Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 Festival of Cartoon Art, Part One

Three years ago I was living in New Joisey, and heard about the Festival of Cartoon Art that was going to occur in Columbus, Ohio at the Cartoon Research Library.  That's all I knew, except for the fact that as a Cartoonist I really wanted to be there.  At the time I knew little about Ohio except that it was much farther along Rt. 80 than I had ever driven, and that I didn't want to drive 11 hours on my own!  Boring!

Of course, I couldn't find anyone at such late notice who could, or would, go all the way to the mystical (or mythical) land of Ohio. And so... I sent my regrets, and missed out on what I can only guess was a wonderful time.  It's an educated guess, though, because at the moment I am recovering from this year's Festival of Cartoon Art, and it was an amazing time!  The festival was pretty much tailored to my tastes, needs, and wants, so of course it was great. :0)

Lunch with old friends and new!

Let me start out by saying that the festival seems tailored to the a select group of Cartoonists.... until you think about it.  I'd say Syndicated Comic Strippers, but there were also Editorial Cartoonists, and some Underground types, and some comic book folk, and others such as Academics, fans, and people just thinking about cartoons and Cartoonists.  If I had to find a denominator, though, I'd have to say that MOST of us appreciate and even love the origins of the American Comic Strip, and it's Heroes through the ages from George Herriman to Charles Schulz to Bill Watterson, and all folk in between.  It IS a Festival of Cartoon Art, so Cartoon Art is what it's about.

So what better way to start the Festival than with a small gallery of original art from George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and his peers?  The show proved to me two things that I already knew: that George Herriman was a wonderful Cartoonist, and that all original Krazy Kat art is owned by Patrick McDonnel and Bill Watterson!  Well... I do have a Herriman original, but it's not a Krazy Kat. And I do suppose that if anyone was going to buy them up, those two I am sure will take care of them.  And thankfully they do loan them out to museums and such for the rest of us to see. :0)

And see them you should!  If you care anything at all about comic art, you need to study original art, and must see Herriman's art up close and personal like.

But back to the Festival!  Day 1 consisted of three sessions of Academic presentations.  Yes... I said Academic, and meant it.  Comic Art is an American institution, and has been around over a hundred years now, and yes, some of us study it.  Not as much as some of the speakers I observed, but study we do.  Admittedly, some of the talks were a bit dry, and others?  Well, let's just say they really should talk to some Cartoonists before publishing their papers.  Until you've spent some time with a pen in one hand staring at a piece of paper and trying to work out the nuances of telling a story with words and pictures, you simply are not going to have the insight you need to understand the Creative Process of Comic Art.  Honestly, we hone instincts, develop talents, and create our own unique processes that only another Cartoonist can understand.

This is not to say that the presentations were not enjoyable, and some of them did indeed teach me new things about my art.  The third sessions were all about Krazy Kat, and led up to featured Speaker Michael Tisserand, and his talk Searching for George Herriman.  Michael is writing a definitive biography on Herriman that I am really looking forward to reading, which is funny because one of my very favorite books is Krazy Kat: the Comic Art of George Herriman.

The first day concluded with a reception in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, which consisted of the above mentioned gallery of Herriman art, a cake for Krazy Kat's 100th birthday, and a really crowded room full of Cartoonists, food, and a Garfield statue sitting on a bench.  There was also a board for Cartoonists to draw on, which was pretty much full by noon the next day.

Lynn Johnston sketching on one of the last empty spots on the Cartoonist Board.
Mine is the HappyGlyphs Sheep at the top right. :0)

More to come!  I have a deadline to meet, so come back in a few days for more.

Meanwhile, for a full set of my fun fotos from the event, please see the HappyGlyphs Comics facebook page link below.  There are 23 photos and counting, so far, with additional commentary.

JOHN :0)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Finding Inspiration in the Magical Kingdom

I recently returned from another trip to Walt Disney World, and say what you will, but Disney still puts on a great show.  A visit to the Disney parks can be very inspiring to any Artist, where Art of all kinds surrounds you.  Of course, there are cartoons everywhere, but there's also the decorations, the color schemes, landscape, and their approach to problems.  One such problem would be standing in line for your favorite rides, of course, and so each ride line has unique characteristics that fit the ride, and create an atmosphere of anticipation for that ride.  There are signs, statues, artwork... anything to create that atmosphere, and keep you entertained while standing in the Florida heat.

