Thursday, February 28, 2008

Drawing Them in

A very nice reporter from the Daily Review newspaper came to my classroom yesterday to see what we've been up to. She wrote a great article and put it on the front page! To read the article, click here.

The Longway House

We made an offer for a house on Longway Street. Verbally, it's ours. Now the bank does their part. Hopefully we'll be moving in about a month. Here's a slide show of some of the rooms.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Donut Boy/Justice League Team-up

The two-page comic strip below is the result of a request from friends. Our good friends are decorating their son's room with a comic book theme and they asked if I could "put him in a comic story". He already has the nickname of Donut Boy, so I drew him into a Justice League story. It was kind of fun to do a comic using the familiar DC characters, but drawing them in my own warped style.

The final version I give to Donut Boy for his room will be in color. Some of you who read this must be thinking, "I want to see a friend or family member of my own drawn into a comic story." Have no fear, I'm taking commissions. We're buying a house and we're going to be needing the money. E-mail me at for your requests.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fanboy, Get out of the Basement: Create Your Own Comic Book

Most cartoonists draw on Bristol board, and Canson is a good brand. I've tried some of the professional comic book artist boards that have measurement lines in non-reproducible blue with mixed results. It is very handy to not have to measure out margins and panel boxes, but sometimes the quality of paper is not great. I tried a new variety put out by Canson called Fan-Boy, Get out of the Basement: Create Your Own Comic Book. It's very good quality and cheaper than many of the other brands.

The image below is a portion of a page I'm working on. You can see that the blue border lines are printed. They only show because I scanned it in color. If I had scanned it in black and white, those lines would not appear. When you are very busy with a day job and family, it's nice to cut one step out of the process.

This company makes a variety of papers like this in manga size, comic cover paper, etc. The set that I purchased has 20 sheets of 11x17" heavyweight, pure white paper art boards and also includes , 2 comic book cover sheets, 2 concept sketch pages and 4 comic book layout pages. Everything you need to plan and create your first comic book.

If you're interested in making your own comic, I'd highly recommend this set. Ordinarily they're $20, but are on sale for $12 at Dick Blick.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Super YOU! -- Draw Yourself as a Superhero

On Saturday I went to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA with my sons Daniel and David. I had been invited to teach an art lesson as part of their Family Day activity. As we entered the museum, we saw a poster advertising the activity. I said to the boys, "Did you ever think you would see art that like that in a museum?"
The activity was organized to celebrate their current exhibition of the art of the graphic novel. Melinda Georgeson started things off with a tour of the superhero art in the exhibit and some brainstorming activities with the kids who attended with their parents. Then we went to the art classroom downstairs where I showed a quick Powerpoint slide show and gave a little art instruction. I showed how basic shapes can be used in cartooning to make dynamic poses and then everybody dove right in.
I called the activity "Super-YOU!" because I think there's something super about everybody. I think it was a fun way for everybody there to express themselves and be creative. We all celebrated the things about ourselves that make us unique by creating a superhero inspired by something unique about us -- an interest, a hobby, a nickname, etc.

In the picture above, it looks like I'm demonstrating something important, but my son reminded me that I was trying to show someone where Athens is on the Pennsylvania map. People always want to know where you're from. When you're from Athens, it's hard to explain.
I was really amazed at the creative ideas the kids had. They were not reluctant at all to get started. First they drew a design in pencil and marker. Then they made big posters on oaktag with tempera paint.
I'm told there were a record 82 participants. There were "kids" of all ages, and most of the grandparents and parents weren't bashful at all about making a poster of themselves as a superhero. We had Golf-Man, Yoga Grrrl, Nature Woman, and several other really neat ideas from the "big" kids.
It was a really great day for families to enjoy time together doing something creative and take in an art exhibit. It was an honor to be invited. I've always wanted to go to this museum and I don't know when I would have gone if not for this opportunity.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Every Superman Needs a Lois

This picture of my wife Kristan and I was taken on the first Halloween after we started dating. We were to go to a Halloween party with the kids. I showed her my costume and asked her if she would go as Lois. "No way!" she replied, in spite of my pleading. I was to meet her there and to my surprise she came dressed as a reporter, complete with steno pad and pen.She is the best thing to ever happen to me. The pic below that is -- I don't actually know... But the little Chinese fortune paper overlapping it is the one I got out of a fortune cookie the night before we got married! Good fortune, indeed!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cartoon Cartouche -- Draw Like an Egyptian

There have been many Mighty Andar's throughout history, including the Ancient Egyptian figure shown here. This is my example from a project in one of my fourth grade classes in which we all tried to "Draw Like an Egyptian. We studied shapes and designs in Egyptian art, and compared portraiture from this culture to human anatomy. It's fun to have the kids stand up and try to pose like this. Eyes front, but head in profile. Torso facing front, but legs in profile. Try it -- ow! Then we try to walk that way while playing that famous Bangles tune.

