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Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Book was sent to the Publishers today.

and wouldn't you know, I immediately remembered something I should have changed beforehand. Isn't that always the case?

Monkey Do

Baluku is a handsome young chimpanzee who loves to play.
He lives on Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary on Lake Victoria in Uganda. Baluku is an orphan; his entire family may have been killed for bushmeat or so that a rich foreigner could obtain an exotic pet. But he is not alone. There are 99 other chimps currently with him, all taken from traders, circuses, and even an army unit that used one as a mascot. Only one baby was born there: the aptly named "Surprise". (The chimps are on birth control since space ag Ngamba is limited, but the mama pulled the implant out of her arm.)
Ngamba Island gives these orphaned chimps a safe place to live. They have formed their own natural community and live semi-wild lives, but they cannot be returned to the actual wild since territorial chimps would kill them on sight.

How did I make Baluku's acquaintance? It was naturally second-hand but thereby hangs a tale.
My upstairs neighbour, Monique, is a primatologist who has recently returned from a three week long trip to Uganda. Her husband Eric, a trial lawyer, came along. Who wouldn't?

They got to see the wild mountain gorillas in Uganda but sadly, very few of them are left and this species will almost certainly go extinct within the next few years.

Monique and Eric visited Ngamba and did the 'jungle walk' with the chimps. (" Ngamba Island: A unique experience: Take a forest walk with chimpanzees early in the morning where you will join a group of young chimpanzees in their habitat. Observe their morning or afternoon feeding and bedtime routines. Optionally, you may prefer to go to a local fishing village. Come back to Entebbe for overnight."--BROCHURE.)
Lake Victoria was beautiful and the people, though poor in material possessions, seem to have a nice living fishing and living on the water.
Their guide was one of the resident managers of Ngamba, a man whom I and they know only as Stany.

Monique came back with some amusing Ngamba souvenirs including a very funny T shirt that read "98.7% Chimp." This was a shirt I simply had to have. Monique suggested that it could be a birthday present and tried looking online and contacting primatologist friends to see if these shirts could be shipped to the USA.

Lo and behold, they were available in America, and the man who had them Rochester. Of all places. He suggested that Monique and Eric and I come to a fundraising dinner for the Ngamba sanctuary that was being held in nearby, well-heeled Pittsford. This was a private party in a new city park but the man assured Monique that she and Eric would be admitted. I would be too, if I paid the admissions fee. I not only did that, but got my 98.7% Chimp T Shirt and some lovely pictures of the chimps on postcards. So that is how I met Baluku.

"And we would never have heard of this if you had not kept insisting you wanted that shirt!" Monique told me.

Here's where things get really weird: The main speaker at the event was none other than....Stany.

Now, the long arm of coincidence is really twisting when you meet someone in your hometown who you last saw in the Ugandan bush. But it got better.

Stany's trip to America was funded by...the Walt Disney Company. He is now in Florida spending a few weeks at their safari park. It is his first trip to America. He said it was hotter here than in Uganda!

You had to see the look on Stany's face when Monique and Eric went to speak to him at the function and he recognized them. Stany's English is good and he speaks four other African languages. Luganda was the only name I remembered.

Remarkably enough several other people in the party had also been to Uganda and one or two had even visited Ngamba. One woman reportedly did nothing but travel to 'look at apes'; she saved up and then went to Africa or Asia or wherever.

The Ngamba sanctuary was partially underwritten by the Jane Goodall foundation but since there are so many ape-related extinction fires to put out and Ngamba is bringing in a lot of ecotourists to Uganda, they are about to go solo so that Goodall and some of the other preservation organizations may spend funds where they are desperately needed. They even had to build a new office in Kampala so that they did not share quarters with Goodall's foundation.

We saw a short video about the Island and Stany bravely spoke in English for an hour. The worst news was that the trade in bushmeat was increasing. Two tons of 'bushmeat' (antelope but also ape) was confiscated in Dubai, and US officials have found coolers full of dead endangered animals in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. Stany said that Europeans were also demanding this food.

Eating a chimp is like eating your auntie. The Ugandans, Stany said, feel the same way, and there is no real bushmeat trade in that country. But the export market drives the hunters. As a result we will almost certainly lose the mountain gorillas within a few years' time. There are only 380 of these gentle, inoffensive animals left in the wild.
I wish that another ape species could learn to control their...OUR depraved appetites.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Cat is possessed.

