Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Original Art Sundays (Tuesday) No. 236: The Last Sharp Invitiation (Curt), p. 1

A bit late posting this week, due to exhaustion. But we are back in the saddle again!
I've decided to jump to one of the last stories in the book and then double back to the rest. This is a very important story (not that the rest aren't), and I want to develop it farther than it made it in the rough draft.
This page should set the tone for this story. I happened on this piece in an old sketchbook, and immediately realized that it was the perfect splash for this story.
This story brings many of the problems encountered by some (certainly not all) trans women in relationship into focus. The key, as you'll see as the story evolves, is self-worth, deciding we deserve decent love.
This page is rendered in pencil, with minimal clean-up. In talking with my comic teaching peer Dr. Ursula Murray Husted at SpringCon last week, I was pleasantly surprised at how much she liked my tighter pencil pages. While my inking skills are constantly improving (and more so when I work on a regular schedule!), I've always obtained great satisfaction from good tight pencils, or as in the original Sharp Invitation story, pencils with Conte' crayon. The problem is that I like working on Bristol board, and it lacks sufficient tooth to get the textures I like in resolved pencils. As such, I suspect the final version of this story will be a pastiche of pencils and inks. The very last page of it will be a B & W photograph- good old 35MM film!
The gentleness of this image serves as marked contrast to what follows, and is typical of my idealizing people with whom I'm in relationship (nobody else does that, right?).
My summer schedule being lighter, I have more time to develop this work before my next deadline, the fall faculty show. I'm wrestling with doing a more complete printed version for that show as well. Since I'm lettering digitally, I also have to resolve some presentation issues. Possibilities include originals presented next to printed pages, or printing original-sized copies and posting those. There's something disingenuous about posting printouts in shows, though I did it at Intermedia Arts and nobody said boo.
Another issue that came up in printing the draft version was that the images fit to the InDesign pages were VERY tight to the border! I'll have to tweak that before going back to press, even for a short run of one or two.
But the immediate goal remains a more realized version of this story. I also have another of those one-page quickies in the hopper, one I just thought of earlier today.
Next: more Curt.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Original Art Sundays No. 235: The Next Sharp Invitation, p. 7

The books are printed, the grant is submitted. Funds reimbursement expected soon.
Until then, the work goes on, as we know it should.
I solicited feedback from some folks at Spring Con this weekend, and am waiting for their responses.
The last page of the current story:
I'm very satisfied with this page.
I could have gone nuts rendering the angelic figure in Panel Two, but sometimes simple is better.
There are almost no backgrounds on this whole page. For the most part, that's the way I wanted this one. I was keen for the sense of floating- first being held aloft by the twine, then feeling free in the dress.
I find the freehand borders here particularly effective.
In upcoming stories, I have an even higher emotional content. This is problematic. It's a balancing act between the integrity of the work and how much the reader can, or chooses to, take. How responsible is the creator for the reader's reactions? It's easy to say one has no culpability. But we try for responses to our work. Who's to blame if we succeed?
No easy answers here. As my sister Pat once told me, I don't have the answers, but I'm starting to learn the questions.
The printed version of the work to date jumps over a BIG part of my life, going from this period to adulthood. Those stories will be completed in some form by the time of the faculty art show in the fall, in which parts of this work will be exhibited.
Next: a new Sharp Invitations story.
As promised, I am re-posting the whole story below.








Sunday, May 8, 2016

Original Art Sundays No. 234: Next Sharp Invitation, p.6

And to the wire...
I have 6 - 10 more pages to add to the Sharp Invitations rough, which must go to press by Friday to fulfill grant requirements. I'm also working FT this week, completing my current teaching contract and grading. I'm taking time this weekend for a friend's birthday and for Spring Con. Then the dust settles a bit as I cut back to *only* one job for a while!
Here is the next page of the current story.

This was a very difficult page, emotionally. That has been the biggest challenge in doing this work.
I didn't tell anyone in my family I had done this when I was a kid.
When I presented this story as part of my work in progress presentation back in April, an audience member asked if I had told my family I was telling these stories. I replied that I had told them I was doing this work and that some of it might be uncomfortable. They replied that all I needed to do was tell the truth.
Structurally, this page works fairly well. I'm not 100% satisfied with the facial expression in the open panel that starts the page. It's a tad too snarly, not quite the right emotion. I might also make the third panel, the paddling, larger to increase its emotional impact.
The back foot in the last panel is a little iffy.
In general, the page needs more heavy blacks. But I'm regaining my confidence with inks as opposed to brush markers. In that respect at least, this work has been very successful. I'm working both brush and crowquill on this one, and markers for borders.
This may end up being two pages, if I can work it out in contrast to the following page.
This is one of the few pages with tightly defined panel borders. I wanted a very deliberate and serious sense on this page. As much as I like my standard  free hand borders, they're the wrong mood here.
One way or another, I will have a completed draft of this work printed by this time next week.
Same time next week for the conclusion of this particular story!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Original Art Sundays No. 233: Next Sharp Invitation, p. 5

