Sunday, October 22, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 259: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 13

Posting on a Sunday again. That's good. Life remains hectic, but I turned a corner on a couple things in my personal life this week. I won't elaborate here. Suffice to say that some things are more manageable.
When we left our heroine (me) and Sara, I had just spoken my attraction to her.
Read on.
Just the facts, ma'am: That's exactly what she said to me before we kissed.
Sara was not the first trans woman I was interested in, but (not to deride her predecessor), she was the first one that mattered. The previous one was an act of desperation as my marriage was ending and I was feeling unloved and running scared. Was this also desperation as Curt's abuse began to manifest itself? Maybe on some level, but the most important thing to me was my attraction to her. Then and there, nothing else mattered.
To be completely clear, and for the umpteenth time, this is not how Sara looks, nor her proper name.
Technical notes: the inks were fairly cooperative today. When considering the background, I went with angled strokes, a technique I used on a page of A Private Myth years ago. It works to make the figures pop.
The lamp, however, is another story.
The intent was to anchor the setting with an element from the opposite side of the room, 90 degrees off. That way, when you see the lamp on the opposite side, you have a sense of motion and place.
Nice idea, but I don't think it works.
For one thing, while it's technically accurate, the lamp is pretty blah to look at, and adds very little visually. For another thing, it doesn't really communicate space the way I hoped it would. When I was done with it, I thought it was a separate and rather boring drawing that just happened to be on the same board. So I took the lamp out. Here is the result.
I hope you agree that it's better this way. I continue to work on my environments, but the old axiom remains valid. Sometimes less really is more.
I used one of my favorite devices here, making a complete border by dropping out opposite edges. I like that one. It gives a sense of unity, while still allowing plenty of air.
Materials used on this page:
Canson recycled Bristol board
Ellipse templates, triangle, T-square
Dr. Martin's Hi-CArbon Walnut Ink (continue to love this stuff)
Princeton #4 round synthetic brush (also rapidly becoming a favorite)
Crow quill pen and nib
Faber Castell 20% gray brush marker
Magic Rub eraser
Next: either the next page of this story or the long promised new Tranny Towers piece.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 258: Ida

I'm back from vacation. Only did a couple drawings during my week in New Mexico. I did make music with some wonderful friends, including members of Gentle Giant! I played better and had great fun, as well as learning a lot, especially from drummer Malcolm Mortimore, who took me under his wing for a much-needed lesson on pacing.
The next page of Sharp Invitations is laid out and ready to hit the board, but I want to resolve a couple more pages before I go to inks on this one. In the interim, here's an ink piece.
I'm not doing the full Inktober experience. I will ink as much as possible this month. I learned a great deal last year from copying the work of people whose work I revere. I hope to expand on that experience this year, but I simply don't have time to ink every day right now, much as I would like to.
When cleaning some old files, I found an obituary of Ida Lupino, a woman whose work, integrity and singular beauty always impressed me. The obit included a remarkable photo of her, very sultry.
I've always loved that word. Sultry.
Ahem.
I've been meaning to draw from that photo for decades. Since I'm not working on the old magnum opus today, this seemed to be a good time. The finished product doesn't look like the original. I'm not even sure it looks like Ida Lupino. But I like it anyway.
Production notes: Be very careful when working with that Dr. Martin's Black Star Walnut Ink! Yes, it's a full, lush black. Yes, it flows smoothly and is fairly easy to control. But man alive, does that stuff smear if it's not set! I gave the Acrylic White and the correction brush quite a workout on this one.
There's a bit of dry brush on this. Love dry brush, but still working on controlling it. Some of the hair textures were done in dry brush.
In terms of layout, it's a bit of a shock the way the left arm fades to black, but it's effective. The lights and darks of this are so noir, so compelling. Not surprising, since Lupino was one of a handful of women to direct film noir. Her work Outrage was one of the first films to treat rape survivors with any real empathy.
As anyone who had been following my work for a while knows, hands are often my bane. I'm happy with the drawing of these.
I could have pushed the gray values farther in places, but it seemed time to step away.
Materials:
Pentalic paper for pens
Martin's Black Star Walnut Ink
FW Artist's Acrylic White
#0 Tight Spot brush
Princeton #4 Round brush (just got this a couple weeks ago, and I love it)
Princeton #4 scumbling brush
Magic Rub eraser
Next: More Sharp Invitations, if I don't do a new Tranny Towers piece.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Friday): Sharp Invitations: Curt, p.12

