Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Christmas Wish List" Gag Cartoon in Reader's Digest Canada Magazine (December 2006)

Reader's Digest Canada Magazine - December 2006 CoverThe latest issue of Reader's Digest Canada Magazine hits newsstands this week.

This month, one of my gag cartoons is published in the As Kids See It department on Page 107 ... If you're not a subscriber, I highly encourage you to pickup a copy of the magazine!

The holidays are fast approaching ...

Don't miss RD's 31 Everyday Ways to Lose Weight this season!

Reader's Digest Canada Magazine - December 2006 - Christmas Wish List Cartoon by Mike Cope
"Christmas Wish List" in Reader's Digest Canada Magazine (December 2006).

Click the above image to see the full cartoon.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Sunday, October 08, 2006

NEW BOOK: Laughter, The Best Medicine (Reader's Digest Canada)


Back-to-back gag cartoons in new humour book.

I'm happy to announce that two of my gag cartoons are published in Laughter, The Best Medicine, a new book from the humour editors at Reader's Digest (Canada).

Dozens of professional cartoonists have contributed to the book. It's quite an honour to be printed alongside established veterans such as Mark Anderson, Pat Byrnes, John Caldwell, Roy Delgado, Benita Epstein, Randy Glasbergen, Mike Lynch, Patricia Madigan, Scott Arthur Masear, Dan Reynolds, Harley Schwadron, and Elwood Smith -- to name only a few!

For a sneak peak of my own featured cartoons, click on either of the following icons ...


"Showoff" & "Flag of Canada" (pg. 190 & 191)

To-date, I've had four cartoons published by Reader's Digest. My first was back in May with W32.Dog.E Virus, followed by Free Samples in August. My fifth will be in the December issue of the magazine.


LAUGHTER, THE BEST MEDICINE
A Laugh-Out-Loud Collection of the Funniest Jokes, Quotes, Stories and Cartoons.

ISBN: 0888508050 - Published: October 2006
More details at the Reader's Digest Canada Store

I highly encourage you to purchase your own copy today.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Saturday, October 07, 2006

DIGITAL PHOTOS: Fall Colours at The Falls

Being a cartoonist, Fall is definitely one of my favourite times of the year. The colours are more vibrant. The temperature is still comfortable. It's one of those rare times when Mother Nature shows off her full creative capacity, leaving all aspiring artists and seasoned professionals in awe.

It's happening right now.

But if you blink too long, you'll miss the show!

The following are a few memories that I captured today while hiking in Niagara Falls (Canada) with my wife...

All of the above photos were taken using a Canon PowerShot S3 IS digital camera.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada ... and Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Friday, September 29, 2006

PARKVIEW PANTHERS STUDIO: "Thank You, Cartoon Network!"

Cartoon Network LogoOn behalf of the Communications Technology students and myself at Parkview Secondary School, I'd like to publicly acknowledge the generous donation made to Parkview Panthers Studio by the kind folks at the Cartoon Network.

My aspiring Grade 9 animation students were delighted to discover a set of 5 plastic figurines from the popular series Codename: Kids Next Door. They immediately went to work using these to practice their stop-motion animation skills.

We also received a couple of signed posters advertising the network's new animated series Class of 3000 (Premiering on Friday, November 3rd).

All of these resources will help inspire my students and enhance their education. Thank you, Cartoon Network!

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Parkview Panthers Studio

Monday, September 18, 2006

HOW TO: Install Mustek A3 USB Scanner in Microsoft Windows Vista

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Thanks to all the readers who've sent me comments via e-mail. Please note that an updated version of this workaround is now available here!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm now in the process of testing Microsoft's final major pre-release of Windows Vista, Release Candidate 1 (RC1). In a future post, I'll review some of the pro's and con's that I see for cartoonists and multimedia designers like myself who might be debating whether upgrading is worth it, but first ...

Mustek's A3 USB ScanExpress is not compatible with Windows Vista.

At least, that's the official word from Mustek's Tech Support.

