January 24th, 2015
Q: Do you use your drawing skills for private tasks, say for instance a birthday-card for your uncle? And are you asked by relatives, friends or neighbors to make just a little drawing for a party, a present, etc.of course without getting payed?
A: That sort of thing is inevitable, but I have to say my family, friends and neighbors are all very good about understanding I have a hard time finding enough hours in the day to get my professional work done, so they seldom if ever ask me to do anything for them. I’ve done art for a few things like that here and there, but it is usually my idea and I offer to… they don’t ask. I don’t tell them how busy I am, they see it when they come over or call to ask if I can go out to the bar for a drink and I have to say I’m going to be up all night as it is with some deadline. They get it. I’m busy.
I absolutely won’t take money from family or friends for that sort of thing, which makes the issue even a bit more clouded. I’ve had money offered to me to do a birthday card or some piece of art for family, but I refuse to take it. Then I might also have to politely refuse to do it at all because I just don’t have the time. That sucks, but my petition to the universe to add a few hours to every day has been steadfastly ignored. If I can do it, I do it. Often I just can’t, and I just have to feel bad about it for awhile.
I do a number of pieces each year sort of pro-bono, for lack of a better term, for organizations, charity or the like. One example is the brochure art I do for the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards every year. In fact, I am trying to finish the 2015 piece up today, so this is a timely question!
Thanks to Dominik Zeillinger for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
January 23rd, 2015
The Lovely Anna at NYCC, ready to help you!
I tried a bit of an experiment in 2014… doing a lot of comic book conventions. This is something I hadn’t ever done in the past because, well, MAD is sort of the red-headed stepchild of that kind of crowd. Yes, everyone’s heard of it and the magazine has a core group of devoted fans, but it isn’t the sort of thing that gets people to stand in line unless your name is Drucker, Jaffee, Aragonès or others of legendary stature. Still, in the last few years I did start to have something I did not have before… stuff to sell. I have my book, and the LE prints I have been doing. I also bring along original MAD art, which I only occasionally sell any of because I charge a lot for them as I’d rather keep it than sell it for cheap. It does give people something to look at, though. Of course I also do drawings, caricatures of people and commissions of celebrities or whatever. So, in the last year or so I’ve done conventions big and small. I did smaller cons in Dallas, Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh last year as well as big ones in Chicago, New York and San Diego.
What I discovered is that, while often more fun and interesting to be a part of, the smaller conventions don’t pay enough of the bills to make sense doing. It was great meeting people and the folks who run these conventions are very hospitable and take great care of their guests, but at the end of the day it’s time away from the studio and that only makes sense if the dollars roughly match up. Sad, but basic economics. In most cases I was a guest at these cons where they generously paid for my travel and lodging expenses, and even then sales at the end of the day just didn’t make sense. That is not their fault, it’s mine. I don’t have what their attendees are looking for. As much as I appreciated the invitation and the generosity, I won’t be doing many (or any) of these smaller cons anymore. I cancelled my appearance in Monterrey, Mexico next month and turned down a few offers to be a guest at other cons. I feel like I’m taking their money and not bringing any people in for them, besides not making enough myself for it to be financially viable.
That’s the bad news. The good news is several of the larger cons I did were terrific. I drew my ass off and we did great in book, print and even some original art sales. So here are a few comic cons you’ll see me at in 2015:
New York is not guaranteed because, unlike most comic cons, you are required to reapply and get approved for a space there every year. That is actually a really cool policy, because it means you don’t have “squatters” who keep taking up space and not giving anyone else a chance to get in. I gave up trying to get into conventions like Megacon or Emerald City Con because the waiting lists were ridiculous.
The even better news is I will have my own booth this year at San Diego. Look for me in space G-04! There will be more news about commissions and other new stuff when the new website debuts here in the next few weeks.
Hope to see you at one of these shows!
January 22nd, 2015
Today’s edition of “Illustration Throwback Thursday” features a book I illustrated for MAD back in 2009 called Bo Confidential: The Secret Files of America’s First Dog, which just so happens to be on sale via the MAD iPad app for only 99 cents (cheap) this week only!
The story behind this book is a short but intense one.
