March is Sketchbook Month

Sketchbook

Well, not officially. But it will be on this here blog. At least for this year.

Care to join me?

Life has been crazy busy lately with no signs of anything slowing down. As a result it’s been a real struggle to keep anything resembling a regular sketchbook. I still draw quite a bit but its always to please a client and meet a deadline. Rarely am I able to draw something I *choose* to draw for practice, to push myself, or just give myself a creative breather. As I’ve said before, I feel kind of a like a professional athlete who plays hard at every game but then never has time to come to practice.

Character designer Stephen Silver does absolutely brilliant work and one reason is that he’s a ferocious sketcher. He’s fond of saying, “A page a day keeps the competition away.” So that’s my goal for March. Do a page a day for an entire month. (To make it more manageable I’m going to limit myself to weekdays only, otherwise I might get discouraged and fall off the wagon.)

As an extra motivation I’m pledging to post at least one drawing from each day’s work here on the blog. Not because I think my work is so wonderful—quite the contrary, I can be very hard on myself. No, I’m primarily doing it because frankly I need the accountability.

Of course knowing that whatever I draw will wind up here in full public view leaves me tempted to play it safe and only sketch things I’m already good at drawing. But that would defeat the whole purpose. If I’m going to continue to grow and improve I’ve got to push myself to try new things and master new skills, whatever the results may be.

If you’d care to join me in this unofficial “Sketchbook Month”, leave a link to your blog/website in the comments section you can do so by visiting the official Sketchbook Month blog.

March is a month of new beginnings when the snow melts away, the grass turns green, and the birds start to sing. What better time to shake the dust off my sketchbook and start turning over new pages?

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NCS Chapter Meeting in Omaha

This past weekend I drove all the way to Omaha for the semi-annual meeting of the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. In terms of square miles our chapter is by far the largest covering almost a third of the U.S. Our meeting locations rotate throughout the Midwest and almost always involve a long drive. Professional cartoonists are a really fun bunch to hang around so it makes for a refreshing mini-vacation.

NCS Gag Cartoon Judging 2011

In between eating, drinking, and talking shop we took time to judge the winner of the “gag cartoon” category of the 2011 Reuben Awards. The Reubens are the most prestigious honor in American cartooning and will be awarded at a black-tie gathering later this year in Boston. There were a lot of very funny entries this year. If you can make your fellow cartoonists laugh you know you are doing something right.

NCS Chapter Mtg-Omaha 2011

Left to right: Jeff Koterba, Cedric Hohnstadt, Paul Fell, Tom Kerr, Mike Edholm, John Hambrock

This year turnout was lower than usual. Maybe judging the Reuben awards on the same weekend as the Oscars amounted to just too much artistic competition for one weekend. Seriously, a few of the “regulars” faced circumstances beyond their control but we look forward to seeing everyone at our fall gathering—right here in Minneapolis!

Puzzles for Patch Products

A few months ago I was hired by Patch Products to illustrate two puzzles for preschoolers, one with a farm theme and one with a zoo theme. Along with drawing all the animals I was to “hide” specific shapes within each puzzle for the preschoolers to find as they put the puzzle together. The puzzles are now available for purchase from Patch Products (Links: farm puzzle, zoo puzzle). I get no commission from the sale of the puzzles so this isn’t an attempt to make a little profit off of a blog post. Just wanted to let everyone know.

Here’s how the final art turned out (the unusual border shape is intentional):

Monkey Business

Monkey - Wonderblimp of Knowledge

Last year I designed a monkey puppet to join the cast of characters on JellyTelly.com, a multimedia website venture from Focus on the Family and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. There’s lots of terrific educational video content on the site and several of the characters have also crossed over into the DVD series What’s In The Bible?

The new JellyTelly site is now live and, for the moment at least, free to watch. It’s a beta site and the creators are considering some sort of subscription model for future content but at the moment the site’s primary source of revenue is donations.

The monkey character is part of a new segment called “Clive and Ian’s Wonderblimp of Knowledge”. Unfortunately I’m not able to embed a clip but you can watch the Wonderblimp segments on this page of JellyTelly.com.