Aug 05 2014
Quick painting of some lovely flowers we got at the Takoma Park farmer’s market.
Aug 05 2014
Quick painting of some lovely flowers we got at the Takoma Park farmer’s market.
Jul 23 2014
This weekend I went on a bit of a graphic novel binge. I went to Politics & Prose mainly to buy Brian Lee O’Malley’s new book Seconds and I walked out with a giant pile of books I needed to own. I read each of these in about 2 sittings, and I recommend them all.
The most unexpected was Matt Smith’s Barbarian Lord, which caught my attention for its beautiful cover and unusual trim size, then kept me reading in the store until I had to know where it was going. I’d say it’s 2 parts Conan (the premise, character and general story archetype), 1 part Beowulf (the poetic conventions of Old English / Icelandic verse plus several direct allusions), and 1 part Bone (the visual style). Parts of the story are narrated by animals whom the humans can’t understand, which I think is genius, and the dialog reads like it was penned in the days of Hrothgar. (Image from this preview.)
It should come as no surprise that Seconds is awesome. O’Malley has a unique genius for manipulating the comics medium to produce something that is oh-so-cool and yet heartfelt and emotionally real. In Seconds we lose the video game storytelling devices that were SO funny in Scott Pilgrim, but we still get a snarky narrator, who happens to be — well that might be a minor spoiler, so let’s just say the choice of narrative voice is genius. Am I overusing that word? I can’t help it, O’Malley, Yang and Guibert are some of the giants of the current comics scene; they are geniuses. Anyway, so here’s Seconds in a nutshell: Katie is a chef who wants to open a new restaurant because the current one is boring and she doesn’t own it. Of course opening a restaurant is no easy task, and Katie feels like everything is going wrong. Then this happens: Then a great deal of strangeness and character development occurs. It’s Groundhog Day meets Chef with a side of 11/22/63 and just a sprinkle of Anathem and Paranorman. (Images linked from this review.)
Likewise, there was really no question that I would love The Shadow Hero. While I will go on record as saying that the lack of author notes in Boxers & Saints annoyed the heck out of me, nevertheless everything Yang writes is brilliant. To continue the cooking imagery, Yang mixes together immigration, Chinese gangs, superheroes, kung fu, and some wonderfully broken family dynamics into a yummy and satisfying… uh… turtle soup. Sonny Liew illustrates it in a style that effectively conveys character, humor and action, with a slightly vintage look. Protagonist Hank Chu just wants to work in his dad’s shop, but his mom decides he needs to become a superhero. But how can he get super-powers? Mom will find a way… (Images linked from this review.)
How the World Was by Emmanuel Guibert is a sort of prequel to Alan’s War, illustrating Alan Cope’s memories of his childhood in California. Guibert’s work makes incredible use of two techniques. First, his art is stunning in it’s simplified realism. With a few deft lines of a water dropper he precisely depicts the faces, clothes, body language, and every detail in the settings of this very real time and place. Second, having put you there, he tells the story with the minimum amount of drama, letting the ordinariness of life hit you with more impact than the biggest superhero battle. Heck, he even breaks narrative tension at certain points when it starts to develop! It’s a bit like the way Wes Anderson deliberately breaks all the rules of cinematography, except in the service of realism instead of whatever you call the off-kilter-ness Wes Anderson loves. Guibert’s rich visuals and realistic storytelling also remind me of Mariko & Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer (another book I highly recommend!). The following quote by Guibert from an interview about The Photographer has stuck with me — in fact it makes me a little misty every time I read it: “No speeches, no violins, no spilt blood. Drama is often something which hasn’t the appearance of a drama: just a child lying on a bed, silent and still, but who won’t get up anymore.” That’s the kind of drama of which Guibert is the master. (Images borrowed from this review).
Also last week I read Box Brown’s Andre the Giant GN biography. This is a must-read if you have any affection for Andre or the history / shenanigans of ’80s pro wrestling. Like Guibert, Brown goes for a very quiet tone, but the art is more cartoony — the book is about the idea of Andre the Giant, what he means as an icon as well as what his personal life was like. As you read it you kind of feel like you’re hanging out at a bar with a bunch of Andre’s friends, reminiscing. By the way check out these photos of Andre! Here’s a page showing how Brown explains the theatrics of pro wrestling:
Jul 18 2014
I went to a movie yesterday, and there was an advertisement before the trailers for an organization/event launched by Glenn Beck to take down Common Core. It’s called “We Will Not Conform”.
I’m definitely not an expert in Common Core’s principles or implementation, but I know a bit about it through my wife’s work with one of the people who created CC, and I know that those two things — principle and implementation — are not the same.
The Principles of CC are sound in my opinion. They mostly have to do with using texts in a more integrated way than “read and regurgitate,” understanding how knowledge scaffolds and what kids need to know to be college-ready.
Because the “what kids need to know” part of the standards boils down to “quite a bit, actually,” there has been an inordinate amount of focus put on testing whether kids know what they’re supposed to at each stage. which sounds sort of reasonable in a vacuum, but in the real world it often translates into schools making teachers “teach to the test,” which sucks in SO MANY ways.
