Happy Christmas

I spent a lot of Christmases as a child wishing for snow and all of the ornamentation that makes stuff more, well, Christmas-y. For a few years we took a walk on the beach on Christmas Day. This year that sounds like an excellent plan to me, though the beach in San Francisco is far colder than the beach in San Diego. For now, and in lieu of a holiday card, here's a belated post of a couple of drawings from Thanksgiving week in the desert.



I've just launched an IndieGoGo campaign to publish two books with my students this year. I work with 9th and 10th grade English Language Learners at an alternative public high school in Oakland, CA. I teach them the language of comics every year so they can tell their experiences as immigrants, and publish them in a comics anthology, or collective graphic novel (whichever term you prefer).

My fundraising goal of $1600 would let me print one book for each of the students who wrote and drew a story this year. Additionally it would let me publish, for public viewing, a handsome coffee table book of the very best student comics of the last four years. The downtown Oakland Public Library will be hosting a book launch for us in February and making the book a part of their history collection.

Any contribution to this campaign is appreciated. All contributions of $30 and above get you a copy of said handsome coffee table book, along with other very nice perks! It's a great cause. We've already raised 21 percent of the goal on the first day of the campaign. Please join in!


East Bay, this Saturday

I'll have a table with my comics this Saturday at the East Bay Alternative Press Book Fair. It's in downtown Berkeley, inside the Berkeley City College building. Come and say hello!

There will be some fine local cartoonists in attendance, including Joey Alison Sayers, Kane Lynch, Jason Martin, and Mari Naomi. Click on the image for a full list of exhibitors.


Out of October

October was a long month but November is looking better.
Been talking my students' ears off about pacing in comics 
and using a balance of long, medium and close-up shots,
and only now I'm starting to follow my own advice.

Spent Veterans' Day writing, researching and sketching.
Above are a couple of sketchbook drawings. 
I like the ambiguity of that exchange on the right.

And this drawing of a young Bob Geldof, 
which I felt like coloring,
is less off-task than it seems.



The next chapter of the book is called TERROR. I wrote it awhile ago, drew it last summer, and now I am rewriting it again.

It is a strange and long process to dig up old ghosts. I'm rewatching old horror movies, finding that most of them have no power to scare me anymore. One exception worth mentioning is THE SHINING. It still makes my heart pound and my hands sweat.

I've never read the book - I'm not sure how much is the book and how much is the movie. But I suspect that a big part of its value is that while he intended for it to be a commercially successful movie, Kubrick was still making art. The camera angles, the majestic sweep of the Steadicam, the dramatic cuts... are so singular, so arty, for a horror movie. He uses as many common elements of a domestic abuse story as he does conventions of the horror movie. In fact, it is a domestic abuse story cast in the trappings of a horror movie. The character development is very spare, with just enough bones to make the characters stand, but so much attention is lavished on the setting that you still imagine yourself in the shoes of the three characters, trapped in that hotel, terrorized or becoming the terror.


Paper figures

A wedding present Trevor and I made for our friends, John and Kim, a very sweet couple. I used to do these big shadow puppet plays, and I'd make tiny paper cut-outs to plan out the characters, and hang them up with floss and t-pins. I still get a kick out of how delicate they are.


Chapters 1 and 2 available

It feels great to have two chapters of my book, THE BEST WE COULD DO, out in the world. If you'd like to order a copy of one or both, now you can! I've added two buttons on the side of this blog. They are $5 each, with very reasonable shipping.

The next time I table will most likely not be until December 10th at the East Bay Alternative Press Book Fair in Berkeley. But who knows? I may have another chapter or a different mini-comic done by then.


Still recovering from a busy and fun weekend at and around the Alternative Press Expo. I am awed by the force of nature that is my table partner Jake Wyatt. Thank you to everyone who came by the table. I had a lot of great conversations and hope you enjoy the comics!

Glad I got to spend some time with Craig Thompson during his whirlwind HABIBI tour. He was busy signing books for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund when my son barged the line to give him this handmade monster.

In town were the hilarious Katie Shanahan and her equally entertaining brother Shaggy, promoting their new comic, Silly Kingdom. Thank you to them for a whole lot of laughing this weekend!


Chapter Two is finished!

So many thanks to Teb for scanning pages and making the cover while I kept inking.

Just home from the printer's, these copies of Chapter 2 from my ongoing project, THE BEST WE COULD DO, will be coming with me to the Alternative Press Expo.

APE is this weekend, October 1-2, at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.

I'll be at Table 521 with Jake Wyatt and the gorgeous Anthology Project, Volume 2.

