Is This the End?

IMG_E1406That’s right! This semester has been a huge learning expirence for me and I really enjoyed working on this blog. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to keep it going. Nothing is concrete yet, but as of right now, the comics (maybe not so much the commentary) will continue. If you have any suggestions or things you’d like to see in the future, let me know!

Ellen (EAT)

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Brutal Reality Strikes Back

IMG_E1407This is what I was really thinking after I delievered my English Capstone presentation on Ray Bradbury. Brutal Reality: 1 Ellen: 0

Bonus Picture: Ray Bradbury!! (Ingore the writing- this is from one of my notebooks)IMG_E1416.JPG

How Do I Draw Faces?

Today I thought I’d quickly post some pictures of how I draw faces and how I set up my comics. Throughout this semester, the way I’ve gone about drawing people and how I’ve set up my comics has changed. I think this is from the natural evolution of my style and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I will also say that I’m still growing and trying to find my own style. I don’t think I’ve quite found it, but I have definitely come closer finding it.

First, here is how I draw faces. I learned this technique last spring from an interdisciplinary class I took called “Communication and the Face”. IMG_E1409

Next, here is how I currently create my comics. I’ve learned having a fully planned out comic– from the dialogue and basic poses to the layout of the panels– is extremely helpful. It may take a little more time, but the end result is much cleaner and well thought out.

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I hope this has provided a little more insight on how I create my comics!

 

 

Thank You, Mr. Watterson

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I absolutely love Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. I was raised on the comics, learned how to read with them, gained a broader imagination through them, and I still read them to this day. I want to use this post to explain just how much I love this strip and how it has impacted my life. However, I don’t know if the words I have are adequate or even enough to really show my apprieciation for Mr. Watterson. 

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All strips featured in this post are from The Indispensible Calvin and Hobbes (1992). [View Larger]

For quick reference, Calvin and Hobbes is a comic strip about a mischevious, intelligent 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger. Written by Bill Watterson, the strip ran from 1985-1995 and ran in 2,400 newspapers worldwide.

When I was little (probably about 5-7 years old), my dad would pull out a book of Calvin and Hobbes and read me to sleep. Dad’s only mistake was thinking that it would put me to sleep. Calvin’s adventures and vast imagination filled my head with stories and my own possible adventures that kept me awake. Now, about 17 years later, I’ve begun making my own comic strips and incorporating many things I’ve learned from Mr. Watterson and Calvin.

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Spaceman Spiff is one of Calvins’s many alteregos. Thanks to Spaceman Spiff, I wanted to grow up to be an Astronaut-Princess who piloted her own spaceship and faught menacing aliens. [View Larger]

From his comics, I’m learning how to organize my comics in an asthetically pleasing, yet readable way, how to write the dialogue of comics, and how to turn everyday experiences into fantastical adventures.

I could say here how clever, creative, enduring, intelligent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and hilarious Calvin and Hobbes is, but anyone who’s read the comics already understands. And if you haven’t read them, stop what you are doing and go read them. I suppose I don’t have much more to say, other than Thank You, Mr. Watterson.

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My take on Bill Watterson’s style. I created this comic in response to hearing a lot of Christmas talk before Thanksgiving. (It’s actually one of my biggest pet peeves.)

The Politics of Cartoons

Note: with cartoons, political = editorial (for the most part) 

In America’s current political climate, many artists have published cartoons that criticize the (political, societal, etc) system. This is not a new phenomenon. The idea of “political” or “editorial” cartoons has been around since Leonardo da Vinci. da Vinci did a series of caricatures

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Five Caricature Heads by Leonardo da Vinci.  https://www.wikiart.org/en/leonardo-da-vinci/five-caricature-heads

focusing on deformities and the grotesque, in which he would dramatize and parody a person or person’s features. Much later, caricatures would become the basis for political cartoons, using allusions (creating context) to satirize and critique the establishment in a single panel.

Many art historians cite William Hogarth and James Gillroy (both living in the 18th century) as the fathers of the political cartoon. While there were many other influenctial artists along the way, Ben Franklin‘s “Join or Die” cartoon is one of the most important (and popular) American political cartoons as it was the first printed in the United States. Franklin’s cartoon symbolized colonial unity during the French and Indian War and was used again during the Revolutionary War to rally the colonies against Britain. This cartoon is of particular interest because it didn’t critique the enemy but turned the finger towards the self as if to say “Why aren’t we standing together and fighting back?” benjamin-franklin

When the 20th century came around, editorial cartoons grew in popularity thanks to the industrial revolution, expansion of newspaper printing, and World War I. With world wide turmoil, there was much to critique including the League of Nations which many people thought was useless.

