Archive for the ‘Chad About Town’ Category

The Great Bil Keane

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

On November 8, 2011, a great cartoonist and a greater man quietly slipped away. Every day over the past 51 years, Bil Keane’s comic strip The Family Circus made us laugh, smile, and feel good inside whether we read it in a newspaper or from the side of a refrigerator where many were displayed. His influence on society was duly noted when word of his passing was mentioned in televised reports on national news broadcasts, on countless websites, and in many tweets and Facebook comments. It was so nice to see this outpouring of affection from many strangers for a man I was privileged to count as a dear friend.

 

Bil Keane's studio

The master in his Arizona studio taken by photographer Greg Preston for his wonderful book "The Artist Within" that shows many top cartoonists in their work space. Used with permission from the photographer. (Click on image to see it larger.)

 

This past weekend, Bil’s life was celebrated. I made the trip to the Phoenix area to attend the funeral where many tears and many laughs were shared. The memories came flooding back. Like many of you, I grew up reading The Family Circus in the newspaper and always got that warm and fuzzy feeling. Later, as a professional, I began to understand the fine artistic qualities of the artwork. Then what had become a professional admiration for Bil Keane eventually grew to a personal appreciation.

When first entering the professional world of cartooning, Bil Keane was one of the first cartoonists to whom I wrote. That initial correspondence in 1994 was simply a young rookie writing a fan letter to one of his heroes. Bil sent a reply that included a wonderful pencil sketch of the entire cast of his strip that has remained on my wall ever since.

 

Bil Keane's art

This 1994 sketch hangs proudly on my wall as a daily reminder of Bil Keane.

 

Two years later, in 1996, I attended my first Reuben Awards that the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) hosts each year. It was held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York City. I was a young illustrator living and working in South Carolina who, for the first time, was being exposed to a room full of professional cartoonists.  It was a memorable evening for many reasons – in a glance around the room one could see Charles Schulz, Garry Trudeau with wife Jane Pauley, Archie artist Dan DeCarlo, MAD Magazine‘s Mort Drucker and Sergio Aragonès, Al Hirschfeld and so on. Even the mayor, Rudolph Giuliani was there. Best of all, Bil Keane was the Master of Ceremonies.

Based on the content of his comic strip, one’s impression of Bil Keane would be that he was a quiet, gentle, mild-mannered man. When he stepped up to the microphone that evening, all bets were off. Bil had a wicked sense of humor that had the whole room in stitches with great one-liners and his deft use of double-talk. We were there to celebrate the best of the cartooning business, but in between acceptance speeches, nobody was safe from Bil’s sharp and hilarious tongue. The one comment he made that night that I remember to this day was when he was introducing one of our larger colleagues. Bil said, “And now, here’s a cartoonist whose shadow weighs more than he does….” This was a room of longtime friends truly full of personal and professional admiration.

 

Bil Keane, Johnny Hart & Brant Parker

Taken in 1997 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, Bil Keane, a young Chad Frye, Johnny Hart (B.C. comic strip), and Brant Parker (Wizard of ID comic strip). This was my first photo with any of these gentlemen.

 

It turns out that along with that sharp wit, Bil also really was the gentle, mild-mannered man one might expect. When you met him, he’d have an impish grin, a twinkle in his eye, and a handshake so firm that you’d have to learn to draw with your left hand. Over the years I just came to appreciate him more and more, now and then chatting on the phone, and visiting with him in Arizona when in town to see relatives.

In 2008 I was involved with a committee planning a banquet in Bil’s honor for the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS). CAPS had created an award called The Sergio named after CAPS co-founder Sergio Aragonès who also designed the trophy. The Sergio is given once each year to a cartoonist in appreciation for their lifetime of work in our profession. Bil’s beloved wife Thel had passed away earlier that year, and we decided it was time to give some very deserving love to Bil. Gary Owens (Rowen & Martin’s Laugh-In) emceed, and guest speakers included Greg Evans (Luann comic strip), Mell Lazarus (Momma comic strip), Cathy Guisewite (Cathy comic strip), son Jeff Keane (who had now taken over all duties on Family Circus and continues to do so today), and son Glen Keane (Disney animator). When Bil came to the mic to accept his award, true to form, he had us all holding our aching sides with his speech.

 

Bil Keane's Sergio Award

Bil Keane holding his Sergio Award from CAPS in 2008 while sitting next to the actual Sergio Aragonès at Maggiano's restaurant in Woodland Hills, CA.

