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January 30, 2019

Blog Archive Posts 2013-2018

Three years ago, just before my daughter Suzanne was born, I built a new illustration portfolio website because I wasn't sure when I would have a chance to update things again for a few years.  Initially, I shuttered this illustration blog, because I knew I wouldn't have time to write new posts, but last year I brought it back so that I can talk about projects I have been working on that might not necessarily make it into my portfolio.

I thought an appropriate series of illustrations to kick off this process of looking through old work would be the backlog of blog archive images from my personal website because these also show what has been going on in my life.  I do one of these a year, and it looks like the last one I posted in here was from 2012.  So now let's roll back through the sands of time to see what happened from 2013-2018.

In 2013 my girlfriend Claire was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.  This was (obviously) a really big deal, so it seemed like the right choice for this image.  The good news is that Claire's treatment went very well, and it gave us an excuse to finally get married!

To pay for Claire's medical bills, I took on my biggest illustration project ever, Middle School: Ultimate Showdown by James Patterson. This meant putting all my personal comics projects on hold, however, including Basewood which I had just finished.  When Claire's treatment was done and all the bills were paid, I finally set up a Kickstarter which helped me self-publish my book. In the small press world, you only have one year while your book is "new" so I spent most of 2014 on the road, exhibiting at 14 comic shows all around the country and abroad, which was exhausting.

I was so burned out by the end of 2014, I decided to take a year off from exhibiting at any comic conventions.  We also found out in 2015 that Claire was pregnant, so it was a year of really buckling down and trying to work ahead on projects. One of my main goals was to build up a buffer of pages for my webcomic Isle of Elsi, which launched at the end of that year.  We also moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, so that is subtly reflected in the stucco walls and tile floors shown here.

My daughter Suzanne was born in January of 2016.  The rest of the year was sort of a blur, so I just drew us on the night we brought her home and everything changed.

I remember having a lot of difficulty coming up with an image for 2017.  Suzanne grew so much that year, it was hard to decide on just one image that communicated that whole experience.  In the end, I decided to build the image around the chickens we got that year (which had been a dream of mine for many years). Suzanne and I spent a lot of time that year sitting on buckets and looking at them and talking about them, so it seemed like a fitting image.

And then in 2018 my second daughter, Wendy, was born.  I decided to draw an image similar to the one from the year Suzanne was born.  Here we are as a whole family -- Suzanne a little wary, and Claire and I both very, very tired -- which is how 2018 felt.

It is worth noting that in the blog archives you can see that I was writing fewer and fewer blog posts as all these big life changes were happening.  These were often drawn on December 30th or 31st, right at the buzzer for each year, when it's possible to look back over everything that happened.  Maybe this year "the moment" will be clearer and I'll get this done before the very end of the year!

January 23, 2019

CCS Illustrations - Part 3: One-Week Cartooning Workout GIFs

In last week's post, I talked about developing the One-Week Cartooning Workout, a free email course with tips, tricks, exercises, examples and resources, with James Sturm for The Center for Cartoon Studies.  In addition to those spot illustrations which branded the course, I also designed a series of animated GIFs which demonstrated exercises or helped illustrate some of the concepts.

Day One - Four Panel Comic

The idea here was that you could draw your four-panel comic one panel at a time in linear sequence, or you could start by drawing the first and fourth panels and then fill in the middle two panels afterwards.

Day Two - Character Design

The goal for this exercise is to create two characters who are visually unique, but also speak with their own unique voices.  Starting with two different shapes is a great way to end up with two different character silhouettes.

Day Three - Thrice-Told Tales

A rule of thumb that I use when I am hunting around for a story to draw as a comic, is if I've verbally told a story at least three times (to friends/family/coworkers, etc.) than it is probably pretty entertaining, and I've had a chance to revise it through each retelling.  The goal here was to convey that idea and then use one such story as a writing prompt.

Day Four - Notecard Comics

James Sturm often uses blank notecards as panel templates.  It's a great technique because it is easy to rearrange the moments, or throw one out if you get a better idea, etc.  The goal was to demonstrate this way of working.

Day Five - Twenty-Four Panel Page Layouts

After the students script out comic story using 24 note cards, they are then prompted to turn that into a comic.  This GIF shows how 24 panels can be split up into a variety of layouts, which will have different densities and page counts.  It would work as a static graphic, but having each layout appear gives the viewer a moment to consider the layout.

Day Six - Draw Comics EVERY Day

Any success I've achieved as a cartoonist can be traced back to my practice of Drawing Comics EVERY Day, even if it's only for 15 minutes a day.  Again, this would work as a static image, but having each check mark tick off gives a stronger sense of sequence and time moving forward.

Day Seven - Seeking Feedback

This GIF communicates the importance of sharing your work (whether in person or online) and seeking constructive feedback.

If these exercises and concepts sound interesting, you can sign up for the One-Week Cartooning Workout at any time and it is absolutely free.  It's full of tips and tricks and examples and resources to help you get the ball rolling with your cartooning - check it out!

