7/13/2016

Having Read: Three Biographies of Children’s Book Authors.

I’ve been trying to do as much (non-research) reading as possible lately--it makes me a better person. I’ve always loved reading artist biographies. It’s been a downward spiral over the last few months though. I read three recently: one about Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson, one about Shel Silverstein, and one about Tomie DePaola. Each one worse than the one before.

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature (2012) by Philip Nel is one of the greatest biographies I’ve ever read. I received this book for christmas from Kristie’s uncle a few years ago (thanks Robert!). It was so thoroughly and lovingly researched, I can hardly express how much I appreciated this book. An inspiration on a variety of levels. It makes be want to write biographies. It’s one of very few books that caused me to write the author a note. I’m a slow reader (usually keeping a variety of books in play for years) so it took me a year to read. I told him that it was tough letting go of Krauss and Johnson after spending a year with them. He said he spent 12 years researching/writing so he knew how I felt. The book is thorough, insightful, and well-written. More of a scholarly work than an over-the-counter biography. This is the only one of the three books that I didn’t have to look up the biographer’s name. Obviously I love Crockett Johnson, but I only knew a little about Krauss before this book. I’m not even inclined to mention the content, only the extoll the excellence of the writing. That’s how great this book was to read.

I then read A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein (2009) by Lisa Rogak right after the Johnson/Krauss one. I had it for a few years before picking it up to read. I found it at a used bookstore (one of those that dump old library books at Outlet Malls). I put it next to our nearly complete set of Silverstein books where it sat for a while. I honestly read it because I was so hyped after reading Krauss/Johnson, so I have to admit how biased my perception of this book was when I got to it. While reading it I became so disappointed because I truly love the subject (Silverstein is a personal favorite) and my expectations were soaring after reading the Krauss/Johnson. This isn’t a bad book -- I just get the feeling that she couldn’t find as many sources as she wanted (certainly not as many as would elevate the book to an exceptional status). Also, I mostly think of Silverstein as an author and Rogak seems mostly interested in the music side of his career. That might very well be the truth of the subject: he was a musician who made books on the side. I enjoyed learning more about his life, though it always seemed biased. The bio even seems defensive or excusatory at times, which was off-putting. I realize that biographers depend heavily on access and permission--things that the Silverstein estate notoriously protect. I am reminded of the David Michaelis book on Charles Schulz, where he reportedly betrayed the trust of the family after falsely presenting the nature of his biography (writing about things that the family did not like).

I just finished reading Tomie DePaula: His Art and His Stories (1999) by Barbara Elleman. This book disappointed me so much more than A Boy Named Shel. It wasn’t a biography by any stretch of the imagination. I didn’t know much about DePaula (still don’t after reading this book), but we have several of his children’s books. I love the way he draws and how he tells his stories. After inadvertently amassing a few of them because we liked the art, I began to notice his name and seek him out. We pick up his books at thrift stores, yard sales, and library sales.In fact, the latter is where I found this biography. The book is mostly an extended description of each of his books. It read more like a collection of reviews than evidence of any sort of significant research. The point of view is only that of the author, who describes each picture each line with only a shallow understanding of the subject. I do not mean to poo-poo this book (I desperately try to teach my students not to be assholes), but my interests are scholarly and research-driven.

One day I will write a biography of some cartoonist. I have several subjects in mind, but the time is long to come. I will strive toward the mark set by the Krauss/Johnson book, but will likely fall somewhere closer to A Boy Named Shel, which is nothing to be ashamed of--just nothing to be too boastful about. I am for certain that I will at least do more than the DePaula book.

I do not know if I should stop reading biographies for fear that the next one will suck even more, or if I should find one to redeem the genre for me. I’m tempted to re-read a biography of Edward Gorey (Ascending Peculiarity) that I read years ago, but can’t recall much about it. We have a few Jim Henson books around I could read, I guess. If anyone has a suggestion, please let me know.

4/25/2015

Digging Up the Odd Lot - SwarmCon 2015


I'm giving a little talk at SwarmCon, if you'd like to come by and check out some weird old comics. Saturday April 25th, 2015. 1:30pm.

11/10/2014

ICAF 2014

I will be speaking at the International Comics Art Forum at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. The same place I were I worked this Summer as part of an Internship.

I will be giving an edited version of the paper I wrote for my first M.A Art History course (Art DiFuria's Historiography): "Daumier's Deadline: Expedited Expressiveness and the Franco-Belgian Cartooning Tradition."




