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An Editorial Cartoon in Two Minutes

This is just over an hour of sketching, drawing, and painting, condensed down to two minutes.  From sketch to finished work created digitally using a Wacom Cintiq 24HD display and Photoshop CC.  While the majority of my editorial cartoons are sketched on paper first and then scanned, this is pretty much the whole process I go through for each cartoon.  This is best viewed at full screen in HD.   To learn how this is done, you can purchase my cartooning DVD at PhotoshopCAFE.

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Photoshop Brush Maintenance

The other day I found myself wanted to do a little housekeeping with my Photoshop brushes, and I figured I’d share some thoughts.  I won’t be teaching anything about how to create brushes in Photoshop here as I’ve already detailed all of that in both of my DVDs, an article I wrote for Photoshop User Magazine and in a webinar or two that I recorded for Wacom.  Creating Photoshop brushes is an easy topic to find online and I would encourage anyone who wants to paint digitally to learn how to create and customize your own brushes.

Brush Hoarding

With an almost limitless supply of free brush sets online, digital artists of all levels seem to have a habit of downloading anything they can find on the off chance that one day; they might have use for the Valentine’s Day Zombie Cupid Brush Set.

I’ve seen artists who not only have hundreds of brush sets at the ready, most of which they’ve looked at once, but also those who have a hundred or more brushes in the set they use every day, most of those going untouched as well.  Before downloading a brush set, ask yourself if you’re really going to use it.

Stamp or Paint

There are two main brush types that I’ve come across and both have their uses.  The first are stamp brushes.  Usually it’s the type of brush that is meant to be tapped onto an image just like a stamp.  For my editorial cartoon work, my signature is a stamp brush.  As I want my brand to be consistent, it is comprised of my editorial cartoon signature (different than my actual signature), and my website address.  On every cartoon I’ve done for the last few years, my signature looks exactly the same because of this stamp brush and it’s the only stamp brush I use consistently.

Paint brushes on the other hand are ones intended to be used with a brush stroke.  With a little imagination and experimentation, a well-crafted stamp can be turned into a versatile and powerful paint brush.

Brushes004

Brush Sets

Some of the free downloads out there are really great.  You can find specific sets for holidays, environments, themes, moods, and weather.  I’ve spent many hours exploring brush sets over the years.  As time went on, however, I found that less is more and I pretty much stick to one brush set, most of which I designed myself.

Brushes001

Here’s the set I started with and what it looked like after I was done editing.  Some were even duplicates, although I don’t know how I managed that.  Some look like duplicates but because of different settings, the brush stroke is very different, even if the stamp doesn’t reveal that.   To clean them up, I just went through them one by one and asked myself how often I really used a brush.  If the answer was ‘almost never’ then I deleted it.

I still have and use other brush sets from time to time.  For example, I have a brush set that is just snowflakes, another that is just leaves, and yet another that is just lightning stamps.  But I use them very rarely, so while those brushes are not part of my main set, they’re still worth keeping.  What you see here, however are the brushes I rely on every day.

Grouping Brushes

Because I like to keep my tool and brush palettes clean and out of the way, I don’t worry too much about naming my brushes because I only view them as small thumbnails.  I do, however, like to have them grouped so that I don’t have to test a brush each time I grab it to make sure it’s what I want.  If they’re grouped together, I have a good idea what any brush is going to do when I choose it.  Here’s how mine are grouped.

Brushes003

Why I Don’t Share Brushes

I’ve been asked innumerable times to provide my brush set for people and the answer is always No.  It’s not that I have any magic brushes; it’s just that you will learn a lot more by creating your own than by using ones other artists have created.  The main brush I use for painting, however, is one you already have if you use Photoshop.  It’s a default and is my favorite painting brush, the one you see in the next image.   In articles and videos, I’ve also shown how to make my hair brushes, but don’t be fooled.  Having the tools is completely different than knowing how to use the tools.  You only get that from experience and you only get experience by painting.

