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Blue Moon Crew

Concerning the doings of Blue Moon Studios and the Fricke Family: The Blue Moon Crew
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Shhhhhhark.

Clever, funny cartoon by daughter, Emily.

She used a brush to ink, with some feathering learned from watching pal Cory Corani at work.

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I Love Laura's Mummy

I really do! After 21+ years of marriage, I love my wife more than ever - she's a peach! But I also love this mummy my daughter, Laura drew last night. Thoughts of costumes, decorations and Halloween creepies are in the air, on the mind.

Sure, she swiped the brush I use for work from my drawing table (that's supposed to be off limits), but when she produces a cool, crazy mummy like this, who can get too mad?

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Minnesota FallCon 2010

I had a blast at the one-day FallCon Saturday, doing sketches, selling Bedbugs books & stuff, and hanging with my daughter, Emily, who sold out of her famous Funky Munky Kookies (over 180 cookies)! The hall was jam-packed and hopping from 10-4!

As usual, we caught up a bit with ol' pals both from the Twin Cities and out of town, sitting next to and chatting up Zander Cannon, Cedric Hohnstadt, Cory Carani, ol' Trollords collaborator Scott Beaderstadt and Keith Anderson (owner of Chicagoland Keith's Comics).

It was a pleasure to meet and talk with long-time animator, Joel Seibel, who's worked on Spider-Man, Smurfs, Angry Beavers, Pinky & the Brain, Scooby Doo and way too many cartoons to mention. Later in the day, Joel gave a bunch of young artists a cartooning lesson.

We met a lot of fine and fun folks, among them kids in costumes:

Supergirl Anna

Robin & his sidekick, Batman

View more pics at my Facebook page and even more at the official MCBA page. And start making plans to attend the 2-day show in May, 2011 to be held again in the MN Fairgrounds Grandstand. The best, good ol' fashioned comics shows on the planet!

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Bedbugs Sketch: Nonsense Poem

This sketch done for a fan who won a prize package for "liking" the Bedbugs Facebook page, less a sketch and more a performance, a recitation of something like a nonsense poem taught to me by my grammar school pal, Rick Berning (who remains a friend to this day, and lives about five minutes away here in MN, though we grew up in Chicago). I've been reciting this poem to friends and kids ever since, as best I could remember it. After a small bit of research online, I was able to fill in gaps, and made a couple changes of my own for fun.

During research, I came across several versions, varying slightly or wildly, like so:

'Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps, Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants. I come before you, to stand before you, to tell you a story I know nothing about. One bright morning in the middle of the night two dead fellows stood up to fight. They stood back to back, facing each other, drew their swords and shot each other. If you don't believe my lie, it's true, ask the blind lady on the corner, she saw it too.'

There are many variants, which include references to a dummy referee, a paralyzed donkey, a mute psychotic, ladies and jellyspoons (or jellybeans), bald-headed babies and a guy with a pancake stuck to his bum - LOL! All these I found at the best and comprehensive collection at this folklore site. Check 'em out! Have you ever heard the version close to the one I recall, or any of the others?

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Mamet: The Artist and Mass Media

This passage from David Mamet's Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama got into my skin and stuck in my noggin:
Mass media...are created (by what force we cannot say); they spring into existence, if you will, and offer the promise, in many cases the reality, of great wealth to entice talented people who would otherwise be uninterested. They offer, like any other dictator, the promise of freedom if applicants consign themselves to slavery. The writer, the actor, the director, no less than the viewer, are thus wooed to spend their lives doing nothing. They are paid handsomely (or merely promised handsome payment, the lure of wealth being so potent that a promise if often sufficient - like the gold rush or the lottery - to hold the multitude). They are paid to remove themselves from the ranks of potential artists, to give up the desire to express, confront, connect, mourn, question, decry, unite; they are paid to serve the cause of censorship.



In my teens, when my buddy, Scott and I were collaborating on short comics stories, and in my early twenties then creating and publishing our own comic, Trollords, we took comics and our art very seriously. We were pleased that the book did so well we could make a living at it, but eschewed that as our primary goal: we were artists! Our pal, Len bought for me a used book he stumbled across, How to Be a Money Writer! Gosh, we had a good laugh at that. Written in the '50s or '60s in dated prose, it captured everything we weren't about. But after a few years, the market changed, we and most others weren't selling nearly as many copies, we both got married, and although I still stressed following my bliss and creativity, it became clear I needed to make more money doing art if I was going to continue.

And through the years for my wife and me, buying a house, having and raising kids, building another house, growing a business, it's been the main struggle to be "money artists" while not selling out entirely, and setting aside as much time as possible for personal creative projects. All too often, the trade-off leans one way, to providing and caring for the family. For me and many, that in and of itself is a noble goal, and perhaps more noble than living just for one's art, which in some respects is a selfish pursuit. Achieving a balance between the two remains largely elusive. So while I find truth in Mamet's assertion above, it also seems too black and white, too rigid and judgmental. The book was released in 1998, so perhaps his opinion has changed since. Certainly, he was engaged in writing for and directing movies for quite some time before this was written. And he's made more movies, created and produced a TV series (The Unit) since. I liked or loved most of his output, including his plays which have been adapted to screen, and though I'm a big fan, I've never seen one of his plays performed live. So, would Mamet (or should any creator) consider any work done that has any commercial influence less legitimate or worthy as art? Michelangelo's Sistine chapel ceiling is considered a masterpiece, a great work of art, yet it was a commissioned piece. I've been touched emotionally and inspired and challenged intellectually by music, art, movies, TV shows and poetry that gained the creators payment, sometimes handsome reward. And I've been left cold and unmoved by work done by artists with pure intention and motivation, unsullied and not corrupted by greed or monetary gain.

So as I make my way now through this process, answering these questions, it still remains a challenge to achieve a balance. Our lives are easier, less stressful when we take on commercial projects, when the money is flowing in more than not. But when we're busy with that, personal creativity often takes a back seat. And even if some of that personal work finds its way out into the world, as has occurred for me with my Night of the Bedbugs childrens book, while my main purpose is to reach and affect kids and families, I'd also love nothing more than to make part or more of my living from it or such work. And what's wrong with that?

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Daughter's Dino Drawings

Our two daughters, Laura and Emily have been immersed in art and music as they've grown. And what with their parents both being artists, not only have they been surrounded by art and art-making as we work away at our trade and our personal creative projects, but also seem to have gotten a double-dose of the artistic gene. Laura (14) really stepped up her drawing time this Summer, noodling away in her sketchbook like crazy, experimenting with various cartooning styles, as well as drawing portraits and from life. This recently completed piece of two dinosaurs caught my eye:

She loves animals and most times draws them better than I do, studying and practicing animal anatomy. She's internalized it so much over the years, she can whip out highly stylized characters like these that have so much personality, humor, depth and detail. On the left, I love the eye on the side of the dino's head, the silly little tongue, the swirl at its knee and the heart shape at the tip of its tail. And the expression and body language of the dino on the right just cracks me up. She'd planned a dino-bird for the sky, but changed her mind last minute to add a touch of black humor with the hurtling comet. All is not cute, sweet and light in Laura's DinoWorld.

A close-up detail of the herbivore...

...and the carnivore.

Nice job, Laura! Keep drawing and sculpting!

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September Sunrise

Another nice thing about being up earlier to see a high-schooler off is the chance to glimpse a sweet sunrise. From our front door this morning:

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Fractured Fables Anthology

I recently received my copies of the Fractured Fables anthology published by Jim Valentino at Image/Silverline Books. My contribution with Len Strazewski (script) and my wife, Mary (fellow colorist) is a twist on Washington Irving's Rip van Winkle called Pippi van Wrinkles. I'm very pleased by the printing and presentation, as well as the company we're in. It was reviewed very favorably in the Washington Times, as well as at Ain't It Cool News, so check out those if you need convincing.

Fractured Fables cover by Mike and Laura Allred

The artist skimming through the book

Pippi Van Wrinkles, page 1

The book is currently available in comic shops and on Amazon, and in fine bookstores everywhere in October.

