Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"New Styrofoam"

This weekend's panel appearing in the Sunday edition of the News-Miner
Culled from conversation one evening at the Golden Eagle, the consistently inspirational if not simply entertaining watering hole in Ester. Bartender was very proud of their cabin housekeeping in advance of visiting mom: this would be the aesthetic equal of rolling out a red carpet. 
The following morning I used the idea for my demo at the "Read Comics" gig at the public library. Served as prime example of A) how easy I can be distracted - stryrofoam being one of my better typos, and B) the fluidity of the medium, uh, the flexibility of sketching while making corrections on the fly, ah, how much one can really screw up a drawing when one isn't paying attention. There's something to be said for not abandoning anything even after making mistakes since there's usually something salvageable. Then again, nothing new for a dumpster-diver.

"Well okay then - it's a freakin' rocketship on Planet Dinosaur !"

Sunday, November 28, 2010


A recent panel appearing in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
My war-pony was resurrected from its dormant slumber in the driveway after a couple years, which meant opening up a financial black hole. And so after dumping a couple grand into a vehicle that's only worth a thousand bucks, the power steering hose blew, and after fixing that and restoring pressure, consequently the entire gear-box went in turn, leaving me broke in more ways than one. Fortunately I doodled out a funny while waiting at the garage: never underestimate the power of product placement. For some folks that might be the equivalent of selling out, but hey, you know what? That's the lucrative flip-side to having a marketable skill. My hourly studio rate might be about the same as that of an average garage, but for some weird reason the cartooning trade is in a wee bit less demand than that of a competent mechanic. Also you never, ever want to laugh at the mechanic.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Real Alaskan Artists: Guide to Brushes

A dear friend wrote me of the more practical logistics that are often overlooked and unappreciated when creating artwork in the harsh, unforgiving hinterland. Perhaps the one tool my omnipresent "studio assistants" view with trepidation & respect (besides the X-acto), as they suspect their fuzzy fates might be tied up with a custom-made, luxurious new "genuine orange tabby point" brush in the future.

Miller's Karmic Debt

Poetic justice: coming soon to a local checkout isle...
Appearing in the brand-new issue of the Ester Republic (don't just buy it for the funnies: some truly treasurable tales told therein) and an upcoming Anchorage Press

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gesundheit: Givin' Thanx

All the recent rainy-day adventures gave me a whopping cold, complete with runny nose, and eyes, sneezing onto the monitor, and a head like a lead balloon. Toasted up a couple thick slabs of LuLu’s cinnamon swirl, slathered with butter, brewed up copious amounts of Carolan’s & coffee, grabbed the kitties and put on some Merrie Melodies DVD’s. All better.
Called around friends & family, reconnected while being disconnected: a solo holiday this year, just me & the cats holed up at the cabin. Should be working on serious stuff, but as usual, it’s any excuse to doodle...

"Get Stuffed!"
More meta mullings below the fold...

Some Things Never Change

By that I mean I'm still sitting around drawing silly pictures. From the nostalgia file (8-years-old): not only do I still have the same expression when interrupted while working, but the butt-crack hasn't changed either.
At least I have better crayons now.

"The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do 
what children did when they knew nothing." - Henry Miller  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AK Drivers (More Bananas)

Drawn up from the doodle posted Monday. Appropriate enough dealing with all the holiday turkeys on (and off) the road during the Interior's Icepocalypse.
Be safe, slow down - not just the eating - and have a great weekend! 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Winter Fun

I do have an old Zamboni one around somewhere... in the meantime, I'm thinking that today, of all days, is a totally appropriate opportunity to dust this one off...

