Sunday, June 20, 2021

"Activity Log"

This one definitely needed to be horizontal format, as it's manipulating space + time across the span of the gutters. Also reducing the number of sound effects is paced out with shift in background tone so as to visually trigger sequential passage via closure.

Turns out the term is far more ubiquitous than just the Facebook realm, in fact I'd say it's just a modified sticky-note, a post Post-It if you will. I briefly had my Ipad telling me how much time I wasted on line until I switched it off, not so much on account of Big Brother but who needs another reminder that I'm wasting my life.

Update: Speaking of wasting my life, this was one of the handful of panels already prepped in the production pipeline that was colorized on account of my most recent efforts in "pushing of the envelope outside my creative comfort zone" self-improvement kick. Really all it adds is simple aesthetic appreciation, as in most folks naturally respond better to bright, one could even say "cartoony" colors.  Add it to the lengthy list of things about popular culture I've resisted for reasons no reason. At this rate of capitulation next I'll succumb to the inexorable pressure and start making my funny pictures move and speak. Just kidding - picking out colors is hard enough already, what with over eight-hundred-odd swatches on my latest palette. This as opposed to black or white and a hundred shades of gray in between.

I've also begun another self-promotion campaign in conjunction with the "Work-In-Progress Wednesdays" series of process posts across other social media platforms. Usually in advance of a panel I'll spotlight a doodle or pencil stage as a sort of teaser - and include mention of the advantages in being a subscriber (besides supporting one of the pillars of democracy and accompanying peripheral freelance talent, you also get the big picture, as in the actual caption). These new excerpted sections might make for some spiffy stickers too...

Update #2: So when this piece ran in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (Sunday, May 16th), it not only spanned the width of the entire page, in glorious, resplendent full-color no less, it was for the first time located right above the Arctic Circle. Which, as the creator of North America's farthest-north cartoon, I should point out is technically located right below the actual Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle cartoon on the other hand is created by New Zealand cartoonist Alex Hallatt, one of the very few women creators currently in syndication, and with an environmentalist angle to boot. (*Note: I address the sad situation about the industry's baked-in bigotry and institutionalized sexism here and here). Upon viewing the spread I flashed back to when my feature shared the same page as Matt Groening's "Life In Hell" (when the Anchorage Press carried my panel for many years), and also rubbed shoulders with Keith Knight in the editorial pages of The Ester Republic. Not that any of the respective professionals have ever even remotely heard of some Alaskan cartoonist toiling away in relative obscurity, but hey, that constitutes my virtual "brushes with greatness."

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Pencil Pushing

Here we get closer to the absolute heart of the matter, what it means to DRAW. When it comes to pencils, there’s nothing more simple + immediate, and it doesn’t need any expensive technology, or another update, or even electricity for that matter. It’s not that far away from scratching on a cave wall with the end of a burnt stick, reminding us where we really are as far as our place in the grand scheme of things in the universe.
Okay maybe that’s a bit much for reviewing a pencil.

So I recently received my order for a new line of Musgrave pencils, a big, beautiful box (bonus points for a handwritten thank-you note w/a couple free samples) of their “Tennessee Red” brand. I’ll link a couple other more professional review sites here and here, as there is a whole other level of uber-geeks into rating pencil performance. As is my usual MO, this is more of a quick & dirty, real-world practical application of materials that I use both in the studio and the classroom. Similar to the swatch tests I did a while back when comparing & contrasting different inks against a variety of papers, I’ve uploaded here some samples made specifically for this post. More below the fold!

Sunday, June 13, 2021

"Vitamin D"

A bit earlier in the winter one of my friends made a comment about getting vitamin D booster shots from a local clinic as a way to combat some of the documented side-effects of deficiency from living in a northern region.

Not sure if it's all just a placebo but along with some other behavioral changes (ie walks when it's light outside etc.) I've noticed a difference in attitude and temperament. I try and apply critical thinking skills to the debate over supplements - and that's a Sisyphean task with most online sources, but since my diet leaves a lot to be desired I'll hedge my bets.

