a "fault," and being one of the best people (or wost for that matter) in the world never happens "suddenly" - you have to put in the requisite time and earn it. And Jeff definitely earned respect and friendship from many folks all over the planet:
In the end, Dumont said, Pert’s family and large circle of friends were proud of his success, with his artwork forming the basis of Maine’s identity for thousands of visitors to the state. “He got to live on his terms,” Dumont said. “He lived the life of an artist and he worked on his art every day.” - Portland Press Herald
   I’ve always been one to miss the jesters instead of the kings, and there are certain people who you will mourn and remember better with a sad smile and a bitter laugh (some of those are the best). There’s an empty space on the funny page, a noticeable absence on some comment threads, and the email in-box, but one very small consolation is in how Jeff did better than many in training someone to fill those places. Aside from eating a disgusting commemorative sammich, the very best thing to do in memory of his talents would be to get back to the drawing table, to keep teaching, and to mention his legacy and contributions to the profession.
   My condolences to his many friends and family and peers in New England cartooning: Jeff was (and still is) funny as hell, and he will be missed.

Personal fave from the New Year's post

Friday, April 11, 2014

"The Three R's of Alaskan Education"

Reposting here a recent editorial panel + process sketches that was originally published in the local paper, along with some additional commentary below the fold.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Notes To Self

   One of the peripheral characteristics of cartoonists is the proclivity to write lots and lots of little lines of text (noted earlier here before on such observations and habits with regards to cassette tapes).
   The epicenter of these continually drifting piles of notes is usually within the environment of the studio, corkboards festooned with clutter and endless sketchbook ephemera etc. Then there's the "virtual" mulch-piles of endless lists of bookmarked websites + collected JPGS (compounded by flocks of stickynotes wallpapering the fringes of said computer), various windows & folders left out and open to visually remind me that I need to at some point look at/attend to their contents. Now while I'm talking about might be mainly the stuff that gets scribbled down on scrap paper - but what piles up in the brain is truly frightening in comparison.
   Pocket guides to the day contain the infinite revisions done for daily classroom activity rosters, which despite all my best intentions wind up resembling a football play-by-play instead of a logical flowchart of events and activities. I guess that's the essence of creativity: being able to flex and bend with each new factor or consideration. Another reason my brain patterns probably would more closely resemble a thicket of alders as opposed to a more staid, scholarly oak tree.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"Look At The LIGHTS!"

   Resurrected the occasional side-feature to the strip: "Nuggets Sketchbook" is basically just a scan of the original doodle straight off the pages of the journal. A bare minimum of digital tweaking is done, some simple shading + cleanup along with reconfiguring the composition.
   This has been a stunning season for aurora displays, but the window of opportunity is beginning to close what with the inexorable increase in daylight. Now we instead are treated to a great, burning orb in the sky, which some of us pale denizens emerge squinting from our cabin caves to bask in the warmth like so many deprived zombies.

   One thing that has really humbled this jaded Alaska resident is the sublime experience of sharing the wonder and magic of the Northern Lights secondhand, as expressed through the rapturous descriptions of tourists, who in many cases have traveled thousands of miles in the hopes of capturing what so many of us up here take for granted. Logistically on par with attempting to get a view of Denali, for each of the many disappointments there are also the trips of a lifetime, and it makes one appreciate the commonplace, or for what so many folks no longer bother to look at anymore.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Process: Workflow


Workflow: an optimal situation is when there are multiple pieces in various stages of completion, and the process of production becomes effectively a juggling act. Actually I’ve always likened it to some sort of mental Tarzan swinging through the studio, reaching out and grabbing the next vine and hanging on until it reaches it’s relative span of attention and then it’s on to the next one, and so and so forth. There are so many scraps of paper floating around or tacked up on the board, sketches, scripts, thumbnailed roughs, lists and more lists. But as far as what’s right in front of me most of the time, this is the ideal rhythm:

1. Wake up and grind the beans, review the compost heap left from the night before.

2. Erase the drawings that were inked and left to dry, prep them for scanning.

3. Ink in the pencils left over from the last session, set them aside to dry for tomorrow.

4. Pencil up some panels from the sketchbook (which have been already flagged for the next wave of raw material to draw from) onto taped-up sheets of Bristol board.

5. Translate some choice, loose sketches into doodles into the sketchbook in pencil, to be inked up with ballpoint later over more coffee at the café for a “break.” This is also for maintaining the mulch-pile, so as to ferment for future ideas, which in turn begets more random concepts.

6. Watercolor and/or wash a couple panels that the linework has already been scanned during the previous work session.

7. Scan stuff in to be completed on the computer later.

8. Digitally finish panels that have been scanned for print publication, clean up, add either halftones or full CMYK, save in different formats (raw, TIF, JPEG + web).

9. Email works and proofs to clients, check correspondence, upload to on-line portfolios, write some notes, edit backposted blog entries.

10. Take a break, get out of the cabin and go sit somewhere to work up ideas in sketchbook.


PS: Don’t forget to play with the cats inbetween, and clean the litterbox, some housework like dishes and vacuum, make lunch and prep for dinner. Play with cats some more. 

So you can see that rarely is an idea seen straight through from conception to completion in one single sitting. It’s a cascade where one can skip around, stop and start again on another, different task. Pigs in the pipeline.


Note: If I rotate the chair 180° I face the desktop, which also has a corresponding spread of loose ends left hanging. There's always something, and there's never enough time = never a dull moment, and definitely never, ever bored.
Here's a slightly different take:

“A Perfect Day” Home ritual
(approx. 18 hours, or from 6am to midnite*)

Sketch/doodle/surf for inspiration


Pencil some panels


Pencil some more panels

Empty litterbox & empty slop-bucket, take out trash

Ink some panels


Ink some more panels

Read, nap

Erase + scan

Start crockpot/prep for dinner

Cleanup + reformat pieces on computer

Phonecalls & email correspondence

Digital shading and/or coloring

Run errands in town (inc. sketchbook session at café , library or bookstore)

Watercolor wash originals

Eat something

Email and/or archive new works

Brainstorming session on couch, new doodles


*this ideal schedule is just one day per week: the remaining 2-3 days are without all the housework (which doesn't translate into a shorter day - just more art gets done), plus the usual sneaking in any spare time throughout the rest of the week inbetween (or while doing) other jobs.