Lincoln Peirce is a cartoonist/writer and the creator of the comic strip Big Nate. It appears in more than two hundred U.S. newspapers and online daily at comics.com.

Lincoln Peirce lives with his wife and two children in Portland, Maine.

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Seasons

Hi everyone.  My apologies for this entry being late.  Usually when that happens, I have a half-decent excuse; but this week, I just lost track of what day it was.  I normally blog on Wednesday nights, and I didn’t realize until about ten minutes ago (it’s now THURSDAY night) that I’d forgotten.

Maybe one reason I sometimes lose track of time is my schedule for the comic strip.  You probably realize that the Big Nate comic strip you read in your daily newspaper was actually written and drawn quite some time ago.  In my case, I’m about three months ahead of my publication dates.  In other words, the strips I’m working on this week will appear in newspapers in late May.  That means I’ve got to be thinking of Spring things in the middle of Winter, Winter things in the middle of Fall, and so on.  So sometimes, not only do I forget what day it is, I forget what SEASON it is.

This issue comes up a lot when I’m doing strips about sports.  If I want to do some strips about baseball in June, I’ve got to draw them in March, way before baseball season begins.  (At least that’s the way it is here in Maine.  There’s usually still snow on the ground in March, so baseball is definitely out.  Even April feels pretty early for baseball in this part of the world.  That’s why Nate’s shivering in this drawing.  It’s from a Sunday page I did back in 2007 about “spring training.”)

Anyway, right now my brain is in three different seasons.  I’m working on drawings for Big Nate On A Roll, which is a story that takes place in early Fall.  I’m also starting to jot down notes for book 4, Big Nate Goes For Broke, which is definitely a winter story.  And then, even though it’s February, I’m doing comic strips for May.  No wonder I’m confused!

Sun, 02/27/2011

Comic Strip Compilations

I’ve written many times before about how much I loved reading “Peanuts” when I was a kid.  I’m not talking only about reading the strip in the newspaper, but about the “Peanuts” reprint books.  This one, Let’s Face It, Charlie Brown!, is a typical example.  The books nearly always had Charlie Brown’s name in the title.  Other titles I can remember off the top of my head were Very Funny, Charlie Brown; What Next, Charlie Brown?; We’re On Your Side, Charlie Brown; and (my personal favorite) Slide, Charlie Brown, Slide!  Sometimes, and more frequently as Snoopy became a bigger part of the strip, there were Snoopy titles like There’s No One Like You, Snoopy.  The books were paperback, about 7 inches tall by 4 inches wide, and if you look at this cover carefully, you can see the price:  fifty cents!  What a bargain!  It made collecting these books -- if you happened to be 7 or 8 years old with an allowance of a dollar a week -- a realistic prospect.  I’m not sure how many I had in my collection, but it had to be close to a hundred.  I still have a bunch of them, but they’re kind of falling apart at this stage.  

Even though I first discovered Peanuts in the newspaper, it was the reprint books that really made me a fan.  Compilation books like this one are a great way to get to know a strip and familiarize yourself with all the characters.  And you don’t have to wait until the next day to read the next strip.  That’s especially nice whenever there’s a storyline that takes several weeks to play out.  

It makes me very happy to know that a lot of kids who have discovered Big Nate through the Harper Collins novels now have the opportunity to learn more about the comic strip by reading Big Nate compilations.  Big Nate:  From The Top was published back in October, and the next compilation is due in April.  It’s called Big Nate Out Loud.  It includes strips from back in 2007.  If you want to read about the moment when Nate decided to start a band called “Enslave The Mollusk,” then you need this book!  Look for it in your local bookstore!

Mon, 02/21/2011

Taxes

Have you ever looked at a test or a quiz and realized, with a sinking feeling, that you don’t know any of the answers?  That’s what my week has been like.  No, I haven’t had to take any tests — those days are over, thank goodness — but, like Nate’s dad in this picture, I’ve been dealing with something almost as bad:  TAXES!

Tax forms, and the instructions that go along with them, are very confusing.  Last year, after struggling through all my tax forms, I decided that would be the last time I’d do my own taxes.  So this year I hired an accountant to do them for me.  A week ago, he sent me a “tax organizer” -- a giant packet designed to help me record all the information the accountant will need to complete my taxes.  There’s only one problem:  the tax organizer is even more confusing than the tax forms!  Very frustrating.  Fortunately, I still have two months to figure everything out.  But it won’t be easy.  I don’t have the sort of brain that understands complicated instructions or technical language.  I could never be a lawyer, for example, or a computer programmer.  Or an accountant, obviously.

