Sunday, October 31, 2010


From everyone here at the ChoiBurger Sketchbook (and by "everyone" I mean just me), HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

Here is a drawing of my cat Robin, celebrating the spookiness:

Have a fun holiday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

If you've ever wondered what the Charles Bridge in Prague looks like from the bank of the Vltava river at 7am, here is your chance to find out:

The drawing above is actually a detail from a larger piece I recently finished, but I though it looked better than the piece as a whole, so I decided to post it first. Here is the entire piece:

As you can probably tell, my angles and perspective need work. Bricks grow where they should shrink, angles merge where they should diverge, and the primary blocks of light and shadow could be more clearly defined. My main problems stem from not plotting out the larger shapes of the composition before diving into the details. But don't judge me too harshly! This is the first full landscape (bridgescape?) I have drawn in maybe 10 years. It is also the first time I have tried working rigorously with crosshatching on a subject that was not a figure or face - possibly the first time in my life I tried drawing stone-work with any kind of realism.

However, I did learn an unbelievable amount by suffering through this piece. I have already begun planning another, based on a photograph I took of a church in Prague's Old Town Square. Hopefully, you will see my city-scapes improve over time!

In case you were wondering (and I know you were, dear readers, I know you were), my trip to Prague took place several years ago - about two years after I graduated college. I had amassed a trove of romantic notions about the city, gathered over the years from various sources: Isaac Singer's "The Golem," Kafka's "The Trial," Steven Sodderberg's indie gem "Kafka" (starring Jeremy Irons as Franz Kafka living out a dark, dare I say kafkaesque, adventure in the city of his birth). I decided to find out whether all my ideas about Prague had any basis in reality. I planned a vacation, and booked a flight and a room at a youth hostel.

The city did not disappoint. The architecture is almost psychedelic - a collision of periods and styles that, I felt, still retained a unique, cohesive character. There are lush gardens, spooky alcoves, incredible historic sites, fun experimental theater shows, puppeteers, and fantastic beers. In five days, I walked nearly every corner of the city, gorged myself on dumplings and goulash, I crossed the Charles Bridge just after sunrise, entered Prague Castle through a rarely used footpath, and visited Kafka's grave. In a moment of divinely inspired self-mockery, I even brought along a Kafka biography, "The Nightmare of Reason," by Ernst Pawel, which I finished before boarding the plane home. Truly, an unforgettable trip.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cats and Their Comics

Occasionally I will undertake projects of making comic strips about my two cats. I have about 7 complete so far, and I've been thinking that if I ever get to 15 or so I will post them on the internet, on a full-fledged website. For now, however, I'd like to just share some tidbits, in the way of studies I've made for one I complete not long ago:

This is a not-very-good characiture of my wife working on our taxes. The little guy to her left is our cat, Solomon. He is hungry. Normally, when Solomon is hungry, the following ensues:

There is really no bit of trouble he won't get himself up to when dinnertime draws near.

There's actually a tiny bit more work to be done on the finished version of this comic, but when it's complete, I will post it here for you all to see!

In other news, I'll be also posting a "serious" drawing I completed recently later this week. I decided that I needed to start working on landscapes, and so I attacked one in ink, with some success. This decision, in part, grew out of my cat comics. I realized that, while my subway doodles have given me a lot of experience drawing faces and figures, I am sorely lacking in the background department - furniture, trees, buildings, and general inanimate objects. As a result, there will be some more of those showing up over my next few posts, but not to worry, there will be drawings of people as well! Only they will include backgrounds more often, and not simply be floating this one:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Carry On, Brave Soul!

Oh snap, gentle readers. I've got a seriously fresh drawing for you all today:

I saw this man on the subway on a day when there were no faces to draw - everyone was buried in a book. I was about to put my sketchpad away, but then I thought to myself, there's always SOMETHING to be drawn - even hands or shoes are good practice. So I started drawing the wrinkles and folds in this gentleman's pants - specifically his crotch, because that area had the most folds. And the more folds I drew, the most interesting that crotch became - so interesting that an entire drawing grew out of it!

Now, did I enjoy staring at this man's "zone" for twenty minutes? Not very much. But these are hazards that, as an artist, I must face. Did Rembrant cringe from the cadaver's exposed tendons while painting "The Anatomy Lesson"? Did Michaelangelo blanch at chiseling "David"'s buoyant scrotum? These artists bravely looked the specter of bare anatomy in the face, without even a barrier of wrinkled slacks to protect them. Following their example, I was emboldened to do the same.

At any rate, this developed in stages. I got the man down on paper on the train, filled in the seats and the wall behind him at home, and then did the arm-rest and railing the next day. Finally, I completed the poster behind him just yesterday. I wasn't quite sure what to put in that space for some time, but after perusing many, many images of subway posters online, I settled for a Halls ad which appeared on the subway around this time last year. It showed a woman with all the signs of a cold (red nose, watery eyes) looking determinedly into the distance, with the caption, "Carry On, Brave Soul!" Somehow, this seemed appropriate.

What I have to work on now are my angles and perspective, which got a little wonky as I was drawing the subway door and the seat the man was sitting on. Practice practice practice practice practice practice practice...

You Know, Stiff Upper Lip and All That

I've started on a project of expanding my sketching repertoire. To this end, I took some old catalogues that were hanging around my apartment and cut some small pictures out of them, to sketch on the train. Here is one I completed just yesterday - hot off the presses, the pages literally smoking, from my sketchbook straight to this blog!

