Thursday, May 30, 2013

Oldman's Bubishi: Kata and Cartoons Collide

I don't speak Japanese. I don't even speak English very well but I do love words... and pictures. Occasionally I'm invited to teach a class I developed called "The Language Of Line". I have taught it in corporations and classrooms. I have taught it in colleges and kindergarten. It is not unusual for the first thing for people to say to me when we begin is "I can't draw a thing!". By the end of the class I have everyone introduced to, and "speaking" an international language that is independent of sound and text. It is really very fun.

Oh, back to the Japanese reference. I remember Dave Lowery defining and explaining the word "Kata". He defined it as "How one behaves". It reminds me of one time I was watching a man plastering a wall. I said to him "That is so cool. You make that look SO EASY". He responded "Oh, thanks, it's nothing it's just what I do". The same thing happens with me. When people say nice things about my drawing I feel the same way the plasterer did... "Oh, thanks, it's nothing it's just what I do".

I have made my living as an artist for thirty years now. I have been practicing karate for eighteen years. Over those years those arts, the visual and martial have merged. Kata and cartoon have come together and ended up as my book "Oldman's Bubishi".

"Oldman's Bubishi" started on the mats in the dojo with lots of sweat and repetition. Just because I use cartoons as my method to share information with people I would not want folks to think that I'm not serious about training and teaching. I have a few dedicated students that train with me in a very small very sweaty dojo in the lower level of my home. Occasionally after class we will use a flip camera to take visual notes for friends out of town or students that aren't present. Here is an example of one of those high humidity post class clips...

In this photo you can see my Flip video camera connected to my computer. The Flip certainly has it's limitations but it is really easy to use. After a few minutes of being distracted by emails and LOL cat videos... Badda Bing Badda Bang Baddah BOOM!. The video from class is on YouTube. 

The lessons and learnings from the classes then get practiced an pondered. Because I am a visual learner doodling often helps me "get" things.  On the left you can see a stack of 3X5 cards and some pens. Nothing special.  I grab a 3X5 and a pen start drawing. It might take 30 seconds to 10 minutes for me to have a rough idea about how to convey the essential movement. Many times I can do a drawing, scan it and have it on the web to share with someone in about 5 minutes. The drawing on the right is a rough for a Bubishi page and is much more complicated to do. They start with roughs, inking, scanning and then more digital work after that.

In this photo you can see file folders for each kata. They hold both the roughs and the finished drawings done on vellum and ready to be scanned.

The workbench / assembly line.

This photo shows how good posture and correct ergonomics are essential to the practice of cartoon and kata. This is the stage of the cartooning process where I add the man boobs and double chins. You can clearly see in this photo that the stresses of producing cartoons daily has taken it's toll on me. Some days I just don't feel funny. On those days I may resort to an old trick I learned from Gary Larson. I go to the fridge and grab a sandwich. Maybe some lunch meat with mustard. Then I put the sandwich in my pants and go back to work. It is almost impossible not to feel funny when you have a sandwich in your pants.

So, there it is. A look at the "Oldman" behind the curtain. I'm like many of you out there. I have a job, kids and a (very understanding) spouse. Like most of you I'm not and will never be a world champion or run a large organization. I just practice karate. Oh, and of course draw pictures. Over the years the lines between the different parts of my life have become less defined. I just do what I do. It's "how I behave". I guess that is kata.

Words of wisdom from an Oldman...?

Train seriously but safely. Work hard. Keep going, step by step. Share what you learn with others as honestly as you can. And lastly, don't forget to have fun.


Narda said...

:) I agree...a sandwich in your pants is certainly funny....

Enjoyable post, and well worth waiting for.


Mark Cook said...

Thanks Narda. It has been way to long. I have not been a responsible updater. :)