FUN FACT: Dr. Seuss made several cartoons speaking out about issues such as “America First”, racism and political corruption. lead_960

Today, political cartoons remain popular due to the current American government and the way social media allows artists to share their work with the world. Magazines like The New Yorker and many newspapers still publish editorial cartoons everyday

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Drew Sheneman  Copyright 2017 Tribune Content Agency

which have made waves on social media as well. The artistic style of political cartoons have changed a lot throughout the past few centuries, but satire and change has always been at the center of the art.

This week’s comic is my commentary on the net neutrality discussions. IMG_1393

A Reflection on Inktober

If my memory proves correct, I’ve attempted the month-long social media event, known as Inktober, only once before.

What is Inktober?
During the month of October, artists (of all skill levels) are challenged to create something new every day according to a theme. The rules aren’t very strict, allowing people to come up with their own themed lists or post as much or as little as they deem possible. Artists are not required to draw/post every day if they can’t find the time. The goal of Inktober is to give people a reason or the time to really work on their skills. A drawing a day for a month may not result in much visible progress, but it could help an artist to develop a habit.prompt

This year, I thought I’d join in so I could develop my skills for this comics blog. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I thought the attempt was worth it. I wasn’t able to complete the full 31-day challenge but I did as many as I could. I ended up with 20 drawings, some of which were comics while others were doodles. In the end, it was a fantastic challenge. It forced me to be creative every day instead of once a week. Knowing my comics and doodles would be going on social media, I put more effort into the ideas and the products. By attempting to stick with it and come up with decent drawings, I do think I improved. Plus, I gained some Instagram followers!

Comics Spotlight: Speed Bump and The Argyle Sweater

One panel comics are short and to the point often absurd and pun-derful. With one panel comics, there is no waiting for the punchline and it often lacks a drawn-out narrative. One way to think about one-panels and strips is comparing it to literature formats: Strips are like novels whereas one-panels operate like short stories. While there are several comics like these floating around in the papers and online, two that stand out to me are Speed Bump by Dave Coverly and The Argyle Sweater by Scott HilburnBoth of these comics have an absurd nature to them and take normal concepts and turn them upside down. IMG_E1379For example, Speed Bump might take two concepts, a work vacation, and a sheep herding dog, and mash them together. The Argyle Sweater typically takes concepts, like online dating, and uses characters that seem out of place to act them out. IMG_E1381I especially enjoy these two comics because they make you take a minute to figure it out. While they sometimes rely on dumb punchlines, they often make readers see the mundane in a slightly different light.

Other popular one-panels include The Family Circus, Bizarro, Rhymes with Orange, Cornered, and The Far Side.

With the internet and mobile phones gradually replacing newspapers, many comics have moved online. Some cartoonists have exclusively put their content online and have developed a large following. One of those artists is Doug Savage, creator of Savage Chickens. He uses chickenschickengps2 to talk about very human concepts and it certainly makes for an absurdly funny comic.

Not all one-panel comics need to be funny to be successful. Political/editorial cartoons are often limited to a single panel and use a splash of humor to comment on serious topics. Political cartoons are also usually a bit absurd.

From creating my own one-panel, I discovered that it’s not as simple as it looks. The concept needs to be simple and understandable to a large audience, and you need to deliver the punchline immediately. I first struggled to come up with a good subject, and then I struggled to find the right phrasing to fit it all in. I have a new found respect for all the one-panel artists out there. IMG_1321

Comics Spotlight: Blondie

On September 8, 1930, Chic Young’s now insanely popular comic strip, Blondie, appeared in newspapers across America. It began with a pretty flapper girl, Blondie Boopadoop, and a bumbling, awkward, billionaire’s son, Dagwood Bumstead. At the beginning, Dagwood was just one of Blondie’s many boyfriends, but eventually, the two fell in love. They tied the knot in 1933, in a highly anticipated and memorable comic strip. As a result of their marriage, Dagwood was almost immediately disinherited and written out of his father’s will and “Dagwood and Blondie had to go out into the world and hack it like the rest of us” (Dean Young).

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Before I drew a comic inspired by Blondie‘s style, I figured I’d practice by drawing the two main characters and the logo.

Today the strip is written and illustrated by Chic’s son, Dean as well as head artist, John Marshall. Dagwood and Blondie’s day-to-day escapades revolve around their work and home lives. The Bumsteads have two teenage children, Alexander and Cookie, and a dog, Daisy, all of whom make frequent appearances in the strip. The strip also features the Bumstead’s neighbors and coworkers.

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A Blondie strip from Oct. 25, 2015, which includes characters from other newspaper strips such as Dustin, Zits, and Baby Blues. 

