If you’re a kid of the 80s and 90s, you’ve probably got a soft spot in your heart for movies like the Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and all the Muppet films. So if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably hoped and wished for the dream team of Henson and Froud to come back together to create another masterful storytelling epic.

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Well. Your wish has been granted. Via Kickstarter!

Lessons Learned: A Practical Puppet Short Film

Toby Froud, son of Brian and Wendy Froud (and baby Toby in Labyrinth), has teamed up with Heather Henson (youngest daughter of Jim Henson) to bring to fans a short film called Lessons Learned. Together, they are bringing to life characters with the same magical puppet artistry that made their parents such integral parts of our childhoods.

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Toby writes on the Kickstarter page:

“Lessons Learned will be a short film about a young boy who receives an intriguing birthday gift from his grandfather. It is a gift that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Having grown up with inspiring movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth,it has been been a dream of mine to create such imagery with hand/cable controlled puppets. This film will also utilize a bit of modern technology to better immerse viewers into the world.

I need your help to make this movie come to life. If you are a fan of the Henson-Froud collaborations or perhaps just want to make a statement that puppet art is alive and desired, please consider a generous donation at one of the many pledge levels to help me reach my goal.

Be a part of the magic. Partner with me on this journey to make the dream into reality!”

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Pledge to Toby’s Kickstarter Campaign!

This Kickstarter has been up and running for awhile, but you still have about 50 hours still to pledge! As of right now, they’ve reached their goal and some! They’ve even hit their first stretch goal which has enabled them to add a new character designed by the one and only Brian Froud! Also check out the different pledge reward levels – they’re fantastic!

What are you waiting for? Pledge to Toby Froud’s Lessons Learned Kickstarter now!

One of my favorite traditionally-colored webcomics is Dawn Chapel by B. Root. Brian has a gift with watercolors, and I decide to ask him if he would be willing to do an interview with me. Dawn Chapel is a series of eloquently rendered short stories in comic-form. Each story consists of detailed panels and beautiful illustrations that could easily stand on their own. I strongly suggest going and reading some of Brian’s stories. My favorites are A Fine Day Out, Firefox has Crashed, and They Sit So Still.

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Have Some Questions

When did you start drawing comics and what inspired you to?

I started doing The Dawn Chapel in October of 2009, but I’ve fooled around with comics a few times before then. I did a few comics for the university newspaper when I was in school, and attempted a webcomic called Rabicano about a year before my current one that I stalled out on as soon as I started.

I’ve been wanting to get started on a comic for something on the order of ten years now, and I had these big obnoxious plans about these awesome stories I wanted to tell and kept not ever getting started because I didn’t really feel like my art abilities were at the point where they’d do any justice to the stories; until finally I decided that the time when I was ‘good enough’ just wasn’t ever to come and I was wasting my life not doing this thing I wanted to do.

So with The Dawn Chapel I threw out any big stupid ambitious plans about epic, sweeping stories and just gave myself a homework assignment of one page a week, doing little short stories that I wouldn’t have to commit years of time to, and put the comic work itself first and foremost. I didn’t fuss over the web page layout (right now it’s still the barebones Comicpress theme, now that I’ve been at it for almost a year, I should probably take the time to do something with it) and used a domain name I’d registered for another project I meant to do and never got around to, and just started throwing comics at it.

There were a couple of specific things that gave me the boot in the pants to get started on the comic, though: one was a contest called the Sequential Endurance Competition, where all the participants were required to draw and post a page of comics every day, that I thought would be pretty good practice but then missed the entry deadline. The other was seeing my friend Beckey do her comic String Theory, which she started at around the same time I started Rabicano, but she actually stuck with her project and seeing her successes was hugely motivating to me.

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Art History Lesson! Ukiyo-e: The Floating World

I’m going to start out by saying I have never been to Japan. In fact, I’ve never been to any part of Asia. IN FACT, I have never been outside of the United States. Yes, I know, it’s tragic. Thankfully, I have the internet (and awesome worldly friends), and I’ve been introduced to some really fantastic cultures, and in that turn, some really remarkable art techniques.