We're back to Sharp Invitations.
Got this page done at last! After wrestling with the layout and narrative flow for weeks, dabbling in other projects along the way to keep fresh, I finally got something with which I'm happy.
When we left our heroine (me), she had met Sara just outside the Library. Sara outed herself to Diana, and they agreed to go have a chat.
I kept this clean and did decent, slightly less sparse, backgrounds. It still reads a bit light, as regards heavy blacks for balance, but between Sara's hair and my shirt, I think- hope- there's enough. If I take time for revisions later, I might map some darks on tracing paper, just to see where I can push farther without killing the work.
Layout considerations: the three tier banner layout works fine.  The bottom tier, the open top panel with the abrupt shot reverse shot and jump to a tighter view, connected by my word balloon pointing to both of me- that works if you don't think too much about it. It takes the emphasis away from the album being discussed and puts it on the two of us. the lettering in that last panel is completely free hand- not even ruled guides. I just flew at it.
I wish I still had that particular Procul Harum album. It was a very cool cover indeed.
I'm reconsidering larger flow issues. I'm not sure why Delia's story came first in this large chapter, since I met her second. I may remedy that in the final.
This is exactly the way I remember this talk. I was much more of a jerk about Sara being lesbian, asking some rather asinine questions, mostly because I'd never met a trans lesbian before and didn't know how not to be stupid yet. Also because my attraction to her made me nervous.
My attractions still make me nervous. But I'd like to think I'm more graceful about it by now.
I was surprised to feel that attraction, but even with my being in another relationship at the time, I had no problem giving it voice. As will be shown more fully in the chapter on dating guys, I think that, despite occasional and sometimes powerful attractions, I always knew that wasn't who I really was/am. Sara's line here, "men are scratchy and smell funny" is pretty much my mantra on this topic now, and it's a line I gleefully stole from a Gay Comics Roberta Gregory story.
Again, the real Sara looks very little like this. She always had such incredible musical tastes and experiences. I loved it when our music overlapped. Her taste ran in somewhat different directions than mine. I shan't elaborate on that here.
Material used in this page:
Canson Recycled Bristol Board
Faber Castell brush tip markers
Straightedge, triangle, ellipse templates, Ames lettering guide, Magic Rub eraser
I'm on vacation for a bit, but as it's Inktober in a few days, I hope to be able to post anyway. I'm traveling, and as such, may not have time to do another page before going.
Live in hope, babies.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) NO. 256: Bugs meets Gargantua

So much running, but I'm actually getting somewhere and very happy about it!
I'm deep in the throes of a new semester of teaching, plus my continuing workload at the other job, which I still love. I'm also on Faculty Senate this year, and taking the time to enjoy life in the midst of it all.
There's also a new Big Project, along with the previous Big Project. I'm behind on the first Big Project not because of that, but due to being stymied on layout revisions for the next page. I had a breakthrough before work Friday, so I should be able to post Sunday or Monday.
Meanwhile, something else.
Though they show up in the name of the blog, I seldom mention Gentle Giant here.Well, I'm planning on attending GORGG in two weeks. This will be my tenth GORGG, and the first time I've ever gone for the entire event. The planning is complex and incredibly stressful and fun, all at the same time. This is a wonderful bunch of people, and I'm excited to see them again, and to play on the big jam night!
In anticipation of being in Albuquerque on matters Gentle Giant, I came up with a quick sketch inspired by the classic Bugs Bunny line: "I knew I should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque!"
Enjoy!
Materials:
Canson sketch pad
# 4 lead in holder
#4 solid lead pencil
Brush tip marker
Magic Rub eraser
Next: back to Sharp Invitations.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Friday), no. 255: Sharp Invitations, cover draft and poster