Monday, November 22, 2010

WTF November: Rain O'er Me

“What about the time you were rollin’ over
Fell on your face – you must be havin’ fun”
– Talking Heads (“Slippery People”)

So for the first time in over eight years of teaching I have actually canceled a class; a proactive command decision based on extremely hazardous weather conditions that are making travel a near impossibility what with the freak winter storm that's bringing down rain, in late November. Might not seem to be much to my folks from around the Buffalo region, but hey - I've held class at forty-below zero before, so there.
This has effectively paralyzed the community, since its freezing upon contact with the roads, the trees, powerlines, irate cats etc. - and the forecast is calling for more of the same over the next two days. There's an inch of ice on the Parks Highway - a subtle reminder what a tenuous grip on our standards of civilization we maintain up here in the hinterland.
Fairbanks, Alaska: the only place I've ever lived where everything shuts down because it's too warm...
Put it this way: when I walked out to the road I not only fell on my arse, but had to crab-crawl over to the side into the ditch just to make it back up the incline. The insane dude who showed up to plow my driveway had trouble even in his diesel behemoth, outfitted with chains no less. The irony is I've been marooned in the cabin for a couple days already with an impassible driveway, and now there's still no freakin' way I'm getting out. Add to the hilarity I've been caught with my pants down as far as food stores: since I'm packing to move and been too busy to restock the past few days, I'm looking at some rice, Ramen, a box of crackers, two cans of green beans and a bag of potatoes.

At least the crucial supplies were prioritized - cat food, catnip, and most importantly (in a one-room cabin): cat litter. 
We can make it. Fimbulvetr anyone?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Pull My Flipper"

When I showed this panel to the pack the other night, it got the biggest laughs. I try to stay on this level at least half the day - even if it annoys the hell out of other people it sure makes life easier. Well, funnier...

"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, 
and don't let anybody tell you different." - Kurt Vonnegut

"Voter Intent"

Panel appearing in today's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. My counterpoint to those ubiquitous badges everybody sports around election day, and an annoying reminder as why I'm starting to tune out the disproportionate sound and fury from either side this post-election. 
So at least everybody loses - but now how's that glorified American Exceptionalism workin' for ya? Sure as hell aren't working very hard for it.

Extended rant below the fold...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Forecast: The Wee Belows

Just kidding: as in it's "Webelos" - or, "We'll Be Loyal Scouts."

I suppose some explanation is in order, given that this gig was somewhat slightly out of my normal (whatever that is) range of speaking circuits. A buddy at the local watering hole asked me (timing is everything esp. with enough Irish coffees) to help him out with the local pack, or den, or whatever, and do a show & tell so as to facilitate a dozen kids earning an activity badge: the esteemed "Artist" pin*, which corresponds to the Mental Skill of "Art." These guys were like senior Cub Scouts, about to move up into full-fledged Boy Scouts after racking up all the necessary qualifications, like drawing cartoons, which I fully agree with as a crucial tool needed to become a responsible, productive member of society. Or, in my experience, at least have the ability to deal with such people throughout life. They meet at the old Alaska Railroad depot downtown, graciously donated by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for use as a sort of ad-hoc community center for some non-profit groups.

So Friday I grabbed the customary portfolio, bag of sample books and demo materials, plus picked up a laptop + projector (via the always handy technology resources available through the UAF Rasmuson Library) for the jam-packed hour two-hour long presentation. I always bring too much, as it's better to have an inexhaustible well of information to educate and amuse than run out of things to say or do. Like I ever run outta things to say. Spent an hour beforehand at home culling appropriate examples (edit, edit, edit) to burn on a disc and backup jump drive: lots of innocent Alaskan children suffering all sorts of unfortunate circumstances is a sure crowd-pleaser. Also included were examples of commercial work and freelance illustration, some fine art, and many references to local resources while stressing the importance of reading as much as drawing. But seriously, given the age spread, poop outhouse jokes are always good material for a group of fellow immature boys on the cusp of pre-adolescence. In other words, I can relate: these are my people.

After my little show & tell, the gang all set to drawing their own cartoons, while I did some more demos and answered questions from folks. What a great buncha guys and some pretty cool parents too - I had a really good time hanging out. Once again, I'm always impressed at the ability of these young 'uns (average age about ten) to just sit down and knock out some crazy stuff, not to mention making me laugh my butt off. Couldn't ask for a better way to spend a Friday night out!

Actually what was interesting was the powerful associations this stirred up from my own childhood. One of my best friends at the time was an avid Boy Scout, and was forever trying to lure me into what I suspiciously viewed as a cultish indoctrination program to mold better, more upright model citizens. Besides already being well beyond most merit-worthy skills by spending more than an average amount of time traipsing about the woods on my own, my solo sense of adventure got me in lots of trouble instilled a rebellious instinct and disdain for anyone needing a badge to prove anything. Yeah, so that worked out really well for me later on. Not to mention I was the weirdo that never had many friends anyways, and consequently grew up never needing to be part of any official pack persay. But all that being said, after all these years, *I got mine ... and to tell ya the truth, my spiffy new honorary pin probably means more than most the awards I ever got. How cool is that.

