Here's a list of the pros and cons of attending a convention as a fan for the first time in years when you're more used to tabling:
-You can go anywhere! Want to run back to your hotel room to drop stuff off? Do it! Want to go find lunch with your girlfriend? Go for it! Want to just meander, aimless and overwhelmed by your surroundings, taking care not to accidentally step on anyone's cape? Have at it!
-If you have friends who are tabling, and are by themselves, you can help them out, watch their things, grab food for them, and make sure they haven't curled up in a ball under their table to weep.
-You actually get to spend time with your girlfriend and go to panels together, plus you can hang out with other friends, especially those who have never been to a con before and are experiencing all of this for the first time!
-You save money and you don't have to stress out over whether or not you'll be able to sell enough to make back what you spent to have a table at a convention where you're surrounded by so many other, better artists!
-Lines. So many lines. Having a table means getting down to the convention floor early. This year, we had to wait in line every morning to be let in, and it felt like an indignity after being so used to just strolling in.
-All that walking wears you out, especially when carrying a bag filled with things you've bought plus your own minicomic which you brought to the con to give to other creators.
-By day three, your senses will be dulled down to almost nothing. You will feel nothing except for your screaming back and the slow ache of your legs and feet. You will wander the con floor like a zombie, winding up in front of a booth you had no intention of approaching.
But I really needed this past weekend. Even though I'm still tired, even though I still ache all over. I could've just sat the con out altogether. I already missed ETSUcon, and ACE is no longer happening, so it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I'm glad I went to experience that thrill of being a fan once more. I got to explore every little bit of the show floor. I got to go to panels! I got to meet Jim Steranko and hear him diss Stan Lee! There was a small arcade section set up, and they had a Judge Dredd pinball machine! JUDGE DREDD PINBALL!!
We helped out our good friend and tyrant Alejandro Bruzzese throughout the weekend, and he was gracious enough to let us leave our things at his table when they became a burden. We also traded art! I drew the two leads from his webcomic Proxy, and in return received this gorgeous weird nude drawing to go on my apartment's steadily growing wall of weird nude art:
I got a couple sketches done in my sci-fi sketchbook. My personal favorite is this super phallic Predator by Enzo Garza, who did a killer minicomic called Gutt Ghost. I really loved meeting him:
Also, I met up with my prolific and multitalented friend Joseph Tenney, who I met at ACE a couple years ago. I did a pinup for one of his minicomics of a cyborg kaiju called MechaDragon. He loved it so much that he made this FANTASTIC little diorama based off of it and gave it to me. It's the coolest thing anyone's done with my work, and the best gift I've received in some time:
Here's the most poignant moment of the whole weekend: the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds panel with Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, and Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon, had just begun. Kelly Sue stood up and mentioned that at last year's panel, they held a moment of silence for the victims of the Charlston shooting that had happened just prior to the con. This year, we were just a week from the horrible shooting at Pulse in Orlando, so instead of a moment of silence, they wanted to do a brief singalong as a small tribute to the victims. So all of us in the audience stood up, and we all sang a couple verses of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. After we all sat down, Kelly Sue grabbed her mic and said "next year, I don't want there to be ANY OF THIS SHIT."
I had been in a horrid mood all week because of that shooting and the things people were saying about it online, among other things. I'd felt like I was just counting down the days, trying to keep just a few steps ahead of a black cloud trying to envelope me. To be in a room full of people who felt the same way, including some of my favorite people making comics right now, and to share that moment was immense. I felt like I was really a part of something.
And, you know, walking around, meeting artists, looking around at all the cool work people are making and putting out into the world served as a great reminder of how amazing comics are. It was reenergizing, seeing what others are doing can be really inspiring. I definitely think I'll table again next year. I also handed out quite a lot of copies of All of This Will Crumble, and people seemed to really respond to it. I hope only a few copies wound up thrown in the trash.
Speaking of which, I submitted All of This Will Crumble to ComiXology! It was accepted and should be available soon! I've also put it up on my Big Cartel page so you can order a physical copy! I have dumb medical bills to pay and I spent too much money at the con, so maybe consider picking one up?
Next up: more work on the new comic, putting together another figure drawing meeting next weekend, and, well, other stuff!
Take care of yourselves, folks.
My new minicomic is finished! It's called All of this will crumble. You can read about the initial writing, designing, and drawing process in this post.
I went with a photo cover using a picture I took on the hike that inspired the book's setting. I'm pleased with how it looks, especially printed on the brown paper that I found and bought.
You'll remember in that last post about it that I penciled the whole thing in under two weeks, and inked and toned the first page immediately after. Well...the rest of the process wasn't that fast. At all. Which should come as no surprise seeing as how that was back in April and we're now into June. Toning was the roughest part, partially because I haven't worked in black and white like this in a long time, and also because it took so long to work out HOW it should be toned. I started off really simple, as shown with the first page in that old post. I realized that wouldn't work by the time I hit page 12 or so.
Here's how it looks now, after multiple revisions:
That lead I was bragging about? I needed it. I REALLY needed it. I was so mad at myself for how much extra work I had to put into it, for getting cocky and thinking I could blast through the tones in the same way I handled the penciling. There were a number of nights where I just locked myself up and worked.
Here's another page:
It was worth all of that extra effort, I think. I'm just...really happy with it, you guys. I think it looks really good. I'm excited to take a bunch of copies with me to HeroesCon next weekend.
Oh. And here's a hint at what exactly is causing the end of the world:
I've already got the whole thing folded and stapled. I'm going to submit it to ComiXology soon so that people can pick it up digitally. I really hope it finds an audience.
So what's next, now that this is finished? I'm working on a shirt design right now for my brother's band, an art trade with another artist I befriended on Instagram, and I've got script pages in hand for the next comic project. Plus, as a little side project, I'm looking back at all of the characters I've created since I seriously started making comics in 2010 and drawing them. I'll share all of those in a future post and talk about each one. I want to have a rough overview of what all I've done over the course of these 6 years and get a sense of how my creative process has morphed in that time. And then of course there's that figure drawing group I put together, trying to plan the next meeting for that.
All of which is to say: I'm hard at work again, I'm loving it, and I'm excited to show you all this new stuff. I hope you enjoy it.
I have a lot of friends who over the years have worked like crazy to make our sleepy little rural community more interesting with stand-up comedy, punk shows, art shows like February's Bristol Bizarre, and more. I've always admired them, and have always been thrilled when I got to be a part of whatever it was they were putting together. I never thought I had the skills to organize anything like what they do. I'm just pretty sure I couldn't pull it off.
Sometimes I get ideas, though.
There are days where I really miss figure drawing. I mean, yeah, I sketch from photos and stuff all the time, but it isn't the same. Drawing from a live model who's right there in front of you is so different, it engages a different part of your brain. I kept thinking about how I wanted to get back into it, but couldn't come up with any idea how. At least, not any idea that didn't involve going back to take classes at ETSU or anything that doesn't sound awkward when spoken out loud.
But I ended up musing out loud on the internet a couple weeks ago anyways. I mentioned how it'd be neat to have a local group that could meet for figure drawing sessions once or twice a month. Hire a model or two, get some snacks, play some music, and just draw. Rather than being written off, some friends expressed interest in doing such a thing. I talked it through with one of them, realized I had a small, but decent space where we could pull it off, and knew a couple of people who would like to model.
So I put a group together, laid out what I had in mind, and began organizing a figure drawing party. We had the party this past Sunday, not even two weeks after throwing the idea out in the open. Despite having no real idea what I was doing, we pulled it off with great success, and it was a good time!
We started with 1 minute poses and worked our way up from there with a backing soundtrack of Korean hip-hop. This turned out to be a bad decision around the 5-10 minute sketches because it's hard for the model to hold still when they really want to dance. Duly noted!
I primarily worked with a couple brush pens, just straight ink on paper, with the above sketch done with ballpoint gel pens. In the days leading up to the party, I kept thinking about what I wanted to focus on, how I wanted to work. I needed to think more about shading and building the form of the figure, thinking in three dimensions rather than just working in line. However, when things got started, I kind of forgot about all of that and acted on instinct.
I was so out of practice. I think we all were. There was a lot of laughter and a bit of cursing as we things went on. We moved around a lot and stayed kind of chatty, which is completely unlike how the figure drawing classes I took at ETSU were. I mean, it WASN'T a class, duh. It was just a good environment to be in, I think.
