Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guest Artist

Some years ago, I had a student, Chris Fan who would tell me often, "Mr. Wales, my grandpa is an artist and art teacher in China." Sometimes he would add, "Someday he'll come to visit and he can show you how good he paints." One year this family gave me one of Grandpa's beautiful paintings as a gift. It was done in the traditional Chinese style, in which they use calligraphic brushstrokes. The Eastern approach is much different than much of the art from the West. Many times their goal is to depict something beautifully with as few brush strokes as possible. Students must master many techniques before they even think about originality.

Then one summer during an art class, this artist paid a surprise visit. Neither he or his wife spoke English, but he immediately sat down, got out his art supplies and showed us how he made a painting. While working, he spoke in Chinese while his grandchildren translated. He made us all try it, and he was very encouraging about our efforts -- (even mine, which were not that good). He looked at some of the paintings of mine on the board, and remarked enthusiastically about my paintings and some of the children's art, including the work of one boy who was very pleased with his drawing of Superman.




This is one of my favorite memories as a teacher. It's a kind of thing that wasn't even planned -- it just happened spontaneously, and was a once in a lifetime experience for me and the kids.

Victoria Fan-Gorman says,

My grandfather's name is Chu Chun-Fu. He majored in Chinese painting at Beijing Art Institute in China. Once in Taiwan, he taught art in high school his entire career and also gave private lessons. His students hosted an exhibition of his paintings, and my grandfather then published his entire collection. One copy of the book was given to the AAHS library in 2000.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First Peek at the Fluke Book



The Fluke show is one week away. Here's the book for the show that will include my comic. It's a really nice book - 80 pages with screen printed cover, saw blade belly band, and an "extra goodie" inside.

There will be some available for purchase online, but not until after the show.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If I were in Georgia, I'd go to this!

I can't make it, but one of my comics will be in the anthology book made just for the show.

FLUKE is a mini-comic festival that has been organized by Athens-area comic artists, underground publishers and their enthusiasts since 2002. Conceived as a venue for the discussion and exchange of timely ideas related to mini-comics, zines, and other independent publications. The organizers say,

FLUKE is not a large comic convention or merchandising-saturated extravaganza. This isn't to say we don't like our share of stuff--'cause we do. However, we have kept the organization of the event as simple as possible to ensure that it remains focused on work and ideas rather than merchandising.
FLUKE is in Athens Georgia on Saturday April 4th and opens at 11:00 AM and closes by 6 PM. It will be held upstairs at Tasty World and the admission is $5.00.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Two New Graphic Adaptations for Students

Book publishers Hill & Wang have two graphic novels coming out this summer that should be of interest to many teachers. I was sent fourteen page previews of both, and I'll give you my thoughts.

Che: A Graphic Biography is the latest work by two veterans of the comics industry who brought us the excellent comics adaptation of the 9-11 Commission Report. In that graphic adaptation they took something that was completely not understandable to most people and made the facts clear. They have a commitment to stick to the facts and present information objectively without personal agendas. This book presents the facts of the life of the Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerilla leader. The artwork presents the facts of his early life interestingly, but at times a little stiff. It would make an excellent resource for students doing research on his life, especially for reluctant or struggling reaers. I'm not a big fan of computerized lettering. I'd rather see hand drawn lettering any day. However, for a straightforward, almost encyclopedia style account, it seems to work.

The second work, Fahrenheit 451: The Authorized Adaptation is also well. done. The artwork is excellent, and drew me in immediately. I was sorry I couldn't keep reading. However, the computerized word balloons and letters are a disappointment. The work would have been much better with a hand drawn font. I won't say that it ruins the work, but it is a distraction.


From what I've read, both books would be probably best suited for junior or senior high school age students. As an educator, I am excited to see the collection of works I can recommend to teachers continue to grow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Jeff Foxworthy on School Employees

YOU might be a school employee if you believe the playground should be equipped with a Ritalin salt lick.


YOU might be a school employee if you want to slap the next person who says, "Must be nice to work 8 to 3:30 and have summers off.


