Archive for December, 2012

Just a quick note that I will be going to a freestyle method here at Ye Olde Blog. It’s been a good 700 and some posts but its consuming too much time given my current schedule, and/or my current age and ability to work late hours! I just can’t proof, edit and create enough posts without falling back on the reposts of You Tube Videos and links to interesting art that already overwhelm everyone’s inbox.

I will still post the occasional, “Hey look! I have a new book!” post, even though I know well that I am the single worst salesman in human history. But give me points for trying. I have two books I am really excited about coming out this year and am starting work on a couple more for the following year and the year after that. So I will have work to talk about.

But I will attempt to better craft the posts that I do write. I’ve never thought of this blog as anything but a reflection of my meandering interests with an occasional holler to buy a new book or talk about a favorite writer or artist. And that will continue. Just not as frequently.

I wanted to post this because finding a completely dead blog on the web is something I find unnerving. When I stumble across one and the last post was from 2 years ago with no explanation- I only think bad things have happened…Maybe that’s just me.

And I still have no plans to post recipes or photos of my kid with the dogs, cute as I may think they are!

Happy New Year indeed!

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All this End of The World talk got me thinking…I believe the end of world will happen in different ways in different places. Here in Oregon we will drown. Even my dogs don’t want to go outside for 5 months of the year. My six year old asked for a gift certificate for 3 months of light therapy for Christmas.

In southern California people will just fry like eggs. Beautifully tanned and toned eggs. But eggs none-the-less.

In the midwest people will die of boredom.

I’m kidding…I love the midwest. Everyone knows people will be carried off by giant mosquitoes. From the tome of Gustav the 18th century Minnesota farmer and see-er; “…And the skies will darken with the long-legged beasts and your ears vibrate with the buzz of this blood-drinking scourge. From the sky they swoop down and take us away. If they don’t drain your precious life-stuff all at once you will be severely itchy-scratchy until the end comes.”

In New England if they don’t get carried away in a giant hurricane and deposited in OZ (or Toronto) New Englanders will face huge land lobsters. True, they will be well-educated land lobsters, but that doesn’t make the pinching they administer any more comfortable.

Down south kudzu will have the final say.

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I love getting emails from Facebook like, “We’ve missed you. You’ve missed a lot of great stuff that’s been going on.”

Really? Missed me? I’ve missed out on ‘great stuff”?

I don’t think anyone missed my posting about what I had for lunch the other day. (by the way it was Cheetos and water and some Ritz crackers left in the bottom of an old lunch bag.) And I could have updated my status but you know I was also thinking about what I do. Literally, thinking about the work I do.  I could have posted something like, “Been sitting here for an hour, staring at the computer monitor trying to figure out why this book outline sucks.” But instead I was, you know, thinking and working on it.

And as far as them saying I’ve been missing-out on stuff –that’s impossible. Are they saying that whatever it was that was posted is GONE NOW FOREVER. Let me explain this thing called The Internet – Every stupid thing that’s on it will still be there, somewhere, till the Earth is swallowed-up by the sun. I will be able to read everything posted (ever posted!) for as long as I live. Hell, long after I’m dead people will be able to scroll though my Facebook posts and see that on October 1st, 2012 I LIKED a picture of my friends dog. You can’t MISS anything. It’s a version of hell actually. No matter how Facebook wants to treat this like a feature, I know it’s a bug. Why would the universe WANT all this crap stored – FOREVER? It’s a bug.

I already waste time with this blog. I don’t know why. And it’s embarrassing to try and make up answers when people ask, “Why do you have a blog? Do you think I should keep a blog? What do you talk about on your blog?”

How dumb blogs are?

But my blog is MY blog. I can post once a week. Twice. I can ignore it for a month…no one cares.

And at least my blog doesn’t write me idiotic e-mails telling me I should post more. “Hey Mark! I’ve missed you. You only posted once last week. Don’t you like me? Come on back!”

I know, I know. Facebook doesn’t have anything to make money from if people don’t constantly provide it with fresh content. So yeah, I get it. If all those Facebookians want to buy new cars I better get back there and post more. After all, I wouldn’t want to hurt Facebook’s feelings. Or miss out on stuff that…can never, ever be missed out on.

Facebook is like a Ferris Wheel ride…it’s interesting at first. It’s amusing. Wow. Look at all those roofs. But now 7 minutes have passed and we are still going…now 30 minutes. You start to yell. But everyone just smiles back at you. 39 hours later the novelty is gone. But the puking has really kicked in. And this Ferris Wheel NEVER ENDS. It never stops. The Ferris Wheel operators have your credit card and they just keep swiping it. And once in a while they yell as you WIZZ by, “Isn’t this awesome! Don’t you want to keep going?!” And you yell, “NO! Please if there’s a God above, no, stop!” And the operators just give you that finger pointed to the ear gesture like they can’t hear you.

