New Year

I have been hiding out in my "creative cave," as a friend put it, powering through the illustrations for In the Sounds and Seas Volume II. The social sacrifices are paying off: after I finish the spread I am currently on, I will be at the half-way mark. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I might well be ahead of schedule!

In my hours hermiting away in the cave, the year changed around me. Rather than look back at the year concluded (and what a great year it was!), it is more exciting to look forward to 2012. Here are a few events I am eagerly anticipating:

  • Saturday, February 18: I will be teaching a one-day 2-Color Linocut workshop at Evanston Print & Paper Shop in Evanston, Illinois. Registration is open now!
  • March 9 & 10, Chicago Zine Fest in the South Loop of Chicago: Reading events and panel discussions on the 9th, and zine & small press folks tabling their work on the 10th, I will be selling the first volume of In the Sounds and Seas, and a few other smaller projects that I've got up my sleeves. (My wildest and most ambitious dreams allow me to debut ISS VII at Chicago Zine Fest, but let's be honest: I also have to sleep, y'all.)
  • April 21 & 22, Small Press and Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus, Ohio: I will be tabling this event, selling the first volume of In the Sounds and Seas and debuting Volume II.
  • June 16 & 17, Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE): This is Chicago's first official alternate/small press comics expo, and I couldn't be more exicited. Word will get out in February if my application to table the event has been accepted, but I will be there, either selling my wares or chatting with and admiring the small press comic work of my Chicago bretheren.
  • September 15 & 16, Small Press Expo: This is my first year attending SPX. What a dream! If you are attending as well, drop me a line.

I am also excited to be working on three (count 'em!) hand-printed wedding invitations this spring, all featuring multicolor linocut illustrations. There are also schemes and applications and plans a-plenty, which I will write about in more detail as news and details become less abstract.

Happy 2012, friends!


Illustration Process: Composition Troubles

The illustration work towards In the Sounds and Seas: Volume 2 has gone remarkably smoothly--so smoothly, in fact, I've hardly given myself the time to write about it here. While each page of V1 felt labored in some way, burdened with making decisions of style and format that would affect the content of the rest of the project, I was able to jump into production of V2 with delightfully little friction. No composition struggles, no clogged pens, and no worries over how to draw hundreds of tiny bunnies. Wonderful!

That was the story, at least, until last week. The action so far in V2 revolves around the character who was revealed at the end of V1, walking through the coastal village, through the woods and to her home/workshop. The rest of the chapter takes place in the workshop and hints at the plans she is making that will carry her through the rest of the story, all of which revolves around the boat she is building.

In the chaos that had grown in my studio prepping and shipping etsy holiday orders, I had lost track of the composition mock-up I built to guide me through this book. Given my good fortune thus far I confidently started illustrating anyway:

And I abandoned it here. The action of walking toward the door of the workshop is not very important and doesn't need to take up more than half the page. The function of this spread is the reveal of the boat: the boat is central to the action of the remaining 5 chapters, and if I'd kept this composition the boat would have been a footnote on the bottom third of the page. No good! So I started over:

With this do-over, I minimized the action of entering the house, and intended to reveal the layout of the house and dramatically introduce the boat in construction in the bottom panel. As I inked the page, I grew less and less satisfied with the composition. Each spread that I have completed so far feels exciting and well made, and this one falls flat. The action of entering the house is still primary, the angle in the bottom panel reads a little forced, and as soon as I started filling in the long panel of water in the middle I realized it was lazy filler. Further, the boat is still not emphasized as the important information on the page: in many ways the boat is the primary character of the series, and this composition doesn't convey that at all.  I abandoned this page as well.

Frustrated at having spent so many hours drawing and inking pages that will not make it into the book, I spent a full day drawing spread composition after composition in miniature to try to work out the best way to tell the story these pages needed to tell. In doing that exercise, I realized that I was trying to accomplish too much, too literally, and in too little space. The whole workshop doesn't have to be laid out dollhouse-style; the important reveal is the boat. So I started again:

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Success! I still want to do some more work on the light/dark balance on the recto page, but what a relief to be able to move on. After two weeks of sketching and penciling and inking and failing, I am very happy with this spread. Keep your fingers crossed that I get back to my old rhythm, and move forward quickly and well. Time's ticking toward my mid-March completion deadline!


Thanks, Time Out Chicago!

I couldn't be more excited to share the news: Time Out Chicago's 2011 Holiday Gift Guide features none other than Monkey-Rope Press's CTA Announcement Series as a recommended gift! If you're not in town to pick up a copy, the digital gift guide is here. Check out the prints in our etsy shop, especially the new CTA Series Discount Bundle!

The foreknowledge of this shout-out is what motivated me back into the letterpress studio, re-printing the CTA series and all the other prints that emerged from that marathon printing weekend. As delighted as I was to get ink back on the rollers, I'm taking this post to share another celebration-worthy event: after printing and re-photographing and promoting and etsy-stats-stalking, I'm in production mode on In the Sounds and Seas Volume 2. I finished the first page on Tuesday, and am excited to spend the rest of this blustery November afternoon inking page 2.

Three cheers for good news!


Starshaped Press Open House

This Saturday is the annual Holiday Open House at Starshaped Press between 7pm and 10pm at 4636 N Ravenswood #103. Jen, the master printer who runs the shop, took me under her wing two years ago and taught me almost everything I know about typesetting, fine letterpress print practice and Potbelly Sandwich generosity in my year of apprenticeship in her shop. We want nothing but success and happiness for her and her studio, so please be sure to stop by! I will be manning the bar to help with the festive mood, and Sarah Vogel from Slow Industries will run printing demos. Learn about old-school letterpress print practices, check out Jen's amazing collection of antique wood and lead type, and buy prints, cards and gifting ephemera for the holidays. (We will also have our new Holiday Cheer prints for sale at the open house, which were printed in her studio with the rest of our typographic prints. Fun!)

For friends not in the Chicago area, or those of you unable to attend, be sure to check out Starshaped Press's etsy page. They have some stellar holiday options, from gift tags to photo cards to wrapping paper and, of course, beautifully printed posters for gifts. Support a small business and a generous friend for good holiday cheer!


Natural Cycles: Sustainability in Book and Paper Arts

Last Sunday we took a break from our mad city life to get thoroughly lost in the woods, pet some sheep and attend the opening of Natural Cycles: Sustainability in Book and Paper Arts. The show was curated by Melissa Jay Craig and Shawn Sheehy, and is populated by some amazingly talented paper and book artists. I was humbled and excited to have my books In Defense of Common Weeds and In the Sounds and Seas listed among their ranks. The show was held in Brushwood, a greek revival mansion hidden in the woods in the Ryerson Conservation Area in Deerfield, Illinois. The work is installed throughout the house, with hand-made "weeds" growing in corners, paper-sculpture animal heads and caged heads paired with taxidermied tableaus from the Ryerson's archives, and engaging books and narrative installations throughout. The show is up until December 23--friends in the Chicago area, try your best to stop by! It's definitely worth the drive. If you're feeling more adventurous, Melissa and Shawn are teaching a Sustainable Book & Papermaking class this Sunday afternoon (Nov 13). Sign up soon!