Sketchbook Update: Duck Dynasty

Duck Dynstay "Si Robertson" sketch by Cedric Hohnstadt

Lately I’ve been enjoying A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty. We “cut the cord” and dropped cable a couple of years ago but I recently caught some episodes in a hotel room and watched a few more on the show’s website. I think I’m hooked, and might have to pick up a season on DVD.

Normally I’m not much of a fan of “reality” TV shows but this one is different. I recently read an article that described Duck Dynasty as a reality show that feels almost like a sitcom, and I have to agree. There are colorful characters, sitcom-y storylines, and lots of funny zingers, all wrapped up in a wholesome family-friendly package. The main difference is that the characters appear to be real people more or less playing themselves. Despite their scruffy beards and redneck ways, for the most part you laugh with them rather than at them.

I know that “reality” TV is often an illusion, with lots of writers and producers orchestrating things behind the scenes. This is the first time, at least that I’ve noticed, that the two formulas of “reality TV” and “sitcom” have been blended so successfully.

The most popular character seems to be the eccentric, cranky-but-loveable Uncle Si. He never goes anywhere without his plastic tea glass, which was given to him by his mother when he left to serve in Vietnam. He is constantly saying “Hey!” and calling everybody Jack. How can you resist drawing a guy like that?

I’ve noticed Si is one of those people who “talks with his hands”, but often while keeping his elbows in. So I tried to incorporate that into the pose.

Sketchbook Update: Lee Marvin

Sketch of Lee Marvin from 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance'

Yesterday’s warm-up sketch was a pseudo-caricature of the villainous Lee Marvin in the classic western “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”. I decided to add some b&w washes and pretty soon I was experimenting with several painting techniques in Photoshop. The result is a bit overworked and contrasty, but if you can’t make mistakes in your sketchbook where can you make them?

‘Valance’ is considered by many to be John Ford’s greatest western. There’s some big-name talent involved – it stars Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne, and it was Marvin’s breakout role. It’s also the movie where John Wayne started calling someone “Pilgrim”. It’s a decent flick with a powerful twist ending. Unfortunately the story is undermined by Marvin’s silly costume. He’d be a very threatening villain if he didn’t look like a prissy schoolboy playing cowboy dress-up. I kept expecting him to reach into his holster and pull out a lollipop. If you’re going to dress like that you’d better act tough. Still worth renting though.

Upcoming Events for Twin Cities Cartoonists

This weekend there will be a lot of neat goings-on for Minnesota comic book and cartoon fans.



For starters, the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society will be holding it’s annual get-together here in Minneapolis. As part of the event, NCS president and local illustrator Tom Richmond has put together a special event for the public on Friday, October 14. Things kick off at 6:30pm when cartoonist Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) will give a public lecture about his work. Then at 7:30pm there will be a panel discussion with Q&A featuring several professional cartoonists from around the Midwest. Both events will take place at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Auditorium 150.




Then on Saturday October 15, comic book creators and fans from all over the Midwest and beyond will be gathering at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for FallCon, Minnesota’s annual fall comic book convention. As usual I’ll have a table so stop by and say hi. The National Cartoonists Society will also have a table so you’ll have a rare opportunity to meet several professional cartoonists from around the region.


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Finally, while you’re at FallCon MAD Magazine’s Tom Richmond will be selling copies of his brand new book The MAD Art of Caricature, hot off the presses. My copy hasn’t arrived in the mail yet but from everything I’ve seen it looks like it will be one very thorough, very helpful book. Tom’s been leaking snippets here and there on his blog, and you can tell from the above video that it’s no lightweight volume. There’s a zillion “how to draw” books out there, thankfully it looks like this one will rise well above the norm. Tom has a reputation for not cutting corners and this looks like a top-notch effort. If you can’t make it to FallCon you can order copies of the book here.

Ask Mr. Artist Guy: Should An Illustrator Work In Multiple Styles?

Recently my friend and fellow illustrator Tom Richmond posted a very thoughtful article about this question on his blog. Tom specializes in caricature illustration and made a good case for having one unique look or style in your work that art directors can always count on. I have a lot of respect for Tom and he makes some very valid points in his article. However, I have a somewhat different take.

