Sunday, July 16, 2017

"That's Dope" + "Mutheeto Theethon"

Yet another invention (patent pending) of mine which'll make me a millionaire. Well, quicker than the art will at any rate. The iconic and ubiquitous Pic mosquito repellent coils release a signature scent that triggers latent memories of barbecues and parties on many a cabin porch.

I removed removed an initial caption: "Now that's dope," as in so dope, dope fresh, dope ass, dope AF, dope sauce et al. Like alotta times you just feel like a dope the next day - "what was I thinking?"

Now there's a thing called a “Photonic Fence.” Hmmm. Not exactly sure how I feel about this technology… pretty wild + weirdly horrifying at the same time. From Wired UK: The "target validation algorithm" detects potential pests w/in a 100-metre range, assesses the insect's shape, size, airspeed, acceleration and wing-beat frequency, then zaps up to 20 insects per second in the kill zone.” I mean, what could possibly go wrong in Alaska? Haven't we heard this scenario before?
Ripley: “How many?” Hicks: “Can’t tell. Lots” Hudson “IT AIN’T STOPPIN’ THEM!”

Then there's another commonplace occurrence that's a sure sign of the Interior, where the windows are cracker enough for a dog to hang its head outside and catch some wind. Is that like speed-reading for them? Always reminds me of some serious swarms of lovebugs while living in Georgia, though nothing will ever top the experience of having to pull over repeatedly on a cross-country trip: after crossing into North Dakota we hit a mass bug hatching of midges that smeared the truck with a poultice of goo.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

B. Kliban Redux

I've written here + here) before about one of my all-time favorite cartoonists, B. Kliban, and the influence his work has had on my own work and career. I also frequently lecture about his drawings in my studio art courses, both as an example of superlative technique in pen & ink and also as a source of constant inspiration when it comes to comedic content. Kliban joins the pantheon of giants in the field (Schulz + Don Martin comprise the trinity), and is well worth studying - students, aficionados and practitioners of the craft.

Cold Bacon’s reprint of a good biographical piece on Kliban here, and also Judith Kamman Kliban’s “Meet The Master” short and some galleries on Pomegranate here. She briefly alludes to the importance of Playboy Magazine for Kliban:
In 1962, Playboy discovered Kliban, so to speak, when he responded to an ad for cartoonists. A long standing relationship began, and Playboy published his work for the next thirty years.
This legacy, along with that of founder Hugh Hefner, who championed the careers of many of the industry giants like Shel Silverstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, Gahan Wilson and many more, has now been effectively tied off if not trashed with the outstandingly dumb decision with the new revamp to includes dumping one of the signature aspects of the publication: they have cancelled the cartoons. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Besides the exquisite craftsmanship, classic non-sequiturs and astonishing caricatures portraits, Kliban's panels encompass everything from the surreal to the sensual, and the feline to freaky. His introspective observations capture the everyday moments and events which are ordinarily overlooked but provide an unending wellspring of material from which to draw insightful, poignant and at times delightfully irreverent commentary.

Posted here are two contrasting self-portraits of the artist which illustrate the range and degree of  stylistic expression even the comparatively simplistic compositions can encompass. The balance between loose, expressive contour line contrasted against areas of richly textured marks in conjunction with solid blacks represents a perfect aesthetic marriage between image + text, between the caption and the picture.

A real big thank-you to Natalie "Tally" Nourigat (a Portland, Oregon cartoonist) - he reposted insightful correspondence (above) which ought to be required reading for not just aspiring cartoonists but also any artist. I certainly expose as many of my own students to this way of thinking, and emulate it as often as possible for my own personal MO.

Also there is the critical aspect of the creator himself, portrayed as dour and disheveled: paradoxically ill-humored in a humorous tableau - not so much as an unwilling participant in the scenario as an objective and passive prop by which the panel's inherent ludicrousness is filtered through or reflected upon.

As of late I've been availing myself of the resources sporadically available through postings of fans and aficionados alike on the Facebook group "The B. Kliban Appreciation Society."  The above image from a 1975 advertisement for NORML is one example of the comparatively rare commercialization and re-contextualization of his cartoons. Heads-up on poster
--> Bruce Ojard who has been uploading some really amazing examples of Kliban's early works and images as of late, including this treasure from Playboy in 1983 with a bonus cat.

Also of note are the many other simply wonderful photographs that have been getting posted, including several from one of the folks behind the original Comic-Con and others similar events such as the Eisners and Friends of Lulu, Jackie Estrada. I'm running right out and ordering a copy of her latest book "Comic Book People."

