swiping Cohen

We’re past due for a blog update, so I thought I’d mention the release of the Traditional Chinese edition of BLANKETS.
My Taiwanese publisher Reading Times concocted a fancy animated “trailer” at their site.
Here’s a peek of their cover designs, splitting the book into two volumes.


And here’s my preface.


It reads: “The closest that the rural Wisconsin town I grew up in got to China was the ginseng crops we exported — the principal agriculture of the region. During the years toiling in the fields, digging up the strangely humanoid ginseng roots, I dreamt of a day I could live as an artist rather than a farmhand. While drawing BLANKETS between 2000 and 2003, my main fear was that readers wouldn’t relate to this insular story of an isolated upbringing in the middle of America. Instead, the book has extended my boundaries — brought this awkward outcast a community across the world. Today it boggles my mind to see this work being translated into Chinese. I’m reminded of Leonard Cohen’s forward to the Chinese edition of BEAUTIFUL LOSERS. He acknowledges the great Chinese poets and zen teachers. To that, I add that China was the womb from which printmaking was born. Cohen says, ‘Dear Reader, please forgive me if I have wasted your time.’ With humility and honor, I echo that sentiment to you.”

craigswiping Cohen
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tractor crossing

Dear blog-readers, Thank you for all the amazing comments. My apologies for not getting around to responding, but I’ve been focused on the new book. As even my best friends know, I’m lousy with correspondence, but maybe at some point I’ll get a handle on that aspect of blog-managing. Today, I leave for a cousin’s wedding in Ohio for four days, so I wanted to leave you with something — a handful of photos from that high school era, approximately 1993 in rural Wisconsin.


From left to right, top to bottom: My brother and I traversing the highway near our home. The view from the backyard skate-ramp (which I chose to omit from the book). (Note: yoda shirt.) My bro, our neighbor Shawn (aforementioned paper-provider), and me with cow-themed fashion. The sign for my hometown: population 1,200 at the time. An angst-ridden portrait (taken at church).

craigtractor crossing
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tool talk


In response to one of the most frequently asked of questions, here’s my list of “art tools”. My apologies to those
bored with shop-talk… I pencil with any ol’ HB pencil — these “Berol Turquoise” will do. Erasing courtesy of
“Staedtler Mars Plastic”. The text lettering in the balloons is casually dashed off with a .05 or .08 MICRON felt-tip.
For inking, I dunk a watercolor brush in a well of India ink – the old fashioned way. SPEEDBALL “Super Black” makes
me happy with its soulful darkness. CHUNKY RICE and BLANKETS were inked up with these cheap Winsor Newton
Cotman III number twos — a synthetic/sable blend. With my new book, Farel Dalrymple turned me on to this
upgrade brush — the Raphael series 8404 size number four. It’s quadruple the price, but it’s debatable if my line
has improved at all. While on the go, the Pentel “pocket-brush” is certainly handy. Another frequently asked question;
“How do you get that dry-brush effect?” Answer: Vellum finish bristol paper. Its toothiness combined with an abused brush
caked up with gunky ink.

The dimensions of my pages has fluctuated plenty. The live art area of CHUNKY RICE is 10.5″x14″ reduced for print a whoppin’ 48%. That’s admittedly too much shrinkage. While all the details are sharpened in the reduction, some of the integrity of the original is lost. The Pantheon edition of the book is smaller than the Top Shelf one, but the details are sharper, because I finally scanned the pages at 1200dpi from the original art. The older edition was simply 600dpi scans from Kinko’s photocopies! BLANKETS is drawn far smaller and reduced less — 7″x11.25″ / 70%. HABIBI is in-between; 8.75″x12.5% reduced 63%. (Sorry, this isn’t metric!)


One last goody. On this page of BLANKETS, you can see a paste-up correction. Just a slice
of typing paper glued atop the bristol.


craigtool talk
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blankets roughs

Hectic week is distracting me from updating. But here’s a little sumtin’…

A glimpse of my thumbnail process. I draw the entire book in this loose ballpoint pen format and edit, before ever starting the final pages. BLANKETS was thumbnailed for a year. The first page of final art was drawn August 24th, 2000.

These thumbnails were sketched out on February 19th, 2000. They’re finalized counterparts were inked on May 25th, 2002.



On the back of my final pages, I keep a brief journal —


This one mentions the bill-paying work I was about to throw myself into — two covers of NICKELODEON and a ten page comic for Dark Horse. For the record, I didn’t ink the next page of BLANKETS until June 18th, 2002, nearly a month later.

As for HABIBI, I spent late 2004 until late 2006 editing and rewriting the ballpoint pen version.

craigblankets roughs
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blankets notebook

Continual thanks to everyone responding to this blog. My apologies for being lazy with anything correspondence or ‘puter related. Soon I’ll try answering some of your questions… In the meantime, the blog seems like a decent forum for being transparent with the process of comics-making. I still feel secretive with HABIBI, but we’ve three other books to show-n-tell with — Here’s some doodlings from my notebook/sketchbook when I began writing BLANKETS. Kenneth Koch, Marcel Proust, Gnostic Gospels, Ballpoint Pen, 1999!


craigblankets notebook
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