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March 30, 2011

Nickelodeon Gag #8

The Graduate!In 2007, I graduated from Pratt Institute's AOS illustration program, with highest honors. I worked harder during those two years than I had ever worked at anything else in my life.  I learned so much about illustration and drawing and painting and ART.

After graduating, I decided to stay in New York for one additional year, to try and support myself as a freelance illustrator.  I wanted to see if I could put my newly honed skills to use!  Needless to say, that was one of the most stressful years of my life (thus far!).

I drew up a budget and discovered that I had to make $66 dollars a day to pay for my rent, food, student loans and all my other expenses (cell phone, MTA card, internet access, etc. etc. etc.)  And if I didn't make $66 dollars on a day, I had to make $132 the next day, or $198 the next day.  You get the idea.  After freaking out for a few weeks, I finally decided that the only way to survive was to blindly believe that I was INVINCIBLE.

There were no windows in my room in Bushwick, so it was easy to tape pieces of paper up all over one of my walls.  Each piece of paper was an idea category:  "Teaching" "Illustration" "Comics" etc.  I tried to think of any possible way I could use my illustration skills to make money.  (You can see a list of everything I did to make money that year in my lecture notes from Your Comics Will Love You Back).

Obviously, one of the first things I did during this time, was send in a new batch of gag ideas to Chris Duffy and Dave Roman, over at Nickelodeon Magazine.  Unbelievably, it had been eight months since I had last pitched them anything, a sure sign that things had gotten awfully busy during that home stretch at Pratt.

They approved three of the eleven gags I sent them, but this time, in addition to the written email response, I also received this hand-drawn piece of advice from Chris, or "Professor Science K. Duffy" as Dave referred to him in the email.

This was such a simple piece of advice, I almost felt ashamed that it had never occurred to me to leave the box off my gags.  I think because I spend most of my time drawing comics, I was approaching each "single panel gag" as just that: a single PANEL of comics.  But that's not how gag cartoons are drawn!  I mean look at ANY GAG.  They are ALL vignettes!  And always have been!

Once I had this pointed out to me, it was almost painful to look at my old gags.  Imagine how much more dynamic the Octo-goalie gag would have been, if those soccer balls had been bursting forward towards the reader, instead of being cut off by the unnecessary panel border.  Oh well!  There was no turning back, so I had to just press on and try out this new technique on my future gags.  Below is the final gag Chris referred to in his advice.

See how much BETTER that is?!  See how nicely it sits on the page?  With the sky blending into the paper tone?  See how the negative space heightens the gag?  There should be a telephone pole there!  But poor ol' Wally just couldn't resist.  This gag was also my first beaver gag, of which I ended up with many.  For some reason I think beavers are like the funniest animals around, so get ready of more gags in the same vein.

ANYWAY, that was my gag epiphany!  Thank you Chris Duffy.  And if any of you are ever drawing a gag cartoon, think outside the box!

March 24, 2011

National Geographic Kids Gags #4 & #5

This week I thought I'd post my last two gags that I drew for National Geographic Kids in 2007.

The first gag was published in the June 2008 issue, and plays off one of my favorite animal facts; that cheetahs can run like sixty miles an hour.  I remember reading about that once as a kid, and then whenever I was in the car with my parents, driving on the freeway, I would think, "a cheetah could pass us right now!"  But what if the cheetah was going too fast?

The second gag was printed in the May 2008 issue, and it's pretty straightforward.  Bats hanging upside down is funny, right?

I should apologize here for my very North-America-centric view of the world.  When I was in Australia in 2002, I remember seeing these maps of the world for sale in various shops that had all the continents printed "up-side-down" so that Australia was at the top and center of the map.  Really, with a spinning orb, floating in space, it's all pretty relative!  Have you heard of the Peter's Projection Map?

Next week I will FINALLY post the "gag epiphany" I was talking about a few weeks ago, and you will see a drastic change in my approach to gag making!

March 17, 2011

National Geographic Kids Gag #3

Okay, this week we finally pass into my 2007 gag work!  Here is another one that I drew for National Geographic Kids which was published in their June 2008 issue.

As you can see in the sketch below, I originally had a different caption for this gag, which the editors had me change (for the better, I think).  

I'm not crazy about the composition for either of these drawings, but what can I say?  I've learned a lot since 2007!  Next week we'll wrap up the National Geographic gags and then we can finally get back to the Gag Epiphany I was talking about a few weeks ago!

March 10, 2011

National Geographic Kids Gag #2

Okay, here is my second gag that I drew for National Geographic Kids back in 2006.  It was published two years later in the May 2008 issue.  My favorite part of this one is that the poodle teacher is wearing a poodle skirt!  I wonder how many kids picked up on that...

While I'm posting these gags I'm slowly but surely working on some other illustration projects AND original content for this blog, which I'll start posting some time this summer when I have a bit more time on my hands.  Right now I'm busy working on the next issue of Drop Target Zine, two issues of Phase 7 and I'm also teaching up a storm at The Center for Cartoon Studies.  Busy busy!

March 3, 2011

National Geographic Kids Gag #1

Whoops, the "gag epiphany" I spoke of last week will have to wait for a few more posts.  This week I (very carfefully!) reread my old gag contracts with National Geographic Kids, and it looks like the rights for those gags have also reverted back to me, so I'll be posting them here.  In keeping with a chronological presentation of my "gag career" (thus far!) I'll post a few more that I drew in 2006, before we move on to 2007.  I hope people are enjoying these gags!

Here was my first gag for National Geographic Kids, which wasn't actually published until June of 2008:

I often feel like this old spider, complaining to my students about the internet!  Originally that little spider had fangs, but they made me take them out, and for some reason I was to remove the "ball hands" from the grandpa, but it was okay to leave them on the kid spider.  National Geographic preferred to credit me in type on the published page, so my signature has been added here.

This was another great gag gig that I found out about through my friend Karen Sneider (who now does gags for the New Yorker!?!).  2006 was a pretty exciting time for me, getting gags printed in two major magazines.  I guess I got to enjoy those last couple years of the magazine heyday, before stuff started closing down.   Unless I'm mistaken, I think National Geographic Kids is still running though!