Thursday, October 04, 2012

How Do You Get Your Ideas?

Today I am working on a concept for my CreationWise comic strip which is due on Friday. My usual method of jump-starting my brain to come up with ideas is to surf around online and look at different cartoons by favorite cartoonists and search for images related to the subject matter I want to deal with in my cartoon. I'll also go to web sites that have articles on the topic to give myself lots of information to use for ideas. And such was the case yesterday and today, but THE concept was playing hard to get, until I went to lunch. 

I heated my lunch in the AiG staff break room, and found the comics page in the local newspaper that is usually waiting on one of the lunch tables. I eat early to beat the crowd and enjoy the quiet. While eating my lunch and reading the comic strips, seemingly out of nowhere, THE concept hit me like a ton of bricks! Good thing I had my pad of paper and a pencil with me to capture the idea before it leaked out of my head.

Today's tips for creativity:

1. Fill your brain with lots of info on what you want to draw about.
2. Take a break from your work and relax your brain.
3. Be ready for your brain keep working as you relax and to produce the idea you're looking for!

It's funny how often I've sat glued to my office chair working hard trying to force my brain to come up with the idea I must have NOW! After all these years of cartooning, I should know that to save myself LOTS of time, I need to get up out of my chair and relax my brain to let it do it's best work. It's seems the opposite of what I should do, but that's what really works!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Is Dan Lietha in a Wheelchair?"

Last Sunday a couple of Creation Museum staff members told me that they'd been asked by some visitors to the museum if I was in a wheelchair. In fact, the people asking the question said they were currently having a debate in their family over this question. This puzzled me. What would cause anybody to think that I use a wheelchair? 

Admittedly, as a cartoonist/illustrator, I sit for a living and that's one thing about my profession that I don't particularly care for because of what it does to a person's body. Late last year I had a solution to my sitting all day problem, but things changed and that's not possible anymore. The only time I'd actually sat in a wheelchair in the last two or three decades was a little over a year ago when I was in the hospital for an appendectomy. Actually, now that I think about it, I was wheeled around twice during that hospital stay. The first ride was up to my room and the second wheelchair excursion delivered me to the exit doors so I could leave the hospital. The second ride, with me minus a very grumpy appendix, was MUCH better than the first ride, let me tell ya!

Now, I know that nobody took my picture during either of those wheelchair rides. So how is it that visitors to the Creation Museum would ask if I was in a wheelchair? After pondering this I thought of some photos that were taken of me drawing caricatures in Washington DC at the NEA conference. Photos that I posted to this very blog in my previous entry. The chair in question is one that I've used since the early 1990's to draw caricatures. If you see a photo of me sitting in it, without seeing the lower part of the chair, like the photo to the left, it could easily be mistaken for a wheelchair. Back up the camera and you can see that my chair is in fact, just a chair. It's funny that in all the years that I've sat in this chair, I've never come across this situation. Maybe I need to get a new caricature chair! It is getting pretty old.

So, to add further clarification, below you will find a photo of me not sitting, a rarity for sure. This photo was taken on the same day as the sitting photo that was, to my best guess, in question.  I hope this information and these photos are a comfort to all those that may have thought the same thing about my chair. Currently I'm walking, standing and even jogging (to the fridge) quite well. 

For the family that asked about me at the Creation Museum, thank you for your concern. I appreciate it very much! And thanks too for providing me with something to write about on my blog. :-) I hope you liked reading this entry as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Also, if there is anybody out there that would like to help me to be able to stand while I illustrate, I'd welcome a donation of the following art/computer desk or another product like it. But for now, without such a desk, when I illustrate, I sit. I can do no other.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Drawing a Crowd at the NEA Convention!

This past weekend (June 30-July 2nd) The National Education Association had their annual convention and this year it was in Washington DC. For the past 16 years or so, Answers in Genesis has participated in an outreach to the NEA at this yearly convention. Each year AiG makes an eye-catching banner with a slogan on it designed to capture the attention of attendees as they pass by the Creation Science Educators Caucus booth and a number of AiG staff as well as volunteers hand out materials and engage many in challenging conversation about various biblical issues, especially origins and salvation. It's quite an exciting and stretching time. See Ken Ham's blog report on this outreach here.

