Category Archives: Tools

Cartoonist John Bush, 1954-2006

From the TagTeam.TV website:

Our friend John Bush created this illustration for the Tag Team website, just months before his untimely death of non-smokers lung cancer in 2006. John was a talented illustrator, whose cartoons were featured in St. Paul Pioneer Press, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, and many other publications.
He was also a diehard Packer fan, who proudly heralded from La Crosse, Wisonsin. But most importantly, he was a beloved husband, devoted father of three, and friend to many. We miss him.

My aunt Virginia lives in Edina. Over the past several years, as my cartooning has grown from interest to obsession, she’s occasionally mentioned an old friend and neighbor of hers, the late cartoonist John Bush.

More recently, she mentioned to Bush’s wife, Nancy, that she has a niece who likes making comics. Nancy said that she’s been going through some of her husband’s old art supplies, and would I be interested in taking any of them? I said, of course!

Aunt Virginia drove to my parents’ house in Northfield for a visit this weekend. She left the supplies from Nancy on their giant basement craft table. Thus it was that, on this snowy Minnesota morning, I found myself gazing upon…the holy grail of art supplies!

Box upon box of every kind of art supply, ranging from functional to fanciful!

I’m always intrigued by the materials that fellow cartoonists use: if I could, I would poke my way into all of their personal studios, to get a detailed idea of what they use, how they use it, and how they organize it.

To have so many of John Bush’s art materials bestowed upon me is one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me as a cartoonist. I only wish I could ask him about this stuff, to learn more about how he used it. I’m not even sure what all of it is, or if he actually used all of it. Maybe, like my mom and me, he was a guy who never passed up an opportunity for cheap craft and art supplies–especially the weird used stuff found in junk boxes at garage sales.

(Do any cartoonists out there know how to use that thick rubber stuff? Does anyone have any idea what that giant hole-puncher thing is for?)

The paper was one of the most exciting parts to me. There is so much of it. In every size and weight and style you can think of! Lots and lots and lots of Bristol.

(Is anyone familiar with that strange TV Paper? Is it for storyboarding? It’s got those little TV screens printed on every sheet.)

There are all kind of mattes for framing things. And rub-on letters and numbers that I’m curious to test out in a comic sometime soon. And stack after stack of sketch paper!

Then there are the paints. I have almost zero experience with painting, but my younger sister, a studio art major at Grinnell College, will no doubt find much use for them.

Coolest of all? Some copies of a poster Bush made for a local jazz radio station…and a page of some of his original doodles! They remind me a bit of Jules Feiffer. I like them.

Cartoonists are good people. I never get tired of learning about them. I really loved this opportunity to peek into John Bush’s creative process, by way of the tools he left behind. I will think of him whenever I use them.

Stwalley Reviews Cartooning Supplies at Wet Paint

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Poster

I recently did some product reviews for our friends at Wet Paint. You can read them here. Since they are the best and the friendliest art supply store I have ever been to, and since they have generously supported the Conspiracy for a number of events (including most of the 24 Hour Comics Days), it was a pleasure to do it. They are looking for more reviews… if you are interested in contributing some product reviews to them, let me know and I’ll get you in touch with them. You can email me at:


Random Generators

There you are at the Comic Jam and you have no idea what to draw and write. What do you do? Well if someone has access to the internet there are lots of resources to generate Random Stories and Ideas or you can print them out and take them to the group. These can really come in handy when doing the 24 hour comic book jam!

Evil Overlord Random Plot Generator – evil plots and what NOT to do.
Random Log-Line Generator: Random Story and Scene ideas. Example: A committee of nerdy art dealers gets endowed with superpowers or A fairy is secretly replaced by a superstitious cowboy in a factory.

digital propp: Proppian Fairy Tale Generator

When Vladimir Propp created his theories of structural analysis in the 1930’s it is unlikely that he foresaw the advent of the computing and information age, yet his concern with structure and the modularity of his construction of narrative anticipate that of computing models and languages today.

You have reached the Proppian Fairy Tale Generator, an experiment in electronic (re)writing and an exploration of the retranslation of modernist theory within the electronic environment.

Seventh Sanctum:

Here you’ll find tools for writers, gamers, and artists; randomly assembling names, concepts, and more for when you need inspiration, or just a bit of amusement.

Click here to check out the writing section, to get some new ideas.

Lee’s (useless) Superhero name Generator

50 Random Superhero Names (with secret id too).

So you want to be a hero?…All the answers are right here. Let Lee’s (Useless) Super-Hero Generator set you on the right track. Simply answer the questions on the form below and keep at it until you find the perfect name for yourself, your team, or your foe(s). Good luck, hero!

Behind the Name: random names by culture.

The Tradio: Pentel’s Fountain Pentel Replacement

I wrote the other week about my love of the Fountain Pentel, and how I was about to acquire a replacement for it from Wet Paint.

I have now purchased it and tried it out, and it is a wonderful thing!

