Designing Characters with Jade Feng Lee Workshop at SMUDGE

We are excited to be offering free art workshops in the Education Lab at Artisphere all day at SMUDGE on Saturday, March 14. This one should be awesome!

1pm-1:50pm – Designing Characters with Jade Feng Lee
With well designed characters, we should be able to tell something important about them just by looking at them. Shape, line, texture, and color are all chosen carefully to tell specific things about a character’s personality and background story. In this workshop, we will examine these attributes in popular cartoon and comic book characters, then design our own characters based on a random trait generator.

bobabarian catprincess_posse dogprince_entourage eggventurer

Smudge 2015 Expands to the Dome Theatre


This year’s SMUDGE Comics Arts Expo will expand to include animation and documentaries in Artisphere’s Dome Theatre. Our featured full length doc is Root Hog or Die – The John Porcellino Documentary.

Shot over five years, ‘Root Hog or Die’ is a full length (108 minutes) documentary about independent cartoonist John Porcellino. For 25 years, John has self published his ‘King-Cat Comics & Stories’, and has steadfastly held to his DIY roots. This film includes interviews with over twenty of his fellow cartoonists, friends, fans, and loved ones, and digs into how an independent artist attempts to live and work in our modern world.

This documentary is being show courtesy of Kilgore Books & Comics.

Smudge JR Interview #7: Cuddles and Rage


Cuddles and Rage uses a genre, which I have never seen before – mixed media and photography chronicling the adventures of the food and animals living in Snuggle City. Cute? Yep. Disturbing? Little bit. Visually fun and exciting? Absolutely! We asked artist, Liz Reed, (half of this husband-and-wife-team) to share some childhood creations with us, and chat about all things cute and disturbing.

Jess: I love looking through your dioramas! The candy corn doesn’t look too happy about his day. That guy is one of my favorites. Do you have a favorite diagram you really enjoyed creating? And why?

Liz: My all time favorite diorama is “Hot Date.” I love that one for so many reasons. I really wanted to use this adorable teacup that I’d bought in one of our dioramas. I had an idea of two marshmallows on a date and wanted to put them all snuggled up in a cup of cocoa. I sculpted the marshmallows, made some cocoa, and placed them all in the teacup. The marshmallows started flopping over and wouldn’t hold still for the picture. When making dioramas, part of the challenge is getting your pieces to stand the way you want them to. In effort to create a base for the marshmallows, I stuck half of a banana in the cup for them so sit on top of. Once the picture snapped, I was in love. My favorite thing about posting a diorama is hearing the stories that others create in their head. People go deep. They dig into how the marshmallows met, what they talked about on their date, and usually point out that they will die a slow death together in the name of love. It’s awesome getting to share your imagination with the world.

Pig Sculpture

Jess: Your childhood pig sculpture is adorable! Do you remember creating this as a kid?

Liz: I remember making him in 6th grade art class. I specifically recall messing up on the blue in his eyes and trying to cover my mistake by turning the blue into tears. It gave some good emotion to the piece and my teacher probably thought I was going through a phase.

Jess: I can see where your knack for cool, sculptured diagrams originated. Tell me more about your love of all things cute … and a bit disturbing.

Liz: I am a huge fan of horror movies and all things super cute. Why not marry two? I’ve always been attracted to really dark humor. I love the challenge of looking at an object and wondering what its daily struggles may be. I like to think of Jimmy and I as anthropomorphizing experts.

Breakfast for Sharks_Postcard

Jess: What inspires you when you are drawing?

Liz: My husband is my biggest inspiration when I am drawing. His sense of humor is crazy. Every night we lay in bed with our sketchbooks and try to get each other to laugh. We also create mini-stories with the characters we doodle and see how much we can play off of one another. Most of the characters on our site all came from his head. I like to take his designs and add extra layers of details to them and turn them into adorable sculptures residing in the weird world of Snuggle City.

Jess: What advice would you give parents whose kids love to draw or sculpt?

Liz: I would tell parents to encourage their kids to sculpt and draw more. Take them to conventions where they can talk to other artists and learn more about their craft. I went to Baltimore Comic Con a few years back and bought a custom drawing from an 8 year-old. He was selling his customs for a dollar. I was amazed at the deal. He drew a portrait of Thor for me, and I have the picture hanging in my art studio for inspiration. You are never too young or too old to start making a career out of your art.

MA Pig

Jess: Bonus Question – So why doesn’t Middle-Aged Pig wear pants?

Liz: So … I was pro-pants when we created the character Middle-Aged Pig (aka M.A.P.). M.A.P. was ultimately Jimmy’s character so he got final say on the lack of pants. I always thought M.A.P. would get super-cold without pants so I made a diorama called “I Should’ve Worn Pants” where M.A.P. is sitting at a bus stop in the snow pant-less. It was fitting for his little world. I asked Jimmy why M.A.P. doesn’t own pants and he said, “Name me a pig that wears pants.”

Good point, Jimmy. Check out more Cuddles and Rage artwork HERE. You will be amazed by how many awesome (and seriously funny!) dioramas Liz and Jimmy have in their gallery.

Prompt 1: Draw Something with Seven Tails

The Draw Something Area at Smudge 2014 got messy!

The Draw Something Area at Smudge 2014 got messy!

At the first ever Smudge Expo we introduced our Draw Something area with tons of drawing prompts for kids and adults to take a challenge and draw something. It was a really popular area at the show, so we are introducing it to the blog. Once a week, we will give you a new Draw Something prompt, you can scan or take a photo of your work and email it to or post to our Facebook wall. Be sure to include your first name and age (if you want!).  You can also use the Doodl widget on the right side of the blog if you like!