Late last year I mentioned that maybe they could use a caricature artist (me) at the NEA outreach this upcoming year. Those in leadership thought it was a good idea and as a result, my family and I got to go to DC this year.

We arrived at our DC hotel Friday night after a 9-10 hour drive from Northern Kentucky. That night as I was putting some final touches on my caricature signs, the power went out. Not a welcome situation as I had much yet to do, but this was merely a small inconvenience compared to the big picture of all that happened that night.  A terrible storm with gale-force winds hit the DC area leaving millions without power and no air-conditioning. This was a disaster for a weekend with temperatures around 100 degrees. At last report, I heard that 15 people died in that storm or in the aftermath of it. Thankfully, the power at our hotel was restored later that day.

On Saturday morning the outreach began at 9:00 by completing our set up of the booth and I finished taping together my caricature signs. When NEA attendees and vendors saw that caricatures were being offered for FREE, they began waiting before I had my easel and supplies in place to begin drawing. 

There were certainly those that came by our booth and were less than happy to see us at the convention. One man even had a protest sign and paced back and forth in front of our booth until he was removed by security. Some attendees argued and others looked annoyed as they passed by, but there were many others that engaged our people in open and willing discussion. I also chatted with many, many people as I drew their faces. AiG had provided quite a lot of my After Eden books among the free materials that we handed out and this was a popular and natural bridge for me to speak to my caricature subjects about what I do, why I do it and the thinking behind what I do. Even a cartoon book can be a witnessing tool for Christ! 

After a little over 2 full days of drawing, the grand total of people drawn was … drum roll please … 116! Yes, I counted. It was a challenge for me in many ways. My purpose in being there was to attract a crowd and that certainly worked. I had people lined up that waited 1.5 hours for me to draw their picture. WOW! The challenge wasn't just talking to the people that would come and sit in front of me, but that growing line of people to my right was a constant source of pressure. My desire was to say something meaningful to each person that sat in my chair and I had the opportunity to do that with a lot of them, but in the end, I shortened my drawing time to make sure the line didn't get too long and the wait too great. The line did however, provide a population for those I was with, to engage a literally captive audience as they waited for their turn to get a free caricature. So I did draw a crowd and I drew a crowd too!

Please pray for the people we were able to speak to and the thousands of dollars worth of materials that went out as well.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

An "Arm and a Leg" No More?

For the last year or so I have been using a certain bit of trivia that I heard on the radio to entertain people at the Creation Museum as I draw their caricatures. The trivia is that back in the days before cameras, if you wanted a picture of yourself or your family made, you hired a portrait artist to produce a painting. Supposedly the more the artist had to paint, the more it would cost. So to save money the people being painted would pose to hide arms and legs to give the artist less to paint, thereby saving themselves from paying "an arm and a leg" for the painting.

It sounded plausible enough to me and produced lots of laughs as I shared it with those I was drawing, until I looked it up online. Apparently, that take on the well-known phrase is not quite true. Bummer. See here. But that hasn't stopped me from sharing that false bit of trivia with my caricature customers. Now I just tell them that the people being painted posing to hide arms and legs explanation isn't true, and they still laugh anyway. So all is not lost.

Ironically, while researching the "an arm and a leg" phrase, I came across a joke that involves Adam, Eve and God in Eden as well as the phrase, "an arm and a leg". Will I be sharing this joke on Saturdays at the Creation Museum? In a word, no. But, I'll share it here:

Adam told God that he was lonely, so God said, "I will create a perfect companion for you who will always look after you, do all the house work, cook all the food, carry your children, look after you when you are sick, love and cherish you always. When you have an argument your companion will always be the first to say sorry because you were right."
That sounds too good to be true" said Adam. "How much will this cost me?"
And God said , "an arm and a leg." 
So Adam said, "what can I get for a rib?"

And the rest is History.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 31 - And the Winner is ...

Today is the final day of my blogging marathon and also the day I announce the winner of the "submit a blog topic contest." I reviewed all the submissions again one last time for good measure and the winner of the caricature is Dan Wooster. Dan's suggestions had a nice "outside the box" appeal to me and he also had quite a list of suggested topics. Topics and elements of the topics he submitted were used on days 9, 21, 26, 27, 28 and 29. Congrads Dan! By the way, no extra points came from Dan's most excellent first name. I will also send Dan an email letting him know of his first place finish in this contest.

