I like knowing that I have a “grab bag” full of characters that I can use any time I sit down to work. Everything from pirates and ninjas to mummies and presidential candidates but, my favorites that I always fall back on are the monk, the angel, the snowman and finally, the wizard who I named “Hocus.”
When I started drawing these guys 6 years ago, they were little more than globs of black ink and my original idea was to color them in different robes. Over the course of the next month, while I kept the fact that there are several of them, I chose to keep them black and white and just add patches to their robes to show rank or individuality, it was easier that way.
Hocus was designed specifically to be a counterpoint to, Barney the Monk. Hocus represents many different things but in the comics he represents “the mindless crowd” or people who are not as informed or are mislead by wrong information. He can be mean and spiteful sometimes but I see him as just uninformed, walking blindly. While Barney is the one that seems to be doing all the learning or standing on principle, Hocus normally is the one who is going in the wrong direction. Make no mistake though, if you study some of my work, he makes his OWN statement sometimes.
He reminds me of myself when I was younger as well as a lot of people I know now. He’s not mean spirited, he’s just … lost. That’s where the fun begins. He may have the power of magic on his side, but as I once heard said; “You just can’t fix dumb!” I do like him and his posse, so I’ll keep using him; I like the way he is literally the opposite of Barney.
Go Be Different!
As I tell all of my students, whether it’s in a community class in a small town library or a school assembly with 400 students, there will be two statements that you will hear from fans and critics alike; how you deal with these two statements will define your career as an artist, as an individual and as a human.
The first statement that you will sooner or later hear is, “What is it?” I am not excluded from this; pouring hours into one drawing, sure that I have done some of my best work, only to show it to someone and have them shake their head and say, “What is it?” Ouch. It may not even be meant to be a cruel statement just a simple question, but as an artist if it is not as clear to your viewer as it is to you … you immediately think it’s junk. I shudder to think how many Rembrandt’s or Picasso’s this world has lost simply because a viewer of a young person’s crayon project could not stop to look at the whole piece and give a kind word on color or line strength followed by a simple question, “What do you see?”
The other ‘artist killer’ phrase, “I don’t get it.” Sometimes design, space and balance must give way to passion, determination and emotion. The idea is SO strong that the artist must get it out of their head before they mentally burst, only to be caught by THAT GUY … the “Fact Checker,” counting fingers on stick people, counting the spelling errors on a letter to Santa, or even pointing out the flaws in a crayon edition of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. This takes its toll on the young artist, takes the wind out of their sales and feeds that ‘little I’m-not-good-enough beast’ inside of them allowing their self-value to pay the emotional tab. And it can all be just as easily dismissed with the excuse of, “I’m just doing this to make you better.” What should be said is, “I wish I could see it as you do, tell me more about it so I can try.”
I tell my students, when you hear those statements, you should be happy, if they were to understand everything you did, then they would get you as well and that is NOT the purpose of the Artist. Ours is the calling of causing people to think, contemplate and react. I am a published, syndicated cartoonist and like any artist, I have those that repeatedly come back to view what new things I have done. Even my regulars do not understand everything I draw; there are times I look at my own work and think, “What was I thinking?!” The gag, or the written word, is the quickest, most prevalent ‘bridge’ to tying the drawing together but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, they see something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than what I set out to communicate and THAT IS JUST FINE! What ever your medium, classical painting, cartooning, coloring books, finger-painting or anything in between, Art is about interpretation not oppression. Celebrate the fact that others appreciate your work and the differences you have from others, that’s what makes you … you.
Go be different.
Today is a rest day for me. I was fortunate enough to be able to take today off and just stay home for some relaxing time. I can’t sit in front of the TV for long periods of time so that means I am “relaxing” by sitting at my desk doing creative work.
Now, there is a process to this. A cup of coffee/tea, comfy sweats, shuffling downstairs to my office and the first thing I do is open the shade. This mornings ritual produced some wonderful surprises, specifically a handful of robins, 3 ducks and a rabbit to welcome me when I opened the shade. In fact, the rabbit was INCHES away from my window enjoying his breakfast! We both froze for a moment and then he ran away when I moved to get a picture but I DID manage to get a shot of the ducks “boots up” eating there breakfast!
Now, sitting at my desk, looking out my window, nature sounds playing in the background from Siri and a cup of warm coffee doing it’s duty…my mind starts to wonder. I see the ducks sitting out there in the overflow pond eating and I see them just sitting in the water, like… it was just… holding them up and I start to think of when I was a kid, growing up with a lake shore cabin and how swimming and drawing were my major past times. No internet, phone, tv, or even a radio. Just me, the beach and the lake. I can still smell it, the water, the beach and even the breeze.
