We're still six months out from the world's biggest comic book convention, but the Bakersfield Museum of Art is turning its own pop culture page with two events tailored to comics fans and art lovers alike.
In a new direction for the museum, the shows will highlight the work of artists Tom Hodges and Todd Nauck with activities allowing patrons a closer look at the artistic process.
Jason Gutierrez, the museum's marketing director and a lifelong comic book fan, came up with the idea for the unique events.
"I thought it would be interesting to present comic art; portraits, original pieces of work and limited-edition creations, in a museum setting.
"The art is captivating, and being able to hear directly from the artists the process and stories behind the work is a special touch that most people visiting a museum don't normally receive."
Picking up the sketchpad first is Hodges, well-versed in the Star Wars universe with a webcomic and co-creator of "MidKnight," who will sketch at Friday's Talk & Draw event.
The artist appears at a variety of conventions throughout the year -- from the five-day Comic-Con fete in San Diego where numbers swell to 120,000 daily to smaller, one-day gatherings -- and said he likes what the more intimate events can offer.
"It's nice to have a smaller, concentrated audience that I can focus on. It's more personal for those involved as well."
This week, the museum sought suggestions via its Facebook and Twitter pages for characters for Hodges to draw. Although he made his bones drawing characters from a galaxy far, far away, Hodges said he likes to test his skills with some classic characters.
"Honestly, I would have to say (my favorite characters to draw are) Batman and the Joker. I love the characters. I love Batman's Rogues Gallery. It's the greatest in all of comics.
"I love Star Wars, but I've drawn the various characters several times over and over again. It's nice to break it up and draw non-Star Wars sometimes."
The pieces Hodges sketches during his talk will be for sale as well as commissioned head sketches (both $10), assorted works and a signed sketchbook.
"It's loaded with everything from my favorite characters to draw and some original concepts along with an entire second half devoted to Star Wars."
Hodges also will offer a limited-edition Star Wars-related print exclusive to the event. (Check it out on tomhodges.com.)
"He will have 30 of them available, and they will be sold for $30," Gutierrez said. "He won't have this available on his site or at any conventions this year. He's doing this just for BMoA, which is truly an honor."
Displayed in the gallery are works from Hodges and Nauck, a 17-year industry veteran who has worked for Image, with his own creation, WildGuard; Marvel, on a variety of Spider-Man titles, including the Spidey-President Obama team-up in "Amazing Spider-Man" #583; and DC, helping launch "Young Justice" (now a cartoon series on Cartoon Network).
Next Saturday Nauck will be on hand for a Q&A and signing session followed by an artists workshop. Open to all ages and skill levels, artists are invited to draw along with Nauck, whose sketching will be projected on screen.
"I plan on walking the attendees through my process on drawing a superhero character from sketching out the figure's movement to pencil art to finished ink art."
Nauck, who has spoken at conventions as well as schools, said he enjoys interacting with comic book fans.
"I really like being able to encourage kids to think outside of the box, find a way to pursue their goals, and hopefully fulfill their dreams in some way."
Like Hodges, Nauck will have sketchbooks for sale that he will sign. They contain character sketches for series he's worked on, commissioned art and preliminary art in various stages of pencils, inks and grayscales.
Although some may find comic art a strange fit for the museum, Gutierrez said it's all part of promoting art education and awareness.
"We want to engage our audiences to new genres, styles, types and ideas of art. The comic art is only up for a limited time, but we hope that the new audience it sparks with will generate a long-term interest in BMoA."
All fun aside, he said that the Talk & Draw program is rife with possibilities.
"It lends itself to a wide range of genres and possibilities, but still keeping art and art education at the forefront of the audience's mind."
That said, Gutierrez has someone at the top of his list: DC Entertainment co-publisher Jim Lee.
"I've met him before and he's a pretty cool guy. He's been a leader in the industry for years, so I bet he'd have a lot to talk and draw about."
Talk & Draw with Tom Hodges
5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday. $25; $15 members
"Eat, Print, Mingle" (read more on Page 20)
5 to 7 p.m. Saturday. $10; $5 members
The art of Todd Nauck
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 4. $15 each for Q&A/signing and workshop; $10 members
Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R St. bmoa.org or 323-7219.