Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Love is the Bug I'm Thinking of

The birds and bees,
The mites on trees,
They each have a gal they c’n snuggle and squeeze.
Oh, ev’ry little bug has a honey to hug.
You can see,
The firefly don’ haff t’cry,
He knows from the glow that’s his gal going by.
Oh, ev’ry little bug has a honey to hug but me.

The lovely wife has been out of town for FOUR WHOLE DAYS! In that span, I've:
1. Grown a Grizzly Adams beard.
2. Eaten nothing but salsa and crumbs found in the crease of the futon.
3. Changed clothes .025 times.
4. Stared forlornly at the phone/ out the window/ towards the ceiling so much that you can actually see where my gaze has worn groves in the surfaces.

It's not that the wife takes care of me, it's just that I have no motivation to do anything when she's away. What's the point?

Le sigh.

But she comes home tonight! YEE-HAW!

The image above was an egg tempera demo for a class.

Monday, January 30, 2006

More Mini Show Shots

Pretty soon, people started to get the hang of it.

Look at that crowd! We ended up pretty packed. I guess this town is just hungry for MiniComics. That, or cheap white wine. Either way, I was delighted. I don't really like to go to openings, myself. There's just a bunch of people between me and the art I'm trying to look at. And they're cliqueier than a high school cafeteria. But this was fun. People were laughing, and whenever someone would connect with a particular book, they'd drag all their friends over to read it.

A lot of people said that they'd be coming back to read all the minis at their leisure. I hope they do. The show is open forever (March 26th), so there should be plenty of time.

Big, big thanks to everyone who helped put this show together: MCA students, faculty, and administration; Tom Spurgeon; Tom Gauld; BB&PPINC; and, of course, the generous artists who provided the minis. I hope this show has made a few more people aware of the great work you're doing for so little recognition or recompense.

Now, to get back to drawing.

Mini Show Shots

Here's the basic layout of the show: a series of triangular pockets in a straight line across the wall.I figured that, with all the books leaning at a jaunty angle, people would feel a little less intimidated, and more readily pick the books up and read them. Despite this, the first couple people who came into the show went right into gallery-walk mode: hands in their pockets, just peering at the stuff on the wall from a polite distance.

I made a point of sitting a reading for the first half-four of the show, just to show people how it was done. I guess they thought it was preformance art.

These great chairs are on loan from MCA president Jeff Nesin.

This is MCA's own, Michelle Byrd, who worked very hard on the PR for Small Stories, being utterly charmed by books of BB&PPINC.

Everyone fell in love with the Lives in the Building books of Woojung Ahn. This made me very happy. Ahn was unable to supply books for the show, so I pulled out my own copies (and these books weren't cheap), because I felt that is was more important that people see her wonderful stories than I keep my copies pristine. Follow the link to see what all the fuss is about. Then beg her to make more books!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Tonight's the Night!

Boy, has this been a long week. As soon as tonight's opening ends, I'm crawling into bed with a page-turner, and I ain't coming out 'til Monday. Everything seems to be in place, except the postcards. MCA sends these sorts of things out through some sort of mailing house out in the hinterlands, and, well, the mailing house may or may not have lost the postcards. A few people have received them in the mail, but I, for one, haven't, and there won't be a stack of them available at the show itself. Ah, well.

The good news is that we won't be serving punch. We'll be preserving the gallery tradition of cheap wine in plastic cups! Yee-haw! Let's get tore up!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Wedding Favor

Okay, this strip may be too cute by half, but it was part of a minicomic the lovely wife and I put together as our wedding favor. We were suppossed to be sappy and disgustingly cute, you loveless bastards. Also, it's completely autobiographical.

The show went up last night, and I think it looks pretty good. It's spare, but, I think, elegantly-so.

Seeing the space at hand, I did some last-minute pruning. We went from 50 books to 37. I feel bad for the people who thought they were going to be in the show and now aren't, but it was a time for ruthless action. I cut friends. I cut not one, but two Ignatz-award winning minis. I even cut myself. It was a mighty harrowing. And the show is tighter and stronger because of it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rain Mini pt. 2

Sheet Two!

Here's a statement that the internet's own Comics Reporter, Tom Spurgeon, provided for the show, explaining minicomics to the uninitiated:

These Things Called Mini-Comics

At its heart, a "mini-comic" is a handmade comic. A name that originally referred to a specific size of a small press comic book now describes a world of comics of all shapes and sizes joined by one idea: that unlike your standard copy of The Amazing Spider-Man or Betty and Veronica, these comics were not only drawn and written by cartoonists, but constructed by them as well. We call them "mini-comics" or "minis" because the easiest to understand and most common type of handmade comic is smaller than the average comic. Take a piece of typing paper, lay it on its side, fold it over, and treat the result as a four-page, smaller-than-average book with the crease acting as a spine. That's a mini-comic. What goes on those blank pages depends on the inclination, skill and resources of the creator. The most important rule of mini-comics is that creatively there are no rules.

