Better Off Dead 30th Anniversary Live Read: Recap

Sketchfest 2015! The Better Off Dead Live Read was amazing! My brother Jimmy and I got set up in the lobby of the Marine Memorial Hotel and immediately ran into Savage Steve Holland. Rad. 

Here he is with my rendition of "Ricky's portrait." Dan Schneider didn't make it to the live read but Steve Agee was awesome as Ricky!  

Diane Franklin (Monique) signed photos and books next to us after the show so I was able to attain my ultimate goal: Get a picture of Diane holding the Ricky portrait! I got to try on her jacket. Those lapels!!! My life is complete. 

The Live Read was a lot of fun. Lots of fresh laughs. I have not read many (any) scripts so it was cool to hear all the descriptive tidbits and scenes that didn't make the final cut. I was surprised to hear how locked down all those visual gags were before shooting. I guess I pictured film-makers figuring things out as they go. I learn things!

Anyway, I did my best to sketch everyone in the cast during the Live Read. I wish I could have gotten to everyone. It's tough drawing in the dark. Or incredibly easy. That is, if you don't need the drawing to look like anything. 

Savage Steve Holland

Diane Franklin

Jon Heder

Kevin Pollak

Paul F. Tomkins

Curtis Armstrong

Kim Darby

Amanda Wyss

Here's Ricky's portrait. Diane Franklin held it as a prop during the live read. That was cool! Right now you can get your own copy as well as the other Better Off Dead art prints at my web store:

Grab them while they are still available and cheap!


Gigantic News!

I am very excited to announce the release of Gigantic Brewing Company's  new seasonal beer, Catch 23, featuring my label design! 

I put a lot of work into this illustration, but the hardest thing may have been trying to not think about the other artists Gigantic has worked with, Holy Crap! Art Director Rob Reger (Emily the Strange fame) has brought on some of the best artists in the business for previous labels: Tim Biskup, AJ Fosik, Martin Ontiveros, Shannon Wheeler, and Robert Bowen, to name a few. 

This brew is called Catch 23 and it was up to me to interpret this name. So I went with this 3-way fight between a bear, eagle and shark. Real Mutual of Omaha shit! Thanks again to Rob Reger and everyone at Gigantic Brewing Company!


  I love the look of (Ben's) work. I find it all very engaging. Ben came  up with the BEST interpretation of the name possible. I smile every  time I see that label. Basically, it rules. -Van Havig, Gigantic Brewing Co.


I love the look of (Ben's) work. I find it all very engaging. Ben came 
up with the BEST interpretation of the name possible. I smile every 
time I see that label. Basically, it rules.

-Van Havig, Gigantic Brewing Co.

Fruit Flies in Neck Ties

Bugs wearing clothes that rhyme with their name. There's got to be a better name but for now they are called Bug Duds.

By the way, has been oddly devoid of the cartoons and sketches I have been making lately. It's like my site hasn't caught on to the fact that It's not about gallery artwork so much anymore. I have added a new blog page, Cartoons / Sketches devoted to just...cartoons and sketches, like this one!

On Fruit Flies and Neckties

Neckwear has been a part of fashion for thousands of years. The necktie as we now know it became a staple of men's fashion during the 1920s thanks to innovations in the way ties are cut and sewn. A necktie can be tied in over a dozen different styles. 

Man has come up with even more ways to get rid of fruit flies. Some techniques are more stylish than others. For instance, you can make traps by putting apple cider vinegar in a cup and a paper cone placed on top. But the most stylish way to chase away fruit flies is by placing sticks of cedar wood in your kitchen. Nothing says you are classy as hell like cedar. The moment fruit flies smell that cedar they lower their little, annoying heads in shame and leave your (now) perfect home. 


It's New Year's Eve! This blog was originally posted on last year. I think it's worth reposting, if only to remind myself to keep improving and shooting for my goals.

Future Ben: How To Make Friends with a Better Version of Yourself

"January," as recently expressed by a girl walking past me on Haight Street, "is a time for self-reflection....especially when it's a New Moon and you're a Capricorn."  I am pretty sure the second half of that sentence doesn't mean anything, but I agree with the January part. So in the spirit of self-reflection I want to introduce you to someone who tries to stay out of the spotlight but has really made a huge difference in my life these last few years.

Please say hello to my good friend, Future-Ben. 

