Where In The World Is Western Civilization?

mapWhen I talk about the part of the globe that is Western Civilization, I mean from the Tigris/Euphrates valley to the Mediterranean to Europe to the Americas. Western Civ was born in Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the southern part of Iraq. Civilization spread westward from there to lands around the Mediterranean Sea: Egypt, Israel and Phoenicia to the city-states of Europe and northward to the British Isles. From there it extended to the New World—the Americas and Australia.

So, Western Civ is made up of many people and cultures. It grew from the first civilization—the Sumerians in Mesopotamia—to the Egyptians; the Jews; the Greeks; the Romans, whose empire split into east and west; the western half of the Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Empire which reorganized itself into separate European countries. Some of those countries in turn created empires mainly by colonizing the New World. The British Empire includes Canada and Australia. The United States of America declared its independence from Britain in ad 1776.

Of course there are other non-western civilizations around the world today and throughout history. This history is simply about Western Civilization. Most important to me are the ideas. How did ancient people develop an alphabet? Whose idea was it to smelt copper and tin together to make bronze? How did they come up with literature that we still read today? How did they figure out how to measure time, or the circumference of the Earth?

What is a ‘civilization?’

Okay, gang—before we get started talking about Western Civilization, we should agree on what a ‘civilization’ is. I’m going to keep this kind of loose. Generally, a civilization is a big group of people—in cities, a country, or countries—who share government (a system of keeping law & order and protecting its people);

govt

a religion (belief in a god or gods with a set of rituals and priests to perform them);

religion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

an economy (enough food for everyone plus some left over for trading);

econ

a written language (symbols to communicate without speaking);

alphabet

and art, science and technology (inventions that make life easier and more enjoyable).

artsci

Every civilization has a ‘culture’—its own way of living and doing things.

That’s it. A rough definition to understand what separates a civilization from simply a big group of people. Now we can start thinking about what Western Civilization is.

Time to get serious

I’ve sorta-kinda joked on this blog about saving Western Civilization. Even my motto reads: “Saving Western Civilization through kid’s book illustration.” And I’ve honestly meant to get started on that. I have, in a modest way, been promoting Western Civ by teaching Sunday School and posting some historical stuff here once in a while. I haven’t been very serious about that motto, though. But it’s a new year; a good time to get serious.

Why does Western Civ need saving, anyway? We have Shakespeare and quantum physics and cell phones. We have crop rotation and the alphabet and Broadway. That’s good, right? Why can’t I just be happy?

The problem is: I meet very few people who understand how we got Western Civ. There are too many people who think Western Civilization is not such a good thing, and is maybe an embarrassment, or should be apologized for. That way of thinking saddens me, if only because it’s so easy to point to how much human beings have benefited from Western Civilization.

I think it’s important to understand how we’ve achieved all the things that we have. It’s important to recognize our incredible inheritance—gifts we’ve been given by amazing people who are long gone. Why were moveable type or symphonies or Greenwich Mean Time invented in the West? It’s vital for young people to understand how Western Civilization works, so that they may prosper in it.

This is my mission. If I can’t save Western Civ, at least I can document her glories. I like history, so I’m going to be writing a history of Western Civ—particularly a history of ideas. I’ll post the stuff I’m writing here on this blog, as a way of test-marketing. My goal is to write and illustrate a book that presents the history of Western Civ in a fun format. You must know by now that I’m a smart-alec, so of course it will be funny. Lots of gags. Lots of pictures. I expect to learn and discover new info as I do the research.

I invite you all to come with me.

John

Mystery!

Here’s a piece I did just for self-promotion. Every couple of months, my agent asks her artists to produce an image based on a theme. This theme is Mystery. When generating ideas I stayed pretty loose. My first sketches were kind of Sherlock Holmes-ish, Mystery-of-The-Sphinx-ish with Holmes opening an antique Egyptian box in his famous rooms in Baker Street. It wasn’t grabbing me, so I thought to move the whole scene to the inside of a pharoah’s tomb. Sort-of Holmes and Watson became sort-of Indiana Jones and Short Round. The rough sketch shows Egyptian antiquities—chariot, scrolls, statues—for flavor, but as I drew I thought to heighten the suspense by having the deities’ eyes light up at the same moment the casket is cracked open. Indy is unaware of the danger while Short Round watches in alarm.

