Sunday, September 17, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 369: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 11

 Once more, here we go! Some delays due to personal issues, now mostly resolved.

When we left, our heroine (me) was on a phone call to Mother, talking about coming out.

Read on.


The text of the letter was a challenge. I don't have the original letter any more, but it resonated with me. I tried to simulate Mother's handwriting, which was illegible to anyone but family. I will include the text in a supplement in the finished book, but here it is.

"Grandma put in a good garden this year- Should be a lot of green beans- and of course wild pie plant for when you come up-

I've been thinking a lot about you - what you're doing seems right- but be careful- sometimes the relief of making a big decision can be confused with it being the right decision

Just something to think about-

Read the most fascinating book about Ghengis Khan"

Mother didn't use periods. Everything was dashes. I debated typesetting this, but reproducing her handwriting seemed more - well, proper. 

In narrative and in design terms, this page advances the story well, but the content is static. I toyed with a couple ideas for the first panel. I wanted to convey that we were still in the same phone call without using the same visual devices. I reused the poses from the previous page and just changed the positions and expressions slightly.  I thought the split and reverse of heavy blacks worked well. And I liked the wavy line!

Panel two: I wanted an emotional moment without a close up. Too many close ups lately! The 3/4 shot of me and Mother embracing shows emotion, and shows me out of "boy cosplay" in front of family for the first time. The action lines give it a little weight. Panel 3, the letter, was a strategic narrative choice. It brought the page to a satisfying conclusion, and said something about Mother's thought processes.

Tools used on this page:

  • Papers: tracing paper, various sketchbooks, Canson Bristol board
  • Pencils: Lyra 2B graphite stick, 4B lead and holder, 2B Ticonderoga classic, tech pencil and 4B lead
  • Erasers: kneadable, vinyl eraser, Click eraser
  • Hand Tools: 6" and 14" straightedge, triangle, T-square, French curves
  • Inking tools: Dr.Martin's Black Magic ink, nib and holder, Princeton Deerfoot 1/4" mini detailer brush (can't get enough of this brush!), Kingart 8 Gold Synthetic
  • Markers: Micron 0.25, 0.5, 0.6, 0.8, and Copic 0.25, Copic Brush and Micron small brush
  • And of course, Photoshop

 Next: Mother gets irritated.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 368: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p.10

 Time for the next page!

When we left, our heroine (me) was about to have The Talk with Mother.

Read on...

Well, isn't that the way we all hope it goes? Genuine unconditional acceptance.

To unpack (so to speak) the contents of this page: Coming out to family is one of the scariest things a trans person can do. Though I waited to (ostensible) adulthood and was at no risk of being expelled from my home, as happens to many of us, there's always the risk of losing family. I was lucky. I managed to hold onto much of my family. 

It's always a bit disturbing to draw my old self - "cosplaying male," as someone dear to me says. At this point, I'm beginning to transition, so it's not as unnerving. But it's part of the story and it needs to be told, so that's that.

These moments are so spartan that backgrounds disappear. I considered doing loose pencil backgrounds to give a sense of space, but elected to go sparse instead. This must be the 20th time I've drawn people on the phone, and the hands always give me fits! The thing to remember is that the hand is planar. The bulk of the palm is a big wedge. When you're holding something phone-ish, that plane follows that shape. I got a little carried away with inks on the last panel. That depth shadow on the cheek doesn't read quite right, but I can live with it. Might add it to the list- go back and change later. There were some artifact castes in the image capture- again with the gray tones from the paper! I chose to leave them in on that last panel.

The large black area in panel one is another approach to the challenge of drawing a phone call. I want to imply distance without overusing the old saw of the dividing phone cord- same problem as last week. This solution is new to me. While it gives the panel, and the page, good weight, I don't think it's a visual device I'll be using often. I do like what I've come to call the "Terry Moore arc"- an arc over two panels with a solid area or a texture. He has fallen away from it as a default device, but he used it reguarly in early Strangers in Paradise issues.

I chose to leave in some of the pencil lines. I like the rougher textures sometimes.