I'm just about ready to mail the completed manuscripts out to the publisher in Boston. They asked for two hard copies and one disc with the illustrations; to be on the safe side, I provided two of the latter.
All I need is one more permissions slip and it's off to the printers we go.
There were some typos to correct; all Disney films have to have their titles spelled out in their entirety, (SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS instead of just SNOW WHITE--this was a reasonable request from Disney, and when proofing the book I found a few mistakes at the very last minute. Fortunately computer editing makes them easy to remove and correct.)
I was working on the dining room table. It has always provided the best workspace for me since the animation desk really can't handle two large binders simultaneously.
The windows were open. This is one of the few parts of the USA not baking in triple digit temperatures. Some discarded pages were blown onto the floor. I then heard a familiar fluttering paper sound that didn't come from the wind.
Gizmo the cat was standing on two pieces of paper and lifting and lowering the top one with her paw. Repeatedly.
So this is no ordinary cat.
This is a cat who chews on animation pencils, is fascinated by the desk, pats the animation disc with her paw, and now flips 'drawings'. She's obviously the reincarnation of a female animator. And it is clear that she has been misnamed. What should I call her? Mary Blair? Retta Scott? Lillian Astor? LaVerne Harding? Casey Kissane? Faith Hubley? Lotte Reiniger?
I'll stick with Gizmo for now but I'm open to suggestions for a name change.

My illustration job continues and I'm pleased with the color work. The client is too, which is always a nice coincidence.

I went with a friend to the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Play, which has just added a butterfly conservatory to its acres of kid-friendly stuff. It made me long to be three feet high again.
The conservatory only allows you in for a twenty minute walkabout with the butterflies. Most of the loveliest ones had 'common' in their names. I hope that this is true since so many are going extinct.

Then it was back to the house and the crazy cat.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

We're Number Two

I just found this on under "Hollywood's HOTTEST professions."

We came in at Number Two. That sounds about right.

2. "Animator: While basic animation has been around for a century, in recent years the medium has virtually exploded, and employment opportunities abound. Modern-day animators don't just work with stop-motion clay animation (A Claymation Christmas, Wallace & Gromit), but also with photographs of drawn or painted images (The Lion King) and computer-generated images (Finding Nemo). In fact, computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation is fast becoming one of the hottest fields in the industry.
The award-winning animators at Pixar (The Incredibles) have raised the profile of animation, and they've also pioneered 3-D computer graphics technology. With the public's insatiable appetite for animated sitcoms (The Simpsons) and films (A Bug's Life), the growth and glamour potential of this career promise to keep skyrocketing. At the moment, there are only about 94,000 multimedia artists and animators in the country--and demand for industry professionals is on the rise, expected to increase by 40 percent in the next decade. Oh, and did we mention that a good animator can earn a salary in the six-figure range?"

And did we mention that a great many animation jobs are going to Asia because studios don't want to pay artists six-figure salaries?

I never knew that I worked with 'photographs of drawn or painted images'. I just drew 'em.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Nemo's Valentine

I can't play the music but I can post the lyrics to one of the prettiest songs in LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND.

[Sung by Little Nemo.]
"Won't You Be My Valentine" (1908)
Words by Harry B. Smith, 1860-1936
Music Victor August Herbert, 1859-1924
Just before the sun of Springtime,
Drives old Winter's snow away,
Comes the wedding bell and ringtime,
Time when lovers' hearts are gay.
It is then you send your greeting,
Pictured verse that says, "Be mine."
On the day of lovers' meeting,
Day of good Saint Valentine.
Won't you be my Valentine,
Sweet heart mine,
Maid divine.
If you look for love sincere,
I am here,
Waiting near.
Darling take me,
Don't forsake me.
Be my Valentine.
I am lonely,
Want you only,
Be my Valentine.
'Tis my fondest recollection,
That bright day so long gone by,
When with boy and girl affection,
We were schoolmates, you and I.
But my love was all unspoken,
I was bashful, did not dare,
Till I sent you Cupid's token,
With its verse and pictures fair.
(CHORUS 2 times)


