Dec 29, 2010

The Dangers Of Texting

The Last Text

I don't text very often, mostly because I like my communication the old fashioned way: in person. Lots of people do text, though, very often while they're driving.

Do you do this? If so, watch this short documentary about how a simple text message behind the wheel can end your life. People who have lost loved ones, or who have taken someone's life because of texting, tell their stories in this ten minute video.

There is no text that's worth dying for, as these people found out the hardest way possible. The next time you (or your friend) are tempted to text while driving, remember this video. Keep your eyes on the road and remember how much you could lose.

Update: a Blackberry phone outage that affected texters world wide was linked to a dramatic drop in traffic accidents. When people couldn't text in their cars, they paid more attention to their driving. Imagine that!  LINK

Dec 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas From Magnum Arts!

This holiday season I have a lot to be thankful for; my health, my new wife, my new house, my extended family in the 501st Legion, and, of course, the ability to teach drawing skills at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Last month a friend of mine in the Legion passed away unexpectedly, another sobering reminder of how precious life is. I know, it's a hokey, over-used expression, but every day you have should be cherished and savored, even when you don't feel like it. My path has crossed a lot of others' paths, including some of you reading this, and for that I'm thankful. 

My sincere wishes to you and your loved ones for a fulfilling, safe and happy holiday season. And on that note, enjoy this post from the fantastic blog Golden Age Comic Book Stories: the 1931 edition of The Night Before Christmas. See you next year!

Dec 21, 2010

Universal Studios At Christmas Time

Downtown Disney and Universal Studios were lit up for the holidays, and I visited the new Harry Potter portion of the Universal Studios theme park. Here is my report, with pictures.

Downtown Disney was filled with holiday lights and decorations. A fun (albeit heavily commercialized) place to visit this time of year

Above Left: the fountain in Downtown Disney changes color
Above Right: The Lego dragon, with the Rainforest Cafe across the pond

An army of stuffed toys waiting to be purchased

Three tired visitors overseen by a huge mouse

There is something kind of creepy about this army of Barbie dolls being disgorged from a dress in one of the window displays

The Harry Potter section of Universal was very well constructed but incredibly crowded. I waited an hour just to get into that section of the park

The castle, which is smaller than it looks because of clever detailing, was very impressive. This is where the main ride is located, where you fly on a broomstick

There were so many people in Harry Potter land it was hard to actually get back to the main part of the park. This part of the park was poorly designed

A traditional roller coaster opposite the castle

The Dr. Seuss trolley ride was mainly for kids but gave an nice overhead tour of the park

The Sinbad stunt show was kind of hokey, but had some impressive special effects (see photos below, click for larger image)

Left: The huge entrance to the Poseidon show; Right: The Grinch was big in the gift shops

An army of Grinches waiting to be taken home

Dec 12, 2010

Student Artwork

There's a new category on the Magnum Arts Blog, one that showcases the drawings and illustrations of students in the Cartooning and Drawing classes. Do you want to see your work on the Magnum Arts blog? Let me know! The first post in this category has work by two students.

Lindsey is fourteen, has been a regular student of mine for years. She is extremely talented and intelligent, which can be a challenge, believe it or not. The challenge is how to push such students to the next level, to help them improve their technique.

In Lindsey's case, the answer was to encourage her to explore her whimsical, playful side in her art. Lindsey's art tends to be extremely accurate with an almost architectural precision and level of detail. She strives to be as hyper-accurate as possible.

But sometimes less realism is better. So I brought in a copy of Go, Dog. Go!, one of my favorite children's storybooks. It's all about dogs, and dogs racing around in cars. How cool is that??

Compare Lindsey's drawing to the page she copied, below:

Here's another of Lindsey's illustrations from Go, Dog. Go!:

Caroline is a new student, around the same age as Lindsey, and was nice enough to let me post one of her illustrations. 

Caroline is extremely talented, which again, poses the question, how do you push her to the next level? In her case, the next step is to learn to polish off her illustrations by making them cleaner by reducing the slightly sketch-y quality.

