being serene on deadline

Anybody else on deadline?  I’m on deadline.  I hope to have some images for you next week from the three (count ’em, three) projects I have on the drawing board right now, but for the moment nothing is fit to be seen.  If I can keep from drawing humorous cartoon sharks on the pages for the moody Gothic story at this point, that’s all I can manage.

When deadlines loom, I find the most refreshing break I can take is to practice another kind of art entirely.  For me, that’s almost always photography.  And when you can photograph a serene subject like this enigmatic carved figure at the local pop up art and antique market, being behind the camera is even more relaxing.  And challenging.  It’s an excellent combination.  Note that while I very seldom share an image of myself, you can see a bit of me in the mirror, taking this photograph.

As always, if you want to see more of my photography, I am on Instagram @kekiongacomics .

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it’s fall in kekionga

A few years ago, Moose found this photograph in a cardboard box at a yard sale, and it has been hanging on her bulletin board ever since.    Many years from now, when she thinks of her hometown, this will be what she remembers.

(One of the great things about spending time in an imaginary place is that you can go there any time of the year. You can write a Christmas story in August, or draw a spring story in November.  Or, in the very worst parts of a vile Midwestern “third winter”, you can pick up your camera and take a walk through Kekionga on a beautiful October day.  It’s always fall in the Indiana of the mind,  if you want it to be.  And I mostly do. )

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lucky drawings and their titles

Work, work, work, work.

Oh, hello, blogkateers.  How kind of you to stop by to find out whether I have been frozen solid in an ice storm or blown into Michigan in a windstorm since last we met.  I appreciate your interest, and am glad to report that I am still here in the center of my personal tundra, making comics in the company of wild dogs suffering from ever increasing levels of cabin fever.

For fun, how about a couple of “lucky drawings” from my drawing of the day sketchbook?  A lucky drawing in this context is one that just happens, drawn in ink directly on the blank page without a pencil underdrawing or even any particular idea of what the subject is going to be.

What these two drawings have in common is that they each feature a three eyed character and they each have a title that I transcribed directly onto the page from the soundtrack of the random TV show I was watching at the time.  Weird, but that’s how I roll.

This brushwork drawing was pretty clearly drawn during a cooking competition, with one of the judges asking the question about an egg that was added to a dish at the last minute.  I can’t remember whether the egg was successful or not, but the question struck me as memorable and it fit pretty much exactly in the space above the three eyed owl thing, so on the page it went.  Hey, at least the the bat seems to think it was funny.

I actually cheated in this drawing and fixed the owl’s three eyes with whiteout the next day to make them more contrasty and also more or less the same size.  At the same time I added the little white dots for trim and to reduce the weight of some of the solid blacks that bulk up so easily when drawing freehand with a great big brush and a heavy ink.  Hey, it is my sketchbook and I will cheat if I want to cheat.

And this linework pair almost certainly appeared during that most wonderful of televised time wasters, the classic car auction.  These go on for hours over random weekend afternoons and evenings deep in the reaches of the more obscure cable sports channels.  Oddly compelling for those who like cars, and good for your spotting skills.  The engine that is “two V-6s joined at the hip” is the W-12 that powers many versions of the Bentley Continental GT.  I am not sure how this description applies to this serene three eyed creature with the mighty tusks and its wild haired human companion wearing slip on deck shoes.  Perhaps it is a comment on the closeness of their professional partnership, personal relationship, or both.

The Pilot “Penmanship” EF is small, inexpensive, Japanese fountain pen with the tiniest possible “scritchy-scratchy” nib.  It is annoying in many ways, from its tiny ink capacity and its tendency to dry out while you are actually drawing with it, but when it is working properly and you need an extremely fine line, there is no substitute.

I think my favorite thing about this drawing is the little being sitting on one of the mighty creature’s horns.

