Monday, February 29, 2016


In artist families a sketch war can break out without warning, at any time. Here (above), on a normal day, on a normal morning,  my wife puts outs out breakfast cereal for my daughter and me, and I, as I often do,  pick up my sketchbook to record it.

 Little did I know that this day would be different because my daughter...who hates to be drawn...has decided to take a stand and fight back.

She eats her food in the most gross way possible, no doubt hoping that'll deter me from drawing her.

She peels off the crusts from her bread (something every parent hates to see for some reason), nibbles her bread into patterns, and taps out a song on her cereal bowl. 


All this drives my wife nuts and she makes small talk to cover up her anxiety. She's dying to say "YOUNG LADY! That's NOT the way we eat a meal at the breakfast table!!!!," but she restrains herself because I'm nudging her under the table, begging her to let my daughter go, so I can draw it. 

My kid takes full advantage, knowing how uncomfortable we are are. She rolls  her bread into a baseball and crams it into her mouth.  She masticates it, gorilla-style. My wife is appalled.

Finally my kid ends it all by putting up a wall of breakfast cereal around herself. Well, that's it. You can't draw what you can't see.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Here's (above) the cover of a Mother's Day card drawn by my kid when she was in Middle School. Haw! Am I really that much of a scene stealer?

Here's a pencil enhancer...or is it an eraser... designed by John K and beautifully sculpted by Anthony Hrymakowski. You may have noticed the resemblence to (Ahem!)

And here (above) is a clean-up of the original John drawing. Gee, I made it to the top (literally) of the pencil universe. My place in history is assured!!!!!!

Thursday, February 25, 2016


"Just one more George Herriman post. That's a Herriman self portrait, above.

Herriman was what Wikipedia calls a "Louisiana mulatto creole." who "passed" for white. His family spoke French. He might have been self conscious about his mixed ethnicity because he disdained publicity and was kidded by friends for his reluctance to take off his hat.

Early on he did a comic strip in the German style about a black guy named Mose (above) who always tries to pass himself off as white. On first glance all the humor seems to be at the expense of Mose, but that's only the McGuffin. Half the joke comes out of the whites who are over-the-top tickled to death to be Scottish or Irish and who take any opportunity to dance an Irish Jig or a Highland Fling.

I wonder if anyone ever captured Herriman on film. I'd like to hear his voice.

Herriman had one of the great hats of his era. He looked great in it! As a matter of fact, more than any other artist of his day, he looked like a cartoonist.

Of course he always looked a bit awkward in photos. He may have had naturally broad shoulders but it's also possible that he had normal shoulders and simply liked to "puff up" for pictures.

Maybe he was self conscious about being short.

So far as I know, Herriman was the best caricaturist of himself. He did a couple of frequently reproduced back shots of himself,  one of which is reproduced above. These influenced me immensely, to the point where I feel my life will have been will have been lived for naught if I don't do a project built around frequent back shots.

YIKES! A RETRACTION: According to commenter "nodnarB," that caricature of Herriman was actually done by cartoonist Tad Dorgan, who shared an office with Herriman. That's an example of Dorgan's work above.

Well, I'll be dogged! All these years I attributed that picture to Herriman. Many thanks to nodnarB for the correction!!!!!!!!!

Above, another Tad Dorgan. Geez, the world must have been a different place in that era.  The spittoon, the friendly bartender, the practical jokers who all go to the bar at night to drink together, the blank's so different than what's around now.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


One of my favorite funny newspaper strips...rivalling Al Capp's "Fearless Fosdick" or Feinenger's "The "Kinder Kids"...was the collected strips done by George Herriman in the years between 1904 and 1916.  I have to say "collected" because Herriman worked on many strips in these years and no single title dominates.

Some of my favorites were his sports cartoons (above). They were laid out like irregular sketchbook pages at the top of the sports page.

His editors must have liked him because on days when sports were slow he was allowed to put up little autobiographical pieces like the one above. Here the ex-mayor of a town called Independence shows Herriman the local sights.

Sometimes (above) he made fun of amateur theater.

Herriman did some color pages in this period and he sometimes tried to fit in to the formal comics format. In my opinion these pages were much inferior to his black and white "sketchbook-style" strips.

I wish I knew more about the the drawing instruments Herriman used. Evidently the brush didn't suit him. He preferred to use the kind of hard, scratchy dip pen that deters most modern artists. If you haven't used these yet, you might want to give them a try. They're hard to control but everything looks funnier when done with a pen of that type.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Minnie's House in Disneyland is a destination I never get tired of.  The skewered, wonky look of it would be too caricatured for everyday living. Even so, you wonder if some modification of that could be made to work in the real world. 

Wonky or not, the house has a wonderful vibe and that's hard to achieve. Whenever someone succeeds with that they should get a medal. 

Disneyland doesn't contain a reproduction of the home in "Alice in Wonderland," but I'll discuss it here anyway. 

In this frame from the film (above) Alice is a little too big for the house but I can imagine a more practical scale that would still make the visitor feel tall. 