The first time I can recall meeting Future-Ben was Halloween, 2010. I had recently come out of a 13 year marriage and was living alone for the first time in...well ever. This time in my life was like one long New Years Day, a time when it was necessary to focus on who I want to be and what I want to do with my life. For the first time, I was realizing that these choices are mine alone to make. Any feelings of sadness or loneliness were mostly wiped away by a sense of giddy hopefulness that can only come from hitting rock-bottom and witnessing yourself bounce skyward. 

My new Bay Area friends had invited me out for Halloween. The plan was to take their 11 year-old trick-or-treating in the Oakland Hills, then we adults would hit up a spooky art show opening in San Francisco's Mission district. I didn't have a "costume." I just wanted to look good. I had one suit that a friend had given to me when I was Best Man in his wedding. That worked. I had a short beard for the first time ever (facial hair was previously forbidden) so I shaved it into an old-timey chops and mustache configuration and slicked back my hair. Who was this character? I didn't know. He was just some dapper guy who's ballsy and weird enough to rock some ridiculous facial hair. I was dressed like a guy who's far more confident and attractive than I was. 

As the night went on I felt a strange comfort and confidence in this character. I realized, "I want to be this guy all the time. Why can't I? I'm a single dude in the San Francisco Bay area. I can be whoever I want!" This wasn't any sort of fanciful character. I had merely dressed as the fearless, charming man I wanted to present to The World every day, Future-Ben.

Future-Ben became a character my friends and I joked about a lot during this time. It was great because Future-Ben was a reflection of all my goals and potential during a time when Present-Ben was a lonely-but-hopeful dude sleeping on a borrowed pool floaty. We all can benefit from having an inner friend who is the best version of ourselves, someone we can look up to and work towards becoming over time. Somehow when you start looking like a person who has his shit together, you find yourself acting like, then slowly becoming a person who has his shit together. A Halloween outfit, a suit you found at Goodwill, even some decent socks that didn't come in a 12-pack, these things can be a spark that lights a fire under your ass to become a better man. 

I just do my best impression of Future-Ben every day. When something I want to do seems to difficult, and I'm tempted to do a half-assed job I think, "What would the version of me who has his shit together do?" That makes it easier to see what I need to do, difficult or not. Then I do my best to make that happen. The person I am today is more like Future-Ben of 2010 than the still timid guy who dressed up for one night then slept alone on the floor of a box-filled apartment. But Future-Ben keeps evolving ahead of me, so I still have a long way to go.

A Life of Better Off Dead

Better Off Dead (1985) written and directed by Savage Steve Holland and starring John Cusack, David Ogden Siers, Kim Darby, Diane Franklin and Curtis Armstrong. I have my favorite movies. There are films I've seen over and over. But nothing comes close to B.O.D! In my family it's still a Christmas tradition. 

I won't get into trying to explain why this movie means so much to me. It's not fully explain-able. I guess it just clicked with my sense of humor at a time when I was still wondering what it's like to have new romances and adventures as a goofy suburban kid. 

So imagine my excitement when I saw that this year's Sketchfest includes a Better Off Dead 30 Year anniversary Live Read!

Right Off!....On! 

Language Lessons. This piece is featured in Gallery 1988's book, Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2

Language Lessons. This piece is featured in Gallery 1988's book, Crazy 4 Cult: Cult Movie Art 2

If you have kept up with my artwork, you already know about my obsession with Better Off Dead. Two of the pieces I've done for Gallery 1988, Crazy 4 Cult shows are B.O.D. inspired. Language Lessons was part of my series of Weirdoes in Love which also featured Harold & Maude, Pee Wee Herman & Dottie, and Sailor & Lula from Wild at Heart.

Painting, It's Got Raisins In It involved a lot of tricky, wet-into-wet print transfers in order to get the rain-soaked recipe onto the illustration board. I'm very happy with the results. This one hangs proudly in our kitchen.

This 30th Anniversary Live Read is coming up faster than a paper boy, owed his two dollars. If I can figure out a way to get involved and help with some new merchandise, I will. 


It's Got Raisins In It, from Gallery 1988, Crazy 4 Cult, 2008

It's Got Raisins In It, from Gallery 1988, Crazy 4 Cult, 2008

Art School Contemplation

I recently sat down with writer, Chris Jalufka. He asked me about my experiences in Art School and my thoughts on it all. Here are his questions and my previously mentioned thoughts (plus some of my student work).


1. When the time came to venture off into college, was art school always your first choice?

Yes. I was never a very good student, at least not with the three Rs. So there was never a time when UC "blah blah" was on the table.

