Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Happy trails to you, until... we meet... again.

I arrived at Frog Farm a week ago, and it kinda felt like coming home. Returning to the farm is like returning to simplicity. Gone is the hectic routine of city life. Gone is it's complex obligations and varied pleasures. Instead it's straightforward work (taking care of animals, shoveling dirt, plastering walls) and simple pleasures (a homemade meal, fresh fruit, sitting around the campfire).

New interests replace old habits. Where once I spent upwards of 4 hours a day on the computer, now 1 hour seems indulgent. Farm-work is hard, and free time feels too precious to spend online. Wouldn't you rather go swim in the river? Or enjoy a hefeweizen and orange, while drawing in the shade?

This is a long-winded way of saying that I'm discontinuing the blog for a while. This doesn't mean that I'm putting illustration on the back-burner. It just means I'd rather spend time actually doing art, or reading a book, or making homemade ice-cream with farm-grown strawberries. Besides, I don't have a scanner to show y'all what I'm doodling anyway.

If the mood strikes, I may upload some farm photos or do a little creative writing over at my old blog. To my illustration buddies: keep doing what you do, and I'll return (with a lot more material and a few more chops) in Autumn!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On the Road, Day 1

I write this from a McDonald's, how exotic! (hey, YOU try finding a cafe, or anyplace with free internet in bumf*ck Texas!) Even worse, I just finished eating dinner here. Funny thing is I knew it would make me sick, but I did it anyway. Ugh.

Been driving all day, and I'm almost to outta Texas. A quick little jaunt through the panhandle of Oklahoma and I'll be in Colorado. A storm looks to be moving in from the west. Could hit rain. This photo taken minutes ago shows the scenic situation.

Rain sure would put a damper on things (sorry, couldn't help it :). I'm planning to sleep in the back of my truck which is protected by a camper shell. Unfortunately the truck bed is only 6 feet long, and I'm 6'3", so often I'll sleep with the tailgate down to accommodate my height. Not recommended if it's raining.

Today I got pulled over in Podunk, Texas for going 46 in a 35. If you know me you know I dislike authority and when confronted my first inclination is to rebel (or at least be rude), but luckily I've mastered these impulses and learned feign respect. Naturally, being where we were, the cop had a slow country drawl and macho swagger about him, but luckily since I'm white, relatively clean-cut, said "sir" and had all my papers in order, the cop let me off with a warning. Perhaps I'm stereotyping the officer, but as I drove away, I wondered if I would have been given the same leniency had I been black or hispanic.

Do you know that many gas stations don't offer water from the soda machines anymore? They make you buy the bottled stuff! Isn't that messed up!?

Ok, I'm rambling now. But consider how my only traveling companion is a dog and maybe you'll understand! The forced boredom does has its benefits though. Today I found myself daydreaming, visually journeying through a picture book I've been working on. It's fun. Kinda like working on a word & picture puzzle in your brain.

Til next time! (hopefully from a fancy french bakery!)

On the Road Again

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, my dog Brutus and I hit the road. We bid Texas farewell for the summer and head toward the cooler climes of Oregon, where we'll be earning our room and board on an organic farm. As I packed today and prepared my room to sublet, I snapped two photos I wanted to share. First, my collection of books.

And these are just the keepers -- the other half of my collection were sold to Half-Price Books for a mere $60. As I comb through my collection trying to anticipate which books I might want to have this summer (I can only take a few, after all), it makes me reconsider my aversion to ebooks. I like the feel of a real book in my hands, but wouldn't it be nice to have an entire library at my fingertips? And digital books sure are more environmentally friendly -- not only from conserving trees, but fuel from moving these heavy things around!

The next picture is the stack of sketchbooks I've gone through in the last 3 years (actually this isn't all of them... I found 5 or 6 more after I took this shot). My sparse style may lead some to believe that I just fell off the truck, but as this photo shows, my drawing technique has been hard won.

98% of the drawings on these pages are an embarrassment, but I think that's a good thing. It means progress, often rapid. While today I may be pleased with the images in my sketchbook, a year from now I might grimace at their amateurish quality. I sincerely hope so.

