Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category
Being a cartoonist, there ain’t a ton of pilgrimages you can take related to your vocation, let alone ones that are close by. But there is one a just few hours from my folks’ house.
A few weeks ago, as I was driving the six hours tween their house and mine, I decided to take a small detour to Horseheads, NY – home of early 1900s cartoonist Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman. Never heard of him? Back in the day he worked for both Punch and Judge magazine, and even had his own correspondence school! (Exclamation point is for cartooning nerds only. The rest of you civilians can just role your eyes.)
Upon her death, Zim’s daughter left his house and all his artwork to the Horseheads Historical Society. Since this is a small town, the Historical Society has rather limited hours – and the hour I was there was not one of them. But that was ok – I’d been there before. It was just nice to walk around, take a few photos, and suck in the history of those who came before me.
Here’s a link if you’d like more info:
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting our two most recent recipients of the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship at the the National Cartoonists Society’s annual Reuben Weekend, held on Memorial Day weekend in Boston. Diana Huh, the 2011 winner, is above, and Mengxin Li, the 2010 winner, is below. (Not sure who the bald guy is.) They were wonderful and gracious, in addition to being fine young cartoonists. We wish them all the best in their careers.
Here’s some of the art I ended up doing during the trip:
The instructors of Taller Artistico Xuchialt did a painting class with us. They were teaching the traditional methods and techniques (see example below), but I had done this on my last trip so I kind of “went off the farm.” I used a much looser technique and, as subject matter, I chose not go with something “less pretty.” I was really “inspired” by Monte Horet, a very poor section of Leon where the homes are built out of corrugated metal, cardboard, and other discarded materials.
We were in Monte Horet to help building solar ovens (click here for info on the program) and, at one point, I took a walk to do some sketching. I was fascinated with the construction of the homes (and have mixed feelings about it) and really didn’t want anyone to see me drawing. To do this, I’d stand one-house-down from the house I was drawing. The first time I attempted this I had dogs come out to bark at me, then their master, an old man, came out to talk to me. He was very friendly, smiling, shaking my hand and all. I don’t speak Spanish so I just smiled a lot. I walked down a few doors to try again and a little chicken came out to bark at me. (That’s right – a chicken.) Then the chicken’s master, a little girl came, out and carried it away like a baby in her arms.
Then the girl came out with her puppy and held it like a baby for me to draw both her and her pooch. As I was finishing her mother (or grandmother, I couldn’t tell) came out, thanking me for drawing the girl. I handed her the drawing and she insisted that I sign it.
I then walked down the road a bit and, breaking my own rule, stood in front of the above home while drawing it. Then the little girl came up, crossed the yard, went into the the house and came out with her friend, another little girl. The first girl gave the second her puppy and I drew her too.
Don’t have a story for this drawing – it’s just a drawing done at Poneloya Beach when I got encrusted with sand. (Here’s a photo of the spectacular sunset from that day.)
One of my favorite memories of my last trip to Nicaragua was drawing for kids at a school. History did repeat itself…twice.
We visited the mountain town of Talolinga and, while watching instructors from Taller Artistico Xuchialt teach traditional landscaping painting, I saw a couple of kids hanging back. I waved them over and started drawing Bo Nanas for them. After that, since I don’t speak Spanish, I wasn’t sure how to get them to draw with me. So I drew a hand, handed the pencil to the boy next to me to have him draw a hand. He actually copied the hand I drew but, heck, it worked. We drew a lot of animals and ended up with three boys drawing with me. They even copied the sketchy lines I used.
A few days later we went to Las Tais, a program for at-risk kids. We were going there to help prepare a mural for restoration and we didn’t expect many kids since it was summer vacation in Nicaragua. We walked in and were immediately mobbed. The kids grabbed our hands and started playing games with us. I was involved in a session of ring-around-the-rosy that I really didn’t understand. I then made up my own version with sound effects instead of words. (In the video that one of the students took I look like the abominable snowman from “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer” playing with elves.)
Then I started drawing Bo Nanas for a couple of kids. That quickly devolved into me drawing with kids, as you can see above. We moved over to the tables and even more kids, as well as our students, joined us. It was a wonderful, energizing experience.
So, you may remember that about a month ago (when I got back to regular blogging) that one of my lame excuses was that I spent 12 days in Nicaragua. It’s true. I’ve got the intestinal distress to prove it. (To be truthful, I did OK since I kept myself on a steady diet of chewable Pepto-Bismol. It was only after getting home that I got sick.)
