Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chock full o'nuts (and I don't mean my pants!)

So I actually have a bit of news to share reflective of my career, rather than my latest toy and bike purchases (which I'm still very geeked about).


I recently met up with syndicated cartoonist Dave Coverly (creator of "Speed Bump") at a coffee house in Ann Arbor, and it was easily the coolest meeting I've had with a master of my field since my brief but memorable encounter with Sergio Aragones in May of '07.
We talked about the industry and the technical this-and-that’s of our craft, but we talked about so much other personal stuff, too. After awhile it stopped being like I was talking to one of my professional idols and more like I was reunited with one of my old college buddies. It was just an incredible experience. We plan on hanging out again soon, and Dave's going to give me a tour of his studio, which I can't wait to see. I've always wanted to peek into a famous cartoonist's inner sanctum (though many soon-to-be famous cartoonists, like my bud Evan Shaner, have studios that make me drool, too).


I finally finished my 100th page of Dead Duck, written, drawn, colored and fit into its template. I'm very proud and exhausted. Whereas there's no end to the glee of hunching over my drawing table and actually creating a page with pen and pencil, sitting at my computer for a month solid and digitally coloring my pages has been tedious, laborious and frustrating to the end. Yes, I've done some very neat things with the colors, and I'm very proud of how it turned out. But the rush of using the keyboard vs. the drawing board isn't much of a contest, and drawing board wins out every time by a landslide.


Having said that, it means everything to me that I'm doing this book 100% myself, writing, penciling, inking and coloring. Though I know there's far more knowledgeable and capable digital colorists than myself, I don't know if I could ever collaborate on Dead Duck. I'm creatively selfish, I admit it. Maybe someday I'll collaborate on my work, but not anytime soon and not on this book.


The biggest downside to my month-long coloring jag was my absence from actual drawing. Besides the previously mentioned caricaturing hell gig and a recent and far more pleasurable drawing jam session with Evan Shaner,
I've really been separated from the pen and paper. But in the last few days I've dipped my toes into the cartooning pond again, and believe me, the water is fine.

My first effort was a submission to Rittenhouse Trading Cards, a company that produces Marvel Comics cards. They're looking for artists to produce "sketch cards", which essentially means a card-sized drawing of a Marvel character done entirely by hand (including coloring). I was told they needed to see a minimum of five samples. I got so geeked for the project that I doubled my offering.



So this is what I came up with. I drew all my favorite characters, with the exception of the Hulk, since I didn't want him to compete for the attention of my Thing (which sounds dirty), which I'm very proud of (which sounds dirty and narcissistic). I had such a blast drawing these. It was like I could feel my body and imagination pull itself out of its long slumber and really hit the ground running. Even if nothing comes of my submission, I'm so glad I got the opportunity to draw these characters. It was a great warm-up for my next big push to draw the rest of Dead Duck. And speaking of which…

I had two written scripts and one in the making waiting for me to tackle them. Just last night I grabbed the first one, and in a fit of unbridled enthusiasm to be drawing my duck's adventures again, I competed the first page.



This story tries to clarify the roles of minions, particularly their limitations. Sure they deliver the dead, but what are the capable of beyond that? What governs them? I know, sounds too deep for a funny book about the dead, but I feel like I deal with it as humorously as ever. That's how the story begins, and then it segways into Dead Duck's latest exploits. This one puts Dead Duck and Zombie Chick in actual peril, and I feel it's a new direction for the characters. Plus it adds an important moment to the mystery of Dead Duck's origin. Sound intriguing? Well nothing satisfies intrigue as much as buying the graphic novel from which the intrigue originates! Hint hint!

Lastly, I wanted to mention a few unexpected places my name and work has been popping up in lately. I recently found in a Wikipedia entry about my old Alma Mater Delta College that my name has been added to the short list of "noteable alumni." "Jay Fosgitt-cartoonist" proudly stands amongst a scant four other names (one of which being my best friend and Journalist Justin Engel), and I thank my friend Robin who confessed to being the initiator of my entry.

I also stumbled across a Wikipedia entry for Kernal Korn,
the mascot I created for Goodrich Theaters in 2003. My name was included in the bio for the character's creation, which was a surprise, since I didn't part on good terms with Goodrich regarding a follow-up project. I'm just glad that whomever wrote the entry gave me props.