But on to a more pleasant topic:  the artwork for Big Nate On A Roll.  In a day or two, I’ll officially be at the halfway point.  I did five drawings today.  I can’t tell you too much about them, because I’d be giving away too much about the story.  So I’ll just say this:  in one of the drawings, Francis and Teddy are applauding wildly.  Nate, sitting between the two of them, is NOT applauding.  He’s got something else on his mind.

Here’s a date to keep in mind:  April 12th.  That’s the day you can buy the first (but not the last!) Big Nate activity book, Big Nate Boredom Buster:  Super Scribbles, Cool Comix, and Lots of Laughs.  Want to see what the cover looks like?  Click here:

http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Big-Nate-Boredom-Buster-Lincoln-Peirce/?isbn=9780062060945

See you next time!

Thu, 02/17/2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Enjoy the day, everyone, and if you happen to eat some of those heart-shaped candies with messages on them (manufactured right here in New England, by the way), try not to get the one Charlie Brown gets in the Peanuts Valentine’s Day TV special.  His candy heart reads, “forget it, kid.”

Speaking of romance, I’ve written before about the chances of Nate and Jenny ending up together (not very good), and also the chances of Nate and GINA ending up together (even worse).  But that doesn’t mean Nate will never get hit by Cupid’s arrow.  In fact, in the comic strip, it’s already happened — TWICE!  Yes, Nate has had a girlfriend on two different occasions.

Both times, the romantic spark started during summer vacation.  Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to write some jokes about Nate going to summer school.  (He winds up there because of his poor Social Studies grade.)  After about a week, a new girl named Angie shows up.  She’s not there because she’s a poor student, but because she’s missed a lot of school while her family was in the process of moving, and is trying to catch up.  Nate is immediately smitten with her, but is embarrassed about being in summer school and is worried that Angie will think he’s stupid.  So he tells her that he’s in summer school because he’s a tutor, helping other students.  Needless to say, Angie discovers the truth and is initially angry with Nate.   But his upbeat, fun-loving personality wins her over, and eventually she forgives him.  The two of them end up “going out” for a few months before Angie breaks up with Nate — his first time getting dumped.

A few summers later, Nate attended soccer camp.  It’s co-ed, and when Nate and the rest of the goalkeepers are separated into their own little group, Nate discovers that one of his fellow goalies is a cute girl named Kelly.  They like each other and become a couple, despite the fact that Kelly goes to a different school.  But after a few happy months, Nate hears some news:  Jenny, his long-time crush, has just broken up with the boy she’s been dating.  (This was before Jenny and Artur got together).  Certain that this is his opportunity to win Jenny’s heart, Nate decides to break up with Kelly.  But he’s too chicken to do it face to face.  He writes a break-up note on the back of a detention slip and puts it through the mail slot at her house.  Not one of his finest moments!

All for now.  Don’t eat too much candy!

Mon, 02/14/2011

Rotate

I have one more drawing game to tell you about.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a completed example to show you...but if I do a good job of describing the game, you’ll understand how much fun it can be.  

It’s called “rotate,” and in order to play, you need a group of people.  The absolute best number of people is 12, but just about any size group will do.  Each player has his or her own sheet of paper.  Divide your sheet of paper into twelve boxes.  These are the panels you’ll use to tell your story.  The game begins with all the players drawing something in the first panel (the one in the upper left) on their page.  This is the introduction to your story, so this panel typically might include a title and/or a heading to establish the scene.   DRAW ONLY IN THE FIRST PANEL.  DON’T MOVE ON TO PANEL #2.  After three or four minutes, which is usually enough time to fill your panel, someone says “rotate!”  At this point, you pass your paper to the person seated to your right.  That person continues your story in panel #2.  When everyone rotates again, the third person will continue the story in panel #3.  And so on, until all twelve panels are filled up.

The game’s fun because you’re able to work on several different stories.  It’s also great drawing practice because, depending on what’s been depicted in the stories you inherit, you might end up drawing things you have little or no familiarity with.  And the results of the game can be hilarious, because once other people get the chance to add to your story, the narrative might go off in directions you never would have expected.

I’ve played this game many times with kids at art camps and cartooning workshops, and it’s always a hit.  I have had to impose a rule or two over the years, though.  During one game, a kid thought it would be funny, when each page came to him, to insert a panel that said:  “Suddenly, the Earth exploded.”  Then he’d draw an enormous explosion.  This upset his fellow players, who didn’t appreciate the fact that he was wiping out every story with a few strokes of his pencil.  So I came up with a rule that you couldn’t destroy characters that other kids had created in previous panels.  There was another kid who insisted on skipping ahead and drawing the concluding panel — panel #12 — even if he was supposed to be working on panel #5.  So I had to make it a rule that, when a new paper was rotated your way, you could only draw in the next available blank panel.  No skipping ahead.

