Archive for February, 2011

F is for Fairy

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I’m getting down to the cryptozoological dregs here — all the monsters that I’m not that into or don’t have a good concept for. Still, I think I managed to come up with a pretty decent conceit here. Hopefully the whole butterflies-in-a-specimen-box thing is reading clearly. I also hope the fake Latin is clear (or so impenetrable that no one can even tell what I sought and failed to do with it). I wanted the name plates to basically say “Tooth Fairy” and “Barrie’s Fairy” (Barrie’s the author of Peter Pan). I don’t really know anything about Latin or binomial nomenclature, though, and it was really hard to learn about either thing at 4 am, on the internet, while listening to Marc Maron.  If there are any Classics majors out there willing to help a fellow unemployable out, I’d love to know how those plates should read.

So anyway, I’m decently pleased with the concept for this picture, but the composition is a little boring. Also, the values seem kind of homogeneous. A lot of the elements seem pale and liable to melt into each other. This may be the first time that my new no-outlines style may have actually ended up seeming less appropriate to me than a more conventional one.

With this drawing, I have officially entered the final four! Only B, E, N, and Z remain to be drawn. Also, time permitting, I’m going to redesign “A is for Alien” and “C is for Chupacabras” (I’ve already made smaller-scale corrections to most of the other pages). Then it’s onto a flurry of writing and production. Hopefully I’ll have these books available for sale in April!


Like a Bacillus, Sealed in a Train Car…

Posted in Illustration, Shows, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Last fall I submitted a drawing for the Charlotte Arts Catalyst’s monster-themed coloring book and sold a couple of related pieces in their accompanying show. I had a great time doing it and I’m excited to submit again this year. The theme for the spring book is history, which is about as perfect for me as monsters was. Anyway, here’s a drawing that I’m thinking about sending in:

I’ve always loved this quote by Churchill. More specifically, I’ve always loved a pithier, more poster-ready paraphrase of it (“The Germans sent Lenin into Russia like a bacillus, sealed in a train car”). The real quote is a little longer and was harder to fit artfully into this design. A note to fellow cartoonists/illustrators: never save double checking that quote for last! I hope the multicolored text livened up the big block of words. It might have made it too busy, though. I tried to give it kind of a word-cloud feel, with the words’ coloring reflecting their significance.

Anyway, back to the quote. I just think it’s a really great metaphor and have thought about it on and off over the years. A man bottled up like a biological weapon — that’s so evocative! And it’s so visual. It seemed like a go-to illustration for me, especially since I’m so into the USSR. I’m not sure I did it justice, but I really couldn’t afford to spend more than a couple of days on it. I’m sure I’ll revisit the concept sometime soon.

The part of the picture that I’m proudest of is actually Churchill, who was a lot easier to draw than I would have expected. I kind of wish I’d featured him more prominently. He’s got a pretty easily-caricatured face, so it’s no great boast to do a passable Churchill. Drawing him is probably equivalent to impersonating Christopher Walken or William Shatner or somebody like that. You get huge, can’t miss ’em quirks to build your imitation around. With Churchill, you don’t have room for a lot of likeness once the hat, jowls, and cigar are in place. Still, I’m no caricaturist, so I’m proud.

Surprisingly, I could be prouder of the Russian text. Lenin’s font is particularly lackluster/inappropriate. I wanted something that could have come off a Bolshevik leaflet, but it was really, really hard to find free Cyrillic fonts. The two I used don’t feature all the Cyrillic characters so I had to make my Яs, Юs, and Ьs from scratch. I’m also not sure that my Russian is correct, but here was what I meant to say. Lenin is saying (hopefully) “Revolution!” and the sign in the bottom right reads “Welcome to Russia” (God willing). I can’t believe that I was majoring in this language just a few year ago.

My biggest regret of all is that I can’t find some way to reuse this in my monster book. I guess “B” could still be for Bolshevik, but, if I didn’t use my dad’s suggestion of “Y is for Young Republican,” than I’m certainly not going to do that.

Y is for Yeti

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by Paul Swartz

This page might be my favorite so far. I like the color scheme and think that it, taken with the mountain scenery, suggest an old Art Deco travel poster. I’ve always loved those.

I’m also pretty proud of my mountaineer. If you scrutinize the climber, though, you’ll see that his pose is a little weird. To dress him, I looked at photos of Sir Edmund Hillary and tried to copy his clothes and gear. Surprisingly, he wasn’t wearing a hat. That seems pretty crazy to me, but it was easier to not draw a hat than draw one, so he stays bareheaded. The wind-blown hair is more dramatic anyway.

