The National Caricaturist Network Convention 2005 I
by Elizabeth Pankey
April 1, 2005

Part One of Two

The National Caricaturist Network should be renamed the International Caricaturist Network. Why? The NCN membership includes artists from Japan, Korea, Spain, Germany, England, Belgium, Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States. Attending this year’s convention in Las Vegas at the Palace Station Hotel was like a goodwill ambassador tour of these nations. We all have the common bond of caricaturing in its many forms from almost straight portraiture to totally abstract and all phases (or should I say “faces”) in between.

Sunday, February 20th we had Airport Express Shuttle service pick us up at home and whisk us down to the airport in the morning. One of our past CNW presidents is a driver for this company, but he wasn’t our driver this time. With electronic check in, there was no hassle at all checking our luggage and heading out to our gate. Our flight to Las Vegas was full. I’ve renamed all full flights the Sardine Express. A very good reason for me to shed 50 pounds so the seats will seem larger. Our plane taxied out to the runway, then returned with a broken gauge. After an hour’s delay with all of us still buckled TIGHT into our seats, the plane finally took off for Vegas. When flying these days, take your own bottle of water and choice of snack because short flights serve only beverages and may take a while to get that little cup of liquid.

Our landing in Vegas was choppy due to some wind and increasing cloudiness. Yes, we left Seattle’s beautiful sunny weather and arrived to clouds and rain in Las Vegas. Whoopee! Roger took his golf clubs thinking he could play golf while I was busy in seminars and working on caricatures. No such luck. Sunday through Thursday, 20th – 24th, was rain, rain and more rain.

We made our way to the hotel shuttle bus just in time and the fun began right away. Eve Myles, Ellen Forney’s aunt, was on the bus with us. At the hotel we proceeded to check in at the hotel desk and see more of our NCN friends milling around the lobby.

After taking our luggage up to our room we went back to find out the location of the NCN check-in. We had to weave through the casino labyrinth to the 2nd floor escalator. Are all gamblers smokers? Or do people who gamble like to also gamble on their lives by smoking? I was coughing up blood laced “stuff” by the second day due to my sensitivity to smoke. I love the NCN conventions, but can’t tolerate old Vegas casinos. After that bad “breathing” experience, we found an alternate route outdoors across the parking lot…even in the rain.

NCN Check-in was outside one of the hotel banquet rooms. Seeing familiar faces (Jan Op De Beek from Belgium came as a member this year) and welcoming many newbies (many Japanese, Brits and Yanks) kept us busy for a little while before going back to our room to get ready for the opening night reception at six. The hotel staff set up a wonderful spread of food for the reception. After a plate full of good grub and grog, we all started sketching whoever was sitting at our table. I met Gary Javier, a new NCN member from Puerto Rico, who turned out to be a favorite subject at the convention. That means many artists did their interpretations of his handsome dark features, receding hairline and long dreadlocks. The room’s lights were soon turned up to full brightness and the room full of over 100 people cheered. Then we all laughed.

Day Two: After a long day before, the first full day began with a delicious buffet breakfast and sketching friends around the table. There was a quick welcome from the NCN board members with announcements of the week’s events. Most of us experienced attendees brought our art supplies for the day and set up our portfolios in a display room. Most caricaturists will be creating images (2-D or 3-D) of each other throughout the next three days. The fourth day is for judging, clean-up of work space and the final Awards Banquet in the evening.

The first two seminars were “Caricature 001” and “Exaggerating with a Likeness” lead by Dion Socia and Joe Bluhm respectively. Dion gave a great presentation that helped me understand even more about proportions is scaling a caricature. One of the most talented young artists in NCN, Joe really knows what he is talking about when demonstrating his techniques. All of us in the room were able to see clearly due to a very technically savvy caricaturist who set up camera equipment and laptop computers to facilitate projecting everything up on a large screen in front. These enlarged images play an important roll later on in another seminar.

Okay, I’ll tell you about that right away. Tuesday morning was Jan OpDeBeeck’s official seminar “Drawing with Jan.” He had taken digital photos of many of us who had attended the NCN con in Orlando, Florida two years ago. Much to our surprise, many were victimized for this year’s seminar. Teresa Farrington, Okie artist, is a favorite of many artists due to her front teeth with a wide center space. So it was no big surprise that he chose to exaggerate her features. There were other prominent members feeling Jan’s magic pencil. So it was a surprise to see my photo then his caricature of me up on that BIG screen. I was honored because Jan is greatly respected for his masterful skills. For this article I’ve attached both Jan’s caricature of me and my caricature of him. I rendered his from photos I took at this year’s convention.

Was it prophetic that Ted Tucker led a seminar on “Quicksketch Watercoloring” on Tuesday? Or was it just the constant downpours in Vegas that caused the roof to leak over one end of the main workroom? Roger noted there was a large rusty water tank above the area that was leaking. Several of us helped move worktables, chairs and some artwork mounted on adjacent walls. It started with one plastic trashcan underneath to catch the drip and quickly led to 16 plastic containers and a swamped floor under the waterfall. More and more hotel employees showed up to access the problem. It was funny.

