Saturday, April 10, 2021

Pelts: Funny Money


My first-ever shows in Fairbanks would have been the original annual year-in-reviews I held at the original Hot Licks ice cream parlor location. They were also in January, as I reasoned my core market were folks who had stuck around for the winter (also an economically dumb move since financially after the holidays people are burnt out on such gigs). Speaking of money, the very next one back in '89 was at Denali State Bank, where I had my own tender.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

"Log Out" (aka I Hate The Internet)

There are two variations posted here because on account of a disaster (soon to be expounded upon) when I lost the digital version along with a dozen other panels. But turns out I had uploaded a version which lay undiscovered until after I had rescanned the original and recolored it for printing. Now I don't know which one is better, or ever ran in the dam paper for that matter. 

For this one there was a certain order. First the joke is jotted down, then an accompanying illustration is sketched out, after which a certain expression summoned up a secondary caption to wrap everything up in a sentimental (maybe scent + mental) sort of way to say sometimes I have a real hard time with social media. This is okay because more often than not it evokes the early days of being in print: you simply had no idea who was reading you or why. It didn't matter so you went on screaming into the void, sometimes stopping to listen for echoes. Now it's just a click away to comment and connect. If anything it is confirmed that there is no end to the ridiculous, exponentially amplified on-line, and at any given point in time there are a billion other beavers out there wondering if they're alone. Keep on chewing anyways.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Castor Canadensis: Roly-Poly Holy Emoji

First things first: As many of you were eagerly awaiting the official release of the beaver emoji since I first blogged about it back in July of last year

"Beavers are very cute and nice animals. They live in the forest and they eat wood. If you like to practice outdoor sports, use this lovely emoticon anytime you go to the mountain with your friends. Also use it anytime you are out hiking or doing some excursion with your boyfriend/girlfriend." - Emoticon Planet

Well now there's a whole colony of them out there available everywhere in multiple formats. The virtual world is surely a better place now.

I'm about as much of a memelord as I am an established artist: just off doing my own thing in this vast expanse of wilderness. Every so often I add my little logs to the lodge.

This just goes to show you that I can't be left alone without adult supervision in most sores. While the Significant Otter was otherwise occupied during a recent shopping expedition, I managed to get everything I could ever possible need.


And yeah, it has been pointed out how the beaver wielding a knife (?) is rather vaguely horrific. So it's up on my kitchen wall right next to the sink so it sees everything.

Speaking of being a good consumer this cover of a recent Duluth Trading Co. catalog caught my eye, as one might expect. A little more exploration brought to light the work of sculptor John Pahlas.

And, like busy beavers all over the world, I think I'm now gonna hafta go and get my own tree. Just so's I have a place to hang these precious ornaments (tail-slap Scott K.) - right next to the artisanal hand-lacquered and organically gilded moose nuggets.


What's almost as eerie as this ghostly image from a beaver rubbing is the fact that I haven't the faintest clue where it even came from. Weird.

(tail-slap Chris F.)

To make matters even more mysterious, sometimes I wake up late at night and imagine that I can hear the far-off sound of a stream, and the faint chitterings of orange incisors gnawing away ceaselessly, endlessly devouring in the dark.

If the idea of that is unsettling, may I suggest soothing yourself with the adorable footage that has certainly saved my sanity over this season of uncertainty. “Studies have shown that listening to the sound of beavers enthusiastically munching on white cabbage can temporarily reduce stress levels by up to 17%.” (tail-slap to Hans for the science)

Or perhaps we could turn to pages from grimoires of antiquity and study forgotten, dusty tomes, wherin naturalists of olde did wonder at these creatures of industry and architectural efforts. (Beaver, Edward Topsell, 1658; Livre des Simples Médecines, 15th century; H Dominic W Stiles, French version of De subtilitate rerum – On natural phenomena, Girolamo Cardano 1501-76. Below: The Moon Beaver hoax of 1935)

See you downstream...