I enjoyed scumbling with a bit of dry brush on the hair. I find that technique shows up more and more in my work. I continually sense a potential breakthrough in my work. I'm most happy with my work when it's most flowing and fluid. If I could just have a breakthrough moment! Closer, closer...

Tool list:

  • Papers: tracing paper, various sketchbooks, Canson Bristol board
  • Pencils: Lyra 2B graphite stick, 4B lead and holder, 2B Ticonderoga classic, tech pencil and 4B lead
  • Erasers: kneadable, vinyl eraser, Click eraser
  • Hand Tools: 6" and 14" straightedge, triangle, T-square, French curves
  • Inking tools: Dr.Martin's Black Magic ink, nib and holder, Princeton Deerfoot 1/4" mini detailer brush (love this brush!), Escoda Kolinsky no. 4 brush, Alpine Series 7 Onyx .000
  • Markers: Micron 0.25, 0.5, 0.8, and Copic 0.25, Copic Brush and Micron small brush
  • And of course, Photoshop
Next: support and a caution.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 367: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 9

 Here we go with the next page.

When we left our adventure, our heroine (me) had just been introduced to- indoctrinated in?- Tolkein.

Read on.

Lots to unpack on this seemingly simple page. In the first panel, there's a quiet family moment. The younger brother reading the comic, a youthful me with a Beatles haircut reading a teen magazine, sporting the disaffected demeanor of a 14 year old. It felt light, so I added textures to the couch and a holding line to define the corner of the room. One of my Beta readers pointed out that the line also establishes division between me and the rest of the visible family.

The second panel went through several revisions. I had settled on a tight close up of Mother's eyes while she read, but I went with a profile shot of her instead. The scope of a stack of books and a random texture for a background got the message across more clearly. The randomness of the stack foreshadows later events in Mother's life. In a caption, I was able to allude to the passing of years with just a few words. This is an old comic artist's trick. How do you draw an army of 10,000 advancing soldiers? You draw two generals talking. One of them points off panel and says, "Look, here comes an army of 10,000 advancing soldiers!" Of course, if you're Al Williamson or Wally Wood, you just draw the furshlugginer army, to quote Harvey Kurtzman (yay, early MAD!). Yeah, I know it's a Yiddish word that he appropriated and that's not quite the right meaning. I'm okay with that. Hey, if it's good enough for Harvey....

The skipped years will show up in the next chapter, the one on my Father.

The final panel is subdivided. I was looking for a better way to convey an old school phone call. I like the visual device of a phone cord as a panel divider, but I've used it so many times, going back to the Tranny Towers strips (I haven't forgotten about my mad scheme to get those ancient scrolls back into print. Soon, my pretties....).  The device of isolating each speaker within a larger panel seemed to serve. I toyed with the idea of adding weight through a background texture in the white space between the circles, but it proved distracting in tissue overlays, so I again concluded that less is more. Another possibility considered and rejected: dropping the holding border. I also thought about doing a little arrow text box to call out the early 80s perm I briefly sported, but it seemed distracting and redundant. The perm also foreshadows my first tentative steps to being more publicly femme.Technical considerations: the shape and position of word balloons was embarrassingly bad. I was able to move things around in Photoshop with relative ease.

All told, a simple quiet page that advances the story. 

Tool list:

  • Papers: tracing paper, various sketchbooks, Canson Bristol board
  • Pencils: Lyra 2B graphite stick, 4B lead and holder, 2B Ticonderoga classic, tech pencil and 4B lead
  • Erasers: kneadable, vinyl eraser, Click eraser
  • Hand Tools: 6" and 14" straightedge, triangle, T-square, French curves
  • Inking tools: Dr.Martin's Black Magic ink, nib and holder, Princeton Deerfoot 1/4" mini detailer brush (love this brush!), Escoda Kolinsky no. 4 brush, Richeson Kolinsky  no. 2 brush
  • Markers: Micron 0.25, 0.6, 0.8, 1.0 and Copic 0.25
  • And of course, Photoshop
Next page: come out, come out....

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Original Art Sundays no. 366: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 8

 This one took a bit of doing. More about that in a minute.

For now, let's resume our story. Mother had just gotten some books, freshly published in the US(o so she thought) . In an unusual move, she offered to pay us to read them, and I took her up on the offer.