And finally, I got a message on Deviantart today from my friend Marian in Ireland. Evidently a news program in the UK was doing a story about a person who'd created a website dedicated to lampooning Britney Spears. And in the course of the news bit, they showed a quick image of my now infamous Britney Spears caricature (I've gotten more than my share of angry e-mails from irate Britney fans saying I should leave her alone. Obviously there pleas blew right past me). I checked, and I was given credit on the site for the caricature, so I'm good with it. And it's a real thrill to know I was seen on UK TV, too.

So that's it for now. Things are going swell, and my creative juices are spilling over. So expect some fresh dead Duck material to drool over very, very soon!

Much love,

--Jay

Monday, August 25, 2008

GUYS AND DOLLS and DUCK AND COLOR!!!

The biggest problem with moving down to Ann Arbor has been an abundance of great stuff that I want to buy. I mean it, they have everything. For the most part, I've kept my cool and refrained from unbridled spending sprees (my new Pee-Wee Herman bike doesn't count--that was an early anniversary present). But upon discovery of a new comic book shop in nearby Canton, MI, I was doomed to make the following purchase:



I am a HUMONGOUS fan of the comic book Hellboy, as well as the movies based off it. This particular doll (let's call a spade a spade, guys. Actions figures are just plastic dolls with guns after all) was something I'm dreamed of buying about six years ago, when it was brand new and unreasonably priced, in my opinion. So now, six years later, my wife points it out to me in Comic City, marked down by half it's original price, and within minutes the big red fella was all mine. I don't care how sissy it sounds. I love this doll. He has a faux-leather jacket and a removable utility belt/rocket pack, plus a gun which fits into his holster or can be put in his hand. IN HIS HAND!!! I'm sorry, but that's so cool that I have to go change my undies. I'm pretty sure I tinkled a little.

But this is far from my only toy purchase since arriving in Ann Arbor. I discovered these classic characters in a neat little shop called Middle Earth….



I've been a big ol' fan of Gumby since I was eight, and actually owned this very Pokey back then. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood he slipped from my grasp and I thought I'd lost him forever. But like my Hellboy acquisition, I discovered that all good toys come to those who wait, and the end of the rainbow is found in Ann Arbor.




So here's my eclectic display of toys now (not even all of them. There's way more scattered around our apartment). Hellboy is dominant of course, flanking not only Gumby and Pokey, but The Pillsbury Doughboy (a gift from my boss), Jabba The Hutt (from my best bud Scott) and Big Boy (a purchase from the Mt. Pleasant Big Boy restaurant during my CMU days). What's so great is that my wife totally supports my devotion to these rubber deities of pop culture iconography (or dolls, for the short of verbiage). She knows I dig the aesthetic of their design, but also how they make me feel. I look at these toys, touch them, draw inspiration from them, and they make me happy. That's just a good thing, nothing wrong with that.

When I write these, I always forget what I wrote in the previous blog. As far as I remember, I already mentioned how, since moving down here, all I've been doing to Dead Duck is coloring, coloring, coloring. With 100+ pages written and drawn, I really needed to hue-up the black and white illustrations big time. Now, approximately four weeks into our move (or is it five?), I can report that I'm actually almost finished coloring the existing pages. I have one more story to go, which I believe is an eight or nine pager, and then I'll be 100+ pages completed for real. That should be a load off the mind of my publisher, patient fella that he is, who encouraged me to step away from the drawing board and crack open Photoshop for some much needed coloring.

To connect the two topics of this blog, one of the products I'm hoping to merchandise for Dead Duck is a set of vinyl toys (dolls for the open-minded, action figures for the emotionally insecure). I haven't actually mentioned this to Ape Comics yet, but I'd like to think they'd dig the idea. I would also be keen to have Dead Duck trading cards at some point. If any of you have any suggestions for cool Dead Duck merch, I'd love to hear it and will gladly pass them along to Ape.

Well, that's it for now. Hopefully in the next few weeks when the current marathon of coloring has run it's course I can get back to drawing my latest stories and have something brand new to show everyone. Thanks for sticking with me. I'll try to make it worth the wait!

--Jay

Friday, August 15, 2008

Worst...gig...EVER.

I had my first caricaturing gig since the move this past Wednesday. Ironically, it brought me two hours back to my hometown (well, near my hometown, in Freeland), but it was just for the day and left no time to meet up with anyone, so please, no hurt feelings, I'll be in touch soon.

For those who don't know, Freeland is maybe fifteen minutes north of my hometown in Shields, and part of Saginaw County proper. So basically, I consider it my home as much as any other place within a half hour radius of my parent's old house. But let me just say that as homecomings went, Freeland really knows how to make a guy feel like shit.

