Monthly Archives: October 2014

Dragon Comics 32

If we’re using the Andy Kaufman metric, this comic is a complete success because it amuses me.

The danger of time travel is not that you might become your own grandpa. It's that you might have to clean up your own mess.

The danger of time travel is not that you might become your own grandpa. It’s that you might have to clean up your own mess.

We’re just taking our meta experiment as far as it can go. The 4-panel layout has some particular limitations in terms of what you can do horizontally and vertically, but it also allows for this perfect setup mocking the passage of time.

Personally, I find time travel to be primarily comedic. I’ve never seen a time travel story that actually made sense, and while I was a big fan of Quantum Leap in its time, a lot of what was going on there was more fantasy than science fiction. There’s an X-Files episode that covers time travel as well, but the storyline has a guy from the future returning to the past to kill the people responsible for discovering time travel, because the knowledge of how to conquer time has made the world a horrible place. Generally speaking, though, time travel stories are ridiculous. Looper, for instance. If you can send people back in time, wouldn’t it made more sense to just send them farther back? Instead of sending back assassins and paying them in precious metal and then forcing them to assassinate themselves and run the risk of them balking at that task, why not just send your targets directly to the Jurassic era and let them be eaten by dinosaurs for free? I know people loved that movie, but I found it completely nonsensical. If I were a criminal and going to break the time travel law anyway, I can think of a million better things to do in the past than kill people.

As for the comic, originally the gag was just going to be that Dragon goes to all this trouble to see the future, only to learn that the future holds no surprises: Dragon will be drawing. But I think having the kids in there adds another dimension: Dragon realizes that jumping ahead to the future means that certain things have been left undone in the interim, and then we get a final zinger when the girl references traveling back in time.

I also like some of the poses I’ve gotten the different characters into. In reality, The Man cannot kneel like that, on account of a sudden and unplanned high-velocity meeting of his knee with a guardrail, which resulted in the metal volume of his patella being somewhat higher than that of a normal human. The rabbit really would wrap her ears around her eyes, if she could, to unsee anxiety producing activity. In panel 2, I guess the fox is jumping off the otter’s back to whack the remains of the shattered 4th wall with the broom. That is what is happening. And I also like the way the otter’s tail wraps around the panel frame for balance. And I’m glad the animals in panel 3 have taken it upon themselves to clean up the mess, so that panel 4 Dragon can draw in a clean environment.

That’s the shocking revelation of adulthood. Whatever it is that you do, you will most likely keep doing it.

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Make Mine Mandala

img054When I write that I am a private kind of person, I don’t mean it in the way that most people use the expression. I actually prefer to live my life in the open; shame and modesty are sort of foreign concepts to me, and it’s only my regard for others that prevents me from expressing myself in certain ways in public. I’m perfectly comfortable talking about subjects that are considered personal, things that make some folks blush just to imagine.

In the past, I was more open, because I didn’t care who got offended. In the present, while my stepkids are still small at least, it seems prudent to keep certain things under wraps. In the future, I expect there will be fewer restraints, because there will be fewer reasons to self-censor. On that glorious day, my blog may become much, much more popular.

Some people are horrified at the idea of sharing their lives on Facebook. Personally, as an artist, I think Facebook is an excellent tool. Here we are, struggling to express ourselves through art, trying to show the world some part of the interior. Facebook is perfect for artists. My life is my art, and Facebook lets me organize it most beautifully.

What I am private about, though, are feelings. I can tell you what I’ve done all day long (and I’ve done a lot of things, many of which are experiences most people have not have), but, unless we’re very close, I’m not likely to tell you about anything but the most positive feelings. Self doubt, depression, and anger just aren’t on the table.

Drawing the Dragon Comics has offered me a level of distance from emotions. Thoughts that I wouldn’t admit to my best friend except in the most dire state of despair can come out of the dragon’s mouth, because, after all, the dragon is simply a cartoon character. Dragon can say anything. Catharsis appears to be an unexpected side effect of drawing comics.

There’s not much to say about this mandala. I like the colors and the way the points curve as they taper. Can’t remember what was going on when I drew it but it exhibits a good sense of symmetry and precision.

Tomorrow comic should be good, too. Today was the first time I just drew a panel and felt as if I knew what I was doing. I didn’t have to think about how to draw the characters’ bodies, or to Google images on which to base their postures. I just drew them.

Here’s a tidbit…I’m a little nervous now, because up until this point, there’s always been some ideas in my mind as to where the comic was going, and with tomorrow’s comic, I’m completely caught up on the arcs that have been planned for all these weeks. Next week, Dragon and company will have to start doing something new.

OK, maybe I have one or two ideas.

Dragon Comics 31

This is something I’ve been looking forward to doing for weeks and weeks, almost since I started drawing Dragon Comics. Are you not amused?