Winsor McCay was the Leonardo and the Michaelangelo of the animators.
He was a phenomenal draftsman and a memorable showman. GERTIE THE DINOSAUR was the first animated character with a personality.
She was also part of the first interactive entertainment show: doing (or not doing) tricks as McCay gave orders and cracked a whip. The spectacular finale had McCay riding out of the theatre on Gertie's back.
A drawing from GERTIE THE DINOSAUR with cartoon drawing of McCay entering the shot is being auctioned on ebay at this time for about three thousand dollars. It is worth it, and if I had the money, I'd buy it.
But Gertie wasn't McCay's main claim to fame. He was also the author of a fantastic comic strip, LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND.
John Canemaker, the author of the splendid McCay biography, told me that McCay literally drew his dreams. He worked in a stream-of-conscious fashion, laying out his speech balloons before lettering them (a serious error in modern cartoons.) He also would letter the words "Hem" and "Um" as characters looked for something to say.
I won't go into the story of LITTLE NEMO here since you can find out much more about the man at sites like this, and I want to get to the point of the article.
Winsor McCay was also the first cartoonist to ever have his creations staged in a show on Broadway.
LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND was produced in 1907 by the vaudeville producers Klaw and Erlanger. It was a popular show that played for three years before closing because of the unweildy sets. The show featured a cast of hundreds, many exotic locations, and had too much scenery to tour with.
It had something else: a score by Victor Herbert.
That is to say, it had a score by the first successful Broadway musical composer. Even a hundred years later we are familiar with Herbert's MARCH OF THE WOODEN SOLDIERS. I always thought he was Viennese but he was pure American Irish.
And some nice people in Michigan were recording all of his work.
And yes, their recording schedule included LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND. This music was being performed for the first time in over ninety years.
So I purchased a double CD of the recording and tried it out yesterday.
A musical of 1907 is not the musical of today, but the plot of NEMO may be charitably described as incoherent. It's just as riddled with dreams and non sequiturs as the original comic--and if you are not familiar with the comic (as the organizer of the Comic Opera Guild proved to be) it's hard to see what all the fuss was about.
This is the sort of show that needs sets and probably they were pretty spectacular. NEMO cost three times as much as a typical show of the period.
The music is pleasant. One or two numbers might have been hits. ("Won't You Be My Playmate" and "The Valentine Song" stick in the ear long after the record is over.) And some of the comic interpolations by Doctor Pill are still amusing.
There are topical references and a strange fascination with money. The Princess constantly tells her friends she has lots; songs frequently refer to money, women on shopping sprees, and how you have the right to shoot on sight if anyone makes a loud noise in Slumberland. There are several martial tunes in the jingoistic spirit of the time and even a song about the Old Continentals sung by none other than Lady Liberty (not the statue, but the allegorical figure.) The scenes shift from Nemo's palace to the Cannibal Isles to a pirate ship to Morpheus' court and then to the land of the Weather. One of the more amusing songs occurs here, sounding very like something from the Gershwin's STRIKE UP THE BAND. Dr. Pill's patter songs are heavily influenced by Gilbert and Sullivan but they are good in their own right.
The showstopper must have been the Central Park scene, done entirely with music. Actors enter the set, their numbers growing as the music builds--nursemaids, policemen, strolling beaux, and one small child who brings the whole thing crashing down by picking a flower and getting arrested by the cop. It is impressive enough on two pianos; it must have been devastating with a full theatre orchestra.
The performances on the disc are often more enthusiastic than anything else though one woman has a sweet soprano voice and a few other singers acquit themselves well. I wish they'd miked the show a little better since some players are off mike for nearly the whole show.
Two pianos handle the score. I could but wish that they'd gotten a full orchestra to perform WON'T YOU BE MY PLAYMATE.

The records may be purchased here.
Could NEMO be staged today? What did I make of it, finally?
It's the first of the 'children's spectacular' shows. One pirate character even complains that he can't swear because 'this is a kiddie dream and I am a kids' pirate."
Like the comic strip it was based on, it was glittering eye candy with a very confusing message--a literal message from the land of dreams.
Winsor McCay ended his career drawing pointless editorial cartoons for the Hearst papers. He was too shy and frightened to cut off from his big boss and go out on his own (he may have been right, since animation changed rapidly during the Twenties and McCay's gentle fantasies were increasingly out of date.)
We are left with a few wonderful animated films and the gorgeous Nemo comics.
And thanks to the Comic Opera Guild's Victor Herbert festival, it is possible to hear a pale reflection of the magnificent show that NEMO must have made on Broadway 99 years ago.

Hail Hail Fredonia

Here's a link to the most recent view of the Daniel A. Reed library at the Fredonia campus. The kindly trees try to hide this eyesore but do not succeed. At least there is some greenery and not the hideous expanse of concrete found in the earlier picture.

Look on these Works and Despair

If anyone ever researches the extinct American culture in the millennia to come, it's difficult to know what they'd make of this. Actually, there's no need to wait that long; quite a bit of the country already appears to be in ruins.

For many years I collected postcards as cheap and portable souvenirs of my travels. I may post a few amusing foreign ones if I feel like it, but right now I'll concentrate on two horrors I found in my grandmother's button box this morning.

