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Babar’s Dream (The Dark Thoughts Fleeing)

The Dark Thoughts Fleeing (Babar's Dream)
My mom recently sent me this email about my last blog post, The Dark Thoughts Approaching:

"The Dark Thoughts look a *lot* like the bad dreams in the Babar book that  scared you when you were little. I couldn’t possibly put this on your blog—everyone would know your MOTHER was doing it. But it really struck me.—Love, Mom"

Thanks, Mom!

Above is the illustration from the book, Babar the King (Le Roi Babar) by Jean de Brunhoff.

Apparently I was about three or four years old when this frightened me. I don’t really remember being afraid of it, but just looking at it as an adult, I can see how it might have disturbed me as a child. Brunhoff’s creatures are truly demonic looking. There’s a primal and vivid wickedness in these, however kind of obsurd or cartoony. And though they’re supposedly being driven back, perhaps to some underworld, I’m afraid they may be driven right off the page and into our world. But I’m able to revel in these images now. The embodying of the respective concepts (fear, despair, spinelessness, etc.) is genius and done with such beautiful simplicity. Wild imagination really gets to shine here (even if it does scare little kids).

Don’ Trip

Don' Trip
A new tool arrived on my doorstep Saturday: the Kuretake brush pen. It’s essentially a fountain pen with a brush tip. I’m so impressed with the elegance and quality of this pen! Thanks to John Sanford for the tip. I’m delighting in the smooth flowing thick and thin and just experimenting with the various qualities of line it’s capable of. The above drawing was done with the Kuretake, as were the drawings in my previous two posts (”OMG LOL” and “Sad Toad Man”).
This one, as is the case with a lot of my drawings, is largely the result of just experimenting with line. I happened to draw a character on the right and began playing with abstract line on the left. As the abstracts evolved, I began to see a relationship between the two. I imagined that the abstract stuff was something this character was seeing. A drug-induced hallucination, perhaps? Or maybe the result of sheer psychosis or a hyperactive imagination? Or perhaps it isn’t so literal. Maybe we are seeing a representation of his emotional state. The odd thing is the disparity between the wild quality of the abstracts and the extremely sedate expression on the guy’s face. I imagined he’s trying to stay cool in the face of all this really crazy stuff he is either seeing or thinking or feeling. “Don’ trip,” he tells himself. Don’t trip.
This video I saw last week of Oliver Sacks in 1986 is still resonating with me and the above drawing/painting brings to mind, yet again, the quote which turned up in one of my doodles:

“One way or another, people want to live creatively and they want to live vividly.”


These are some sketches from my ongoing quest to find the cartoon me. I am still warming up to doing some autobiographical or semi-autobiographical illustrated tales (a.k.a., “comix”) at some point. Note: The character in the bottom right is not me. I don’t know who that is.
I’m in the process now of compiling a list of story ideas and there are a lot more than I thought there were. I’m keeping them in a journal I’m calling “Short Stories” in homage to Roald Dahl. In a story by Dahl titled “Lucky Break — How I Became a Writer” (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More), he explains that he kept a journal bearing the name “Short Stories” and whenever he’d get the inkling of an idea for a story, he’d jot down a line or two. He kept it very simple and straight forward. Just, as Dahl described it, the “slender threads” of a plot. Almost every story he ever wrote started out as a thought written down in that journal.

Monterey Cypress

Monterey Cypress
I paid a brief visit to LACMA recently. It occurred to me that it would be a nice place to get an espresso in the sunny afternoon and it’s not far from where I live. Not much was open there at the moment, due to construction of some new buildings, but their permanent collection was open and I have a membership, so I figured I’d take a quick stroll. I stopped at this painting by Arthur Mathews titled, “Monterey Cypress” and decided to sketch it. These types of cypress trees are pretty common in my hometown of San Francisco, so it instantly called back fond memories and feelings of home. There is a sort of softness and friendliness in these trees and this landscape.

Oliver Sacks, 1986

Oliver Sacks, 1986
I doodled this while watching this one-hour interview from 1986 with Oliver Sacks:

As you might see from the comment I left on the YouTube page, I found it fascinating and inspiring. Now I want to read his book, “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” I’m pretty sure this title has come up in conversation fairly recently, it so rings a bell, but I also think one of my figure drawing teachers in college may have handed out an excerpt from this book. Something about learning to see and a recounting of a blind patient who became able to see, but did not understand what he was seeing. Because he had never seen, everything was completely abstract and he had to take the wild sensory information of color, light, dark, and shape, and learn to associate it with actual 3-Dimensional forms and space, of things he’d been familiar in a tactile way for his entire life thus far. It’s possible this wasn’t from Sacks’s book, but watching the interview called this to mind, all the same.

