Sunday, September 12, 2021

"The Little Spawning Mermaid"

More wholesome, quality family entertainment. Also the reason why I'll get a cease & desist from the rat corporation

Not really, as evidenced by the meticulous amount of research and experience I've previously documented about similar situations. Or more than likely I'm such a small fish in really, really big pond, and outside of my immediate circle of exposure here in the middle of nowhere I'm a nobody.

(promotional excerpt)

At least I took the time to ensure proper depiction with correct character references and even sampling the exact palette, to say nothing about, ah, scale

Though I suppose there's a limit to such heightened standards of representation, especially when it comes to the details such as accurate anatomical aspects.


Sunday, September 5, 2021

"Herd Immunity"

A bit of a two-step shuffle off to the side and then back again with particular panel. The concept stayed pretty consistent, but the end result as far as placement in the newspaper changed, and since context means everything, that in turn slightly effected the intent. Or would have. Maybe.

Speaking of context, the inspiration was borne out of a sense of dull rage at the neverending COVID-19 cases here in Alaska which continue to spiral out of control. It's worse than it's ever been, hospitals are maxed out and everybody's got crisis fatigue and so is dropping their guard. The complete failure and abject lack of morality and ethical principles on the part of the state and local administration to exhibit any leadership with regards to public health mandates is astonishing.

While this is to be expected as standard operating procedure when it comes to Republican incompetence, it's especially disappointing with the University response, specifically not adopting mandatory vaccination as a prerequisite for attendance to face-to-face classes on campus. We're supposed to represent the best + brightest, or at informed but it appears the fuck-it-all for free-dumb "let 'em die" approach has been adopted. And the lack of empathy and intelligence on the part of the general populace isn't all that surprising, at least not if you drive anywhere in traffic.

So anyways, rant aside, I was pleasantly surprised at the page coverage of the panel - looked absolutely great (a third of the page, just like old-school journalism editorials from days of yore). I was also reminded of a pro-tip about never sending any files to an editor that isn't the absolute final print version. This one as it appeared was actually the low-res proposed version sans the "Nuggets" banner... which one can see in the paper as the faint "Nuggets" header is visible and the copyright info + tagline for the Instagram site was missing. Amazing quality for a 72dpi image file though, as opposed to the normal 300dpi print file that was sent after approval. Thing is, most editors have waaay too much to deal with to remember every little detail about every damn issue at hand (literally speaking), so the less they have to deal with petty diva stuff from all their freelancers the better. Come to think of it, this MO fits equally well with many a haggard educator...

Sunday, August 29, 2021


Okay so I've said here before a few times, but once again here's a great example of a gag so bad it's good, and I push back away from the drawing table and just marvel at the stupidity of it all. 

My wife, and more often my cats, will occasionally catch me laughing to myself, wondering aloud how on earth I could have ever missed something so dam awful. Sorry/not sorry.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

"Low Fat"

So in my quest to reign in some of my habitual excesses, along with cutting out sugar from my diet I also try and watch salt + fat content too. But there are some things that you just can't expect to work, like NA beer, there's just not much aesthetic point. "Low Fat" - or worse still "Fat Free" - is another one. And this isn't an implied endorsement of Wheat Thins either, asthe distiction between the varieties is a matter of discerning the subtleties in flavor between chipboard versus paperboard.

