Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ITCHY KEEN Interview

If you'd like to listen in on a chat between myself and 2D Cloud's Raighne and Meghan, go have a peek over at their new blog, Itchy Keen Art Fiends. Better yet, check out their other interviews, like this one with Lupi!

Kerouac Fan Art

Here is a painting/drawing I did recently for a fellow Kerouac fan. It was fun to have an excuse to pull out my high school Kerouac books which had kept me company during the long bus rides to nordic ski meets. Anyway, this painting is a composite of two photos, both taken from Steve Turner's great scrapbook bio, Jack Kerouac: Angelheaded Hipster.


This was done on cold press watercolor paper, starting with a coffee stain base (pretty weak coffee, by the looks of it). I then made the mistake of doing the line work first (rapidograph pen with brown rapidograph ink), with watercolor on top.

As you can see, the watercolor paint made a mockery of my lines. So if I try this again I'll need to lay down the color first, then the lines, but that's a pain in the ars. One other thing, the rapidograph nib did NOT like drawing on watercolor paper, ostensibly because of the rough terrain it had to maneuver over. I tried finding as smooth a press as possible, but no luck. If anyone out there has any suggestions for watercolor paper that marries well with technical pens, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mini-Comic Process: Zander Edition

After reading Kevin's post about his minicomic creation process, I thought I might go ahead and post an account of my radically different approach.


I'd been posting quotations by my son Jin on my Facebook wall every day via my phone, and people kept bugging me to collect them, or draw them, or do something with them, which was quite at odds with my instinct to not put forth any more effort. But then I had to come up with an idea for Lutefisk Sushi D, and here was one staring me in the face.


I wanted to keep things simple, so I decided to make a standard quarter-sheet 8-page mini, and draw it at 100%. Like Kevin said in his post, drawing at size can give you a nice grittiness that, I like to think, lowers expectations to a palatable level.

I decided to grab several of the best quotations from my Facebook page and draw two per page, except for the first and last pages. I also decided that I'd write Jin's dialogue extra big, just to look nice (and to use up space).


In order to make a printable comic original (rather than organizing it on the computer and introducing another reproduction step), I had to figure out how to paginate the pages so after cutting and folding they would go together into a little magazine. So you have to put everything in a crazy order.

You discover this order by basically taking a scrap piece of paper and folding it in half twice. This represents your minicomic, albeit one with the tops of the pages still attached. You then number each of the pages as you flip through it. After unfolding, you get two sides of the sheet looking like numbers have just been randomly applied. This is your guide for where to put each page. Don't forget that the cover is page 1 and the back cover is page 8.

Now, I've made a lot of minicomics in my day, and I'd say I have above-average spatial reasoning skills, so I winged it a little on this part. This is foreshadowing.


I drew the comic. It took me a day--about 6 hours. I redrew the cover, which I had drawn in brush, because it looked sloppy, and because in the course of the pages, I refined my model for Jin. I used reference for Gamera (a toy) and the flowers (photos on my phone).

For the final art, after the redraw, I used Micron pens (#05 and 08 for the main outlines, #01 for the details, #1 for the panel borders, and #05 for the lettering, big and small). I pencilled just enough to get the idea across, which for images of Jin was just basic lines, and for things like the flowers, Gamera, the fly, and the clothes meant just a bit more detail and shading where the black areas went. I also filled in the big black areas with small pens (#05 and #01), which is not really recommended, because it wastes ink in those pens and leaves you with tiny white holes in your big black areas. But that was precisely the reason I did it; it gave the comic a rougher look, and reminded people of the tools used. That can be fun sometimes.


Since I redrew the cover on another sheet of paper, I cut that out and taped it down over the original cover so as to keep the two-sheet originals just as they were. I was determined to just photocopy the originals. Why? I mentioned the fact that scanning them would just be one more stage of reproduction (and thus incrementally lower the image quality), but the truth here is it's more work. By scanning it in and futzing with it in Photoshop, I'd touch up the edges, then I'd see some other stray pieces of dirt that got scanned in, then I'd find a place where I hadn't erased the pencils fully, and well, I'd rather just leave those mistakes in there and photocopy the original. It's more true to the quick-and-dirty nature of minicomics. MY minicomics, anyway.


I went over to the UPS Store/Mailboxes Etc. that's about a mile from the studio. I like the UPS store because they have decent no-frills photocopiers and a seamless method of storing credits for photocopies. You can buy bulk copies at discounted prices and store them on a tiny key fob, which you then use to activate the copier. You don't even have to talk to the people there; just raise your keyring and arch an eyebrow at them and you're in. It's like the Freemasons.

I like to use colored paper for my minicomics because it classes it up a little bit. It also distracts from flaws in the line art or photocopying, like stray dots of black here and there. Chiefly, however, it differentiates each minicomic from the others. When I'm packing them all up to go to a comic convention, it's nice to just grab a stack of blue minis, a stack of yellow minis, a stack of pink minis, etc. One thing that was nice this time was that I was copying my minicomic onto 8 1/2 x 11 paper, of which they have a lot of different colors. Usually, my minicomics are copied onto 11 x 17", which most copy places only have in white, so I have to go to a paper supply place and buy a ream of whatever color I want.

The first thing I did was copy one side on white just to see how the art looks and see if the contrast was okay on the copier. There were a few pencil lines and paper edges that needed to be touched up. Once those were fixed, I made all the copies I needed for that side on colored paper. Before loading them into the tray to copy the other side, I needed to quickly test how the paper feeds into the machine. I draw an up-arrow on the top sheet in the tray, then copy. By noting how that up-arrow corresponds to the new image, you can know in what orientation to put the one-sided sheets.