Here's one by my friend KT:
And a couple by Jennifer Culp, of Gamervescent and Make Your Face fame:
After a little more than an hour, we'd taken a bit of a break and I went to the bathroom. When I came out, someone asked if I was going to model. I felt like everyone was looking at me, but that's not true.
See, I'd said that I would do it if our model needed a break or whatever, but I didn't think that anyone would hold me to it, you know? I mean, I'd never modeled before outside of taking pictures for self portraits!
Sure, yeah, I've wanted to give it a shot for a while now, that's why I offered, but the prospect of doing so terrified me. Okay, that's another reason I wanted to do it, if I'm afraid of something I usually try to face it, but I didn't really feel prepared. And anyway, how DOES one prepare for such a thing? I have no clue.
I went back into the bathroom. I stripped to my underwear. Then I said screw it and took that off, too. Then I realized that I was going to have to step out of the bathroom and into the middle of the room fully nude, so I asked for a robe instead. It was a very fluffy leopard print robe, which, for some reason, gave me a weird boost of confidence.
I wore it around my waist for a couple five minute poses, just to try and take the edge off a little bit and work through my nervousness. Here's a sketch of one of those poses, by KT again:
After that, I changed the music, took a deep breath, and awkwardly dropped the robe, doing two 15 minute poses fully nude. The rush of feelings going through me was insane. I'm pretty sure I was shaking the whole time from some combination of nervousness and the dropped temperature. I'm pretty sure I was sweating, too. I felt, well, extremely vulnerable in a way I don't think I've ever felt before. That all eventually slid away though, and I got a high five when it was all over. Any sense of embarrassment subsided eventually, my discomfort shifting to something more physical: for the first pose I was sitting, but leaning back on my right arm, putting all the weight of my upper body on my wrist and shoulder. I laid down for the second pose, but turned my head without a pillow, which hurt my neck quite a bit. I'll try to remember not to do that the next time.
Here's one of Joe's charcoal sketches of me. Love seeing how he prioritizes form and depth in the way I was meaning to try:
I'm already eager to start planning the next meeting. I couldn't be happier about how well this went, it's hard to believe I managed to arrange such a thing. It isn't as big as stand-up comedy or anything, but I'm proud of this little group I've pieced together and look forward to doing more with them. And yeah, I think I'll be more willing to model again in the future now that I've given it a try and didn't die from it.
For now though, I need to get back to this comic. I'll be writing about that again soon.
So here's what's been happening, more or less:
In March, I started writing a 20 page black and white comic based on a few different cobbled together ideas, jolted into motion by a song by my friend's one man black metal band Twilight Fauna. This song, Crossing the Threshold:
The comic is about a guy hiking up a mountain to witness the end of the world. It's weird and dark and I don't want it to look much like anything else I've drawn before.
My girlfriend and I went on a hike on Easter Sunday. A mile or two in, I realized this trail we were taking up to the Channels Natural Area Reserve was kind of perfect for the comic, and started taking pictures.
I continued writing and rewriting, then about halfway through the script, started thumbnailing page layouts as well. I looked up how to draw snakes, centipedes, camping backpacks, and other things. I designed the main character:
On April 8th, I started penciling the first page. I finished it on Monday the 11th, then proceeded to pencil FOUR MORE PAGES that day.
Mountains Crumble is a partial title. It'll probably have a photo cover. We'll see.
The goal I set for myself was to have it penciled by the end of the month, so I was off to a good start. I spent the next day revising those pages, redrawing big chunks of pages 3 and 4, then continued. By the end of the week, I had another nine pages, bringing the total to fourteen. So...13 pages drawn in a week. I felt like I was in beast mode, I was unstoppable!
The following Monday, I penciled the final six pages. Yeah. Six pages. In one day. Holy crap. After a conversation with Jennifer Culp of Make Your Face about how we take care of ourselves when we push ourselves hard, I followed her advice and picked up a lacrosse ball that evening to massage my arm a bit. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent revising the pages again, plus lettering the whole thing by hand.
Inking began after that, and I finished the first page on Thursday, scanned it, and toned it as well (with some sagely help from the great Gregory Dickens) that night. Here it is:
So...yeah. Penciled and lettered, with the first page fully inked and toned, all in less than two weeks.