I think that to some extent the answer to this question depends on the industry you are working in. Tom does a lot of editorial work (i.e. magazines, books, etc.) and I think that in those industries having a unique style is indeed a huge benefit. But there are other industries in which having a specific “look” to your work carries less weight. Most of the work I do is in the fields of advertising/marketing, toy design, and animation. In those industries the ability to work in multiple styles is often just as much of an asset, if not more, than having one consistent style. I recently attended the Animation Expo in Burbank and one thing I heard repeatedly from studio recruiters is that they are always looking for artists who can adapt to a wide range of styles. The more flexible you are, the more valuable you are to a studio.

I also do a lot of work with advertising agencies. For many advertising projects, often by the time I get involved the overall look and style of a campaign has already been established. The artwork I create has to mesh with all the other elements that are already in place to complete the larger picture. Since deadlines in advertising are very tight and there is usually a lot of money invested in a campaign, more often than not there is little room left for an artist to express his or her “voice”. Art directors will often pay a premium for someone who can jump right in and quickly create something that blends in seamlessly with the rest of the campaign.

Yes, you can build a reputation on having one strong, distinctive look or style. But I think you can also build an equally solid reputation on being fast and flexible. It all depends on the project. For some projects the former is of more value, for others its the latter.

Tom makes a good point when he says that a big downside of working in multiple styles is that does make it harder for you to stand out from the crowd with a unique look or voice. When I send out an email blast or a postcard showcasing my latest work I sometimes think my message gets a little muddled. My portfolio is a bit of a stylistic jumble, something that doesn’t always work in my favor. So instead of emphasizing a particular look or style, my advertising strategy lately has been to emphasize my speed, my quality of work, and to draw attention to some of the bigger names on my client list (Disney, Walmart, Hasbro, Target, Hewlett-Packard, etc.) which communicate to an art director that I am an experienced professional. So far it seems to have worked since I have stayed busy even in the down economy.

Having said all that, there is a big danger in being TOO diverse. Early in my career I had pieces in my portfolio ranging from realistic oil paintings all the way to wacky cartoons and everything in between. I was all over the map and looking back I realize it made me appear unfocused and amateurish. No matter how talented you are, no artist can be excellent at everything and the best art directors understand that. Over the years I’ve narrowed my focus to a “limited range” of styles. I can do a variety of work but I focus on things that are more cartoony, with softer curves and geared towards a young kid-friendly look. I rarely do “realistic” work anymore (other than an occasional storyboard or marker comp). My portfolio has some variety but there is still an overall unity in the work. It might not scream out at you but it’s still there. My spectrum of styles is broader than some but not so broad that it looses all focus and meaning. It really is true that if you try to be everything to everyone you wind up being nothing to nobody.

What do you think? If you are an art director, which is more important to you–a strong style or the ability to adapt? If you are an illustrator, which approach do you prefer? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Pre-Order Joe Bluhm’s “Sketch Infectus”


(Artwork copyright © Joe Bluhm. All rights reserved.)

Joe Bluhm is a terrific illustrator and caricaturist. I recently discovered his work and have been following him with interest.

Joe is self-publishing a sketchbook called Sketch Infectus. It’s jam-packed with great eye candy. Joe claims that “you probably won’t find a sketchbook with more drawings packed per-page between the covers”. The book will be available in March but if you pre-order by Feb. 5 you get a really cool bonus: Joe will cut out an original sketch from one of his sketchbooks and mail it to you with the book. Awesome!

I just pre-ordered my copy and can’t wait to see it. Get yours here.

New Art Blogs Added


(Artwork copyright © Joe Bluhm. All rights reserved.)


(Artwork copyright © Jason Seiler. All rights reserved.)

I love a good caricature. Some artists have an innate ability to really sqaush and stretch a person’s features while still retaining a dead-on likeness. Personally my brain doesn’t work that way. My attempts at caricature are mediocre at best. I’m truly in awe of those who can do caricature well.

I recently stumbled upon blogs from two terrific caricature artists, Joe Bluhm and Jason Seiler. These guys are not just amazing caricaturists, but they also know what they are doing with a paintbrush. Well, I think they both paint digitally. But they each have a terrific sense of color and shading which gives their caricatures a rich, classy feel. I would lump each of them up there with some of the best caricature artists in the country.

Give their blogs a looksee! Both have been added to my list of Art Blogs over to the left. You can also click on the images above.