YOU might be a school employee if it is difficult to name your own child because there's no name you can come up with that doesn't bring high blood pressure as it is uttered.


YOU might be a school employee if you can tell it's a full moon or if it going to rain, snow, hail....anything!!! Without ever looking outside.


YOU might be a school employee if you believe, "shallow gene pool" should have its own box on a report card.


YOU might be a school employee if you believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."


YOU might be a school employee if when out in public, you feel the urge to snap your fingers at children you do not know and correct their behavior.


YOU might be a school employee if you have no social life between August and June.


YOU might be a school employee if you think people should have a government permit before being allowed to reproduce.


YOU might be a school employee if you wonder how some parents MANAGED to reproduce.


YOU might be a school employee if you laugh uncontrollably when people refer to the staff room as the "lounge."


YOU might be a school employee if you encourage an obnoxious parent to check into charter schools or home schooling and are willing to donate the UHAUL boxes should they decided to move out of district.


YOU might be a school employee if you think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.


YOU might be a school employee if you can't imagine how the ACLU could think that covering your students chair with Velcro and then requiring uniforms made out of the corresponding Velcro could ever be misunderstood by the public.


YOU might be a school employee if meeting a child's parent instantly answers this question, "Why is this kid like this?"


YOU might be a school employee if you think someone should invent antibacterial pencils and crayons...and desks and chairs for that matter!


YOU might be a school employee if the words "I have college debt for this?" has ever come out of your mouth.


YOU might be a school employee if you know how many days, minutes, and seconds are left in the school year!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scenes from the Art Show

We had a great turnout at the art show last night at Heroes Your Mom Threw Out Comic Shop. Here I am showing my comic to a potential customer, who, as you can see, is immediately riveted and enthralled by the plot of the comic.
Actually, a big surprise of the night was looking up to see my old friend EJ Maryott. We went to school together at Mansfield University, where we both were members of the prestigious group of rogues and scholars, The Sixth Floor Mutants. It was great to catch up with an old friend!
Proprietor Jared Aiosa cleared the racks and let me fill up a section with my comics. All the other racks, he took down and turned the place into an art gallery for the night. I can't believe he did that, and for all his efforts, I deem him Best Comic Book Guy Ever!
There was a lot of my original art on the wall. There was tons of art throughout the shop, but after this picture, I got to talking and forgot to take more pictures! My wife tells me that men are not good at multi-tasking and I suspect she's right.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Read the News Today, Oh boy


There's an article in today's Star-Gazette. I hope we get a good turn-out, if only because Jared Aiosa is going to a lot of trouble to completely dismantle his comic shop to turn it into an art gallery. He really is serious about supporting the arts -- especially for those of us who can't afford such things as mats and frames and such.

Creativity is something anyone can enjoy, and it's good to share your results from others, see what they are making and get feedback.

If you are out and about tonight in the Elmira area, come check it out! 6:30 at the Heroes Your Mom Threw Out Comic Shop on 128 W. 14th St. in Elmira Heights.

Friday, March 20, 2009

There's a Cosmos full of Conundrums to Crack

Sometimes I like to just sketch, without necessarily worrying about the drawing being for any certain upcoming story or project. Here are some sketches I've done of various panels from comic books. I like the Silver Age comic book vibe, with a more humorous approach. Sometimes I just sketch a panel because I thought the layout was innovative. I hope I'm storing away artist secrets in my mind to use later, adding another tool to the toolbox.

The sketch above is from a classic Hulk story, The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom. I kept the characters the same, only made them more like caricatures. They used to pack in a lot more dialogue in each panel then.
I think this panel is from the same story, but as you can see, sometimes I like to substitute my own characters.

These are a couple from a Superman/Flash team-up.







Thursday, March 19, 2009

The King of Comics


Who was the greatest comic book artist of all time? The first name that would come to my mind would be Jack "The King" Kirby. I've often thought it's too bad that there weren't more televised interviews of him. Then I discovered this -- an episode of a very strange television show from the early 90's. If you can get past the cheesy costumes and antics of the interviewer, you can see the longest interview of Jack I've ever seen, and also comments by comics creators about their feelings about his work. This is only one of three parts you can find on You-tube. If you're a Kirby fan, all three are definitely worth watching.