Experimentation and Discovery

Brushes002

While this panel may look complicated, it’s not.  The best way to find out how everything works is to experiment with the different settings and paint on a blank page while doing it.  I actually use much less than half of the options available to me in this panel because the way I paint doesn’t require all of the bells and whistles. My brushes are pretty simple.

Cleaning up this brush set took well over two hours because I kept experimenting with ways to make each brush better and I enjoyed playing around with the possibilities.

One brush, however, kept crashing Photoshop, and I have no idea why.  Every time I tried to work with it, Photoshop CC died on me.  The first time it happened, I lost about 20 minutes work because I hadn’t saved the new brush set.  Happened three times before I realized it was the brush itself, and I ended up deleting it entirely and avoided any further crashes.  It takes very little time to save the set after each brush change.  Get in the habit of doing that when you’re working with brushes.  Save the brush, save the set.

Final Note

There are so many ways to paint digitally.  Some artists seek to emulate traditional media and do so with great skill.  Others paint in ways that traditional artists would find completely confusing.  Everybody has their own way of doing it and designing your own brushes can often spark ideas for paintings and images that you might not have considered had you simply downloaded somebody else’s tools.

Less is more, so if you have 100 brushes in your main brush set, see if you can’t whittle that down to 50.  Keep the old set on your computer and save to a new set so you can always go back and retrieve any you wish you’d kept.  Create new brushes, make changes to old ones, keep them organized and never be afraid to improve on the old standbys and eventually you’ll wind up with a brush set that is uniquely yours.

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Best of the Outlook Cartoons

Many cartoonists will do a ‘year in review’ this time of year, a selection of what they, their editors, or their readers viewed as their best cartoons of the year.  It looks good on the editorial page of a daily newspaper.  Since all of my daily work is syndicated and freelance, any selection of my best national cartoons won’t be printed on an editorial page anywhere, although one or two of mine have shown up in dailies where a number of cartoonists have been represented.  I’ll have a selection of MY favourite syndicated cartoons here on Monday.  But for now, here is the ‘Best of 2012’ selection for the Rocky Mountain Outlook, the local weekly I draw for that covers the communities of Exshaw, Canmore, Banff, and Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies.  We’ve lived in this area for quite awhile, 7 years in Banff, 11 in Canmore, and while we talk about leaving every winter (even just for a few months), I’m pretty sure it’s all talk, at least for a few more years.  This is home.

A few notes…we have a bunny problem in Canmore.  I could have filled the page with bunny cartoons and had some left over.  Banff National Park has a problem with tourists feeding wildlife, especially bears.  They’re not tame, people.  It’s not a petting zoo!  Bottom left, the dogs in the window, refers to a dog attack in March by a cougar in Canmore.  A LOT of people told me they loved that cartoon, so I guess it hit home for locals.  Bear deaths on the highway is an ongoing issue as well, as people refuse to obey the speed limit.  And finally, Banff has an ongoing battle with providing economic stability and growth for a tourist town, located inside of a national park.  Never easy, but always fodder for cartoons.

Click on the page to see it larger.

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Cartooning on Election Day

Today is the day after the Alberta provincial election.  To set the stage, there were four parties, the right-wing Progressive Conservatives who’ve been in power for 41 years, the Wildrose Party, a very new party even more right-wing than the PC Party,  the Liberal Party and the Alberta New Democrat Party.  The last two didn’t really stand a chance of winning, and all of the polls were indicating the the Wildrose Party could not only win, but might get a majority.

Alberta’s election was making headlines nationwide, because this province has huge deposits of natural resources which makes it a very wealthy province in that department.  Many in Canada were watching this one closely.  For example, a cartoon I did about Danielle Smith, the leader of the Wildrose Party, a couple of weeks ago was published in a number of my Ontario papers.  I didn’t expect that.

Again, ALL of the pollsters were predicting that the Wildrose Party was going to take the election in a big way.

