Friday, February 26, 2016

Backstage Pass February: Jennie Breenden

Psst! Look What I Grabbed You!
A Backstage Pass!
Come and Meet Jennie Breeden With Me!

Jennie Breeden is the creator of the autobiographical webcomic The Devil's Panties. She has a BFA in Sequential Art from Savannah College of Art and Design.
Ms. Breeden has been updating her comic daily since 2001 with over 5,000 comic strips online and multiple graphic novels that are in comic shops and book stores around the world.

Via the comic she documents her adventures at comic conventions and in life. From pirates to taxes, kilt blowing to real estate and knitting to romance, life always seems to have something new in store: sometimes to the chagrin of Jennie, but always to the delight of her fans.

Visit her comic and watch Life and Art argue it out:

So Jennie, what are you working on right now?

I also draw a NSFW comic called “Id” that’s on Filthy Figments (all female artist adult site)

I have worked on, but not updated recently

Other Hobbies and Obsessions

Um, besides posting a daily comic I… uh… sleep and eat. Sometimes bath.

So, tell me about your early experience. How did you fall in love with telling stories in pictures?

Growing up, I kept a sketchbook next to the couch in the tv room. When we watched television I would sketch out my own stories about the shows. I did an ElfQuest / Star Treck next gen crossover. My older brothers read comic books but it was my friend Aili who I met in first grade who really got me into comics. I’d go over to her house for slumber parties and we’d stay up late reading Asterix and Obelix, Pogo, Bone, and Foxtrot. It wasn’t until I was looking at colleges and a giant book of course samples showed up in the mail from Savannah College of Art and Design did I learn that comic books, or Sequential Art, was even a career option. I liked to draw and when I got to the dorms I started drawing little one liners of my friends adventures. This was in 1998. The idea of taking them from a folder full of papers to an online comic didn’t come around until 2000. I always liked to chronicle actual events in illustration. 

What media and programs do you work in to produce your project?

Heard app and Evernote for scripting. Ink pen on scratch paper for stick figure storyboards to figure out which idea is worth doing. Then pencil on copy paper for the rough draft. I scan it into photoshop for lettering and layout. Manga studios and a wacom pad for inking.

Can you tell me about your typical day or strip-creation session? How does your working process flow?

Once a week (or month, depending on how much I got out of my last session) I’ll go through my audio notes from the Heard app and script any good conversations in the Evernote program. This will take a full day because most of the Heard audio notes are about five minutes long and I’ll have about a hundred of them backlogged. If I’m at a convention or out having fun, I’ll turn on Heard and it will constantly record. If something funny happens then I’ll press the Heard button and it will save the last five minutes. This way I sometimes have a recording of the comic idea as it happened. But that means that I have to dig through hours of recordings to sift out the funny moment. 
   From the notes that I’ve written in evernote I will use a pen to make stick figure comics from them. This way I only get the most basic concept of a joke and I’ll be able to tell if it makes any sense. The audio notes will take a day and then the stick figures will take another day. From 10 audio notes I’ll get about 7 comic ideas. 
   From 7 stick figure comics I’ll get about two usable strips. The third day I’ll try and pencil out about three comics and the fourth day I’ll ink the three comics. I’m usually overlapping with this assembly line and working on weekends.
     I’m not as structured as I should be and get distracted with scheduling conventions, logistics and the travel and merch shipping for those conventions, paperwork for sales tax, merchandise orders, and the black hole that is social media. I tell myself that it’s networking, and that watching facebook videos is ‘research’. I also spend a lot of time putting together bonus content for Patreon and my Bonus Booty website. It seems I’m always behind on the next Devil’s Panties Graphic Novel and I would love to have clones to work on all the other books that I’d like to get done. 

What’s the most difficult part of your work?

Anything that’s not drawing comics.

Bookkeeping, paperwork, taxes, businessing, merchandise follow up, advertising, media promotion, book layout, cover design, promotion, spreadsheets, cost overhead management, profit and loss tracking, bandwidth management … I just wanted to draw pictures.

Can you tell me about your storytelling process? Do you prefer to script your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?

The best comics are the ones that illustrate universal feelings. The moments that we’ve all experienced be it frustration or glee. 