The new Fountain Pentel actually isn’t called a Fountain Pentel… it is called a Tradio. The flexible tip is the same as the one on the Fountain Pentel (although it is black instead of white)… it gives you great versatility in the thickness of the line you are drawing depending on how much pressure you apply. This is what really sets it apart from other pens.

Other than that the Tradio is quite different… and quite an improvement over the previous model.

Unlike the Fountain Pentel, the Tradio is a refillable pen. Although I was hoping this might mean I could fill it with whatever ink I wanted to, this is not the case. The refillable cartridge is quite large and enclosed… and it includes a new nib. Essentially, the refills are the whole pen, minus the case. You could, if you were inclined, just buy the refills and use them as pens… not that I recommend it, as it wouldn’t be very comfortable to hold.

The refills aren’t terribly cheap, but they are very comparable to the price of a Fountain Pentel when they were still manufactured.

One of the major problems with the old Fountain Pentel was that it was essentially a felt tip, and the tips would often dry out and kill the pen. So far, that problem seems to have been eliminated with the Tradio… the ink, which is free-flowing liquid rather than ink soaked into a felt tip mass (as was the case with the Fountain Pentel), flows smoothly and easily.

The ink is also seems to be blacker than the ink in the Fountain Pentel… hopefully this means I won’t experience the fading issues I had with the ink in the Fountain Pentel, although I won’t know the answer to this for years.

All in all, the Tradio is a wonderful and relatively inexpensive pen… I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can order one from Wet Paint here (which I believe is currently the only North American distributor for these wonderful pens).

Review of the ACKERMAN PENS’ "PUMP PEN" from Linda Medley

Linda Medley, the artist and creator of the comic book Castle Waiting has posted an interesting review of the Ackerman Pens’ Pump Pen (One Fussy and Messy Little Pen! Is It Worth It?). Linda gives a detailed review that should be great reading for any artist interested in different drawing tools , especially those interested in classic dip/nib pens. She illustrates the review with examples she created with the pen for her current in progress comic book.

She also includes a section Make your on DIY Pump Pen.

You can read it HERE.

The Fountain Pentel, and why I love Wet Paint

I’ve been using the Fountain Pentel as my pen of choice for many years, and I love them… The Fountain Pentel has a unique plastic nib which bends to draw a different thickness of line depending on how much pressure you apply. They are fun to use, and like no other pen I’ve ever experienced.

I actually bought a gross of them in the 90’s as I was afraid they would stop making them, as they were always a hard to find pen. My supply of this unique pen is dwindling.

Looking recently for replacements, I discovered that, horror of horrors, my premonition was accurate and they are no longer sold in the US… in fact, I couldn’t even find an image of the Fountain Pentels I use online, they are so out of date. Here’s one for you I just scanned:

Fortunately, in St. Paul we have Wet Paint, the world’s greatest art supply store. I contacted Tim Jennen, the marketing manager and buyer for Wet Paint (who also happens to be a member of the Conspiracy) and let him know about my dilemma.

Tim has a passion for hunting down obscure art materials, and he just emailed me some good news shortly after my inquiry:

Hi, Steve—

I’m still hoping to bring in the regular Fountain Pentel at some point, but I have brought in a different version of this pen that I found—the Tradio Fountain Pentel, which is refillable. Here’s some info on it:

Tradio Fountain Pentel TRJ50

Tradio Fountain Pentel

A fountain pen with the perfect combination of style and performance. A flexible plastic nib creates a variety of line widths, from thick to thin, depending on the angle and pressure applied. The innovative, see-thru free-flowing system delivers a consistent ink flow for smooth, effortless writing from the first stroke to the last. The ergonomic barrel design provides added comfort and writing control. Black ink. Uses Pentel’s MLJ20 refill in black.


The pen is $10.00, but on sale during our Make Your Mark sale through the end of April at $8.50. The MLJ20 refill is $3.95.

The next time you’re in the store, check it out!


Tim Jennen, Marketing Manager/Buyer
Wet Paint: Artists’ Materials & Framing

Refillable! This is very exciting news to me, as my major gripe with the (disposable) Fountain Pentels I’ve used is that they fade with age… hopefully the ink in the cartridges is non-fading, or I can figure out a non-fading ink solution for this. I can’t wait to try one… I’m gonna try and make it over to Wet Paint this weekend, and I’ll give you a comparison to the disposable models once I try this out.

So now Wet Paint is apparently the only US supplier for two of the greatest cartooning tools ever created… the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (which we’ve mentioned many times before) and the Fountain Pentel. I believe they are also the last place left that you can buy supplies for gocco screen printing machines, which are quite wonderful.

If you’re looking for a specific art supply and can’t find it anywhere, contacting Wet Paint is a good bet… they have an online store with their wares as well, so you don’t have to live in the Twin Cities to get a hold of these wonderful tools. Their prices are great too… we’re very lucky to have them in the Twin Cities.