CBC Saskatchewan will be featuring one of my daily comics on their site each week. The link is:
To celebrate, here are some doodles from meetings at work … my workplace is a pro-doodling kind of place!
The last time I was interviewed on the radio about comics, I was about 11 years old, talking about a superhero I created called The Animal, who had the powers of all animals … this was before I heard about Animal Man.
Long story short, they effing censored me! Animal Man’s arch nemesis was, of course, The Hunter! A deranged villain who killed people, and then wore their skin … this was before I heard about Silence of the Lambs.
Grade 6’s is the craziest people!
Anyway, after posting some old daily diary strips here a few days ago, a friend at CBC Saskatchewan contacted me to see if I’d be interested in discussing this exercise on the air. You can listen to the interview below, for a limited time. I’m not sure if CBC keeps permanent links to their interviews … still searching for a podcast option.
They plan on posting one of my strips every week, so I’ll provide links when that happens.
And of course, I’ll soon begin posting my daily diary strips here!
In 2007, I read about a few people who kept daily diary comics. At the time, I was really struggling ideas and motivation to draw, so this seemed like a good way to get ink flowing.
I only managed to keep up the daily comic for just over three months, then I got out of the habit and didn’t bother to pick it up again. Which is too bad, because in addition to being good technical practice, it was always a great source for unexpected ideas. I was also happy to have about one hundred strips by the end of it.
About two years later, I was reading about a bunch of cartoonists and cartoon-related practices, and I came across James Kochalka. I had read some of his stuff before, but had yet to obsess over it. Typically, I’ll get turned onto an artist, and then madly consume nothing but their work for months and months … so there are a lot of great artists’ work I’m not really familiar with yet.
Then I started reading Kochalka’s daily diary comic, and I realized what a wuss I am.
Anyway, I’ve since started doing a quick strip before bed every night again. I’ve only been doing it for just over a week, but I’m hoping to seriously stick with it this time. It’s already paid off too. I’m finding myself much more inclined to draw comics in my sketchbook, which was mostly filled with faces up to this point.
To celebrate my hopefully lasting freedom from wussiness, here are some of my favorite strips from 2007.
That’s all for now…
There’s at least two other cartoon kids named Dennis that I can think of, and both of them are known menaces.
This Dennis isn’t, however. He’s just awkward about everything.
This may be going in the next issue Valuable Comics, although I’ve had a couple of comics rejected due to weiner/boob content before. Hey! That gives me a good idea! What if I post some of my dirty, rejected comics in a future post? Okay, Dakota, you have a deal.
Now that it’s finished, I’m not certain if I like this comic’s content. However, I’m still enjoying playing with interweaving/overlapping panels. I like the idea of side-strips, informing or affecting the primary narrative sequence. Working on this comic also gave me a chance to play with shading/colouring, something I’ve only started doing in the last year or two. Originally, I planned on shading the faded panels with a half-tone screen effect in Photoshop, but this looked too distracting.
My wife said that the darker panels look like a woman’s hourglass figure from far away … which was an accident that I’ll probably take credit for as soon as I forget that it was an accident.
Finally, a fun fact: While I was shading the woman’s nipples, my grandma called to talk for a bit. I would have stopped drawing, but I had to finish this comic tonight!
I made this comic for the upcoming next issue of Regina’s independent Valuable Comics.
I don’t really know why, but eyes being pulled out of the head (and taking the brain with them) is a recurring image in my sketchbooks and comics. The sad thing is that I only realized this as I was looking through old work last night.
But if anyone asks, it has to do with the perceived vapidity of certain once-great cartoons.
Yeah … that sounds kinda smart.
Here’s a sketch from 2007. Maybe it’s because I have terrible eyesight and I don’t want my eyes to rot, thus preventing me from ever drawing again?
The last post was getting a little long, and I was getting a little sleepy … so over a week later, I’m here to complete that thought.
Four Tall Tales: A Graphic History of the RPL was a very fun project, but even the most enjoyable projects aren’t without their controversies. Behold, as I reveal a potentially morally reprehensible image!
Pretty innocent, right? Well, sure. Except for the fact that this was the original panel:
Yeah. Someone at the library felt that a dog licking its crotch would offend some readers. I had some kind of lengthy, and possibly pretentious, statement about the dichotomy of high art vs. low art … but in the end it seemed like a petty point to argue. I felt bad for the curators at the Dunlop because they were very supportive and tried to offer me some ‘outs’ (i.e.: maybe the dog is just hiding his face?).
Still, an artist friend of mine found the whole controversy hilarious. If memory serves me, he said something like, “Who’s going to be offended by something you can see on the street, legally?!”
Oh well. If I ever become a famous artist, people will be begging me to make dogs lick their crotches. That’ll learn ‘em.
To close, here are a couple more pages from the comic. The story itself ended up tying together a number of moments in Regina’s history through a Wizard of Oz framework. I used to hate drawing buildings, but working on this comic made me love buildings … especially when I realized how many beautiful buildings Regina used to have before they started knocking them down in the name of progress. But that’s another post.
Four Tall Tales is available at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina for $15.
In 2008, the Regina Public Library commissioned four local artists and/or graphic designers to work on a comic book celebrating the library’s centennial. This project included myself, Jonah McFadzean (my brother), Allan Dotson, and Raul Viceral.
