Sunday, November 19, 2017


I got this idea while just driving around. Happens a lot, and it's pretty cool to live in a town where there are any number of establishments I can pull a pit-stop and duly record the concept in the omnipresent sketchbook. Usually involves libations of some kind, and having any number of conversations with folks. Also this works as an early Thanksgiving panel too.

h/t Houlette

Time and time again I’ve seen random, spontaneous and unfinished doodles rate far, far more popular on social media than when I post what I think is pure genius. It’s all funny. Also you know I think the reason I put those little darker pads on the bottom of their feet is has been a subconscious thing: just connected the dots and realized they be traced back to wearing footsie pajamas as a little kid. Man did I ever love the red suit I used bum around in.

Sometimes simply amazed at the random, weird + wonderful paths to ideas. It's not so much where you get them (a question which gets asked a lot) but more like it's the process, the "how" you come up with ideas that's always a marvel to me. The trick is in trusting to let go and letting the mind wander, off the leash, sometimes with absolutely with no connecting threads: the untethered mind roams, and bisociations form in the mental Jacob's Ladder.

Remember that it’s what doesn’t make sense that’s funny – so when you think about coming up with new ideas, like during a brainstorming session: stop making sense!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Threat Display" + Inky Goodness + Checkered Demon

Recent panel for the newspaper feature, and another installment in the growing beard series. Doesn't really matter what the implement, there's something so inherently satisfying in rendering lots and lots of hair. I'm living in the right place it seems.

Speaking of textures, I really love pen + ink, and to be able to let that come across in a classroom studio setting is always a real treat.

Seeing results in the work of students just feeds right back into the loop and inspires in turn. Posted here are some sample excerpts from the critter spot illustration assignment, a favorite time of the semester.

And what could I possibly add to the years of posts on how simply awesome it is to see it all channeled into comics. Just outstanding and wonderful.

Not to mention the pure practicality and relative cheapness of the medium. Nothing like sharing living space with, say, a potter for example, to make one have a keener appreciation at the logistics and convenience of being a cartoonist - at the least when it comes to storage of your art.

Besides also being a great place to hang out and draw, conversations can sometimes be thought provoking. No shortage of issues and opinions in the art world, especially as of late.

Recently busted a student working on her math homework while it art class. One way to get a gold star.

Been thinking lately about one of the underground cartoonists I used to collect (The Checkered Demon comix), S. Clay Wilson.
Referring to his and the Zap crew's status in art circles, S. Clay Wilson himself said:
“If you’re not good enough to be a cartoonist, maybe you can be an artist.” It’s the same old dirty coin. There’s all this snobbery involved in both directions. People want everything in neat, safe categories and have things explained to them, like this interview.
So you think being a “cartoonist” counts against you?
No, I think it’s favorable. Artists? Who ain’t an artist? But you meet a cartoonist. “Oh really?” Art can be anything, right? - The Comics Journal

Sunday, November 5, 2017

"Gotta Clean Up the Yard"

We've had (another) unusual winter in this neck of the woods: for the second time ever in as long as I've been teaching up here I actually cancelled classes on account of - of all things - rain.Now after a couple dumpings it's beginning to look more seasonally appropriate. At least the yard is all fresh & new again.

And here's an amusing juxtaposition: never thought I'd see the day that my work appears on (Update: no, not in) the New York Times Bestseller List!

Saturday, November 4, 2017


At the start of this blog the focus was on teaching Beginning Drawing, and documenting all the adventures that take place behind the scenes. Taking note of how classes would evolve over time – on both sides of the podium and desk - helped to develop a long-term perspective on teaching + art. I also used to post little artsy-fartsy quotes that shored up my observations and go hand-in-glove with the assignments and imagery.

So once again my classes migrated for the semesterly field-trip up to the Institute of Arctic Biology's greenhouse on Troth Yeddha' to harvest reference sketches for our upcoming critique piece on organic composition (see backlinks to 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2015). And in prepping this post I revisited Google to search for appropriate quotes about “art” and “planting” and, aside from some extraneous blurbs about Robert Plant, couldn’t find a damn thing that even came close to what it was I had in mind.

"I think that one's art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows." - Emily Carr
Eh, no, not really. The “dissecting a balloon” fallacy doesn't really have any merit in an academic setting, as one is supposed to experiment + explore how and why these thing work. Art is no different in this context, and it's the time + place to study the roots of the matter.
"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed... Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders." - Henry David Thoreau
Nope,  not quite right either: one would certainly hope it's the responsibility and role of an educator to plant seeds along with the cultivation of talent.

The proverbial fruits of our labor

So here's my own:
"So much of teaching art is found in a greenhouse or a garden. Underneath everything is making the mental mulch-pile: loading up a good compost heap with manure + garbage… all for fertilizing later in the season. Then there’s the clearing, the tilling, the planting, the watering, the weeding, pruning, not to mention plotting & ordering from catalogs. Eventually, maybe, there’s a harvest to share, to sell, to eat, or to preserve for enjoying later. Nobody sees any growth all at once - in the meantime, you just keep getting your hands dirty." - Jamie Smith

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Halloween 2017

I think that maybe I've done something similar to this before - at least the headless beaverman concept. Not so sure it was mounted on a moose though, and definitely not a zombie moose, nor wielding a chainsaw either. So getting all my tropes in a row plus an exquisite rendering in glorious full-color meant that I went a-head with it. "Return of Night of the Living Alaskan Chainsaw Massacre?' "The Headless Mooseman?"
Bonus post: had more fun playing around with a wash variation... BOO!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Little Cabin of Horror

My very cool boss - one of several between the three gigs I'm working this season - down at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center (downtown in the Morris Thompson Center) asked me if I'd lend my talents to creating a couple posters for our little cabin of horrors for this year's festivities.

It's always a bonus to get to have fun and create some art while on the proverbial clock, not to mention raising a coworker from the dead (besides using my morning pot of coffee). Granted a lot of doodling happens over innumerable breaks - making art is messy as far as not staying neatly inside the lines of any external schedule or serious activity. But having a legitimate excuse to raid the supply cabinets for office supplies is an opportunity to apply one's skills in a different way besides the usual demands of an 8-5 job. Utilizing fistfuls of highlighters, scented markers, poster paints + a couple sheets of foamcore, about six hours later we had a spiffy - if not downright spooky - display ready to install at the weekend event.

Speaking of which, this is part of an annual assemblage of local businesses and organizations (spearheaded by the Fairbanks North Star Borough) that temporarily take over Pioneer Park so as to provide a safe scene for families to do some trick-or-treating.

Shades of the infamous Zombeaver, I now have a great icon for this year's Halloween, and also discovered the existence of Sharpie oil-based markers, which I'm now a huge fan of. Boo!

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.

Update: Required reading - "Stay here, in this difficult place" (The Unforgiving Minute).

Plus another repost that bears repeating: "...perpetuating the same cycles of abuse I originally turned to comedy in an attempt to escape. It hurt to learn – like watching Superman fail you or any other bullshit metaphor for fallen heroes..." (All My Heroes Are Monsters)

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.