At a young age I learned to swim, hold my breath and dive done into a different amazing world, but more importantly, I learned the ability to stay buoyant IN the water, i.e. if I relaxed and controlled my breathing, I could actually “rest’” on top of the water and it would hold me up. Portions of my head, belly, and extremities would rise and float on the surface. Years later in Scuba Diving Class I would find out that there is a scientific principle for this and trying to teach it to someone is nearly impossible. You have to FEEL it. I just knew it as “resting ON the water.” You could swim and swim and swim and when you needed a break, roll over face up and LET THE WATER HOLD YOU. It was calm, it was quiet and it worked in all kinds of surface conditions as long as you timed your breathing properly. Did I mention I LOVE the water??
Back to the ducks.
Watching them on top of the water, floating, feeding and swimming around reminds of those quiet times as a kid, and the beach, and the water, and I smile and laugh to myself and then…just like that…I’ve slipped into “Creative Mode.”
I start by drawing “Barney” standing on the shore watching the water come up to his toes; nah, needs more. Drawing two; Barney dipping his toes in the water to check the water temp, funny as it is, still needs more. Finally, minimal drawing; just a few parts of Barney showing up above the water as it holds him, Bingo!
It’s quiet, relaxing and he is going with the flow of the water…I should do more of that in my life. Instead of running to the next minute, whats the harm in having life just… hold me for a moment …and rest …and breath.
Man, I am learning a TON from this window!
Just for the record, even though the cabin is gone. A few years ago I took a sound recording of the waves lapping at the shore on the very same beach that I learned those lessons of all those years ago. Oh! I did mention that I got some of the beach as well?
They say when you grow older, you can’t go back, but I refuse to accept that.
I have the Beach, I have the Lake… and now, I have the ducks.
Go make your life SPECTACULAR!!
When I draw these cartoons, it is usually on the weekend, early morning or late evening and I start with a blue line pencil and begin by drawing a nose and then building the scene from there. They almost NEVER turns out as I think it will. Its always just better to grab onto the pencil and hold on for dear life.
The other thing is that sometimes things come out in these pieces that I never even planned. More than just Bunny Slippers and Heart Boxers. I mean, what I think are deep meanings. Let me show you.
(My personal point of view here!)
These are just things that immediately cross my mind when I first look up after doing these drawings? Do you see something else? Let me know in a comments below..
Enjoy the run!
April was a special month for our house as we celebrated all 3 of our Father's Birthday this month. Shannon's Father, Mike, on 4/3, Step-Father Jerry on 4/14, and my Father Raymond Sr. today, 4/6.
Even though all 3 men came from different backgrounds, each were tops in their respective fields. Unfortunately, over the last few years we have had to say goodbye to each one of these men as age take its toll.
Even though non are still with us, their memory lingers on with us, as well as the lessons that they taught. Everyone says they hope that their parents are looking down and smiling on them. I can only be certain of one thing, IF they are looking down at us, all three of these men are laughing at us.
Happy Birthday Dads..."din dumma sill*"!
I am not good at posting to the blog because I have an issue with spelling and sentence construction. To be honest about it, I hate it.
I have never been good at grammar or spelling, all the way back to Mr. Cook’s 5th grade class when the class picked on me because I had so many outstanding late reading and writing assignments, Mr. Cook would write all of them down on a list for EVERYONE to see. I still remember one day Mr. Cook stood in front of our class, taking a special moment he pointed out the length of my list and how he “could stand on it and reach light bulbs to change them.” The rest of the class jeered and laughed at me, I sank deeper into my seat, …and cried later at home. Two things happened that day; 1)I grew to never fully trust another teacher and 2)I grew to hate anything about the written english language. Hated reading it, hated writing it, did everything I could to get away from it.
Shame on you Cook, your lack understanding and motivation of children with different needs shut me off from WORLDS of great stories to other places. Landscapes of beautiful scenery and it’s inhabitants were barred to a young man by your callousness. In fact it turned that young soul in the opposite direction, where he vowed to never read again because all he could hear in his ears was your laughter in unison with an entire class of children against one. Congratulations, you status has now been changed from teacher to bully!
Thank God I later in life had enough curiosity and fortitude to look into fiction and non fiction works, on my own, where I found escape, love, humor, beauty, creativity, strength of character and purpose.
More importantly I found that I could create entire worlds ON MY OWN and I found friends in those worlds that cared about me and what I thought and gave no thought to what my recent test scores were, how fast I read, what cloths I wore or even what I looked like. I found a home at the tip of a pencil.
