Saturday, October 31, 2015

AK Constitution 'Toons

While wandering around the UAF campus, an exhibit currently displayed in the main hallway of the Eielson Building caught my eye. It’s part of “Creating Alaska: the Origins of the 49th State” project, and its assumable the installation is culled from the extensive archives and resources housed in the Alaska & Polar Regions Collections in the Rasmuson Library. 2006 was the commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of our joining the union, and it’s always great to see excerpted highlights from the voluminous collections stored on campus put up anywhere, much less such a nice display for the general public to peruse in passing. (More after the jump)

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Sometimes the urge to stipple is overwhelming. I suppose it would be a daunting endeavor from the perspective of a beginner to view the vast real estate upon which one will have to affix innumerable dots, but like so many things in life what happens on the page is a metaphor for the Big Picture. Namely in how so many small and seemingly inconsequential actions can and will ultimately add up to something else entirely.

Enough with the insights: truth is I saw a display in a camping goods store that was showcasing a new tent on the display floor. Problem was the cookstove and provisions were set up directly inside the entrance awning, which of course is both a spiffy feature and photogenic, but in reality is a recipe for potential disaster. Practical advice for bear safety: the absolute last thing you want to do while backcountry trekking anywhere in Alaska is to infuse your tent with food odors. You essentially turn your campsite into a literal bear-baiting station: set up the food prep area a minimum of 100 feet away, downwind, and nothing smelly allowed inside whatsoever. Let alone cooking with particularly odoriferous ingredients such as bacon. Mmmm... bacon.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Show & Tell: Fairbanks Watercolor Society

Image used with permission ©2015 Matt Moberly

Had a simply splendid evening this week after being invited to do a show & tell + demo for the Fairbanks Watercolor Society (website here + Facebook page here). A wonderful group of folks who meet monthly and offer supportive encouragement and networking with a welcoming camradery that is of special note in our creative community. They routinely host talks from a diverse roster of artists, many outside of their own medium so as to expand their range of interests and expose themselves to a wide range of influence. That's an admirable lesson which any artist would do well to remember and to emulate, since it can be so easy to develop a sort of tunnel-vision when it comes to what's familiar + comfortable habits. And it was especially humbling to be in the same room with some seriously skilled practitioners of the craft which I am only starting to explore in my own work. Over the course of preparing for the presentation I mulled over the weird synthesis of technique, and the simultaneously opposite or contradictory directions my evolution of style is taking me: while one of the hallmarks of traditional pen + ink is tight, even obsessive control of mark-making, when that is juxtaposed against, for example, the recent trend in my "Sketchbook" series of "finished doodles," and the inclusion of more and more wash, it's interesting how a wet medium like watercolor provides a sort of looser, spontaneous aesthetic element to the mix. Also there's the contrast between digital versus manual coloring, best exemplified by this piece "Dogyard Symphony."

Also got the chance to have a sort of reunion with some former students, including current ones, and even meet some new folks. Pictured is the Special Edition of the panel, "AK Zodiac," previous posted about here... except it was live with bonus director commentary in this instance, even a little bit animated (soon as the coffee kicked in).

Special thanks to Becky Anderson for the gracious invitation, the volunteers behind the scenes at hosting these events, and Matt Moberly for the images (visit his photography page here + Etsy watercolor page here).

Image used with permission ©2015 Matt Moberly

Sunday, October 18, 2015

"Tundra Nuggets"

Alternately subtitled "Two great tastes that are tasteless together," this panel came about from a classroom visit to the Cartoon & Comic Arts course by Tundra creator Chad Carpenter. En route to the campus I bounced a coupla concepts off him for a collaboration - we hadn't done one since 1997 - and basically forced him at Sharpiepoint to do a demo in front of the students. Afterwards I inked in the other half, then scanned the piece and used one of his preexisting works (one of his more infamous beaver prints just so happens to hang on the studio wall) to swipe the Photoshop palette and match his character's colors.

