Being creative

I may have a collaborator on a few future comics. Maybe more than a few!

My nephew sent me a bunch of comic ideas yesterday and most are excellent! He called me to tell me he was thinking or dreaming or something like that and he thought of so funny cartoon ideas, he told me a few on the phone and they seemed funny, but when he sent me the long list in writing later, they were really funny.

He’s an engineer, he owns a very successful factory and doesn’t seem like the type to even bother with comics, but it’s so nice knowing that he does think about comics.

So many friends and relatives read my work and it comes out in conversation or they may comment on a comic or blog post online or in person and it’s nice to know that I am entertaining friends and family, along with thousands of other people out there.

I saw a video or read something not to long ago where a cartoonist said, “Don’t write for the fans, write for yourself.” And that did make sense. All those years when I was publishing the daily news, I don’t think I ever thought of a person or people when I was writing, especially columns, where are personal. I just wrote and people read what they wanted when it was published.

I think if I had certain people in mind every time I wrote something that would have driven me mad. That’s not to say that at times I wondered if I was making certain people proud or whatever, but I never wrote or phrased things in order to please any one person. It just came out, sort of like this, which I’m writing now.

Same with the comics, once I started writing for myself, I felt less pressure. I know there have been a few lately that maybe everyone doesn’t get. But that’s alright. For those that get the gag, it’s an inside joke.

Accidental fan art

Yesterday’s cartoon could almost be fan art of one my favorite strips right now, which is “Crabgrass” by Tauhid Bondia. I didn’t do it on purpose, but thought it looked like fan art afterwards.

Crabgrass is about two friends, Kevin and Miles, in the 1980s. I find it hilarious and enjoy following their adventures daily. It’s interesting to follow the kids who don’t have cellphones and all the electronics we have today. Like we did when we were kids, they spend most of their time and adventures outdoors.

You can read Crabgrass on GoComics daily here: gocomics.com/crabgrass

Here are a few samples:

Snoopy license plates!

The states of California is offering Snoopy license plates. The extra money raised goes to California museums.

“This street-legal, DMV- and PEANUTS-approved license plate features Snoopy doing his signature happy dance. Plates for cars, trucks, vans, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles start at just $50 ($103 for personalized plates).”

There are over 1400 museums in California.

I want one. Only I don’t live in California. 😦

The system is down

So I think I jinxed myself for doing that thermostat comic because the a/c had not been working for days. The guys that came out to clean the coils, screwed up everything. They came back a number of times, but still it would not perform correctly.

I did manage to get another company to come out Friday and they said the compressor was broken (which wasn’t like that before the other company got their hands on it). So now I need a brand new a/c, which I was expecting for years since it’s an old unit.

And it’s odd, but on Friday morning I woke up to no cable tv. I checked online and saw that the neighborhood was out. I called ATT Unverse just to get an ETA on the repairs. I guess when you are self isolating, tv is important.

But rather than tell me it was the neighborhood, some lady told me it was only my house that was down. She had me jumping through hoops for over an hour – turning the system off, rebooting, going through every tv in the house, disconnecting wires. She almost had me take one tv off the wall but refused.

She said she was going to send new dvr/cable boxes out, which would take a week. I asked her to send a cable guy out instead, she said they couldn’t do that. I said, “I pay you $500 a month for cable and phone service and you won’t send a repair guy here?” I asked her if she had ATT Uverse, which is out every other day, she said no. NO!

The other night I was watching something on the ID channel and just as they said, “The murderer is . . .” the tv went dead. Another time I was also watching a home make-over show and just as the reveal was coming on at the end, the tv went out! I just gave up and went to bed.

This reminds me of my old internet company – Earthlink. They used to host my business website. When the site went down, 99% of the time it was due to their servers being down. Which is fine, as long as it wasn’t me doing something wrong. But I would call up to check to be sure, and you know what? they never admitted it was the servers until making me jump through hoops first.

The first thing was always, “Do you have the site backed up? I am going to remove all 300 pages!” I would always yell, “NO!” Don’t do that.” They would have me then doing all sorts of things, rather than just say, “Yes, the servers are down, they’ll be back up soon.”

And we pay these companies all this money to jerk us around.

The thermostat

So you can probably guess where I got the idea of today’s comic if you’ve been reading this blog. I wrote about not having a/c a couple of weeks ago and that one of the culprits was the thermostat!

It’s one of those gags that makes you think. I like that in a comic sometimes, you know, it may go over some heads and not everyone may get it, which is ok, in that case it becomes an inside joke.

But for those who still don’t get it. It’s a thermos tattoo “thermos tat”, which is a “tat” these days. That’s what people call tattoos – tats.