This week’s prompt is:

Draw Something with Seven Tails

7 tails by Kayleigh

7 tails by Kayleigh

Smudge JR Interview #6: Rafer Roberts

We asked self-publishing superstar Rafer Roberts to share some of his childhood drawings with us. Rafer is the mastermind behind the long-running comics series ‘Plastic Farm’. Rafer not only shared drawings from when he was 9, but also a redraw of the book that he did recently. The comparison is fantastic.
From MONSTER MASH #1 (age 9)

From MONSTER MASH #1 (age 9)

Tina: Do you remember doing these drawings when you were a kid?
Rafer: Kind of. I have memories of going with my dad to work and his letting me use the copier to print out a few copies. This was MONSTER MASH #1. Starting with issue #2, a friend and I started our own comic company and drew maybe a dozen or more books under the TABLET COMICS banner.
From MONSTER MASH #1 (age 9)

From MONSTER MASH #1 (age 9)

From MONSTER MASH #1 (age 9)

From MONSTER MASH #1 (age 9)

Tina: What were your first thoughts when you saw them again?
Rafer: I actually pulled these out a few years ago in order to redraw them. That was a fun experiment and gave me good insight to the frame of mind I was in while making this comics as a kid. [I'm attaching 2 pages of the redraw.]


Tina: Did you draw a lot as a kid and what kind of a support system for making art did you have?
Rafer: I drew all the time. Even after TABLET COMICS stopped being a thing, I kept drawing. I put out my first “real” comic in high school, printing it on the school’s little chief 17 duplicator. My folks were very supportive, even if some of the stuff I was drawing was dark and creepy.
Tina: Was there a time in your life when you stopped drawing or making art and if so, how did you start again?
Rafer: I never stopped completely, but my last semester in college was probably a low point in the amount of comics that got drawn. I had been doing a weekly comic strip for the college paper before that, but had stopped or reasons I can’t quite remember. Money probably. I started drawing what would become PLASTIC FARM about a month after graduating, though output on that was slow going at first. I think I’d lose my mind if I stopped drawing completely.


Tina: Advice for people who want to tell stories through comics?
Rafer: For artists: Learn to draw. Take art classes and study from real life. Draw things you’re not comfortable drawing and draw them a thousand times. Study the narrative stylings of comics masters, not just the way they draw, but the way they design a page and panel to panel transitions. Will Eisner, Dave Sim, Jack Kirby, Al Williamson, Frank Santoro are all good places to look.
For writers: Learn to write. Take writing classes. Find a writer’s group, either online or in real life, to do group reviews. Find a good friend who will tell you the truth about your writing. Trust your artist. Study the scripts of comic writers you like, and the ones you don’t like.
For both: Short stories first. Finish something and publish it somewhere. Then finish something else and publish that. No one will ever read the comic you never finish.
Rafer will be at the first Smudge Expo on March 8, 2014. You can find him online at

Smudge JR Interview #5: Michael Bracco

The Creators

The Creators

Michael Bracco is a staple of many communities having exhibited his work in craft fairs, conventions, stores and galleries all across the country over the past 8 years. His original graphic novels, The Creators, Novo, Birth and Adam Wreck as well as his a line of apparel that features his sci-fi and fantasy illustrations are all original, cool and frankly kick ass. I was interested to see his childhood drawings considering he has such a unique style.
Tina: Do you remember doing these drawings when you were a kid? What were your first thoughts when you saw them again?
Michael: Strangely enough, I do remember doing most of them.  On one hand, looking back on them was really nostalgic.  I remember sitting in waiting rooms while my mom was at the doctor or hiding out in my room and blazing through sketchbooks.  On the other, it’s really embarrassing to see some of what I thought was cool at the time.  Trust me when I say, of all the stuff I found, there is WAY more embarrassing stuff than what I decided to share.
Tina: Did you draw a lot as a kid and what kid of a support system for making art did you have? Encouragement, tools, etc.
Michael: Both of my parents were amazingly supportive and worked to channel my compulsive drawing.  I really NEVER stopped drawing.  They were the ones who pushed me to take it seriously, take classes and eventually go to school for it.
Tina: How does your art as an adult compare to what you did as a kid?
Michael: I drew comics as a kid and abruptly stopped in High School.  I didn’t read another comic again until sometime in College and then the interest came flooding back.  The difference in my interest now is that I have no interest in doing superhero books which is what I loved as a kid, Spiderman especially.  Similarly though, I would have killed to draw TMNT as a kid and I still would.
Tina: Was there a time in your life when you stopped drawing or making art and if so, how did you start again?
Michael: I never stopped drawing but I did have my interests split between art and music for a while.  Music is pretty alluring since there is a performance element and a live energy that I love but when it came down to it I really just couldn’t not draw.  That said, I totally get my performance fix now with Super Art Fight.
Tina: Advice for people who want to tell stories through comics?
Michael: Start telling stories with comics.  Seriously, just start doing it and be your own harshest critic.

Tina: Advice for parents who want to support their kids to tell stories through comics?

Michael: Push your kids interests but direct them to be well rounded.  Make sure they know the life ahead of them and to prepare them for just how hard they are going to have to work.

Recent work

Check out Michael Bracco online at , in person at Smudge this weekend or at a Super Art Fight (100th show also this weekend!).