It’s Valentine’s Day! Here are some doodles I made of the loved ones I live with:
Lately, a friend has joined our little workspace, bringing a whole new discipline in our comics-dominated world: Michiel Mensingh is an old high-school friend of Yiri, and an acclaimed composer of modern classical music.
The new input inspired me to make these cartoons:
The piece Michiel has been composing will be performed by pianist Laurens de Boer on 22 March 2013. More information here.
I hardly ever make political cartoons or comics. But when I was invited to comment on the pending Iraq War in March 2003, I made this:
I can only grasp global problems by scaling them down to “sandbox”-size. It all the more emphasizes the pettiness of human behavior and motives – which really depresses me, but at least it makes for an entertaining comic. As you can see, this one was heavily influenced by Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes, both in style and tone.
After being put up on the site Stripster.nl, the comic went viral – and I kicked myself for not having put in a recognizable signature (it has one now).
Recently, I got to make another comic about a global issue, for magazine Open Deur: the theme was Rich and Poor. After giving it some thought, I decided to revive the Sandbox, and this is how it turned out:
Tonight, Dutch Queen Beatrix, after a reign of 33 years, has announced she will abdicate the throne in favor of her son Willem-Alexander. Coming Thursday, she’ll turn 75 – what a grand way to celebrate her birthday!
After seeing her speech on TV, in which she stressed that she really enjoyed being Queen but thinks it is time for the New Generation, I made this cartoon.
The Netherlands has had a run of three Queens (Wilhelmina, Juliana and Beatrix) – now for the first time in 123 years a King will rule again. But his reign will not be without Grrl-power: he has three daughters and a great wife, Maxima, who might even be allowed to use the title of Queen of Holland.
Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School is a life model drawing event bringing together great shows from the burlesque scene and graphic artists, amateurs and professionals alike. It was started by Molly Crabapple in New York, and has spread all over the world into over a hundred branches. When I found out about it, one and a half years ago, I was shocked that Amsterdam had no branch yet, even though there is a very lively burlesque scene here. So I teamed up with burlesque organizer Marco Buschman and we started Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School Amsterdam in September 2011 – it has had eight very succesful sessions so far.
A Dr. Sketchy session is always great fun, with good music, an open bar and a relaxed atmosphere among fellow artists from all kinds of backgrounds: art school students, hobbyists, comic artists; people using pencils, chalk, water colors, and even iPads. The models are all very enthusiastic performers with wonderful outfits, that usually come off in a whirling show, and in between they pose and inspire.
Ever since I got into the burlesque scene I keep being amazed by the talent, creativity and enthusiasm of all participants. They are all driven by such playfulness and open-mindedness, which feels very liberating – which is probably why so many women are involved with it, both performing and in the audience. I like that each performance is a little story, with a specific character and a small narrative that is played out – such as those of Officer Frisky, private investigator Ms Rita Lynch, or the tragic Miss Glitter Painkiller, who finds out onstage that her lover left her for a man!
There’s always a Master of Ceremonies to talk the audience through the various acts. Sometimes the MC has an act of his own, like the talented Desmond O’Connor who played the ukulele and regaled us with his own award-winning songs. And then there was The Drip Dry Man and his One Man Beat Revolver, who performed several instruments at the same time!
I have attended a few life model drawing classes in the past – but none of those compare to Dr. Sketchy’s. Well, it wouldn’t be fair to compare, I guess, since the objects of both are so different. Classical model drawing focuses on drawing exactly what you see, getting a grip on the proportions of the human body, learning about stances, all that. Dr. Sketchy’s offers a completely different experience, that appeals to me as a comic artist: I get to draw characters, not mere bodies, and there is no stress on “getting it right” – much more on “having fun with it”.
If this appeals to you, no matter if you are an artist or not, check out the Dr. Sketchy’s site to find out if there’s a branch near you. And if you’re in or near Amsterdam, visit our sessions!
In September, my next book ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’ will be published by NBM. Right now, I’m in the middle of translating this 192-pager from Dutch into English (using my own new font, yay!).