 

Just about one year ago was the last time I saw Bil. I was in town with my folks for my father’s 50th high school reunion, and one afternoon my mother and I paid Bil a visit. He had taken a fall a few months earlier that had weakened him and required some special rehabilitation measures. Despite the discomfort he was experiencing, he greeted us with that familiar twinkle in his eye, the impish grin, and a handshake so firm that I can still feel it. We talked about how his faithful dog had saved his life the day of his fall. He recalled days when the famous and not so famous came by the house, and of vacationing with Ozzie and Harriet who owned a vacation home next to Bil’s vacation home back in the day. We talked about life, and of cartooning, and about his family of whom he was so very proud. That was a very special afternoon.

 

Chad Frye with Bil Keane in October, 2010. Sadly, Bil's beloved dog who remained by his side during our visit passed away only six months ago.

 

So, while the news stories heralded the passing of this great cartoonist two weeks ago, there was so much more to the man that I wish everyone could have known. Perhaps Bil’s ever cheerful outlook on life came from something he once wrote in The Family Circus, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a GIFT. That’s why it’s called the present.” I’m truly grateful for the many gift-wrapped “todays” with Bil.

 

Bil Keane's studio

Taken last Saturday, Bil Keane's studio where thousands of circular pearls of wit and wisdom were birthed before being released to the world. Thank you for everything, Bil.

Fans of Film Music 2011 – part 1

Monday, August 29th, 2011

I have a confession to make. It’s not something that I talk about much here, but it’s something that is a part of my daily life. It’s an obsession really. I’m not ashamed of it, but I’m also not sure how common my obsession really is. So, here goes….

Hi, I’m Chad, and I’m a film musicaholic.

Whew. Felt good getting that off my chest. Really, though, I love orchestral film music – especially while I am doing my drawings, and living here in the Hollywood area there are multiple opportunities to feed this hobby of mine. This past year I met a fella from the midwest named Peter Hackman who shares in this passion. So much so, that he formed a group called Fans Of Film Music, and this past weekend Peter put together a terrific event that film music fans across the globe should know about.

 

Brian Tyler film composer

Here is the youngest of the composers on the panel, Brian Tyler, whose recent score to "Fast Five" actually makes me draw faster.

 

First, Friday evening about 30 film music enthusiasts gathered at a restaurant in Silver Lake, CA just to swap stories and get to know each other. I had never been to anything like it, and was amazed to meet these folks, many of which work in the film business or in the music industry. It was amazing hearing tales of being at James Horner’s first film scoring recording sessions, or about encounters with legends like Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams.

film scoring

Many of these folks attended the John Williams concert held at the Hollywood Bowl Saturday night, but quite frankly, the icing on the cake is what went down Sunday afternoon at the Dark Delicacies store in Burbank. Mr. Hackman was able to gather together some amazing composers for a panel discussion open to only 45 attendees: Brad Fiedel (Terminator, T2, True Lies), Lee Holdridge (Old Gringo, Mists of Avalon, Splash), David Newman (Nutty Professor, Hoffa, Ice Age), Nicholas Pike (Return To Me, Sleepwalkers, Star Kid), Ken Thorne (Help!, Lassiter, Inspector Clousseau), Brian Tyler (Fast Five, Battle: LA, Rambo), and Christopher Young (Priest, Love Happens, Spider-man 3). Aaron Zigman (The Proposal, The Notebook, Flash of Genius) was scheduled to attend, but had a family emergency that prevented his attendance. Wonderfully moderated by film music critic and historian Daniel Schweiger, the hour and a half panel was riveting with these maestros telling tales of their experiences in their chosen profession.

I had a great seat, and sat there with my sketchbook in hand working on quick sketches of the panelists. Once at home, I finessed the drawings a bit. Anyone could show you photos of the day’s events (which you will probably be able to see on the Fans of Film Music Facebook page very soon), but I thought I’d share with you a few drawings instead…

 

Film Composer Brad Fiedel

Brad "I'll be back" Fiedel who first really caught everyone's attention with his score for "The Terminator."

 

Christopher Young film composer

I first met Chris Young probably over 10 years ago when I visited a class he was teaching at USC, and have always found him to be a generous man.

 

If you like these, perhaps I’ll show you some more sketches of the other panelists later in the week. And if you’d like to see other art of mine related to the world of film music, CLICK HERE!

Happy 100th Birthday, Burbank?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Burbank, oh Burbank – what was THAT!?

Just two weeks ago I first learned that my fair city of Burbank, California, was going to be celebrating their 100 years of incorporation on July 8, 2011 with the “Party of the Century.” I myself chose to live in beautiful downtown Burbank fourteen years ago when first arriving in Southern California. The city is clean, well-groomed, quiet, and relatively safe. It reminded me of the town in which I grew up in New Jersey.

