A case of not using pencils

The title of this post is a play on the great website called, “A Case for Pencils,” where Jane Mattimoe interviews New Yorker cartoonists.

I’ve tried to be a New Yorker cartoonist, but they don’t even look at the submitted work. I have many things in the queue; many since April, just sitting there, awaiting attention. They get too many submissions, I guess.

I love reading how cartoonists create their work and it seems that most, if not all of the New Yorker cartoonists still use pen and ink, – or pencils, as the title says. Me, I am all digital.


If I was interviewed for this, I would have to say, “I get an idea, jot it down on a pad. Go back to it and try to decipher what I wrote down. Then draw up the comic on my Surface Pro, and ta da – it’s done. The sad part is that there is no original art.

Years ago, I would eat all that stuff up. I would get the pen nibs suggested by cartoonists I liked and I would buy the proper weight bristol board they suggested. I spent so much time at the art supply stores. I even had a discount card that gave me discounts for shopping there often. Now I can’t remember the last time I stopped into one of these stores.

I remember when I was in college, since I majored in art, I was constantly buying new and exciting things I never heard of – tools that were new to me. My store of choice was Rex Art Supply in Coral Gables, which is no longer there. They have been gone long before the digital age.

I remember before fonts and computers and stuff I would get fonts on sheets that I would rub off on paper. It was for a word or two or three, not for paragraphs or anything like that. I mostly used it make or clean up logos and things like that. There was a time I could look at any font and tell you the name, now I barely notice if I’m using Times Roman or Arial.

I have a box somewhere at my parents house, I think in my old closet, where I have so much of this stuff left over – font sheets, rulers, erasers, pencils, etc. I need to find that box. Open it. And take in the smell – the smell of yesteryear.

We all see it . . .

Yesterday’s comic was a hit – a play on the Progressive Insurance commercial. Most people got it, many from out of the country didn’t. It got so many comments, people really enjoyed it and apparently love the commercial.

Progressive Insurance saw it and they re-posted it on their Instagram account.

I almost didn’t use it. I didn’t like the way the skunks came out. I kept playing with it and didn’t want them to look like Disney or Hanna-Barbera characters. But I liked the gag enough to just go with what I came up with.

Here is the commercial for those who have never seen it. Here in the U.S. It’s on tv every other minute it seems, but we never get tired of it!

Spicy (and mean) food

Today’s comic, above, reminds me of this comic which was published earlier this year, with Dan Souza from America’s Test Kitchen.

I noticed this weekend that American’s Test Kitchen started the new season and it’s from everyone’s own kitchen. In other words, they are working from home. It works, but I miss the interaction between the people.

AIEEE! It’s Arnold

Every once in awhile, I think of the “Arnold” comic strip that I loved. It ran from 1982 through 1988. Arnold Melville and his friend Tommy Jordan were the main characters. The cartoonist was Kevin McCormick. If you click on these strips, they’ll open larger.

I read it daily in The Miami Herald. Arnold was this big nosed kid and lots of the activity took place in his school. His long suffering teacher was Mr. Arnold.

Almost daily, Arnold would screech out AIEEE! at the most inopportune time. Is there every an opportune time? It always made me laugh, it just came out at the right moment.

Most of the other characters spoke from outside the panels, you wouldn’t see them.

I think the strip ended too early, Kevin ended it, the syndicate didn’t drop it. Kevin had a big hawk fly in in the final strip and eat Arnold. Kevin regretted ending the strip and said it was too late, “the big bird swallowed.”

But again, look at Bobby Ewing and the shower bit. Maybe Arnold can reappear one day and the big bird sequence could just be a dream.

Every time I see these old strips, it brings me back to being a kid reading it. I can remember that period of time so vividly.

You can see some more samples of the Arnold comic here.

New lettering alert

Old lettering

I changed the lettering starting with today’s comic. What do you think?

The image above has the old lettering and the bottom image has the new lettering. I think the new lettering fits more in line with the drawing style.