Image Jackie Estrada

Yet another outstanding and rewarding find of the year for me has to be this 1978 interview with Stephen Banker that was recently uploaded to YouTube (link here). What a rare treat to finally be able to hear Kliban's own voice as a supplement to all the self-portraits... as it adds another dimension to the image constructed inside over all these years. Score!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"Service Animals" + "Support Animal"

Shoulda added more dogs...this one needs an extra shot of exaggeration. Or at least I look at an awful lot of life like that. Not that you can ever grow truly bored with reality as far as inspiration. Unless you are consigned to wander the limbo of a warehouse style supermarket, in which case the mind will definitely wander.

I've had numerous encounters with folks and their companion critters in the capacity of making sure they are legitimate. A lot of legal restrictions apply - moreso on the part of the questioner as opposed to much management of service animals. Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous people who make it worse for the legitimate cases, of which there are a range.

I kept wondering what happens when irresistible force meets immovable object in the scenario of someone who is either allergic to or traumatically scared by dogs.

And then there's the matter of cats... yeah, not exactly support or service...

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Fairbanks Sketchers: Pew Pew Pew

The last meetup for the Fairbanks Sketchers was downtown on the grounds of the historic Immaculate Conception Church. Good weather + turnout with some great folks
Next up: Everts Air Cargo airplane graveyard outing Friday, July 14th from 1-5pm!

Meta: All related backposts here on Ink & Snow are now all under a new "Fairbanks Urban Sketchers" tag for easy perusing... plus here's a link to the group's official Facebook Event Page and the group's Flickr pool collection as well (and here's my own personal Google+ portfolio of Urban Sketches).

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"Salmon Maternity Ward" + Cross-Hatchery"

It's pretty rare for me to incorporate digital effects to such a noticeable degree, usually the work done on the computer is strictly just for value and/or coloring, and minor tweaking and editing purposes (cleanup mostly). In this particular panel though, I enhanced the illusion of a transparent surface with the subtle highlight, additionally cloning and fading out the opacity of the cribs in the room. Also just another excuse to play around with depth cues and linear perspective.

Your call as to which version works better: this would be another one of those instances I personally think the sketchy, gestural quality of the initial doodle captures more of the essence of the concept than the finished piece. Though to be sure it's fun experimenting with special effects on the computer.

And as to the other offering with this week's double-header, for some reason I obsessed on drawing each and every individual fish, as opposed to using the computer to digitally duplicate them. That would have been the professional way to save time. Honestly though, if you're trying to save time when drawing a cartoon (using a computer font of one's own hand-lettering is another prime example), maybe you're in the wrong damn business. News flash: it's art... you're probably already "wasting time."

Or at least these are some of the many stray thoughts that migrate upstream through my brain while otherwise occupied by hours spent stippling or hatching. Might as well make a meal out of it while you're at it. That's the difference between something that's been in the crockpot at the cabin versus handed to you at a drive-through: so much of what people consume these days for art is just fast food.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pucked/Ideas on Ice

A sampling of sketchbook doodles: these are from another session while hanging out at the Student Rec Center on UAF campus. These advanced drawing sorties not only provide real-world exercises with which to apply the in-class training runs, they also are quite often a rich vein of inspirational material from which to literally draw from.

These were actually dead-enders, as they're not going anywhere, nor likely to be used for anything except compost in the mental mulch-pile. But they serve as illustrations for how much of an impact exposure to new environments can trigger interesting and unexpected results. I find reflexive interpretations to unfamiliar situations to be as much of a creative catalyst as daydreaming + doodling. It just sometimes takes practice to learn how to be comfortable enough working somewhere out of one's comfort zone: ensconced in the buffer of a studio should ideally be hand-in-glove with breaking out mentally + physically and exploring diverse scenarios.

Case in point here being how normally I would never even remotely be interested in going to an ice rink, not being either a hockey parent nor a sports fan. In fact, after decades of involvement with the university as both a student and an educator, I had yet to ever set foot in the Patty Ice Arena. Just goes to show you how these unexpected journeys can lead us to cross-fertilization and new sources of ideas. And again, it brings up the meta-lesson in how, just like athletics, success is directly contingent upon the discipline of constant exercise + practice.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"Hitchcock's Alaska"

"They just don't make __________ like they used to do"
This has happened to me more times than I can remember when it comes to music. Movies too: not too long ago I underwent a Renaissance with silent films (Chaplin in particular) so as to develop a keener appreciation for the range and power of pantomime in humor. This translates well into cartoons. With Hitchcock (besides the analogous story structure as applied to longer narratives ie graphic novels) I'm also left wanting when comparing contemporary horror's sad and sadistic torture-porn with the work of the masters.

