Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Son of (Snow) Man

Here's my latest collaboration with my good pal, Hilary Price:
Hilary made a few subtle changes to the art and dialog, but followed my submission sketch very closely.
I've always enjoyed the art of surrealist René Magritte, and have referenced his famous painting "The Son of Man" several times in the past.

Cartooning is for the most part a solitary craft, so I take advantage of every chance I have to collaborate with an artist I admire. My previous Rhymes With Orange appearances are archived on this very blog.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Mind the Gap

All prose has factual gaps that must be filled in by the reader… "Write for your audience" means, in part, gambling on what they know.

I found this recent New York Times piece on reading comprehension and retention to be informative and thought-provoking.

Although the author, psychologist Daniel T. Willingham, specifically discusses prose, the concept applies equally to cartoons.

Cartoons often have factual (or logical) gaps that the reader must fill in—but not too quickly. That gap in a well-crafted cartoon might at first seem nonsensical, and when the reader discovers the missing connection (or explanation), the resolved tension produces a laugh. If that resolution comes too easily, or is overtly explained, the gag is unsatisfying.

In his contribution to the blog 10 Rules for Drawing Comics, Zippy cartoonist Bill Griffith concisely says, "Ambiguity is OK. Ask the reader to meet you halfway."

Another example that speaks to me as an artist comes from saxophonist Steve Lacy's transcription of notes from pianist and composer Thelonious Monk:
Don't play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don't play can be more important than what you do play.
Monk's advice can be interpreted as encouragement to edit, but it also applies to that idea of the audience filling in the gaps.

Of course, I spend a lot of time thinking about the structure of cartoons, so maybe my mind is simply using my own interest/obsession as a way of connecting the observations of Monk and Willingham to Griffy.

In any case, the Times article is well worth reading (and comprehending).
Monk photo ©2017 Concord Music Group

Monday, November 06, 2017

Comic Coincidence

Recently, my good friend Dan Piraro and I independently came up with the same gag, but took slightly different approaches. This happens to all cartoonists from time to time, particularly when commenting on something that's current.

Here's my WaynoVision cartoon from September 18:
The day it ran, I heard from Dan via email:
I’ve got a Sunday comic in the pipeline that makes the man-bun/man-loaf pun! I added a lot of other bread types so it goes a step further but it’s going to look like I copied you. DAMN!
And…great minds!
Yesterday, Dan's take on the very same tonsorial topic appeared:
In the Bizarro version, Dan added four more doughy variants, going much further into the realm of the absurd, hitting it out of the park and into the stratosphere with the Man Holiday Cookies payoff.

We've each said in the past that we share a similar sense of humor, but this is a little scary.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Will Work for Toys

I'll be participating in a comics festival at my local library next month. One of the organizers and I were kicking around options for an all-ages hands-on activity. We came up with the idea of providing an unfinished cartoon panel for attendees to complete. It will include a single character, no text, and plenty of free space, so participants can add their own character(s), scenery, dialog, or caption.

Later, I realized that this was a replication of a formative childhood experience. I (vaguely) recalled entering an art contest from the back of a cereal box, which included a bird character isolated in a plain white space. I'm fairly certain I completed the drawing by showing the bird dueling with some other character. One of them was using a hand saw instead of a sword. At the time, I was about 8 or 9 years old.

Although my cartoon art is just a dim memory, I still vividly recall coming home from school one afternoon to find a package waiting for me. Inside the box was a Mattel V-RROOM! Engine toy. This was a plastic contraption made to look like a motorcycle engine. You'd mount it to your bike, turn the key, and it made a loud motorcycle noise. That was all it did. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.

A bit of Googling turned up a couple of images confirming at least parts of my recollection. The Post Cereal company ran a cartoon contest with several Mattel toys as the prizes, and apparently, I was one of a thousand fourth-prize winners.

Initially, I thought the bird character might have been Toucan Sam (the mascot for Kellogg's Froot Loops) but it turns out to be Billie Bird, from Post's 30-minute ad posing as a cartoon show, "Linus the Lion-Hearted." 
Linus & Billie
Billie was voiced by Carl Reiner, and the series boasted an impressive roster of writers, actors, and musicians. Voices were done by Jonathan Winters, Sheldon Leonard, Tom Poston, Stiller & Meara, Ruth Buzzi, and others. Some of the music was arranged by recording industry stalwart Johnny Mann.

I'd love to find a high resolution scan of the contest, so if you're a cereal box collector and you have one of these boxes, please get in touch.

Thursday, June 08, 2017


I'm pleased to share my latest collaboration with my friend Hilary Price.
Usually, we have several discussions regarding a gag, and it changes on its way to publication. In this case, there was a small revision to the dialog, and Hilary adapted the art for a better fit in the horizontal strip layout.
This change is staging put the fox and wolf on all four legs, adding at least a touch of realism to the scene.

If you enjoyed this cartoon, you're encouraged to review our previous collaborations, all saved on this blog.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Leg to Stand On

This post is a week late, but here (finally) is the May 3 Rhymes With Orange comic strip, co-created with Hilary Price.
The gag took a while to take form, as is often the case when Hilary and I work together. The strip I submitted featured a selection of shabby/inferior items with appropriate names, listed as items from a fictional low-expectations publication.
The last two items are blurred, just in case I find a use for them in a future gag*. Hilary told me she liked the image of a piano with one leg on a cinderblock, and suggested we pursue that as a standalone gag, perhaps with some sort of "there goes the neighborhood" punchline.