I guess I really missed making comics, what can I say?
On Saturday morning, I woke up with a horrendous pain on my left side. My whole arm had this dull, sore feeling all through it, with the worst pain being in my armpit, wrapping around my shoulderblade and pectoral muscle. I've never felt something quite that bad before, and I used to ice my wrist from working too much on Other Sleep some years back.
I uh, had been neglecting those lacrosse ball massages, and I hadn't done any yoga all week either. After all that frantic work penciling and lettering, not taking any breaks before inking meticulously in an unfamiliar style, I was paying for it. Ow.
Saturday was devoted to laziness and watching violent anime from the 80's and 90's. Yesterday, Sunday, I was feeling much better, got some yoga in and did a sketch of the new Godzilla design:
My birthday is this Friday. I'm celebrating with some friends Tuesday after work. Saturday and Sunday is Shikacon, which I'm a guest at, and which I'm prepping for. On Monday I go to Knoxville, to see a doctor at UT who will examine my jaw because that nasty big cyst they removed a few years ago may be returning. Ugh. Then Saturday, May 7th is Free Comic Book Day, and I'll be set up at Mountain Empire Comics as always.
All things considered, I should be taking it easy this week. My deadline for the comic is June, so I can give out copies at HeroesCon. I'm already WAY ahead of schedule. I should just watch more anime, play more Dark Souls 3, and give my arm more time to recover. I should be taking better care of myself.
Fingers crossed. Don't be an idiot like me: take breaks, take care of yourself. If you come to Shikacon, feel free to mock me.
First thing's first: I'm going to be a guest once again at this year's Shikacon here in Bristol! Mark your calendars, it's April 30th and May 1st. Just days after my birthday. COME BUY THINGS FROM ME WHEN IT HAPPENS.
I'm going to work on a bunch of anime and videogame pieces to try and sell at it. Which is convenient, because I've been watching a lot of anime lately. Here's a print I'm going to be selling there, of Eva Unit 01 from Neon Genesis Evangelion:
This one's rather special, because it's the first completed piece I've done with my new Yiynova tablet. Did I mention I bought that with my tax return money last month? Because I did. It's the go-to cheap alternative to a Cintiq, the dang thing took hours to set up and I'm still struggling when it comes to actually drawing on it, but it's pretty great. I don't think I've ever done anything quite like this Eva piece, have I? Hopefully things will just get better from here.
Here's a sketch of John Boyega that I did when I first set it up:
I have to take a pretty different approach when I use it as compared to ink on paper. Such a different feel. Not to mention endlessly fiddling with brush settings in Photoshop. But as I improve over time, fingers crossed, things will be quicker.
Things really are warming up. The weather, definitely. I'm now writing two different comic scripts, one of which is for a sequel to a previous comic of mine. The other is for a black and white minicomic that I'll hopefully put out in time for Heroes Con in June. My goal is to draw it completely digitally to really get a feel for the Yiynova. There's a third comic being written for me to illustrate that I'm excited for. I'm excited to be getting back into drawing comics, but I've got to continue to be mindful. I don't want to burn out like I did last year...
Oh, and the weekly kaiju sketches continue, though low energy and depression are no longer things I've had to fight lately thanks to...a number of things, really. Here's a psychedelic Hedorah from a couple weeks back that I'm REALLY happy with:
Facebook reminded me that six years ago I created Ezra Neuro, whose comic became the first short in Burst Reach #1, my first serious self-publishing attempt. So I drew her again:
The H on her chest is the symbol for the Heavy Machine Gun in Metal Slug.
Here are two other Evangelion pieces I've done for the con, which I'm hoping someone will buy:
There's more in my portfolio, but we'll leave it at that for now. Take care of yourselves, okay? See you next time.
I haven't written a blog post this year, have I? Let's fix that. A quick recap of how I’ve spent 2016 so far:
At 3am on December 31st we got up and started driving to Florida. I had the best tacos in my whole life at a little place in St. Augustine later that day before meeting up with a group of friends, several of whom I hadn‘t seen in a long time. January 1st was spent in a swimming pool. The next day I got to see a really great friend of mine marry an awesome girl. After that we parted ways and went on to stay with one of my girlfriend’s aunts in DeLand. We went to Blue Spring State Park and saw a bunch of manatees, then spent two days in Disney World, visiting the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
The trip feels like it changed something deep down inside of me, like I’ve been permanently altered in some small way that I can’t quite place.