Something like that…And this will be cross posted to Facebook. So there you go…

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too many books illustration. Mark Fearing

too many books illustration. Mark Fearing

Here’s an update on my book-letting. Two months ago I wrote about my need to get rid of books. That perhaps being buried alive by books in my studio isn’t the way I want to go…though honestly, it’s not a bad way all things being equal.

And now for some blog-honesty…I haven’t gotten rid of one single book.

I tried. We had visitors for Thanksgiving and I tried to talk them into taking some books with them to read on the way home. But they already had plenty of books.

It gets worse…I recently purchased three new books and my bet is the Holidays will see me get at least one or two or three or more. So I am losing the ‘war on books’. I may never move from this house. I don’t have the energy to box-up all these books…

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A two color version of a very bad bean! Inspired by How Martha Saved Her Parents from Green Beans! A new picture book written by David LaRochelle illustrated by me, due out in April of 2013.


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2012 was a big year for me professionally – if for no other reason than my graphic novel Earthling! was released by Chronicle Books. It’s a book I worked on for many years. A story that went through massive changes and a project that I am happy with and not happy with all at the same moment. I also illustrated two more picture books that will be out in 2013.Busy year. Good busy.

But 2012 was really all about Earthling!. I have worked on all sorts of projects in my life. Usually playing a bit-part or smaller in some major branded piece of entertainment. The desire to captain the ship, so to speak, speaks as much about ego I suppose as desiring a challenge. And it has been a challenge. But now Earthling! is done. Out of my head and my arm is recovering from drawing 256 or so pages in 6 months.

High-point: getting that first set of proofs from China (receiving them only a few days after I OK’d final full color digital art files in San Francisco…crazy). High-point: Seeing the real book for the first time when my author copies arrived. Seeing it on the shelf at a bookstore and library.

Low-point: being told it would get coverage in the New York Times and spending a week worried beyond belief about what they would say.

High point: having a very positive review in the NYT’s! Low-point: after the review ran in the New York Times having the paperback be out-of-stock at Amazon for 7 or 8 weeks. I’m still not clear why. But at least it’s back in stock now.

And so my professional year ends as this project that dominated my life for so long is cast aside, set sail, free to wander the winds of recycling bins and library shelves for years. I guess 2012 will always be about Earthling! for me.

If you are waiting for me to write some sort of valuable lesson about what I learned from all this I suppose I could write a platitude like: The more things change the more they stay the same. Or: Never leave an open container of cheese in your house if you have monkeys.

I might say that writing or drawing a book, creating a story and releasing it to the world is a job fraught with unexpected outcomes and revelations. Ups and downs. Disappointments and high points. It’s never quite what you expect. It’s never as bad as you think. And in the end, most of the time, you live to try it all again.

Where have I read that before? It goes something like this:  “It’s a dangerous business…going out your door. You set onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to”. And I believe that the road you take in creating something offers plenty of adventure too.

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Back in December of 2011 (so long ago, I was but a young lad…) I wrote a long winded post headlined “Can graphic novels make you smarter?” It discussed how combining the act of reading and looking at pictures to absorb a story activate different parts of the brain. You can read that post linked here.

At the time I hadn’t looked at the issue from the perspective of two interesting words which are usually used in the field of linguistics but have great resonance for the issue of using pictures and words together to tell stories.

Diachronic is a term for something happening over time. and ‘synchronic‘ refers to something that happens at a specific point in time.

In linguistics diachronic and synchronic have been defined as relating to the issues of examining language from a historical POV vs. a topological one. But I am interested in the broader meaning of the terms.

The big idea is that you gain meaning from language as it unfolds through time e.g. “Once upon a time there was a bear and a monkey who were best friends.”

Whereas you can absorb the impact from an illustration immediately e.g. an illustration showing a bear and monkey playing video games together.

Of course you can study the illustration, and gain more from it, but when you combine the experience of reading a story using words and have part of that story use visual imagery the brain is doing some extra work to build a larger meaning and context. Contradictions can arise and new levels of similarity can be gained.

I began to realize that a graphic novels and picture books activate different processes for a reader. And perhaps part of the intrigue and interest is that the brain is conceptualizing the narrative in different ways because of how we understand language vs. an illustration. (See this intriguing article from Science Daily about how a brain understands images) We read and gain understanding through time, while the image not only informs us in one ‘blast’ but they physically use different parts of the brain to gather meaning.

The brain likes to be surprised in a narrative. And by combining the use of language and image it’s a more dynamic experience.

I’m not saying that the more elements you add to a narrative creation the better it is. But it may explain why a graphic novel or a picture book brings such great pleasure and satisfaction to a reader.

I also suspect that better understanding how we experience words and pictures in different ways can help illustrators and writers better exploit what makes each form interesting and dynamic.

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