Sunday, April 15, 2018

RESIST: Zinke Edition

Originally appearing in the final issue of The Ester Republic (February, 2018), this probably seals my fate as a forever former interpretive ranger. (can't say I wasn't warned). It's especially poignant what with the current politicization of previously apolitical positions in public service, particularly public lands.

On a technical note, render animals extending their middle fingers can be a challenge, especially when such ungulates & passeriformes lack the requisite digits to begin with. But this is why we draw to begin with. And nevertheless, they still get the point across…

Mighty appreciative of my editor for the placeholder: she emailed my plea for an extension on the deadline with this: “No way will I go to press without that cartoon!”  

Also this particular panel incidentally illustrates the artistic trinity of exposure: in print + on web + on the wall (bonus in appearing in both the infamous annual retrospective and scoring an honorable mention at the Fairbanks Arts Association's annual juried exhibition (appropriately enough themed "Whimsy").

Add to all of that the sale of the original watercolored piece and you have a good run. Now all that's left is to personally deliver a signed copy to his office in the downtown Federal Building (suitable for framing).

Now as a break from the usual accompanying rant, I'm foregoing any annotated breakdown of citations in favor of simply reposting excerpts + direct links. To be honest, it's just basic goddamned outrage fatigue at this point: not being lazy - just can't keep up with the inexorable deluge of daily aberrations that make up this burgeoning backstory. It's only a partial snapshot of the spread of this systemic rot: virtually every agency head installed by the current administration has compromised the integrity of the United States by demonstrated astonishing degrees of hypocritical corruption, incompetence and/or a vested interest in undermining the very same agendas their departments are tasked with upholding and entrusted with defending in the public interest. Notwithstanding efforts at resistance, familiar examples are Education (DeVos), the FCC (Pai), the USDA (Clovis), Labor (Acosta), Justice (Sessions), Housing (Patton), Urban Development (Carson), and many, many more at every level of “governance” and “leadership.” And don’t even get me started on the E.P.A. (Pruitt).
So without any further ado, here's a master list... so far...
(after the jump)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

"Bad Taste" (Wang Dang Sweet Don Young)

Covered this clown before, but this is just really, really sad, mad and bad:
"Musician Ted Nugent compared Democrats to "rabid coyotes" in a Friday discussion on gun control with Infowars host Alex Jones, saying they should be shot on sight." - The Hill
He is the perfect face for the NRA.
Now since, given his history and personality, we're well beyond establishing his morality as a human being (assuming the whole newfound civility thing was a lie), the main question now is how much does his fellow NRA board member Congressman Don Young (Ammosexual for All Alaska®™) support this rhetoric? Oh, nevermind...

It's been shamefully obvious how much Young, along with the rest of the Alaskan congressional delegation, sanction with their silence + complicity the continued constitutional assaults from the pResident.

But, in the same fashion that Nugent is a marketing feint away from what the NRA accomplishes behind the scenes, as long as it provides cover for their legislative policies, such tactics are just fine with the politicians.
And as usual, Alaska is number one.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"Sourdough Battery-Blanket"

This particular panel came about as a result of hanging with the usual gang of gang of sketchy characters (see links to previous posts fo mo info here and here). We invaded the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum for a recent outing, and I basically surrendered to the cartooning instinct by giving up entirely any pretext of following the rules. So in other words I just had fun being myself doing my own thing - which is one of reasons why this group started, and is so fun to, uh, crash.

It was a tough challenge to go above + beyond the usual “visual trigger” of my “artistic shorthand” (ie a cartoon) and push the details past my comfort level. So photo reference was dutifully employed in this particular instance. And as we shall see, it also serves as a cautionary tale to never crutch overmuch on such tools.

I mean, it’s a little intimidating knowing that some of the folks who will be looking at the cartoon have actually built the parts you are drawing, and knowing full well that they’ll see exactly where you took artistic license (like for example where I just started making random engine parts up).

So yeah I know that it’s inviting no end of nitpicking to take on a somewhat realistic rendering of such subject matter, as the inevitable enthusiast will grump about some erroneous detail. Again, refer to the anatomy of humans + dogs for a hint as to the level of seriousness of the overall intent (hint: it's a joke).

As an aside, one reconciliation I have with the past is how much my drawing skills have demonstratively improved – this being pretty good evidence that my abilities have matured (even if my sense of humor remains stunted around the age of an adolescent). Case in point being the original concept doodle excavated on a historical dig through some old sketchbooks: contrasted with something done over a decade ago, there’s no comparison.

