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Archive for January, 2011

Mondays…

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Sunday Mailbag

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Q: On a lot of your drawings (sketch of the week) you type out the copy right symbol and your name. If someone wanted to “steal” it or “borrow” it, all they need to do is just PhotoShop it out, correct?? What’s the point of the copy right symbol??

You mean like this?:

You are 100% right in that it would be very easy for even the most novice of PhotoShop users to remove that copyright symbol/credit and steal this or any image thus marked. Despite that fact, I started doing this a few years ago for 3 reasons:

  1. The Orphan Works Act- I’ve endlessly blogged about this ridiculous legislation that keeps rearing it’s ugly head thanks to the lobbying efforts of people like Google and the championing of it by the misinformed and the just plain gullible, so I won’t bother to rehash that here. Read about it HERE if you want, or just skip to this one if you want to see the pro and con arguments broken down. Knowing this might eventually be coming down the pike, placing something like this makes an Orphan Works defense against unauthorized use a lot harder to stick.
  2. The “This lock only keeps the honest people out” concept- A guy who used to make cabinets for me for some of my theme park operations used that phrase for flimsy locks that could easily be broken off. The idea was that such a weak lock didn’t give you security against a real thief, but would keep out anyone who would not go so far as to break a lock to get into something. Same concept here. It’s one thing for someone to grab some image and pop it into their website or use it for some other purpose, and it’s another to have to physically remove a copyright credit to do it with impunity. There is something psychological about going to that length, as easy as it might be, that sets off the “I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing” alarm in most people’s heads. Most people, given even that momentary pause, will think again and usually not do it. A kid might come by one of my booths and rattle a door, but if he finds it locked, even by an easily forced cabinet lock, he will move along. The addition of the credit forces people to make a conscious decision to violate my copyrights, and that is often enough of a deterrent to stop them.
  3. Education- This goes hand in hand with the previous reason. I’m trying to do my part to educate people about copyright and to respect it. Some people genuinely think if it’s on the internet, it’s free. If the simple addition of a copyright line get’s people to understand that ALL images on the internet are copyrighted and owned by somebody and that copyright should be respected, then it’s worth the time.

Thanks to Rick Wright 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 your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!

New MAD Episodes Start Feb. 7th

Friday, January 28th, 2011

It looks like the second half of season one of the animated “MAD” on the Cartoon Network kicks off on Monday, Feb. 7th with a new episode that includes a segment I worked on called “Malcolm in the Middle Earth”. Be sure and toon in. I’ll post some images from the work I did after the segment has aired.

The New Apple TV- A Review

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

We digress from our constant blather about caricature, cartooning and illustration to talk about one of our other favorite subjects… gadgets!

This year for Christmas The Lovely Anna got me the new Apple TV, Apple’s new incarnation of it’s “hobby” entertainment server for your living room. We have owned one of the original Apple TVs for a while now, and use it for The Animated Elizabeth‘s TV room where it works great for her demanding video needs associated with her autism.

The new Apple TV is a big departure from the old model on many levels, but first here’s a little history of the Apple TV:

The original Apple TV model was about the size of a Mac Mini computer, and had it’s own hard drive as well as built in wifi . It worked as a modified iPod for your TV… using wifi it would sync with your iTunes library (according to your choices for what would sync and what would not) on your computer just like an iPod, but it would also stream content from iTunes that was not saved locally. Thus, you had some content that you could watch even if your computer was not awake and/or iTunes was not open, but other content was not available unless you had your source computer on and iTunes open. This made the ATV a gateway to get your iTunes content from your computer to your TV, but it was hardly convenient. You could not seek out and rent or buy content FROM the ATV… that had to be done from your computer and then you could sit down in front of your TV and enjoy it from your couch.

Eventually Apple changed the software of the ATV to allow for all that streaming and syncing plus the added benefit of being able to access the iTunes store directly from the ATV, allowing your to purchase or rent content without needing to go to your computer. Later, they added the ability to access resources like NetFlix, YouTube, ect. for more viewing options.