Well, this is rather a bit of cheating in a way.
I got my minor Adobe license issues resolved, and was able to complete the revised version of the alternative (far from final) cover for Sharp Invitations.
Lately, I've been fascinated by David Mack's evocative watercolors. He gets such mood and intensity out of what appear, at first blush, to be random spatters. While I don't have his level of control, I do enjoy testing the waters (so to speak) with this stuff. This was done with Windsor & Newton colored inks, as I believe I mentioned in my previous post. I much prefer them to conventional watercolors- so much more vibrant!
The typography is more dynamic here than on the previous version of the cover. The colors work, but not as consistently as I might like. There are places in this where I'd like the brush strokes to be less prominent. I'm compelled by the profile silhouette, even though the hairline is iffy.
I know, I know. I should take the advice I give my students and not point out flaws in my work.
In general, that's good advice. But if you don't see the flaws in your own work, you won't try to fix them. No need to improve if you think you're already perfect!
I probably won't use this for the cover. But I'm far from completely happy with the previous version. I have a resolution in mind.
But there's more for right now.
As I work on this book, I find myself considering and reconsidering the issue of detail. My work has often had a more stripped down quality, but I revere the detail work that many artists do. Trying to seek a balance on this issue, I remembered Marc Hempel's innovative work (shades of Krigstein!) on the Sandman story-line The Kindly Ones. Sparse and stark, almost crude in spots, it still felt elegant, full and complete.
In re-reading the story to reconsider the art, I chanced on this passage that hit me right in the gut. This blog is just about the only place I haven't talked endlessly about the profound and absolute rejection I got this summer from a woman I liked for years (possibly loved, who can say?), abruptly truncating years of hope. Oh, she was more than decent about it, especially considering that I just dropped my feelings on her out of nowhere, and I was treated with compassion and with great respect.
Still.
I was so proud of me! I had finally and completely resolved my weepy school girl feelings. I was actually becoming a grown-up about it, very sophisticated. Then I read this, and it was right back to primal scream tears.
In a few lines, Neil Gaiman has summed up the inevitable, dreadful and devastating nature of this experience. I'd like to think that as a lesbian trans woman, I have a special brand of this stuff. But no. Love is love and pain is pain. While nobody may know exactly how I feel, everybody knows how I feel.
Inspiration struck. I added Neil's thoughts on the subject to this image. I left out Neil's last line, "I hate love". I hope he'll forgive my chopping his words, but I don't hate love. I just wish it would pop in a bit more often.
This adaptation of Neil's ideas works. It's not perfect, but then, what is?
Next: back to Sharp Invitations, the story proper.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 254: Sharp Invitations, Cover Preliminary

Bad news, folks. My Adobe license is down. This was discovered just now. I'm reasonably certain I can get the situation remedied tomorrow.
Until then, here's a piece to tide you over.
This is a quick painting I did on Wednesday. I have plans to add typography to it as soon as software permits. I suppose I could try doing so in Word, but it somehow seems- well, dirty.
I have two different ideas for the execution of this piece. It was originally intended as an alternative cover for Sharp Invitations, but something happened that may modify that. More on that later.
Here's the painting.
Materials:
Windsor Newton colored inks
Aquabee 80# Rough finish watercolor paper
Richeson Synthetic fan brush #8
Richeson Synthetic brushes #2, 4, 4 Filbert
lead holder, eraser
More soon. Glitch solution imminent, I hope.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 253: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 11

Before we begin, one of my Windsor Newton Red Sable brushes died during completion of this page. We will now observe a moment of silence.
...
Ahem.
After a couple weeks of false starts (one due to exhaustion following completion of teaching my Graphic Memoir course, the other due to a mercifully brief but intense bout of immobilizing depression), we're back with the next page. It's been a long time since I've missed a week, and two in row really grates on me! I'm planning a trip for October, and will work ahead to be sure I don't miss a week!
This is the seventh page of story culled from the two lines of text on the rough draft page. When this chapter is done, I'll post the whole story with that draft page in relation to it, just to make the point of how much story was left out of the draft edition.
This poses a daunting aspect in the telling of the story. As Alan Moore said about Miracleman, the story is growing in the telling. That's good in the sense that it's a better story if fully told, provided it's judiciously edited. However, it's frustrating in terms of the time it's taking to tell the story. My self-imposed completion deadline of the end of November does not seem plausible right now, and I am eager to complete this. I have a couple other projects I'd like to get going on, and I am reluctant to undertake them before completing at least a more fleshed out (so to speak) edition of this one. Besides- hey, it's my magnum opus and all that.
When we left our heroine (me), she had just married Delia without knowing it. Now we jump back a couple months, still within the time frame of the chapter on Curt.
Read on:
Story: unlike the woman that served as the basis for Delia, I AM still in contact with the real Sara. She remains a good and trusted friend, all these years later. I've changed her name and altered her appearance as she requested. If she wants to out herself as this character, she is of course free to do so. No pressure either way, my dear.
This is pretty much the way it happened. She ran after me out of the Library, outed herself and asked me to follow suit, then we started talking. Pretty gutsy, lady!
My outfit was easy. I was wearing the short denim skirt that was required at the time (as was she), and a black top that I still have!
Technical aspects:The challenging part of the backgrounds on this page was finding accurate reference for the OLD downtown Library, with that odd sculpture in front of it! I had to do the checkout station from memory, As with many libraries, checkout in the Hennepin County system is automated now, so no more checkout clerks!
My backgrounds remain a blend of loose and sketchy and technically accurate. For a while, when I was working on A Private Myth (another project yet to see completion in comic form, though the script is done), I had evolved a trick of penciling tight backgrounds, then inking them in free hand to keep the feel consistent with the art. That works on backgrounds, but not as well. In general, I'm being more aware of the background/environment as a story device. It's crucial, and I'm improving at using it effectively.
So many pages to rescan. This business of scanning in tiers and matching up the halves is tedious at best.
I really like the old trick of using continuous background with dynamic characters as a way of advancing time, used here in panels two and three. The second tier is tied together by the old Terry Moore trick of an arc of black as a weight/background element. Also, we move in from 3/4 shot to cowboy shot to medium close up. Once I got over my usual intial inhibitions about inking, I had real fun doing her hair and my top.
Materials used on this page:
Canson XL recycled 96 pound Bristol
Graphite holder with #2 and #4 leads
#0, #2 and #4 Synthetic and Sable Brushes
Crowquill nib and handle
Dr. Martin's High Carbon India Ink (this stuff is great!)
FW Acrylic White
Magic Rub eraser
And a plain old ballpoint pen for touch-ups!
Next: more Sara, as the Curt story continues

