Zen Pencils (Gavin Aung Than)

Zen Pencils (Gavin Aung Than)
Zen Pencils is an online comics feature by cartoonist Gavin Aung Than, in which he interprets inspirational writings, sayings and quotes from various sources in the form of comics.

The main page of the site is arranged as a blog, and the strips are intermixed with supplementary commentary and other material. New readers may want to sample the “10 most popular Zen Pencils comics of 2013” or use the “Archives” drop-down to the right of the main navigation, the Archives page, or some of the recent selections in the right-hand column.

Be aware that the strips are loaded as single, sometimes quite long sets of panels, and may take a moment to load into the page. I’ve selected a few representative sets of panels from the middle of several different strips, above.

Than draws his material from a fairly wide selection of sources, from Carl Sagan to Shakespeare to George Carlin to Ben Franklin to Chinese proverbs and actual Japanese Zen stories. Those inclined to find inspirational quotes and aphorisms a bit too “Reader’s Digesty” may find the effect leavened by the fact that… hey, it’s comics!

The comics are Than’s freely imagined interpretations of the meaning of the words, given form in a way that may or may not be in the context of the original. Often, they also serve as a tribute or homage to an individual, as in his homage to Bill Watterson’s style in the course of “A Cartoonist’s Advice” (above, second set of panels from the bottom).

Among my favorites is his interpretation of highlights from Neil Gaiman’s wonderful commencement address to the 2012 graduating class of the University of the Arts here in Phialdelphia (image set above, bottom — if you haven’t seen Gaiman’s original speech, by the way, it is definitely worth 20 minutes of time on the part of anyone involved in art related fields, see my post here).

In addition to the blog-like format of Than’s site, there is a separate blog section. There are also features like translations of some strips in several languages and an about page. Than also has prints available on society6.


Charlie Hunter

Charlie Hunter
When walking around during the recent Wayne Plein Air Festival here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, looking for painters working in the streets of the town (and feeling a bit like a birder searching for rare species, as many of the participants had found off the beaten path locations to paint), I came across Vermont artist Charlie Hunter working on the small painting of a railroad underpass shown in my photo above, top, and was immediately impressed.

Unfortunately, neither my hasty location photo, nor the relatively small reproductions of work on Hunter’s website or the sites of the galleries in which he is represented, adequately convey the wonderful textural and painterly quality of his work.

Hunter works in a subdued, often almost monochrome palette — shifting attention to his command of values, variation in edges and the surface qualities of his paintings. They sometimes have a feeling similar to Andrew Wyeth’s drybrush watercolors, though Hunter works in oil, most often of the water-miscible variety.

Hunter was last year invited to join the Putney Painters, a painting group in Vermont guided by painter Richard Schmid, without question a contemporary master of edges and value in particular, and Schmid’s wife, artist Nancy Guzick, notable for her command of those same qualities.

Hunter indicates that his style developed almost accidentally, evolving out of his career as an illustrator and designer, and his ability to see and work with major shapes and compositional geometry.

He works with a limited palette of burnt sienna, viridian and French ultramarine, occasionally supplemented with yellow ochre or Naples yellow. He begins by toning the canvas with a diluted mix of his three basic colors, out of which he pulls large and then smaller shapes with paper towels, Q-tips and other implements before going back in with brushes.

Like those great old black and white film noir movies, Hunter’s paintings have a quality of atmosphere and mood that would be difficult to maintain in a higher chroma palette.

When I encountered him working on the painting above, top, he was just reaching the stage at which he was ready to make the call of “complete”. He commented that Mother Nature had made his job of finding a suitable subject more difficult by dealing him a brightly lit sunny day.

When I later saw the painting in the Plein Air exhibition, I saw little change, and was just as struck with the visual quality of his other paintings, one of which was awarded First Place by juror Jim Wodark.

The links to work on his website under “Images” are a little awkward, in that only “Current“, “Other Available Paintings” and “Painting Archives” are within his site, the other links take you out to other sites or even a Flickr page for galleries (linked below). In the Painting Archives section you will find some of his commercial work and gallery work in other media.

There is a profile of Hunter on OutdoorPainter.com


Hobo Lobo of Hamlin

Hobo Lobo, Stevan Zivadinovic
Hobo Lobo of Hamlin is a side-scrolling webcomic by Stevan Zivadinovic that uses multiple planes scrolling at different rates to give a nice dimensional effect, augmented with other touches of animation.

My screen captures above attempt to give some idea of the changing relationship of the planes, but they’re inadequate to the task; you need to see the actual effect.

You can use the controls at top to move through the panoramic images one “scene” at a time, or just grab the horizontal scrollbar at the bottom of the window and have at it.

The animation and multi-plane scrolling are apparently created in HTML and JavaScript rather than Flash, which means you should be able to view the effects on the iPad, but outdated desktop browsers may have issues.

On his “What is this thing?” page, Zivadinovic implores users of Internet Explorer to get a real browser, as well as explaining a few other technical considerations and indicating his intended update schedule; according to which an update should be coming 1:25am (CDT) on this Friday, April 29th, 2011.