My friend Heather, now in charge of the parks department for Freeland, hired me to draw caricatures for an event in one of the town's parks. We had a contract I wrote up which specified a two-hour block of time whereby I'd draw as many people as possible, with no guarantee whatsoever of getting everyone in the entire park done in that time.

That said, I was at record-speed for my caricaturing. Not in over ten years have I drawn that fast to accommodate so many. I clocked it at approximately 30 seconds per caricature, for 120 minutes with no breaks. If you do the math, that averages out to about 240 kids that I drew. I'd say Freeland got their money's worth and then some. And to her credit, my friend Heather was appreciative of my work.

With an hour left, I approached my friend Heather about informing the crowd, at about five minutes to, that I'd be done at noon. Whenever I tell people that I'm done, inevitably there's some grumbling from those still in line. I feel it more appropriate for those in charge of the event to tell the crowd to save me the harassment, but inevitably it ends up being me telling the masses. Still, Heather said she'd take care of it.

As five to noon came around and I labored on my 237th drawing, Heather was nowhere in sight. So I did what had to be done, and politely informed the crowd that I was done at noon, and that I could complete the next three kids in line.

The parents was stunned. You'd think I was handing out insulin and just said I was fresh out. Normally the crowd would thin out after such news, but this crowd stood its ground, as if waiting to see if I were joking. When I completed the third and final kid, I reiterated, saying I was indeed done now. As I packed up, a woman approached me and told me she understood that my time was up, but wanted to tell me that I did a very good job. I shook her hand and said how much that meant to me. I even leaned over to my cousin, who was there with her kids, and told her how bad I felt letting her down.

There ended the niceties.

A big fat swarthy guy bellows to me that he's been in line an hour. I apologized profusely, saying I was only contracted to work from ten 'til noon, and that I was sorry I couldn't get to him in time. He persisted. I explained to him that it was out of my hands. I wasn't getting paid to stay and draw beyond my scheduled time, and the remaining line was such that I would easily have been there another half hour for free. I completed packing up and proceeded to find Heather to collect my check.

That's when this over privileged soccer mom calls me over. I turn around and see what she wants. She then proceeds to berate me, saying she knows my choice to close down is all about money, and how she thinks I'm being unfair to the children left in line. She's really tearing into me.

That's when I said enough was enough. Though I stayed professional and kept myself from swearing or insulting anyone, I strongly told her that I'd driven two hours to the event, worked two hours non-stop, plus drew over two hundred kids in record speed, adding that I was the fastest and most accurate caricaturist anyone was going to find, and that no one could fault me for quitting at my contractually assured time.

That wasn't good enough for her, and she kept pecking away, as if she wanted me to really lose my cool. If that was her goal, she really lost out. The last thing she said to me was something along the lines of "Anyone who wouldn't stay later to finish the line of people doesn't have a heart." So I said I must not have a heart then, and walked away. I heard her keep on clucking in the background, but I was done with her.

I found Heather, told her what happened, and she felt very bad about it. That's when the fat guy from a few paragraphs back came waddling up to us. I stopped mid sentence with Heather, turned to him and said, "Go ahead. Tell her what a horrible job I did, how I didn't stay and extra half hour to draw everyone in line and how she should never hire me again." Funny thing was, I don't think he knew she was in charge. Instead, he starts back up on me. With a DJ playing in the background, the guys sarcastically says: "I just wanted to see why the DJ was still going, since it's past noon already," inferring that if he doesn't quit at noon then why should I. I could only repeat everything I'd already told him about my obligations. I even added that it was nothing personal against him, that if I had the time I'd have gladly drawn his family, but it just wasn't going to happen. He then said, "Well, you'd said your piece and I've said mine." I agreed, and went to shake his hand, which he half-heartedly and very begrudgingly took.

I was absolutely livid. Never had a crowd turned on me like that before. I've had people in line before who were pissed that I was done with a gig, but besides a little moaning and groaning they take it in stride. And in my defense, generally if there's maybe three people left at the end of a gig I'd stick around and draw them. But in this case there were at least twenty kids left. It just wasn't in the cards. And I find out later that my wife Laura and my cousin Anne also got into it with the woman (Anne told her I had the biggest heart of anyone she knew)and defended me to the hilt. But that rotten bitch still stood her ground, got in the last word and eventually huffed off.