Well goodnight all! I'll try to do some blogging from the road. If not, certainly from the farm!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thoughtful Children's Books in the Internet Era

In a fascinating article for The Atlantic entitled, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", author Nicholas Carr, using anecdotes and neurobiology, argues that the Internet is remapping our brains, making us adept at skimming through vast quantities of information, but making it difficult to delve deeply into subjects and allow space for true insight. As he puts it:
"My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."
The premise of Carr's article (and recently released book) is compelling, and I find myself wanting to agree with him. When I was a (only)child I spent much time alone, climbing trees, daydreaming, and thinking a lot. I attribute these activities to making me the thoughtful (if not slightly neurotic) person I am today. But what about today's children? Is it possible to become a person of depth while being bedazzled by Tweets from such an early age? Is there any room for contemplation in the modern child's stimulus inundated life?

Since I first picked it up at 6 years old, The Giving Tree has been my favorite picture book. Among other things, The Giving Tree asks you to consider abstract ideas like time. It's a quiet book, yet beneath its subtly lay many complex issues and unanswered questions. Would a book like this sell anymore?

At the Austin SCBWI conference I attended this winter, a Bloomsbury editor came on stage and told us they're looking for "Funny, energetic picture books." Certainly The Giving Tree would not fit this category, not even perennial classics like Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, or Where the Wild Things Are. A large part of me is offended that nowadays books like these could be passed by publishers in favor of a loud, obnoxious pigeon -- but perhaps I'm just a grumpy old man, wrapped up in nostalgia and afraid of change. One thing for certain though: Our technology is affecting the way we see and relate to the world, and it's changing all fields, children's books included.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Photo Journal: Arizona is Contagious!

I saw this in the calendar section of the Austin Chronicle and thought it sounded fun. There's nothing like a good old fashioned protest to get the blood pumping.

When I arrived, the forces were gathering. The pro-SB1070 crowd, though colorfully dressed, were meager in number. There were almost as many "counter-protesters".

When the guardians of freedom, apple pie, and all things American began assaulting the air with country-western music, the counter-protesters knew it was time for business. Up the drive of the Capitol Building they marched.

Slurring racism and demanding justice, they pressed forward...

...undeterred by screaming harpies...

...or kindly old gentlemen shouting "GO HOME WETBACKS!"

Luckily, State Troopers we able to maintain the peace.

Noisy, noisy peace.

The officers didn't bother with riot gear. It was a warm day and besides, this is Texas.

Amazingly, I didn't see any signs bearing swastikas! When did protest signs become reasoned?

All in all, it was a good time had by everyone. They say Democracy is messy...

...but it's still the best we got.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Landlord,

For us, a 12 month lease is preferable - but I'm not sure how much we're willing to move on rent.

You must remember that the exact reason we stay here and tolerate the poor condition of the house is because of the affordable rent. The house is full of struggling artists and musicians who would prefer to pay less rent than live in nicer conditions. I think you'd have a hard time renting it to anyone else without doing some major renovations.

For one, not only is the foundation uneven (giving the floors a slight slant), but also there are literal holes in the floor (especially in the bathroom and kitchen) and cracks around the baseboards which allow all types of insects access to the house - especially cockroaches, which kinda freak me out. We're also visited from above by some kind of rodents living in the attic. It could be rats or even squirrels or possums that have found a hole in the roof. I don't know, but they sound big as they scurry around up there.

Also, the house is not energy efficient, and with 5 rooms needing 5 air conditioners and 5 furnaces, our utility bills are ridiculously high in the summer and winter.

Finally, I'd ask you to consider how despite the condition of the house, as long as I've lived here we haven't asked you for a single thing. We battle the pests as well as we can and we even do our own repairs, going as far as calling our own plumber and replacing a broken fridge.

All this said, I also understand that housing prices have risen in Austin, and don't expect that we should immune. If it means you'll sign another 12 month lease, I'll offer $1375/mo, up from $1250. If not, I'd prefer to rent on a month-to-month basis.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dan Piraro: Bizarro

Dan Piraro's work simultaneously inspires and makes me want to chuck all my pens into the garbage. It was comforting to learn that he's been syndicated (ie: 7 comics a week) for 25 YEARS! That's a lot of time to work on your craft. The good news, according to Dan: It get's easier over time.