January 16, 2019

CCS Illustrations - Part 2: One-Week Cartooning Workout Spots

Another big project that I developed for The Center for Cartoon Studies in my new job as Director of Academic Outreach was a free email course called the One-Week Cartooning Workout.  The idea is that you enter your email address and then for the next week you get one email a day filled with tips, tricks, an exercise, and links to various examples and resources.  I created the first draft and turned it over to CCS Director James Sturm, who tightened things up, and then I created some spot illustrations to bring it all together.

Since the idea was a cartooning workout, where you are building skills with small exercises, I decided to build the imagery around the idea of those cheesy workout videos from the '80s and '90s.  My wife is a big fan of the Found Footage Festival - we have DVDs and books that they've released and she and I have even attended some of their live screenings - so I was familiar with their amazing montages of various different workout videos.

When it came time to design the logo however, I looked back to a vinyl workout record I had listened to a bunch as a kid, Mousercise.  Using this style, I shifted all the colors to pure Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and incorporated linescreen dots, to reinforce the traditional printing process that comics have used for generations.

One I had the logo designed, I used a similar type treatment for each day's banner.  I also reenlisted CCS's founder Inky Solomon and his faithful dog Panels and put them in a variety of situations that act as visual puns, combining the tools and language of cartooning and the various activities and gear used in an exercise workout.

For the Day Eight email (spoiler alert: there is a Day Eight email!), I included at least one element from each of the other seven spot illustrations and then had a role reversal of Panels the dog being super buff after Inky has done all the training.

You can sign up for the One-Week Cartooning Workout at any time and it is absolutely free.  If you're looking for some prompts to help you get the ball rolling on your cartooning, it's worth checking out!

January 9, 2019

CCS Illustrations - Part 1: Academic Outreach

In 2016, after eight years teaching on the faculty in a variety of courses, I started a new job at The Center for Cartoon Studies, as their Director of Academic Outreach.  It is a fun, challenging job in which I try to help prospective students find out about the school in a variety of ways.

Since it is a new position and I have been creating a lot of new programs (with the help of the rest of the CCS administrative team!) there have been a lot of opportunities to create illustrations to communicate these new ideas. I thought I would write a few posts to feature some of this work.

Academic Outreach Homepage

One of the main aspects of my job is skyping into college comics classrooms or student-run comics clubs as a visiting artist.  It is free for the hosting school (CCS pays my fee) and as a trade, I start with a 10-minute slideshow about CCS, and then give a lecture about a variety of comics topics for the rest of an hour.  

I created the spot illustrations below to get across this idea, which were used on the Academic Outreach Homepage, on the CCS homepage, and on CCS's social media (Instagram, Twitter).

For the vertical banner, I used CCS's "Telegraph Building" which is one of three buildings that comprise the CCS campus.

The Colodony Surprise Department store has been featured in countless CCS promotional materials, because for the first few years the entire school was run out of that one building.  The Post Office Building, which was purchased in 2010 is now home to the Schulz Library and is where most of the day-to-day instruction happens, so it has been featured in various promotional materials as well.

But to my knowledge, CCS has never featured the Telegraph Building, which is home to senior studio space, the A/V room (where Jon Chad and I used to house our pinball machines!), off-site library storage, and some original art storage.  It actually used to be the communications hub where the Upper Valley communicated by telegraph and telephone.  It is now connected to a giant internet building owned by the local tel-com company.  I took some artistic license, adding satellite dishes on top, to boost its signal.

CCS Awareness Day

Each year CCS has an "awareness day" where we try to get alumni to all go on social media on the same day to talk about their positive experiences at CCS.  There is no advertising budget for CCS, so it's a great way to increase our visibility.  I created the spot illustration below for the 2017 campaign, which features CCS's founder, Inky Solomon, and his dog, Panels, who are the cartoon mascots for the school.

CCS Info Sessions

Another part of my job is setting up "Info Session" events at various cities around the USA where local folks interested in CCS can learn about the school and hear a free comics lecture.  I create flyers for the events which can be shared online, or printed out as flyers to be handed out at the venue.  Here are two (with some reused elements) for events I hosted in Los Angeles and Albuquerque.

Portfolio Reviews

Since beginning my new job as Director of Academic Outreach, I now often represent CCS when I am tabling at comics conventions.  Here is an illustration I created to promote free portfolio reviews that I was giving at Short Run in 2018.  I designed this so that it is easy to reuse, simply by swapping out the show information in the lower right-hand corner.

Coffee Shop Meetups

In the Fall of 2018 I headed up a new initiative called CCS Coffee Shop Meetups.  I coordinated thirteen different meetups, hosted by CCS alumni and past-fellows, scattered around the country (and abroad!). Below is the branding image for the initiative, and then each of the thirteen events had its own flyer and social media posts, which followed the same format seen below for my event that was out here in Santa Fe, NM.

If any of these types of events sound like something you are interested in setting up, or participating in, feel free to drop me a line!  :)  outreach "AT" cartoonstudies "DOT" org

Believe it or not, I have two more posts planned with more illustration work that I have created for CCS since starting my new job there in 2016!