Handmade comic books have been an important part of comics since the beginning of the art form; fans have always made comics at home and tried to sell them to other fans. In the 1960s and 1970s, mimeograph and Xerox technology allowed burgeoning comics creators to produce more copies of their work. Fan clubs gave these publications an audience in the 1960s and 1970s; comic book stores in the 1980s gave these books a sales and consignment outlet. Today they're found in shops, traded between practitioners at show, sold on-line and at signings. They a viable secondary market for those comics fans seeking new voices and a personal touch. You should read mini-comics the same reason you read any other comic: because many of them are quite good. It's also a good way to scope out the next generation of big-time comic book artists and graphic novelists, to see hand-crafted production techniques printing presses can't match, to watch your favorite cartoonist try new things, or access voices and points of view outside of more corporate efforts. More than most American art forms, comics has fought a long, debilitating battle against the bottom line. Mini-comics are a way that many cartoonists fight back.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Rain Mini

In the spirit of the MiniComics show coming up this Friday, wanna make your own copy of one of the exhibited books?

This is a mini I made in 2004, called "Rain," as part of the short-lived Memphis MiniComics Co-operative. I wrote it and took the photographs during the Gothenburg trip. I forget if I drew the figures there, or after I got home.

That's the first sheet. Tomorrow I'll post the second sheet. Here's what you do:

1. Download and print out both sheets.
2. Make a double-sided photocopy of the sheets. You may need to play with orientation of the sheets as you feed them into the copier before you get the two sides to line up well.
3. Follow this folding diagram.
4. Fold, staple, trim.
5. Read to your heart's content.

Then, draw your own! Send me a copy!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Small Stories

Memphis College of Art has a gallery in downtown Memphis called on the street. Last year they asked if I would put up a show there. I they probably meant a show of my work, but I'm not satisfied with being called the "Johnny Appleseed of Comics" in Richmond, Virginia alone. If I'm going to survive this city, I need a creative comics scene here, and promoting oh-so-convivial minicomics seems like a logical first step. (Also, I'm too cheap/lazy to frame a gallery's worth of my own work.)

So, last SPX, I went around and collected a ton of minis. Then I sent out letters begging for more. I ended up with about a hundred, which have since been narrowed down to about 50. So much beautiful work deserving of a larger audience! And look at that gorgeous postcard illustrated by Tom Gauld!

Here's an adorable image provided for the show by the fine folks at BB&PPINC. I think this is going to be on the gallery signage.

If you read the postcard above, you may notice that the show is suppossed to be open as of, uhm, oh, today. At the moment, the show is actually still in a big plastic bin sitting on top of my filing cabinet. I think we'll hang tomorrow. The opening reception is Friday, and, I guess, that's our real deadline.

IronHide Noir

Special for JCC, here's the original drawing for the IronHide Tom cover. The clouds and sun were drawn on an overlay of vellum and scanned in seperately.

The Big News for this week is the opening of Small Stories: a MiniComics Reading Room. Info and images to come.

Friday, January 20, 2006

IronHide Tom

Chris Pitzer has just announced the project, so I guess it's okay for me to show you the cover image for AdHouse's 2006 Free Comic Book Day comic: The Preposterous Voyages of IronHide Tom.

Not sick of my minimalist "stick figure" stories yet? Well, maybe you just weren't getting enough in one sitting. Howsabout a full issue, crammed cover-to-cover with nothing but tiny little lines and circles pretending to be people? Thrills! Chills! Spills! And a total lack of rendering, expression, and perspective!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Not-Whales of Gothenburg

Along with stuffed baby whales, Gothenburg has a moderately famous fountain featuring Poseidon and lots of cavorting creatures of a nautical persuation. The fountain makes for a good meeting place, and so I found myself waiting by it fairly often and ended up drawing it quite a lot. Here are two of the little guys swimming around the base.

There's a lot of peculiar sexiness going on in this fountain. Some of the mer-creatures look like they're really enjoying their swim.

Apparently, when it was first unveiled, the citizenry objected to Poseidon's generous endowment. The sculptor, Carl Milles, dutifully reduced the package in question, but also added a fish grasped tightly in one of Poseidon's hands that, when viewed from the side, gives the ol' Sea King a particularly imposing profile.

