Saturday, December 31, 2011

Publishing in the New World

The world is changing, and more rapidly than I think anyone could have guessed.  There's a lot of talk about newspapers, and publishing in general, and where it's all going.  As the new year approaches, I am unusually flustered, and quite frustrated, in investigating new venues for my company.

I'm talking about eBooks... electronic books that you can read on your iPad or comparable tablet, or on a eReader such as the Kindle or Nook.  I love a good book that I can hold in my hand, and take to the beach, but I've been pulled into the eBook world as a matter of convenience, and just to check out what's new.  In a matter of weeks I've already purchased several books in different formats... mostly for business, but some for fun. I am disappointed in the one thing I thought electronic publishing would bring me... books that I can no longer find in print.  Apparently, there's a lot of the same books you can find on a bookstore shelf available in electronic format, but the entire history of publishing is still out there, waiting to be converted.  There are some books that I just can't find anymore, at a decent price anyway, and I was really hoping to rediscover them in this new format.

I digress,  As a publisher, I see a lot of potential in this relatively new format.  Unfortunately, most of what I have done is comic strip related.  After a LOT of investigation... reading everything I can find on the web, and just about every decent book I can find on the subject, it appears that eBooks are just not ready for image heavy books.  There are a lot of roadblocks, and frankly, it's a lot more work to convert a comic book to an ePub or other eBook format.  It has been done, and there are eComics out there, but everywhere I go I see stumbling blocks, and warnings.

I have created an ePub out of 3 Knights in India, and I have enjoyed tremendously revisiting this book!  I have made a version that reads very well in Kindle, but not so well in Nook.  Apparently, I will probably be better off either picking one or the other, or spending time creating two new books, one for each platform.  Frankly, I've put a lot of work into this already.  I'm warning all cartoonists to think before leaping into this new format of publishing.  I've wasted a lot of time, and so far have not accomplished anything.  The quality of eComics as they stand right now varies tremendously, and your eBook may not be accepted if the legibility is too low.  Amazon has ridiculous guidelines set right now for images, and those guidelines are already aimed at the future!  My images are much bigger than the asked for standard, but if I make them any smaller, then they become very difficult to read.

Amazon also has an added charge of 15 cents per megabyte for downloading the book, and that comes from the authors profits.  As it stands now, if they were to accept the graphic novel, with well over a hundred large images, I would have to sell the book much higher than I'd like to get any profit at all. Not a good business plan, let me add, from experience, since selling Print on Demand is the same business plan. (Little profit for a lot of work)

So, a new year approaches, and I currently face nothing but frustration.  I won't give up, after all the work I have put into it so far, but right now I am not happy.  I am sure that one day, maybe soon, the industry may mature enough so that all the roadblocks I'm facing now will disappear,  When that time comes, however, the market will be flooded, and it will be all that harder to be seen in the crowd.

Think twice, cartoonists!  Maybe a small comic book can be done, but the world just isn't ready for an eGraphic Novel.  I've done the research, and if the answers are out there, those in the know aren't ready to share yet.

Happy New Year!    JOHN :0)

PS What I'm listening to? Andi Starr, Leaving the White Line

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Singleness of Purpose

Not veryone's as lucky as Oz, but he has
definitely succeeded through a singleness of purpose.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying "You can have anything you want, if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose."

And there's the rub: finding that one thing you want to do, and sticking with it. Having one goal helps you to have the strong focus needed to succeed, and also helps you to define yourself.

For me, that one goal has been newspaper syndication for a long time. That field is changing, howevcr, and the syndicates have been quiet.  I've sent material to them and haven't even recieved a reply from some.  Doesn't look promising, and it's sad because here I am, a professional, hard working, and dedicated cartoonist who would do everything I can to help me, and my syndicate, succeed in a changing world.

Well, until they come to their senses, I must adapt, and have been.  I continue to learn new things, and to improve my artistic skills, and to grow my business.  However, that business has had to be very diverse, from cartooning, to publishing, to fine art illustration.  Not exactly a singleness of purpose, but fun!

When someone asks what I do, saying I'm a cartoonist usually gets the reply "Cool!".  Saying I'm a cartoonist slash illustrator slash publisher usually gets a glazing over of the eyes.  And trying to keep your audience with an explanation usually leaves you alone with a drink in your hand, wondering why the guy you were just talking to has suddenly found an extreme interest in the Swedish stewardess across the room.

Still, I am lucky to have a job that I enjoy so much.  Or jobs, I should say.  And having a job where you are doing something different every day or week can be very stimulating, and very educational, and keeps you from ever getting bored.

If one of my cartoons, or stories, or any creative endeavor ever takes off, then you can be sure that I'll put everything into it.  Giving a hundred and ten percent will be the order of the day.  Until then, I'll do whatever project has the most audience interest, and the most potential to help me, and my business, grow.  Unfortunately, that means I don't get to draw a cartoon every day, or post new material regularly; the stuff you have to do to grow and keep an audience.  So my audience comes and goes and comes back again, with a core group who seem to stick with me.

And to those of you who do stick around?  A very sound Thank You!  I'll continue to do my best to entertain you, and bring a little laughter and art to the world... and put that 110% into all that I do. :0)

A very happy Holiday season to you all, and a marvelous new year to come!    JOHN :0)

On my iPod?  Andi Starr: the world will follow.  Very appropriate music for the person who strives to succeed inchasing their dreams. :0)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Diversification: Everybody's Doing It.

Once upon a time I thought it was funny to walk into a Music/Vacuum Cleaner Repair shop, and look at CDs while surrounded by broken vacuum cleaners.  I guess the owner had a talent, and a love for music, and couldn't decide which to follow.  Today, you walk into a bookstore, and there are toys, coffee, CDs and DVDs, etc.  Walk into a coffee shop and there's assorted snacks, CDs, mugs and other stuff.  In today's economy, it makes sense to have a variety of items to sell, since once you get the customer in the shop, you want him or her to buy something, anything.  Every store is a variety store these days.

The same applies to online stores.  Amazon and Target have thousands of items to buy, from food to clothing to books, so you can do a lot of shopping with them.  This blog is all about running a small business, though, and we especially need to think about diversifying.  But how much, and when are just two of many questions.  I've talked about Cost of Goods Sold before, and inventory, and these require a lot of thought before you go buying stuff with intent to sell.  And don't forget shipping.  The big stores can afford to offer free or discounted shipping, where such an offer from a small business can kill any thought of a profit.

Every cartoonist out there wants to sell not only their books, but t-shirts, mugs etc.  Merchandising is where the bucks are, even for the big name cartoonists. This is where Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes fame had his biggest disagreement with the Syndicates, who wanted to merchandise his strip, but he felt it would compromise the strip's integrity and charm.  Which leads us to our Hot Topics for today:
Should we diversify?
If so, when?
And how much?

