Sunday, July 24, 2011

Original Art Sundays No. 96: Oddment: window light photography

Another blast from the past. But not too blasted out, we hope!
This photo was done using only window light.

I like the textures a lot. The subject's contemplative expression is in quizzical contrast to the brightness of the image, and the textures and folds of the fabric are fascinating. The scan is not completely faithful to the print, but holds most of the texture.
I scanned this in RGB, adjusted levels of each channel individually, then desaturated and faded the desaturation to get maximum range.
When I was teaching a liberal arts course in summer session (high school students going for college credit), I was extolling the virtues of negatives and the darkroom.
Yeah, compared to Photoshop, it's a big clunky mess, but there really is no experience comparable to making art- any art- by hand.
next week: back to Tranny Towers, as we gear up for Original Art Sundays no. 100 in four weeks!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Comic Book Antiquity No. 2: Powermowerman by Vaughn Bode'

The next post in my sporadic series of comic book antiquities.  No. 1 was the first work of Jeffrey Catherine Jones. I've been meaning to post this piece for a while now.
Here's the never reprinted Powermowerman by Vaughn Bode!!

Folks, this thing was a bear to color correct. The cheap paper had yellowed substantially. It's not stapled, it's glued. That's why the spread for pages 9 and 10 looks a bit off. The binding keeps it from opening properly. Also, the "cover" is plain newsprint. And I don't think the printing was so great when the book first came out. But I've tried to correct to the original colors, based solely on my experience of Vaughn's work.
This was one of those comic book giveaways intended as educational. Every year at the County Fair when I was a kid, for example, they had stacks of The True Story of Smokey Bear comics. I'm not sure what the distribution model for this book was, but it sure is hard to find now!  My guess is that lawnmower and agricultural equipment stores gave it away as a promotional device, which would explain the space for a store sticker on the back cover.
I count myself lucky to have a copy, and luckier still to be able to share it.
Here's what Vaughn said about it in The Vaughn Bode Index:
Folks, don't ever think I didn't try like a son-of-a-bitch to get rich. Alas, every time I went for bucks, my heart started wilting, and soon my cartoons forced me back on the path to harmony.
I was given just two weeks to complete the entire book! I had to write, draw and color key all of this while I was an art student at Syracuse University....
PMM made me feel a little sleezy, greenish.
The tentative quality of the work betrays the fact that's it's early in Vaughn's career. Many of the angles used are either straight-on or profile, with some remarkable exceptions, like the aerial shot of the bird in the 6th panel of page 6. The text hints at some of Vaughn's later poetry and wit, with lines like "oh, he really knows how to hurt a cad". And the colors are pure Bode'!
Also, I can't help wondering if the design of The Scamp's vehicle was an influence on the villain's vehicle design here:

I always liked that critter that Obi-Wan was riding in this bit. I just call it a puppy, although it's obviously not.
Not sure what I'll do next in this comic series, hence the term sporadic. I'm trying to reserve the series for obscure works unlikely to be reprinted, and the next one hasn't jumped out at me yet. But it will, and I will.
Until then: enjoy.

Original Art Sundays No. 95: A private Myth, p. 23, rough

Yeah, I know. Last week I was going on about working spontaneously, and here I am posting process.
Well, I want to make Book 1 of A Private Myth as good as I can, and after reviewing the work to date, and noting that I have about 1/3 of the pages to date that I want to rework, I think maybe I can save myself some grief if I do a more consistent job up front.
If that takes more time, that's what it takes.
Here's the rough layout for the next page.

And I'm not kidding when I say rough!
But it's an important step, one that helps the evolution of the page and the story, and reminds me to keep an eye on continuity issues.
I was chatting during breakfast last week with Andrew Dobson of So You're A Cartoonist? fame. Check out his work at the link, it's quite good.
He was adamant in his conviction that in order to build a readership, a Web comic artist needs to post 2 or 3 times weekly.
He has a point. And perhaps I should.
But I have the time I have, and I will tell my stories at my own pace. I mean really, unless it's paying work, what else can I do?
I only hope the story's good enough that people want to stick around for it.
Next week: an oddment.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Original Art Sundays No. 94: Surrealist Cowgirls, It Does This, p. 7

Back in the saddle again (me or the Cowgirls?).
Either way, here we go with the next page.

I'm a tad concerned that this page is too light, but other than that,  I'm pretty happy with it.
I really like the transparency I got on the sneeze sound effect.
The story is going some  dangerous places in the next few pages. But I have some basic rules for the Cowgirls: the story must always be at least a bit silly, it must have a fair amount of action, and it must always be a romance at its core.
I try not to use too many sound effects. I agree with Alan Moore- you can't see sound. Look how effective the jailbreak scene is Watchmen is - no words or sound effects visible in the panel, yet it's a very loud image.
I've been thinking a lot about the way I work lately. My friend Tyler Page plots out and thumbnails an entire issue of  his delightful book Nothing Better, then methodically begins rendering each page.
By contrast (and this is difficult to describe accurately), when I plot a comic story,  I see myself holding the finished book of my work. As I read it, I "see" each page. Sometimes the page changes because there were necessary changes to the previous page (or pages), but mostly I just try to write and draw the book as I see it in my mind.
I might have something to gain from applying a bit more structure a la Tyler, but I don't want to lose the spontaneity, especially in the Cowgirls material.
Hrm, as Rorschach might say.
Food for thought. I've studied, interpreted and taught storytelling techniques enough that I've internalized many of the basics, and although it's a bit of a conceit, I'd like to think I apply those basics as I go about working in my less conventional manner. But there's never harm in questioning your own methods, so long as you keep working!
Next, a new page of A Private Myth.
Note that we are six installments away from Original Art Sundays No. 100! I have a little something planned for that week, which, if I keep to the schedule, should fall right before I start teaching Comic History again this fall!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blog list updates

I've added a few new blogs, including the great Stripper's Guide, to the blog list.
I've also removed some great ones that are defunct:
Gold Key Comics
Kingdom Kane
Comics Comics
are now gone.
I hope their creator is still active, as they were exceptional blogs.
Just for fun, here's a classic image from one of my favorite Gold Key books!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Original Art Sundays No. 93: oddment: Tranny Towers, p. 17

Back in the saddle again!
A recent teaching gig successfully completed, on deadline for four articles due at the end of this month, and a new Surrealist Cowgirls page is on the board!
Let's celebrate with the next chapter of Tranny Towers.
Happy with the layout and the plot advancement in this one. There's a plot thread starting here that resolves near the end of the run, in about 20 episodes or so.
Had to go over a couple of the lines in Photoshop. This one is from the old Xerox book, not the original art, and there was some fading.
The issue of keeping visual interest in a dialogue- heavy page is a central concern of both this and the next chapter. I came up with different resolutions for each. I'm also having a bit more fun with the mastheads here.
Next: Surrealist Cowgirls, p. 7.