Doot Doot Garden: The Blog of Craig Thompson
Doot Doot Garden: The blog of graphic novelist Craig Thompson
pile of trash in fine art & folk art July 20th, 2014

For those of you asking about Dave Stewart’s process coloring SPACE DUMPLINS, there’s a great interview up at FROM THE GUTTERS.

Dave is tackling some ridiculously detailed panels. Here’s one I just drew of an outer space landfill.

As ever, the reference is hodgepodged from both low brow & high brow sources. A) The FOLK ART side hails from the graveyard of cars rusting in the forest behind my parents’ rural Wisconsin home. (See page 533 of BLANKETS for more wooded trash heaps.)  B) The FINE ART side is Nancy Rubin’s “Airplane Parts” sculpture at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

drawing brothers July 3rd, 2014

Just returned from one month in France where I began a collaborative book with 72 year old French comics master Edmond BAUDOIN.

(A – Edmond with Cambodian cartoonist Tian, left. Amiens Cathedral, right.)

(B – Signing at the Palais du Commerce, left. Little Prince statue in Place Bellecour, right.)

After book signings at the A) Amiens BD festival and B) Lyon BD festival, Edmond & I retreated to his childhood haunts of Villars-sur-Var -
a mountaintop village near Nice to churn out drawings and write thumbails for our book.

Our timing aligned with village festival of their patron St. Jean – documented in Baudoin’s book LE CHEMIN DE SAINT JEAN.
Edmond has over 60 books in his bibliography, though zero are translated in English at this point.

Our collaborative project has just begun… the next step is Edmond visiting my stomping grounds in Portland & Wisconsin… BUT for the rest of the year, I plunge back into SPACE DUMPLINS to hit that deadline for a FALL 2015 release – the tenth anniversary of Scholastic’s GRAPHIX line.

les petits riens June 10th, 2014

“Little Nothings” — that’s the title for a book Maurice Sendak was working on when he died- based on Mozart’s first ballet.
Today is the anniversary of Maurice’s birth 86 years ago.

In the last year of his life, Maurice became an adopted grandfather and we chatted weekly on the phone. I transcribed bits of his conversations, almost all of which are too personal or vulnerable or hilariously vulgar to share here on the blog… but to commemorate his birthday, I found something petit. On July 31, 2011 speaking of his other project left unfinished - “THE NOSE BOOK”, Maurice said,
“I am writing something. A door is opening — moreso a WINDOW is opening. It’s FUNNY. I’ve never written anything funny before. No tragic overtones… just plain silly. But I’m not gonna judge it, or condemn it. … Which is very unlike me.”

 

The photo is with my dear cartoonist buddy Aaron Renier who introduced us in 2011.

In a later conversation, Maurice said, “I’ve been feeling fetid in my efforts at writing. Feel as if the creative spirit has departed. It better not leave me or I’ll have a SHIT FIT!” That’s how I was feeling when I left for France – I’m in Paris today – taking a breather from SPACE DUMPLINS to work in a sketchbook outside the studio again.

One more: “You just gotta get old and whatever was unattractive about your work is suddenly all right. Everything becomes silly.”                   
Still miss him everyday.
kazim ali & jens harder April 10th, 2014

This morning’s clutter on the drafting table – inking several SPACE DUMPLINS pages simultaneously. Also my friend Kazim Ali is in town for a reading from his new book SKY WARD at Reed College TONIGHT (6:30 Elliot Hall Chapel) for those of you in Portland. Here he’s writing Arabic on my new Cintiq (more on that in some future post… As evidenced above, I’m still inking with actual India ink & brush.).

Finally, this just arrived in the post – BETA (…civilizations volume 1) by German cartoonist Jens Harder. In this intricate, mind-boggling, coolest possible coffee table book, Jens catalogues the history of human evolution & civilization. Every image in the 365 page tome (apparently the first in a trilogy) is sampled from existing media – cave paintings, etchings, pottery, photographs, film, comics, etc. then redrawn in Jens’ meticulous brush lines. For those of you who thought HABIBI was nuts, this takes it to the next level. Speaking of which, here’s a page that references HABIBI in the development of written language.

A favorite page of mine groups CHRIS WARE alongside Caravaggio, Courbet, and Magritte to name a few.

color tweaks & carnet’s tenth March 5th, 2014
Just wanted to share some of the incredible work Dave Stewart’s pouring into the SPACE DUMPLINS colors.

We decided the palette was getting too muted & subdued, so he’s tweaking the pages just enough to infuse the grimy dinginess of outer space clutter with a burst of cartoony, kid-friendly levity. Previous incarnations on the left – updated versions on the right.

In other news, I realized that today is the exact ten year anniversary of my CARNET DE VOYAGE travel & book. To celebrate, I dug around for a photo or two, but they were sparse, because as noted in the back of the book, zero cameras were used in the creation of it. It is my unaltered travel diary begun March 5th, 2004 and ended May 14th, 2004. The week following, my buddy Frédéric and I scanned the three sketchbooks and layed out the book in Lyon, France – no edits other than a proofread from my non-native English speaking friends.


After spending 6-7 years on HABIBI, I can’t fathom that I created a book in less than three months. It helps to not make anything up, not edit, not use any photo reference, and avoid penciling as much as possible. First scruffy photo is in Morocco on the journey to Merzouga.


