Jim Benton

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One of Jim Benton’s many, many sketches. Foreboding much?

When I talk about myself as an illustrator, I always say that, skill-wise, I’m a cartoonist on the way to becoming a comic book artist. Despite my quick wit and love of good (and bad) humour, it never occurred to me that I should take being a cartoonist seriously and see what happens. When I was a kid, I read something about how statistically unlikely it is that you’ll be the next Jon Davis (Garfield),  Charlie Schulz (Peanuts) or Aaron McGruder(The Boondocks). I even met a guy last year who used to draw the Beano once upon a time. Good luck trying to get that job in this decade. It wasn’t until I stumbled across Jim Benton on Tumblr recently that I felt like I’d seen a clear indicator of a path forward for me.

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Knowing that I shouldn’t laugh just makes it funnier

Benton is American born and based. He used traditional media like inks and watercolour, but also works digitally. I (really) don’t know if you could call him famous, but cartooning is definitely his day job and he’s paying the bills with it.  He has such an endearing art style, which is usually combined with subversive messages. When I look at his work, I typically laugh out loud and then go find some more. This can last for hours. This need to binge on his particular type of direct, silly and insightful humour is something I’ve always wanted to elicit from others with the Smile-e Show, for example.

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Not all of Benton’s work is explicitly subversive. Or is it? Oh no, I’ve gone too deep! Help!

He reminds me of a good stand-up comedian: one part risqué, One part charming, one part discerning, but all parts funny. You know you’re on to a winner when you laugh before you have time to realise you probably shouldn’t. Jimmy Carr taught me that one.

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So I guess Jim’s heard of Usagi Yojimbo then…

Benton makes it look so easy to make art and jokes at the same time. And good jokes. And good art! I had a go at trying to follow in his footsteps without just stealing his schtick outright. It’s harder than it looks to come up with something cute and barbed at the same time and then not screw up the delivery. Illustrating cartoons is far easier than making comic books from scratch in the same way that building a car is easier than building a skyscraper; you still have to make sure every thing you do is appropriate and adds to your overall quality instead of detracting. And you’d really better make sure you know how to use all your tools properly. It takes far longer to find mistakes in a comic or building than it does in the far smaller cartoon or car.

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My attempt at Jim Benton style humour. More vector art than I typically use, but it takes a lot of work to keep stuff simple looking

I don’t really expect I’ll ever make money from art, and being popular on Instagram for it’s own sake seems pretty puerile to me, but, if I was to go deep into my mind to pull out the best jokes and then deliver them with a commitment to quality, that sounds like something to be very proud of. We’ll see.

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Oh whoops. Shouldn’t have laughed at this one for sure. Oh well. Better luck next time.

If you’d like to laugh a lot and wonder what happened to the day, check out Jim Benton of his official website or discover him the same way I did, on his Tumblr.

 

 

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First Impressions of Tumblr

 

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‘T’ is for ‘Tumblr’

After creating my Instagram account and deciding it wasn’t really for me, I made a Tumblr account a couple of hours later. I’d had previous experience using Tumblr since the Cass blog I was updating for the 2017 Summer Show was created on the platform in question. I had no prior knowledge of it, but was able to quickly and easily upload my articles with pictures.

When I created my own Tumblr account, I quickly found that I was integrating myself into a vast network of bloggers with wildly varying levels of respect for intellectual property. You have people posting al their favourite fan art of the Ninja Turtles next to professional illustrators. You have people starting webcomics and people uploading Marvel and DC Comics pages. There are fan blogs for anything and everything and Tumblr has a Not Safe For Work (NSFW) filter available to help you figure out if you’ve gone too far down the rabbit hole.

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Random webcomic that makes me laugh. Check them out at theawkwardyeti.com

I tagged a few things I had an interest in when creating my account, so now my ‘feed’ is full of gorgeous illustrations of cityscapes, architecture, silly cartoons and comic book fan art, among other things. One guy keeps putting dogs in hats. And that’s why Tumblr feels like a good fit. I mostly sketch fan art these days while I try to figure out my preferred tools and techniques. No one’s going to look twice at me posting pictures of the Ninja Turtles, and in fact, there will people who might reblog my stuff.

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Beomjin Kim’s work as hown on the Tumblr blog: the Art of Animation. It posts tonnes of cool artists for me to be inspired by.

Even when I was working on the university’s blog I was seeing fan art for Sonic the Hedgehog that had me thinking ‘this place feels almost like home…’ Since getting on Tumblr, I can’t count how many times I’ve got lost just scrolling down my feed and seeing the stuff that’s suggested. Sometimes, yes, things get weird, but that’s what happens when so many people with so much passion post about their interests. Some of those interests  get oddly… specific… and specialist… yeah, let’s use those words.

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Meme humour from RooTotalCrazy. This is also my idea of funny.

Tumblr organically introduced me to the work of Jim Benton, who I’ll talk about in a separate post.

Ironically, as I sing praises of Tumblr, I still have the same criticism of it to make that I made of  Instagram: it doesn’t feel like a good fit for uploading comic book pages. I can stick a few lo-res images in the same post to maintain the reading order, but when the quality goes up, the quantity has to go down. Not a viable long term solution. Still, for the time being, all my stuff goes through Tumblr now. This blog, the You Tube stuff, Instagram posts are just Tumblr posts.

So if you want to see the majority of my online content, look no further than ColtCougar.Tumblr.com. Next time we will discuss Jim Benton. he’s a real funny cartoonist who is doing quite well for himself. See you there.

First Impressions of Instagram

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Instagram by Instagram. For Instagram

Earlier in the year, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get myself active across social media. I’ve had a Facebook profile for a long time and a Flickr portfolio created solely to show Kingston University, but I didn’t have a platform that felt right for uploading comic book pages regularly. Or stand alone pieces. Instagram came up a lot in conversations with friends, both artistically minded and not, so I created an Instagram account.

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A picture I made in it’s natural size…

I installed the Instagram app on my PC and spent about an hour messing around and talking to friends trying to figure out why I couldn’t upload images from my PC into Instagram. It seems Instagram was designed to be used on phones primarily, and simply would not allow for desktop computers to upload to it. Strike number 1.

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This is how the image appeared on Instagram. No joke at the top or Batman at the bottom. Truly, ‘this is not justice’.

After accepting the reality of the situation, I resolved to send stuff to my phone, from my PC, and upload from there. This is when I found out that Instagram crops uploads to be square. I exclusively work with rectangular canvases, since that’s the shape of comic book pages or the ratio of a screen. The idea that I would fundamentally alter my work flow to upload to Instagram was/is just too great of a leap. Strike number 2.

I followed friends and was followed back, I had a look at some cool stuff and even made the occasional upload. I found plenty of cool accounts, but, in observing my behaviour, I started wondering if Instagram is even beneficial for exposure. Typically, I would look at some stuff, ‘like’ some stuff, then stop using the app. I was barely any wiser to the creators in question and certainly not inclined to pursue some sort of financial transaction with anyone. Strike 2.5

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‘Cool stuff’ I find on Instagram. Great for me to use for reference, but not so great for the artists to stand out..

I spoke to an old friend of mine, someone who’d been using Instagram for a long time. As soon as I mentioned it, they regaled me with stories of how the app had been updated in such a way that it had become difficult to conveniently follow the upload progression of those you had taken an interest in. So here I was, underwhelmed by what I’d experienced, being told by someone who knew better, that Instagram had, in fact, seen better days. Strike number 3 aand yuuur out!

I don’t really think Instagram is what I was looking for in a promotional platform. In fact, about three hours after creating my Instagram account,  I jumped ship to Tumblr and had (and continue to have) a far more enriching experience as a creator and consumer.

I know this all sounds quite negative and I guess it is, but it’s not like I blame Instagram for not meeting my needs. I came to it blind and it just wasn’t the right fit. Just last week an old friend contacted my through Instagram and we’ve since started a collaborative project together. I’ll keep using Instagram and try to keep a regular uploading schedule, but I’ll simply be putting the same stuff that’s on Tumblr up on Instagram. Usually on the same day. Today, actually. Monday is my blog, Instagram and Tumblr upload day.

Just search for Coltcougar (no spaces) on Instagram and you’ll find my meagre offerings. Next time, we’ll talk about Tumblr and see why it’s more my speed.

Making my Banner

 

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I don’t want you to strain your eyes having to look all the way to the top of the screen, so here’s the banner again!

When I came back to this blog this month after my year long hiatus, I decided that now was the time to spiffy it up a bit.  I messed around with  a few things in the theme settings, but honestly I’m not that bothered about font or background colour or anything. It would be nice if everything was darker, but on the other hand, I like eschewing style in favour of letting my words do the talking. One thing I did decide to add, however, was the banner you see at the top of the page right now.

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Smile-e Show regulars, Left to right: M. Bison, Ash Crimson, Smile-e and Vegeta

The artwork is a rare example of me explicitly tailoring a piece of work to an unusual ratio, or canvas size, as photoshop would put it. I occasionally put images on Instagram which only supports images that are square in size, not rectangular, like every other app or webpage you’ve ever used, but I make no effort to tailor the content to Instagram (which has led to such humorous situations as me uploading jokes where the joke was cropped out of the image).

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Main cast of my Seven Demon manga. From left to right: Moto kunai, Zen-Ba, Juli, Kagesami, Onikage, Baal and Om

I made the banner on the same day as my first new post, as well as the Colt Cougar illustration at the top. I used my brand new Wacom Cintiq and Clip Paint Studio (which I still call Manga studio).  I rather foolishly adjusted my brush settings as I was working, so the line work on Onikage (pale guy third from the right) is tighter than it is on anyone else. I might have started using the G-Pen but switched to the turnip pen mid way through, but I don’t remember. ‘What’s the difference between the G-Pen and the Turnip Pen?’ you ask, well, the G-Pen is an accurate digital version of the type of pen professional manga artists use to illustrate their work, whereas the turnip pen offers less flexibility in applying varying line weight, but is easier to use and get consistent results. It’s a great choice for illustrating cartoons. I’m explaining this now since learning to be a dab hand with the G-Pen is a significant milestone for me and it will, no doubt, come up again.

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Characters from my collaborative series’ with Adam Hayes and James Notoriani. From Left to Right: Montage and Impact from Holy Crapola and Detectives Kitt Karson and Donahue from Booze and Blood

I think of the banner as a placeholder of sorts, where the characters will have their thumbnails replaced with newer, better versions as I improve. This might prove to be a fallacy, of course, since I felt that way about my Colt Cougar You Tube banner, which is still there a year and a half later.

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Left to right: Old Snake and Liquid Ocelot from popular video game series Metal Gear Solid. I don’t even know why they’re here, lol, it must have been the La-Li Lu-Le-Lo

It would be great if you could click on the people and get taken to the relevant comics or something. It might be possible to arrange something like that, but not without pages to link to, so, I guess it’s back to the Bat-cave for me then…