I did not enroll right after high school. Instead, I spent a few years drawing underground comics by day and I made balloon animals by night. It actually worked out pretty well. Eventually I got swept up in the tech boom. When the economy tanked around 2000 I found myself not only out of work, but laid-off from an industry I never sought out in the first place. "graphics grunt work" I called it. I had gotten so far away from what I loved: painting and drawing stuff that makes people laugh. I was eager to learn how to do it better. So I decided to go to art school.

Enrolling in art school takes a level of humility that I didn't have as a young adult. Seeking instruction means swallowing your pride and admitting you have a lot to learn. I had a puffed up sense of my abilities and got very sensitive when anyone critiqued my artwork. Being professional, even a professional student, means putting all that bull aside, putting 100% of your efforts into your work AND not being so attached to the final product that you can't rip it up and do it all over again.


2. Do you think an art education helped get you to where you are today, at least skill-wise?

Clothed Figure Drawing, 2004

It definitely did. But it's funny to think back on what I thought an art education would be. I had these odd ideas that there were a few very specific rules and secrets I needed to hear. Then after four years in school I would walk out as the best artist I could ever be.

The more accurate way to see art school is as a solid start. Art school is FIVE years of total immersion into whatever craft you're taking on. It is constant practice, experimentation, discussion. It's your time to fail over and over. That's how people learn.

Probably the main thing I learned in art school was what hard work really looks like, and how much hard work it takes to even make a dent in an art career. Art education is just the beginning. The boot camp that gets you practicing, teaches you how to start and finish projects on a specific timeline.

A typical assignment in your final year as an Animation or Illustration major might be: Re-imagine the characters from The Wizard of Oz. Then the instructor waits for you to come back with your artwork and he tells you how it could be improved a bit. That's it. That's when I realized an artist doesn't necessarily need an instructor to tell him to create projects. Anyone can pick a tidbit from history or a story that's in the public domain, a Grimm's Fairy Tale maybe, and draw a comic, do some character designs, make a picture book. Anyone who continually takes on their own projects (and finishes them) will do fine eventually, art school or not. Half of my artist-friends are proof of that.


3. When you started school, what was your main focus? Did your major change over the years?

The Ghoulds Character Design, a pitch I sent to Nickelodeon 2005

I remember my first day in school. It was an orientation day, I think. They told us "OK Animation majors stand over here. Illustration majors over here." I still had not decided and suddenly felt all this pressure to decide, like where I went to stand would decide my whole future. So dumb. I soon settled on Traditional (2D) Animation, but the program was so similar to Illustration that I teetered back and forth, creating my own program that focused on concept art, background painting, character design, storyboarding for animation.

Like I said, it's your time to fail. Not on grades and assignments, I always kicked ass. But as far as choosing directions. You can take a class and when it's over say "Alright, I was curious about ____ but I hated doing that. I never need to delve into that again."


4. The big question: Would you do it again knowing what you know now? What would do differently? The same?

I don't worry about re-writing history. Maybe the better question is would I recommend going to private art college?

The short answer is yes IF you really know that you can't/won't do anything but your art whether you can earn a living from it or not AND you do not go into debt in order to attend said art school. If you have a full-ride scholarship or the most generous, wealthy parents ever or you got into a gnarly car accident and the settlement will cover your tuition, then go for it.

If you are going to take out Federal or private loans to do it? No. So many of my fellow students had never drawn anything before enrolling in college but they loved watching anime or Pixar movies and thought it would be fun to move away from their parents and learn how to make cartoons. "Computer! Begin rendering amazing animated movie...Now!" 

Tiki Treehouse, created for a Layout class, 2005

Private art schools, while offering some great instruction, are mainly in the business of talking young people into taking on enormous loans. Prospective art students love art, not math. We go in seeing these loans as numbers on a form, with only a vague sense that this money needs to be paid off, with interest. But that future date that seems like a million years from that first day of enrollment. "And besides, by then I'll be a super-successful animator or painter and money won't be a problem. Right?!" The truth is, student loan payments hurt for even the most successful graduates and never quite to go away.

There are two main things we get out of art school:

  1. Total immersion. Nonstop practice doing what it is you want to be good at. Constant feedback and encouragement (at least, more than you would get outside of college).

  2. A large network of professional artist-friends. It's great to have friends. It's even better to have artist-friends. Aside from the general comradely in shared interests, it is your employed artist-friends who will help you get in on jobs. 

Art school is a very expensive, packaged set of experiences that someone could technically replicate on their own. But it takes a very special kind of person with an incredible amount of drive, organizational and social skills to make it all happen without the structure of a school. 

See more from Chris Jalufka at his site, and on