Somehow, despite making many drawings and taking a fair number of photgraphs, none of them are from the proper angle to catch that effect. What was I thinking?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Whales of Gothenburg

Here's a sketch I made at the Naural History Museum in Gothenburg where I drew the Sperm Whale skeleton. Apparently, a baby Great Blue Whale washed up on a beach somewhere in the late 19th Century, and, well, those crazy Victorians took it down to the local taxidermist. It's the only such object in the world, and, well, you can kinda tell that this was a first attempt. This is not a great example of the taxidermist's art. It's seamed and riveted like an old steamer trunk.

The head of the whale is hinged, and there are stairs in the mouth that lead down to an actual tearoom in the belly of the whale. Weird? Yes, but it gets weirder: the tearoom is only open during elections because "Whale" is a Swedish pun for "election."

Ah, Swedish humor.

Here's a shot of the Sperm Whale skeleton.

And then the blurred eye of the baby Blue. Just so you don't accuse me of making this up.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 12

Look at that! It's the last of the drawings from my time at Mystic Seaport, sailing into the sunset!

October 13. "There she blows," was sung out from the masthead.
"Where away?" demanded the captain.
"Three points off the lee bow, sir."
"Raise up your wheel. Steady!"
"Steady, sir."
"Mast-head ahoy! Do you see that whale now?"
"Ay ay, sir! A shoal of Sperm Whales! There she blows! There she breaches!"
"Sing out! sing out every time!"
"Ay ay, sir! There she blows! there- there- thar she blows- bowes- bo-o-os!"

J. Ross Browne's Etchings of a Whaling Cruise, 1846
as quoted by Herman Melville

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bat Flu

I'm a little late jumping on the Batgirl meme that spread itself all over the internet this weekend. Still, here's my Pulp Adventure Batgirl.

I drew this while eating key lime pie for breakfast with my sweetie.

Update, 1/21/06: Almost a week later, and we're still getting hits from the Batgirl list. I can't believe anybody has the patience to scroll down that far! Anyway, I just wanted to invite those who are linking directly to this post to take a look around the rest of the blog. After all, this Batgirl meme has to end sooner or later, and then... the Whaling meme will take over! Avast!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 11

I mentioned scrimshaw a few posts back. This is an example. There weren't many recreational options aboard a whaling vessel, but scrimshaw was one of them. Basically, you take a piece of whale ivory and scratch on it with one of the big needles used for sewing sails. Then you rub ink or soot or what have you into the scratches, and wipe away the excess. The result is an etching on the tooth surface.

There is some very beautiful work done in scrimshaw, and it's a craft that I've been fascinated with since childhood. It's safe to say that most of it's praticioners had no formal arts training, but there's a lot of very good drawing on these teeth. Interestingly, even when the drawings of people and whales and clouds are awkwardly realized, the rigging on the ships is always precise. Whereas I get easily confused by what seems to be an endless and arbitrary cat's crade of line, these sailors knew that rigging with exhausting, blistering intimacy of someone whose had to run all that rope, and whose lives depended on it being run correctly.

When I was in high school or middle school, I got a hold of what I thought was a small disc of whale ivory. I'm pretty sure trade in whale ivory is prohibited, and, looking back, am positive that what I actually had was a piece of ivory-colored plastic. Anyway, I had an etching needle and a bottle of ink, so I tried my hand at it. Of course, I drew a whaling ship. My memory tells me the results where pretty good. But, when it comes to my own art, my memory is a filthy liar.

When I was working on this series of drawings, there was a chance that they were going to get published as an artist's sketchbook, in which case I planned on naming the book Scrimshaw. I guess the series of sketchbooks wasn't doing very well, however, and whaling wasn't considered the red-hot subject matter that would revive the line. But I'm pretty sure more people have seen these images in blog form than the entire proposed print run of the sketchbook, so I'm happy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Every Day

Chris Radtke (of Gabagool! fame) has a blog, which, I think we can all agree, is the most brutally honest document of these modern times available in any medium, anywhere. Chris asked a bunch of cartoonists to draw various entries of said blog, and this is mine. The result was a minicomic handed out at SPX '05, and the promise of a fuller version to be available at future conventions. It's called Every Day.

Scroll on down to 2.29.2004. The Butter Eruption is sheer, unadulterated brillance. I begged Chris to let me do that one. Apparently, so did every other cartoonist on the project.

Before doing this page, I had no idea who the Barbarian Brothers were. I can't say that my life is any richer for knowing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 10

There are two types of whales hunted for blubber: the right whale and the sperm whale. The sperm whale is more agressive, faster, a deeper diver, and lived in less hospitable waters. And yet, ships went after them as much as the less dangerous right whale. A big reason is that large dark space above and in front of the skull of the pictured skeleton. That area is a solid battering ram composed entirely of compacted blubber, called "the trunk." The trunk alone got you a lot closer to filling your hold with oil, and heading home.