Another direction would be to create detailed backgrounds, and to think outside the box. What can you do with these creations? What kind of personalities do they have? What kinds of situations would they find themselves in?

Thank you, Lindsey and Caroline, for letting me share your work!

Interesting Art Links


Comic book and graphic novel artists (usually independent ones) will create samples of their work that they give away free in order to generate interest, and hopefully sales. They will have a short stack of them at the tables they sit behind at comic book and costuming conventions, and this is an excellent place to meet and talk with artists, and help inspire you in your own art. If you are interested in developing as an artist, going to art-related events should be part of your schedule of activities.

I picked up this short comic book a few years ago at a comic book convention, and one of my Cartooning and Drawing students expressed interest in the illustration style, which tends to be manga-oriented. The inside of the booklet reads:

The pages collected here are the concepts of characters and scenes from the upcoming LEEWARD ECLIPSE graphic novel series. These images represent the sets, people, vessels and artistic style created by artist Michael S Bramson.

I like to give free publicity to artists when I can; my objective in scanning images from this comic book is to guide interested readers to the site where the work can be purchased. The website for Firepoint Studios is HERE. There isn't a lot on the website, just a few images, and no way to buy any of the images, or a graphic novel from which these images are taken.

I did find a place to buy the comic book by Michael S. Bramson. It's only $2.00, which is very reasonable if you like his style. If you do, head over and order a copy. Tell him Magnum Arts sent you! The link is HERE.

Jurassic Park

This comic book was done by Topps, the same company that creates the trading cards with a stick of bubble gum inside. The company has a huge portfolio of trading cards for TV, sports and movies, and Wacky Packages. 

This comic book has the stiff, heavy trading-card quality you'd expect from a bubble gum card publisher. With the artwork heavy handed and characters rendered with the subtlety of a sheet metal press, this is an uninspired comic book adaptation to a great movie.

Look at the shading of the faces, with the heavy emphasis on lines, seemingly thrown onto the face at random in an effort to give them some depth. The characters instead look like children who have been thrashed by the town bully.

Subtle this artwork isn't.

Dec 8, 2010

Origins of Santa Claus

During this holiday season it seems like a good time to explore the imagery of Santa Claus. We all know what Santa looks like now: he's fat, jolly, old and wears the famous red jacket with the white furry trim. He's like a big, super generous grandfather.

But how exactly did this image come about? Read this post to find out, and to find out how Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer was created.

(image courtesy of

The Origins of Santa Claus

According to Wikipedia, the character of Santa Claus was inspired and influenced by the Dutch, with a character called Sinterklaas, a traditional Dutch figure also known as Sint Nicolaas, or Saint Nicholas. The character is celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas' eve (December 5th) or, in Belgium, on the morning of 6 December. Sinterklass is also celebrated in a variety of eastern and European countries as well, with differing traditions from country to country.

As far as where the Sinterklass character came from, there are apparently a variety of theories, stemming from pagan rituals, to Germanic culture. Through the years, the character has evolved and changed depending on the religious and social trends of the time. A complete history of Sinterklass can be found here

Sinterklass has his origins in early Christianity; the source being Saint Nicholas (left), a 4th century Greek bishop from Myrna, which is now Turkey. His generous gifts to the poor were partly responsible for his fame. In the 10th century, Italian sailors raided Saint Nicholas' reliquary and took his remains to Bari, Italy, where they remain to this day.

