Monday, December 26, 2011

K is for Keres

In Greek mythology, the Keres were female death-spirits. They were described as dark beings with gnashing teeth and claws and with a thirst for human blood. They would hover over the battlefield and search for dying and wounded men. As soon as they caught a man who had fallen or one newly wounded, one of them clasped her great claws around him and his soul went down to Hades, to chilly Tartarus.

Monday, December 19, 2011

J is for Jerff

The Jerff is a creature from Swedish mythology. It is a hodgepodge of various creatures, usually described as being the size and shape of a dog, with some cat like features such as the head, ears, and claws. It also supposedly has a thick coat of shaggy brown fur and a tail resembling that of a fox.

The Jerff is notorious as a symbol of gluttony because of the strange eating habits it is supposed to have. It will make a kill and then gorge itself until it is swollen and unable to eat more, at which point it will find two trees and squeeze itself in between them, pushing the meat through its own body before returning to the kill and repeating the process.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Calder & Mondrian

My latest comic illustrates an account described by Alexander Calder. When he was a young artist, he visited the studio of Piet Mondrian. This event was "the shock that started everything" for him. I am working on a series of comic strips that illustrates how different artists have influenced each other. Interacting with other artists often can be inspirational for artists.

I don't often color my comics. I enjoy the black and white quality of line art, and it usually suits my purposes. However, some of these art history comics may have to be rendered in color.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I is for Ichthyocentaur

In Greek mythology the Ichthyocentaur is a fish-centaur, or a particular kind of Triton. The sea creature is described as having the forefeet of a horse in addition to the human body and the fish tail. They were said to be capable of raising or calming storms.


Obligation (2011)
Mixed Media (colored pencil with acrylic)

When I do a colored pencil unit with students, I try to have one going myself. When I do a demonstration showing how to create different color effects, I demonstrate in the context of my own drawing. From September to December, that's what this was for. I also have students collect multiple sources from different sources to create a collage to use as a reference for the drawing. In that way, when students have questions, I can point to something to show how color choices can be made. We discuss surrealism.

My own choices are random. I find whatever jumps out at me. Sometimes themes emerge. For me this drawing is about the obligations in life: getting up in the morning, grabbing quick breakfast, putting on the monkey suit, beating the traffic -- and somehow an Egyptian slave seemed to fit.

Monday, December 5, 2011

H is for Hobgoblin

Hobgoblins are small, hairy little men who are often found within human dwellings, doing odd jobs around the house while the family is lost in sleep. They are also fond of practical jokes. I am sure that all of the items that I cannot find (one sock of a pair, the lids of Tupperware, etc.) are accumulated in their nests. And I am positive that they love to eat the nice white erasers I try to keep around for drawing. How else would they keep disappearing?!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cezanne in "Plein Air"

As we've noted previously, Cezanne was a cranky old curmudgeon. His painting process was painstakingly slow. He slowly and deliberately considered each stroke. This comic strip illustrates an anecdote related by John Rewald in his biography of Cezanne.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This comic is based on an anecdote related by Renoir's son in his book Renoir, My Father. The "pompiers" that Cezanne referred to were the artists who created the official academic paintings of the time.

According the Art History website:

Pompier art, or l'art Pompier, refers to the official style that the French Academy promoted during the mid- to late-nineteenth century. The expression ridicules conservative middle class taste which still revered classical subjects and the Neoclassical style in art.

The term comes from a play on words and images. Pompier means fireman in French and calls to mind the firemen's helmets that looked similar to Classical helmets depicted in academic history painting.

Pompier sounds like Pompeii, the site where Roman antiquity stood still under the ash of Mount Vesuvius, which erupted in 79 AD/CE. Pompeii became the go-to tourist spot for young nineteenth century artists who aspired to great history painting. Once there, they were able to study authentic antique ruins and artifacts which they tried to replicate in their paintings about Classical subjects. These artists became known as the "artistes Pompiers."

Pompier also sounds like pompeux, which means pompous, and indeed the official taste of the French Academy during the late nineteenth century was pompous. It was quite satisfied with its traditionally large and theatrical history paintings. In comparison to modest Modernist art which celebrated the contemporary mores, offical academic art (l'art Pompier) seems rigid and out of touch.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Modern Art

This comic was inspired by an incident described in Rauschenberg by Mary Lynn Kotz. I love reading books about artists. As I'm reading, I can picture the whole book in my imagination as if it were a graphic novel -- drawn by me. This is fun, but frustrating. I wish I could draw the whole thing out! My consolation is to draw little vignettes of books I've read. I collect stories of when two artists interacted -- and what happened when they did. If you know any good stories about artists, let me know! I am only interested in stories that we can be quite certain they really happened.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