I believe CC can be implemented in a good way, but I’m sure it’s a bit harder, and requires forward-thinking administrators to make it work. And I’m worried that may be too big an ask from our educational system as a whole. What do you think?
Did I make it sound like Glenn Beck was just against testing? No, not only that, he and his supporters believe CC is a tool of the liberal intelligentsia to indoctrinate everyone’s kids throughout the country with liberal values. Yep. Again, I think the political content can be separated from the basic CC principles, but on the other hand, it seems quite possible that he’s right. Most of the people writing content for CC are probably using the latest consensus ideas about climate change, American history, multicultural literature, tolerance, and so on. If CC makes it harder to shelter your kids from all of THAT, then is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Jun 24 2014
Just got back from a great week in Colorado. I was a guest of the Denver Comic Con, which has grown HUGE in just a few years. I was on a couple of excellent panels, met cool people, spent some time tabling and sketching, and then took off for the mountains of Estes Park, where I hung out with ground squirrels and elk
Jun 19 2014
First, I have delivered Macbeth, and it is scheduled for release in May 2015 from Candlewick Press. I really think you’ll like it. It’s as dark, atmospheric, claustrophobic, bloody and eery as I could make it. I’ll let you know when the release date approaches and the book is available for pre-order.
Second, I’m excited to announce that all of my titles are now available as e-books. They are currently available via Apple iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, and within a week or so, B&N Nook. By Summer’s end they will also be on the school/library subscription services Hoopla and Tumblebooks, and probably on Comixology and several other platforms as well. (If there’s a particular platform on which you want to see my books, please let me know so I can [a] pursue it, and [b] let you know when/if it happens.)
Kobo, Nook, and Google Play Books are cross-platform apps, so they’re available on pretty much all e-readers, including Apple and Kindle devices. (I won’t be working with Amazon directly, for several reasons including the current Hachette dust-up — though Amazon now owns Comixology). If you’re wondering which method nets me the most money per sale, that would be either iBooks or Kobo. Kobo also lets you set up your account such that you can support your independent bookstore of choice with each purchase, which is awesome.
If assistive technology is important to you, I’m happy to say that most of my titles have “live” text so they should support whatever features the reader software provides. The only exceptions are The Collected Beowulf (because it’s hand-lettered), and King Lear on iBooks/Kobo (the ePub format can’t handle some of the fancy text formatting so I had to flatten it).
Personally, I love a physical book, and that is pretty much always my format of choice. But I think the current generation of tablets offers quite a good reading experience, and perhaps you or someone you know would like to save money, trees, weight, bookshelf space, or replacement costs by getting my books electronically. Now you can! Or, if you want to buy my physical books, check out my store page.
There are two other things you could do if you want to help me out: first, writing a quick online review (on any of these e-book services or on Amazon) will help others find my books. Second, if you know teachers or students who are transitioning to using tablets for schoolwork, you might pass the word along to them.
May 22 2014
The fabulous Mariko and Jillian Tamaki gave a nice talk at Politics and Prose last Saturday to close out their book tour for This One Summer. It’s a gorgeous book, and I have huge respect for these two ladies as writer and illustrator.
I had left my sketchbook in the car (doh!) so I drew these one the back of some official P&P stationery. Click to enlarge.
May 05 2014
Had a very nice weekend. Saturday we went to Brookside Gardens, a lovely spot just outside the beltway. They have a water garden that reminds me of Mt. Auburn, right down to the great blue heron who was hunting there.
Sunday we went to the Takoma Park House and Garden Tour, and then raced over to Politics & Prose for their nonfiction children’s books panel. I think I managed to capture at least a halfway decent likeness of all eight panelists. Top row: Duncan Tonatiuh, Jen Bryant, R. Gregory Christie. Bottom row: Brian Floca, Richard Jackson, Susan Roth, and Leonard Marcus.
Apr 22 2014
My neighbor happens to be a very talented composer and violinist, and last night we went to see his group Quiet Life Motel play at a charming little French wine bar called Bistrot Lepic. It was a lovely evening of good food, good wine and good music, and I did a few sketches of the group playing. Check out their new album, it’s very cool and atmospheric.
Apr 11 2014
I spent part of the morning down at the tidal basin painting the cherry blossoms. Not quite as gorgeous as seeing them at dawn yesterday, but this time I brought the right supplies. It was a little crowded, but really not bad.
Mar 09 2014
On Sunday I went back for the second day of Shakespeare Theatre Co’s Henry IV rehearsals. Like Saturday, it was a lot of fun. I met more of the cast, I introduced myself to director Michael Kahn, and I had a seat right in the front with plenty of light to draw. I also found that they have Merchant in their store (along with my competitors Manga Shakespeare and No Fear Shakespeare — I’ll see if I can get them to carry Lear and R&J).
I concentrated on faces in a lot of these sketches because apparently nobody but Falstaff is in their real costume yet. Surprising how well a sword belt over a hoodie works, though.