 

 

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meet the java cats! (drawing of the day color special)

One class of iconic characters that has never made its way into Kekionga canon (which of course is built out of all the character archetypes I can think of) is the aquatic humanoid.  There are definitely some water beings out there (Old Fourlegs and the other coelacanths, and Nestor the Lake Monster come immediately to mind), but I’ve never done a mermaid or a fishperson or a water sprite or anything like that.  I can’t really say why, except that I don’t personally much like getting wet .

But I’m currently writing up some notes for a Kekionga spin off featuring tiny characters (say knee high to a human and down) that I’ve always wanted to write about.  I finally had an idea for a storyline for them, so I have been drawing them in my sketchbook, trying to figure out just how big they are and how they might fit together in a panel.

So I was using a diner coffee cup as a size regulator for Tiny Anubis …

And this little guy popped out of it.  He was plump, with big underwater eyes, fin-like ears, webbed feet and hands, and catfish barbels on lips and chin.  He was definitely a thing.

Turns out that he’s a small sentient amphibious being who lives in coffee, or around coffee– sort of a brownie of the coffee shop, who can easily turn into a gremlin if he doesn’t get enough caffeine.  He’s a Java Cat.  (That’s cat for catfish, and from classic hipster slang, not the meowing kind.)

These are actually the second and third Java Cats I’ve ever drawn, but this drawing is the proof of concept for the basic character designs.  You can see that I am still experimenting  with the number of fingers and toes and the shape of the webbing, and I think the shape (and possibly number) of fins varies by individual.  The only clothes a Java Cat will ever wear is the miniature barista’s apron some ‘Cats wear when they have adopted a particular cafe, diner or coffee place as their own responsibility.  Otherwise they go around naked, their cartoon modesty preserved by patches of iridescent scales in a “bathing suit” or “bike shorts” pattern.  Otherwise, they have smooth skin in any shade of coffee color.  Their fins and eyes are silver grey.

Just for fun, these Java Cats appear today in full color.  Well, full color for me, anyway.

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placemat drawings and universal questions

With all due respect to the classics, this answer is “29”, which is also a pretty nice number.

(Assuming I am counting right.  You’ll tell me if I’m not.)

(Placemat drawing, Steak and Shake, 2/12/19. “Q: How many spirit rocks can you draw before your lunch comes? A: This many”.   Pilot Better Retractable ballpoint pen, Fine black, on slick paper placemat.  First version, color scan direct from original. Second version, processed to remove color for emphasis, no corrections).

 

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kekionga characters from a new story

Last week, during the Polar Vortex,  finished my first real story in a while.  The final version will appear in the OH Comics! anthology later this year.  The subject matter will remain a surprise, but it’s a Kekionga story and that means some familiar people will be doing some stuff …

a coelacanth is leaping,

Edison is playing the ukulele, under the supervision of his owl, Fil,

Jack is standing under the old oak tree, looking pensive and romantic,

And Josef is eating stolen ice cream.

Business as usual, really.  Many, many more finished comics pages to come this year if all (or even most) goes according to plan.

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polar vortex special, part 2

They used to call it a “cold snap”, or tell us, in the voice of sage old sayings that “as the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen”.  As February nears and the sap starts to rise in the maples, it sometimes gets cold in the US Midwest.  Usually briefly, for a day or two a week at most, but it’s serious cold.

Nowadays they call it a “polar vortex”, which is more dramatic than “cold snap” and mixes up nicely with the rhetorical style of the 24 hour news cycle.   And this year’s polar vortex was a pip.  It was below zero Fahrenheit for three solid days, with a low of -18 and dangerous winds– colder here in Indiana than in Alaska or Siberia.  Even now, as the Vortex loses its energy, it’s a balmy six degrees.  Of course, forecasts for Monday predict highs in the 50s, but that’s the Midwest for you.  The king of all local weather sayings is “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute”.   That’s paraphrased from Mark Twain, by the way.

I actually had a pretty pleasant Polar Vortex.  The new furnace kept on chugging, we’d stocked up appropriately on food, and the cable and the internet never went out.  I did a bunch of drawing and even took a few photographs.  Above, a Polar Vortex cardinal, on a -14 morning, through a window.  Below, two macro shots of frost on the inside of the storm door.  These were taken at night, in the very center of the vortex: the only photographs I think I’ve ever taken at 18 below.