Much more to write about for next month: great seminars, the art, the magic, and the celebrity visitor.

contact: Elizabeth Pankey


Layers and Channels and Curves - Oh, My!
by Dick Rogers
April 2, 2005

It was a dark but pleasant night in The City That Winter Forgot, when Cartoonists Northwest met at the School of Visual Concepts for what may have been its last Friday evening meeting. Guest speaker Georgia Ball put on an informative and enjoyable Photoshop primer.

Using Scooter and Ferret as examples, Georgia explained she scans the original art hubby Scott produces at 300dpi in grayscale. She does this primarily to eliminate the blue pencil Scott uses, because if she scanned in colors the blue would be a stand alone color but in grays it's just a shade she can eliminate easily.

The original art is larger than the limits of her flatbed scanner, so she scans each daily comic strip in two pieces (each gets its own layer in PhotoShop). She lays out guide lines to help her align the parts and makes one layer partially transparent to help her align art elements, then rotates or distorts to get it all straight to her guides. Finally she flattens the separate layers.

Georgia uses levels to adjust some things, helping remove stray pencil lines or roughed in lettering which she will typeset later on. She likes the free comic style fonts to be found at, in particular the Anime Ace font. Georgia always centers text in word balloons.

Then she uses color range to delete the white, leaving black linework on a transparent background. This makes coloring simpler and is less work than selecting white areas one by one. An elegant, global method. Next she adds a white background layer.

Now she adds crisp borders on the comic strip, eliminating Scott's hand-drawn borders. She does this with the rectangle marquee tool. "If I need to make lines ... I never, ever use the PhotoShop line tool," says Georgia. She can draw the shape she needs and fill it with black, or swipe a border from a previous comic strip and adapt it to the new one.

"After I get my (200dpi) print version ready, I save another version for the web (72dpi)." She also reduces the image size and doesn't get any ugly rasterization because she started with a high-quality image file. Her web dimensions are 700 pixels long by 246 pixels tall.

Finally, she adds the title (she left room for that with the 246 pixel height) and it's ready for uploading to the website!

Georgia colors her strips on a layer between the black linework and the white background. This keeps the color behind the linework, maintaining crispness in the linework, reduces the chances of spoiling the linework by mistake. She colors in RGB, doesn't merge the layers and final output is a JPEG in 32 colors mode to keep her files small.

Georgia showed how she uses the actions palette on work she does over and over in every strip. For example she uses Actions for how she takes an area of color and expands it to go partially behind the black linework to avoid white showthrough. She uses paint behind so she doesn't paint over something she's already done.

Finally, Georgia showed us examples of the photo retouching work she does. She put a modern face into a historic photograph. Using mode color for the brush, sampling skin colors and textures, understanding the qualities of old photography, all allows her to make changes to old photos that are almost impossible to spot without knowing something was done.

contact: Dick Rogers 


Foolproof's American Voices Series Presents
The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker with Robert Mankoff

by Jen Bergman
April 7, 2005

New Yorker's Cartoon Editor Visits Tuesday, April 19 at Seattle's Town Hall, 7:30PM

Seattle, WA-Foolproof's American Voices speaker series presents the distinctly American voice of Robert Mankoff, New Yorker cartoon editor for a night of comedy, learning (something along these lines). Considered a national treasure, the cartoons of The New Yorker are beloved, iconic images that have made us laugh at the social issues of the day and have defined a markedly American sensibility. Mr. Mankoff will direct a presentation on this admired collection on Tuesday, April 19th at Town Hall in Seattle (1119 8th Ave).

"Over the years, I had developed a passionate interest in The New Yorker cartoon as a great cultural heritage that had to be preserved and passed on to yet another new generation of artists," says Mankoff.

Last fall, all 68,647 The New Yorker cartoons were published together for the first time in The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, edited by Mankoff. Organized by decade and introduced by some of the magazine's most esteemed writers - including Roger Angell, Nancy Franklin, Lillian Ross, John Updike, Ian Frazier, Calvin Trillin, Mark Singer, Nancy Franklin and Rebecca Mead, the book showcases the talented cartoonists who have contributed to the magazine over the years.

Mankoff- who in '91 created the The Cartoon Bank (The New Yorker's virtual storehouse for these images)- tackled the enormous task of selecting the cartoons included in the print version. What he discovered in the process was that various themes emerged from each decade, such as:

  • sex and nudity in the 1940s
  • the burgeoning space program in the 1960s
  • the high tech explosion in the 1990s

Mankoff notes that by picking cartoons that were most representative of the modes of thought, desires, and conventions that spawned them, it was possible to create a history of The New Yorker cartoon and a cultural history rolled into one. Reading through the volume, then, is a history lesson framed by laughter, a look at what was occupying the headlines, and perhaps even the American psyche, at each particular moment in time.

Mankoff recounts the selection process in the book's Introduction: "From the start of the process we were relentless, unsparing, obsessive, compulsive, possessed-and even paranoid in our efforts. We examined every single page of The New Yorker published since 1925, to ensure that not a single cartoon was missed. In the end, after examining over 400,000 pages, we found 68,647 cartoons. That's one for each resident of Springfield, Ohio, according to the 2000 census, with enough left over for quite a few of their pets."

The American Voices series is presented by Foolproof, a non-profit corporation presenting entertaining exchanges of ideas balanced with critical thought in an effort to raise social consciousness. They seek to inspire citizens to seek truths through free speech, thought and action. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Foolproof at 206-325-3554 or

contact: Jen Bergman