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Archive for April 2008

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Storyboards: Sleeping in the Bathtub

About half (and in the past, sometimes more) of what I do is storyboard work for television commercials. Storyboard frames are quickly executed drawings to communicate a concept, and help test and plan television, movie or animated projects. I've been doing storyboards for over a decade, and find it helps me as a cartoonist, requiring me to think and work fast, and keep loose. For years, I'd color them with marker over inked drawings I'd copied on marker paper, achieving a more cartoony and clean look, but which also created an extra step and took time.

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The last five years, I've skipped the inking step altogether. With these two examples above, I colored with marker over printed pencils on marker paper. I beef up some lines and spot black areas with a thick marker, and rough up and add texture with a black colored pencil. Some storyboard artists do more polished and finished frames that look nearly like finished illustration. I prefer a looser, rougher look and feel, and so work with Art Directors with a similar sensibility. The last few months, I've been coloring my penciled storyboard drawings on the computer with the Cintiq, and will share a frame or two of those tomorrow.

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MN MicroCon 2008

The comics show Sunday was a lot of fun, if a little chilly. Seems fitting, as the two-day show last October was sweltering and sweaty. Go figure. That's Minnesota weather for you. I got a good reaction to the Bedbugs ABCs mini-comics, and to Bedbugs in general. Now I'm brimming with ideas and plans for our li'l yellow pals, with an eye towards the to-be-expanded-and-enlarged two-day show this October 4 & 5. My daughter, Emily joined me and sold out of her homemade Funky Munky Kookies. Friend and superhero artist, Doug Mahnke has the empty cookie bag to prove how fast they went.

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Good ol' Zander Cannon was on hand, as usual, with his similarly-named studio mate, Kevin Cannon (not pictured). Both guys are always so nice to do sketches for my girls -- thanks, guys! Zander has the dubious distinction of being a Trollords fan; thanks for the early support, Zander! These two are beginning another graphic novel project, so have three that will be released in 2009. Look for Kevin's Far Arden, coming out this Friday, and read their Big Time Attic blog, always a treat, including Kevin's report on this very same show.

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I just realized I've known MCAD teacher and 11-year Batman inker, Terry Beatty for almost thirty years! Where did the time go, Terry? Mostly spent at the drawing board, I guess. I've been a guest to a couple of Terry's classes and caught up with a couple of his students at the con. Terry's got a blog, too, and shows off some mean sculptures at Terry's web site.

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Joel "Mojo" Moen was one of the first fans I met after moving up to Minnesota from Chicago fifteen years ago. I've always enjoyed chatting it up with Mojo, now for several years as a pro inker himself. He's currently inking a story penciled by pal and fellow storyboard artist Peter Krause.

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Sam Hiti was kicking back near the end of the show. A bold a prolific cartoonist, he's busy on a 250-page graphic novel. Order his Tiempos Finales and other books or sketches at the Sam Hiti web site. Many other folks were at the show, but I didn't have my camera handy for shots of Dan Jurgens, Gordon Purcell, Jeff Limke, Cedric Hohnstadt and others. Maybe this Fall?

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Hellboy Sketch

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This Hellboy color sketch and others will be for sale at the one-day Minneapolis comic book convention at which I'll be appearing this Sunday, April 27. I do these with black marker, color pencils and a dash of Wite-Out on colored paper. It looks to be chilly and maybe rainy, a good day for a con. Stop on by!

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Sweet Emotion: More Bedbugs ABCs

Work on these Bedbugs ABCs mini-books is going well. I colored a few more to show here. Up 'til this project, I've always drawn the 'bugs by hand, scanning and coloring digitally. For this series, even though I sometimes do tiny roughs with a pen to serve as a guide, I'm drawing directly in Illustrator. The Bedbugs are so clean, simple and graphic, it's easy and fast to draw them digitally. For certain elements, the brush tool is working great. I've always been worried I'd lose a certain expressiveness with this approach, but I may draw these guys this way from now on.

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As my pal, Peter Krause has observed, the Bedbugs are "pure expression." They're malleable little amoeba-like smiley faces, but aren't limited to just smiling. Changing their body shape creates unlimited opportunities to convey emotion, and their little "feelers" don't hurt, either. What fun I'm having!

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The Candidates

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Done a couple weeks back, this art was intended for the cover of this week's Scholastic News (4th grade edition), but was instead utilized inside for the feature due to a last-minute marketing department decision. That's the way it goes sometimes. I can't believe I got to draw all three candidates; I thought it'd be whittled down to just two by now!

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Bedbugs ABCs Preview

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Taking a break from production on my children's book in progress, Night of the Bedbugs, I'm still doing my Bedbugs characters, but instead for an idea for a project that's now crystalized as a Bedbugs ABC book. For the Minnesota Spring comic show this Sunday, I'm hoping to have a mini-comic or two available. These little chapbooks serve as prototypes or first editions of the work-to-be, perhaps eventually a Bedbugs board book. Anyway, we'll see how the week goes.... I colored these few to preview here. Of the three above, which mood is closest to yours today?

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Crazy Color Abstract

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A more upbeat Monday post than a couple weeks back, thanks to this color abstract painting my daughter, Laura did for school. One thing that's so cool about abstracts; they can be rotated to work a few different ways, sometimes even provoking a different emotional reaction in the viewer. Check Laura's own page on this site for another view of this painting. How do you think it differs from this view?

