Archive for November, 2012

Panel Cartoon Thursday

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I’m very excited to have finished up illustrating a wonderful new book by George Shannon.

Of course it won’t be out for another 12 months or so. But that’s publishing. It feels kind of like those astronauts working on the space shuttle where it takes 20 minutes for them to catch a floating wrench.

But it WILL be out and that’s the best part. Here’s a sample image. I’ll talk about it more when the book finds its way to stores. But here’s an image from the witches favorite cafe. Click to see it a little bigger.

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I had a great time in LA for the SCBWI’s Illustrator’s Day. I got to meet amazingly talented writers and artists and heard inspiring and funny presentations. I did some portfolio reviews and I saw some of the best work I have ever seen from individuals who are just looking into what it means to write and illustrate picture books.

I gave a half hour presentation on the state of ebooks and Apps along with Joe Toscano, the developer who helped me with my Cave Bear and Duck application for the iPad. We answered a lot of questions and could have answered a lot more but time ran out.

Thanks to the SCBWI and all the folks down there who made it possible.

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Some art inspired by my next picture book, How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans. This book won’t be on shelves until April. You can preorder it now of course. Here in Portland you can pre-order from Green Bean books. How appropriate is that!? In the meantime, keep a close eye on any green beans you see over the holidays.

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Why does so much current ‘cartooning’ work look like it’s from the 1920’s?

I believe I understand some of the motivation. Things were simpler in 1920. More ‘authentic’ in some metaphysical way. Cartoonists used pen and ink and that’s a good thing…I guess. Chris Ware does a lot of beautiful work, but I’m not exactly sure why every 4th cartoonist dives into retro. Chris has also been doing his ‘thing’ for like 25 years and while he is inspired by retro styles, he didn’t just spit them back out. I appreciate his elegance and the detail oriented nature of his work, his thoughtfulness and draftsmanship but it’s not clear why so much current work by other artists looks so similar.

I’d like to see more forward looking cartoon work regularly. It seems like we are missing the Gary Panter of 2012 because everyone is working so hard at drawing detailed images of the Chrysler Building and coloring them in proper vintage hues. Maybe more cutting-edge stories about selling apples in the depression is what the reading public most wants.

Looking at my old copies of RAW Magazine there was certainly a nod to the visual styles and artists of eras past but along side was a great up-swelling of compelling, odd and challenging work. Panter, Kaz, Moriarty.

Cartooning has always been afflicted by fads. There is an Edward Gorey camp out there that finds plenty of work imitating what he did. I’ve even done it at times. Nothing wrong with that and Gorey hit on a style that is seemingly so self reflective and awkward that it’s easy to art direct into working with like-minded projects. It proudly pronounces its intention with one quick glance.

I appreciate a lot of the work that’s being done but there is something soul-smothering about the number of cartoonists who are using retro inspired styles.

My guess is the print and alternative cartoonists are reacting against the styles in video games and on TV and in films. So they are staking their claim to a print driven history of hollow-eyed Nancy cartoons. There’s a lot of great work from previous eras. I love Krazy Kat  and  Segar’s Popeye and and Crane’s Captain Easy. But that was then. I’m sure a lot of cartoonists right now are reading copies of Little Nemo and such and can’t help but be drawn in by the rich world created by those early cartoonists – who were at the time creating a visual style relevant to their time. They were trying to speak to their readers using work that reflected the era. They didn’t harken back to the 1780’s for graphic inspiration. OK. Rant over.

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I have been contacted by a few teachers recently who have seen my presentation on narrative art and asked that I post some of the information. I do a presentation called Drawing Stories which looks at picture books in detail but touches on the history of visuals conveying narrative from cave-art to storyboards for feature films.

I will try and put some of those resources online. I am hoping, down the road, to get the time to make speaking engagements a bigger part of my life and will redesign my blog and website to better represent this. In the meantime contact me via the email here at this blog (under the ABOUT tab at the top) and I will see what I can do. I will do Q and A and readings via Skype, but I can’t translate my larger presentation effectively via Skype. I haven’t figured out a good way to make the interactive portions work well.

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The Book That Eats People got a nice call-out on the New York Times Motherlode blog as a ‘Classic picture book that fills you with dread.’

FUN dread that is. From the Blog:

You’re advised at the end to lock it up, although the hopelessness of the situation is clear. The book always escapes. The rest of us get a lot of fun out of planting it in each other’s beds, but my youngest child won’t sleep with it in the room with him, and sometimes has to come out and observe that you’ve placed it under a large stack of Harry Potter books, or locked it in the dog crate (where I find it, periodically).”

That’s a great use for the the Harry Potter tomes once you’ve digested them. I mean read them. So Check it out. Gretchen Rubin covers a lot of great books.

Pick up a copy, if you dare…

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