Burbank’s “Party of the Century” kicked off at 5pm Friday afternoon with the opening of a time capsule containing the history and treasures of the bygone days of 1986. I didn’t get home until 7 from my job in another town, so I missed seeing the mayor pull out a pair of leg warmers and a Born in the U.S.A. album. Missing the opening ceremonies did not dampen my enthusiasm for getting down to the promised giant pedestrian party being held on 4 or 5 blocks of San Fernando and even part of Olive.

While walking to downtown, I could imagine the wafting scents of funnel cake, popcorn and cotton candy. Thoughts of sizzling marinated BBQ were making my mouth water! Finish it off with snow cones, Italian ice or ice cream! Maybe they’ll have bounce houses for the kids! There surely will be a plethora of face painters, balloons, carnival games, contests for families – perhaps a great commemorative T-shirt to buy, maybe local artisans with wares! Will the local equestrian community trot out their horses for pony rides? Or will the LA Zoo next to town have a petting area with non-dangerous animals? All are things one would dare hope for at a great street fair!

Arriving on the Media Center Mall end of the strip, my excitement could hardly contain itself! There were THOUSANDS of people on the street! First thing to see was a stage where some girls were doing a dance demo. Ok, not my speed. Moving forward, there was a line of about 30 people waiting to see a lone balloon animal maker. Oh well, on to see what was beyond that first block. I was on the hunt for a grilled savory piece of meat.

Meat? Not yet. To the left there were three vendors – a honey vendor, fruit, and flowers – three booths common at our weekly Farmer’s Market. Little did I realize at that moment that they were the ONLY vendors at the event selling anything!

The town certainly had the entertainment covered. I’ll grant them that. Total there were 4 1/2 stages with various groups performing. I spoke to the sax player of a zoot-suited band who told me they traveled over from Idaho for our shin dig. Idaho. Not Burbank. Not even from LA.

The tents started at this point. Now I should find those street fair goodies I am looking for. Nope. The tents almost entirely featured Burbank services (library, credit union, fire dept., etc) or businesses that were in some fashion associated with Burbank’s government (airport, Cusumano Real Estate who owns half the town, Lockheed Martin, etc.). Most were just giving away pamphlets advertising their services. If you were lucky, you could get a pin or a stick-on tattoo.

Where was the fun?

 

Bob "Burbank" Hope

I’m sure the Burbank City Council is slapping themselves on the back – one council member told a friend of mine that 28,000 people were in attendance. If the goal was to support the Burbank businesses who happened to border the party area, then congratulations on a job well-done. There were lines out the door of any restaurant you could find because they were the only source of food or drink (and incapable of handling 10,000 people let alone 28,000).

But this was supposed to be a celebration of our whole city. Why didn’t I see tables of food from longtime Burbank businesses like The Smokehouse, or Chili John’s, or Coral Cafè, or Santoro’s, or Giamela’s, or Riverside Cafè, Bob’s Big Boy (oldest one in the country!), Pinocchio’s, Tony’s Bella Vista, or even that dude down on Magnolia who grills up all kinds of meats on Saturdays for his customers?

Our town is where movies are made. Why didn’t anyone think to construct a giant screen somewhere showing clips of films and TV shows shot on the streets of Burbank? Back to the Future, Clint Eastwood films, Apollo 13, CSI, Parks & Recreation, even Jurassic Park: The Lost World which shot on the very street where we were “partying”.

Where were the family activities to inspire civic pride? How about a William Mulholland Dunk Tank (he built the aqueducts for LA), a Luther Burbank Fruit Smoothie stand, a Luther Burbank look-a-like contest, performances from our local senior center talent show, or one from one of our award-winning high school groups? Maybe a Bob “I used to own Burbank” Hope impersonator doing a USO themed act using Burbankisms as a part of it? NBC, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., ABC, and even Universal Studios all have a leg in Burbank, and the town is home to many of their workers – why didn’t they have a strong presence at the festival?

I did hear that the fireworks were ok. I skipped them. After wandering around for an hour and a half with nothing to do and a grumbling stomach, I was home by 8:45 without having spent a dime and with my spirit crushed that my town had failed my expectations so miserably. The craft fairs held there in the past were more exciting.

So, congratulations on your “Party of the Century” Burbank City Council. Please, next time call it “Party IN a Century” so my expectations won’t possibly have a chance to be dashed.

