Cartoon and Illustration

About our cat, Callie (RIP)

There are some things you need to know about me.  

One, I’m allergic to most anything with fur or feathers–and I was raised in a home where indoor pets were not encouraged.

Two, I’m married to a woman who goes nuts for any animal.

So as a consequence, when various strays have wandered into our lives it’s been difficult for me considering both my upbringing and my health.

However, for the past several years we’ve had two cats.  Callie and Sam.

Callie had a lot of health issues.  She was diagnosed as having the feline equivalent of HIV (but this was later down graded by a different vet), then she had to have an eye removed due to a tumor.

Since her eye removal surgery, Callie had become especially affectionate to my wife, Karin–and in the past several months had become Karin’s primary recreation.  The two of them would spend hours playing together on the kitchen floor.  Callie had even become open to getting her tummy rubbed (a rarity in cats, as almost any cat owner will tell you).

Considering that she came to us a wounded, scared, little stray she had made a world of progress.  She was even warming up to me, allowing me to pet her (of course I then had to immediately scrub my hands and still suffered stinging, bleary eyes for hours afterward) and taking on some of the characteristics of a 3-year-old child.

She had become more bold.  Coming indoors unbidden, wandering around when our backs were turned, that sort of thing.  Karin has been taking care to make sure the kitchen floors were cleaned daily, and if Callie got into any other rooms that they were vacuumed.

Callie had even taken to ordering me around from time to time.  When Karin was away a few weeks back (picking up furniture from her parent’s home in Illinois), Callie got impatient for her return.  She hopped up on a perch we’d built outside the kitchen window–looked at me and rather stridently said: “ME-YOW!”

I knew what she meant, and she knew that I understood.

I told her to be patient and that Karin would be home soon.

So in spite of the difficulties we were all getting closer.

Then again there was the part of me that just couldn’t handle the allergies too much, and I did complain a lot that Karin shouldn’t be bringing the cats in the house at all.

That all changed yesterday when Callie didn’t come for breakfast…then lunch.  It just wasn’t like her.  Karin called the animal shelter to ask if anyone had brought in a cat fitting Callie’s description.  (It would have taken me days to figure out to do that).  When I was through with lunch and heading back to my studio for some reason I thought to go look at the abandoned house next to ours.  I guess I thought she might have gotten caught in there somehow.

But instead I found Callie dead.  What was left of her.

I’m not going to go into details, because I’m still trying to get the picture out of my head.  It was, however, the most horrifying sight I’ve ever been witness to.

Anyway, last night Sam slept in the spare room with Karin.  I didn’t care so much about my allergies as I do about keeping Sam safe from whatever attacked Callie.  We’re going to have to figure out what to do about that–but for now we’re both really scared.

It might have been Coyotes.  They have been re-introduced into the region in the past several years and many house pets have been killed by them.  Someone suggested Racoons or even a Bear–but the Racoons around our house are not that agressive and certainly wouldn’t have eaten nearly an entire cat.  And if we have a cat-eating Bear on our hands then the problem is bigger than I know how to deal with.

I haven’t heard any Bear type noises anyway.  So I’m thinking Coyotes–and I’m really angry at them too.  It’s probably not fair to the Coyotes, but I’m angry all the same.

So now I need to go look about Coyote prevention.  Wish I’d done so sooner.

Cartoon and Illustration

Details on Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society Annual Meeting

While this particular blog is intended to get a large amount of information across to the various NCS members (and chapter-only members) of the SECNCS, others can look at it too.  I don’t think I’ll be revealing any secret info herein.

