The Masks We Wear

Posted in Drawn Out Storytelling, Illustration, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Here’s what I’ve been working on for the last couple of days:

New Yorkers and people willing and able to travel on a whim: come and see the latest installment of Drawn Out Storytelling on Thursday, November 3rd!

It’s our almost-timely Halloween show, and it should be a fun one. For more information, you can pore lovingly over my poster, or check out our event on  Facebook or our website.


New Work in New York

Posted in Drawn Out Storytelling with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Lena and I have been Brooklyn-based for a couple of months now and were, a few weeks ago, thrilled to present the first installment of the new and improved Drawn Out Storytelling. The show, which was performed at the Brooklyn Lyceum, went smoothly; so much more smoothly, at least, than our earlier efforts this summer. It’s always an honor to work with the multi-talented people who comprise the Drawn  Out community. For this show in particular, it was so exciting and gratifying  to work with storytellers Aaron Wolfe and Naomi Azar, whose work we’ve heard and enjoyed on This American Life and the The Story Collider.

Below are some of the slides that Lena and I illustrated for Aaron and Naomi’s story. I don’t imagine you’ll be able to divine the full story from these images (though, hopefully, you’ll be able quench your curiosity if/when the story appears on our video podcast). In brief, it’s a tale of relationships, growing together, and building a shared life (also breaking up for seven years). It also features America’s first four-wheeler, a post coital jaunt to Burger King, and a high stakes chess match.

The drawings of Aaron are mine (the thick purple arm hair is a stylistic trademark of mine and not an astutely observed feature of his. Aaron is not freakishly hirsute.) and the drawings of Naomi are Lena’s. Most of the backgrounds are hers too, but I drew Katz’s deli, the garage, and the chess board. Roughly, the idea was that Naomi’s “turf” was orange and Aaron’s purple and, as they created a shared life together, they became multi-hued rather than monochromatic. In the story, which involved the recycling of a lot of similar but slightly altered slides, the theme of the slow development of a common existence was clearer than it will be here, where I’ve collected an incomplete and out-of-context group of slides.

Anyway, this has been a really fun project to work on and we really appreciate all the support it’s been getting. We’ll be having another show next month (I’m not sure when/where, but I’ll let you know when I do) and we’d love to see you there!

New Projects

Posted in Drawn Out Storytelling, Other Events, Shows with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Well, likely-imaginary readers, I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know where to begin catching you up, and I don’t know where to begin reestablishing myself as a reliable correspondent. I think we’ll just have to take things slow for a bit until we find our rhythm again.

In brief, it’s been a whirlwind few months (and though the houses and cows are no longer airborne, the winds are still high). I have, among other things, been lately involved in a one-of-a-kind multi-media show called Drawn Out Storytelling. I’ll have a whole lot more to tell you about it soon (including where you can catch its next installment!) but, for now, here are a couple cool pictures I drew for it:

this first illustration accompanied a story by Ben Lillie and takes it’s title, “The Rise of the Orange and Purple Proletariat,” from a line therein.

This reptilian gourmand comes straight from a story by Jeff Simmermon.

Ben and Jeff are both fantastic storytellers and great guys to work with. Over the next few weeks, I’ll have a lot more to say about Drawn Out Storytelling, how I came to be involved in it, and the multitudes of multi-talented stroytellers, illustrators, and musicians who’ve been working on the show.

Anyway, it’s good to be blogging again. I’ll get looking for that rhythm if you do too.

Odds and Endpapers

Posted in Conventions, Monster Alphabet with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2011 by Paul Swartz

Hey, y’all. Sorry for the hiatus. It’s been a busy few weeks, what with MoCCA and Paint and Pixel to attend and thesis work (at this late stage it’s mostly the busywork of printing, binding, etc.) to complete*.

The conventions were well worth attending, though. When I tabled at MoCCA last year, it was the first con I’d ever worked. I feel like I’ve learned so much since then. It was a very rewarding weekend. I sold well and enjoyed my glimpses of civilized living. I can’t wait to move down to New York!