 

…From the Flat File: 2001 – Captain Traffic

Friday, February 18th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I was in some slow traffic on my way to work, when I was startled to see one of my creations giving me the thumbs up on the side of a mini-van that came up alongside of me. It was as if he was saying, “Good job on your driving, Citizen!” I had heard of the Captain Traffic van before, and yet had never seen it for myself. There he was promoting safe driving on a van that was passing me on the right.

Comedy Traffic School

Captain Traffic giving his thumbs up approval of my driving while on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles.

Back in 2001, I was working at Walt Disney Feature Animation. One of my friends there, Brett Drogmund, was leaving to form his own company that included a fully legal online traffic school here in California. He and his business partner wanted to have a character that would be the ambassador for the business. Together we created Captain Traffic, and not long afterwards, ComedyTrafficSchool.com was born.

I was fairly new to using Photoshop as an art tool at that time. The Captain was inked by hand, and colored in Photoshop. I was beginning to teach Photoshop to the other artists at Disney by day, and by night I was working on lots of Captain Traffic drawings and other cartoons that you can see on their website only if you are a bad driver and have paid for the course (which is only $13.95 these days!).

Captain Traffic

Here's the full drawing of what appears on the side of the ComedyTrafficSchool.com mini van.

If you’d like to see another piece starring Captain Traffic, there’s one on my website that was conceived to be like a comic book cover for Brett’s other website, TrafficSchoolUSA.com where the good Capt. also appears. You can see it by CLICKING HERE!

And if you are on Facebook, Captain Traffic now has his very own fan page which you can see by CLICKING HERE!

So, if you happen to be driving down a freeway in Southern California and you come across Captain Traffic, don’t be startled and swerve into your fellow commuters. But if you do, quickly jot down the phone number from the side of that van. You’re going to need it.

Walkin’ On Sunshine…

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Earlier this month I shared with you the art I did for the poster of a local Burbank production of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys stage play. If you missed it, you can refer to it by CLICKING HERE.

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend one of the performances that featured my friend Daniel Roebuck and Jim Roope. Danny has been an actor on the screen for many years (click here to see his credits), and was also responsible for producing and directing this production. Jim, while not usually an actor, normally spends his days as a news correspondent for CNN radio. The two did a marvelous job, and I was able to chat with them afterwards on the set where we took this shot of the three of us with one of the mini-posters featuring my art. Enjoy!

The Sunshine Boys

Daniel Roebuck, Chad Frye, and Jim Roope (who had already removed his prop spectacles depicted in the poster art).

Gladys

Friday, September 10th, 2010

You know what I think is a good time? If you said “going upholstery shopping” you would be wrong, and yet somehow I find myself compelled to write on this topic.

Just a little over a year ago, my folks moved from my childhood home in the suburbs of New Jersey to a home on the range in Delaware which most of my siblings and I descended upon last Christmas. For over thirty years we were used to the holiday sights, smells and activities that could be found in the shadow of New York City, and suddenly found ourselves in a cold, snowy plain with little activity to be viewed from the back porch of the new home. There are only so many games of Farkle, Uno and Skip-Bo to be played before a large family starts developing signs of cabin fever. What to do? What to do?

Well, if you were like us, I grabbed my plaid-lined jacket as everyone piled into the car one frigid white day and traveled an hour north to go UPHOLSTERY SHOPPING!!! Yippee doodle.

Yes, that’s right – thousands of bolts of cloth fabric greeted us at the store, all available for the astute decorator ready to deck their halls with plaids, fleur de lis, stripes and paisleys. My mother was on a mission to find material to recover her old dining room chairs to match the paint of her new dining room. My sister was on a mission to find something delightful to cover her nice old living room chair. I was on a mission to find a chair in the store on which I could retreat out of the way of their missions.

Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring along my sketchbook to draw in. Equally thankfully, the fabric store had the foresight to provide several comfortable chairs for husbands and sons to sit in. As I was making my imprint in a nice leather cushion with one part of me, another part of me was imprinting the blank pages of my sketchbook with doodles.

I soon was lost in the world of my imagination as my hand wielded the pencil about the pages, and then suddenly, there she was like a mirage calling to the thirsty desert traveller – GLADYS! She was a woman smiling, chatting, and enjoying her time tending to the needs of shoppers buying their last minute bolts of cloth to put under the tree. I’m not even sure that Gladys was her real name for she never revealed her real name to me – a true woman of mystery. But there stood this vixen in her cobalt blue sweatshirt and bobbed blonde hair with dark roots wearing a delightful pair of flower print pants with an elastic waistband. Not only was she beautiful, but she was practical. Oh glorious Gladys – where have you been all my life? It was at that moment that I knew I must draw her…

The coy and demure Gladys offering her siren call to unsuspecting holiday fabric shoppers.

