Sunday, October 25, 2009

Studio Makeover, A New Goal

I haven't cleaned my studio since I moved in with Reg in 2003. That's That's nearly 7 years. Every once in a while I would scoop up a superficial layer of artwork and store it, throw away some reference print-outs and some miscellaneous debris, but other than that, I haven't made much effort to change my ways. I have a huge drawing table (got it for a steal--100 bucks about 10 years ago from a guy I shared a house with), but have only really been using about a third of it in the last few years because it's been covered in art supplies and other stuff. So I finally decided to do something about it. It's taken the better part of a week, but I've finally gotten it cleaned and organized. You might notice that the keyboard is broken, dropped in the process, a small price to pay for a clean and organized studio. The process has been a kind of excavation, turning up old work and discovering just how bad I used to be.

Here's what it looks like now:

This is what it used to look like:

March 2006

July 2009

This is Probably Going to Sound Embarrassingly Earnest, but...

Right now, I'm not anything close to a full time freelancer. Until recently I felt like I had failed as a freelancer, and was very much on my way to giving up the idea that this would ever happen. But with the encouragement of Regina and a few friends and acquaintances, I've been inspired to redirect my energy towards this goal and am determined to be well on this path by the end of next year. The first thing I've done is tried to identify what my weaknesses are and address them. Organization has been one major setback, and so cleaning the studio was one more small step in the process of becoming more organized and better prepared.

Another problem is that for a variety of reasons, my work has been inaccessible to anyone but a very small audience. To broaden the appeal of my work I've redirected my focus towards children's markets and have slowly built up my portfolio with more kid friendly pieces and pieces based on classic children's lit. Apparently I had forgotten why I wanted to do this in the first place: before I went to art school or had any formal training my goal had always been to make illustrated books, both for children and adults. Since graduation I've meandered in a lot of different directions, and more recently have tried to do editorial work, something I never had much aptitude for and something I didn't even know existed before college.

Also, because of a lack of discipline and focus early on, I lacked a certain amount of technical skill. This is something that can fortunately be learned and practiced, so to this end I've started doing more life drawing, anatomy studies and applying myself to making more credible spaces with more accurate perspective. In the past I've tended to neglect backgrounds and focus mainly on figures and now I'm more focused on complete scenes and multi-figure tableaus. Color is also something I've been paying more attention to.

Tin Salmunic, Angelique Benicio and Frank Stockton

Aside from Regina who is my best friend and my greatest support, three people have stood out as inspirations: Tin Salmunic, Angelique Benicio and Frank Stockton. Tin said something that really hit home, "Don't decide what your limits are until you've pushed them." Tin has been nothing but encouraging and supportive and I am grateful to have come in contact with him even though we haven't yet had the opportunity to meet in person.

Angelique is a friend from college who I recently have gotten back into contact with. Angelique is a powerhouse, a single mom who has been determined to make her living from her skill as an artist since she moved back to the states from an 8 year stint in Paris and Brazil. Just a few months after moving here she's already achieved this by doing commissioned sculptures but like me is very much interested in getting into Children's illustration. We've both been encouraging and helping one another to make this happen.

Frank Stockton is another illustrator who has encouraged me both personally, and through his very inspirational blog. You can check his blog out here:

And check out Tin's blog here:

And Angelique's website is here:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 Alternative Press Expo

This was probably my best APE so far.

We managed to cover expenses and make a very modest profit. We sold a lot of posters, and a few comics. I got a lot of nice feedback and saw a lot of new and familiar faces.

The Elephant Factory caught people's eye, but was too spendy for most people's wallets. Surprisingly a couple of people recognized it as inspired by Haruki Murakami's short story The Dancing Elf from his collection The Elephant Vanishes.

The Oz poster also drew people to the table, but we didn't sell many. They recognized it as Oz and seem to be attracted to all the colorful characters, but since most people don't have a familiarity with the Oz books in general, they didn't feel compelled to own it. Our newest popular was the one inspired by James and The Giant Peach, likely because of the popularity of the book and movie, but the Elephants on pink buildings and Bicycle Tree continue to be our best sellers.