AlphaBeasts from A to Z

A whole bunch of artists are drawing mythological beasts from A to Z once a week for 26 weeks. I haven't been part of a sketch game for a while, so I thought it would be fun to try to keep up. The beast I chose is the Egyptian Axex. The rules are, it has to be the generic name (not a proper name) of a fictional beast -- and not one that you make up yourself. More info here, if you want to participate.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gumption for Assumption

People ask me, "Where did Clipboard Girl come from?" She is not meant to be a particular person, but she personifies the type of bureaucracy that prevents good things from happening. An example is when the Jones Act prevented foreign ships from helping with the BP oil spill. "Why aren't they helping? Oh, it's because of a rule." That kind of thing bugs me, and the comics with her is my revenge.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scenes from an Art Show

The Heroes Your Mom Threw Out Comic Shop recently sponsored an art show at the Elks Lodge in Elmira. Proprietor Jared Aiosa is very supportive of artists in the area, in addition to being a writer and artist himself. The events like this that he sponsors go a long way toward encouraging creative people from all walks of life to gather their creations and share them with others. In fact, the community that has come together as a result of the Heroes "art parties" have become a place for artists, writers, educators and other creative people to network and make arrangements to collaborate.

One of the artists was Kevin Falkenberg. His Zombie Mark Twain print is quite a hit.
Jim Duffy, artist and retired art teacher shared many of his creations, including his new hobby -- stained glass.

This artist had some fantastic caricatures that skewered Palin and other political figures.
When I set up my table, I took a page from the Paul Bozzo playbook and offered kids and curious adults the chance to "pull a print" from a block of my character, The Mystic Yak. I have learned from Paul that an interactive station at an art show is a refreshing change of pace, helps the viewers understand how your art is made, and teaches some children about an art form that they may not experience due to budget cuts.

The kids were proud of these and took them home at the end of the evening.

The next big event that Heroes will sponsor is the Herobot Con Comic Convention on Saturday, October 8th. You won't want to miss that. Comic artists from Marvel, DC, the Simpsons and (ahem) some lesser known publications will be there. It is always a blast to talk to children's book illustrator Tedd Arnold, so come on down!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Painted Word: An Altered Book Workshop for Teachers

Today I presented a workshop for teachers at Mansfield University. This was at a conference called "The Painted Word" put on by the Endless Mountains Writing Project and the Endless Mountains Reading Council. My workshop allowed participants to learn about and create altered books for creative writing journals.

In my session, I introduced some projects that allow for cross-curriculum connections. These are especially great for the students in our classrooms that learn best when they are doing creative projects. We looked at some examples of student projects, and then we all started our own altered book. First we used acrylic paint to decorate the cover of an existing recycled book. After a review of basic color wheel theory, we experimented with acrylic techniques such as impasto and scumbling.

These books are going to be writing journals/visual journals. Next we used watercolor paint to make some pages for the interior. Some of the favorite techniques of the day included salt technique, wet-on-wet, and painting with bubble wrap.

We listened to a short talk by Ken Robinson. He has some important points for teachers to remember about the need for schools to move from standardization to personalization.

Integrating art with other subjects is very important, especially today. The Learning Focused Schools (LFS) model is the current trend in education. One of the key ingredients for success in the studies they cite (Reeves, 2003) is the stress put on "cross-disciplinary curriculum integrating subjects currently downplayed (e.g. art, music)."

Remember, according to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, creativity is the highest order of thought! Eliminating creative projects from schools is just plain nuts! We need more of it, not less -- especially projects that help them make connections between disciplines.

What a great bunch of teachers! We all had a great time learning and sharing ideas. I sat in on a few of the other sessions, and learned some new things myself.

The picture above shows me trying to look "teacher-ish".

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Music Box

This comic was inspired by an incident described in Rauschenberg by Mary Lynn Kotz.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Comics in the Classroom Prezi

Here is an amazing presentation by Megan Crimmins. She was a participant in the Comics in the Classroom workshop I presented recently at Alfred University. She summarized what she learned from that and explored the topic further. Check out her amazing Prezi production below!

A Vortex in the Nebula

Here's a page from my sketchbook. As a practice exercise, I redrew a page of a Flash/Superman story and made a few "minor changes". (Names have been changed to persecute the innocent!)

I drew it in pen without penciling first, and then colored with marker.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Comics in the Classroom Workshop

Today I presented a Comics in the Classroom workshop at Alfred University. The participants were a fantastic group of young teachers. Most had already completed student teaching and were working with students in a summer literacy program. Some have been hired for teaching positions at various schools in the fall.