The coy and demure Gladys offering her siren call to unsuspecting holiday fabric shoppers.

Then, just as unassuming as the day began, our time in the fabric store was at an end. I reluctantly closed my sketchbook and slowly walked to the door with a wistful look in my eye having an unfulfilled profession of love for Gladys. It’s just as well, though, as it never would have worked – she was clearly into flower prints, while I was into plaids.

The “LOST” Home Movie

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010
The cast from Steve Czarnecki's entry in the Walt Disney Studio's employee LOST video contest held in May of 2010.

The cast from Steve Czarnecki's entry in the Walt Disney Studio's employee LOST video contest held in May of 2010. Click on image to enlarge it.

While most of my posts here on my blog have to do with my drawings and paintings, once in awhile I get to play in other genres of the creative arts. This past spring provided just such an opportunity through my good friend Steve Czarnecki when he called me to see if I’d lend him a hand with a video contest his employer was hosting. His employer was Disney, and they were asking their employees to submit 30 second homemade videos pertaining to the end of their hit television series LOST on ABC. Today, the final season of LOST is released on DVD, so I thought it was a good day to show some of my behind-the-scenes photos of the LOST Series Finalè Event Promo Shoot culminating in showing you the final winning video!

When Steve called me, I could hear the hesitation in his voice. “Hey Chad, um, I………want you to play ‘Hurley’ in my video.” “Why the hesitation?” I thought. Was it because I had won the lottery and then was abandoned on an uncharted island? Nope, haven’t done that. Perhaps because I say “Duuude” a lot? Nope, I don’t say that (much). Perhaps because he knew I had a collection of plaid shirts? Nah. Perhaps we’ll never know.

The backyard was literally littered with airplane parts for "LOST" atmosphere.

The backyard was literally littered with airplane parts for "LOST" atmosphere.

The director (at right) surveying his set.

The director (at left) surveying his set.

Some details could ruin your appetite.

Some details could ruin your appetite.

Steve’s shoot took place all day on a beautiful Saturday. My call time was early in the morning when my speaking part would be filmed. When I arrived, you could see that Steve pulled out all the stops. He had borrowed airplane parts from a salvage yard and had strewn them across his backyard. He had borrowed costumes (I – ahem – brought my own wardrobe), had made props, fog machines, a quality camera, and folks who knew how to use them! This was going to be quite a production!

Not only was the set looking mighty fine – Steve had arranged for some other surprises as well. The reason for my early call time was so that I could work with Daniel Roebuck who actually played Dr. Leslie Arzt on the actual show. Danny was a good sport about coming out and reprising his character for Steve’s short film. Without giving it away, his involvement really made the contest entry sparkle!

Daniel Roebuck (on the right) known for his various roles from "Matlock", "The Fugitive" and many other shows and movies.

Daniel Roebuck (on the right) known for his various roles from "Matlock", "The Fugitive" and many other shows and movies.

Director of Photography Josh Turchetta shooting a scene with Steve Czarnecki, Daniel Roebuck, and another friend.

Director of Photography Josh Turchetta shooting a scene with Steve Czarnecki, Daniel Roebuck, and another friend playing a Dharma Initiative worker.

Dr. Leslie Arzt (Daniel Roebuck) and Hugo 'Hurley' Reyes (Chad Frye) with a bucket of Mr. Cluck's Chicken.

Dr. Leslie Arzt (Daniel Roebuck) and Hugo 'Hurley' Reyes (Chad Frye) with a bucket of Mr. Cluck's Chicken.

After our morning shoot, I was able to take off for a couple of hours while the guys worked on some special effects shots, then I came back for the party scene. And what a scene! Other folks imitating characters from the show were there, along with three more performers who had small parts on the actual LOST show. Instead of babbling on about it here, I’ll let the pictures tell the story….

Inside the house, Steve Czarnecki is seen here directing his cast on how they should act when a steady cam will roam around them.

Inside the house, Steve Czarnecki is seen here directing his cast on how they should act when a steady cam will roam around them.

Many details were a part of the set such as food items with Dharma Initiative labels, and this drawing of "LOST" producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse with a polar bear.

Many details were a part of the set such as food items with Dharma Initiative labels, and this drawing of "LOST" producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse with a polar bear.

Sterling Beaumon who played the young Ben Linus on "LOST" was a part of the contest shoot.