Ukiyo-e: The Floating World

One of these is Ukiyo-e, which, roughly translated, means “pictures of the floating world.” It was an art form in Japan in which artists printed amazingly detailed pictures on blocks of wood. The subjects of the paintings ranged from city life to mountain landscapes to ocean scenes. They were meant to show the beauty of the world around us. This technique was developed in the 17th century and became popular with townspeople who were not rich enough to own original paintings. Woodprints were easy and fast to make, taking one painting and making hundreds of prints. Because of this, they were mass-produced, so much so that soon there were far too many of them and their popularity waned. They were considered so worthless, in fact, that the Japanese began to use them as packing materials on ships. It wasn’t long before prints found their way outside the country and the rest of the world became aware of their existence.

European artists were in awe of the paintings. Impressionists like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet were greatly inspired by the artwork, and the influence of the Ukiyo-e art form was given a name: Japonisme. Though the rest of the world had embraced it, traditional Ukiyo-e died out in the early 1900s, and despite attempts to resurrect it, it has never hit the popularity it had once enjoyed.

I own several different paper prints of traditional Ukiyo-e images, but have never had the opporunity to see an actual woodprint of one. Are there any art forms that you admire but are no longer around? I’d love to hear about them! Feel free to share. For now, enjoy some of my favorite Ukiyo-e prints. For more information about Ukiyo-e, please visit The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum and the very informative Ukiyo-e wiki page.

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ukiyoe-greatwave ukiyoe-tokaido

ukiyoe-suzuki ukiyoe-edo ukiyoe-kitagawa

ukiyoe-kunisada ukiyoe-kuniyoshi

ukiyoe-yoshu ukiyoe-fuji ukiyoe-hatsuhana

Clicking on any image will bring you to the Wiki page for the artist. Enjoy!

Today’s Webcomic Wednesday is one from the FUEL archives – we’re going back in time for an interview with E.K. Weaver of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal fame, a (more than epic & NSFW) comic about two guys who throw caution to the wind, and take off on a cross-country road trip. As the author puts it, “”This is the story of two dudes who drive from Berkeley to Providence, take multiple detours, smoke too much weed, eat terrible Chinese food, sleep in seedy motels, get kicked out of a Goodwill, contemplate fate versus chance, piss into the sunset, start a brawl in a Waffle House, and fall in love.”

On with the Interview!

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What started you down the road of comics?

I wouldn’t really say I’m “on the road of comics”… maybe on a smaller frontage road, or in the bike lane. I’ve always liked drawing quick sequentials, but never really identified as a Comic Book Artist – partly because it’s not how I make a living; partly because I’m still a very green amateur. Honestly, what got me started working on a comic book was realizing the story I had in mind was best told in that medium. That’s it. I’ve come to love it, though – the craft of comics, I mean. Scripting, pacing, timing, layout. It still blows me away that when you make a comic, you manipulate time with art. How cool is that?
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Who was your biggest inspiration in the field of comics or cartoons?

Oh gosh, um. There are so many amazing artists (many my age and younger) who are continually evolving inspirations, but if we’re going with the past tense, I’d have to say Al Hirschfeld and Kyle Baker.

I’ve always admired Hirschfeld’s knack for distilling a person’s likeness down to its essential forms – not just facial resemblance but style of motion and posture as well. He depicts someone’s essence clearly even while rendering it in impossible ways – placing the eyes below the mouth, say, or drawing tight spirals for eyes. Not only that, but watching the documentary The Line King and seeing how instead of just flinging out these effortless curves and perfectly placed lines (as I’d previously thought), that he took each drawing through a painstaking sketching and refining process… it was like a beam of light out of the blue. I saw that pouring effort and time into artwork showed dedication, not inability to “get it right the first time”. That artists aren’t gods but people who work really damn hard.

As for Kyle Baker: His comics showed me the importance of acting. Characters don’t just move through a scene, they live it – they act it. Just read the first 10 or 15 pages of I Die At Midnight and you’ll see what I mean. His work is incredibly cinematic. Also, Baker’s books Why I Hate Saturn and Undercover Genie – and more recently, How to Draw Stupid – have been huge inspirations. There’s a LOT of Saturn influence in TJ and Amal – building characters through conversation and facial expression, setting the story in its place and period rather than trying to make it ‘timeless’, telling the story in ordered vignettes rather than one continuous arc…

What were some early creations – and what do you think of them now?

Comics-wise? I don’t really have much to speak of. Most of my creative projects before TJ and Amal were commercial illustration and design, or fandom stuff I did just for fun. Nothing I could call a truly original creation.
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What is your favorite medium to work with?

Plain old mechanical pencil.

Regarding your process of creating a finished panel, what is your favorite part? Sketching, lineart, or the color?