(image source:

So from St. Nicholas in the 4th century, through the evolving traditions of Sinterklass throughout European history, came the next transformation: the blending of Sinterklass with Father Christmas, a figure that represents Christmas in many English-speaking countries. Father Christmas actually wore a green suit in the Tudor period of the 1500s-1600s. While Father Christmas and Santa Claus eventually merged into one character, Father Christmas was originally a very different character, not associated with gift giving, or children. The earliest known reference to Father Christmas was an anonymous Christmas carol written in the 15th century:
Goday, goday, my lord Sire Christëmas, goday!
Goday, Sire Christëmas, our king,
for ev'ry man, both old and ying,
is glad and blithe of your coming;
(source: Wikipedia)

The character appeared over the next 250 years, wearing a green robe until his more modern form began to emerge. The first person to use the name Santa Claus was writer Washington Irving in the 1809 book History of New York, in which he "Americanized" the name Sinterklass, depicting him as wearing a green coat, sporting a pipe and being an obese Dutch sailor. This was intended to be satire, a humorous depiction, but the image brought Santa Claus one step further to the figure we know today.

Fourteen years later, in 1823, the poem The Night Before Christmas was published anonymously, but has been attributed to both Clement Clark Moore as well as  Henry Livingston Jr. and cemented Santa Claus into popular culture as a round, jolly figure who came down chimneys and left presents under the tree, traveling by reindeer (even naming them) in a flying sled.

The poem firmly cemented almost all of the now-familiar traits and details about Santa Claus. Before this poem, ideas about Santa Claus were diverse and varied.

The poem:
To see the excellent 1931 original printing of this poem, illustrations and all, click HERE

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

The poem above was written in 1823, and in 1863, the American cartoonist Thomas Nast crew a cartoon of Santa Claus for the magazine Harper's Weekly, a political magazine published between 1857 until 1916,  featuring foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many subjects, and humor. Nast was a hugely influential cartoonist whose drawings affected elections, and could bring down politicians. Nast's final illustration for Harper's Weekly was his drawing of Santa Claus, visiting an army camp during the civil war,  depicting him as being plump and bearded. 

In 1897, Virginia O'Hanlon, then 8 years old and filled with doubts about Santa Claus, and hearing claims by her class mates that there was no such thing as Santa Claus, wrote a letter to The New York Sun newspaper, asking if Santa Claus was real, or was he just made up, as her friends insisted?

The letter was answered on September 21st, 1897, in an anonymous editorial, written by a former Civil War reporter Francis P. Church. The response was a five paragraph editorial; here's the first paragraph:

"VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge." To see the entire editorial click HERE.

The Coca-Cola Campaign
In the 1930s, the American artist Hubbard "Sunny" Sundblom created images of Santa for the Coca Cola company that even further cemented the Santa Claus imagery in popular culture. The advertising campaign for Coke was extraordinarily effective and defined Santa Claus as he is now known.

From there, movies, radio and television built upon this character until the mythology of Santa Claus is now firmly established. 

Santa Claus lives at the North Pole (even though the north pole is all water and has no land), where he has a factory where he makes the toys and gifts for all the good boys and girls all over the world. He travels in a big sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer. As to how he can visit each home in just one night while everyone is asleep is generally attributed to a magical power that Santa Claus has, as is his ability to fit all of the loot into one sack that fits in the back of his sleigh. He comes down the chimney with his sleigh and reindeer waiting for him on the roof of each house he visits.

 The Origins of Rudolph

It was the executives at the department store chain Montgomery Ward who created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 

The year was 1939, and the Great Depression was still a drag on store sales, not to mention the war and its effect on American minds. The executives at Montgomery Ward, one of the largest retails in the country at its height, needed something fresh to get customers excited about Christmas. The traditional poems and carols (including The Night Before Christmas) all seemed dated and tired even back then. 

So they asked a company copywriter called Robert May to create a new angle on Christmas. May ended up creating a poem about a little reindeer who was shunned because he was different, but ending up the hero at the end. The executives at Montgomery Ward printed the poem in a book, with illustrations by Denver Gillen, and gave out 2.5 million copies that Christmas.

People latched onto the underdog who ended up triumphing at the end, a tale that seemed especially poignant considering how difficult childhood can be, and the on-going war against Hitler.  Over 100,000 copies of the book were sold during he 1947-1948 Christmas seasons, and then, of course, along came the song.

