How To Get Specific and Bring Your Work ALIVE!

Let’s just say you want your art, writing or comics to feel more genuine and appealing to your audience. 

I’m finding that making sure to add in specific aspects of the culture or area where the characters are living but adding problems we all recognize, makes your work feel ultra-specific but relatable at the same time. 

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For this Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comic, I needed to show Tanuki using his magic and the theme for the week’s strips was Origami paper folding.  That in and of itself pertains to Japanese culture, but I wanted to see if I could add more.

I jumped over to Google and looked up the most popular things to make with Origami.  Cranes, shuriken, boats and paper cranes came up. A boat! They could be riding on a large origami boat that Tanuki made.  But where?

It could be going down the river in their town of Shimamoto but the background is rural so would not look like any recognizable place in Japan. 

Choosing the Yodo river that runs through Osaka city would give more choices of buildings and bridges to draw that readers who have been to the city would know.

Drawing the Umeda Sky Building behind them was a fun addition.  The curving white bridge to the left of them- I have no idea what it’s named- is a well-known sight in Osaka as well. 

Umeda Sky building and bridge pic.jpg

Coming up with the joke is the challenge.  I asked myself, “What’s the problem in this situation?” 

That was an easy answer for this strip.  The boat is made out of paper!

Perhaps, Tanuki’s magic is surrounding the paper boat and allowing them to stay afloat but the fact is the situation is odd.  Come to think of it, so is a ‘paper’ boat!

You know, if this were real life, someone would have pointed that out.  J is usually the character who thinks about important issues or solves problems creatively.  So, it felt natural that he should be the one delivering the punchline.

When you’re writing or drawing, keep asking yourself how you can make it specific and general at the same time. 

Give people something they know and something new they’ve never experienced before.  Make them curious and then surprise them!


 

Hotaru: How fireflies create magic in Japan

Fireflies are a beautiful part of June in rural areas of Osaka. Tanuki adds a little magic to the experience in this comic!  Would you soar with real fireflies?

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I remember it was magical going down to the river when I was living outside of Osaka city in Shimamoto, to see the fireflies in the evenings of mid June.  All the kids out trying to catch them or count how many they can spot first.

Go out and make some magical memories with your friends and family this summer!  Time really ‘flies’ by fast.

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If you grew up in the south, you must have called fireflies ‘Lightnin’ Bugs’ at some point!  Even if you were in other parts of the U.S., I bet you did. 

My wife was raised in the city and never saw them before visiting my little suburban town of Shimamoto, back when I lived in Japan.  I’ll never forget how excited she was to see them for the first time.

I loved seeing fireflies growing up in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was so magical to go out on a summer evening and look for them by the creek.  

Other kids were talented at catching them and pulling the fireflies apart to add to necklaces.  That was a little too cruel, and gross, for me. I did enjoy capturing them in jars though to watch them light up together. 

It’s a blessing to have an opportunity to share summer memories with you through writing and comics.  Hope yours is the best yet!

My appearance on the Surviving Creativity podcast!

Take a listen to the latest episode of the podcast Surviving Creativity where I'm one of the 'celebrity' panelists on the Match Game (in the last 15 minutes).

 

A few weeks ago, I received an email out of the blue from well-known cartoonist of Evil Inc., Brad Guigar, asking if I would like to be on his show Surviving Creativity. 

I never replied.

Surely, he wasn't asking me directly.  It must have been a mass email to thousands of fans of the show.  You must know that I love this podcast.   Brad and his co-hosts Scott Kurtz of the webcomic PVP, and Cory Casoni talk about the ins and outs of cartooning and living a professional creative life.  I never miss an episode.

A week passes and Brad messages me on Twitter asking again if I would like to be a part of Match Game on the show.  I was shocked!  

We set up a time and Brad asked questions and recorded it all to be pieced together for the show.  My last answer comes off as a little strange in the context of the game but either way it's so fun to be a part of such a fantastic podcast. 

Hope you listen and enjoy the fun! 

Happy Batman Day!

Little prancing Batman ready to fight crime with a flair for the silly!

Little prancing Batman ready to fight crime with a flair for the silly!

Saturday, September 17th 2016, marked Batman Day, a time to commemorate the creation of the Dark Knight and appreciate the cultural impact the character has had on the whole entire world!  Special events were held around the globe and celebrities, artists and big companies joined in. 

Me?  I completely forgot!  

Batman is my favorite superhero and even though life has been pretty busy lately, I squeezed in time to draw the above sketch.  Actually, I didn't draw this one until a few days after Batman Day but it was still fun. 

It's quite pleasurable to take serious characters and add a little silly to them.  Can you imagine how odd it would look to see Batman prancing down the street at night?  He'd probably scare off all the criminals.  Batman's gone crazy!