However, the A3 USB ScanExpress makes a wonderfully econonmic tabloid scanner (capable of scanning documents up to 11" x 17"). Not being able to use this device in Windows Vista would be ... well, disappointing.

But there's hope ...

This installer is only for Windows 98, Windows 95 OSR, Windows 2000 and Windows XP ... Or is it?

If you try installing the Mustek A3 USB driver (available here) under Windows Vista, you'll receive the following error message:

Even with Vista's Program Compatibility Wizard, the same error occurs.

The workaround is to make Windows Vista think that it is an older operating system (ex. Windows 2000) by temporarily changing the system's registry.

Windows Vista / Mustek A3 USB Workaround ...

This is actually based on an old trick that I've used several times in the past to install software under Windows XP, however, rookies should not attempt it without a computer geek's supervision :)

(1) Run the REGISTRY EDITOR. ("regedit.exe")

(2) Open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion

(3) Rename the key "ProductName" from "Windows Vista (TM) Ultimate" to "Microsoft Windows 2000".

(4) Install the Mustek A3 USB driver for Windows 2K/XP.

(5) When installation has completed, undo the registry changes.

(6) Power the scanner and connect USB cable. Windows Vista will proceed with detecting and installing the scanner.

(7) Click the Start Button and navigate to All Programs -> ScanExpress A3 USB -> Direct Scan*
(* C:\Windows\twain_32\L3U16\WATCH.exe)

Congratulations! You can now use the Mustek A3 USB ScanExpress in Microsoft Windows Vista.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Friday, September 15, 2006

Microsoft Windows Vista - RC1

Being an avid computer technology junkie, I decided to join Microsoft's Customer Preview Program a few months ago to test their upcoming operating system, Windows Vista.

After downloading the latest beta software, Release Candidate 1 (a.k.a. "RC1"), I must admit that the installation was fast and flawless. I look forward to seeing whether this new monster will convince me to remain a loyal Windows user, or follow my gut and buy a Mac to suit my multimedia needs.

Now, let's see how this thing handles my scanner and tablet ...

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

PARKVIEW PANTHERS STUDIO: "Thank You, Washington Post Writers Group!"

Washington Post Writers Group LogoOn behalf of the Communications Technology students and myself at Parkview Secondary School, I'd like to publicly acknowledge the generous donation made to Parkview Panthers Studio by the kind folks at the comic strip syndicate, The Washington Post Writers Group.

Earlier this week, we were delighted to receive copies of several different media press kits used by the syndicate's sales reps to promote their comic strip features to newspaper editors. Included in each kit were daily and coloured Sunday strip samples from popular WPWG features including: Bo Nanas by John Kovaleski, Candorville by Darrin Bell, Opus by Berkeley Breathed, Out of the Gene Pool by Matt Janz, Pickles by Brian Crane, Red and Rover by Brian Basset, and the all new Watch Your Head by Cory Thomas.

These press kits are a wonderful because they not only show students different packaging and design layouts, but they can also be used as literacy resources. All of them will help inspire my students and enhance their education. Thank you, WPWG!

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Parkview Panthers Studio

Friday, September 08, 2006

PARKVIEW PANTHERS STUDIO: "Thank You, Teletoon!"

Teletoon LogoOn behalf of the Communications Technology students and myself at Parkview Secondary School, I'd like to publicly acknowledge the generous donation made to Parkview Panthers Studio by the kind folks at TELETOON, Canada's animation station.

Among the classroom resources we received were stickers, posters, rulers, as well as DVDs of the popular animated shows: 6Teen, Braceface, and Delta State.

In addition, I was personally delighted to receive a copy of the TELETOON Creative Sparks School Program teacher's manual -- a binder packed with an array of different cartoon and animation related activities.

All of these resources will help inspire my students and enhance their education. Thank you, TELETOON!

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Parkview Panthers Studio

Saturday, September 02, 2006

OPENING SOON: Parkview Panthers Studio



School officially begins for many of us on Tuesday (Sept. 5th).

