Sunday, January 13, 2019

A Flight of Reference

Note: This flight - and the included photos - were taken in October. I've been saving them, as I did not have time to post it until now.

When most cartoonists draw cartoons, they draw images from their imaginations, often without much regard for realism. You never know what it might look like, or how distorted it might be. That's usually the best path to humor. 

I also illustrate books, so some of that work leans toward realism, and like most book illustrators, I sometimes use photos as references

Unfortunately, with things that involve depth perception, photos don't always work well; especially larger things like mountains, buildings and expansive views of terrain.

Over the next month I'll be illustrating a children's book that features aerial views of mountains and ranges like those found here in Colorado. So, I decided to charter a tour flight to get some actual glimpses of exactly what I need. 

I was able to find a flight that took a path over Rocky Mountain National Park, south to Red Rocks, and then further west over the Continental Divide. We had several days with 70 degree temperatures late this Fall, along with clear skies, so it was a perfect time to do it.

My wife does not like to fly in small planes any more than necessary. So, my daughter Julia came along with me, and we had a great afternoon of fun. Even though this was a Cessna and not a speedy jet, we both found it truly amazing as to how much ground you can cover "as the crow flies", rather than sticking to roads...especially ground that varies greatly in height and topographical detail. It would have taken two days to drive a car along this flight path that took less than two hours.

We had music going in the plane, which was perfect until some lowlight efforts of Bob Dylan came on moments before the only part of the flight that wasn't fun...autumn turbulence. We momentarily had wide eyes and bubbly stomachs after we hit some cold air and pressure near the Divide. Our pilot said that it's common to have big changes in air temperature and pressure there this time of the year. Indeed. It's a good thing we were well between lunch and dinner (and sans stomach-churning crooning.)

Combining what I have in my mind's eye, several sketches, and the photos Julia and I took, I was able to get some terrific views. I'm hoping to have plenty for some interesting things to wander out on the page and drawing board.

A special thank you to Ben and Cam at Bluebird Aviation, for making it an incredibly enjoyable and successful day!

Boulder's "Flatirons" rock formations and Chautauqua

                                           The Continental Divide viewed from the Front Range side

A note about growth: When I moved here over 30 years ago, the population of the Front Range of Colorado was roughly half of what it is now. A stunning sign of that increase was visible from altitude in the sleepy mountain town of Nederland, (a half hour up the canyon from Boulder, and the inspiration for Dan Fogelberg's "Netherlands" album). 

After 30 years of staying nearly the same size, the past two years have have had buildings popping up like prairie dogs on a warm day, stretching into the forests in every direction. As Thomas Wolfe said, "you can't go home again"...nor can you see previously small mountain towns like Nederland from 5,000 ft.

Red Rocks Amphitheater, above

The Digital Drawing Board: Recent Illustrations (and a respite from my hiatus)

Welcome to the semi annual posting of the Dancing Moose Journal.

I've been absent here, taking a seven-month break from posting - as well as from most social media. So, Happy Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Holidays and New Year - and likely, happy birthday.

This unplanned hiatus  started with being too busy with clients, family, etc., and then extended itself...with me wanting to spend more time with family, friends and some personal projects. And suffice it to say, I just wanted to get a break from my iPhone. As a NYT article stated this week, Steve Jobs Never Wanted Us to Use Our iPhones Like This

I quit Facebook three years ago because it took too much time, and that feeling spread to other platforms. (And to be honest, posting on social media has always seemed to feel so self involved.)

Last year I overheard my daughter talking with two neighbor friends about social media. One girl announced that she had nearly a thousand friends on Instagram and that by comparison, the other two girls were not nearly as popular. The second neighbor wondered how many of this girl's followers were real friends, and suggested that they could feed her graduation party attendees with a couple of sub sandwiches. Ouch.

I realized that described my feelings. No offense to social media fans, but I question spending many hours per week with social media "friends", many of whom I will never even talk with over the phone. Why not focus more on people closer to the know, folks who might actually show up for my funeral.

During this "social media vacation", I was contacted by some out-of-state clients and Twitter friends whom I had not talked with recently, to see if I was okay. So, in a clumsy way, even that worked out - I got to talk with them and catch up, instead of simply seeing a "like" on a photo or post.

The social media blackout continues, but I'm temporarily breaking the streak here just in case anyone else is wondering where I went.

I thought I'd also quickly rummage through the recent art bin to share a small sampling of enjoyable client projects that have graced my drawing board:


First, a poster created for the latest theatrical production of  Hexagon, "Washington DC's only original political, satirical, musical, comedy revue."

From their website: Since 1955, Hexagon has produced an annual show that parodies local, national and international political issues. 

The new production is set in the future and is titled "Romp in the Swamp"...

(click to enlarge)


Below is an editorial illustration created for the White Marlin Open, the world's largest ocean game fish tournament, located every year in Ocean City, Maryland.

It was filled with controversy in its 45th year, for the use of polygraph tests for fishermen. This year the winner took home a prize of $2.5 million...but had t undergo a polygraph test to ensure he did not cheat.

Also included is a small drawing of Ernest Hemingway, one of the best-known bill fisherman.

(Click to enlarge)


Over the past several months I have written and drawn several pieces for Maryland wealth management firm, WMS Partners. The financial themed cartoons are being featured in their news publication, blog and their advertising.

I have been working with their new publication editor Malcolm Fitch, the former Editor-in-chief of "Standard And Poor".


I was recently commissioned by an AP History society to create political cartoons to accompany articles for high school AP History students. This involved concept writing and art, and the first cartoon accompanied an article on the Truman Doctrine . Others covered The Dawes Severalty Act, (affecting native Americans), Roosevelt's Square Deal, and the 1930's migration from the South.


In October I was commissioned to write and draw a series of humorous promotional postcards and posters over the next nine months for WESTAF.  They are the Western States Arts Federation, a nonprofit arts organization dedicated to strengthening the infrastructure of the arts in the West. 

WESTAF is located in Denver and governed by a 22-member board of trustees comprised of arts leaders in the West.  They serve the largest constituent territory of the U.S. regional arts organizations and includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Here are the first several postcards...The concepts I wrote are intended to point out the benefits of working with WESTAF vs other grants organizations. 

Reverse side:


One of several illustrations commissioned for a group of nine Native American tribal casinos in Oklahoma.

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