Quick Post: Chester Brown Monkey Doodle

I asked for this quick sketch at MoCCA in 2004.

I'm busy with other things at my desk, but I didn't want you to think the blog was going into silent mode. I'll be posting again once I hit a deadline for some writing that's a bit less ephemeral than the blog (knock wood).

Dress Up Time!

Just because it's fun... and what else do you have to do on a rainy Wednesday evening??

Bible Giveaway Winner!

I had this great idea of having Eliana choose the winning name out of a basket. So today, I wrote all of your names on little pieces of index card cut out with my cute scissors and placed them in a basket.

So I sat it in front of her to see what she would do!

Of course, she dumped everyone's names out...

... and decided to eat the basket!

So we turned the basket back over, started to clean up the names, which just ended up getting dumped out again :)

Eventually, Eliana did pull a name, which I couldn't get a picture of her holding, because it went directly into her mouth! So while these are blurry and the paper is both crumpled and chewed on, congratulations to ADELINE!!!!

ADELINE~ Please email me at coolteacher79@yahoo.com so that I can get your contact information to send to Zondervan. Please put "Bible Giveaway Winner" in the subject line so that in the event your email gets sent to my spam folder, I won't delete it.

Thank you to all of you who left a comment with a verse or some words of wisdom. It encouraged me (and I am sure many other readers) greatly this week!

Gouache study of the day

Im getting a lot more of these done than i thought.. it was very over cast and cloudy today...this was the one break in the clouds i saw, unfortunately no cast shadows to play with.

Doggy Portrait

Todays Gouache Study

One of my wonderful puppies

Illustration Friday: Old Fashioned- Signs

Why don't they make signs like this anymore? Old liquor stores and bowling alleys always have the best signs. Such great shapes and all different sorts of typography put together. Just a few samples i did for fun...I made an effort to do some painting today but got suckered into buying a newspaper subscription to benefit some kids school. He stood in front of my still life talking to me, i couldn't get away because i only had like 30 minutes of light to complete the painting. So i sat there with all my supplies strewn about around me, trying to rush finishing my painting. By the time he got done with his rant i had become frustrated and the painting was ruined, and now i have a subscription to the sunday newspaper. Better luck tomorrow hopefully.

What Have We Been Reading? #4

Two versions of a panel from something I've been reading this week:

The first, which is what's in my notebook:

The second, a bit more faithful, thanks to some Photoshop hoodoo:

(Click that one to observe the halftoney faithfulness.)

Recognize it? It's from something really great.

Bible Giveaway!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a kind woman from Zondervan publishing offering for me to do a giveaway on my blog!

She sent me a copy of the New Mom's Prayer Bible and it is great. In addition to having a pretty leather cover, it helps moms with the transition into motherhood, whether it is her first child or her fourth. It includes topics like sleep deprivation (a serious struggle for me at the moment!), body image, and priority shifts, and it keeps things simple so she can connect to God, even if she only has one minute.

A more detailed synopsis:

Being a new mom presents many challenges. But one of them doesn’t have to be finding time to connect with God. Throughout this Bible, you will find fifty-two, one-minute Thought-Starters that let you dip into God’s Word for a minute of refreshment. Each of these Thought-Starters is followed by an option for a five-minute prayer or a ten-minute study to help you learn even more about what God’s Word has to say to you today. Devotional thoughts specifically for you, the new mom, are all presented in the most read, most trusted New International Version (NIV) translation.

If you would like to learn more about this awesome Bible, please click here.

Now for the giveaway part!
To enter, please leave a comment below sharing one of your favorite Bible verses that you think would be encouraging to a new mom. If you don't have a specific verse, then feel free to leave a short piece of practical advise. Even if you are not a new mom yourself, I would invite you to enter if there is a new mom in your life that you think would be blessed by a copy of this Bible. Only one comment per person, please. Anonymous comments cannot be counted; so please be sure to sign in with a username, or identify yourself in the anonymous comment.
You have from now, until Tuesday, September 28th at 5pm EST to enter.
The winner will be randomly selected by little miss Eliana, and will be posted on Wednesday, September 29th.
Good luck! And thank you, Zondervan, for your generosity!

First Day of Open House, A success.