In my defense, the rabbit is definitely getting cuter. And cut and paste is easier than trying to make the characters looks like the same characters every time.

In my defense, the rabbit is definitely getting cuter. And cut and paste is easier than trying to make the characters looks like the same characters every time.

More or less, I was basically able to recreate what appeared in my mind when the idea came to me, which is progress. Still not perfect, but the main idea is communicated by the illustration, I think. I’m fairly pleased with the shattered glass effect in panel 4. It could use some more work, but, once again, the witching hour is at hand and the terms of my agreement with myself say that the comic goes up, perfection be damned.

This kind of playing with meta perspective pleases me greatly, and it’s so well-suited to comics and cartoons. Probably the most extreme and well-known example of 4th wall breaking in animation would be the 1953 Chuck Jones Looney Tunes classic, “Duck Amuck,” in which the animator spends 7 minutes torturing Daffy Duck with inappropriate scenery changes, repeatedly erases him with a giant pencil wielded by an unseen hand, and, since this cartoon relies heavily on the viewer’s knowledge of trope, replaces an (open, functioning) parachute with an anvil. There’s always got to be an anvil. For an added bonus, the sketch ends by doubling the self-referential nature of the narrative while pushing it firmly back into place by revealing that the sadistic cartoonist is actually Bugs Bunny, screwing with his old nemesis Daffy. After establishing a refreshing commentary that reflects the separate world (reality) influencing the cartoon, the end sequence encloses the entire story back in the cartoon world.

I could never be so cruel to my characters who, as you may realize, represent my actual loved ones, none of whom have even tried to convince a hunter that it was Dragon season. I just like to play. In fact, as I get older, that kind of classic cartoon violence-for-the-sake-of-violence makes me more and more uncomfortable. Apparently, some of us become gentler with age. That kid of cartoon violence is funny. It’s just not fair. I would rather wait 3 seasons to watch Aang spend 8 minutes fighting Firelord  Ozai before defeating him with compassionate nonviolence than see any number of falling anvils. Don’t get me wrong; falling anvils are still hilarious. Epic storytelling is just more fun.

Please note that even after the fourth wall has been completely shattered, The Man goes right on breaking it. He’s funny like that.

 

Please like this page

Not that I precisely understand Facebook’s algorithms, but it seems pretty likely to me that Facebook doesn’t like it when you link to the same blog every single day. When I first started blogging, it seems like I actually got a lot more traffic, and a lot more Facebook likes. Now it’s leveled off, so my assumption is that Facebook isn’t showing my updates to as many people, which means fewer people are liking them, which means fewer people are seeing them. A vicious circle.

Lacking a publicity budget and not being overly active on any other forums, it’s hard to see how to increase my reach. Unless my work is so great that everyone who reads it just naturally and organically shares it. OK: generate better work so that people just naturally like and share it.

I *can* get better with practice. But do I?

I *can* get better with practice. But do I?

For most of my life, I was the type of person who either took immediately to a new skill, or gave up immediately on a new skill. It’s fortunate (or, possibly, the cause of this behavior) that I found myself naturally good at enough things that it was not immediately apparent that I was a quitter, or that I wasn’t learning certain important skills. (Seriously, I don’t think I knew my 12 times tables until college.) Not until my 30s did it ever seem imperative to me that subpar skills should be honed, that time should be spent doing things I wasn’t good at. So the Dragon “I can get better with practice” comic still amuses me, and guides me. It can guide you too, if you carry it around with you at all times and refer to it for guidance in times of need.

I stand by this princess.

I stand by this princess.

Getting better still isn’t a guarantee of success, which is another life lesson for me. Take Princess Sealestia of Aquastria. Although she’s a simple drawing, she took me about a month to complete, primarily because I had no idea what I was doing and had to learn the skills as I went. She still cracks me up. She still seems like a great idea to me. She gets more page views than any other design in my RedBubble shop. She gets compliments, too. But no one seems to want to take her home. Why not? She’s adorable. She’s available as a sticker for $2.32. That makes her versatile. She could be a smartphone case, or a notebook cover, or a window decal.

That cat is never going to get tired of that fish.

That cat is never going to get tired of that fish.

And finally, being worse isn’t an indicator of failure. It is certain that my writing is objectively better than that of Stephanie Meyers, but it isn’t more successful. I don’t think “Kitty Sees 3 Fishes” is a masterpiece; it’s the oldest drawing in the shop, and it’s actually something I dashed out in a few minutes. In fact, I think I spent more time converting it to a digital format than I did painting it. But it’s one of my most successful designs. How? Why? Should I be doing more in this vein? The idea of the picture still amuses me. But as an older, more accomplished artist, I look at this image and think, “Where are kitty’s feet?”