Without getting into the reasons why, the results last night had the PC Party win their 12th consecutive majority, taking 61 seats.  The Wildrose Party got 17, making them the Official Opposition, the Liberals and the NDP each got 4 seats.  It wasn’t even close and nobody saw it coming.  There is an article in the Vancouver Sun this morning (obviously gone to press before the results were in)  by Andrew Coyne that reads, “Unless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta.”

As a syndicated cartoonist, my job yesterday was to put out cartoons that would cover almost any reasonable outcome.  Many of my papers publish weekly, and a number of them publish today.  They needed to have a cartoon to put onto the editorial page at the last possible moment, right before going to press.  No time to draw something once the results were in at 9:00 last night, so I had to anticipate different outcomes, knowing that most of these cartoons would end up in the trash.  Considering this led to a 12 hour day at my desk plus a couple of hours on Saturday when I was taking a weekend off at the cabin, I worked for very little money yesterday.

It’s part and parcel of the profession, however, and while none of the cartoons addressed the sweeping majority, there were still a couple that would have been ‘good enough’ to do the job, even though I don’t consider them really ‘good.’  Let’s take a look at what I sent out yesterday.

This cartoon has absolutely nothing to do with the election.  Even though Canada was watching this one, many of my weeklies in other provinces were wanting a cartoon on something else.  I knew this without their having to tell me, so this went out first to cover them.

There was some talk that there could be a minority government, and if that happened, there had to be a cartoon for it, because the others were all talking about who won. This cartoon went out second.

A lot of people were doing a lot of talking over the past month, and everybody sounded like they were sure of the outcome.  Happens in every election.  The day after, however, stories change and everybody boasts that they knew it all along.  That’s about as predictable as politicians breaking election promises.  This cartoon was pretty easy to swap out.  Change the name and…

…this is one of the cartoons that works.  Premier Alison Redford is the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and won her seat, so any of my papers could have put this one in and it would have been appropriate.  Not a great cartoon, granted, but if I’m being honest, I was more concerned with it being right than great.

If the Wildrose Party had won, I would have liked to have seen the above cartoon printed in a number of papers.  I kind of like it.  Seemed an appropriate theme for our western province, especially if a Wildrose win upset 41 years of rule by the previous ‘brand.’  Unfortunately, this took me a couple of hours to paint and nitpick, and the results rendered it completely useless.  That being said, I didn’t want to see the Wildrose Party win, so I’m fine.

This is the last cartoon I sent, just after 5:0o yesterday evening.  Danielle Smith, the leader of the Wildrose Party had promised (there’s that word again) to give every Albertan a cheque for $300 from the Alberta Energy Dividend Fund once the province was boasting a surplus again.  It was dubbed ‘Dani Dollars’ by the press and ended up being a significant part of the campaign, one met with mixed reviews.  This cartoon works for today as well, although I’m not sure how many papers will actually use it.

As an Alberta citizen and voter, I was relieved with last night’s results.  As an editorial cartoonist, I know I didn’t hit any home runs with the usable cartoons. More like base hits.  But my papers were covered, so I did my job.  I’ll still do a couple of post election toons this week, but none will be wasted as we now know the results.

It was an interesting election and I don’t say that often.  Most importantly, voters were involved and I’ll be anxious to hear what the official turnout numbers were, because it’s expected to be significantly better than the dismal 40% from 4 years ago.  That being said, I’m glad it’s over, as my illustration contracts and painting commissions have had to simmer on the back-burners this past month.  I’m happy to get back to those this week.

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Cartoons and Catastrophe

Somebody asked me if I was going to be doing a cartoon about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

It’s important to understand that the Titanic has long been one of the most overused clichés in editorial cartooning.  Although I’ve never actually drawn the iconic ship, I’ve put a Prime Minister at the front of a ship referencing the ‘king of the world’ line.  in 2004, I put a submersible at the bottom of the sea, with lights illuminating the words Liberal Popularity on the hull,  talking about the difficulty of raising it.  The ship obviously wasn’t the Titanic, but the reference could be interpreted that way, so I’m willing to concede that as ‘a Titanic cartoon.’

