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high school art class

Since today is Throwback Thursday, I thought I’d throwback a little art from my high school art class. The first colored pencil drawing represents the first of many explorations of those mysterious Easter Island heads. The second is a portion of a final exam. Our teacher had us draw one picture for the final – whatever we could do in an hour. I went with comics. This is packed with in-jokes that I don’t remember and features all the people who sat with me for the year. We were a good group.
high-school-easter-island-cat

high-school-art-final-1

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Blog comic

park notes

These past few weeks I’ve begun work on Falling Rock issue 4. I have three longer stories which are all in various stages of completion. I think I’ll use whichever I finish writing first. Right now the top contender is a story involving a couple new characters, including a very famous cryptid.
yeti-bird-sketch
This part of the process is always exciting. I have a few ideas which may or may not turn out, but everything I’m doing is pure creation.
notebook-ruler-pens
In addition to the longer stories, I have a few single page stories (or “gags”). Maybe I’ll do a future issue comprised exclusively of these.
lamp-desk-panels
It’s fun to think about what a new issue will look like. I haven’t done anything too high-concept yet, but these are still early days. What issue will be my Sgt. Pepper? 100?

In other news, Cryptozoology News reported a sighting of a giant lizard-man in the desert. I couldn’t help but think it was the world’s first Ernesto sighting. Keep your eyes peeled, dear readers! The next time you’re hiking in the desert you may have a close encounter with a very tall lizard wearing a baseball jersey.

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Blog comic comic book

issue 3 cover

Issue 3 of Falling Rock National Park is finished! Here is the finished cover:
issue-3-cover-lowSubscribers will be getting their copies as soon as they get back from the printer.
If you don’t subscribe, why not start now? Reading more comics is a great New Year’s resolution.

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autobiography Blog comic con

goodbye stumptown love fest for comics

stumptown stumpStumptown Comics Fest was the first comic convention I ever attended, way back in 2009. One year later, it was the first comic convention I tabled at. Located that year in the Lloyd Center Doubletree ballroom (really one floor of a parking garage with carpet installed), Stumptown set the tone for me for how comic conventions should be. It was packed with interesting people, some of whom I now proudly call my friends. It taught me about trading the comic I made for another comic somebody else made. I met famous cartoonists, who mingled with us self-published nobodies and didn’t even complain about our smell.stumptown comics festWas Stumptown perfect? Heck no! Cartoonists love to complain as much (if not more) as other people. But I’ve come to realize that the “faults” of a show can also give it character. Make it special, even. MoCCA is held in a century-old armory that is stuffy in even the best weather conditions. Emerald City promoted Patrick Stewart every day for nearly a year but failed to mention all the cool kids in Artist Alley. SPX’s website crashed the second it was open to the public. In the end, these bumps bring us together, or at least give us fodder for in-convention sketches to pass around.stumptown-table

The last few years it was pretty clear that the directors of Stumptown had lost interest in the show. I can’t blame them for wanting to move on. Organizing a comic convention every year can be sweaty thankless work. If you’re not 100% into it, you shouldn’t force yourself. Having the mantle of Stumptown hanging over your head, while dreading the angry tweets from indie cartoonists if it doesn’t go well, is no way to live your life. Better no Stumptown than a Stumptown everybody hates.

I’m sorry to see Stumptown go, but am forever grateful for the world it opened to me. My path in comics would be quite different had Stumptown not existed. To use a handy metaphor, Stumptown is my George Bailey.

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Blog comic

falling rock national park trailer

I had this idea for almost a full year. I’ve always wanted to make a trailer for my comic, but I didn’t have the means until recently. Then I had to wait until I flew back to Tucson so I could film the desert landscape I draw so frequently. Finally, it all came together in this 85-second clip. Hopefully my next video project won’t have as large a gestation-to-production ratio.

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Blog comic con

Tucson Comic-Con 2013

Tucson Comic-Con was a great way to end this year’s convention circuit. Tucson is such a welcoming town; I always love going back.

This year I noticed two big changes to the place I call my hometown. One was that Tucson now has a real downtown. Shops, galleries, bars, and restaurants fill the once-desolate streets. Streetcar tracks wind their way through a vibrant city’s beating heart. I am so glad Tucson has finally become the cool city it always aspired to be. The other change, unfortunately, was the traffic. Along with more to do in the city, there are more people out. With no real highway system to speak of, the city government has chosen to go the way of Denver: make the roads bigger. This does not solve the problem, of course. It only exacerbates. If I had free reign to redesign any city, I would pick Tucson.

The convention itself was a magnificent success. Thanks to Mike and Teresita Oliveras, the show was bigger than ever. I had the great fortune to be seated next to this handsome guy.

Henry Barajas has become ubiquitus in Tucson. He works for two newspapers, does stand-up, blogs, makes comics, and somehow has time to ride his bike all over town. It was an honor to have him beside me for two days as we greeted nearly every comic fan in the Old Pueblo.

Not only was Tucson a fun con, but I did better sales than Seattle, a much bigger show. I attribute that mainly to location and content. I was stationed very near the entrance in Tucson, so I got to see the crowds before they thinned and became weary. And my comics are set in the southwest, so there is a recognition in Tucson that I just don’t get elsewhere.

