Sunday, March 31, 2013

It Has Risen

Magnificent Information: Thank You For Your Sweat

There has been a comparatively big surge in spam hitting the blog - 30-50 a day now. They're mostly screened out before hitting my email notification and subsequently dumped into Blogger's "Spam" receptacle. At worst it's it was (update: switching moderation to "registered users" eliminated 99% of the spambots leeching off trackbacks) a mild annoyance, and at best, a faintly amusing speed bump. The broken phrasing sometimes develops it's own creative cadence, and like panning for gold, a few choice flakes turn up every so often during the daily sift:
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You're welcome.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

24 Hours of Women Cartoonists

Bumping my own panel this week to make room for a truly awesome series of posts going up over at The News Blog of Comics Culture:
"Women’s History month is wrapping up, but we at The Beat don’t feel we celebrated it properly, so for the next 24 hours most of the Beat staff is collaborating on “24 Hours of Women Cartoonists” to spotlight some of our favorite creators." 
Personally I only knew of a fraction of these folks: such a spectacular range of diversity in style and depth of talent on display. But what else would we expect of half the potential field is so woefully underrepresented, and with such a dearth of examples in syndication and comics in general?

An excellent and commendable spotlight effort which I can't wait to share with students - well worth spending some time perusing the links to individual creator pages... start with Helen Hokinson!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dio-Rama: Morris Thompson Center Artworks & James Grant, Sr.

Here's a small sampling of some of the visual art on display at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, located in downtown Fairbanks. Four year's old, it's a one-stop resource for both residents and visitors of the Interior, housing a set of community institutions: the tribal consortium of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, an Alaska Geographic bookstore, Denaakenaaga Inc. (Elder programs and outreach services), and lastly, the home of one of the four Alaska Public Lands Information Centers in the state. This particular branch is run by the National Park Service and is a clearinghouse of resources for anyone interested in public lands in the state, from the state to the federal (and there are a lot).

One of the most prominently displayed pieces in the building  Athabaskan artist James L. Grant Sr.'s portrait of Morris Thompson (posted above), commands the entryway of the Center and commemorates the legacy of its namesake. Another landscape by Grant is hung on the second floor, a section (approximately one third) of which is seen here:

Poking about on-line led me to discover a fantastic documentary featuring Grant and his work, which I think should be required watching for Alaskan art classes about this notable individual in the creative community:

Elsewhere in the building are some interpretive exhibits, an informative blend of text-based displays, physical objects and audio-visual elements, that were designed by Andre & Associates. A highlight for me is the couple of spectacular diorama backgrounds which were painted by Jan Vriesen (see here for a realted post about the National Park Service visitor center in Denali). These are comparable to another epic installment by local artist Heidi Hahn, who created a similar piece for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game in Fairbanks.

The second of two dioramas includes a backdrop painting (a detail of which is pictured above) which portrays a typical Interior tableau, a composite based on multiple image sources that illustrate a "drunken forest." This remix approach is in contrast to a the first diorama in the exhibit hall which references a specific area, in that case the juncture of the Tanana and Yukon rivers (Mission Hill) which is of significance relating to Morris Thompson. One of the subtle touches in these paintings is the successful illusion of integrating three-dimensional objects in the foreground - models and mounts - into the overall perspective of the piece so as to facilitate grounding the viewer into the scene. This is a unique challenge to achieve and maintain on a curved surface that spans from ceiling to floor and wall to wall.

I'll focus on a few other notable pieces of specific artwork in an forthcoming post... but visitors and locals alike would benefit from a visit to this building as an excellent opportunity to learn about the many facets of Fairbanks.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Sunday, March 24, 2013

TIP's: Harold B. Warren & the Three Islesford Painters

Tucked away in a corner where I used to work while on hiatus Down East, is a small sampling in the Islesford Historical Museum that is dedicated to one of the crucial foundations in the evolution of Little Cranberry Island's, and by extension, Maine's art scene. Attracted to the area were a trio of artists, the "Three Islesford Painters" - aka TIPs - that drew their inspiration from the Acadian landscape. Charles Edwin Kinkead, C. Scott White and Harold B. Warren were summer people who would migrate north and set up shop for the season on the island, and they peddled their wares right across the lawn within my usual view right out of the front doors. 

