Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Revue February 28: Moonwraith

Lock The Door And Bar It!

The Werewolves Are Coming!

As if the Middle Ages weren't bad enough, now there's werewolves attacking the fort too! So now you get disease, mud, maltreatment, meddling wizards, ergot poisoning AND werewolves? UNFAIR!
That must be what the valiant defenders are thinking in 'Moonwraith', the creation of Scott Harper and Desiree Lee and biding its time at this link. It's not a pretty world to be alive in, but it's never dull.

The Rating

Sorry Moonwraith, this one just doesn't make tails wag.

The Raves

Moonwraith has some interesting points, including its interest in telling us not only that werewolves exist, but that they were created by the weakness and greed of man. It aspires to be a wartime tale, asking the hard questions and showing you people doing the dreadful algebra of survival. 
       There's some interesting characterization, especially around the character of Kizzy the pragmatic little redhead and the social issues of being a redheaded, outspoken girl in a time and place where both traits are unusual and downright dangerous.
  I have to give points to anyone brave enough to work with an art style as challenging as 3-d modelling as well, which has a really vicious learning curve before anything looks good!

The Razzes

Unfortunately, the art style still has a loooooong way to go in the former respect. The lighting used on most panels is far, far too low, resulting in art that's so muddy and out of focus as to be indecipherable in many places. Worse, it's uploaded too small! This means
that the reader is squinting to see the art AND to read the words. BAD MIX!  If readers have trouble reading the comic AND trouble understanding what's going on from the images, I seriously doubt they're going to keep reading. It's hard to get in a story you're having physical trouble reading!

Here's what I recommend to the creators: improve the lighting so that objects are distinct from one another, REALLY work on clarity and sharpening up your edges, and upload at least 30% larger PLEASE!

Beyond that, the 3-d artist should really work a little harder on making characters look alive; too often the characters' eyes are drifting off in odd directions or their body language is nonexistent. 3-d art is only as good as the energy you put into getting the details right, just like any other art form. A little more attention to detail is going to go a long way here, because right now the work comes off as lazy and half-hearted.

The Revue

Probably better to just watch 'American Werewolf in Paris' until the creators work the bugs out on this one.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Revue February 27: Steel Salvation


It's Time For The Steel Salvation!

The story begins with a little robotic Napoleon believing in a Goddess of Code and trying to wipe out humanity. And then things get weird. It's 'Steel Salvation', it's the creation of  a team made up of J.S. Conner, Evan Ledesma,, and Alex Mattingly, and it continues its strange and brooding existence at this address. Click of you dare to confront the terrible and remarkable Dy-Gar, the evil, the terrifying, the...
Okay, he's not that scary. But he thinks he is, and he has BIG ambitions. He wants to free all robot kind and destroy humanity in all its forms. He wants to purify the galaxy!
The constant and amusing dissonances between the dark and Tolstoyan events of the comic and the charming character designs is one of the many off the wall oddities of this work and one of its charms.

The Rating

There's deep and complex questions being raised here, 
but the essential drive to answer them is missing

The Raves

If you like puzzles, this is your comic. Mystery abounds. There are plots within plots, and to top it all off you can never be quite sure of what's real and what's been conjured up by the protagonist's silicated imagination. Every answer leads to more questions, from the practical-how the hell do we get out of here, what's going on- to the metaphysical-what is sentience, is there a destiny, why is the universe cruel-and the snarky, a la 'why are you such a jerk?'
The comic likes to explore deep and philosophical themes, forcing its readers to ask penetrating questions that rarely come up in daily life; questions of self determination, of free will, of reality and realpolitik ethics. It's good to get that kind of philosophical challenge once in awhile. And the protagonist's rambling speeches are a masterful exploration of a fractured mind and a great case study on how to design and write a character who is conflicted and self-deluding.