I got a call from my friend, mentor and a guy who owes me $10.00, MAD art director Sam Viviano at the very end of April, 2009 to say they had a book project they wanted me to do the art for. The working title was “Bo Obama: The First 100 Days”. It was a book about the Obama’s new Portuguese Water Dog and his introduction into the White House, filled with gags about politics, the Obamas in general and of course, dog poop. It was going to be 96 pages and fully illustrated with a mixture of primarily two page spreads along with color single pages, color spots and some smaller monochrome spots. There was a catch, though (there always is). They wanted the art completed in just over three weeks.
Yes, you read that right. Three weeks. The publication date was to be the end of July.
I’m not entirely sure why the short deadline. Some say it was because there is a bunch of Obama family and Bo books coming out this summer and getting the book into that mix would get it placed on end cap and table displays in the big bookstores. Another theory is that there was a huge publisher’s book fair event right after Memorial Day, and having the book completed by then would allow the publisher to promote it fully at said fair. I don’t know… I just draw the funny pictures. Regardless, I got the final book script/layout on May 1st and had until May 26th to get the book completely illustrated. Worse yet, I had plans to go to the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Awards in L.A. on May 22nd-26th, so essentially I had 22 days to get it all done.
I did it in 21 days. 96 pages including 25 full color two page spreads, 21 full color single page/large spot illustrations and 13 monochrome pages. The remaining pages had other graphics.
Whew. I’ve done a lot of tough jobs in my time, but this one really did nearly break me. I got about 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night for three weeks straight, with only the occasional night of more due to sheer necessity. I had to place everything else on hold including canceling trips to both my out-of-state theme parks. I finished and FTP’d the last page at about 4 a.m. on May 22nd, and then got on the plane to L.A. 5 hours later. It was a very tired me who attended the NCS Reubens that year.
The book has been out of print for a while now, but as I mentioned you can get the digital version for a measly 99 cents this week only through the MAD iPad app!
Art/spreads from BO CONFIDENTIAL: THE SECRET FILES OF AMERICA’S FIRST DOG published by Running Press. On sale everywhere in August 2009. ©2009 EC Publications, all rights reserved.
January 21st, 2015
This week’s sketch… no doubt soon to be sold as t-shirts in several Etsy stores… is of Oscar winning actress Tilda Swinton.
Tags: caricature, sketch, Tilda Swinton
January 20th, 2015
… one at a time.
No doubt you are well aware of this, but several of the items you have for sale in your Etsy store use caricatures of mine, taken from my website and colorized/manipulated into T-shirt designs. You do not have permission to use my work and are in direct violation of my copyright. Here are links to the offending items:
Matt Smith, Tom Baker, Daniel Craig, Taylor Lautner, Taylor Lautner (again), Tom Baker (again)
This is a courtesy letter to give you a chance to remove these items from your store. If they are still active by tomorrow morning at this time, I will initiate copyright infringement report protocol to Etsy, something they do not tolerate well.
I notice you have a number of other caricature-based items using work that is likely not your own… in fact I recognized the work of a few caricaturists I know among them. I would advise you to remove them as well, as I will be sending an alert out to the caricaturist community that you are a serial infringer and others should check your store to make sure none of their work has been stolen. The caricature world is a small one and this sort of thing does not go unnoticed for long.
You should know that images on the internet are not free for your use. If you did not create it yourself, it does not belong to you and cannot be used by you without permission of the person that did create it. It’s very simple. Don’t steal images.
I’m sure you will do the right thing and there will be no need to involve Etsy and put you in a bad position with them. Thanks for your quick action in this matter. I am happy to have been able to educate you on this issue, and am sure you will respect the copyrights of artists in the future. Have a wonderful day.
That took several minutes of my life I won’t get back, but another ignorant copyright thief educated is one less out there in the world.
Many thanks to Jedd Bluhm, who alerted me to the issue.
January 19th, 2015
This week’s Monday MADness features the art I did for Dick DeBartolo‘s parody of the first “Spider-Man” movie with Tobey McGuire. that appeared in MAD #418, June 2002. You remember… when Spider-Man movies were good? (Clicky any to embiggen…)
January 18th, 2015
Q: My question is regarding your thoughts on the future of comics and illustration in general. Newspaper printing seems to be headed towards a very different form in the coming years (or possibly by the wayside completely) and I was curious to hear (read) your thoughts or predictions about where the future of the cartooning industry lies.
A: That’s a big question, but pretty easy to answer in general terms. One: publishing and media consumption in general is going to move almost exclusively to the internet over the next decade or so. Two: cartooning and comics will move with it.
