Author: Ben Lansing

RVA digital media specialist // cartoonist // husband // avid churchman // amateur pontificator

Congratulations, Gary Brookins!

Today my friend and mentor, Gary Brookins, retires. Thank you, Gary, for your many years of wonderful work and humor, and for the abundant encouragement you’ve given over the years. What a joy it is to work daily on a comic strip that has inspired my art and humor since I was a kid.

Starting next month, you’ll see a new signature on Shoe’s daily cartoons. Gary’s signature will reemerge each week with new Shoe Sundays, and he’ll continue on as Shoe’s art supervisor. I’m looking forward to seeing what new projects Gary produces as he eases into this new season (an artist never fully retires, you know). It’s a privilege to work with Gary and Susie MacNelly as we continue the Shoe legacy. The Shoe must go on!

Read Shoe daily at http://www.shoecomics.com

Michelangelo copied Schongauer…

Searching for inspiration is like any other form of fishing. Cast out as many lines as you can. Any one of them could get a bite. I spend a lot of time reading, researching, and following loose threads of ideas. I’m not sure where the threads are going. They often lead nowhere. A Wikipedia rabbit hole about Russian symphonies, or a rich-smelling leather book about knights and the holy grail, or fifteen minutes with George Bellows’ lithographs in the art museum… any of these may be all I need for an idea to begin nibbling away at me. In my experience, inspiration rarely comes in flashes of light. Instead, it’s an increasing urgency.

doomscroll

One of my lines was thrown into the world of 15th century Italian art. I got a bite. Michelangelo’s image of Saint Anthony of Egypt, tormented by demonic forces, translated to the experience of surveying my Facebook news feed, and my desire somehow to hold onto sanity and dignity as we approach election day. It’s heavily copied off Michelangelo’s artwork. But, then again, Michelangelo heavily copied a similar piece by Martin Schongauer. Who knows where Schongauer got his ideas. I guess we’re even. We’re all just sitting on the shore, waiting for something to bite.

Read this cartoon, and other recent work here.

Reuben Awards

Last weekend, the National Cartoonists Society held the Reuben Awards, in Philadelphia. Just a few months earlier, I had been invited to join the ranks; one of the greatest honors of my decade and a half in cartooning. My membership was finalized just in time to attend the Reubens (the Oscars equivalent for professional cartoonists).

It was an incredible experience to witness one of my longtime cartooning heroes, Lynn Johnston, winning the fifth NCS lifetime Medal of Honor. This year’s Reuben Award was presented to Glen Keane, legendary character animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios for feature films, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Tangled (and son of Family Circus creator, Bil Keane).

Cartooning involves long hours of working solo, so it was a huge pleasure to connect with so many other professionals in this field. Many thanks to John Rose (Snuffy Smith), Greg Cravens (The Buckets, editorial cartoonist), Ray Billingsley (Curtis), Nathan Archer (editorial cartoonist), Jeff Stahler (Moderately Confused, editorial cartoons), Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead), Farley Katz (New Yorker cartoonist), Joe Dator (New Yorker cartoonist), Joe Staton (Dick Tracy, Green Lantern Corps), Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse), Mike Peters (Mother Goose & Grimm), and most of all my close friend and mentor, Gary Brookins (Shoe, Pluggers) who all made us feel welcome and right at home. We can’t wait to come back.

Here are a few photos from the weekend.

Exploring Philly
Cartoonists and spouses exploring Philadelphia together. Clockwise from left: John and Karen Rose, Ben Lansing, Jeani Stahler, Gary Brookins, Bethany Lansing and Jeff Stahler.

Ray Billingsley
With Ray Billingsley, creator of the comic strip, Curtis.

Nathan Archer
With Nathan Archer, editorial cartoonist for the Tallahassee Democrat. Nathan is also a new NCS member and also grew up in Chesterfield County, Virginia. So many cartoonists grew up in Chesterfield during the 1980s (Randall Munroe of xkcd.com is another example). Must have been something in the water.

Reuben awards
With Bethany, at the Reuben awards banquet.

Johnston and Guisewite
Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse) and Cathy Guisewite (Cathy) in the panel discussion, ‘Pioneering Women In The Field Of Cartooning’.

Ben Lansing Creative: A Story in Review

I’ve been working on a relaunch of my official website, this spring.

Naturally, taking time to indulge my nostalgia and reflect on the story of Ben Lansing Creative is an indispensable step in the project. When I contemplate my journey as an artist, one person in particular is prominent in my thoughts: my grandfather, Pop.

A pig hiding behind a barn
A pig hiding behind a barn

Pop introduced me to the funny papers when I was young, reading each panel to me, and then carefully explaining the jokes. He taught me how to draw my first cartoon: a pig hiding behind a barn. (I can still draw this.) Pop gave me a subscription to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, into my young adulthood. (I mostly read the funny papers.) And as I developed my art skills and began earning publication contracts, Pop was always one of the first people I’d call.

One of my last conversations with Pop, in January 2018, was about my transition into life as a full-time cartoonist. That month will always stand out in my story. My dream of a career in cartooning and illustrating came to fruition, and I lost my first best friend and fan. In those last hours before Pop passed, I sat at his kitchen table drawing cartoons, taking breaks to sit next to his bed and read the funny papers with him.

I couldn’t help but include, in my website relaunch announcement, this tribute to the person who supported and inspired me through so much of my education and career. Please take a look around the website, watch the blog for updates (including behind-the-scene insights and first looks at projects), follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and even let me know if you have a project you’d like to discuss with me.

Thanks for reading. See you in the funny papers!