Friday, September 30, 2011
The drawing was done in an old sketchbook with brush pen, Micron pen, and Prismacolor and Chartpak markets.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Throughout my life, I’ve been super lucky to collaborate with a lot of people – from co-workers to lifelong friends to other cartoonists and artists, even with students of all ages. I love mixing up work with folks and seeing what comes out in the end. There is always something to be learned. It is especially decent when you have a collaborative experience that flows seamlessly. Recently, I had an project like that.
A friend I work with, Mike Giacopetti, had ideas for a couple t-shirt designs. Mike is a good designer, and we have the same taste in teevee shows. He talked to me about collaborating on a “Sons of Anarchy” tribute shirt and a “Breaking Bad” themed shirt. I was eager to work with him, given the ideas. I’ve been watching Breaking Bad since it first came on. Sons of Anarchy is a show I just started watching that Joannie and her kids are really into. Tuesday has become our “Family Teevee Night” at 10 PM, especially since I never have work on Tuesday nights.
Mike came up with the concepts for both. He also designed the logo for the Chicken Brothers shirt. I did the illustration work using ink, Bristol, and tracing paper. I then scanned everything in and laid it out on the computer. All I had to do then was design a background (reminiscent of busted glass) and drop in the logo Mike designed:
As far as the S.O.A. fan art design, Mike did everything except the crow skeleton illustration. He designed a parody whiskey label reminiscent of the “Old Crow” bourbon label. If you click here, you’ll see he’s pretty dead-on. I did my ink illustration during Sunday’s Eagles game. Then all I had to do was scan it and drop it into place using Photoshop:
I am not sure if these shirts will ever get made, but it was fun working on them.
I did this really quick Groucho Marx birthday card for Mira, my supervisor and friend at work. She loves the Marx Brothers. Kinda cool because so do I and Groucho is always fun to draw.
Inside I wrote a quote from Groucho: “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it.”
I think I may watch Duck Soup this weekend.
Monday, September 26, 2011
This cartoon has all my favorite action figures from this movie from when I was a kid - except for the slave girl (I don't think they made a toy for her back then). I don't know if I will be able to use this drawing for anything. I just really wanted to finish it, since I also did one of the Mos Eisley Cantina creatures from the first Star Wars movie.
Friday, September 23, 2011
I shelved the sketchbook when it got filled up, then picked it back up again in 1998. I was working at a warehouse at the time. I’d been working there since the day I graduated college almost a year earlier. I was frustrated and awake to the fact that a college degree does not land you and instant high-paying job. So I decided to give myself projects on my own time to try and achieve some progress. Petey was the first big project I took on. I made the story into a children’s book with a very dark theme – child abuse. At the time, a Buddhist friend of mine took me into the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center to do art and music projects with kids who were victims of all kinds of crisis. My life was changed. Although I was amazed at the obstacles these kids overcame on a daily basis, I was also very angry about the abuse life had thrown on them. So I finished Petey as a children’s book. Sonia Sanchez, an amazing poet, friend, teacher, and human being, was kind enough to look at the book and give me some notes. She told me the book was too frightening, too “downbeat”, that it needs a brighter end. She was right, but at the time I was exhausted by the project, so I shelved it again to take a step back.
In 2002, four years after I shelved Petey, I read about the Xeric Foundation (please click here to read more if you are a self-publishing comics maker). I couldn’t believe that Peter Laird (of Ninja Turtles fame) was giving away money so people could create independent comics. My mind was grasping for ideas until I realized that I have a project that could be reworked into a comic. I took Petey off the shelf and spent a month redrawing panels, scanning the original art, laying out the images as comic panels instead of full pages. Between 1998 and 2002, I had learned a lot about Photoshop and other digital art programs. I used everything at my disposal to make a 32-page comic book, and I gave it the uplifting pieces it needed to not be completely downbeat as Sonia suggested years earlier. Also, a few artists and writers helped me with language and pacing. Lucky for me, members of the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society were nice enough to give me pinup pages to fill in the extra space I had (thanks, Andrew Hart, Andrew Hoffmann, Chris McD, Bob Dix, Scott Derby, and Alan Thomas). I whipped together my six proposal copies, got a price quote from a local printer, and sent everything off to the Xeric board.
Unfortunately, I was declined for the grant. Could be my print quote was too high. Could be my work wasn’t good enough. Whatever it was, I didn’t make the cut. When I inquired about it, I even received an encouraging phone call from A.C. Farley at Mirage Studios telling me not to give up. So I didn’t. I asked around all the indy companies about the least expensive place to get comics printed. Drawn & Quarterly turned me onto Westcan printing in Canada. Back then, in that economy, Canadian printing cost a fraction of what it cost locally. So I decided to go with Westcan and self-publish. My Dad was nice enough to lend me the dough for printing cost, (and I paid him back the day I got my check from Previews, the comics distributor). A guy named Chris Young worked with me to make printing my first comic go very smoothly.
I was about to send everything off to the printer, but almost didn’t when I saw “Goodbye Chunky Rice” in Fat Jack’s. I thumbed through the book and saw a turtle with a bindle leaving home and looking for love, and Craig Thompson did it brilliantly. Luckily, I was with Alan Thomas at the time, who ripped the Thompson book from my hand and told me to read it after I made my own book. Alan said that I’d worked too hard on this since college. He was right. So I sent it to print. I dedicated the book to my parents and the kids and staff at the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. My buddy Rich Marcej let me put the book on his Baboon Books imprint so distributors would carry it.