So should you?  Probably. Eventually.  If you've just started putting cartoons on the web, it's a bit too soon to try selling t-shirts.  Wait until you build a loyal audience, and you have some genuine interest in your stuff.  If you're running your business as a real business, and not a hobby, then those t-shirts will sit around a while, and you cannot deduct the price of them until you actually sell them.  Please read my earlier posts about Cost of Goods Sold, Pricing, and Inventory.

Print on Demand online shops allow you to put your image on just about anything these days, but I would choose a few items wisely, and focus on them.  Quality over quantity, without exhausting your audience with too much to see.

Which brings us to a point that I've discussed before about publishing, that applies to merchandise. Print on Demand is expensive.  If you price your merchandise too high, you won't likely sell it.  Price competitively, and you make no profit.   This brings us back to that earlier point about quality over quantity.  Choose an item, like a t-shirt, and look around for quality shirts at a good price.  More than likely you can even save by buying in bulk, but again, watch out how much you buy, because you may have them awhile.  You can do this with anything, of course, although to get truly competitive prices, you really need to order a lot.  Be sure you have that supportive audience.

Finally, don't forget the bottom line.  You cannot deduct the cost of items you buy to sell until you actually sell them.  The more you offer, the more inventory you have, which takes up space, and costs money that you do not get back until the merchandise is sold.  And to sell it takes time to set up a shop, to get the word out, and requires advertising.

So make sure you're really ready to take that next step into diversifying your online shop.  If you want to become a retail type store, that could work for some people, but make that your business plan.  If you're an artist, cartoonist, writer, or other creative, then it may be easier to sell your books or art through a place like Lulu, or set yourself up with a printer, get a few thousand copies of your book, and really focus on selling it.  It's simple to have a link or two on a blog or website.  It's a whole other enchilada to actually have an online shop with changing and growing merchandise.

For the right person or group, though, that online shop can keep customer interest, spread sales out throughout the year, and create focus for your advertising.

With that in mind, please consider visiting my online shop where we now offer many fine things, from books to t-shirts, and artwork and more. :0)

And did I mention that we're currently offering FREE SHIPPING for the next week or so?

Happy Holidays!    JOHN :0)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


One of the most challenging tasks as an artist running a business is to set the right price, whether it be for a service, or an item for sale. Let's take this from the top, shall we?

As an artist, you have the choice to either create work for the pure pleasure of it, or to create work for profit as well as the (hopefully) pure pleasure of it.  Let's face it... in this day and age, we find ourselves short on time, so creating art for fun is something I for one can't find the time for... I have a hard enough time finding the time to do my paying work!  I have dozens of projects just waiting in the wings for some free time to show up... projects that I know I would enjoy doing, but, with bills to pay, simply can't justify spending the time on.  So I find artistic projects that I can enjoy doing and get paid for, from my freelancing work to my comics and artwork.

I've been fortunate enough to be able to brand myself as HappyGlyphs Comics, and somehow keep everything under one roof.  This leads to trouble, though, since branding becomes a business and business comes with lots of paperwork.  The good news is that if you truly have a business, many of your expenses are tax deductible, which helps justify doing that artwork we enjoy doing.

However, as I've discussed in an earlier post, you can't deduct the cost of your goods (artwork, books, etc) until you actually sell them.  So, we have a couple of things to address: the initial price of goods, and a later discount on those goods.

First of all, you technically sell things to make a profit.  Any artist out there who has tried this is smirking right now, because let's face it... to get anywhere in this biz, many of us have had to work for free, or give stuff away, to get our names out there.  Once established, you can then try for that 'profit' stuff we've all heard about.  Selling services is one thing we can do, and selling stuff is the other.  But selling stuff usually involves an initial buying of stuff, such as paying for our art to be made as prints or into books or on t-shirts.  "How hard can this be?" you ask me.  "Just add a little extra to what you paid for the t-shirts, and that's your profit."

Not that easy.  You have to remember that your audience has an idea of what things should cost. They are not going to pay ten dollars for your comic book, or thirty dollars for your t-shirt.  You have to price competitively, which is why it is very difficult to run a small business using sites like Cafe Press or Lulu, two of the sites that I like, or the many other similar companies out there.

Your first problem is that, unless you are buying hundreds or thousands of items, you are going to be paying premium prices, prices that may already rival what your competition is selling.  For example, have you priced out the cost of a color comic book? If you are going Print on Demand, the cost of a small comic can be 3 or 4 dollars, the price that Marvel sells Spiderman for.  (and yes, Marvel is your competitor!) To make a profit, you are now asking your audience to pay more for your comic than they would for an established favorite like Spiderman.  This can work if you have lots of people out there that love your work, but remember, they have to find it first, and if it's on the web, they may have to pay shipping on top of that.  You're off to a rocky start already.

Now let's say that you've gone to a real printer, and printed a hundred comics all at a decent price so that you can make a profit and keep your audience happy.  A year goes by and you have a box of 80 comics sitting around, and you can't even deduct the price of those books yet, since they haven't sold.  Now you have to think about a sale.

At which point do you decide to sacrifice a profit just to reduce inventory and get that Cost of Goods Sold back? Well, that's up to you.  If you have new books coming out, then selling the old one at discount may be a good way to build up an audience.  If those books have been in your closet a few years now, then it's definitely time to reduce the price.  It's painful, but that's reality.  Even Disney has bargain bins, and remember... people love a bargain.  You may go a long way to improving customer satisfaction if that customer feels good about getting a bargain from you.

If you're just starting out in a small business, or considering it, this post may be disturbing.  And that's the best gift I can give you.  I don't want to discourage anyone, and frankly, us artistic types do what we have to, not what people tell us, but I promise you that unless you are some kind of world wonder, you will not succeed if you don't work smart.  Think before you act, and research, and most of all, start small.  Build up that audience before you go and try selling stuff. Show us what you got, first, and if we like it, we'll ask for merchandise.

There's a lot more we can discuss on this topic, so if I haven't covered something, please ask.  I'm always happy to answer (most) questions. :0)

And since we're on the subject, have I mentioned that I've upgraded the shop, and have many fine items for sale?

Take care,    JOHN :0)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ghost Pirates Update

I really should write a blog about priorities, since you may be wondering how I choose what to work on and when. For instance, it's been a while since I've mentioned the Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake, and with good reason.  I've been quite busy with other projects, and although I've been working on Ghost Pirates, I'm witholding the new material so that it doesn't spoil the ending.  Most of the story has been free online, but now that I'm putting together the final comic book, we don't want spoilers.

Also, as some of you may recall, Ghost Pirates started out as part of The Inquiring Minds comic strip, and so was not in comic book format.  You'd think I would have learned from 3 Knights in India, but no, I didn't.  More about that in my upcoming post about priorities.

