Bloom County And Berke Breathed

bloomcounty
Penguins and things
I got the chance to meet Berke Breathed early in my career while visiting a girlfriend of mine who was attending UT Austin. Berke was the second most famous guy on campus at the time just behind this running back named Earl Campbell. Breathed had just published a book of his wildly popular cartoon strip “The Academia Waltz” that he was doing for the Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper.
The thing that struck me most when first meeting Berke was how absolutely accidental the whole cartooning thing was for him. Here I was, doing everything I could to become a cartoonist, drawing constantly, studying the art form and immersing myself in anything that had to do with comics. And there was Berke, doodling these amazingly hilarious strips about college life, seemingly unaware he was creating brilliance along the way, with this “I could really care less about cartoons” kind of attitude. It was, as you can imagine, somewhat maddening. We crossed paths now and then throughout the years but, unfortunately, never became friends.

academia-waltz

But his work was another matter. It became, at the time anyway, the ultimate example of a successful comic strip. Millions of adoring fans, millions of dollars in the bank account and millions of cartoonists who wanted to be just like him. The first complete anthology of Bloom County strips is now available, a worthy exploration into, perhaps, the last great social-political cartoon commentator of our time (no offense to Garry Trudeau and Doonesbury). I highly recommend it.

berkeley_at_work

One of the things that has driven me crazy about Breathed is his flippant and canned answers he has given in the numerous interviews he has given during his career. It was if he was running a marketing campaign to spin his career into cutesy, dismissive quotes, with little substance or insight into the real human being who drew penguins with big noses and influenced an entire generation with his own unique brand of humor and satire. Finally someone got it right. Rather than bore you any further with my ramblings into the creative genius of Berke Breathed, I’ll simply point you to this new LA Times interview, where finally, Breathed drops his guard long enough to show us the real and authentic voice behind Bloom County.

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Creator’s Incubator # 1

Welcome to the first ever Creator’s Incubator. Since it’s the inaugural edition, I thought it would be appropriate to give you a few behind the scenes stuff about my creative process.

Sparks:
Individual cartoons have their own set of sparks, so I thought I’d give you some of the everyday variety.
I like to surround myself with cartoon collectibles and cartoon art in the studio. It makes me feel at home.Here’s just a few samples from my home studio.

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Five things that help me Create:
1. Reading. Newspapers, magazines, websites, billboards, t-shirts, movie posters, anything visual It’s the most important part of creating sports cartoons. After I read I let it soak in for a while.
2. Silence is golden for thinking up ideas. I can listen to music or CNN after I pencil the cartoon and I’m ready to ink, but not before.
3. Word play. I write down topics and free associate a visual metaphor for what it is I want to say in the cartoon. In my case it’s usually an opinion I have about a topic I’m drawing on.
4. Ink don’t think. The worst thing to do is force an idea. Ideas form when you’re most relaxed, even if you are under deadline. If I get really stuck I’ll put the subject I’m drawing about in the most outrageous situation I can imagine. Case in point. This Phelps cartoon.
drew0819
5. Bang my head up against the wall and hope that something besides hair comes out.

Creativational Quote of the day: An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.
Edwin Land

Created on this date: 1963 – Beatles record “She Loves You” & “I’ll Get You”

The Rhino Recommends: This fantastic book about the founding of Pixar and the innovation and creativity it took to pull it all together.
pixarpic

There you have it. I hope you’ll join us here and at DrewLitton.com for the next edition of the Creator’s Incubator