I'm happy to announce that when the doors re-open at Parview Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario, our Communications Technology students in grades 9 through 12 will be part of the new PARKVIEW PANTHERS STUDIO -- a fun and exciting opportunity for students to learn about various multimedia technologies with a strong focus on animation production.

In our studio, students will work on everything from character design and storyboarding, to different animation styles such as classical, stop-motion, claymation, pixillation, Flash, and even rotoscoping. In the end, students will leave with a portfolio of skills they can transfer to various Communication Technology careers, or other pathways.

This will be my first year at Parkview, and I'm looking very forward to joining a school community where students have a passion for cartooning and animation. For example, students here already enjoy a lunchtime Manga club! And from what I've seen through the artwork displayed around the school, many of our students are very creative and have fruitful imaginations.

Being a vocational school, Parkview specializes in a "school-to-work" approach to student learning. While our Comm-Tech students will enjoy plenty of learning, they'll gain their knowledge, skills, and experiences by working in a studio environment that promotes creativity, imagination, and teamwork -- PARKVIEW PANTHERS STUDIO.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Saturday, August 26, 2006

ORIGINAL CARTOON ART: "Free Samples"

As a cartoonist, I sometimes like to take a break and admire original artwork drawn by other professionals. Originals are not only fun to look at, but they can also be good sources of cartoon education and inspiration.

The best originals are the ones where you can clearly see rough pencil lines (or lack thereof) because these hint at some of the planning a cartoonist did before inking their "final" lines using a pen or brush. Sometimes you can even spot changes made to the ink lines by tiny patches of white correction ink.

However, some cartoonists (like myself) make their corrections digitally, so the only way to spot these changes is by comparing the original artwork to the final cartoon.

The following is one of my own originals for your enjoyment ...


Above: Original Cartoon Art: "Free Samples".
(click to enlarge)


Can you spot the differences between the original artwork and the final cartoon?

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Vacation Notice

Wedding bells are ringing ...

Please note that I will be on vacation from Saturday, July 29, 2006 through Friday, August 11, 2006. In the meantime, please feel free to browse my previous entries and enjoy the content in my selected portfolio.



Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Saturday, July 29, 2006

IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website (Part 3 - Official Launch)

In this blog, I provide some "behind the scene" looks at various cartooning and multimedia related projects that I'm currently working on (or have recently completed). My intentions here are to offer a few insights, however small, to aspiring young cartoonists and/or designers who may be interested in these sorts of things. For those projects in development, I title my posts, "IN THE WORKS."

In PART TWO, I gave you a sneak peak at the cartoon character designs that I was preparing for the new Youth Net Hamilton website (http://youthnethamilton.ca).

At this time, I'm very pleased to invite you to visit my client's new site and see how everything came together ...


Above: The NEW Youth Net Hamilton Website.
(click to visit)

If you have any questions or comments about this posting, please feel free to submit it using the "comments" link below, or you can contact me privately via e-mail by using the address provided on my contact page.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website (Part 2 - Character Designs)

In this blog, I provide some "behind the scene" looks at various cartooning and multimedia related projects that I'm currently working on (or have recently completed). My intentions here are to offer a few insights, however small, to aspiring young cartoonists and/or designers who may be interested in these sorts of things. For those projects in development, I title my posts, "IN THE WORKS."

Logo: Youth Net HamiltonIn PART ONE, I introduced you to the Youth Net Hamilton website that I'm currently designing. Since then, I'm happy to say that we've made a lot of progress and are preparing to launch the new website very soon!

But before we do, here's a sneak peak at the cartoon character designs that will be featured as part of the user interface.

From Rough Sketches to Clean-up & Colour ...

One of the great mysteries of cartooning is that journey known as the "creative process." Personally, I find it kind of fun to not only look at a final product, but also see how it evolved during the creation process. If you're reading this, I'm guessing that you do too!

My first step in designing the cartoon characters for this project was to have some idea of what my client was looking for. As I mentioned in PART ONE, Youth Net Hamilton is a community-based organization of youth and adults that promotes the mental health and well-being of youth. With that in mind, my client was looking for character designs that depicted the diversity of teen culture, but they didn't want the characters too ideal or bubbly.

