The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fan Art Saturday Falls On A Wednesday, Peeps Edition

My friend Joe Sutliff, who had some time on his hands and has talent to burn, sent me these Peep Dioramas he did for the Washington Post's annual Peeps competition. I am astounded, as I'm sure you are too.

It's stuff like this that makes drawing a comic strip worthwhile. As anyone who's actually eaten a Peep will agree, I'm glad they've found another use for them as building material, and I hope they develop some way of constructing low cost, environmentally friendly housing out of the damn things. And that when they do they can find people who'd be willing to live in spongy pink and yellow houses.

Joe also made this, Alice's big ugly fountain. It's amazing, and it actually works! Dang, Joe!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Little Scheme Begins to Bear Fruit...

Ahahhahaha! This latest bit of news confirms it! Even as I foretold, the nation's economy teeters on the brink, and my fortunes increase!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Drawing A Mostly Accurate Map

Before I drew this I went back to a Cul de Sac from April 18th 2004. Here's the first panel-

Which was also used in the first syndicated Sunday strip-

Then, because I wanted to research the roots of this image as an excuse to put off starting work on the thing, I looked at the Tower of Babel by Breugel-

Which is especially interesting because it's under construction and it's got little clouds around it. Then, in the interests of further procrastination, I looked up Mont St. Michel, which is the coolest place around-

There's also the city from that Creepy Classic, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-

And Minas Tirith!-

By now several weeks had elapsed, so it was time to do a rough-

That's in brown Pitt marker. Then I had to do something larger and more detailed-

This is about 11 by 17 and it's where I sketched in most of the ideas, about half of which were left out because they weren't any good. But I like this in some ways more than the final. I like the ghosts of lines and stuff that's obscured and the way it shows the process. Then I did another, simpler rough that I won't show because it's boring. But here's a detail from the final-

And now, because I don't know what else to add, here's a drawing from an old Joel Achenbach column in the Post Magazine. It's my dream house if only because it's got a great porch-

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac

I'm putting this up just because I like it. The only thing I'd change would be to add "Oh, no!" in Alice's balloon in the fifth panel, right before "The children fell into their ice cream!"

Census Laffs

This is a ten year old Almanac, back when Stomp jokes were new and untried. Below is an illustration from Smithsonian Magazine for an article that somehow dealt with the beginnings of census taking and which I no longer remember anything else about. But the flies were fun to draw, I remember that much.

Spring Again

A lazy repost because it's Spring. Note the laughably outdated reference to the lack of snow this winter. This was the first Almanac I did in color but because of a production glitch it was printed in black and white.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Mostly Accurate Map

This is hot off the drawing board, or really the watercolor paper stretching board. It's for a show opening next month at the Charles Schulz Museum, curated by cartoonist & historian Brian Walker, that features comics with a definite (if invented) setting. I'm loaning a few daily and Sunday strips and the cover of the first CdS book, and I wanted to do an additional piece for the show.  A map sounded like fun, as long as it wasn't too accurate. So here's this. I'll update later with some behind-the-scenes how-to stuff. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today's Cul de Sac

For some reason the comics on aren't always showing up today. So, here it is, exlusively at this blog, for now. 

How to Draw Alice in Fast Motion

See here. My thanks to my friend Chris Sparks, who filmed this and thoughtfully provided a soundtrack by Beethoven that covers up my usual stream of Popeye-voiced drawing-time profanities.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Time, In Living Color

I'd like to thank th-

Another Kite-Eating Tree

Here's the rough and the final for today's strip. It's always more fun to do a larger and more intricate drawing than a strip with lots of talking and stage business, the trick is in finding a good enough gag to make it work. This one seems to. Cartoon trees are enjoyable to draw, as Dr. Seuss or George Herriman would tell you. And kite-eating trees are doubly so, as Charles Schulz would tell you. The hard part in this was making it look like it was full of kites and not just a random mass of triangles. The rough held together pretty well (this is the one I sent to my syndicate editor, the gentleman & scholar Greg Melvin), so I tried to follow the structure in the final too.
It did get a little fussy in the final, the little slope in front is clearer in the rough, but I think it still reads as a mass of kites in a tree. The only thing it needs now is color, which is done at the syndicate by Melissa Mallory. The final version that appears in a newspaper near you (I hope) can be seen at GoComics.

I have an idea for a tree in Grandma's back yard that's a balloon magnet, that's full of little colorful shreds of rubber. I'd thought of it a while ago and I still don't know what to do with it. But after seeing a couple of balloons stuck in a neighborhood tree and finally seeing Up last night, it's sticking in my head. I don't know, it sounds too hard to draw.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Searle at 90

Master penman Ronald Searle turns 90 today, and this is an update of a post from a coupla years ago. I'd meant to do something new, but I don't have the time now so it'll have to wait a few days.

