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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.

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More Power!

Managed to order the Photoshop CS4 Extended upgrade this week. With the improved 3D capabilities and the refinement of a number of different tools, I decided this upgrade would improve my workflow, so I bit the bullet, spent the coin, and it should arrive in a few weeks. Wasn’t that simple, though.

While Photoshop CS4 Extended is faster and smoother than previous versions, it’s a hungry little sucker, especially when it comes to the 3D features. I checked out the hardware requirements, and while I already had a reasonably powered video card, it won’t keep up with the demands CS4 Extended is going to put on it.

My tech guy, Ken, ordered a new video card for me and I spent yesterday afternoon over at his shop getting it installed. Quite surprised at the appearance of this thing. It’s a brick. Looks like a cross between a laptop battery and a VHS tape. Wasn’t sure it was going to fit into my case. And like Audrey II in ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ the first thing this monster demanded was ‘Feed me, Seymour!’

My current power supply couldn’t handle the new addition, so I needed to put in a new one. This card is factory overclocked, but doesn’t run hot, designed for gamers and 3D programmers. Not the top of the line, but from the online reviews I’ve read, it’s in the Top 3.

It’s just the reality of being in the graphics business that hardware needs to be upgraded almost as often as software. What was slick and speedy 2 years ago is just cruising along below the limit today. While I never like spending money on my computer, I’m always pleased with the results. I don’t have CS4 yet, but the new card significantly improved the 3D features in CS3 and in my 3D programs. Rendering and redraw times are at least improved by 50%. Complex models that were a little choppy to move around in Photoshop CS3 are now spinning without any delay at all. Even textured brushes keep up better than before when painting with large brush sizes.

It is urban legend that Bill Gates once said in 1981, “640Kb should be enough for anybody,” but he never actually said it. It was just a silly rumour and nobody has ever been able to cite the quote. Regardless of him not saying it, it actually does represent what many people think when they encounter a computer with a lot of memory or incredible speed. This is more than I’ll ever need!

My first laptop, bought in the late nineties, had a 4GB hard drive. At the time, that was huge! These days, I carry a 4GB USB key drive in my laptop case. It’s smaller than a Bic lighter.

So while this week’s upgrade jumps my computer up a few levels, I know that it won’t be long before it won’t be enough, and just like Tim Taylor on Tool Time, I’ll be grunting, “More Power!”

I wonder if Binford makes computers.

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Deja Harper

Prime Minister Harper got another minority government, proving what everyone knew already…this election was a big waste of our time and money. Thanks for nothing.

But enough politics…I’m sick of talking about this election. Here are some of the stages I went through to create today’s cartoon, featuring another caricature of Stephen Harper. If you want to see more detail, just click on the images.

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The Government We Deserve

Wait a minute…that’s a political heading!!

Yes, I will largely keep politics out of this blog, but since tomorrow is voting day in Canada, I’m going to make an exception. I’ll have more caricature work on here in a couple of days.

Regardless of the outcome, I’ll be pleased when this election is over. Normally I don’t let elections get to me too much, but this one has really made me angry. Basically, the government went back on its word on fixed election dates, we went through yet another campaign where all of the political parties trash talked each other and held reactionary press conferences each day simply to make an opposing statement regardless of what had been said, and worst of all, they wasted millions of our tax dollars on a campaign that was not only unnecessary, but one with a projected outcome resulting in no change whatsoever. For the last six weeks, nothing of any consequence was accomplished in Ottawa, and yet we continue to pay one of the highest tax rates in the world. As an editorial cartoonist, I had plenty to work with. As a private citizen, I was pissed off.

That being said, this Thanksgiving weekend, I’m thankful I live in a country where I’m free to express my political opinions without fear of persecution, torture or death. I feel privileged to be Canadian, but I feel cheated by parliament, and it doesn’t seem to matter which party is in power.

