Thursday, December 30, 2010

Life Imitates Art

When my aunt and uncle saw Sunday's blog post, they immediately realized that the drawing I had done of my father, dog, and grandfather was strikingly reminiscent of a photograph my uncle had taken of the same subject. But believe it or not, I had not seen this photo at all when I drew that picture. I wish I had drawn my dad's hand on the back of the chair - it would be a better composition.

Also: I realize that a lot of people who read this blog also read my webcomic, but I figured I might as well post this pin-up here as well. It's a SNitLoE tribute to Roy Lichtenstein!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My dad, his dad, and my dog.

Though my dog Scallywag is now almost 13 years old and is suffering from arthritis, she is still capable of being immensely comfortable. When she lay at the feet of her beloved, my grandfather "Grandpat," sunken into the armchair, the two were the picture of contented senectitude.

Next to them was my dad, slightly impaired in the comfort department by his long legs. He can only cross his right leg over his left knee, not the reverse, and even then, his right knee sticks way up in the air.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sketching in Church

Though I'm normally a pretty attentive churchgoer, two things get in the way on Christmas Eve:

1.) You've already heard this story, this sermon, and these songs a zillion times before. And even though it's very important to hear the message yet again, it's not easy.

2.) The pews are generally packed, often with people you have never seen before, or, even more distractingly, people you haven't seen in years.

The guy at the bottom is Rev. Gene Finnel. I had really wanted to do a full-portrait. Both of Gene's hands freeze into an emphatic gesture, fingers spread stiffly wide, and they float around like that for the whole sermon, seemingly unconnected to his body by any arms beneath his voluminous black robe. I would describe the effect as "muppetesque."

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all, and be sure to check out my Savage Nobles/Three Wise Men crossover pin-up over at Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Greg Punches a Scientist (mild spoilers)

I find myself kind of drowning in SNitLoE these days, mainly because I'm trying to complete the whole project on a deadline, and instead of getting faster, I'm getting slower. This is mostly a good thing, as it means I am finally constructing my figures thoroughly and overall pencilling in a much more diligent manner than I used to, as per the advice of Steve Lieber. I'm mostly pleased with results, though my newly discerning eye also spies a lot to complain about - I guess my standards are rising. Three or four months ago I would have been thrilled to bits to have drawn any of the four hands in the above panel (from page 115), but today I immediately notice something wrong with all of them.

I have a New Yorker-style one-panel cartoon in mind which I hope to draw in the next week and which I will post here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

SNitLoE Car Trouble

Here's a pinup I did for my friend Turhan Sarwar when he won contest I was having over at Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment. After I sent him this black and white image:

I decided to color it, with the following result:

Even though I'm generally pretty pleased with how it came out, I still suffer from that oh-so-common cartoonist regret: that the finished drawing never achieves the wonderful, spontaneous dynamism of the original 2"x3" pencil-scrawled thumnail:

(when I am thumnailing pages for the main comic, I routinely indicate the character Kafir with nothing but two angry rectangles (his glasses) and a black oval (his perpetually yelling mouth.) Jeff Smith said he designed "Phoney Bone" as a child to be a character with a telephone receiver for a head so that it always looked like he was yelling - which was appropriate, because in Bone, Phoney always is yelling. I think I might have pulled a Jeff Smith.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Religious "Auto-Bio" Comic

The theme for December's issue of Stumptown Underground is "Religion & Spirituality." Though I have spilled a fair amount of ink in my graphic novel so far regarding these topics (and will spill even more before it's done), a lot of SNitLoE's religious material is theoretical commentary told through allegorical characters. But for this little comic, I decided to do something unusual (for me) and write more in the Stumptown spirit of revelatory auto-bio. And if other zinesters and comic artists can write so frankly about their intimate experiences with family, sex, food, having sex with food, eating their families, etc., then I can certainly tell a little story about my own faith.

