Summer, Summer, Summer!

PoolWork I don’t know about you, but my family has been “checked out” since Memorial Day. By checked out, I mean our brains basically shut down and went into summer hibernation (two weeks before school actually ended).

Like a cosmic joke, I don’t think we were ever so busy or overwhelmed as we were the last few weeks of school. And this includes planning last year’s Bat Mitzvah, the simultaneous launch of PD and moving to a new home, and rearing newborns. I may be exaggerating, but only slightly.

I knew I was in trouble when we started receiving emails about my older kid’s 8th grade graduation and younger kid’s 5th grade graduation (did we have such milestones back in the day? Not that I recall.). Anyway, it wasn’t just the prospect of trying to be in two places at the same time on the same day…but there were also weeks of activities leading up to the main events.

Meanwhile, we were dealing with all the other “ends of”: Soccer championship games, dance recitals, final tests, etc. And, of course, “beginnings of.” Beginning of sleepaway camp for the younger kid (lots of packing), high school band meetings, high school cheerleading meetings, student council election, etc. I also had a presentation the night before school let out. This is what my [old-school] agenda looked like last week:

agenda And, yes, I had to color code stuff.

You can already see the relative sparseness of June 13, the day after school ended and I got some semblance of my life back. Yep, Friday the 13th was one lucky day.

Why am I writing this in my comic blog? I guess I needed to vent. BUT this is also a celebration. A celebration of summer, that time of year when we can turn our brain cells off (ignore those TV commercials for Sylvan supplemental summer learning) and enjoy the simpler things in life: a warm day, a cool drink, and more leisure time to enjoy fitting comics like these:

SprayTan_c Camp_c Danny_squeal-c Enjoy your summer. And try not to use any brain cells until fall.

Body Image 101: an upcoming story line

PJD-2

My daughters are at the age where they are becoming more critical of their bodies. This hits close to home because I, like many other women, developed an eating disorder earlier in life. Mine was in college. I gained the Freshman 15 and decided to battle it in my sophomore year by subsiding on hot cereal, coffee, and frozen yogurt. My stomach hurt all the time. I was miserable. Luckily, by my junior year I discovered exercise and more balanced eating habits. It was a hard-won lesson.

I’m now something I never thought I’d become: an athlete. I love to run, kick-box, and hike. I’m also a health nut who eats quinoa and flax seed. But don’t get me wrong, I have an appetite like a teenage boy and I never deprive it (10 helpings of edamame chips, anyone?).

I won’t forget what I went through, how awful my sophomore year was, and how I’d like my own girls to ultimately live a healthy life without going through the damage I did. I try and model health-conscious habits and a positive outlook. My husband and I never criticize their figures and – just as importantly – I try not to criticize my own (not in front of them, anyway!). We also say it’s okay to indulge in treats sometimes and we constantly tell them that they are beautiful. Luckily, they still have pretty high self esteem, despite their emerging doubts.

A real problem is with the rest of society: peers, media, and the food and fashion industry (for a few good documentaries, see “Forks Over Knives,” “Food Inc,” and “Super Size Me” — the last one we watched as a family and — unless it’s Shamrock Shake season — my kids refuse to step into McDonald’s). Anyway, I find it the dichotomies incredibly confusing, so I can’t imagine what it feels like for young, vulnerable girls. In response, I created a short comic strip series (running late May) that focuses on these types of issues. I’m sure it won’t be the last I do.

As they say in the entertainment world, stay tuned. I’d love to hear your thoughts when the series is over.

 

Sophie’s Saga

Sophie

“Grandma Sophie” is based on my late grandma-in-law. She was still alive when I came up with the character. She lived a full life and died well into her 90’s. Toward the end, she began to experience dementia.

I hadn’t really considered what direction to move Sophie in as an evolving character. I developed her to be a challenging/opposing figure to Jill. Over the years, she’s been that and then some. She has had moments of softening, too, but for the most part she has remained her traditional, feisty self.

GrandmaWar_c

Lately, though, I’ve thought more about her, and about her place in the Kaplan family realm. I decided Sophie needs to experience a natural aging progression of her own. After all, if the rest of the characters get older, she should, too. Unfortunately, this means she’s entering a new domain…one of physical and/or mental ailment, and the decision-making that surrounds it. It’s a sensitive and frequently inevitable subject.

This week’s story line is based on that type of scenario. Sophie takes a fall, and consequently the family needs to decide if she should continue to live alone. All we know is that the fiercely independent Sophie will not take to it lightly. Neither did my own grandma-in-law, as well as some of my blood-relative grandparents who also lived independently into their 90’s.

Sophie_Shield_c

We’ll see how this continues to develop. I’m sure there will be many more “Sophie moments” to come.

 

Book signing

Clevelanders! I’ll be selling and signing copies of my new book, “Pajama Diaries: Having It All…And No Time To Do It” on Saturday, April 19, 2 pm at Eton Barnes & Noble on Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere, OH.  Stop by and say hello!

B&N

 

Lake Erie Ink: Kids’ Comic Con

I’m pleased to announce a wonderful upcoming local event: Lake Erie Ink’s second annual Kids’ Comic Con in Cleveland Heights on Saturday, March 8. I will be one of many speakers/workshop instructors participating (see flyer below). This is a great kids’ event (ages 8 -18) and I hope to see you and your families there!  P.S. I’ll also be selling copies of my books at the event.

ErieInkFlyer

 

Epiphany

So a few weeks ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and took one of those quizzes posted on Facebook. Normally I hate those things, but I admit that curiosity got the better of me. Plus I needed a break.

This one was called, What career should you actually have? It was a fun, two-minute distraction (and, by the way, no contest: Star Wars, bitches).