Extra-special thanks to Robyn and Chef Jason for the hospitality & invite!

Critiquing Critiques

Artwork: Kayla Bishop
First off a special nod to this semester's Beginning Drawing class - a few samples posted here from assignment and critique pieces illustrate the
Sincerely regret not posting everything that these folks are cranking out - guess I'll have to write out a few more mullings to accompany more of the kickass pieces being produced.

As is quite often the case with innocent queries, an initial snowball at the top of the mountain evolved into a big ol’ issue by the time it rolls into our room. This one began with an email:
“I have some difficulty when it comes to critiquing. I can't bring myself to criticize anyone's work. What to do?”
One of the many reasons I love being in a classroom environment is precisely because toiling away out in a cabin in the woods there is a tendency towards solipsism and ingrown perspective on one's own work. It's very rare to have such questions involuntarily arise on their own - and a point of clarification here in that that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Unadulterated visionary efforts that aren't contingent upon public opinion are arguably much more rewarding than an image that has been crafted with one eye on its reception: this is a balancing act that I've long tried to reconcile as a practicing commercial artist, and also as someone who creates work that unequivocally clear communication is a crucial ingredient.
My (redacted) response to the above email reflects the desire to try have these discussions before the group, as more often than not, any answers (and ensuing questions in turn) will be more educational when everyone benefits from them:
“That's a good thing to bring up and I'll mention it next week, and walk through the process again, which is hopefully something that everyone picks up throughout the class in large part by observing others - same as with the artwork itself. We are fortunate to have several good, thoughtful commenters in this particular class.

One important thing we should say is what difficulty and perhaps more importantly, why?
Is it because you don't want to risk hurting someone's feelings, or can't think of anything nice to say about a really bad piece, or think that because you have so much problems with both creating a work yourself, and thus don't feel it's your place to criticize when you yourself can't do as good etc.?
All valid, hypothetical issues, and there are as many varying perspectives on talking about art as there are making it in the first place - we should warm up with an informal conversation for the next critique. It's a very personal and sometimes awkward process that can be stressful and I aim to absolve folks of that notion eventually. Thanks!”
The next critique went better than most, in large part I believe because we backed-up a bit and re-examined why, how and what we a trying to do when we look at and talk about artwork by other people and our own. Expectations based on both good and bad experiences they've previously encountered can come into play, so it's important to consider the influence each individual's past can cast over critiques made today.

Artwork: Kelsea Wester

While I've laid out the process by which we conduct critiques here on Ink & Snow a couple times before, as with many other artistic issues, there seems to never be any catch-all set of pat answers that will apply in all situations, and responses to such issues surely change over time and exposure just like individual style does with experience. Yet another side-benefit to constant immersion in a learning environment is the humbling realization that you will never be done learning, and there's always going to be some new, unexplored challenge. This can be disheartening to the people who are effectively trained by the system to believe that a strict, linear acquisition of skills graded in accordance with quantifiable criteria is the formula for success: welcome to the shady, squishy world of art.
Just recently over on his excellent and highly informative blog "Gurney Journey" the artist James Gurney presents a perspective on critiquing that's well worth checking out. 
When I peruse some of the textbooks I've collected that gather dust on my bookshelves, I can quickly see why it is that I still refuse to order students to waste their money on them instead of investing in art supplies. This doesn't jive with the academic, institutionalized approach in most departments, and to this day after ten years of teaching I only recommend one text to intermediate/advanced students (small, cheap and no pictures: "Art & Fear" - Bayles and Orland).
Most others I find either to be saccharine self-help books for the creative cripple or full of glossy pictures and rote exercises that studiously avoid any mention of the uglier and off-putting realities that are inherent in learning to draw (not to mention just being an artist). They all have their respective value and to varying degrees have something to offer in their own way, but collectively are useless in the classroom. A student is damn well better served instead by having a working artist, warts and all, demonstrate everything contained in these textbooks, plus gain the experience of how it all comes together in the big picture, and how it can also fall apart.