Each person was given a photograph from a different point in the library’s history. We were asked to respond to the photo any way we wished for ten pages– fact or fiction, we could write and draw pretty much whatever we wanted.
I should mention at this point that the RPL is particularly fantastic when it comes to comics. Their ever-growing collection of comic books, graphic novels, zines, and related ephemera is very impressive, and the collection rotates between the branches on a regular basis. Every time I go there I find something cool, be it Chris Ware’s sketchbook, Joe Matt’s Spent, a Krazy Kat collection, Watchmen, Sandman, or just some regular super-hero and Archie comics.
They have also offered a lot comics-related programming, including manga clubs and comic jams. Not to mention the fact that the Dunlop Art Gallery (which physically exists within the Central and Sherwood branches of the RPL), has brought in exhibitions like Comic Craze.
Anyway, enough shameless praise for the RPL, I don’t want it to go to their collective heads and have them go all apathetic on me.
Back to the project. The book was titled Four Tall Tales: A Graphic History of the Regina Public Library. It was also one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on.
Cartooning is a skill that requires a lot of patience, practice, and knowledge. It might seem simple to just draw some funny pictures in little boxes to those who have never tried, but for any artist worth his/her weight in ink, the process requires constantly navigating dozens of questions about composition, balance, timing, perspective, style, and more. Every time I work on a comic I learn a little bit more about the medium, which makes me feel like I’m getting a little bit closer to being a ‘for-reals’ cartoonist.
But, as many artists know, the people paying the bills frequently believe that they know more than the artist. For example I was once hired to do some ‘cartoony’ illustrations and had the following conversation:
Bill-payer: “Yeah, you made this character look really angry in this drawing. It’s good, but why did you scribble above his head like that?”
Dakota: “It’s a cartoon symbol for anger. You know, like he’s sizzling, or blowing steam off.”
Bill-payer: “Hmm. Yeah. Well, I don’t like it. Get rid of it.”
Fortunately, the RPL and the Dunlop gave the artists a lot of freedom in this project. I can’t speak for the other artists, but this made me feel like they trusted us a to do a good job, and so I wanted to do a great job for them. I did tons of research, trying to come up with an interesting story. In the end, I probably worked full-time on the comic for about a month.
But more on that in a future post, where I will show some more images from the comic, as well as some insight into the terrifying moral controversy caused by one li’l panel!
Four Tall Tales is available at the RPL now, selling for $15. It’s beautifully printed, and it contains very diverse work.
Broken Pencil magazine did a piece about the Gene Day Award for Self-Publishers (which was part of this year’s Joe Shuster Awards. Each artist on the shortlist was given a full page with a short bio and a sample of some of their work. I made the shortlist for Hypocrite.
Long story short, go pick up a copy of Broken Pencil and check out the feature. There’s some great work by several self-publishers, and of course Broken Pencil is always good times!
In the last year, the MacKenzie Art Gallery has asked me to produce a couple of comics for their newsletter, At the MacKenzie.
The first released in conjunction with an exhibition of Ted Godwin’s paintings from “the Regina Five Years”.
For those unfamiliar with this piece of history, the Regina Five were a group of painters from Regina (or at least working in Regina) who exhibited their abstract paintings at the National Gallery of Canada in 1961. For a brief, shining moment people from places other than Regina had heard of Regina. It’s a moment in the city’s history that is consistently, if not constantly, recalled (for good or ill).
Still, 1960s Regina sounds like it was an interesting time. I tried (and apparently failed) to make a comic that contrasted Godwin’s recollections of this past, with moments from my experiences in current-day Regina. The idea was that the panels would be arranged in a tartan pattern (Godwin became known for his tartan paintings).
I say “apparently failed” because the strip garnered nothing but criticism … mainly from those referenced in it. Godwin was none too pleased with it, claiming that I should have drawn him smoking and drinking (he was known for his alcoholism at the time). The architect Clifford Wiens also emailed me, trying to understand why I said that he said something that he said he never said (of course, the quotes all came from interviews with Godwin interviews in Mark Wihak’s documentary A World Away: Stories from the Regina Five). Also, Wiens didn’t get the comic. Didn’t like it.
So, lesson learned. Don’t make comics about people who are still alive.
Despite this, the MacKenzie commissioned me to do another comic in conjunction with the current exhibition, My Evil Twin. Because there are numerous contemporary artists included in the show, the concept for the comic could afford to be a little more open-ended.
I’m much happier with how this comic turned out (other than the annoying ink bleeding. Damn Stonehenge paper!) Ideally, this comic would be read in its printed form and would encourage the viewer to decipher it in the candle-lit bathroom mirror.
Tonight is the opening of Mind the Gap! at the Dunlop Art Gallery. This exhibition featuring 29 Saskatchewan artists, including an eight-page comic I made titled Gregarious.
You can read about the show here.
I am told that the launch of Four Tall Tales: A Graphic History of the Regina Public Library will coincide with tonight’s celebrations. The RPL commissioned me and three other artists (including my brother Jonah) to create ten-page comics celebrating the moments in the library’s history. This was done to celebrate the RPL’s centennial.
So much comics goodness!
Below is a little preview of Gregarious. I hope to see you at the opening!