Besides a basic private joke on the mutual phenomenon of how many folks tell each of us about their favorite cartoon that we've ever drawn - which turns out instead to be the other guy's work, we both figured it would be a truly meta-Alaska geek reference that only true fans will get... especially given the overlapping demographics of our fans + readers. At least two guys who'll get it (which is one more than usual for my feature). Thanks Chad!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Grinding Stumps/The Waltz of the Beaver

It's that time of the season where we once again indulge in all things Castor canadensis, starting with this blushing beaver, which was originally intended as a rogue beaver but due to a typo, turned instead into a rouge. (More after the jump)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Ink & Snow Review: "Zombeavers"

Sneaking in a bonus Friday post here, which will dovetail quite nicely with tomorrow's biannual beaver extravaganza. This film has been, uh, eagerly anticipated here at Ink & Snow/Nuggets brand studios for quite some time now, needless to say there was quite a captive Castor canadensis crowd in the studio for our screening of "Zombeavers."
"We cannot turn against each other right now. That's exactly what the beavers would want."
Directed by Jordan Rubin for his big-screen debut, it's most definitely a "B" (for beaver) movie: but it rated four tail-slaps at our lodge on account of the simple satisfaction at a well-done homage to creature features of old. Standard horror tropes were in abundance, starting with the canister of toxic waste that rolls off a truck when two bros (including cameo from John Mayer of all people) in a biohazard delivery truck accidentally nail a deer in the road. Cue the three sorority sisters on a supportive breakup retreat out for a boy-free weekend at a cousin's country cottage. Cut to an interlude with a kid fishing for the first victim, the creeper neighbor with his gun, and a grizzly bear who will make one of the best-ever call-backs later in the film, and as soon as the boyfriends crash the party, all the ingredients are in place for what will be a very long, bloody night of beaver pandemonium.

Half the comedy comes from the the underlying interpersonal dynamics that lurk just beneath the surface like a, well, ahh... nevermind. Any seriousness gets shed about as fast as everybody's clothing, with oodles of gratuitous skin on display as throughout most of the film the women manage to stay clad only in either bikinis or their underwear. This was nothing compared to the groaning gags that a movie like this just screams for constant setups: Leslie Nielson would be proud.

Personally I recommend something nice & noisy like celery + carrots to accompany your viewing

At just about the half-way mark the Castorial carnage really kicks into high gore with some classic old-school practical effects, blissfully no CG which is a relief after getting beaten in the eyeballs by the usual barrage of overkill effects from the latest Avengers et al. That said the zombeavers themselves at times had the off-putting clumsiness that was reminiscent of Rodents of Unusual Size - I was somewhat surprised after reviewing the special features that is wasn't puppetry but robotics.

Just when you're ready to write it off as a spoof, to its credit the film does abandon predictability with more than a few WTF moments: the fate of the poor doggie, some truly amazing hybridizing, a wincing crotch-shot revenge that'll leave you with a gnawing sense of disquiet, and some gleefully over-the-top transformation sequences that bore repeat viewings in slo-mo no less. I'll defer any more review to the expertise of Arrow In The Head, who covers it with his usual candor, but definitely put this in the same campy horror league as "Black Sheep" and Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive." I know what'll be twitching in my stocking come this holiday.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Smoking, Guns

   I actually contemplated not drawing this panel, as over a week had passed after the shootings at Umpqua Community College, and public memory being... let's just say fickle, the conjunction between that tragedy and the annual gun show on UAF campus would have escaped most folks. But then I woke up to the news about Northern Arizona (the 46th at a school so far this year). Update: well, that didn't take long (also see here and here for a couple variations from students & faculty, respectively, on protesting the issue at Texas universities).
   To be sure, there are many divergent perspectives on this complex issue; some simple, many contentious - but few better stated than over here at Stonekettle Station. And our Alaskan state legislators will presumably capitalize on these tragedies to advance their own agenda (see related previous post here), much as their counterparts on the national level.
   But aside from the inevitable, and unfortunately reoccurring debates on the issue of gun control, what is at the core of this particular panel is the thoroughly tasteless insistence of not only an NRA affiliated organization promoting such an event ("140 vendor tables with guns, ammo, knives, outdoor gear, accessories, antiques, and much much more!"), but the questionable responsibility - and morality - of the university in even hosting it to begin with, especially within the context of recent events.
   On a personal note, what's often left over after all the initial anger and fear, is a simple sadness. Which can be summed up perfectly by what happened immediately upon hearing the awful news from Oregon while teaching one of my classes up on campus. I stepped outside of the department for a moment to gather my thoughts, and instead got to watch college-aged kids running around with toy guns playing a zombie game. Sadness.

  Not so obvious a reference to local events is the secondary dig in the caption - really just a bonus cheap shot - at the impending dictate from administration banning tobacco on campus. Good thing they still serve booze I guess.

