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…:
Last weekend, my father took me to a concert. I’m not a particular concert-goer, but this was special: it was the performance of Canto Ostinato, a piano piece that has been the soundtrack of my life since I was about thirteen years old. Only later I learned it is a great example of fundamentalist minimalistic music, tonal and harmonious. It was written in the late 1970s by Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt and you can click here if you want to read more about him and the many facets of this fantastic piece.
But the best thing is just to listen it.
It has been performed in numerous settings and with various instruments, of which the four-piano version is one of the most impressive and entrancing. Here’s a great rendition, with images of symmetries in Dutch landscapes as an added bonus:
The version my dad and I saw was for two pianos. We sat in first row, so the sound was really close and enveloping. Plus, I got a good view of the subtle footwork of one of the pianists, Polo de Haas. I brought a small leather notebook and drew this:
I find this music evokes a lot of imagery for me – mostly abstract but also natural – like the rhythm of breathing, or breaking waves.
So I drew this:
Then I realized I had drawn this before, and a lot better.
In 2006, on a holiday in Ireland, I found the CD of Canto Ostinato in the house I was staying in, and I listened to it in one long session and drew and drank port the whole time, trying to capture every shift in the music. It became a very long illustration. The picture beneath is part of it. If you click on it, you get the full version. Best viewed with the music from the video above playing in the background.
By the way, the translation of Canto Ostinato is ‘stubborn song’. Isn’t that great?
What is creativity? Where does it come from? Is it something you have inside, or something you can tap in to?
I personally lean towards the latter. My most creative moments are when I’m in the bath tub, where I get the distinct sensation of “windows” opening in my mind, through which ideas are flowing…
My Dutch book ‘Wetenschappen in Beeld’ gets a second print run! It has only been in stores for a few weeks, so I’m very happy!
Especially for the english-speaking followers of my blog, I have translated a few pages of the book to showcase here. In time, it will probably be published in English with the title ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’.
Here’s a page from the chapter about Isaac Newton. It seems he was a rather grumpy man, which made it great fun to make a comic about him.
The book also has a few spreads about subjects such as the Middle Ages, Electricity, Quantum and Genetics. Two of those, Genetics and the History of the Earth, have been made into huge posters which are sent to schools as promotional material:
Here’s the full History of the Earth in English, click twice on the picture to enlarge:
Here are some more cat comics I drew for my daily webcomic in 2005. The practice of a daily comic made me learn to draw quickly without bothering too much about perfection (which shows) – I hope you enjoy them anyway!
My book Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics has been spotted in several locations! Friends and fans were kind enough to send me these pictures:
I had a great time yesterday, drawing in the window of local bookstore De Nieuwe Boekhandel - here’s a graphic report of the day:
This Saturday is 24 Hour Comics Day! Comic artists all over the world will attempt to create a 24-page comic in as many hours. It’s a great event in which I have taken part a few times – the last time in 2008 in comics store Lambiek, where I drew this:
This year, I won’t participate because I am sitting in a bookshop window for most of the day. So it will be a sort of mini-24-hour-comics-day for me; a 6-hour-comics-day probably. I’ll draw comics and cartoons for all to see, and sign my books if anyone comes to purchase them. The venu is De Nieuwe Boekhandel, Bos en Lommerweg 227, Amsterdam – if you’re in the neighborhood, come by and wave!