Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artist Profile: Derek & Nikki Davis

Derek and Nikki Davis are one of those pairs who were truly made for each other. Derek was an unmotivated reader until he discovered the myriad worlds and variety of stories offered in comics. Nikki is an art teacher who finds expression through the visual. Both are people of faith. Both have had to deal with cancer in their lives and it was, ironically, the thing that first brought them together. But they can tell that story so much better than I can, so when you see them at the mini-con, or at any of their other scheduled appearances, ask them about how they met!

The Ered Adventures, or T.E.A., is their on-going online comic strip. T.E.A. has been compiled into several books which feature many strips never seen online. Some of these collections include Winter Madness, Life of an Ordinary Idiot, Blurred Reality and Ultimate TEA. They have also crafted an anthology horror graphic novel called Tales of the Dead Ringer, and have done two children’s books featuring their after-life character, Skinny Skelly.

Here is the interview with two of Union West Cartooning Club's favorite people!
What are the Ered Adventures? How many people take part in creating the stories?
The Ered Adventures
( T.E.A.) is the daily life of Ered, Nik, their friends, family, cat, dog,a young skeleton, and a ghost. The characters just seem to write themselves because they are based on real life people and also fantasy characters. This allows the story to sometimes be based on reality and fantasy. The two main people that write T.E.A. are my husband (Derek) and I (Nikki) but we get lots of ideas from our family and friends who know we do a comic strip. There have been several comic strips that are based solely on others’ stories. Because of this it makes the universe of T.E.A. ,The Ered Adventures, have more depth.

2) Why did you choose to do an online format?

We wanted to get the story out to people to read, not just sit in our portfolio at home gathering dust. These characters demanded to be let out! They have a story to tell and it is barely contained. It also allows us to reach a much wider audience. I update twitter, facebook, and have a newsletter to let my subscribers know when there is an update.

3) Your best convention experience/moment? Worst? Weirdest?

(Cricket chirping….)

4) What other appearances will you be making this year?

We are appearing at Charlotte Comic Con (3times- March 21, August 1 and December 19), Wilkes County Library (July 31), and Richard’s Comics and Collectibles (Free Comic Book Day!). Also at the Con-Carolinas June 5-6, a convention for gamers, cosplay, and artists.

5) You visit a lot of libraries- why?

Well, we believe there are many ways to learn to read. Not only are there novels, magazines, but also comics. Comics are a great tool to introduce reading to a child that has been bored with just words on a page. What better place to introduce children to comics than at a library? We enjoy sharing our art!

6) Favorite cartoon show and comic as a kid? Now?

Nikki- My favorite cartoon as a kid was Jem. It came right after G.I Joe, I think. I like the bright colors and, well- it was the 80’s. Now my favorite cartoon is Naruto. I really like the action in it. I did not read comics as a kid but my favorite comic right now is the Green Lantern Blackest Night series. The story has been so good.

Derek- I have always loved Superman. Superman is my favorite comic from my youth and also right now.

7) Who in comics has been the biggest help to you?

There have been so many people it’s hard to name just one so I won’t. I will name several. John Aston from Olde Town Comix, Troy Hansbrouck from Jester Press, Jim McGee from Area 51 Studios, Chrissie Zullo from Art by Chrissie Zullo. All these people have been very helpful in us creating something that we enjoy.

The Ered Adventures, along with all the comics activities and events Derek & Nikki are involved in can be found at their website. You can also find a link to purchase copies of The Ered Adventures!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Convention Volunteer: Marcy

Marcy is a reference librarian at the Union West Library in Indian Trail, and she is part of the committee of volunteers who are working to make this year's mini-con a success. As part of the reference staff, Marcy is also involved in overseeing the teen programming and the teen volunteer schedules. The graphic novels in the Teen and Adult sides are also part of her domain!
A digital photographer, Marcy also paints pictures of animals- "exotic" and "ordinary"- and of landscapes/seascapes.
At this year's convention Marcy will be helping set up the traffic flow at the Union West Library, staging volunteers in certain areas to help, and will supervise the Rising Stars Art Challenge!
Speaking of "Rising Stars" this three-panel comic about her cat Shea was done by Marcy herself using colored pencils. Marcy had to make the art on size of paper, then reduce it down for coloring so it would fit into the scanner. Look for more of her animal antics in the future- she has lots of great ideas to work with!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cartooning Club this Thursday

