“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.
Related to the straight-to-sketchbook project mentioned in the last post, I’ll be spending the month of June in France. While there, I’ll also participate in the Amiens BD festival and the Lyon BD festival to compensate for my abbreviated French presence during 2011’s HABIBI book tour. As some may recall, the French edition of HABIBI was late from the printers and so I’d done press at that time, but no signings.
To prep for travel, my friend Lucie is tutoring me in French. Here’s a little excerpt from my study notebook — a homework exercise to “write (& draw) a dialogue with two (or ten) characters” in which Little Zacchaeus (from CARNET and SPACE DUMPLINS) interacts with references from some favorite bande dessinée – including PETIT VAMPIRE VA À L’ECOLE by Joann Sfar, LES OGRES by David B. & Christophe Blain, CÉFULUS by Ludovic Debeurme, and SALADE NIÇOISE by Baudoin. (Translated or not, it makes no sense.)
Thanks for the reminder about the Cintiq post, Dan. As mentioned back in August 2013, I’ve been experimenting with the Wacom Cintiq as a way to shake up & expand my working methods. The 13″ felt too cramped & claustrophobic, so early this year I upgraded to a 22″ Cintiq on an Ergotron arm – inspired by Fiona Staples, whose work on SAGA I admire.
For the past couple of months, I wrestled with the machine & have settled on a compromise common among comics pros – I pencil the pages digitally, then print out blue lines and ink on actual paper.
The advantage of digital penciling is I can see a chapter all at once (top right photo), cut&paste, zoom in close, edit on the fly, and work standing up (top left photo, avec Momo). But digital inking still looks too slick to me — I prefer the flawed & tangible qualities of fussy sable brushes on paper. Foot in both worlds!
Finally, my advice to young cartoonists is to keep it organic & raw and not get bogged down by plug-in devices. In a month, I’ll be starting a direct-to-sketchbook project like CARNET DE VOYAGE to relearn working on the fly outside the studio.
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.
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.
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).
Unearthed some more childhood art that wasn’t lost in the BLANKETS burn barrel. This one’s another scroll (see slumgutso
and scrambled seaweed) drawn circa 1983 in Mrs. Kamenick’s third grade classroom at Marathon Elementary – Wisconsin.
I was nine years old and all fired up about RETURN OF THE JEDI (note the belt buckle matches the jersey).
This is exactly the sort of nerd-ball enthusiasm I’m trying to channel for the upcoming SPACE DUMPLINS.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, BLOG-FRIENDS!
After HABIBI promotional travel, 2013 was the year of hunkering down to craft the new book – SPACE DUMPLINS. It began with an injured hand, tossing the first batch of inks, revising the script, then drawing 135 pages of final art to be colored by Dave Stewart.
Just this week, CHAPTER THREE saw completion.
154 more pages to go to finish SPACE DUMPLINS – the big goal for 2014. Thanks to all of you for your continual support & sticking with the Doot Doot Blog. Here’s a reminder of previous New Years on this forum: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. A toast to a cozy & productive year for us all!
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.
Happy Halloween, Blog-friends, and thanks for your patience during a quiet October.
A few of you asked about the process stages between pencils and colors, so here’s a panel breakdown from chapter two.
1) Pencilled the characters (Elliot & Violet) and roughed in the background with non-photo blue pencil.
2) This time, I chose to draw the background separately with pencil and colored ballpoint.
(As you can see, the detail in SPACE DUMPLINS is becoming as obsessive as HABIBI).
3) Then I merged the two in Photoshop and printed out blue lines on to Bristol Board paper.
4) Inked with India ink and watercolor brush – the lettering is Micron pigment pen.
(You can still see the bluelines on the original art, but they’re easily removed once scanned.)
5) The COLORS!