The astute Tolkien scholar will be aware that Mother was wrong. The first US publication was in 1954-56, with paprback volumes first appearing in 1965 from Ace Books. Editor Donald Wollheim contended that the works were public domain and printed them without approval. Due to fan pressure, this edition was withdrawn and Tolkien was paid a nominal royalty. The Ballantine paperbacks, the edition Mother got us, appeared in 1966, making the NY Times bestseller list. So Mother's claim was true, sort of, to the best of her knowledge.

I'll talk about my reaction to these books on the next page. These stories intertwine, and focus becomes crucial. I have to keep this chapter of the story about my relationship with Mother, and how it effected my life as a trans woman.

On the mechanics of this page: I had one of those "see the page in my mind" moments. When I started looking closely at the mental image, I realized it was pulled from Hildebrandt illustrations, the first Lord of the Rings movie, and this image by Rowena Morrill.

Sigh. I do love Alfred Bester.

I resolved to push the contrast by working with Coquille paper. This is a texture I love, and during my undergrad, I began a sequel to The Devil and Daniel Webster using this medium (another incomplete work!). I realized my plot was much like William Messner-Loebs' neglected work Welcome to Heaven, Dr. Franklin, so I moved on. But it was time to go back to Coquille, or as it's now marketed, stipple board.

I worked up numerous preliminary sketches, diligently laid out the page, redrew the hand holding the brush and the kid in the corner reading to take advantage of the board's texure, and dove in, working to capture the urgency of the encounter with the Balrog. The result was not without problems.

It works in part. Gandalf's pose is successful. I love the Balog's head, but the proportions of the rest of the critter- yeesh! Also, I dropped his bat wings off somewhere along the way. The bridge and the cavern work, but do not have the impact I hoped for.

What to do?

I mused on other possibilities. Different interpretation of the beast? Different angle? I liked the big dramatic moment aspect of this, but it just wasn't working. It was great fun to draw, but the end result just didn't have it. I had to accept that there was no saving this, at least not within my self-imposed deadline.

I resolved to keep the parts I liked and move on from the rest. 

Around the same time, Mother used to read the work of self-proclaimed psychic Edgar Cayce (but really, aren't all psychics self-proclaimed?). Late in her life, I asked her why, since it was so far afield from her beliefs. She got one of her classic introspective expressions and said, "well, I look at a lot of ideas, keep what's of value, and discard the rest." That's a good philosophy for resolving art and storytelling problems. I also realized that since so many skilled artists have tackled this material over the decades, I was setting myself up by trying to match or exceed them, and resolved to just compete with myself- never easy! I went back to my 64 page outline and looked at the rough for this page. It served as an effective model, a viable alternative. Again using stipple board, I did the primary illustration for the more successful page that leads this post. I composited it with border elements from the less successful Balrog page, and achieved a satisfying result. I could have gone another version, but again, deadlines. 

I wanted to give a sense of both the reader's involvement with Lord of the Rings and the thrill of the work itself. 

I greatly enjoyed working the China marker and scumbling brushes. This page (pages) took much longer than usual, but I was having such fun! I like working in loose flowing lines and textures. The pages and images that satisfy me the most tend to use these. I seldom do battle scenes. I want to be better at them, so I should do more!

Materials list is extensive on these pages.

  • Papers: tracing paper, various sketchbooks, 32 pound stipple paper
  • Pencils: Lyra 2B graphite stick, 4B lead and holder, 2B Ticonderoga classic, China marker
  • Erasers: kneadable, vinyl eraser, Click eraser
  • Hand Tools: 6" and 14" straightedge, triangle, T-square, French curves
  • Inking tools: Dr.Martin's Black Magic ink, nib and holder, Princeton Deerfoot 1/4" mini detailer brush, Escoda Kolinsky no. 4 brush, Richeson Kolinsky  no. 2 brush, red ballpoint pen
  • Markers: Micron 0.6, 0.8, 1.0 and Copic 0.25
  • And of course, Photoshop

Next: book club and a parting of sorts.


Sunday, June 18, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 365: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 7

 Once more into the adventure!

When we left our hapless/intrepid family, the kids (us) were coming into their own, slowly. Mother had begun taking painting classes on night a week.

