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It is said that good artists borrow and great artists steal. Here is a list of great drawings in comics (and cartoons) that I would gladly steal, if the opportunity arises:
The Simpsons’ massive overbites.
Raised eyebrows in FoxTrot. Literally, they rise about a foot over the head of the character.
Calvin’s many, many facial expressions. A good example is the Sunday strip where he is having his picture taken. Take after classic take.
Daffy Duck’s head after it is blown up/blown off/blacked out when he is shot by Elmer Fudd.
Staircases in Mutts.
Calvin’s dresser. Actually, anytime it is hinted that his room is messy.
The abyss that Charlie Brown’s head becomes when he looks heavenward and moans. This can be seen when he is on the baseball field.
Gary Larsen’s ‘stupid’ characters. The glasses, the teeth showing, everything about them reeks of stupid.
The single line representing eyes in many of Gary Larsen’s animals.
Tony Millionaire’s ships. Schooners, pirate vessels, tug boats…all of them.
This is not particular to one artist: when an inanimate object is shown flying through the air with a shadow underneath it to indicate forward motion. Most often this is used with cars. I think they tried to replicate this motion in “The Blues Brothers” movie.
When the Grinch smiles his horrible, evil smile.
Decorations between the panels of a Krazy Kat comic.
When Batman narrows his eyes in the Batman cartoon. When he does that, he really means business.
The White House in Doonesbury. I would argue that the White House is a character in that comic strip, just like any of the humans.
The monsters in Lio.
Robert Crumb’s telephone poles. I feel like they’re used as a symbol of urban decay.
Landscapes in Tintin.
The dotted line in The Family Circus. Okay, just kidding.
The dandelion field in Bloom County.
This was off the top of my head. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up!
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Picasso and Garfunkel

At the risk of starting my blog on a serious note, I’d like to speak for a moment about ART.

Not Mr. Garfunkel, specifically. Generally.

When I was a kid learning to draw from other people’s comics, I never really knew what the creative process was. I mean, I know what a duck looks like. I know a realistic drawing of a duck can be done by looking at the duck and drawing what you see. But I couldn’t figure out how Chuck Jones got Daffy Duck from a real duck. How many steps were there? Did he first master ducks, then distort the features? I didn’t know.

Further complicating things was a man known only as Pablo Picasso. His drawings (and, okay, some pretty good paintings, too) were so far from “real.” How did he make the connection? I was also wondering, though I wouldn’t have put it to myself that way at the time, how I could look at one of his drawings and immediately understand it as a depiction of a real thing.

An answer came in the form of an old movie of Picasso drawing on a pane of glass. The camera was situated on one side of the glass, looking directly at Picasso. Picasso was looking at the camera. He then went on to draw on the glass. It was perfect! You got to see how he drew, without that annoying “over the shoulder” shot so common when showing cartoonists at the drawing board. And lo and behold, he drew a bull exactly the way he might have on one of his canvasses. He didn’t draw a regular bull, then draw his bull over it and erase the first bull. It was directly from his brain to the page (or, glass).picasso2 picasso1

When drawing something I haven’t drawn before, I still tend to make an attempt at realism first. I’ll draw the gecko as it looks in the photograph. Then I’ll start embellishing. Make the eyes bigger, the fingers more prominent. I’ll streamline things to make the whole picture more cartoony. And of course I have to start imagining the way it moves, to see it from different angles so I don’t end up drawing the same picture over and over. This last part has become much easier as the internet becomes faster and more image-heavy. Instead of having one reference picture, I can find five or ten fairly easily. There are lots of geckos on the internet.

In this way, I think of drawing as a way to get from A to B, but B is an unknown destination. It is terrifying at first (some may say paralyzing), but as you become accustomed to not knowing where you’re headed, you start to like it.

One other thing I got from that movie. Picasso had obviously made a visual language for himself. It wasn’t a formula – that bull looked different every time. But it was a way for him to draw anything and still make it look like he drew it. I think that this is the ultimate goal for a cartoonist. To create a world that is unique yet recognizable, where everything fits together but doesn’t look cut from a mold. That is great cartooning.

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Little packets of sugar from heaven

Dear reader,
This is my second blog. My first undertaking can be found on myspace, in scattered vignettes spanning the past couple of years. It was fun. I don’t know if anyone outside my immediate circle of friends and family ever read or understood it, but it was fun to write. With this, my Second Attempt (not to be mistaken with the Second Coming), I hope to write about my comic strip, Welcome to Falling Rock National Park.

I’ve been cartooning since I was a kid. You could say that cartooning is a part of me, like an arm or a foot. Or an eyeball. Falling Rock, my most recent comic strip, has been running in college newspapers for the past year. I like it. I like telling stories about these characters. The comic comes from growing up in the Sonoran Desert, going for hikes in the national parks of the Southwest, and liking to draw animals more than people.

I won’t post every day, but I hope you will continue to check in. If I was a government or a corporation, this would be my attempt at transparency. Since I’m a cartoonist, I’ll call it, arbitrarily, a “blog.”

See you soon.