W is for Werewolf

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I’m not sure how I feel about the “Barbie’s Dream House” color scheme I went with here. I’m also a little disappointed by the way parts of this page get hard to read when they intersect with the horizon line. On the other hand, I think my city-from-above is pretty cool. That design was a nice convergance of elegance and ease. I’m also proud to add a poodle skirt to the list of things that I’ve drawn. Mostly, though, I’m glad to be nearing the end of this project. Not that it hasn’t been a lot of fun to do. It has. It’ll just be a huge relief to know that I’ll have something finished for the thesis committee (and, fingers crossed, for MoCCA). Anyway, 20 down, six to go!

X is for Xolotl

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Monster Alphabet, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I don’t know a whole lot about Xolotl, but I appreciate his getting me out of a jam. I had no idea that there was a cryptid/monster whose name started with an “X,” let alone such a cool one. Luckily, Nisse knew (thanks, Uptown Cheetah), so here we are.

Apparently, Xolotl was a Mesoamerican deity, the twin brother of Quetzalcoatl. Typically, he was represented as a skeleton, a dog-headed man, or a strange creature with backwards hands and feet (which I drew reluctantly, figuring everyone would think I screwed them up). That all sounded monstrous enough for my purposes, so I worked out something combining those last couple options.

Xolotl lends his name to a breed of dog: the Xoloitzcuintle, or Mexican Hairless. This is a pretty crazy looking dog. It has glossy black skin that looks blue when the light hits it right, just like black hair does in “Rex Morgan MD” and other inscrutable, unfunny newspaper cartoons about square jawed professionals. It’s also got crazy crenellation on its ears. I guess they also come Zebra-style. Not to mix mythologies, but this dog is totally what I imagine Anubis looking like. Also, funnily, this dog is often mistaken for Chupacabras in Texas and other US states, where it is very rare.* Anyway, I based my design pretty heavily on this dog.

In my drawing, Xolotl is dragging the sun below the water for the night. This was supposed to be one of his duties, and I thought it was a pretty poetic (and logical) premodern assumption about where the sun goes at night. Also, it let me have some fun with designing gradients and light effects, which I love to do. I don’t really like “real” gradients, but I do like my chunky, “hand-made” ones.

I figured, as long as I was setting this in a Mexican lake, I would have to include Axoltols, one of my favorite animals. These guys have to get their name from Xolotl too, but I haven’t ever read that anywhere. Axolotls are a type of neotenic salamander. Basically “neotenic” means immature/unable to mature or transform. Virtually all Axoltols have a thyroid condition that prevents them from developing lungs and becoming semi-terrestrial. As a result, they stay larva-like for their whole lives. What this means, though, is that they stay really plastic. They don’t scar and they can regrow lost or damaged tails and limbs very quickly and can even sprout extra ones! They can also regrow vital organs, including structures in the brain. They also take transplants really readily, totally assimilating new eyes, hearts, and again, even brain parts. Also, they’re kind of cute and definitely interesting looking. You can see that I based one of the creatures in my header on one.

How has no one based a science fiction story on these guys? There should so be a story where some mad scientist combines human and Axolotl DNA to make super-resilient soldiers or something and the world has to deal with the consequences. Maybe, in a dystopian future, the rich take “Axoltol injections” to stay young forever while the poor are relegated to brief lives of ceaseless toil. A stylized Axoltol would make a great logo for a sinister bio-medical corporation. Also, the Axoltol could be a great super villain — he’s scrawny he lives in a cave, but he heals really quickly etc. This is someone the Mockingbird will fight whenever he gets around to fighting. I guess I’ll put this on the list of projects that take seconds to conceive and years to develop (if they ever do). The neotenic projects, I guess.

*For more on this, see me.

Mock 4

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, The Mockingbird, Thesis with tags , , , , on February 5, 2011 by Paul Swartz

My latest, and I dare say greatest (at least in this new issue), Mockingbird page yet.

This is the fourth page of the second issue. Progress on that book is slow but steady and I should be running the finished story in May. For now, it’s just another textless page to keep y’all interested but still a little in the dark.

R is for Rat King

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I’m not sure how happy I am with this one. I like the diversity of kings I was able to represent, but I’m just not thrilled with the piece’s overall design. These rats just aren’t tied tightly enough together. It seems like they’re going to get a lot of mingling done before they realize their tales are intertwined.

A “real” rat king, by the way, is a term for a cluster of rats who live in such close quarters that their tails get tangled up together. I think a quorum of seven is needed for a proper rat king. Anything else is a mere rat prince or regent or something. No one is sure if rat kings ever actually develop in the “wild.” There are museums around the world displaying big rings of desiccated rats, but the exhibitors (or the people who brought the rats to the museum) might have tied those tails together themselves. In any case, this all makes “the Nutcracker” a lot creepier.