Below is Searle's illustration for the song "National Brotherhood Week" from the book Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer With Not Enough Drawings by Ronald Searle. The original hangs in my dining room, just waiting to offend an unsuspecting diner. I think it's the only piece of art I've ever bought, and when I first unwrapped it I studied it for almost an hour, sometimes with my nose an inch from the paper. For a long time his style exerted a tidal pull on me, as it has at some point for a lot of cartoonists for over sixty years. Look at those hands! just clumps of fingers sprouting out of sleeves, and look at the way he's laid out the page in bendy chains of rectangles, look at how he's balanced the various line weights and the black sleeve and the curly hair, and look at all those gormless-looking faces...

I've heard that Searle plans his work pretty carefully and his unmistakable wiry, sprung lines are laid down with a lot more control than might be apparent. His work always makes me aware of how liquid ink is, how it skips and splotches and pools when it hits the paper.  Though he used to draw not with ink, but with a kind of stain meant for I think furniture. He liked it because it aged interestingly into a greyish purple, and because it handled differently than regular ink. They don't make that brand of stain anymore, and he's drawn with regular ink for years, and better than just about anyone else.

Happy Birthday to Mr. Searle, and I hope he's well and working in his converted windmill in the French countryside.

For a great recent interview with Searle, go here. For a fascinating and wide ranging tribute blog go here. For a deeply moving video interview in two parts, go here. The best thing I can think to say about his work is that when I look at it I remember why I love to draw, even though as he says in the interview, it's just slog, slog, slog.

Dr. Seuss's Birthday

Dr. Seuss would have been 106 today but, sadly, he left us in 1991. So he doesn't have to suffer through this cheap mockery I did for a Poor Almanac some years ago. And geez, it's fun to write in that rhythm. From what I've read, he either heard the catchy beat (trisyllabic meter) in the engines of a train heading west or a ship heading east and used it in his first book, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street.  Whichever, it sure worked for him.

In Seuss's honor, today is Read Yourself Sick Day. So get out there and read something, and not on the internet! Something on paper, like a book or a newspaper. Right now! Go! 

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fan Art Saturday Falls On A Sunday This Week

David Paccia, who runs the blog David Wasting Paper, sent in these two fine portraits; Dill looking horrified and Alice probably provoking Dill's horrification. Thanks, David! He's had an excellent run of interviews with cartoonists & illustrators on his blog in the last few months, so go and read!

And Mr. Chris Sparks, designer, comics aficionado, cheesemonger and friend, sent me this design for a magnet he's produced. Excellent, and I understand there's nothing like it for tacking vital papers to your refrigerator, dishwasher, robot or other appliance. Thanks, Chris!

Your Unnecessary Spot Illustration of the Day

For a year or two I did a spot drawing in the Post's Health section for an article that answered readers' health questions. I have no idea what this question was, something about weight gain among babies. But as the burning issue of today is obese children this seemed a good time to post this. I think my wife wrote the first balloon and I did the second.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Historic Otterloop Artifact

Here's something else I found recently. It's a page from a sketchbook I was using in 2003 when I was trying to think up funny names for a comic strip. Right before your very eyes you can see the actual invention of the word "Otterloop," just like watching Beethoven think up da da da daaa, or Shakespeare come up with "Hamlet", or George Lucas putting the words Jar, Jar and Binks together! And the hokiest part of it is, the final names are underlined, like one of those unbelievable clues a detective in a noire thriller finds, where there's a name and address heavily underlined in a phonebook with the note "let's kill this guy" written under it. But that's how it happened and there's the proof. I might have googled the word "Otterloop" to see if anybody else had used it. I did that the other day, and I found the photo below. It's a bus turnaround in Toronto called the Otter Loop that (as of 2006) was in danger of being torn down, and had some people interested in preserving it as an historic example of mid-20th century Toronto area bus turnarounds. That's the kind of vital provenance that you don't usual dream of when you think up a funny name, and I'm glad I underlined "Otterloop" and stuck with it, all right. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Richard's Poor Almanack

This is a book I found on eBay a year or so ago and promptly lost, then found tonight on a bookshelf, of all places. It was copyrighted in 1907 by Maurice Switzer who, from what I can tell from some googling, was an author and humorist of the early 20th century who wrote a half-dozen or so books (some of which were illustrated by Frank Godwin, the illustrator and cartoonist who drew the strip Connie). This book, the Almanack, looks like it was produced as an advertisement for White Rock Beverages, as you can tell from the citation on the cover. And every so often there's a full page that says something like, "You should drink White Rock," so it's pretty soft-sell.

