Koterblog

Kennedy, My Uncle, and the Moon

November 20th, 2013

I don’t know which came first. My love of newspapers or the space program.

When I was growing up, my father often recounted how his late brother, Ed Koterba, began his journalism career at the Omaha World-Herald, and how he would go on to write a syndicated column for the Scripps Howard News Service and The Washington Post. We also closely followed the Apollo program, my father often reminding me that Uncle Ed had covered NASA and had even interviewed Wernher von Braun, father of the Saturn V rocket, the vehicle that would eventually transport earthlings to the lunar surface.

Uncle Ed was a member of the White House Press Corps, traveling with the president and attending Kennedy’s live televised press conferences—the first by any president. He was, no doubt, present the day Kennedy gave his famous “moon speech.”  Uncle Ed traveled the globe, filing columns from such exotic locales as the South Pole. Yet, it was his connection to President Kennedy that always piqued my imagination the most.

A month after Kennedy inspired a nation to reach for the moon, the president announced that Uncle Ed had been killed in a plane crash. The announcement can be heard here, at the start of this clip:

To hear Kennedy speak my family name, “Koterba,” is surreal. And I can’t help but wonder how the world might be different today had both men not met such tragic and untimely deaths.

 

Jeff Koterba November 17 2013, Kennedy Moon

 


A Cartoon is Born

July 23rd, 2013

Where do ideas come from? I wish I knew. What I can tell you is that the creative process is often stressful, messy, and heartbreaking. And yet, what often emerges is something new and beautiful (but sometimes it isn’t).

What I do know: to find an idea, I must read. A lot. Newspapers, magazines, blogs. I catch a little TV and radio news, too, just to round things out. And then I start by…staring off into deep space. I move my pencil around on a sheet of paper. If I’m lucky, a small doodle will begin to take shape.

Koterba

I’m not picky. Any little scribble will do…

Koterba

Most of the time, I’ll stick with it and follow the scribble wherever it takes me….

Koterba-cartoon

But sometimes I go down pathways that lead nowhere. And I must start again. If I’m lucky, however, an idea might arrive…like magic…

Koterba-cartoon

After that, I redraw the cartoon with pencil on Bristol board…

Koterba

Next, the lines are inked using pen and brush…

Koterba

I then make a copy of the drawing on a separate sheet of Bristol…

Koterba

Which I paint using good old-fashioned watercolors…

Koterba

And voilà!

Koterba


My Favorite Alien

July 12th, 2013

I worry that I’ve been taking my alien for granted. Every day he watches over me as I draw cartoons. And how do I thank him (and no, I don’t actually know if he is a “he.”)? By turning him into a shelf for my drawings.

My alien came to me nearly four earth years ago. You can read the original story here. Or, just take a look at this and judge me accordingly:

Koterba


And the winner is…

June 26th, 2013

I’m pleased to announce the winner in my Summer Caption Contest, as named by author and illustrator, Bruce Arant. Bruce tells me there were plenty of great entries to choose from. So many, in fact, he named three runners-up.

Third runner-up: “Come on in, the water is great! What do you mean, you’re afraid? Party like it’s 65 million BC!”
—Jerry Matulka

Second runner-up: “C’mon Rex!  One more dip before that darned asteroid hits!”
—Clayton Anderson

First runner-up:  ”Nothing to be scared of… the water’s a bit chilly, but we can always warm up afterwards in the bubbly tar pit Jacuzzi.”
—Victor Hahn

And the winner in the Summer Caption Contest is…drumroll, please…

Koterba

“Don’t worry, Steve, if it gets too deep you can just dog
padd…nevermind.”

The winning entry comes from Brian Bonifant. For winning, Brian will receive the original artwork. Congratulations to Brian and the three runners-up and thank you to everyone who entered!


Summer Caption Contest

June 6th, 2013

What better way to ring in the summer than to hold a cartoon caption contest? Here’s the deal: submit your caption for this cartoon through June 21, 2013, and you could win the original watercolor!Koterba

Remember to keep your punchlines short and sweet. And funny! One submission per entrant. Contest open to all humans on planet Earth. To keep it fair, I won’t be judging. Instead, that duty falls on the shoulders of author and illustrator, Bruce Arant, who just happens to have a beautiful new children’s book coming out later this summer. Email your captions to KoterbaCaptionContest @ gmail dot com (Sorry, you’ll have to retype that address…just avoiding spam) by 11:59 p.m. CST, June 21, 2013. The winner will be announced July 1, 2013. Good luck and have fun!


My Drumming Dad

April 10th, 2013

My father, Art Koterba, who passed away earlier this year, was a drummer and vocalist. Yet, rarely did the two of us have the chance to play music together in public. Two years ago, in April of 2011, Stefan Morel, a filmmaker from Toronto, was in town to shoot footage for a documentary that was to include scenes of my band, Prairie Cats, performing.

My parents had come out for the show, but it wasn’t during the break that Stefan and I had the idea to ask my father if he’d be willing to sit in on a song. I looked at it as a rare opportunity—not only would I have the chance to share the stage with my father, but also, we might be able to capture the moment with Stefan’s camera.

But my father, true to form, stubbornly resisted. He said that he wasn’t feeling up to it, that he wasn’t sure his feet could handle playing the kick drum and hi-hat cymbal. To be fair, at the time he was eighty-nine years old. It would take a bit more convincing, and eventually, he agreed to come on stage. After adjusting the drum kit, he dove in, playing on a song we certainly hadn’t had the chance to rehearse.

In that moment, he turned back the clock…he seemed twenty years younger.

But then, he always was young at heart.