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NCSFest

On Saturday I watched the NCSFest all day. It was a a cartooning festival put on by the National Cartoonists Society Foundation. It was storming outside, so it was a perfect day to stay inside. You can see over nine hours of the fest here on YouTube, watch the whole thing or pick and choose by scrolling through. The schedule is here so you can see what comes on when.

The main seminar/talk I was interested in was The Superstars of Instagram, I wanted to see how they work and mainly how they get so many followers. The Awkward Yeti, for instance has 1.8 million followers! I interviewed Nick Seluk, The Awkward Yeti cartoonist once, you can see that here.

I also liked the talk on Creating a Successful Online Cartooning Business.

There was a lot of good stuff. Jim Davis, the Garfield cartoonist spoke from his studio and so did cartoonists explaining their process from doing comic strips and panels to creating books.

In between, the yearly Reuben Awards, which are the Oscars for cartoons/cartooning, were announced. The ceremony and events were canceled this year due to the pandemic. Awards are given or best newspaper comic strip of the year, best comic panel, best greeting card comic, best online comic strip, etc. The Daily Cartoonist has a list of winners here. There is then the Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year, which went to Lynda Barry.

I love this photo of Lynda, a real artist. The desk looks so comfortable, like you can just sit down and create. I am messy, but since I do all my work digitally on a Surface Pro, it isn’t strewn with all these wonderful tools and inks and pens and such. I literally have to turn on the computer and wait for it to set up. I can’t just get comfy and into it like Lynda here.

Garry Trudeau says that cartooning is like a public utility – you just expect it to be there when you want it.

It’s all about the hat


Yesterday I published a cartoon about a fishing trip. At the last minute I changed the hat color. I liked the red, but then I thought that has a connotation now and I didn’t want it to become political. I like the look of the red better than the blue hat in the cartoon, but the blue hat is generic, the red, not so much.

Slide the arrow back and forth on the image above to see the two colored hats.

It’s interesting. Talk about branding. Just the color of the hat brings out such strong emotions.

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Life below zero

Yesterday’s “Ice Hole” cartoon got a big reaction and lots of shares on social media. I try to be cerebral but I guess the simpler and crazy ones are what the masses like.

This comic came to me while watching one of my favorite shows, Life Below Zero. I wasn’t really paying attention, I think I was dozing off, and I heard Chip Hailstone, one of the people on the show, say to his kids, who were going ice fishing, “Hey, there’s an ice hole!” And it made me look up and laugh and just totally struck me as being hilarious. And voilà – there was a comic idea.

I played around with it a bit. At first there was a bear hibernating behind a bush and he heard the guys say “ice hole,” and he looked up with one eye open. It was titled, “Trouble Brewing,” but I couldn’t get the image setting right, so I made it another ice fisher.

Oh yea, one more thing. People think those are women. They are men. But as I see them as women, I think it’s even funnier – sort of like Lucy and Ethel go ice fishing.

Slap dash and energetic

I read a recent review of a cartoonist who worked around the turn of the century – last century, and it said the cartoonist had a “slap-dash, energetic style,” which today’s reviewer liked. It made me take notice because one of the cartoon syndicate heads said that I draw too fast.

Would he have liked my work better if I drew slower?

I was fascinated that he said that because he never saw me draw, but he’s right, I do draw fast. It’s just the way I work. I watch movies and documentaries on cartoonists, as I mentioned in a previous post, and I see how slow they work. They are so meticulous with every line and I wonder how they ever get anything done at that rate. But they are syndicated and I’m not. So maybe there is something to the speed at which one works.

But look at the photo above, that’s me working at home – see that John Lennon painting? That’s a large 4′ x 6′ piece of art I bought at a charity auction years ago. It’s by an artist named Michael Israel. He does those “art attack” things, where he paints the image upside down in about 20 minutes, he turns it around and there you have an incredible piece of art! He works fast and comes out with masterpieces, so there may be something to slap dash and energetic.

Hand Drawn Life

I watched a documentary over the weekend called, “Hand Drawn Life,” it’s available on Vimeo and right here of course, and if you have a smart tv, you can watch it on large screen using their app. It’s listed as, “HDL_FINAL_FULL_Texted_1205” on Vimeo.

Hand Drawn Life just won a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award for best Independent Programming for its airing on KCET-PBS. It’s about the history of cartooning and interviews a number of cartoonists who talk about the craft, their work and the work of many others.

The past few years I’ve watched quite a few cartooning interviews and documentaries. Two great documentaries are, “Dear Mr. Watterson,” which is about Bill Watterson and Calvin and Hobbes. You can watch it on Amazon Prime and “Stripped,” which I got through a kickstarter a few years back, but I see you can purchase it here for just $4.99. Stripped interviews 70 cartoonists about the craft. They are both very enjoyable.

I also found a list of cartoonist interviews on Google here. I’ve watched some of these over the years, too.