I used blue pencil for the sketch and then black pen I got from the dollar store in Japan.  It's called a Magic Drawing Pen by Rushon, 0.5 size.  Even though it was cheap, I love inking with it!

Have a great day and do a little prance to commemorate good ol' Batsy!

 

 

KUBO and the Two Strings Fan Art Process

My Kubo fan art using pen, markers and colored pencils.

My Kubo fan art using pen, markers and colored pencils.

A young Japanese boy named Kubo, with his magical shamisen and a monkey companion embark on a journey to find his father’s samurai armor and defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.  Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest stop-motion animated film from Laika studios and is a gorgeous work of art!  Beautifully animated and surprisingly emotional, I was completely taken in by this film.  So much so, that I created fan art. 

My first sketches of Kubo's head.  One looks like a girl and another looks too old.  I had to keep trying!    

My first sketches of Kubo's head.  One looks like a girl and another looks too old.  I had to keep trying!    

 

After sketching several heads of Kubo for practice, I felt confident enough to try a full body pose.  Using blue pencil first, I sketched out his pose, changed his feet a few times and settled on the final look.  I used Pigma Micron pens, 03 and 05 sizes, to ink over my pencil.  It was fun to use a combination of colored pencils and Copic markers for color. 

The inked version before adding color.  I really wanted the color black added throughout the drawing to add weight and balance.

The inked version before adding color.  I really wanted the color black added throughout the drawing to add weight and balance.

 

Kubo plays his shamisen and makes origami paper fold on its own into animals and characters that move.  My goal was to capture that first moment when he begins to play and the magic happens. 

 

If you haven’t seen Kubo and the Two Strings I strongly encourage you to see it!  I wasn’t sure if it was going to be interesting but I enjoy stop-motion animation so I took a chance.  Within the first few minutes, I knew this movie was a masterpiece! 

 

My only gripe was that they used white actors to play the main characters.  This is supposed to be ancient Japan.  I know Hollywood feels that it needs famous names to draw crowds but it’s sad when you have someone as well known as George Takei playing a background character with two lines. 

 

As an actor of Japanese descent, he really should have been given a bigger role.  If they plan on distributing it in Japan, I would love to hear what it sounds like with actual Japanese actors doing voice-overs.       

 

Even with that in mind, Kubo and the Two Strings is such a great film and the artistry of a story told with animation done by hand is too captivating to miss.  Make sure you go see it and tell me what you think!  

Classic FCS comes to an end

Classic FCS comes to an end

Love is in the air and classic Fried Chicken and Sushi comic strips are at an end.  Many heartfelt thanks go out to my fans that have been reading this comic adventure loosely based on my experiences living in Japan.  It has been a fun five years filled with humor about travel, love, racism and perception. 

Please continue to join me as we follow Little Karl and his family with Little Fried Chicken and Sushi morphing into regular Fried Chicken and Sushi.  There will be more of what you love about my work but seen from the eyes of children and adults.  The new vertical format will give me more freedom to create interesting layouts and add more adventure.  Thanks for your support!

Best,

Khalid

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NEW vertical style Little FC&S comics

NEW vertical style Little FC&S comics

You can see that the Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comics have changed to a vertical format with two panels on top and one or two at the bottom.  This makes them larger and easier to read on cell phones and any other art sites they're put on.  Plus, and this is the one I really like, it makes them easier to transfer to book form when I compile them together.  They will be one comic per page so 200 comics could equal a 200 page graphic novel for kids and adults.  Similar to what Big Nate and Phoebe and Her Unicorn are doing.  There will be more adding in of Japan related themes to the Little strips as they become the main FC&S comic in the next month.  Give me some comments when you can! 

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BECOME MY PATRON ON PATREON AND GET FC&S COMICS A DAY EARLY!

I know I've never asked you for money to help me create FC&S comics before but after over four years it's time.  My PATREON page is up at www.patreon.com/birdsong and you can show your fan support each month.  If you're not familiar with PATREON, it's a crowd funding site similar to KICKSTARTER but instead of paying a lump sum at once, you pay a small amount ($1-$5) per month to help online creators make more work.  I would love your patronage and you can receive cool things like the very first FC&S eBook collection of the first two hundred comic strips!  It's only available on PATREON and you get ten extra pages of Making of FC&S sketches!  You can also get FC&S comics a day ahead and Little FC&S comics a day before anyone else online!  PLEASE CLICK HERE AND SHOW YOUR LOVE FOR FRIED CHICKEN AND SUSHI COMICS WITH PATREON.  Thank you!

Little Fried Chicken and Sushi is up on GoComics.com and here!