This skeleton was drawn from "life" in the Natural History Museum in Gothenburg, Sweden. I'm still recovering from my computer going ker-flooey, but as soon as I have my scanner hooked up again, I'll post some whale-related sketches from that trip.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sleep pt. 4

Sleep parts 1 2 3 4

How do I know my wife really, really, REALLY loves me?

She doesn't complain about the terrible job I always do drawing her hair. The picture below is not my worst offense.

The End.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 9

The giant wishbone is the whale's jaw. This is another picture that is based on photoreference, and, I have to admit, I'm not really sure what this guy is doing. Getting that last bit of blubber? Scrapping meat off for his dinner? Practicing his throat-cutting technique? It doesn't look like he's cutting teeth out of the jaw to be used for scrimshaw, and that's the only reason I can think of for hauling the jawbone onto the ship.

But I can tell you that (1) the jawbone really is that big; and (2) the decks looked even gloopier and more disgusting than I've captured here.

This drawing is also the egregious example of my rope theory of compositional enhancement. That rope in the foreground makes absolutely no sense, and, looking at it now, probably wasn't the best visual choice, either. Ah, well. Live and draw and learn.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sleep pt. 3

Sleep parts 1 2 3 4

See that stovetop espresso pot? I love that little thing. It's cheap and easy, and makes a swell cuppa coffee. They're ubiquitous in Europe, but, for some reason, we Americans would rather spend ten times as much on an independent gadget to do the same job. Fortunately, Bialetti has begun marketing their wares in the US a year or two ago, so they're easier to find. Unfortunately, the Bialetti pots are still overpriced and have a doofy cartoon mascot on the side.

To Be Concluded...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 8

This is the block and tackle mentioned in the last post. I don't really have any interesting info to pass along relating to it, but it was fun to draw.

The best thing about drawing pictures that take place aboard a ship is the rope. Whenever you have a dead spot in your composition, you can just draw a line of rope. Instant directional dynamism!

Of course, rope is also the worst thing about drawing on deck, 'cause there's so much of it, and all of it has a very specific function. My first lesson learned on this project was to not get caught up in trying to accurately represent the rigging. It's just too much visual information, and every drawing ends up looking like a spider web. But I do feel like, with every one of the these drawings, I need to apologize to anyone with any sort of expertise in this area.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sleep pt. 2

Sleep parts 1 2 3 4

Although these two characters are pretty clearly based on the lovely wife and myself, they're officially named "Herbert and Heloise." I think I've created a total of four strips with them, so far, some in collaboration with said lovely wife. I have notes on many more stories, and I hope to get to them sooner than later.

I was trying to acheive a lighter, faster style with the look of these strips. I don't think it has quite gelled yet. All the more reason to hurry up and do some of those other H&H strips.

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 7

After you harpoon the whale and let it exhaust itself dragging you around the ocean, you set a lamp on the top of your longboat's mast, and wait for the whaling ship to find you. The whale is then tied to the side of the boat and stripped of its blubber. An incision is made in the whale's hide, and a hook is run through it. The hook is attached to tackle connected to the ship's tallest mast, which acts as an improvised crane. The blubber is then pulled off the whale in a single long strip called the blanket. These men are tending to that process. This was difficult work, and it had to be done quickly, because sharks were eating your profits with every minute the whale was in the water.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sleep pt. 1

Sleep parts 1 2 3 4

Thus begins the promised mushiness. This is from a micro-mini-comic called Sleep which I made for the express purpose of having something to hand out at SPX two years ago. Later, this and some similar strips were collected as a supermushfest minicomic and handed out as wedding favors.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Charles W. Morgan pt. 6

Happy 2006, Everybody!

I'm back from NY where I spent my days wandering through the Met and eating whitefish salad on bagels. The highlight was the Fra Angelico exhibition. A lot of minor works and pseudo-attributions, but the really good stuff is really good. Fra Angelico's frescoes at the Museo di San Marco in Florence rank very high on my list of all-time favorite human accomplisments (up there with Cycladic sculpture and lemon sorbet). This show was full of tempera pieces on board, which are smaller and, in some ways, more intimate that the frescoes. So lovely and delicate - I think the jostling crowds are the only thing that kept Stendhal's Syndrome at bay. Other highlights were an Indian illustrated manuscript and a collection of drawings admired by Vincent Van Gogh. This last struck me because it was my first exposure to a real, live Daumier drawing.

Anyway, enough of my yap. Here's a drawing of some of the different harpoons used to in historical whaling. As you can see, they're all variations of barbs, intended to go in more easily than they'll come out. Modern whalers use explosive bolts, which probably aren't any crueler, but still seems less fair, somehow.