Took a whirlwind tour of downtown Knoxville today.  Went to visit with Charlie Daniel and his wife Patsy (no, not Charlie Daniels the musician, Charlie Daniel the newspaper cartoonist).  They’ve been our “ground crew” in arranging for the upcoming SECNCS Annual Meeting, to be held the weekend of October 25-27 at Crowne Plaza near the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

I’ve been talking to the folks at C-P since back in February and due to Charlie having connections there we’ve got a great room rate for the group that weekend.  I won’t mention that rate here, but if you’re in the SECNCS you should already know–it’s unbelievable for almost ANY hotel.  However, having seen the C-P in person now I can tell you that it is truly unbelievable!  The hotel just underwent a major renovation to all the guest rooms and nearly all the guest bathrooms (they’re still working on some of the baths–replacing tubs with showers), but the rooms we saw were awesome!  I told them that my wife will be impressed.

They also have a full gym with both resistance machines, free weights, cardio machines, and indoor pool at C-P.  So if you cartoonists are worried about getting out of shape while you’re in Knoxville–never fear.  Your family can swim until 11 pm each night, and exercise 24/7.

I also saw one of the meeting rooms–where we’ll be holding our business meeting and public presentations.  Actually I saw Salon “B”, we’ll be in Salon “A” on the mezzanine level.  That’s where our guest speakers (Mike Lynch, Bill Holbrook, John Lotshaw, Greg Cravens, etc.) will be giving their presentations.  Since I’m thinking of it I’d better insert the artwork Mike Lynch has done for the event.

The event theme is “Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks” and I got the cool job of playing art director for Mike Lynch–internationally published humor cartoonist!  Wow, this job is the bomb.ImageAlso on the mezzanine level is Mahogany’s Restaurant where we’ll be having our Friday night meet and greet dinner.  Again, they’re giving our group a great deal–each of our people gets a deal on dinner Friday night buffet in the private room that can seat up to 42 of us cartoonists and our family members.  Sweet.

After visiting C-P the Daniels took me across the street to Market Square, but we stopped in at WDVX for the live broadcast of “The Blue Plate Special” and we got to hear Blue Hound Smith perform.  Hopefully some of our group will be able to hit WDVX during the lunch hour on October 25 or 26 and see the great shows they put on there.  (As an aside, I gave the folks at the station a copy of Gypsy Bandwagon: Stole My Mule to listen to.  Hopefully they’ll give it a listen and maybe we can play on that stage sometime in the next year).

On Market Square we went to visit Bella Luna Restaurant, and took a nice meeting with co-owner Christin Love, who was very helpful and is looking forward to hosting our group on Saturday evening, October 26–after our full day of programming.

Bella Luna features “Simple Modern Italian” and they’re ready to show our group a remarkable evening.  I’ll be needing to get a head count of all the folks that are going to be there for that.  But it promises to be really amazing.  And just in case you’ve got special dietary needs, they assure me that they can even accomodate gluten-free!  (Imagine that in an Italian place!)

BTW, if you’re coming to the events on Saturday, we’ll be taking a break for lunch, and the hotel is only 200 steps from Market Square where there are any number of awesome restaurants.  The Daniels treated me to Latitude 35 for a nice casual lunch, but there must be around 30 other restaurants on the street–so you’ve got a choice.

Back at the hotel we’re planning to have a silent auction benefitting the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, the SECNCS, and the Milt Gross Fund.  We welcome the general public to this and will be doing a lot of publicity prior to the event.  After that’s done our group will be doing our usual “Cartoon Jam” after hours.  We’ve got the meeting room until at least 10 pm, so bring along your “axe” and let’s jam!


Cartoon and Illustration

The secret of output (as I see it)

So, right now I should be drawing pages for Grimm Fairy Tales: Hunters #5.  I’m just taking a short break from that very advantageous job that I got as a result of going out to San Diego Comic-Con a few weeks back.

But taking breaks isn’t the secret of output (defined as doing a lot of pages in a short period of time).  There are probably a lot of secrets–years ago I heard that John Buscema told the Marvel Bullpen, “First you learn how to draw, and then you do it fast.”

Okay, so I’m of the opinion that I can actually draw pretty well (and tell a story with my drawings, which is definitely important when drawing comics).  But the wear and tear on the body is a problem–particularly the fingers.