The strip, which appears to be loosely based on The Pied Piper of Hamlin, is only two sections long at the moment, but looks promising to be watched for coming updates.

Zivadinovic also has a primary website called The Nihilist Canary, where you can see more of his work.

[Via Scott McCloud]


The Wormworld Saga, Daniel Lieske

The Wormworld Saga, Daniel Lieske
The Wormworld Saga is a new online graphic novel by German illustrator, comics artist and gaming concept artist Daniel Lieske.

It is an adventure story centering on the memories of a young boy recalling a time in his life when the world of the everyday intersected with the extraordinary.

The format is a bit different from most online graphic stories, which are posted a page or a few panels at a time; the first chapter of The Wormworld Saga was just posted complete; a necessity in this case because the entire chapter, in a variation of Scott McCloud’s “infinite canvas” concept, is essentially one long scrolling page, with the panels interconnected by larger passages and shared backgrounds.

The comic is read by scrolling down (something seemingly particularly appropriate for reading on the iPad), and though there are sections that might be considered “pages” in that their content and panel format is related, they defy the boundaries of conventional page layout.

Unlike some artists who have experimented with the online comics format and the conventions of how comics stories are read, Lieske hasn’t indulged in experimentation at the expense of graphic storytelling fundamentals, and his story reads well, flows nicely and is easy to follow.

The story, though only one chapter long so far, also stands out for its pace, more like an actual novel than the pace of most comics, which tend to proceed like a movie or television show, in which the narrative is compressed. Lieske seems comfortable with a pace that allow him to build up background and narrative texture; though the story is told well enough that there is no feeling of lag or delay.

The most outstanding characteristic of The Wormworld Saga, however, is Lieske’s artwork, which is highly accomplished, quite original and wonderfully realized.

Lieske is a digital painter by profession, both in his illustration and his game related concept art (you can see his professional portfolio here). He has applied his skills with digital painting tools to the images for the story in way that is delightfully painterly; and no, I don’t think applying the description “painterly” to a digital medium is a misuse of the term, it refers to the application of color in patches that look and feel like physical brush strokes.

Combined with a cinematic feeling for drama, his painterly textures and judiciously applied details give the story an emotional resonance and sense of place and time.

Lieske created a page called The Wormworld Saga Exhibitions, in which he talks about the project and its origins. he also maintains a blog which likewise features background on the story and art, as well as a personal website with sections for his other projects, including galleries of digital painting and sketches, and a page about the artist. There is also a page for ordering prints that should go live sometime this month.

If Lieske continues his practice of creating an entire chapter before posting, the next installment of The Wormworld Saga may take a while to arrive; but the current chapter ends in a way that will allow us to wait, and the next chapter should be worth waiting for.

[Via MetaFilter]


Zip and L’il Bit: The Captain’s Quest

Trade Loeffler: tZip and L'il Bit: the Captain's Quest
I was delighted to learn that Zip and L’il Bit, a series of webcomics by Trade Loeffler that I first wrote about in 2006 when I discovered the first story, The Upside-Down Me, and again in 2007 when Loeffler published the second adventure, The Sky Kayak, has returned after a long hiatus in a new story, The Captain’s Quest.

Loeffler handles his comics with some of the feeling of an extended children’s book, and a style that seems to harken back to a more genteel time in comics, particularly newspaper comics.

In spite of the apparent simplicity of his drawings, his use of line is sophisticated, and I recommend taking advantage of the zooming feature, which allows you to click on any panel in a given page to enlarge it, and then click through the rest of that page from there.

As of this writing, there are 7 pages in the new story, and a new page is added on Sundays.

[Via Drawn!]


The Realist – Asaf Hanuka

The Realist - Asaf Haunka
The Realist is a graphic story by illustrator and comics artist Asaf Hanuka about one family’s search for a new home after their current living arrangements are upset.

The strip was originally serialized in a Hebrew language version in the Israeli Newspaper Calcalist. Hanuka has re-lettered it in English and is publishing it on the web, one page a week.

English speakers may find it interesting to compare some of the English language pages with their Hebrew counterparts in that the Hebrew pages read right-to-left, creating some challenges for the conventions used by comics artists to guide your eye through dialog balloons in the proper order by their position in a panel.

It looks as though Hanuka may have had this process in mind when originally laying out his panels as they work pretty well, with a few exceptions (like a reference to a GPS telling characters to turn right, when the flopped image shows an arrow pointing left).

Hanuka has a spare, single line weight comics art style that is well suited to the nature of the story. His controlled, muted coloring is accented occasionally with brighter colors specifically for dramatic effect.

As of this writing, the posted story is up to week 6.

Hanuka also maintains a more general topic blog, Tropical Toxic, and has a web site with galleries of his illustration and comics work.

I previously wrote about Asaf Hanuka, and his brother Tomer Hanuka, also a noted comics artist and illustrator, back in 2007.

[Via Drawn!]