Upcoming Events for Twin Cities Cartoonists

This weekend there will be a lot of neat goings-on for Minnesota comic book and cartoon fans.

For starters, the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society will be holding it’s annual get-together here in Minneapolis. As part of the event, NCS president and local illustrator Tom Richmond has put together a special event for the public on Friday, October 14. Things kick off at 6:30pm when cartoonist Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) will give a public lecture about his work. Then at 7:30pm there will be a panel discussion with Q&A featuring several professional cartoonists from around the Midwest. Both events will take place at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Auditorium 150.

Then on Saturday October 15, comic book creators and fans from all over the Midwest and beyond will be gathering at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for FallCon, Minnesota’s annual fall comic book convention. As usual I’ll have a table so stop by and say hi. The National Cartoonists Society will also have a table so you’ll have a rare opportunity to meet several professional cartoonists from around the region.

Finally, while you’re at FallCon MAD Magazine’s Tom Richmond will be selling copies of his brand new book The MAD Art of Caricature, hot off the presses. My copy hasn’t arrived in the mail yet but from everything I’ve seen it looks like it will be one very thorough, very helpful book. Tom’s been leaking snippets here and there on his blog, and you can tell from the above video that it’s no lightweight volume. There’s a zillion “how to draw” books out there, thankfully it looks like this one will rise well above the norm. Tom has a reputation for not cutting corners and this looks like a top-notch effort. If you can’t make it to FallCon you can order copies of the book here.

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NCS Cartooning Recap

This past weekend I was in Omaha for a two-day cartooning event sponsored by the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society (of which I am a member). The schedule was jam-packed and the public was treated to a fountain of cartoon goodies including a special headline event that kicked off the weekend: a presentation by Pixar story artist Josh Cooley. Josh has done work on The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Up, and wrote the humorous “UPisodes” used in Up’s promotion.

Josh gave his presentation on Friday night to a large crowd at the Kaneko Center. (I’d love to show pictures but photography was not allowed.) Using slides and video he gave us a detailed peek behind the curtain at the story department at Pixar. He explained what the job of a story artist is, showed us some slides of the Pixar facilities (including what looked like an olympic-sized swimming pool, a fully-stocked cereal bar, daily drawing classes, even fencing lessons!), and talked about the long and winding journey that a Pixar film takes from the first kernel of an idea to finished script. We were also treated to animatics of abandoned sequences from Up and Ratatouille—including one very funny bit with a manic lab rat character that was later dropped.

Saturday morning Josh gave a closed-door workshop on storytelling. Being a filmmaking geek and a huge animation fan I ate it up. Then on Saturday afternoon there were three panel presentations given by midwest NCS members:

“Cartooning In The New Economy” – First came a discussion on some of the challenges currently facing artists in the gag cartoon biz. Cartoonists Ed Fischer, Tom Kerr, Bucky Jones, and Dave Carpenter answered a series of questions from moderator and syndicated cartoonist John Hambrock (The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee).

“Drawing in the House of Saddam” – Next up were cartoonists Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) and Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine). They showed slides from their recent USO trips to Germany and Iraq. When they weren’t cheering up wounded troops in the hospital they were touring the ruins from the Iraq war including a former palace of Saddam Hussein.

“Sketching As Story”– The afternoon closed with another panel discussion featuring cartoonist/storyboard artist Glenn McCoy (The Flying McCoys, Ice Age 3, Despicable Me), Chris Browne (Hagar the Horrible), yours truly, and Pixar’s Josh Cooley (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up), moderated by editorial cartoonist Jeff Koterba. We showed slides of our work and answered a few audience questions about visual storytelling.

Chris Browne, Cedric Hohnstadt

After our panel I asked Hagar the Horrible artist Chris Browne for a photo. He said he would but only if I wore his viking helmet. It’s a special piece of papier-mâché headgear hand made by Chris himself using scraps of leftover drawing paper from his studio. As a kid I have fond memories of visiting my Grandma, curling up on the couch, and reading “Hagar the Horrible” in her newspaper whenever we visited. Now here I was sitting next to the Hagar artist on stage and wearing his home-made Hagar hat. Of course Chris took over the strip after his father’s death so technically he wasn’t the one who drew most of the strips I read growing up but to me that’s a minor detail. It was still quite a treat!

Cedric Hohnstadt with Pixar story artist Josh Cooley

Pixar’s Josh Cooley is a super nice guy and was incredibly generous with his time and talent. In addition to three presentations on stage he also did interviews, signed posters, and ate his meals with our crazy group of cartoonists, most of whom were huge Pixar fans. For two days we bombarded him with geeky question after geeky question and he graciously answered them all.

After the final panel we made our way down the block to the Bemis Gallery for the opening of a special traveling exhibit, “One Fine Sunday in the Funny Pages”. The exhibit featured dozens of original drawings—one from almost every syndicated cartoon strip that you would find in your daily newspaper. The exhibit was put together by John Read, who is also the publisher of the wonderful cartooning magazine “Stay Tooned!”.

During the exhibit several cartoonists hung around for a book signing. Pictured front to back: Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues), Chris Browne (Hagar the Horrible), Glenn McCoy (The Flying McCoys), John Hambrock (The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee), and Jeff Koterba (signing his memoir Inklings which is getting rave reviews).