And then I went a little overboard by obsessing on the goddamned wheel spokes. I mean, I almost lost my freakin’ mind trying to decipher the pattern after penciling everything else in. Just “copying” (adapting) from the photo caused more mental bifurcations it reminded me of the torture I inflict on art students with more than a few agonizingly insane in-class exercises. So once again, a mental note that this is why we do it – good training that will get used over and over again throughout your career. For example, just like studying the tiny details inherent with each and every single leaf on a plant study: where exactly do the veins start and end, where does the stalk of each individual leaf intersect the main stem and does it alternate with the opposite one or is it symmetrical? So next year instead of the greenhouse we're going on a field trip to the vehicle fleet repair shop.

Then I decided to ink in just the wheel + hubs and leave the spokes out until I could actually understand the structural layout. So I used Photoshop to zoom in and meticulously mark off each individual spoke, including the both layers, then fade out everything else, so as to better facilitate a more informed and accurate sketch. Even then it was a complicated nightmare of mathematical analysis, but switching off and on the relative opacity of each layer at least helped get a working understanding. Ultimately it brought to mind the mantra “draw what you see – not what you think you see” as a default in studying subject matters that might exceed your knowledge of how it’s all put together. Somewhere along that continuum of observation, experience and imagination we find a spot to draw. Didn’t help matters that my underlying shape of the tire itself was wonky – proving again a fundamental tenet I teach of linear perspective that if your base is off, even by a fraction, than everything else built on top of it risks collapse (physician heal thyself).

And after all that, you know what I wound up doing in the end? Winging it – but by going off of what was essentially on the job training, the illusion was successfully pulled off – what better way to impart a hopelessly entangled web of interwoven spokes than to draw just that? But at some point you just have to say enough’s enough, this works, and time to move on.

Tech notes: I used some new ink, Dr. Ph. Martin’s Black Star “HiCarb” permanent black India ink... almost too thick, but dried just as fast as the Bombay Black, which I have been using for in-class demos + satellite studio sketching (ie bars & cafes). For a couple Über geek indulgences check out these two equally obsessive reviewers here and here. Also broke out a couple of the coveted Blackfeet Indian pencils, which are sooo yummy and rich and smooth but a pain to erase (and smears like mad, so a pain to use in the sketchbook but fine on taped-up pages at home).

Only made two tiny ink blobs, accidentally picked up and transferred from my hand while going back to catch an overlooked detail – that’s what happens when you break the habit of inking from top-to-bottom/left-to-right. And then the kitten decided to attempt to walk across the drawing table while it was reset at a sharply pitched angle (I flatten it out a bit more for inking, but jack it more perpendicular to me while penciling) and dragged a minor avalanche down with it while learning an important lesson as the new studio assistant. So some scratch marks gouged out from frantic claws + leftover smudged areas from stubborn areas that were erased + repenciled several times marred the original.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Misc. Artsy-Fartsy

Damon Davis was a kick in the creative pants: Rare treat to see/hear a visiting artist shake up perspectives on how we can affect powerful change... He got a lot of exposure with his work in Ferguson ( CNN: "Artist brings beauty to a scarred Ferguson,"and UAF's Office of Diversity in conjunction with the Art department brought him up for a couple gigs.
"Artists play a vital role, telling these stories and keeping history alive. [The posters] are important for people who may be on the fence to see. Maybe they'll change their minds [and start supporting us]. And for those who aren't on our side ... now they know we're still here. And we're not going to back down."- Mic: Ferguson Now Has the Most Powerful Street Art in America
At one point in the talk I caught myself sitting with my arms tightly crossed in a defensive posture, which translates into non-verbal communication that sends all kind of signals. When I looked around the room more than half the attendees had the same pose. I wondered from his perspective if that's something he's gotten used to seeing, as it's also a sign whatever you are saying is having an impact.
"I don’t know where the fight is going to take us, but this artwork is what sustains me through it. That’s what I’ve done with most of these projects. My specific goal has been to keep hopes up, because it’s just been trauma all the time." - Art Journal: Damon Davis’s Negrophilia: Encounters with Black Death

I sketched a ballpoint portrait of him during his talk, amidst an added snowstorm of flakes + thought balloon ("This is the whitest place I've ever seen")... speaking of which...

Hella marketer & self-promoter, whether or not you care for the actual paintings, which is another issue – let’s just say I’m just glad that we weren’t all instead brought up exposed to a Kinkade show. I was thinking about the Bob Ross approach while doing a demo the other day, noting how it presumably was orchestrated like a cooking show in order to facilitate filming within a 24-minute timeslot. Similarly (besides wishing I had assistants) I’ll break down the stages of creating a panel by having several different cartoons at varying stages of production. Makes it look easy, which quite often it ain’t. But that isn’t the point of teaching, it’s to be positive + encouraging + supportive, if only because 99% of the rest of life is not, and maybe this is the one place you do your own thing in your own way without some sanctimonious, judgemental asshole giving you shit about it.
"Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they're proud of." - Bob Ross

“Love, exciting and new... Come aboard, we’re expecting you…”