Probably the first passes in pencil and ink. That’s when things really start to solidify, and when the emotion starts to show clearly. It gets me pretty pumped to see everything finally taking shape.
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How long does it take you to create a final, fully-detailed comic?

We’ll find out. Three years, at least. *haha* A single page takes between 6 and 15 hours, and a 10-page segment usually will take between 3 and 6 weeks. (I have a day job, so comicking happens on weekends and at night. )

Who is your favorite – TJ or Amal?

I can honestly say I do not favor one over the other. Amal’s easier for me to relate to, but TJ’s dialogue is much easier to write.
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If TJ and Amal were stranded in a rainforest, do you think they’d survive? (And who would crack first?)

Probably. TJ’s appetite might have him end up eating some nasty mushroom, though. (Amal would crack first, just because of all the bugs.)

Annnndddd…. What is your favorite webcomic?

Oh man, that’s like setting me loose in a cheesemonger’s and telling me I can only pick one! Erm, so I won’t.
For strips, probably either Nedroid, Hark! A Vagrant, Girls With Slingshots, or Something Positive. I’ve been following those last two for a long time. Long-form webcomics I like include Hanna is not a Boy’s Name, Templar, AZ, The Meek, Octopus Pie… I don’t think I can go on without leaving someone important out, but there are way more than this! There’s so much love, enthusiasm, and talent out there in the webcomics world. It’s really exciting.
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You can find more about E.K. Weaver and her art here:

Musical Monday

I spent the weekend at the Body Mind Spirit Expo so be patient with me if I seem a little loopy and hokey (though I prefer spiritually enlightened, thank you very much). I made a playlist filled with music that inspires me but really all I’m doing is playing these two songs on repeat over and over again. Feel good music. Good for the soul. I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual and I find a lot of spirituality in music, so there you are. Have a listen.

Let Your Faith Guide Your Faith

I think most people know The Mowgli’s because of their song San Fransisco, but this one, Carry Your Will, is my favorite of their music. It’s uplifting – I find myself turning it up as loud as I can and closing my eyes just to feel it.

Then it was dark and we could see no more / But somehow we found each other / Somehow we found hope / If you carry your will, I will carry my will…

Take a Blue Canoe Around the World

AGH. This song. It hits me where it hurts but it’s such a good wake-up call when I need it. Plus it’s Grace Potter and Willie Nelson so of course it’s gonna be an awesome song. We’re all our own Ragged Company sometimes and I love this song.

O’ lord I think I’m falling, to my disbelief / I’m cursing like a sailor and lying like a thief / It’s hard to heed the calling from the better side of me / When I’m blaming everybody else, and no one’s coming clean…

What are you listening to today?

alice-bio-150x150One of my favorite aspects of Twitter is just how many amazing illustrations I stumble upon there. It’s how I discovered the lovely and colorful work of Alice Rebecca Potter, a designer and illustrator from London, England. Her simple lines and bold shapes make for a unique style all her own. Alice says of her work, “Big colours, strong shapes, and unforgiving lines continuously creep into my work. Lately that includes people, maps, and architecture, but I like to draw the natural world just as much.”

Alice was sweet enough to take some time and answer a few questions about her style and process. Thanks for the great interview, Alice!

Hi Alice! For those who aren’t familiar with your work, describe your style of illustration in one word.

Colourful!

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You went to school for Textile Design. What came first? Textile Design or Illustration?

Textiles came first, I suppose, because my mum was a textile designer in the 70s, so I was very aware of it. To be honest I didn’t really know much at all about illustration until a tutor suggested in my second year that maybe I should have done an illustration degree.

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You’ve had a chance to work on some fun projects. What was your favorite?

Yes, 2012 has definitely been kind to me. If I had to pick a favourite then it would be the recent Ted Baker project. I liked the freedom of the project, and also getting the chance to meet some of the other illustrators involved on a mass print signing day.

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Tell us a little about your process. Where do you get your ideas and how do translate them into a beautiful finished product?

When I am working on a project I tend to a little bit of collage or sketch in a sketchbook, which I then translate onto either Illustrator or Photoshop. I tend to build shapes and layers up, and then I play around a lot with colour until I am happy. Lastly, I consider texture and whether it is needed or not.

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I love the colors you use in your artwork. What is your favorite color or color scheme?

Thank you! I love colour too, and it has taken a long time for me to learn how to use it. I love using similar groups of colours in my work, for example, red on pink, and blues and greens. I think you will see a lot of these shades in my work.

