Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Lives of Housetops

"Houses, housetops, like human beings have wonderful character. The lives of housetops. The wear of the seasons. . . The backs of tenement houses are living documents."
-Robert Henri

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Society of Illustrators Sketch Night

Last night I went to the sketch night at The Society of Illustrators. I've known about the Society and its sketch nights for awhile, but after fifteen years in this city, I only first made it up there a few weeks ago to see the R. Crumb exhibit. The museum is great for people who are into classical illustrative art. Like me.

I had a good time. There's a bunch of places to do figure drawing in New York. My most frequent haunt is Spring Street Studio. They have great models and it's a good atmosphere, but it is serious. Dead silence and strictly timed. There are a few other places that are a lot looser, hipper, with loud music and sometimes booze. Some of them are as much a social event as a drawing session. I like music and booze, but sometimes it's hard to concentrate on the work in such an environment.

This sketch night was a good balance. It reminded me of Spring Street in that there was a mix of younger and older people, and you could tell the older people were really seasoned art vets. People were serious about working; they were there to draw. But then there was a live jazz duo, and there's a full bar, so there's also a relaxed, social atmosphere. It was fun.

Quick, two minute sketches:

Longer poses:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One more MoCCA Pic

I'd forgotten about this sketch. A young woman bought some of our books, and requested a sketch for her teenage brother. She said he liked legos and naked girls, so could I draw a naked lego girl. Thus:

Friday, April 22, 2011

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.
-Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

In honor of Earth Day, some drawings of trees.

Trees are fascinating things to draw. As children, we draw a brown rectangle topped by a green circle or triangle and call it done. But to observe an actual tree is to find a wondrously complicated arrangement of twisting forms and textures. Each one is as unique and individual and possessing of a specific personality as any human. And trees make great models. They can hold a pose for hours!

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.
- Bill Vaughan
Most of my drawings are of trees sans leaves, because I've yet to crack the code on how to draw a mass of leaves. It's the same way with hair. I'm still searching for the way to depict the sum mass of thousands of individual components.

Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing "Embraceable You" in spats.
-Woody Allen

Flowers are great to draw, too, but I find them difficult. Their leaves and petals are just as complex as the limbs of a tree, if not more so, but require a delicacy and grace I usually fail to capture. I guess delicacy and grace don't come naturally to me. I was relatively pleased with this one, but it's still pretty stiff and solid. It has kind of a Rockwell Kent vibe to it.

If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if the screamed all the time, for no good reason.
- Jack Handy

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Project CBRunway

I see from my statcounter that I've been getting lots of visitors from the Secret Identity podcast. And they're probably all saying, "Uh, so where's the comics?"

Well, first of all, you can see a couple of my 24 Hour Comics, including the one that Brian mentioned having gotten last year, Crazy Lady, here. The two he reviewed aren't up there, at least not yet. I haven't updated that site in like forevers.

It seems like the Secret Identity podcasts are mostly about superhero and genre stuff, and I love that stuff, too. So here's some things I did for the online costume contest CBRunway at It's patterned after 'Project Runway,' but with comic book characters. I did it two times; the current contest is going on now. I didn't win, but made it to the finals once.

The challenge here was to take an Avenger, a specific make and model of automobile, and combine them into a Transformer. This is Thor + 1955 Ford Thunderbird.

Challenge: Steampunk version of a JLAer

Challenge: Elseworlds-style adaptation of a JLAer into a fairy tale. This is Aquaman a la Beauty & The Beast.

The Challenge: Create a super-villain based on a kitchen utensil. I was assigned a whisk. For some reason, this was perhaps the most popular character I ever had in that contest.

The Black Rose. Just some random character I made up for the audition. The CBR judges liked it, except for the guns. "No guns!!!" they all said. Because I guess no comic book characters carry guns these days.