One night, she had news.

Continuing the brush stroke motif from last page. This motif will carry on for one more page.

Story and art notes intertwine on this page.

The astute observer will note that the hand has moved down the page a bit, but the left panel border is still defined by the implied brush stroke. In the original art, I had the hand a bit higher on the page, but it was too close to the location on the previous page to imply motion. Minimal corrections on this page, primarily eliminating the local color of the paper in Photoshop. I sometimes have luck with the Threshold command in this process, but with the bit of wash on the last panel, that wasn't an option today. Threshold has an almost bitmap effect, making everything rather stark and dropping gray values.

I am reusing the rather static panel with everyone sitting around the dining table as an establishing image for the page, with some minor changes in pose and slight aging of the kids. Perhaps the aging is too subtle, but my Beatles haircut was on point for my age of 14. I don't know if there will be a page in the book for this or not, but I was originally forbidden to listen to The Beatles. Once they got a Saturday morning cartoon show, it was somehow okay.


I learned to draw The Beatles in this style by copying a TV Guide article on the cartoon series!

There may or may not be a chapter on music at some point. It's such a huge part of my life, but I do want to keep this book focused on the main theme (and under 500 pages!). I have to focus on the three things this book is about: growing up relatively poor, trans identity and domestic abuse.

The art in the last panel is slightly more complex than my usual work. This is a lead-in to the next page. 

Tool list, just because it's been a while:

  • Sketchbooks
  • Canson Bristol Board
  • Lead holder with 4B leads, 4B pencil, graphite stick
  • Plastic eraser, Click Eraser
  • Whiteout pen
  • Dr. Martin's Black Star Matte ink (full concentrate and wash)
  • Pen nibs and holders
  • Brushes:  Grumbacher no. 2 flat, Escoda no.4 Kolinsky, Princeton 1/4" mini detailer
  • X-Acto #11 blade, cutting matte
  • Photoshop
Next: the books being read.


Sunday, June 11, 2023

Original Art Sundays no. 364: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 6

 On to the next page of our story. I rather like this one.

When we left our family, Esther was starting to pull her life back together while she raised five children alone.

Now that the framework is solidly in place, we can get to the meat of Mother's story. 

Story notes: As Mother started to come into her own, so did the kids. We were finding our own voices, developing interests. Like many kids of the mid-late 60s, we bonded over TV. My sisters and I developed a fascination with The Monkees. I stuck with them more fervently than my sisters did. We often took the books, art and music that surrounded us for granted. That was soon to change. More on that on next week's page.

Art notes: The visual device of the brush stroke defining the left border of the panel will be repeated over the next two pages. I worked up a decent sketch of a hand doing a brush stroke, scaled it and printed a few copies. It will serve as a unifying narrative device. The first panel is from photo reference, with some liberties in perspective, intended to show that our lives were full but a bit off-kilter. For the middle panel, I tried 6 different layouts - Mother running out of the room, Mother looking back as she leaves, the closeup of a child's eye with Mother leaving in the eye, and so on. I finally resolved that even though this is her chapter, she doesn't need to appear in the panel at all. In fact, this page is unusual in that there are no face shots of anyone! This is almost like leaving myself out of a page. I've noted before that most graphic memoirs show the creator/subject on every page. Alison Bechdel broke this rule in her two most recent memoirs, but not in her first, Fun Home. I don't know if it's as much a rule as just the way things work out. At any rate, it's refreshing to shake up reader expectations as well as my own.

The astute viewer will note that the furniture and room layout are slightly different than previously represented. This is both artistic license and an acknowledgment that time has passed. 

For several years after Mother passed, I made small books reproducing her art and writing for the family. For the last panel, I scoured one of those books, and found a work that was period specific and had a good range of gray values. Rather than incorporating a photo of the actual painting, I opted to do a wash rendering of it. 

I'm happiest with my work when I let it flow. A solid layout is a tool, a means to an end, not an end in itself, to paraphrase Robert Fripp. I've been revising the master book, as mentioned last week. In noticing what works best, the most successful pages are those where I just explore visual ideas to advance the story. As an artist, I seem to be escaping the confines of my own expectations, whatever that means!