If you saw today’s comic before seeing this blog post, did you notice it right away? Did it seem cleaner? Did it seem like something was different? Or did you just not notice at all?

What do you think? I’m interested in your opinions.

New lettering

Digital art taking vs pen and ink

Artist Tom Richmond, who you may know from Mad Magazine, and many other places, has a great blog post about original cartoon art, “Is Digital Killing Original Art?”

Well for one thing, digital art is original art, but of course Tom is referring to actual pen and paper art.

There are still many artists who prefer to use pen and ink, rather than draw digitally and it makes the original art even more valuable in the long run. But of course, most of the art these days, I daresay, is digital.

When I see original cartoon art at ComicCons, some very old, I often think, “Is this the last of it?” But I’m sure lots will show up over time, afterall, cartoonists had 365 drawings a year, so that is a lot of work over many years’ time.

I don’t remember when I went from pen and ink to digital, but I don’t think I will ever go back to pen and ink, digital is just so easy to work with, it makes the work go faster and the end results are basically the same – except for not having original art.

I remember when digital cameras firts came out, I couldn’t wrap my head arount the idea of not having film. “How can you not have film?” I thought. “What if I need copies of the images?”

To tell you the truth, in all my life, I don’t think I ever had copies of photos made after the first one was printed. Remember you used to get two prints of each one when they were developed?

Anyway, I took to digital drawing faster than I did to digital photography, which of course we all use daily now, taking pictures with our phones every few minutes. We all know what we ate these past few years, thanks to that.

But getting back to Tom Richmond, he says, “I really do find it sad that one of the major drawbacks of the rise of the computer as a tool for art is that less and less physical art is being created.”

Sad, but it reminds me of so many other things that are gone or almost gone – the sound of a typewriter bell, pay phones, handwriting, floppy disks, card catalogs, paper maps, landlines, and Mad Magazine, ironically, where many of us know Tom Richmond from.

One reason I like my old fashioned mechanic, who I mentioned the other day.

Snoopy and The Dakota

I took this picture in 2012 at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. I’m usually downtown more for the parade, but that year, I was at 72nd and Central Park West, right in front of The Dakota apartment building, which you can see here in the background.

This is one of my favorite photos. I love everything about it and there’s an interesting story about it that happened a day or two later.

After Thanksgiving, I was shopping around the Christmas Market down at Union Square and I stopped in my tracks. One guy was selling drawings of New York scenes and he had this exact scene you see above. He had the Snoopy balloon floating by the Dakota. Exactly! But it wasn’t the photo – it was a black and white drawing!

I don’t know why I didn’t buy it, but that was one of those instances where you are in the right place at the right time or something like that. I showed the photo on my phone to the guy at the booth selling the art and he was flabbergasted, too.

What I loved about that particular day when I was at the parade was that I was in the park. I had crossed over from the east side to the west side, but it was too crowded to get out onto the street, so I watched from inside the park. As I walked down to get to the train station to take the train to queens for my cousin to pick me up, I did it inside the park, and it was a strange experience. I was experiencing the parade almost from backstage. All the action was outside the park, but the leave-less trees allowed me to watch it through the branches from a distance, from inside the park; almost as if backstage, as if I was not actually at the event, but watching from afar. Hard to explain but very memorable.

Walking through Starry Night

I’m seeing a reason to visit Indianapolis. Something I don’t think I ever thought of.

Why? For THE LUME’s debut at Newfields in Indianapolis. Starting in June 2021, Australian-based Grande Experiences is featuring a cutting-edge experience where you can walk among Vincent Van Gogh’s work.

You can immerse yourself in 30,000 square feet of Van Gogh, where 150 projectors will turn paintings into a 3D world.

Walk among Starry Night, Almond Blossoms, Irises and Van Gogh’s self portrait among so many others.

These images of The LUME Indianapolis are courtesy of Grande Experiences

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: