Doot Doot Garden: The Blog of Craig Thompson
Doot Doot Garden: The blog of graphic novelist Craig Thompson
catch & release October 29th, 2014

Thanks for your patience, Blog-friends, and my apologies for the lag since the last post. The end-of-the-year deadline is looming, work-weeks have shifted to seven days, and in classic form, I’m tossing finished pages and rewriting the ending. So speaking of tossing finished pages, here’s a glimpse of what used to be the first two panels of the book, before I scrapped the first chapter and started from scratch.

The second image here is a space ship concept design drawn back in 2012, long before I began drawing actual pages.

 

chapter five complete September 9th, 2014

As of today, chapter FIVE of SPACE DUMPLINS is complete. Two more chapters until the finale of the book
– approximately 80 pages to draw before the year’s end. Gonna get hectic.

Above is a sample from chapter four. On the right, the final panel with Dave Stewart’s colors.
On the left, an onion skin effect: orange = thumbnail; pink = background pencils; gray = character pencils.

And here’s an example from the just-finished-not-yet-colored chapter five. Teal = thumbnail; red = pencils; black = inks.
Thanks to all of you for your patience and support!

praying drunk August 4th, 2014

My drawing buddy Farel Dalrymple has a new graphic novel out from First Second titled WRENCHIES. On the surface, it appears a post-apocalyptic adventure, but underneath it’s a meta, existentialist, psychedelic, and deeply personal epic. WRENCHIES explores religious upbringing, guilt, addiction, and self-destructive tendencies while leavening it with moments of child-like, nerdy bliss and the most endearing chubby kid in a homemade superhero outfit named Hollis. Haunting and glowing. If you’re in Portland, FLOATING WORLD is hosting a launch for the book from 6-10pm this Thursday, August 7th.
(The image on the left is Farel’s rendition of Dodola & Zam from FLOATING WORLD’s launch for HABIBI back in October 2011.)


Another book I NEED to endorse is Kyle Minor’s PRAYING DRUNK. My fervor for this book is almost religious; I went and ordered a bunch of copies directly from the publisher SARABANDE BOOKS to proselytize my loved ones. And yet I’m dumbfounded attempting to articulate the magic this book works — the blurbs on Minor’s site do a decent job – or you can wet your curiosity with a great interview with the author on my pal David Naimon’s literary podcast BETWEEN THE COVERS.  What I can say is this book shook me and humbled me and stays with me, and you won’t regret picking up a copy for yourself.

pile of trash in fine art & folk art July 20th, 2014

For those of you asking about Dave Stewart’s process coloring SPACE DUMPLINS, there’s a great interview up at FROM THE GUTTERS.

Dave is tackling some ridiculously detailed panels. Here’s one I just drew of an outer space landfill.

As ever, the reference is hodgepodged from both low brow & high brow sources. A) The FOLK ART side hails from the graveyard of cars rusting in the forest behind my parents’ rural Wisconsin home. (See page 533 of BLANKETS for more wooded trash heaps.)  B) The FINE ART side is Nancy Rubin’s “Airplane Parts” sculpture at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

drawing brothers July 3rd, 2014

Just returned from one month in France where I began a collaborative book with 72 year old French comics master Edmond BAUDOIN.

(A – Edmond with Cambodian cartoonist Tian, left. Amiens Cathedral, right.)

(B – Signing at the Palais du Commerce, left. Little Prince statue in Place Bellecour, right.)

After book signings at the A) Amiens BD festival and B) Lyon BD festival, Edmond & I retreated to his childhood haunts of Villars-sur-Var -
a mountaintop village near Nice to churn out drawings and write thumbails for our book.

Our timing aligned with village festival of their patron St. Jean – documented in Baudoin’s book LE CHEMIN DE SAINT JEAN.
Edmond has over 60 books in his bibliography, though zero are translated in English at this point.

Our collaborative project has just begun… the next step is Edmond visiting my stomping grounds in Portland & Wisconsin… BUT for the rest of the year, I plunge back into SPACE DUMPLINS to hit that deadline for a FALL 2015 release – the tenth anniversary of Scholastic’s GRAPHIX line.

les petits riens June 10th, 2014

“Little Nothings” — that’s the title for a book Maurice Sendak was working on when he died- based on Mozart’s first ballet.
Today is the anniversary of Maurice’s birth 86 years ago.

In the last year of his life, Maurice became an adopted grandfather and we chatted weekly on the phone. I transcribed bits of his conversations, almost all of which are too personal or vulnerable or hilariously vulgar to share here on the blog… but to commemorate his birthday, I found something petit. On July 31, 2011 speaking of his other project left unfinished - “THE NOSE BOOK”, Maurice said,
“I am writing something. A door is opening — moreso a WINDOW is opening. It’s FUNNY. I’ve never written anything funny before. No tragic overtones… just plain silly. But I’m not gonna judge it, or condemn it. … Which is very unlike me.”

 

The photo is with my dear cartoonist buddy Aaron Renier who introduced us in 2011.

In a later conversation, Maurice said, “I’ve been feeling fetid in my efforts at writing. Feel as if the creative spirit has departed. It better not leave me or I’ll have a SHIT FIT!” That’s how I was feeling when I left for France – I’m in Paris today – taking a breather from SPACE DUMPLINS to work in a sketchbook outside the studio again.

One more: “You just gotta get old and whatever was unattractive about your work is suddenly all right. Everything becomes silly.”                   
Still miss him everyday.
amiens et lyon May 22nd, 2014

Related to the straight-to-sketchbook project mentioned in the last post, I’ll be spending the month of June in France. While there, I’ll also participate in the Amiens BD festival and the Lyon BD festival to compensate for my abbreviated French presence during 2011′s HABIBI book tour. As some may recall, the French edition of HABIBI was late from the printers and so I’d done press at that time, but no signings.

To prep for travel, my friend Lucie is tutoring me in French. Here’s a little excerpt from my study notebook — a homework exercise to “write (& draw) a dialogue with two (or ten) characters” in which Little Zacchaeus (from CARNET and SPACE DUMPLINS) interacts with references from some favorite bande dessinée – including PETIT VAMPIRE VA À L’ECOLE by Joann Sfar, LES OGRES by David B. & Christophe Blain, CÉFULUS by Ludovic Debeurme, and SALADE NIÇOISE by Baudoin. (Translated or not, it makes no sense.)

digital pencil & analog ink May 1st, 2014

Thanks for the reminder about the Cintiq post, Dan. As mentioned back in August 2013, I’ve been experimenting with the Wacom Cintiq as a way to shake up & expand my working methods. The 13″ felt too cramped & claustrophobic, so early this year I upgraded to a 22″ Cintiq on an Ergotron arm – inspired by Fiona Staples, whose work on SAGA I admire.

For the past couple of months, I wrestled with the machine & have settled on a compromise common among comics pros – I pencil the pages digitally, then print out blue lines and ink on actual paper.

The advantage of digital penciling is I can see a chapter all at once (top right photo), cut&paste, zoom in close, edit on the fly, and work standing up (top left photo, avec Momo). But digital inking still looks too slick to me — I prefer the flawed & tangible qualities of fussy sable brushes on paper. Foot in both worlds!

Finally, my advice to young cartoonists is to keep it organic & raw and not get bogged down by plug-in devices. In a month, I’ll be starting a direct-to-sketchbook project like CARNET DE VOYAGE to relearn working on the fly outside the studio.

kazim ali & jens harder April 10th, 2014

This morning’s clutter on the drafting table – inking several SPACE DUMPLINS pages simultaneously. Also my friend Kazim Ali is in town for a reading from his new book SKY WARD at Reed College TONIGHT (6:30 Elliot Hall Chapel) for those of you in Portland. Here he’s writing Arabic on my new Cintiq (more on that in some future post… As evidenced above, I’m still inking with actual India ink & brush.).

Finally, this just arrived in the post – BETA (…civilizations volume 1) by German cartoonist Jens Harder. In this intricate, mind-boggling, coolest possible coffee table book, Jens catalogues the history of human evolution & civilization. Every image in the 365 page tome (apparently the first in a trilogy) is sampled from existing media – cave paintings, etchings, pottery, photographs, film, comics, etc. then redrawn in Jens’ meticulous brush lines. For those of you who thought HABIBI was nuts, this takes it to the next level. Speaking of which, here’s a page that references HABIBI in the development of written language.

A favorite page of mine groups CHRIS WARE alongside Caravaggio, Courbet, and Magritte to name a few.

color tweaks & carnet’s tenth March 5th, 2014
Just wanted to share some of the incredible work Dave Stewart’s pouring into the SPACE DUMPLINS colors.

We decided the palette was getting too muted & subdued, so he’s tweaking the pages just enough to infuse the grimy dinginess of outer space clutter with a burst of cartoony, kid-friendly levity. Previous incarnations on the left – updated versions on the right.

In other news, I realized that today is the exact ten year anniversary of my CARNET DE VOYAGE travel & book. To celebrate, I dug around for a photo or two, but they were sparse, because as noted in the back of the book, zero cameras were used in the creation of it. It is my unaltered travel diary begun March 5th, 2004 and ended May 14th, 2004. The week following, my buddy Frédéric and I scanned the three sketchbooks and layed out the book in Lyon, France – no edits other than a proofread from my non-native English speaking friends.


After spending 6-7 years on HABIBI, I can’t fathom that I created a book in less than three months. It helps to not make anything up, not edit, not use any photo reference, and avoid penciling as much as possible. First scruffy photo is in Morocco on the journey to Merzouga.


The second photo was provided by Lewis Trondheim – me drawing on the beach in Montpellier, France: young, naïve, skinny & shirtless.