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Calgary Flames Caricature

This caricature was a hire for a birthday present. A lot of fun, because it wasn’t a surprise. That meant the subject and I were able to get together to decide exactly what he wanted to be doing in the caricature. That was a first for me.

I’ve also never painted a hockey theme before so this was an interesting challenge, but one I really enjoyed. A lot of hours spent experimenting for the best results, but I’m pleased with the final piece as is the client, who told me today that her son was thrilled when he saw it last night. As always, if the client is happy, then I’m happy.

On to the next one.

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Michael Ignatieff Caricature

This one was for an editorial cartoon, and it had to be done quite quickly. Long story short, (and without getting political), Stephane Dion stepped down early from his post as Liberal Party Leader of Canada, leaving three contenders to be the interim leader, but two of them stepped down sooner than expected leaving Michael Ignatieff likely to take over as interim Liberal Party Leader as early as Wednesday. Got it? Good.

In other words, this guy is all of a sudden the big news of the day and I needed to get a caricature done with only four hours in which to do it. While I would have liked to have spent at least two or three times that on this one, editorial cartoons rarely allow for lengthy nitpicking when stories come together quickly, so this was bare bones, do only what’s necessary, work on it until time runs out, email the toon and be done with it.

I think I could have could have achieved a better likeness, but time just didn’t allow. All in all, a good exercise in speed and it turned out better than I thought it would, even though it doesn’t quite measure up to what I had in mind. To be honest, the editorial cartoon caricatures often feel more like factory work than art, because it’s all about cranking it out in a very short amount of time. I usually like to be able to walk away from a caricature for 12 to 24 hours, especially if I know that the likeness could be better. That way, when I come back to it, I always see areas where it can be dramatically improved, and believe it or not, that’s what makes it fun. It’s kind of like solving a riddle. With editorial cartoons, there is no time to let it simmer and if I haven’t nailed the likeness, it still has to go. Therefore, the sense of accomplishment is significantly diminished.

But, I have a funny feeling Iggy will be sticking around for awhile and I’ll get plenty of practice ironing out the wrinkles. Not his actual wrinkles, cause then the likeness would be off, but the wrinkles in the…oh you know what I mean.

Go draw something.

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Bad Timing

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan reached an unfortunate milestone yesterday. Three more soldiers were killed in action, bringing the total number of Canadian fatalities to 100. The country is divided over whether we should be there or not, and I won’t be weighing in on that topic, because to be honest, I don’t really know.

Suffice it to say, my father was career military, serving 32 years in the Canadian Forces, and I grew up as a base brat. His three brothers were in the Armed Forces. My mother’s brothers served in the Armed Forces. I met my wife while we were both in the Reserves, where I served 5 years. The military is an extended family, one I still feel very much a part of. I try to draw attention to the soldiers when I can, always in support of them. The purpose of this cartoon was to lightheartedly point out that while everyone was paying attention to childish goings on in Ottawa this week, we’ve still got soldiers in Afghanistan putting themselves in harm’s way who will be spending the holidays on foreign soil in very real danger.

Unfortunately, that cartoon is not going to be printed anywhere now, nor should it be. When I heard the announcement about the fatalities, the cartoon had already been emailed out across Canada and you just can’t unring a bell.

This sort of thing happens from time to time in editorial cartooning, but it also brings home the point that it’s just a cartoon, and in the grand scheme of things, really doesn’t matter. Too many editorial cartoonists make their profession out to be more than it is, when in reality, we just draw pictures, colour them, and make an editorial comment.

It’s not like we’re being shot at.

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Caricature Sneak Peeks

Just sent my last two seasonal private commissions off for printing yesterday, and even with taking framing into account, I’m well ahead of the ‘must be done by Christmas’ deadlines. While I can’t show you the caricatures in their entirety until after my clients have given the gifts to their intended recipients, I can show a sneak peek of each of them.

These are small portions of the final images. I’d say each of these took about 20 hours or more, and as per normal, I could have worked another ten hours on detail that nobody would ever really notice but me.