And so, when I started rough sketching ideas, I was thinking, "Happy, healthy, and clean."

Since the website's interface randomly selects a character to display, our goal was to have six different options to choose from. The following snapshot is a rough model sheet of the character designs that were approved by my client ...


Above: Character Designs - Rough Model Sheet.
(click to enlarge)

With the rough sketches approved, my next step was to clean-up each drawing by inking them with my dip pens and ink.

Tools of the Trade ...

All of my favoured cartoon drawing tools are available at most local art supply stores.

Pen-wise, I currently use Hunt Globe Bowl Pointed pen nibs (#513EF and #512) to do most of my clean-up work. I dip these in black Indian Ink from Winsor & Newton. Personally, I like using "Koh-I-Noor" No. 127N pen holders -- their cork finger grips are pretty comfortable.

If I'm inking something with a special texture, I might switch to a brush to achieve a certain effect such as the character's hair in the following snapshot ...


Above: Inking and Cleanup - Pen Nibs vs. Brush.

I ink directly over my rough work (drawn using a 2H pencil) on sheets of Strathmore Bristol with a smooth surface. That said, ink isn't as forgiving as a pencil if/when you make a mistake, but I enjoy taking this risk. The real challenge is keeping your hand relaxed so that your clean-up lines flow naturally and don't become stiff or over calculated -- you might think of this as "controlled spontaneity."

My drawing board is actually a modified surveyor's drawing table, equipped with an animation drawing disc and backlight. By fixing the bristol with a few pieces of tape, I can rotate the drawing as required.


Above: With the aid of an animation drawing disc.

Once completed, the clean-up character designs were then sent back to my client for approval ...


Above: Character Designs - Clean-Up Model Sheet.
(click to enlarge)

The final step was to colour all of the characters and import them into the website's Flash interface. As I mentioned in PART ONE, there was a certain colour palette that I had to adhere to in this project so that all of the elements complemented one another.

The clean-up drawings were scanned into Adobe Photoshop at 1200 dpi resolution. After adjusting each image's brightness and contrast levels, I converted them into a 2 colour bitmap and reduced their resolution to 300 dpi. I coloured the majority of the characters by hand using my Wacom Graphire tablet, however, larger regions of colour were quickly filled using a single click of the paint bucket.

The following snapshot is of the full-colour Youth Net Hamilton character designs line-up sheet ...


Above: Youth Net Hamilton - Character Line-Up Sheet.
(click to enlarge)

The all new Youth Net Hamilton website is heading out to the launchpad and should be online very soon. I'll post an announcement when it's officially open for business.

If you have any questions or comments about this posting, please feel free to submit it using the "comments" link below, or you can contact me privately via e-mail by using the address provided on my contact page.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Click to Continue ...
IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website
(Part 3 - Official Launch)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"Free Samples" Gag Cartoon in Reader's Digest Canada Magazine (August 2006)

Reader's Digest Canada Magazine - August 2006 CoverThe latest issue of Reader's Digest Canada Magazine arrived today.

This month, one of my gag cartoons is published in the As Kids See It department on Page 75 ... If you're not a subscriber, I encourage you to pickup a copy of the magazine!

Hmm ...

I wonder if Mr. Harper likes ice cream?

Reader's Digest Canada Magazine - August 2006 - Free Samples Cartoon by Mike Cope
"Free Samples" in Reader's Digest Canada Magazine (August 2006).

Click the above image to see the full cartoon.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Saturday, July 15, 2006

IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website (Part 1 - Introduction)

In this blog, I provide some "behind the scene" looks at various cartooning and multimedia related projects that I'm currently working on (or have recently completed). My intentions here are to offer a few insights, however small, to aspiring young cartoonists and/or designers who may be interested in these sorts of things. For those projects in development, I've decided to title my posts "IN THE WORKS."

