“Little Nothings” — that’s the title for a book Maurice Sendak was working on when he died- based on Mozart’s first ballet.
Today is the anniversary of Maurice’s birth 86 years ago.
In the last year of his life, Maurice became an adopted grandfather and we chatted weekly on the phone. I transcribed bits of his conversations, almost all of which are too personal or vulnerable or hilariously vulgar to share here on the blog… but to commemorate his birthday, I found something petit. On July 31, 2011 speaking of his other project left unfinished – “THE NOSE BOOK”, Maurice said,
“I am writing something. A door is opening — moreso a WINDOW is opening. It’s FUNNY. I’ve never written anything funny before. No tragic overtones… just plain silly. But I’m not gonna judge it, or condemn it. … Which is very unlike me.”
The photo is with my dear cartoonist buddy Aaron Renier
who introduced us in 2011.
In a later conversation, Maurice said, “I’ve been feeling fetid in my efforts at writing. Feel as if the creative spirit has departed. It better not leave me or I’ll have a SHIT FIT!” That’s how I was feeling when I left for France – I’m in Paris today – taking a breather from SPACE DUMPLINS to work in a sketchbook outside the studio again.
One more: “You just gotta get old and whatever was unattractive about your work is suddenly all right. Everything becomes silly.”
Still miss him everyday.
Related to the straight-to-sketchbook project mentioned in the last post, I’ll be spending the month of June in France. While there, I’ll also participate in the Amiens BD festival and the Lyon BD festival to compensate for my abbreviated French presence during 2011’s HABIBI book tour. As some may recall, the French edition of HABIBI was late from the printers and so I’d done press at that time, but no signings.
To prep for travel, my friend Lucie is tutoring me in French. Here’s a little excerpt from my study notebook — a homework exercise to “write (& draw) a dialogue with two (or ten) characters” in which Little Zacchaeus (from CARNET and SPACE DUMPLINS) interacts with references from some favorite bande dessinée – including PETIT VAMPIRE VA À L’ECOLE by Joann Sfar, LES OGRES by David B. & Christophe Blain, CÉFULUS by Ludovic Debeurme, and SALADE NIÇOISE by Baudoin. (Translated or not, it makes no sense.)
Thanks for the reminder about the Cintiq post, Dan. As mentioned back in August 2013, I’ve been experimenting with the Wacom Cintiq as a way to shake up & expand my working methods. The 13″ felt too cramped & claustrophobic, so early this year I upgraded to a 22″ Cintiq on an Ergotron arm – inspired by Fiona Staples, whose work on SAGA I admire.
For the past couple of months, I wrestled with the machine & have settled on a compromise common among comics pros – I pencil the pages digitally, then print out blue lines and ink on actual paper.
The advantage of digital penciling is I can see a chapter all at once (top right photo), cut&paste, zoom in close, edit on the fly, and work standing up (top left photo, avec Momo). But digital inking still looks too slick to me — I prefer the flawed & tangible qualities of fussy sable brushes on paper. Foot in both worlds!
Finally, my advice to young cartoonists is to keep it organic & raw and not get bogged down by plug-in devices. In a month, I’ll be starting a direct-to-sketchbook project like CARNET DE VOYAGE to relearn working on the fly outside the studio.
This morning’s clutter on the drafting table – inking several SPACE DUMPLINS pages simultaneously. Also my friend Kazim Ali is in town for a reading from his new book SKY WARD at Reed College TONIGHT (6:30 Elliot Hall Chapel) for those of you in Portland. Here he’s writing Arabic on my new Cintiq (more on that in some future post… As evidenced above, I’m still inking with actual India ink & brush.).
Finally, this just arrived in the post – BETA (…civilizations volume 1) by German cartoonist Jens Harder. In this intricate, mind-boggling, coolest possible coffee table book, Jens catalogues the history of human evolution & civilization. Every image in the 365 page tome (apparently the first in a trilogy) is sampled from existing media – cave paintings, etchings, pottery, photographs, film, comics, etc. then redrawn in Jens’ meticulous brush lines. For those of you who thought HABIBI was nuts, this takes it to the next level. Speaking of which, here’s a page that references HABIBI in the development of written language.
A favorite page of mine groups CHRIS WARE alongside Caravaggio, Courbet, and Magritte to name a few.
Just wanted to share some of the incredible work Dave Stewart’s pouring into the SPACE DUMPLINS colors.