The Razzes

But ultimately, Steel Salvation reads like a russian novel in space.It's all bleak, it's all grim, and it's all a little bit pointless to the reader.  A lot of people are dying, somebody's talking about it at length, and you don't really care. The Russian authors were out to prove that war and oppressive society were just that: grim and pointless. They wanted people to read and revolt when faced with the stark truth. But 'Salvation' seems to want we readers to keep reading for the sake of studying all the ways the brain can go wrong and all the ways it can fool itself...sorry, but it doesn't work for most people. If I want to study psychology, I pick up a textbook. Reading the comic is a bit too much like reading the 'making of' book to some famous sci-fi series, without the series you care about involved. There's frankly no reason to care about any of the characters involved, and I found myself reading only in a sort of morbidly idle hope that the protagonist would have a mental breakdown or have all his delusions stripped away. The characters in 'Salvation' are robots, but we're human, and humans need to be able to identify with characters in order to care about what happens to them.As a creator you can do that through life threatening situations, through character traits that make them likeable, or through ideals we believe in. But watching an angry robot wander around proselytizing and bemoaning existence gives none of these, and becomes boring quite quickly. Frankly, I don't care if he's crazy or not. I just want something interesting to happen.

The Revue

A little too cold and mechanical to fall in love with, but definitely one for the philosophy majors in the crowd.

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!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Revue February 21: The Devil's Panties

Need A Laugh Today?

Try 'The Devil's Panties' On For Size!

You laugh because it's so true it hurts. That's 'The Devil's Panties' in a nutshell. And speaking of nuts, thank (or blame?) a wonderful lady named Jennie Breenden for this strip, which can be found here. A gag a day strip with a wonderful sense of humor and no topic off the table, 'The Devil's Panties' will make you laugh from the first strip.

The Rating

A Classic!

The Raves

If your college paper had a decent sense of humor then it'd run something like 'The Devil's Panties' . This comic is, simply put, the most relatable and real gag-a-day webcomic around. The genius of the work is in capturing those weird and awkward moments of life and putting them on paper in a way that makes we readers feel like we're all in on the joke. We laugh because we understand EXACTLY how the characters feel.
The artist has a rare and wonderful ability to know what they're good at and do it, which gives the art a breezy, casual style that is both skilled and laid back. 'Panties' style tells you right off that you're looking the work of an artist who knows what they're doing and is having fun doing it rather than stressing out about details. Splashes of color occasionally enliven the strips, but they're accents to quirky and graceful linework rather than the main event.  The style is consistently playful and unassumingly fun. In a world of pretension, it's good to see somebody playing with art!
The writing carries the theme that just because we grew up doesn't mean we can't tell bad jokes, cover ourselves with glitter or have chocolate cake for breakfast. This comic invites us to be who we are, and to joke about our odd moments rather than being embarrassed. It reminds us that life is weird, gross, has a (sometimes sick) sense of humor, and isn't worth living in a box. It reminds us to stop trying to be adults, and just be us. 

The Razzes

Veeeery occasionally a little more work could be done on faces, especially those of minor characters. But you may notice that I'm having to pick some pretty small nits to find anything wrong with 'The Devil's Panties'. It's just that good.

The Revue

Read it, share it, print it and hang it on your fridge to remind you to have some fun. Print out all the 'what not to do in the bedroom' strips and gross out any prudes in your life. Whatever you do, read it.

Saturday Revue February 20: Dorktoes

Let's Start Things Off With Some Pizzaz!

Please Welcome 'Dorktoes' To The Stage!

Ladies and gentlelmen, boys and girls. I present the PERFECT counter culture 'zine flavored journal comic.When you're down, this is the comic you want to curl up with. When you're feeling low, when you think you're out of place, this comic will curl up with you and make your oddities feel cherished.When you're on top of the world, this comic will make you grin. It's called Dorktoes, it's the creation of Hanne DeWatcher, and it is wonderful.
Dorktoes is 'Rose is Rose' for the proud freaks and geeks out there. Dorktoes is the journal comic you desperately want more pages of (and trust me, that is a very short list) It's wry, snarky, sharp in calling bullshit on life. It's sweet. It's unrepentant. It's railing at lifes' injustices. It's geeky. It's adventurous. It's intimate. It's all these things, and most of all, it is affirming of a life lived your way, and lived well.

The Rating

'Rent' without the over-the-top angst. A beautiful work about making real life beautiful.

