Entries in comic process (5)


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!


New mini-comic in progress

Vacation? What vacation? The philosophy here at Monkey-Rope Press is one of upbeat tirelessness! That is to say, I tried taking a few days off after the "Sounds and Seas" marathon and then again after the 3 custom projects and it just felt weird, so back to work for me. I'm scheduled to start In the Sounds and Seas: Volume III after the Chicago Alternative Press Expo in mid June, and until then I'm using the time to try my hand at new smaller projects.

Above are the first two rough scans of pages for a mini-comic set to debut at SPACE (Columbus Ohio's Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo) in two weeks. The book is about Ranger 7, an unmanned rocket that was the first to take close-up pictures of the moon. It was a kamakaze flight: the reason they were so close up is because it was an impact mission. I've been wanting to do a project about space for a while, and I think the allure is similar to the draw of the ocean/nautical narratives I've been working on recently: extreme isolation, extreme feats of technology and craftsmanship and fragility, at an almost inconceivable scale where all of those feats of technology and craftsmanship are ultimately insignificant. I love that Ranger 7 is such a sophisticated, ambitious and world-changing piece of technology that is designed to crash.

While I'm working on this, I'm also collaborating with friend and poet Jessey Nickells on an illustrated chapbook for her poem Things that are Like Baptism. I'm still working out the structure of that book project, but am looking forward to pushing myself with color in my illustrations.

Back to work!


Volume 2: So close!

Printing the cover of Volume 2 this weekend and sending the files to press next week. Not ready for a victory lap yet, but it is exciting to see the finish line!


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!