How to Stink with Style

OK, so I gave this post a somewhat inflammatory title to get your attention…and for the record, I don’t really think any of the artists I’m going to discuss “stink,” I actually think they’re all pretty good, just not Enki Bilal sort of good, and I think that they themselves would agree. So with that out of the way, here’s what’s been on my mind. There are quite a few cartoonists who, by their own admission, are not the world’s greatest draftsmen, yet their work is incredibly appealing. Charles Schulz, Lewis Trondheim, Sergio Aragones, and Chester Brown come to mind. So what makes a cartoon appealing, besides sheer technical skill? Since I’m no Sean Gordon Murphy myself, this seems worth thinking about. If you look at enough of this kind of work, patterns begin to emerge, and if you note the similarities in the patterns, you begin to see rules. I have attempted to distill them below:

You always know what you’re looking at; there’s no mistaking what the artist is trying to show you. You’re never scratching your head going, “What IS that?! Is it a cow? Is it a bus?”

Everything is drawn in a consistent way, at a more-or-less consistent quality level; there are no botched panels, nothing sticks out like a sore thumb. If a world is consistent enough, the viewer gets pulled into that reality, and the quirks become part of the ambience. When we read Peanuts, we just accept that we are in Big-Head World.

Correct Perspective
Even cartoonists like Trondheim who don’t use a ruler and draw everything crooked, still draw scenes with fundamentally correct perspective.

When you look at the work, you immediately know whose work you’re looking at.

All comments are welcome, particularly counter-examples to these rules. I suspect the first rule to get attacked will be the one about correct perspective. Many artists from Picasso onward have deliberately violated perspective to produce impact, but I don’t believe this can be done successfully without KNOWING perspective first. Anyway, what do YOU think?

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New Feature: Archive Page

Tomorrow’s update will include a new feature: I’m replacing the old “jump to strip number” box with a link to a proper archive page

This is going away:

To be replaced by this:

Additionally, strips will now have proper titles, instead of just numbers.

The old jump-box was kind of a useless feature from the start. Why would you want to jump to strip 103 when you have no idea what strip 103 contains? Eventually I may get fancier and try to put thumbnails of the strips next to their titles, but for now, I think this is a big improvement.

Check out Hootie Comics, updated every Sunday

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A couple screw-ups fixed

First off, it looks like I accidentally deleted the forwarding page that I had left in the place where my old landing page used to be before the site reorganization:
I put it back; sorry about that. I meant to leave it there indefinitely, so anyone who has the old location bookmarked will land on the forwarding page instead of getting a 404/page not found error.

The next annoyance is, some of you may have noticed that the jump feature of the nav bar sometimes doesn’t work right. This is because of the browser caching old versions of the Javascript. I figured out how to stop it from doing that, and just uploaded the fix.

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Some more site reorganization

Lately I’ve been feeling insufficiently challenged by drawing funny animal strips. So I’ve embarked on a new little project: following in the footsteps of Rick Veitch and Winsor McKay, I’ve begun keeping a comics dream journal. Here’s the first one:
Dream comic #1
I’m going to post these when I have more of them, so I had to re-organize the site to support having more than one comic strip. You see, for the past 2.5 years, Hootie was my one & only strip, and that assumption was baked into the software that I wrote to generate the site.

Refactoring wasn’t hard, but I had to move each strip into its own folder, so a couple things were necessarily broken. First, apologies if you are one of the early adopters of the single-click-bookmark button. I have to keep a separate bookmark for each strip now, so your old bookmarks are now invalid. Bookmarks you create going forward will be OK. Second, the landing page has moved to but I put a funny graphic at the old location that redirects you to the new location. It’s a picture of Hootie with a broom & apron, cleaning up the site.

Be good,

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Bug fix on the place-saving feature

This morning I realized that the place-saving feature that I just added had a subtle misbehavior. If you bookmark the latest strip and come back two weeks later, the bookmark would take you to the new latest strip. This is not what you want; you want the bookmark to take you to the strip that was the latest strip at the time you bookmarked it, so you can continue reading from where you left off. I fixed it today, but those of you who bookmarked a strip prior to the fix, will find that bookmark non-working, since I had to change the format of the cookie to accommodate the fix. Sorry about that.

Check out Hootie Comics every Sunday

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New feature: save your place!

One of the most annoying things about web comics is that there’s no one-click way to save your place. Sure, you can bookmark it, but you have to navigate through your browser’s bookmark menu, save the URL, then delete the old one from the last time you were reading the strip.

One of the joys of writing my own code instead of using Comicpress is that I can quickly add features like these:


Naturally, this relies on cookies, so if you’ve disabled cookies, it won’t work, and if you delete your cookies, you lose your place. But it gives you a one-click way to save your place in the Hootie comics and get back to it later.

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How to make word balloons in GIMP that look hand-drawn

A number of people have asked me about how I do this, so I made an instructional video. Principles are the same for Photoshop, but since I use GIMP. that’s what I use in the video. Enjoy.


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