Artwork: Anne Meehan

From the Wikipedia entry on "Critic":
Particularly in the domains of the arts and culture, where judgements can be at their most subjective, a formally accepted critic can play a powerful role as a public arbiter of taste or opinion and can occasionally play a more or less defining role in cultural history. Also, because formal criticism is necessarily selective, the role of the formal critic generally intersects with issues of censorship and the construction or denial of canonical reputation in cultures. But criticism need not merely be perceived as a matter of building up or destroying reputations. Good peer-group criticism is an important part of developing or maintaining excellent standards of achievement in any art or discipline, whether at the level of apprenticeship or ongoing practise.
Artwork: Amara Simmons
I sometimes wonder what will eventually happen to the field of civic discourse when the generational influence of the internet seeps into how people interact with art. To some degree this is evident in the blood-bath of on-line commentary seen in threads where a fascinating (and often ugly) democratic experiment in leveling the playing field occurs. Quite a different set of dynamics emerge when discussing works in-person and in the presence of a creator: it's then the task of a teacher becomes not only said arbiter but must perform as both a coach, a referee, team captain, a corporate investor, and also a quarterback.

Artwork: Kayla Bishop
Lastly I'm left with an echo from an interview I heard driving home with Carrie Brownstein of the band Sleater-Kinney, who succinctly put one of the best pieces of advice ever to aspiring artists: "Don't be afraid to suck."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Secret Ingredients" - Have Some More Culture

This strip on the relative appeal of akutaq versus "better living through chemistry" ran a few weeks back as a hat-tip to the Alaska Federation of Natives annual statewide convention that was happening at the time in Fairbanks.
I missed out attending it this year, mainly since they canceled the senatorial candidate debate - that was a controversial but not entirely unexpected attempt to stifle awareness of political choice: whereas Scott McAdams represented someone who has genuine understanding and solidarity with Alaska native issues, the Federation sadly saw fit to follow the money and slake shareholder thirst for profits by endorsing Murkowski over perhaps their own best self-interests.

 On a lighter (okay, actually maybe a little heavier) note, after chowing down last night on a pint of Alaska Blueberry from Hot Licks, and given our #1 per-capita ranking in national consumption, let's hear it for larding up in the face of another long Interior winter.

Extended rant below the fold... 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Faculty (No) Show - postscript post

Clockwise from left: Wendy Croskrey (sculpture): Penny Wakefield (fiber arts):
Baggs McKelvey (drawing): Jim Brashear (ceramics)
Alas, I had to miss out on the reception for the semesterly faculty exhibition in the UAF Art Department (went home and drew instead). But it brought up an interesting point to ponder in retrospect: what would be the options for folks who couldn't make the gig, or were at least interested in viewing some of the creator's works on-line?  
So of the eighteen faculty members with works in this show, only six have their work represented on their own* dedicated websites:

Charles Mason - photography 
David Mollett - painting (some samples here)
Mike Nakoneczny - painting
Akanit Nakoneczny - foundations (some samples here) 
Todd Sherman - painting + printmaking
Jessie Hedden - painting (some samples here)
Igor Pasternak - painting
Miho Aoki - computer art
Da-ka-xeen Mehner - Native Arts
Jack Finch - metalsmithing
Teresa Shannon - ceramics
Annie Duffy - foundations
Wendy Croskrey - sculpture
Penny Wakefield - fiber arts
Baggs McKelvey - drawing
Laura Hewitt - drawing
Jim Brashear - ceramics
Faculty not appearing in this exhibit:
Mareca Guthrie foundations / Nancy Boyer - foundations / Heather Neal Kasvinsky printmaking / Erica Lord - foundations / Mary Goodwin - Art History

The question here is, is this a crucial asset for a professional, contemporary artist, regardless of their respective medium? Not only is the answer yes, art teachers should arguably be held to higher standards, and be examples of the potential marketing opportunities on the internet, at the very least maintaining a viable, visible and relevant presence on-line. 
There's a stage in my own relationship with many art students, particularly at the advanced level, and peers within the community, when critiquing isn't so much about their individual craftsmanship and personal production or disciplined work ethic (it's assumed both of these areas are a given): the issue instead becomes what are you doing with your work? Where is it? Where can it be seen? I frequently default to a functional definition of visual art, in that it should be seen, above and beyond satisfying curiosity about the person behind the pieces, be it process, philosophy or trivia.