Initially the concept was to close out the cartoon with a panel of me in front of an open refrigerator chewing on a frozen fillet (shades of Gollum) and surrounded by ravaged cans of tunafish. That idea actually got rolled over and evolved into another upcoming gag involving mass quantities of leftover moose.

Instead it triggered an associated memory of another older doodle which necessitated a protracted search through the mulch-pile of sketchbooks. Turns out it was originally intended as a Baked Alaska piece, but I think the weirdness works just as well here. Sometimes it's like my mind is a salmon stream, and after a good spawning run, all the carcasses of the dead ideas wash up, rot, and get recycled. Wading in amidst all the jostling ideas can be overwhelming at times... maybe it's the feast-or-famine syndrome of gorging oneself, get while the getting is good, stock up on supplies for any lean times ahead.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

S.A.D. Truth

That is one sad little moose nugget

I often make light of how I'll begin to suffer from seasonal affective disorder approximately six months ahead/behind of everyone else. This on account of having one's mindset obsessively focused on topical material for new Nuggets, and since I usually have a half-year of material stashed away (endlessly replenished and supplanted with successive waves of ideas and doodles) my brain is perversely operating in winter mode during the hottest days of summer, and conversely, would account for why I'm so surprisingly cheered up in the darkest depths of winter since all my thoughts are consumed with bright sunshine, colorful flowers, singing birds, the pure and simple laughter of playing children, and puppies tumbling about a grassy lawn etc.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

"Science, Fiction"

Below is an example of what my digital notes look like on Iphone or Ipad. Together with my sketchbook it seems like I'll never run out of ideas - there are pages and pages and pages of random ideas everywhere. That's what it looks like when I don't even have time to doodle anything out, so I just gotta get the absolute bare bones down using only words before I forget. That's why I'm not a stand-up comedian, more of a sit-down I guess. Might be a little slow on my feet, but boy oh boy just a whiz when I get behind a piece of paper.

I was trying to explain to someone how stressed out I became last weekend on account of all the ideas leaking out of my mind all over the place, on little scraps of paper, Bristol board, sketchbooks, on the computer. If they sit around inside my head too long they all go grey and dusty in a corner, until a couple martinis, or a long drive in the country, will sweep 'em out. But what a problem to have - I'm not complaining. In fact that's probably the one and only area where I can't relate at all to many folks starting out in art. Every once in a long while usually in a Beginning class I'll hear the excuse "I don't know what to draw." I always answer that by starting to point at everything within eyesight. And for me that's what will trigger the cavalcade of concepts, and like an outnumbered bear in a stream facing down an oncoming run of obsessed and horny salmon, ready to mate and die. 

I also want to take a minute here with this particular panel to again extol the many wonderful talents that are assembled within the pages of our local paper. I'm always pleased to share a page in the Sundays section with AK Dept. of Fish & Game Biologist/Education Specialist Mark Ross’ feature “Outdoor Almanac.” This page from a couple weeks back was extra-timely on account of our first season here at the cabin finally attracting a small herd of Grosbeaks to our feeders - so I can really appreciate Mark’s usage of color after studying their details through binoculars. Together w/Ned Rozell’s “Alaska Science Forum” piece on Northern shrikes, that particular issue was literally one for the birds. Bonus: Shout-out to the folks in the print room that really make us look good!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

"Holy Astringent Plum-like Fruit"


On account of the giant herds of invading redpolls pillaging our feeders, at times well over a hundred carpeting the snow around the cabin, there was an alarming number of collisions with the window closest to the feeders. When the light was right it would create the illusion of open air and so every day we'd hear a whump. Sometimes even a feather would stay stuck on the glass - examination afterwards always revealed no injuries or deaths btw, probably because they couldn't build up any speed from their starting point nearby on the ground. So my first attempt was a temporary silhouette of a bird of prey, like maybe a hawk, or raven. But as astutely pointed out by MoochieBear, it was far more reminiscent of a somewhat similar logo. Hmmm...