Now you can read the kid version of this strip, Little Fried Chicken and Sushi right here on this site and syndicated online HERE AT GoComics.com!  I've been waiting to launch the updated website and talk about the new comic for awhile now.  Karl will be in fourth grade at an International School in Osaka trying to fit in but his pet Tanuki makes things challenging.  This new comic will be fun because I can take Tanuki out of the house and he can use his magic to cause trouble for Karl and his friends.  Little FC&S will update with new comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in color and regular FC&S strips will still update Tuesday and Thursday.  Five days a week of FC&S comics!  I hope you read them both and please spread the word and let me know what you think!

MOJO animated short by Everett Downing

A spirit trapped in a cement golem with no memory of who or what he is, Mojo searches for identity with the aid of a runaway street witch named Creepy and her familar, Rat.  That's the premise for my friend, Everett Downing's comic book, MOJO.  He worked together with friends to create an animated vignette introducing the main characters and I'm sure you'll agree it is AWESOME!  When Everett isn't drawing comics, he's storyboarding at Dreamworks animation and posting art on his blog SHFP.TUMBLR.COM.  

Fried Chicken and Sushi 359 Karl and Mai's first real date

If you haven't figured it out by now, Mai is based on my wife.  The Cat's out of the bag!  This comic strip is pretty much exactly what we did on our first date together.  It was fun to think back on how nervous I was that evening but also how much fun we had together.  We could relate on so many things, even though we grew up in different countries.  There was also something there that we couldn't explain.  A pretty strong connection that we still have to this day.  The final panel of our Purikura picture is actually taken from the real one that we still have.  We laugh over the phrase "Good Surprise!" every time we look at it.  What were we thinking when writing that?  Perhaps, it was how we felt about finding each other. ;)  There will be a few more comics coming up of our first date so stay tuned.     

Fried Chicken and Sushi 353 J goes to a Manga shop

It really is exciting to walk into a bookstore in Japan and see so much manga!  There's a lot of good manga in Japan but it can be difficult to find because there's SO much there!  You need to spend ages going through titles to find something that is really a powerful combination of story and art.  I guess this is another disappointing reality that J has to face now that he's in Osaka.  Everything isn't perfect in Japan.  I'm not sure how much Japanese J can read so maybe he's just judging the manga by the artistic storytelling.  Friends would tell me about good manga to read and it would save me time at the bookstores.  Did you have a good experience the first time you went to buy manga in Japan? 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 329 J and Beverly's last date

Don't worry, I don't think she means he'll be doomed if he goes to Japan.  Beverly knows how much J loves Japanese culture so she's probably concerned that he'll feel right at home there and never want to come back to America.  I've seen it happen to Americans I know that moved there.  What do you think?  Are you one of those people?

Fried Chicken and Sushi 317 There's a limit to manga variety

Tanuki just needs to realize that a manga about him just wouldn't work!  Actually, it would probably become a huge hit.  I'll give it a thought.  I love the variety of manga out there.  It would be so wonderful if we had that kind of variety in American comics.  Things are getting better now that big publishers like Scholastic are putting out creative comics for kids.  As far as Japanese manga, I just started reading BAKUMAN and I love it!  It's so fun to read about how the manga industry works in Japan and how passionate manga creators are about their art and careers. 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 307 Kobe? Oh, Mai!

Not very smooth, Karl.  Oh, well.  Let's hope that Mai is interested in him.  Kobe is a beautiful city.  It was a little difficult to draw the harbor area but I think it came out looking decent.  If you haven't bought my graphic novel Tales of Tritoria:  YOUNGBLOODS yet, you can buy the entire 200 page digital version on GUMROAD for $3.  If you buy it here, I get more of the money than with Amazon.  You can even pay more for it if you want to help support this comic!  Thank you!  CLICK HERE TO BUY THE DIGITAL COPY OF YOUNGBLOODS

Fried Chicken and Sushi 302 Karl's not in the mood for Kobe

I hate to admit it but Tanuki might be right.  Finding all of those things in a woman could be impossible in Japan.  Karl should adjust his needs a little bit.  There's nothing wrong with opening yourself up to someone that might be good for you.  Even if they don't meet all of your criteria.  I'm sure all of Karl's past dating experiences are not making this any easier.

Fried Chicken and Sushi Characters by Jackie Wohlenhaus!

Thanks for the awesome take on my characters, Jackie!  If you love his style as much as I do, you should CLICK HERE and head over to his comic BETWEEN FAILURES and give it a good read.  He has years of archives for you to get into and enjoy.  His comics are a bit more "mature" in some areas compared to mine so you kids out there might need to be careful. 

Fried Chicken and Sushi 300 A little Kobe in the morning

Hey guys, this is my 300th comic strip!  Yay!  Hope you've enjoyed reading them all!  I sure have enjoyed making them.  Karl is excited to have another chance at a blind date like hang out thingy with Hachiro's match making friend.  What will the girl be like this time?  We shall see!