Last year Apple took a much different approach with a new version of the Apple TV. Gone is the hard drive, and the unit itself became significantly smaller… it’s a little smaller than a slim paperback book. It’s output connections are as simple as it gets… one HDMI out (it also allows for optical audio out, so you can use the HDMI output as video only), an Ethernet port in case you want to use a hardwire solution to your internet connection as opposed to using the built in WiFi, and a USB port which so far is used for nothing. Like the previous ATV, you cannot use the unit with a TV that does not support HDMI video… no composite or component video outputs.

Since you have no local storage of media anymore, everything is streamed by the ATV to your TV/entertainment system. There is no syncing. You simply connect it to your home network and use the “Home Sharing” iTunes feature to access any content on any of the computers on your home network. “Home Sharing” is a simple sharing format where each computer with iTunes installed is able to choose any or all of their content to be “shared” over their network. There is no one iTunes master computer using this model… each computer that opts to be a part of home sharing through their iTunes program has whatever content they choose to share available for streaming to the ATV. The computers need to be awake and iTunes must be open for this to work, however.

More conveniently, you can quite easily browse the iTunes store right from your ATV to rent movies and TV shows for instant enjoyment. If they are available in HD (the 720p version, anyway) then you get them in HD. Most movies rent for $4.99 in HD or $2.99 if in SD, but a few “specials” are available for $1.99 or even $.99 and there are some films that get “previewed” via the iTunes store before they hit the theaters and rent for $10.99. You can rent TV episodes for $.99.

There is also an “Internet” menu where you can log in to your Netflix account and watch hundreds of movies instantly at no extra cost to your Netflix membership. This is an amazing deal… it’s almost unlimited how many films are available to watch instantly through your Netflix subscription. YouTube, Flickr and MobleMe content is also available through this menu if you want to watch that kind of thing.

The quality and speed of the downloaded content through iTunes is very good. HD shows look sharp and clearly “HD” quality with no noticeable artifacts or pixelation. It only takes a minute or so after you start the rental for the content to become available to play, and I have not witnessed a single moment when the show I am watching “freezes” because the buffering/download of the media cannot keep up with the running video. I have noticed some of the Netflix movies experience freezes and some pixelation at times, so that technology isn’t quite up to par with the native iTunes content… but it’s not bad and without paying extra to watch Netflix movies instantly on your living room TV a little pause now and then seems a fair trade off.

You cannot “buy” films or TV shows permanently via the Apple TV, as there is no hard drive to keep them on. You can still do so via your computer and then watch it from your Apple TV via Home Sharing. I’ve got mixed feelings about that. I’d like it if you could buy a movie you want permanently via the ATV and either always have access to watch it through iTunes or have it download to your computer’s hard drive for permanent storage, but it’s not a deal breaker. I still don’t like buying digital media and prefer physical discs for movies I want to keep.

The one thing I don’t like about this arrangement is the short time they give you to enjoy the movie you rent. Once you’ve rented it you get 30 days to start it. Once you start it, you only get 24 hours to watch it if it’s a movie, and 48 if it’s a TV show. If you don’t get to then end of it within that time, you are SOL. It expires and is deleted from your menu. I think that’s a little too short a time. It would be better is they could figure out how to make the program available to watch as often as you want for the first 24 hours, but it does not expire if you have not finished it after that period of time. Once you watch it through to the end, then it expires permanently. Maybe they can have a 36 hour expiration whether you’ve watched all the way to the end or not, just to prevent people from stopping it during the end credits and keeping it active forever. Usually I do watch a movie all the way through at home, but when I am traveling I often am forced to stop if my flight is landing and can;t start watching it again until I am traveling back home… and by that time the 24 hours have passed. The same rental model applies to movies you download for your portable device as the ATV.

Overall, though, I think Apple is on to something with the new Apple TV. It’s easy to use, has reasonably priced access to a gigantic library of content, allows even cheaper access to Netflix account content and is reasonably priced at $99. I’ve been enjoying it since Christmas.

Sketch o’the Week

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

This week’s sketch is a quickie of “Aerosmith” frontman and new judge on television’s “American Idol”, Steven Tyler.

