Sunday, June 16, 2024

Original Art Sundays no. 370: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands: Interlude, last page

 And now for the conclusion of the graveyard interlude.

So I made it home after a mostly homeless summer, and started another chapter. How I came to the homeless status is part of the Dad story, coming after the Mother story. College was completely unexpected, a new adventure. 

While working on this, I'm prepping several projects for print and sale at Autoptic in August. Quite excited about this!

Story notes: there were other people there when I walked in the door, notably Grandma and a cousin I'm particularly fond of- almost a sister, really. But in the interest of narrative flow, I streamlined it a bit. Again, no overt trans content this week, though that remains the overarching theme of the book.

Along those lines, I'm only including one page of my junior college years. That's next week, a moment of timidity. 

Art notes: used gouache for the whiteout where necessary. Graphite stick for gray values.The scan is- what's the technical term? - oh, yeah. Crap. A lot of the subtle graphite textures are washing out.  I will rescan on better equipment ASAP. Restore gray values and pump the background tones. The lines are very light. This page is all graphite and markers.I worked from photo reference on panels 1 and 3, and took poses from the graphic novel Left Turns by Joshua Ross on panels 5 and 6. If you haven't read that book, do yourself a favor. It's a great study of quiet intimacy and introspection. 

I really like the embrace in panel 3. Overall, I'm pleased with this page. Decent flow, tight storytelling for such a simple yet eloquent moment.

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: Tight Spot correction brush, Holbein white gouache
  • Markers: Copic 0.25, 0.3, 0.8, 1.0, Faber Castell brush, LePen brush, Copic Brush and Micron small brush
  • And of course, Photoshop
Next: a moment of cowardice watching TV.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Original Art Sundays No. 379: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, Interlude, page 3

 Posting a page from the story of Mother on Mother's Day, of course.

When we left our hapless trio, they (we) were sleeping in a cemetery.

Now it's morning.

Again, trying to emulate Bode in some aspects of layout- use of borders and isolation of text, mostly. Much as I like his stuff, my style really isn't much like his.

Story notes: not much to tell. This is pretty much the way it happened. I wouldn't see John and Stu again for about 3 years. No overt trans content in this interlude. I am amused, however, at how shocked people seem to be today by hitchhiking. I don't think I'd do it now unless there was no choice, but back then it was a default method of travel. Either it was harmless or we were oblivious to the risk. Either way, I came through unscathed. There was a running gag between hitchhikers that the fastest way to get a ride was to have a sign that read HOME TO MOTHER.

Process, layout and technique: the challenge is keeping the reader cued with minimal elements. I deliberately avoided overcrowding this page. I pushed the textures on the bush in Panel 3, but I'm not sure if it reads fully. The text block between panels 3 and 4 was originally an open field of white, but in a moment of brilliance, I reversed it in PS. Gives the page a little more weight and helps the text stand out.

The other challenge in this kind of layout is border manipulation. I tried to go with the two principles of Bode borders (say that three times real fast): isolate text and image, and make panel elements part of the border. I like the sparseness of this page, and I think I hit the balance and included not just enough information, but the right information.

We have one more page of this interlude, and then back to the regular Mother story. 

I'm toying with the idea of doing a short print run of the Curt story as a stand alone publication. I have applied to table at a local indy con, and it could be interesting to see if anyone wants it. 

Materials: I did get a couple new brushes recently, but they're not used on this page. Pretty much the same tools as last time, so I will forego the equipment list for now.

Next: I get home.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Original Art Sundays no. 378: Sharp Invitiations: Esther's Hands: Interlude, page 2

 The next page of our interlude, in which the meaning of the title becomes apparent.

Continuing to work in Vaughn Bodé mode. The primary factors are the isolation of text and image, and the use of panel elements as parts of the borders. I wanted to keep the lettering loose but legible. To get the deep night effect, I toyed with a deep graphite over the inks, but finally decided on a deep wash, going for a misty effect.

The first panel went through several images. The problem was that it was too static. I mean, a bunch of people eating. I finally decided to concentrate on the emotions, to try to convey the sense of being fed after a long trip. This is the third or fourth time I've included a cemetery in a story. The challenge is that, despite usually strong upkeep, they are often desolate looking places. There's also a variety to tombstones and monuments that the casual observer overlooks. The 1987 Concrete story Now is Now is an excellent example of a well-drawn cemetery narrative. Leave it to the great Paul Chadwick! As regards the cemetery in THIS story, I'm pretty happy with the final result, but as I often do, I might tweak it before going to press. I looked up the actual cemetery, but it's visually boring, so I worked with memory and my renewed artistic license.

Including the rest of this interlude, there's less than 10 pages less to the Mother story. Then comes Daddy's Song, approximately the same length, 15 - 20 pages. I'm incorporating some smaller but significant story elements into these two chapters, so the book doesn't drag. I hope they're not offended, but several significant people in my life are mentioned only in passing, in the interest of advancing the narrative.

The final chapter is currently planned for 20 pages.

Foregoing tool list again this week. Suffice to say, nothing not frequently used before except a 1/4" Windsor Newton flat brush used for washes. I've had that brush forever- no idea where I got it! It's very floppy and works quite playfully.