(pencil version + teaser excerpt used for promotion)

And while one could make the obvious point that it spells out the difference between these two boxes for example in big, huge letters right there on the front, I know I'm not the only person out there who has gotten all the way home and ruefully discovered they grabbed the wrong one by mistake. Happens all the time when I drop by the store to grab some refreshing flavored water and accidentally wind up with some similar libations instead.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

In Passing: Sixcats & The Science Enthusiast

Thirty-one year ago in June 1990 I moved into a funky little Quonset hut (and then shortly thereafter downsized into an even tinier cabin next-door) on Geist Road in Fairbanks. It shared a fence with a McDonalds, where for many years an infamous effigy of Ronald hung from the neighbor’s tree right over the drive-through. That was one clue about the mysterious hidden Eden secreted away right on the other side of the ten-foot fencing: it hid away an oasis of lush gardens + weathered wood that was in complete contrast with the surrounding urban ugliness. My new landlady, Cathleen Doyle, was supportive, kind and accommodating to me while I was at a very fragile stage in my recovery: just over one year clean I had separated from a long-term relationship, breaking off a marriage engagement and taking my cat (Sneakers) to strike out on our own. Picking up the pieces of previous goals, I enrolled in Beginning Drawing with Larry Vienneau in the fall semester. I can still remember slipping out from behind the gate to hike down the road and up the hill to campus, and, still suffering lingering side-effects from residual paranoia, breaking out in a nervous sweat from the exposure to all the strange people in their cars driving past.

Fast-forward to 1998, and I got to proudly give a special preview (pictured) of my thesis show to “Sixcats” at the UAF art gallery. Now, in 2021, after teaching my own students in my own Beginning Drawing class, I left class early to attend her celebration of life, which was held on campus, fittingly enough, at the Georgeson Botanical Garden. From my perspective standing on the fringe of the crowd it was a deeply affirming testament to see the range of relationships she cultivated and the web of wonderful friendships + love that grew from her connections. I chickened out, got overwhelmed and didn’t step up and share what I wanted, so here I am on my blog again, trying to wrangle the words to express what I really meant to say.

One of the very best things about what I do as a cartoonist is getting to see – well, technically hear - a certain, special side of friends, family and fans that is disproportionate to the reality of what normal, everyday experiences most folks have of other people. Meaning, I get to hear a lot of their laughter. And this is where Cathleen is forever etched upon my memory: she had the absolute greatest laugh of anyone I know. More of a guffaw, big and from the belly, loud and free, sharing the joy to all within earshot. Her laughter was literally larger than life, as I heard it reverberate throughout the remembrances shared at the garden, and I can still hear it echo even as I write these words. As a closing note, it was at that residence where I learned about the ol’ eucalyptus-in-the-outhouse trick, and that odor is forever associated with her, especially given her aromatheraputic sidework as a masseuse. I brought a sprig to the memorial in my pocket, as aural is second only to olfactory when it comes to triggering memories. As pictured the main bouquet is in the corner of the current outhouse, reminding me every morning that nomatter how shitty things are, you can always usually catch a whiff of better things ahead.

Neal Brown has died. The former leader of Poker Flat Research Range and the smiling, suspender-wearing man remembered by many Alaska kids was 82 years old. Born in Idaho, Brown grew up on a farm in Pullman, Washington. He made his way to Alaska in 1963. Here, in 1971, he became the first director of the brand-new Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks, helping space physicists like himself launch more than 200 rockets. After 21 years at UAF’s Geophysical Institute without a break, he then took a professional sabbatical at the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, he discovered a passion — sharing science with non-scientists, especially kids.” - Alaska Science Forum, July 29, 2021, by Ned Rozell

For many months I’d been enjoying seeing samples from Neal's daily doodles, some of which - along with classics like Bullwinkle, Shmoo and Hobbes - were inspired by my own sketches and process posts on social media. They never failed to make my day, and now a month later their absence is a presence that is has left a visual, and emotional space - one that can't ever be erased.

Right up until his hospitalization he was still at it, and I had joked about being glad he’s retired from UAF and moved from Fairbanks because at his rate of production (ten a day!) I would soon be facing some serious competition. One of the things I appreciated about him was his always taking things seriously, which meant he was always really listening and paying attention. The most basic questions from a beginner were always treated with equal respect.

