• Comics in Pittsburgh

    ‘ey y’all. The next coming posts are going to be juicy so hold on to your butts.

    The following is happening next monday at Lili Coffee Shop in Polish Hill in Pittsburgh. Do stop by. I’ll be geekin’ out about all kinds of comics related things. I’ll have some recap/photos to share.

    In the coming days I’ll be telling you about the fine folks that I’ve met at Carnegie Mellon. In its marble halls can be found some fine ass illustrators and cartoonists who take craft as seriously as concept, if not more(CMU has one the most concept oriented art programs in the US). Conceptual art is cool and all, but it’s all those fancy drawings that get me excited and keep me up to ungodly hours of the night.

    Who’ll you be reading about you ask?

    Caitlin Boyle

    Tara Helfer

    Christina Lee Jesse England

    Hank Ehrenfried

    And then some.

    Again, hold on to your butts.


  • Gusto Caricature

    My bud, Juan spins records in Pittsburgh. He’s a fly dude who goes by the stage name Gusto. He’s well worth your attention if you like to move your ass. I’ve posted him about in the past, but I thought I’d bring him up again.

    I was listening to one of his mixes and got inspired to do a little caricature of him. I thought I’d share. Did I mention he’s a cutie?



  • Tell Me Something I Don't Know: A Rad Podcast Where Artist's Talk Shop

    How does an artist make a living? What compromises does an artist make? Is the idea of the “sell out” obsolete? How have the technologies of the past 20 years made it possible to be an artist? What does it mean for a city to have a good creative culture. What do you do when offered the opportunity to script an opera?

    Artist, if these are questions that keep you up at night, read on.

    Jim Rugg and Jasen Lex, two fine artists in their own right, host a great podcast that I’ve been listening to recently. More often than not the discussions shed light on the artistic growth of the interviewed artists. Given the breadth and quality of many of the interviewed artist’s work, it’s a hell of a satisfying listen. The inspiring thing about this podcast is that it’s ripe with ideas and tips from folks who are eking out artistic lives, making the rules along the way.

    So far, Rugg and Lex have chatted with Wayne Wise, Cecil Castelluci, Farel Dalrymple, and Tom Scioli. Have a listen while you ink.


  • Krazy Kat: A real beauty

    I pride myself on not being too highfalutin. As such, I won’t try to talk about the role that George Herriman’s Krazy Kat plays in the 20th centuries art traditions. Nevertheless it’s important to note that with fans like Pablo Picasso, William Randolph Hearst and e.e. cummings lovers of Krazy Kat are in good company. Krazy has been floating around me for the past two years but only recently have I given Herriman’s work the time of day. I regret every second of those two years without Krazy.

    From the simple premise: Kat loves Mouse, Mouse Loves Self, Dog Loves Kat grow an infinite set of stories that Herriman masterfully captured in pen and ink.

    Reading Krazy requires some patience on behalf of a reader. Each page has its own visual meter and Herriman’s writing jumps across language and orthography often. Nevertheless, those who stick around begin to notice how it is exactly that he plays with the meter.  With enough patience and faith in Herriman, a reader can experience sublime visual rhythms of his 90 year old strip. His lyrical prose is absolutely marvelous. To read his comics you wind up channelling something from outside yourself and that is their beauty.

    While reading Krazy Kat: The Art of George Herriman, I came across the following well known quote. Herriman’s own description of his creation brought me to tears.

    “…be not harsh with ‘Krazy’ – He is but a shadow himself, caught in the web of this mortal skein. We call him ‘cat,’ we call him “crazy,” yet he is neither. At some time he will ride away to you, people of the twilight, his password will be the echoes of a vesper bell, his coach, a zephyr from the West. Forgive him, for you will understand him no better than we who linger on this side of the pale.” -George Herriman

    Herriman was a gentle man who deserves to be remembered. You can begin remembering him by paying his legacy it’s due. Read some of his Sunday pages. Take your time and savor every moment.


  • Odds and Ends: Newspaper Illustrations

    Some more for the Tartan. Nor’easters and the campus security alert system were the themes.


  • A look at the bizarro world of creator's rights

    Chris Roberson, the co-creator of the DC comic, i-Zombie speaks to Tim Hodler at TCJ about his recent departure from DC and his first hand experiences with the ugly nature of DC’s intellectual property practices when it comes to creator’s rights.