Anyway, this is a blog post, and these are 3 items in my shop. Do with them as you will. (I hope what you will do is like and share them with your social networks and expose more people to the magic of QWERTYvsDvorak.)

Dragon Comics 30

It's true. He does smell delightful.

It’s true. He does smell delightful.

When I showed him the illustrations, before I added the text, he said, “I’m so glad you got outside.” Figuring out how to draw the Milky Way was the fun part of this drawing. Getting the silhouettes right was also something of a challenge, but not as much as it would have been 29 comics ago.

In case you’re wondering where Dragon’s tail is, it is flat and limp without the cave’s magic, and therefore spilling down the hill with no curl whatsoever.

In reality, I spend far too much time outside the cave. Why, just yesterday I went to 2 parties and 3 stores, and later found out that I missed an old friend passing through town due to my own busy-ness. And today I attended a Girl Scouts Brownies meeting for the first time since 1981. Fascinating. Getting the comic written is getting harder as the frantic part of the year encroaches, but I’m committed to at least 100 of them before I reevaluate.

Like what you see? Why not support the artist by clicking on the blogroll links to your right?

 

 

Dragon Comics 29

Of all the work for hire I’ve done in my life, I’m perhaps most proud of the 30 entries I wrote for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature in the mid 2000s, including the entry on cartooning legend Tex Avery, whose 1949 cartoon short “Bad Luck Blackie” basically ushered the concept of cartoon violence into modernity. In retaliation for his torture of a kitten, a sadistic bulldog is cursed with bad luck, in the form of a variety of hilarious and increasingly unlikely objects that fall on his head whenever a black cat crosses his path.

The first 2 items to fall on the dog’s head are flowerpots; these are city creatures, and flowerpots falling from windowsills are explainable, even if 2 in 1 minute strain plausibility. Then comes the steamer trunk, followed, of course, by a piano. There is some explanation for the falling bricks at a construction site, but little logic behind the live bomb and the now expected, if not completely unlikely, anvil.

In the cartoon’s final moments, as the dog’s bad luck is sealed in seeming perpetuity, three final object fall from the sky onto his head as he runs off into a distance: a plane (OK), a bus (what? Did it fall off a bridge?), and then, for the punchline, a ship. A large ocean liner falls out of the sky, onto the dog. His luck is indeed bad.

In 7 minutes, Avery’s cartoon communicates an absurd logic, one without which we cannot truly enjoy cartoons. It’s the same logic explained in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Roger, the animated rabbit, and Eddie, the live action human, have been handcuffed together. As Eddie furiously saws at the handcuffs he snaps at Roger to stand still. In a good faith effort to help, Roger slips out of his bonds and leaves Eddie to his task. Eddie notices that Roger is no longer chained to him, and snarls, “Do you mean to tell me you could have taken your hand out of that cuff at any time?”

“No, not at any time,” Roger explains. “Only when it was funny.”

That is the essence of cartoon logic. Anything can happen. But only when it’s funny.

This is a lot of what I love about cartoons.

The Animaniacs summarized the boundaries and possibilities of cartoon logic in the 1993 short, “I Am the Very Model of a Cartoon Individual,” jamming a maximum number of tropes into 75 seconds of music. An illustration of an anvil falls from the pages of a book, manifesting with a heavy clang onto the head of a pirate. Yakko Warner sings, “From this bag here why I can pull most anything imaginable, like office desks and lava lights and Burt who is a cannibal.”

Anything imaginable, as long as it’s funny.

Peter does it in Family Guy and Pinky Pie does it in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

And this is what Dragon is doing today. I love cartoons. I love drawing cartoons. It’s unlikely that I’ll get any worse at it. This strip gives me hope that I might be getting better.

But I wanted to examine the Horsehead Nebula! And shoot the fun size trebuchet. And maybe eat a banana, or some other piece of fruit off the Carmen Miranda hat.

But I wanted to examine the Horsehead Nebula! And shoot the fun size trebuchet. And maybe eat a banana, or some other piece of fruit off the Carmen Miranda hat.

A Simple Geometry

Diamonds, triangles, and squares

Triangles and diamonds

Once I read a Navajo fairy tale in a picture book about a weaver who became some obsessed with perfection in her work that she became trapped in her own art, as if she sewed her soul into the design. Navajo weavers always leave a “way out,” some imperfection in their pattern, to prevent this spiritual entanglement, a fact of which I was reminded when we visited Tuba City in the Navajo Nation last week.

This mandala also reminds me of that legend. The turquoise color and the shapes reflect some of the art we saw on our journey. Of course, I never have to worry about leaving myself a way out of my mandalas, since it’s been many years since I even imagined that perfection was possible in drawings. This one is pretty tight though, even if it skews a bit.