It's a handsome little book. I like the almanac parody look of it, with little decorative bits and devices. The humor's kinda thin, as you can tell from this brief excerpt.

But I don't know, if you look at my Almanac book in a hundred years (and please try to hang on that long, or maybe consider cryogenics) you might find yourself wondering when the laughs start. Meanwhile I'm just grateful that you can't copyright a book title. And I'm thinking, maybe White Rock would like to update their advertising with a slightly more contemporary Almanac, like mine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

More Snow Jokes

I we all laugh hard enough, maybe the snow will melt faster.

Snow Scupltors

More old stuff. Bob Ryan, lower left, has been the Channel 4 weatherman for 30 years. The Awakening, lower right, is a popular sculpture that was installed at Hains Point, but has since been moved to somewhere else, I forget exactly where. My wife had wanted to do something sculptury with the piles of snow in our front yard, but I think we're all now so sick of the stuff that the best approach would be to use a flamethrower on it. Maybe call it Solid into Water, and claim it's process art.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winter Haikus

Another old Almanac, this time in lovely color. We've had enough feet of winter here to last me until about 2023. This predates Cul de Sac by some years, yet keen eyes will note the kids in silly hats and the pile of parking lot snow, which have both found their way into the strip. But I haven't done hat hair yet...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For Matt Wuerker By Way of Herblock, By Way of Me

Matt Wuerker, the vastly talented and enormously affable cartoonist for Politico, has won this year's Herblock Prize. The Prize, created by the Herblock Foundation, involves giving a speech, attending a swell reception in one of the most beautiful rooms in America, and a nice chunk of cash. I've known Matt since he moved to DC almost ten years ago, and I've learned that his previous job experience includes working at Yellowstone Park, helping to animate the California Raisins and directing Michael Jackson and Peter Gabriel in videos (though not at the same time). So this whole Herblock thing is kind of a big comedown for him.

Whatever, I'm just hoping, having written this fawning post, that sometime during his acceptance speech before the assembled heavyweights at the Library of Congress Matt will give me a big shout-out.

Below is an Almanac I drew in 2001 when Herblock died. I'd meant to post it on the 100th anniversary of his birth last October, but I couldn't find it. If you ever saw Herblock's office you'd know what mine looks like, and you wouldn't be too surprised how much stuff I can't find.

Your Olympic Dictionary

I hope this helps. It's from about three Olympics ago and I'm sure they've added new words since.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

More Valentine's Day Fun, This Time With Educational Value

This is also a lazy repost, also from the Post mag, this time from Valentine's Day '03. And every word of it is true, or close enough. I was shocked to find out that my editor didn't know that diarist Samuel Pepys' name is pronounced "Peeps", especially as I'd only learned it the day before. I always thought it was Pep-eez, which is actually a stomach antacid. And look, aren't the colors pretty?

Valentine's Day, or Now We Are Six

Or, another crummy rerun repost, this from last year. This is Alice's first appearance in print, on the cover of the Valentine's Day issue of the Washington Post Magazine in '04. There had been a plan to also have this printed on the bag that holds the Post supplements, but that didn't happen, probably because they were afraid it might depress sales. Alice has since gotten a haircut and a face-reshaping. But haven't we all?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Games of the 21st Olympiad

This is actually from six years ago, the Athens Olympics, but it still makes some sense inasmuch as its roots are Greek. And this blog post is actually from two years ago, so I might be stuck in some kind of temporal loop. But no, I'm actually at my wife's family farm in Salem, Ohio, sitting at a large kitchen table watching about a dozen loaves of bread come out of the oven. Mmmmm.

What I like best about the Olympics is that it's spread out so that I can be a sports fan every four, or two, years, and for me that works out just right.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Whole Cover

Here, courtesy of Ms. Caty Neis, Graphic Goddess, is the Whole Shebang.

I might try my hand at designing or counterfeiting paper money some time. I hear there's bucks to be made in that field, and drawing little ornatey curlicues sure is fun.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Current Conditions

We're under 26"+ of the damn white stuff with another 10-20" forecast and our internet is intermittent. And the phone's out too. If anybody needs to call, the cell phone is working. Any interested parties who'd care to visit are welcome, as long as they bring a shovel. And some brandy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day

This is a better scan of an old, previously posted cartoon, sort of reheated leftovers. It's about the best you can expect from this blog