I’m now viewing the world through a weird Disney filter, which may very well last all year. I’m more aware of the man and his studio’s influence over the rest of the world. I watched Robot Carnival, which I had gotten for Christmas, and was dumbfounded to realize that one of the movie’s segments, Starlight Angel, is set in a theme park based on the Magic Kingdom, including Cinderella’s castle, the Electric Light Parade, and Space Mountain. The final segment, Chicken Man and Red Neck, was a tribute to Fantasia’s Night on Bald Mountain. I also started playing the Witness on the PS4 (up until I got fed up with the disc drive constantly ejecting and decided to send it off to be serviced), and I have this idea that the island the game is set on is actually an abandoned, unfinished theme park of some sort. I’m even more fascinated with animatronics than I was before. If you’re into animatronics, Disney is really the place to be.
We got back from Florida in time for an absurdly sharp drop in temperature followed not long after by a big snowstorm. Depression set in, and exhaustion from the trip slipped into an overall lack of energy that I blame on the weather and isolation, among other things.
I discovered that having a 2-year-old nephew makes me oversensitive to anything involving child endangerment, even if it’s something like an episode of Ultraman. I don’t know, maybe those two days at Disney pushed that a little bit, too. I screwed myself up pretty badly by one day reading a Wikipedia article about a toddler who was kidnapped from a mall and murdered by two ten year old boys in England, and the details of it stuck with me and made sleep difficult for a handful of nights. A two year old went missing on a hike with his grandparents in Tennessee just as that big snowstorm hit, the local news was all over it. When I read that they found his body five days later I dropped everything and sobbed for a while, and had to stay off of Facebook because people kept posting about it. Even watching Shogun Assassin again more recently bugged me at how frequently Daigoro’s life was in jeopardy. It’s ridiculous and I don’t know what to do about it.
I’ve been working on my first comic since last summer, a small four-pager about my relationship with kaiju movies throughout life. It’s taking far longer than it should, but I’m trying not to let that get to me. Slowly easing my way back into making sequential art. Other stuff is in the works too.
Spurred by a Zyuranger marathon that Shout Factory TV hosted one Saturday, I’ve been watching random episodes from various Ultraman shows available on their service and on Crunchy Roll. Nine shows total, ten if you want to count the precursor, Ultra Q. So far? Ultraman Max is my favorite, especially with the involvement of Shusuke Kaneko and getting Takashi Miike to direct a couple episodes. Ultraman Nexus is the biggest disappointment, all the color and charm sucked out of it to try and gear it towards an older crowd, with laborious pacing, empty characters, and overly relying on crappy CG. It’s like a bad anime.
To keep myself occupied during those periods where I have no energy, I’ve been doing fan art of various Ultra Kaiju. Here’s the most recent one:
The rest are in this year’s portfolio if you want to see them.
On top of sending in my PS4 for service, I’ve returned two pairs of shoes and three shirts. Maybe four, I forget. Trying to update your wardrobe without any real sense of where to go with it, while also realizing that you’ve gained a noticeable amount of weight for what feels like the first time since high school…it can be a bit difficult.
I waited too long to apply for a table at ETSUcon, so this is the first year I’m missing it, but I‘m not really all that bothered by it. I may still go one day, my friend Hunter is doing a panel on Disney stuff and he’s a hilarious guy. I WILL be setting up for a local art thing called the Bristol Bizarre, though, so it’s not a total loss. Aside from Rob-Con this summer and maybe ACE, I don’t really plan on tabling at any other conventions. We’re just going to go to HeroesCon as fans, and I’ll hopefully have a minicomic cranked out in time to take with me and hand out down there. What that minicomic may be, I’m not sure, but I've got some ideas.
There’s more. There always is, but this post has gone on long enough. Hopefully the rest of the year won’t be quite so lethargic and unproductive and I'll start kicking ass again once it warms up. Take care of yourselves!