The ceiling above the Tusker House buffet.
A fine example of Disney's attention to detail.

Of course, one thing an Artist needs to be is a business person.  Even if you are fortunate enough to not have to do your own taxes or marketing, or any of the other endless tasks of running a business, you still need to understand your business, and how to make it better.  Make no mistakes, being an Artist or Writer of any kind is a business if you want to keep doing what you are doing, and continue to grow an audience.

I bring this up because of one important business lesson; know your competition and learn from them.  And yes, Disney is the competition of any Artist, Writer, TV Producer.... just about anything creative. And you can, and should, learn from them. 

Disney is most known for it's customer service, which is very important to retaining business, and getting customers to come back.  Now, unfortunately, I did not experience that Disney magic throughout my entire stay, as some Cast Members were actually quite rude or bothersome in some way.  Normally I would focus on a bad experience like this, and honestly, there were several, which was quite surprising, as I've only had one previous 'bad encounter' in several previous visits.  However, there are so many Cast Member encounters in a single day at the park or lodge, and so many of them were quite up to standard, and several were the above and beyond experience I hope for when I visit Disney. 

My backyard at Animal Kingdom Lodge!
Yes, that's a giraffe, spotted while I drank my
morning coffee on the balcony.
Nice way to spend a birthday. :0)

I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge this time, which was a beautiful place, and quite awesome to behold.  Vaulted Ceilings crafted to look like wood and rope, and vast windows overlooking a mini savannah where real zebras and once a giraffe wandered around.  The pool as well was amazing, and the gift shop was massive.  Customer Serevice here was very good, and I tested them quite thoroughly as my trip progressed, and unique problems surfaced.  The people at Concierge, and behind the desk, were always very polite, very helpful, and up to solving those unique problems I had, which turned the trip from disaster to good time.

One problem I did have though was contacting the lodge by phone.  For some reason, we couldn't call the restaurants to make reservations, which was very frustrating, and when we called the hotel, we were often passed from place to place until the connection was lost. 

Which goes to show that even Disney makes mistakes.  The lesson here, though, is that they have always strived to address problems, and solve them, and hopefully will continue to do so.  I spent my Birthday in the park, and trust me, that could have gone either way.  The experience was not always pleasant, due to the few rude Cast Members, but by the end of the day the balance was still in favor of 'good time', and so a good time was had.  Especially for me, since I got to ride Pirates and Haunted Mansion several times each. :0)

My Waitress at Chefs Du France, in Epcot, surprised me
with this Birthday treat, and sang Happy Birthday in French.  Tres bien!

One thing I do look for in the parks is books... on Art, Design, Imagineering... and this trip I was disappointed.  In California Adventure there is an Animation Studio store that is loaded with books, and I looked for it's equivalent here in Florida.  What I found was a store full of art and statues, and a handful of books.  I mean, you can have a thousand books on your shelf, but how many statues can one have, or want?

I did find a nice looking book about the Art of the movie UP.  It's beautiful, but surprisingly mostly pictures.  i wanted to learn more about process... storyboards, character design, etc.  Instead, I got a lot of people patting themselves on the back and talking about their awesome trip to South America.  And for a very high price!  However, let's be fair and say Art books are meant for coffee tables and casual browsing, and as an Art book it succeeds wildly.  UP was a beautiful movie, and the book captures that beauty.

So?  Today's lesson applies to each of you.  Treat your customers as you would like to be treated, and then do more.  Address any issues that may come up, whether it be product quality or shipping costs or whatever.  And give the customer what they want, if you can.  Listen to all criticism and work from there to solve any problems that may come up. 

And most importantly, try to anticipate problems, and prevent them from happening.  Being courteous, and listening to your customers costs you nothing, and yet can help you in ways that are hard to define.  The rest of it is hard work, but that's business.  My advice to anyone is make yourself big enough to afford good help!

Of course, that takes time.  Meanwhile, always do your best, and put your best foot forward!

A recent Knight and Day.
A man can dream, can't he? :0)

More Knight and Day coming soon, including some more color Sunday strips! I've already added several new strips, and if you haven't seen them, please visit  I'm trying to improve the website again, so please let me know if you see anything I can do to make things better.

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

PS And even though the savannah wasn't real, I have to admit it was pretty darn cool to sit on my balcony at night and see the hint of zebras walking through the trees!