two lists, for a total of nine items

Five things found under the stove when we moved it to install a new heating element:

  • a tablespoon
  • a dinner knife
  • a large wooden spoon with a long handle
  • the bottom part of a broiler pan
  • a Christmas cookie (undecorated)

Four things the hero of a thriller should be able to say in Russian:

  • “I love you.”
  • “This is bad.”
  • “Good shot!”
  • “Where can I get a drink?”

(The first from the pad of paper in the kitchen usually used for the grocery list, the second from my notebook.  I know I made the first list up myself, but I’m not sure about the second.  If it’s yours, thank you.  It’s a great list.)

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dual rants (photography, large corporations, and the use of language)

It’s two, two, two rants in one!

a) I was, as I so often am, shopping at the local big box store (this would be the one with the logo featuring concentric circles)  and the friend I was shopping with pointed out a truly grotesque error in English usage in the packaging of a cheapo Easter product.

b) Sensing a blog post in the making, I pulled out my nifty new smartphone, intending to use my nifty New Phone Camera to record this error for both posterity and a cheap laugh.  Only then did I discover that stupid Google had updated my camera software without my permission or even telling me ahead of time.

I know that the new Google Camera software came out earlier in the week.  I read about it quite eagerly, because, hey, new camera software.  Maybe it will be awesome.  But it did not sound awesome.   The main new feature is something called “lens blur”, which claims to reproduce in software the subject isolation effect of a narrow depth of field, normally caused when you use a fast lens open to a large aperture.  To a person who is perfectly able to create subject isolation by using an actual fast lens open to a large aperture, and who is not interested in faking it with a phone camera, this was not a killer feature.  Then when I read that the advanced features I do currently enjoy– white balance control and exposure compensation– were not available on the new software, I decided it was not for me.  I would keep the camera I had for now.

Stupid Google decided otherwise.  I opened my phone to find a new icon in the slot where I keep my camera controls, and when I clicked on it I found an entirely different camera.  Not cool, Google.  Not cool.  I took the pictures with the new camera, which doesn’t even show me the focus point, and I fumed.

As soon as I got within range of some reliable wi-fi, I checked the Google Play store, and found that today’s most downloaded free app is … you guessed it: the old camera software.  If you want it back as much as I did, it’s now called Nexus Camera, the Original Software from Android KitKat.  (KitKat Kamera Klassic!)  I installed it, and now my camera is back where it belongs and behaving normally.  Stupid Google.

a)  You thought I’d forgotten about this.  Let’s define an Easter egg, shall we?

In my universe, something described as an “egg”, even a “figural egg”, should at least be, maybe, I don’t know ... shaped like an egg?  What we have here, English speakers, is a box, or perhaps a container. Not an egg. Sorry.

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best of the drawing of the day, week 105– big black marker

Drawings of the day made away from home sometimes look a little different, since they are inked with tools you find in the traveling kit rather than the studio toolbox or the contents of the Coffee Cups of Doom and Art Supplies in the living room.  In this case, the medium is the message, and the inking tool itself is the subject of the drawing.

One of the things readers who are not artists may not think about is the variable nature of “black”.  There are really very few artistic processes that produce a true 100% black.  By their very nature, these involve carbon, which is pretty much the blackest thing there is.  This means India ink (which is mostly pure carbon in the form of lampblack, plus a little water and some linseed oil and gum arabic) and laser printer/black and white copier toner (which is also mostly carbon powder that fuses to the page with heat) are about the only two easily accessible pure black media.  Everything else– marker and fountain pen black inks, black paint, and composite blacks from three color printing– all produce either various shades of grey or very dark shades of blue, green, purple, or brown.

The first image above, which is a full color scan of the original drawing, shows that my big black marker (it’s a Prismacolor) is not very black at all, and the marks it leaves are quite transparent.  Luckily, a little manipulation of the image in Paintshop Pro or the GIMP produces a proper black and white.  The second version of the drawing is the same scan with the color depth reduced to 2 colors/1 bit color, which turns each pixel into either a 1 (pure black) or a 0 (pure white). Then, after that version is saved, I save it again as a greyscale, which acts as antialiasing and gets rid of all the jaggies and smooths everything out. (Don’t ask me how this works: it does and I am grateful.)