I used to send horrid things like this to friends in England and California. The joke was to send the ugliest and most pointless postcard. The Californian was able to come up with stuff that was just about as bad as this; my English friend invariably sent a postcard of HRH Queen Elizabeth II.
I didn't comment on his choice of subject matter.

These two never got mailed out for some reason or other. Both are at least ten years old. The abomination at the top is, or hopefully was, on the campus of the State Univeristy College at Fredonia, New York. The text on the reverse of the card reads," "The elevated walkway on the Fredonia campus stretches out toward Reed Library, one of the most modern collegiate library facilities in the nation. The flowing and classic design of the Academic Center of the college attracts many vistors each year."

Now, I've been to the college website, and there are pictures of the campus, and it looks a good deal more inviting than this horrible photograph. The wonder is that anyone ever found this style of architecture desirable. It might have been mitigated by the judicious application of plants; but there's not a sign of them. The 'walkway' looks about as inviting as a factory loading dock, only without the local color.
The 1970s were indeed the Decade that Taste Forgot: and the architecture of the time was probably the worst feature of a very ugly decade.

RIT was, my Chair joked, designed in 'American Brutalism" style, with tons of brick buildings and not much else when the campus opened in 1967. Say what you will, brick is more inviting than concrete, and I can only be thankful that the architecht(whom I curse daily for minimizing elevators and climbable stairs and including Arizona-style BREEZEWAYS in buildings that regularly suffer high winds and the deep snows of an upstate winter) did not choose to use poured concrete instead of the bricks. That's his one saving grace.

RIT has very pleasant squares and landscaped grounds around the brick buildings that were added over the years which soften the 'factory' look considerably. I'm also glad that our building has flags on the front so people can identify where it is.

Anyway, the second photo was picked up at a truck stop near Sacramento. I really did stop here, and it is really as ugly as you see here.
Actually I thought most of California must have been lovely at one time, but people had been working overtime to correct that condition.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Old School Ties, so to Speak

I just heard from one of my top SCAD students, Jamaal Bradley, who's now a character animator at SONY. Jamaal worked on the "House" part of the upcoming MONSTER HOUSE.

He's also working on BRE'R RABBIT STEALS THE BUTTER, the first time I believe that a Black animator has ever animated the Uncle Remus tales. It looked good in storyreel and should also look good in CGI. RIT class of 2006 grad Greg Smith is working with Jamaal on the rigs for the characters, and Jamaal's also showing Greg around Sony. This is what's called networking, and it's something that I encourage my students to do even if it isn't for their own particular school tie. In this instance the only thing Jamaal and Greg have in common is their studying animation with me.
Works for them, apparently.
Back in England when I was at Amblin' my unit had a special name. I don't know whether to revive it now-it does sound a little perjorative.
The unit was known as the "Nancy Boys". I don't know if my former students would want to labor under that particular appellation but it did lead to some amusing cartoon drawings at the time. And of course there were "Nancy Girls", too.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Update on the lowdown

Dean Yeagle has informed me that a prison reform advocate has taken an interest in his 'banned in North Carolina" story.
The name of the prison reform advocate? Hugh Hefner!
This is going to be even bigger than I thought.
Dean will be at the Comic Con in San Diego this week with a huge sign on his booth reading 'BANNED by the North Carolina Department of Corrections." He should sell out quick.

I remarked that my book will only be 1/400th banned since it has only one of Dean's girls in it and therefore only a fraction of the louche content. Then again, I am drawing back views of pigs with a vertical line bifurcating the hemispheres and reaching to the tail.
So that might get me in trouble with those people who would deny that such anatomical features exist. Unfortunately it won't get as much copy as pretty girls not being allowed in jail.

Dean will actually be on the radio discussing the incident.
"And on the BANNED IN PRISON front - I sent basically the same letter as I sent you to a talk show host in NY named Lionel, who is one of the few you can laugh WITH instead of AT. He was once a prosecuting attorney in Florida, and has been railing against the Bush administration for a while now. Just the other night he was talking about the strange puritanism we've still got in the US, so I thought he'd enjoy the story. He did, and he invited me to be interviewed about it on the air. Although he's in NY on WOR, he's broadcast across the country, from 10PM to 1AM on weeknights, and earlier on Saturday. I listen to him online - there are podcasts the next day on First I'll send him my sketchbooks, so he knows what we're talking about.Publicity!"

There is something a little strange in discussing cartoons on the radio, but what the hey. As Dean wrote to me after the Danish imbroglio, "Remember when the people complained about violence in the cartoons?"