My wife and I watched the movie ‘V for Vendetta’ last night. We’ve seen it before, but it seemed appropriate. I enjoyed this movie the first time, but so much more the second time around, proof that my perspective has changed, because it’s obvious the lens I’m looking through has been ground from the recent political and economic climate. If you haven’t seen this movie, I urge you to do so. Think of it as an updated version of ‘1984.’ A cautionary tale.

As V says in the movie, “People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.”

Get off your ass and vote.

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An Evening With Kevin Smith

Been slamming busy lately. The election has me hopping in addition to some private commissions that I can’t show yet. Therein lies the Catch-22. While I’m fortunate to draw pictures for a living, the paying gigs often keep me from the really fun stuff that I want to be working on. I’ve got about fifty people on a list (no kidding) of caricatures I want to paint, but since they’re just for fun, practice, and portfolio pieces, they have to wait.

One of those planned caricatures is Kevin Smith. Most people know him as the creator of the movie, Clerks. Long story short, Kevin shot that movie with $27,575 all in black and white at the convenience store where he worked at the time. The story goes that he just racked up a bunch of credit cards and gambled that the movie would be a success so he could pay them off. Most people would call that nuts. But then again, most people fail to understand that great risk often brings great reward. Clerks is now a cult classic.

Other movies followed…Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, and Clerks 2. Coming out this month is his latest movie, Zack and Miri Make A Porno. He’s also written for comic books, has acted in his own movies as well as others. Fans were pleasantly surprised to see him in the latest Die Hard movie with Bruce Willis. In addition, he has written and directed a number of TV shows.

Regular visitors to this blog will recall my Alan Rickman caricature as Metatron from Smith’s movie, Dogma. Obviously, I’m a fan.

In recent years, he’s also taken to travelling to colleges and universities to do Q&A sessions. These have become cult favorites as well, spawning three DVD’s appropriately named “An Evening With Kevin Smith.” These often become marathon sessions where fans ask questions ranging from confirmation of rumours to Smith’s take on pop culture and his own View Askewniverse. Kevin not only answers them, but ends up going off on wonderfully entertaining tangents with accounts of experiences and stories that are often crude and graphic, but incredibly funny.

As busy as I am, I took a night off this week to attend Kevin’s most recent “An Evening With Kevin Smith” at The Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary on Wednesday evening with my buddy, Darrel. Bought the tickets months ago, so we had great seats. For four hours, Kevin answered questions and I ended up in tears a number of times from laughing so hard. If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith, check out the “Evening” DVD’s, available for rent at most places.

If you’re easily offended, you won’t enjoy it. But if you’re just about sick of politically correct indignation, An Evening With Kevin Smith just might be the cure.

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Adobe Launches CS4

Adobe hosted a live worldwide broadcast online this morning to highlight the new features of Creative Suite 4, due out next month. Far from being the addition of a few tweaks, this looks like the biggest launch of new features and interactivity since the first version of the Creative Suite.

Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, InDesign, Dreamweaver…the list goes on. The learning curve on this one is going to be steep, especially if you’re going for a complete suite. A few members on the National Association of Photoshop Professionals forum are saying that they’ll have to upgrade their computers to handle the new system requirements as well. Photoshop CS4 will be demanding on your system, but Adobe is saying that everything will run smoother and faster than previous versions.

Personally, I’ll have to upgrade my 3D graphics card to handle the incredible new 3D features in Photoshop CS4 Extended. I skipped the Illustrator CS3 upgrade, but I think I’ll get CS4. The new features have enough for me that it’s worth the cost this time. I don’t need a whole suite of software, especially since I’m not doing Flash anymore, but I imagine those two programs alone will keep me busy…at least until CS5 rolls around.

For more, check out John Nack’s Blog. He’s the Principal Product Manager at Adobe for Photoshop. He’s got a number of great links for you to check out the latest features to decide if you need the new version of Photoshop or Illustrator.

If you’d like to learn more about all of the software in the Creative Suite 4, here are a couple of other links.
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