The Cartooning Club will be meeting at the Union West Library in Indian Trail Thursday, Feb. 18 from 5:30 to about 6:30. Many of the kids who come will be continuing work on their posters for the art show that will be part of the mini-con in June- this month it is clean-up and inking time! Using erasures, tissues, sharpies, felt markers and ball point pens, kids will work on giving their posters that "finished" look before it heads to coloring next month.
We will also dedicate our time to another "comic craft", this time comic bookmarks and bracelets- easy and fast to make! You just need clear tape, comic images that fit the format, duct tape, velcro fasteners, and a laminator! Let the mayhem begin!
The Cartooning Club is free for kids ages 8 on up to 888! If you don't have pencils and paper, we have plenty to use. If you want more information about the club, you can call the Union West Regional Library at 704-821-7475, ext. 4.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Artist Profile: Dave McDonald

Optimism and encouragement are two words that seem to fit Dave McDonald well. The creator of Hamster Sam, Dave spends a good portion of his cartooning time in schools, libraries, museums and other places where he can work with kids to help them be creative about making their own stories. Dave was one of the featured artists at last year's mini-con and he will be returning to this year's event. In addition, Dave will be doing one of his workshops at the Union West Library the week before the mini-con!
I asked Dave a few questions about how he became a cartoonist, and what the future holds for him:

1. How long have you been drawing and what did you start drawing?
Every cartoonist says that they began drawing at a very young age, and I’m no different. I remember spreading out the comics section of the newspaper onto the kitchen table as a 3rd grader, and trying my best to draw Snoopy, Charlie Brown and “Peter” from Johnny Hart’s B.C. strip. Johnny Hart was a “local” cartoonist where I grew up in upstate New York; though I never did get to meet him. I remember doing a report on cartooning in the 5th grade; and though my art was merely typical of any other 5th grader- I’ll never forget the high praise and compliments that my teacher- Mrs. Freed, bestowed upon me. Teachers do leave a lasting impression!

2. What art did you do before Hamster Sam?
Since I’m a relative ‘newcomer’ to the cartoon art scene, I need to put it in “reverse” here and give you a little background. I studied film and television in school and worked professionally as a TV producer/director/writer for years, and eventually moved into theme park entertainment as a writer (those Scooby Doo stage shows at Carowinds!) and also a designer/builder of puppets and character costumes. I also toured as a puppeteer with the wonderful Grey Seal Puppets of Charlotte. Drawing was a part of each of these endeavors; whether it was creating storyboards for television or character design drawings for puppets and mascots. So, to get to your question (finally!) most of the art I created in the past was more “behind the scenes”-type drawings; used in the process of creating other forms of entertainment and media. In recent years, I have created illustrations for clients such as children’s museums and other educational organizations & publishers.

3. How did you settle on or discover your style?
Everyone has his or her own unique style, which is achieved through a process of combining natural talent with practice. I am still learning and growing and developing my style, which some describe as “cartoony” (is that a word?) or “quirky”, and seems to appeal mostly to younger audiences. It also reflects the style of comics that I enjoy writing and creating- cartoony, quirky “humorous” stories for young readers. When I teach how to make comics in schools, I emphasize to the students- and they agree- that it would be pretty boring if every artist had the exact same style. This is meant to encourage every young person to draw and make comics; no matter what their style!

4. Besides drawing, what else has made you an effective cartoonist?
Excellent question! My experience as a television director has really helped me in terms of creating comics. If you think about it, making a comic is very similar to directing an animated movie, except that instead of the constant movement of characters, you are choosing to select key “frames” or panels to illustrate and indicate the action of a scene. In that regard, you are a comic book “director”; choosing whether to draw a “wide shot” or a “close up” of a scene…choosing which elements to place in the background…what props are needed for the story, from which direction is the light coming from- that sort of thing. It was a comfortable transition from television to comics. Plus, in comics your characters don’t get fussy and tired and whiney and…you get the picture.

5. How far will Hamster Sam go and what other projects are on the table?
Another great question- do you know Barbara Walters? (Ha!)I recently finished up a 16-page mini comic for an educational publisher as part of a Test Preparation Kit they are selling to elementary and middle school districts. The comic, “Big Test Survival Island”, addresses important test taking skills that help students perform better on those scary end-of-year state tests. The book is themed like the Survivor TV show, and features my little explorer characters “Louise & Clark”- the Palmetto tribe- pitted against the ever-so-ditzy Varmint brothers, Claude and Clyde- the “Idunno tribe”. It was a fun project to create, and I feel that when you can make students laugh, they tend to remember the material better. Case in point: (sing it with me everyone) “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?...Connecting words, and phrases and clauses”)
Hamster Sam is one of a handful of characters slated to appear in my new book project starring “Vincent van Doodle”, a fifth grade cartoonist. I am really excited about this new series, which will be produced in a whole new digest format with a more affordable price point. I hope to have the first book completed by this fall. I should have some more to share about Vincent van Doodle at the mini-con!