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Kids Art Class

A couple weeks back I spent some time with some great kids at a Commonbond Housing site called Yorkdale Townhomes in Edina as a guest visitor for their summer program. I shared my story of life as an artist, taught some cartooning - how to create facial features and build/design characters - and how to find and pursue your dreams. I also covered my creative process for writing and illustrating my children's book, Night of the Bedbugs. So, we all drew together, and they came up with some great stuff, which you can see below. Thanks to Sue Gahan for invitation, whom I met at the 2-day comic convention here in Minneapolis in May.

'

Keep drawing, kids!

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Fricke Family in Neighborhood Magazine

The Blue Moon Crew were featured in the July issue of the Four Estates Guardian magazine, which focuses on neighborhood news and one family in our area per issue. Below are reduced images from the sections in which we were featured, as well as the text of the article.

Mind Your Neighbor’s Business: the Fricke Family of Artists

Art has a way of keeping people young at heart, and so it is with the Fricke family. Paul, Mary, Laura, 14, and Emily, 10, are a family of artists who live in Silverthorne subdivision. Despite humble beginnings, they show that following one’s dreams and inborn talent can take a person farther than any college degree. Though none of their four parents were artists, Paul and Mary were encouraged to draw at a young age. By age 12, Paul knew he wanted to be an artist. In the early 80s, Paul and Mary took classes at the American Academy of Art in Chicago (though neither knew of each other at the time). By age 22, Paul had co-created and independently published the comic book Trollords with his former high school pal Scott Beaderstadt. It was Paul’s first breakthrough into the comic book industry, a success that led to a decade of work with other comic book companies in Chicago and New York, such as DC, Topps, First and Image Comics. Paul and Mary met in 1985–not at the Academy, but on a trip to Florida–and quickly discovered they had much in common. While dating, they took more classes at the American Academy of Art, though neither of them ever graduated with degrees. They began collaborating on projects together in 1986. Meanwhile, Paul had quit his non-artistic job to become fully self-employed in freelancing. They were married in 1989 and celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary this June. Paul has been in professional artistry for 25 years. In 1993, they moved from Chicago to Plymouth and settled into their newly built home in Silverthorne subdivision in 2001. They are the owners of Blue Moon Studios that specializes in cartooning, comics, storyboards, and illustration, “a one-stop-shop from concept to final digital art.” Through his art, Paul helps companies, both large and small, to communicate ideas and to educate. He has done a variety of projects, specializing in historical, religious, and educational comics for companies such as Microsoft, Scholastic, and the National Kidney Foundation. Another facet of Blue Moon Studios is storyboards, which are preliminary, rough sketches for broadcast or online commercials or print ads. These storyboards are for a company’s internal use. Paul’s hand has been behind a majority of Best Buy commercials, and has drawn comps for ads featuring such popular characters as the Pillsbury Doughboy. Inspired in their art by countless painters, book illustrators and comic book artists, Paul adds that inspiration comes from the fact that, “To make a living doing what we love – on our worst work day, we’re drawing.” Cartooning keeps Paul “a kid at heart,” he says. “It’s fun, expressive and nearly everyone can enjoy and relate to it.” Mary’s passions are painting and drawing, and she has exhibited her portraits and landscapes at local art fairs. Working from home is a delight for them. The whole family contributes to Blue Moon Studios in one way or another. Mary colors a majority of her husband’s comics and illustration drawings. Paul says she is a “reliable sounding board with good creative instincts.” While their daughters have helped with art and lettering on a few projects, they are also a constant inspiration to their parents. Laura and Emily have inherited a double-portion of their parents’ creative genes and entrepreneur spirit. Emily runs her own cookie business called “Emily’s Funky Munky Kookies.” The girls hobbies include art, music, gymnastics, swimming, sculpting and reading. And as a family, they all enjoy drawing and painting together, playing music, and gathering around the table for a board or a card game. At work or at play, the Fricke family finds inspiration to keep their art alive and their hearts young. They say to their neighbors, “Thanks for all the happy hellos, waves and chats, and your support during times good and difficult.” Night of the Bedbugs is Paul Fricke’s colorful, rhyming story book published this year by Image/Silverline Books. The book tells the story of how a little girl’s nighttime fears are calmed when a friendly bedbug and his pals join her for a pajama party and sing her to sleep. To learn more, visit www.bluemoonstudios.com and www.bedbugsmania.com.