The year is almost over, and so it's time to drum up an obligatory list of the movies, videogames, music, and comics that I liked most in 2015. Apologies if this seems a little rushed, but I'm leaving for Florida TONIGHT, so things are kind of hectic.
You’ve probably already seen this on everyone else’s list, with good reason. I don’t know what to say about it that others haven’t already said. This movie is so good that watching it makes me forget what else I’ve seen this year, and I mean that. I seriously forgot I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man until someone asked what I thought about them because of this movie.
I wasn’t interested at all in JJ Abrams directing a new Star Wars movie until I saw that first trailer. Something stirred inside of me in a way I’m not sure how to word. I mean, I enjoy the original trilogy a lot, but I never considered myself a real fanatic. Something about hearing the TIE Fighter noise again, seeing the practical effects and puppets, Kylo Ren and his awesome lightsaber…I went from being indifferent to being all in.
So in anticipation of the movie’s release, I did a sketch every day this week of characters from the Force Awakens. I got to see the movie last night, and got to see these characters in their proper context, so I thought I’d talk about what was in my head versus how they were really portrayed in the movie.
That said, there will be some very light spoilers ahead for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.
FIRST ORDER STORMTROOPER
First off, this dude was hard to draw. That helmet design, the shape of it, it’s iconic. If you mess up even a littlee, it ruins the whole thing. I was quietly hoping these guys wouldn’t be as jokey and ineffectual as they are in the original trilogy, especially since they’ve been redesigned to look more sinister and have a little more weapons variety.
And I was right! The First Order Stormtroopers are definitely a bigger threat than their Imperial predecessors, actually managing to hit their targets. You also get a little more background on them, with hints at what life is like under such a vicious regime. Choosing to make Finn a former Stormtrooper was such a good idea.
Also known as Captain Ithano. I picked him from the photo of all those space pirates that Annie Leibovitz took for Vanity Fair. I liked his style, his swagger, and that weird, cool head. I knew he’d just be a bit part, but sometimes the weird background characters are the most interesting. He was a little more prominent in the movie than I expected, not just set dressing. That was nice.
Rey’s awesome. I had no clue what her role would be in the movie, only knowing that she’s a desert scavenger who knows her way around the ruins of a crashed Star Destroyer. Whatever expectations I might’ve had in mind regarding her, the movie blew them away. She has a great arc in this. Her character is an excellent and much needed addition to the series. Following her and Finn over the course of the next however many movies is going to be great.
From the moment I saw her in a picture with Billie Lourd’s character, I fell in love with this Droid’s design. That huge neck and narrowing face, that sheepish smile, the samurai armor plates on the shoulders, her posture, she’s just so great. And that shade of blue! I think she looks like something Tsuburaya Productions would’ve designed in the 70’s.
This is one of my few complaints about the Force Awakens: I only saw “Peazy” in two shots, and in one of those she was standing behind a screen, obscured so you could only see part of her head. How dare you make me fall for such a delightful design, only to keep it out of the movie?!
I don’t know why I honed in on Kylo. It started with his crazy lightsaber, of course. That crossguard defines it, along with the volatile blade itself. His helmet is weird, I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me to the point that I bought one on Halloween clearance. And then I heard his distorted voice, saw him speaking to the ruined helmet of Vader. “I will finish what you started.” I had my worries. I mean, Darth Maul looked really cool, and he was…well, not much of anything in the Phantom Menace beyond an evil guy to fight. No depth.
I’m still processing things. I figured he’d be a pretty simple, pulpy villain, but the movie explores his personality and motivation in a way we didn’t get to see with Vader until Empire. I was also really impressed by the way that he used the Force in combat, I don’t think we’ve ever seen anyone manipulate it in quite that way before.
The one character I wasn’t interested in at all in the beginning, but now wish I’d drawn? Poe Dameron, the hotshot X-Wing pilot for the Resistance. That guy is great, especially paired up with Finn. I’m not about to try to figure out how to properly draw an X-Wing, though.
The movie itself was great, with no shortage of other characters to draw should I choose to do more of these. My complaints as of right now are all minor, like the PZ-4CO thing and the fact that Abrams is a dude who still relies a little too much on closeups when most of the actors also had incredible body language, but other than that? He nailed it. I’m excited to see what Rian Johnson is going to bring to the table for Episode VIII.