Sterling Beaumon who played the young Ben Linus on "LOST" was a part of the contest shoot.

Yes, we even had Dharma Initiative scientists.

Yes, we even had Dharma Initiative scientists - some with battle damage!

Even the real Nadia (Sayid's doomed love on "LOST") came out to play with us - Andrea Gabriel.

The real Nadia (Sayid's doomed love on "LOST") came out to play with us - Andrea Gabriel. And no, that's not my real hair, though I do think that is Andrea's real hair.

We even had Walt's dog in our shoot. I had charge of him in some shots. He was very easy to control since I was holding that bucket of chicken all the time. That's also his real hair.

We even had Walt's dog in our shoot. I had charge of him in some shots. He was very easy to control since I was holding that bucket of chicken all the time. That's also his real hair.

Erin Cottrell, known for her role of Missie LaHaye in movie adaptations of Janette Oke books.

Erin Cottrell, known for her role of Missie LaHaye in movie adaptations of Janette Oke books.

Our fearless director, Steve Czarnecki, who should be smiling. He won an iPad for all his efforts.Our fearless director, Steve Czarnecki, who should be smiling. He won an iPad for all his efforts.
Our fearless director's daughter, Lindalee Czarnecki.
Our fearless director’s daughter, Lindalee Czarnecki.

Neil Hopkins, who played "Liam Pace", Charlie's brother and co-founder of the band "Driveshaft".
Neil Hopkins, who played “Liam Pace”, Charlie’s brother and co-founder of the band “Driveshaft”.

And our final parting shot of my friend Doug Engalla on the left, our version of John Locke, and then yours truly.
And our final parting shot of my friend Doug Engalla on the left, our version of John Locke, and then yours truly.

As I mentioned above, Steve Czarnecki did win the grand prize in the studio contest for his work. You can watch the video below. My only complaint is that with all the great stuff and talent at our disposal – the video is too short. But contest rules are contest rules, so 30 seconds it is! (Complete with voiceover at the end by Bill Rogers, the official announcer of Disneyland!)

The 2010 NCS Reuben Awards – Part 4

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

The annual Reuben Awards weekend this year was not content to lay back and be relaxed on the Sunday after the actual awards ceremony as it has been in years past. Usually after the big night when shiny things had been handed out, the next day has a leisurely brunch, and then a dinner at night.

This year marked the first time that three days of seminars were held during a Reubens. Yes, count ‘em up – 1, 2, and 3 days of seminars. I, for one, was excited about it. Each year the convention is held in a different city, but as far as I’m concerned, where it is held is inconsequential because rarely do I leave the hotel until  the conclusion of the convention. Every seminar had a bit of gold in it as my colleages had many great things to share on different aspects of our very cool business.

Sunday, May 30

This view greeted us from the top floor of the hotel. In the foreground is a historic train station, just beyond that is Ellis Island where relatives of mine entered this country, and then a familiar green statue.

This view greeted us from the top floor of the hotel. In the foreground is a historic train station, just beyond that is Ellis Island where relatives of mine entered this country, and then a familiar green statue.

My personal experience this fine sunny morning was to attend a breakfast business meeting with the NCS Foundation, of which I am a board member. The Foundation serves to give financial support to worthy causes in relation to our profession, as well as helping cartooning colleagues who have need of financial assistance due to dire circumstances. Earlier this year we ran a fundraiser called “Help the Hodges” to help a cartoonists family in need. In addition, each year we bestow the Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship Award to a worthy college junior or senior who displays a knack for possibly joining our profession upon graduation. (The award is substantial, and includes a trip to The Reubens.)

The first activity for all the convention attendees came by way of a panel discussion led by MAD Magazine‘s Tom Richmond discussing a trip many of our members took with the USO to draw for our troops at war. Joined by Pearls Before Swine‘s Stephan Pastis, Baby BluesRick Kirkman, and Family CircusJeff Keane, Tom shared many photos of their ten-day trip to Germany, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Rick Kirkman and Tom Richmond talking about their USO trip to American troops overseas.

Rick Kirkman and Tom Richmond talking about their USO trip to draw for American troops overseas.

Stephan Pastis ("Pearls Before Swine") caught in a candid moment during the USO talk.

Stephan Pastis ("Pearls Before Swine") caught in a candid moment during the talk about the USO trip to arid Iraq where, apparently, he developed a fear of running out of water.

Doug Bratton with Chad Frye who were acquainted in high school days in New Jersey, only to discover that each had gotten into cartooning all these years later  when meeting up for

Doug Bratton with Chad Frye who were acquainted in high school days in New Jersey, only to discover that each had gotten into cartooning all these years later when meeting up for the first time in over 20 years.