People started lining up this morning before ten and the party didn't stop until 9. This is such a different experience than it was when I first published Remembering Isaac almost 18 months ago. Back then, I wondered if I would be stuck with those books forever, giving them away as wedding presents for the rest of eternity. A lot has changed since those humble beginnings, and though I am still humble, I am happy. I am happy the books are touching people and making them think and feel and do. I sold close to 500 books today. That was really exciting. Lots of folks came with lists of people who needed them. They bought pots and yard art too, but nearly everyone went home with at least one book.

The show continues tomorrow and Saturday, September 24 & 25 here at my studio in Salt Lake at 1150 East 800 South from 10:00- 5:00. I have to run to Brigham City tomorrow morning to pick up more copies of Remembering Isaac from my distributor. I have only a handful left after today's sales. I have a kiln full of pots to unload tomorrow, too. I just peaked inside and there are some great ones.

I spoke to my distributor tonight about Costco. Costco has decided to have the third book, Becoming Isaac, in the stores sometime in October. That means I will be back signing books, but they, so far, have decided not to carry the other two books. I am not sure why. I think the only way they will change their minds is if enough people request them. This kind of stinks, but I guess I'll take what I can get. I have people calling me everyday wondering where they can find the book. For the time being, unless you want to come to Salt Lake to my studio, I suppose the best place to find all three books is on Amazon. I am Abendmahl Press and I just recently put together a box set of all three books, available through Amazon for $39.00 plus shipping. If you pick it up from the studio, you save the shipping. Any book ordered through Abendmahl Press on Amazon is autographed and I would be happy to personalize it too. With Christmas coming soon, this may be the best way to go if Costco doesn't pick the other books up too. We were told that we would likely have the chance to sell all three books there this fall, but things never work out exactly the way you plan.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi. Maybe we'll see you this weekend. We'll keep the peppermint tea coming, and we have plenty of peanut butter and h0ney sandwiches for everyone. Viva Niederbipp!

The One-Panel Critics: The Peril of Art

That's a little envelope doodle that appeared in my mailbox this week from New Zealand. Dylan Horrocks has a new minicomic!

You can order your copy using this link (and Paypal).

It's a "conversation jam," similar to those Kochalka/Thompson and Kochalka / Brown conversations that Top Shelf published, between Horrocks and the writer Emily Perkins. In their conversation, Horrocks and Perkins start with the question of why we write stories, and the talk drifts pretty quickly to Horrocks's anxieties about whether fiction (or any story) can really tell the truth about living.

"We're still in thrall to narrative unity ... resolution and catharsis," Perkins says. "Maybe the lie is not in metaphor but in structure."

Horrocks replies:

I'd argue that metaphor and structure don't need to be easy or simple, but I can see why Horrocks has some anxiety about this.

It's is actually a topic we've been discussing in my graphic-novel course, relative to Maus and the implicit structures of memoir: from the perspective of Rego Park, it's easy to construe Vladek's survival as a story of resourcefulness, smart decisions, necessary ruthlessness and scrupulous generosity. But while those events are being lived, there's no way to assess their value or their wisdom: Vladek could have made the same decisions, or other decisions on the same principles, and not have survived after all. It's only the post-facto construction of a story (or the opportunity to reflect and construct such a story) that makes Vladek heroic.

And there are elements in the logic of such a story that deceive, in some fundamental way, about lived experience. In the case of Maus, Vladek's story might seem to imply something about the capability of a wily and resourceful person to survive the Holocaust; this would in turn imply that the millions of victims had failed, in some way, to rise to heroic levels of self-preservation. Objectively, we'd never say that about the Holocaust victims, but something about the nature of narrative implies it anyway, contrary to anything we (or Spiegelman) would want to believe.

(Did I just run afoul of Godwin's law?)

It isn't merely that reality has too many details to fit into a comics panel, or that too many events take place for a memoirist to represent them all. The problem isn't simply one of completeness. It's that the structures of literature (and, as some might argue, even the structures of memory) necessarily distort reality, and in ways that we should probably find alarming: not distortions of fact, but distortions of the value of facts; structures and analogies of meaning.

Of course, maybe we could argue that until these distorting structures of narrative, analogy, and value are used on the materials of experience, there's no way to assess meaning at all. "We [tell] [stories] lest we perish from [inconsequentiality]; we [create] [structure] lest we perish from [chaos]."