It's apparently still okay to complain about sex in cartoons.

On an unrelated front, I've sent a letter to Disney Publications to ask for permission to print some of Ken O'Connor's artwork. We'll see if this actually happens. If not, I have two excellent photos I got of Ken when he was still healthy, and those will have to suffice. But the first 'reader'--Brian McEntee- sent in his suggestions for changes and they have already been incorporated into the manuscript and illustrations, so I'm 1/3 down and two more crits to go...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Got bored, did a drawing.

Like it says in the title.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Well, I'm in the interesting situation of having the book (mostly) finished early. The publisher is delighted and wants to get into production as soon as my three readers have finished making their suggestions. All three have now received their copies and the editor asked me if she should make up copies for the 'blurb writers'. The difficulty here is that some of them cannot stare at a computer for any length of time, and would rather have hard copy. I hope that they can wait til the three other pros make their suggestions first in case I left out something or have to rewrite a bit.
I've already sketched out a few small paragraphs to add and I would like to redo two illustrations. So far, anyway.
And there's the interesting coincidence that the Siggraph and San Diego Comic Conventions are on at this time. It would be a very good idea, I think, to have some kind of flyer--maybe a postcard of the cover--available for distribution at the Focal Press booth in the former. I can have them at the Creative Talent Network booth if they are made up, and I will be at the booth next year thanks to the generosity of Tina Price, the originator of the Network.

But hot damn, None of my work has been banned anywhere. Dean's letter from the North Carolinian lawmens (Deputy Dawg inevitably comes to mind) is the best publicity he could possibly get.

Me, I can't get myself arrested and neither can my drawings. Wait a minute...maybe if I gave Red Riding Hood a bottle of Chianti...

Thursday, July 13, 2006


This is an addendum(b) to the previous post on Censorship. The quote comes from "Books Supressed or Censored by Legal Authorites" (the link appears in the previous post):

"An illustrated edition of "Little Red Riding Hood" was banned in two California school districts in 1989. Following the Little Red-Cap story from Grimm's Fairy Tales, the book shows the heroine taking food and wine to her grandmother. The school districts cited concerns about the use of alcohol in the story. "

I can't add anything to that. Just shake my head sadly while sipping a pretty good New York State Cabernet Sauvignon.

Nothing Could Be Finer than being Banned in Carolina

I received this email from former business partner and good friend Dean Yeagle this morning. I'm reprinting it because any paraphrasing I might give it would not do justice to Dean's original words (hope it is okay, Dean--but inquiring minds need to know about this.)

"Hi, Nancy -WARNING. I found out, just today, in an official letter both certified and registered, that my sketchbooks have been BANNED by the North Carolina Division of Prisons as being too risqué, too lewd, too steamy...for CONVICTED FELONS. I kid you not. If, as the letter declares, 'this publication' (SCRIBBLINGS) '...could be detrimental to the security and good order of the prison facility and the rehabilitation of the inmate', imagine what it could do to those unwary souls unhardened by years in the slammer. Due to 'violations' of 'Division of Prisons policy', my sketchbooks have been 'disapproved for delivery' to thugs, thieves, fiends, hoods, goons, butchers, and cutpurses. Apparently the possible deleterious effect of my cartoons on their delicate sensibilities is just too much of a risk. They might get in some kind of trouble. I consider myself a good citizen, mindful of the welfare of my fellow creatures; so now I must warn you all not to buy my sketchbooks...or if, like you, you already have them, for the love of humanity, DON'T LOOK AT THEM! If you haven't been corrupted by them, you've dodged a bullet.But if I catch the sniveling little weasel who snitched, he'll have a shiv between the ribs before the end of exercise period.- Dean"

Go to the link to see what all the fuss is about. Dean's site is also on the Blogroll and you can see more (oh boy can you see more) at under "DaBeagle".
Once upon a time Boston used to 'ban' books that it found rude, crude, skewed or tatooed. Being 'banned in Boston' was a guarantee of success; the most famous example of which was William Faulkner's SANCTUARY but it had plenty of company, as you can see here.
Oddly enough Dean's also had some of his animation censored, or at least not aired, in the past so he's officially the Most Censored Cartoonist I've worked with.

I've told him to put this letter from the Carolina jailers on his website under "Smut" and post the good reviews (and they are legion) under "Smiles".

Any publicity is good publicity, the saying goes, and this is one of the most hilarious examples of official nuttiness I've seen in a long time.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Demon Duck of Doom

You have to check this out. This is an actual paleontological name for a big old bird that
used to run around Australia.