An Encounter with the great Barron Storey

I also ran into my old teacher Barron Storey and finally got to share my new work with him. This was a very gratifying experience because I admire him a great deal and when I was in school I didn't have much discipline or technical skill. I feel like I've reached a new level of craft this year and was finally able to show it off to Barron so that he could see that I was finally starting to live up to some of the promise he saw in me 13 years ago, something he seemed to genuinely feel. I felt like I had failed as a freelancer, and to some degree, being able to show Barron my new work felt like another small benchmark in what I hope will be my future success as a freelancer.

Old Friends and Newish Friends

Seated directly across from me was Zack Soto, a cartoonist I greatly admire, and also Thien Pham, a cartoonist who used to hang out with our old Bay Area crowd, someone I hadn't seen for many years. I didn't realize he had been sitting there until the end of the first day. He didn't recognize me because I had lost so much weight and because my work looked very different. Thien was also sitting next to Briana Miller, an excellent cartoonist who it was a pleasure to meet.

Then Derek Yu and Anthony Wu showed up at the table, two great illustrators who used to be on this message board called "The Block" that for a while was a very lively and exciting place for some amazing young up and comers. "The Block" thrived for a couple of years and then petered out. It was a great place to get feedback and criticism on your work, and it really helped me develop as an artist. Meeting Derek and Anthony was like meeting old friends. It was if we already knew each other.

I also got to see a lot of Facebook friends, like Ed Luce, John Pham, Hellen Jo and Tom Neeley, all extraordinarily talented folks.

Then I ran into Dean Haspiel. I hadn't seen Dean since the Alternative Comics days, and he gave me a lot of great feedback on the new work. Still the question that everyone repeatedly asked (even me) was, "are you still making comics". No matter how much new work you make, at APE, when it's your peers, it's always about comics. But between last years Blue Kid minis and this years Crimefighter, I came prepared. Since many of us haven't kept in regular touch, and since I haven't had a commercial book out since Yellow Baby 6 years ago, the fact that I was still making comics was a surprise to many.

The Pics:

Our display. We mounted the Elephant Factory on foam core and spent much of the previous weekend putting together the PVC display you see here. This was Reg's design, and it worked out beautifully.

Another view of the display and a glimpse of APE proper:

Oh yes, and our display and beauties:

The bounty.


And the Haul:

I'll try to cover everything, but I might miss a few. Here goes: Hot Potatoe by Marc Bell, Bell's gorgeous full color book of comics and pictures and paintings and sculptures and everything under the sun. Only 30 bucks! Bell was there but I missed him; Chickadee by the aforementioned Briana Miller; Ghost Attack!? by the very busy Zack Soto, who continues to make beautiful pictures but has recently returned to comics; Sublife but John Pham; a pretty little book of cat pictures from someone whose name is not written on the book; Brilliantly Ham-Fisted by Kevin Kneely--I saw some of his giant flawless originals and they are a sight to behold; Sketchanomicon by Derek Yu; Pug of Ages by Anthony Wu; The surprisingly entertaining Reich, a biography of Wilhelm Reich, issues 5 and 6 by Elijah Brubaker; Ten Thousand Things to Do by the long suffering Jesse Reklaw; and last but not least, issue #0 and issue #2 of Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce. What can I say? Everybody loves Wuvable Oaf.

And I almost forgot! Monster Box (that little box up there) by Thien Pham and Lark Pien. Two mini comics and a shrinky dink in a box!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

New Posters!

Great holiday gifts! Or just gifts in general. You want 'em, we got 'em!

6 new posters, including The Road to Oz, my picture inspired by James and the Giant Peach, and several others are now available in our store!

Also New! HUGE full color 30" by 50" Elephant Factory print!

We're selling a limited quantity of photo quality large format panorama prints of the Elephant Factory! No kidding, these things are huge! 20"x50" on Kodak Endura paper! Available now in limited quantities for only $100 in our store!

Elephant #4 of 100

96 elephants to go.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Dolittle: New Colors

I had more posters made (more about that soon) of some recent and older pieces, and as an experiment I had one made of the Doctor Dolittle image I did not too long ago. The colors looked horrible. It was very dark, partly because of the quality of the printing, but mostly because of my coloring. I was also losing a lot of what I liked about the original drawing--the details were getting lost in the muddy color.

So I decided to rethink it.

Even though this is a night scene, aside from the sky, most of the colors are of a lighter value than in the original image. I also made a few other minor changes that may or may not be apparent. I think it looks a lot better.

And here's a detai:


I toned down the highlight and you can see what hopefully will be the last color revision here.