Update: The panel, which ran as an editorial on the Sunday opinion page, elicited a wonderful letter to the editor, which succinctly demonstrates the disconnect, and more than a little deflection (“…inexcusable… inappropriate… in poor taste… disgusting… intolerable… deplorable… adult bullying… just plain fighting dirty…”). The paradox is reinforced even better by the UAF Sun Star’s coverage of the event, which juxtaposes a benign mission statement of sorts from the gun show organization against a full-color picture of a vendor showing off an RPG. This perfectly illustrates the discongruity, moreso bookended with a bonus quote from the President of the Tanana Valley Sportsmen’s Association:
In response to the appropriateness of having a gun show not long after a mass shooting on a college campus, Lewis said that it was perfectly appropriate.
“What stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Lewis said.
Well... THAT escalated quickly.

Update II: Another letter to the editor, and another perspective that, while raising its own good points - albeit secondary or irrelevant to the core issue (ex: "... to malign the many sportsmen and sportswomen and law-abiding gun enthusiasts..." etc.) - fails entirely in getting the point of the editorial. Criticizing, for example, the newspaper (and notably not the university which paradoxically champions any number of other examples of behavior modification and social programming), or for that matter the artist, instead of the idea, the concept behind the controversy, completely dodges the context and therefore the irony that the cartoon encapsulates.

Update III: Statement from the editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner regarding the unwarranted and misguided criticism it has been receiving, and qualifying it's policy on publishing informed opinions, including controversial ones:
One of those differing views, in the form of a cartoon by local artist Jamie Smith and published in the News-Miner on Sunday, Oct. 11, has prompted some negative reaction toward the News-Miner. The cartoon calls attention to the irony, in Mr. Smith’s view, of holding a gun show sponsored by the Tanana Valley Sportsmen’s Association on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus just one day after fatal shootings at universities in Arizona and Texas.
That cartoon is the opinion of Mr. Smith. It is a visual letter to the editor.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Recap: 24 Hour Comics Day - Alaska 2015

We had a splendid turnout this year (the ninth so far) with twenty-four folks taking part in the challenge… and three successfully completing their twenty-four pages in twenty-four hours. A very diverse group of varying ages, ability, genders and ethnicities (just like the collective demographics of both comics readership and their creators in general). Plus this event has the added bonus of giving the general public and aficionados alike a chance to wander through and check out the process behind the pages, offer some encouragement, and maybe even gain a deeper understanding + appreciation for the medium of sequential art. (More after the jump)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

"Happy Father's Day"

A panel published past it's time, but hey, these are timeless anyways, right? Originally drawn in response to the inevitable outbreak of Hallmark platitudes that clog up the internet (most notable is the avalanche on the Facebook feed) around that most sacrosanct celebration, second only to Mother's Day in its saccharine insipidness. Ignoring the Freudian overtones of such harsh cynicism, it's ironic to consider the other 364 days of the year when the news is filled with horrible, ugly, stupid shit largely on account of the males of our species, many if not most of whom are also dads.
 At least I edited out the original caption which pointed up a bit more blunt biological origin of what shortly ensues from such a scenario: "And then he killed and ate him." Good thing I learned as a child to resolve my psychological issues with humor.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Color Dumb

Washing Day at Ink & Snow

Sort of a confessional about me and color: oftentimes I haven't a clue what to do. Which is really not all that different from anything else in my artwork, from ideas right on down to the doodle. Or, for that matter, deciding what to wear in the morning either: so my MO is usually just put something on, anything, and get on with the day, and by extension, just get on with the drawing. Or in this case, with the wash... just add water.

At this point in my life and artistic career, unfortunately all those color theory classes I took in college were completely for naught - aside from the debatable merits of learning the rules in order to break them: so effectively what taught me most was skipping straight ahead into screwing up. It ain't no different from what I continually and relentlessly drill my Beginning Drawing student about: practice, because familiarity with the tools is what will ultimately result in functional competency. Readers (and students) know me and my work as arguably pedestrian and comparatively unsophisticated in many things: I write about as well as I draw: but in the end does it work? Does it do its job - is it understood? Therein lies the rub, if not the eternal seesaw between the responsibility of the observer to interpret meaning, versus the part of the practitioner to impart it.

Nope... just not seeing him.