Woooo! Things have been busy. They still are, so I’ll just get right to it!
I was tagged in a blog tour recently by the amazing Beth Hetland and tasked with doing a post for the “My Writing Process blog tour”, answering 4 questions. Beth had been tagged by the talented Cara Bean before that. Here we go!
1) What am I working on?
Oh man… Ok…
– Victus # 3: This is the newest issue of my sci-fi, metaphysical, religious, relationship comic. It’s almost all pencilled!
– Speculative Relationships: The sci-fi romance comics anthology featuring some of my good pals that we are trying to get funded on Kickstarter (see more on this below). I am doing 2 stories for this, which I just finished yesterday! Oh and I’m co-editor with Scott Kroll.
– Upgrade Soul: I’m inking this amazing sci-fi iPad comic for Ezra Clayton Daniels. It’s a blast!
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’d like to think that my work is different in that it’s not tied to the conventions of any one genre. With Victus, I’m attempting to create my own genre, which takes influence from theology, psychology, and philosophy, but also reflects aspects of sci-fi, action, and romance. I also try to bring in experimental elements which will hopefully expand the restrictions of any genre I work within. I hope that makes sense?
3) Why do I write what I do?
When I start any new project, it is usually because I need a vehicle to explore thoughts, ideas, and feelings I’m having. I usually say that I make comics so that I can understand something better. With my comic Gary, I wanted to gain more insight into how and why a serial killer exists and how that relates to my own experience and place in society. With Victus, I want to explore communication and connections to a larger universal nature. I rarely start writing something with an answer in mind. I write because I have questions.
4) How does your writing process work?
I can’t write scripts. I just can’t do it. I feel that if you’re making comics, you really shouldn’t start with just words or just pictures. So I find the process of writing a script counter-intuitive and out of place when making comics. Generally, I start a comic with random notes and drawings. These will be in sketchbooks, on my phone, on meeting agendas at work, etc. After I have a pretty large log of these ideas, I try to organize them in a google spreadsheet (words/ideas) and folders (drawings). I also start a project specific sketchbook at this point, where I will put all future content related to said project. Then I start zero-ing in on key scenes/images/dialogue and organizing them into some kind of order.
Once I have a vague big-picture of the project, I’ll start the first issue/book. I put together 8.5×11 sheets of paper folded in half and staple them, making a little blank book. Then I start thumb-nailing. As I thumb-nail, I write any words that I have figured out and plug in images from the sketchbook. Once I have maybe… 80% of the book thumb-nailed/written, I’ll start in on the “big”/”final” drawings. I guess what I’m trying to point out here is that I’ll start drawing the final comic with pretty significant gaps in the ‘story’. Since I think of my process as a meditation on an idea, I like to leave room for certain questions to be answered as I work and bring about new content. So I may not have certain lines of dialogue written until I’ve already drawn most of the first issue. I think this helps in cutting down on unnecessary dialogue or images, and figuring out what’s actually important. My writing process really doesn’t stop until I’ve filled in that final word balloon or inked that last line.
SPECULATIVE RELATIONSHIPS KICKSTARTER UPDATE
We have about two weeks left in the Kickstarter campaign for Speculative Relationships! In promotion of the project, we’ve been doing artist interviews and podcast spots. Here’s some o’that:
Scott Kroll Interview
Isabella Rotman Interview
And we’ll have interviews with me, Daniel Warren Johnson, and Mike Manomivibul up next week!
Scott and I were both featured on a couple podcasts too:
We are a little over 60% now, so we still need your help to get this thing funded. Check it OUT!
THINGS FROM MY DRAWING TABLE:
– that’s all for now!
Oh man… it’s been a while. I’m sorry ya’ll. I promise it’s cuz things have been crazy busy in the best ways possible. I’m excited to tell you more, but still have to keep some of it secret. But teasing…
– Convention Schedule
– Inking one of my favorite sci-fi comics?
– Art show???
– Pin-up for (insert secret publisher name)?!
– A Kickstarter?!?!
More info on the way for all that. But for now, I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain on my recent Brain Frame Performance. Onward!