This isn't to say artists cannot produce exemplary works within their own fields and not be in the series of tubes, and by no means does it diminish the quality or value of their work just because it doesn't exist outside of a limited, physical gallery space within a tightly restricted time-frame. In fact, the UAF Art Department boasts of some of the most amazing talent ever assembled in Fairbanks, let alone Alaska. That said, one would think especially within academia, ignoring the potential of the on-line arena isn't much of an option anymore. 
Lastly, some invaluable input and sage advice from a cohort pointed up yet another important aspect of this question:

"WHY students/artists should take advantage of the Internet:
presentation and control of their own work beyond institutions, being
available to a large audience, sending prospective galleries or
commission inquiries to a "resume" site thus avoiding having to answer
(waste time) a lot of stupid questions, the isolation of Alaskan
On the other hand, public displays (such as on some blogs) could very well serve as a red flag to avoid certain artists at all costs, on the street, in the gallery or in the classroom.

*Isolated and scattered examples of specific pieces were not counted. 
A cursory Google search with each artist's name was browsed for at least three pages-worth of results, then additionally refined with terms such as "art," "artwork," plus further qualifying terms (ex: "ceramics," "painting" etc.). 
If any were inadvertently missed I'll update this post with corrections, post-haste...

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Alaskan Willie Horton

Coming soon to a village near you: maybe they'll call him Willie Qimugkauyar instead.
Brief rant below...

"Down With That"

Yesterday's panel in the "Sundays" section of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Next time you see someone preening themselves over a nice, big, fluffy down coat or comforter, just point out that it all comes from duck armpits. Just gives me a warm, snuggy feeling inside. 
You think that's weird, wait until I finish and post my new "polar fleece" cartoon...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Contesting Reality

Another take on the continuing efforts from the Miller campaign to stave off his impending loss by bringing lawsuits and attempting to render votes from Alaskan citizens ineligible though contesting their ballots on completely irrational and utterly insane grounds.

This panel ran in yesterday's issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and is part of a recent bout with creative bulimia over the post-election fiasco I underwent: producing a dozen cartoons in a few days, loosely centered around the same theme. The problem with this is how quickly the issues fade from current events, and if you miss the bandwagon, an editorial cartoon quickly loses relevance and is about as funny and flavorful as a wad of old, chewed-over gum left under the drafting table. Hence the judicious release of a few selected panels here, some to the Miner, and a whole bunch for upcoming issues of the Ester Republic (reserve your copy now). Juggling who gets what, when, where and why, is a task usually foisted off on publishers, agents and syndicates, but ensconced deep in the cabin out in the woods, it's my call to make whether or not any particular panel gets out to an appropriate venue in time. Needless to say I have quite the stack of editorial left-overs that tried to cover possible contingencies that never panned out, chalk 'em up as mulch for future material... sure to sprout up in this fertile political landscape.

"Some is more equal than others, as is well known. It ain't that your majority is outnumbered, 
you're just out-surrounded." - Tammananny Tiger (Walt Kelly)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rodent Mutation

If there ever was a Castor canadensis-themed item, this one surely belongs in the lodge (hat-tip Crooked Timber via Boing Boing's Mutant Mammal Monday). Especially coupled with this ominous and foreboding news item:
"Investigators blame a beaver for a fire that caused more than $150,000 damage to a cottage and outbuilding just north of Perth Road Village, Ont."
On a related thread (h/t Tania), if you ever feel like your work-day sucks, think about this job:
"A radioactive rabbit was trapped on the Hanford nuclear reservation, and Washington state health workers have been searching for contaminated rabbit droppings." 
Cue the requisite Rabbit of Caerbannog references...
"That's the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!" - Tim

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I'm sure the irony in this cartoon will be utterly lost on some folks. Maybe they'll get it, and simultaneously still not get it.
Drawn while listening live to the litany of calls for contested ballots, and no kidding, the first example in panel one is, according to the Miller legal camp, legitimate grounds for disenfranchising a voter. And this from a guy who said he wants to represent Alaskans, by ignoring Alaskan law
The regulation, 6AAC25.670, concerns the spelling of a candidate’s name on the federal write-in absentee ballot.
The regulation says, “Any abbreviation, misspelling, or other minor variation in the form of the name of a candidate or political party will be disregarded in determining the validity of the ballot, if the intention of the voter can be ascertained.”
Extended rant below...


"Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining" - Fletcher

Yet another strip that won't find a home anywhere but here. Actually it's a second piece enshrined in the current faculty show at UAF, thoughtfully retitled as "I Love You." "Love Is."
I challenged my students to find any other work amongst the assembled talent on display that came anywhere near to capturing such a deeply insightful commentary on relationships, portraying a fundamental aspect of the human animal, stripped of it's pretentious, farcical trappings, metaphorically laid bare by exposing our primal nature.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit of a reach, but it does serve as an excellent example of how much assumed/implied information is imparted within the gutters: manipulating projections, as in, fill in the blanks - you only see what you bring to it. Now that's a hallmark of a truly great work of Fine Art. Nope, no pretentiousness here.

Needless to say, there comes a dark time in any man's person's life when the humbling realization of what a complete schmuck you've been in the past will dawn upon you in all its horrifying magnitude. Aside from that melancholic navel-gaze, it's a case-study in the bare standard Alaska cabin lifestyle, and how even the practical necessity requiring the ability to go off the porch can be truly inspirational.
(No comment from Souchie or Pippen) ...sorry 'bout that guys)

“What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?” - Isak Dinesen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Student Pen & Inks

Drawing by Alice Bugni

Drawing by Peter Kelly
Some random thoughts and a handful of sample images posted by permission of the respective creators (all rights reserved). They follow up on our recent  field-trips "safaris" to the Museum of the North for reference sketches to be used for the pen & ink portion of the class. Also copies are all up in the hallways: hypothetically speaking, might it not be somewhat pretentious for one art teacher to occupy 90% of the art department showcases for the majority of the semester? My humble answer would be no, not if the work in question is the is the best. But seriously, it does bring up a valid point that (my) nature abhors a blank wall, and if you see an empty spot, fill it up with art. The overwhelming ugly number of architectural eyesores in this town, not to mention the depressing interior design aesthetics of many of its residents, could do well with investing in some art. Let that be an abject/object lesson: show up at least, get it up, get it out there.Then do some more, don't ever let anybody tell you that you can't, least of all yourself. If you don't like what you did, do it again, do it better, then do some more after that's done.There's always gonna be somebody better, there's always gonna be somebody worse, but there's never gonna be enough by you. Get over it, get one up on them, get over yourself, get it done.

“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang 
except those that sang best.” - Henry Van Dyke 
Drawing by Anne Meehan
More mullings below the fold... 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stippled Crab

One of my former drawing students is a shining star currently in the Biological and Pre-Medical Illustration Program at Iowa State University: Katelyn McDonald recently drew this magnificent crab in pen & ink. As a precursor to the Critter Spot Illustrations assignment due in today's class, thought it'd be appropriate to set the bar high with "Exhibit A" - as in that's how it's done.
Excuse me while I geek out on it... always loves me some yummy stipple.

“Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backward in search of the Atlantic Ocean, 
and missing? That's the way the mind of man operates.” - Henry Louis Mencken  

Monday, November 8, 2010

"One Room"

… besides losing it in general (“of all the things I’ve lost I miss my mind the most”).
And this doesn’t even include showing the kitchen area, closet or the sleeping loft (that’s where the other insane cat is). Actually I’m still toying with the concept of making this into a triptych over the winter… now THAT would be nuts. At least I stopped before putting titles on all the books, DVDs and CDs.

Way too much more information below the fold... 

Sunday, November 7, 2010


So I met this puppy the other day, a "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel." He's currently attending obedience classes, but with a face like that I'd maybe last five minutes before being thoroughly trained. Just ask my cats who's boss around the cabin.