Anyway, much of the early material from Ghost Pirates has been reformatted, digitally remastered, and in some cases redrawn.  I've also added new material to enhance the story or improve the layout, and have created my own 'handwriting' font to make the text consistent throughout.  Quite a lot of work, I must say, which explains the lack of recent updates.

I now have about 26 pages completely finished and am working on completing the book.  Originally it was to be 32 pages, with advertisements, a letters page, and a page for Fan Art, but it now looks like it could run longer than that.  I'm wondering if I should make it a two part series, or a larger comic book?  What do you think?  Any opinions?

As for the letters page and Fan Art pages, I already have one nice piece from a fellow artist.  I'll have to dig through my fan mail to see what applies to The Inquiring Minds, but meanwhile, take a chance to read through the archives, and send a letter in. Who knows, it may get published? :0)

And any cartoonists out there who'd like to have a shot at the Fan Art page, send me a small drawing of The Inquiring Minds, doing something pirate ride related.   Of course, how and what gets published are completely at my discretion, and the only compensation would be a copy of the comic book when published, and depends on space left in the final issue.
I'm really proud and excited to have another long term project coming close to completion!  Of course, that's just the art and writing... lots more to go, including some exciting news, I hope. :0)

Thanks,    JOHN :0)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

MId Ohio Con 2011

This year, Wizard World took over the Mid Ohio Con, so it was supposed to be a whole 'nother show.  And it was... in a way.

Last year was a nice, fun show, but I didn't do as well as expected, or as well as I had at the Baltimore Comic Con.  I came again since it promised to be a different experience, but  I could have done better...  at least sales-wise.  The thing is, you have to look at the intangibles, such as meeting nice people, and enjoying the show itself, seeing friends, and seeing who stops at your booth, what they look at, and learning a bit about your audience.  

I met some great people... some of them very nice, interesting, and talkative, but few were what I would consider my 'audience'. Future audience, perhaps, but like last year, there was very little at this show that mentioned comic strips.  Movies, toys, comic books, yes, but comic strips, no.  Tom Batuik of Funky Winkerbean was there, which was a plus, but I didn't get a chance to get over his way.  It would have been nice to talk to him about comic strips, if he were willing.

It just isn't Comic Con without Stormtroopers. :0)

And there were few people who seemed to be looking for 'something different'.  There may have been, in Artist's Alley, but I wasn't in Artist's Alley this year, and more's the pity.  I had a Small Press booth, but I wasn't in a Small Press area... a few people even asked "What are you doing in this area?". 

The people who did stop by to talk or buy something I feel stumbled upon me, which is quite possible since I was surrounded by a guy selling t-shirts, a guy selling toys, and a guy selling old comic books.  Thankfully I was able to get the attention of some great people. but I feel like some people didn't make it down my alley, or if they did, they moved down it too fast, or were captivated by the t-shirts.  I did see several people who I felt definitely would have liked my material, but they never even saw it as they went by.

So am I over analysing things?  Perhaps, but hey, if you want to sell something, especially in this economy, it pays to know a little psychology.  And yes, perhaps the economy did affect things. I mostly sold only the small money items, such as my comic books.  This was the first time ever I didn't sell several of the big books.

Don't.  Blink.

So did I have a terrible time?  No, not at all.  I did, however, spend all my earnings on Fantastic Four collections, but hey, I got some great deals.  And I did meet some wonderful people, like the kid above in the Weeping Angel costume.  Most of the people in costumes seem like nice folk, and fun, and most of the people who bought my stuff were friendly and articulate.  I had a lot of fun, at times, but those times when no one stopped by were dreadful.  All shows have slow times, but today was really slow.

If I had written this yesterday morning, it would be all praise and exclamation points. After all, I finally sold out of The Inquiring Minds #1, and The Inquiring Minds: Funny Pages #1 did very well.  In fact, most of the people who stopped by were kids with their parents. 

I'll have to think long and hard about next year.  I do have big plans for HappyGlyphs, and depending how things go, I may have to do a lot of shows to support those plans.

We'll see!    JOHN :0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Public Speaking: Expect the Unexpected!

Today's lesson?  Be prepared!  Unless you're really really good at winging it. :0)

This morning I was supposed to be talking to a class of second graders about cartooning.  I knew I was going, but have been so busy that I hadn't given it any thought at all... until this morning.  Mistake number one.

I've done quite a bit of public speaking, and I've spoken to classes and groups about cartooning, so it's not brand new to me.  I have certain things I bring along, handouts, activities, and I know there'll always be a place to draw on, so I figure if worse comes to worse, I'll wing it.  It's just a small room of kids, right?

So, I sit down with an hour left before I have to leave, and go searching my computer for the handouts to print.  I found one, but not the one I wanted.  So, I started printing the activity page while creating a coloring page.  And that's when my computer started dying.  It's moments like these when I understand why people hate PC's so much... and Windows Vista is one of the worse.

Now I have 5 minutes until I'm late, and I've finally managed to print out the activity, the coloring page, and pack up selections of my books and comics and freelance work, grab some give-aways, grab the camera, and get to the school as fast as legally possible.  I find my way to the classroom and there is a swarm of activity!  Weren't they expecting me?

Oh yes, they were.  Except that  the teacher had told another teacher who told another teacher... and this morning they all decided their classes should see what I have to say.  FOUR classes of second graders!  A huge group of kids who all have something important to say and share and questions to ask and.... oh boy.

I'll be honest:  I love kids.  But they also terrify me.  No, not terrifying like zombies, but kids tend to be... honest. Brutally honest.  And the questions they ask?  I used to coach girl's soccer, and let me tell you how tough that was, to get a word in, for one.  "Didn't you wear that shirt yesterday?"  "How old are those shoes?"  "How's my hair?"

So, I entered this noisy classroom as if it was a shark tank, and I had no cage to hide in.  I settled in, got a drawing board, and hid my give-aways because there were just too many kids, and I don't ever want to disappoint a single child.  I looked into the audience, and just started talking.  I figured that was better than standing there looking stunned, and it was.

It turns out that that group of sharks was actually a room full of cuddly bunny rabbits!  The kids were so sweet, so much fun, and as always, had so many very intelligent questions!  There is never enough time to talk with kids about cartooning, let me tell you!

I showed them my books, talked about working, answered questions, and did a few drawings in between, to keep the flow going, and it was a wonderful experience.  We ended by me doing a drawing of my Alien, and the kids telling me what to add to it.  Again, it was so much fun!

The kids had to go to lunch, but so many held back to ask questions, and I even got a few hugs!  That was a surprise... I usually just high-five, because isn't that what kids do?

So, a potentially terrifying experience became a wonderful moment which I will always treasure.

A final word of advice?  Don't pass out bookmarks at lunchtime, because you will definitely get in trouble with the cafeteria lady!

JOHN :0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Haunting Tribute!