There are many clichés in editorial cartooning, another being ‘the pearly gates’ cartoon.  Somebody passes away and they’re almost always drawn exchanging words with St. Peter at the gates of heaven.  While I have been guilty of picking the low hanging fruit from the idea tree, and using clichés from time to time, I’ve never actually depicted anyone at the pearly gates, and it’s doubtful I ever will.

I’m very fascinated by the story of the Titanic, and have been ever since I was a kid.  While skiing in Kitzbuhel, Austria on a family vacation, (we lived in Germany for many years) my father, sister and I were stranded at the restaurant/chalet at the top when a wind storm rendered the cable car unsafe to take skiers down the mountain.  I think I was 13 or 14.  It became a party atmosphere and we ended up skiing down by torchlight later, but I remember sitting with some very kind University students from Southampton and being fascinated that they were from the same place that had launched the Titanic.   Where the interest came from, I don’t know.

I’ve been to the Titanic exhibit twice, once in Las Vegas, and again when the traveling exhibit came to Calgary.  I’ve seen a number of the movies more than once.  I’m one of the few guys who will admit to seeing the movie in the theatre, not once, but three times.  It just fascinated me to see it all unfold on the big screen, and I’ve always enjoyed James Cameron as a film maker.   While I’m not obsessed with every detail of the story, I do know quite a bit of the trivia.   I’ve got the DVR set to record all of the National Geographic specials this week, and watched James Cameron and crew dissect every last detail last night on how the ship ended up on the bottom looking the way it did.  A forensic archeological  deconstruction of the event, that even had him admitting he got a few details wrong in his larger than life movie.

The London Bombings, July 2005

When bad things happen, it’s difficult to draw cartoons about it.  Even worse is the pressure to get it out quickly, because after all, the goal is to be published in that empty space before a competitor can snag it with another cartoon, one they’re also feverishly drawing at the same time.  I often feel like a vulture picking over the fresh carcasses of whatever unfortunate souls perished in the news event.  Sounds pretty morbid, doesn’t it?  That’s how it feels, too.   How does one draw something appropriate, respectful, and sincere with very little time to mull it over?  When the disaster or event is fresh and acute, that’s the time to get the cartoon done.  I remember drawing a cartoon about the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, because it was big news.

Hurricane Katrina. Found out later that Bourbon Street was largely spared.

If it’s a big enough disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, there will be many cartoons in the days and weeks following, but that first cartoon is the most difficult.  The other goal is to avoid the ‘yahtzee’ as it’s come to be known.  That’s when two or more cartoonists come up with the same idea for the same situation at the same time.  When the twin towers fell on 9/11, a number of cartoonists drew the same images.  The towers as the number 11, with smoke coming from them was one.  Another was tears in the eyes of the Statue of Liberty.  Two of Quebec’s most celebrated cartoonists, Terry Mosher (Aislin) of The Gazette and Serge Chapleau of La Presse, drew the very same image.

I began my syndicated career at the end of September, 2001, so I never had to draw a cartoon about 9/11.

Situations like this, people are hurt, suffering and dying, and I have to draw a cartoon about it.  It’s never supposed to be funny in a situation like that, but the goal is that it be moving, if only a little.  If it’s a major news story, if an editorial is likely to be written, then an editorial cartoon needs to be drawn.  It isn’t something I want to do most of the time, but it’s part of the gig, one I dislike very much.  When somebody famous dies, I have to make the unenviable distinction between whether it’s newsworthy enough to warrant a cartoon.  Was this person important enough that a newspaper will want to highlight it?

These are not my proudest moments.

So what about the Titanic?  The disaster itself was one of the worst of its time.  It shook the world and haunted the news pages for a long time.  Countless books have been written on it, and historians still debate to this day, what happened on that night in April, 1912.   But let’s be fair.  It was 100 years ago.  Had the ship made it to port in New York, everyone would still be deceased today.  A tragedy, yes, but one that needs to be put into the proper historical perspective.