Finally, I re-titled this chapter from the outline. It's not about hands the same way songs like Bill Withers'  Grandma's Hands (which I love even though he sings flat) are about hands. It's not about specific things the hands are doing. I am spotlighting hands throughout this chapter. Their appearance and actions reinforce different parts of the story and character. I hope that's clear. I'm not sure how else to articulate it.

Next: the brush stroke continues.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Original Art Sundays no. 363: Sharp Invitiations: Esther's Hands, p. 5

Next page of the story. For continuity, this story comes after the squirrel story and before the job story. I've been reorganizing the book. While there's still much work to do, I'm pleasantly surprised by the progress I've made. 

When we left, Mother was patching together a life for herself and her five kids.

I made a text change to the previous page, throwing in a line about my baby brother. I am reposting that before the new page.


Hm. Posting multiple pages reinforces narrative. I've made this observation before, but it's easy to forget. 

When I started this book, I prepared a 64 page outline/template. This part of the story was a point where things were about to change for the better. I reviewed the outline, and found I was about to leave out some vital background information. After a couple experiments, I found the layout in the outline was almost exactly what was needed. This page sets up the evolution of the family and builds on my childhood. It also shows Mother's character in the grape incident! To this day, I try not to "sample" in stores.

Art notes: This page is sparse, but it works. I'd like to push these pages a bit farther in terms of light/dark, but my work tends to be fairly bright. More dark on upcoming pages, so perhaps balance is a good thing. I made a layout gaffe in setting up the page, but was able to make it work anyway. Fortunate, since I didn't discover the problem until I was almost done! Using the old saw of adding line for background texture in panels two and three. First panel: maybe it could be darker. I tried a couple things on overlays, wasn't happy with the results, and decided to leave well enough alone.

In the original layout, the turkey panel was another group shot. I didn't want to overuse that, especially as we had a full family shot on the previous page, so decided to just do the bird, so to speak. In general, a pretty straightforward page. Necessary to the story, but not stunning. I'm happy with it anyway.

New tools this week: Added a .25 Copic marker and a Pentel click eraser to the toolbox. Otherwise, largely the same as on past pages.

Next: the brush.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 362: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 4

 Back in the saddle again, with another page. This one took a while, mostly due to other time commitments. The page itself was a simple enough page, but it gave me fits. For some reason, I couldn't get it to work. It was a serviceable page, but so dull. The first tier was okay, but the second tier- snore.

After several false starts and a collaboration with Kevyn Lenagh, creator of Domino Chance, I came up with a pragmatic approach to the second tier. Split out the right panel into two, and change the perspective on the first panel. I was finally able to put the page to bed today. I was pleasantly surprised that she liked the page more than I did!

When we left off, Mother had four kids, and Dad, who was away on military duty, had just met someone - else.

Narrative notes: At a family reunion recently, I talked with my sister and my cousin about the ethics of naming names in this work. Their view was that if someone is living, they should not be named. I don't completely agree, but when I'm done with this work, before I go to press, I will delete the name of Dad's second wife. In the text of the first panel, I bounced back and forth between "your kids" and "our kids." I landed on the former, thinking it was consistent with his abrogating responsibility while she didn't. A crucial detail, the fact that Mother was pregnant again when Dad made his announcement, was left out of this page, but will be worked into the next page. I alluded to it by having 5 kids instead of 4 at the dining room table.

Visual notes: This page is intended to provide more background. It is, of necessity, a "workhorse" page. With the framework in place, I can be more adventurous on the next page. The top tier is fairly effective- the old saw of the phone cord works on pre cel phone stories. I like the graphite as night in panel 3. Panels 4 and 5 do what they should do and advance the story, but still lack emotional impact. In this case, I reluctantly decided that it was best to let the text carry the story. I kept the original top tier and reworked the second tier on a separate page, then went into Photoshop and mashed them together.

No tool list this time. Pretty straightforward.

Next: the kids grow a bit and Mother starts to find her way out.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 361: Sharp Invitiations: Esther's Hands, p. 3

 Here we go with the next page of Mother's story.

This is another text heavy page. There's a need to communicate a lot of information in a short time to get to the part that's essential to this narrative.