This is my second time to speak at ICAF. I spoke at the 2011 Conference.

10/13/2014

Halloween 2014

Kristie and I made pieces for the Savannah Dick Blick Halloween show. They were giving out frames at an earlier event, so it seemed like a thing to do.
 I did a couple pumpkins making a bad pun.
I was almost done with the painting before I decided which pun to use. I can't even recall the other puns I considered...


 Here's Kristie and Ollie at the show:
She won 3rd place adult for her piece. It lit up. It's barely visible here.

8/12/2014

John Lowe's Foundations in Comic Book Art

Friend and colleague John Lowe recently completed his comics textbook for Watson-Guptill. It's called Foundations in Comic Book Art: Fundamental Tools and Techniques for Sequential Artist.



On page 68, Lowe uses a photo he took of me at the 2012 Mini-Comic Expo as visual research for a story about a fellow named 'David Duncan' who is framed for murder in 1920's New York. 

Have my mail forwarded to Blackwell's Island.

6/24/2014

Ages of the X-Men Book

I wrote and article for The Ages of the X-Men, a book of essays that correlate X-Men comics to the time periods in which they were published (or represent).

On pages 128 - 144 you'll find the final version of my essay on Generation X:

3/01/2014

Kevin Cannon visit to SCAD

During the Winter 2014 quarter, I was able to invite cartoonist Kevin Cannon of Big Time Attic down as part of the Mini-Comics Expo. Athena was a able to convince him to come down. We do an expo once a year. It's my big event for the year.

As part of his visit Kevin gave a lecture at the Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation (my favorite place to host a lecture--it has a little chapel for speakers). So I got to introduce his talk.






1/30/2014

Silas the Alien: In the Briny Deep








This is a little mini-comics that I made for my Mini-Comics class. We are doing an inter-campus exchange. The SCAD sequential art department at the following campuses: Savannah, Atlanta, and Lacoste are all exchanging minis (just a quarter-size letter/a4 page, which gives you 6 pages of comic plus a front and back cover). Each student makes around 60 copies of their comic (easy to print on campus since it's only a single sheet front a back--cost is nil) and in turn each will receive 60 comics from the other students. I think I will try and organize this exchange each Winter Quarter.

Admittedly I crapped this one out pretty fast. Here's the pencils:



12/05/2013

Usagi for the Sakai family



Here's a painting of Usagi Yojimbo for an auction to benefit Sharon and Stan Sakai. In 2009 the SCAD sequential art department took Stan Sakai to Tokyo for a little over a week. He worked with students, led daily workshops, traveled the city with us, and even got us into Ghibli studios. You can see my posts about the trip here: a Tokyo post with Stan.
On that trip,Stan led a watercolor workshop in which he produced a beautiful 11x17 painting of Usagi, which he gave to me before the paint was even dry. It was exactly four years ago (to the day). The painting now hangs in my home:

On that trip I became friends with both Sharon and Stan. Since every trip to San Diego Comic-Con included a chat, a hug, and a photo. I met up with Stan for lunch in France during the Angouleme BD festival a couple years ago. I made an appearance on his blog here. Stan carried his SCAD back everywhere and often wears his SCAD shirt. We consider him a close friend of the department. He and his lovely wife are undoubtedly one of the nicest couples I’ve ever met.
CAPS has set up a series of art auctions for benefit. It is important that Stan and Sharon know how much they mean to all of us. Please consider helping the two of them however you can: http://garageartstudio.blogspot.com/2013/11/help-stan-sakai.html

I’ve been fortunate to share several meals with Stan. Easily more than a dozen--spanning several years and several continents. He is sort of a foodie and has taken a photo of every one of those meals. It is also not lost on me that food and dining are significant elements in Usagi stories--often as narrative bookends or turning points in the adventures. I decided to paint Usagi enjoying a bowl of noodles. Here are a few sketches:

9/16/2013

Pre-MIX 2013!



Last year our graduate students competed in a 24-hour comics challenge as part of CCAD's MIX 2013 conference in Ohio.

This year I am honored to do a workshop in Columbus, OH for MIX 2013.



Mix 2013 CCAD's Celebration of Comics
Sept. 27–28
David Allan Duncan
Mini-Comics: Pre-production and Reproduction
1:30-3:30 p.m.
Crane Center room 217
(must be pre-registered)