Some time ago, a young lady I know, who relates very much to my character Iris from The Inquiring Minds, approached me with an idea.  She was proud that she had faced her fears, and finally went on the Haunted Mansion ride in Disney World, and loved it!  She then had her mom take a photo of her in front of The Mansion, posing as a hitchhiker.  What a cool idea, and she deserves all the credit for it!

Now, she's been adamant that Iris is based on her, and has requested that I put her in a comic strip.  After seeing the photo of her in front of the Haunted Mansion, and letting it simmer in my mind a bit, I decided to draw Iris in the same pose.  After all, I'm in the midst of writing and drawing the Knight and Day Family Vacation, in which the Knights go to Disney World. So, the illustration works for me, and at the same gives this young lady the proof she required that her and Iris are twin souls.

I am very happy to present the original art to her, to reward her inspiration, and very cool idea.

The illustration was based on her photograph, and then turned into a postcard, which I then made into a Knight and Day panel.  This is, quite fittingly, my 13th Knight and Day panel! Don't you just love coincidences like that?
All the best,    JOHN :0)

PS On my iPod?  Hugh Laurie, Let Them Talk
PSS How fitting that Iris appear in a tribute to the Haunted Mansion, since her fellow Inquiring Minds, Bobby and Albert, appeared in a haunting tribute last year! (Available as a fine print in our shop)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Big 300!

Tomorrow is my birthday... and no, I'm not turning 300, but I find it serendipitous that I get to draw my 300th Knight and Day daily strip to honor the occassion.  Or vice versa!  Because honestly, this is a HUGE milestone for me.

Yeah, I know... 300 strips is just a year in the life of a syndicated cartoonist, but I don't get paid to do this.  For me, it's a true labor of love, accomplished in what little spare time I have, with the occassional fan mail or book sale to spur me on. This is a very big. very proud moment for me, especially when I put these 300 strips next to the other Knight and Day cartoons I have drawn... panels and Sunday cartoons, and of course the many pages of my Knight and Day graphic novel, 3 Knights in India.  And then there's the many Sunday and daily cartoons (as well as illustrations) of The Inquiring Minds, and the hundreds of comic strips drawn before these two strips that make up my book Once Upon a Times...

Truly a big day for me, looking back at all that I've accomplished to date.  Looking back at my comics, to me, is like looking at a scrap book of my life... funny moments that I think others will relate to, embarrassing moments that I'm sure others will laugh with, and drawings of places that I've lived and visited.  Every moment was special, and so immortalised in ink on paper.

Last year at this time, I celebrated my birthday in Disney World, and it was awesome that most of the Cast Members in the park were so nice and cheery, wishing me a Happy Birthday everywhere I went, and sometimes even singing.  So, even though I'm skipping ahead a bit in the current storyline, it seems fitting that my 300th strip celebrate that special time.

Thank you for sharing this proud moment with me!    JOHN :0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knight Family Vacation Page

Just a quick note to say that I've moved all the Knight and Day vacation strips to their own page at the website.  This way you can read them all at once, and in order, and it's easier for me to update.

A new Knight and Day was just added, and believe it or not, but the Knight's are finally leaving!  Well, they're in the car, anyway. :0)

While you're there, check out the rest of the site and see what's new.

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

Friday, September 09, 2011

September 11, 2001

I was taking a break from cartooning when the events of September 11, 2001 occured.  Those events brought me back, and reintroduced The Inquiring Minds.  It's hard for an artist to watch the world around him change, without responding in some way.  This was my response.

I lived close enough to the city to see the smoke rising from the horizon, and the army helicopters flying overhead on alert.  Everything changed, and so I tried to capture that feeling through the eyes of my young characters.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Internal Logic in the Comic Strip Universe

I draw my comic strips the old fashioned way, in pen and ink.  Oh, I use the computer for a lot of stuff, but there's nothing better then laying down panels on a piece of good bristol, and then working on filling them.  To me, and probably lots of other Cartoonists, each panel is a window into another universe... a universe of my own creation.

And like any other universe, the ones we create must have rules... laws of physics, internal logic, continuity; whatever it takes to create a world that makes sense to a reader, while that reader is in that world.  Truly, you can do anything you want.  Cats can talk, pigs can fly: whatever you want, as long as it is entertaining to someone. :0)

Now, the universe in Knight and Day is fairly small.  Currently I have 3 main characters, and about 6 supporting characters (can you name them all?) and several others who are mentioned or make the rare appearance, if you've read all the strips.  The name of the strip is Knight and Day, though, so I always focus on Steven and Amy, in particular Steven, since he's loosely my doppleganger. (Don't you love when you can fit words like Doppleganger into a conversation?)

Anyways, Steven is an alternate reality version of myself, if you go by the comic strip as an other universe theory.  As such, when I write strips, I sometimes reject them when I realise it is Amy and Iris talking, with no sign of Steven.  That's why you may see Steven sticking his head into the last panel, just to make an appearance.  So Steven being in the strip is a rule I work by, when creating.

Or do I? :0)

Apparently, even Cartoonists are fallible, and I was surprised at how many strips have snuck by me that don't feature Steven!  In my defense, the strips usually feature Amy, talking about Steven.  I guess, in my mind, talking about him is the same as having him there, and at least he is somewhat involved in the strip.  There are a few where he is not involved, but those are 'unofficial' strips, and seen by relatively few.  They'll appear in a future book, but when writing them I must have subconsciously known 'the rule', and so pushed them aside.

Now, I must go finish the strip I'm working on.  I think I'll post that in the previous post. :0)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Knight Family Comic Strip Vacation: Florida Road Trip! [updated! (6)]

Okay, I've mentioned before that as I currently create Knight and Day, it is with a second comic strip collection in mind.  Like "Take Me Away From All This!", the next collection will basically cover a year or so in the lives of the Knight family.  However, due to surprises in life (see previous posts), that story is not always created in a linear fashion.

So, in this blog, I am introducing the Knight's forthcoming road trip, starting with the first strip that actually leads into the future storylines dealing with Snowie and her kittens.  Before Iris can have a cat, she needs to 'want' a cat.  Get it? :0)

Either way, all my strips are designed to be enjoyed independently, but once you know the characters better, it's fun to see how things change, and watch their lives change and grow.

Question:  Should I post all of the vacation strips here, on this page, and hope you come back to visit?  Or post them as they come up, and put them all together later?  Well, let me know what you prefer, and we'll see what works out for the best. [For now, I'll post them here for ease, as well as at the Knight and Day page of our website, where they may be easier to read.]