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cartoonists I Like -- Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier posted a really neat image that shows her working process. I am really interested in seeing things like this from as many artists as I can. I like how it shows how an idea goes from idea to rough to finished. It is good instruction especially for young artists who put way too much time into the idea stage and then have to do all that work over again.

She is most famous for adapting several of the Babysitters Club series into graphic novel format. She's working on a graphic novel she wrote herself about the "joys" of getting braces. As the father of two girls who needed them, I'm betting a lot of kids will identify with this.

These books are especially popular with the girls in our school. The girls in the stories have real-world problems, like divorced parents, sick grandparents, fights with siblings, etc.

I love the lively line work and expressive faces in the drawings. I highly recommend them!

Down to the Wire


The "I Made This" Art Show is coming soon! We hope we get a good turnout. We've been lucky that our local newspapers have been very generous in helping us spread the news. This article was in the Daily Review today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Banana trees are falling left and right!


Art by Committee is a sketch game group I belong to. This is how it works -- a random line from a sci-fi novel is posted. We have no idea what book it came from or in what context the sentence occurs. Then everybody in the group draws their own interpretation of the quote. I actually come up with a lot of ideas that way.

This month's quote was: “I lashed out with my left arm, clutched at something thin and hard, tore at it; the next second a banana tree fell across my chest. But the pain was…”

I've already posted my entry for this, but I thought some of you might like to see some of the other entries, including this one by Dave Harshberger.

The quote for next month is

“Behind the bar, polishing four glasses at the same time with his blue tentacles, was the Tookah. Two of his three eyes didn’t bother to look up, but it was the third one, the upper eye, the sleepy one that appears bored by everything but never misses anything. That one sleepily looked over at me and then blinked and opened wide.”

If you would like to join in the fun, the deadline is April 12. All other details can be found at the Gurney Journey.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cartoonists I Like -- Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson is a cartoonist I've heard a lot from others about. I wasn't familiar with him until lately, but I like everything of his I've ever seen. His comic strip Cul-de-sac isn't in our paper, so I don't see it regularly. However, it's been describe as being on a level with Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts, and I can see why. His blog is very funny too, with process sketches, behind the scenes commentary, and illustration work.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Comics on Campus

Interesting artist about the academic study of comics here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I Love this Movie

We got disc one of this series through our Blockbuster account. I could watch it again and again. The story of the Impressionists is about innovation, originality, and friendship. It's told from the viewpoint of Monet's recollections, but it tells the story of Renoir, Bazille, Manet, Degas and others as well. At times it's kind of "teachy" more than a typical movie, but that's because the script is almost line for line based on letters they wrote and interviews they gave. The locations are the actual places in the paintings, and the actors look just like the people in the canvases. Can't wait 'til disc two gets here!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Art Show & Release Party at Heroes Your Mom Threw Out

Here's a poster I made to advertise my participation in an event entitled "I Made This". In the poster, I imagine what the characters in my comic would think if they could see the pages of the comic in an art show.

When the second issue of my comic came out, Jared Aiosa, the owner of the comic shop I go to said, "We gotta have a release party!" That's kind of evolved into a celebration and art show of any body in our area who makes their own comics, music, or art of any kind.

If you are in the area, it will be on Saturday, March 21 at Heroes Your Mom Threw Out Comic Shop.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another Slow News Day in Sayre, PA




Can you believe this picture made the front page of our local paper? Read the full article here.




Oceans of Fun!

This is a poster I designed to advertise an upcoming event at the school where I teach.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Scott McCloud on Comics 2005

I found a really neat lecture by Scott McCloud, one of the great innovators of the comics medium.

ABC Challenge: Light's Out!

This is my entry for this month's Art by Committee challenge. The assignment this time is to draw our interpretation of this following quote -- an actual excerpt from a science fiction novel:

"I lashed out with my left arm, clutched something thin and hard, tore at it; the next second a banana tree fell across my chest. But the pain was..."

