WE GOT YOUR SIGNED COPIES OF THE COMPLETE CUL DE SAC RIGHT HERE!

Richard Thompson, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, has graciously offered to sign copies of this beautiful boxed set when you place your order through One More Page. Because cartoonists, like banjo players, are lovable but unpredictable, we can't guarantee a delivery time. We thank you in advance for your support, and your patience. Click here to order or call us at 703-300-9746.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chiaroscuro; now with more words

Chiaroscuro, (/kiˌɑːrəˈskjʊər/the art term so unspellable that I'm forced to copy & paste it, means light-dark in Italian, and strong contrasts between the two in English. And like most Italian words, it's fun to say and makes you vaguely hungry. 

Chiaroscuro is one of the four canonical painting modes of the Italian Renaissance, the others being Unione, Cangiante and Sfumato, something I just learned on Wikipedia. Of the four, I'd heard of Sfumato, of which the most famous example is Leonardo's celebrated Mona Lisa, and if anyone were to market a quiescently frozen dessert called "Sfumato," I'd eat my weight in it. Chiaroscuro is also one of my favorite ways of working because it makes a caricature look like more than it is. 

Consider this unfinished caricature of Mark Twain, which I intended as a Christmas present for my dad (long story). I was pretty obviously mimicking myself (see below).  The paper color is called Tobacco, and it was one of my favorites. Unfortunately, Canson changed the color of the paper, shifting it slightly toward red and spoiling it for my purposes. Every time I tried to use it, the drawing looked too "hot," the shadows and half-tones would be too warm, etc... I needed a more neutral color.



As I said, I was copying myself, using what'd worked before. Start with the highlights, then work darker, using the middle tones (in this case, the paper) as a fixed point.



This worked well, until I used actual paint. As long as I faked it with colored pencils and mixed media, I was alright. But I had pretensions that colored pencils couldn't satisfy, and a good subject to try them out on. A friend, Dave Bragunier, then the tubist and personnel manager of the National Symphony Orchestra, made the mistake of asking for a caricature of then-conductor of the NSO, Mstislav  Rostropovich (I copy and pasted that too) in the style of the Beethoven. Unfortunately, we don't have room on this blog to explore this digression fully, but suffice it to say I took years of dawdling to not finish the painting. This was as far as I got-



To find out the exciting conclusion of this unnecessary and irrelevant anecdote, pre-order Th Art of Procrastinatin' Sam, or whatever the hell it's called. (Which is now #1,000,000+ on Amazon's list. C'mon people, get with it!) 

By now I was completely in love with technique, usually at the expense of the art. My dad, a former photographer, after I'd shown off my latest pile of highly specialized brushes, said that there were photographers who fell a little too in love with the glamor of the equipment. I knew what he meant; I'd reread art catalogs and painters' guidebooks until they hung in tatters. The more obscure the better, and the most specialized was the Kremer Pigment catalog. Little bottles full of pure, powdered color, odd art supplies from 100-year-old shops have a great, alchemy-lab charisma.

Look at the above illustration, or rather the lower left portion thereof. That's an attempt at an underpainting in egg tempera. Egg tempera is one of the oldest blah blah blah, its permanence is tra la la, and it is excellent for underpainting an oil painting (well, an egg tempera-oil painting or mischtechnik. Y'see, there are all these paint layers that interlock as they dry...oh, Google it). There are thousands of recipes for tempera-oil painting and I had them all, the more obscure and poisonous the better (ask me about megilp). That green I used in the lower left is Verona green earth, historically ideal for shadowed flesh tones. Sounds good to me! So I had a store-bought tube of paint, and I also had a little bottle of pigment sitting on my shelf, ready to be left sitting on my shelf, unused, along with about a hundred other such jars filled with the most arcane stuff imaginable, also unused, but utility wasn't the point; having rows of little jars was.



The point was authenticity; no, not authenticity, it was needless complication. For the support I'd glue together (using rabbitskin glue!) two pieces of Masonite (it had better be unoiled!). Then, in an elaborate process, the surface was prepared. I got quite good at this. In fact, I've got a box of boards somewhere. I had trouble with the part where you put the paint on it to make a picture, was all. 

To prepare a board for mischtechnik (or egg tempera), you use gesso, which is NOT the acrylic gesso sold in buckets (feh!) but a white fluid paint made of gypsum slaked in water (I once slaked my own gypsum!) and animal glue. This is painted on the board warm, in layers of opposite direction and allowed to dry. Then you sand it smooth with several grades of sandpaper, ending with fine steel wool. The end product is a white surface that's utterly smooth & level.

I hadn't meant to get bogged down lecturing on technique. Those who've seen the documentary by Teller Tim's Vermeer know where unchecked obsessions lead; among other places a documentary by Teller. So I'm going to show some pictures-

Ollie North (remember how he rampaged around the country?) in tube egg tempera and oil. A bit stiff, I'm trying stuff I don't know how to do.



Phil Gramm, for Mother Jones. Kinda cool, with the hand. I like the sky.