As always, translating poses interesting challenges – not only does the translation have to be accurate, it also has to fit into the space available. Fortunately, Dutch is a much “longer” language than English. The English wording usually comes out much shorter, which makes it easy on me. Except for a word like “circumference”, which is much longer than the Dutch “omtrek” – I’m coming across it in the chapter about Pi.
Pi is interesting for many reasons – this number has a lot of mystic and artistic connotations. And did you know that the search for ever more digits of Pi spurred the evolution of the computer?
In the original book I showcased an old Dutch rhyme that helped people memorize the digits of Pi:
“Wie u eens π heeft verzonnen in aloude tijden
was nooit begonnen inderdaad spoedig geëindigd
als hij had ingezien welk gezeur de cijfers bien”
If you substitute each word for the number of letters it has, you get the correct values for the first 23 digits of pi.
I was really happy with this find, but dreaded translating it – until a quick Google-search taught me that the same kind of mnemonic for Pi has been done in English even more than in Dutch! Here is the page where I found it: Pi Wordplay.
So it was actually rather easy then to put in a good translation. And these are 31 digits, so the English actually teaches you more than the Dutch!
The New Year already brought exciting new plans, prospects and projects – including the intended publication of my next book at NBM in September: ‘Science: a Discovery in Science’. This calls for a new wave of Promotion when the time comes, and this time we’ll include some YouTube videos about the book. I could just video myself, but this seems a great opportunity to make an animation.
I’ve been wanting to learn animation but never got the time and besides, it’s my brother’s expertise. I have two brothers and we equally divided the Visual Media: Paul does documentary, Maarten does animation and I do comics. We never really ventured onto each others territory, but now I’m planning to. And who knows, maybe my brothers will start making graphic novels now.
I’m way at the beginning of this project, and this is the first thing I drew:
Now I just need to get it moving.
About ten years ago, I did a little bit of animation when I learned how to make animated GIFs – now an almost obsolete format but I hope it still runs on this blog. This is what I made:
It was for a site called animationbattle.com, and the characters getting their ass kicked were made by other animators – I even think two of them were made by my brothers. I don’t remember who “won” the animationbattle, but I definitely plan on making my comeback now!
This time we celebrate the New Year before Christmas!
Happy Holidays to everyone!
It’s that time of year again when the age-old philosophical question pops up: “Have we been naughty or nice…?” Is there no gray area? Can we truly define Good and Bad? No matter, an old saint in a white beard will decide for us! All we can do is sit back and wait…
Here in Holland, the waiting is over already – Sint Nicolaas has delivered his verdict and is by now back in Spain, where he lives. I’m happy to say that I seem to have been mostly Good last year, since I got my presents (including the complete Game of Thrones-box, a 5000-page read which will keep me out of trouble for much of the next year).
The Dutch are in that awkward in-between stage that lasts from 5 December to Christmas – a festive period in which a lot has to be wrapped up at work, parties to be planned, food to be cooked. It’s also that awkward atmosphere that breathes both spiritual introspection and unabashed greediness.
In 1999 I summed it up in this cartoon about the holidays:
As a comic artist for several magazines, I usually make the Sint- and Christmas-themed comics somewhere at the end of Summer. By December I’ve forgotten about them. So it was real fun to rediscover these “oldies” about the naughty neighborkids Nino and Nena, that I made around 2006 and 2007 – I wrote the scenarios and the art was done by my talented Belgian colleague Floris De Smedt:
The reference to a “noodle-incident” is a nod to my favorite comic series Calvin & Hobbes, in which it is hinted at several times but never disclosed. It must have been gruesome and punishable, though.
A year later, Nino and Nena have realized that the punishment of being taken to Spain might actually be a desirable thing, and they conspire to get on the naughty-list:
Nino & Nena was one of my favorite comics that I wrote for others. Floris De Smedt is a master at drawing such playful and believable characters and backgrounds. He really understood where I was going with the scripts and almost always added little jokes of himself in the visuals. He has done lots more, check out his wonderful comics on his site, mrfart.be.
And here’s another naughty cartoon from my shady past (2008), just because I can:
Enjoy the holidays!
Somehow this “Socratic discussion”, that I use as an example in my book Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics, seems to be a recurring event in my life…: