Archive for the 'Character' Category

Storytelling and Bookmaking at 826

So, I’ve been doing some pretty cool stuff at 826LA! Never heard of it?


Well, once upon a time, there was a Pirate Supply Store located at 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco. Little did anyone know there was a secret room behind the store and in this secret room, amazing things were happening (kids were getting help with their homework after school and going there for field trips during the day for awesome writing workshops and all kinds of other cool stuff). Still, to this day, amazing things are happening at 826 Valencia and at locations all over the United States by way of “826 National.”

In the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, there is a Time Travel Mart (a mini-mart for all your time travel needs). It’s behind this mini-mart where I’m getting involved as a volunteer and working to get kids inspired about writing and storytelling.


Mostly, I’ve worked with kids six and seven years old in the Storytelling and Bookmaking field trips. What 826 has designed for these field trips is truly a bit of genius. The kids are told that they are visiting “Barnacle & Barnacle publishers, run by Mr. and Mrs. Barnacle, and thank goodness Mr. Barnacle isn’t in the office today, because he is the meanest boss in the world.” Lo and behold, partway into introductions, Mr. Barnacle’s grumpy voice breaks in over a loud speaker and the pressure is then on to create as many original stories as there are kids in the room, in order to please Mr. Barnacle and keep the lowly Barnacle & Barnacle employees from losing their jobs.

So if there are 20 kids in the room, how will they get 20 original stories? They all write 3 pages as a group (with some help from a “grownup” or two), bringing the story to a cliffhanger, and then each of them writes their own version of page 4, creating 20 unique endings.

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My friend Eric Layer pictured here at far left, co-leading an 826 field trip.

That’s not the whole story, however, and this is where I come in. While they are writing each of their first three pages as a group, I am illustrating those pages — live. I have to time my drawing so that I have just enough information to create an image and have it done by the time they finish their page. It goes pretty quickly and sometimes elements of the story change halfway through a page, so I have to keep my ears wide open while I’m working.

After they’ve finished their own endings (which myself and the other volunteers and staff help out with), they have lunch. By the time they’re done with lunch, their books are printed and bound, illustrations included, each student receiving a copy with their own unique ending and their author picture on the back cover. Like magic!



Here are just some of the “illustrious” titles I’ve had the pleasure of working on: “Eek! No, I Am Nice,” “Shark vs. Coyotes: An Ice Cream Contest,”  ”The Adventures of Mr. Squishyman and Poison Ivy Fairy Girl and the Wicked Lollipop Lunchbox,” and “Watch Out For Mr. Couch!”


A section of "Watch Out For Mr. Couch!"


Mermaid Man and his sidekick Michael the Dolphin confront the evil Mr. Couch's super couch in "Watch Out For Mr. Couch!"


Mr. Squishyman and Poison Ivy Fairy Girl fly through space in their flying saucer made of pizza in "The Adventures of Mr. Squishyman and Poison Ivy Fairy Girl and the Wicked Lollipop Lunchbox."


Alien shark brothers Danny and Sal live in hamburger houses in "Shark vs. Coyotes: An Ice Cream Contest."

The Write Stuff, A Sketch + Colors

We are approaching the final hours to score my design “The Write Stuff” on Threadless! I’ve gotten some pretty positive responses on this design (including enthusiastic words from friends at 826 National) and it will be really exciting if this is selected for print, but I’m calling on everyone to give it that extra push it needs to really stand out by scoring it a FIVE (if you haven’t done so already). Don’t have a Threadless account? Sign up for free here. Just for fun, I’m posting a sketch from the “making of” and a couple images of the design against the Silver tee color, as well as some alternate colors of tees. The colors of the design itself have not been altered here — just the shirt colors. Enjoy!

The Write Stuff

I submitted my first Threadless design last night! It is pending approval, but the page is online here:

The Write Stuff by artandstory

You can check back over the next couple of days to see if it’s approved and available for scoring (I hope you will give it a 5). I originally intended this for Threadless’s challenge for 826 National, but the deadline was midnight last night (Monday) and I only just found out about the contest on Friday, with little time to work on it over the weekend. So… I missed the deadline by a few minutes. Nonetheless, I felt it was a solid design, so I submitted it to the general area of Threadless for scoring. Since the normal cash prize for having a design selected for print is higher than the one for the 826 challenge, should my design go to print, I’m pledging to donate a portion of the award to 826 for providing me with the inspiration.