Everybody Needs a Secret Lair

Julia Keller reveals what lures the average person to the unlikely characters of superheroes, who are cramming the action into many a blockbuster movie this year,

The true magic of the superhero lies in the secret hideout. It's what you and I sought in a tree house, in the basement, in that crumbling and deserted old place at the end of the block, promising cobwebs and solace. It's where you go when you want to keep the world at arm's length.


Superman had the Fortress of Solitude. High in an arctic mountain, only accessible by a giant key only he could lift, was this hideout where he kept an interplanetary zoo, his diary, a chess set, complete with robot opponent, a computer, laboratory and even living quarters in case Superman wanted to stay there instead of go back home.
When it was first revealed in comics that Batman had a secret hideout, it was little more than a small cave with a desk, filing cabinet, and a laboratory. As his exploits continued, he eventually accumulated a supercomputer and forensic lab. The trophy room grew to accumulate memorabilia from various adventures, such as a giant penny, a defunct full-sized Tyrannosaurus Res, and many other props to remind him of various battles.

The Fortress of Solitude and the Batcave are the two most famous comic book hideouts. Some lesser known examples include Green Arrow’s Arrowcave, and of course, the Joker maintained the Ha-Ha Hacienda.

Does Creativity and Messiness go Hand in Hand?

Some people think that creativity and messiness go hand in hand. I can definitely identify with A.A. Milne, the creator of Winnie the Pooh, who quipped, “One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.” Likewise, Albert Einstein was defensive of his messy desk. “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind,” he said, “then what are we to think of an empty desk?”


Life magazine published some photos of Einstein’s desk, just months before his death in 1955. These photos reveal stacks of papers, envelopes, old magazines in disarray and even his pipe abandoned on one of the notebooks. Looking further, we can see what looks like a dress, some books, a journal of philosophy, and a glass ashtray. Under the piles of papers were lost atisban pens and unopened letters.


There are advantages and disadvantages to having a messy desk. Some argue that “chaos can be more productive than an order too strict” . Furthermore, a new study has found that “a messy desk may well be a sign of creativity and signal great career potential. Stories and studies such as these embolden those of us who are too busy beginning the next great creative challenge to pick things up and put them away. However, there are disadvantages to disorder as well, and probably a “tipping point” where the creative energy is outweighed by problems caused by missed deadlines, time wasted searching for materials, and the negative opinions of our co-workers and employers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Creating a Buzz




A lot of artists draw cartoon bees as cute little characters. I envisioned this one, Buzz, as more of a disgruntled employee type. I mean, hey, they have to work all the time!
Well, in the cartoons, maybe sometimes they can put their feet up and have a cup of Joe.

They always have to do what the Queen says, but they don't have to like it!


Even the most satisfying of jobs can become humdrum at times.

Sometimes the literature they give you to tell you how to do your job just makes you laugh.

You know, they say bees sting you only when they're frightened, but that's no consolation to the guy who's just been stung.

I was given an assignment recently to create an article for a children's magazine. It had to be something about Bees. I remembered that I had these drawings in my portfolio. I think I drew them about 14 years ago. I decided to use them and write an article about designing cartoon characters. Something a lot of people ask is, "How do you keep the characters looking the same from panel to panel?" I made these drawings as a teaching aid years ago to explain some tips.

One of the things you ask yourself is "How many heads tall is my character?" The average person is 7.5 heads tall. Cartoon characters are much more compact. It's something to think about as you draw, so that your character doesn't get taller or shorter from page to page. The diagram about shows how this character is roughly consistent in proportion.


When I was a kid, I had this excellent book called The Secrets of Professional Cartooning by Ken Muse. I think it's out of print, and it's too bad, because it helped me learn cartooning probably more than any other book. Muse advocated "creating a doodle" for each character you invent. That's a quick basic outline of the shapes that make them up -- something you can do really quickly. (See below). He also advised drawing your character in every conceivable situation you can imagine them in.