Monday, December 14, 2009

AIFF jurors approve of Frozen Shorts

Where else but Alaska could a bunch of twisted knickers called Frozen Shorts be selected as best shorts in the Snowdance Category? Well, when you put it like that, the only answer is "nowhere". It is by definition an Alaska thing. And a fab thing it is! Snowdance is the category for Alaska-made, or Alaska-themed films. Frozen Shorts was also the runner-up for best picture in the category after "About Face" directed by the formidable Mary Katzke. Congratulations Mary, and a hearty thank-you to the jurors for making my morning!

Frozen Shorts screens tonight, Monday Dec. 14 at the Beartooth in the 5:30 program. If you can't make it to the big screen showing, here is a tiny screen version

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Animation as art

In the Anchorage International Film Festival program we learn that animation programmer Teresa Scott considers animation an art. If she should get challenged on this (and the fact that they feel obliged to advertise this opinion suggests that she might) she should know that she is in good company. She has an ally over at U.A.A's Litsite where founder Ron Spatz isn't afraid to feature animation as literature. And why not? It's certainly narrative, and what separates this form from any other form of narrative art? The same tests should apply.

Among the questions to ask: Is it well-executed? Does it deepen our appreciation of our place in the world? Does it challenge us to see anew? Is it beautiful in and of itself? The more the piece fulfills any of these criteria, (or others, make up your own) the more "artful" it is. It's not a question of form. Be it animation, novel, film, poetry, painting, the question is what does it do, and how well does it do it.

Let's hear it for those like Teresa and Ron who see deeper than form. Their reward: To find art where others have missed it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Me and Sid

If life isn't weird enough for you yet, try wrapping your head around this tidbit about recent acquisitions from the Anchorage Museum.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Anchorage International Film Festival schedule is now on line


Why do I always want to write "the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Film Festival"? Well, never mind! The important thing is to plan your immediate future around what's showing on the silver screen while all elsewhere is cold and dark.

Modesty compels me to refrain from all caps as I point out that my flick will play the following times and locations:

Tuesday, December 8 – 5:45pm – Alaska Experience
Saturday, Dec 12 – 5:30pm – Out North
Saturday, Dec.5 - 5:45 - Out North
Tuesday, Dec. 8 -7:45 - Out North

It's called Frozen Shorts, and consists of teeny tiny animations that all premiered on this very blog!

If that ain't enough PDS for you (and at roughly 6 minutes, it's a lot) you can come to the animation workshop and learn how to make films of your own to crowd mine out of next year's fest. Don't be alone in the dark!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anchorage, First Snow, the music video

A visit to Anchorage's annual Festival of Car Crashes (FOCC). The festival is traditionally held the first day that there is more than a dusting of snow. It's like Pamplona's Running of the Bulls except you are in your car and the object is to avoid all the other cars. This is no easy feat given treacherous road conditions and "Auto Alzheimer's" the yearly loss of memory of how to drive in winter that afflicts most of the town.

The weak and cowardly stay home and the truly macho strut their stuff in the legendary places of traffic mayhem, like the intersection of Tudor and Lake Otis. The annual festival is a boon to both body shops and hotels as tourists flood the town from around the world, many getting caught up in the action in their rental cars. That's the spirit, everyone's welcome! You must be 16 or older and hold a valid diver's license to participate, but anyone can watch.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The stuff that dreams are made of: Arrested development as a career strategy

Here is a piece I wrote at the request of staff at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art. They asked for something to provide context for my collected works for the Anchorage Daily News. About 25 years of political cartoons along with numerous and varied illustrations for news stories now reside at the museum. Thanks to the Daily News for helping to make this possible. Word from the museum is that some of the work will go on display next January as part of the new acquisitions show.

What was I thinking?
How and why I became a cartoonist

The danger of asking a boy what he wants to be when he grow up is that he'll answer with something ridiculous and impractical. And then stick with it. That's been my formula for success. I got bitten by the cartoon bug back in the mid-sixties when I was in the second grade. In the optimistic, can-do, post-earthquake Alaska anything seemed possible, even that a person could make a living drawing cartoons for a newspaper. So, when asked that perennial question "What do you want to be when you grow up" I changed my answer from garbageman to cartoonist.

By the time I was a fifth grader, I realized that no serious person could answer "cartoonist" when asked what they did for a living. Cartooning at that time meant "Blondie" or "Beetle Bailey" or, God forbid, "The Flintstones". I could imagine the pitying looks of other adults when I confessed this sadly childish profession.

Then a wonderful thing happened: The Watergate burglary. Suddenly satire was deadly serious, and cartoonists were up front with the best of them. Herblock was recognized along with Woodward and Bernstein when the Washington Post was awarded its Pulitzer for Watergate coverage. And nobody surpassed a transplanted Australian named Pat Oliphant. Oliphant's graphic line was, and still is, as eloquent as his wicked sense of humor and moral outrage.