Sometimes I’ll see it in a tweet that says what we all are thinking. Sometimes it’s an offhand comment that I make and someone else says “Yes! That!”. I’ll either turn on Heard and explain the idea or I’ll jot it down in Evernote. I’ll draw out the stick figure comic and show it to my husband and he’ll let me know if it’s clear or if it doesn’t make any sense. He’ll come up with suggestions or rephrasing. Once it’s penciled and lettered, I’ll show it to him again to see if I’ve gotten the facial expressions and layout right. He’ll make more suggestions to try and bring out the concept clearer or punch up a facial expression more. I’ll run it by him again when it’s done, before I post it. At this point it’s three in the morning and I just want to go to bed. I’ll dread any more suggestions that he makes for changes. I will, grudgingly, make them because he’s usually right. By this point I can’t see the comic anymore because I’ve been working on it for so long. I won’t be able to tell if the joke is clear or if it got vague somewhere along the way. He’ll point out where I’ve been lazy and what I should go back and re-draw. I will make ‘but I don’t wanna’ noises and do the changes.

 By this point it’s probably 6am EST and I’ll wait until the comic is up on the site before going to bed. It isn’t until 12pst (3EST) before I get up and check to see if it’s a resounding ‘meh’ or if my half assed 3am attempt at a vague concept was the same vague concept that everyone else has experienced.

How much of a buffer do you like to keep?

‘Like’ to keep or ‘do’ keep? If I’m going to be at a convention, then I’ll do enough to get me through to the day after I get home. I’d love to have a buffer, but I end up doing the comic the night that it’s due. 

Has anyone told you that you'll never be a successful artist and you'd be better off studying a real field and/or getting a real job?

I think this is the first time that I’ve heard the term ‘successful artist’. Very very very few artists are traditionally ‘successful’. As in, can buy a house, have health insurance, and send their kids to college. But I knew this since about second grade. I used to want to be a ballerina and I realized the only ‘famous’ one that I could think of was Baryshnikov. This was very early knowledge that the thing I loved to do wasn’t going to make me rich and/or famous. Later in life I found out that you can be famous and still poor. But that’s another story. About a year before graduating from college I realized that I either had to be a professional waitress or just get used to being poor if I was going to be an artist. I had to choose between doing something I didn’t like all day to secure the car and vacations and stability or I’d have to bust my ass 15 hours a day at something I loved and barely scrape by.
I signed up knowing full well what I was in for. I had a friend once ask me if I considered doing anything else. I was stunned. That never crossed my mind. Oh, I was fully ready to work at Starbucks to get the dental insurance. I would work at McDonalds to pay the rent. But it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be drawing comics. Strangely enough, this is not an odd career path for me. I thought the bankers and cubicle workers were the weird mythical jobs. You see, both my parents are artists. My mother does stained glass and my father was an abstract soapstone sculptor. I grew up under a skirted table at sidewalk art shows eating funnel cakes and trying to sell my home made doll clothes. We would paint our cars and the basement walls with flowers and, in my brothers cases, sculls and bloody roses. I thought this was normal. The only strange thing about me becoming an artist is that a bankers kid doesn’t usually become a banker. They rebel and become artists. I’m an artist's kid. I think I was supposed to rebel and become a banker. But that would have broken my mother's heart.

What message do you hope readers take away from your work?

It’s okay to be who you are. Also, adulting is a lie. We’re all just pretending to be grownups.

What keeps you devoted to telling the story you’re telling?

The fact that people are reading it. It doesn’t really sink in that anyone is actually reading it until I’m at a convention and a real person comes up to tell me that they like my comic. Numbers on a screen don’t mean as much as a face to face connection that lets you know that you’re work is having an effect on people. I had a girl in Connecticut tell me that my comic let her know that she wasn’t broken. Soldiers have said that it helps with homesickness. People all over the world say it reminds them of themselves and their friends. I’ve been accused of hiding video cameras in people's houses because the comic is so similar to their life. To date, none of the cameras have been found.

Rock On Jennie, And Thanks For All The Laughs!

1 comment :

  1. Jennie is awesome and I would like to meet her....come to NJ!!! The nice part of NJ....not the scary parts


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