A Final Hirschfeld Goodbye

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

The image above is one of my most prized possessions… a caricature of me by the great Al Hirschfeld. There was no intriguing or unique story behind how I got that piece of art. Not like the story behind my original Mort Drucker. I simply commissioned him to do it. As legendary as Hirschfeld was, he was still available to do personal commissions. Expensive, but a genuine treasure.

Hirschfeld died in 2003 just 5 months shy of his 100th birthday. Almost 8 years after his passing, this month the last chapter in his amazing career is finally coming to a close. His widow, Louise Hirschfeld Cullman, has remarried and is selling the townhome on East 95th Street containing the artist’s studio which has remained untouched since his death. Thus, the space in which Hirschfeld created many thousands of his well known illustrations is being cleared out… the official end of an era and the legacy of a great illustrator.

Hirschfeld’s famous barber’s chair and well worn oak drawing table will be on permanent display at the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts’ Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. Actually, although this barber’s chair was a vintage one, it was not the original barber’s chair Hirschfeld sat in for decades. That one was worn away to nothing and all that’s left is the base which on display at the gallery of Margo Feiden, who has represented Hirschfeld since 1969. This chair was given to him in 1993 to replace that one. Still a piece of caricature history, though.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview Mr. Hirschfeld when I served as president of the National Caricaturist Network (now the ISCA) in 1999. He was a great inspiration to me, and I will be visiting his barber’s chair and drawing board someday soon.

Look! A Talking Rat!

Monday, January 24th, 2011


Stephan and me in Tikrit, Iraq

Stephan Pastis, the cartoonist behind the syndicated comic strip “Pearls Before Swine”, is a friend of mine. We’ve literally been to the wars together (okay, touring Iraq and Afghanistan with the USO isn’t exactly BEING in a war, but there was one going on around us to I’m going with that). Stephen once drew me into a Sunday “PBS” and I drew him into a MAD parody. He’s a talented guy and deserves all of his considerable success with the strip.

Stephan has lately been working on animated shorts of his strip, and The Daily Cartoonist reported today that said animations are now available on Comics.com. Stephan and I talked about this process on our USO trip late last year, and he told me the biggest challenge was finding voices that matched the ones “in my head”. That is interesting… when you spend years reading a comic strip the reader also gets an idea of what kind of voice they are hearing when they read a character’s word balloons, and it can be jarring to hear something completely different when you see an animated version of the character for the first time. For example, I didn’t think (and still don’t think) that Lorenzo Music‘s voice sounds anything like what I thought Garfield would sound like. However, Jim Davis obviously does and I guess his opinion counts.

I have to say most of the PBS voices sound a lot like I though they’d sound… except Pig. I didn’t imaging him sounding so much like a little kid, but I quickly got used to that watching all the shorts. Here’s a sample:

YouTube Preview Image

Sunday Mailbag

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Q: What do you think of the problems that print publications are having these day? Do you think print is dying, and where do you think the publication industry goes from here?

A: The world of publishing is in a transition right now from print to digital media. Will print go away completely? No, I don’t think it will, but digital content is becoming more and more important and will continue to do so. I think that as hardware become more and more sophisticated and portable, more and more consumers will be looking to find their content on devices like the iPad and the evolution of gadgets like it. Things like newspapers and magazines are going to need to figure out how to get their content delivered digitally to consumers and, more importantly, figure out how to make money doing it.

Every generation or so there is a major media shift that is always heralded as the death knell for the “old way”. When TV came around everyone said radio was dead… that didn’t happen. Radio found it’s niche and is still viable. The introduction of VCRs was supposed to kill the movie business and damage TV when people could rent or own films that they’d watch at home at their own convenience. The movie business didn’t even blink. DVDs were supposed to do the same thing… didn’t happen. Now the internet is supposed to be the harninger of doom to TV, print media and everything else.

I see the internet as not being the enemy but another outlet for creative content. It’s all about figuring out how to deliver the material so consumers will be willing to pay for that convenient delivery, and providing the kind of content they’d be willing to pay for. For magazines, having a business model where the consumer pays a nominal amount for a subscription and their magazine is delivered to their portable device automatically without the need to go looking for it or to have to be actively online to read it. That really seems to me to be the key… passive delivery to a portable device that can allow the reader to consume the content anywhere regardless of internet accessibility. Revenues will be generated by a combination of the modest subscription fee and advertising within the digital magazine.