While the whole family history is challenging and always full of surprises (as noted by my sisters in their genealogy research), I want to keep this about the prime foci of this book: class issues, trans issues and domestic abuse survival. To tell that story (my story), I must leave out a lot of peripheral matters, no matter how interesting they are. Distill the story to essentials.

There's also the issue of ethics. I talked this chapter over with my sister, who is very private. I will only include the names of siblings and other relatives when absolutely essential to the story. 

Art notes: I could have just used photos again here, but I wanted to spend some time hand rendering from reference. The bar scene is obviously pure speculation, since I only know in very general terms when Dad and Audrey met, and not under what specific circumstances. I debated giving her a pseudonym, but since their subsequent marriage is a matter of public record, I didn't see any point. More about her in the next chapter, the one on Dad. The point here is to quickly establish the foundation for my relationship with my Mother as it pertains to the issues in this book.

Art and process: the old school photo border on the top image isn't part of the original photo, but I think it serves the theme of the page. For the second image, I just hunted up 1950s images of officers' clubs and cocktail parties, and put together something plausible. Basic tools on this page, with almost all the lettering done in Photoshop. I went to an old device for the border on the second panel- hard rule in pencil and freehand the inked border. I haven't used that device a lot in this book, but it works here.

Next: Mother's story meets another story.

Original Art Sundays no. 360: Sharp Invitiations: Crooning (single page story)

 Okay, doing two posts today. I missed a couple weeks, partially due to a positive COVID test and dealing with my health and navigating the health care system. I'm on the mend, and have rallied enough to create more work.

First up, something more from the Curt story, or at least from that time frame. Delia and I were walking downtown in Minneapolis, and....

(giggling at the memory)

Actually, we just traded some lines from Hendrix's Hey Joe, but it works better this way. This was a nice bit of fun. It's been a while since I did a single-page gag story. I broke my own rule and used more formal tools on this: pen and ink, markers, Bristol board. When I've done these in the past, they have been freehand with ballpoint pens on typing paper. But I wanted to be a bit tighter with this one and maintain that loose airy feel. As is often the case, I second guess myself a bit on backgrounds, but I'm pretty happy with this. And it's a good gag, even with the cornball "round of applause" in panel 5. The characters in background in that panel are sketchy, much like those in some panels of Omaha.

I also wanted to give the street person respect. They don't get enough of that.

Next: back to Mother's story.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 359: pin-up page: Blue Wild Abandon

 Taking a day away from the big story. It's my birthday today, and I felt an impulse. Yeah, the graphic memoir is important and I like doing it, but as anyone who's worked in nonfiction (even creative nonfiction) knows, there are certain constraints. Some things HAVE TO BE RIGHT, which can stall the creative drive. Plus, have fun with your art!

There's this character who has been popping into my sketchbooks and ideas in various forms for years. She's starting to take shape, but she's elusive! It started with the title van Dyke Parks song from Clang of the Yankee Reaper. The song includes the line "out in the blue wild abandon." I was charmed by the line and thought it would make a great character name. Eventually, she tied into the random sketches. An idea tickled me. I came to see that was the name of that character, and finally the story takes shape. I did post a sketch of her during Inktober this year.

I won't say a ton about the story here, other than that it's an homage to a favorite Western, Have Gun Will Travel. I particularly like the moral challenges in the episodes written by Harry Julian Fink, and I hope to capture that tone and energy in Ms. Abandon's stories.

I thought about making this a book cover, but soon realized that it was an old-school pin-up page, like they used to do in 60s Marvel comics. So fun, so exciting!

So many decisions! I have a very specific look for her. I need to work up some model sheets. This is very close, but not quite it. Her assistant is Marilyn, the robot who also debuted in this year's Inktober scrawling. That's vital. The assistant character in the source series is Kim Chang, called Hey Boy for much of the series. While the show made a genuine effort to overcome the racism of the era, it's still there, and Blue's helper cannot be such a character. The robot with a personality is also a tired trope, but I have schemes to make Marilyn a fresh character.

So much fun playing in Photoshop on this. I want to do some hand painted pieces of her, but that's another day. The first book is plotted and preliminary character sketches are in place. The book will be B & W with color covers. And there may be paper dolls in her future....