Hopefully that speaks for itself, but I feel I should add one thing: This comic is very unfair to St. Teresa of Avila, who was definitely experienced in painful doubt and "the long dark night of the soul" (an expression, incidentally, which comes from the title of a poem by another 16th-century Spaniard, St. John of the Cross.) Really, the whole "the past = faith; modernity = doubt" shtick is incredibly disingenuous on my part, as I know very well it's not that simple at all. As usual, I think it's Slavoj Zizek who sums it best in this short video:

I quoted Mother Teresa's anxious letter, but I might just as well have quoted the earlier Teresa, who wrote:

"As to the aridity you are suffering from, it seems to me our Lord is treating you like someone He considers strong: He wants to test you and see if you love Him as much at times of aridity as when He sends you consolations. I think this is a very great favor for God to show you."

Again with the aridity! The desert metaphors come fast and furious.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I know you only read this blog for the nudity

Some more life-drawing. By next week I hope to have a few actual comics to show you guys, namely my submission for Stumptown Underground's Religion & Spirituality issue and my submission for Hazel Newlevant's "Ultimate Sadness" anthology. I really need to draw my butt off this week.

I've really learned a lot recently from Michael Mattesi's excellent guide Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators, though I'm still figuring out how to put it into practice. Though I'd always though that, while you're in the studio, your life-drawing should be as "realistic" as possible, and that you should only "cartoonify" what you've learned later on, Mattesi gives the opposite recommendation: cartoon/caricature "as you go" so that you bring out the most important aspects of the model or pose. In that drawing above, I deliberately widened the trunk of the body by about 20%, just to emphasize the smug, masculine confidence of the pose. I also caricatured the face and gave him a cigarette. I think it's very interesting how you can do this and still be very faithful to what's in front of your eyes - I feel I'm only scratching the surface here. I've only just discovered Mattesi's incredible video blog and website.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wonder Woman Day 2010!

Every year, a very cool nerd named Andy Mangels organizes a big charity auction in Portland, OR and Flemington, NJ where people bid on pictures of everyone's favorite Amazon Princess to raise money for various domestic violence programs. These can be by awesome famous artists like Steve Lieber, Scott Koblish (never heard of him, but that drawing kicks ass!) and the guy who painted what I think is the best entry this year, David Chelsea. Or they can be by schmucks like me who had to look on Wikipedia to determine if Wonder Woman can fly. (And if she can, why does she need an invisible plane?)

I probably should have read David Chelsea's book on perspective a little more closely before I started my own Wonder Woman artwork, because the burning building on the right still looks a little wonky to me - I'm not sure why, because I constructed my grid pretty carefully. I also feel like the architecture in general has the wrong amount of surface detail, though I can't tell if it's too little or too much. I am pretty happy with this piece though, my favorite parts being the firefighter's gesture and Wonder Woman's gams.

Please, please, please check out Andy Mangel's online Wonder Woman Museum. It's as charming and non-creepy as such a thing could feasibly be, and I have shared but a fraction of the terrific auction artwork on display. And of course, if you are in Portland on October 24th, drop a Hamilton on my artwork, for a good cause. (If it doesn't sell, I wonder if I get it back? If so, I will put it on my Etsy store and donate the proceeds to Andy when it sells.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Weekend Nudes, non-female edition

This week Hipbone's model was, gasp!, a man. Because he was older, there were tons of veins and wrinkles - these are half-hour poses, but they could easily have been twice as long, there was so much detail.

(Sorry about the censor blocks - ImageShack, the service I use for hosting the images on this blog, will take them down if they violate their decency standards. I can't really begrudge them this.)

The guy came up with some really unusual poses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Portrait of the Artist When He Isn't There

Just in case you were wondering how it all came together.