Sunday, March 28, 2021

"Baked Alaska" #25-#28

Join me after the jump for another installment of the monthly feature that flowers inside every issue of The Alaska Cannabist magazine (plus follow 'em on Facebook)... available at finer dispensaries everywhere. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Holy Hogarth, Batman - Microns, American Hero and Artificial Intellegence!


Slow internet speed way out in the subarctic hinterlands = lags in load time on huge photo albums, so while pages load the Facebook AI indicates its best guess on what the image will be a picture of. I think the algorithm inadvertently revealed my usual mental state i.e. yeah pretty much how I see the world.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"The Wrong Mitten"

Somewhere there exists a perfect doodle of this, done while driving (in case you ever thought texting was stupid). I can see it so vividly - and the idea was good enough to stick with me even after losing yet another  scrap of paper. But seriously, I sketched out the silly idea in a parking lot after any number of failed attempts - you'd think with a 50/50 chance I'd have better luck, but no, most of the time I struggle with the basic instructions of life. So if you by chance see me sitting there behind the wheel laughing to myself, you are privileged to witness pure genius, live, as it happens. Either that or I'm losing it. Again.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Comics Poetry

I touched on this topic a couple years ago after finding about it online - it's been a recurring exercise in my regular Beginning Drawing studio art courses for a long time (without knowing it even had a name or associated movement) as a sort of sideways approach to the upcoming traditional sequential art unit. My two classes really scored on the semesterly field trip to the Fairbanks Arts Association's Bear Gallery with my favorite show of the year on display… Up With Art. Over spring break (not really a descriptive term seeing as how in the Interior ol' Mother Nature had her seasonal mood swing from 40°F above zero down to -35°F) I had students also do a little bit of research to experiment with “comics poetry” in advance of our in-class exercise. After critiquing the exhibit, we sampled + remixed various visual elements for ideas in our sketchbooks in preparation of an upcoming assignment on making comics.


My two demos were done in about half and hour (10min. pencil + 10min. Sharpie/ballpoint for texture + 10min. splash of wash back in the classroom). Captions were from random showpiece titles juxtaposed against the images. The creative process is more akin to jazz or slam, and is a really unique hybrid artform that starts to push students into a more spontaneous, expressive direction than the more realistic observation-based techniques covered so far. In other words, these don't necessarily have to "make sense."

Seal of Approval

This exercise was preceded as usual by an excursion to the UAF Museum of the North to gather reference material for their pen + ink spot illustration pieces, and after doing demonstrations in as many different student's sketchbooks as possible, I had enough time to sneak in a quick study of Otto again. Bonus awkward moment of the year when getting interrupted by tourists while drawing the urinal ("Hi! How's it going - where you folks visiting from?").

Sunday, March 14, 2021

"Withdrawal - With Interest"


Hand-in-glove, or in this case, paw-in-bootie with a previous panel on the benefits of banking through the drive-up window (from a pooch's perspective) came this whimsical envisioning of a musher with his team in the truck hoping for some serious manna.

The creative roots of this piece lead back to a seed that was planted by pizza and beer a sketch about an inspiration while waiting in a drive-through.

That in turn set off another inner session on the Jacob's Ladder as ideas began to exponentially multiply before me, like a run of spawning salmon - and my brain was basically a big ol' bear flopping around trying to land a meal.

In fact, one of my local branches had a clipping of an earlier panel framed on their wall for many years. They do an annual office calendar/poster that has over the years featured the work of many artsy-fartsy friends - and hopefully they'll take advantage of talent that they actually have "in-house" so to speak. And they can also immediately ascertain just how broke I really am and could use some generous benefaction.

At least they now know I have an account since it raised eyebrows when I went sniffing around for reference images. Understandably they're not to keen on a cartoonist gaining access to their inner sanctum and learning all their secrets (kinda like sketching airports and military institutions these days).

