The time has come to start a slow slide into retirement. It’s going to take me a few years to actually get there, but I’m going to begin by retiring from drawing editorial cartoons. I’ve been drawing them for 43 years and I’m kind of burned out. Arthritis has rendered my drawing hand useless and I don’t enjoy “drawing” the cartoons on the computer as much. My enjoyment of putting ink to paper for hours at a time is gone.
This has been coming for a while now. I’ve reached a point where I don’t really have much to say that’s new or original. I’m finding it harder to come up with a fresh take on New Hampshire’s unfair tax system for the umpteenth time, for instance, or the latest crop of pompous gun nuts.
I also need relief from daily immersion in the cesspool of the current political climate. It takes a lot of time to read & research topics for cartoons and I weary of being down in the muck created by the Republicans who have given over their party to the insanity of Trump and their right-wing extremists. Frankly, they just piss me off and I can’t find any humor in a lot of this stuff anymore. Also, it’s hard to make fun of people and portray them as evil or idiots when they’re actually evil or idiots to begin with. Parody may be dead.
I may still post a cartoon with InDepthNH from time to time, but for the most part I’m done.
Thanks to all who have supported my work over the years and especially to Nancy West who kept my work afloat at IDNH when the newspaper business went down the tubes.
I’ll continue to work on my R.F.D. comic strip and write the gags for Snuffy Smith
so, I’ll see you in the funny papers. Or rather, on the funny web.
Blogs are annual, right? ;)
Yeah, I'm bad at this.
Anyway...more changes in the drawing department.
My hand has abandoned me and I'm drawing almost nothing with pencil & ink these days.
I can draw loosely with a pencil okay, but inking has become quite frustrating. I can't draw curved lines without wobbles and can only draw straight lines if they can be done with short, quick movements. And I have to stop frequently to "crackle" my fingers. I've given up lettering entirely.
Fortunately I can still draw with a computer mouse so that's what I'm doing mostly.
Photoshop is much more forgiving of my spastic line work, I can erase and redraw with the click of the pointer. My latest editorial cartoon for InDepthNH was drawn entirely in Photoshop on my iMac.
I have a large library of previously-drawn artwork to draw upon (literally) which I can recycle and use as elements in new cartoons.
Needless to say this process takes a lot longer than the ol' pencil it, ink it, scan it, color it method, which is one of the reasons you're seeing fewer cartoons from me.
My R.F.D. comic strip is drawn the same way now also:
And the roughs I draw for the gags I write for Snuffy Smith. These roughs go to the strip's artist, John Rose. All of the finished artwork you see here is his.
Old school pencil with computer lettering on the left, current all-computer on the right.
Further below are some of the sheets from my digital library of Snuffy character art that I continue to build. I'm all about the cut & paste now.
That's it for now.
I've written before about how arthritis and essential tremor have been hindering my ability to draw.
Here's how I've been adapting...
Previously I drew the editorial cartoons as one single piece of art on 12 x 9 Bristol paper. That doesn't work anymore because I can't draw that small now - too crampy on the fingers which reduces my control of the pen and makes my drawing pretty sloppy. Anything larger doesn't fit in the scanner so now I'm drawing most cartoons in pieces and assembling them in Photoshop. I can draw the individual elements larger using a fatter Sharpie (which is good because Sharpie discontinued the marker I used for 30 years!) and still shade with finer markers. I also utilize a Wacom Intuos Pro drawing tablet, but I don't actually do much drawing on it yet with the editorials. I am using it a lot to draw my R.F.D. comic strip. The pen is pretty fat where you hold it so that's an arthritis bonus!
My fingers cramp up something wicked and I have to frequently stop and flex them, but, hey, they're still working for now. Any flubs due to the lack of pen control can be easily fixed after I scan them into the computer. My pencil roughs have always been free and loose but my finished inking was always pretty tight and controlled. Now I have to make quick flicks and strokes with my markers as I can no longer draw long slow lines without them being shaky-looking. This has actually added looseness to my inking which I kind of like.
