Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blog Posting Secrets From the Experts

There's a reason why I don't write very much when I make a blog post. Two reasons, actually. The second reason is that I don't have anything productive or even interesting to say. Yes, I realize this doesn't stop the vast majority of the billions of bloggers. It probably wouldn't stop me, either, except for the First reason, which is that I mostly use a tablet PC.

My tablet is the slate type, which is exceedingly cool, except for when I need to write more than my name. There is no keyboard. Everything is written in long hand. I type over 80 words per minute, but can write not more than six or seven per minute. One reason this number is so low is because of the handwriting recognition software, or C.R.A.P., for short. It often even gets my name wrong. I can't tell you how many friends and colleagues have thought a stalker named "Fred Danson" was after them.

Luckily, this is a "sketch blog." The main reason for this is because Stacy, Wes and I draw pictures for a living; by posting stuff we have to draw anyway, it's like labor-exempt blog posting. Granted, that's not very different from other blogs out there, which are mostly compiled of content stolen from other blogs. We do that, too, but we mix it up enough where most folks won't notice.

Most folks! Most folks who read this blog arrive because they've googled "narcoleptic infirmary jokes" or "nudie playing cards" or "Fred Danson." About seven of these daily visitors are what we in the statistics game term "unique visitors," also known as "us" and "my kids." Sure, we passed our 100,000th visitor mark a while back, and that sounds impressive. But at least 90% of that was traffic generated from a faked drawing I did of that Texas UFO a couple years ago. Even the Pentagon visited our site for that one (I'm not lying).

I decided to type this post on my "work station" computer so that it would be faster going. Unfortunately, I'm running into the Second reason I don't post much, and also discovering a third. Can you guess what it is? Take this easy quiz:


If you guessed "A," you were absolutely correct. If you picked something other than "A," you probably arrived here accidentally while googling "cures for insomnia." Incidentally, I'm glad I could help.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

School Visits

As mentioned earlier, Mike Knudson, the author of the Raymond and Graham chapter book series and I teamed up and visited three elementary schools in Naperville, Illinois this week. We had a blast meeting the kids, librarians and teachers at the schools and we are so glad they loved "Raymond and Graham Rule the School" and "Raymond and Graham Dancing Dudes."

Here are a few pictures (courtesy of the schools) of our visits:

At Ellsworth Elementary School: Mike Knudson (left) brainstorms with the kids, while my BIG, GIANT HAND is drawing things that happened in the book up on the screen.

At Ellsworth Elementary School, Mike reads a scene from "Raymond and Graham Rule the School," while I draw it.

Drawing for the kids at Naper School.

At Naper School, deciding which events in the books are fact and which are fiction.

Thanks again to the folks at Naper School, Ellsworth Elementary School and Ranch View Elementary School for having us visit!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mystic Woods Sketch

I'm doing some more work on Mystic Woods this week in hopes of developing it as a junior graphic novel. This was drawn in Sketchbook Pro. The little guy's name is Boo.
Today I spent time working with the kids on their cursive lettering, and then to make things a little more interesting we did some calligraphy. They really pick things up quickly.
Penciled one Sunday strip and began another. I ran out of caffeine-free Mountain Dew and had to drink the hard stuff. The new Mountain Dew logo sucks! It is one of the worst I have ever seen. What happened to all the great logo designers? They've been replaced with people who fiddle around in Illustrator and never sit down with pencil and paper, using good design principles. Even my 9-year-old son thinks it's awful, without any prompting.
Talked with a really nice newspaper publisher today who said their readers are enjoying Grubbs. It's nice to have actual contact with newspaper people.
Just finished reading Steve Canyon book 2, 1948. Milton Caniff was a genius. I've never seen better storytelling, and its awesome seeing his art at its peak. He was so heavy with the brush, at least 50% of the space in his strips was black. A little too heavy at times, but mostly to good effect. It's almost as if he was painting with ink rather than drawing. Highly recommend it.
It's been a challenge keeping my basement studio warm. It takes two space heaters on the coldest days. I don't mind it being cool that much except it is harder to draw with cold fingers. I have some animator gloves but just can't draw with 'em. Last winter I was doing a lot of work on my tablet PC, so I worked upstairs more, and anyways, the computer is a source of warmth. Good in winter, bad in summer.
I got a little disgusted yesterday reading about a company that is laying off thousands of workers, and upon making that announcement, its stock price rose considerably. It's hard to tell which companies are really hurting and which ones are taking advantage of the economic climate to expedite cutbacks.
Burn Notice is back on. I love that show.

TIME Article on Walt Kelly

"Once my name and copyright are on the strips, I am responsible for what is said in them and how it is said. I'd be willing to let 519 papers go to hell if they want to insist on a right — which they do not have — to edit my copy."

A Pogo Birthday Special

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stacks of Books

The author of the famed "Raymond and Graham" chapter book series, Marvelous Mike Knudson and I are teaming up over the next couple of days and taking our dog and pony show to the deserving children at Ellsworth Elementary School, Ranch View Elementary School and Naper Elementary School in Naperville, IL.

In the picture above are some of the books I've been signing for the past couple of days. Mike signs his name and I sign and doodle a little drawing in each book.

My usually drawing process consists of pencilling a drawing, then tracing over my pencil lines in ink and then erasing the pencil lines. But when I have to sign books, I don't have time for all that. The first time I did a LIVE booksigning I nearly pissed my pants. I just couldn't draw in someone's book without pencilling first! And even worse, I couldn't do it FAST enough to accomodate a line of kids waiting to get their book signed. Hundreds of thousands of books later, I dive right in. When I get "in the zone," I can do some pretty nifty drawings without worry.