May's brother-in-law Johnny Marks, created a song based on the poem, sung by Gene Autry in 1949, selling two million copies in the first season it was released. The legend of Rudolph was born. Hundreds of licensed Rudolph-related products were created, and in 1964 the Christmas special was broadcast, a stop-motion program produced by Rankin/Bass, adding some additional characters to the story, like Yukon Cornelius and Clarice, the female reindeer.

Source: It's A Wonderful Christmas: The Best Of The Holidays 1940-1965 by Susan Waggoner

Nov 28, 2010

Rock'n'Roll Christmas

This post has absolutely nothing to do with drawing or cartooning, and you know what? I don't care! My new wife and I are decorating our new house and George Thorogood is helping me get into the Christmas spirit.

This clip is from MTV, back in the early eighties, when it was cool, unlike today. Today, MTV is filled with garbage reality shows starring materialistic, self-absorbed twenty somethings who think the world owes them a living. Back when MTV was a brand new channel, it showcased cutting edge music, had celebrity guest hosts, cool animation and musical specials, and was broadcast from a barn-like loft. 

This video was broadcast live on MTV, a rockin' Christmas party starring the cast and crew of MTV with George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. Enjoy, and...

Oct 26, 2010

Minecart Animation

I'm loving this awesome computer animation and the cool music that goes with it. Sit back and enjoy!

Oct 18, 2010

The Criminalization Of Photography

Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium - "I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery"

Government Admits There Is No Law Preventing Photography In Public of Federal Buildings

October 18, 2010 
The government was forced to admit that there is no law prohibiting the taking of pictures of federal buildings such as courthouses, settling a year-long lawsuit brought by Antonio Musumeci, who was arrested on Nov. 9, 2009 after using a hand-held camera to record a protester in a public plaza outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

During the arrest, federal officers forced Musumeci to the pavement and confiscated video from his camera. They have yet to return his memory card, although the settlement requires the DHS to hand it over.  Musumeci was detained for about 20 minutes and issued a ticket for violating a federal regulation. That charge was later dismissed. On two subsequent occasions, federal officers threatened Musumeci with arrest after trying to record protests at the courthouse. 

“The courthouse plaza is public property paid for by taxpayers, and the public should not be prohibited from using video cameras there. Now people now can freely express their First Amendment right there without being harassed and arrested by federal officers,” said Musumeci, a resident of Edgewater, N.J.

In the settlement approved today by a federal judge in Manhattan, the federal government acknowledges that there are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit photography outside federal courthouses. It agreed to provide federal officers written instructions emphasizing the public’s right to photograph and record outside federal courthouses.

Even though Musumeci's camera was confiscated, he recorded the encounter using a pinhole camera which was not confiscated. No doubt this video provided powerful evidence against the word of the DHS. 

To see what it's like to be harassed by the police for taking pictures in public, watch the clip below:


UPDATE: As part of the settlement, the Department of Homeland Security released tto the public its bulleti emphasizing "the public's right to photograph the exterior of federal facilities" from "publicly accessible spaces such as streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas." It also states that in a field interview, "officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such 'orders' to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera."

This is a handy bulletin to carry with you, if you take pictures, available in a PDF format to print out. Get it HERE.  

Read the New York Times' recap of this case (with lots of links) HERE.  

The War On Cameras

Reason Magazine has a long but extremely well written article documenting the authorities' willful disregard of established case law to harass, imprison and obstruct the public videotaping of the police. Officials are fighting back against oversight by insisting, ludicrously, that police have a right to privacy in public, but that the public doesn't (when being recorded by dashboard cameras). Moreover, police dashboard cameras have conveniently stopped working in some cases when recording abuse of authority by police officers. The consensus of the article is that there is a lot of ambiguity about recording police officers, and this ambiguity is not good for the public, or the first amendment.

This is a good, albeit frustrating read. Check it out HERE. 

Visit the ACLU; click on the logo to take you there. The rights you have, you have because they were fought for