Then, just to be certain, I copied a full dummy-copy, front and back, then cut it and folded it. Ah, here's what it'll look like. I was just thinking that this step was overly cautious when...what the crap? These pages are out of order! I'd actually screwed up the order of the pages. On like my 15th minicomic! Luckily for me, the order of the content on the pages didn't actually matter, so I used whiteout and changed the page NUMBERS and refrained from kicking myself until I was somewhere more private. So let that be a lesson to you. Do not wing it.

Once I got all of this sorted out, I finished the copying and cut the sheets (4 at a time, which I had non-scientifically calculated to be the maximum allowable before messing up the cut), paid the people for the colored paper, and got the hell out of there.


Once the comic is cut, you need to put the two smaller sheets together to make a comic. Doing this for more than 20 copies is a pain, so get ready. What I like to do is fold all of the papers first. Make sure you're folding them all the right way. You can do this in big sections, like 20 sheets at a time. They don't have to be creased, just folded a little bit, in the right place. Then, when you have both stacks folded, sitting in two little tents on your desk, you can quickly put them together, crease them, and set them in a stack. This is a seemingly endless process. You may want to listen to some music or get some serious thinking done about your life.

Once you have all of your books folded and in a stack, you can go through and staple them. Obviously, you could have done this as part of the previous step, but I prefer to separate them because when you only have a few little movements (grab first sheet, grab second sheet, put together, align, crease) you tend to get that muscle memory involved sooner, which gets the process moving pretty fast. Your mileage may vary.

As Kevin mentioned, a regular-sized stapler isn't big enough to accommodate even a 4 1/4"-wide minicomic, so you are going to need to find yourself a long-arm stapler or a booklet stapler. We have both at the studio. The booklet stapler has a little "roof" for you to put the folded sheets over which ensures that you always get the staple right on the spine. That's nice, and it speeds up the process immensely. If you're making a minicomic that's really wide (some of mine have been 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" in the past) you'll have to curl the pages a little bit to get them to fit, which isn't so bad, but in that case a long-arm stapler may be better.

Et VoilĂ ! This minicomic will be part of the Lutefisk Sushi D Bento Box. Come one, come all, to the opening gala on August 6, 2010!

Last Minute Sushi Submission?

Fellow MN cartoonists: If you are planning on submitting a mini-comic for Lutefisk Sushi but don't think you'll make today's deadline, don't fear. We've received numerous emails from people just on the cusp of finishing, but who need a few more days.

If that sounds like you, please do the following:

1) Register yourself and your comic here:

2) Email contact [at] to let them know that you have a submission coming, and when.

3) Print up your 160 minis within the next week or so and get them to Altered Esthetics (1224 Quincy St NE, Mpls MN 55413) during their office hours (Tuesdays & Thursdays 1pm–7pm, Saturdays 1pm–5pm) or by mail.

As always, for more info go to:


Friday, June 11, 2010

Lutefisk Sushi Comics Due Next Week!

From what I've seen on Facebook and Twitter, many cartoonists out there have finished or are wrapping up production on their 160 mini comics for Lutefisk Sushi Volume D. If you've put it off for the last four months, just know that you're down to your FINAL WEEKEND.

** If you have any last-minute questions
about the production or submission process,
let me know in the COMMENTS section! **

Once you have finished your comics, there are three main things to do:

  1. REGISTER YOUR MINI-COMIC on Altered Esthetic's website (that's the gallery that will host the Sushi show this August):

  2. SUBMIT YOUR 160 MINI-COMICS to Altered Esthetics Gallery, either by foot or mail. The address is:
    Altered Esthetics
    1224 Quincy St NE, Mpls MN 55413
    Tuesdays & Thursdays 1-7PM
    Saturdays 1-5PM
    (612) 378-8888

  3. Start thinking about what FRAMED ARTWORK you'd like to submit to the show. Artwork should be framed in black. No glass, please.
    Submit artwork to Altered Esthetics no later than the Artist's Potluck, July 31st, 1-3pm.

ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED about Lutefisk Sushi is available here:

... and to everyone who is finished: CONGRATS!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Good Minnesotan No. 4 Sets Sail

We've had all kinds of neighbors here at BTA headquarters, from magnet impresarios to world-famous photographers to cash-only flesh kneaders. But our favorite neighbors by far were Raighne and Meghan Hogan -- aka 2D Cloud -- who used to work right next door. You may recognize the Hogans as the publishers of the Good Minnesotan anthology series, which over the years has showcased some of the best local comics around, much of it experimental and edgy.

I'm happy to say that 2D Cloud has asked me to contribute to the fourth (and from what I hear, FINAL) installment of Good Minnesotan. My story is sadly not as experimental as the others, but if you want to read a condensed biography of the greatest sailing vessel to ever be built, then you won't be disappointed. The story is called A Brief History of the Fram: And the Men Who Loved Her, and as the title suggests I highlight the three Norwegian explorers who sailed her the farthest north and farthest south of any wooden ship in history. They are:

Fridtof Nansen, who locked Fram in ice and tried to drift with her to the north pole:

Otto Sverdrup, who failed to reach the pole but ended up mapping much of the Canadian arctic:

Roald Amundsen, who set out to reach the north pole, but turned around and reached the south pole instead:

Good Minnesotan No. 4 comes out this August during MIX, but we need your help! Raighne and Meghan are raising funds via kickstarter, which recently helped fund Sarah Mirk's history comics project. If you're on the fence, at least check out this cool vid that Raighne produced, and if you look closely you can see him flip past my story!

Let the countdown begin!