Recently I've fallen down the rabbit hole with having a window on the desktop open and watching really old and really bad '80's sitcoms while toiling away at the 'toons. That's how I stumbled across a 1985 "The Love Boat" with Milton Berle, Andy Griffith, Tom Bosley and… Andy Warhol? It encapsulates the inherent superficiality of celebrity culture - and connects the dots between mass media whether it's on a screen or a gallery wall.
“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” - Andy Warhol

Filed under “I Can’t Even”: From someone who remembers living through the early 80's PC conspiracy hysteria of subliminal messages hidden in art: as usual, current events continue to completely, utterly short out the irony meter...
“Controversy surrounding Kehinde Wiley’s wildly non-traditional portrait of the Commander-in-Chief broke out within minutes of its unveiling,” the article, written by “Hannity staff,” asserted, “with industry insiders claiming the artist secretly inserted his trademark technique -concealing images of sperm within his paintings.” - TPM 
Now for those viewers keeping score at home, there's any number of resources available on-line to assist you in aesthetic appreciation while judiciously critiquing these postmodern portraits. In the end it's far more revealing of the viewer when "you see only what you bring to the work" - otherwise known in psychological terms as projection.

A friend recently posted a link to this TED talk, which I found much if not most of everything she talked about had merit, but at a couple crucial points in the presentation, undermined everything with a fallacy that I personally fight against - especially as someone who is actually in the proverbial trenches teaching Beginning Drawing.
What is the purpose and value of Art education in the 21st Century? Foley makes the case the Art’s critical value is to develop learners that think like Artists which means learners who are creative, curious, that seek questions, develop ideas, and play. For that to happen society will need to stop the pervasive, problematic and cliché messaging that implies that creativity is somehow defined as artistic skill. This shift in perception will give educators the courage to teach for creativity, by focusing on three critical habits that artist employ, 1. Comfort with Ambiguity, 2. Idea Generation, and 3. Transdisciplinary Research. This change can make way for Center’s for Creativity in our schools and museums where ideas are king and curiosity reigns.
When you leave undefined the classic weasel words like “art education” and “creativity” and also fail to acknowledge the much more pedestrian, functional and concrete skills of actual making (as in CREATING) is problematic especially when much of her message rests on communication. Case in point being what I assumed was a pile of poop at the beginning could have really used someone with better basic drawing skills.

A practical art education presumably would help in a critique that addresses use of contour line, also the lack of any gradation of values to help turn the blobular shape into a form that occupies space etc. Maybe even some splotches, muddy bootprints, hints of texture, a setting/environment… etc. etc.

Even more importantly is her perpetuation of the capricious and artificial distinction between normal citizens and artists (ex: from the description: "think like Artists"). regular readers will immediately recognize this as one of my pet peeves that not only underscores my career teaching art but this whole damn blog. Paraphrasing some quote I heard somewhere about the difference between the old world approach to making things vs the modern compartmentalization as a separate, distinct career/label, back in the day “An artist wasn’t a special kind of person, every person was a special kind of artist."


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter 2018

Cartoonists tend to have one eye cocked at the calendar well in advance so as to schedule timely material. Nobody believed me a couple months ago when I started saying that this year Easter falls on April Fools. Or maybe it's just that nobody listens to the jester.

As evidenced by the digital editing of the original drawing, I was erroneously fantasizing about April being somewhat synonymous with "spring." Ha ha, yeah - that's a no.

Gave the original doodle to a friend over some coffee (but remembered to document with the iPhone)

And here's a variation on the theme from an old sketchbook, which if was any smarter, I would have done instead. Maybe next year?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Interlude: Three-Legged Dog

Last week while out shoveling the driveway for what seemed to be the upteenth damn time, it started snowing and blowing all over again. It was my fourth hour outside, starting to get dark, and I was crusted over with ice, sweaty and pretty tired. Just then a pair of dogs popped up down at the driveway entrance, both of them husky mixes, but the lead one was about twice as big and half as young as the other. 

Coaxing them closer I saw the second one, which was trailing a bit behind the larger fellow, was struggling a little as they churned through the drifting snowbanks. Muzzled in grey he limped over to me when I crouched down to coax them closer, hoping to check their tags for a number to call in case they were lost.

But I first went to check his injured paw, and when I pulled up his leg, there wasn’t one attached. Not a fresh wound mind you, he’d obviously long since adapted to what must have been a horrible accident (caught in a trailside trap no doubt), and made his way just fine stumping along. I watched them wander off down the trail to the cabin, and afterwards saw their tracks waded into and through some drifts that were over several feet deep. 

Eventually they completed their rounds, stopped again to say goodbye, and went along their way, disappearing into the growing darkness and wind. I couldn’t help but be touched how the bigger, stronger young fellow would always keep waiting for the three-legged one to catch up: a sort of silent buddy system between them.