It was a great group of committed educators who have a passion for teaching and compassion for the struggling learners. We completed exercises in using comics in lessons to demonstrate:
  1. Fun reading opportunities for students.
  2. Comic Book Readers Theater. Reading a comic together as a dramatic exercise.
  3. Comics Conversions. Using existing comic strips as writing prompts and to teach the conventions of writing dialogue.
  4. Comic Book Book Reports. Using comics to help students summarize what they have read.
  5. Graphic Novel Graphic Organizers. Using comics to teach the theme of a book (or how a character changes through the course of a story).
  6. Using comics to teach onomatopoeia, alliteration and hyperbole.
  7. Using comics to provide opportunities to discuss bullying and violence prevention.
  8. Strategies to help students create original cartoon characters and letter their creations with speech balloons.
Our "text" for the day was the Sunday Funnies comics section (courtesy of The Daily Review). Their Comics in Education program is a great way to get multiple copies of the same comics text to use when discussing comics with students.

Here's what one of the participants had to say:
I participated in this workshop presented by Andy and found it to be the most informative and eye opening class ever given by a guest speaker. As a result of what I learned, I am going to co-teach a comic based unit during the summer reading program in a couple of weeks. And, I just returned from the used book store with a copy of Bones for 3 dollars. The vast amount of graphic novels spanning all ages was a reality unknown to me before the presentation. I had heard of Watchmen and 300, and enjoyed the movies. But, was not aware of the many other types. My level of enthusiam regarding graphic novels has increased dramatically. I'm very excited about implementing some of the things learned in the classroom. Thanks a ton Andy. This was a blast.

The participants in this workshop read, wrote and drew to experience various strategies they might like to use with their students some day. They had fantastic questions and it was a great day for me.

Even though most participants weren't art majors, everyone created an original character and made a sketch of it. The results were creative and hilarious!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Kiss (2011)

I made this drawing as a gift for my wife on Mother's Day. It is based on a photo of her with our son Nathan when he was a little younger -- the last picture taken before he got his first haircut. Mommy could not bear to cut those beautiful curls!

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Imaginative Approach

For this drawing, I took a Pop Art approach, which is a type of Appropriation art. I am inspired by artists like Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, and Lichtenstein who appropriated images from popular culture and recontextualized them.

To appropriate is to take possession of something. Appropriation artists deliberately copy images to take possession of them in their art. They are not stealing or plagiarizing. They are not passing off these images as their very own. Not at all. Appropriation artists want the viewer to recognize the images they copy, and they hope that the viewer will bring all of his/her original associations with the image to the artist's new context, be it a painting, a sculpture, a collage, a combine or an entire installation (Gersh-Nesic, 2011).
There are many different things you can do to an existing images to make them into original statements.
Strategies include "re-vision, re-evaluation, variation, version, interpretation, imitation, proximation, supplement, increment, improvisation, prequel... pastiche, paraphrase, parody, forgery, homage, mimicry, travesty, shan-zhai, echo, allusion, intertextuality and karaoke" (Pichler, 2009).
I see these kinds of images as a type of visual poetry. Like a poem, I take all these images together and say something. What does it mean? Does it take all the fun out of it if I spell it out? I don't know. Sometimes I explain what I was thinking, sometimes I try to give a little hint in the title and let you figure it out. For this time, I guess I'll spell it out for you.

I'm doing a series of drawings that feature unusual eyewear, like the 3-D glasses in Secrets of Success. My idea is that what you get out of what you are facing depends on your outlook. You can choose that to some extent. I often see the goofy side of life, so I used the spectacles you see here to represent that. Look at what you are facing through the lens of imagination. All of these images go with that.

I wanted to superimpose this collection of images that might seem random at first over the text of something really boring. I found an old mimeographed handout from an art class. Let's just say I disagree with the professor, who begins with "Drawing is not fun" -- and goes on from there. To me this picture is about the experience of daydreaming when you are sitting in a boring class and everyone is going over the handout. Random thoughts come from all over the place. The text below each detail image is my unwritten guide to the Imaginative Life.

Are the mundane details of life getting you down? Try an imaginative outlook on life. A new pair of glasses can provide a new way of looking things -- and your new outlook may affect how others look at you.
Everyone's got something to say. Having trouble getting your point across? There may be some simple tools that you have overlooked. The solution you are looking for may have been under your nose the whole time. Using these familiar tools in new ways has a lot of appeal.
A good cup of coffee is a great way to wake up to the possibilities. Gather your faculties and begin!
We all have mundane tasks to perform. You can either do it the boring way, or the imaginative way.
Taking the imaginative approach to life will bring you new joy.
You will find that you will rise above the dreary aspects of life and accomplish great feats.
With the focal point and accessories drawn, I was ready to add the handout. I enlarged page to 18x24 at Staples, traced the objects through it and then cut out the shapes with an X-acto knife and glued it down.
Then I added the finishing touches with pastel.

(2011). Art History Definition: Appropriation.
Michalis Pichler (2009). Statements on Appropriation, published in Fillip #11 (2010), Vancouver