BRAIN FRAME PROCESS
So, last month I had the honor of performing at Chicago’s famous comics-performance-experiment-wacky-fun-amazing Brain Frame series. When I was asked by organizer, Lyra Hill, I was equally excited and terrified. I felt pressure to do a good job, since the show has such a rich history of awesome performers. I also wanted to try something new for me and different from other performances I’d seen. I came up with some criteria that I wanted my piece to meet:
– No video projection (I’m actually sick of video projection in all art right now)
– Must have music
– No talking
– Must have live drawing
– Must have audience interaction
Lyra had specifically requested that I do a reading featuring my experimental style work, which usually means Simon. He’s my default for experiments in comics, so I was happy to oblige.
My initial thought was to do a whole piece that was live drawing. I pretty quickly realized that would be a limiting in both scale and detail. I wanted the piece to have the impact that comes from large scale drawings. So I figured I’d have pre-drawn images and focus on how drawings can change via additions, subtractions and paper folding.
So, the piece bounced around in my head for a month or two (Lyra graciously gave me tons of time to create my piece) and I’d do sketches or fold paper in random ways to see how it looked. Finally I started sketching the actual piece on paper and figuring out the sequencing. As for theme… It sort of comes to me AS I’m drawing with Simon. I’ll have a thought, then I develop that as I sketch. It’s kinda like having a conversation with someone to solve a problem or come to an understanding. But I’m having that conversation between my brain and hand and paper. As this Simon comics developed, it became about what it means to feel, think, reflect, and share with the world. Basically, it’s a piece about what art is to me.
The sketching process was a great way to start figuring out which sections would be folded paper, live drawings, or ‘paste downs’ (though no paste would be involved). As I figured out Simon’s progression through the piece, more and more challenges became apparent. The hard part became what would I cut or alter from the piece to make it manageable on the large scale I had planned. Lyra had also thrown a curveball in about halfway through the planning process: there would be two performances on the same night! This was exciting news, but also meant if the performance would have to work two times, meaning I’d have to not damage it and couldn’t do live drawings over pre-drawn images unless I wanted to draw them twice. Honestly, I like having challenges, so this was… good news?
I wanted this to be big enough that people in the back of the venue could still see it, but not so big that I needed an assistant. The size I landed on was 4 1/2 feet wide by 4 feet tall. This was still… really big. Moving this beast around is not easy.
It’s still sitting in my living room because I don’t know where to put it. Once I knew the size, I could buy paper and start drawing the ‘finished drawings’. Which I knew would take a while. So before I started, I wanted to get my music sorted out.
Initially I thought I could just piece together something on my own from tracks I liked. I also have a small synth and thought that might work. I quickly saw that this was A. too much work, B. would take time away from drawing, and C. would make it hard to adjust during the performance if something went wrong. Plus I was interested to hear what a musician would bring to my images. Luckily I work with the extremely talented guitarist Chad Nannenga. Chad has played with some awesome bands like the Fabulous Naturals & Merle the Mule. I gave Chad all the sketches in a powerpoint presentation so he could see the flow that would eventually happen from image to image. We talked a bit and I gave ideas about what mood I wanted each section to have. This was very broad (“this part should be exploratory, this part should be sad”). I also provided some tracks that I wanted him to reference or try and emulate (but not copy). Things like :
Then he just ran with it. We met a few weeks later and he had a string of riffs for me to hear. I gave him feedback on what I liked and didn’t so he could make adjustments. Shortly after that we met with drawings and guitar in hand and started to really knock out which riffs fit which drawings. Then figure out how to accent each section with effects pedals and how to transition from one major section to another. We came up with cute nicknames for the riffs, so we could tell them apart. Things like ‘chickin pickin’ and ‘radiohead riff’. After that it was just up to me to finish drawing all the dang pages, while Chad practiced the music and transitions.
For those curious about Chad’s gear, he was playing a Fender Jazzmaster guitar. He used a Line 6 DL4 for looping and another delay pedal for the textures. All this was fed into a classic Vox Pathfinder amp.
Since the drawings were so large, I used large 70#-90# paper, purchased on rolls. Since it was rolled, I had to flatten each section after I cut it. So often-times my dining room was occupied by big sheets of paper on the floor covered in heavy books. Actually, as an artist you find sections of your house taken over by projects often. You get used to it, I guess.