Each year, I have to do cartoons about Remembrance Day, to commemorate the Canadian men and women who’ve lost their lives in this century’s armed conflicts.  It gets more and more difficult with each passing year.  It will often be a respectful image, perhaps of a cenotaph or other memorial, an image of a poppy, and a quotation or a couple of lines.  Over a decade of Remembrance Day cartoons and I’ve realized that I am unlikely to come up with anymore original ideas.  It feels incredibly insincere, and definitely not the tribute owed to the sacrifice.

Remembrance Day, 2011. The cenotaph in Victoria, BC.

If I have a hard time mustering the sincerity for something as important as that, due to the fact that it has become routine, anything I draw to commemorate the Titanic tragedy, will simply be paying lip service, and rehashing imagery that others have already thought of.  If you don’t believe me, do an image search on Google.  I still have a lot of interest in the story, the details fascinate me, but not because I feel anymore for those people than I do for those who perished on the Hindenburg or in the Civil War.  It happened a century ago to people for whom I feel no connection.

The hubris of those involved in the Titanic’s conception, construction and operation caused the demise of the ship.  There is a lesson we’re supposed to learn from the arrogance of believing we can ever conquer the forces of nature.  Aside from a few changes to maritime law, those people died in vain, and therein lies the real tragedy of the event.  We continue to choose to ignore the lessons of history.

I did wrestle with possible images on the subject.  An image of the name of the ship in dark water with an appropriate memorial quote, something nautical perhaps.  Maybe the flag of the White Star Line and some cautionary words about humility.  Took me a couple of days to realize that everything I came up with made me feel like a hypocrite, trying to create an image to stir emotion about an event for which I feel none.

While I don’t always have the luxury of ignoring a news story,  I think I’m just going to let this one go.

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Another Wacom Webinar: Cartooning Techniques!

Since the last one was so well received, the good folks at Wacom have invited me back for another webinar on November 22nd.  While the previous one touched on both cartooning and painting, turns out that some folks felt there was not enough on each, so this one will focus on some more techniques and methods I use in my everyday editorial and illustration cartooning.  A number of these techniques are included on my DVD from PhotoshopCAFE, but I’ve also added a few other things to this webinar that aren’t on the DVD.

I really enjoyed the last one and heard from a lot of people that did as well, so I’m looking forward to another opportunity to share a little of what I know about cartooning in Photoshop.  Hope you can join me in November.

Click HERE to register for the upcoming webinar (or on the image.)  If you’d like to take a look at the last one, here’s the link to Wacom’s YouTube channel.

 

 

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The genius next door

Steve Jobs truly was a diamond in the rough.  You need only look at his extensive list of accomplishments, his patents and his rise from an average existence to his becoming the man whose life so many are reflecting on today.

Despite his faults, (no, he was not perfect) his legacy will be that of a genius and a tenacious innovator who not only took the path less travelled, but made a new one when even that proved too worn for his liking.

I’ll admit to being a little uncomfortable with some of the tributes I’ve seen today, and the almost deification of the man by so many people that didn’t know him, and yet are speaking of him as if they have lost a close family member.  I was even uncomfortable creating my own cartoon about it today, because even though I knew my newspapers would want one, I don’t like memorial tribute style editorial cartoons.  Often overly dramatic, they do seem to be widely published, however, which is why I keep doing them.

Our society has become addicted to celebrity worship and mass emotional displays on social media.  People have been talking about how Steve Jobs changed their lives, how Mac computers changed the world, how without him, they wouldn’t be who they are today.  Yes, it’s true that your life would be different had Steve Jobs not created Apple.   But if the invention of a newer, better computer hadn’t come to pass, would you somehow be less than you are today?

Now forgive this tangent, but I assure you it is relevant…

Earlier this week, I read the story of 70 year old Daniel Schechtman, a researcher at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.  Schechtman is this year’s Nobel Prize winner in the field of chemistry for his work in discovering quasicrystals.  Now, I won’t pretend for a second that I have any knowledge about his work.  I barely passed high school chemistry.