You know, there are some creatures that are better off extinct. Not that there were
any humans to worry about them then.

You know, this is such a funny name I am retitling the blog. I've changed the name once already today, it was bland and silly. THE DEMON DUCK OF DOOM is interesting and silly.

Quack, quack.

The Cover

I figured I could post the cover now. Earlier versions of this blog had to use a separate program to upload pictures. I like the new features on the toolbar.
So here it is.

Book 'em

Animators don't need to be in the same studio, or the same country, as their producers.
I was one of the first American animators to work long distance, mailing in animation from New York City to Burbank for a WINNIE THE POOH special in the eighties. (The mail never lost a package though there was one that took two weeks to get there, resulting in several grey hairs for the artist.)
The Internet makes it even easier. Entire tests and films can be uploaded and sent where they need to be. Today there are animators living in many different locations and they are still working for L.A. studios. One friend in Hamburg regularly does so, and so does one in England. It's a small world after all.
While I like the one-on -one approach of directing and prefer to have animators in a studio (and work in one myself), it's okay to work this way if I know the artist's work and work habits. As for me--I got a cat so I would have someone to talk to.
Now that my textbook is done I'm working on an illustration job that involves daily phone calls with the producer and lengthy exchanges via email. I love the fact that I can make changes instantly by leaving the Photoshopped roughs as separate levels, send a small Jpeg across the country and then keep the bigger files for the finals.
There are, of course, drawbacks to this situation. The screaming FAX machine was one of them. It is supposed to be top of the line but since they don't send instruction books but make them all electronic now I don't know how to quickly deal with the machine that seems to have a mind of its own. Its settings worked for a day, then changed so that the FAX went on whenever anyone called. It's now been taught a lesson--but I can only receive FAXes manually. Only one client uses them so it's easier than I thought, though still not an ideal situation.
My studio now uses virtual materials. It really is possible now to animate a featue at home. I'll be testing the Mirage software soon courtesy of RIT. It's highly rated by friends who have used it. The graphics programs are of course a standby. A computer program mimics chalk, pen, brush, airbrush, and paper texture--all in one handy palette. I don't get my hands dirty and very little paper is wasted (unlike the book, where a whole plantation of hemp plants died for the privilege of bringing my words to print. I did not use tree based paper since I had a high rewrite rate and so I feel a little better than if I'd killed some forests for this. Nearly four reams of paper had to go to the recycler during the production of my magnum opus.
I use a Wacom tablet and have just replaced the nibs and one pen, which actually got worn out! and the response is back to normal.
I do draw on paper; it's still the best way to get a strong preliminary sketch. It's then digitized and modified in Photoshop and finished in Painter.
Lovely stuff and the whole megillah paid for itself in a matter of weeks.
Boxx computer even asked me if I would do a testimonial about the machine after the book is done. I am perfectly happy to do so since this monster of a computer effortlessly handled hundreds of huge graphic files without once shivering and fainting the way my totally overwhelmed laptop did during the early stages of the production. 2 Gigs of RAM will lead to a sort of confident feeling.
There are new bells and whistles on these programs all the time so it pays to know when to get the upgrade.
I expect I should upgrade Painter now.
Most upgrades on CGI software are a pain in the ass since they are not backward compatible with older versions. I was furious when MAYA 6.5 did not work with MAYA 6. I've now got to install MAYA 7. I think I will stick with graphics and not worry too much about CGI programs since I have been told that if I did not like being on a neverending treadmill, I should stay away.
Fortunately story and writing are not dependent on OS or versions of a software. You still need input--a computer WILL NOT create art by itself.
Of course I mention that in the book and have gorgeous artwork from a student to 'back up' the statement.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Waiting period.

It's not really over til the fat lady sings. Or until someone reads the book.
First the disc has to reach the readers. One got his disc sometime yesterday afternoon. What do you know...I discovered that by changing one drawing in Chapter six I had a new theme that added about three hundred words and a second illustration to the chapter. Getting away from this thing for a week has cleared my mind slightly, though not enough to take the whole megillah objectively.

Anyway, I rewrote parts of Chapter Six, drew the two new illustrations, and sent them out by email to my readers and to the editor in England. The American editor tried calling and I will see if he needs one too.

It was a rather trying Fax machine has decided to go on every time there is a phone call (it has since been set to Manual), my bicycle was stolen sometime during the weekend, a crooked banker 'forgot' to roll over an IRA fund so I had to go for the second time in two years to personally retrieve the money, and Gizmo the cat uttered loud cries and barfed up lots of kitty food.

