Tag Archives: Art

Work in Progress

Orange-PylonThis pylon is going to be here for a long time, because I’ve only just started working on my first children’s book. Did you know that? I suppose I should have made some formal kind of announcement.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’ve written a children’s book that’s going to be published by Christy Ottaviano Books, an imprint of Henry Holt, some time in 2015.

So yeah, that’s out of the way. I’m illustrating it, too, and I couldn’t be more excited to be doing it. It’s been fun working with Christy so far, even though we’re still in the early stages of nailing down the final product (Christy said “cartoonists are usually good with deadlines,” but I’m wondering if that’s an observation that’s not shared by all in the industry). It doesn’t sound like a huge step up – it’s a 32-page picture book – but it’s definitely a major transition from small black-and-white spot drawings to full pages in color. And at the end of the book the reader can’t say “I don’t get it,” like some people do when they read my cartoons… come on, nobody does that, do they?

I don’t want to say what the book is about, but I wanted to show a teaser of the first part of the process: writing, editing, sketching, rough layouts. There’s also a fair amount of coffee built into each step, but you already know what that looks like.

photo 1Even within the framework of a standard picture book, there are different layout options that are available, depending on what you want to do with the story. You can’t just add or subtract a few pages at the end. So that’s the first step. click here to see more pics


Filed under Children's book

Street art, part 2

I recently did a short interview with Franki Elliot, who often does sidewalk poetry (meaning while sitting on a public sidewalk, not writing poems about sidewalks) using a typewriter. It’s performance art, in a way, without the safety nets of AutoCorrect and, you know – being able to be at home without strangers staring over your shoulder. The horror! But she’s the real deal. The interview is now up at Curator Magazine. Check it out!


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The 10 best arty and musicky things that happened this year, to the best of my memory

In lieu of separate lists, here is a meta-list of the things I enjoyed the most this year (besides Art Basel, which I just wrote about a few days ago), in no particular order.

1. The skittish, slackerish, stream-of-consciousness Ninetiesish punk of Parquet Courts.

2. The graphic stories of Allie Brosh. She portrays herself as some kind of monster who is a crudely amateurish artist. She is neither.


3. This deliciously eye-popping piece of street art from Tristan Eaton in Little Italy, NYC.


click here to see full list

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Art Basel 2013: Miami

I went to Art Basel Miami Beach for the first time last week. It was definitely fun to get an eyeful of the Warhols and Picassos that you’ll probably never see otherwise, because they’re essentially moving from one private collection to another. But, since I’m not really in the market to buy a $20M Jeff Koons, I was less interested in that big convention center hoopla (I did an “intentionally poorly taken iPhone photo” review of that exhibit over at Curator Magazine). Luckily, there are tons of other things going on during Basel, and there’s something for everybody, even in loo options, as evidenced by these:


Also during Basel week there are incredible art fairs showcasing lots of other up-and-coming artists, one-off installations like FAILE & Bast’s vintage video game arcade, memorable parties like this one, and the orgy of street art going on in the Wynwood area.

I’m guessing that Wynwood has the highest concentration of street art in the country – even more than Brooklyn – and click here to continue


Filed under Art, events, street art

Full Frontal


I did my first magazine cover last fall, for this hotel trade magazine (which just went to press). It was a nice change to work in color instead of black and white, but it can be intimidating – there are almost twenty different colors out there that you can work with, I bet. back me up on this, illustrators! It was also refreshing in that I had to show something besides an obvious sight gag. So, no talking elephants at bars. The image had to match the tone of the article, which was a fairly straightforward piece about what American hotel chains are doing to appeal to foreign travelers.

A snapshot of the working process is below. At first I drew a single business traveler, then we decided upon a family instead. Also, my gestures (like the man with the remote) were initially a bit too overstated. And after dropping in the logo of a specific airline on the shopping bag, we decided it would be better to show a fictional airline, whose logo I had to create. My friend commented that it reminded her of Adrian Tomine, which I was pretty happy about. It all worked out in the end, don’t you think?


click here to see rest of post

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Filed under Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Magazine cover

James Bond vs. Godzilla

Whenever a new James Bond movie comes out, there’s always the tiresome talk about how he’s merely the projection of a typical male fantasy, running around the world combatting evil dudes with amazing weapons and effortlessly scoring the hottest chicks. There’s a lot to like about that, but that’s not every male’s fantasy. After all, he’s always got to wear suits and keep track of his aliases and I don’t even know if he even has a place to go home to at night to watch Parks & Recreation. Sometimes I wonder if the ideal male fantasy character isn’t Godzilla. For one thing, he doesn’t have “M” checking up on him all the time. But you can decide for yourself: here’s how the two compare in the “male fantasy” department.


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Filed under Art, Movies

ROTFL at the Whitney Biennial

The funniest thing I read all year was a description of a piece of art at the Whitney Biennial that I saw this week. I don’t think it was intended that way.