Animation artist Mark Simon who found a creative way to display "The Family Circus" 50th anniversary pin from our goody bags.

Animation artist Mark Simon who found a creative way to display "The Family Circus" 50th anniversary pin from our goody bags.

The second seminar of the afternoon celebrated the tenth anniversary year of the comic strip Six Chix. If you aren’t aware of this strip, it’s a daily humor strip written and drawn by six terrific female cartoonists – each taking different days to do their thing. Four of the Chix (Rina Piccolo, Anne Gibbons, Isabella Bannerman, and Stephanie Piro) were on the panel to talk about their work.

Rina Piccolo, who is also known for her comic "Tina's Groove", talking about her experience as one of the "Six Chix".

Rina Piccolo, who is also known for her comic "Tina's Groove", talking about her experience as one of the "Six Chix".

Anne Gibbons of "Six Chix" doing her best Apple laptop ad.

Anne Gibbons of "Six Chix" doing her best Apple laptop ad.

Isabella Bannerman sharing her tales of being a part of "Six Chix".

Isabella Bannerman sharing her tales of being a part of "Six Chix".

Speaking of comic strips, many folks who draw them happen to be members of the National Cartoonists Society, and many comic strip artists were in attendance at this year’s convention. In a cruel, yet darkly humorous twist of fate, the local Jersey newspaper, The Newark Star-Ledger, delivered their supply of Sunday papers to the Hyatt that morning FORGETTING to include the comics section.

Brian Crane (artist of the "Pickles" comic strip) about to do a blindfolded drawing experiment for David Folkman.

Brian Crane (artist of the "Pickles" comic strip) about to do a blindfolded drawing experiment for David Folkman.

The Hudson River flowed beneath us crowded with Sunday boaters including a Mark Twain era paddlewheel boat!

The Hudson River flowed beneath us crowded with Sunday boaters including a Mark Twain era paddlewheel boat!

"The Secret of Kells" character designer Barry Reynolds as he adds a creepy something to my sketchbook collection of monster drawings.

"The Secret of Kells" character designer Barry Reynolds as he adds a creepy something special to my sketchbook collection of monster drawings.

The last seminar of the convention was conducted by my friend and extremely talented character designer Stephen Silver. Stephen teaches character design for the online school called Schoolism.com. Lately he has taken it upon himself to film great cartoonists in their studios talking about their work, and even doing full-blown drawing demos all for some documentaries viewable only on Schoolism.com. The first documentary about Mort Drucker is completed, and Stephen is currently editing ones on Archie Comics’ Stan Goldberg and The LockhornsJohn Reiner. After showing a teaser on all three documentaries, John Reiner, Stan Goldberg, Lockhorns writer Bunny Hoest, and former MAD Magazine editor Nick Meglin (representing Mort Drucker who could not attend) all joined Stephen on stage to discuss these documentaries.

Animation character designer Stephen Silver talking about his documentary series about great cartoonists.

Animation character designer Stephen Silver talking about his documentary series about great cartoonists.

John Reiner and Stan Goldberg seem to be eyeing Bunny Hoest's hat to make sure it doesn't spring to life.

John Reiner and Stan Goldberg seem to be eyeing Bunny Hoest's hat to make sure it doesn't spring to life.

Nick Meglin as he talks about the Mort Drucker documentary that Stephen Silver put together.

Nick Meglin as he talks about the Mort Drucker documentary that Stephen Silver put together.

Illustrator Ed "King of New York" Steckley.

Illustrator Ed "King of New York" Steckley in the foreground, while the Empire State Building punctures a little rain cloud in the background soaking three blocks of NYC.

A nice closer view of The Statue of Liberty with a little of the main building on Ellis Island in the foreground.

A nice closer view of The Statue of Liberty taken from the Jersey City Hyatt with a little of the main building on Ellis Island in the foreground.

After the last seminar of the day, it was time to have one last night of fun together. The NCS gathered in the main ballroom of the hotel for some dinner and a show. The show was a fun time led by The New Yorker Magazine cartoonist Matt Diffee. Matt had several cartoonists on stage (David Sipress, Emily Flake, Mike Lynch, Drew Dernavich, Jeff Stahler, and Michael Kupperman) for a bit of improv comedy cartoonists style.