Remember how I said the Asheville Comic Expo was my final show of the year as an artist? I lied. Sort of.
It was still my final comic convention of the year, but I’m doing a couple more things. First, next Thursday, December 3rd, I’ll be at NSFW Open Mic Comedy in Johnson City! I was invited by the host, Jessica Lane, to set up along with another artist, Beverly Gildemeister. I’ll just be selling prints and minicomics there, I think. Not performing, nope. Haven’t done that since the Secrets Society shows last year, and I don’t miss that particular flavor of anxiety.
Two days later, on December 5th is a local art show called the Holiday Bizarre:
Joe Culp and his wife Hannah roped me into it, and I’m kind of excited to do something that isn’t strictly related to comics. Most of the 14 other artists exhibiting are fine artists, photographers, and sculptors, not comic creators. Which means I probably don’t quite fit in with my comics work, but from what I gather, the FRAG group that’s putting this together is a bunch of artists in the area whose own work doesn’t quite fit your traditional gallery setting either. That’s pretty cool. Plus, hey, booze and Krampus. I’m into that.
Hopefully it’ll be a good turnout and I’ll sell some stuff. The show is invitation only, so here’s the Facebook event if you want to RSVP and get on the guest list. If that doesn't work, use the email or phone number on the flyer and get in touch!
I made this last minute decision that I wanted to do something new for the show, so in roughly a week I put together a mutant themed coloring book called the NATION MUTATION COLORING ZINE. Aside from the cover, it’s all new mutant drawings drawn in that 6 day fever. That's a dummy copy above. I probably pushed myself a little too hard to do so much in such a small span of time, but I’m pretty pleased with it. It’s 16 pages plus a colorable cover, all printed on cardstock, and I plan on personally coloring/defacing parts of the front and/or back of every copy. Here’s a random page out of it:
Also, last week, after so many days of ugly news and ugly behavior on social media, I drew a grumpy Godzilla head. One thing led to another, and I ended up with this:
I posted them as individual images on my art Tumblr, in case anyone wanted to use them as avatars or whatever. A couple prominent monster related Tumblrs (primarily kaijusaurus) got a hold of it, and it’s exploded in popularity. It’s finally tapered off at just over 650 notes. How insane is that? It never happens! Usually my work is lucky to get one or two notes, and I feel really special if it somehow hits the double digits, but over 600? Sheesh.
I know, I know, paying attention to how many people like and repost your art on social media is silly, but this is unprecedented and I’m just flabbergasted by how many people are responding favorably to my angry kaiju portraits. I have friends who want me to make shirts, stickers, and/or posters. I’ll probably do something like that, I’m just not sure what, and between the comedy show, art show, the holidays, and a few other things going on, I don’t have the time to figure out WHAT I’ll do.
I am drawing more, though. It’s a little too much fun. I ended up doing this one on Tuesday after seeing too many crappy racist news articles:
Other projects are happening. I’m starting to break ground on the next Slimepunk mini. I was going to get back into drawing Cannonball Fist last week, but the coloring zine took over. I did start writing a new chapter, at least. And…I may be working on something new that WON’T be a solo project. It’s too early to talk about that though.
Anyways, it’s looking like I’m ending the year in a much more active way than I’d anticipated and right now, I’m cool with it. I realize trying to take on so many things on such short notice after a hiatus that was prompted by exhaustion isn’t the best idea. I don’t want to burn out again so soon, so I’m going to take my time. Progress is progress, no matter how slow it may be.
I backed off from everything in order to take better care of myself, and I don’t really want to lose that and wind up miserable and dumb again. I’ll keep at it, and you should take care of yourselves too.
Right? Right. Back at it, then.
I feel like I’ve turned a corner and I’m beginning to enter a new phase of life as an artist.
God, that sounds dramatic.
I didn’t do much of a post-mortem on this year’s October Game because of how exhausted I was, but it’s been about a week now, we’re approaching the end of the year, and I’m trying to get a good perspective on where I am with things. I think, artistically, it was a huge success, with only a few duds. I proved to be pretty versatile with different tools, and cranked out some good work that’s not the kind of thing most people are used to seeing me do, and I've managed to sell a few pieces too!