By the way, to see the inspiration for this trip, please read my previous post.
Meanwhile, all great adventures must start somewhere, so here it is; the planting of the seed. JOHN :0)

PS Comic strip vacations are nothing new to Knight and Day.  If you haven't read Take Me Away From All This!!, the first Knight and Day collection, you've missed Steve and Amy's trips to Niagara Falls, England and France, and of course, Oz in Thailand,  And the Knight and Day Graphic Novel 3 Knights in India features a bit of traveling as well. :0)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recharging the Batteries

Grumpy Little Orange. :0)

Last week sometime, I woke up and decided to take a vacation.  Oh, I had thought about it, but sometimes thinking leads to all sorts of rationalizations like affordability, time, etc.  And planning.  There are some who plan every detail, and there are some who wing it, and I wung it.  Much against anyone's better judgement, I began driving about 7:30 at night, heading for Florida... a mere 15 hours or so away!

Normally an overnight drive would send shudders down my spine, being safety conscious and all, but honestly, a part of me really wanted to watch the sun rise.  No idea why, but seeing dawn break is something we should all do now and then, especially with the shore nearby, and fun times ahead.

Happily, the journey went safely, and thus began a week of alternating adventure and relaxation, with a focus on new experience.  I'm a huge advocate of doing new things to recharge the batteries and stimulate the brain, whether trying new foods or seeing a new place, or both.

Success!  My first evening in Florida I was enjoying the sunset over a beautiful lake, and about to walk out onto a pier when I spotted something in the shallows beside me... what looked like a toy alligator.  While marvelling at how life-like it was, said alligator started moving towards me!  Now I've seen gators before, but none in the wild, none a few feet from me, and none so close to pedestrians and puppies all enjoying the park. And this guy actually moved towards me with no fear in its eyes!

Alligator looks mean!

Next I visited Mt. Dora for the first time, a nice little place on a lake that looks like a town in the Caribean. I watched the Independence Day fireworks, and planned on going back, but unfortunately wasn't able to find the time.

Day 3 found me in Disney World, a place that always stimulates the creative juices! And although I've been there before, I was easily able to find new things to do. Usually I stay in the park resorts, and take advantage of the free bussing to and from the parks, which is beyond priceless. This time I decided to schlup it and actually drive in and park, which involves a lot of traffic, parking two miles away, and then fighting for space on the trams where we then took the ferry across the lake and then stood in a ticket line for tickets and then hiked to the entrance and by then was too tired to move!  Then again, it was a hot and humid day, but next time, a resort stay is definitely called for.

Nice edible design on my dessert plate at Tony's in the Magic Kingdom

I had a chance at a truly unique experience, which was seeing the final space shuttle launch live!   My choice of this week for Florida was influenced by the launch, although I wasn't sure if I wanted to attempt to go to the launch site itself.  First off, I knew it would be crowded, and second, there are sometimes delays in these launches.  Unfortunately, time moved quickly, and where I was located was a great place to see the shuttle take off in the distance... usually.  After a very hot and humid few days, the night before I was in Downtown Disney in a true deluge of rain.  The morning of the launch found it still drizzling, and of course cloudy, so although I should have seen the launch, I couldn't.  It was just too overcast!  Well, some things you just can't control.

On the way home, not wanting to face that dreaded drive, I stopped for the night in Hilton Head, South Carolina, another place I always wanted to visit, and pretty much the last shore stop on the way home.  This not only split my drive up, but I spent a wonderful evening and morning on the beach, in the ocean, and at a gorgeous hotel.  It was muggy there as well, but Hilton Head Island is definitely on the 'Must Return To' list.

Storm brewing over the beach at Hilton Head

So, am I rested and rejuvenated after my impromptu Holiday??  Hell no.  I'm exhausted, and my To-do list is twice as long as before!

But you know what?  I'd do it again in a minute.  You don't forget a trip like that, and yeah, I'm sure to get a lot more out of it, once I've rested and had time to look back.  Maybe even some ideas for cartoons??

No maybes about it. :0)

Time to think about the next trip.    JOHN :0)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A True Honor

I am honored to do a magazine cover twice a year for the same company for several years now, and each cover somehow turns out better than I imagined.  This shouldn't be a surprise, since a) I work my butt off spending usually three weeks on each cover, not counting research, and b) I try to top myself each time.  This may sound simple, but honestly, until the cover is done, I have no idea if the end result will be what I hope for.

Then again, I don't stop until I'm truly happy with a piece, and pray that this point will come BEFORE the art has to go to the printers!

With a magazine cover, a painting, a cartoon... I usually work until I feel the piece is 'alive'.  I juggle all the elements using whatever instincts and knowledge I have developed over the years about design and color theory, until the art is dynamic.  To me, fine art is something that captures your attention, and makes you take a second look, and pulls you in although you don't necessarily know why.

Anyhow, my latest cover was a special piece... a tribute to the fastest passenger ship known to man, the SS United States.  The ship was launched in the 1950's and was featured on many a travel poster. So, having a love of those glamorous old travel posters myself, I set out to design my own.  Sadly, when deadlines loom, it is possible for any artist to panic, and this I did.  I rushed a design, hoping it would turn into something, but a very important lesson for any designer is this:  think before you start.  It's always best to have a clear design in mind, and to work out the kinks in thumbnail sketches before you begin your final work.
If I had been working with real paint, like I originally intended, instead of digitally, I would have been in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, I was able to take a deep breath, admit my mistake, and scrapped it all to start over.
Not the best thing to do with a deadline looming and a week or two of work under your belt!

Fortunately, I was working digitally, and was creating a two page spread. By taking all of those elements and putting them together on one page, I had a much more exciting design.  I then changed the angles and viewpoint to make it much more dynamic and exciting... a true tribute to such a fascinating ship!

More fortunately, my clients loved the final image, enough to make posters of the work to give as gifts to their clients. 

Having someone give your art as a gift to someone else, especially on this scale, is a true honor, and one that makes all the struggle to be an artist worthwhile.  Of course, these moments are few and far between, but the next one keeps us working away, and doing our best.  And that is what we should always aim for; our best.
Cheers,    JOHN :0)

Photos: Above, the line art view of the illustration as seen in Adobe Illustrator. I usually work from scanned sketches, to Adobe Illustrator, and then finish in Adobe Photoshop.
Second, the final artwork as shown on the printed posters. Note that I 'aged' the illustration to make it look like a poster that's been around for the last 50 years.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Keeping it straight: continuity

I've talked recently about how adding Snowie to Knight and Day has caused me a bit of a flurry in the writing department.  I had planned on introducing the idea of Iris wanting a cat into the strip, but hadn't gotten around to it. And while I was writing, rewriting, and pondering, real life handed me Snowie!

However, doing a comic strip the way I do can cause other continuity glitches, problems, etc.  Ultimately, my goal is to be syndicated, and have the strip presented daily in a newspaper, then collect those strips later for book collections.  Currently, I am not syndicated, which means most of my cartoon income comes from book and art sales, which is not enough to make the comic strip a full time job.  This also means that I am creating strips to be seen by an Editor first, an audience second.  This means that you, my friendly audience, don't get to see new strips every day, or even every week when my freelance work piles up.  I also spend most of my time doing gag a day strips, where there IS an overall continuity, but it runs mainly in the background.  You'd need to read a few weeks worth of strips to see how they all fit together.