In the end, what gets me the most is the sense of entitlement these people had. This was a totally free event, with free food and free events like caricaturing, balloon animals and others. Where do they get off complaining that they didn't get their share of a free thing? I believe in my art. Its value, its power, its capabilities. But in the end, I am not to egotistical or unrealistic as to think that my drawing is anything more than a sheet of paper. Perhaps it's a testimonial to my work that spoiled housewives get all steamed if they don't get their slice of my art, but honestly, how pathetic is it to get so worked up over a drawing, or lack thereof? I hold true to the thought that if my decision to not draw these people is the worst thing to befall them in their lifetime, then they're getting off light. And besides, as if I'd draw any of them after the shitty reception they gave me anyway.

So anyhow, worst gig ever. I can't believe how spoiled these folks were, and I cannot recall hating a group of people so feverishly as I did that day. But I know I handled myself professionally no matter how ugly they got, and Heather assured me she'll use me for future events. And as an interesting post script, I got a call later that day from Heather, who said the fat guy came back and apologized to her, and asked her to convey his apologies to me as well. That made a difference. That other soccer mom bitch with the overblown sense of entitlement however can go screw herself.

I deserve way better than this shit.....

THE DARK FOZ RETURNS

I'm back, said the shoulder blades to the nipples.

Y'see, nipples would be front…..ah heh…..um…..yeah.

But really, I am back. After three exhaustive but fruitful weeks in our new Apartment in Ann Arbor, Laura and I are finally settled. And unlike the last two big moves in my life (Mt. Pleasant in 2001, Midland in 2005), I really do love it here. No offense to Mt. P., really. Lots of great memories of my CMU years, nice campus, great profs, met my lady there….but Midland, in all it's sheltered, polluted, conservative morality-driven lack of any real virtue can just suck it. The only things Midland had going for it were my friends Jason and Renee, the best apartment I'd ever lived in (with good landlords and a great across the hall neighbor, Dave), and the opportunity that living there afforded me in figuring out where my wife and I wanted to be in life. The answer, which resonated off the acidic Tittabawassee River as it flowed beneath the tridge: "NOT HERE."

Fortunately, the "here" we did choose is the most beautiful, friendly and artistic community we've ever experienced, one which embodies our own themes and ideals far better than the town that Dow built (I'm looking at you, Midland). Here's some pics of our new dwelling:


As you can see, it's visually similar to our old place, but that's due to our d├ęcor more so than the space. This is our library, which may be including a new bookshelf at some point (our books spilleth over)….


This is our nerve center: my drawing table, Laura's laptop and my PC. We had to jettison our old dining table so we'd have space to work in. Nice as it is, our new apartment is a third of the size of our old one (and yet twice as pricey).


And here's what passes for our entertainment center. Having no cable, we're making due with our piles of DVD's, videos and bootlegs to keep us creatively stimulated.

And in a cozy little pocket to the north east of our abode which specialized in antiques, we made our first major purchase since the move…


….a 1950's style bicycle. Ever since I first took in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure at age ten, I've wanted his cherished bike. And now, thanks to the persuasive voice of my supportive better half (love ya, hon), that bike is mine. And I guarantee if anyone ever tries to take it from me, I too shall question the Amazing Larry in my dimly lit basement while flanking a scale replica of an outdoor strip mall. Go rent the movie if you ain't pickin' up what I'm puttin' down.

On the job front, I'm trying to pull in as many art gigs as I can so as to avoid the drudgery of another thirteen years of dumping trash cans (or any other form of occupational drudgery, for that matter). I'm going to be 34 in October. I've had it with being a cartoonist on the side. I'm going full-time, with no day job to fall back on, end of story. As such, I'm in the midst of discussions with a major restaurant down here to draw caricatures for their patrons. I'd eaten there once and noticed they had a magician come in once a week, so I figured they might be interested in what I can do. We're still working things out, so more news as it comes.

And on the Dead Duck front, much, MUCH work has been happening on my end for the upcoming graphic novel. As soon as we had the computer hooked up, I hit the keyboard hard and began coloring the 100 + pages that I'd finished thus far. And after roughly three weeks of busting ass like a kung-fu proctologist, I'm almost 100 pages done. I'm estimating it that I have roughly thirteen pages left to color. I'm proud of myself, I won't deny it. It was (and still is) hard work. Once that's done, I have two scripts written and ready to be drawn, a script that's in the midst of being written, and a promise from Chris "Lilo and Stitch" Sanders that he'll have his pin-up done sometime in September. As always, more news as it comes!

So that's my update, kids. I actually have a blog I'll be posting immediately following this one which details my latest caricaturing gig, and why it turned out to be the most horrible experience I've dealt with in my 16 years of caricaturing. Check back for it. It's sobering reading. Much love until then, and thanks for sticking around to hear from me! I promise to make it worth the wait!

--Jay