I want to again thank all that participated in my contest. If you have any favorite blogs from the past 31 days, please let me know. 

I will continue to make blog entries on a somewhat regular basis, so please check back to see what's happening. There could be more contests in the future. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 30 - Yes, Today is My Birthday ...

Since today is my birthday, I thought I'd try something "different". I'll be adding updates to this same blog posting throughout the day. It'll be kind of a blog/tweet hybrid. So please check back periodically to see what I've added.

9:23am  Other March 30 babies include:

1853 - Vincent van Gogh, Groot-Zundert, Netherlands, artist, painter and pioneer of Expressionism (The Potato Eaters, Irises)

1913 - Marc Davis, American animator (d. 2000)

1917 - Herbert Anderson, actor (Henry-Dennis The Menace)

1937 - Warren Beatty, Richmond Va, actor (Bonnie & Clyde,Shampoo, Dick Tracy)

1942 - Graeme Edge, England, rock drummer (Moody Blues-Your Wildest Dreams)

1957 - Paul Reiser, NYC, actor (My 2 Dads, Diner, Aliens, Mad About You)

1952 - Peter Knights, Australian footballer and coach

1964 - Corey Millen, Cloquet, NHL center (Calgary Flames)
1964 - Dave Ellett, Cleveland, NHL defenseman (Toronto Maple Leafs)
1964 - Tracy Chapman, US singer/songwriter (Freedom Now, I Got a Fast Car)
1964 - Vlado Bozinovski, Australian former footballer
1964 - Ian Ziering, American actor

1965 - Piers Morgan, editor (Daily Mirror)

1968 -Singer Celine Dion (1968) Celine Dion, Quebec Canada, singer (I'm Your Woman)

1970 - Secreteriat, American racehorse, triple crown (1973) (d. 1989)

 1979 - Norah Jones, American singer and pianist (1979)

For the complete listing, go HERE
10:00am Today is After Eden day, and I am working on a birthday cartoon. Here's a possible beginning.

10:35am  Ideas added to original concept. The font I'm using won't do numbers. I'll have to hand letter those.

11:30am Ideas are still developing. I've added cake to the scene. It must've made me hungry because after I added the cake, I went and had lunch. Now I'm "back to the drawing board."

NOON  Final looks of the characters are coming out. 
Ken Ham stopped by my desk to see what I was working on. 

1:05 pm  Getting closer. The colors are just for filling spaces on their own layers at this point.

2:15pm Getting REALLY close now. As I put on finishing touches, I'm thinking of a caption. Hmmmm. What could bring this cartoon to a nice close?

2:45pm The caption has been added and the next step is to send the cartoon to the web department for them to post it to the Answers in Genesis web site. But first, I have to give the cartoon a title. To see what the title will be, go to the AiG homepage and scroll down to find today's After Eden cartoon which will be posted later today.

Keep checking back for more blog updates today!

3:35pm Looking for a CreationWise cartoon to use for the UK Newsletter. 
4:50pm Here's another birthday oriented After Eden. Enjoy!


7:56 pm I received a GREAT present today. I learned a close family member's cancer has not spread. Best news of the day. Praise the Lord!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 29 - Final Q&A for March 2012

As the month of March comes to a close, I want to post some of the blog topics that were sent in that I didn't get to use.  Thanks to all of you that participated. The winner of the caricature will be announced on the 31st. I've reserved tomorrow for a special posting. And now, on to the questions.

Q. How does a cartoon communicate truth?
 A. In many ways a cartoon communicates truth the same way as any other image by using visual elements that we understand and relate to. But in a cartoon, the artist can also get away with doing things to those elements that wouldn't necessarily work in another style of art. Cartoons also tend to attract viewer's attention and can be very disarming to the reader as well.

Q. Which cartoon has impacted you the most?
A. I can't think of one specific cartoon to use as the answer to this question, but perhaps the comic strip Peanuts has impacted me the most. Charles Schulz invented great characters, very funny gags and jokes, and even a bit of scripture and theology. I remember trying to draw Snoopy when I was very young. The Peanuts characters were probably the first HUGE cartoon influence in my life, and I still love them to this day.