Paint and Pixel, in Northampton, was an especially pleasant surprise. For a new, small convention it was really well attended. There were lots of great people there, both behind and in front of the tables. It’s pretty much the closest thing there is (yet!) to a CCS con, so that felt pretty cool. It’s also kind of the Hampshire con, as Hampshire is probably our biggest feeder school.

It was nice for me to get back to Northampton, where I once spent a lot of time as an intern at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. I can’t overstate how much I like the town. It’s really beautiful and a little European, filled as it is with old stone churches and humble tenants in grand buildings. I specifically remember an out-of-place-seeming Urban Outfitters. Where I’m from, the city is much newer and more homogeneous. There’s a lot less architectural hermit crabbing there and most of what there is involves the repurposing of Pizza Huts.

My favorite collision of the old and new in Northampton is definitely the (sadly) defunct comics museum, with its subtle, second glance-requiring Ninja Turtle gargoyles.

Anyway, I’m finally back to the studio and back to work, which feels great. It’s about time. I’ve been very anxious to get working. The only new work I’ve been able to do in the last couple of weeks has been on stickers (see the mole up top) and on the endpapers for “Meet the Monsters.” Here they are:

I like the design a lot. If there’s a cryptozoologists’ guild out there, or even just a casual cryptozoologists’ club, I’d be happy to work something out with them logo-wise.

* As some of you may have heard, I’ve also been auditioning for “Jeopardy!” I’ve got a pretty good feeling, but I’ve also got a year and a half to see it confirmed or contradicted. I’ll keep y’all posted.

N is for Ningen

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by Paul Swartz

My apologies to Nisse, Nisses, and their fans. From the beginning I’d been intending to do “N is for Nisse,” but it just didn’t work out. The overlap with Elf was considerable, and there really wasn’t much else I could have done with E. Also, I discovered the Ningen.

The Ningen is a badass monster. Sort of. It’s awesome in that it’s a mysterious mishmash of whale and man, sighted breaching in ice-choked Antarctic waters by Japanese whalers. It’s less awesome in that it’s pretty much just an internet legend. The disappointing thing about this beast is that there aren’t so much reports of it as there are reports of reports. This is the cryptid that all other cryptids must resent, as he’s generated a lot of buzz without doing any real work. There’s no Surgeon’s photo or Patterson-Gimlin film of this guy, just a bunch of artists’ renderings. And none of those are more than a few years old. It seems like this Ningen thing is strictly a 21st century phenomenon. Not that it really matters. Monsters, of whatever vintage, are pretty much all made up. But with monsters, as with religions, the older ones just seem to have more credibility, more cachet. There’s a momentum and a cultural significance that accrues to a legend as it ages. The Ningen doesn’t have that yet.

So, why did I add my artist’s rendering to the growing Ningen pile? Because this is such a cool monster conceptually. How could you not draw a whale man? also, the myth is so psychologically compelling. I want there to be something to this thing, even if I have to make it up.  Whale man is a great foil for regular man. In some ways whales are so like us (they have names…maybe), but, cosmetically, they’re about as different as you get without having to deal with bugs. Whale man is relatable, but remote. Also, man and whale man could have any number of interesting dynamics between them. The Ningen could so easily be our victim, a symbol of, and a silent witness to, our wanton cruelty to the natural world. On the other hand, he could be our monstrous tormentor, a “White Whale” of gargantuan size and strength, punishing man for his sins against the sea. Also, the myth is impossible to disprove. For all we know, there could be giant whale people in Antarctica, if only in the way that there could be a million dollars under your floorboards. Anyway, this Ningen’s got everything a good beast needs to succeed: A cool look, an ability to generate pathos and fear, and a giant, unexplored territory in which to purportedly hang its hat. This myth’s gonna be big, and I’m excited to get in on the ground floor.

In other news, I’m inching ever closer to the completion of my monster book. All the art is now done (minus a few revisions) and so is about half the writing. Here’s hoping I can get through the rest in a week!

New World Nude Revue!

