Friday, July 28, 2017

The Combinatoric Project, Row 6: Dancing Characters

This is the sixth row of my combinatoric poster from 2003. Check here for the project description and formulae.

#36, Dancing Cuddly Animal.
Coffee, clinamen (not coffee), border, background, crosshatch, pattern.

#37, Dancing Mermaid.
Letter, shadow, contrast.

#38, Dancing Robot.
T-shirt, border, shading.

#39, Dancing Fat Cat.
Pizza, background, outline.

#40, Dancing Stick Man.
Party hat and balloon, border, shadow, crosshatch.

#41, Dancing Space Alien.
Contrast, pattern.

#42, Dancing Dork.
Whiskey, border, background, shading.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Combinatoric Project, Row 7: Characters Showing Off

This is the seventh row of my combinatoric poster from 2003. Check here for the project description and formulae.
#43, Cuddly Animal Showing Off. 
Flowers, contrast. 

#44, Mermaid Showing Off. 
Milk, beach ball, border, background, shading.

#45, Robot Showing Off.
Bowling ball, shadow, outline.

#46, Fat Cat Showing Off.
Flowers, border, crosshatch, pattern.

#47, Stick Man Showing Off.
Butterflies, background, contrast.

#48, Space Alien Showing Off.
Coffee(or tea), letter(message), border, shadow, shading.
Rest In Peace, Daevid Allen.

#49, Dork Showing Off.
Outline, clinamen (I am not a dork).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

From the Archive: The Combinatoric Project (Introduction)

This is the poster I published in 2003. All the contact info is out of date.
 Has it really been fourteen years?  In the early 2000s, I created this promotional poster inspired by work on combinatorics by Oulipo writers Italo Calvino, Georges Perec, and especially Harry Mathews, under whom I was lucky to study in a workshop he gave at DU circa 1998. (Deep thanks to Rikki Ducornet for getting me invited to that one!)

The poster shows a table of 49 cartoon drawings in which the columns determine the type of character: cuddly animal, mermaid, robot, fat cat, stick man, space alien, & dork; and the rows determine their action or mood: joyful, disconsolate, lost, enraged, sleeping, dancing, & showing off. Assignments on rendering style and format cycle through the pattern and algebraic formulae determine the distribution of props.

Thus, every second image has a border or frame. The rhythm isolated figure/figure plus background/figure plus cast shadow cycles, skipping one space on each new row. Rendering styles are outline/crosshatch/high contrast/full shading, cycling skipping two spaces on each new row. Patterns are employed for every l= 5.5n-3.

The distribution of props is as follows: Pizza, l= 11n-5. Coffee, l= 12n. Milk, l= 15n-1. Letter/Missive, l= 11n-7. T-shirt, l= 13n-14. Flowers, l= 12n-2 and l= 12n-5. Party hat & balloon, l=20n. Vaudeville hat & cane, l=20n-10. Bowling ball, l=12.25n-4. Cigar, l=15.5n-11.5. Whiskey, l=15.5n-3.75. (note: all fractions were rounded down to the nearest integer) Butterflies appear every fourth prime number (counting number one as prime). A beach ball bounces down the page beginning in panel 2 and bouncing alternately 2 across/2 down and 3 across/1 down.

A clinamen occurs every l= 13n-3. The clinamen, or swerve, is an important feature of combinatoric writing. It's where you break your own rules, violating some part of the assignment.

The challenge was to find the most elegant solution to each assignment of character, situation, style, and props. A couple of examples:

#17. Lost Robot with pizza and butterflies. We see a pizza delivery robot with a bent navigational antenna delivering pizza to an empty meadow.

#23. Angry Mermaid, clinamen. She's angry because she's not a mermaid but an actress, and the sailor who netted her aboard has ruined their movie.

An attentive viewer would be able to infer similar narratives throughout the poster, were such a person to exist.

Over the next week, I'll post each of the seven rows along with their assignment descriptions, last to first so it'll ultimately scroll front to back. Check back tomorrow for row seven: characters showing off.

Here's a bit of fun. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I made at least 2 math errors. Can you find them and post them in the comments? And here's a question: the sequence directs the images but they're not connected in time. So is it sequential art? Is it comics?

The framed original drawings are in the collection of Dennis Pimple, a longtime champion of obscuro pictofiction. The drawings, as you see, are tiny.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Student Spotlight: Jeremy Fuscaldo

Inking Comics student, Jeremy Fuscaldo, is on fire lately with his comics, animation, and fan art. Jeremy let us use images from his Amelia Enmity comic for our promotions in The Comics Journal. A gorgeous drawing of his was featured recently on Disney XD.

It's a  thrill watching my students develop their styles and make connections in the field. Stay tuned for more examples.