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 252: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 10

Welcome back!
I feel like I did back when I was drawing Tranny Towers on deadline. There's an energy to this I've not felt for some time. My art is flowing, and while it may not be as self-consciously inventive as it was on those strips, I'm pretty happy with the way it's turning out.
This memoir stuff poses some unusual challenges. As I noted to friends on Facebook, here I am tasked with drawing my own butt as I remember it from more than 20 years ago.
Some doors should not be opened.
But it looks like it turned out all right.
Ahem.
When last we left our heroines, me and Delia, she had awakened in my bed, screamed, slapped herself and went back to sleep. I was left sitting up in bed, nonplussed to say the least.
Read on.
Much to like here, I think. I've used the local color/texture of the wall to give the top tier a bit more weight. I wanted to keep the figures light on this one.
The hand fasting image turned out fairly well. I suppose I could have put a pattern on the ribbon she used, but the truth is, it was just a plain ribbon- pink, I think.
While I'm reluctant to overuse silhouette (after all, it's only been a couple pages back that we had a whole page done in that), I think it works and it's necessary here.
Real life notes: this happened. Delia sprung this on me with no warning, just lightly tossed the ribbon over both our hands. There was no official knot, which is part of many such ceremonies. She later laughed about it and said it was just some dumb thing she did on a whim. But she was a pagan who took her faith seriously, so I think that was just a cynical front. I think that in her eyes, however briefly, she and I were married.
I did attend her wedding to her boyfriend, the one she was living with while we were, ahem, keeping company, some years later. As far as I know they're still together. They live on the West Coast now.
She really did say the classic line from the pagan ceremony, "death does not part, only lack of love", but she said it during a later phone conversation.
Further technical notes: the world balloon in the first panel didn't behave. Also, I wasn't paying attention and ruled the panel borders on the right edge clear out to the cut line of the Bristol! Luckily, I caught it in time to fix it.
Doing the "squint test", I think the white highlights inside the silhouette of the last panel may not have been necessary, but by the same token, I don't think they do any real harm. Perhaps the hand fasting and the panel below it could have used a bit more weight, but I think they serve as they are.
Looking at past strips, I have a mountain of reworks to consider if I want this book to have integrity. So many decisions. Well, make them one at a time, and review before committing to a final version.
So there you have it. Without meaning to, I had a lesbian wedding in the 90s. Sort of. While I was seeing another woman, and seeing Curt. I guess that doesn't really count. But in the moment, it sure felt like it did.
I hope she's doing okay.
Materials used on this page:
Canson XL Recycled Bristol Board, 96 lb.
#4 soft lead in lead holder
.03, .05 and .08 tech markers
#0 and #2 synthetic brushes
Crow quill nib and holder
FW Acrylic Artist's White
Dr. Martin's Black Star High Carbon India Ink (love this stuff!)
Magic Rub Eraser
And of course, Photoshop, but very little.
Next: a quick gag page, and the first page of the next facet of the Curt chapter.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 251: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p.9