Le Petit Chef

A big round of applause to the entire cast and crew of Pixar’s Ratatouille! It was a true delight! Superbe! Genial! Credit must be given to Jan Pinkava as originator of the film, but accolades to Brad Bird’s script and his unbeatable skills of direction, omission, and selection. The timing of the action sequences was just spot-on. I loved all the little touches. All the characters were a joy to watch (and superbly voiced — I couldn’t believe that was Janeane Garofolo doing a french accent), and I loved the designs of the rats. I could go on and on. Little rats are dancing in my head.
See story artist Jenny Lerew’s post on Ratatouille for much more thoughtful and eloquently stated observations, of which I wish I could plagiarize word for word.

Yagragulky! Jim Woodring has a Blog!

“The Woodring Monitor.” Inky sketches and other machinations of Jim Woodring, creator of Frank, and a huge influence whom I don’t do justice. I will have to try harder.

UPDATE: The following image has been used with Jim Woodring’s kind permission. It is NOT my own, though I wish it were.


Harvey and Robbie

As I said in my last post, I’m a long-time fan of Harvey Pekar, and obviously that’s what brought me out to the event last night, but I was glad to learn a bit more about artist Robbie Conal ( audio.gif), as well. I’d seen his posters pasted onto traffic-signal control boxes on street-corners of San Francisco, Seattle (I think) and Los Angeles (in that order). You’ve probably seen them, too. Those giant portraits of politicians, drawn in a fleshy, decaying, pock-marked, grotesque, and needless to say, unflattering light.

Here’s a snapshot I took just before things got going and Louise Steinman (center) asked everyone to stop taking pictures.

Harvey and Robbie
Harvey came out to the stage first and sat there alone for a while, silently observing the audience with a subtle facial expression I could not read (although he did look happy). When things got going, his voice was almost non-existant, but it improved over the course of things. Nerves, I guess. I’m going to try to avoid summing-up what was discussed, because letting myself go will result in far more than I’m sure any of you would care to read and would no doubt become a bit trivial. I will just say that it was pretty casual, though well moderated by Louise. We heard Harvey and Robbie give some background information on themselves, their childhoods, how they got started doing what they are now known for, et cetera. Some parallels were drawn between the two of them, including having communist parents and being dubbed “folk legends” among other things. Harvey said some pretty funny stuff. He has a real unique personality and is a tough nut to crack, even with all the autobiographical work he’s done.
Now, for some reason I thought they might be podcasting this conversation, but they only seem to podcast selected ALOUD events, and thus far nothing’s shown up for this one. You can subscribe to the ALOUD podcast here, though, and if anything changes, I’ll make an update to this post or elsewhere on the blog.
Harvey and Robbie
After the “conversation” portion of the event, a line was formed for book signing and such. Jamie got in line right away, and so I was only the second person in line. I tried to bend Harvey’s ear, but it wasn’t easy with the long line behind me, the slight din of voices and the barracade-like desk he was stationed behind. Still, I went ahead: “Hey, Harvey. I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time. When I was 13, etc. … So now I’m a storyboard artist and bla, bla, bla…” Harvey sat silently, looked at me a few times as I spoke, smiled slightly, perhaps, and tried to sign my books. I gave him my card. He put it in his pocket. It felt so rushed, but hey, it’s all a plus in my book.

Harvey Pekar at ALOUD Tonight


I was 13. It was 1989. A friend had lent me his anthologies of R. Crumb and American Splendor comix. Until then, I’d only known comic books to be Spider-Man, Batman, and the like. Now, almost 17 years later, I still clearly remember staying up late pouring over these books, as a light seemed to emanate from them and my mind was opened to the limitlessness of the comix medium. It was a major turning point, for sure. I don’t know if I can pinpoint in just a few words, exactly how this sort of seminal experience has influenced me as an artist today, but it’s definitely a bright spot along the sentimental journey of days past. Hey, you never forget your first time, you know. I had been a total virgin to underground comix, aside from a vague knowledge of Zippy the Pinhead, and this was my deflowering. Things would never be the same after that. Stripped from my naive idolation (yes, I invented a new word) of spandex-clad he-men and thrust into the dark, perverse, underworld of the self-loathing antihero. And these things were autobiographical! Well, at least partially. Anyway, these guys really existed!

Or so I’ve been told. I’m going to get my empirical evidence tonight at the L.A. Central Library, when I see Harvey Pekar in a discussion with Robbie Conal. It’s part of the ALOUD series.

More info here and here:

Thursday, June 8, 2006 at 7pm
“Life as Art, Art as Life.”
A conversation between HARVEY PEKAR and ROBBIE CONAL
ALOUD at Central Library, Mark Taper Auditorium
Fifth and Flower Street, Downtown Los Angeles

Reservations: or (213) 228-7025
Admission is FREE

Featured on Designers Who Blog!

I was just technorati-ing my blog, which is kind of like that narcissistic Googling oneself that most people are aware of by now, but for blogs. This was maybe the fourth time I checked technorati for links since I started doing this, when I discovered that Catherine at Designers Who Blog wrote a very nice post featuring this humble little weblog of yours truly. Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised and my ego found just the morsel it had been hunting for! Ego-boost aside, it’s encouraging and (I know it sounds schmaltzy) affirming to get this kind of attention, and at a time when I haven’t posted any drawings in a while! I have been doodling away like mad, so hopefully soon, I can get in a scanning session and share some of them with you. In the meantime, you can scour Catherine’s blog for many more inspiring links!

Gene Deitch: Story — What’s It All About?

Here’s another story tidbit to chew on. Gene Deitch discusses the importance of finding your story’s premise in chapter 7 of his e-book, How To Succeed In Animation. I have not read the rest of the book, but stumbled upon it and the title of this chapter jumped out at me. He acknowledges that story rarely starts with a premise, but rather, character — and knowing your characters well. The premise is what you need to make sure that there is a story that you are telling with those characters and not just showing us what you can do with them.

Hmm, where’d it go? Oh, here it is.

On a side note, Gene was born in Chicago, but has chosen to live in Prague since 1961, so we know he must be a very smart man.

Blackwing Diaries on Character

I just read a great post by Jenny on Blackwing Diaries. She discusses the pitfalls of making flawed, annoying characters vs. the “true” and “likeable” characters that are able to drive a story. Really some great insights from an industry story artist. Give a read.

Cinequest 16: The Second Death


This past weekend was spent at Cinequest 16, where I attended a screening of The Second Death. This was my first experience attending a festival screening as one of the film’s makers (storyboard artist and actor). The film was a part of Shorts Program 8: Mindbenders which began at about midnight and ran approximately two hours, Friday and Saturday. There were a number of interesting films included in the lineup. One that has apparently been making the rounds at festivals for a little while now was Lucky, in which a man locked in the trunk of a car, seeks to free himself and gain control of the unmanned, yet speeding car he finds himself a passenger on. Another was Slice of Heaven, showing the strangely mundane actions of a woman (SPOILER ALERT) harvesting feces from a bacon-grease fed infant to serve as fertilizer (END SPOILER) for her bucolic suburban garden. And another worth mention, was Rats, a black and white short based on the comic-story of the same name by Frank Miller. Sparing us the comic-book effects and devices, but still preserving Miller’s story, composition, chiaroscuro, and sense of timing. With these films alone, we certainly were in good company.

Somewhat regretfully, I skipped out on participating in the Q&A section of the screening. Although by about a quarter after two in the morning, I don’t think it was the most provocative of Q&A’s anyway. A few hours of mindbending social ineptitude followed back at the Montgomery Hotel and made for a Sunday that was a bit rough around the edges, but I did manage to see another entertaining short and an outstanding, albeit immensely depressing, feature in the evening before trucking back to L.A. I do wish I had the luxury of spending a bit more time at the festival to see films and meet filmmakers, but it’s at least kindled more of an interest to do more of that sort of thing in the future.

Lotte’s Sketch!

lotte's sketch!
The drawing I purchased from Lotte Klaver arrived today all the way from Amsterdam! I had a feeling it would. I’m glad I stayed home, because it’s been pouring down rain today and this beautiful drawing could have been ruined if left in the wrong place. I’m really happy to have this. I’m going to hunt for a funky little frame and put it up in the bedroom. Lotte has many more of these sorts of drawings which she creates on an almost daily basis online at her sketchbook blog. This one is from January 19th, 2006.

Comics & Politics: A Day-Long Discussion


Saturday morning, I went down to MOCA for a day-long panel discussion moderated by Amy Pederson, with comics artists David Collier (Collier’s Vol. 1 & 2), Mary Fleener (Slutburger) and Lily Lau (Mom’s Drawer Is At The Bottom); comics publisher Ron Turner (Last Gasp); and graffiti artist Barry McGee (Twist).


Pictured above from left to right are David, Mary, Ron, Barry, Lily, and Amy. Projected above them is a panel from one of David’s comics.

Continue reading ‘Comics & Politics: A Day-Long Discussion’