I was quickly caught up in what the drawings were talking about: High crimes, war, bigotry, the environment, and economics . Challenged and excited by this material, I soon had my own subscription to Time magazine, provided by my exasperated parents who would constantly find their copy missing or dismembered. I would clip the cartoons from the magazines for my collection, leaving the pages full of holes. Now, when asked what I planned to do when I grew up, I refined my answer to "political cartooning".

It is a cliche of cartooning that cartoonists start out as subversive doodlers who will draw at all times at all costs, in spite of or even because of oppression at school from humorless teachers and principals. Heroically, compulsively, our budding cartoonist draws on, fighting authority and cultivating an image as a merry martyr of irreverence.

This was the first cliche I avoided as a cartoonist. I met nothing but support from my parents and teachers. My family kept me supplied with pens and paper, and from time to time they would throw in books on cartooning for my birthday. More important, my Dad especially had a genuine appreciation of good cartooning and was willing to discuss his view of a cartoon. He also taught me to love Bill Mauldin, especially his WWII cartoons.

My teachers encouraged me to draw for school projects. And my classmates egged me on, awarding me the honor of "Most Artistic" in the sixth grade. I've often thought that my career was just an extension of my school days habit of entertaining classmates with drawings.

I went on at preparing myself for cartooning, majoring in art at Whitman College, taking political science and history classes, and doing cartoons for the school paper. Preparation was important: One needed to be ready to make the most of the small chance of getting hired for a staff job. Documenting the number of staff cartooning positions in U.S. newspapers has always been difficult but during my time in the trade, I doubt it ever exceeded 300.

As luck would have it, when I returned to Alaska from college, my hometown of Anchorage was the stage for one of the last competitive newspaper struggles. The long dominant and deeply conservative Anchorage Times was being challenged by the newly reinvigorated and mildly left-wing Anchorage Daily News. The Times had a local cartoonist. The Daily News didn't. Philosophically, I was much more in harmony with the Daily News. After an interview with editor Stan Abbott I started doing a weekly cartoon for editorial page editor Steve Lindbeck: $25 bucks a pop, and all the glory you could handle. For me, it was the stuff that dreams are made of. To cover the stuff that real life is made of, like rent and groceries, I worked at Blaine's Art and Frame shop.

After about six months of freelancing to the Daily News (during which I doubled my cartooning income from $25 a week to $50 a week by upping my quota of cartoons for the paper to two), I got a call asking if I would be interested in a job. They explained that half the job would be creating cartoons and half would be a variety of graphic chores from updating the weather map to creating elaborate charts and feature illustrations. They asked me if I could do all that. I answered with an unequivocal "Yes."

While unequivocal, this yes was entirely theoretical. I hadn't graphed anything since high school math and even back in that day, it wasn't my strong suit. As for maps, that went back to high school as well. They asked me if I could start right away. I protested that I needed to give two weeks notice. I would have done this anyway, but in truth I used much of that two weeks to borrow every book I could from the library on making charts etc. so I could do half my job. I showed up that first day ready to either thrive, or be fired for incompetence.

Led by the idealistic and resourceful Kay Fanning, and staffed by talented editors and writers like Howard Weaver, Stan Abbott and Mike Campbell, the Daily News was a creative hothouse that was an ideal environment for a green cartoonist. Steve Lindbeck, my first editor, was smart and demanding, the first in a line of amazing editors who were my supporters, teachers and friends.

Less than a year out of college I had my dream job. And that's when the learning began. As a member of the Daily News editorial board I got to meet and interview Alaskans from Jay Hammond to Indigenous activist Charlie "Etok" Edwardson. I went to Juneau many times to see the legislature and the rest of state government in the ungainly throes of the lawmaking process. On the graphics side, I got to work alongside and learn from talented people like Dee Boyles, Susan Berry, Ron Engstrom, and my wife, Pam.

Graphics frustrated me. As an ambitious cartoonist, I saw them as a distraction from my real purpose. But appreciation of a good illustration or photo led to an understanding that for this work to shine, it needed a foundation of good design. This in turn led to an explosion of excitement on the discovery of a hidden world of transparent beauty in the elegance of letter forms and the use of space and mass on a page. I never got especially good at graphics, but I came to love them when well-executed. For awhile it became difficult to read, as I would become distracted by the type and the way it was set and displayed on the page. The trees obscured the forest, but what beautiful trees!

Did the Daily News impose any limits on me? Yes. They hired me with a strong understanding that I would concentrate on state and local politics. It seems so obvious right now, but as a young cartoonist bred on a diet of national political cartoons, I chafed at first under this stricture. Time brought change. The longer I worked at it, the more I came to agree with Kansas City Star cartoonist Lee Judge that national political comment is a Faustian bargain. National topics seems grander, and there's a thrill to saying to yourself "I guess I showed the President THIS time!" But unless you are Herblock, chances are the President didn't notice. There's just to much noise out there, especially with the advent of the internet, to have much impact on the national or World level. Anyway, that's Bono's job. The local and state level are a different story.