The Raves

Let me say it like this: 'Dorktoes' is the comic you get up and read on Tuesday mornings to get your week off to a good start, and it's the one you binge on after a rotten day to cheer you up. Its charm is in its ability to make evocative and sometimes heart wrenchingly sweet or painful the little things in our lives: snuggling with our pets, the eccentricities of our loved ones, that day when you couldn't find your keys. You share with Hanne the emotional highs, lows, and bewilderments of life. I've been reading Dorktoes for five years now, and it never ceases to make me grin, though the quality of the grin is different every time: wistful commiseration, glee, and gleeful evil have all been evoked by DeWatcher's ability to capture and explore a moment.
The art style is loose, beautifully done and playfully experimental, letting you feel simultaneously that you're sharing doodles with a buddy and looking into the sketchbook of an artist. Color is employed at the whim of the artist, usually to emphasize a point but occasionally, I imagine. just because DeWatcher feels like it. There's a sense of whimsey in the artwork that you can't help but grin at, even when the creator is writing about the death of a pet and your heart is turning inside out. For comic creators and creative types, there's a special joy in DeWatcher's reflections on being a creative and trying to explain it to other human beings.
The comic touches on all facets in life with an affirming honesty that I'd like to see more of. Dorktoes tells you that yes, some things will suck. Some things will make you scream. And you will scream, and cry, and sometimes feel like shit. And then you'll get up. At its heart, this affirmative honesty is what makes 'Dorktoes' such a jewel.

The Razzes

The very nature of this comic is to be a journal, so the usual complaints of changes in art style and quality level don't really apply here. If it's a sketch day, you get a sketch. If it's a fine art day, you get fine art. If that bothers you as a reader you may have trouble getting into Dorktoes, and the piece may lose readers because of it. But I don't mind.
Every once in a while, the strips can get a little too odd to follow, but hey, so does life.

The Revue

You need ice cream, a snuggly blanket, geeky pajamas, a pet and this comic. After that, nothing will seem so bad.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monthly Matinee February:A Creator's Guide To Loving Your Art

Grab A Seat!
Time For The Monthly Matinee!
This Month, It's Loving Your Art!

Love. It's a strange thing, and one of the strangest relationships is your love for your own art. It's a odd and overwhelming passion, inexpiable. And if putting the passion you feel into words is hard, putting those days when nothing works into words is impossible. This subject crops up whenever I browse the creative forums; too often, our love of our craft gets bogged down. It fizzles before we even begin, it seems to fade, it hits a brick wall of self doubt and frustration. It becomes a source of anxiety. 

          There's plenty of tutorials out there on how to figure out perspective, but perhaps not enough on how to sort out your own emotions and how they relate to your work. So in this month named for the goddess Fevera, lady of the human heart, let's talk about how to love our own craft. This is a tutorial for all the beginners out there, terrified that they'll do it wrong. But I'm also penning this for the veterans who ask themselves 'what the hell am I doing?' I'm writing this for your bad days, when you wonder why you write or draw at all.

Step 1-Find The Why

Why do you create art? Have you ever really stopped and asked yourself that?
If you haven't, stop reading right now, sit down with a blank sheet of paper, and do so.
Got an answer?
Wrapped up inside the reason you create is the reason you don't.

  • Is it ME?

So, when you really look deep down, did you find your answer to why you create was 'I want someone to pay attention to me?' 
If you're doing something because, secretly, you want others to pay attention to you, you're already in trouble. You will get frustrated when you don't get the attention you want. You will get hurt when others critique your work, because you will hear 'I'm not good enough'. You will have an AWFUL lot of heartache, because you've made your own ability contingent on the thoughts of others. It's like letting the weather dictate your mood. 
In the Business Insider, a 12-year brain study of a number of Tibetan monks was performed, and Matthieu Richard, the 'happiest man', that is, the man whose brainwaves were most synchronous and working most optimally, was interviewed. When asked 'why are you happy?' one of the first things mentioned was 'to Ricard, the answer comes down to altruism. The reason is that, thinking about yourself and how to make things better for yourself all the time is exhausting and stressful, and it ultimately leads to unhappiness.'
If you find yourself thinking 'nobody likes my work', 'why doesn't anybody care about what I'm doing? or 'I'm no good', please read Step 2.