Fast forward to today where I have turned that love into something more.
I publish my cartoons to the web site a week in advance, I used to do an entire month of them at a time but to do that kind of work turns out being like trudging through a marsh, you just pound one out right after the other with no appreciation of them and also, if something important happens during the week I still have enough time to change them as it is still fresh in the minds of my readers.Two weeks ago I was working on the cartoon for 3/22, which had a Wizard and a monk trying to carve a single figure in stone, a self portrait if you will.
I use the visual gag stone carving a lot. To me it represents the creative process, invested time, skill, planning and it’s fun visually. Sometimes I have Shannon look at my work, she checks grammar, spelling and sometimes overall composition. Frankly, it is nice to get an extra set of eyes on something after working on a group for a length of time. After she looked at it she thought that I should change the single figure to a bunch of figures in different poses just for fun and she walked out of the room.
Ok, challenge accepted.
I began changing the drawing to what it is today, a series of characters planted randomly in a "tree trunk" formation. When I finished, I called her back in and she just looked at me. “You just did this?” she asked. “Yup.” I said. “No you JUST did this?” she asked again. I looked at her. “Sketch, I just stepped out of here TEN MINUTES ago and you did all that in minutes??”
I guess the old saying is true; time flies when your having fun with your friends.
Go be creative!
I draw on everything. Napkins, placemats, scraps of paper, bills, checks, you name it, I have probably left a mark on it. Including the dirt on the side of a my TRUCK and even sometimes, the side of the occasional school bus! I do these kinds of cartoons ALL THE TIME, for Shannon, the kids, family, etc. They are fast and just meant to get “the guys” out on paper. I never thought much about them, it was just something that I have ALWAYS done. They don’t take that long to make, just a few minutes each, sometimes even seconds.
A few months ago I received a box of business cards for my new position at SERVPRO of The Saint Croix Valley. A THOUSAND OF THEM. My Boss told me; “When you get to the bottom of the box, I’ll buy you some more!” If you have never seen a thousand business cards lined up in a box, I ASSURE you, it is A LOT! The goal with theses cards? Get rid of them, all of them. Now I am no stranger to the game of passing out business cards, there is an etiquette to it, when, how many, and to whom all play a role but a thousand of them? I seriously wondered how long it was going to take me to pass them out to clients!
Fast forward to last months sales cycle. I try to see my insurance clients every 6 weeks and I was preparing to go out and while I was getting ready I happened to DUMP the card box!
Cards. Covered. Everywhere.
I had sometime to kill because I was waiting for a co-worker who was riding along with me and while I was putting the cards back into the box I realized that there was printing on only ONE side of the cards. I placed the box back in the desk and while I was waiting, pulled one card out and drew one of my quick Doodleton Guys on the card, holding a jack-o-lantern, and after looking at it for a few seconds realized how much like a greeting card it looked like! Just for fun I wrote at the top; “Happy Halloween!” then I signed the bottom. Ha! It really DID look like a greeting card!
It was at that moment that it hit me to hand these cards out to my clients, just as a way to say “hi” and for them to remember me by. I do service many clients but I found that if I do just a few everyday I can replenish for the day ahead and only have a few left.
So, at the beginning of the last sales cycle I started taking the blank side of my SERVPRO business cards and putting hand drawn cartoons of the Doodleton guys with a message for the next calendar holiday on them, Halloween. In the middle of all this, we attended my very first Corporate Sales meeting in the Wisconsin Dells. I handed out a couple off them and by the end of the meeting people were coming up to me asking for them! The next week I finished the routes and heard several compliments and “You did this?” and when they found out my background I even managed to see a rise in views on my website. I was pleased.
Within the week I started getting responses from these little cards. I got an email from an CSR asking if it was ok for them to scan the image and send it on to a family friend, I said “sure” and forgot about it. Fast forward to THIS sales cycle. My very first stop the woman behind the desk greeted me by asking me if I was going to have a Christmas Card this time?? I handed her a card that I had just drawn an hour prior and she laughed it and said; “Hey! Now I have a collection!” By the end of the day I had met with several offices that had asked the same thing, several of them had last months card posted up on the wall and taped the new Christmas card right next to it. At one office I made a second stop, after a customer left and found that they had cut out the cartoon that I did in the newsletter and put it with their cards!
A day later, I received a text message from another office…
There was NO WAY I was goin to turn this down, I made a SPECIAL 2-fold card and delivered it. A few hours, I received this…
These photos are just the beginning. The NEXT DAY I had TWO different offices introduce me to a couple of agents as “Sketch, the guy that draws those cards!” How cool is that?! I have seen the cards taped to computers, stuck to side of cubicle walls, and duplicated many, many times!