Enough of this! This weekend I'll hopefully have new drawings of actual people.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

PotAWHIT Board

Last of the five drawings I did for "Portrait of the Artist When He Isn't There," a head-on diagram of my trusty bulletin board. Among these treasures is a flyer I designed for the Philolexian Society to promote the 2005 Joyce Kilmer Memorial Bad Poetry Contest, an oversized postcard depicting Al Capone's luxuriously appointed prison cell from when I visited Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, a weird polaroid of me and my friend Andrew Liebowitz, and two postcards from Vox Pop. One bears the clever slogan "Man is born free, and everywhere is in chain-stores, and the other is this gorgeous reproduction:

It's "International Solidarity of Labour" by Walter Crane, drawn in 1897. It may not live up to our PC standards today (why are the American and Australian white? why is the Angel of Freedom white? etc) but this was 1897! Who else was promoting an image of total racial equality at that time? Practically nobody but the socialists, that's who. The central motto is, of course, "Workers of the the world, unite!" It was true when Marx said it, it was true when Crane drew it, and it's still true today.

One last explanation: the long skinny drawing tacked above the bulletin board is the original drawing of Theo crawling through the desert that I incorporated into this "animated" jpeg used to advertise SNitLoE on the internet:

Monday, September 27, 2010


When I got to Portland, I knew I'd need a drafting table for comics. I bought one from somebody's grandparents and brought it home on the bus. The driver was not happy.

Hanging to the left of the bulletin board is a print that I bought of one of my favorite webcomic strips ever, a guest strip for Pictures for Sad Children by KC Green.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Here's part three of "Portrait of the Artist When He Isn't There," my coat-rack. Found it on the side of the road near the Hollywood Max stop. Prominently featured are:
- the cassock and supplice I wore during the Byrd festival
- my limited edition t-shirt: "Local Roots Farm Team 2009: This Bunch is Rad-ish"
- my hat from when I worked at Brooklyn's greatest coffeeshop, the late Vox Pop.
- my piece-of-s*** shoes

I am still a little distraught by the foreshortening of the ellipses in this drawing. As you can deduce, my eye-level was about 75-80% up the full length of the rack (I was sitting on my bed). Maybe the rack itself is bent a little bit.

By the way, tonight was a rad party for the release of Stumptown Undeground's "Birthday" issue. My "screaming baby" piece made the inside front cover, probably because they didn't want a blood-spattered infant penis on the front cover.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


This was the second drawing I did for the "Portrait of the Artist When He Isn't There" series. It features the Nigerian blanket given to me in primary school by my best friend Sule Otori, my severely dilapidated schoolbag "Ursula," some Renaissance sheet music, and a copy of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy. I've gotten in the habit of piling crap on my bed so I'm not tempted to sleep on it during the day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

PotAWHIT Shelf

The theme of October's Stumptown Underground compilation is "Self-Portrait/Self-Reflection." I've never been one for auto-biography. So though many of my friends have worked in the genre, and I enjoy many auto-bio comics, I've never been able to do one myself. Even when I tried keeping a daily "comics journal" in the style of Chelsea Baker at the beginning of 2010, I was unable to stay on the topic of my own life (which in January was admittedly pretty boring) - I would end up describing the book I had just read or the movie I'd just seen, including only a cursory auto-bio framing narrative, or none at all.

I hardly want to come off sounding like some righteous crusader against solipsism or attention-whoring; after all, I have a facebook page and TWO blogs. I'm certainly not above the frothy foam of perpetual self-reinvention that characterizes my generation of rootless hipsters. But nevertheless, I do think a certain diligence is required to look beyond the confines of the self, or at least an acknowledgment of the self's permeability. Increasingly I think of it as a duty to understand that "who I am" is not some secret identity locked in the vault of my own skull, but a complicated network of relationships, many of them mysterious to my own subjectivity. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said something like "the self is not that part that is known only to me and to no one else, but precisely that part that is external and unknown to me, who I am to others." I could write on this subject endlessly, but this is an art blog.