So, here’s the secret.  Go get some latex gloves (or nitrile, I’ve used both).  Cut the fingers off of them and keep these glove fingers handy.  Before you start drawing on a tough deadline, put two layers of these latex fingerlets on your thumb and two on your middle finger.

I’ve been working on this deadline for a week and I’m not showing nearly as much finger fatigue as I have on previous jobs where I waited until I was already hurting and blistered before applying the latex fingerlets to my hands (or didn’t use them at all).

Still hoping to finish up the 11 pages I’ve been assigned before the week is out.  But I’ll have to get back to work to do so.

Taking short breaks is also key.  Long breaks eat into your deadline.

Cartoon and Illustration

Finally–following up on San Diego Comic-Con

My apologies for not having posted something sooner about my trip to San Diego Comic-Con in mid-July.  But things have been very (very) busy around here since my return and I’ve had to deal with commissions, new assignments, and family stuff since then–besides attempting to catch up on some sleep (not too successfully, actually, but I’ll get there eventually).

Rather than giving a day-by-day account of what I went through at SDCC, I think I’ll stick to what has become the common thread of conversation with almost everyone I’ve spoken to about SDCC since returning home.

I.e. the first question everyone seems to ask is:

“Did you go in costume?”

The answer to this is a resigned sigh, followed by, “No, I went to find work.”

Then I have to explain this to Mr. or Mrs. average citizen who has seen Comic-Con mentioned on Big Bang Theory or some similar media outlet.  Going in costume is a big part of Comic-Con, but that’s for those who are going to amuse themselves (in most cases).  While I’d love to be part of that craziness, my path lies elsewhere and as a professional illustrator and cartoonist for the past 30 years I’ve had to forget about cos-play as something I partake in.

Begging everyone’s pardon, but can you imagine someone showing up for a job interview in swim fins and a snorkel?  That’s about the reaction one would get showing up for professional freelance interviews at Comic-Con.  It may be fun and games for the fans, but for pros it’s hard work.

Admittedly some don’t get this dichotomy.  There were more than a few female fan/pros at the portfolio review who were in costume.  But as for us guys, we looked like a bunch of guys on casual Friday at the very least, and I even saw a suit or two in the crowd.

But I may be getting ahead of myself.

As stated, my purpose in visiting Comic-Con was to secure more freelance art jobs for myself.  At the urging of more than one of my working professional friends (some of whom have worked on stuff you’ve actually seen!) I have been working towards attendance as a pro at SDCC for the past year.  Putting my wife and myself in hock up to our eyeballs to pay for airfare and hotel in order to get there and meet editors, publishers, and art directors for various companies that publish comic books, graphic novels, or serve similar industries with creative artwork.

So after a semi-eventful flight and partial night’s sleep my buddies, Chris, Spike and caught a shuttle running to the Convention Center and in about 20 minutes I found myself in front of the entrance hall I needed to go to in order to get my pro-pass.

(Yes, the shuttle was filled with folks in costume.  I sat next to a large fellow named Shawn, who was dressed as a butterfly.  Many of you may have seen the picture of me and Shawn on Facebook.  In front of the Convention Center there were teeming multitudes of people dressed as Daleks, Doctor Who, Tardises, Lego Darth Vader, Lego Boba Fett, regular Princess Leia, Harley Quinn, Joker, etc.)

But these people were not going to the same show as I was–not really.  My path took me through pro registration–which took about 2 seconds as I showed them my pre-printed UPC code (which I’d had in my possession since sometime in February if memory serves).  Then I headed upstairs to the Sails Pavilion to sign in for my chance to meet representatives from various people in hiring positions.

This may have taken another 10 minutes all told.  And then I sat down to wait with all the other freelance artists looking for their chance to impress someone with their drawing and storytelling talents.  The estimated crowd for Comic-Con is around 150,000 for the whole weekend.  The number of those creating comics artwork appearing at SDCC (at least in the Illustrators section) numbers around 150 (my guess) so about 1 in 1000 attendees has some sort of professional credit.  Those sitting in the portfolio review, wearing pro-passes was probably another 50 on Thursday.