We toyed with the idea of either a snooty-looking couple, or perhaps a pair of Beethoven-like figures saying that the neighborhood used to be so much more sophisticated, or something like, "You said it was safe to park it here."

It didn't come together until Hilary wrote the "diminuendoed" line. That use of a musical term wrapped the gag up very nicely indeed. Using a shovel to hold up the lid was a terrific little extra in the final comic.

All told, we played around with it over the course of almost two months before it was finished. If we lived closer to each other, we could have nailed it over a couple of beers.

*Note: I salvaged the "substandard poodle" drawing for a WaynoVision gag (the link won't work before the publication date of May 31).

Friday, January 27, 2017

Slam Dunk

Here's my latest collaboration with Hilary Price.
Please feel free to browse our previous joint efforts here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Coffee and a Sandwich

This week brings two consecutive Rhymes With Orange gags written by your humble cartoonist.

First up, we propose a new business model for coffee shops...
...and a bit of advice from a seasoned pro:
RWO cartoonist Hilary Price made a slight change to the dialog from my submission sketch, and shifted the perspective to show a more of the cafe interior. The title block she created for this one is perfect.
Hilary's final art for the worker bee gag brilliantly depicts the honeycomb structure as a construction site, and adds space around the characters. 
If you enjoyed these cartoons, perhaps you'd like to browse my previous collaborations with Hilary.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nonverbal Communication

Today's Rhymes With Orange comic explores an aspect of human-animal interaction.
The idea came from Foster, one of my own feline studio assistants, who can be persistent and persuasive when he's ready for some affection. Below is my submission drawing, which isn't too far off from Hilary's final gag.
I worked out the idea with some sketchbook roughs, which aren't staged as economically as the eventual strip, but have a certain appeal in their own right.
I can't take any credit for the idea of the cat pulling on a pant leg to demand attention. That's Foster's concept.

If you liked today's cartoon, perhaps you'd care to browse through my other collaborations with Hilary Price. They're all archived for your reading pleasure.

Finally, to give credit where it's due, here's a candid shot of my studio assistant taking a break while I practice the ukulele.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Liberty, Equality... Fraternity?

Today's WaynoVision cartoon was started almost five years ago. I submitted an early version to Dan Piraro as a possible Bizarro panel.
NOTE: I used Dan's font in submission sketches to make them look more Bizarro-like
Dan rejected it, and I filed it away, later submitting it to Hilary Price for Rhymes with Orange. Hilary also passed on it, in part because of the implausible premise of human beings speaking to a giant lobster. I had to agree that there was no grounding in reality as a starting point for the joke.

I archived the image in a "failed ideas" folder and forgot about it until June of this year. I started to redraw the cartoon, but realized that I hated it before completing a penciled version.
After abandoning this new sketch, I tried to devise another way to use the idea of a lobster (or maybe a shrimp or crawfish) being tricked into entering a steam room. The decision to replace the people with animals brought to mind a fraternity initiation. The unsettling thought of two creatures leading one of their own to its doom felt like a perfect opportunity to use these crustacean stand-ins to comment on an unsavory aspect of human behavior. After scribbling the quick thumbnail at the bottom of the page above, I roughed out this drawing in my sketchbook. 

During my time assisting Dan Piraro as his colorist (2011-2014), I paid particular attention to his realistic drawings of animals and insects. An accurate rendering provides a sharp contrast to unnatural behavior in a gag, and can give a cartoon extra punch. When animals appear in my cartoons, I generally try to make them lifelike, to the best of my artistic ability.

College fraternities provide plenty of material for comment, and have inspired me in the past. Putting aside meritless elitism, what I find most baffling about fraternity culture is the notion of humiliating, beating, torturing (and sometimes killing) people as a test to become "friends." 

Initially, the cartoon had a slightly different caption.
The "unfortunate incident" wording reflects the way horrific events are often downplayed by apologists, but "Prawn State University" could be interpreted as a reference to a particular school. That was not my intention, as despicable fratboy shenanigans occur everywhere. 

Changing the name to the "Kappa Delta Prawn" made it more universal, and produced a satisfying sound in the mind's ear. (You must admit, the word "prawn" sounds funny on its own.)

I'm pleased with the way this one finally turned out, and owe thanks to my colleagues Dan and Hilary for rejecting it in its earlier incarnation.

This is an appropriate place to quote Jay Kennedy (1956-2007), a champion of cartoons, and a friend and mentor to countless cartoonists:
[I]n the fine arts, artists generally comment on the world only obliquely; and sadly, only those people who have the leisure to study art history can fully appreciate their comments. By contrast, cartoons are an art form accessible to all people. They can simply laugh at the jokes or look beyond them to see the artist’s view of the world. Cartoons are multi-leveled art accessible to everyone at whatever level they choose to enjoy.

I hope that today’s cartoon is one that can function on the multiple levels Jay described so eloquently.

Thanks for reading, at whatever level you choose.