…Well that wasn’t much. I was going to try to make a big post out of this. I guess, with it being the fourth year that I’ve done some daily art challenge in October, it’s no longer a big deal to me. I've always managed to pull it off, and it's always pretty satisfying, but not quite the big celebration it was the first year.
…So now what?
I planned on taking the week to just relax and be lazy, but I’m still keeping busy even with my sinuses repeatedly trying to knock me out. I let a lot of adult responsibilities slide last month, so in just a couple days I cleaned my apartment, made a credit card payment, reserved a hotel for our stay in Florida at the end of the year, and scheduled an appointment to get the oil changed and tires rotated on my car. I did some spring cleaning on the website, updating the About page and removing a lot of old comics and art. I made a new banner featuring Slimepunk.
Oh, and I put my Slimepunk minicomic up on its own page for your reading enjoyment. Check it out!
I also crunched a lot of numbers, tallying up everything I sold last year (that I recorded, at any rate) along with everything I sold this year (which I did better keeping up with). I did 13 events last year, 11 this year. I made quite a bit more money last year, despite selling more comics, posters, and sketches this year. However, I also spent way more last year too, so this year I didn’t have quite as big a loss. What do I do with all this data now? I’m not sure yet.
I attended seven conventions this year, versus last year’s six (the other events were little local things). I paid for my table at four of them, and three of those were bummers, not even making back what I spent for the table. Every single con that I’d previously attended last year, I didn’t do as well this year. Again, even though I sold more comics, posters, and sketches altogether.
Which sounds weird, right? But the big reason for that odd difference lies with Other Sleep, last year‘s best selling comic. I sold more than half of the print run when I released it early in the year (having an art show at the William King Museum to debut it at helped), and that’s the big ticket item on my table when I do events. The number of copies I sold this year was significantly fewer. The biggest seller this year was the Slimepunk minicomic, which I’ve almost sold out, but I have to sell 8 or 9 of those just to match how much I make from one copy of Other Sleep.
Burst Reach 4 isn’t doing well at all, as I’ve only managed to get rid of about a quarter of its run after printing it last year. I just mailed off the final copy of Burst Reach 3 to a friend. I think I’m done with black and white minis for the foreseeable future.
I sold more posters altogether, but not a single one of those was the Cannonball Fist poster I made last year. Boss Rush hasn’t sold well this year or last, and I guess nobody wants the Spanish boxing robots from my repurposed Beat About poster, which breaks my heart. I’m not really sure what to do about these. I could give away the Cannonball Fist posters with copies of the comic, that may work.
The new thing I started doing this year which seems to have gone pretty well is selling pre-made character sketches. I sold about half of last year’s Inktober fan sketches, as well as a handful of others that people responded to. That’s definitely something to keep pushing, if nothing else, and not nearly as expensive as printing books and posters.
It’s already been decided that I’m doing fewer cons next year. My girlfriend and I were talking about how I should just go to Heroes as a fan instead of paying to get a table. I’m actually really excited about going to NC Comic Con for a day next weekend as a fan. I’m going to take a handful of books with me to show and hand out to other artists, but not being tethered to a table struggling to get people to buy things is going to be refreshing after three years of only attending cons as an artist.
I’ll probably just stick to doing local, cheaper cons in 2016, with an eye towards getting back out there in 2017 with better work under my belt.
I’m also trying to drum up more business online. Here’s an album of original art that I have for sale, including work from this year’s October Game. I’m working on sprucing up my Big Cartel and Gumroad shop pages, thinking about setting up at Society6, and Other Sleep is on ComiXology at last, with hopefully more to come in the future. I’m wanting to open up commissions too (gotta work on one tonight actually). There’s this desire to try to set up a Patreon, but I know my audience is way too small to try something like that at the moment, and I’d want to do a lot of research for it first as well.
So I guess the TL;DR of this is that I’m scaling back next year, at least as far as expenses and cons go. I’ll just focus on what’s important, making good art. I’m already itching to get back into making comics before too long, with plans in mind for getting back into Cannonball Fist and Reflected Gaze as well as putting out a new Slimepunk mini. More on those things as they develop, right? Right.
Okay, NOW I’ll relax.