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What’s in a name?

Regular visitors will notice the blog name change from ‘Nothing Sacred’ to ‘Monty’s Muse.’

When I originally chose, ‘Nothing Sacred,’ it was because of a humour column I had in the Banff Crag & Canyon newspaper in the mid-90’s under that same name, so I decided to use it again. Unfortunately, while going through some convention stuff on the Canadian Cartoonists site, I noticed that at the last convention in 2005, they showed a movie about Terry Mosher and Serge Chapleau, two of Canada’s most well known editorial cartoonists. The title of that movie…Nothing Sacred.

Obviously, that little tidbit was somewhere in the recesses of my noggin, but I failed to recall the movie when I named this blog. So, even though I used that title years before the movie came out, somebody in the Canadian cartooning world, sooner or later, is going to claim I ripped it off. Since the name wasn’t all that clever in the first place, I figured I’d just change it and avoid the inevitable.

Monty is a nickname I first acquired while in the Canadian Army Reserves, and one I’ve had for years in different circles (La-MONT-agne). I also use it in different art forums online, so it seemed like a logical replacement.

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Thirsty Beaver

As mentioned before, I’m hosting the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists Convention in Banff this coming August. The bulk of the work is done, but there are still many little details to work out, including sponsorship, always a challenge with any event, I’m told.

One of our sponsors agreed early on to help us out, thanks to the efforts of Bob Krieger, the cartoonist for the Vancouver Province. He spoke very highly of a brewery in Kelowna, BC, called Tree Brewing and asked them if they would sponsor our hospitality suite each evening. They very generously agreed and asked if we would create some cartoons about their brands in return. Sounded like a fair deal. A few cartoonists have already obliged and I finally got my first one done. I’d like to get at least one more finished for them before the convention rolls around.

I’ve sampled a few of their brands in the past few months, and I must say they certainly do know what they’re doing. Very tasty and flavorful beers, with great names such as Cutthroat, Hophead, Rebel and Thirsty Beaver. It was the last one that got me thinking.

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Behold the Metatron

Man, I had fun with this one! This turned out better than I hoped it would. Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s always room for improvement and I’ll likely be dissatisfied with this in a month, but for now…I’m pleased.

Rickman Final

Rickman Closeup

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You’re a slacker, McFly!

I’ll admit it…I’m puttering on this one. Spend an hour here, an hour there…but I’m having fun, there’s no deadline, so who cares?

Since this is a short week, I must admit my motivation is kind of low right now. I’m getting the cartoons out, and working on this caricature, as well as some other sketches, but who am I kidding…I’m in slow-motion and likely will stay there until Saturday. Can’t run on high speed all of the time, and while I should probably feel guilty about slacking off…I don’t. This won’t last, so I might as well enjoy the slow pace for a bit.

If you feel so inclined…take a break. It does a psyche good.

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Rickman as Metatron: rough values painting

Here’s some more progress with the Rickman caricature. Haven’t touched this in about a week, since the paying gigs take priority as did the computer emergency. Since everything is back to normal, I dusted it off last night and did some of the rough block in. This is basically what the finished caricature will look like…with more detail and colour, of course.

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Make sure you use protection, kids!

I’ve had computer nightmares before…lost data, viruses, failed parts, etc. As a result, I’ve tried to be very careful about making sure I was protected. I’ve got a secure router, the best virus protection, an external hard drive on which I back up my files regularly, surge protectors on everything.

This past Sunday, I was painting at the computer at 6:00AM when the power went off and on, 3 times in rapid succession, likely due to the wind and rain outside. It stayed off for about an hour. Big deal, I have SURGE PROTECTORS. So I went and had breakfast.

When the power did come on, I found out that surge protectors aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I turned the computer on, and it took longer than it should have to come to life. I began to sweat when I saw a big red word listed beside one of my hard drives that read ERROR, and another one in yellow that said DEGRADED. These are not good words. These are words spoken in whispers in dark alleys.

But once it powered up, the computer appeared to be working fine, and then I realized what had happened. Thankfully, I have mirrored hard drives. For the uninitiated, this basically means I have two hard drives, each a complete copy of the other. When I save any file or do anything to the computer, it saves to the second hard drive as well, and if one drive fails, the other takes over, and your computer runs as it should. So it saved me…as it was supposed to. But once you’ve had this protection, being robbed of it feels like driving around in a strange city during rush hour with no car insurance.