In its early years, the strip’s success led to the creation of several “Blondie” movies spanning from 1938-1950, and a 26-episode TV series in 1957. Blondie was portrayed by Penny Singleton in the movies and Pamela Britton on TV while Dagwood was played by Arthur Lake in both.

I think the strip’s enduring popularity comes from its ability to represent and show the absurd and hilarious in the mundane. While this is the aim of most comics, Blondie does it particularly well as it comes off extremely relatable and makes me laugh almost every time. Another reason I find Blondie so funny is that I see a bit of my dad’s personality (and maybe a bit of my own) in Dagwood. I think the most incredible thing is that the strip has been in print for almost 90 years. I can’t think of any other comic that has endured so long. The creators must be doing something right!

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My comic inspired by the Blondie comics. I wanted to find a way to include Dagwood’s famous sandwiches and it just so happens that I really DO get excited about sandwiches.

The Art of Making Comics

Throughout these last few weeks, I’ve been writing about the history of comics and creating my own, sometimes emulating or at least referencing comics I’ve talked about. I think it is necessary for me to create a comic each week and include it. Not only do I enjoy making these comics, the obligation (I’ve set for myself) helps develop my creativity and helps improve my skills. Today, I wanted to share with you how I go about making my own comics.

1) Most of the time, I think about the topic of that week’s blog. From there, an intense brainstorming session takes place. Sometimes no ideas come to me, sometimes they are all horrible ideas, and sometimes, the figurative light bulb goes off. No matter what, I always make a comic.

The important thing is to CREATE—even if it isn’t my best work, it’s worth it just to put something together.

1a) Even if I’m not making a comic for the blog, I’ll start off with a simple idea. I still might brainstorm, but most of the time it just occurs to me that something might make for a funny comic.
2) I make a simple sketch of the potential comic.
3) The sketchbook comes out and pencil goes to paper. I use pencil first because I make LOTS of mistakes.
4) Inking! (Hopefully, I don’t mess up in this stage)
5) Coloring! (If I feel like it…or if I think it’ll enhance the comic)

My process is pretty straightforward and simple, but there it is. If you do something different or have any suggestions, let me know! I would love to hear from you!  

The Funnies

It comes as no surprise that print newspapers are on a steady decline to obscurity. So what does this mean for the comic strips published in the papers? Will they die out too, or will they continue in the digital realm? It’s hard to say, but with webcomics and apps like Webtoons, comics like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, and Garfield might be able to continue on.

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Garfield by Jim Davis (October 6, 2017)

While the “golden age” of comics tends to focus on comic books, it was a golden age for all comics. Newspaper strips also featured recurring characters and entertaining storylines. These comics were more aimed at small cracks of humor rather than a drawn out story. By creating comics featuring the same characters each day or week (depending on the comic’s publishing schedule with their syndicate) helped keep consistency and a loose focus for the overall comic. It also helped readers connect to the strips and develop a dedicated fanbase. However, it was the ability to have the characters in different situations or center on different topics that appealed the casual scanner of comics as well as readers looking for a little variety.

Typically, most comics (both strips and books) have simple backgrounds so the focus is on the action. Comic strips often simplify the background quite a bit, where some have no background (just white behind the character) while others use a flat color, sometimes to indicate emotion. To indicate place or setting, many comic artists just use a line to represent the ground, counter, or wall, while others will include simple furniture—such as a chair or table—to aid in the storytelling.

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Blondie by Dean Young and John Marshall (October 2, 2017)

Another difference between the two comic forms is the overall art style. Newspaper comics are all about simplicity. Most newspaper cartoonists have a daily strip and can’t afford to spend a lot of time on it. On the other hand, comic book artists have longer deadlines and typically use a more detailed style. I think the simplicity of strips is appealing because they allow a reader to fill in the details and see themselves in the comic if they wish.

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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (this particular comic is from the collection The Calvin and Hobbes Lazy Sunday Book)

My love of comics began with newspapers. As a little kid, I looked forward to the weekends when I’d get good breakfast and could sit on my dad’s lap while we read the comics. He introduced me to the comics I still love to read today—Blondie, Garfield, Peanuts, Zits—and my all-time-favorite, Calvin and Hobbes. Bill Watterson’s comic about an imaginative, troublemaking 6-year-old and his stuffed tiger remains my favorite because it presents mature themes through a child’s eyes.   

A quick note about my comics for today: I really focused on emulating the simple backgrounds. I often feel the need to fill the background space with something but I never know what to do. I think I’ve learned that comics don’t always need a background, and the simple addition of color can just as effective as a setting.

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A witchy comic I did for Inktober day 3. Here I use the flat color background I was trying to emulate.

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Nessie Vs the Tourists- Inktober day 4