Monday, June 30, 2008

Kingdom Bound? A Family Made Comic Strip

Our local radio station is having an art contest. They will choose from among art made by entrants illustrating this theme, "What if Your Family Went Camping at Kingdom Bound"? Winners will get six full event tickets and a campsite at a Christian music event at Darien Lake. Here is the entry my family and I made together.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Five Happy Years

It was five years ago today that Kristan and I tied the knot. After my friends and my sons helped me overcome my last minute jitters
...the joyous occasion took place. We began our marriage with a readymade family. Below I am threatening my boys if they don't stand still and smile, I'm gonna cuff 'em.
The kids were happy about the day, but kind of grossed out by the displays of affection.
It was the best day of my life, and the first day of five very happy years and a whole bunch more to come.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

T.A.I.L.S. #50: Sand Storm

If you've been reading my posts lately, you know I've been getting a lot of inspiration and enjoyment by doing the Art by Committee challenges from James Gurney's website. As a creative exersize, I've been trying to weave them into a single story. Some of them just don't fit. I'm wondering if I'll be able to continue, since they may add too many disparate elements to a single story. We'll see!

For now, the challenge for this week seemed to fit perfectly as part of an upcoming T.A.I.L.S. comic. Here's the challenge we were given this week.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Interdimensional Art Thieves

Here is my entry for this week's ABC challenge. Our prompt this time was

I think these challenges are an example of apophenia -spontaneous perception
of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cartoonists I Like: Stan Sakai

One of my favorite cartoonists is Stan Sakai. He has drawn, inked, written and lettered 109+ issues of his comic Usagi Yojimbo (Japanese for Rabbit Bodyguard). His comic features the anthropomorphic adventures of a17th century Samurai rabbit. It's consistently very well written and drawn. It's also neat that you can catch up with with Usagi's adventures in the 22 paperback collections. This comic is great for adults or kids, especially around middle school age. It has won several awards, including the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) of the American Library Association.

In addition to being a phenomenal artist, I hereby nominate him as the Nicest Guy in Comics. He has a fantastic website called the Usagi Yojimbo Dojo, which includes a forum where he personally interacts with fans. Over the years he has offered advice to me about my artwork and answered my questions about drawing, tools and techniques. He has even made some sketches for Daniel and I. Mine is in a frame and hangs over my computer at school.

Stan is very involved in Boy Scouts in his area and his own son is nearing the rank of Eagle. When he heard that my son Daniel had passed his Eagle Board of Review he sent me a personal message and offered to make a "letter" of congratulations. We just opened the package he sent and discovered that the letter is actually a painting of a young Usagi in Boy Scout garb! It's now in a frame and will be the centerpiece at Dan's upcoming Eagle ceremony. To top it off, the accompanying note is on the back of a page from a Groo script which he letters. To say the least, Dan and I are geeking out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Amulet" by Kazu Kibuishi

I have been looking forward to this book coming out. It's a great graphic novel for kids and for the kid at heart. It's by Kazu Kibuishi, a really great cartoonist who's editor of the Flight anthologies and several comic creations of his own. The Flight anthologies are great collections that demonstrate the wide range of fantastic stories that can be told in the medium of comics.

The first volume of the Amulet series is Book One: The Stonekeeper and is an all-ages story about two kids trying to save their mother from terrible creatures, filled with action, pathos and almost any fantasy element you can imagine. Using a powerful amulet left by their great grandfather as their guide, the kids have to journey through a giant subterranean labyrinth to rescue her before it's too late.

It's a great story, and the book had barely seen print when it was already snatched up to be made into a live action movie, with Jaden and Willow Smith (the children of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) as the leads.

The best kids books authors aren't "writing down" to kids. There's something for adults too in books like these. Amulet is definitely an example of an "all ages" graphic novel that both kids and adults can enjoy.

In an interview, the creator says,

Most of your work is aimed at all-ages readers; not necessarily about kids and not only for kids. Do you think that's fair?

Well, I think that "Amulet" is the first book I produced with the younger readers in mind. "Copper" and my "Flight" stories are made mostly to appeal to the artist side of me. With "Amulet," I knew for sure that young readers would be the ones reading it, so I tried to channel my ten year-old self and tried to make the book that I would have begged to have at the school book fair. I wanted to give that feeling to new readers out there too. If I were that age, at the book fair, I imagine this would indeed be the ultimate find. Heh heh.

Cartoonists I Like: Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry is one of my favorite writers and cartoonists. I'm really looking forward to getting her new book, What it Is.

There's a six page preview of it here.