...which inevitably leads down another rabbit-hole. I might not be so much into binging out on any other media anymore than the original excuse to curl up on the couch with a kitty for companionship + comfort.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

"Rumble Strip"

Along the section of the Parks Highway that runs by Ester, DOT put in rumble strips, presumably to alert road-weary travelers that have been driving Alaskan-sized distances they are beginning to reenter areas of civilization, and might want to rub the sleep out of their eyes and/or maybe think about slowing down. Meanwhile miles away up in the surrounding hills we can hear the tell-tale buzz whenever anybody's tires drift out of their lanes... which, given the topography of the Interior, means the majority of the vehicles will hit them more than half the time. It's part of the noise pollution we're all anesthetized to, just like the air traffic overhead. Somewhere I have a doodle of a dog in a passenger seat vibrating away to a similar situation, but the main inspiration for this panel was just another 6am drive in to work. That happens a lot.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

"I Swear I Saw One"

Many years ago when I was still a biker I had a memorable near-miss one evening while coming around the bend on my way home after work. Since I was wearing sunglasses I could barely make out four mysterious lumps on the road ahead, as my line-of-sight perspective couldn't see the above-attached moose standing in the way as it was camouflaged against a backdrop of black spruce. My excessive rate of speed meant standing up on the brakes while fishtailing to a stop in time - close enough to mentally note that the motorcycles would have made it just fine (sans one windshield) but I would have wound up like a scene straight outta the Road-Runner show and left quite an impression.

Posted down below is the original ink drawing scanned from a sketchbook - inked in with a dip-pen as opposed to the usual ballpoint doodle, and you can see the degree of digital manipulation this particular panel underwent. Obviously the most important post-production element was the inclusion of the cartoon's namesake.

All that said, in the real world, these walking carpets stick out like a sore thumb, or a lame hoof. Take this unusual species of bird. I need to send this to Moose Drool. Mmmm...

Saturday, May 22, 2021

New Comics/Old Favorites

I recently visited our local comic shop for the first time in over a year, and rejoining my fellow vaccinated + masked friends was a real treat. As usual a great team of friendly, knowledgeable folks was on hand to help me start catching up, and of course the Kevin the resident comics druid. I say that because I showed him the cover art for one book on my wishlist and he instantly recalled where the last copy was in his store amidst thousands of others. He’s one of those old-school shopkeepers who knows my taste so well I’d buy anything he recommends without question (Sue down at the old Hoitt’s Music was the same way – I’d walk in and she’d have stuff already set aside). But then you watch him turn and give equal treatment to an eight-year-old aficionado with encyclopedic trivia.

I got caught up on some titles that I've been meaning to check out, first and foremost of which was "Monster," Barry Windsor-Smith’s first book in sixteen years. He's an artist who sets the bar for pen + ink, and I showcase examples of his work in every drawing class - it's well-worth studying nomatter what the subject matter… just incredible linework and technique. It's the sort of tome you should read while standing up, at one of those old-fashioned lecterns or a vintage stand, with a tweed jacket + suede elbow patches. Also scored a few anthologies; the recent Comics Journal, The Nib, and unfortunately the final edition of Full Bleed from IDW.

front + back covers of the personally seminal issue #8

Probably one of the more sentimental purchases I've made was this ultimate homage to nostalgia, the amazing one-shot 50th anniversary capstone edition of Slow Death from legendary Last Gasp. I had commented elsewhere on another thread about how the original series got me back into not only reading but creating comics in highschool. At the time I had burnt out on superheroes, but then discovered a whole new world of underground comix by astonishing artists dealing with fun topics like extinction, nuclear contamination, war, and ecological collapse. You know, inspirational stuff.