The upstairs neighbor came back from Africa with malaria and I've been running some errands for her. With the bike gone I had to walk two miles to the shop to get another. Surprise. Nothing in women's bikes in the entire store. Oh, but 'they're getting more on Monday. Su-u-u-u-ure they were. I took a taxi to another shop and bought a different bicycle.
Now for the good news: the insurance will pay for the missing bike, Gizmo just ate her food too fast, and I did get the money away from the crooks at Chase (NEVER work with this bank!)

It remains to be seen how the readers judge the book and how the freelance work goes. I'm waiting for a package from them, too.

So this is sort of a meaningless update, but it brings people up to date on the sort of excitement I could really live without. It's also not much fun having a bicycle in the animation studio all the time--this new one is NOT going to be left outside overnight. But that means I have a new roommate. I've already informed the cat that she should not make it fall on her and kill her.

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's been sent in

It's sort of done.
I have done just about everything I can do to the book and am too close to it to see if anything else needs to be done.
The publisher asked for 'technical readers' to go over it to make possible suggestions for changes. This is a good idea as long as I get to pick the readers.
I wound up with one in the USA, one in Canada and one in England, so there's a nice sort of internationalism to it. There is also a little money in it for the reviewers.
When and if they recommend changes it is up to me whether or not I do them. The book will then go into production.
Still waiting to hear about a few odd illustrations but I can go ahead without them if they do not come through.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Hoest Mansion with Guests

Hoest Toasties: A visit to a cartoon Castle

I have just returned from a trip to LonGuyland for a meeting of the "Berndt Toast Society". This is a subset of the National Cartoonists Society that meets at the home of (Bill and) Bunny Hoest.
Bill died in 1988, six years after designing and building his dream house out of cobbles taken from two New York Streets. The archaeological details, capstones and other decorative bits came from wrecked Brooklyn buildings. Bill was into building recycling years before it became popular.

Bill drew THE LOCKHORNS and AGATHA CRUMM and HOWARD HUGE. Bunny continues to write the strip with artist John Reiner drawing LOCKHORNS and HOWARD HUGE and LAUGH PARADE. Sadly, Agatha has gone to stock market heaven (I thought this one of the most original strips I'd ever seen.)

Bunny's probably the most successful cartoonist wife carrying on her husband's strip. Usually it is a son or daughter who continues the comic ( Dik Browne's son Chris drawing HAGAR THE HORRIBLE) or lends their name to the comic after the creator dies, (Dean Young for Chic Young's BLONDIE) or other artists are hired to keep it going (BRENDA STARR continues with a female team after creator Dale (Delia) Messick died recently). Bunny was writing the strips with Bill anyway, and John keeps the style consistent, so the more popular comics continue successfully 'under new management'.
There are relatively few women drawing comic strips although their situation is still better than that of female animators.

Bunny let me stay at the house overnight because of my transportation difficulties. She actually owns two houses; Bill's mansion is now mainly used as a studio. It runs '24/7' with Bunny doing the writing in the mornings and John doing the artwork at night. Bill built a marvellous studio on the top floor, complete with a crenelated tower containing the drawing board. Large as it was, all the important art materials were within arms' reach.
Bill Hoest was a remarkable man and I am proud to have known him. I think Bunny has done an incredible job keeping the comics going though I am still sad to lose Agatha Crumm.

Ten years ago Bunny married "Doccie" Carpenter, her physician. It turned out to be their tenth anniversary so I had a nice housewarming/anniversary bottle with me. Dr. Carpenter is a world famous pediatrician. He owns an early 19th century mansion of his own complete with horse boarding facilities and a herd of sheep. (The sheep are there to train border collies. I tell no lie.)

About 150 other cartoonists were invited. Bunny has this party every June and insisted that I come. I figured, why not? since I had no plans for the Fourth, I'd celebrate a little early.
I flew from Rochester to La Guardia airport and she sent a limo to pick me up and get me back there.

The mansion is on Lloyd Neck in LonGuyland. This is a place, not a person. Mr. Lloyd's 18th century mansion is now an historic museum that is not far from the Hoest's house. The scenery is lovely along the Sound, with sheltered coves and lots of sailboats. It is not a poor or even middle class community, to be sure. Oddly enough there were some very modest houses, definitely not selling for modest prices, scattered along the area. (One house was listed by Sotheby's auction house so I got the idea that this was definitely a silk stocking district.) The newer houses are of the McMansion variety. The Hoest castle is on land formerly owned by the Colgate family; the Hoests own one of the smaller parcels. The people there must have a minimum of 2 acres of land to build there but the nextdoor neighbor is, Bunny said, building a McMansion that almost fills the plot.
Lots of old NCS friends were there. It had been a while since I attended a function.