  • Is It The Image? 
Do you stay up at nights, dreaming about what characters should look like or what storyline works, but fail to work on your project? Do you tell fifteen friends that you're 'working on a script' but play on Facebook instead of writing? Sounds like you're suffering from Idea Debt.
Jessica Abel credits Kazu Kibushi with coming up with the term 'Idea Debt', the pouring of energy into ideas that hang on for YEARS without going anywhere. The problem with Idea Debt is that you're so caught up with the image of what something will be like DONE that you're afraid to DO it, afraid that it won't be as good. Add to that the fact that the image itself becomes much more attractive than the hard, messy process of work, and you end up with a beautiful and elusive idea that you never work on. To fight this, read below.

  • Is It The Story?  
If you're driven to keep creating because the story is pulling you forward, because the act of storytelling is pulling your heart and your hand forward every day, then count yourself lucky. You've found and made a story you love, and it is a living, breathing entity.
So why do you have days where it fells like there's a wall between you and your world? Days when you're wired but the words and images won't flow?
In ancient Irish myth, there was a belief that creators were touched by the Lehanahn Sidhe. This Irish muse gave you the gift of creativity, but she exacted the price of your health and sanity. I've always seen her as a metaphor for the craftsman's tendency to drive themselves so hard that they, quite literally, burn themselves out physically. The human body can't run on empty. Period. Ask yourself, what am I doing with my body while my heart and mind are far away? Am I living on mountain dew and donuts? When was the last time I saw the sun? Went for a walk? It's hard for great things to come out of a mind that's in a suffering body. Read below to help with these issues.

  • Is It The Work? 
"I just don't have time for my artistic stuff now that I have this job/these kids/this other thing/ect. ect. ect. We all hear it. We've all been there.
And it's not true.

Ghandi said it best. 'If it is important, you will find a way. If not, you will find a reason'
Don't get into the trap of 'I can't because of fill in the blank'. If you do, you'll begin to resent both the thing you want to work on and the thing you're blaming for stopping you. And then you're sure to be miserable. Read below for ways to find space in your day. And, seriously dear readers, drop the guilt. If you don't have time for something, set it aside. Stop feeling guilty for not doing it. If you love it, set something else aside. Ask yourself 'what will be really good for my peace of mind?' and then do it. If you answered the question honestly, you have nothing to feel guilty for, do you?

Step 2-Work For Work's Sake

Candy Rock by mikemaihack on deviantART

  • Start Routines, Train Your Brain

What's the best way to eat an elephant? A bite at a time. What's the best way to create a comic? Drawing for fifteen minutes every day. Fifteen minutes isn't much, but the point isn't to get a lot done. The point is to teach yourself that these fifteen minutes/ half hour/ afternoon a week are DRAWING TIME. The monk Richard said it like this,  in reference to the equally difficult task of learning to meditate: 'It's like running. If I train, I might run a marathon. I might not become an Olympic champion, but there is a huge difference between training and not training. So why should that not apply to the mind?'
You are training your brain to want to tell your story. You're teaching it through repetition that this is what it needs to do.
According to NPR's interview with the author of 'The Power of Habit:Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business'
by Charles Duhigg, '
Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, meanwhile, are made in a different part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts.

"In fact, the brain starts working less and less," says Duhigg. "The brain can almost completely shut down. ... And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else."
So teach your brain 'hey, it's time to draw. Period'. Stop thinking about whether you'll draw or not, and there's more brainpower for ART.

Right Here, Right Now

One of the most meaningful things you can do for yourself as an artist and a human being is to set aside time that has a specific purpose, and accomplish that purpose.Rachel Kelly of the Guardian puts it best:

'We are human beings, not human doings, and it’s very easy to forget that in the frenetic world in which we live. Make a point of setting aside time for a night off and defend space in your diary for doing nothing at all. And if you suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out), re-calibrate and think of it instead as the joy of missing out. A night in can be just what the doctor ordered to maintain a sense of control over busy lives.'
Just be. Choose that time that is just yours, and let your mind grow still. While you're in this space, the rest of the world goes away, and you are lost in your passion. Lose the future. Lose the past. 
Just BE.

