Sunday, January 22, 2012

Krizzle-Kroo and Forcucci, Too!

Thanks to my new Nook reader, I've been re-reading all of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. I haven't read them in years, but I still enjoy them just as much as I did when I was a young geek-in training.

Those of you who are only aware of the Land of Oz from the famous MGM film, and have never read the books are really missing something. Baum wrote fourteen books, give or take, about Oz and its inhabitants. One of my favorite characters is (the) Woozy, who makes his debut in the book, "The Patchwork Girl of Oz". Instead of boring you with (the) Woozy's history, I'll just direct you to this link , and you can read all about him. Of course, you could also read the book, but that might take away too much valuable TV-watchin' time!

Why do I like Woozy? I dunno. I think because I love the randomness of his personal idiosyncrasies, as well as his awesome visual design. Kudos to illustrator J.R. Neill for that!

I like ol' Woozy so much, I whipped up these images of him. I can tell you that he is as much fun to draw as he is to read about. These may not be examples of my best work, but I enjoyed drawing them so much, I was almost going to do a whole "Woozy Week" here on the blog, with pictures of Woozy in various situations.

Don't worry though, I came to my senses, and this shall be my only Woozy-centric post.


IN OTHER NEWS: My pal David, over on his must-read-regularly blog, "David Wasting Paper", has a new cartoonist survey up. This time, he's interviewed another pal o' mine, the lovely and talented John Forcucci . Go here to read it!

Next time, more jocularity. In the meantime, go read John's interview, eat a honeybee, and Krizzle-Kroo to you!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Hoff!

When I was a lad, I loved to draw cartoons. I dreamed of someday being a "FAMOUS CARTOONIST", with my own comic strip,  beloved by millions. I did not, however, have any idea of how to go about becoming one.

In the small town I lived in (and sadly, still do), there wasn't a lot of encouragement, or even  information, about how professional artists went about their work. Occasionally, there would be a newspaper profile of a famous cartoonist, and there were a few Walter Foster© books on cartooning, but being a cartoonist really seemed to be an unobtainable goal.

That is, until I entered junior high.

Academically, I was a very poor student. I simply wasn't interested in the things I was forced to study in public school. I just wanted to draw cartoons and live in my own little fantasy world. My teachers would tell my parents that I appeared (!) to be intelligent, but that I lacked "focus". If they only knew!

Fortunately, there was one person working at my junior high who was actually interested in kids beyond what their grade point average was. She cared about the children and actually supported them in finding their way through the emotional mine fields of adolescence. She was the school guidance counselor. Her name was Ms. Krause, and she was really cool!

Since I was such a poor student,  I was in Ms. Krause's office a lot. She did everything she could to encourage me to  do better in my studies, but she obviously knew my head was elsewhere. One day she told me she knew I was interested in becoming a cartoonist and she had a book she thought I might like.

"Might like?!" That was the understatement of  the year! The book was "The Art of Cartooning", by Syd Hoff . It was the first "How-to" book on cartooning I had ever seen. Written by the legendary gag cartoonist and illustrator Syd Hoff, it was the perfect introduction to the realities of being a cartoonist for twelve-year-old me.

Syd Hoff shows you how to draw a face. Simple, no?
Finishing a page, by The Hoff!
Syd Hoff, for those of you unfamiliar with his work, was a popular gag cartoonist and children's book author/illustrator. In this book on cartooning, he takes the reader through the basics of drawing and rendering cartoon characters, then moves on to such topics as creating gags and selling your work. Although there had, of course, been other books on the "how-to's" of cartooning, this was the first one I had ever seen. The genius of the book was that Hoff didn't make the act of drawing seem too daunting. Too many books on cartooning feature such spectacular examples of art that the young cartoonist can get easily discouraged when their work doesn't compare to the examples in the book. Not so Hoff. Hoff's simple style and his laid-back prose made it easy for the  reader to believe that, with a lot of hard work, it WAS possible to become a professional cartoonist!

As  I said, this  book  had a HUGE impact on me. I really began to study cartoons and comic strips, and worked much harder on my drawing. In gratitude to Ms. Krause, I even tried doing better in school (without much success, but hey, I tried!). Even though I never did become a "famous" cartoonist, with a comic strip beloved by millions, I have earned my living (such  as it is) as a cartoonist. That's good enough for me. I wonder, though,  where I would be now if not for this book.