But reading about his story, I found it fascinating that Schechtman was openly ridiculed, actually vilified for his discovery when he first suggested it in 1982.  His colleagues in the science community called him a disgrace, laughed at him, and booted him out of a prestigious research group for “bringing disgrace on the team.”

It took years before his work was recognized and you don’t find much better vindication than the Nobel Prize.  But, I wonder how many of his colleagues that dismissed him as a lunatic are now telling their friends how they believed in him all along.

So, it’s not the products Steve Jobs created that I find myself thinking about today, but the person he was almost 40 years ago.

I wonder what the reaction would have been in the beginning, if a young dropout Steve Jobs had told somebody at the local Hare Krishna temple where he went for free meals, that he would one day design computers that would change the way the world works and communicates.  Somehow I don’t envision a long line of eager investors.

Makes me wonder what the neighbors and colleagues thought of the bicycle repairmen, Orville and Wilbur Wright or the apprentice printer, Ben Franklin, or a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein who had a hard time getting noticed by his boss.

Steve Jobs changed the world.  Of that, there is no doubt.  He deserves our respect and admiration for his vision and accomplisments.  But it is easy to support someone after they have achieved monumental success, because it’s a pretty comfortable bandwagon.

And no, buying a Mac in the 80’s doesn’t count.

I’d like to meet the two or three people that believed in him early on, because those people change the world, too.  They do so by encouraging the dreamers, the idealists, the ‘different thinkers,’ when everyone else dismisses them as lunatics.

What if your own neighbor, or better yet, your neighbor’s kid, told you he or she was working on an interstellar propulsion drive that would be cost effective, have no pollution, could achieve light speed travel and would run on a microscopic amount of sea water, and it’ll be ready in 20 years.    I guarantee that there are thousands of people in the world right now working on ideas and innovations that sound just that surrealistic, and you might even know one or two of them.    Would you even consider investing your savings in that idea?  Probably not, but we’d all like to go back in time and give a few thousand bucks to a couple of computer nerds toiling away in their garage, wouldn’t we?

Yes, many of those people are probably nuts, but I would wager that more than a few of them are on the cusp of greatness.

It might even be you, and if it is, I wish you luck.  Don’t give up, and don’t listen to the ridicule.  Hopefully your eventual success might inspire people to believe in their own possibilities, because we all have greatness within us.  And if you can’t find anybody to believe in you, don’t stop believing in yourself.  Because that’s what it takes to be somebody like Steve Jobs, believing in your own potential even when nobody else does.

Success is all around us, and it starts with that simple belief.  That’s the message we should take away from his passing.  And in the time between the world paying tribute to your achievements when you die, there will be years of working hard when everybody else is taking time off.  Yes, we did indeed lose a visionary in our time this week, but there are millions more all around us, maybe even a few that 20 or 30 years from now, we’ll pause a moment to pay tribute to when they pass.  It might even be you.

But of course, you won’t be around to see it.  So don’t do it for any applause or recognition.  Do it for the reason in the cartoon.

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Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel – iPad Painting

This grumpy little fellow is a Golden Mantle Ground Squirrel.  They’re found in a number of places around here in the Bow Valley, and it’s usually pretty easy to get photos of them.

I painted this on the iPad using the Procreate app and the Wacom Bamboo stylus.

Even though I really like working on the iPad and using both the app and the stylus, I’m not able to go further than what you see here when it comes to real detail.  But I’m having fun experimenting with it, and if I wanted to take it further in Photoshop, this would serve as a decent foundation.

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Milestones

The past two months have been ones of reflection for me because it turns out that this is the 10th anniversary of two big events in my life.  First, my wife and I moved to Canmore from Banff in August of 2001 and we bought our first home.  And second, on September 20, 2001, The Rocky Mountain Outlook newspaper was born.  Were it not for that publication and Carol Picard, the editor and part owner, I wonder what I’d be doing today.