Even so, I think we can be confident that spring is coming, eventually.  And if we get another cold snap, please be careful out there.

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hulk winter poem

Our resident poet, the Incredible Hulk, branches out from his usual haiku (Hulk-ku) form in this poem he wrote on Wednesday, in the depths of the Polar Vortex.  The temperature at the time was -18 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • When super cold,
  • weather lady say “polar vortex”.
  • Hulk no go outside.
  • No long johns fit Hulk.
  • Hulk nose hair freeze solid.
  • Hulk watch TV,
  • read magazines.
  • Bake sugar cookies:
  • brown sugar,
  • old Christmas candy chop up.
  • Hulk eat cookies.
  • Take nap.
  • Sleep now,
  • in center polar vortex.
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a cast in search of a western: drawing of the day

One of the things that sometimes emerges in a “lucky” drawing of the day is a cast of characters for a very strange comic.  (A lucky drawing is one that is not only automatic/unplanned, but also lacks pencil underdrawing; it’s strictly “straight to ink”.  When it works, you have a lucky drawing.)  When I don’t know what to draw I usually start blocking in a figure somewhere near the center of the page and then add to it in some way.  You may get two or more people interacting, or a figure in a setting, or a crowd scene, or most often a portrait of a person with an animal or pet.  And occasionally I just keep adding more small figures that seem to go with the first one, and I get a cast drawing.

In this case the first figure was the skeletal/undead/mummy in a cowboy hat. I made him a Marshal, put his Marshal’s star in his eye sockets, and surrounded him with the cast of a Weird Western.  The characters are a combination of stock or semi-stock characters  (the trusty mount, the Indian ghost, the Medicine Person,the Eastern Dude, the Dark Eyed Senorita) and various weird or ordinary animal characters.  But there are some extra strange things going on, particularly that anachronistic camera the Eastern Dude is carrying.  That looks like a Leica or similar rangefinder (in a leather half case), dating to the 1940s or 50s.  That may indicate some short distance time travel.  Or perhaps a reluctance on the part of the cartoonist to draw a Photographer character carrying around a view camera, a long legged wooden tripod,and a crate of glass plates, and then ducking under a curtain and setting off troughs of flash powder.  That actually sounds sorta fun.  Why didn’t I want to do that?

Regardless, the best things about this are the wistfulness of the Marshal, who is absolutely a tragic character, and the idea of a coyote Cerberus in a Western setting.

(Coming next week, a week dedicated to the celebration of the wild, weird and wonderful “lucky drawing”.)

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revisit vocabulary words with anpu!

“Psychopomp” is a technical term in religion and folklore studies– a psychopomp is a religious (or mythological or folkloric or supernatural) figure who guides a spirit or soul to the afterlife.  I once knew this word fairly well, but as my formal education has faded further into the past, I am sure I haven’t thought about it, much less used it, in thirty years or more.  This week as I was doing other research, I found Anubis on a list of psychopomp figures across history and world cultures.

And that got me thinking.  We know Anpu as a “retired god”, but what if like many retirees, he got a bit bored (and maybe a little short of whatever it is that gods use for currency) and decided to go back to work part time?  This is a drawing of Anpu as a modern psychopomp, including a pair of little black wings that reference the angelic figures that take that role in current legend/folklore.

Longtime readers will notice that I have made yet another change in Anpu’s character design.  (Anpu is one of my favorite characters to draw and I fiddle with his design more than anything else in Kekionga except Foursquare’s dozens of costumes.)  I have gone back to the gold lining for his ears, but started breaking it up with a sunburst/radial design that I found in some Ancient Egyptian source material.  I really like the results and I might even say his design is finally finalized if I didn’t know myself too well.

For more about psychopomps across the world, click here, or consult any dictionary of mythology or folklore if you have plenty of spare time.

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