So here's what "drawing" an editorial cartoon looks like now using my latest cartoon as an example:
Elements drawn large and separately with markers on three different sheets of 12 x 9 Bristol.
Colored using pencils, brushes & gradations in Photoshop.
Wacom drawing tablet.
Place the elements, lighten the background elements and add the voice balloons with font of my own lettering..
Add more color, balloon tails, and sig and voila! finished cartoon.
So that's what I'm up to.
Hope you're all well and dealing okay with the pandemic!
I have been using the Sharpie Extra-Fine Point marker as my primary editorial cartooning pen for over 30 years.
Last year, to my horror, they announced they were no longer going to manufacture it. I immediately began hoarding boxes of them. I'm down to 3 boxes. I can still find them on eBay and such, but it's known they've been discontinued so people are charging exorbitant prices for them. I've been testing markers to serve as replacement and think I've finally found one: the Stabilo OHPen Universal. Yay.
As I've explained previously, I'm having a bit of trouble drawing these days.
Pencilling is fine - I can go loose and free, but when it comes to inking the precision required is a bit tougher with the tremor and arthritis, therefore my two webcomics as well as my current editorial cartoons have become hybrids of drawing and Photoshop trickery.
I don't hand letter anything in these cartoons anymore. It's all done in Photoshop. I use commercial fonts for the strips but for the editorial cartoons I use fonts made from my own hand lettering using Fontifier. Now I can just type it and wa-la - it's still my lettering. Some of the spacing between letters comes out a bit funky and I have to adjust it by hand but other than that it works fine. I rarely use the comic strip font but it's there if I decide I want to use it.
I'm always on the lookout for good state house backgrounds to use in the UP on the HiLL Violet Finch strips.
I saw this one the other day on Twitter - loved the contrast with the deep shadows. So here's an example of that hybridizing...
Top: the original.
Middle: I removed all the people. I'm getting better at this, but you can see some repetition in the steps where I cut & pasted. I don't have any fancy apps for this I just do it with cut, paste & blur.
Bottom photo shows how it might be used in a comic strip - I ran it through a paint dab filter and dialed back the saturation so the figures pop out more.
Art geekery from an old dog learning new tricks.
You can support The Beach here: paypal
We had to say good-bye to our 15-year-old cockapoo Riley yesterday.
It got me reflecting on our pets and how I've always drawn them into my cartoons.
I've been putting Riley in my R.F.D. comic strip for years. His nickname was Riley-Roo. He was a pure joy. A bundle of energy - he never walked anywhere, he ran and his tail never stopped wagging.
Our cat Petey was my model for Mister, the cat in my UP on the HiLL strip. I named him Mister because I fell into a habit of greeting Petey with, "Hey, mister, what'cha doin?". Petey was a sweetie so we called him Sweetie Petey. He made a few appearances in my Concord Monitor editorial cartoons also.
And going back a bit was our beagle Abbey (I'm a Peanuts-admiring cartoonist - I had to have a Snoopy).
Abbey made a lot of appearances in my Monitor cartoons. She loved a good brushing and a belly rub. Oh, and like all beagles, SUPPER!!. She was a Beatle Beagle - I named her after Abbey Road. Pup, the dog in my UP on the HiLL strip is also sort of based on Abbey.
Our current cat is a wild little boy named Rocky - we call him Rocky-Pocky. I am going to have to work him in to some cartoons somewhere. Below is picture of him on one of his jaunts outside. He's an indoor cat but my wife takes him out on a leash and loves it. He is definitely King of Sue's Flower Jungle.
I've had a couple of inquiries recently ...
When you sign up at Patreon and become a Patron of UP on the HiLL the fact that you have done so remains private. Your name does not appear publicly on a list anywhere and I don't announce who my Patrons are. If you want to let others know you're a Patron and encourage others to do so you are more than welcome, but I keep your name private unless you tell me otherwise.