I used a video projector (yeah yeah, I know I said I wasn’t gonna use one, but I meant in the performance) to up-scale my rough sketches and keep proportions. Then I put the drawings on the floor and fleshed them out more. I was drawing with Sakura Permopaque black markers for my black lines. Originally, I was going to use Fatty Sharpies. But there are a lot of parts where pages have to fold, and the Sharpies were bleeding through. I actually tried a ton of different markers and paper stocks, but Sakura was the only brand that didn’t bleed through. I did have to use a different marker type for color, as I could only find black and white Sakuras. I ended up using the Blick brand art markers. Which… absolutely suck. I could barely get one page colored before they ran out. I ended up buying like 15, as I was afraid changing brands would produce a noticeable change in the color. And of course, they bled through. So on pages with images on the back of the paper, I had to paint white over the bleed through. It was kind of a pain. Next time I’d probably try a thicker paper ($$$) or use pastels (though that would be messy).
Once most of the drawings were complete, Chad and I began practicing with the large drawings and music together. This is where all the kinks were worked out. Things like how I’d attach the paste downs (ended up using good ol’ “tack stuff”) and how Chad would transition his effects from section to section.
I think in total we did about 4 run-throughs, including one on the morning of the show.
The Brain Frame Crew of Brad, Emma, and Lyra were extremely helpful and positive during the whole set-up process. We were at Constellation, which is a very cool venue. Intimate, but not small.
Chad and I chose to appear in all black, to let the Piece be the focus of the show, rather than our kooky outfits. I, of course, had to wear my Adidas shell toes, as that is where my magical powers come from.
The performance climax is me reaching inside the final drawing, and pulling out small paper cubes to throw into the audience. This was challenging to find a solution for. I didn’t want to use objects that were too solid or heavy, as they could potentially hurt someone. But if they were too insubstantial, they wouldn’t be ‘throw-able’ and it would just look sad when I tried to pitch them out there. I decided to try paper cubes, as they are cheap (I had already spent a lot of money on this) and they mimicked the paper being used in the rest of the performance. The problem with these was, of course, they are too light and would fly far. I tried different paper stocks, but nothing really worked.
Then my beautiful, amazing, intelligent girlfriend came up with a solution. She is a jeweler and she had a bag of metal shot (tiny metal balls). She suggested putting one or two inside the cubes. We tried this out to ensure they’d fly far enough and not hurt anyone. I actually threw cubes at her face and she told me if it hurt or not. Yes, that is how I said thank you. We filled about half the cubes with metal and left some unfilled so they would ‘float’ more and stay in the front row.
After the second performance, Lyra actually ATE one of the cubes as we cleared the stage. This was awesome, but had me worried she had eaten metal. Luckily, she had not eaten a metal filled cube. She assured me after a few days that “everything came out ok”.
Documenting your work is incredibly important. I work at an art school and that’s the main thing I try to make clear to every student I talk to. If you don’t document your work, it didn’t happen and doesn’t exist. Luckily, Brain Frame has an awesome photographer and videographers. That’s where I got most of the images in here, as well as one of the videos below. So, take a look at my performance! It’s 16-ish minutes, but please watch till the end for the exciting conclusion.
Thanks to Gillian Fry for the awesome photos.
This video was of the 1st performance and shot by Kyle O’Connell
This is the official Brain Frame video of the 2nd performance. Thanks to Jack Wensel, Cooper Collier, Cody Wallace, & Tyson Torstensen.
Hope you found my rant about creating this piece interesting. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun. Transporting and storing this giant project was also a huge challenge, but that’s probably less interesting. So I’ll end it here for now. I’ll leave you with some images of other stuff I’ve been working on lately:
Piece to you!
Been a while folks. Been extremely busy getting Victus #2 ready (I know I know… you’re tired of hearing it). But the files are at the printer and I should be getting a proof this week. Hopefully, pre-order options will be available next week. In the meantime, I wanted to post some of the imagery I’ve used as reference in creating the visuals of Victus.
I discovered Franklin Booth when researching. Check Him Out!
Coat of arms design has always intrigued me.
In a perfect world, this is how the Victus covers would be printed. Hand bound and embossed with beautiful rich colors. I long for the days when books are once again regarded as precious objects to be treasured by the maker and the reader.
I wanted the city to dance between feeling realistic in perspective and having the flat quality of 16th century paintings.