Art by Operation SpaceCat

I myself am a crew leader at a horticultural company with over 100 accounts. I work 12 hour days. Every day, I get up at 5 and draw for two hours. Then I go to work. In those two hours, nothing exists but me and my art. No future, no past. Just my breathing, my characters, my stylus and my hand in motion.And it works. 
Dreaming mindfully for two hours in the morning lets me be fully present for the rest of the day. Find your dreaming space, and lose yourself in it.

  • 10,000 Hours

One of the biggest things that slows new or nervous artists down is also the stupidest: fear of not being good enough.
If you'd been afraid to look stupid as a child, you'd never have learned to walk, because we look STUPID falling on our butts. But we do it. And we learn. And then we run.
Please look at the two pictures above. They were done by the same artist, Marc Allante, at ages 6 and 26. If you draw every day, you WILL get better. It's an inevitable progression. But if you become defensive when people tell you what needs work, if you give up on art because you're 'no good', then you will never get there. Perfectionism is like a drug, dear readers. In small doses it is medicine. In large doses, it's a poison.Rachel Kelly recommends this for those of you who are afraid to work because it doesn't live up to your hopes: 'Follow the 60% rule. Perfectionism is an illusion, but the pursuit of it is real and can have damaging consequences. So readjust your thinking. If a friendship, relationship, work project is 60% right, then you’re doing well. Beware too, of perfectionism’s close friends: an all or nothing approach; workaholism; fear of failure; and being over-sensitive to the judgement of others.'

The beautiful comic Saga reminds us that we're not dirty because of our pasts. We are just beginning something new.

And even more poisonous than perfectionisim is comparison. If Stan Lee had been in the position compared himself to the 50 year old Miyazaki when he was 17, he might have broken his pen in half and given up.
We're back to the question: who are you drawing for? Other people who are going to say 'okay but you're not as good as so-and-so'? Or yourself? Because if you're drawing for yourself and your art, the only question is 'am I better than I was yesterday?'
Roger Cohen reminds us: “Everyone has something that makes them tick. The thing is it’s often well
hidden. Your psyche builds layers of protection around your most vulnerable
traits, which may be very closely linked to your precious essence. Distractions
are also external: money, fame, peer pressure, parental expectation. So it may
be more difficult than you think to recognize the spark that is your personal
sliver of the divine. But do so."

Step 3-Balance The Equation

You know what? When you're a better human being, you're also a better artist. When you're healthy, happy, and satisfied, the art flows. When you're sick, the work stutters. (ever tried to draw on Dayquil? That's an extreme example, but you get the point.) It's like a chemical equation. When everything balances, you get the results you want.
So here's some suggestions for achieving that balance.

  • Eat, Sleep, Draw

Dear creatives, caffeine is not a food group! Sometimes all that crazy emotional turmoil you're feeling is shockingly simple to solve: drink some water, eat a decent meal and sit in the sun. You'd be surprised how often that works. It sounds ridiculous, but we live ridiculous lives in animal bodies. Our bodies evolved to move across savannas for most of the day. Instead we sit indoors. Common sense will tell you that when you're making something do things it's not designed to do, problems come up. So don't sleep four hours a night, eat occasionally, run on gallons of mountain dew/caffeine/drug of choice and then complain 'man, I feel so shitty, I just can't get any ideas!' OF COURSE YOU CAN'T, you're trying to think with a brain that's running on fumes and garbage! Eat sensibly. Eat regularly. Drink water. And try eating your lunch outside whenever you can: studies have shown that people who get more sunlight are happier.
Iris Scott
  • The Body Moves
That's right. The brain is not the only part that matters. And you're a lot more productive when you get up and move at least 20 minutes a day. If nothing else, get up, stretch, and go for a 15 minute walk every 4 hours. That deadline you're under? It won't get done any faster when you're staring angrily at it and banging your head against a wall of frustration. It might get done faster if you get up, freshen up and come back with renewed zeal. Give it a try.

