Friday, January 18, 2008

Marvel Mice -- Pages from my sketchbook

One of my greatest sources of inspiration is the Marvel comics from the Silver Age. Sure they were hokey, but fun -- and I think a lot of comics creators then didn't take themselves too seriously.
My favorite book as a kid was Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary. I also liked books like The Borrowers, where an entire world of little creatures went unseen. Later as an adult I enjoyed things like the Redwall series and anthropomorphic comics like Usagi Yojimbo.

I think my T.A.I.L.S. comics work is a combination of these two kinds of influences. Below are some sketches from my sketchbook -- call them "studies after the masters" if will. I think they're all sketches of Kirby's work, but re-imagined as mice characters like mine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chuck Close and Big Bird

I was watching Sesame Street today and I couldn't believe who Big Bird was talking to -- Chuck Close (one of my favorite artists)! Chuck Close is an artist famous for his photorealistic paintings. In this segment of Sesame Street one of his self-portraits was analyzed by a group of kids in voice over as the camera pans out from the painting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Comics can be used to Teach

I just got back from a trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The topic of the conference was the use of comics and graphic novels in education. This was held in conjunction with an exhibit on display there right now on the art of the graphic novel. There were original artwork pages by Steve Ditko, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, and many others.

I was invited to present on the topic of how comics can be used to teach on the elementary level, but during the rest of the day, I learned quite a lot myself.

Our keynote speaker was Jay Hosler. Jay is not just a cartoonist, but a biologist and professor at Juniata College. He has created his own educational comics Clan Apis, a comic about bees and The Sandwalk Adventures, a story about two follicle mites that live in Charles eyebrow. Both of these books are hilarious, while at the same time making scientific concepts easy to understand.

"My hope is that comic stories will present science in an engaging fashion and provide students with a context that will help them retain the material," says the artist and biologist.

Jay stressed the immediacy of images and how they immediately communicate concepts. My favorite quote of the day was, "Pictures are like intellectual crack -- right to your brain!"

"Some people ask if this is pandering," he shrugged. "Hey, if it would help students understand scientific concepts, I would tap dance!"

Visit his website to see a lot more about this extremely intelligent and very talented cartoonist/scientist.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Persepolis -- The Movie

In the post below I described the graphic novel Persepolis. Here is a link that shows the behind-the-scenes process of making the movie. They are using traditional hand-drawn animation to maintain the spirit of the graphic novel.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

They Say it's Your Birthday! (Happy Birthday to You)

Nineteen years ago today little Anna Wales was born. She couldn't wait two more days and be born on my birthday! Tonight we celebrated both birthdays since we'll be on the road back from Massachusetts on Jan. 12.

In the picture above I am wearing my gift -- a t-shirt festooned with the awesome art of Jack Kirby -- the King of Comics! (I picked that one out myself!)

Below is a birthday card made for me by Dan the Man. We are doing our best to keep our hard-earned dollars out of the hands of the greeting card industry. Home-made cards are always the best!

For Anna, we got a mug from CafePress with one of her comic strips printed on it. Dan colored it for her first.

The Many Faces of Eustace Tilly

The New Yorker is having a contest on their website. The challenge is to create your own version of Eustace Tilly, their trademark character. What would you do to put your own take on this character, or how would you use this iconic image in your own artwork?
There is no prize -- just the honor of being included. Details of the contest are here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Shiver me Timbers!

I was challenged to draw a pirate, but since I was drawing during the debates, all I could think of were donkeys and elephants fighting over the treasure. Here's the first one, but don't worry -- a donkey will soon follow!

Friday, January 4, 2008

News From California

I hear that it's common for bloggers to feel as if they're sometimes talking to an empty room. That's why it's really nice to hear from someone who says they've gotten something useful from what you've written. Yesterday I heard from someone in California! They wrote,

Hello and Happy New Year! I work for the literacy department of STAR Education, an afterschool organization. The sites my department primarily services are in Los Angeles public schools and students attend free of charge.

We aim to provide positive and authentic experiences with reading and writing. In addition to our skills curriculum, our teachers implement enrichment projects in ten-week sessions. The upcoming curriculum is "Clever Comics."

Your blog has been very informative. Thank you! I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for our curriculum. I'm open to all suggestion, and have particular questions about teaching dialogue and narration.

Your link to and examples of have also helped us in our curriculum development. Would it be alright if we gave copies to our teachers to share with their classes?

-- Aarti, CA

The internet has definitely made the world a smaller place, hasn't it? And, I'm more than glad to share anything I make with other teachers who are looking for ways to teach with comics or art!