The mood and presence captured in Ernst Oehme’s paintings are incredibly striking. You get a sense of a place, a time, and an emotion in every painting. Check Him Out too!
An early rendition of Nuremberg. This is exactly the kind of city I wanted to emulate in Victus, historically and visually.
Issue #3 will feature something to tie this in…
I encourage everyone to look at as many works of art and nature as you can when preparing for a project. I love the process of discovery that accompanies visual research. It’s like falling in love for the first time. But without the inevitable nasty breakup.
IDEAS MADE OF LIGHT: KATSUHIRO OTOMO
I was honored to be a guest blogger on Ideas Made of Light, hosted by the great Scott McD. Here is a link to my post where I take a close look at this Akira title page by manga-god Katsuhiro Otomo:
Scott’s blog analyzes all different types of artwork. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you do so. Every artist or art enthusiast can learn something from Scott’s insights.
If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’ll be doing a reading at the wold famous Brain Frame in January. I’m composing a performance specifically for the show, so I encourage anyone in the Chicago area that to come out for comics chaos! I’ll have more details closer to the date, but here are some of the sketches I’m working on, along with some Prophet fan art and a creepy pic of me lightboxing:
I have more exciting news on the way, but I can’t quite announce it yet. But if you like Sci-fi, you’ll want to stayed tuned.
Been busy with Victus #2. I’m happy to say there is only 1 page left to draw. But don’t hold your breath just yet. I have to finish the covers and title pages. Here are some peeks:
Last weekend I recorded a time-lapse video of me inking a page from Victus #2. Check it out:
Oh hey, a vague release date! Way to go me. More video content is on the way next week!
Stuff I have been looking at:
Wally Wood tearin’ it up on Weird Science
I love the way Gary Erskine draws wolverine. Check out his ‘disguise’.
I met this dude named Dave Chisholm at SPX who is working on an awesome comic about a guy with a magic trumpet. This is one of the more interesting and well-made comics I’ve seen lately. It’s got the energy of Pope and Jeff Smith. I highly recommend you check it out!
PHOTOS I TOOK
A panoramic of me and Mrs. T’s studio
Some donuts from Do-Rite Donuts!
And of course, I always need to throw some clouds in there.
I have some more exciting projects/announcements on the way. Stay tuned!
Hey hey! Been a while! Sorry for the silence. Things have been busy, but good! I wanted to take a minute and give some quick updates, and post some pics of what’s happenin’…
New Episode of Back Issues Podcast is up!
Justin and I spend some time analyzing Geof Darrow and Frank Miller’s Big Guy and Rusty, but also proclaim our love for Pacific Rim! Check it out:
Subscribe if you haven’t already:
COMIC ART BATTLE @ MCA
So, yesterday I was in the ultimate comic art battle at MCA! Hosted by the great Ezra Clayton Daniels! Here are some pics:
Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis happened to be there too. Sorry I was too busy to get a pic of them.
Victus #2 is coming along. Here are some peeks…
John has finished layouts for all of issue #1. Here is a snap of some pages…
Here’s some stuff I’ve been looking at lately…
Been Re-watching Neon Genesis Evangelion. Amazing stuff.
A leaf I found on one of my walks.
Thanks for reading ya’ll! More news coming!
So, before I tell you how collaboration has saved my butt on multiple occasions, a couple announcements:
1. I’ll be speaking at the best comic book store in the country, Quimby’s, on May 30th at 7pm! I’m speaking as part of the Laydeez Do Comics series (I know I know, I’m not a lady). I’ll share the proverbial stage with Sarah Morton. These talks are always a lot of fun, so if you are in the Chicago area, I hope you can attend. I promise to share some juicy secrets! Here is the info:
2. As this post is about collaboration, I think it fitting to announce that I’ve had the privilege to collaborate on a podcast with the amazing Justin Fah of In This Issue Podcast. It’s called Back Issues. On the show we analyze older comics that we’ve always wanted to read, or always loved, or know to be essential. First we did Green Lantern: Willworld. Our lastest episode is focused on the classic X-men storyline ‘Days of Future Past’. You should subscribe to the show In This Issue Podcast on itunes or listen directly on their website:
Now, on to the meat!