  • Life Is A Dance

The wonderful 'Valiant Hearts' is a great example of finding time for what's important, even in the most brutal conditions.

You didn't get to draw because you were out with friends, and now you're guilty about it and resenting your friends.
Art cannot live in a vacuum. Neither can you. There is NOTHING wrong with taking a break. There IS something wrong with doing it grudgingly. That goes for working on art when you want to be out.
So what can you change?
You can change your own mind. Consciously telling yourself 'today is a day for fill-in-the-blank' changes one important thing: how you see the event. Now you made a decision to act, instead of being forced to do something you didn't want. Now you are in control of your life, not a passive victim of it.
Life is a dance. Part of the dance is stepping further away from one thing and closer to another for a moment. That doesn't mean you can't step back. Stop thinking of it as a tug of war, and start DANCING!

The Last Bow

So here it is, in a nutshell. Your brain is a tool, your body too. Care for them, feed them well, and take responsibility for them. Pay attention to what you're thinking about your art, and your life. If you don't like it, change it, even if all you change is your own thinking. It's your job as an artist to know that, and to choose to look at yourself in the mirror, look at your art with all its flaws and baby steps and honestly say

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Saturday Revue January 13: CU Next Tuesday

Hurry Hurry Hurry!
Get Ready For Some Monstrous Fun!

For Your Reading Pleasure,
 'CU Next Tuesday' Is Onstage!

when a story starts like this, you just know it's going to get interesting.
'CU Next Tuesday', a gritty and interesting noir-parody piece created by Ibai Canales and Sal Brucculeri, resides here.   It's a re-imagining of the Bride of Frankenstein tale with a twist. Frankie's a mob boss and Bride's done dealing with him. Now she's a detective with a mob bounty on her head, a sharp tongue, a busy life and not a whole lot of patience. Black humor, brain dead zombies, monsters and mayhem follows, with deliciously dark and cranky results.

The Rating

Nothing's perfect, but there's a lot to love in this work.

The Raves

If you crossed Macgyver with Kill Bill and threw the cast of Grimm onto the set, you'd get the same general impression that 'CU Next Tuesday' imparts.This is the kind of work that strikes a perfect balance between snarky, sour dark humor, action and internal dialogue, something you don't often see in the adventure comic genre. The creators are good at taking hard boiled and boiler-plate material and giving it a fresh twist, juxtaposing the image that's so classic it's corny with a visual or verbal pun that breathes new life into it. Take, for instance, the fact that the hard bitten cop really is a pig, and the wannabe sidekick makes constant references to the standards of sidekick behavior. Seeing the Bride's thought process actually adds to the charm of the piece rather than, as is usually the case, detracting from the story, mostly because you realize how often she restrains herself from killing the stupid and I'm sure plenty of us can relate to that position! 
Characterization is mainly visual, with the minimum of personal motivation discussed in dialogue, and in this case that's actually refreshing. With the exception of the Bride and Pigstein (yes, the cop really is named Pigstein) , the characters are straightforwardly and unabashedly there as actors telling the story, and in this setting that works just fine. We don't have to deal with any tortured depths of the soul here. That's not what this story is about. We don't need angst from 'Tuesday', we need snark and stuff going boom. And it supplies that in full!
The art carries through the pulp-fiction directness with increasing clarity and wit, using a clever sense of character design and deft employment of shading and texture effects to keep the eye interested and the mind firmly in the world of pulp fiction charm.

The Razzes

Unfortunately, the art could still use some work, particularly in the use of space at the linework stage. Often the scenes are so busy that the reader works pretty hard figuring out what's going on and who's where. I'd like to see a little less focus on cool action shots and a little more focus on clarity and clean lines. There's a sense of pen and ink sketchiness to many areas of linework that has its charms at some moments, but it tends to look a bit messy and distracts the eye from what is already a very busy panel, especially in action scenes. Yes, it's noir, but I might clean it up a little. But it's definitely getting better all the time; reading through the archive, you see a distinct improvement, and I look forward to seeing that upward curve continue.

The Revue

A great read with a glass of burbon in hand on a dark night when the rain falls hard in the City. Watch out though, you may find yourself talking in boiler plate detective slang for a while....