Two weeks today until the grant deadline! It's going to be close! I will have SOMETHING completed and printed, but certainly not the final version. Given that I hope to be working with an editor on this down the line, that's probably for the best.
Here, then, is the next page of the current story.
When we left our hapless lad, he had just gotten on the bus.
Again, I worked through several versions of this page. A couple were dialogue-heavy, but it soon became clear that wordless was the way to go with this one.
Backgrounds: sparse to nonexistent.
The space was established in the previous page and I wanted a sense of openness, a complete lack of control implied by a lack of place.
The floating jeering heads in the bottom tier are a summary of the way I felt and a reuse of a fairly effective panel from Speedy Recovery No. 1.
I would have liked the dry brush edges to be more pronounced in the final version. In re-reading some of my texts on pencils and inks, I've rekindled my fondness for, if not my mastery of, drybrush. I may give this page a fourth (fifth? sixth? I've lost track) go before the final version of the book sees print.
The borders were hard-ruled in pencil and then rendered free-hand in ink.
This is not one incident. I was tormented ("bullied" does not do it justice) by the kids on that bus for four years. The frequency and vehemence decreased, but the threat was always there. That's why I was so proud to lobby on MN's anti-bullying legislation a couple years back.
A rather bitter turn of events: there was a recent failed attempt by more conservative members of the MN legislature to introduce anti-trans bathroom use legislation this year. One of the self-righteous MN legislators talked about how businesses were "being bullied" into letting trans citizens use the bathroom of their appropriate gender. Yet another example of the abuser claiming to be the victim, I suppose.
Luckily, I have a light week at the FT job this week, and the semester is almost over, so the demands on my time from teaching at MCAD are somewhat reduced. All I need to do is summon the emotional strength to write about these painful and sometimes shameful events in my past.
And I must get it done in two weeks.
Yeah, that's all.
The upside is that I will have ample blogging material for the foreseeable future!
Next week: page 6.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Original Art Sundays No. 232: The Next Sharp Invitation, p. 4

It never lets up, does it? Wasted half a day trying (unsuccessfully) to get rid of annoying adware on my Mac. Very irritating.
Well, back to the work!
I'm quite moved by the death of Prince, and am developing a story on the subject. It will have to wait a bit as the deadline for the draft of Sharp Invitations looms large.
Here's the next page of the current story.
Again, lettering digitally, using the Colleen Doran typeface from Comicraft. The rest is hand work.
This page went through several iterations before I settled on this one. Finding the right pacing and mood was very challenging! I toyed with over-the-top stuff like the bus devouring kids, which I toned down to that second panel. While it's hardly subtle, I like the idea of the smiling bus followed immediately by the "demon bus". We had the shell of a school bus on our land up north, right at the edge of the woods near the creek (which I always pronounced "crick"- hey, when it's your creek, you can pronounce it however you like). I always think about that rusty ghostly shell when I think of my time on the school bus.
The borders in the first two panels are free hand over ruled pencil lines. The third panel has a ruled ink border as well, implying a more grave tone.
There's a great deal of rather obvious (to my mind, at least) foreshadowing on this page. I shan't give away the next page, but I'd be very surprised if anyone was surprised by its contents.
I've rendered buses several times- for some reason, they show up in a fair number of my works. I usually don't spend a lot of time on backgrounds, but inspired by Scott McCloud's suggestion that they be considered environments rather than backdrops, I cribbed this bus layout from a page in the B & W run of ZOT!
Here's another page that uses the bus, from an earlier attempt at a graphic novel on trans issues. This was done shortly after Tranny Towers ended, and was originally intended to tell Athena's story more fully, though I did away with the funny animal motif. Pretty good bus work here too! Maybe I should do a whole story set on a bus some time...
Ahem. Back to the issue at hand.
I have exactly three weeks to complete this project, including a small print run. I will complete the work in roughs, and do as many finishes as time permits before going to press.
Let's get back to it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Original Art Sundays (Tuesday) No. 231: Next Sharp Invitation, p.3

This story is now done, but I'm still posting a page at a time until I get them all out there. Why give away the farm?
Once again, enjoying the local color of the paper as picked up by the scanner.
This page went through several iterations. I tried the resort sign for the first panel, and what is now the last panel was originally larger and on the opposite side of the page.
The level of detail could be higher in places, notably in the woodsy scene in the last panel. I was torn between fleshing out the detail and keeping the energy. Once I have the grant requirements fulfilled, I will go back and take more time on each page.
This page also offers the challenge of being an exposition-heavy page. So much of this work is thoughtful and solitary, it's a real challenge to break up the text!
Right now, my primary concern is getting a completed version of the work done and printed by May 15!
Again, digital lettering using ComicCraft's Colleen Doran typeface. I find it has much more character than the one I had previously used, Clean Cut Kid.
The hawk logo in panel three references Blackhawk, of course, though I think it's actually the Hawkman logo. It comes from a typeface called Hall of Heroes that is just superhero logos!
I presented this work last Thursday at MCAD as a work in progress. Attendance was scant, about a dozen people, all fairly receptive. I was honored and humbled to present the work. The meaning and scope of what I'm doing becomes more clear by the day.
Next: page 4.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 230: Sharp Invitations, One-page story

Didn't post last week, due to time limitations. I'm taking vacation from the FT job this week to work on the graphic memoir. As usual, it's going slower than I hoped, but faster than I expected! with my final deadline four weeks away, I have to retain pace and optimism!
A few weeks back, I was getting frustrated at being stuck on this project, and suddenly thought about Speigelman's MAUS. That amazing work, all done with ballpoint pen on regular printing paper.
I was at work that night. I took a #2 pen, a cheap wooden ruler, and a piece of paper from the printer, and dashed this out in about 20 minutes.