Posted in Conventions, Illustration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by Paul Swartz

The above is a drawing I did for Vintage Sleaze, a blog dedicated to showcasing the work of “forgotten, anonymous, and neglected sexy artists of the 1950s.” The site is an exhaustive, authoritative, and lovingly-compiled catalogue of risque art. It’s also a lot of fun to read. If you’re looking for someplace to start, my piece is here.

How I came to contribute to Vintage Sleaze is actually kind of an interesting story. A month or so ago, I was contacted by the site’s author, Jim Linderman. He had found my blog during a search for an (even more) obscure cartoonist by the name of Paul Swartz*. Lucky for me, Paul Swartz the Elder did his cartooning in the 1920s and 30s (when he was a lot less obscure), so I don’t have to worry about picking up a pen name…or driving him to do the same! Anyway, Jim liked my work enough to ask me to contribute to his new series “Contemporary Vintage Sleaze,” in which cartoonists of today channel early and mid-twentieth century smut, producing risque works that are retro in style, substance, or both. It’s an honor to be numbered among accomplished contributors like Vanessa Davis, Gary Panter, and Antonio Lapone (who I’ve only just discovered through this series). When you’re reading back through the archives, be sure not to miss the debut entry by the lovely Lena Chandhok!

I’m not exactly sure what my illustration is supposed to be. It’s got a Deco sensibility, with a heavy infusion of Swartz, and is meant as an homage to 1920s poster work. I’m undecided, though, on whether it’s supposed to be a poster for a patriotic burlesque that might have been, or an allegorical cartoon about the ravenous lust/blinding love that the men of the world felt for America (personified here by Lady Liberty). Also, is the cartoon Nativist (cruelly caricaturing the immigrants as ravening wolves, set to defile the New World), or does it sympathize with them; Lady Liberty’s sly smirk portending trouble for her suitors? Maybe it’s just a goofy drawing that reminds us that the fantasies, promises, conquests, and betrayals by which we build nations are the same tools we use in the pursuit of romance.

One weird thing I did learn while working on this drawing is that I have a preoccupation, apparently, with the Statue of Liberty. This is not the first sexy Statue of Liberty I’ve drawn. She also appears in “Jaws of Defeat,**” stonewalling a giant JFK on the prowl. I also have a “Mockingbird” chapter cover that features Irving’s face on the famous statue. So that’s weird. When he spoke at our school last year, Vermont’s first Cartoonist Laureate, James Kochalka talked about the self-knowledge you gain by, in his case, drawing daily diary comics for a decade. One of the weirdest discoveries he made was that, over the years, he had drawn two unrelated strips in which he mused (not eagerly, I should be clear) about having sex with trees. That talk stuck with me and it was fun to suddenly have a quirky discovery like he did. Still, I’m glad that mine was mine and his was his.

Finally, on another note, if you live anywhere near Northampton, Mass., or anywhere in the Upper Valley, really, you should come see Lena and me at the Paint and Pixel Festival on April 16th. It’s only $4 for adults and $2 or free for kids (depending on their age). We’ll be there with our own table, but a slew of other CCSers will be there too, manning a school booth and leading workshops. Even if you’re not in the area, check out our slick profiles on the site’s main page! Just click on the image displayed to see more pics and a bio.

* Jim was kind enough to send me five original pages by the original Paul Swartz, which are a lot of fun and surprisingly relevant to my interests. They tend to portray forgotten Vaudevillians of the 1930s, which is what my “Mockingbird” comic is all about. I’ll be sure to scan them and post them sometime.

** I’ve really got to post the rest of this.

(It’s Almost Time to) Meet the Monsters!

Posted in Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by Paul Swartz

So I’ve still got one letter left to illustrate, but I thought I’d go ahead and unveil the cover for “Meet the Monsters.” This design came together pretty quickly and, by and large, I’m pretty pleased with it. the only thing I’m not sold on are the errant hairs on the explorer’s cheeks, chin, and neck. I’m not sure they read clearly. They might just as easily come across as weird burs or darts he got stuck with in the jungle.

Anyway, I’m almost finished with this book and can’t wait to get it out there (and up here) for people to read and buy! For better or worse, it has to be done in two weeks, so you’ll all be seeing it soon!