Another article tells how she picked up the brush because she got frustrated with writing on the computer. It's just too easy to delete what you've written before you get a chance to see what it might become. Creativity in writing is very connected to handwriting for her. She says,

When I was a kid, I never wrote without first having a book to write in. The simple act of folding sheets of paper and stapling them inside a construction paper cover was the first step in writing a book. The second was the movement of a pencil on paper. For most kids, once the experience of writing or drawing is over, the story itself isn’t so important.
Some studies show that for children, handwriting and stories are intertwined. The very motion of writing by hand encourages creativity. The same is true for drawing. It’s only later in life that action and intent part ways.

About her series of monkey paintings, she says,

The vehicle of ink and brush is available to anyone. The picture you make is not so important. Move your brush not to make a picture, but make a picture in order to move your brush.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Memorial Day

My Art By Committee Challenge entry is a very loose interpretation of the prompt,

--but when I read the challenge, this is the comic that popped into my head.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Drawing Time

Sometimes I wish I had more time for art. But maybe I don't because I'm making time for other things that are even more important.

Monday, June 16, 2008


In Curriculum Comics #1, I described our Sketchbook contest. Everyone who participates gets some kind of prize. Kids who just did a few drawings might get a free Big Mac at McDonalds. Those who do quite a few get larger prizes including art supplies or comics. The big winners' prizes this year were donated by McNamara's Office Supplies and Art Supplies. Here are just a couple of the top winners.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hulk Smash?

We went to see the Hulk movie last night. I guess it was okay. If I were grading these movies, I'd give Iron Man an A and this Hulk movie a C+. What I didn't like about it was that they just made a Hulk movie four years ago, which I guess we're supposed to forget and I didn't really see that this one was really that much different or better. My verdict is, it's worth seeing, but there will probably be moments when you're checking your watch.

What I did like about it is that the stories of these comic book movies are interconnected and appear to be setting the stage for an Avengers movie that features many of the heroes in one movie. What has always been cool about Marvel comics is that the characters appear in one another's stories. It's one universe and they interact. With the right director, some of those classic stories would make great movies!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

ABC Challenge -- An Electrifying Experience

For this week's Art by Committee Challenge at the Gurney Journey, we were given the assignment to illustrate this line of text,
Wildon, a big hulking dude, went into a crouch and threw out his arms, ready to catch the running Jeremy.
I cheated a little, making no effort to draw a Jeremy, but continued with my own character. The big hulking dude has yet to throw his arms out as well, but give him time! I had to do two pages to bring the story from last week's challenge to this moment.

Curriculum Comics #1 -- Part 3

Here is the final installment of my comic book The Teacher as Reflective Practitioner.

The first (and most important) review is in -- that of the professor teaching the class. I received a grade of 100% and these comments:

The comic strip sketch book chronicled your experiences with reflection, as you stated, even before you knew you were engaged in reflective practices. Each segment added personal and scholarly applications in terms of continued reflection and its subsequent impact on your teaching.

Your experiences introducing the sketchbook to your students, reflecting on their responses, and then making necessary adjustments were a testament to the power of reflective practices to inform instruction. I know that your students and colleagues will benefit greatly from your talent and ability to bridge humor and reflection in order to stimulate creative change in education. Excellent work!

Curriculum Comics #1 -- Part 2

Here is some more of my comic book about Reflective Practice. I really enjoyed getting into drawing autobiographical scenes -- and thinking about how my childhood helped shape the kind of teacher I became.

Curriculum Comics #1 -- Part 1

I've just finished a major project I've been working on. I was taking a class about Reflective Practice. For a final project I was to write a sixteen page paper. I asked for special permission to make a sixteen page comic about the subject instead.

It may sound complicated, but it's basically stopping to think about what you're doing as a teacher and if it's accomplishing the goal you want it to. Sounds simple, but unfortunately in education we often continue to use practices that aren't really working.

Any way, here's the first five pages of the comic. I'll continue to post the rest of it in the posts that follow.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cartoonists I Like: Alec Longstreth

One of my new favorite cartoonists is Alec Longstreth. For anyone interested in making their own comics, his lecture notes Your Comics will Love you Back are the most practical resource I've ever seen. I picked up some very helpful hints from them. I also bought two issues of Phase 7 Comics, the comic he puts out a couple times a year. Issues # 10 and 11 were of particular interest to me since it's basically the story of his life with comics so far. It gives a lot of insight into his working methods and philosophy of making them.

His illustration of his self-portrait on the back of a turtle charging into battle is the perfect metaphor for making comics. So much excitement -- but the process is so painstakingly slow.
To express my appreciation for the inspiration and guidance I've found in his work I made the sketch below.