This is what I do with all my art, including most of what you see here.  It enables me to use a variety of drawing tools, some of which leave marks that are only vaguely blackish, and end up with finished art that is a gorgeous dense black and white and which reproduces perfectly in carbon black on my laser printer.

(WordPress sent me a notification yesterday that we have passed a milestone: it has been two years since my first post on what is now a cartoonist in Kekionga. Yep– divided the number of posted weekly drawings of the day by two and you’ll come up with an extra one.  That’s calendars for you.  Anyway, thanks for reading for however much of that two years you have been.  This blog will return.  Sometime tomorrow.)

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the summer minicomic project

There are four finished scripts in my pile that I really like, scripts for longer minicomics varying in length from 16 to maybe 36 pages.  (They aren’t all completely broken down.)   All are classic Kekionga stories featuring the core cast: a Junkyard, a Library, a Bud and the Professor two-shot, and a highly significant Jack and Iowa story.  And when you put them in chronological order, they could easily take place in one summer. They even have a sort of arc.

So I think I’ll draw them all, in order, this summer.  My goal is to finish them all, one by one, without getting too distracted, although I am open to adding one super short Josef story if I come up with an idea, since I am concerned that everyone’s favorite Mysterious Animal is getting shortchanged in all of this.  And there is one dangling hook that may be left to fill … but my arc is there, so I’m going ahead next week with:

  • Quarterly Report (late spring)
  • Bottlecaps (early summer)
  • Hero Boots (later in the summer)
  • Closing Time (early fall)

I plan to share each of them over in “Read a Comic! as they are finished (maybe I will even serialize them), but they will also be published as paper minicomics with full cover covers and will be available, eventually, as a box set under a clever title like “One Summer in Kekionga”.    Luckily, I have a while to come up with a better title. In fact, I have all summer.

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skylancer and mai tai

That sounds like a low rent team up comic:  “Skylancer and Mai Tai in: Secrets Prowl the Old Bazaar”.  Better put that in the notebook. Jack or Iowa or Mr. Spit could be reading a Skylancer and Mai Tai comic in the background of a Kekionga story.

Well, that was off topic.  As are these two photographs I took this weekend on my trip to Columbus for the SPACE convention.  The only thing they really have in common is that they were taken with my new phone camera, and I like the way they turned out.

Here’s one of my favorite tropical drinks at one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the world, a mai tai at the Hunan Lion in Dublin, Ohio:IMG_20140414_154333Mmm.  A tasty mai tai–different kinds of rum, plus pineapple juice and grenadine and almond syrup, plus the classic maraschino cherry-slice of orange-plastic sword garnish.  Not shown, a big wedge of lime, which I had already squeezed into the drink.  And a nice image, with the variations in the lighting and the figure of the waiter in the background.  I have no complaints at all about the focus, and low light performance is better than one would normally expect from such a small sensor.

For a solution to a completely different set of challenges, have a sunny day outdoor shot of the Airplane at the Waffle House:IMG_20140411_133807

The Airplane at the Waffle House is actually the gate guard at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, but it is displayed so far out at the end of the museum’s parking lot that it is actually much closer to the Waffle House across the street and could reasonably be assumed to be guarding it instead.  It’s a pretty good Waffle House, and the Sunday night cook made me a god sandwich once, so the Airplane’s guardian presence is much appreciated.

Fans of second generation jet fighters are forgiven if they fail to make a quick spot on the Airplane: it is a Douglas F5D Skylancer, one of four ever made and the only survivor.  Neil Armstrong flew it during flight testing for the famous Project Dyna-Soar in the early 60s.  IMG_20140414_160413

Here’s a legible but artistically indifferent shot of the plaque attached– dig that wonderful font.

I’ve been to the Museum once and it was OK (a few weird and cool objects and a great 70′s film about the Moon landing), but I never pass by Wapakoneta without stopping to visit the Airplane at the Waffle House.

