For Better or for Guest Blogging

Ladies and gentlemen, a word from the Mrs….

Mark asked me to write a blog longer ago than I care to admit, but I needed some time to get a little more of a handle on things happening at home and some time to think about what I wanted to write. So…here goes!

Being married to a cartoonist means that

• I understand that Mark, sitting on the couch and staring out the window, really is working as he writes new cartoons. Once snores enter the scene, though, I think work time is officially over!

• It’s not only my son who shows me his artwork.

• People are always intrigued when they ask about Mark’s job. They’re also usually confused as they try to understand. “Does he draw editorial cartoons? Are his cartoons in the newspaper?” They’re impressed when I can list off a few magazines they’re familiar with.

• I’m Mark’s gauge for his pop culture references. If I can get the reference, he figures most anyone can!

• Mark gets to check his e-mail a lot in the name of work. He tells me that he needs to check to see if anyone wants to buy a cartoon, but I strongly suspect that even without the customers he would still be checking his e-mail fourteen times a day because he likes mail and computers. With cartooning, though, he has the perfect excuse.

• My family has been known to gather around Mark in awe as he draws. In my family, our stick people look far more like sticks than people. I sometimes joke that I teach first grade because I can still draw better than most of my students (there are a few every year who already surpass me). If our children show any kind of artistic talent, we’ll know which side of the family they got it from.

• We talk about funny things. We discuss Mark’s cartoons as he fine tunes them, we talk about other cartoons, and we focus on the funny parts of movies and t.v. shows. We don’t just point out the funny parts to each other, though; we talk about how the joke was constructed, what made it funny, and what the creator could have done to make it even funnier. I think people outside the humor business would be amazed at how much serious discussion can take place about funny stuff.

• The lines between work and home life are blurry. The good part of that is that Mark can stay home and take care of our children, primarily working on nap time and once I get home from school. If we want to pick up for the day and go to the zoo with the kids, Mark’s his own boss and he can take a day off like that. The flip side of that is that work is never far from Mark’s mind either. Sometimes when I catch him staring off into space at a meal, I ask him if he’s off in “cartoon land,” which usually means he’s trying hard to flesh out a germ of an idea into a full-fledged cartoon. Other times I may finish talking about something, get a neutral noise from Mark before he starts with “Hey, tell me what you think about this idea…”

• I’ve gotten to share some unique experiences with Mark. I went with him to Ohio State University several years ago and listened to many cartoonists speak. I was even able to walk up to Lynn Johnston, one of my favorite cartoonists who works outside our household, and chat with her for a few minutes. I’m looking forward to making it to an NCS convention one of these years, too.

• Nobody will play Pictionary with us. I mean nobody, but nobody. We finally gave the game away.

• I am so very proud of Mark. Not only is he doing what he loves, he’s even found a way to make it into a good business. I love being able to pick up a magazine and see his cartoons and show those cartoons off to my friends. I love taking my dog to the vet, glancing at the cartoons they have hanging up by the receptionist’s desk, and then getting up to show them which one is Mark’s. Mark has worked very hard to figure out this unusual profession every step of the way: from when he was first getting back into cartooning and trying to figure out his tools and style to now when he is constantly trying to use today’s technology to his advantage. Mark got back into cartooning in our first year of marriage when he set his trombone down. (Our apartment neighbors appreciated the switch!) It’s been fascinating to see how far he and his business have come in those nine years, and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. I love you, honey!

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Photoshop Brushes and Me

Lately I’ve been downloading a bunch of Photoshop brushes to try to get some different effects when I’m doing color work.

Some of my recent faves are in this watercolor inspired set by Dave Nagel.

I had a little extra time this morning for a Good Housekeeping piece, and I decided to give them a try. I think the results are really nice, and I can’t wait to dig into these a little more.

(The cartoon’s not live at the site yet, but, for those of you who just have to know, the caption is ‘Bubble covered for 45 minutes, uncover and toil for 15 minutes, garnish with trouble and serve.’)


The final cartoon


I really like the multicolored speckles above the cauldron


More of the same in and around the fire


And a nice blotchy brush on the walls

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Masters of American Comics and a Nice Bratwurst

Eisner Spirit 251

The Mrs. and I had just a wonderful day together yesterday perusing the Masters of American Comics exhibit up the the Milwaukee Art Museum.

It’s coming out New York way soon, and if you get the chance it’s a really inspiring show.

Just being surrounded by all of that magnificent and historic art was good for the soul. And being able to get so close to so many wonderful originals… Honestly, it was inspiring.

One of the things that struck me time and time again was how large the pieces are. An original four-panel Peanuts is shockingly big, and a Sunday seems gigantic.

Schultz Peanuts 10-13-74

I tend to work really really small. I have no idea why, and, honestly, I was getting a bit of a complex yesterday as I have a small gallery thing coming up this fall (more on that later), but my wife was reassuring in reminding me that if I took four of my gag cartoons and pasted them together they’d be a similar size.

BTW, you wanna talk gigantic, the McKays on display… Oh… My… GOD!

I gotta say, I’m not one of these guys that fawns all over the really early stuff, but for some reason McKay really struck a chord with me yesterday and I found myself, credit card in hand, buying this gigantic book of his stuff.


I also picked up the book accompanying the exhibit…


And this awesome orange coffee mug! (Orange is my favorite color.)


Maybe I’m just getting older/wiser, but even the Herriman seemed more interesting yesterday.

I’m also a pseudo comic book fan, and I really enjoyed the Kirbys on display too. Seeing an original solitary page like that is so different than reading the same page in a comic. Just fascinating.

However, I must say that, although I still am intrigued by the art of Chris Ware, I still can’t really get into this whole graphic novel thing. I respect the work, and it’s certainly fascinating to watch cartoons expand into new areas, but a lot of this writing leaves me cold. So we kinda breezed through the end of the exhibit.

Anyway, the exhibit is a wonder, and not to be missed. If you can see it in Milwaukee, treat yourself to a brat a root beer in the cafe at the museum. Those cheeseheads know how to stuff a sausage!

(Big thanks to the in-laws, BTW! I don’t think either of us had to say “I want that underwear off the cat and back on your bottom right now!” all day. Ahhhhh….)

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