How lucky am I?!?!?
There are many things that I can say that I have accomplished in my short life here on earth. I have addressed politicians and they have listened to what I had to say, I have spoken to groups of people that have numbered in the thousands, I have stood in Disney World on Christmas Day and felt the energy of thousands of people on one of the best days of our calendar year, and today…I was in Best Buy for Black Friday. I saw the best and the worst. I saw people literally jump into mountains of products only to have that same pile disappear moments later, I saw people make fun of others as they were forced to crowd together, like cattle, in lines as long as the eye can see and I saw others be defiant standing in the ways of people that were simply just trying to get around them in an isle. At one point in time, I simple grabbed ahold of Shannon’s hand like a vice, placed it in the center of my back and PLOWED through angry people just to get to the other side for Shannon’s own safety…I don’t care WHAT time of year it is, people move when a 6’5”, 300 lbs man comes barreling through. Thank goodness they did, I had no intention of stopping to see what they were screaming at each other for.
I also saw something else. While standing in what seemed to be miles and miles of check out lines, crying children, and complaining customers; I saw Shannon. For a second she looked up at me and smiled. At that moment I realized, that I should be thankful. Thankful that we could afford to go shopping for “non” essentials like electronics, thankful that we were financially stable enough to put this on our credit card that our jobs help us pay for, thankful for my wife, when so many these days find it impossible to stay together. Thankful that we would take our packages out to our paid for vehicle and take them to the home we own and then have a meal of LEFTOVERS from the GIGANTIC meal that Shannon prepared for us, and her family, the day prior. I found in that line, in that crowded store, on the BUSIEST shopping day of the year, surrounded by the ugliness of others self preoccupation, I found thankfulness. I leaned over, kissed her on the top of her head, enjoyed the view of others and we went home. Today, on Black Friday, I got the best gift of all….peace.
The new book is finished and ready to go to print, unfortunately it is not with the printer that I had originally been going through. In an effort to lower the cost of publishing I am shrinking the size of the book to "Manga" size(5"x7.5") and I was going to publish through an online vendor called "Kablaam" who is very popular for printing but it would take some time for turn around. I changed the format of the cartoon and the book in June with intentions of doing it this way. Fortunately for me the situation changed about a month and a half ago. While getting organized to speak at a local art store in Ellsworth, WI "Brush Strokes" check out their link here, the owner told me that they were getting equipment in to do printing of books! I had to jump at the chance...any time I get to support local business I am going to EVEN IF it changes my publishing schedules. The owner Kayleen, an energetic and positive artist herself, deserves all the support that I can give since she is offering a place for local kids to come and do art work, as well as welcoming the community classes on different art forms, I had no choice, I felt I had to support her because it is the right thing to do.
What does this do to my upcoming show at St Bridgets Craft Fair? Nothing. We will be selling vouchers at the table for the book for reduced rates and a little bonus to be decided. While I believe in supporting St B's and their craft fair I also think this is the proper way to handle this so EVERYONE benefits from this. Thats the best way isn't it?
I can talk. I can talk and talk and talk and talk and talk! You give me a little bit of information about something and I can create a sales pitch around it, package it for a presentation and then deliver it sprinkled with enough humor that the client will want to buy the product AND the presenter, all at the same time! Did I mention I like to talk?
On the opposite end of the scale one of the drawbacks to being a cartoonist is that I can spend vast amounts of time by myself staring at a drawing board with no human interaction. This can be for hours and sometimes even days. I have been known to loose entire weekends and holidays in the pursuit of a deadline. Currently there are no windows in my current office so even if I did look up I couldn’t tell you what time of day it is anyway!
And there between those two differences lies the problem.
A long time ago I read somewhere that “it is the responsibility of this generation to pass on their knowledge to the next generation” and I one hundred percent agree. Basically, if we didn’t ,how would there be any advancement of anything? More importantly thought I see it as if you don’t pass on knowledge and/or passion how will anyone get it? I realized this about a decade ago when I first started talking to groups about my background and cartooning.
Since then I have spoken to THOUSANDS of students in Studies, Assemblies, Libraries, Schools, and Comic Book events. While I don’t get to every student there are those four or five that, out of the group, really seem to understand what I say to them and have the drive to want to keep going.
I am fortunate, after to talking to young people about the art, I benefit from it as well and it gets me a little excited to go back to my own drawing board to work on my own things.
How lucky am I?