Our initial area of common interest was comics, and Neal had divested himself of his books before the big move to Lebanon, NH. The crown jewel of his collection was Walt Kelly’s “Pogo,” which we had talked about quite often. I had been concocting a scheme to show up back at one of my favorite institutions, the Center for Cartoon Studies, which is a stone’s throw away from his new digs. My plan was to drag him along for a summer workshop so as to further hone his budding talents.

In this original post I made after the commission back in 2013 there’s a process image that shows Neal’s vision he had of himself, somewhat 2-dimensional. While my version might have been the closest thing at the time to realizing his grand vision of conducting the northern lights made manifest, this ten-second sequence (@1.34) captured by the Aurora Chasers is the penultimate encapsulation. Also preserved for posterity is one of his presentations on the aurora here.

Thinking about Neal now reminds me of the fact that even in the bright days of summer, the aurora borealis is always going on, even when you can’t see it. For most of the year it’s just not dark enough, but believe it - it’s always out there shining and dancing away, spreading its awesomely joyous energy. So, not unlike his memory, which is also still with us, that nomatter how much science can explain, there will always still be a little something left of mystery & magic… thanks for the lessons Neal.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

"The Alaskan Nightmare"

Three seasons in one day (as opposed to four): snow + smoke from wildfires wafting in from the tundra + a flurry of mosquitoes. All that's missing are lampreys from above. You can see the revision that evolved on-the-fly, especially with the abandoned pencil that just wasn't quite itching the scratch

It occurred to me after seeing this in print just how awesome the color printing capabilities are down at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. At some point over the season I'll get to take a tour of the pressroom, and personally ex-press my gratitude to the folks who literally make me look good. They pulled it off with this particular panel when I pushed the range of color with some subtleties in shading with barely detectable tones.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

"The Wag-o-matic"


This one I actually totally zoned out on, headphones + tunnel vision for about a half-hour or so before coming up for air. Pushing back from the drawing table and appraising what just came out the other end of the pen is always such a sublime reward.

The difference between the initial concept sketch (aka doodle) and what was penciled out was primarily a compositional rearrangement so as to accommodate more miscellaneous mad-scientist lab props for the background. That was an almost stream-of-(un)consciousness process of a waking daydream

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Castor Canadensis V

hat-tip/tail-slap to Jill Winters Addington

Scrolling through the archives reveals 133 tagged posts with beaver-themed content, with fourteen specifically devoted to the Castor Canadensis topic (meaning a small collection of news items, memes etc.). We gotta bump those rookie numbers up… so here’s another installment of toothsome material… follow below the fold for more!

“One has but to observe a community of beavers at work in a stream to understand the loss in his sagacity, balance, co-operation, competence, and purpose which Man has suffered since he rose up on his hind legs.” - James Thurber

Friday, August 6, 2021

"Baked Alaska" #29-#32



Disclaimer re: not much in the way of process anymore for this particular series, probably on account of me falling into a repeating pattern of “oh shit is it that time of the month again already?” and subsequent need to panic come up with a panel real quick. Might also point up the fact that a lot of these early panels are still the low hanging fruit as far as funnies go. Aside from the obvious pun about ones stash running dry, building up a bank of material to literally draw from is just a prudent policy. Then again, one could make a point about spontaneity being an integral aspect of the creative process… though I rarely see that reflected in the general quality of work generated by my drawing students on the deadline before critique day. Join us after the jump for another selection of the finest handcrafted funnies on the frontier.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

"The Warm Spot"

Sort of a mini process post here, more like a few snapshots along the way as a panel travels through the proverbial production pipeline. The original concept occurred to me after a recent petsitting gig, though to be fair, it oftentimes involved a pet sitting on me.

This brought back warm, snuggly memories of our BirdDog. I suppose someday sooner than later we'll be ready to recommit, probably a larger residence so as to not overly inconvenience the kitties.

Of course back at our place, the resident editorial committee fulfills the same role: MoochieBear aka Meatloaf does an admirable job warming up his spot on the couch, just not as much real estate as a pupper would.