Hector Berlioz. I worked on this forever. I had  intricate plans for doing this one; elaborate sketches, detailed notes, etc.. I even had a bottle of copper resinate  for his green jacket. But planning a masterpiece and being inspired are two very different things. The copper resinate smelled so vile I wiped it off and threw the bottle away. It may have been this piece that made me realize that I wasn't meant for plans and plots and inductions dangerous. It goes against my nature,, which doesn't admit to non-spontenaity. Replaced by this, a better work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE HARD SELL CONTINUES EVEN HARDER

NEW DESIGNS IN

IT'S A POSTER!
ALMOST 2000 READERS ADMIRED THIS CARTOON THANKS TO THE SHARP EYES AND IMPECCABLE TASTE OF MISS KATE BEATON 
ON ITS FIRST APPEARANCE IN CARD FORM. SO WE MADE IT INTO A POSTER!
ONLY $14.7O!


BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE-
THERE'S


THE ONLY CARD  IN OUR LINE OF
"THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID"
CARDS

THOMPSONIANA
"SAY IT THREE TIMES IN FRONT OF A MIRROR
AND YOU'LL BE
A LAUGHING-STOCK
AND THE OBJECT OF
SOME CONCERN."©

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some Unseen Cul de Sacs


Sometimes I feel like I'm shaking these out of my sleeves, like Harpo Marx does with silverware.  These  are either too local or too unfunny to be in the Complete. So they'll go in the Compleat.

This one manages to be both- 


The real Alice wouldn't be so smarmy-


Here's one that became  obsolete because so many gags sprung from it-


What's the first appearance of Mr. Otterloop's car?


There!  Some additions to the Apocrycypha for all those who keep track.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sophomore

My older daughter, Emma. just left for her sophomore year at VCU. She has an apartment this year and couldn't wait to leave, which is understandable, but I was in no hurry. Of course, I thought the summer flew by too. I always swore I wouldn't do a my-kids-are-so-cute blogposts. But she's 150 miles away, so why not?

Here are some drawings Emma inspired over the years.



She was an inspiration even before she was born. Let's see the rest of that Why Things Are illustration-


Eew is right. Here's a rough for an old Almanac-


And the final, which is in the collection of my dad-



And, to complete her embarrassment, the digital debut of an Almanac she did write, in 2002, Picnic-


(The part I like best are Emma's hands; they fidget just right.) The original hangs in our hall, festooned with a multicolored county fair ribbon that says Grand Champion (poetry, 10 and under),
 which came with a check for $15, a lot of money for a five-year-old. Emma, at about the same age, would take small rocks from the back yard and draw smiling faces on them. Then she'd release them into the wild to be found by future, puzzled generations. This sparked a sequence in CdS where Alice did the same thing; one of the few times the strip was so beholden to reality. That's Emma's sister, Charlotte, singing back-up. She's the tallest one in the family and she knows archery and lives at home. If you think I'm going to do any blogposts about what she does, you're crazy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE HARD SELL CONTINUES

HERE ARE SOME NEW IMAGES AVAILABLE TO THE DISCRIMINATING CONSUMER FROM  THOMPSONIANA, YOUR FINE CARTOON BOUTIQUE.



This 20- step card is useful and educational, yet practical and an object of great craftsmanship too!



We've entitled this card the Old Heave-Ho; it's filed under "tragic."


Finally! A man's cap that won't bind or unduly squeeze his head, causing him to lose consciousness, while retaining its stylishness! And right on the front it says Cul de Sac! Correct spelling guaranteed at no extra cost!

WATCH FOR MORE FINE PRODUCTS AT

Friday, August 15, 2014

Unseen Cul de Sac; the Bay



I'm currently sitting at a table in my old friend Bono Mitchell's family Chesapeake Bay house, on Kent island, you cross the Bay Bridge and make a right, go 7 miles and boom, you're there. I was last here 23 years ago and from what I can tell, apart from ongoing upkeep and the usual small improvements, it hasn't changed at all, thank god.

So I thought it appropriate to inflict this old CdS on you. It's scanned from the Post by the indispensable Mike Rhode, because the original's somewhere in the depths of my studio. The Oterloops were on the way to one of the Maryland beaches, probably Geek's Neck, and you cross the Bay Bridge to get there.*

I'm, I think, justifiably proud of that view of the Bridge in panel 3.

*Please refer to your copy of the Map of Cul de Sac and Adjacent Places.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One Stop Shopping for All Your Cartoon Needs

If you will direct your attention to the lower right for a moment, you'll notice, amidst the tangle of links, a link to something called the Thompsoniana Store. This is because I'm gradually consolidating all my Zazzle stores into one big Thompson megastore, a place you'll find is more amenable to your cartoon shopping requirements. Eventually you'll be able to pretty much furnish your life with items featuring my old drawings, from stationary to tote bags. Then I will be eligible for my own public television station. And, hey, they're having a 50% off sale on all posters! I can't think of a better time to order the Map of Cul de Sac and Adjacent Places, can you?