As confident as I am in my work, I do realise that the syndicates may have lapses of error, where they may not see the potential of myself and my comic strips, and how well we could do working together.  Which leads me to plan B.

And here is my advice... always have a plan B!  When pursuing a goal like syndication, or trying to find yourself as an artist, you can get lost in the many directions that you can go.  Trying to find the one path to focus on is not easy, and not always practical.  So, to make your life easier, choose projects that pay, first, keeping in mind that those pieces will go into your portfolio, and also improve your artistic skills, and dealing with client skills.  Second, choose projects that if you can't use them in one place, use them in another.

For example, I work with Knight and Day since A) the strip has been very popular with people who have read it, and B) given time, I will have enough material to publish another book.  My first book is still popular, so creating another comic strip collection makes perfect sense. 

Of course, if syndicated, things may change, but as it stands, all these strips I have been doing will go into another Knight and Day comic strip collection, which I am already creating.  It's a blast seeing it come together, but that word continuity comes in again.  First, there's continuity with the seasons, so that summer strips must come together, and winter strips are all together, and now the Snowie storyline must be fit in to make perfect sense with the overall book.  Like Take Me Away From All This!!, this next book will read like a year out of the life of Steven and Amy Knight, so although most strips stand alone, altogether they will create a perfect 'whole', where we will see the characters grow and change and see just how much can happen to a family in a year's time.

I'm looking forward to it, but meanwhile, as the book comes together, I now have a timeline where each strip must fit into.

However, I've written several books now, and many cartoons, both with Knight and Day as well as The Inquiring Minds, of which Iris Knight is a part of.  So NOW I have to worry about what I write in a different way... the strips have to fit the continuity already established in my first books and comic books!

I think it's time I took the time to make a time line... which may save some time in the long run. :0)

All the best,    JOHN :0)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cats and Continuity (updated)

So my last two posts have dealt with the newest addition to my home, and how I deal with such matters in my comic strip.  I'm talking, of course, about Snowie the cat, who has complicated my life tremendously, and yet has given me loads of comic strip material by joining the cast of Knight and Day.

I also mentioned how fortuitous her arrival was, since I was actually in the early planning stages of introducing the idea of Iris wanting a cat.  Of course, once I started asking for advice on facebook, everyone wanted Snowie in the strip, and so she was, the very next day.  The only problem with that was, with people enjoying the strips, I felt obligated to do more.  However, a cat like Snowie can't just magically appear in a comic strip.  Besides, she deserves an introduction, and her own little storyline, doesn't she?

And so I find myself going back and forth between brand new strips featuring Snowie and brand new strips introducing the idea of Snowie, and then Snowie herself.  Not to mention the backlog of other strips written and waiting to be drawn!  So please bear with me.  I'll post Snowie strips at the website, and on facebook, and post some pre Snowie strips here.  Soon, I hope, I will have filled in the gaps, and will either post the storyline on a special webpage, or save it for the next comic strip collection.

Hopefully for you, the reader, each strip stands alone, and yet fits into the overall continuity.  Kind of like reading someone's journal by flipping back and forth through the pages looking for juicy stuff. :0)

All the best,    JOHN :0)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Art Preceding Life, and Vice Versa!

[updated:  all strips added]

I posted last about Snowie, the latest addition to the Knight and Day comic strip.  When she arrived at my doorstep, I asked for advice from my facebook friends, and immediately got requests for her to join the strip.  Who am I to argue, I thought, and Snowie joined the cast.

Now, at this moment in time I happen to be extremely busy, what with the taxes, and a new freelance project, so I drew some Snowie toons from life, and what was happening.  Then, recently, I sat down with my project notebook to see my To Do list.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw that I was kind of heading in this direction on my own. :0)

Yeah, I know... it's hard to surprise yourself, but hey, I said I've been busy!  And besides, my project notebook is full of scribblings, sketches, and thoughts... many of which may never become cartoons.  Still, it was funny to find a page of notes for Knight and Day, all dealing with Iris wanting a cat, and getting... something different.  Funny, and useful!

This actually solves my problem of continuity, by giving me a transition from pre-Snowie to Snowie.   Eventually there will be another Knight and Day collection which, generally, follows my drawing order, but sometimes involves strips being shifted around for a variety of reasons, mainly that they make better reading in a new order.  Also, truth be told, I sometimes draw strips 'out of order', either because I need to draw a certain strip first so I can establish the scene visually, or just because one strip seems more fun to draw and I don't want to wait.

So, anyway, here are a few of those pre-Snowie strips.  Once we get these told, we can go back to telling Snowie's story.

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

PS By the way, if there is anything you particularly want me to write about, feel free to let me know.  I sometimes wonder if I should do more basic Cartooning posts, or more advanced?  Meanwhile, I'll try to keep a good mix. :0)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Art Imitating Life: Snowie

They say that Life imitates Art, but for a cartoonist, Art so often comes from real life. It’s the ‘write what you know’ theory. In this case, a hungry white cat showed up on our doorstep one night and turned our lives upside down. It was immediately expected, by those following the story on facebook, that this blizzard of fur had to appear in Knight and Day.

Oddly enough, I once had a cat very much like Snowie, and it was always my intention to have Snowball appear in my comic strip one day. As nice as that would have been, it just didn’t feel right when Knight and Day rolled around. However, you can see her in a few of my earliest comic strips, in my book Once Upon a Times....

Now, however, I can pay homage to both cats at the same time, and get inspiration from both real life and from happy memories.

A star is born. :0)

JOHN :0)
PS On my iPod?  Sarah Brightman, La Luna

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cartooning 101: The Basics

My drawing table, littered with tracing paper.  Well, littered, anyway! Time to clean...

When I was taking cartooning classes, there was one important lesson that our teacher imparted to us, over and over:  use tracing paper to sketch.  Why?  Because it's relatively cheap, and if you make a mistake, you can toss it.  So many people are afraid to make a mistake, so don't draw at all, choosing to stare at the blank page instead, awaiting inspiration.  This violates another very important lesson they teach you in cartooning school, which is to draw as much as you can!  Later on, while taking graphic design classes, my instructor also was a big fan of tracing paper.  In a large composition, you may sketch a character or something really nice, but not like another part.  So... you trace over the good part, or cut that out, and use it to redraw the scene.  Heck, you can make 5 or 6 sketches of the same scene and cut and past the best bits, for a great rough sketch.