Next: morning in the graveyard.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Original Art Sundays No. 377: Sharp Invitiations: Esther's Hands, Interlude, page 1

 Hi again!

This is a short interlude. I almost left this out, but my girlfriend said it was an engaging story. On review, I decided it belonged in The Book.

As always, notes on content and process follow.

Read on.

The title alludes to the focus of this little story, planned to run four pages. While it doesn't deal with trans stuff directly, it says a lot about Mother and shows something of where I was at just after high school: aimless, drifting. The three of us- John, Stu and me. Sigh. There's a book in that too, but some stories deserve privacy.

I wince a bit at drawing myself pre-transition. It's sometimes necessary for the story, but... brr. I was downright scrawny in my post high school years, and I've tried to show that here,

Stylistically, I'm paying loose homage to my man Vaughn Bodé in this story. This is a tremendous opportunity to play with borders like he did. I love the use of ground elements -foreground, midground and background - to define panel borders. It works better in color, but it's an effective tool here too.

I'm just going to get the key moments of my relationship with Mother, especially those related to trans stuff, down, then reorder the story.

Foregoing equipment list on this one.

Next: arrival and an unwelcome turn of events.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Original Art Sundays No. 376: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 14

Well, we're back! It's been hectic, but I have a couple new pages to post. I've had this done for a couple weeks, but there's finally time to post!

First, the next page of Esther's Hands.

Story notes: for most of this chapter, the story is random memories of Mother, mostly related to trans stuff, since that's the main focus of the book. Some other material finds its way in. I suspect I will reorder these pages before going to press. As for the memories, don't we all remember people by random events? Some little thing happens that reminds one of something, which reminds us of...

This moment was quite stirring for me. It was one of those times when you realize that you can always learn from your Mother. I was in my mid 40s and was sure I knew everything.

Craft notes: Kept this one simple. The constant challenge of keeping dialogue heavy pages visually interesting applies here. The personal issue is that the living room looks quite sparse in contrast to its true cluttered/chaotic status. A conscious choice to edit reality for the sake of the narrative. I like the way Mother is drawn in panel 3. Just a few well place lines show so much age. I opted for fabric textures and graphite on clothing to give the page weight. 

Not doing an equipment list on this one. Pretty standard, much like previous lists. Page turned out pretty clean, so minimal Photoshop was used, mostly levels and curves to get the light/dark balance down.

Next: a strange interlude.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Original Art Sundays No. 375: Surrealist Cowgirls Sheet Music Cover!

As my first Kickstarter continues (ten days left!), I'm working on new classes and plotting on the *BIG* graphic memoir, while I expand writing on a rekindled older project.

One of the items in the Surrealist Cowgirls book is sheet music for a ditty I composed as their theme.

Here's the B & W version of the sheet music cover.

I will add color to this and use it as the back cover for the book.

Lots of stuff here I like. Of course, my beloved Cowgirls. Maggie in a skirt, which we've never seen before. Homage to the vintage sheet music covers I adore so. I had some fun rendering the envirnonment, which I think is successful. The balloon sailing across the moon is a small homage to a neglected film, OZ the Great and Powerful, evoking my passion for all things Oz.

No need for an equipment list on this one. It's pretty much the same as last week's.

I plan to get the coloring done mid-week and will post it then. Expect something completely new in the next Original Art Sundays!

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Original Art Sundays no. 374: Sharp Invitations: Esther's Hands, p. 14

Back with the next page of my graphic memoir.

Trans stuff comes and goes in this chapter. Mother had accepted me as her daughter, even if I didn't always behave as she might have liked. But what about her?

 This was a tricky page from a narrative standpoint. Static storyline, just one or two old ladies sitting around in a cluttered house. I broke out some new Copic markers that I rather like, and used some Faber Castell gray markers on some of the values, along with the pencils.

Drawing clutter is tricky. How does one render chaos in a believable way? I worked from memory and the scant photo reference I had on hand. The solution is to include some plausible objects that are out of context. The image in Panel 5 is a reasonably accurate approximation of the house. In a page or two, I'll be drawing part of the kitchen. That will be a challenge!

The idea of Mother fading away as her life became more - let's say sequestered by choice and design - was the impetus for panels two, four and six. It's very close to my original vision for this page. I have to remind myself of my aphorism for my students. You never get 100% of your vision into the work, but sometimes you close in on it.

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: Copic 0.25, 0.3, 0.8, 1.0, Faber Castell gray brush, Copic Brush and Micron small brush
  • And of course, Photoshop
Next: Mother puts up with me. Not always an easy feat!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Kickstarter Follow-up 2: Surrealist Cowgirls, Kevyn Lenagh cover colored!

 HI all!

Took a couple minutes to add color to the alternative cover for my current Kickstarter.

I might play with the text a bit more. I like the Western feel of it, but I'm not sure it reads.  But overall, I'm very happy with this. I've had few other artists draw my beloved Cowgirls, and Kevyn's work charms me! Also, this is the first time I've colored Domino Chance!