Anyway, this mush of Anglican theology and waaaaay too much structuralist criticism resulted in me not wanting to draw a traditional self-portrait or an auto-bio comic, but rather a series of still life drawings of the things around my room entitled "Portrait of the Artist When He Isn't There" (PotAWHIT) Talk about the absent core of subjectivity! I think somebody snooping around my room when I wasn't there could get a better idea of "who I am" just from looking at the books on my shelf, the drawings on my desk, and even the clothes on my hangers, than from briefly meeting me in person. I've left little pieces of my self strewn on the floor.

Go Buy Ben Bates's Comic

My friend Ben Bates from Periscope Studio penciled the most recent issue of Sonic the Hedgehog, #217, on stands this week. From what he's told me, Ben has pretty much wanted to draw the Sonic comic since he was like thirteen. At that time, he was thrilled to discover that there was a comic about the beloved video game, but was very disappointed upon realizing just how crappy it actually was. Now at the helm, he has some very fixed ideas of how the comic should be. I'm pretty awed by a.) how well Ben knows what it is he wants and b.) how doggedly he has pursued that goal. If I had half as much of either quality as Ben does, I'd have it made in the shade.

If that weren't bad enough, I also lack the ability to draw the spinny Sonic legs - you know, where he's running so fast his legs are a total blur? Admittedly I didn't really try this time - except for the color, this was drawn in about 10 minutes in a waiting room. The dude getting knocked over is supposed to be Andy Johnson of Cosmic Monkey Comics.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Finally Back to Figure Drawing

Hey blogsciples. I finally have enough discretionary income to start going figure drawing at Hipbone Studio again. This morning I went with Katy Ellis O'Brien; she gave me some of her big brown pieces of paper to draw on.

They're useful, because then you can draw highlights and not just shadows. Human skin is shiny, and to look convincing, part of it has to be lighter than the overall tone of the paper.

The model was very, very good, as usual. Great dynamic poses. I also assure you that she had a pretty face and did not, in fact, look like Kevin Kline.

Stay tuned to this blog! Lots of fun stuff coming up next week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I'll be at the Portland Zine Symposium this Weekend

Just a personal update: this weekend I will be tabling at the Portland Zine Symposium in PSU's Peter W. Scott Main Gym. If you are in Portland, OR (and honestly, why aren't you?), stop by and pick up one of the three zines I will have for sale at $1 each:

Wakey-Wakey is a short anthology of various comics and illustrations I've done, most of them while I was interning at Periscope Studio, and some of it previously published in Stumptown Underground. There is nothing in this zine you haven't already seen on this blog.

The Savage Nobles Preview Zine includes pages 26 through 51 of the comic you are reading right now. (That's right, if you buy it this weekend you'll be able to see page 51 a full two days before it hits this site!) This is mainly intended to serve as a "gateway drug" for the website. At 5.5x8.5", it's a little smaller than I'd like to publish it eventually, but it still looks durned good in print if I d.s.s.m.

Flight of the Flightless is the 24-Hour Comic I drew in (one day of) April of this year. It's based on a true story as comically reimagined by me and my ex-roommate Turhan Sarwar about evacuating the penguins from the New Orleans Aquarium after Hurricane Katrina. (yes, a comedy about Hurricane Katrina - it's about time!) It's got cute animals, madcap action, and has a super-happy ending with a wedding and a rainbow; it will one day make me a millionaire and relaunch Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s career.

See y'all at the Symposium!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Hey internet stalkers - sorry I have been so delinquent in posting. August has proven to be a crazy month, singing for the William Byrd Festival and prepping for the Portland Zine Symposium. The only time I've had to draw is between rehearsals! (see below)

Saturday, July 31, 2010


This is my submission for Stumptown Undeground's birthday-themed first anniversary issue. Even if it doesn't get accepted (I wouldn't blame them), I'm going to include it in a planned zine anthology I'll be putting together for the Portland Zine Symposium. Together with my story Laundryman, the illustrated poem Cockaygne, and maybe some new original stuff, I think I've got a nice 12-pager about being yanked out of a fantasy comfort zone into dingy, corporeal reality.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Frank Reade, Jr.