What an inspiring weekend! Besides spending time with such inspiring and insanely talented people, Omaha was a charming town and the weather was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for more. I’m still riding high off the cartooning buzz and more excited than ever to keep drawing!

“Help The Hodges” Update

I’m leaving today to spend the weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska where I’ll be attending the annual meeting of the North Central chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. We’ll be judging submissions for the “comic strips” category of the NCS Reuben Awards. There will also be some presentations by other artists, some good food, and lots of goofing off.

Before I leave I wanted to update you on the “Help The Hodges” art auction on ebay. If you haven’t heard, hundreds of very cool animation- and cartoon-related items are being auctioned off to raise money for animator/writer/producer Tim Hodge, who’s son Matthew is in a coma after a car he was in was struck by a train.

Over the course of about three weeks a steady stream of items was being auctioned off. Then, without warning, ebay killed the auction and yanked it offline. I don’t know the details but apparently there was a misunderstanding that resulted in an accidental violation of one of ebay’s many fine-print policies. Over 150 items were wiped out in mid-bid.

The good news is that things have been ironed out with ebay and the auction will start up again on Saturday, February 27. As soon as it does you’ll be able to view a list of all the available items at HelpTheHodges.com. There will be a ton of neat stuff up for sale.

Before the auction was interrupted I was fortunate enough to land the winning bid on an autographed Disney maquette of Kuzko from “The Emporer’s New Groove”. It arrived in the mail yesterday and is currently perched atop the computer desk in my studio until I can build a proper shelf for it:

“Help The Hodges” is a great cause and a big win-win. There’s something neat for every fan of animation or cartooning, and its all for a good cause. But if bidding isn’t your thing, you can also give a Paypal donation to the Hodge’s at HelpTheHodges.com.

“Help The Hodges” Art Auction Starts Today

Today at 10:00am Pacific time is the start of the “Help The Hodges” art auction (ebay link). It’s not only a chance to bid on some *fantastic* cartoon and animation art but you’ll also be helping a good cause.

The drummer pictured above is Matt Hodge, teenage son of animation writer/producer Tim Hodge (Mulan, VeggieTales). Back in August Matt was in a car that was struck by a train. He survived but remains in a coma. When it was time for the Hodge’s health insurance to be renewed the insurance company decided they would no longer cover Matt since he now had a “pre-existing condition”. So the Hodge’s are on their own to cover all future medical bills.

I once went to the emergency room after gashing my finger with a knife. They sent me home with a band-aid and charged me $300. I can’t imagine what it costs to care for someone who is 100% dependent on others day in and day out.

I don’t know Tim well but I did some character design work on the 3-2-1 Penguins! TV series for which he was the producer. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. It’s so sad to watch this black storm cloud continue to hover over his family. Fortunately Tim seems to be holding up well and facing everything with grace and even a little humor.

To help out, animation artist Chad Frye, with the help of the National Cartoonists Society Foundation, has been working hard to put together the coolest ebay auction ever. Artists from all corners of the animation and cartooning industries have donated original artwork to help raise money for the Hodge’s. Approximately 150 items have been donated including work by some top-drawer artists, as well as maquettes, posters, and signed DVDs. There’s so much cool stuff I don’t even know where to begin!

You could own an original sketch from “Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends” creator Craig McCracken…

…or an original Mickey Mouse animation drawing by Frank Thomas from “The Brave Little Tailor”….

…or an original drawing by “Kung Fu Panda” character designer Nicolas Marlet!

The auction is so large that it will be spread out over three weeks. To browse the entire collection visit HelpTheHodges.com. You can also get the latest on the auction on Facebook. [EDIT: The auction is being split into three groups of 50 items. The first group (listed here) goes up for sale throughout the day today, approximately one every seven minutes. Then next 50 items will go live on January 28 and the final 50 or so items will go live on Feb. 4.  CLICK HERE to view all the items that are currently available on ebay.]

If you aren’t the bidding type, or if the auction gets too rich for your blood, you can always give a tax-deductable donation by clicking on the “Paypal” link at the “Help the Hodges” website.

Finally, for the latest on Matt’s condition you can also follow Tim’s journal on the family’s CaringBridge page.

Most of all, please remember the Hodge’s in your prayers.

Mort Drucker Clip From “The Master Series”

Artist Stephen Silver has put together an amazing new video that cartoonists are going to love. “The Masters Series, Vol. 1” includes lengthy interviews with three living legends: Mort Drucker (MAD Magazine), Stan Goldberg (Archie Comics), and John Reiner (The Lockhorns). Over the course of 2 hours and 15 minutes we get to see each artist hard at work in their studio and listen as Silver interviews them on their process, technique, inspirations, and a host of other topics. An extended preview of the Drucker segment is shown above.

This video is the first volume in what will hopefully be a long line of videos. You can watch “The Masters Series” on Schoolism.com starting January 20, 2010. The cost is $39.95. Pay once and you’ll be able to watch the video online over and over again to your heart’s content. Unfortunately you won’t be able to download a copy due to pirating concerns. That’s disappointing but I can’t blame Silver for his decision. In art and animation circles inspirational nuggets like this often get traded and shared like candy, regardless of copyright concerns, so I don’t blame him for being overly protective. He put a lot of hard work into the video and deserves to earn a bit of coin for his efforts.

See you at Schoolism.com on the 20th!