And this following bunch of a team I came up with for the final challenge. It was a Japanese-based team; the challenge specified one had to be a super-patriot-type character, and I wanted to stay away from the stereotypical Captain America-type trap, so I made the lead character a Captain Japan-type of guy and the rest followed. I'd been reading a bit of manga at the time, including Urasawa and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. In my head, I had a whole backstory and storyarc laid out for the team. I never was happy with that final character design. Japanese goth-lolita costuming is surprisingly hard to get the gist of!

Monday, April 18, 2011

MoCCA 2011

So, last weekend was the MoCCA Art Festival. It's an annual comics art festival here in NYC that's a showcase for independent and alternative comics artists and publishers and a fundraiser for the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art. It's about 80+% non-genre material, so the crowd is a lot more hipster than cosplay, though that didn't stop a few people from showing up in their homemade superhero costumes. It was unfortunate to see that one guy walking about in his Superman outfit. It was actually a pretty good one, but he looked like he'd come to a formal black tie event thinking it was an 80's theme night costume party.

I used to volunteer for the festival as an AV guy when Ken Wong (the guy on the right) was the president of MoCCA and Allan Dorrison (the bald guy in my lap) ran the panel room. Ken does these cool origami comics and Allan has an online comic strip, and last year I was invited to share a table with them at the festival.

I'd done the 24 hour comic book challenge a few times, so I had three comics complete and ready to print. I knocked out another - My Goddamn Upstairs Neighbor - and printed them D.I.Y.-style, in other words, on a photocopier and stapling them myself. I had no expectations of selling anything, but wound up doing pretty well. I got a couple of short reviews and mentions online, and in general people seemed to like the books, especially the reality-based Neighbor and Crazy Lady. The comics on the left side are mine.

In addition to the three of us, Lee French (the sleepy guy) did sketches, and Sharon Ma (not pictured anywhere here, but from whom I stole a couple of these photos) had a couple of mini-comics out.

The view from the table. The Mr. T piggy bank has kind of become our signature, for want of any other common identifier. I was psyched to be back at the festival. I had a new book - My First Mermaid Parade - which I was proud of and thought would do well. And there's a real satisfaction to just doing the work and having a completed comic in hand, regardless.

That said, sales were not great this year. I sold about a third of what I did last year. At the same time, I'd printed about twice as much as I had the previous year, so it felt like I'd sold nothing! I don't know what sales were like overall for the festival. I've read some reports that people had a great weekend, and some that said it was lukewarm. But then, one guy who reported great sales sold about the same number of mini-comics that I did. I'm still too new to this to be able to gauge what constitutes good, bad, or great. We did make our table costs back out of our collective profits, with some beer money left over. Since I produce my comics d.i.y. with very minimal outlay of cash, it's not like I have a huge financial investment at stake. I don't know how people who get their stuff professionally printed and travel from out of town do it. The Field of Dreams theory, I guess.

Just because I didn't sell a lot, that doesn't mean there was no interest in the stuff. Lots of people would come over to the table, pick up a comic, read the whole thing, tell us they liked it, and walk away. When I was a kid, the guy who ran the local comic shop would yell at us, "This isn't a library!" I guess that wouldn't be cool in this setting, though. One older couple stood there for about half an hour and each read every single one of the dozen or so comics we had to offer. They did buy a couple at the end. I wish I could do that with movies, just walk into a movie theater, watch a movie, and then decide if I liked it enough to pay for it.

I know, bitchy bitchy. The truth is, even if someone didn't fork over the two dollars for a copy, I still get a kick when someone just reads my work and likes it. Today I got a surprise: this guy Brian LeTendre gave me a rave review of two of the books on his podcast! (Skip ahead to the 51 minute mark to hear him talk about me.) I remember meeting him last year and at this festival. We had a discussion about Turbo Teen. Besides being extremely flattered by his complimentary review, I think it's really cool that he devoted a large chunk of his podcast - which generally covers mainstream, commercial comics - to indy stuff. I kind of don't get the people who come to a festival like MoCCA looking for the books you can now find in any bookstore or online. Myself, I look for all the stuff you're never going to see anywhere else.