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And finally, what fuels your illustration?

Eating well, and being healthy and full of energy. It’s the only way I get anything done!

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Find more of Alice Potter and her work here:

One of my absolute favorite books of all time is The Last Unicorn by one of my absolute favorite authors of all time (and good friend), Peter S. Beagle, and like many kids my age, I can quote the animated movie like no one’s business. Back in November, The Last Unicorn movie celebrated its 30th birthday: in 1982, the animated movie premiered at over 600 movie theaters across the country.

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“That wasn’t a lot, even back then (‘big’ releases showed on two or three times as many screens) and the promotional budget was next to nonexistent — only $150,000 nationwide for press kits and newspaper advertising. (Television ads? Billboards? Forget it. Way too expensive.) Despite these limitations, however, something miraculous happened. When the box office reports came in for the weekend, The Last Unicorn was the #6 film in America.” (The Raven, Peter Beagle’s eNewsletter, 11.19.12)

If you aren’t familiar with the book or the movie, here’s a quick summary. It was written in 1968 by Peter S. Beagle, and is about a unicorn, the very last of her kind, and her journey to find out what happened to all the others. It features a wonderful collection of characters that help (or hinder) the unicorn on the way. There are wizards, illusions, princes, dragons, and of course, magic. The perfect mixture for a perfect fantasy epic. The movie is a beautiful adaptation of the book – as it should be since Peter also wrote the screenplay. A list of amazing actors appears in the movie – Christopher Lee, Angela Lansbury, Jeff Bridges, and Mia Farrow, just to name a few.

So in celebration of 30 years of The Last Unicorn movie (and of the recent successful TLU tour which I was honored to be a part of – I’ll be writing more about THAT soon – I promise!), I’m doing a showcase of some of my favorite fanart illustrations. Because I think there are few things that really show how much and how many people love something than fans making their own art for it. So without further ado.

Click here to continue reading this article.

Or just monsters. And girls. Whatevs. Two of my favorite topics in one Webcomic Wednesday. Because this is what Wednesdays were made for, right? Right. Any excuse to stop what you’re doing and read some webcomics. We need more days that start with W.

Monster Pulse

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Monster Pulse, Magnolia Porter
Updated: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
Monster Pulse is an all-ages adventure story about kids whose body parts transform into fighting monsters.

Morning to Moon

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Morning to Moon, Meghan Penton
Updated: Usually Tuesdays
Samaire is an ex-body guard whose existence is turned upside-down by an accident. She finds soon that rebuilding her life is a lot more interesting than she thought it would be — and a lot more dangerous.

Amya Chronicles

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Amya Chronicles, Savannah Houston-McIntyre, Andrew Hewitt, & Rebecca Gunter
Updated: Normally Wednesday (Right now sporadically)
Amya is a high-fantasy graphic novel following the travels of a mute spell-touched and her unlikely companions as they are dragged into an adventure that is a little beyond them. Ultimately Amya is a story about self sacrifice for the greater good. It is also a story of how far one will go to obtain unearthly power; even if it includes throwing the world into a mythical war between fate and chaos.

Enjoy!

Missed other #WW? Find them here:
Webcomic Wednesday Numero 25: Everblue, Machine Flower, The Intrepid Girlbot
Webcomic Wednesday Hourly Comic Special: Emily Carroll, Dani Jones, Jess Fink
Webcomic Wednesday 24: Wondermark, Stuff No One Told Me, A Softer World
Webcomic Wednesday 23: One Swoop Fell, Savage Chickens, Sinfest
Webcomic Wednesday #22: Housepets!, Gronk, Copper
Check out the Archives for more comics!

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Polnoc by Faqy

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”

Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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Fourth of July by Anuwolf

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Happy Birthday, United States of America!

I love the family and food and happy faces that Independence Day brings, but I am not a fan of the loud noises that come with it. I am absolutely terrified of fireworks – even just the start of a whistle makes it hard for me to breathe because of how anxious I get. Kovtapyroergasoiphobia is the name of the phobia and while I can’t pronounce it, it doesn’t make it any less real. So while I wish America a happy birthday and hope you all have a fabulous day filled with family and friends and hot dogs, I will be with my pups hiding in the house with my music turned as loud as I can make it.

Speaking of pups, make sure yours are safe inside. Dogs and cats are not fans of this holiday. Love them and keep them indoors.

Happy Independence Day!