Monday, February 25, 2008


Since you guys suffered through my poor examples of pen and ink, I thought I'd share the work of a true skilled hand. I don't remember how I came across Chris Sanders' blog, but I am glad that I did. He recently started a weekly strip called "Kiskaloo" which he posts on his blog. Start at the bottom with #1 and work your way up.

(I just noticed that his strips open up within a frame on his blog. Be sure to open the images in a new window or tab for easier viewing.)

According to at least one of his posts, Sanders uses brush and pen and ink. His lines are luscious, and the drawings clean. His characters have perceptible life and volume even though they are "cartoonish". He's also very skilled at composing his panels (or shots), and he's not afraid of dynamic scenes (i.e. not always drawn 3/4 view at about eye level). He makes good use of darks and shadows. He shows how much energy and zest you can get out of just black and white. His animation background really shows in the emotive qualities of his characters faces and poses. In short, absolutely terrific in every way and something for me to aspire to.

Also, I find the strips very funny. I find #7 especially delightful. Hopefully you will too.

You may find that his work looks familiar. If you check out his bio page, you'll see he's worked in feature animation at Disney for a while. Notably, it says he directed Lilo & Stitch, and I'd have to assume that he had a large influence on the look of that film.

While you're at his site, don't forget to check out his sketchs. There's more fine work there.

It's terrific that people like Sanders are willing to share their work like this. In the past (before the internet), it wouldn't be so easy for him to share his more personal work nor for us to get to see it. We live in a time of many problems, but we also live in a time of ample opportunities. For some reason, little things like "Kiskaloo" really help me remember that. Great art and good times.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Custom Greeting Cards - $500 each

This past week was the last week at work for a friend of mine. She had decided to pursue another opportunity (a good opportunity). So, I'm really happy for her. It's good to see people pursuing things they want to do. I see them as role models.

Anyway, I wanted to give her a memento of some sort. I wanted it to be personalized, so I decided to make her a card. There just some things you can't find in the greeting card aisle. It appears I'm becoming a regular HallmarkTM. This is my second card in a month. Of course, it's silly humor because I don't know any other type of humor (besides silly humor is almost always appropriate). Also, you should know she is a chemist, otherwise the gag might not make any sense.

This is the outside of the card. The back is on the left (with my fake imprint). The front is on the right. I blurred out where I wrote her name. To read the blurred part, I suggest substituting "nice lady" in your best recolection of Professor Frink's voice.

This is the interior.

I wrote some other things like you would any normal card, but I scanned it before I did that because I'm all about privacy and stuff (except for this blog, I guess).

It was fun to do this one, but it's killer to work on these things for friends. I want them to enjoy it, and I really want to do a good job, and it really stresses me out! But it's a good stress. Builds character.

I think these cards turned out well, but I noticed how simple I kept everything. Simple is effective, but I sort of feel that I stick to simple because it's safe not because it's the best choice. Also, I want to use some color. Maybe if I can find a way to motivate myself to practice more, I'll have more skills to draw on. Uh... Pun intended only in retrospect.

Materials: Hobby Lobby card stock, various pens and brushes, and india ink.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Happy New Year! (again)

This past week saw the beginning of the Chinese New Year. I admit that it is not a holiday that I normally celebrate. However, for the Chinese, the New Year seems to be as big a deal as the Christmas holiday is for many people in the U.S. (especially with regards to families getting together). If you're curious, you can find more information about the Chinese New Year here.

I was talking to a friend of mine who is Chinese about the New Year's holiday. We were talking about all sorts of things, about the way it is celebrated, about the Chinese zodiac, and about the horrendous weather China was experiencing a couple of weeks back and how that might impact people's travel plans (at the very least).

It wasn't until I talked to her and read the weather reports that I started to understand how important the holiday is for people. I also realized that the New Year is practically a nonevent in the states. So, I decided I wanted to do a little something for my friend since she is so far from family this year. For some reason, despite the serious potential for unintended cultural insensitivy, I decided I'd make her a card.

My friend has given me permission to post a scan of the card here so I could share it with you guys. I thought you might enjoy seeing it and gaining whatever minimal cultural insight I can provide. The gold ink loses a little luster in the scanning, but what can you do?

The red paper was chosen because red is used liberally during the New Year. So, I went with it for purposes of the festivities.

The Chinese symbol means "good fortune". I am unclear as to whether the symbol itself represents good fortune or rendering it in gold confers "good" to the meaning of the symbol. I wasn't sure. The internet makes a terrible resource for learning about certain things. So, I went with the gold just to be on the safe side. Also, gold appears to be a festive color as well.

The next part was the less than traditional part. It was also the part fraught with potential misunderstanding since (as far as I know) it was my own invention and not backed up by anything I read about. It was more of my idea of what a Chinese version of the whole old man/baby new year thing might look like. An attempt at light hearted humor.

The pig represents the year that is passing. Last year was the year of the pig (the golden pig to be more precise). Apparently it was the end of the sixty year cycle. The new year is the year of the rat and the beginning of a whole new sixty cycles. So, the rat is chasing the pig off as part of his cleaning for the New Year (that's why he's chasing the pig with a broom). He's taking charge now, baby!

That's a lot of words to explain a single symbol and a couple of scampering cartoon animals. Fortunately for me, my friend appeared to understand the intent immediately and appreciated it (*phew*). So, the card appears to have been successful and caused no international, interpersonal disasters.


P.S. I did all this stuff with brush and ink. The smudge you see at the bottom of the rat's leading foot was partially corrected prior to giving the card. That's the risks you take when you work with ink on paper (and haven't done so in years). When I slipped up, I felt a deep despair that I think anybody who has worked with pen/brush and ink can understand. I almost scrapped the whole card in a fit of disgust to start over. I would have done that in the past, but age has apparently mellowed me. I managed to salvage the card with a light use of an X-acto blade. A sort of poor man's electric eraser.