Mostly conventional tools on this. Bristol, pen and ink, brushes, erasers, straightedge, a little whiteout. It turned out well.

Next, back to the memoir.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Original Art Sundays no. 358: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, pp. 1 and 2

 Into the next chapter!

This will be a bit faster and less emotionally charged than the Curt chapter. Planned and drafted at 10 pages, probably come in around 20. This chapter deals with my relationship with my mother, and with how she handled my transition.

This chapter comes before the chapters on work, surgery and Curt in the final book.

Very open layout on these. I plan to use her style in drawing this as much as possible. Since her style and mine are similar anyway, this shouldn't be a challenge. These pages are necessary background. I toyed with just doing the first panel, the horseback shot, in pencil, and finally decided to leave the soft background in pencil and do minimal erasing. The wedding party photo is not my work, of course, but it does belong here. I considered re-drawing it, and opted for straight photography instead. Both schools of thought are valid. In Fun Home, Alison Bechdel renders photographs, but The Magical Tack of Long Tack Sam uses photos, objects, collages.... it's a memoir. Go with what works.

Pretty much the standard tool list on these, a bit heavy on the Photoshop. I did use a new #1 brush on that first panel. 

Next: marriage to a serviceman, kids, complications....

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 357: Sharp Invitations: Curt, final pages

 Hi again.

Took an extra week to complete these pages. I hope you'll find the wait worthwhile!

When we left Diana and Jenny, they (we) were motoring back from Curt's trial in Madison. Please join us for the aftermath.


That concludes this chapter. 

It was such a humbling experience to have the people who survived all this with me, the women who put up with this nonsense, beside me at its culmination. Like Pete Townshend said in Somebody Saved Me, all I know is I've been making it- there have been times I didn't deserve to. I really don't know if I believe in ritual power or not. But whether we were invoking outside forces or giving me a healing moment of catharsis, it worked. And I'm sure his dying shortly after the ritual, 250 miles away and unknown to me for 10 years, was coincidence. Really, pure coincidence. You can't prove a thing. You got nothing on me, coppers!

I'm tempted to include a section on repercussions, to talk about how these effects scarred me in unexpected ways over the years. But I have other things to say before the book is done, and some of that will present itself in the coda.

My original outline, based on the ten chapters in my 64 page draft edition, was to deal with this as a small part of my life. This chapter comprised 10 pages of the outline. Turns out I had more to say about it than about some other parts. Ultimately, the book is about three things: trans stuff, class issues (to a small degree), and surviving in general, with surviving abuse as a specific aspect of that.  One of the original ten chapters is gone. It's a good story, but not for this book. The remaining chapters will cover my mother (6 - 10 pages), my father (about the same), sex and sexuality coupled with gender concerns (another 12 pages as now planned), and the coda, which ran 12 pages in a recent rewrite. About 50 pages, give or take.

Then it's done, aside from edits (assuming I get a publisher).

My big concern about the book is that it not be too grim, sad, or unrelenting. I've known plenty of joy along the way, and I want that to come across too.

Art notes: 

Getting a handle on these pages was a challenge, the second page more than the first. These are fairly static, minimal action pages. On the ritual page, there was one big action that served as the focal point. I'm not a big fan of sound effects in my work. I played with adding something here, but it didn't really gel. Technique is pretty straightforward on these, with minimal Photoshop corrections. I'm developing my own set of tools as the work evolves: sparse backgrounds, use of gray value from pencil to weight the visuals of more airy pages and panels, and a deliberate sense of framing. That last drawn panel on the second page turned out okay- everyone sitting around the table celebrating quietly. The final page is lifted verbatim from the draft edition. What can I say? Sometimes it's right the first time. I just took a traditional 35mm photograph from back in the day, scanned it and added text.

The tools used here are much the same as on the previous posted pages, so no updates necessary. I did get a porcelain escargot dish to use for inking, based on the recommendation of Terry Moore, and it's pretty cool.

Next: the chapter on Mother begins. I will need to find a better title for that one! In the draft the title was Esther and Gandalf, and I don't care for that at all now!