Don’t misunderstand.  Many of the people who had space downstairs in the illustrators section of the exhibition hall were also spending time upstairs at the portfolio review.  Because (as one or more of my friends mentioned at the show), “we all need to look for work.”

The sign up lists were randomized by computer and placed on display in front of cubicles provided for the various publishers, etc.  We, the artists, sat in a section of chairs that could accomodate maybe 150 of us at any given time.  The restrooms were close and not too heavily used.  There was a water fountain where many of us refilled our bottles several times during the day, as we occasionally dug into our backpacks and bags to dig out yet another granola bar to tide us over while we waited.

We talked.  We met with old friends and made new acquaintances.  We shared our portfolios with one another and passed along tips to one another.  

“Antarctic Press is supposedly reviewing samples down at their booth!  Says so in the program guide.”

“Have you worked with (name witheld)?  Do they pay?  I’ve heard they’re kind of slow.”

That kind of stuff.  We gave one another tips on art, software, which editors were open to submissions–got info on other friends who were downstairs (that is, their location on the floor).

I talked to a couple of up-and-coming artists.  Gave them some tips on what they should be showing in their portfolios.  Hey, I don’t pretend to know it all, but there are somethings that I DO know, and I’m happy to pass that info along.

Some of these artists were students in college.  Their portfolios were obviously student portfolios–and it was probably better to hear that from me than to get bawled out by some editor who was going to complain they were wasting his time.  Nobody is a waste of time–but sometimes we all could use a little streamlining of our “pitch”.

Anyway, I met with 3 or 4 potential clients on Thursday (and more on Friday).

But I had made arrangements to be down at the National Cartoonists Society booth from 1-3 on Thursday and so had to leave the portfolio review area to make that date.

Here’s where most asked question number 2 comes in:

“Did you get to see a lot of famous people?” (Meaning, TV and movie stars).

Again, that isn’t the show I went to.  It may be in the same building, but the TV and Movie scene is not what I was there for.  Admittedly I did see Mira Furlan’s autograph area from a distance of maybe 100 yards.

My big Hollywood moment came when I was down at the NCS booth doing a sketch of Captain America for someone when the buzz went around the table that Jack Black was on his way there.  Seems that Jack is buddies with one of the animators from Kung Fu Panda and offered to come by the NCS table and sign autographs.

The thing is, my “shift” was over at 3 and Jack wouldn’t be coming in until 4.  But my name was on the same greaseboard as JB’s for the entire day.

As insular and pampered as the Hollywood types seemed to be at SDCC–whisked in from LA in limos, surrounded by bodyguards, relegated to “Hall H” (at least the presently big names) it was kind of cool to know that Jack Black was willing to sit around with a bunch of cartoonists and sign stuff for fans.

I already liked Jack Black’s movies, generally speaking, but my opinion of him as a person has been very much improved by this action on his part.

The irony of this is it was COMIC-CON.  I was sitting at the NCS table with Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine), Greg Evans (Luanne), and The Keane Brothers (Family Circus)–and people ask me did I see anyone famous?

Yes.  I saw famous cartoonists!  I shook hands with Klaus Janson for pete’s sake!  Russ Manning was so close I could have thrown a granola bar at him.  I actually touched a page of Superman artwork by Jerry Siegel.  So yes, I saw famous people–but I guess there’s fame and then there’s fame.

Didn’t bother me that much at the show.  I was riding high.  Not one negative comment about my samples from anyone.  I handed books to editors all day Friday and had any number of them give me their cards and ask for follow ups.

Follow ups is mostly what I’ve been doing since.

And now, in the past few hours I’ve gotten offered a new job for Zenescope.  So I’d better got attend to that.  I have around 20 days to get it done.  So if I don’t post for a while, you’ll know why.