That’s all for today.  Time to go work on drawings for chapter 5 of Big Nate On A Roll!

Thu, 02/10/2011

Wanted

Happy Day-After-Super-Bowl!  I’m writing this entry at halftime of the big game, and the Packers are winning.  My prediction before the game was that the Packers would win, 33-27...we’ll see how accurate I am.

I have another drawing activity to tell you about; here’s how I came up with it.

It’s very rare that I find the ideal solution to a problem, but that’s exactly what happened many years ago when I was a kid.  I was starting to get very interested in comics and cartooning, and I’d started inventing my own characters.  But I had one frustrating problem:  I almost always drew characters from the front; but then, when I tried to draw them in profile, I wasn’t able to make them look right.  In fact, they usually ended up looking like an entirely different character.  I spent a lot of time thinking about this issue (usually when I should have been doing my homework), and then, one day, I actually found the answer...in the post office!

I’m not sure if post offices do this anymore, but when I was a kid, the bulletin board at my local post office was filled with WANTED posters:  pictures of criminals who were wanted by the police.  The posters always showed two photos (they’re sometimes called “mug shots”) of a criminal:  one from the front, and one from the side.  I had a light bulb moment:  drawing WANTED posters would be the perfect way to practice drawing the same character from two different angles!

Start by drawing two boxes side by side.  Then, using a ruler, lightly draw some horizontal “guide lines” across both boxes.  Then draw your character from the front in the first box.  Next, draw the same character from the side in the second box, using your guide lines to help you.  In other words, your character’s eyes should be located along the same guide line in both boxes; so should his nose, his mouth, and any other features.  After all, when a person turns from the front to the side, his facial features don’t shift around on his face!  So using the guidelines will help you to keep the second drawing consistent with the first.  Your character’s head will be the same size in both drawings, and all the features will be in the proper positions.  In the drawing shown here, I’ve erased the guide lines, but you can see when you look at it that everything lines up (or close to it!) from box 1 to box 2.

After that, it’s fun to create a name for your character and list the funny or silly crimes he or she is wanted for — sardine theft, practicing yoga without a license, bad breath, etc.  I’m not sure what this guy is wanted for, nor have I made up a name for him.  What do you think?

Mon, 02/07/2011

The Add-On Game

Last week, I told you about a great drawing game called “headlines.”  Here’s another one that’s even more fun.  It’s called “Add-On,” and it’s a game you can play in a group of just about any size.  The drawing shown here is the end result of a game of Add-On.  As you can see, the drawing depicts a very unusual-looking individual.  Here’s how the game works.

Everyone in the group starts with a blank sheet of paper.  The game begins when someone suggests a specific feature to draw — and by “feature,” I mean a body part, an article of clothing, a piece of jewelry, etc.  In this particular game of Add-On, the first person who spoke said “a beanie hat with antlers.”  So everyone in the group drew a beanie hat with antlers — AND NOTHING ELSE — in the appropriate position on the page, i.e. near the top.  The next person to speak said “peg leg,” so we all drew a peg leg at the bottom of the page.  The next person said “a bow tie,” so we all drew a bow tie in the spot we thought the bow tie should be located.  And so on and so on.

It takes awhile for your drawing to take shape, because for quite some time your page will just be an assortment of features:  an arm here, a mouth there, a hand floating in space.   Eventually, though, as more people “add on” more suggestions, your drawing will begin to look more complete.  It’s helpful to “plan ahead” while you’re drawing; you may not draw a nose or a neck until the 8th or the 10th or the 20th suggestion, but leaving a space for a nose or a neck will make things easier for you as you go along.

Now, back to my add-on drawing shown here.  You can tell my looking at it what most of the suggestions were:  a “donut” stomach, a waffle iron for a hand, a tattoo, a “Popeye” arm holding a bowling ball, an elephant trunk (and an elephant leg), a smiling mouth with a missing tooth, dog ears, an eye patch, a robot arm, etc. etc. etc.  Needless to say, the game becomes more fun as the suggestions of what to “add on” become more strange.  For example, it’s more fun to say “a chicken leg” than to say “a skinny leg.”  

Don’t show your drawing to anyone else in the group while the game’s going on.  Part of the fun comes at the end, when everyone reveals his or her drawing at the same time.  Even though you’ve all been drawing based on the same set of suggestions, your drawings will all look different...but also similar!  Try it the next time your school has indoor recess!