I’ve experienced the work that 826 National does firsthand, volunteering as a cartoonist for their Storytelling and Bookmaking field trips. It’s usually a class of first- or second-graders. They come in to 826LA’s location in Echo Park, behind the Time Travel Mart, and they write a story. I illustrate it on the spot! It’s given me some insight/reminder of the sorts of things that are bouncing around in their imaginations.

See also: 826 National

Where’s Osama? The Final Artwork


Here’s the final artwork for the previously-mentioned Where’s Waldo spoof “Where’s Osama?” I worked on in late 2007. I created this full spread illustration (set in Washington D.C.) and a cover design. I gained a new respect for the Waldo books. It’s tricky coming up with this many gags orchestrated in a single image. This was the job that convinced me to buy a new computer and a Cintiq. I drew all of this in pen on a large sheet of paper and scanned it with a large drum scanner, then colored it in Photoshop at high resolution. Even with a simple color scheme, my G4 “Yikes!” (PowerMac G4, circa September 1999) was choking on it the whole way.



This was shopped around to see if there was any interest in putting out a whole book of these. Unfortunately it never made it past the first spread, but it had great potential. The meter may have been running on the topical humor, with Bush on his way out of office and the Presidential race underway for 2008, but I can think of several magazines that this image alone would’ve been perfect for. Brush up on your ‘08 Presidential race, click the image for a full size version, and see if you can spot all the gags, political players of the moment, and Osama bin Laden! Watch out for the undercover CIA agents in turbans.




Here I am traveling through time and space and thought.

Drawn with Photoshop on Cintiq.


Here’s one of my first sketches on the Cintiq 12WX! I took a couple tries at drawing myself on the Cintiq before this one. I drew myself all bright and cheery, but it just didn’t look right. I felt like I was making myself look too good, and who wants to see that? So I pushed this one a little more and gave myself that look of desperation. This was an unscripted pose, but it seemed as though I might be in a confounded state of pleading or grasping to understand something fearful, so I added the “But…”

Sketchcrawl 18, Part III of III

UPDATE: More after the jump…

Continue reading ‘Sketchcrawl 18, Part III of III’

Sketchcrawl 18, Part II of III

UPDATE: More after the jump…

Continue reading ‘Sketchcrawl 18, Part II of III’

Sketchcrawl 18, Part I of III

UPDATE: More after the jump…

Continue reading ‘Sketchcrawl 18, Part I of III’

Jamie Pretty Jamie

I’ve been drawing upon various themes lately in my sketchbook, one of which is “pretty girls.” It’s not an unpopular subject among cartoonists and illustrators, in case you haven’t noticed, but it’s certainly a worthwhile one. That is, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s fun to study different types of women or qualities that I find attractive and try to translate that to a (at least somewhat) pushed, cartoony sort of character that still comes off as pretty or sexy somehow. It’s a subjective process. What it is that makes a person attractive can be an elusive sort of thing. It’s not always in the details, and there is no single type that best exemplifies beauty. I’ve mostly been exploring petite types and models or young women. Typical, but hey, that’s what I’m drawn to at the moment and that’s what I’m exploring. Beauty is personified in all kinds of people.
Of course, all that egalitarian sort of talk aside, the most important pretty girl in the world is my fiancée, Jamie. Here’s a drawing of her.

Noir Character

Here’s a noir guy for you. That slightly goofy rumpled detective who comes off as nothing but cool, due to his calm confidence, charisma, and cleverness (pardon the aliteration).

Late Nite Rocker

This is based on a guy I saw performing on Letterman last night. I don’t know who he is, but I liked his skinny shape.

Last Laugh?

It well could be this fellow’s last laugh. Here are some more ol’ timers from the doodle book. Geezers are fun to draw.

Me, Older and Fartier

Perhaps inspired by yesterday’s sketch of Jules Engel, I decided to take a shot at drawing myself as an older gentleman with his dentures out.

Jules Engel

I just came across this great archive of interview videos with Jules Engel, “Golden Era” Disney employee, UPA co-founder, and founding director of Experimental Animation at CalArts. He taught Christine Panushka, who would later become head of that same department. I had the privilege to study under Christine when I was 16 and attending the Animation program at California State Summer School for the Arts (at CalArts).
Some of Engel’s other students include John Lasseter, Henry Selick, Tim Burton, and Glen Keane, among many others.