Go buy:

Raymond and Graham Rule the School

Raymond and Graham Dancing Dudes

Pictures of the school visits coming later this week ... if I remember to bring my camera.

Boys and Girls! Your attention please!

To heck with digital television... satellite radio... It's time for The Baby From Krypton! Tune in now to radio station KTED and be transported to another time and place as Jor-El tries to warn the council of Krypton that the planet is doomed!

Delay to Digital TV Changeover

The AP reports that the Senate on Monday voted unanimously to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting by four months to June 12.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Interestingly, someone has used one of my drawings for a tattoo. I think I vaguely remember someone asking if it was alright several months ago. Just accidentally ran across the tattoo on Flickr.

Frosty Underpants

Ink, watercolor on Cartiera Magnani, Pescia.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


A scene from the mind-boggling, adventuresome, anachronistic, overarching saga of Blitz, coming soon to someplace or another.


Hey, what did you think about the new episode of LOST last night?

Art by Ted Dawson

Painted Pig

I decided to paint the black and white pig drawing (see below).
I added a background color and some text for fun.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bringing Up Father

There is an original Sunday Bringing Up Father from 1943 on ebay. It is signed by George McManus. I don't know how involved his assistant Zeke Zekley was during this period, but regardless, it looks like a great opportunity for a McManus fan. Bidding started at $9.99.
-And bidding ended at $1,380.55 . Yikes!


I haven't worked in color much lately, so here's a little practice piece.

Grubbs Sunday Comic Strip

Here's a recent Grubbs comic strip. I'm happy to say we've had a good response from newspapers, particularly independently owned papers, the lifeblood of the industry. Grubbs also has gone international, appearing in a European publication.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


President Barack Obama Caricature

I did this quick pencil sketch while watching pre-inauguration coverage. This is where my mind is today.
It's a weird feeling having your State Senator become President of the United States.
Despite what you may have heard about our governor, we are proud of our Senator.
There's excitement in the air, not only in Illinois, but everywhere.
I wish I could be in D.C. today to be a part of the huge crowd that will witness such an important part of our nation's history.
I was there in Grant Park in Chicago on the night Barack Obama was elected President and that was enough for me. I will never forget that night.

Some of the crowd in Grant Park, the night Obama was elected President.

Here's to believing he'll make good on his promise of CHANGE. I have HOPE.

Barack Obama caricature: Pencil on Holbein sketchbook paper, colored in Photoshop.

Pig on a Rock.

I intended this to be a black and white piece, but I may end up painting it.

Ink on Strathmore bristol.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Illustration Friday- Pale.

Watercolor on strathmore imperial 500 with touches of acrylic.  About 7 or eight inches tall.

I need a better opaque white acrylic for highlights. I keep having to hit the spots again.


Saturday, January 17, 2009


I've had this piece painted for a while.
I just haven't had time to post it on the blog.

Ink, watercolor on Cartiera Magnani, 100% cotton.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I like the dog in this one. i might follow up on it.


Jose Luis Salinas

Jose Luis Salinas is one of the great unsung artists of cartooning. His talent placed him in a category all his own. He was best known for his work on The Cisco Kid.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I tried writing "amphitheater" and my handwriting recognition thingy interpreted it as "arm pit heater."

And that's like the only part of the body that never needs heating. When was the last time you said, "Man, my arm pits are cold!"

That's my contribution to the blog today.

Speaking of Cold ...


Sorry I haven't posted in a while, I've been pretty swamped with book projects.
This is something I drew for fun while I was waiting for paint to dry on some illustrations I've been working on. This story has been living in my sketchbooks for a while. I wanted to get some of it down on paper.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mo Willems Makes Books

Childrens write and illustrator Mo Willems talks about making books.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Studies of Comic Strips

Insider Secrets of Getting Published:The Submissions Process

What's a query letter? How do I write a synopsis? Laura Backes of Children's Book Insider covers these topics.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I remember doing this at age six for days.

I was a lot better back then too.  No baggage.

Interview with Betsy and Ted Lewin

This is a 2008 interview with two of the industry's top illustrators, Betsy and Ted Lewin, on Conversations with Harold Hudson Channer.

Hiring the Illustrator

Imagine that you showed up for an illustrator job interview, but you're not allowed to speak. That's what happened here:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Full Page Newspaper Comic Portraits

Over on ebay a collector is selling several full-page portraits of comic characters that ran in the Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin comics section in 1968 as part of a series of weekly portraits of comic characters.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spooner Swap

The Spooner trade paperback is available for swapping at PaperBack Swap. Sez the site:

"Mail a book. Get a book. Any book you request is yours to keep, share or swap. No late fees. No processing charges. No hidden charges. Every time you mail a book to another member, you can request one for yourself from over 2.5 Million."

This book compiles the first three Spooner comic books (the third of which was unpublished), which includes a new comic book-format story especially for the books, and approximately the first eight months of Spooner daily and Sunday comic strips that appeared in newspapers. The Sunday strips were all re-formated to fit on a comic book page.

Published by The Astonish Factory, this book led to Spooner's 2004 nomination for an Eagle Award, the UK's fan-voted annual comics award.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Vintage Spooner Comic Strip Sales Kit

I just ran across something that Spooner fans may be interested in. Someone on ebay is selling a "vintage" Spooner sales kit. It's the folder and strip samples that Los Angeles Times Syndicate used when launching Spooner in late 1999. Collector's item? I dunno. Vintage? Ehhh... Cool? Possibly.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Illustrator in the Spotlight

I am honored by being the Illustrator in the Spotlight in the Winter issue of "The Prairie Wind," the newsletter of the Illinois chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Check it out by clicking here.