I don’t have any idea what kind of business model(s) will end up being viable in the digital age of media. I think what we will see is a lot of self-published creators combined with a few media giants who will figure out how to present the work of creators on the internet and still have consumers pay for that content… probably through a combination of advertising, subscriptions or ancillary purchases (upselling?). Comic book companies like DC, Marvel and others will continue doing what they do, syndicates like King Features and Universal UClick will transition comic strips into a web-based service of some kind, and magazines/publications will change into internet publications. Advertising will drive most of it, I think. People don’t seem to realize that right now there are still billions of dollars spend on print advertising every year in magazines, newspapers and comic books. When the print business goes away, those companies will still want to spend those billions on advertising for their products… they aren’t going to suddenly say “Well, I guess we don’t need to advertise anymore.” They will want to spend that money where they reach the most potential customers… and that will be on the internet on websites where the content gets tons of traffic. That revenue will be used by to pay to get the best content up on their internet publications to drive traffic… and that means paying the best creators to create it. Cartoonists, comic artists and illustrators will be hired to do it. That said, the boon the internet gave self-publishing will not go away. The ease of disseminating your work and setting up ways to generate revenue from it combined with the incredibly vast number of people using the internet will continue to make self-published comics on the web viable.
I’ve made this point before: none of this is really new. There has always been independent comics creators out there publishing their own work, and there have always been big publishers producing the mainstream stuff. The difference in the last 15 years has been the internet and its ability to allow creators to instantly publish work and make it available to about 2 billion potential readers for next to nothing in costs. Prior to the internet, self-publishing was regulated to ash-can comics being peddled at comic-cons and maybe local comics shops. The costs of quality printing and real distribution was impossible for most independent creators. That is no longer the case. The interesting dynamic here is that self-published creators have about a decade head start on the media giants when it comes to web-based comics. As a result many of the talents that, in a tradition publishing world, probably would be producing work for Marvel or King Features or Conde Nast right now already have established careers self-publishing, and are now the model for up-and-coming talents that eschew the print media world entirely. I think once the big media guns start paying for web-based content in earnest you will see that swing back the other way. Money talks and not many cartoonists also have the business/tech savvy to run their own company and do the creative.
The bottom line here is that the publishing world will sort itself out into the digital landscape, and cartooning and illustration will follow along. The world is not going to suddenly stop wanting to read comics and look at humorous illustrations. There will still be a demand for that kind of work, and computers can create it with software… artists still have to do the creating. It’s an interesting but exciting world coming down the road, it’s exciting to be a part of it.
Thanks to Zack Morris for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
January 16th, 2015
I’m swamped after all the time I spent in the last week with the NCS and the events in Paris. Sorry to say posting will be a little light for a while.
January 15th, 2015
For those of you who might be getting tired of all these posts pertaining to the Charlie Hebdo massacre last week, you’ll be relieved to know this will be my last one. This really did rock the cartooning community, and not just political cartoonists.
The National Cartoonists Society made a call to all members (although they welcomed non-member pro submissions) to speak their minds and show support over this terrible event in the best way we know how… through cartoons. There is now an awesome gallery of these cartoons, 130 at last count, up on the NCS website. My contribution is above.
One last thing. I have been one who has gone to great pains to point out that, while I support and am willing to fight for the right to free speech, I do not necessarily agree with how other use that right. In other words, I believe in the philosophy stated in this famous quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (often wrongly attributed to Voltaire):
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
Having been exposed only to a few of the cartoons done by the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists I, like many others, found many of them to be racist, inflammatory, and seemingly pointless. While some may still be, I’d urge you to read this article before completely passing judgement. The author explains that many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons people object to might seem racist and overly inflammatory, they are in fact satirizing the racism of other publications, organizations and pundits. My analogy for Americans would be if someone unfamiliar with parody and satire watched an episode of “All in the Family”, they may well think it’s a racist show after listening to Archie Bunker’s bigoted talk, but it is in fact lampooning bigots. I guess if anything good come out of this, it could be a greater awareness for Americans about cartooning outside our borders.
January 14th, 2015
Michael Cavna with the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs writes a great piece about satire on this side of the pond and the effects (if any) the Charlie Hebdo massacre may have on it. Interviews with MAD‘s John Ficarra, editorial cartoonists Matt Bohrs, Jack Ohman and Jen Sorenson, and me.