Over time I came to not only understand but embrace the possibility in local satire. For starters, I had the local bozos almost entirely to myself, with only occasional competition from the other cartoonists. Alaska is richly endowed with oil, fish, and buffoons. And when, God forbid we ever run out of the first two, the annual buffoon runs will still be strong. People used to say to me, "What are you going to do when you don't have Frank Murkowski to kick around anymore?" I'd just smile and reply with a faith that was as strong as it was simple, "Something else will come along." Enter Sarah Palin. And while Bogey and Bergman may always have Paris, it's looking like I'll always have Don Young.

As Thoreau said, "It is not enough simply to be busy, the question is what are we busy about?" So what was my agenda as a cartoonist? First, I saw cartooning as an extension of citizenship. The framers of the constitution protected our right of speech, not in some empty gesture towards Platonic ideals, but as an expectation that we would use it. Cartooning seemed to me to be a great way to stick your oar in and get paid for it. Second, as one who was reared in Anchorage I wanted to help shape my young state and community in a way that meant dignity and quality of life for the individuals who lived here as part of that community. Third, as one who had a bully pulpit, I wanted to use that pulpit for those who were somehow excluded or disenfranchised by the larger culture. Fourth I wanted to have fun. This is the only area where I met with unqualified success.

When I returned from college I thought there was a possibility of an Alaskan "Third Way" embodied most visibly in the Bush Rat Governor Jay Hammond, but whose strains were also present in the work of Supreme Court Justice Jay Rabinowitz, and even in the younger conservative but not doctrinaire Ted Stevens. Alaska could be a state where Republicans could insist that development meet community desires and where Democrats owned guns. Where drilling for oil could go on where it made sense, and national parks could preserve our magnificent and unique environment. Crazy, I know, but if ever a state was large enough to accommodate difference...

I aimed the Third Way and started blasting.

Did my work make a difference? Hard to measure. I've been told by both then-representative Con Bunde and members of the anti-tobacco camp that cartoon pressure saved Bunde's bill to hike the cigarette tax to a dollar. The bill was held in a death grip by House Speaker Gail Phillips. A barrage of cartoons made it too hot to hang on to. Once loose, it went on to become law, saving lives and money. But all the cartoons in the world couldn't get a rural subsistence preference amendment to the state constitution passed, or force a fiscal plan through the Alaska Legislature.

I also discovered through phone calls and conversations with readers that there is a micro level where a cartoonist can have impact on the individual, be they an anonymous bigot inflamed over a cartoon advocating gay rights, or a messenger shot for bearing bad news who calls to say it makes a difference that at least someone understood. There's a wonderful Jewish saying that to save one life is to save a universe. By that logic, if I afflicted one bigot or comforted one victim of injustice then I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

That would be a pre-existing condition

Thursday, October 29, 2009

See one, do one, teach one: Upcoming Animation Workshop

I said I'd like to contribute in some way to the Anchorage International Film Festival. They said "Why don't you lead a workshop on animation?" I thought of a dozen reasons to say "No", but I said yes instead. So you can be miserable because of the cold and dark this December 5 or you can brave the elements and learn a few tricks that should keep you busy until May.

Here's the condensed version:

"Animation: Different Approaches" featuring two filmmakers, Peter Dunlap-Shohl (dir., "Frozen Shorts", Animation Official Selection, Snowdance), and Callum Paterson (dir., "Bonefeather", Animation Official Selection, Family Films). With an introductory film "How To Animate" (dir., Jordan Wood, Animation Official Selection). A hands-on look at the simple tools of animation; concept ideas and sketches; and storyboard basics.

2009 Anchorage International Film Festival, Animation Workshop
OutNorth Theatre
Saturday, December 5, 2009
3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m.

I plan to lay out a rudimentary form of computer animation that anyone who has put together a computer slide show should be able to work with.

I've been corresponding with the co-leader of the workshop, Canadian Callum Paterson, and am looking forward to his presentation, which is based on stop-motion animation.
See you there. I'll be the guy learning from Callum.

Oblivion Revisited

Thanks for the suggestions. I even took some. The narration is better now... but good enough?

Won't run on your machine? try YouTube

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homeric Odyssey

Our Band is going on a World Tour of Homer Nov 14. Be there or Despair!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pete's shorts find film fest favor

I am excited to report that the fine folks at our own Anchorage International Film Festival have again picked some of my animations as official festival selections this year. I submitted a "Clump" of shorts under one title, "Frozen Shorts" All the shorts in the submission first appeared on this blog. They include

The Voyeur
No more Mr. Nice Guy
A Word from our Sponsor
Lost in Translation, Sarah Palin captioned for the B.S. impaired
The Goldberg Revelations.