The piece of art in question was Cameron Crawford’s Sick Sic Six Sic ((Not)Moving): Seagullsssssssssssssssssssssssssss:

You could describe it as maybe a minimalist volleyball net, made of thread and plastic and framed by unfinished wood, but titled like a prog rock song from the 1970s. Are we still giving things titles like this? Is he channeling Fiona Apple? Did his keyboard get stuck? The blurb accompanying the work did not answer these questions. Luckily the description is online at the Whitney’s web site:

Oh. Let me see if I’ve got the stages right: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Using Homophones, Exhibiting at the Whitney Biennial. Homophones are nonsensical and fun, but an art museum can’t say they’re nonsensical and fun, so they say they “skirt the edge of comprehension.”

More significantly, this annotation weakens the piece, because it lets you know that the work needs “explaining” in order to be understood. It tells you that it’s supposed to be a performance, not a sculpture. It’s a response to death. The writing does the work that the art should have done. Come on – let the thing fail on its own terms!

This is a genius spin. next year I’m submitting an “invisible painting in an invisible frame” – that way it will always be relevant to any theme!

Another hilarious move! I wish, though, that the artist would have fully committed to the gag, a la Dali or Duchamp, and not let the work be displayed or reviewed until always six years in the future. Then it would seem more like a real idea and a lot less like a bullshit one, right?

There you go! “By imposing this ridiculous date and title, Crawford is suggesting that the work possibly has no good ideas in it. We agreed, which is why we included it in this exhibit. Now it at least appears to have some kind of meaning.”

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Filed under Art, events

The Reviewer of Light

For the record, I’m not a snob. I don’t think the tastes and values of middle America (whatever that means) are a punchline, and I don’t dismiss anything just because it’s popular. Many years ago, when I saw a landscape by the ubiquitous Thomas Kinkade I concluded that it wasn’t really my thing, although I recognized the obvious talent. Also, I have an appreciation for somebody who can humbly dedicate himself to a particular craft. But shortly after, when I found about Kinkade comparing himself favorably with Monet, and the pseudo-Messianic sense of mission, and the brazenly manipulative marketing scheme, I thought – for real? This Godzilla full of clichés is  clamoring for a retrospective at the Met during his lifetime? That’s fair game for abuse. He might be right about the failings of modernity, but he’s totally wrong about his own work.

The Kinkade empire has caved in on itself during the past few years, and yeah – it’s probably bad form to kick a guy when he’s down. Nonetheless, I saw the “Thomas Kinkade: Painter of Light” 2012 calendar while at Barnes & Noble last December, and decided that it would be great fun to do a monthly review, especially if I got to make a fancy title for myself like the “Reviewer of Light.” The Awl took me up on it. There you can see the April version and the previous months, and return for the rest.

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(too hot to post a title)

The original art for this cartoon is still available here, for anybody who considers themselves a part of the hot, sweaty, art-buying public.

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Filed under Cartoons

The Drawing’s the Thing

I just finished reading Nicki Greenberg‘s tremendous graphic adaptation of Hamlet, and I can only hope that it gets a worldwide distribution. It’s a monster of a book at over 400 pages (it was delivered to me not by postal truck but by forklift), but they’re lush and glossy and striking pages, with the characters’ action set against a wildly colorful montage of what might be called “psychedelic Victorian” imagery, laden with thematic symbolism. If you’re a person who couldn’t ever picture yourself saying to somebody “Hey! I’m reading this book by this guy called Shakespeare and I can’t put it down,” then I urge you to get your hands on Ms. Greenberg’s Hamlet. But you will have to have big hands.

What I liked about Nicki’s version was the way she combined the unorthodox with the conventional. Hamlet is apparently an ink blot, and when we see him conversing with Barnardo and Marcellus in the opening scene they are wielding brushes, bringing to mind the old saw about the pen vs. the sword and foreshadowing Hamlet’s choice of using lines spoken by an actor (the actors consisting of red ink, not black) as a potential murder weapon. The characters are all living ink blots dancing across each dazzling page, as they sometimes dissolve, like Ophelia, or bleed into each other, like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The King and Queen’s attendants are octuopus-like blobs. Each character is some slightly mutated beast, whose personality is partially revealed by some physical attribute that Ms. Greenberg has given him (or her, or it). I loved the inventive way they were conceived of and drawn.

Whereas many graphic novels (and admittedly the ones I am naturally drawn to) are laid out cinematically, employing close-ups, panoramas, and multiple vantage points in conveying the story, Nicki more or less uses the frame of the single panel as the stage. I would normally think of this as a weakness; the advantage of the graphic novel being that one can manipulate the viewer’s experience in ways that one can’t in the written word or on the stage. But this was definitely one of the strengths of the book. It is a play, after all, and Hamlet is the one thing that does not need a wholesale reimagining, especially when the book presents itself as such a visual feast to begin with. I give her a lot of credit for that.

The bottom line is that I didn’t just “appreciate” this book, the way I have sometimes felt after reading Shakespeare. I very much enjoyed it. Imagine that! The Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin, is here, so stay tuned to them for publication details in October.

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Filed under Graphic Novel, Graphic storytelling