I thought the advice printed on these various items was pretty sound. They were a helpful reminder as I filled in every line of woodgrain in the copious background. Ah, how I suffered!

Though the lines of the cups and other items are a bit wobbly, I actually like the way it looks. Also keep in mind I drew almost every line of this while sitting inside a trundling subway car, so don't judge the steadiness of my hand by these lines alone!

I don't have much else to say about this drawing, but in case my brevity has left you feeling shortchanged, I will also post here a recent sketch I made of my cat. It was a rare moment when he was sleeping AND I had my sketchbook nearby. In his ritual thwarting of my plans (more on that in future posts), he woke up and padded away less than one minute after I started drawing. But at least I got this much:

There will be more drawings to come, some like this one, some completely different. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Awwwww ain't it cute?

At the time I drew this, fatherhood could not have been farther from my mind...or so I thought.

Around the time I made this drawing, I had picked up a book of Shel Silverstein cartoons. Most people know Shel Silverstein's work from his children's books. But fewer people know he was a cartoonist for Playboy and other publications, and produced several books of just his cartoons. They are exciting books - not just funny but also amazingly drawn. The range of characters and body types he used in those drawings made me realize just how limited the subject matter of my own cartooning was. Outside of the myriad life-drawings I had done, my range of cartooning subjects was pretty narrow: superheroes, samurai, superhero-samurai, and samurai-superheroes. I decided it was time to expand my repertoire, and the drawing above was one such attempt.

Why a father and son, you might ask. Was there some subconscious thing happening? As a recent college graduate, was I drawing a window into my own future, mulling over the adult responsibilities that surely lay in wait for me? Was I thinking about my father, perhaps nostalgic for the simpler times of my childhood? Which of these characters was I? Was I in fact both?? Stradding the divide between the carefree child, ghostly white as if to suggest the fading of a time long past, and the stalwart man, fully rendered but just waking up, only recently emerged from the chrysalis of university life, was I reflecting on the duality of my own consciousness?

To answer these questions, and show you just how deeply I think about these thinks, I will leave you with a sample page from one of my early, early college sketchbooks. I have no doubt that this will clue you in to a possible answer to the questions I've posed above. It will also give you a taste of the kind of things I was drawing before picking up that Shel Silverstein book, and taking my cartooning more seriously.

If you notice, I couldn't even spell Physics properly - that little "h" is obviously jury-rigged.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ChoiBurger Sweepstakes

I did not see this young man on the subway:

I drew this based on a black and white photograph titled "Fire Hydrant," taken in 1967 by Leonard Freed. Below is a very small, and unfortunately sort of muted, jpg of the photo. There is a prize for you if you can guess which section I took my drawing from:

Did you guess? If your guess was the hydrant, you need glasses, or you're insulting my drawing. If your guess was the building in the background, I applaud your efforts at anthropomorphizing, but you may need psychological help and you are also insulting my drawing. If, however, your guess was the young man at the center of the photograph, his face scrunched with joy as the water jets toward him, you are the winner of the ChoiBurger Sketchbook sweepstakes! Your prize is a large, juicy ChoiBurger, with a side of succulent ChoiFries:

Victory never tasted better, am I right???

I decided to draw the young man's face from the photo above because I wanted to practice some "serious" crosshatching, as opposed to the free-form scrawl that I use in my more cartoony drawings. Drawing people on the subway is great for certain things. It has improved my speed and my ability to "see" the subject I am drawing more accurately - the shapes of faces, proportions, angles, etc. But there are times when I want more rigorous, structured practice, where I can take my time developing a drawing without worrying about my subject changing seats, or noticing me staring at him or her like a deranged person. This drawing was one of those times. My hopefully-not-short-lived sense of discipline was inspired by the New York Times blog Line By Line, by James McMullan - last week's lesson was all about crosshatching:

My final drawing isn't perfect (I think I overshaded a bit, AND the scanner sort of washed out some of the darkest areas), but I am proud of the results.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Yakkers, and My Place In Their World

You know you've seen these people before:

On the train, on the bus, sitting in front of you at the movies - people who just can't seem to shut their yaps. They're yapping about this, they're flapping about that, braying away louder than a fog horn. And the garbage flying out of their mouths is flat-out unbelievable. They're bragging about the their exclusive party, gushing over a movie you honestly though was terrible, or describing in excruciating detail their recent colonoscopy (I was once in line at a 7-11 when someone actually started talking about this. Needless to say I left my slurpy behind).

The thing is...and this is one of my deep, personal phobias...I know I've been that person. In the restaurant, at the comic-book store, waiting in line for a hot-dog in the park - it has been my inane babbling, not someone else's, that has poisoned the ears of countless people. Mercifully, I will never meet these people. But that does not make it okay! How many times have I heard myself say something and know, in the pit of my stomach, that just at that moment I definitely sounded like a complete idiot, enough of an idiot that my idiocy itself would be grounds for moral offense, that in this case a punch in the nose would be justified, possibly even welcomed. I suppose this is inevitable. I talk a lot, more than most people. Out of all the jokes I crack and statements I proclaim, there are bound to be some stinkers. It's simple probabilities, really. But the fact of this haunts me, and as much as I try to ignore it, it looms, inescapable, like death. Some day, I am going to die. And before that happens, I'm going to prove myself a serious ass.

Okay, I can't end this post on such a downer. Here is another drawing, that does not provoke such feelings of self-doubt. Ah, uplift!