Today's Knight and Day, done first on tracing paper, then inked on the lightbox, then fixed, cleaned,
and shaded on the computer in photoshop.  Some strips are higher maintenance than others. :0)

They say that George Herriman (Krazy Kat) could sit down and start inking, without any sketching or anything.  Looking at the compositions of his Sunday pages, I find that really hard to believe.  I'm sure he sketched thumbnails at the least, but even if he didn't, I recommend highly creating a few sketches before setting out to do any final artwork.  I, for one, can sometimes sit down and work away perfectly, but there are other times when I flounder across the paper, and nothing seems to go right.  In that case, a tight sketch is a life saver, which I can throw on the light box, and ink over.  At least then I'll make less mistakes. :0)

Even if you've moved to the computer for life, you should still sketch. Any decent draw or paint program should give you layers, so always sketch on one layer first, then draw on another layer above it.  Well, not always... there is something to be said for spontaneity.  It all depends upon your style, and how loose you allow yourself to be.

The important thing is, of course, to not leave that paper blank. :0)

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In Which I Make a Cool Pirate Video

While I'm holding off on cartoon news for the moment, I just had to share with you a cool little video I put together the other day.

Okay, so some of you are aware that I am slightly obsessed with Disney's so called 'dark' rides... an obsession that precedes even my first visit to the parks.  You see, long before there were Legos and snap-together kits, there was the model kit.  A kit that, no matter what the box said, required quite a bit of skill to put together and paint.  And I just love working with my hands!

Some of my many happy childhood memories involve putting together Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean model kits with zap/action!  The one I remember most is Condemned to Chains Forever, in which a pirate skeleton fights an eternal battle with an alligator that's trying to chew on his leg.  It's no wonder the comic book I'm working on is titled The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake, is it?

So, a few years later I have managed to get the same model kit, complete in it's box.  And now it will take me years to find the time to actually build it and build it right.  However, I had ten minutes free one Saturday morning, so over coffee I carefully removed the pieces from their sprues, and, like any good model builder, fit them together before any attempt at gluing. And being the show person that I am, I just had to video the attempt, and ad some animation to it. :0)

Please enjoy!

PS  As I kid I ripped the box open and started painting and gluing haphazardly until I had a sloppy mess that little resembled the picture on the box.  And I loved every minute of it. :0)

PSS If enough of you clamor to see more, I'll be forced to find the time to play, er... work towards making another video in this series.  Please? :0)

On my iPod?  Ariene Brunet, "Le pied dans ma bulle"    Nice!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Aiming High

Once upon a time, my advice to you was if you want to get your name out there, if you want to make a living with your art, you have to have things in circulation.  Today we set up websites and place drawings on a facebook page, but there are at least a million others doing the same thing.  The world is changing, but the previous way of doing things is still best, and that means mailing stuff out.  Illustrators should have postcards out to magazines, and Cartoonists should have stuff out to the Syndicates.

My career took off when I made it a habit of always having something in the mail, or in transit to somewhere, whether it was cartoon submissions to a magazine, or a short story, or comics to the syndicates.  Of course, once my freelance work took off, I didn't have time to follow these goals, but at the same time I didn't need to.  I was working, and sometimes making money, and that was where I needed to be.

However, my goal has always been newspaper syndication, and so I finally returned to that quest.  The industry is in a state of flux, but for me, that is where I need to be, and where I am sure my particular audience is.  For me, catching the brass ring of syndication will give me the focus I need.  In the years since my last submissions to the syndicates, I have been busy with my freelance career, but always cartooning at the same time.  As you know, one project is The Inquiring Minds comic book, The Ghost Pirate Skeletons of Three Craters Lake.  Loosely based on my comic strip, and begun in comic strip format, it is not something the syndicates would look for, being a storyline for one.  Since it is definitely a comic book project, I need to treat it like one.  HappyGlyphs can publish it, of course, but to get it into the comic book stores requires a lot of time and capital, and is a risky venture that requires complete dedication.  And so that project is on hold for now. 

I have also been working on my comic strip Knight and Day, and managed to complete my graphic novel 3 Knights in India, again, loosely based on the comic strip, but not syndication material.  Oddly enough, though, the graphic novel was serialised in the India Post, a weekly newspaper serving the Indian community, so for a while I did see my work in the papers, and was proud of that.  Still, syndication being my goal, I set aside time and created a new package of Knight and Day.  Some of these strips can be seen at and others at the HappyGlyphs Comics Fan Page on facebook.  Others will remain with me until A) I get syndicated, or B) failing that, I complete the strip on my own, and publish my second Knight and Day comic strip collection.

Another vertical comic strip: I love the freedom all that extra vertical space allows!
I worked hard to create strong strips that demonstrated well who my characters are, and created a package of material that I am really proud of.  Now, I just have to wait and see how the market is, and what mood the syndicates are in.  Once upon a time Knight and Day came very close to getting syndicated.  Bad timing made that dream fall through, but now it's an all new strip, and a different world, so we'll see what happens.

I've worked hard for this, and will work even harder if syndicated,  Wish me luck!  Sometimes a little luck can give you the edge you need. :0)

All the best,    JOHN :0)

On my iPod?  Nothing!  Ack!  Can't decide what mood I'm in today. :0)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The More Things Change... the Life of Vincent Van Gogh

I love biographies, especially those of Artists and Cartoonists.  For Christmas, all I wanted was the complete letters of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo... not a biography, per se, but a very intimate and personal look at the life of a great Artist, life in the late 1800's, and more.  The letters cover the years between 1872 and 1890, and were written in Holland, Belgium, England, and France... fairly far away in space, and lifetimes away in time.  A history lesson, you may think, with nothing applicable to the life of an Artist in this modern age?  You'd be wrong.  As far as human nature goes, the more things change, the more so many things really do stay the same.

It's been a while since I've really studied painting and Painters.  I stare at every interesting piece of art I see, and take from it what I can, but I haven't done a lot of studying outside of drawing.  As I've seen recently, though, the work of Vincent Van Gogh is everywhere!  I just noticed the other day that I have one of his sunflowers on an oven mitt I bought a decade ago, and I see his name and his art in so many places, from vodka bottles to schoolroom walls.  I'll admit, though, that my recent fascination with the man came from that spectacular episode of Doctor Who, where Amy Pond and the Doctor meet Vincent and help brighten one of his days.  So, you see, Ma?  Television really can be educational and inspiring. :0)

Before I go further, let's clarify a few things.  If all you know about Vincent is the crap they teach in schools, then forget that and pick up any book on the man, which should immediately clarify things.  To think of Vincent Van Gogh as a crazy person who cut off his ear and gave it to a hooker is a gross misjustice, and totally disrespectful of the man himself.  I've heard variations on that above statement from various people I've spoken to recently, and it took me 5 minutes of reading to see that everything in that statement is misconstrued and taken out of context.  Oh, no doubt that Vincent had problems... for which we should be respectful.  Life with any kind of illness can be very difficult, and what we should consider is how he managed to accomplish so much by overcoming his difficulties.