This blog post is long because it's about something I've been doing for a long time.

Though I complained about a lack of income in a previous post, the truth is I've been kept afloat because of the editorial work given to me by Paul Guinan. Paul and his wife Anina Bennett are working on the companion piece to their hit fake-history-coffee-table-book, Boilerplate. The new book will focus on the dime-novel character Frank Reade, Jr.

From what Paul has told me, this guy was all the rage in his time, basically the 1870's version of Superman. Is it proto-scifi or the last gasp of classic adventure fantasy? Thomas Edison fan-fiction or the original steam-punk? Harmless escapism for teenage boys, or an Anglo-sadistic fantasy of racist-imperialist propoganda? The answer, of course, is all of the above.

I've now skimmed through all 191 issues of "the Frank Reade Library," summarized them all, categorized them by the type of invented vehicle (usually an electric submarine, airship, or all-terrain land vehicle, but sometimes something preposterous like a steam-powered horse), by quest (it's always buried/sunken treasure, tracking down a bandit/pirate, rescuing a maiden, finding evidence that will exonerate somebody on death row, or viewing a meteor that can only be seen from one spot on the globe), location (the earlier stories were all in the wild west, but they moved on to Africa, India, China, Russia, Peru, the Arctic - basically wherever there are minorities to blow up... and in the world of Frank Reade, "Spanish" counts as a minority) and by the presence of strong female characters (zero, none, absolutely none, or, occasionally, one). The stories somehow managed to be both incredibly imaginative and diverse while still mind-squashingly formulaic. I can safely say they are everything, but well-written.

Paul is a sensitive guy who knows how to deal with sensitive issues, and I think he and Anina are planning to give Frank a serious 21st-century face-lift. I suspect Frank's two sidekicks, the dixie imbecile/expert electrical engineer Pomp (called "a negro" if you're lucky, much worse things if you're not, and who says things like 'Massa Lawdy, what am dis chile gwonna do?') and the comical Barney O'Shea (apparently 1870's Americans thought being Irish was endearingly hilarious - Barney's impassioned tirades against British oppression are played alternately for laffs and sympathy) will be transformed into Denzel Washington and Brad Pitt respectively. I'm sure his world-policing expeditions will be morphed into humanitarian diplomacy. I'm still not sure if they should be.

I was a history major, and I'm still fascinated by history. Lord knows that even though my area of study (the Middle Ages) was a millenia-long parade of horrors, I still idealize and even romanticize it. But as a leftist, I cannot help but view the late-19th-century Atlantic world with burning contempt. Truly, when I read about the deeds of the industrialist or imperialist elite of the 1870's, it makes my blood boil. And in the Frank Reade stories, these are the very people the hero comes to rescue! Half the stories are about rescuing millionaires or millionaire's beautiful daughters from the ebony clutches of colonized forces.

In the Philolexian Society, we often liked to pretend it was the 19th-century. I did it too, because it's fun. The inscrutable "steam-punks" have built up an entire lifestyle around how fun it is. But I always feel like I'm dining with the devil. The late 1800s is a period we should remember, which we can respect or even playfully recreate. But it's not a period I want to identify with. Frank Reade, Jr. may have been the vicarious idol of thousands of boys, but there's almost nobody in fiction I'd rather not be.

All that said, lookin' forward to the new book... and even more for _____________ (Paul told me what I had written here before is a secret - if you read this blog on Thursday, July 15, please don't mention what I accidentally said!)

edit: okay, it's okay to disclose now! JJ Abrams is producing the Boilerplate Movie! Whoohoo! You didn't hear it here first.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Barnaby a.k.a. Fatty

I mentioned that my house has two cats. The younger one, a kitten named Javier, will never sit still long enough for a portrait. The older one, Barnaby, definitely will.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The View From My Window

I'm finally back! Apologies to the regular readers of this blog (and Google Analytics tells me there are THOUSANDS)for not having posted something in over a month. This is really the unpardonable sin of blogging.