Q. Who is the biggest VIP to ever see your cartoon?
A. In the late 1980's I did a caricature of The Detroit Tiger's radio announcer, Ernie Harwell. This caricature was commissioned by Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. The caricature was presented to Ernie at a dinner in his honor. I was invited to that dinner and saw the presentation. When the caricature was unveiled, Ernie reacted in delight and then asked where the artist was seated. I was pointed out and Ernie immediately made a beeline for me, shook my hand and thanked me. It was a moment I'll never forget. I was told that he really treasured that caricature.

Also, when I met Kirk Cameron, he told me he was a big fan of my work. That was pretty memorable too!

Q. What was the first cartoon you remember making?
A. It was probably the scribble I did on a wall in my family's house when I was just a toddler. I know it had to have been a cartoon. Sad thing about it was that it didn't make my parents laugh.

Q. What do cartoon and software have in common?
A. Both are better enjoyed when using an Apple computer, but some may debate me on that point.

Q. What is your most memorable experience (good or bad) encountered
while working at Answers in Genesis and how has it changed you?
A. Honestly, the moments that have humbled me and brought my view of myself down are the first that come to mind. I can't share details, but one episode many years ago during my time at AiG showed me that I am so much less than I thought I was. It was very hard to go through that time, but I am better for it.

Q. Things you can learn about yourself through your caricature
A. I haven't tried to caricature myself all that much. I guess maybe because I don't have a lot of facial qualities to make a REALLY good caricature. Back in 2003 I attended a caricature convention and it was 5 days of caricature artists in a large room drawing each other. I did get a few of them to draw me, but found that many didn't want to draw me because I lack a good quality caricature-able face. So that's probably the biggest thing I've learned about myself through caricature.

There were a few more questions and blog ideas submitted that I am not listing here. Perhaps I'll shed some light on those at another time. I hope you've enjoyed the blog entries this month. It's been a bit difficult to blog every day this month as things suddenly got crazy as the calendar turned into March, but it's also been a good exercise. Thanks to the blogging friend that encouraged me to get back into blogging ... once again.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 28 - CreationWise Favorites

In the beginning there was CreationWise. At least in the beginning of my creationist cartoonist career. This was the comic strip that became my foot in the door to Answers in Genesis. I thank the Lord for placing a burden on my heart to start this comic strip. I never would've imagined it would go this far. 

Here are samples of my personal favorites from 1995 to 2006. You'll notice a few different shapes and sizes, but they are all CreationWise! Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 27 - Let There Be Favorites

With all the attention that I've given to After Eden, it's only right that I should highlight my other cartoon features too. Here are some of my personal favorites of Let There Be Truth. These were originally published in Answers Magazine between 2006 to 2011. I love editorial cartoons and even though there is a bit of editorial cartooning in After Eden and CreationWise, LTBT is a true editorial cartoon feature. Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 26 - The After Eden Cream of the Crop!

Yesterday I listed 15 After Eden cartoons that are my least favorite. So to give a bit of balance to that blog entry, here are 18 of my personal favorite After Eden cartoons. 

The interesting thing for me about this list is that After Eden is supposed to be my "funny feature" and the cartoons I like the best aren't the funniest ones. Most, if not all of these make a point that hopefully causes the reader think about scripture. That's the kind of cartoon that makes me smile. So, enjoy this list. I did!

Again, the order for these is alphabetical.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 25 - My Cartoon Hall of "Shame"

I've been asked to reveal my most embarrassing cartoon. However, it is my firm belief that some things in life should not be relived, much less blogged about before all twenty or so of my readers. So instead of digging deep to find some cartoon that has been thankfully forgotten about, I am going to share a list of my least favorite After Eden cartoons. 

Even a cartoonist like Gary Larson of Far Side fame must have cartoons that he looks at now and says, "what was I thinking?" I certainly have some that I look at now and think, "well that didn't quite turn out like I thought it would." But such is life for people that try to be creative. We hit and miss. Here are some of my misses. At least they are misses to me. These are listed in alphabetical order. Enjoy ... but not too much!