Anyway, my answer was “writer.” Not too surprising. After all, I’ve been a cartoonist for 10 years and a humorous card writer for 20.

But you have to understand how I grew up. I was a fine artist. I drew, painted, sculpted, and, yes, cartooned. I majored in illustration and minored in art history. I had inherited this artistic gene from both sides of the family. My mother’s hobby was painting (and she’s spectacular). My dad loved graphic design, and his mother painted. My brother’s professional hobby is photography. I also have countless other relatives who have pursued fine arts  — I even have a cousin who is one of Turkey’s most prominent painters.

Growing up, I thought my career path was set. I would be an artist. That’s what I told myself. That’s what others told me. And goodness knows I have an overwhelming appreciation for it.

Imagine my surprise when things started to veer.

I discovered along the way that art is no longer my main passion. I started noticing this when I began illustrating my college assignments in a cartoonish fashion. That is, I began to inject some humor and writing into my projects. I wrote comic strips and humorous graphic novels. I also documented in a journal and did some poetry and song writing on the side.

Later, when applying to greeting card companies, I was denied a position as an artist but accepted as a humor writer. I’ve grown to love that aspect of the job. As a professional cartoonist, I adore tinkering with words and writing mini-scripts.

Some days I really do identify more as a writer, and I gladly accept that. I notice that many of my colleagues can’t help but carry a sketchpad and doodle when the mood strikes. I used to have that desire, but now I find myself less interested in doodling and more interested in playing with words. Yes, I still love going to museums and galleries, and I enjoy drawing my strip. But I no longer have the desire to sketch for “fun.”

You could say I’m a writer who happens to draw, or an artist who happens to write. Of course, “cartoonist” is a wonderful blend of both and sums up this dual nature.

And who knows. Maybe I’ll eventually circle back to the fine arts and take up painting or sketching again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll remain happy frequenting galleries and reading about art history.

In any case, for the moment I’m satisfied taking up pen (or keyboard) in hand and jotting down my thoughts…whether they make it to the strip or to this blog.

 

 

Comics Kingdom Twitter Contest

logo-f7d1cb77eda78f64e4842050234c9ee0

So this could be fun.

Comics Kingdom announces the “Royal Archery Tournament.” Here is the overview:

“Laughter is meant to be shared with others. We use social media as a way to spread our cartoonists’ work all around the Kingdom.

Now we are giving comics fans a chance to get in on the action – for prizes!

When you see a strip that you just know a brand or celebrity would love to see, send it to their Twitter account with a link to the ComicsKingdom.com using the “Share on Twitter” button. Editorial cartoons, puzzles and blog posts are all fair game, too. The person whose tweets get retweeted by the account with the biggest number of followers is this week’s winner!

We will announce the winner of the biggest retweet In each Friday’s blog post and weekly newsletter. The winner will win a free one year subscription to Comics Kingdom Royal – so you can enjoy longer archives, vintage comics, and so much more! And if you have already joined Royalty, we will add the prize onto your existing subscription. The King may also hand out some one month memberships to worthy competitors.”

For all the rules and details, click here.

The Process

Recently, King Features posted pictures of cartoonists’ work spaces on the KF blog. Really enjoyed seeing everyone’s studios. Included was this photo of myself that my husband took on the spot.

TerDeskI liked the picture, so I also posted it on my Facebook page. I got lots of ribbing for being a neat freak. But it’s true. Even though there’s a huge pile of papers to the right that were cropped out, I am pretty tidy. I know that’s unusual for a creative type. But I honestly can’t work among clutter. I’d rather spend half an hour cleaning up first than diving into a project amid papers and breakfast remains. In fact, I usually start the day by straightening up the kitchen and living room, too. It’s a sickness, I know.

In any case, that blog led me to this post. I thought it would be fun to show the evolution of my creative process. Here’s my routine — brace yourself for more pictures!

In the beginning (2006), there were Microns. And Bristol board. And large rulers, pencils, legal pads, portable light table, and a kitchen table. But the first few processes haven’t changed. I start off by sketching out cartoon ideas on plain old legal paper.

Rough-1

Then I polish up my roughs (sample below). I do this with about 40-50 sketches at once. I then narrow them down to a month’s worth of strips to publish.

Rough-2I did this next step until the beginning of 2013. I penciled out all the selected strips on 14 X 17 Bristol (3 daily strips per sheet), and inked them with various sized Micron pens. All this was done on my kitchen table using a portable light box that I propped up with the Yellow Pages (remember those?).

Ter_working

(Note: This was a publicity shot for an interview — normally my hair is in some kind of messy ponytail and I’m decked out in 10-year-old fleece.)

Anyway, I would then scan the images into Photoshop and color them on my computer using just a mouse. Yes, I tried styluses in the past and found an awkward disconnect between the digital pad and the screen. I was always more comfortable with the mouse.

Last year — after many recommendations — I bit the bullet and bought a Wacom Cintiq, which is a digital drawing pad/computer screen. Once I got used to it, it saved me so much time. I probably earned back 3-4 days/month from penciling and inking (which wasn’t my favorite process, anyway). Now I draw directly on the screen, color the images, and email my work electronically.

wacom_full

So here are examples of a finished strip, created fully using the Cintiq. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of the device, I see no difference between these and my old hand-drawn-and-scanned originals.

Scorched

These days, cartoonists do both black/white and colored versions of their dailies because more and more daily newspapers are printing in color. Shading/coloring strips is still my favorite part of the job. I find it extremely relaxing.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I’ll spare you the extra little details, like how much cereal milk I splatter on my keyboard after I clear my clutter (and the subsequent cursing).

Some things are just routine.