We also offered a free sketch to anyone who bought a couple of our books. People really like to get sketches; it seems like they don't believe you're really going to draw them something, and when you produce it their eyes light up with glee like kids on Christmas morning or the last day of Hanukkah. Allan had an idea to do Mad Lib sketches, where people would give us a noun, a verb, and an adjective and we would base a sketch around them. What I learned from this exercise was, our educational system really sucks. It was pretty shocking the number of people who didn't know what sort of word a noun is. "Give me an adjective!" "Uh ... dog?" Other people would make requests, and they were fun because people come up with the most unexpected things to draw. This fetching young woman wanted a punk-rock angel. Another dude (and boy I wish I'd gotten a picture of this one) wanted a dragon and a unicorn, with the unicorn smoking a crack pipe and the dragon lighting it for him. That guy flipped when I showed him his dragon and unicorn with crack pipe drawing. But later I had an epiphany. I'd drawn the dragon lighting the crack pipe with a lighter. He's a dragon. I should have drawn him lighting it with fire breath!

The bunch of us have two other shows lined up; one in the Bronx and one in Connecticut. I'm curious to see how they go; I'm not sure they'll attract the best audience for my work. But at least I have a lot of inventory ready to go, so no late night folding and stapling for awhile!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


These were done after photographs, of some model. I'm not usually one for portraits, but she had very strong, striking features, especially her huge eyes and the curls of her hair.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Roadtec RX900

I have no idea what this thing is. They were doing roadwork down by Fort Greene Park, so I assume it's some sort of asphalt/paving machine, but it was parked so I didn't see it in action. Maybe the asphalt is heated in the back, and then travels up the front part and gets dropped onto the street? I don't know, but it looked badass and interesting and a challenge to draw.

By the way, if you click on the image, you can make it BIGGER.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Here's a few pages from my new comic book which I'll be selling at this weekend's MoCCA Art Festival, and my process in making it. It's called My First Mermaid Parade, and it's the story of the first time I went to Coney Island, saw the famous Mermaid Parade and visited Cha Cha's Paradise Lounge and Ruby's Bar and Grill, and involves a drunk, horny Russian girl, a Lower East hipster girl, her dog, and a jealous Puerto Rican.

It's a story I've told so many times, I didn't have to do much in the way of writing, so my script looked like this:

Mainly it's just a rough breakdown of panel action and dialogue, with occasional tiny thumbnail layouts on the side. It probably doesn't make a lot of sense to you, but it makes sense to me and that's all that matters.

Lettering is the hardest part for me. It's tedious and makes my hand hurt, and also I tend to overwrite and can't fit it all in. So I've taken to lettering first, so I can edit on the fly and get it out of the way. I also lightly sketch in figures and layouts; but they're so light they don't even show up in this scan.

Then I get to penciling. This is mostly a 2H pencil. I mostly concentrate on figures and important scenic elements at this point; most of the backgrounds I'll deal with later.

Finally, the inks. For these mini-comics, I generally use micron pens. The original art is larger than it'll be printed, but I'm doing it on 8.5X11 paper so it'll fit my scanner, so it's still pretty small. Then I scan it, clean it up, reduce and position all the pages in printing order on sheets, and then print, fold, and staple. D.I.Y. indeed.

So there it is, the behind-the-scenes magic of comic book-making!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MoCCA Festival

Busy busy busy getting my new comic ready for this weekend's MoCCA Festival. I'll be sharing a table with my pals Ken Wong and Allan Dorison. Behind the schedule I wanted to keep, but at least I won't be pulling an all-nighter tomorrow night. I'm pretty proud of this one. We'll see how it does at the show. It's called "My First Mermaid Parade." Here's the cover illustration.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Prospect Park

I've heard it said that Central Park was a warm-up for Frederick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux's design of Prospect Park. They also designed Fort Greene Park, where I go to draw when the weather's nice enough. The thing I love about these parks is the use of classical sculpture and ornament everywhere. It makes the spaces seem really special, separate from the usual urban environment. I give Bloomberg credit for expanding the amount of green public areas in the city, but most of them have the aesthetic charm of a shopping mall.