This is a big deal for me as I get to pose as a "Director", put on airs, and act even more insufferable than usual. The best part? I believe my shorts will be on the big screen at the Bear Tooth. I hope I'll see you there!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Atlas Doctrine (Uncommon Wisdom #23)

Chattering Class alert: Chattering 101 with PDS

As a chattering champ, I have would like to announce a trifecta. This October I'll be communicating with communicators about communication. To which I can only add "Dude!"
The group I'll be addressing is Alaska Professional Communicators. The summary of my presentation is:

Former Daily News cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl tells how being cornered by a slowly debilitating disease paradoxically pushed him beyond his self-created limits into a new landscape of possibility. Peter will take you on a multi-media tour of that landscape ranging from his work at the Daily News to his post-Daily News adventures in blogging and animated video.

Some of you will recognize this as my stump speech, and you are excused. The talk will be at the regularly held group luncheon 11:30 a.m., October 1 at the Golden Lion Hotel, 1000 East 36th Avenue, Anchorage

Lunch: members $16; guests of members $18; others $20

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Latest Project: 1 of 5 pages from Sarah Hurst's graphic novel of Alaska history

Just finished my part of this inspired idea from Sarah Hurst. Sarah had the notion of turning a play she wrote about Alaska history into a graphic novel. Then, with focus and energy that I can only wonder at, she went out and came up with an Alaska Humanities Forum grant to actually pay a host of contributing artists for their work. Among the other artists involved: Lee Post and (last time I checked) Duke Russell.

Thanks to Sarah and the Rasmuson Foundation for this chance to try something new!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

More iPhone art

Done with the Brushes program on my iPhone. This program forces me to think differently about how I plan and execute a drawing. Great exercise, great fun.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Attack of the pachycephalosaurs, coming to a town meeting near you!

What is a pachcephalosaur? It's latin, the scientific name for these "thick-headed" dinosaurs.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vienna in New York, update

ABOVE, A scene from my manuscript.

Thanks to Ronnie Dent and Jen Cudmore, the manuscript for my kid's book is now in the hands of fire-breathing literary agent Janet Reid. Let's hope it doesn't come back as toast. Ms. Reid is one of the pros coming North for the Alaska Writer's Guild workshop this August. Jen is one of the organizers of the conference, and Ronnie is the friend who got me to sign up. Thanks to both of them.

Because I'm a problem child, I even made Ms. Reid's blog, which is full of advice to writers, and a fun read.

Fingers crossed, blase attitude affected, down the road we go.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Uncommon Wisdom #18

Credit where credit is due: The first half of this piece of wisdom was pirated from uncommonly wise and non-fictitious actual person Robert Meyerowitz

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What (Aside from the entire country of Canada) Sets Alaska Apart ?

Shannyn Moore, Steve Heimel and I deconstructed Bunny Boots, Blazo boxes and Pilot Bread with help from voices from across our peculiar state on Talk of Alaska this morning. To give you the flavor of the discussion, I am posting my kick-off for the show below. It is sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things".

Cold snaps and earthquakes,volcanic eruptions,
Bear in the back yard, Veco corruption,
Fat checks from the government that make our hearts sing
These are peculiar A-las-ka things.

Softball at midnight,
Winter moon at mid morning,
Alaska's the frontier of global warming
The dead hand of government we're fond of bewalin'
But we got our revenge, it's governor Palin!

Where the dog bites
Where the cold stings
But the air is clear,
So clear that from many a village and town, you can see Canada from here!

There are more thoughts from across Alaska posted on Shannyn's blog here

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Click on cartoon to enlarge

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy

My friend Charlie brought my attention to this video.

It is a plea from a wide cross section of people for the value of the arts. (You can see Charlie at 12' 58" He also did the music.) Charlie is a veteran Pittsburgh advocate for the arts whose passion is a thing of beauty in itself. He is also smart, which is why he and the others who did the project didn't take the approach I took in the video posted below. But I'm guessing that deep down, he might have been tempted.

Art is, among other things, the Rosetta Stone that a culture leaves behind to be decoded, understood and appreciated by those that follow. It is our gift to them as well as to us. It is a message that passes through time that tells of what we have in common with all humanity, and what makes us different. Take away the art, and you are still left with a message. But not one the World would care to read.

Arts advocates devote their lives to explaining, defending and then re-explaining and re-defending why this is important. Maybe it is time artists and those that recognize their value borrow an effective technique common elsewhere, and settle this once and for all. See the video below to see how this would work.

And thanks, Charlie

Thursday, May 21, 2009

iFauna from my iPhone

Read 'em and weep

Hey folks, just a reminder to check out my health care reform blog, Gurney to the Dark Side, the original home of this cartoon.