Saturday, May 31, 2008

Art by Committee -- "A Long, Long Way from Home"

I'm really enjoying the Art by Committee challenge at James Gurney's blog. Click here to see some of the imaginative entries from last week's challenge Stone's Bark. This week's assignment is to draw a scene that illustrates this line of text:

"a third had blotched skin of black and white, like a goat's, a fourth had four pair of arms, and the three others were of such an aspect they were actually indescribable.

For this entry, I used as a starting point my last comic strip and wondered, how did the Mighty Andar get to this place? Maybe future entries will help me fill in the gaps. It's an interesting way to make a comic, jumping back and forth from different points in the story.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cover Redo #2

Here's another image that I've "recovered".

100 Themes

I like the idea of "comics improv". You might also call them word association comics. We've all seen "Who's Line is it Anyway" when someone yells out a word and the comedians do the best they can with it, on the spot. I like drawing comic strips that way, responding to challenges, giving myself a time limit, and doing the best I can with it.

One of the challenges floating around now is called 100 Themes. The challenge is to draw one panel or illustration for each. Here is Part 1 of my take on these themes. Here is the complete list of themes.

The Themes:
1. Introduction
2. Love
3. Light
4. Dark
5. Seeking Solace
6. Break Away
7. Heaven
8. Innocence
9. Drive
10. Breathe Again
11. Memory
12. Insanity
13. Misfortune
14. Smile
15. Silence
16. Questioning
17. Blood
18. Rainbow
19. Gray
20. Fortitude
21. Vacation
22. Mother Nature
23. Cat
24. No Time
25. Trouble Lurking
26. Tears
27. Foreign
28. Sorrow
29. Happiness
30. Under the Rain
31. Flowers
32. Night
33. Expectations
34. Stars
35. Hold My Hand
36. Precious Treasure
37. Eyes
38. Abandoned
39. Dreams
40. Rated
41. Teamwork
42. Standing Still
43. Dying
44. Two Roads
45. Illusion
46. Family
47. Creation
48. Childhood
49. Stripes
50. Breaking the Rules
51. Sport
52. Deep in Thought
53. Keeping a Secret
54. Tower
55. Waiting
56. Danger Ahead
57. Sacrifice
58. Kick in the Head
59. No Way Out
60. Rejection
61. Fairy Tale
62. Magic
63. Do Not Disturb
64. Multitasking
65. Horror
66. Traps
67. Playing the Melody
68. Hero
69. Annoyance
70. 67%
71. Obsession
72. Mischief Managed
73. I Can't
74. Are You Challenging Me?
75. Mirror
76. Broken Pieces
77. Test
78. Drink
79. Starvation
80. Words
81. Pen and Paper
82. Can You Hear Me?
83. Heal
84. Out Cold
85. Spiral
86. Seeing Red
87. Food
88. Pain
89. Through the Fire
90. Triangle
91. Drowning
92. All That I Have
93. Give Up
94. Last Hope
95. Advertisement
96. In the Storm
97. Safety First
98. Puzzle
99. Solitude
100. Relaxation

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hulk vs. Batman in the "Birthday Boy Bash"

This Saturday was Nathan's 2nd birthday party. It was quite exciting. The Hulk and Batman showed up.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Studies after the Masters

This is a very special sketchbook. Twenty-one years ago, it was a gift to me from my cooperating teacher, Dana Twigg. He illustrated the frontispiece with cartoon drawings of me. Then he had the students and teachers in the school sign it and write any words of wisdom they had for me. It was a large format hardcover sketchbook -- the nicest I'd ever had.

What would I put in it? I have a bad habit of starting sketchbooks and ripping pages out of it for whatever reason. I didn't want to do that with this one. Then I recalled some advice from one of my professors, Dale Witherow. My rendering was okay, but my compositions were weak. He suggested keeping a sketchbook of studies from the masters to analyze how they put pictures together. That's what I decided to do. I've worked in it on and off since then.
I also enjoy collecting quotes of artists. Usually, on the same page as a study I'll include something the artist said.

The Mighty Andar -- Stranger in a Strange Land

One of my favorite artist blogs is the Gurney Journey, by artist James Gurney. He's currently holding a challenge he calls Art by Committee. He posts a random selection of a science fiction novel and asks any willing artists to interpret it visually.

