Sunday, October 26, 2014 Mind the dip

Season's Greetings (from October)!

After a bit of a hiatus because of this, that, and the other (the three most common causes of hiatuses), the financial comics are back!  I have to say: I missed them a bit.  They're hard work, but I enjoy the challenge and I'm glad to have them back.

This week's comic had to do with the recent, uh, turmoil in the market.  At one point the market moved 600 points or so in the course of an hour.  Which can make investors (and just about everyone else) a bit jittery.  So the comic this week illustrates that issue.  More specifically, it speculates whether or not the volatility will continue into the holidays.

I was asked by the crew at to draw a steep, valley-shaped hill covered in snow.  The shape of the valley was to mimic the recent slide and partial recovery of the market.  I was also asked to include Ol' Saint Nick standing at the top of the hill.

Here's the sketch:

Originally, I was going to include this guy, but opted for the reindeer instead (only because I figured the reindeer would be more fun to draw):

Here's the final:

Here's what I think I did well this time around:

-The colors: The emotional tone of this comic is uncertain (which investors dislike) bordering on anxious, so I chose the gray-ish color of the sky to reflect that tone.  It also makes for a nice counter point to Santa's bright red suit.

-Santa's face: Again, his expression purposefully reflects the market uncertainty.  Also, he's rosy-cheeked and red-nosed just like in all the poems and songs say he's supposed to be.  Finally, he kind of looks like Brian Blessed, which is an unintentional bonus.

-The reindeer: I'm not sure I've ever drawn one before.  Coloring him was fun.

-The composition: You could argue that it's heavily weighted to the left side, what with both characters and the bulk of the color being entirely on that side.  But I think their focus and the fact that the bulk of the negative space is in the right 2/3 of the canvas balances it out and creates a good amount of (brace yourself for an artistic term) visual tension.

Here's what I could have done better:

-I struggled a bit on the sizes of the characters vs. the size of the environment.  I wanted the valley to seem bigger (and like more of a threat/dilemma).  The natural option was to make Santa and the reindeer smaller.  But I making them too small would mean losing detail (and interest) in the characters.  Specifically their facial expressions.

I'm big on facial expressions.  They tell the bulk of the story.  Or at least provide a lot of the emotional framework for it.  We, as humans (apologies to any non-humans who are reading this and are offended at the assumption), tend to look for facial cues in order to know how to react to something.  Even in cartoons, the characters provide some emotional guidelines for us.  Which is why I think their expressions are one of the most important parts of any comic.

I know, it probably seems like I think about this too much.  And I do.  But it's my job.  Also, it's super fun.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All the Student Media Adviser's Men (and Women)

I drew a caricature of a friend recently.  But if you want any of this to make any sense whatsoever, I have to go back about a decade.

It was in the early 2000s and I was a young, bushy-tailed college student drawing awful cartoons for the student newspaper, The Argonaut.  Some guy named Shawn stepped into the position of  Cat-Herder-In-Chief (Student Media Adviser).  The paper started to win awards.  Many of the students who worked at the Argonaut went on to do interesting, impressive things.  A decade later, Shawn is still at the helm of it all.  And to celebrate his 1/10th centennial, a bunch of his former students decided to come back to town and surprise him.

This drawing was part of that surprise.  Here's the sketch:

Here's the final drawing:

And here's the drawing after I put it into a parody of the student newspaper:

The parody is complete with an article written by another former journalism student.  It has more cliches in it than a Nicholas Sparks movie.  It's a thing of beauty that would make any newspaper writer cringe half to death (hence the expression on Shawn's face).

And speaking of the expression on his face, here's something I've never seen photographed before: The real-life expression on his face when he saw it for the first time:

It was a great weekend.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Get me on the court and I'm trouble...


Sorry about the hiatus in posting lately.  I'm working on several projects right now.  Eventually, I'll post work from all of them but I'm not quite ready to do so now.  In the meantime, how about an comic?  It's been several weeks since I posted one of these.  Mostly due to timing issues.

This week's comic has to do with the strength of the dollar as of late.  I was asked to draw two basketball teams, one consisting of bears and the other of bulls.  Both were to have the dollar symbol emblazoned on their jerseys.  I was also asked to include a scoreboard in the background that showed only the 12 minutes of time remaining and that the game was in the 4th quarter (a financial reference).

Because the deadline on these comics is so short, drawing two full basketball teams would be nearly impossible (unless I changed to a sketchy, faster drawing style).  I figured the best way to handle this one was to draw two players prominently in the foreground and add a couple of players in the background.  Theoretically, the rest of the players would be suggested, like they just got cut out of the frame.

Here's the sketch:

And here's the final:

Basketball courts have some pretty great lighting, which adds to the drama of the scene.  I also decided to add a score bar at the bottom of the comic as if this comic were a screen shot from a game being broadcast on tv.

I can't really assess this comic just yet.  Sometimes when I've looked at something for too long, I can't see it anymore.  Knowing myself, once I'm finally able to see the comic as a whole rather than a collection of elements, I'm probably going to be fairly critical.

But here's the thing (I suppose I'm mostly saying this to my future self who I'm assuming will be critical of this comic): Every drawing is about choices.  Under the pressure of a one day deadline, choices have to be made much, much more quickly than normal.  I don't have the luxury of time and the careful assessment and re-thinking of every choice that time affords.  Undoubtedly, if I'd had more time on this I would have made some different choices, but I did the best I could in the time I had.

And that will have to be good enough.  Under the circumstances, I think this one turned out ok.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it, overly-critical future me.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014


How 'bout a visit to the 'ol sketchbook?  Believe it or not, it still gets some use.  Occasionally.