Logo: Youth Net HamiltonOne project that I'm currently working on is designing a new website for Youth Net Hamilton, a community-based organization of youth and adults that promotes the mental health and well-being of youth. My client is affiliated with The City of Hamilton's Public Health Services and is also part of the larger "Youth Net" network that literally spans across Canada through cities such as Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto, and Vancouver.

The target audience for Youth Net Hamilton's website includes health professionals, teachers, parents, and (most importantly) youth -- especially youth who may either be looking for help, or looking to help others their own age. With all of that in mind, our project goal has been to design a website that is clean, easy to navigate, but also fun & welcoming.

Software-wise, I'm primarily using Macromedia Flash MX and Adobe Photoshop to design the website's user interface. Without getting too boring here with a bunch of techno-babble, what follows are a few highlights of the new design along with some web design tips & tricks for beginners ...

Colours, Fonts, and Resolution ...

As a web designer, one important thing that I try to keep in mind is how a web page looks on different computer monitors at different resolutions. Why? Because I don't know what sort of computer a visitor will be using to view my client's website. For example, a graphic that looks nice and large at 800x600 resolution becomes very tiny at 1280x1024.

After meeting with my client to discuss their website needs, we agreed to keep the colours and fonts consistent with the ones they're currently using on all of their printed promotional material. For example, the decorative “Jokerman” font, as seen in the following snapshot ...

Snapshot: Youth Net Hamilton - Fonts and Colours
Now, one of the nice things about a webpage designed in Macromedia Flash is its ability to be scaled proportionally within an Internet browser so that it fills the "entire" window. In other words, the bigger the window space, the bigger the webpage. That said, the text and graphics also need to be readable when scaled smaller. To help ensure this, one design trick is to assign colours that help the text "pop" from the background. Light on dark (or vice versa) is a good place to start. Another trick that may seem obvious, but is sometimes overlooked, is to test the design at different resolutions!

Youth Net Hamilton's new website will be compatible with resolutions as low as 800x600 on most CRT monitors, and upwards of 1280x1024 on an LCD screen.

Navigation Features ...

Designing a website in Macromedia Flash provides you with the opportunity to create a unique user interface that encourages visitors to explore (or play with) your website. This is great if you'd like to create a "game" experience, but in our fast-paced world of high-speed Internet and ADHD, most users need to find information ... FAST!

With that in mind, I'm designing the Youth Net Hamilton website so that it can be navigated in a variety of ways, however, all of these methods are common to most other websites. This means that a visitor doesn't need to waste time learning "how" to navigate. They only need to figure out "where" the links take them.

Snapshot: Youth Net Hamilton - Text Links

The primary purpose of my client's website is to provide information. Since they have a lot of important information to provide, this content has been divided into categories/sections. Keywords are written in blue to indicate links between related sections. When a visitor moves their mouse over a keyword, it is highlighted by a lighter blue rectangle, as shown in the above snapshot.

Initially, we were going to provide a text link for each section along a top navigation bar. However, after a few additional sections were created, these text links crowded the overall page layout. And so, after considering some other solutions, I designed an icon navigation bar instead.

The following snapshot shows a few of the icons that a visitor can click on to navigate by. Each icon's image (courtesy of the fonts "Webdings" and "Wingdings") relates to its corresponding section's title. The section that is currently displayed is highlighted with a selection box.

Snapshot: Youth Net Hamilton - Q-Wiki Fax & Navigation Icons

Bells and Whistles ...

The "Q-Wiki Fax" feature (shown above) was a suggestion I made after seeing my client's long list of facts/statistics on the health and well-being of youth. There were too many facts for us to list them all on the home page, but they seemed too important not to include. The "Q-Wiki Fax" feature is located along the bottom of the user interface and displays a randomly selected fact when a person visits the Youth Net Hamilton website (Made possible with a little bit of Flash Action Script programming). A visitor can click on the current "Q-Wiki Fax" to view another, or click on the "Facts" navigation icon to view the complete list.

As a web designer, I try to find a balance between the fancy bells & whistles (ex. animation) that make a website visually attractive while still meeting the basic needs of my client. In this case, I'm quite happy with the results.