Warren, White and Kinkead (L to R) - 1921

William Otis Sawtelle, who was a retired Harvard physicist and teacher, frequently vacationed on the island, and in 1917 bought what was the general store (previously owned and operated by one Sam Hadlock). Being somewhat of an amateur historian, now a full-time hobbyist dedicated to documenting and supporting local culture, Sawtelle acquired a large amount of collected material stashed in the attic of the building known as "The Blue Duck." From this he culled exhibits in the humble hall on the ground floor (in turn eventually prompting the construction of the official Isleford Historical Museum), and also made the upstairs into a themed gallery, festooned with nautical and maritime ephemera.

from "Harold B. Warren and Mount Desert Island" exhibition catalog, 2009, by Royal W. Leith

(more below the fold)

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Seems my consumption this season has been steadily upping the dosage to the point where any attempt to scale back is met with those withdrawal headaches that shrink my brain somewhere between a raisin or a prune-sized organ.  

Aside from the steady supply of Kaladi Brothers coffee, which after getting hooked on it during our tenure in Hatcher Pass last year is thankfully imported to the Interior at a local cafe, the stash of beans was recently supplemented by a wonderful bag of Stedman Corners' Chautauqua County blend (thanks Reta!).

Friday, March 22, 2013

Work-In-Progress: "Unappetizer Dish"


Gives new meaning to "can I lick the bowl?"
Was asked to draw a design for a platter thrown by local potter & UAF ceramics professor Jim Brashear as part of the upcoming annual "Empty Bowls" benefit fundraiser for the Fairbanks Community Food Bank.
Can't wait to load this sucker up with some guacamole and salsa... mmmBOY!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"The Rise of Web Comics" + PBF

“And that makes me laugh”

Spiffy little mini-documentary just popped up on a Facebook feed from the PBS series "Off Book" called "The Rise of Web Comics": 
"The internet has given birth to yet another new medium: web comics. Moving beyond the restrictions of print, web comic artists interact directly with audiences who share their own unique worldview, and create stories that are often embedded in innovative formats only possible online. Sometimes funny, sometimes personal, and almost always weird, web comic creators have taken the comic strip form to new, mature, and artistic heights."
This still shies away from the "Infinite Canvas" concept advanced by comics theoretician Scott McCloud (also see "This Exquisite Forest"): the term "webcomic" tends to default to basically the blunt transferal of content to another platform without exploiting either the inherent attributes or potential of the new medium. It's just a different viewing method - whether on a wall, page, smartphone, tablet or monitor, the content is a static and fixed format. Interactivity with the creator is another step on the continuum, where the viewer works in a semi-collaborative sense with the artist, and the narrative becomes more "reader-driven" (as for example in "Homestuck" and "Exploding Dog"). Yet only those two of the nine total featured cartoonists in the documentary to explore this boundary, while the others are conventional.

One of the cartoonists interviewed - and one of the best things to ever emerge from my hometown on the East Coast - is  Nicholas Gurewitch, creator of the Perry Bible Fellowship feature. From my jaded perspective his work was and is one of the most most pleasurable to read from a working cartoonist's perspective as far as craft + writing goes (also meaning it's funny as hell). The comic is also being hosted now at Boing Boing, where, for example, the pure genius of “No one can know about this” appeared just last month.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Break-time: Free Coffee

... well, rumor has it not for much longer. But still one of my long-time favorite camping spots that sometimes doubles as an extended office space (hat-tip + homage to the tolerant new owners). This doodle, based on the Gulliver's Books logo, was done while waiting to meet with a client, using coffee, of course, for the tint. One of the Lessons of Life learned from art is to capitalize on accidents, or put another way, there's no use crying over spilled anything when you've got a brush in your hand.
Also this is a stopgap doodle to fill in a blank spot on the blogging schedule brought about as a result of getting off-synch with the real world, ie panels are supposed to run in print first before making their way on-line. And besides, -20°F temps and a driveway in serious need of plowing aside, it's supposed to be "Spring Break."

Friday, March 15, 2013

"The A.K. Corral"

From last weekend's issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. As mentioned in an earlier post, nestled in the growing dirty-laundry list of batshit crazy legislation that is issuing forth from Juneau is this choice bit... "Fomenting secessionist, militant fantasies that are utter "nonsense."
Alaska House Bill 69 is now attracting nation-wide attention, and is proof positive that these people are completely, utterly insane.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

G-House Studies

Took a nice field-trip to the Institute of Arctic Biology's greenhouse situated up on the West Ridge of UAF campus' now officially retitled "Troth Yeddha." Did some quick sketches of the foliage as a demonstration for students, including corn and bamboo (two species that don't really belong with each other).
Below is one of the panels enhanced + juxtaposed with the title of a particular Alice Walker poem I like, which fittingly coincides with this weekend's International Woman's Day.