We all made self-portraits in the style of Ancient Egypt. We drew it within an Egyptian inspired shape and then tore around the shape in stead of cutting with scissors. We had some fun including things that we knew didn't exist in those times, but would make interesting drawings. Then we learned to write our name phonetically using hieroglyphics. There's a chart here that shows you what symbols represent what sound. This is a really good way to have students use the higher order thinking skill of translation. The drawing above reads "Mighty Andar does the laundry." and notice the laundry bottle says "owl, lips, lips" or "A-L-L". Andar's daughter dutifully carries the folded laundry away while two mischievous imps of the underworld scatter their dirty laundry on the floor. All art is autobiography.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. After making our drawings in pencil we outlined with Sharpie markers. Then we scrumpled the papers up. Yes, almost as if we were going to discard them. Then we flattened them out and painted over them with tea. Yes, tea at room temperature -- it gives it an antique look. We then colored a little with colored pencil.

There's an online hieroglyphics translator here, that's a lot of fun to try.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Family News, Art that Heals, and the Future is Here

I've been at the Geisinger hospital in Danville since Thursday night. My son David has had a procedure called a pharyngeal flap. If you trust Wikipedia, you can learn more about it here. It's to help improve his speech. Immediately afterward, he was really hurting. He's gradually improving and is becoming more like himself. If you are a parent, then you know that one of the hardest things to see is your child in pain.

This is an awesome hospital. They are taking very good care of him here. As I have to wander from floor to floor, I am always amazed at what nice art they have in hospitals. There are some really good original watercolors and prints. I don't know about other people, but it helps lift my spirits. Since this is a children's hospital, they have tons and tons of children's artwork on display. I am inspired to see kid's art presented in a prestigious format like this. I see it so often stapled onto bulletin boards that it is striking to see a child's expression double matted in a really nice frame. I'm thinking that I've got to figure out a way to finance some matting and framing of student work in my school.

Yesterday I was waiting for an elevator. When the door slid open my path was obstructed by a robot. I am not making this up! A robotic transport unit was delivering something from one floor to another. Can flying cars be far behind?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Fishing for Compliments

If you haven't caught on already, I am out to break any records set by artists for doing a lot of self-portraits. I believe I have passed Van Gogh, and have almost caught up with Rembrandt and Chuck Close.

Sometimes when my students are working, I sit down and do the assignment with them. For this project, I started by reading them the book Fish is Fish by Leo Lionni. If you haven't read this book, by all means do so. It is a classic. It's the story of a minnow and tadpole. The minnow grows into a fish, but is disappointed when his friend sprouts legs and leaves the pond. When his friend, now a frog, returns, he tells of a fantastic world outside the water. Based on his friend's descriptions, the fish imagines what this world must look like. His perceptions are limited by his own experience!

The illustrations are awesome, and the kids get all kinds of crazy ideas for unusual fish they would like to draw. I drew an art-fish, but we got all kinds. Next we color with crayons. But you can't color like a wimp -- you have to get mad at something. Imagine how you felt when your little sister broke that really cool thing you made out of Legos. Oh yeah, press down hard with those crayons.

We have to do this because we're using the technique of crayon resist. That's when you paint over the crayon drawing with watercolor paint. The waxy image keeps popping through the layers of paint. We painted blue over our fish and underwater scenes. The blue paint beads up on the thick crayon layers. All in all, it's a neat effect for pictures like these.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Donkeys and Elephants -- The Political Scene

I did this first drawing in my sketchbook early in the campaign season. My initial impression of the Republican side was that the field was crowded with candidates, eying one another suspiciously, jockeying for position -- and that they all looked the same!

The second drawing is my statement about the part money plays in the political process (for both parties). It makes me sick to hear about the millions that are spent on campaigns. Think of the problems that could be solved by diverting that money directly to the problem! An individual with a personal fortune (like Mitt Romney) can spend their way to the front of the pack. For the rest of them, where does this money come from? Special interest groups -- or, individuals within those groups. Nothing will be done about the oil situation by the candidate who has received millions from that particular group! For the rest of the candidates, it's the same story. Whoever they've received tons of money from has them in their pocket.

I did the donkey sketch just after the Iowa Caucus. It was fortuitous that I ran out of room and could only write Iow -- which is almost "I owe".

I know I'm not an expert by any means. These are just the rantings of a disgruntled spectator of the political scene.