But as usual, who the hell actually remembers or really cares about the details - it's the visual shorthand that triggers just enough mental connective tissue to make a connection. So a little subterfuge and sketching (note the big, fat artist check btw) is all that's needed to complete the mission. Turns out I didn't even use the thing in the final version...


I started in with some more detailed compositional roughs, mostly experimenting with vertical or horizontal layouts. As if it weren't already obvious, I had already escalated the concept + design to accommodate and eclipse all the previous incarnations.


So, like letting dough rise and then kneading + punching it down, I would scale it up, and then cut it back again, so as to keep it simple - overkill was as of late beginning to hamstring and hinder.

That's the mantra of many a maker: some days it feels like being some kind of sourdough subsisting off any ideas out there laying around the tundra. And if you're lucky enough to catch a good one, you learn to utilize every part. And then, according to Atticus the Omnipresent Studio Assistant, it's time to take a well-earned nap.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

"HINDSIGHT 20/20" Walkthrough

One of my loose-ends tied up over “spring break” (in quotes on account of us just going from 35°F above to -30°F below) was finally getting around to making a follow-up video of a walkthrough from the 6th annual retrospective exhibition “Hindsight 20/20” down at the distillery.

Stitched together a dozen different scenes shot with the Iphone + spliced in around 150 still images… edited it all down to just over 20-minutes. Not exactly a professional end product, but amusing enough in its own way, and I really wanted to document the event for outta-town folks and far-away family & friends (not to mention anyone still understandably reluctant to emerge from pandemic isolation. A far cry better than the first footage I ever posted on an Ursa Major show back in 2016, and a definite improvement over last year's effort too. Maybe if I actually practiced on the program more than a couple times a year it'd get even slicker, but Imovie is so intuitive the learning curve is pretty steep but short.


Along the way I also inadvertently learned how to reformat a jump-drive (“too large for the volume’s format”) so as to transport the movie to campus, and thus upload to my YouTube channel (as it was over 12GB after attempting to upload it overnight from the cabin it had only processed 20%). Still some technical speed-bumps in production like equalizing sound levels, and remembering to talk to the camera as opposed to the artwork on the wall (a bad lecturing habit I still fall into when I keep looking at the screen instead of the class). Guess I can't ever help but reflexively critique anything I do!

What was hilarious was discovering afterwards, while editing the footage, that I’d completely spaced out shooting any footage talking about "Yukon Traffic Jam") - arguably the the tentpole piece to the entire show (and a couple other notable skips), but that’s okay as I took the opportunity to flag the accompanying process posts back over here on the blog. Also no worries since there’s gonna presumably be massive PR when the official BLM poster gets released so that’ll be an event unto itself. In the meantime, for my far away friends & family... CHEERS!
*protip: make sure and hit the cog icon (bottom right) and up the resolution to 720 for best results


Sunday, March 7, 2021

"Pioneer Motorhomes"

This was such a fun one to do. Plus I love it when one of what I think is my better ones of the year also happens to dovetail with the needs of a favorite client.

With an eye on the potential commercial application I went ahead an colored the panel right from the outset (as opposed to colorization - if not complete reboot - of some previous years), which in turn necessitated a bit more tweaking than usual to accommodate the customization. 

As you can see from the snapshot of the pencil sketch, there was some digital tweaking to accommodate the composition. I also like the vitality and energy - aesthetic elements shouldered by the use of color in the print version - of the original doodle. And as often is the case, working on this piece inspired even more ideas that were hastily scribbled in the sketchbook to slumber in the mental mulch-pile until needed.

Update: And here's this year's calendar, which looks real nice, and is enshrined in that most holiest of display spaces (second only in exposure to the outhouse) the refrigerator. Extra credit if you can cite the cereal that the magnets were box prizes for - here's a hint on the characters: Grumble (in red), Boss Moss (green) and Goody-Goodly (pink).