Continuing Education courses are an affordable way to build an arts education "a la carte," on one's own schedule. Summer classes are enrolling now: Inking Comics on Tuesdays, Figure Drawing for Cartoonists on Wednesdays, Cartooning Basics on Thursdays. Join the fun!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Cartooning from the Model

As the name indicates, my Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course at SVA alternates between three subjects. Some days we focus on the figure-- the skeleton, muscle groups, feature spacing, forces, dynamism,... Other days it's about the rules of drawing-- creating illusions of depth and form in perspective, effective staging of poses,... And some days are for cartoonists-- methods of figure construction, cartooning styles, body language, costumes, and the comic format.

My favorite session is the one where we have a costumed model perform with props while the students improvise a comic short story. We begin with a close look at the work of Alex Toth, who mastered the art of integrating inventive panel compositions with speech balloons and other graphic elements. Students are given five minutes per panel to format their life drawings into comic pages with impromptu dialog, captions, motion lines and sounds.

I usually carve out time to take part in this exercise for the reason that it's really, really fun. This latest example doesn't quite cohere, but it's still a pleasure to try matching snappy dialogue to effective camera angles.

Come say hi at the SVA info session this Thursday. Figure Drawing for Cartoonists runs on Wednesdays starting June 7. There's also Inking Comics on Tuesdays and Cartooning Basics on Thursdays.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cartooning Basics Comic Jams

This jam began in last semester's undergraduate Short Form Comics class and was completed in Cartooning Basics this spring.

Jam comics have long been a way for cartoonists to have fun together and ameliorate the solitude that accompanies this kind of work. Working with my Hector gang in the 1990s, I helped develop rule-governed jams to make the games more interesting. By the early 2000s, Matt Madden and I worked out a master list of 13 simple jam rules to share with our classes. These can be found on page 13 of his Drawing Words and Writing Pictures. Matt has more to say about it on his DW-WP blog.

I keep a pile of unfinished jams in my locker @ SVA. On the last day of the Cartooning Basics course, a publishing session followed by fun and games, one of the activities we often get into is circulating the jams, nudging them forward, and launching new ones. 

One reads the list of rules, takes a six-panel page, writes a chosen rule in the margin (or invents a new, self-explanatory rule and writes that), and creates the first panel.

Students find themselves interacting with other cartoonists, often across a span of years.

These kind of activities stimulate the imagination and test one's skills. As they say in the Oulipo, constraints are liberating!

Summer classes are enrolling now. Inking Comics runs Tuesdays, beginning June 6. Figure Drawing for Cartoonists runs Wednesdays, beginning June 7. Cartooning Basics runs Thursdays, beginning June 8. Come to the Information Session on Thursday May 18 to learn more: 6:30-8:30 pm, 209 East 23D St., Room 311, 3D floor.

Come play!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Praise for Cartozia Tales

Here's a recent, substantial review of Cartozia Tales from Rob Clough's blog, High-Low.

Rob praises the series for its "ambition, playfulness, formal daring and fun"  and goes on to say, "that level of sincerity, effort and creativity is a remarkable tonic to the level of cynical, money-making tropes that I see in so much YA fiction."

He names me the creative team's secret weapon, for my "relentless commitment to formal experimentation" and "proclivity for whimsy and wordplay" (though he still doesn't like my scratchy ink work).

It's been a great run, but we're winding it down now.

We're working away at our climactic final issue (honest!), but we need more subscribers to get over the finish line. Please join us and tell your friends, too. They make great gifts for literate kids, y'know.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sketches from the Anti-Trump Tax Protest, 4/15/17

After teaching a Saturday morning kids' class, I made it to Bryant Park for the crowded protests and did a bit of sketching:

Packed into the park, "overlooking" the street.

After the speeches, the marching began.

When the crowd finally cleared, I could see the stage.

I later doodled some impressions from memory.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

MoCCA Sketches

Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman urge you to submit to the second volume of their political anthology, Resist!
 I managed to do some sketches at this year's MoCCA Fest and include them in a blogpost I wrote for the School of Visual Arts' Continuing Education blog.

Speaking of, my summer CE courses begin in June and are enrolling right now: Inking Comics is on Tuesdays this summer, Figure Drawing for Cartoonists is on Wednesdays, and Cartooning Basics, Thursdays. I'll be at the info session May 18th. Come join the fun!

The panel, Teaching Comics Internationally with Ben Katchor, Jessica Abel,  Merav Soloman, and Bill Kartalopolous.
MoCCA Guest of Honor, Blutch, also spoke at the New York Comics and Picture Story Symposium.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's Real

A version of this drawing was included in Smoke Signal's special issue, "Resist!", debuting at the Women's March on Washington this weekend. Many thanks to editors Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman and publisher Gabe Fowler. This is the version that'll appear at

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Living Doll-- another improv comic.

Here's my comic, quick-sketched from a performing model, from last semester. This one's a bit wiggy, though I think it has its moments. It was the day after the election and I hadn't slept for 36 hours. You know how that was.

This is an exercise we do in the Figure Drawing for Cartoonists course. When I do it, I work in ink only, as we practice in the Inking Comics course. Both classes start next week! Come join in the fun.