Me, by Syd Hoff*
 I lost track of my copy of this book a long time ago, but was thrilled to find a used copy on Amazon recently for only a penny (plus shipping)! As I flip through the pages, powerful memories keep coming back.  I don't think it would be of much help to a young cartoonist today, as a lot of the information is dated. For those of  you who'd like to remember "the good ol' days", though, I highly recommend hunting down a copy.

MY big regret, of course, is that I never wrote to Syd Hoff to tell him what his book meant to me. He passed away only a few years ago, so I had plenty of time to do it. I just never did. At least I can go to the website here, that celebrates him and  his work.

Come to think of it,  I've never thanked Ms. Krause for showing me this book, either.

THAT I will do!

* No, Syd Hoff did not draw this. I did. It was fun to try a drawing in his style. I'm sure though, that Syd would have done a better job!



Sunday, January 8, 2012

Post Holiday Wrap-Up, and Happy New Year!

Happiest of New Years to you all!

I hope that the faithful, and even the not-so-faithful,  readers of this blog had a happy Holiday season, no matter what wacky Holiday rituals your local culture chooses to follow.

We here at Casa de Blanco had a wonderful Christmas, as usual. Perfect Wifey and I had a nice,  quiet day, pretty much all to ourselves. The day started with the traditional opening of Christmas swag. Once again, I made out pretty well (Again, I must wonder if Santa is even bothering to check his "Naughty or Nice" list anymore). I won't bore you with a detailed list of of the assorted items I received,  but I do want to mention a "Gift of the Magi", experience: Perfect Wifey and I both got each other the same gift!

A few weeks before the Holiday, PW and I were in a toy store, and we spotted action figures based on the film  "Gremlins 2". We both were tickled by the figure of the character "George", a sort of cranky Mogwai, based on Edward G. Robinson. I was having trouble deciding what to get PW for Christmas anyway, and, since I feel her collection of action figures is somewhat underwhelming, I decided to get it for her. Imagine our surprise on Christmas morn, when we discovered we had both bought each other "George the Mogwai"! I know, it was a moment that would make O. Henry proud: Two adults buying each other a toy based on a crappy movie. Still, it was a reminder to the both of us that truly, we  were meant for each other. A frightening thought, I know. (BTW, if you are a fan of such things, I highly recommend getting one of these figures. They are really great!)

One disturbing note: For the first time in recent memory, I did not receive even one Doctor Who action figure! A glaring omission, one that makes me feel that perhaps Santa is keeping tabs on that whole naughty/nice thing. Or that maybe PW is getting sick of all the Doctor Who stuff "cluttering up the house". All was not Who-less, though, as Fabulous Sis #2 gifted me with a really cool TARDIS tee shirt. This was a gift that was all the more meaningful, because FS2 really isn't in to the whole Doctor Who thang.

Later in the day I prepared a dinner of Roast Beef for PW and I. I have never attempted to make a roast before, but thanks to the assistance of several cookbooks and the advice of my Perfect Sis #1, it turned out pretty good. I also made Yorkshire Pudding, which, to the surprise of all, also  turned out pretty tasty. After this heavy meal, PW and I were stuffed to the gills, and rolled around groaning like Chewbacca after a Kessel Run. The rest of the day is kind of a blur.

For the New Year Holiday, we went to visit Newport, RI, a place I had never been. Newport is a beautiful town full of wonderful architecture and history, but the  highlight of the visit for me was winning big at a slot club off the highway. Truly a magical start to the New Year!

Ah, yes, but what will the Bill White Cartoon Blog have in store for its readers in the New Year? I'm glad you asked! I don't know. Blogger does has a new format that makes posting images easier, so at least the site will look better. Also, I have recently picked up a few books on cartooning that I will talk about soon. Other  than that, I am open to suggestions: If there is something you'd like to see from me, just let me know in the comments section (Speaking of comments, please leave one, even if you have nothing to say. It makes me feel like people actually read the blog. Unlikely, I know, but often illusion is all we have). One thing is for certain, hilarity and insight will ensue.  Well, not "for certain", but at least "somewhat likely".

To all of you out there, I wish you a happy and prosperous year!

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