I also like the scale of the stairs. They're the kind of stairs you see in split level houses as opposed to two story houses. In split levels the higher level is off to the side rather than on top of of the bottom level. That makes for a shorter staircase.  It's an interesting idea. 

Also, notice the slant of the ceiling.... 

From this view the film gives the ceiling a different height than it is in the establishing shot. That's okay, it's all about artistic license. 

What a beautiful bedroom (above)!

A visit to a Disney park would be inconceivable without a visit to Tarzan's Treehouse and The Swiss Family Robinson walkthrough, but wouldn't it be even more fun to actually live in something like that? No, we don't have to wait for the far future when we can grow trees fast. We can do it now, with realistic synthetic tree trunks and fast growing real-biology leaves and buds stuffed into fake branches.

I have to admit that most people would rightly rebel against the idea of synthetic trees in real neighborhoods.  I'm only introducing the idea as a thought experiment.

Let me digress for a moment to ask, "Why haven't architects made use of real-size Banzai-type trees?" Can Bamboo, which is fast-growing, be trained to bend in useful ways?

Disneyland attractions are impeccably lit. It seems to me that all new houses should incorporate that kind of professional Hollywood-type lighting. By "professional" I don't mean the expensive quartz lights that are actually used for stage and film, but artistic arrangements of more safe and affordable lights that can mimic stage lighting.

Little old ladies shouldn't have to figure out these lighting schemes themselves. Professional designers should do it and install it before the first owners move in.

 Gee, there's lots more to say about this, but I'm running out of space. I'll pick this up again in another post.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


My computer room is in disarray so I can't shoot the fresh visuals I'd need to illustrate this story. Instead I'll borrow some pictures of myself from previous blogs and hope for the best. Here goes....

Having acknowledged, at a very early age, the indispensability of women, I had to find the answer to only one question: which one?

The girl I found was a hormone driven boy's dream come true, but she was also given to outbursts of sentimentality. She's still that way today. She's a buddy. Women bore her. She insists on buying her round, but she secretly hopes that doors will be opened for her because she's really a quivering jelly of feminine sensitivity.

She writes mystery stories which I'm not allowed to read. She used to paint, but the possibilities of two dimensions have been exhausted, and, besides, the brushes are stiff with neglect. She subscribes to a literary magazine but doesn't always read it because of the demands of her career, of being a mother, and of being a righter of her husband's wrongs.

She crawls from room to room, gratefully whimpering when she finds masculine disorder and piteously hurt by any indications of masculine independence.  She is what writer Patrick Catling described as a "sweetly scented pink octopus of maternal solicitude."

She keeps looking up from her Sudoku (above) to smile. She wields a thermometer like a magic wand.

She's a terrible weight pressing hotly on the shoulders,  a hobble, a blindfold, a distracting sound, a thick wad of fly-paper in the Kleenex box. But she is necessary.

The tests have been numerous, but the final outcome had already been decided long ago when we were both councilors at the same Summer camp.

In the dark, in a rowboat beached under a sheltering cave of pine needles, in spite of awful fear, I first kissed Woman. Though it was an inaccurate kiss, just a touch of the lips, it was a kiss of total commitment. I hadn't yet come across Yeats' advice: "Never give all the heart." I intuitively spurned the advice then and gave all the heart there was, and I give it still.

BTW: This is a much altered version of a tome by children's author, Patrick Skene Catling.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Valentine's day is almost here! Guys are supposed to be above it, as if were a holiday made only for women. I just don't see it that way. I like everything about it. Even the cliches make complete sense to me. 

Well...everything except Vermont Teddy Bears. Who thought of that, anyway?

Romance is a writers dream. Stories of that sort practically write themselves, maybe because there's so many kinds of romance. 

There's tough guy romances for the worldly types...

...and over-the-top sentimental stories for those who like their emotion full-strength. 

You don't have to locate your story in exotic locations. Romance happens everywhere, even in small town America. The character types are all people we're familiar with.

Like the guy who muscles in.  It happens when you're least expecting it. A total stranger opens the car door for your girl, which on the face of it is harmless, but once in a while there's a palpable subtext that says, "Why don't you dump this loser and go out with a real man?" Yikes! 

The intruder usually has the advantage. He has plausible deniability on his side. After all, he was just being friendly. 

There's not a lot that you can do, unless it happens frequently. If you overreact your girl'll think you're crazy. Boy, love can be painful...but for a writer, all that suffering is pure gold. Nobody's going to put a book down in the middle of an intruder scene.

Romance is especially painful for the young and klutzy.  Here (above) our guy attempts to hold the door open for a special girl who's racing for the elevator.  Maybe he pushes the "Door Open" button to help her out. 

Only he pushes the "Door Close" button by mistake. That's what young people do. In real life these kinds of gaffs really aren't very important. If a girl holds them against you then she probably wasn't meant for you anyway.

The girl who really is meant for you will be blind to your faults, as you are to hers. That's the delightful, wonderful thing about love. It truly is blind!

I believe in it. It's a noble thought, both practical and transcendent; well worth endless novels and well worth a day of the year devoted exclusively to it. .