It also put things back into perspective for me personally. My troubles were pretty much nothing compared to how bad it could get, and even then, literal dogged determination will see you through.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


Though my beard has been lengthening somewhat as of late, it's nowhere near bushy enough to provide cover for the kitties. It does double as a cat toy at times, not to mention meriting the occasional grooming session.

This shows the mental stepping-stone between a doodle in the sketchbook to the finished panel, which was, well, also a sketchbook doodle in this instance. Or in this instance below, which was unearthed on an archeological dig through old sketchbooks looking for another concept doodle. Times like this I doubt myself: am I losing it? Have I drawn that many over the years that I'm just forgetting them, and repeating myself like some guy with early onset dementia that thinks he's funny? Sad.

Actually I have a pretty sharp recollection of everything I've done a completed piece of - it's the doodles that keep oozing out from underneath everything that start to clog up the sysytem. Maybe it's time for another reboot like Maine and Georgia were sytem resets.

Also here's one of the many little visual commentaries I leave on-line as a comment with regards to something or other.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Constipated Weasel

“Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.” - The Stranger

My own attempt at the semesterly pen & ink assignment for Beginning Drawing. I only finished one of the two over the course of "spring" break, but at least there's a decent pencil left to roll over into the next in-class demo on inking critters. So we'll see poor Otto with a tummyache again sooner than later.

I drew both alongside several students while reference sketching around the UA Museum of the North on a field trip. Rubbing elbows with other artists is where it's at, at least that's a pretty common method of teaching that a lot of people respond well to, and even expect of their instructors. At least you damn well better get a hands-on demonstration of techniques - and my storage drawers and portfolios are stuffed with examples of doing exactly what I want from my own students ("See here: use this in this way, and do this to get that"). Also having a low student/teacher ratio is absolutely crucial to this being successful, although it is rapidly and unfortunately falling out of fashion in the midst of the fiscal failures of our administration (institutional + statewide).

I used three dip pens: the crow quill for the finer fur, a medium-sized Speedball #513EF for the longer hairs, and bold #512 for the contour outline. Stippling was done with a Micron 08, and then the shadows pushed back even more with 03. Total time took maybe a little over three hours of inking.

PS: Besides a hat-tip to Zappa, including a footnote about Atticus the Omnipresent Editor's newfound perch as of late. The angle isn't quite captured by the photo posted above, so I made a schematic to specifically illustrate the situation...

Not to be obtuse, but this is a-CUTE

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Arctic Adaptations"

Clowns to the left of me...

I suppose this is a sort of a process post, but more on what's going on in the back ground, off in the peanut gallery. Both Moochie-Bear and Atticus the Omnipresent Editor have been somewhat stymied as of late, what with the angle of the drawing board being reset for production mode. In other words, they can't nonchalantly waltz across my work-in-progress anymore. Well, after a few triggered avalanches they finally figured it out.

... jokers to the right

One wonders how I ever manage to get any work done around the place, with such an attentive audience. Not to mention it's indicative of how much time i spend sitting there in one spot, and how many shots I go through to get the perfect picture (about as high a success rate as with using little children for models). But given the preponderance of other cartoonists who have cats as either their totemic spirit animal or at the very least use them as emotional support animals, it's evidently part + parcel of the profession.

The instigating doodle shows how much tweaking was needed as the stream-of-consciousness process of instinctive refining gradually results in a better illustration that precisely captures the sentiment. It's like a mental flow-chart that unfolds in real time right before your eyes... idea > encapsulated realization.

Which unfortunately at the end required some judicious digital editing... family-friendly publication y'know. But locals, we know exactly what's going through the mind of the seasonal sad sack.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Editorial: "She-Devil"

 This is one of the pair of pieces that appear in the final issue of The Ester Republic (on stands everywhere local now).

The trouble with many editorial cartoons is not knowing the original context, or familiarity with the issue itself. In this case it stems from a statement by a(nother) Republican candidate regarding his views on feminism. Also in this case, it doesn't really matter anyways exactly who, when or why: chances are it could be any of them at this point. Or to generalize even more, any male.

As with most cartoons of this sort, there is an ironic danger in the very real chance that the intended target of the cartoon is so goddamned stupid that the satirical nature of it will fly completely over their head.
“… But there is significant research to show that it may well be true that the best cognitive defense against Trump era falsehoods is satirical comedy. We know, for instance, that those who consume sarcasm are smarter, more creative and better at reading context. All are useful tools to process lies.”

“Satire viewers enjoy using their reflective cognitive abilities, which are effortful, typically deliberative and require working memory, over intuitive cognitive abilities, which don’t require higher order cognition.”
- The Science of Satire and Lies - Sophia A. McClennen