Wed, 02/02/2011

Thalia Book Club Series

I have some news to share! I’ve been invited to speak in April at the Thalia Book Club Series at Symphony Space in New York City.  The series is in its fifth year and has featured many authors whose books I’m sure you’ve read and loved:  Kate DiCamillo, Rick Riordan, Mary Pope Osborne, Jon Scieszka, Brian Jacques, Walter Dean Myers, and many more.  I’m flattered and excited to be included in such company.  The event will be on Sunday, April 10th...so if you’re going to be in New York that day, come on up to 95th Street and Broadway!  I’ll be happy to see you.  There’s more information here:  

http://www.symphonyspace.org/event/6719-thalia-kids-book-club-lincoln-peirces-big-nate-series

Sun, 01/30/2011

The crazier the headline...

Way back at the start of the school year, I was asked by my friend and favorite librarian, Laurel Daly, to pay a visit to Waynflete School in Portland, Maine, during the school’s fall book fair in October.  I would have been happy to do so, but it turned out I was traveling on my book tour on the date in question.  We tried to reschedule for a day in November, but I had some health problems that delayed things further.

Well, today I finally made it to Waynflete, and I had a wonderful visit, thanks to a whole bunch of people:  Laurel, the Waynflete teachers, Chris from Longfellow Books, and —OF COURSE! -- the students.  As usual, I can’t mention all the kids I met by name, but here are a few who helped make my day such fun:  Kyle, Meredith, Benjamin, Miles, and LZ (who is also known as Pickle!)

I was treated to some great musical performances at the middle school and lower school assemblies, and I was also interviewed by a group of 4th and 5th graders who are especially interested in comics.  Following that, I met with ALL the 4th and 5th graders, did some drawing demonstrations, and answered a few questions.  I also told them about a couple of ways to fight the dreaded “I don’t know what to draw” disease.  If you’ve read Big Nate Strikes Again, you already know about one of them: the scribble game.  But there are all sorts of drawing games.  The picture shown here is the end result of a simple game called “headlines.”  If you’re having trouble thinking of what to draw, just flip through a newspaper and clip out an assortment of random words from the headlines.  Then assemble some of the words into a silly or nonsensical headline like this one:  Bird face screamers bake badly.  Then make a drawing, or a cartoon, or a comic strip, to illustrate your headline.  The crazier the headline, the more fun it is.

Speaking of drawing games...keep an eye out this spring for a great new book filled with drawing games, puzzles, comics, and tons of fun.  It’s called Big Nate Boredom Buster, and it’ll keep you busy while you wait for book 3 in the series, Big Nate On A Roll!

Thu, 01/27/2011

Thift Stores, Yard Sales and Flea Markets

There’s a lot to be said for thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

Don’t get me wrong:  I enjoy being able to find and purchase things I need on the internet.  It can certainly be a time-saver, and I often find things I’m looking for with only a few keystrokes.  But what if you’re NOT looking for something?  It seems to me that it’s more difficult to discover something by accident on amazon or ebay than it is while wandering through a flea market.

This picture is an example of something I wasn’t looking for, but was delighted to find.  It’s a panel from an almost completely forgotten comic strip by Norman Marsh called “Dan Dunn.”  It was mildly popular in the late 1930’s, but it was more or less a rip-off of a superior comic strip called “Dick Tracy,” which you might have heard of.  At any rate, about twenty years ago I was walking around an outdoor flea market in mid-coast Maine when I saw a collection of “Dan Dunn” comics in book form.  I bought it for a dollar.  This isn’t one of those “Antiques Roadshow” stories, where the book I bought ends up being worth thousands of dollars.  Truthfully, it’s probably not even worth what I paid for it.  But it has value to me because I find it interesting (I like reading comics, even when they’re not all that good), and because finding it by accident was sort of exciting.  

My office is filled with stuff I’ve found in thrift stores, pawn shops, etc.  From where I’m sitting I can see a painting of a German shepherd (I paid 5 dollars for it), several unusual marbles ($1 apiece), and a Hank Williams Sr. bobblehead (priceless).  In my pocket, attached to my key ring, is a bakelite medallion I bought at a yard sale for a quarter almost 25 years ago.  I’m not a collector of anything (for example, I know someone who has an amazing collection of bakelite radios); but I do enjoy having things around my office that make my surroundings more interesting.  

That’s all I have time for now.  I’ve got to do some preparing for my radio show tomorrow morning.  I think I’ll start the show off with a record by Johnny Paycheck called “Fool’s Hall Of Fame.”  I found it at a thrift store a few years ago!

Sun, 01/23/2011