This week's challenge is to illustrate this scene.
"Stone emitted a kind of bark -- ha! -- and showed his teeth again."
We have no idea what novel it came from or anything else about the story. Here's my submission:
I guess this is my take on Planet Hulk or Prisonbreak. I don't know. This could be the beginning of a story though. That's why I like these types of challenges. They suggest new directions to go with my comics I wouldn't have considered.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's Hammer Time! -- Comic Covers Do-Overs

I'm starting a new series of drawings that, until I can think of a better name, I call Comic Covers Do-Overs. Basically, what I do is take a comic cover that inspires me and that I find striking in some way. As I copy it I analyze the composition and the conventions of the genre, hoping I can absorb them into my subconscious and use them some day. I redraw the cover in my own goofy style.

I like comics of all types, but I miss something that comics had when I was a kid. Yes, they were hokey and over the top, but many of the artists and writers were willing to not take themselves too seriously and wrote and drew with their tongue firmly in cheek. I'm having a good time drawing these and I'm finding that it helps me get out of a rut when it's tough to get started on a new project.

Who Says that Artists Never Copy?

Picasso's copy of a Velasquez painting

Lichtenstein's copy of a Picasso painting

Artists never copy, right? Not so fast. Let's look at some quotes from some famous artists:

"An artist should not be allowed to draw so much as a radish without the constant habit of copying the old masters." - Degas.

Renoir also had great admiration for the master artists of previous generations and made copies of their work throughout his career.

"When we look at the work of the old masters, we have nothing to congratulate ourselves on. What marvelous craftsmen they were! They knew their job; that's the whole secret. Painting isn't dreaming; it's primary a manual drill and one has to be a good workman." - Renoir

Now certainly they weren't recommending that we copy someone's work and try to pass it off as our own, but I think the way art is taught in our time, it leaves out the benefits that can be gained from making studies like these artists did.

There seems to be two kinds of copying that great artists of the past recommended.

1. Copying to learn, as is described above, and

2. Copying to find your style. I think this is what Picasso meant when he said,

"What does it mean for a painter to paint in the manner of So-and-So or to actually imitate someone else? What's wrong with that? On the contrary, it's a good idea. You should constantly try to paint like someone else. But the thing is, you can't! You would like to. You try. But it turns out to be a botch...And at the very moment you make a botch of it that you're yourself."
-Picasso (Parmelin, Picasso: The Artist and His Model, and other Recent Works,
1965, p. 43)

When we do try to copy works by others, we see something distinctively different in our own that keeps cropping up. It's like something is pulling you away. This could be a revelation of individual style. Picasso was saying, pay attention to those things and run with it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The PH Scale in Cartoons

Marissa just got finished with a masterpiece of a project for her 8th grade Science class. Her assignment was to make a poster illustrating the PH Scale. This makes these great little manga style characters. This is just a small piece of it, showing familiar items on the scale including (5) acid rain and coffee, (6) milk and urine, and (7) pure water. Great job, Marissa!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Comics in Class

One of my co-workers gave me a copy of the April 25 Time Magazine for Kids. The cover story is on the "Power of Comics" and asks the question, "Can cartoons turn kids into superreaders?" The whole story can be read online here.

This month's issue of Instructor has an article about comics as well. They recommend a comics lesson as the last lesson of the year -- with a challenge to students to create a comic over the summer. Here's a quote from the article about why comics in the classroom is such a great idea:

Moreover, students known for behavior problems during typical reading and
writing activities were the most engaged during comic book lessons. “Suddenly
these kids became leaders,” says Bitz. “They collaborated and started to work
together to become part of education, whereas before they were shut out.”
Creating comic books is an opportunity for kids who struggle with reading to
excel because, says Bitz, “it’s not about speed. It’s about the story and about
how creative you can be.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bible Comics: Moses in the Wilderness

Once in a while I teach a Sunday School lesson at my church. I like to make my own comics to give the kids. My favorite Bible to use is the Message Bible. The script for this one is almost straight from it. This Bible paraphrases the text in to "street language".

The story ends kind of abruptly since I stopped working on it when I ran out of time. I think the main lesson this story can teach us today is "Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better."

Women in Art

While I was getting a Master's in Art Ed at Mansfield, I took a course called Women in Art. It dealt with women artists and how women have been portrayed in art. Guess who I wrote about for my final paper? You guessed it! Wonder Woman. The paper was published in Papyrus, the art history e-journal at MU and can be read here.

Roy Lichtenstein: A Modern Master

It's no secret that Roy Lichtenstein is one of my favorite artists. A couple years ago, I wrote a paper about him for an art history course and it was published in Papyrus, the art history e-journal at Mansfield University.

You can read the article here.