We decided the palette was getting too muted & subdued, so he’s tweaking the pages just enough to infuse the grimy dinginess of outer space clutter with a burst of cartoony, kid-friendly levity. Previous incarnations on the left – updated versions on the right.
In other news, I realized that today is the exact ten year anniversary of my CARNET DE VOYAGE travel & book. To celebrate, I dug around for a photo or two, but they were sparse, because as noted in the back of the book, zero cameras were used in the creation of it. It is my unaltered travel diary begun March 5th, 2004 and ended May 14th, 2004. The week following, my buddy Frédéric and I scanned the three sketchbooks and layed out the book in Lyon, France – no edits other than a proofread from my non-native English speaking friends.
After spending 6-7 years on HABIBI, I can’t fathom that I created a book in less than three months. It helps to not make anything up, not edit, not use any photo reference, and avoid penciling as much as possible. First scruffy photo is in Morocco on the journey to Merzouga.
The second photo was provided by Lewis Trondheim – me drawing on the beach in Montpellier, France: young, naïve, skinny & shirtless.
One of my favorite comics growing up was USAGI YOJIMBO. Its creator Stan Sakai is humble, hardworking, and perhaps the kindest person I’ve met in this industry. His wife has been suffering serious health issues, so an art auction fundraiser has been organized to aid the family with medical expenses.
Here’s my tribute – crafted this snowbound weekend in Portland. The inspiration was 1) the unrequited romance of Usagi & Mariko from the earliest 1987 issues of the book, along with 2) the tradition of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints (specifically “Two ladies conversing in the snow” & “A village in the snow” by Hiroshige), and finally 3) the snow-dappled tree framed by my studio window as the neighbor kids sled down their front yard.
To learn more about the fundraiser and the other artists involved, please check out the Cartoon Art Professional Society’s Paypal.
The work will also be colored by the amazing Dave Stewart and see print in THE SAKAI PROJECT book to be published by Dark Horse and Bongo Comics (July 23rd release).
Unearthed some more childhood art that wasn’t lost in the BLANKETS burn barrel. This one’s another scroll (see slumgutso
and scrambled seaweed) drawn circa 1983 in Mrs. Kamenick’s third grade classroom at Marathon Elementary – Wisconsin.
I was nine years old and all fired up about RETURN OF THE JEDI (note the belt buckle matches the jersey).
This is exactly the sort of nerd-ball enthusiasm I’m trying to channel for the upcoming SPACE DUMPLINS.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, BLOG-FRIENDS!
After HABIBI promotional travel, 2013 was the year of hunkering down to craft the new book – SPACE DUMPLINS. It began with an injured hand, tossing the first batch of inks, revising the script, then drawing 135 pages of final art to be colored by Dave Stewart.
Just this week, CHAPTER THREE saw completion.
154 more pages to go to finish SPACE DUMPLINS – the big goal for 2014. Thanks to all of you for your continual support & sticking with the Doot Doot Blog. Here’s a reminder of previous New Years on this forum: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. A toast to a cozy & productive year for us all!
After getting home from three weeks in LA, I have a couple events unfolding in the Portland area.
1) The local launch for First Second’s FAIRY TALE COMICS with cartoonist (and Laika storyboarder) Graham Annable at GREEN BEAN BOOKS. 1 PM on Saturday, September 28th (1600 NE Alberta Street, Portland). More on that anthology – a sequel of sorts to NURSERY RHYME COMICS – here.
2) A two-way stage conversation between Gene Yang and I to scour the crossover themes of our coming-of-age memoirs (AMERICAN BORN CHINESE) and historical, religious epics (BOXERS & SAINTS) at the WORDSTOCK literary festival. 3 pm, October 5th, Oregon Convention Center.
Hope to see you locals there!
Friends of my brother, GROW ANTHOLOGY, make sweet skateboards out of recycled paper, and they’ve launched a KICKSTARTER campaign to produce their first run of artist-edition boards – THE CHUNKY SHARK CYCLE! It’s limited to only 250 boards… Chunky and Dandel graphic laser-etched into the top of the deck… made sustainably from recycled paper from a paper mill in my home town! They’re a flexy-fluid longboard ride or an object of art for display. Please, do check in to support the Chunky Shark Cycle Kickstarter and get stickers, t-shirts, decks, complete boards, or purchase my original art. Exciting to merge the two passions of my youth – comics and skateboarding!
(PS: Start following progress on the new book at: <http://instagram.com/spacedumplins> )