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Kickstarter follow-up: Kevyn Lenagh Cover!

 Quick follow up to yesterday's post.

The campaign started slow, but is picking up steam. One of the rewards is an alternative cover by Kevyn Lenagh. I just got the art a couple days ago and did some quick typography. 

The astute viewer will note the presence of Kevyn's iconic character Domino Chance!

It's in black and white right now, but I'm adding color. But hey, I really like the B & W!

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Announcement: Kickstarter Make 100 Project

 HI all,

Just a quick announcement. My first Kickstarter, Make 100: Surrealist Cowgirls 80 Page Giant is live through the end of January.

Loyal readers are already familiar with the Cowgirls and know how much fun I have with them! I hope you take a look at the campaign and spread the word!

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Original Art Sundays No 373: More Inktober

 Well, now that the hectic semester is done and my first Kickstarter goes live soon, I can devote more time to posting art.

FYI, the Kickstarter is a Surrealist Cowgirls 80 Page Giant! 

Here are a few more Inktober pieces from this year.

 Another one for the guitar book- good old Judy Jetson! Done on a backing board. Combination of ink and marker. Fast, loose and fun (the art, not Judy).

My stab at doing The Spirit. Always fond of this character. Eisner's work on this helped shaped my perception of everyday stories being told in comics. Almost all freehand, lots of ink and brush and just a bit of marker.

Oh, I like this one! This is Marie Severin, based on a painting by Johnny Craig. The painting ran in the book Marie Severin- the Mirthful Mistress of Comics. I think Marie's work was sometimes stronger than her brother John's work, and that's saying a lot!

Another one for the guitar book. This was based on a drawing on the inside cover of a Harry Chapin album. Harry's albums often had eloquent illustrations of the lyrics. I could have pushed this farther, but I was happy with where it stopped. Did a quick underdrawing and just went with it, correcting as I went. Lots of Micron markers on this one.

Took a couple stabs at this one. Obvious shot from The Prisoner, a perennial favorite series. It's tricky because of star Patrick McGoohan's almost complete lack of eyebrows! Marker for the mechanical lines only. The rest was nib and brush. The astute observer will note more drybrush at the base of the image.

Thomas Sondegard, artistic director of the MN Orchestra. I haven't gone very much this season, and I do miss it. This was a copy from a promo mailing. I took a couple minor design liberties. This is almost all brush work.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 372: An Inktober miscellany

Well, that really got away from us! Between midterms, union work, concerts and starting new projects, I only completed about half of Inktober this year and haven't posted for a while. Now that I have a minute to breathe, I'd like to share some of this year's completed works.

My vision of the Warpsmith, inspired by Neil Gaiman's current run at finishing Miracleman. I have very mixed feelings about how the storyline seems to be resolving, but I'm very pleased with the quality of the work. This is straight pen and ink, with some brush work here and there.


October 5. This was based on a comic cover, a book titled MAMO from Boom Box (2021). This is on gray paper, mostly ink and brush. I'm working with Sumi-e ink here. I like the quiet meditative feel of this.


 October 12. My take on the iconic Sugar & Spike. I revere these characters. Such smart fun! I seldom draw in this less formal style, but I always enjoy it when I do. 

Dc really blew it in reprinting these. It's one of the best kids' books ever done, so yeah, let's bring it out in a $60 hardcover! Good thinking, moguls.

October 13. Another vision of my elusive character Blue Wild Abandon! Black and white ink on colored paper. I came into a stack of miscellaneous colored papers and have been enjoying them no end.

October 15. Brush and Sumi-e ink.Playing with Japanese floating world ideas and having some fun drawing a kitty.

I have quite a few more, but these are the ones I have ready to put in this long overdue post!

Next: either new page or the rest of these.


Sunday, October 1, 2023

Original Art Sundays No. 371: Inktober '23, Day One

 This promises to be a very hectic week: midterms, two concerts and a visit from my sweetheart. Yeah, I know, first world problems. Be that as it may, I did want to get art posted, whether I had time for a new page today or not. As Inktober has begun, here's Day One!

This was inspired by a panel from the Phil Jiminez chapter of Wonder Woman: Historia. Rather than to try to bring my modest skills to the pinnacle of Phil's work, I made a couple modifications to make it my own.

The core concept, poses and basic layout are all Phil's, of course. Somewhere along the way, I garnished a small stack of Canson colored papers. I noticed by sepia inks, which got quite a workout during Inktober last year, and inspiration struck. I've been fascinated by the notion of white color pencil highlights on color stock, so that came into play as well. Not sure if the clouds are working, but they were a whim, and I'm fine with them as such.

Last two years, I made it through the whole month of Inktober. I hope to make it 3:3 this year. As with past years, I don't give two figs about the suggested prompts. I just want to try to stretch myself as an artist, as an inker, and see where it takes me. 


  • Canson textured paper
  • 4B lead and holder
  • Rubber eraser
  • 2 shades of sepia ink
  • Pen nib and holder
  • Connoisseur Series  7 Kolinksy brush # 0
  • White colored pencil

Next: More Inktober, the next page of Sharp Invitations, or possibly both!