But the damned are full of excuses and here are mine:

1.) Since I stopped being allowed to hang out at Periscope every day, I haven't had regular access to their two industrial-strength scanners. However this is not really an excuse, since I have taken out a membership at the Independent Publishing Resource Center here in Portland. The IPRC is a veritable Jerusalem for the city's zinesters and comics people. (Indeed, both the Zinesters and the Comics people claim the IPRC as their ancestral homeland, with every outburst of comicaze attacks provoking new levels of Zineist oppression - but that's another story.) They have something like six scanners, one of which is often functioning!

2.) I spent the better part of June erecting a website for my graphic novel, Savage Nobles in the Land of Enchantment. If you haven't seen this site yet, don't waste any more time here! Go! Click! Now!

3.) I've been grappling with the usual "starving artist" problems this month as well, since the loss of my purely symbolic job led me to realize my very actual lack of income. I am still busily looking for work here in Portland, which at 10.2% unemployment is not that easy. (My hometown of New Orleans is at 7.0%) Especially not with all these #$%!*@^ lazy artists taking all the barista jobs!

4.) I also moved to a new house! It's a great place with two cats and five people. Many of them (the people, not the cats) are also into comics/graphic-fiction/visual-narrative/sequential-art/making-up-your-own-fake-undergraduate-major. Our "Mad Woman in the Attic" is Katy Ellis O'Brien, who's putting my work ethic to shame churning out panel after panel of hand-painted comics. Literally panels - she paints them on pieces of wood.
Anyway, the above sketch is the view from one of the two windows of my new room. We live really close to highway 84, though the ambient noise is not that annoying; I can pretend I live by the ocean. Less endearing is the enormous Budweiser logo that tops the Freud-inspired tower across the street. The neon red "B" shines at me nightly like the eyes of Dr. T J Eckelburg. That's right, I just made a simile comparing a sign to another metaphoric sign. This is why I am a natural graphic novelist.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Homeless TV

These guys "live" near my house in Portland, and whenever I pass by, it seems they are watching a little television set on their shopping cart. In reality, there are three of them, but I thought this had a more romantic impact.

Preliminary digital sketch:


Inks, before adding digital grayscale. This could be a free standing image, but I think that without the extra gray, it looks like the TV screen is as bright as a spotlight.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Au Revoir, Periscope!

Today is my last day as an intern at Periscope Studio. A thousand pictures or a million words could not explain what these three intense months have done for me. It's not just that I've learned a lot (which, obviously, I have), but that I have been brought over the crest of the learning curve in such a way that I feel that future learning will be precipitously self-propelled. (I had the same feeling sometime around my junior year of college: "Holy crap! I'm actually teaching myself!)

But, as LOST has taught us all, the important thing is not what I learned or what I did, but that I made a bunch of white friends and one Asian friend that will last a lifetime. Thanks (in order of desk placement only) to Ron Randal, Karl Kesel, Steve Lieber, Ron Chan, Terri Nelson, Erika Moen, Dylan Meconis, David Hahn, Paul Guinan, Ben Dewey, Jonathan Case, Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover, Jeff Parker, Rich Ellis, Aaron McConnel, Jesse Hamm, Susan Tardiff, Dustin Weaver, Ben Bates and Jeremy Barlow (and my fellow intern Zach "The Deuce" Fischer). Wow, I did that so easily, without looking up the names anywhere! On day one, I thought I'd never get 'em all down.

Au Revoir, Periscope. I will be back to bother you once a month for the next 10-20 years.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

LOST Doodles

Jack was the first and most spontaneous, and unsurprisingly the one I'm most happy with.

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