Technically after midnight, so no longer Sunday. Still close enough to on schedule that I count this as A Good Week.
I had a setback in my personal life this week. However, it only slowed down my comic work for a day or two.
I'm grateful for that, as I feel like I'm hitting a stride. I tossed that bottle of gummy ink! I may get ambitious and rework last week's page. I'd also like to go back a couple weeks and redo the first panel of the page set in Loring Park. Looking at it now, that's pretty bad and would not be that hard to fix.
Reading over these last few pages, I notice there's not a lot of transgender stuff in this part of the story. It's an overarching theme, to be sure. But if every page were about that, it would be boring. I went to the symphony with a pal on Friday, another trans woman. She asked me outright, "can we not talk about trans stuff tonight?" I was fine with that. It's part of who we are, not all of it.
In last week's episode, we saw our heroines comforting each other, taking solace from their respective pain. Of course, it didn't hurt that we were both horny as hoot owls.
And we drifted away to sleep.
Read on.
This is exactly the way this happened. No hedging on this page.
I like the way this page came together visually. Clean lines, good energy. There's almost no variation of panel position relative to the viewer on this page. We zoom in and out slightly, but it's pretty much the same shot in every panel. I'm using the old trick of leaving a white outline around figures and backgrounds/environments surrounded by large areas of heavy black.
The faces are a bit looser/ more cartoony than I usually like to use for more serious work. I tried not to overthink it, to just draw it as seemed natural.
I love detailed art, but my work lends itself to simpler lines most of the time. I have a lot of similar paradoxes in my life. My hair looks better short, but I like it better long, for example. Play the cards you're dealt, baby.
By accident, I started using a scumbling brush for filling, and found it perfect for the "slap lines" on panel three- turns it out it was ideal for dry brush, which I already knew but had forgotten.
Not using word balloons on panel four was a conscious choice. I wanted her (my) questions to be floating in the air, as ambiguous as the situation. Again, hand lettering here.
It was a hell of a thing to sit up in bed like that, shaken and worried, as she quickly and easily fell back asleep.
In terms of environments on this page, I let the bed and the dresser (with its omnipresent lamp) do the job. The dresser is present in the first and last panels, to anchor the page visually in the so-called "real world". These are also the only panels in which Delia is sleeping.
The real Delia later spend some time volunteering for the Center for Victims of Torture. Rather brave and quite healing, I think.
Materials this page:
Canson Recycled Bristol
Soft lead and lead holder
.05 and .08 tech markers
Ames Lettering guide
Faber Castell Brush Tip Markers, large and small
Dr. Martin's Hi-Carbon Waterproof Black Star India Ink (yay, love this stuff!)
#0, 2, 4, and 10 Richeson Synthetic brushes
Crow Quill Pen
Magic Rub Eraser
Next: last page of the Delia sequence, though she shows up again at the end of the Curt story.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Original Art Sundays, no. 250: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p.8

After midnight by two minutes, so technically Sunday. I have a very full day coming up, so thought I would post earlier rather than later.
When last we saw Delia and me, she had frozen over having her face touched.
Read on.
Silhouette. Yeah.
That's the way to go with this one.
I was inspired by a sex scene from Don McGregor and Marshall Rogers' Detectives Inc., which showed the couple in silhouette. It was a difficult sex scene in a darkened bedroom, and Rogers rendered fully realized backgrounds. For him, for that page, the right choice. For me, here, no.
Silhouette has two primary purposes here. It's universal, the shapes are relatable to most people. Also, the silhouette was prominently used in eras we now think of as rather placid and quaint, which makes their use to communicate such painful events rather jarring.
This page is also text  heavy, violating the axiom of "show, don't tell". This is of necessity, if I'm to continue to respect Delia's privacy. The stuff she went through was pretty bad, and as I've said in the past, it was HER stuff, not mine to tell. I'll tell that it happened, but not what it was. I hope that's not a cop-out, as we used to say.
I also wanted to communicate a bit more of Curt's rage. The drawing here is deliberately crude. The figures in the silhouette on the second tier are intended to communicate that ferocious energy, the stuff that started to really scare me.
Yeah, what I was doing then was dishonest and hypocritical. I'm not going to try to excuse that. I just want to fully communicate everything relevant that was happening then.  The events and conversations alluded to on this page are a condensation of several of my nights with her, but the core actions, along with those on the next page, did all happen in one night. As before, I suspect the real Delia would find my memory and interpretation of these events laughable.
I chose to hand letter here, knowing it would be uneven. As long as it's legible, the slightly jarring quality contributes to the disorientation I'm trying to communicate.
Materials for this page:
Canson Recycled Bristol
#4 lead and lead holder
Ames lettering guide!
Pro 4100 India Ink. I swear I'm throwing this bottle away. Even working in large flat areas, this was like painting with gum.
Synthetic brushes, #2, #4 and #2 scrub brush
Staedler tech markers, 0.5 and 0.8
Magic Rub erasers.
Next: we conclude (for now) the Delia interlude in the Curt story.