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back from SPACE: read the award winning minicomic

We are back from SPACE, the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, in Columbus Ohio.  This year’s show was the fifteenth in a series, and very sincere thanks go out to Bob Corby and his team for another great April weekend.  I laughed a lot, I learned a lot, and I brought home a stack of great comics.  Took a bunch of pictures, too, and had a few adventures (you’ve already seen my new lucky penny), and I’ll be sharing the best parts with you here.

But my personal high point this year was Perpetual Motion winning second place (it was a tie) in the Best Minicomic or Short Story category at the annual SPACE Prizes.  I have a particular fondness for this mini, particularly its cover, and I was very pleased that the judges liked it too.  I won this handsome plaque, and got to say a few incoherent words of thanks and everything:SPACE prize for blogIf you want to read Perpetual Motion, my official award-winning minicomic,  just click here.

(image taken with the New Phone Camera, which is turning out to be surprisingly good.  Click on the image and you can read not only the plaque but the cover of the comic quite clearly.)

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tumblr sunday — how to identify a cartoonist

A cartoonist is the person who, when she sees this beautiful historic photograph,sovietmedicwithhorseher first thought is “Cute bag! I could put my sketchbook and my camera in the main compartment and my pencil case in the front pocket and there’s room for some extra stuff if I stop by the comic shop or the used bookstore.”  (I also really like her hat.)

But seriously, great images like this are a good reason to keep a photo gallery on tumblr.  Portrait of a Soviet medical orderly of the 1st Guards Cavalry Corps during the Battle of Moscow on the Eastern Front. Near Moscow, Russia, Soviet Union. January 1942, image via tumblr.

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welcome new (and returning) readers!

red little dog chop cleaned up-darkIf everything is going according to plan, a lot of my business cards have made their way into the hands of friends, colleagues, readers, and general passers by over the last few days, and I hope at least some of you are here for the first time (or the first time in a while) as you follow the paper trail on the card with the little red dog on it.

First of all, welcome!  This is the online home of cartoonist and maker of minicomics Pam Bliss (that’s me!) and the internet gateway to the comics about Kekionga, the classic American small town where anything can happen.  Find out more about me, about Kekionga and its inhabitants, and lots of other stuff by clicking on the links right below the art at the top of the page.

To read complete Kekionga stories, click on “READ A COMIC!”.  This link will take you to, my new webcomics site.   I will be adding more comics, new and old, on a regular basis, so check back often.  The site itself is still in beta and suggestions and advice are welcome.  I’ve been making paper comics since 1989, but webcomics are a new thing for me.

The rest of the site is my blog.  I post something every day: sketches, Kekionga background material, comics tips and tricks, photographs, stories about my dogs,  cool stuff from around the internet, media reviews, and anything else that crosses my desk or my mind and seems worth passing along.  Once a week I post the best drawing from my Drawing of the Day project, now in its sixth year,  and I review every movie I see in the theater.  Everything else is subject to change without notice, but it is tagged to help keep things organized.  If specific subjects ring your bell, please use the tag cloud in the right hand side to find the posts that particularly interest you.

Thank you very much for visiting “a cartoonist in Kekionga” at, and please come back soon.


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a small antiquity

Went in to a Walgreen’s this afternoon to buy a few personal necessities, and was surprised and pleased to get a well worn “wheat penny” in my change.IMG_20140411_220255 And then I turned it over, as one does, to try to read the date, and … well.   That sure looks like a zero to me.IMG_20140411_220205

This little object, still doing its job, is well over 100 years old.

File this under “My new lucky penny: its secret origin”, and “Hey, the new phone camera does some pretty decent informal macro.”

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best of the drawing of the day, week 104– double portrait

drawingoftheday-week104-doubleportraitChose this drawing just because I like it, and because it represents a twist on the usual sketchbook double portrait of character-and-creature– who is the creature here?  Plus, this is a rare case of meaningful inking.  My inking is usually brutally functional: most of the creative action happens at the pencil stage, then I ink so you can see the pencil drawing more clearly and so it can be reproduced easily.  In this case, though, I was trying for simple brushwork lines that would convey a feeling of strength and serenity, and I think it at least sort of works.

The tools, as almost always in this kind of thing, are the Pentel Color Brush (EF brush head, Japanese refill) and the scritchy-scratchy pen (Rotring Art Pen, EF sketch nib).

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