2. Purchasing original art
You cannot purchase any original strip art because I "draw" the strip digitally. I do draw many of the elements of the strip on paper, but they get scanned into my Mac where I do the majority of the work with the aid of Photoshop and an IntuosPro drawing tablet. I do offer high quality prints of the strips for $20 each.
Always happy to answer questions.
The new cartoon reality:
1. Newspapers can no longer afford editorial cartoonists and are replacing them with cheaper content from syndicates. 2. Cartoonists can now bypass the newspapers and syndicates and post their work directly to the web which pays us...nothing (unless you can sell a cartoon book or a t-shirt once in awhile).
Therefore the only way many of us can make money from our labor is to use a crowdfunding platform like Patreon.
Rather than quit I have chosen to continue cartooning "without a net" and hope enough readers still appreciate my work enough to support it directly through Patreon.
Needless to say, being one'a them independent N'Hampsha bootstrap fellas I'm a bit uncomfortable asking people to please support my work. But when you are one'a them INHBFs ya do what'cha gotta do so this is what I'm doing.
I'm coming up on two years producing UP on the HiLL. I really enjoy doing it and would like to continue (there's no politics like New Hampshire politics!). If you'd like to see the comic continue (and get some free stuff!) please consider becoming one of my Patrons at www.patreon.com/UPOnTheHiLL. Patreon is secure and Patrons remain anonymous.
Strip: #1 Feb 21, 2017 Latest strip #322 Jan 21, 2019
(Note-- Harlan and Gemma do do a little more than just sit in those chairs!)
I keep files of news items I "clip" from the online newspapers and news sites I read each day (this used to be in the form of an actual clipboard with real newspaper clippings back in the old days, y'know, way back in 2012). I read all my papers in eEdition format - haven't read a "paper" newspaper for a few years now. I read the Concord Monitor, The Union Leader and my local paper, The Keene Sentinel. I also get news from InDepthNH, NH Public Radio, a few podcasts, WKBK Keene & Google News. I read The Boston Globe for years but had to cut my subscription due to budget cuts I had to make when I started losing my newspaper editorial cartoon papers. I do not miss the "paper" papers at all. I get minimal news from TV, not a big fan of network newsbites or the cable news channels, though I do catch a few minutes of them now and then. I usually watch WMUR at noon while eating lunch.
I DO NOT rely on Facebook or Twitter for real news. Naturally, I enjoy all the anti-trump memes on Facebook and I like the #nhpolitics Twitter feed to get the behind-the-scenes NH politics stuff and for those right-wing extremist trolls who supply me with tons of material for UP on the HiLL, although it's actually quite disturbing to see people spewing that stuff and a few are downright scary with their locked'n'loaded, god'n'guns crap. Glad their not my neighbors!
I have two files, one for New Hampshire news from which I draw ideas for the UP on the HiLL editorial comic strips and one for The Beach that used to be titled "national news" but is now pretty much all trump because he sucks all the air out of the daily news cycle (I've renamed this file MORON!.)
When I was drawing editorial cartoons for the Monitor items in the "National" folder usually had a shelf life of about a week - I used to draw all my cartoons on Monday & Tuesday and the subjects would remain fresh for the rest of the week. These days I have to clean that damn folder out almost daily because stuff from two days ago has been overwhelmed by today's pile of stupid from trump. Ideas I had for Beach strips yesterday seem almost irrelevant compared to what I should be addressing today. To use an already well-worn metaphor, the man is a firehose of news spew. I get ideas daily for The Beach, but can't draw them all because it would take me away from my other paid comic strip work. I currently make nothing from The Beach - I have a "Support The Beach" donate button but nobody's ever clicked it ( :( ). I'm still trying to find a way to monetize the strip, but in the meantime I'll continue to draw The Beach because it keeps me from going insane from watching what this administration and it's supporters are doing and saying. Every. Freakin'. Day.
As always, your questions & comments welcome. :)