So… I always wish I could do everything myself. That’s cuz I’m dumb. One of the areas I struggle with the most is graphic design. It’s an area that folks that who self-publish often under-utilize or ignore. It’s unfortunate, because I think it keeps their (my) work out of a large number of consumers hands. We live in a world saturated by design. As Steve Jobs said, ‘design matters’. Very true. No matter how much your comic rocks, if you can’t put it in a package that communicates that the work is professional, you’ll have a hard time selling it.
Since I struggle so much in this area, I often lean on my friends for help. In particular, I know this dude named Gerald Proctor. Gerald is a college buddy that has quite a talent for graphic design and all things digital art related. I got to know him through many a long night of Halo death matches in the dorms (yes I’m a nerd). The first time we collaborated was in college on a poster for my comic Simon. I gave no specific direction, so Gerald brought his own style to the piece:
It was really exciting for me to see someone take a concept like Simon, that up to that point only I had done, and explore it in their medium. Years later, Gerald helped design the cover for my Simon 10 year collection:
I’m fairly sure this cover has helped in me selling out of the first printing of the Simon Collection. Now, to the untrained eye, this cover might not look too complicated. Which, honestly, is the beauty of it. It just works and you see it as another piece of fitting design. The same way you see a book on the stands of any bookshop and just ‘get it’ at first glance. Now, without Gerald’s help, the cover would have turned out much different. To give you an idea of how bad this cover would have been if I had created it solo, here are some of my cover designs before Gerald joined the project:
Pretty bad, right? That’s because DESIGN IS HARD. Gerald used texture and subtle color to accentuate the feeling the black and white line art had. This was much more effective than just simply coloring the cover in a traditional style. Not only that, but this design adds to the feeling that this book is a collection of work over time. You get a sense of history when seeing the cover, which is exactly what a collection of 10 years of comics should feel like.
Gerald also helped give cohesion to my Gary series:
When looking at the series as a whole, it becomes even more obvious how consistent and direct design helps in catching the eye of potential buyers. Gerald also created the interior layouts for the Gary series. Picking font families, alignment, and page placement is not as intuitive as it might seem to the layperson. It requires a keen eye for detail, and a knowledge of the language of graphic design.
Collaboration is not always easy. Gerald and I tend to disagree about almost everything when working on a project. But I’m a firm believer in “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The disagreements lead to discussion and honest critiquing of what’s working or not working within the piece. Hopefully, after the dust settles, you have a great piece of design in your hands.
Gerald continues to be a monster of a digital artist. I highly recommend you check out his gallery of work on Society 6:
I particularly like “If I walk to you”.
I plan to do another post about collaboration soon, delving into some other working relationships. I’ve had the chance to work with some amazingly talented people. Most recently, my brother Logan and I collaborated on a new Simon comic. It went so well, we are already working on another. And of course, John Wright and I are still working on our epic cage fighting comic NUMB:
I’ll leave you with a sneak peek at 6 pages of Victus #1:
Whew! Another weekend another convention!
I had a blast at Tricon this past weekend. I was tabling with my pal Justin Fah and his podcast In This Issue, which happened to be the OFFICIAL podcast for the show. The folks of Huntington, West Virginia were extremely kind and welcoming to us folks from out of state. I wanted to thank everyone who came out to the show and said hi!
At the table, Justin and crew (Piasecki & Bogner) had the ol’ creator corner going, which was awesome. Basically, they provide you with information pulled from a hat (like a comic book hero, a villain, a plot device, and a setting) and then you come up with a story on the fly. The prize is your story on the podcast and a sweet print of the In This Issue Poster that I did. Here is one fan donning the ‘Weapon X’ helmut and telling In This Issue his story:
You really need to hear some of the stories folks cooked up! To hear all the stories, as well as creator interviews and other convention coverage, you can subscribe to In This Issue on itunes or listen at their website.
We also had some help from this guy:
The next show you can see me at is Stumptown Comics Fest in Portland, OR at the end of this month! I’ll have more details on that soon.
Here are a couple peeks at Victus:
pages pages pages!
Sorry to keep teasing you. I assure you the book will be ready soon!
Hadn’t posted any ‘here’s what I’ve been looking at lately’ images in a while. So…
The Saga of Swamp Thing.
Thanks for reading ya’ll! Be seeing you in a week or so!