Well, it was a good question!
I kept thinking about Calvin & Hobbes as I drew this one.  Going for that energy, that freedom of a precise yet loose line.
Despite its crudity, I think it makes the book. This book has a serious, almost grave tone to it, and I need to break that up a bit.
When I got the page home, I went over it with a brush-tip marker to give the lines a tad more weight. I've also cleaned up the text a bit more than this image shows since doing the scan.
I currently have several new pages of this work (I've lost track), and I'm presenting it as a Work In Progress at MCAD this Thursday!
Next: more Sharp Invitations.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Original Art Sundays No, 229: The Next Sharp Invitation, p.1

This page comes right before last week's page. This is the beginning of Chapter 2 in The Sharp Invitation.
Read on.
Strengths: I think the text is working well, and I'm fairly happy with the panel art. Drawing kids has never been my long suit, though I've done enough of it.
Weaknesses: I might rework the main figure. She's okay, but I'm not completely happy with the uneven line quality and proportions on the (reader) right side. It would be a pretty quick redraw, but I'm putting off reworks until more of the work is done.
Other technical matters: again lettering and word balloons in Photoshop, and I'm having some fun with it! There's loose hand lettering in pencil on the originals, which is erased in PS. I do save an unaltered original scan as a baseline in case of calamity.
Note to self: back these files up!
As I do more of this work, my fear of it both grows and subsides. Growth is due to the imminent completion of the work, and opening myself up to public scrutiny yet again. The fear subsides as I realize the work's slow completion, and the truth of the fear being at least in part groundless.
Next: more Sharp Invitations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Original Art Sundays (Wednesday) No. 228: the Second Sharp Invitation, p. 2

Getting the hang of digital lettering, and using the balloon shapes I bought from Comicraft. I might get another set for variety, but these work for these basic pages.
I'm posting pages out of order as I complete them digitally from scans. I will post complete stories once the whole short story is posted. As mentioned last week, Sharp Invitations is a collection of short pieces that form a whole. This is page 2 of The Second Sharp Invitation, the second story in the book.
 I've been working fast and sloppy. I don't mind the fast part, but I need to work tighter! My backgrounds remain sparse. While that's OK for some pages, I need some pages with significant amounts of detail.
I'm still working on a viable studio setup in the new place. I've been making it work, but it feels cramped. However, I'm reluctant to take time away from the work to rearrange my studio, with such a tight deadline (May 15!) looming.
Specs on this page: pen and ink on recycled Bristol board, digital lettering, balloons and text boxes. I'm pretty pleased with this one, though I might rework that left-facing profile shot in the lower panel if there's time.
I've been free-handing a lot of things like the holding line for the car dashboard in panel one, and I think I'll try to use my tools a bit more. The emotion of the work and the urgency of the deadline should not allow me to take short cuts, if those short cuts mean I need to rework panels or pages!
After a frustrating month of poking at this thing, I'm finally getting some momentum. Recognizing how huge the work is personally can be inhibiting, but it can also be liberating. More on that in upcoming weeks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Original Art Sundays (Tuesday) No. 227: Sharp Invitations cover preliminary

After a three-month hiatus, I am resuming posting art.
I've hardly been idle. In addition to the full time gig and adjunct teaching, I've been stabbing at my grant project, a graphic memoir titled Sharp Invitations. This is a memoir focusing on transgender life and on issues of poverty. Also rock & roll!
This is the biggest project I've ever attempted, and I have a very tight deadline. I do not expect the version submitted for the grant fulfillment to be the final version. I hope to get this published, ideally by one of the big guns, Fantagraphics or First Second being my primary choices.
I am jumping around in the book rather than working sequentially. This is largely because the work is so intimate and emotional that I have a hard time sitting down to work one chapter all the way though. I posted a rough of the first chapter for this more than a year ago. Each chapter will be a self-contained story, with overlapping narratives.
Here's a mock-up of the cover.
The basic layout will remain unchanged, but I might go for a more involved background than the pale blue watercolor wash. The core idea, the woman in the blade of the scalpel, will remain. I plan to do a more accurate rendering of the scalpel for the final. There's a curve to the handle, and a bevel at the start of the grip by the blade.
Materials: colored ink washes and colored pencil over inked line art. Typography done in Photoshop.
The body of the work goes much too slowly, but there is progress being made. I'm taking a week off of work in April to put the project to bed.
I currently have several pages that need to be lettered. I've committed to lettering this digitally and have included the purchase of two specific fonts in the grant proposal.
I will have more to report next week.