These were a little stressful to complete, especially with all hell breaking loose in Canadian politics, but when all is said and done, I really do enjoy seeing the final images. You can probably guess at what the final image of the first one looks like, but the furball in the second one is just a small part of the overall caricature, which is more of a portrait style image.

Photoshop CS4 Extended arrived last week in the mailbox, and although I’ve been anxious to install it and try it out, I wanted to wait until these caricatures were done. As anyone working on a computer knows, there is always the possibility of an install screwing something up and I couldn’t afford to waste time fixing things if that happened. So far, I’ve yet to hear of anyone experiencing any major conflicts with the new version, but having lived through some pretty big computer issues over the years, I don’t take unnecessary risks with this sort of thing anymore.

Now that these are done, I’ll spend this weekend installing and getting acquainted with the new version.

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Cartoons of Christmas Past.

If you’re wondering why the absence of any work on here lately, it’s because most of what I’m working on are private commissions for people giving caricatures as gifts. While the likelihood of the recipients randomly finding my blog is very small, it wouldn’t do much for my reputation if I ruined Christmas for my clients. I’ll be taking a break from private commissions for the next year or so to devote my time to other projects, but more on that in the coming weeks.

Went to a lunch on Friday for the retirement of the editor at The Rocky Mountain Outlook, the local weekly I do exclusive toons for. Great food and excellent company. The staff of the Outlook have had a rough year so it was nice to get together. Both Bob Schott and Larry Marshall passed away this year, leaving Carol Picard as the last of the original three founders. I can’t imagine losing two close friends in the same year and I’d imagine the experience would change me.

Many cartoonists will complain about their editors and I’m sure some of them have good reason to do so, but I can’t say anything bad about Carol. She has always been very encouraging and were it not for her, I might not be doing this for a living right now. When the first issue of the Outlook launched the week after 9/11, she asked me why I wasn’t syndicated. At that point, all I had done was a weekly cartoon for The Banff Crag and Canyon for three years. When I told her how difficult it was to get signed to a syndicate, she simply told me to do it myself. Seems silly now, but at the time, I didn’t know you could do that.

I often wonder if I’d have gone down this road had it not been for that moment. I very well might not have, and since I now make a very good living at it and am pretty happy drawing pictures and making smartass comments day in and day out, I am very grateful, as I am to so many people that have pushed me forward over the years. The list is extensive.

I’ve learned a lot from Carol. Most recently, that it’s never too late to reignite old dreams and to explore new ones.

Thanks, Carol. You will be missed.

Here is one of my first Outlook cartoons followed by one of my first syndicated cartoons, both around this time in 2001. That’s supposed to be Paul Martin in the second one. Yikes! But, if nothing else, these show that there is always LOTS of room for improvement. I wonder what my work will look like 7 years from now.

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Graphic Design Hell

People will often ask me to design brochures or logos and other advertising material. While I have done so in the past and am very familiar with vector art and the requirements of that type of media, I try to avoid it like the plague. Unless it is specifically cartoon work, I will more often than not decline the offer. I was sent this video by a designer friend of mine that pretty much spells out why.

If you are running your own business, you need to learn how to deal with situations like this on a regular basis because it happens frequently.

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President Barack Obama

I was very pleased to see the determination showed by so many Americans as they lined up for hours to cast their vote. I don’t mind saying that I was envious of their collective passion. I’m not so naive to think that this President will not become bogged down in politics the way others have, but I have hope. And for the first time in a long time, so do the American people.

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Tom Richmond’s Digital Color Tutorial

Found a great tutorial on digital coloring by Tom Richmond. Tom is best known for his regular work in MAD Magazine. He’s also an active member in the National Caricaturists Network, having served as President for 2 years. I’ve long been an admirer of Tom’s work and I was pleased to see that he’s so willing to share his expertise with other artists.

Here’s a link to Tom’s tutorial on digital coloring, using the image you see here. Be sure to read all three parts. If the thought of inking and coloring in Photoshop makes you break into a cold sweat, perhaps this will make you feel a little more at ease.