I could still use the computer, but if I got another power surge (which is all too common in Canmore), I could lose the other drive as well. True, my data is all backed up on an external hard drive, but it would take at least a week to reinstall Windows, all of my software and data, and to restore all of my settings. I can probably come up with 1000 things I would rather be doing than that.

Today, all is well. A new drive has been installed, and the mirror is currently rebuilding itself. In addition, I bought a second faster external hard drive on which I’m currently backing up everything. I also bought a battery backup (currently charging) that my computer and monitor will be plugged into. If a surge happens again, the battery will take over immediately and it will give me an hour to save any files, and shut down the computer safely.

Big thanks to Ken Anderson at TMS for building me a great computer in the first place, and then making sure I was back to being fixed up in a couple of days.

It all comes down to being prepared, and realizing that this stuff can happen to anybody. They’re just little machines and parts and lines of code, but imagine what it would feel like to lose everything in your computer and to possibly be without one for a week. It’s especially frightening if you make your living on it.

Now, If my computer isn’t protected enough at this point, the only thing I can think of is to wrap it all in a big condom.

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The Art of Golf

This one was for a client in Banff, who wanted a caricature of her husband from her and their boys for Father’s Day. I love projects like this one. Not only did she give me enough time (which isn’t always the case), but I was also given a number of good reference photos to choose from, the main one included here.

While I often have to do caricatures of politicians and media types, I get a kick out of the more personal private commissions. I get to put in a lot of little details, which are more about the personal gift and less about overall artistic composition. For me, all of these little details are just technical requirements for the image, finding a way to work them in, without overpowering the caricature itself. To the person receiving it, however, they are all personal reminders of people and memories that are important in their life. I try to keep that in mind while working on it.

The details

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Painting Editorial Cartoons

A number of my editorial cartoons are what I call Ink People. These are basically every-man or every-woman character interactions, usually one or two in the scene, having coffee, watching TV, or just standing there. Usually a conversation to spell out the observation or joke. They’re sketched, scanned, and inked (just a black line layer in Photoshop), and then coloured. Those aren’t my forte, likely because I’m usually very pressed for time and as a freelancer, can’t afford to spend hours working on a full scene in the background, even though I’d like to. A cartoonist I greatly admire, Vance Rodewalt, with the Calgary Herald does very detailed and wonderfully intricate scenes for many of his cartoons. Little hidden gems all over the place.

As you’ve guessed (if this isn’t your first visit), I much prefer digitally painting when I can. Many of those, like this one, are started right in Photoshop, no initial sketches. I’ll have some reference photos on the other monitor, and I’ll just start painting on a blank canvas.

One of the challenges with editorial cartooning is that some newspapers print in colour, others in black and white, so I have to do both for every cartoon. With this cartoon, I painted it first in black and white, to get the values right, and then added colour on another layer. Even though the topic of the cartoon made me pretty angry, I kind of like how the image turned out, not too crisp and clean, but still the scene I had in mind.

Now I want to go camping, before the government kills all the lakes.



With Text

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Alan Rickman – The Metatron Sketch

This week has been incredibly busy. I am hosting the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists convention in Banff this August and I’ve been working very hard to get as much done as early as possible. Aside from a couple of minor logistical nightmares, things are coming together nicely, but having never been to one of these, I’ve been pestering some of the other members for specific information I don’t have. While they’ve been very accommodating, I can imagine they’re starting to hate seeing my name in their e-mail inboxes. I’m looking forward to the convention, but I’ll be happy to see the ass end of it, too.

I’ve started a caricature of Alan Rickman as Metatron from Kevin Smith’s movie, Dogma. Easily one of my favorite movies, as it pokes a lot of fun at the hypocrisy of organized religion. Sure, there are a lot of dick and fart jokes (and worse) but the main themes are insightful. And it’s pretty funny.

It’s an obscure reference, and if you’ve not seen the flick, you won’t have a clue who this is, but I just wanted to have a little fun, and get some more practice in at the same time. I sketched his likeness on paper and scanned it in. I’m going to add the wings (he’s an angel) in behind when I have a better idea of what the finished composition will look like.