Or something like that.

Thanks for the thought-provoking mini, Dylan. (And for the envelope doodles!) Everyone else, why not order a copy? It's smart stuff.

This is a song that I sang

I wrote and recorded this a couple years ago, then recently re-recorded it at Bearhead Studios just for fun. This time we had live drums (Ken French) and badass guitar (Jared McSharry) instead of....whatever the hell I used on my solo version.

Thanks Steven Aguilar of Bearhead for his time and skillz. Hopefully this song will appear in some form on a future Moon Colony or Tallest Building In the World album.

The video is just for something to look at. It's my fucking hands in front of a webcam. Don't expect anything to happen.

SPX Find #5: Laura Terry's Thousand Lies

Here's one of my favorite things from the SPX minicomics stack so far:

Laura Terry is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, and based on One Thousand Lies, I'd say I'm looking forward to seeing more comics from her.

One Thousand Lies is a story about a wanderer named Arnold, as he checks in with his godmother, a high-power lawyer named Victoria. Arnold convinced Victoria to take him out to lunch, and in return she asks him to tell stories from his travels.

(Let's hold on to that intersection between stories and lies until tomorrow. I have another post in mind.)

What Arnold comes up with are three odd vignettes, each of which takes place in a town with its own skewed logic: Sunderland, where philosophers congregate on the jungle gym and love waits in the morgue; Buffalo Gap, where half of the population is transient; and Enoch, which has been designed to capture and reflect the harmony of the universe.

There's a bit of The Thousand and One Nights in this premise, even if Arnold is singing for his supper instead of to save his head. (The connection is strong enough that I wondered why the lies in the title fall short by one.) There's also more than a little of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities in the imagination of each peculiar geographical vignette. It's not hard to imagine this book being extended into more chapters, each of which would have three or five stories of improbably towns with puzzling problems.

It's also really nice to sense so clearly that the cartoonist reads something other than comics. I mean, I know that comics are the best place to learn to make comics, but to extend the medium, or to stretch a genre, the cartoonist needs to know what's beyond his or her most immediate antecedents. Won't the best stories always come from people who read lots of kinds of stories?

I also feel a lot of influence from Matt Madden behind this book. I might just be imagining that because Victoria looks to me a little bit like Matt's character Lance (from Odds Off—you know, the guy whose writing catches "word lice"). But there's also something about the cheery, intellectual familiarity between Arnold and Victoria that reminds me of some of Matt's other characters. And of course the appeal to Calvino and, behind that, Scheherazade is something that would appeal to Matt.

Anyway, I liked this book a lot, partly for its promise, and partly for what it delivers. There's some nice, solid cartooning here, but the real interest is in the story, and in the process of storytelling.

If I had to mount a bit of conservative criticism, it'd be that the scenes between Arnold and Victoria seem to drag a little bit — I'm not sure whether they could be compacted from two six-panel pages each down to a single eight-panel page, for example, or if the splash-page transition could be turned into a half-page panel with some editing — but that's really a minor misgiving about what's otherwise a fun, interesting, smart, and attractive minicomic.

I'm hoping to see more from Laura Terry.

And lo, sure enough, here is more from her, courtesy of my robot doodle book:

Thanks, Laura! I hope you'll let me know when your next comic is ready!

Another study

My apologies if this is getting repetitive, but its so much fun. And i need some real painting in my potfolio, this is a quick study today, got caught in a thunderstorm

Studies from today's outing

Intro JealousGUY motion

New Halloween Comic, Early Stages

You probably won't hear much more about this until it's finished, but I'm planning a little micro-minicomic for Halloween. Probably it'll take a little more time than carving a pumpkin in some crazy way, but I can't seem to stop myself.

Here are some early doodles toward a character design. I worked out a script last night. One hint about that is all you get.

When the comic's done, it should be a good size to hand out to kids on Halloween along with (or in lieu of) candy. If you get trick-or-treaters, and want the comic, I'll figure out a good price for a "bulk bundle" that I can mail in time for distribution. When I have a few done, I'll put the word out here on the blog.

What motivated me to do this, when I've got essays write and papers to grade? My own foolishness, obviously, but also a really fun-sounding project that Colin Tedford announced yesterday on the Trees & Hills blog.