It is that, and the great Mexican food, that keeps me returning to my homeland. For the next four months I will retire to the Batcave to work on new comics. I want to have plenty to show for next year’s convention circuit. Stay tuned for new announcements, including the forthcoming publication of Falling Rock National Park issue 3!

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autobiography Blog

exposure, a dirty word

David Byrne wrote a spot-on, depressing opinion piece in The Guardian recently.

This is how I feel about putting my work on Tumblr (or Instagram), except instead of a “pittance” I would get zero dollars.

When I first started shopping The Family Monster around, I got offers of “exposure” but none of real, actual money. I am glad I took The Colorado Daily up on their offer, because it led to me getting paid (however small an amount) by McClatchy-Tribune Campus. However, even after I was getting a regular paycheck, I continued to receive offers of exposure (not money) by other publications. Did they think I was so desperate for an audience, any audience, that I’d give my hard work away for free? The old metaphor about giving a plumber exposure instead of paying him for his work comes to mind. Artists, it seems, are easily exploited. It is true most cartoonists are somewhat masochistic, but there is a limit.

While I love posting pictures of Reed on Instagram, and have begun sporadically posting favorite single panels of comics I’m reading on Tumblr, I cannot see the point in doing to myself what others have tried to do to me in the past: make my work worthless.

I’m not even sure what Tumblr means. I’ve seen about 50,000 amazing images for less than one second each. Is the human brain able to process any of that?

Here on this blog you’ll find plenty of my work which I happily post. The difference is, I own this blog. I own this website. All the folks who visit are here to see what I’ve got cooking (sorry, no jambalaya today). With those other websites, I’m merely providing free content to help generate revenue for someone else.  I understand that’s part of the deal: I get to use Instagram to look at everybody else’s pretty pictures, and they can look at the pictures I take. I’m just not going to mix that up with my comics.

I hope this doesn’t come off sounding too curmudgeonly. We are all figuring out how best to use social media. In 20 years we’ll all laugh at our hilariously dumbheaded efforts. In the meantime, I thank each of you for supporting me, for buying my comics, because each time that happens I realize the dream I’ve had since I was a kid.

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autobiography Blog comic con

meet me in bethesda

SPX is just one week away! I’ve never been to this show before, but have heard glowing reviews from all my cartoonist friends.
I’ll be sharing table F12 with Reid, and we’ll be neighbors to Kenan and Neil.
Stop by and say hello!

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autobiography Blog comic con

san diego comic-con in pictures

More to come in writing, but here is a visual log of my five days in San Diego. As it was my first time as exhibitor, I took some pictures of the booths without the huge crowds surrounding them. It is an unadvertised treat to be able to wander the convention hall with only my fellow exhibitors around.

For a minute-by-minute recap of Comic-Con, I highly recommend reading my Twitter feed, as well as those of my friends and neighbors Reid Psaltis, Jeff Schuetze, Victoria Ying, Mike Yamada, Tammy Stellanova, Chet Phillips, and Dave Kellett.

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Blog comic fiction

how to be a real cartoonist

[NOTE: I found this essay while perusing old notebooks last weekend.  It was probably written in May or June 2002.  I hadn’t yet started drawing The Family Monster and was uncertain if I’d succeed as a cartoonist.  The stakes were high.  This was probably an attempt to build myself up for what was to be the beginning of the rest of my life.]

You must posses at least one drawing hand.  It can be either left or right, or both, but it can’t be two lefts or two rights.  Once you’ve chosen, there are no take-backs.

Pick up a pencil or pen.  A pen is better suited for writing dialog, because when people talk they talk in ink.  Pencils are better for drawing because you can erase your many mistakes.  You will make many mistakes.

Find a comfortable place to sit and compose.  You can’t take my place because I’m there already and I can’t work with you sitting on my lap.  You also can’t take Charles Schulz’s place because, let’s face it, he was a giant in this field.  Also, his place is in a museum, the Charles Schulz Museum, and the docents won’t let you sit there.  Sit and compose.  You will find that, upon sitting, you will want to do anything but compose.  Resist this urge.  Eventually the phone will ring or you will need the bathroom so so bad.  Don’t get up before you absolutely have to.  Don’t take a break before you start composing.  That is not a break.

Stare blankly at a blank sheet of paper.  Do not think “How will I fill these?”  Think of something funny your character would say.  Think of the funniest possible thing your character could say, then think of the reason why she would say it.  Write all that down.  None of this will seem funny to you.  It never will seem all that funny to you.  This is a good sign.  As soon as you find yourself witty and urbane, you should stop composing.  When you begin to find yourself funny, it is the exact moment you have stopped being funny.

Don’t try to finish a joke if it is taking too long.  Move on.  Come back to it if you think the setup is unique or has merit.

Compare yourself unfavorably to published cartoonists.  Compare yourself favorably to published cartoonists who you feel don’t deserve their sweet publishing deals.  Try to understand why they have been published, regardless.  Spend lots of time hoping you’ll get published.  Spend more time doing something about it.

Follow the above directions to become a Real Cartoonist, unless you already have a better plan, in which case you should follow that instead.