Entries in comic (5)


New Cover Mock-Up


Happy 4th of July! I'm spending the balmy holiday going through draft after draft of re-design for the Sounds & Seas cover. The new run will not have hand-printed covers (workhorse though I consider myself, hand-printing +1,000 two-color two-sided covers on a proof press just isn't going to happen), so I get the genuinely fun task of reconceptualizing the jacket design. I started doing this partly because the Xeric folk needed a thumbnail of the cover for promotions, partly because it's fun, and partly because what I'd planned to do today--write and assemble the Diamond proposal--is a little overwhelming. 

I went through other drafts with more nautical colors, but I so love the warm off-white paper that the body pages are printed on that I went with this warmer palette. For the final version I might do a new drawing for the cover so it's big enough to wrap-around (this illustration is pulled from Vol 1), and some things might shift as I think about the spine, but I think it's pretty ok otherwise.

Anyway: thoughts?


Recipe Comix in Saveur

So excited to finally be able to share this! I have a recipe comic on Saveur! I've been working on this for a little while, and it is live today. I was approached with the open-ended "draw a recipe" assignment, which triggered a bit of a crisis in my little heart: I realized that (a) most of my cooking is boring and barely needs a recipe ("Cut avocado in half. Eat with gusto; spoon optional"); and (b) the few interesting, complicated meals I have in my repertoir are straight out of cookbooks, which felt disingenuous to share with assumed recipe authorship. Talking it over with everyone I could, my mom came up with the idea of sharing a family recipe--my grandfather's menudo, specifically. My dad makes it every now and then, and it was a staple of my childhood summers, but I couldn't share a recipe I hadn't made myself. So, I made it!

AND IT IS AS GOOD AS I'D REMEMBERED! Quite a relief, with a comic deadline ahead of me.

It was a real pleasure to work on this project. Thanks a bunch to the good folks at Saveur (especially Ms. Rosner) for the opportunity to share my little comic; without it, I might not have ever found this gem in my grandfather's handwriting:

"Bring to boil - when boil starts, turn on ventahood fan -

when birds leave roof, it's doing just right."


Thanks, Xeric Foundation!

 I'm so excited I can barely bring myself to write about this! "In the Sounds and Seas" was selected to join the final group of self-published comic projects to win the 2012 Xeric Foundation Grant. 

Applying to this grant was a huge Hail Mary pass. I had planned to apply for the Xeric in a few grant cycles, once the full project was complete, to propose to print a single, unified, fancy book edition of the story that contains the tale from beginning to end. A friend casually mentioned in January that the Xeric is shifting its focus away from support to individual artists and towards larger charitable organizations, and the final deadline was fast approaching (at the end of February, when I was deep in the heart of crazy illustration). I decided to throw a long pass and try, assuming that a) a lot of other people would submit fractured projects since it's the last grant, and b) judging by the intimidatingly high quality of previous winners' projects, mine would be passed over, or at best appreciated by one of the judges who might send me a personal, supportive rejection letter. It will be a good exercise in grant writing, I told myself. 

But no! ISS got a grant! This means that Volumes 1 & 2, in their current incarnations with hand-printed covers, will be joined into one larger edition for high-volume printing (fewer precious hand-made pieces, so cheaper ticket price!) and significantly broader (/national) distribution, assuming everything goes to plan. This is huge! It also shifts the planned production for the remaining books, but that is a problem to worry about another day. For now, since I've finished doing tiny dances of celebration, and after next weekend's comic expo here in Chicago (more on that soon!), I'll work in illustrating a new cover and working with Salsedo Press on a new mega-edition.

High fives all around!


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:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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!


Bookish Progress

Early, frustrated notebook

For the past two months I have been laying the ground work for a new book. Getting the momentum going at the beginning was not easy: this is a larger, more involved project than anything I have attempted before, and the difference in scale and emotional commitment was enough to set my feet in proverbial concrete for the first few weeks. I diligently tried to write, and write, and sketch, and plan, and re-write some more, but distraction came easy and I went on a lot of angry, frustrated walks to try to talk through the friction. I ended up spending hours at local coffee shops staring at my notebook, pulling my hair, sipping tea, and going home in defeat.

Through the muck and grime a few ideas stuck, and as I worked to develop a promising thread the other secondary ideas fit in smoothly. I suddenly had a coherent narrative and the whole project made sense. I can't describe what a relief that was! My notebooks grew increasingly more orderly.

In the background: a proper (for me) outline format!

In the foreground: a quick sketch to work through page composition

Steps towards production are moving swiftly. I made a small signature to work through pacing in the first (most fully developed) chapter, to get a sense of how many pages the book might be; I have grant deadlines in my back pocket for this project; I have figured out press sheet and final book dimensions, and so on.  Most importantly, I typed up the project plan in full yesterday and sent it to three groups of trusted & talented friends for critique and feedback. 

It is going to be a hand-illustrated comic/graphic novella with no text or dialogue, just visual sequences. I don't want to give away too much about the story yet; that will come as the illustrations are  completed. For now I can say that I have been thinking a lot about what it is to make work, why I am (/others are) drawn to production and creation and output, and what happens when that fails. Also, fire!