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Archive for 2011


Written on Friday, March 25th, 2011 [permanent link]

IMAG0903Talk20 is a great idea run by a great group of artists in Richmond, VA. It borrows from a national movement to mix many genres in a casual setting in a rapid-fire way — think fresh vegetables in a Cuisinart in your kitchen packed with friends. With the top of the Cuisinart off. Each artist gets 20 slides (great!) and only 20 seconds to talk about each slide (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!)

I was honored to be invited to this week’s Talk20 at The Corrugated Box Building. But I was nervous about making any sense with only 20 seconds per.

Yes, yes, I’ve spoken in public plenty. It’s a big part of my business! But speaking to elementary school students for 45 minutes seems much easier — there’s time to recover a flub or to cruise through some well-practiced patter or to follow an idea that pops up because of a student question or suggestion. A 45-minute talk is a like a wandering walk with my dog. This was going to be a rollercoaster ride.

They tell me the crowd laughed. I couldn’t tell because the wind was whipping by as I crested the coaster hills. Five minutes? It felt like 60 seconds max.

Here’s what I meant to say (and maybe I did make these points; who knows??! We’ll have to see what the video shows once we post it): It’s taken me 33 years to build this wonderful life I have and to get a mastery of the white space I use. People assume it’s easy for me now after all that practice, but I’ve picked an artform with real tension built into it. The historian part of me wants to add MORE WORDS all the time, but my artist part has to resist and remind the historian that it is always better to SHOW THAN TO TELL. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to explore that fight between word and picture. I’m glad I can make money by communicating ideas through art. Rarely was there a lightning bolt moment that showed me the way. I’ve gotten here by a long, patient exploration of doors — some were wide open, some only cracked a bit, some were closed completely until I turned the handle. It’s not easy to make a career of being an artist, but it can be done. I’ll keep exploring that blank space again tomorrow. 😉

Hmmm, I think that was another 5 minutes right there . . .

The good news is that when I wasn’t speaking I learned a lot from the other artists — muralist Ed Trask reminded me of bold artists that used to hang out at my house because they were my Dad’s students, and culinary artist Ellie Basch reminded me of my sister! And many of the 102 people in attendance seemed glad to get the free comix I handed out and signed for them after the event. And I can’t wait to be in the audience for the next one!!!

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George and Bentley

Written on Friday, February 25th, 2011 [permanent link]

Washington Cover

President’s Day was the release party for my new George Washington biography! Mount Vernon was fee free that day and had more than 15,000 visitors. My booksigning table was positioned right where the crowds came up from their new underground museum — so this was the first signing I’ve ever had where I was in real danger of being trampled!!!! It was a steady view of torsos for 4 hours, and I signed a LOT of comix . . .

This is the cover of the book — I’m glad Mount Vernon’s staff chose this idea. It was FUN to draw. I think this and the “Revolutionary City” comic I did for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are the best history comix I’ve made so far (the GW book is my 29th title!). Can you tell which of the soldiers going in to battle with George is supposed to look like me?? That’s one of the fun things about making your own story — you get to sneak in guest appearances. 😉

For fun, my friend Wendy suggested I also take a picture of all the research I use to make a comic. So here is a look at MOST of the material that informed my writing and drawing of “George Washington Leads the Way” — I did use Internet resources as well, and the historians at Mount Vernon added some important points as they reviewed the drafts. But this pile of paper gives you a good sense of the second step of the author’s process: RESEARCH!

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George Washington Leads the Way!

Written on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 [permanent link]

GWcoverdraft1 GWcoverdraft2

GWcoverdraft3 GWcoverdraft5

My George Washington biography for Mount Vernon is being printed RIGHT NOW! As we wait for its release during his birthday celebration in February, I thought you’d like to see some of my rough sketches for the cover.

You see that my sketches don’t get too detailed. They are mainly a guide to location and layout. I’m using a simple, over-the-counter black felt pen to make the lines on a regular piece of typing paper. Look at how I scratched just a few lines for the background troops. I don’t need to draw the details of their uniforms — I’ve got that in my head and will make sure the details get drawn with a nicer pen on nicer paper when I do the final draft.

You can see the main idea that spreads across the different proposals: to show Washington as a MAN OF ACTION. Having the action come right at the reader is a tried-and-true practice to pump up the sense of motion and drama. Of course you see the difference between my head-on view of Washington crossing the Delaware with the famous oil painting showing him in a boat from the side. And the cannon shot of the third sketch seemed the most daring! And hard to pull off, because who has ever really seen a cannon shot from that point-of-view THAT CLOSE? How would I really draw and color that?!?! (And then I started to really miss Martha — and most Americans don’t know that she spent time with George during the harsh Valley Forge winter. So I thought I’d try a cover that combined the drama of Valley Forge with the close relationship the two of them had.)

Which cover do you think the Mount Vernon folks picked?? You can go to Chester’s Facebook page to see; I’ll also post it here in a week. 😉

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