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Supergrass - We Still Need More

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I don't always rightly know what their singing about, but I can listen to the music of Supergrass for hours. These three Brits (including two brothers) have been around for over a dozen years, much better known on their own turf than here in America. Their funny and surreal video for the catchy, Stones-like Pumping On Your Stereo made an impression, but beyond that, I don't think they've had a hit in the U.S. After years of searching for a song from the Dead Man On Campus soundtrack, I finally discovered it. I haven't seen the movie, and have read the soundtrack collection isn't very good, but I've always liked We Still Need More (Than Anyone Can Give). It begins with that churchy organ, soon joined with soaring vocal harmonies, a drum rolls in, and we're off for a ride. Good stuff. Glad to hear the song again, thanks to this imeem.com music service, which I hadn't come across before. Though there's a download link, it doesn't seem the song is available at iTunes or amazon.com, so I finally ordered a used copy of the CD for a couple bucks at half.com. Also, Supergrass has a new album out: Diamond Hoo Ha, which returns them to their louder sounds of their earlier days. This is the cover to one of their new singles, Bad Blood, a thumping good rocker.

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Learn and hear more of the band at the Supergrass myspace page.

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Spring mini Comicon

I'll have a table and will be available to sign books and do sketches once again at this year's annual Minneapolis Spring comic book convention, next Sunday, April 27th. Though I haven't had comic work published within the industry for some time, it's always nice to chat with fans, old and new alike, and catch up with local talent, most of whom are friends. I'll have on hand and will be previewing art from upcoming comics and childrens book projects, so stop on by to say Hi and check it all out.

I swiped a photo of myself (with good 'ol pal, writer Len Strazewski) from Cedric Hohnstadt's blog, who wrote about the show last year.

 

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Gatsby & Kane: Tragic American Twins

These names together may sound like a vaudeville comedy team or partners in a law firm, but of course are fictional counterparts. The title characters of Citizen Kane and The Great Gatsby, these two great American works of art of the twentieth century, have a lot in common. Both works, from different angles and in different ways, examine dark corners of the American Dream. Both characters are searching for something: either something lost, or something imagined, never had, that money, in the end, cannot purchase.

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Each man starts from humble beginnings, only to come into great wealth. Kane, with the Colorado Lode, a gold mine that by chance is discovered on the Kane property when he's a child. His fortune becomes his by happenstance, pure luck, be it good or bad. With Gatsby, he comes by it in suspicious and no doubt criminal fashion. Neither has earned their fortune by good, old-fashioned hard work. Kane tries to do the best he can with what fell in his lap, out of guilt, perhaps, to justify the oodles of money he's inherited; while Gatsby's riches buy him nothing real, all empty and unsatisfying. These men, in straining to recapture something from earlier in life (while on the surface achieving much), end up falling miserably short from what they desire most.

Both men are trying to recover something lost in or from the most important women in their lives. In Kane's case, he's lost his mother's love. Mrs. Kane's actions are never explained entirely, and are somewhat cryptic, but it's clear at least that their newfound fortune in part has caused the separation. He uses his money at first ostensibly for noble purposes, to do good for others, but then later to buy people's love, a fool's errand. In the case of Gatsby, he's trying to gain the attention of, and win back his first love: one Daisy Buchanan. Remembering their earlier time together through an idealistic and gauzy lens, no matter how hard he tries, and even after he's reconnected to the now-married Daisy, he's doomed to failure, and worse. Daisy has moved on, or could never live up to Gatsby's romanticized an glorified vision of her. She's either corrupted, or was never deserving of his love in the first place.

Money or possessions are not enough for Kane to replace his mother's love or his lost childhood; it can not fill the void. And the women he marries are poor replacements, either because of love gone sour and/or Kane's misplaced priorities. For Gatsby, his wealth is but a tool to attract and recapture Daisy. He may not feel guilty about how he's acquired his fortune, but his quest is tainted by dirty money, and with it, he can never buy into the life in a way he or others view as legitimate.

These men are ambitious and achieve much, but come up short in their ultimate goals. It's up to the viewer/reader to decide whether it's because they're damaged, misguided, compromised or corrupted, or some combination thereof. It seems the respective creators intended their works to be read as indictments of capitalism, but one wonders how either man would have fared having come about their money in more deserved or legitimate ways. Regardless, it's clear at least there are potential dangers in life when it comes to matters material. One may find disaster in not reaching that which they strive for, or perhaps the real danger comes when they're reached after all.

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A word on the creators

Though they share much thematically, the style and tone of these respective works is markedly different. Kane is loud, energetic, boisterous, masculine and herky-jerky. Gatsby is rich, poetic, lyrical and intricate and refined. These traits say more about the creators than they do necessarily about their fictional characters. In the conception, writing, direction and finally, performance, Orson Welles embodies Charles Foster Kane. In many ways, Kane bears more resemblance to Welles himself than to William Randolph Hearst. Though now infamously known to be patterned after Hearst, Welles had a lot to do with shaping the character of Kane, and had Mercury Theater pal John Houseman babysit initial scriptwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz during the first drafts, both of whom had good knowledge of Welles's personality. F. Scott Fitzgerald's Gatsby also is semi-autobiographical, with many of Gatsby's attitudes, longings and choices mirroring those of his creator.

If you've not read or seen these masterpieces, you owe it to yourself to give them a try, and if you have, they're both worth repeated looks, as the depth of meaning and superb execution become even more apparent.

A Special Thanks: to friend and writer Alex Grecian, who first suggested to me the connection between these two characters and works.  

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