And then while on a bathroom break, I made a discovery: and here I'd been looking for a sign from above, while all along it was right there on the bathroom floor.

"They ALL float down here. When you're down here with us, you'll float too!"

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Chickadee Fluff"


As of late we've been on the lookout for a relatively rare species of bird that's been spotted in our neck of the woods and is being actively sought-after by wildlife officials: the Gray-headed Chickadee, or Siberian Tit. Mostly our feeders are inundated with Boreal Chickadees, the local cousin of the familiar and ubiquitous Black-capped version.

On a related tangent, found out that Creamer's Field /Fish & Game Biologist Mark Ross had earlier in the season snuck a caricature of me spazzing out while birdwatching for his weekly "Field Sketches" series that's published in the newspaper:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spots: Anchorage Press "Super Shorts"

(hat-tip Sarah)

Scored a sweet little gig doing a batch of spot illustrations for the Anchorage Press' annual "Micro-Fiction" issue, out on the stands this week. Somewhat similar to the "Haiku" series I did for them back in 2010, this was a quick assignment and a nice break in the routine. After a recent wave of freelance gigs and commissions it's a great feeling to be "in shape" to catch an assignment outta left field and knock it right back.

It's always interesting to note the evolution of the image - mostly in color shifts and compositional cropping - as it progresses through different stages and as it then in turn appears in various media. I see the changes firsthand from pencil rough to the line art of the pen & ink drawing, and then to the digital color version (and in the case of the cover, an intermediary phase in grayscale). But then it gets turned over to other folks, and this is where the distinction between Fine Art versus Commercial Art becomes apparent, as you learn to just let it go and surrender control by trusting in the process and skills of others further up the publishing stream. Usually change is good, and in the majority of instances it's somebody else who makes me look good, or at least better. And still to this day, after years of drawing art for reproduction, one of the sublime pleasures is always actually getting to physically see the finished copy in print, on on the end-product like a tshirt or mug.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Machetanz Changelings"

As a spin on the traditional Beginning Drawing exercise doing graphite value studies based on the series of Fred Machetanz lithographs (spanning two walls on the top floor of UAF's Rasmusen Library) I did a mashup from several of his pieces for a class demo.
Since I goofed up and grabbed a piece of watercolor paper instead of the usual Bristol, I played around afterwards with some wash, and then some minor tweaking in Photoshop at the home studio.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"Single Digits"

Well, it's warming up, somewhat... comparatively speaking that is. Be interesting to see if this panel actually runs (it didn't), as it skirts the edge of "family friendly" even though it's not technically showing anything offensive, just implying it. But hey, aside from upsetting the delicate sensitivities of the General Public... "You see only what you bring to the piece."
Then again, at forty-below, such niceties tend to evaporate quicker than boiling water tossed up in the air. At least I always try and remember to smile when gesturing, which may or may not help matters much when it comes to looking crazy and gesturing madly at the sky.
Artistically speaking, it was a real challenge to clearly draw the suggestion of an extended finger inside of a mitten. Countless hours were spent researching basic anatomy, fiber design and hiring models to ensure accurate depiction. Because we here at Nuggets®™proudly, and literally, stand behind our product.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The 2013 AK GOP (circ. 2 Million BCE)

Tweaked the new (well, technically dating from the Pleistocene) unofficial logo for Alaska Republicans, featuring their mammoth of a mascot. Surely no coincidence it also happens to be the official Alaska state fossil. It's an equally appropriately prehistoric predecessor to their Lower 48 GOP contemporaries... but then we're usually just a little bit behind up in this neck of the woods.
And falling even further behind, as evidenced by the rash of recent Republican activity:

Refusing to follow the damned law on their last round of gerrymandering.
Republican legislators ignoring blatant and unethical conflicts of interest.
Championing a racist Voter ID Act
Fomenting secessionist, militant fantasies that are utter "nonsense."
Waging War on Alaskan Women
Openly mocking civil rights.
Rolling back citizen initiatives to keep raw sewage from getting dumped in our waters. 
Wiping their collective asses with the Alaska (and the U.S.) constitution to erase the separation of church and state.

And this newest incarnation of the infamous corrupt bastards are just getting started.
To quote the Republican Speaker of the House... "what a crock of shit."