And if I'm not too overwhelmed by the space and the crowd, I may even draw some portraits.


So much talent

Craig Thompson's epic graphic novel, HABIBI, came out today.  It is an incredible work of art, at almost 700 pages of intricately hand-drawn, inked pages like the one above. He labored on it for six years and probably threw out thousands of draft pages before calling it done, and even then he spent several more months hand-lettering the page numbers and handling every aspect of the book design, down to the exact shade of the black ink and the depth of the letterpress and goldfoil. Jeez, just scanning that many pages would kill me. His storytelling is so engaging that you forget to gawk at the art and become lost in the world he has created, turning the pages faster than you want to because you need to know what happens next. The themes are brave, heartfelt, important. It is a book that makes me want to read more, draw more, write more.

Tomorrow is Craig's birthday and I thought I would post a drawing of him I found while cleaning out my studio. Last October I had the great honor of being part of a comics residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts while Craig was there. He came into the library while Jake Wyatt and I were drawing, and humored us by sitting for a portrait. My drawing of Craig is not very good. Jake, however, does this incredible thing with pastel, as evidenced in this 15-minute drawing of me that he dashed off and then wanted to throw away. On the left is a page of the detective comic he's working on. So. much. freaking. talent.

Both of these gentlemen will be exhibiting at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco next month, October 1st and 2nd. And I am very pleased to announce that I will also be there with the next chapter of my graphic novel, THE BEST WE COULD DO. More on that soon!



Late Afternoon Swimming

The best light for drawing from memory is maybe late afternoon sun, the kind that burns the image really good onto your retina.


Not from observation

That's better. Here's another penciled page from the next chapter, which so far is looking nicer than the last.


Finding a balance

My cartooning mind is at odds with my drawing from observation mind, and the two need to learn to play together. In the meantime, I space word balloons.


In the University of the Wilderness

with the ghost of John Muir...and in the spirit of Thoreau Macdonald, two drawings from memory done after coming in from incredible views at Yosemite. Terrence Malick's movie still on the brain. No Calvinist or Transcendentalist or even Christian myself, but I like the relationship with nature that these men had. I think it has something to do with scale.


Two Studies and a Sketch

I love the look of scratchy lines with ink wash. I'm still looking for a Rembrandt study I did years ago, but in the meantime here are two small studies. Gipi does incredible comics with these moments of aaaaah where he lets you pause on a landscape with a big sky and tiny bit of something manmade. The third image is a preparatory drawing for Chapter Two: BACKWARDS. I didn't get the light right so studying light under trees is my homework for the weekend.


Water Obsession

This is the first week of my summer off from teaching, and a rare hot week in the Bay Area. I've become obsessed with getting in the water as much as possible. And I owe some time to a certain little boy. I'll draw comics when it gets chilly again (next week).

Above, a quick study of the deceptively simple drawings of Bastien Viv├ęs, who drew this gorgeous book with 135 pages of swimming. I bought it from a Stuart Ng bookstand in the company of my friend Jake Wyatt, who is a library of comics knowledge and introduced me to both the artist and the bookseller.


Rewrites and sketches

Scribbling lots of notes today for a total rewrite of Chapter Two. The first two chapters were written long before I made the commitment to try to draw the book as a comic book, and not something more journal-like in the vein of, for example, Maira Kalman's The Principles of Uncertainty. Once I overhaul this chapter, I'm hoping the next few chapters of thumbnails, drawn in the company of other cartoonists, will be a lot less work to rewrite.

Speaking of other cartoonists, the more I meet, the more I remark that as a group, they are the friendliest and most supportive people I have ever met. Go comics!


T & Teb at the Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I'd never seen a movie in 3D before. Well, only once, but that was Captain EO and it was Disneyland and a long time ago. When I heard that Werner Herzog said you definitely should see his movie in 3D, I figured it was worth trying. And it was.


This is a pretty magazine.

Hyphen is a super-slick magazine about Asian American arts, culture and politics, somehow entirely run by volunteers. Kudos to them for publishing their first piece of comics (which they call a "graphic essay"), and thanks to GB Tran for doing this collaboration with me. The comic is in the print magazine; the interview is online here.


My Students' Comics

Well, they give me gray hairs, but sometimes they give me great joy. These are my students at Oakland International High School, an alternative public school for recent immigrants who are learning English. We just published our third annual collection of comics written and drawn by my 9th and 10th graders. I hope to do this again next year. If you'd like to buy a print or download copy and support next year's project, please click here.