And don't use this image as a screen-saver, as it will really start to weird you out after being stared at for a couple hours. Just like the cats.  
Must... clean... litterbox... now...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Art Day!!!

Friday was a wonderful time spent hanging out in the Fine Art department of West Valley High for an event billed as "Art Day." After signing in at the main office and navigating the maze of lockers and flashing back to my own fondly cherished memories of the nightmare known as teenage adolescence...

Rachelle Dowdy letting the chips fall where they may...
Todd Sherman portraiture
Around a couple dozen local artists from the surrounding community coalesced for demonstrations in the school's three studios (impressive digs) to showcase their respective skills and answer questions from any interested students. Hosted by teacher Kris Haggland and cheerled by the inexhaustible, indomitable force of Robin Feinman, milling herds of curious onlookers were treated to everything from drawing, Native Arts, metalsmithing, ceramics, computer art, painting and sculpture. A handful of UAF professors were present, as were many graduate students and local luminaries and rock-stars, a significant percentage of whom were also West Valley alumni as well. The tide of turnout was overwhelming at times, as teachers in the other departments could let their students opt out of class and peruse the aesthetic offerings at this unique buffet of talent. All six periods throughout the day availed themselves of this opportunity and there was something for everyone at this event. Especially a very well stocked snack room with fruit, vegetable platters, bagels, croissants, tasty sandwiches and an unending fountain of fresh coffee for the volunteers. Did I mention the sandwiches? They had sandwiches. But seriously, it's always an inspiration to sit amongst selfless peers who are willing to give up a little of their time and take it to the street. Having one foot in each realm, balancing the inner and the outer faces of working both sides of the table, at both the easel and the podium, is an honor and a responsibility that every artist should avail themselves to at any chance they get. Interaction with the public is a part of the private world that ultimately makes for the most rewarding experience - like a good mustard, it truly tops the satisfaction after making something, to in turn share it with others. And a pickle too.

"No wait... hang on... I just had a funny idea... it's around here somewhere... damn it..."
Better Living Through Chemistry: with the help of a couple doses of "plop-plop/fizz-fizz" and a customary quadruple-shot mocha en-route, yers truly just barely managed to put in a presence. I set up a sprawling table display of posters, original works, samples from publications and various clients, a couple portfolios, sketchbooks and examples by former students. In-between interactions with innocent bystanders and bantering with fellow attendees, I also cranked out a few demo panels with pencil, pen & ink and wash. Only after all the periods had passed was I at last clued in on this event not being what I had originally thought it was: in fact it wasn’t a “Career Day.” So I sheepishly look back at my ceaseless marketing on the prospective skills that are a coveted by-product of creative endeavors, namely freelance gigs and graphic design, as being an equally attractive aspect of commercialism for employment opportunities. On the other hand it was probably good to have an example of the real-world benefits of earning a damn living at doing it, as opposed to just jumping on the academic hamster-wheel, or falling for the starving artist stereotype. Then again, I wasn't exactly the best poster-boy for professionalism... math and science kids, math and science...

As my main bag of show & tell books were elsewhere for another class, I culled a second sampling from my own collection of titles to entice readers with a range of contemporary comics and graphic novels. The list included James Sturm’s “Market Day,” some choice Tony Millionaire (“The Art of” and “That Darn Yarn”), Shannon Wheeler’s “I Though You Would Be Funnier,”  a couple of the classic “Flight” anthologies, The Perry Bible Fellowship’s “Alamanack,” Jim Woodring’s “The Portable Frank,” a couple volumes of Bill Willingham’s “Fables,”  Kazu Kibuishi’s collected “Copper,” and lastly the lusciously weird new “Beasts of Burden/Animal Rites” hardcover release by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson.

Da-ka-xeen Mehner masking his true identity

Man am I ever such a total sucker for taking up any opportunities to peddle both the passion and profession of art, and to promote comics. Educating about art as well as doing it never gets old, and there's no end to turning on new converts to the potential power of this particular medium. As an added bonus I also got to check out some really impressive up & coming talents that took the time to show me their own work for encouragement and feedback. Many thanks to all involved, and especially the sandwiches the tireless and talented staff at West Valley... and most of all the students who stopped by to hang out. A most enjoyable outing spent with fellow artists and enthusiasts alike!