But getting back to the navigation icons ... How does a visitor know what each one means?

Snapshot: Youth Net Hamilton - Navigation Balloons

As a visitor rolls their mouse over each navigation icon, the name of the highlighted section appears in a cartoon thought bubble. Some of you are probably wondering, "Why a cartoon thought bubble?" ... Well, when my client first approached me with their project requirements, they asked if I'd be able to design some cartoon characters to decorate the website ... Needless to say, being able to combine my love of cartooning with web designing has made this particular project quite enjoyable!

The cartoon characters are being designed to reflect youth diversity. Like the "Q-Wiki Fax" feature, a character will be randomly selected and displayed for each section visited. The cartoon thought bubbles add a little bit of "interactivity" between the characters and the site's visitors.

Unfortunately, the character designs are currently classified as "top secret" -- but if you visit again soon, you can see their development! For now, please enjoy the following sneak peak of the website's complete user interface ...

Snapshot: Youth Net Hamilton - User Interface

If you have any questions or comments about this posting, please feel free to submit it using the "comments" link below, or you can contact me privately via e-mail by using the address provided on my contact page.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Click to Continue ...
IN THE WORKS: Youth Net Hamilton Website
(Part 2 - Character Designs)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

UPDATED: My Selected Portfolio

As promised, I've started adding all new content to my selected portfolio. These first additions include gag cartoon illustrations, graphic and logo design work, as well as a few "goodies" for students & teachers ...

COPETOONS.COM - Portfolio Update

The currently featured gag cartoons include my W32.Dog.E Virus cartoon that was recently published in Reader's Digest Canada Magazine. On that note, I encourage Canadian readers to pickup a copy of the magazine's August 2006 issue when it's released ... Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more!

Regarding the Student & Teacher Goodies ... These first additions are just a sample of resources that I designed during my student teaching blocks while enrolled in Brock University's Faculty of Education. All of these files were utilized in high school classroom settings that ranged from Communications Technology (Comm-Tech) to Computer and Information Science courses. The icons in this section currently link directly to the individual PDF documents, however, future updates will include HTML versions, as well as source files and student exemplars.

Speaking of students and teachers ...

Although all of the content on COPETOONS.COM is protected by copyright laws (see disclaimer at bottom of each page), I invite and encourage you to download and freely distribute any of the resources that I specifically provide for students and teachers. This means that you can download, print and/or photocopy these as much as you'd like. The only exception is if your intended use is commercial publication (print or online). In return, all that I ask is that you leave my name/URL credit on any resources and, most importantly, I ask for your feedback -- be it positive or negative! Did you find a resource helpful? How were you able to utilize it? Do you have any suggestions for making it better?

In closing, please keep in mind that all of the sections mentioned above are still under construction. There's plenty more fun still to arrive! In the meantime, your feedback is always welcome :)

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My inaugural post ...

COPETOONS.COM - Online Since July 2000

Congratulations, oh intrepid cartoon explorer! You've just discovered my blog, aptly titled: At the Drawing Board.

Here you will find some "behind the scene" looks at various cartooning and multimedia related projects that I'm currently working on (or have completed) at my drawing board. You will also find highlights to content updates and/or new features available on my website.

Speaking of updates ... Today's a special day at COPETOONS.COM. You see, here in Canada, we traditionally celebrate "Canada Day" on July 1st. Being a Canadian cartoonist, I couldn't think of a better day to launch my website back in the year 2000. And so, when I decided to give my website a fresh look (and create this blog), I decided to officially re-launch on this anniversary.

Starting this next week, I'll be adding all new content to my portfolio section. In the meantime, I invite you to take a look around and test out my new user interface.

Your feedback is always welcome and appreciated. I invite you to submit any questions or critiques via the comments link found at the end of each blog post. Or, if you prefer to submit your message privately, please feel free to contact me via e-mail using the address provided on my contact page.

I hope you enjoy your visit at COPETOONS.COM ...

Stay TOONed!

-Mike Cope