Bunny asked me to 'bring along what I was working on' so I printed out a few illustrations.

I was supremely chuffed to find that they made a big hit. Mort Drucker of MAD magazine really liked my caricatures of Humphrey Bogart and Laurel and Hardy (not together; though I did have Bogart with Woody Allen.)

So I won't worry so much about how well the book will be received. It's almost done. Really. I have about fifteen more illustrations to do and I wish to rework a few more. A few young cartoonists at the party agreed to let me use one or two examples of their work. I

There were even a few globetrotters present from the Australian Cartoonists Association there (nice work too).
Australians always travel big; they figure that since they have already travelled several thousand miles before they get anywhere, they might as well keep going. This couple was from Perth. It is the most isolated city in the world so ANYWHERE else is thousands of miles away!

Bunny's husband is 95 years old but did not look it. I brought along a fine bottle of whisky that Bunny said he was sure to enjoy. (it's one way to get old, I guess.)

Dean Yeagle was there; his wife Barbara is still packing so did not come. They leave for L.A. for good on the 7th (only coming back when the sale of their house is final, hopefully soon.) He's doing some interesting work, one of which is a comic that was formerly drawn by Walt Kelly! on the Gremlins (remember the Gremlin in the Bugs Bunny cartoon?) Of course he was delighted to be so honored and get paid too.

I stayed in a guest bedroom, helped Bunny pick up the stuff the next day (she is having another party on the Fourth but I was not able to attend). I shall have to send her a bunny picture. The house has stone, tile, and ceramic bunnies (in the best of taste) in many rooms. Bunny got her nickname as a baby since apparently she was said to resemble one.

I've got a children's book to illustrate. I took it on since the concept was very nice (it is for charity). I figured I am going to be done early with my own book. This referral came through a Disney source and I need to keep my professional chops up. Taking on the second assignment oddly enough broke through several illustrator's 'blocks' for me on my own book and I turned out some of my best illustrations. It's kind of like taking sorbet to clear the palate after the meat course.
The freelance assignment will be done before the end of the summer and Bunny invited me to Doccie's horse farm to draw the animals if I wanted to come for a few days. If I can get the upstairs neighbor to look after Gizmo I will take her up on it.

I'm still catsitting for the Three Beach Balls (the very overweight kitties.) The owners are in Africa studying bonobo chimps. Eric comes back a week before Monique since he's not the scientist; he arrives tomorrow. I have been the main support for these cats. The couple had an elaborate life support system set up with daily assignments for some people but it had one weakness: it relied too heavily on one person who never showed, so without me the cats would have certainly lost weight and possibly trashed the house. I tried calling people to tell them I was away on Thursday and Friday and no one showed up. Fortunately the cats have enough padding and enough food to get by for one day, unlike Gizmo who ate all her food and was very hungry when I got home.

The biggest, fattest one (a 26 pound turkey named Jacques) constantly mews in falsetto for his daddy. He'd make three of Gizmo. I think he wants to be picked up and petted but after one disastrous try I said no way, Jacques.
A cat that size sounds like a human being when it runs around upstairs, so several times I thought there was someone there but when I went up it was obvious that no one else came to take care of the creatures.
Considering their owners have been away for three weeks the cats are remarkably well behaved; there was only one accident on a rug and no claw marks where they should not be, unless you count Jacques' nose. (one of the smaller, fatter girls got him.) If I owned that cat I'd call him Fatty Arbuckle.

The flight home was horrendous. The plane probably walked from Manchester since it was two hours late. When it got there we were taxiied out and about to take off when A Politician allegedly was passing through and the entire airport was ordered shut down. I think the entire plane was sending waves of concentrated hate by then. after twenty minutes they let us go and I had a bumpy ride home. propeller planes are not my dish of tea though I know they are actually safer than jets.

so that was my holiday party. I have no plans for the Fourth though since Eric is back from Uganda I hope he is over his jet lag by then and can tell me how it was. Monique arrives in another week. She celebrated her thirtieth birthday in the outback and it was probably joyous for her--she has pictures of chimps framed on the apartment wall the way other people would have movie stars. (she has worked with some of the famous chimps and speaks of them by name with reverence. It is so cute.)

She also has a bumper sticker that says MY MONKEY IS SMARTER THAN YOUR HONOR STUDENT.

A picture of the Hoest Mansion is attached.