In 1997, I answered an ad in the Banff Crag and Canyon for an editorial cartoonist.  Figured it would be a fun weekly diversion, and for a few years, it was.  In 2001, I found out that a new upstart paper called The Rocky Mountain Outlook was in the works.  Cathy Ellis, a Crag and Canyon reporter told me quietly that she had been asked to join them and suggested they’d probably need a cartoonist.  Turns out that at that exact moment, I was having a heated disagreement with the publisher of ‘The Crag,’ so I was eager to jump ship.  After getting the gig at the Outlook, Carol asked me why I wasn’t syndicated.  Thinking I knew more than she did (which I did NOT), I said that it was pretty difficult to get signed on with a syndicate.  She waved that off and told me to do it myself, and then told me how.  The following month, I was a self-syndicated editorial cartoonist, even though I didn’t have any other newspapers yet.

Carol’s gotten a little tired of how often I’ve said ‘Thank You’ to her over the past decade.

The Outlook has been very good to me, and I’m proud to say that one of my cartoons has been in every issue since September 20, 2001.    The Outlook was started by Carol Picard, Bob Schott, and Larry Marshall and their blood, sweat and tears permeate the foundations.  Sadly, Bob and Larry passed away within months of each other in 2008, a devastating blow to everyone at the Outlook, and especially to Carol as they were all very close.  She retired from the Outlook in 2008.  Despite their absence, it is still very much the same paper, with the same staff, largely because Carol insisted upon it as a condition of the initial sale to Black Press.  It is now owned by Great West Publishing but still feels very much like the independent it once was.

The Outlook’s 10th Anniversary issue was published yesterday, along with a full colour magazine insert that reflected on the early life of this ‘little paper that could.’   The Outlook has eclipsed her competitors, who said it would fail in the first six months, and it is now the newspaper of record in the Bow Valley, while The Banff Crag and Canyon and The Canmore Leader struggle for relevance.  For you locals, read Carol’s article, “From Humble Beginnings…” in the magazine insert and you’ll realize just how much they went through to create the paper the entire valley reads every Thursday.

The magazine turned out really well.  When they were planning it, I was asked to do a large cartoon two page spread for the centerpiece, a timeline of major events over the last year.  While it looks like the whole thing is my creation, it was very much a collaborative effort.  From a number of people choosing which events to chronicle to the Outlook design team who put it all together, and most importantly to Natalie Talbot who took my cartoon scenery painting and collection of little cartoons I drew for the events, and turned it into the finished work you see here.  She did a fantastic job and in my opinion, her signature should be on it as well.

A few of the staff bugged me last night because I didn’t want to have a chronicling of my cartoons from the early days included in the magazine.  I can admit that my reasoning was purely motivated by ego.  I don’t like looking at my earlier work because I didn’t draw very well.  In retrospect, I probably should have allowed it, because showing the work I did then beside the work I do now only proves what I always say to students and fledgling artists.  If you practice and put the time in, you can’t help but get better.  Talent will only take you so far.  You only improve through hard work.

So here is the first cartoon I ever did for the Rocky Mountain Outlook on September 20, 2001, beside the one I did for the 10th anniversary issue this week, September 22, 2011.

There was a great party last night at The Cellar Door in Canmore, which then spilled over to the Iron Goat, attended by supporters, advertisers, as well as current and former staff.  A lot of laughs as we talked our way through the years.

The last ten years have been some of the best of my life, and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities that have been presented to me.  The person I was then would be pleased with where I am today, and through all of it, there was a weekly cartoon for the Outlook.

So Happy 10th Anniversary to the Rocky Mountain Outlook and I’m proud to have been a small part of her beginnings.  And because it can’t be said enough…Thanks, Carol.

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Wired for Wacom

If the name Wacom means nothing to you, we’ve likely never met, you’re not a digital artist, or you landed on this blog entry by accident.

I’ve been using Wacom tablets since the late 90’s.  It’s true that you’ll occasionally hear stories in chat rooms about other tablets, but much like the Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, I’ve never met anybody who’s actually seen one.  Wacom is by far, the industry standard.

