Thursday, February 15, 2018


Since I had no formal art training, after I graduated from college since Computer Art was supposedly the next big thing on the horizon I decided to take a computer class…but discovered it only dealt with programming. After one frustrating session in the lab where I couldn’t figure out how to even log off this machine, and it occurred to me that if I was a success at this I would eventually be working in an office, I dropped that class. 

A decade later, my water color instructor, Bill Calliope, at the local community college showed me a new program called Photoshop. He was very excited because you could simply place your cursor on any color and it matched it. Wasn’t much for drawing though. A few years later when I was at an ad agency one of the reps was very excited to have me “ draw” on their new computer tablet, where an image would appear on the screen. I quickly sketched in a few strokes…but nothing happened. “It takes a few seconds”, he explained. By the time it showed up on the screen it was obvious this wasn’t my approach to drawing…the machine couldn’t keep up with the hand. 

All of the above images were drawn on the iPad Pro in Procreate

Still, in the early nineties, I invested heavily in computer graphics equipment and began working with the Wacom tablet. Combined with the current Photoshop program it was an amazing step forward in its possibilities. Coloring drawings, adding lettering and graphic components, and making corrections were all infinitely easier than working with the traditional methods that I had been taught. Still, it wasn’t much for drawing and painting.

These drawings were done on a Cintiq monitor using ClipStudio Art

Life Drawing studies done traditionally with pencil and ink. 
"Pencil" drawing done in ClipStudio Art

In the 21st century, the next step was drawing directly on the screen, with the most popular being the Cintiq. I immediately got one, and when they introduced a tablet with this capability I bought the Samsung version. While technology has made major leaps, it still couldn’t compete with the facility and finesse of paper and pencil for me. The Cintiq was too big to work with as a lap board (and the smaller version was too small). I tried the swing arm you could mount it on, but that always wiggled a tiny bit. That, plus the fact that with the width of the glass screen you were always slightly  removed from the drawing, made smooth, tight work very difficult for me.  The tablet was a bit too heavy and a little clunky and slow. The biggest drawback of both was that I always used the side of the pencil when I drew (or inked) and with the stylus your could only use the point.

The Above still lifes were done on newsprint with charcoal and pastel, and a bit of opaque white. 

The IPad Pro has finally changed all that for me. Thanks to my good friend Tom Nelson’s continued insistence, I finally bought his old (six months…lol) version…and now I’m hooked. It’s light enough that I can swing it around like a piece of board while I draw, but still large enough that you can work on a good sized drawing. The biggest selling point is the “super pencil” I use with it that allows me to draw holding it on the side like you would with a regular pencil.  And while Photoshop is just too expensive, the Procreate program (about $5) has amazing capabilities. Manga Clip Studio Paint is another program that is popular, but a good bit more expensive. It is very comic book friendly, but has a longer learning curve. 

This drawing and all the ones below it were done on the iPad Pro in Procreate.

 With all the different possibilities with different brushes, paints, color,etc., there is a whole world of possibilities that I can’t wait to explore. For years I started the day doing a 30 minutes still life in charcoal and pastel; I now do those on the IPad. While I’m still pencilling my comics traditionally, I am planning on trying to do the inking process on this device sometime in the near future. 

My only issues with it are that it is an electronic device and you have to constantly make sure it it charged. The “super pencil” had a little protective cap that fell off and was lost within two days. There should also be a way to secure the pencil the IPad when it’s not in use. Likewise, charging the pencil using the machine is a fairly awkward process. but all that said, if they come out with a slightly larger model I’m buying it tomorrow.

ps. Since I already know how to drive,  when I buy a car I don’t have to take a course in being a mechanic, which I’m simply not interested in. So while I appreciate all the technical advice that many of you will want to foist on me, you can probably save your breath. If you have any tips that will make me better at drawing, I’m all ears. 

Friday, February 2, 2018


Here are  a couple of great books that have  my recommendations for great additions to your library . First there is Dope , Trina Robbins adaptation of a tale by the great Sax Rohmer, best known for his Fu Manchu novels. The story takes place at the time of WWI and centers around a group of young socialites who are caught up in the nefarious world of narcotics. It wouldn’t be Rohmer without a shrewd police inspector abetted by an English Lord whose special area of expertise is Asia.  The setting is Limehouse, the Chinese district of London, and the villains are the evil Mrs. Sin and her more complex husband Wa. A fun read with lots of twists and turns well orchestrated and well drawn by Trina. 

My only caveat with the book is that it is a reprint of work originally done in the l970’s in black and white. While Trina has a wonderful graphic sense of  design, with the current printing technology, I think adding a bit of tone to the artwork might have helped a good bit with mood and character identification. (IHowever, a real plus to this book is the extra features at the end on Sax Rohmer, Sex, Drugs, and the Yellow Peril, and The Devil Doctor in Comics, the latter even featuring a couple of drawings by yours truly.

The other book is Trina’s autobiography Last Girl Standing. 

Trina wears her wampum beads
She fills her drawing book with line
Sewing lace on widows' weeds
And filigree on leaf and vine
Vine and leaf are filigree
And her coat's a secondhand one
Trimmed with antique luxury
She is a lady of the canyon
- Joni Mitchell- Ladies of the Canyon.

I had listened to that song a thousand times and had no idea that those lines were  about one of my comics and drawing cronies. And this book is filled with so many wonderful stories about Trina’s life that make it one of the more entertaining reads you’ll find in some time. I’ve met a few folks in the pop music industry who were part of that world, and way too many who were involved in the rebirth (and death throes) of the comics world. I don’t think I’ve ever knew anyone who was so involved in an intricate way with both.

Trina’s journey as an aspiring cartoonist is interwoven with her years in  NYC, LA and San Francisco. Not only was she writing, drawing and producing the first feminist comics (It Ain”t Me Babe, Wimmin’s Comix) but at the same time was designing and creating clothes for the likes of Donovan, Mama Cass, David Crosby,etc. . And then there is her relationship with Jim Morrison.  Believe me, there is rarely a dull moment in the narrative.

There is a good bit of acerbity with regards to her effort to  gaining a foothold in the male dominated comics world, but while I wouldn’t diminish her struggle as a woman in this field, I think there is a bigger picture. When I was growing up there were all kinds of comics: westerns, mystery, funny animal, teenage comedy, classics illustrated, and superheroes. But by the time Trina and I started looking for work as a cartoonist, the reality was that if you didn’t draw superheroes in the house (Marvel or DC) style , work was extremely difficult to find. While there were “underground” comics, and “independents” as alternatives, neither of them could  offer economically competitive rates. The real pioneers in the independent field were  Artie Spiegelman, Howard Chaykin, Harvey Pekor, Dave Sim, Moebius, and several others who were doing their own  material that shattered the mold for traditional comics. While they made little money and often got even less respect, they were reshaping the graphic story as we knew it.

Trina was also in this mix. So while a lot of the rejection she faced in the industry might have been gender based, a good deal more was  simply that her work was far too personal and original for corporate comics whose only focus was on sales. Probably the best interview I ever had was at Nickelodeon where after the art director looked at my samples he told me, “Wow. Your work is really good. You couldn’t work for us.” We both laughed out loud because I knew exactly what he meant. Trina probably also experienced this, and thank god she didn’t conform or her book might never have been as provocative and enchanting a read. 
Above a photo of Trina and Steve Leialoha and below a  drawing of Trina done for a Kickstarter promotion.