There will always be a demand for professional creative content, be it illustration, cartooning, writing, photography, etc. Eventually providers will figure out how to use the internet to deliver it and get compensated enough to pay professionals to create it.

Thanks to G Franks 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 your questions and I’ll try and answer them here!

How to Draw Caricatures: Mouths

Friday, January 21st, 2011

This series of “How to Draw Caricatures” tutorials are a just a small taste of a larger and much more in-depth book I wrote called The Mad Art of Caricature! The book is 175 full-color pages, lavishly illustrated and contains greatly expanded explanations of the concepts presented in these tutorials, as well and a great deal of additional material on caricaturing other facial features, posture, hands, expression and more, techniques on drawing from live models, doing caricature for freeplace illustration and for MAD Magazine. This is a must have book for anyone interested in caricature, cartooning or humorous illustration. You can order it online here.

Part Five: Drawing Mouths

Like all features, mouths follow certain tendencies with regards to the subject’s sex, race, and age. More so than the other features, the mouth changes RADICALLY with expression. It is by far the most expressive part of the face, even more than the eyes. As a result, drawing the mouth becomes not only an exercise in observation of its structure, but sensitivity to its projection of the subject’s emotions. The real key to capturing “personality” in a caricature rests in the eyes and mouth. When a live caricaturist hears the magic words from the friends of their subject exclaim: “He ALWAYS has that look on his face! THAT’S HIM!” you know you just read the subjects expression right and captured it in the drawing. That is what you strive for… not just the likeness, and not just exaggeration, but CHARACTER… PERSONALITY. That is what makes a drawing come to life and spring from the surface of the paper. Mouths are a central part of this, both in and of themselves and more importantly how they are relating to the rest of the face.

The mouth is a complex feature. It’s made up of bones, muscles and tissues that create many distinct elements like teeth and lips, which vary widely with variables like age, which in turn interact in many different ways depending on expression. When I talk about the mouth, I am also including the musculature around the mouth, connecting it to the nose, cheeks and chin. Drawing the mouth basically finishes off the interior of the face, the center of likeness and expression.

The Anatomy of a Mouth

As with all features, it is very useful to understand the structure and anatomy of that which you are trying to caricature. Knowing the names of the muscles and bones are not really important, but understanding where they are, how they work and what you are really seeing is the best kind of foundation for a good drawing of anything.

Let’s start with the underlying anatomy, the teeth and surrounding bone (fig.1). The Mandibula and Mandible (jaw bone) is the only movable bone in the face/skull. It has several specific features, including the Ramus (The rear jaw that connects to the skull), the Angle (point at which the jaw angles toward the chin), the Mental protuberance (chin), the Mental tubercle (hollow area under and behind the chin) and the Lower dental arch (area below bottom teeth). The upper bones of the mouth are part of the larger skull. They include the Upper dental arch (area just above the teeth), the Maxilla (area above dental arch, under nose and nostrils) and the Coroniod and Condyliod processes (where the law bones and skull connect.) Humans have two sets of teeth, (three if you count dentures), that appear at different points in their lives. The first set are deciduous or temporary (baby) teeth, and the second are permanent teeth. There are 20 deciduous teeth and 32 permanent teeth. They all have names and distinct positions and features, but for our purposes there are only six teeth that are prominent and visible enough for us to be concerned with in the adult mouth. They are the upper four incisors and first two upper cuspids, commonly called the canines or eye teeth. These six teeth generally are what you see when a subject smiles. Other teeth are not as important to a caricature as what little of them might be visible are overpowered by the prominence of the afore mentioned six. Still, if you want to learn the names of all the teeth, knock yourself out. Your dentist will love you. (more…)

Sketch o’the Week

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

This week’s sketch is of actor Sean Penn. This was done from a relatively small picture in an entertainment magazine. I liked the turned head angle and odd, mid-sentence expression.

 

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