My first tablet was a first generation 4″ X 5″ Intuos and I used that for many years.  While I replaced the pen nibs a few times, and the transparent overlay at least twice, the tablet never gave up.  The only reason I replaced it was that it had a nine-pin connector, and my new computer did not.  Over the years, I’ve had a small Graphire, an Intuos and Intuos 2, and I currently own a medium Intuos 4, a small Intuos 4, and a Cintiq 12wx.  Add to that a Bamboo Stylus for my iPad, and my plans to buy a Wacom Inkling, and it’s obvious I’m a fan.

I’ve been fortunate to form a relationship with the company over the past year, and have been pleased to meet a number of great people from Wacom.  In the Spring, I was asked if I’d like to demo for Wacom at Scott Kelby’s ‘Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It’ tour when it came to Calgary in July.  It was a great experience, one I’m eager to repeat if the opportunity shows up again.  Not only did I get to see what it was like to be on the ‘other side’ of an event like that, but I was able to remove the fear of new technology for a few people.  These devices aren’t difficult, they’re a lot of fun, and often it just takes sitting down with somebody, and putting the pen in their hand to get them to realize it.

An added bonus of demoing for them was having every tablet Wacom makes show up at my front door a week before the show.  It was like winning the lottery for this digital painting art geek, until they insisted I send them all back once the show was done.  How is that fair?

Wacom recently announced their Inkling device, and rather than a clunky explanation from me, watch the video and you’ll get the idea.

When it was launched, I started getting emails and Facebook messages from friends and colleagues who insisted I give more details on what it’s like to use it.  Let me tell you what I told them.  I found out about the Inkling when the rest of the world did.  I was not a beta tester, and had no idea it was even being planned.  Wacom, like any smart tech company these days, doesn’t talk about products in development and is very good at keeping secrets.  Doing a demo for Wacom does not give you access to the vault.

But since it was launched just days before Photoshop World, I was really looking forward to putting it through its paces on the Expo Floor.   The staff at the Wacom booth were being pestered about it on Day 1 (hey, they did it to themselves!), but they didn’t have one available to try right away as they  had just received them and they needed to charge before releasing them to a lineup of eager testers.

I did not get to put the Inkling through its paces.  There were far too many people wanting to try it, so I got about two minutes with the device.  But Joe (patient, patient Joe) demonstrated the process, workflow and explained the pen and device quite well.  Bottom line, I will be buying one when it’s available in October, and I’ll be sure to provide further details after I’ve given it a good trial.

Wacom also announced their new 24″ HD Cintiq this week.  This thing looks beautiful and if I had the spare $2500 lying around, I just might get one.  But I’ve made no secret that my lack of traditional art training makes the Cintiq a ‘nice to have’ for me, but not a ‘must have’.  As much as I like painting and doing live demos on the Cintiq 12wx, I do the majority of my day to day work on the medium Intuos4.  I just prefer to see my whole screen without my arm in the way.

Finally, I was pleased to be asked to be a guest on Wacom’s webinar series this week.  While I will admit to being a little nervous about the whole thing, I relaxed into it quite quickly and had a lot of fun.  Wes and Joe (yes, the same patient Joe) were great to work with, and encouraged me to keep it light and casual, which is right in my wheelhouse.  The hour flew by and I would welcome the opportunity to do something similar in the future.

Thanks to so many of you that commented on Facebook, Twitter and email afterward, letting me know that you enjoyed it.  A few of you even apparently learned something, which is always a nice bonus.

It really is a thrill for me to be working for and with Wacom once in awhile, because it’s so easy for me to pitch and endorse their products.  People will often ask me if they need a Wacom tablet to do the type of work I do.  Most of the time it’s because they’re trying to avoid making the financial investment, even though they’re very affordable.

The answer, is an unconditional YES.  To paint digitally or do almost any type of creative artwork in Photoshop or Painter, you NEED a Wacom tablet.  Just as an oil, acrylic or watercolor painter needs to spend money on canvas, brushes and paint, a digital painter needs to spend money on the necessary tools as well.  A Wacom tablet is absolutely one of those necessary tools.

If you’d like to catch a replay of the webinar that was live earlier in the week, here it is, available on YouTube.