How did this come about, you might ask? Well, the small town I live has a sister city in Nicaragua – Leon, to be specific. My wife and I went down five years ago as chaperons with the Gettysburg College Choir, and it was a powerful experience. We stayed with host families, visited schools and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), saw sites both amazing and heartbreaking.
A few years ago I was at a small comic con, sitting next to Marek Bennett and I asked what he’d been up to. He said he had just gotten back from Nicaragua – his small town in New Hampshire has a sister city there – where he had been doing a comics cultural exchange*. Wait a sec, I said to myself, I wanna do that.
Things moved pretty fast after that…a little too fast. Project Gettysburg-Leon was ready to send me right away. But I wasn’t ready, and then I ended up in grad school working on my MFA, and figured I could do this project for my practicum.
I ended up being the adult leader for eleven students from Gettysburg College. At one of our meetings before we left I did a little comics exercise with them. I had them do an 8-page mini comic about their lives. I then scanned them, our student leader translated them into Spanish and we copied them to take with us.
We did a lot of stuff that wasn’t comics-related – helping to build solar ovens, etc. I did my stuff in conjunction with Taller Artistico Xuchialt, a community based art school. We did an 8-page “Day in the life…” mini-comic, starting with getting up in the morning and ending with going to sleep – then we filled in the rest. We did three sessions at the school, mixing Gettysburg students with theirs. And it worked just the way I had hoped (even without me prompting) – as they drew, they shared their lives.
I also did a session with the instructors of Taller Artistico Xuchialt. They asked me to show them some stuff on expressions in cartooning, and how I use computers in my work. There was a bit of trickiness with the latter since their version of PhotoShop was much, much newer than mine, and everything in PhotoShop was in Spanish. So I had to feel my way around, remembering where menus are and such. I felt like I was in a half-remembered neighborhood trying to recall landmarks.
* Marek even did a comics travel journal about his experience.
Nicaragua, to be specific.
That’s where I was for 12 days teaching “Comics for Cultural Exchange” and being den mother for 11 college students.
So me not posting didn’t have to do with my usual excuses of baby and/or holidays.
More info to come.
Here’s some pics I dug up. During Spring Break of 2006 my wife and I were chaperons for our college’s choir on their trip to Nicaragua. We stayed with host families in Leon and traveled to outlying areas in a school bus.
We went to a school to sing (well, I wasn’t singing – I was going to be videotaping) but we were early. We were causing quite a stir – kids were just staring out the windows of their open-air class rooms at the giant white people strolling around, so classes were postponed. To pass the time we did things with the kids. Some students played Frisbee with them. Some took their picture on digital cameras. I pulled out a pad of paper and started to draw for a couple of kids and then…I…was…mobbed. I must have drawn a couple hundred Bos in 45 minutes.
Funny thing is I had a vision of doing something like this before we even left – except I was standing. I was happy to be sitting. That was a lot of work.
Like I said in Part 1, I went to Paraguay to visit my wife. And like in Part 1, I’m going to ignore Paraguay yet again and tell you about someplace else we went – the Iguassu Falls in Brazil. We had just taken a safari that included a very wet and, for me, slightly terrifying boat ride into the falls. We were around the food/souvenir area by the top for the falls. There’s a life-sized bronze statue of the guy who made the whole joint protected land years ago. His hands are outstretched and people seem to love to have their picture taken holding his hands. My wife and I were just wandering around when I see an animal I’ve never seen before – not even on TV – just strolling by. Holy moley, what the heck is that? It has a racoon’s tail but a long snout. I want to yell at the people, “Hey, stop fooling with that stupid statue and look at this!” It’s like the first time I saw a manatee on TV (also an animal I’d never seen or heard of before) but this thing is in front of me. Excited, I start following it and take this pic.
Continuing our walk around the falls I figured out that I had not discovered some new species. As a matter of fact, these things are common as squirrels. They’re called Quati and they’re the Mickey Mouse of the Iguassu Falls, appearing on all sorts of souvenirs. At one point a herd of them came thundering down the path towards us (well, not thundering – they have teeny little feet). Even thought they seemed pretty harmless, I wasn’t sure what to do. They invaded the nearby garbage can, ate what they could find and swiftly moved on to the next. Here’s the page from my sketchbook diary from that day.
Next time: I get to the part about Paraguay. I promise.