As is common with improv comedy, folks from the audience shouted out various nouns and adjectives, and Matt had the six guest cartoonists draw a cartoon based on those suggestions in a battle to the  death. Well, not death exactly, but it was a mildly cutthroat battle of wits, except minus the cutthroat part. What it was, was FUNNY.

"New Yorker Magazine" cartoonist Matt Diffee hosting the "Gag Smackdown" Sunday night at the Reubens.

"New Yorker Magazine" cartoonist Matt Diffee hosting the "Gag Smackdown" Sunday night at the Reubens.

Those entertained by the "smackdown" were Linda Houden, "New Yorker" cartoonist Mort Gerberg, and David Folkman.

Those entertained by the "smackdown" were Linda Houden, "New Yorker" cartoonist Mort Gerberg, and David Folkman.

The great Mell Lazarus ("Momma") enjoying the on stage doodling.

The great Mell Lazarus ("Momma") enjoying the on stage doodling.

Cartoonists Mike Lynch and Drew Dernavich in the throws of battle.

Cartoonists Mike Lynch and Drew Dernavich in the throws of battle.

To keep the audience entertained while the cartoonists drew their instant cartoons, Matt Diffee had invited the comedy duo of  Stuckey & Murray. Together with an accordian player, Stuckey & Murray delivered their comedy by way of humorous songs they wrote. A few too many of us cartoonists in the audience could relate to one they sang about a grown man who can’t stop wearing his Looney Tunes shirt. At any rate, these fellas will be appearing on Last Comic Standing on NBC this season, so perhaps all will get to know the names of Stuckey & Murray very soon.

The comedy team of Stuckey & Murray with their accordianist. No comedy team should go without one.

The comedy team of Stuckey & Murray with their accordianist. No comedy team should go without one.

Peter Gallagher ("Heathcliff"), Patti Pomeroy (part of the "B.C." team) and Greg Walker ("Hi & Lois" and "Beetle Bailey") among the many in the room.

Peter Gallagher ("Heathcliff"), Patti Pomeroy (part of the "B.C." team) and Greg Walker ("Hi & Lois" and "Beetle Bailey") among the many in the room.

NCS President Jeff Keane enjoying the last night's event that he didn't have to work.

NCS President Jeff Keane enjoying the last night's event that he didn't have to work.

Matt Diffee, the Stuckey & Murray team, and Chad Frye. (One item of trivia for you folks at home - Chad and Matt have known each other since college where they were both art majors and brothers in the same fraternity.)

Matt Diffee, the Stuckey & Murray team, and Chad Frye. (One item of trivia for you folks at home - Chad and Matt have known each other since college where they were both art majors and brothers in the same fraternity.)

Following the show, the socializing continued into the night in the hotel’s lobby. Here are a few bonus shots from that part of the evening:

In an attempt at getting a candid shot of Tom Gammill chatting with Matt Diffee, Wendy Peng jumped into the shot just as the shutter was clicking.

In an attempt at getting a candid shot of Tom Gammill chatting with Matt Diffee, Wendy Peng jumped into the shot just as the shutter was clicking.

Humorous Illustrator Bucky Jones chatting with Wiley Miller ("Non Sequitur" comic strip).

Humorous Illustrator Bucky Jones chatting with Wiley Miller ("Non Sequitur" comic strip).

"Foxtrot" cartoonist Bill Amend

"Foxtrot" cartoonist Bill Amend

Jerry Van Amerongen ("Ballad Street") explaining the minutia of something to "The New Yorker Magazine's" Matt Diffee and George Booth.

Jerry Van Amerongen ("Ballad Street") explaining the minutia of something to "The New Yorker Magazine's" Matt Diffee and George Booth.

The following morning many departed for their homes across the globe. One last parting shot of New York City might be in order….

New York City, Memorial Day weekend, 2010

New York City, Memorial Day weekend, 2010

You know, many artists work at home by themselves in a fairly isolated environment. Connected only by the phone and the internet, we create our art, send it out, and many of you get to see the results. These annual treks to the Reuben Awards are such a welcome opportunity to break away from the seclusion to greet friends and colleagues for several days. We’re just people enjoying the company of each other, swapping back slaps and stories.

Arriving back in Los Angeles, I had one final reminder of the amazing impact our isolation can have. Not two days before I was chatting as colleagues with Steve Brodner, a pretty cool guy who does pretty cool art. As I was going down an escalator in the LAX airport on my way to the baggage claim area, I glided under this giant signage illustrated by Steve. The world of cartooning sure is fun!

A large ad (perhaps 50 feet across) by Steve Brodner in the LAX airport.

A large ad (perhaps 50 feet across) by Steve Brodner in the LAX airport.