I didn’t take the sketch to a tight version. I wanted the painting to be fresh while I worked out the lighting. I have 2 sources of light here. One of them is the red lantern I had with me on countless camp-outs when I was a Boy Scout in good ol’ Troop 92.

Moonraker Tea—designs

Moonraker Tea Shop is a fun, new startup on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina (the notorious pirate Blackbeard’s lair, by the powers!). My client, Maria, opened this summer in time for the October Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree.

Here are the designs for the sticker and banner. I’m an idiot at the computer. Luckily, Elicia at Best Printing in Oil City, Pa, is a genius designer and handled all the design aspects of this project. You can see in the gallery below how she fooled around with wrapping the lettering around the ship image and getting that just right. Elicia also came up with these nice color variations for the banner. It probably helped that she’s also a pirate afficianado. Here’s more of Best Printing.

My client, Maria, included the latitude/longitude coordinates for the sticker—a really nice touch. Here’s the rough layout she gave us:

I love doing this kind of work—the daft piratey type design. You can poke around here to see more of my handlettering samples. And of course, here.

Moonraker Tea—tight sketches and ink

Moonraker Tea Shop is a fun, new startup on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina (the notorious pirate Blackbeard’s lair, by the powers!). My client, Maria, opened this summer in time for the October Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree.

Here are the tight pencils and inked-in finishes based on the rough sketches you saw in my last post. All artwork needed to work as both a small 4″ sticker and a large 6′ banner.

I love doing this kind of work—the daft piratey type design. You can poke around here to see more of my handlettering samples. And of course, here.

 

Moonraker Tea Shop

New project!

Moonraker Tea Shop is a fun, new startup on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina (the notorious pirate Blackbeard’s lair, by the powers!). My client, Maria, opened this summer in time for the October Blackbeard’s Pirate Jamboree. Maria asked me to design a black & white logo that features a fantasy pirate ship & moon image (dreamy, happy, ghostly, mystical) and hand-lettered ‘Moonraker Tea Shop.’ Maria chose the word ‘moonraker’ (the topsail on a ship) for her business and it evokes just the right tone.

I love doing this kind of work—the daft piratey type design. You can poke around here to see more of my handlettering samples. And of course, here.

Here are the rough sketches:

 

#MerMay

Am I missing something? #MerMay means we’re supposed to post drawings of Ethel Merman this month, right? #Youllbeswell #Youllbegreat

Hawsses

Action!

A couple of posts ago I told you I’m having trouble with the dialogue between Job and his comforters. Though I stick pretty closely to the conversation as it unfolds through Chapters 11 – 31 (each chapter gets summarized down to one or two short lines), there doesn’t seem to be a build-up to a punchline. For this to work as a comic, the tension should build to a climax just before the next scene, when a new character enters.

One solution is to add some action, although there is none during this sequence in the Bible. I thought about how Job’s three comforters could literally beat up on Job while they interpret Holy Writ. I’ll have these scholars bring their scripture with them. I drew a quick sketch of Bildad hitting Job over the head with a scroll. I like it a little better than just heads talking for two pages.

If you’ve seen the Broadway musical West Side Story, you’ll remember the Officer Krupke number. The gang members sing about how the system has failed them, from the police to the courts to the social worker to the psychiatrist. Each hits one juvenile delinquent with a rolled up newspaper as they condemn him: “The trouble is he’s lazy (smack!); the trouble is he drinks (smack!); the trouble is he’s crazy (smack!); the trouble is he stinks (smack!)”

Could something like this work for my comic about Job?