Category Archives: drawings

THE UNEXPECTED FINAL BUMMER OF THE IOWA CITY POLICE LOG

So, from January of 2020 to September of 2023 (with a couple of breaks), I had a project where I’d look at the twitter feed of the Iowa City Police Log, pick an entry for the day, and draw a single-panel cartoon based on it. It was a lot of fun! Of all the art projects I’ve done in my life, it was one that resonated the most with other people; Twin Cities Public Television did a piece on it, and I wound up meeting a bunch of fun and cool people online through the strip. All of the strips are still available on Instagram (twitter, too, but IG’s the better interface), and I remain proud and full of love for them.

I wound it down in September of ’23 for a bunch of intertwining reasons: the strip was tightly tied to Twitter, and at that point (and I guess still) it wasn’t clear how much longer Twitter would be around, or how cool it was to be involved with it given Musk’s determination to remake the site into a right-wing oasis; I was getting worried that, after about 620 strips, I was running out of jokes and in danger of repeating myself; and, as those snowballs rolled down the mountain of my brain and started to get bigger, internal political stuff in Iowa City forced the issue when the city changed the way it reported police incidents, kneecapping the feed I depended on. So my choice was made for me. The police log strip was done after a long and full life, and it was time to move on to other projects.

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The Iowa City Police Log

Quick update from December of 2023: the Police Log comics are now a finished project, with an unfortunate coda. I’m still proud of the comics, though, and they’re still available as linked. If you see anything involing the Iowa City Police Log and AI art, please know that I had nothing to do with it.

Every morning, I get up, consult the twitter feed of the Iowa City Police Log, and draw a one-panel cartoon based on it. This started out as a get-through-the-winter whim and has turned into a get-through-a-pandemic-hellscape coping mechanism. The resulting comics get posted to a Twitter thread and to my Instagram feed, in both cases paired with their inciting Police Log entry.

People seem to be pretty into these, which is great! TPT, Minnesota’s Public Television station, even did a short piece on them, where I talk about my process, my motivations, and the sort-of-intentional larger political point of the strips in an era where we as a society are rethinking the way police departments should be constituted. They also put KEITH PILLE – CARTOONIST on the screen, so I guess despite endless questions about my artistic identity, now I know: I’m a cartoonist.

KP|CIA

And here’s my first stab at a new direction after Nowhere Band. After reading and thinking about autobio comics a ton for my thesis work, I couldn’t resist making one of my own. And this is a story I’ve always wanted to tell. I wouldn’t bet against more of these coming out in the next few months.









Tarot Sketches of the Major Arcana

So here’s another art project I’ve been working on for the past few months: drawing my way through the major arcana. I wanted an excuse to try some different stylistic stuff and not always have to draw guitars and drumsets (I didn’t count on finishing Nowhere Band before I finished this). Some of these are pretty rough, but I really like a bunch of them. I wound up learning a lot about artistic technique, archetypes, and a bunch of weird little bits of European history. So, good project all around.

I *might* go back and do more polished versions, at least of some of them. Not sure.

FWIW, my process was pretty simple: I looked up the Rider-Waite version of the card (since I like the style of them, and they seem to be default) and just sort of stared at it for a few minutes and then started drawing, trying honor whatever popped into my head at the moment.

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A Walk Through the Process of Creating Nowhere Band

A couple of friends have asked me about the nuts and bolts of how I put a Nowhere Band strip together; I’m in kind of a dead spot as I recover from a vacation and wait for class to start, so I thought now would be a good time to do a quick walkthrough of the process. So (click on all pictures to embiggen):

1-scriptSTEP 1 : SCRIPT

Naturally, I start with a script. Actually, that’s not true. I start with a vague idea that gets jotted down in a notebook or a google doc, and then fluffed out to a badly-written paragraph with chunks of dialogue embedded, and then on to a full-on script.

My scripts are pretty minimal (and casual as far as spelling and grammar and those niceties), since I’m just writing for myself and I’ve already internalized all kinds of strip conventions about locations, expressions, gestures, and such. At this point, it’d be really weird to write a script for someone else to draw. I should try it some time.

The hardest thing in the script stage is making sure lines of dialogue don’t get too long to fit gracefully into balloons. I can get pretty wordy – I still basically think of myself as a writer who sort of knows how to draw – so this is a challenge.

1-redlineSTEP 2 : REDLINE

This is the worst step; in any sort of creative work, the hardest part is sitting down and facing a blank piece of paper, and that’s what’s going on here. Everything after this point is basically a form of editing and refinement, cleaning up or enhancing something that already exists. Here, I’m wrestling something into existence. Mornings when I wake up and have to go downstairs and do redlines are the times I’m most tempted to sleep in or volunteer to walk the dog on Rebecca’s day of the rotation.

Anyway: I start out by laying out the panel grid in red pencil (doing this stage in red makes it easy to remove all of this rough early work in Photoshop once the strip’s scanned). The script’ll tell me how many panels I need (I try to keep it around 5, give or take a couple, but different strips need different lengths). Relative panel size usually comes down to a function of how much dialog is in a given panel (remember, I get wordy), how big a thing or space needs to be shown, or how many characters appear.

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Why So Quiet?

thin-lizzieWell, it’s simple… since I work for a university, I recently became eligible for free tuition for grad-level classes, so a couple of months ago I started a master’s program in software. Which I’m sure will pay off in the long run, but in the short term it’s kind of meant tossing a hand grenade into my life as I knew it. Work on EYEBALL continues, but at a drastically-reduced pace; I don’t know that I’ll finish more than 4 or 5 pages this semester (although then it’ll pick up over the summer, at least for a while).

Stuff’s still happening, though. Before the coursework shit really started hitting the fan, I had time to work something up for Andrew Weiss’ Ultimate Powers Jam, and I’m actually happier with it than I am with pretty much any creative thing I’ve done for the past year. So there’s that.

In the meantime, yeah. I’m still around, and still working on comics at a snail’s pace. When I’m not fighting with Python.

New project, page 1

So, here’s what I’ve been working on. This is the inked (but not colored or lettered) first page of a graphic novel I’m setting out on. This should be a pretty big project, and I’m actually not sure what my endgame will be as far as getting it out into the world- I want to have a big chunk of pages put together before I start thinking about whether or not to run it serially online, for instance.

The project is (temporarily) called Eyeball, and it’s about spyplanes in the early 60s. Or about not getting too lost in your job, depending on which way you want to look at it.

This one’s been gestating for quite a while; I wrote out the original plot and started scripting in 2006. I was really excited about the project, but eventually bailed because 1) I didn’t think I could draw well enough to do it justice, and 2) the thought of doing all of the visual research to get the look and feel right for a story set in 1960 just scared the piss out of me. But now I’m 6 years better at drawing (I still think it’ll be a challenge, but it’s actually possible this time) and, well, Mad Men has gone and done me the favor of researching what things looked like in 1960.

So we’ll see where this goes.

X-1

x-1

A drawing of the Bell X-1, the first plane to break the sound barrier*. First flight in 1946. Design inspired by a rifle bullet because that was the only thing anyone could think of in 1945 that was supersonic.

*a German pilot claimed to have broken the sound barrier while diving in a Me-262 in 1945, but nobody really takes the claim seriously.

I’ll be drawing a lot of planes in the near future, as a warmup for the next biggish project.