6. Best job ever? Worst? Where were these jobs?
Best job ever? My current job! It combines the creativity of storytelling with characters that come from my imagination. When combined with the joy that I get from school visits and talking to young readers- what job could be better?

Worst job? I’ve never had a bad job, really, but I’ve had some interesting jobs. Strawberry picker (m-m-m, fringe benefits!), my brother and I were professional magicians as young teens- doves, fire, Dad ran the sound system- the whole works. In college, I got a kick out of the fact that I worked at Burger King, and my nametag read “McDonald”! A summer job at IBM had me toting around parts headed for the space shuttle and Trident nuclear submarines. Yikes, what were they thinking?!

7. Best convention moment? Scariest? Biggest disappointment?
Since I’m fairly new to the comics convention scene, I really can’t share a ‘best’ or ‘scariest’ moment yet. Talk to me after New York Comic Con; if I’m fortunate enough to get a table. I will say that to this point- the thing I enjoy the most at a convention, is when I see kids and families. Comics started out for kids, and it’s coming back for them now with more and more books being created for kids. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to the comics made for the “big kids”- adults need an escape too; but to see a kid with a comic in their hands and a big smile on their face reminds me of when I was a kid, running up to my room with a brand new comic book in my hands! Nothing smelled sweeter than freshly inked newsprint paper!

8. Favorite artist you've met?
Again, pretty new to this arena- but any talented artist with a genuinely nice personality would qualify to be a favorite of mine. Here’s a few kids-comic artists I admire: Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace), Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules), Harold Buchholz (Wild Lion and co-founder “Kids Love Comics”), Ray Friesen (Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken), Scott Christian Sava (The Dreamland Chronicles), Rich Faber (RobyRed) & John Gallagher (Buzzboy). These guys love what they do, they are incredibly gifted, and they are enjoyable to be around.

9. Thing you most often tell kids at workshops or shows.
Easy. I tell them that You CAN draw a character, you CAN write a story and You CAN make comics! Even if that character is a simple circle with eyes…it can become a grape; and a grape comes from a bunch of grapes…and a bunch is like a big family…and we all come from families…and all families have stories. So with that little circle character, you CAN make a comic!
What I try to impress upon kids is that making good comics is about making good stories; stories that readers can relate to- and less about who can draw the best biceps. Bottom line- your drawing will improve with practice; so don’t let it stop you from making comics.

10. Favorite book? Cartoon show as a kid? Cartoon show now? Comic book or strip?
Whoa! I could have a field day here. I don’t normally like to admit to liking anything that a teacher forced me to read; but I must say that I rather enjoyed “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. Beyond that, I will revert to the leisure-time entertainment that became a part of me forever. Animated cartoons and humorous TV shows really had the most influence on me due to the element of humor. Some of my faves were Rocky & Bullwinkle (anything by Jay Ward), Bugs Bunny, the campy goodness of Batman, The Muppet Show, Johnny Quest (I liked suspense too!), and though not a TV show or book; I think I wore out a few needles on the record player with the comedy albums of Bill Cosby, Spike Jones and Stan Freberg! As far as comics go; anything based on animated cartoons obviously; plus anything humorous- the Harvey line, Archie comics, Donald Duck, MAD magazine and a then a few of the Marvel titles such as Fantastic Four, Spiderman and the Hulk. Comics from the newspaper would include Peanuts, B.C. and Beetle Bailey. I can’t believe that I’m so old that Garfield came out after my childhood, but that would make my list too! In terms of cartoon art, the cartoonist that floored me with his brushwork is one that I did not discover until later in life- ‘Pogo’ artist Walt Kelly. Incredible!

You can find links to Dave McDonald and Hamster Sam over to the left under the recommended links.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

With a Rebel Yell!

The Rebel Legion's Blue Ridge Base has received and replied to my transmission. They have confirmed they are coming! If you have never heard of them, the Rebel Legion is an international group of Star Wars fans who create their own costumes within the canon of the movies (and the TV cartoons, too!). The group has a lot of fun sharing costuming ideas and creating the variety of good guy characters seen in the Star Wars universe. They also use their cool outfits to draw attention to many charities and worthy causes along with their dark-side brethren the 501st (aka Darth Vader's Fist). Visit the Rebel Legion at

We look forward to seeing Jedi and rebel fighters wandering the mini-con this year! Thanks!

Today's pictures include the unit patch for Blue Ridge Base and an assortment of some of the costumes this group has put together! Enjoy!