And what is "Trees & Hills," you might ask? Colin's doodle from my robot sketchbook will answer that question:

Thanks, Colin. I'm looking forward to this.

More SPX minicomic reviews tomorrow!

What We Have Been Reading #3: Britten & Brülightly

Back before SPX, I posted a mystery panel for the third "What Have We Been Reading?" post, and no one has guessed it yet. But before I move on and write more about the minis I got at SPX, I thought I'd go ahead and say what I have been intending to say about the source of that image.

Britten & Brülightly came out in 2008, the debut graphic novel by Hannah Berry. It's a noir detective story set in London, featuring Fernandez Britten, an Ecuadorian detective who looks French, and his business partner, a talking teabag. (I appreciate the fact that the teabag, which only speaks to Britten, is neither explained nor marked as unusual. It's one of a few touches in the world of this book that make it feel off-kilter and seedy.)

I'm not sure how to rate the mystery plot in this book. On the one hand, I guessed the lynchpin detail of the plot as soon as the first clue about it dropped, but then the book did a good job leading me off the trail with red herrings, so that soon I wasn't convinced that I was right after all. I don't read a lot of mystery novels, so I don't know whether this counts as good practice or bad practice. I felt a little cheated when I saw the blocks slide into place, but that might just have been because I had a hard time following the storytelling in the climactic showdown.

When I drew my swipe panel, I said there were a couple of things about the book that I didn't like. One of them is the lettering.

I know I was complaining about computer lettering yesterday, but this book is having sort of the opposite problem: hand lettering that isn't steady or legible, and draws attention to itself in an unfortunate way. Speech balloons appear in an untidy all-caps hand, and Britten's narration is in a script that is at times genuinely hard to read:

I don't mean this as an insult to Berry, but because I know the lettering has been bothering me, I want to take a look at it in detail, to figure out what about it isn't working. After all, I teach this sort of thing on occasion, and I want to be able to give good advice to my students. Have a look at this balloon, enlarged from the size at which it appears in the book, and see whether you spot any problems that I don't mention:

So: for starters:

I notice that the letterforms aren't very consistent. Look at the two versions of B that appear in this part of the balloon, or the two Ls.

A lot of the letters are made in a single loose stroke (with no strong angles) that tends to open up and lose its shape, like the B in BE or the N in BRITTEN.

There's not much consistency in the proportions of the letter parts. Look at the way the bulb of the R dominates the letter in REALLY, compared to the one in HEARD. Notice the way the proportions of the E shift, too.

A lot of the letters, as part of their basic form, contain a C-shaped swoop, so that when you pile a lot of Rs, Es, Cs, and Ss together, it's really sort of hard to distinguish one letter from another.

My first reaction to this lettering is that it's been done by someone who doesn't often write by hand, and who rarely prints in all caps when she's not lettering a comic. It doesn't feel as regular and natural as handwriting, and it's not as legible as it could be.

It also doesn't mesh well with the drawing in the comic, which is much more controlled and natural. Maybe that uneasy fit is partly a question of drawing medium: the images are in a fairly lush range of watercolors, and there's no lettering equivalent for that. Would the letters look better if they were in good dark ink, though? Blowing them up for this examination suggests that there was an interface problem between the tooth of the drawing surface (watercolor paper?) and the pen used for inking (a fiber-tip pen?), but I'm not expert enough to say for sure what's making the edges of the letters so fuzzy.

The other main thing that bothered me about Britten & Brülightly was the character design.

Most of the characters are all cheeks and nose, so their heads are dominated by features that don't move and aren't expressive. Most of their heads end right behind the ears, and their eyes are way above the vertical halfway point on the skull. Given the realism of their environments, I found these caricatured distortions distracting. Moreover, since most of the characters' heads had the same distortions, it was hard for me to tell the characters apart. In the climactic scene, I needed to be able to recognize both of the characters revealed in the bottom panel here:

... but I was honestly confused. Had I seen those noses before?

I didn't hear much about Britten & Brülightly when it came out, and I'm not sure what sort of critical reception it received. I don't mean to make it seem like I hated the book. In fact, there's a lot I like about it. But I can't help wondering what it would have been like with a more practiced lettering hand or a somewhat more practical sense of character design.