The second photo was provided by Lewis Trondheim – me drawing on the beach in Montpellier, France: young, naïve, skinny & shirtless.

the sakai project February 9th, 2014

One of my favorite comics growing up was USAGI YOJIMBO. Its creator Stan Sakai is humble, hardworking, and perhaps the kindest person I’ve met in this industry. His wife has been suffering serious health issues, so an art auction fundraiser has been organized to aid the family with medical expenses.

Here’s my tribute – crafted this snowbound weekend in Portland. The inspiration was 1) the unrequited romance of Usagi & Mariko from the earliest 1987 issues of the book, along with 2) the tradition of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints (specifically “Two ladies conversing in the snow” & “A village in the snow” by Hiroshige), and finally 3) the snow-dappled tree framed by my studio window as the neighbor kids sled down their front yard.

To learn more about the fundraiser and the other artists involved, please check out the Cartoon Art Professional Society’s Paypal.
The work will also be colored by the amazing Dave Stewart and see print in THE SAKAI PROJECT book to be published by Dark Horse and Bongo Comics (July 23rd release).
 

 

 

 

float down the liffey November 27th, 2013
Last week, I finished pencilling chapter three of SPACE DUMPLINS. I usually pencil & ink a single page on the same day (two with BLANKETS), but this time for the sake of editing, I pencilled an entire chapter at once.

Seeing the whole chapter made it more malleable & consistent, more tangible to “stage”, and saved me from repeating compositions. But my work days felt more monotonous – tending to a single task for weeks on end – and I missed the creative “down time” that inking affords me. Pencilling is all sweat & brainwork, but inking is more intuitive – freeing my mind to listen to music, podcasts, talk on the phone…

Many of you asked why I’ve started using colored ballpoint on my pencils, but it’s purely for fun – now that I scan the pencils and print out blue lines, the pencils can be as messy and colorful as I like. As an experiment, I dabbled with inking some panels digitally on a 13HD Cintiq.

Below is an excerpt from a page I inked twice – A) The old-fashioned way with a brush and India ink. B) The newfangled digital tablet way. I was surprised that the difference is almost imperceptible. An advantage of digital is that I was able to draw word balloons and color holds on separate layers, and of course it’s all easier to correct. But for now I still prefer the tactile sensations of light bouncing off paper, crude ink, and finicky sable hairs.

The pictured character is named TINDER, after my cartoonist buddy Jeremy Tinder – whose style I aped for the character design.
green bean & wordstock September 24th, 2013

After getting home from three weeks in LA, I have a couple events unfolding in the Portland area.

1) The local launch for First Second’s FAIRY TALE COMICS with cartoonist (and Laika storyboarder) Graham Annable at GREEN BEAN BOOKS. 1 PM on Saturday, September 28th (1600 NE Alberta Street, Portland). More on that anthology – a sequel of sorts to NURSERY RHYME COMICShere.

2) A two-way stage conversation between Gene Yang and I to scour the crossover themes of our coming-of-age memoirs (AMERICAN BORN CHINESE) and historical, religious epics (BOXERS & SAINTS) at the WORDSTOCK literary festival. 3 pm, October 5th, Oregon Convention Center.

Hope to see you locals there!

 

chunky shark cycle September 10th, 2013

Friends of my brother, GROW ANTHOLOGY, make sweet skateboards out of recycled paper, and they’ve launched a KICKSTARTER campaign to produce their first run of artist-edition boards – THE CHUNKY SHARK CYCLE! It’s limited to only 250 boards…  Chunky and Dandel graphic laser-etched into the top of the deck… made sustainably from recycled paper from a paper mill in my home town! They’re a flexy-fluid longboard ride or an object of art for display. Please, do check in to support the Chunky Shark Cycle Kickstarter and get stickers, t-shirts, decks, complete boards, or purchase my original art. Exciting to merge the two passions of my youth – comics and skateboarding!

(PS: Start following progress on the new book at: <http://instagram.com/spacedumplins> )

 
paddling vs pushing pixels August 23rd, 2013
Thank you, Jordi, for your reminders and thanks to all you loyal blog followers for your patience in this two month lapse between posts.

Portland has the best summers in the world, so there’s been the typical sunny day distractions of: A) river swimming (drawing buddy Scott)B) white water rafting (flip on the Deschutes)C) a little surfing (Justin loads the boards on my car – fifth one on the back seat), and D) lots of stand-up paddling (Brazilian twins Fabio & Gabriel on the Willamette).
 

In the work world, dealing with recurring hand problems, I’ve experimented with some alternate drawing techniques, including investing in a 13″ Wacom Cintiq.  1) Adrian Tomine’s latest OPTIC NERVE has a genius lampoon of “our generation’s” resistance to the new brand of art tools coupled with our frustration towards the declining quality of old world art supplies (bristol, brushes, ink). 2) For a couple of days my drawing desk became a clutter of video monitors (yuck).
 
3&4) I managed to digitally pencil a page, but then (5) printed out blue lines and reworked with an actual tangible pencil.
Here’s (6) Dave Stewart’s colors (digital) on my India inks (analog).
Purists will be relieved to know I’m sticking with the old-fashioned pencils and sable brushes for now. Digital dabbling, however, did push me to adopt a new working method of pencilling on cheap sketch paper, then scanning and printing blue lines on bristol board to ink by hand. Saves me the hassle of light box tracing and erasing pencil lines.    More summer-time announcements coming soon…