    _Last week, Chris Roberson, a novelist and publisher who has worked on several comics titles for DC and Vertigo, including his own co-creation_iZombie_, [announced via Twitter](http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/04/19/chris-roberson-quits-dc-comics/) that due to ethical concerns, he was no longer comfortable working for DC Comics. The remarks, following in the wake of several other comics-related controversies (_Before Watchmen _and general disappointment over the handling of Jack Kirby’s legacy, among numerous other things) very quickly spread throughout the comics internet, and shortly led to [DC terminating Roberson’s contract](http://www.comicsalliance.com/2012/04/20/chris-roberson-fired-dc-comics/). Roberson’s public statements, and the sometimes fiery arguments that they have provoked, seemed in some way to augur a possible modest paradigm shift, and we were very pleased when he agreed to speak to us about what happened, his relationship with DC, and the ethics of the comics industry._

    Obviously, the recently announced Before Watchmen is mentioned, so get ready to have a bad taste in your mouth.

    The comments are ripe with discussion, so check it out.


  • Odds and Ends: Pillbox Cover

    Seein’ as how I shared some illustrations for the paper, I thought I’d share with you this is the cover I did for the Tartan’s arts and culture magazine, Pillbox. It captured the feel of the traditional notion of Carnegie Mellon Universities Carnival pretty well. This was a pretty politically correct cover. It came out nicely on newsprint, full of energy, but not too noisy.


  • Odds and Ends: Newspaper illustrations

    You know the drill. Here are some recent drawings that have gone in CMU’s newspaper. They look great on newsprint.

    And, as music is always essential, here’s a deliciously lethargic funk by Mary Lou Williams.



  • PIX 2012 Tumblr up and Running

    Here’s a little peak of what you can expect on the site. Check it out and stay tuned for the coming details. It’s going to be a really special Expo this year, so make a mental note to be in Pittsburgh in early October.

    For now, the best way to stay up to date is via the facebook or the tumblr.



  • This #*?! Isn't Very Funny

    This article originally appeared in CMU’s school Newspaper, the Tartan.

    Jim Rugg is a Pittsburgh comics powerhouse. His contributions to the vitality of the comic scene have included mini-comics, self-publishing, and creator-owned work with independent publishers. It’s no wonder the ToonSeum is honoring the contemporary cartoonist and working artist through the month of May with its exhibit, This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny.

    This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny features Rugg’s well-known work on Street Angel and Afrodisiac as well as new and seldom-seen pieces. This is Rugg’s first solo exhibition and a first for the ToonSeum, as the exhibition reflects the more adult sensibilities of the comic world. Most of the pieces exhibited are recent, shorter pieces originally made for anthologies and newspapers, dating from after the completion of Afrodisiac. Much of the pieces are directly inspired by original production art of the 20th century, the often-discarded line art that was produced for the sake of reproduction.

    While it’s safe to say that the idea of comics in fine art galleries has found its place in contemporary art criticism, it is still unclear how a viewer is intended to engage with comics in a gallery environment: whether one is supposed to pay respect from a distance or inspect the minutiae in search of the human touch. While both are valid approaches, they go against the cognitive escape afforded by the traditional private experience associated with comics.

    As such, contemporary artists are asked to present their work either as fine art or as comics. It seems that they must determine whether the focus will be on the art or the narrative. When facing this dilemma, artists feel they must choose. In This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny, Rugg bravely provides solutions to this forced dichotomy.

    Rugg approaches the puzzle of exhibiting comics in a museum by creating art specifically for the gallery environment. By drawing single large panels, the comics fit within the traditional framework of a painting, and by allowing his panels to feature characters drawn at different sizes, he can create an unparalleled sense of depth. As a viewer gets closer, smaller details make themselves apparent.

    A noticeable example of this practice is Rugg’s use of word balloons of different sizes within individual panels. The word bubbles’ varying sizes invite the viewers to get closer, if they want to read the text. In this way, Rugg consciously designs his work so the audience engages with it in the gallery space and so the work can confidently straddle the seeming divide between comics and fine art.

    It’s important to note that while it’s safe to label Rugg as a pop artist, his work does not exhibit the intrinsic post-modern detachedness of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein’s mid-20th century work. His work has real heart. As he describes on his website, Rugg seeks to “reconcile pop culture’s adventurous promise with the realities of the world around [him]” and he “[uses] the style and visual vocabulary of cartoons to question and lampoon consumer culture.”

    Rather than communicating solely through abstract notions of color, line, and form, Rugg expresses his visions and communicates in the language of our collective, mass media-constructed childhood memories. That image language is his pop. Rugg uses comic tropes in unexpected ways: narratives advanced through fragments, covers for nonexistent stories, or sketched splash pages.

    “I live in a complex world of race and gender roles, politics and religion, suburban isolation and the confusion of middle age,” reads Rugg’s artist statement on his website. “In my artwork, I bring these realities to bear on the once-safe world of escapist entertainment and attempt to understand the values of the world around me through India ink, steel pen nibs, sable-hair brushes, and pixels.”

    His work is on exhibit through May 6th. If you’re in downtown Pittsburgh for the Spring Gallery crawl, do stop by the ToonSeum and give his art a chunk of your time.