Farewell, Neil Armstrong

August 27th, 2012

When I met Neil Armstrong, my sketchbook seemed to make him nervous. I knew that he didn’t care to give interviews and although I had no intention of asking anything, I couldn’t help but go up to him, just to shake his hand. He was, after all, one of my heroes. But I, too, was nervous, stumbling over my words. Worse, I was excitedly waving around my hands and trying to explain who I was, and what had brought me to the Saturn V complex at the Kennedy Space Center. He kept eyeing my sketchbook with suspicion, however, and before I could reassure him that I wasn’t a reporter, the moment was lost…

In the spring of 2010, my family and I had come to the Kennedy Space Center for the launch of space shuttle Discovery. We were guests of astronaut Clay Anderson—mission specialist for Discovery—who had also asked to take on his flight two of my original drawings. The hardcover of my memoir, Inklings, had just come out, but because space travel—and Snoopy—play a role in the book, I was able to write an epilogue for the paperback edition that included this:

Even an actual Saturn V rocket, suspended overhead horizontally and as tall as a building, seems to defy logic. Something catches my eye: a display of famous newspaper front pages from July 1969, the headlines proclaiming that man had landed upon the moon. Although the newspapers come from all over the globe, one front page in particular leaps out at me, that of the Omaha World-Herald.

I’m marveling at this familiar image when Josh grabs my attention. Behind me, in the shadow of the mammoth rocket is a statue of astronaut Snoopy, as tall as a boy. Moments later we realize that just a few steps from Snoopy stands Neil Armstrong, the man. I shake his hand and attempt to explain why I am here. He smiles politely but I know that there is probably nothing any mere human can say to this hero that will impress him. I glance to the newspaper display, to the World-Herald’s front page with Armstrong’s image. I want to point it out to him, but he is overtaken by other fans and soon we are back outside, at the bleachers in the viewing area, in the darkness that buzzes with anticipation.

jeff koterba-moon landing-apollo

Front page on display in the Omaha World-Herald lobby, and at the Kennedy Space Center

As a kid, Neil Armstrong inspired me to dream big. And when he passed away, he again inspired me as a cartoonist…

Jeff Koterba-cartoon-moon landing


Quiet No More

July 30th, 2012

Although it’s been six months since Prairie Cats decided to take an indefinite hiatus, I haven’t exactly been keeping quiet. Last month I dusted off my mandolin for a series of performances in Nebraska with Kentucky-based singer-songwriter, Andrea Davidson. Andrea is a triple threat: she writes great songs, she’s a terrific guitarist, and best of all, she possesses an incredible voice. Most recently, Andrea and I filmed a music video with award-winning filmmaker, Dana Altman, and Grammy-nominated sound engineer, Tom Ware. Although the video is still in the editing process, here’s a photo from the film shoot…

 

Jeff Koterba, Andrea Davidson, mandolin, music, guitar

Photo courtesy of Christine Brandt

 

I’m also excited to announce that my son, Josh, and I, will soon be joining forces to write and record a few songs, possibly even an EP. Josh is a gifted singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and sound engineer. He records and performs as Sail by the Stars. Although we’ve played music together before, we hadn’t written anything as a team until last year. To write a song with one’s son is a thrill that cannot easily be expressed. As his dad, I’m proud of him. As a fellow musician, I’m in awe of what he creates.


Kind Gestures

April 9th, 2012

I’ve been hit by lightning. My cartoons have flown in space. And yet, one of the most surrealistic moments I’ve ever experienced had to be watching myself twitch on the big screen—when I was able to watch, that is. Truth be told, there were moments when I had to close my eyes during a recent screening of the new documentary, Voluntary Gestures, by Stefan Morel. I mean, it’s uncomfortable enough listening to my voice in the recording studio when working on a new song. But watching myself twitch? Tough. Yet, what did I expect? The film is about the connection between Tourette’s and creativity.

Filmmaker Stefan Morel and I first met a year ago when he came to Omaha to spend a week with me, his camera in hand, always at the ready. I trusted him from the start and we quickly became close friends. Stefan is an artist, and what he’s created—from what I’ve seen—is beautiful. And apparently, others who have seen the film agree. At its premiere at the Omaha Film Festival, Voluntary Gestures won two awards including the Audience Choice Award for a short film.

I’m also proud that the film allowed me the opportunity to work with the talented, Josh Koterba, who happens to be my son. Josh and I recorded much of the music for the film. What we didn’t record came from my band, Prairie Cats.

I would also like to thank all of those folks who came to the festival and shared their kind words about the film. For those who have asked when and where they can see it: at present, Voluntary Gestures is being submitted to film festivals around the world which, at this time, precludes general distribution. However, at some point down the road, it’s my understanding that Voluntary Gestures will be available to a wider audience. When that happens I’ll be sure to let you know.

In the meantime, here’s the trailer…Enjoy!

 


Cats and Dogs, Tics and Space

December 21st, 2011

I always knew that my childhood creation, Dogie the Doggie, was engaged in a self-proclaimed space race with Snoopy. Dogie was also the star of his own newspaper, The Dogie the Doggie News. But who knew that he had competition? From a Cat? It took a trip to New York for me to learn that when she was ten, comedian Chelsea White was not only “broadcasting” The Daily Cat, but had also sent Whiskers into space.

When she’s not making people laugh with her stand-up, Chelsea’s hosting, producing, and editing. And when she’s not doing that, she’s mentoring those with Tourette Syndrome, often visiting schools, sharing her experiences of having grown up with Tourette’s. As someone who also suffers from Tourette’s, I was in town to give a talk at a mentoring brunch sponsored by New York City’s chapter of the Tourette Syndrome Association.

The best part about hanging out at the brunch? I got to meet a lot of great people with Tourette’s, people who don’t define themselves by their tics but instead, are infinitely creative, smart and funny. And that’s the thing about Tourette’s. It isn’t just about twitching, it’s about creating art, music, books, and plays.

And sending imaginary pets into space.


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