Seen on the wall of the local pizza joint.

So what does any of this have to do with today's Artist, especially today's Cartoonist?  Well, quite a lot.  Vincent's journey to becoming one of the greatest Painters ever mirrors the journey of so many people today who are trying to find themselves as Artists.

I read a lot of blogs, articles, biographies, etc about Cartoonists today, and taken altogether a pattern of similarities emerges.  A person goes through many odd jobs before finally finding themselves in art.  A person lives hand to mouth trying to feed him or herself, while trying to make it as an Artist.  An Artist works hard, mostly in isolation, proud of what they are accomplishing, but not sure how it will be received, how good it is, is it good at all?  Worries about money, being looked down upon by people with 'real' jobs, wanting your family to be proud of you, wanting at all costs to succeed for so many reasons...

All of this is in Vincent's letters, in detail.  Even more like today's Artist, he looks for commercial art while studying to do the type of art he really wants to do.  He considers working as a magazine illustrator, but is frustrated by having to deal with Editors and to show his portfolio time after time.  He takes on 'freelance' assignments.  He considers making his own prints and seeing if he can sell them. He considers teaming up with other Artists in various types of collaborations.  He even considers self publishing!  I am sure that all of this will seem very familiar to anyone considering making a living today as an Artist.

The struggle is familiar, and relevant.  In raw detail he describes his life, and his choices.  Sometimes we don't have choices today or then... we need to eat, we need shelter, and we need art supplies.  Vincent often chose art supplies over food, although he tried not to compromise on shelter.  Not a bed or stove or anything, but always concerned with a studio with proper lighting.

Seen in the local liquor store.

Poor suffering soul that he was, though, Vincent had one thing that many do not have:  someone who believed in him.  He often said that his brother Theo would have been a great painter if he chose to be, and sometimes tried to push him in that direction.  But Theo chose a 'real' job, and made real money, and sent Vincent money every month of his life for food, shelter, and art supplies.  Later on for hospital bills.  This small but steady income gave Vincent the opportunity to study pure art, and not to compromise. To experiment with materials, and to have a studio with proper lighting.  It also gave him a small amount of guilt, which probably drove him to work as hard as he did.  Vincent drew or painted or studied whenever his health permitted.  At the end he was doing a painting a day, and each was awesome, from landscapes to portraits to his Starry Night.

And so the lessons of then become the lessons of now.  Do you want to be an Artist?  Do you want to make money as an Artist, or spend a lifetime trying to do so?  The answer is simple, but very difficult.  You've got to work at it, every day.  Preferably full time, with someone to support you, because let's face it... part time art will take years to get anywhere.  By working to support yourself, you are draining yourself from the energy needed to make art, and stressing yourself.  Of course, depending on others can be stressful in itself.  But you do need the determination to keep working at it, and to try new things, and to know when a new direction is wasting time. You need to learn the techniques of your trade, and how to use the tools, from T-square to computer.  And you need a dedicated work space.

Seen on the wall of a local elementary school.

Most of all, BE an Artist.  Be professional, be ready for opportunity, and make your own opportunity.  Give yourself assignments until real assignments come your way.  If you know what you want to do, then you're halfway to your goal.  If you want to illustrate children's books, then do that.  make your own books, or illustrate someone else's, but learn what it takes to do the job and do it.  Designing greeting cards is great, especially if it pays, but if you want to illustrate kid's books, then make sure you're developing a style that shows that.  Comic books, graphic novels, comic strips, greeting cards.... if you know what you want to do, then focus.  Focus, and, given time, you should reach some level of success.

If you don't know what to do, then try everything.  Learn different things, and try to get paying art jobs so that you can continue learning.  Freelancing does not often pay well, but the experience gained is invaluable.  Learning to work with others, to listen to others, to do work on demand... all these things helps one grow.

Vincent of course, didn't do most of these things.  He just drew every day, then painted every day, and studied every day, until it all became something unique within him.  He wasn't afraid to say "this is too much", or "this guy doesn't work hard enough", or "this work lacks soul or passion".  And he wasn't afraid to follow his own path.  He ventured into the realm of abstraction, and used color for it's own sake, and not necessarily how it was seen.  And because of that, created a path that so many Artists and Art Forms followed after him.

It was never easy, but he believed in himself, and his brother believed in him, and eventually his Sister in Law believed in him.  Fortunately, Vincent saw some of the praise in his work in his lifetime.  He also saw many scoff, laugh, and put him down, but he knew that one day they would all come around.  It takes time to appreciate something new and radical, he admitted, but he knew he had something good.

Unfortunately, he left this world before seeing those people 'come around'.  It took awhile, but his Sister in Law got the vindication they all needed, when Vincent's work finally became appreciated by the world at large.

So, believe in yourself.  Follow your heart.

It may not always be easy, but if you work at it, you'll eventually get somewhere.  That journey is something you just can't predict, though, nor the destination.

So good luck to you!    JOHN :0)

PS On my iPod?  Calm of Zero, Acoustic Sessions #1

PSS I'm working on a painting myself, now, but cartooning comes first.  More on all that later. :0)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting it done.

It's a new year, and that busy Holiday season is over, and it's time to get back into the action.
I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, because frankly, to succeed in anything, you have to have resolve each and every day... which is not always easy.  So with that in mind, I am tackling my to-do list, and finishing things that need to get done!

First off, I've been wanting to submit a comic strip to the Syndicates again, so am finishing that package of Knight and Day material.  I know times a ticking, but to submit anything to anyone, you should always submit your best, which means doing a lot of work and choosing the cream.
I'm also trying to finish a model boat I started last year, and doing some painting again.  I'm not done the painting yet, but will post that here when I'm happy with it.  I started it quite some time ago, as a gift for a friend, and it got put aside, and put aside.... well, too long.  Painting takes time, but is different enough from Cartooning that different energies are involved, so perhaps I can do both concurrently.

Of course, that also means paint brushes to wash, as well as pens to maintain, and other tools.  Which brings me to another resolution:  Keep the studio clean!

I've probably mentioned this before, but if you want to be a professional Artist of any sort, you need a dedicated work space.  Sitting on your bed with a sketchbook is great, but having a drawing table, or an easel, or a desk of any sort is essential.  A place with only your most necessary tools arranged within reach, and a place that is clean.  I think one of the best tools ANY Cartoonist can have is a box of baby wipes.  Seriously!  One cartoon can leave such a mess of pencil dust on the table, and ink on my triangles, and if I don't clean every day, then smudges appear on my drawings that don't go away easily, and which scan quite messily.

Please note that the spot on which I work is very clean. :0)

So, here are a few brand new Knight and Day's for your enjoyment.  Let me know what you think, huh?

Cheers,    JOHN :0)

PS On my iPod?  Aimee Mann, Lost in Space, and the soundtrack to an awesome tv show, Defying Gravity