Art History Bio-Pix

Children's books about artists used to be few and far between. Now there are tons of them and many of them are excellent. At my request, our librarian has accumulated about 50 of them over the years. Some of the best ones, in my opinion, are:

  1. Chuck Close Up Close by Jan Greenburg.

  2. My Name is Georgia by Jeannette Winter.

  3. Roy Lichtenstein: The Artist at Work by Lou Ann Walker.

We have enough different books that I can sign them all out, set them up on a table, and allow a class of students to choose which artist they would like to learn more about. I ask them to read some of the book (not all) and then to make a drawing that shows the artists' name, what the artist looked like and what one of their works of art looks like. I ask them to write a couple things that they find interesting about the artist. Sometimes they find a quote to include.

Here are a few that I've made over the years...

...and here are some of my students' drawings.

The First Bank of Wales

A while ago some fifth graders were making caricature mugs. Mine was a self-portrait, but to do my chrome dome justice, I had to turn it into a bank. I'm not crazy about how the color turned out with glazes, but the kids get a kick out of it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Advice for Young Cartoonists Starting Out

I found a great article about an artist named Gene Yang. This creator is especially inspiring to me because he's also a teacher. His latest graphic novel American Born Chinese has gotten a lot of positive reviews and it received several awards. His advice to cartoonists is to "get a day job"! He then explains how it can actually help your art. Here's some of the article:

Advice for a cartoonist who’s just starting out? Get a day job. I know people tend to see day jobs as a sign of failure, but really, there are so many benefits:

1. By separating your comics from your need to feed yourself, you keep full control of your comics. You’ll never have to draw someone else’s story simply because that someone else is going to help you make rent.

2. Health insurance.

3. Your day job can be a great source of material. Stories occur
around us all the time, especially when we’re interacting with other people.
I’ve found that some of the best stories come out of interactions that you
wouldn’t necessarily choose to have: ones with your co-workers, your customers,
or your students. There are lots of great characters out there, walking around
on the street and in office buildings and on campuses, just waiting for you to
bump into them.

You do have to exercise good judgment in picking a day job. It should be something you like – not every day, but overall. It should be something you find meaningful. And it should be something that will leave you with enough energy to make your comics after work. For a lot of us, that means a day job that doesn’t involve cartooning.

Personally, I think classroom teaching is a great way to go. Everyone knows we need good teachers, and teaching, at least for me, draws from a different “energy well” than cartooning. Teaching is so extroverted, so people-oriented. At the end of a day of teaching, when I’ve had all the human contact I can stand, I go to my drawing board and recharge by inking a page. Then, when I’m sick of being holed up in my home office, I go back into my classroom. Plus, you can catch up on your comics
during summer vacations if you fall behind during the school year. If you’re a cartoonist who’s ever even had a passing interest inteaching, I’d encourage you to explore it. Heck, I’m one of three cartoonists on staff at my school, and we all put out comics fairly regularly.

Of course, plenty of comics creators do just fine with art-oriented day jobs. The incredible C. Scott Morse works at Pixar during the day and still finds the energy to create brilliant graphic novels at night. Plenty of others don’t have any day jobs at all. Jeff Smith hasn’t had a day job since the start of Bone.
But for me, I’ve found my own day job to be a blessing rather than a curse.

Stan the Man

Stan Lee is the writer who along with some fantastic artists brought to life such great characters as Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Daredevil, and so many more. What made his work so cutting edge at the time was he introduced to comics characters that were powerful yet flawed. They had problems or disabilities and this made them more naturalistic and complex.
He is 85 years old now, but in almost every Marvel movie they give him a small part. One of the fun things about watching the movies the first time is seeing where he might pop up. Someone has put together a compilation on You-Tube of many of them, which I've embedded below.
An interview with him about these appearances can be found here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Iron Man -- Then and Now

Last night the boys and I went to see the first of the summer superhero movies. Some of the critics are saying that this is the best of the comic movies so far. I'd say it's at least in the top 3. I really like how they didn't stray too far from the original comic book stories, but they did make some changes to make it contemporary. For instance, in the comics, his foes were the "commies" in the Viet Cong. In the movie he is captured by terrorists in the Middle East. I think anyone who likes action movies would enjoy it even if they've never read any of the comics. However, there are some cool details only nerds will notice. I caught every one! I always especially enjoying the Stan Lee cameos in every Marvel movie.

Making Comics to Learn

My son Daniel had to learn about the reproductive system of earthworms for a test in 10th grade Biology. He found that the best way to remember all the details was to make a comic strip. Here it is!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oral History Fair

Look who made the front page of our local paper -- my stepdaughter Marissa Eddy and her great-grandfather Cecil Morningstar. Marissa made an awesome display and report about Grandpa, a World War 2 hero of MacArthur's army in the Phillipines. You can read about our district awesome Oral History curriculum in this article. It is headed up by a great teacher named Dick Heyler, who's also the director of the Endless Mountains Writing Project -- something I'm proud to be a part of.