There's an exercise I sometimes spring on my drawing classes that involves sharpening one's observational skills (part of the trinity). Students look (I mean, really look) at an object for a minute, then try and recreate it purely from memory. Field-sketching works in the same way too: countless times we take field-trips to do reference sketches, only to discover late in the classroom or studio we forgot to faithfully record a miscellaneous detail.
The next step is to recreate an iconic image - or any object really - relying only on what you remember, and then match this visual memory with the source material to see what aspects align with reality. That unto itself is a lesson in how much leeway cartoons have, as many times all you have to do is merely trigger an association in the viewer's memory for the piece to work.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Wild Arts Walk 2017 + Quick Draw

Last weekend saw a large flock of birds-of-a-feather gather outside to celebrate part of what makes Fairbanks a great place to live: The Friends of Creamer's Field with the support of Design Alaska hosted a 50-year anniversary "Cows, Cranes and Conservation" and it was a fabulous event.

Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge is such a special place that's nested inside the city. Besides solo gigs,  and special events, I always make a point to usher my drawing students out on field trips to sketch various aspects of the place, as there are endless opportunities to gather reference material or simply sit and enjoy artistic observations.

This was the fifth time attending the Wild Arts Walk for me (see backposts for 2015, 2014, 2013 here and here, and 2009), and the fourth time as a participant in the Quick Draw challenge. The logistics necessitated setting up a table out on the trail early, and bailing for the requisite time spent under the big-top by the visitor's center for an assembled crowd of observers. Some of the cream of the crop of Interior artists were on hand (Todd Sherman, Carol Wilbur, Randall Compton, Vladimir Zhikhartsev, Scott Hansen and many other species represented a diverse range of styles) to bang out a piece for auction in one hour + 15-minutes of framing.

Working from a fresh doodle, my concept literally illustrated the concept of "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" which aside from the Latin, injected a little bit of a political statement. Given the unfair advantage a cartoonist has over other mediums, I had the relative luxury of enough time to rework a second piece as a horizontal composition (much better looking in my opinion), trading off between the two so as to facilitate drying time between the inking and the wash application. This panel - done in pen + ink w/watercolor - for once won't be appearing in the regular newspaper feature to make it a bit more unique as an original collectable. Not to mention the value-added cost of a $32 dollar frame (minus a 40% off coupon) hastily purchased that same morning right before the gig.

Performing under the watchful eye of a crowd as they circled about seeing the artists complete their respective works adds to the mounting tension + drama, which might be uncomfortable to some (on both sides of the table) but as there were several other educators at the event it's something you eventually get inured to - if not perversely inspired by. In the end we raised some money, maybe even making a little on the side as well, and had some serious fun, all for a good cause.

Image: David Gerrish

HUGE thanks to the volunteers who hosted + set up/broke down everything for the artists… so much unsung energy behind the scenes goes into pulling off this event. Met many visitors to the area and made new acquaintances along the way as well: always great to see all the folks, friends & fans turn out on the trails... thanks to all for supporting for this wonderful community resource.

Action shots courtesy Laura Nutter

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"Bubble Net"

Sometimes I really, really have to wonder at my own basic sanity, or at least seriously question my priorities in life. And it usually occurs after investing time and effort into drawing fart jokes.
As to that, all I can do is quote on of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood: “…everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
PS: The science is here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mental Clutter + Back to the Grind (Coffee)

Cleaning off the desktops: virtual on the computer + snowlike drifts of notes and scraps of doodles that accumulate around the studio) feels good. I’m in a perpetual state of being behind on shit, and when there’s a slackening of pressure from daily work routine, there’s always a corresponding resurgence of busywork to fill in the gap left by the tide of stuff to do. I know I’m a cartoonist by simple virtue of the fact that it spirals into a compulsion: especially it seems when there’s other far more important duties to attend to, I’ll find myself increasingly drawn into the vortex of concepts. In other words, I get the greatest ideas at completely inappropriate times.
Part of the creative juices is the elixir of life itself: coffee. Last summer I set about recording what my intake was for five days of the week (slightly less on weekends) at the height of insanity:

Half a pot at home
4-shot 16oz mocha en route
16oz drip from campus (morning class)
24oz drip (lunch)
two coffee-flavored power drinks (afternoon class)
other half of pot at home

Compared and contrasted with "normal" behavior:
Coffee Cup Consumption Per Day:
Average of 1.6 cups per day.
Among coffee drinkers, the average consumption in the United States is 3.2 cups of coffee per day.
The average coffee cup size is 9 ounces.
"A “moderate amount” of coffee for healthy adults that is correlated with health benefits would max out at 500 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about five cups of home-brewed regular coffee." (Dr. Axe). Which puts me somewhere waaay up high in the stratosphere as far as estimated milligrams.

I also didn't know that there now is an actual category in the DSM - 5 for withdrawal, which is definitely something I developed familiarity with. According to some statistical charts I ought to be dead, but fortunately the resurrection properties of such a volume can evidently keep a corpse animated long enough to make it through to the weekend. This summer though, the schedule is scaled as far back as possible, and as mentioned earlier, the return of much more healthier, organic inspiration has come welling back to the surface of attention. Cheers!