Another outstanding discovery was the recent graphic novel "Sabrina" by Nick Drnaso. I'll let a handful of other reviewers speak to the subtlety of this work, starting with The New Yorker's D.T. Max, who titled his article "Bleak Brilliance" and described it as "...a comic whose drab tonalities and deliberate slowness challenged a genre that leans toward the overheated.” Similarly Ed Park at the New York Times calls it a “profoundly American nightmare,” and no less a fellow purveyor of similar aesthetics, Chris Ware, writes in a Guardian review that Drnaso has created “…a perspicacious and chilling analysis of the nature of trust and truth and the erosion of both in the age of the internet.”

Drnaso illustrates sequences of “mundane” scenarios, almost equally boring regardless of whatever they respectively depict – and example in getting horrifying news is shown about as intense as getting ready for work in the morning - while “trapped in an atmospheric cloud that makes each quiet moment awkward and suspect” (John Seven at The Comics Beat). Daphne Milner for It’s Nice That notes “It is this visual subtlety that lends the graphic novel its power. Sabrina is, in many ways, a critique on the despondency that develops from hours spent scrolling through social media, a critique that is strengthened by Nick’s deadpan graphics.” Review after review notes how the limited palette, flat areas of sidewalk-chalk spot-color, is used hand-in-glove with a simplistic rendering style that, along with an anesthetized aesthetic of almost anonymous, barely-featured characters, sets up a muddied, emotional pace, a visual trudge. The slowly curdling sense of existential dread is metranomed with a font that reminds one of the fine print on the fold-out warnings inside bottles of medication. Even the uniform weight of his contour lines, in particular the establishing shots of interiors + exteriors, place the story in an empty setting reminiscent of traced architectural drawings from reference shots taken in any suburban dead zone. I'm currently analyzing Seth's penultimate publication "Clyde Fans," (review coming soon) and Drnaso joins the pantheon of introspective masters of the genre with this effort. It only took me two evenings of obsessive reading to consume the book, and like the other forms of popular media it mirrors, even such a relatively brief exposure left something behind that isn't rubbing off anytime soon.

Last but not least, much as I bitch endlessly about corporate blockbusters, crappy popcorn and sharing the same space with rude people, I really, really miss movies. I seriously need an IMAX fix. And hat-tip to Marvel for a touch of class with memorializing Stan Lee "That world may change and evolve - But the one thing that will never change – we’re all part of one big family."

Friday, May 21, 2021

Transcriptions From The Mulch-Pile


Spring cleaning at the studio, and time to stick a pitchfork into the mental mulch-pile so as to properly aerate the compost heap of ideas that has been fermenting away inside my head all winter long. As evidenced by the accumulated detritus in the back of my current sketchbook, I have been slacking on transcribing the random collection of hurriedly jotted-down ideas (on any scrap of paper within reach) into a more easily understood compositional thumbnails onto the actual pages. This often entails some interpretation, and there have been many instances I will sit and stare at the scribbles, and honestly have no idea what they are. By some definitions cartoons are supposed to be quick, loose and simple marks on a piece of paper that stand for something - visual shorthand if you will. But some of these overly abstracted doodles remain a mystery even to me - something similar to what I know readers occasionally feel when trying to understand many of my finished panels - "I don't get it." Many times these fragments are just pictures without any words, or jotted down lines that need to have an accompanying illustration. In theory the process of working up ideas into the sketchbook is supposed to streamline the concepts and allow for some editing of the imagery so as to facilitate faster understanding. But if the creator of said sketches is stumped, just let it go man, turn the page. Eventually the scraps get either worked up or abandoned, and my desktop - the literal one as opposed to the virtual one on the computer, which oftentimes undergoes the same annual excavation - starts to look like the leftover masticated material from a busy colony of hamsters. Which, if you know me, is a fairly accurate description of the way my mind works.
Back on the proverbial wheel...