When I opened my first box of books – I’ll never forget that smell of fresh ink being unleashed from the box. It might be my favorite scent of all time (maybe even better than my Mom’s cookies or Christmas trees).
Sonia endorsed the book when I had a local release party, which made me feel pretty good. I officially released the book at the first annual Toronto Comic Arts Fest in 2003. I did okay with the Petey. It went to second printing, and eventually I even ran out of those doing festivals, conventions, and kids workshops. There was a time for a few years when I cringed every time I read it. Some of it is so young and so awful. The work shifts so drastically at parts because I took such long breaks in getting it to its finished state. But a few weeks ago, I looked for a copy and realized I had none left. I had to order a few from Mile High Comics. It’s been a couple years since I have seen the book, and I will tell you what – when I got that package in the mail, I got kind of psyched again. I didn’t cringe. I didn’t hate any parts of it anymore. It was my first solo book. I was proud of it, even with its bits of awfulness.
More than anything, Petey reminds me that I should be making another book.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
Rushmore has some great subtle humor and dry wit. It’s still hands-down my favorite Wes Anderson movie, and always makes me laugh every time I watch it. If you have seen it, you probably get the jokes incorporated into the shirt design. I tried to incorporate some signature visual elements from the film, like the colors of the Rushmore Academy uniform, Max Fischer’s glasses and beret, and the style of lettering from the signage on the school’s fence. I threw all this stuff into a drawing with Mount Rushmore (which actually has nothing to do with the film except the name of the school) and used the words “Sic Transit Gloria”, the only Latin that Max knows and uses to try and pick up a teacher.
Rushmore is a great “Back to School” movie, and one of Bill Murray’s best performances. If you haven’t seen it, you ought to check it out.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I don't spend nearly as much time there as I used to. But I still feel awfully welcome when I walk in the door. The bike messengers and hipsters may not know me. Neither do the kids who pack the place on the weekends, but the barkeeps and the locals do. I will always feel comfortable sitting and drawing cartoons at that bar. I found this piece from 2001 that was drawn at the bar while rocking cans of Pabst and shots of Jim Beam:
It was a flier for the bar. Frank, the manager at the time (and the guy responsible for scoring most of that vintage PBR swag way back when) wanted to do something nice to pay pack the bar's steady patrons. So he created "The Big Payback", a weekly event where he brought in free home cooked food. Sadly, the event started to draw a lot of starving addicts who popped out of the woodwork and disturbed steady patrons. So the Big Payback was a short-lived event in Bob & Barbara's history. But it was great that Frankie wanted to do that for his customers. Bob & Barbara's has always been diverse and experimental with their nightly events, from Bingo to Ping Pong to Pictionary to the Drag Show to live Jazz every week.
Above is a photo I took back around 2001 or 2002. I've sung the praises of Nate Wiley & the Crowd Pleasers many many times. They are my heroes. Nate and Cliff have passed, but Howard Candie, the greatest organist the band ever had, is still around. Lately, he has been having some health problems. So once again, Bob & Barbara's Lounge is giving back. Tonight, September 14, from 8 PM to 11 PM, there will be a fundraiser to help Howard and his family with their medical bills. Anyone who has ever heard Howard play has been amazed. He makes that Hammond B-3 shake the room like no other. If you know Howard's music, please come out and help him and his family out. They're great folks.
If you've never heard Howard, you can CLICK HERE to hear him on this documentary short made by local filmmaker Jim McGorman.
I came across some work in a sketchbook I was keeping at the time that has only been seen by a handful of people. So I really wanted to post it here. I was with coworkers finishing a conference in Ukraine when the planes hit. I lost count of the days while I was waiting to come home, sitting in a tiny hotel room glued to cable news channels. Like so many others a world away, I was in anguish, hopeless, helpless. I drew the following image in my sketchbok. Weeks later when I was home, I photocopied and photoshopped in images from magazines and newspapers I collected in Kyiv and the airports on the way home.
I was asked to write about the experience for Spirit Newspapers. I also collected a bunch of neighbors' and family members' experiences for the paper. You can read the article by CLICKING HERE.
I have a few other images from that sketchbook. They all lack focus and none are complete. I was so depressed afterward, it took me a while before I really wanted to draw. However, the long flights home to Frankfurt, then to Philadelphia were so stressful. Everyone on the planes thought everyone else was a terrorist. So I had to do something to keep my mind occupied. I couldn't wait to be home. I drew this escapist piece of two drunk dogs staggering home through the streets, singing. Sadly, given what just happened, this was my idea of Heaven at the time:
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Anyway, I think my Mom would be proud to know I found a way to use my art to work with her family. She loved the Milligans so much. Every time I write a story or draw a cartoon for the Spirit, I feel like I am making her happy. So I am really proud to partner with my cousins on these shirt projects. I have the opportunity to work with my family. Also, in my own way, I get to carry on the spirit of the school that was my home for so many years. Plus my cousin Gene coached North Baseball for years, as did the legendary Larry Conti and my buddy Tim Murphy. But if I were to say anyone inspired this, it would be my grandfather Jim "Pop" Kilpatrick. Pop was a ’37 graduate who lived for North Baseball.