Sunday, May 28, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 245: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p.4

Despite having a drunk total my car and bruise my poor body last night, I am delighted that I can post the next page today. I finished it last night about 2 hours before work, so all is good.
If you recall, our hapless heroine (me) was just getting to know her new boyfriend, but had a feeling something was wrong.
Hey, it's a relationship, so there's usually SOMETHING wrong at some point but this was ...different.
Next page:
 There's a lot that I like here, artistically and in terms of narrative.
One of the big issues I have with graphic memoir (which I'm teaching as a Continuing Education course at MCAD in a few weeks!) is the tendency to what Chuck Jones called "illustrated radio". The Master was referring to animation, of course, but the principle applies here. It's a text narrative in which the illustrations are either redundant or superfluous. This can lead to very static images, or worse yet, images that serve no purpose whatever. I've seen this in some very well-received graphic memoirs. The art is considered an afterthought.
The ideal, which was achieved in Special Exits, MAUS, Stuck Rubber Baby and Fun Home, is a hybrid of text and image that moves the reader along with the subject, rather than placing the reader outside the subject.
In this page, I've chosen a related action scene, which is actually a composite of two real world events, to offer an example of the threat alluded to in the text box. The second panel was originally a lovemaking scene, but I decided that this moment of anticipation and greeting had better action and conveyed a fuller sense of the relationship, such as it was.
For comparison, here's the original rough for this page:
Head shots convey relatively little emotion, despite having the face to work with. I'm constantly reminded of the philosophy of that Archie comics writer. Characters are always on stage, and should always be in a pose that suggests mood or action. Spear carriers should do more than carry spears.
Aesthetic concerns:
I elected to stick with pencils again, but it was a MUCH harder decision for this page. I had to really push to get the darks and weight I wanted from the panels. In retrospect, I could have done more with the background on the restaurant panel. What's there works, but it might work better with a bit more of an environment. The primary poses and attitudes in this panel are freely lifted from Scott McCloud's The Sculptor, page 20, but changed sufficiently that I can call them my own and maintain integrity.
Panel Two is all me. I've played with the Shadows in Open Doorways thing in my work as far back as Tranny Towers. I like the idea of a girl running to her lover- it's a classic- and in that moment, everything else disappears.
Drawing yourself is a challenge. I've represented my figure and hair more or less as I remember them from that time. Drawing that left arm gave me fits! Looking at it now, I can see it's still a bit long/big, but nowhere near as much as it was at first. I spent an hour trying to get the left hand right. Sometimes hands are easy for me, sometimes I just can't draw them. After combing several books for reference, I finally just went to the bathroom mirror, made the gesture and took a shot with my cel phone. It gave me sufficient resources to render a plausible hand.
That's it for this week, unless something comes up that I want to say before the next art entry. I'm on the mend from the aforementioned car crash, and foresee no obstacle to keeping on track with the next page.
I've also started a new story which will serve as an afterword to the completed book, but that's some 120+ pages away.
A suivre...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Original Art Sundays, No, 244: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 3

Well, here we are, on schedule!
Had a great two days at Twin Cities Spring Con. I came home exhausted, but inspired, both by the con and by a concert I attended Saturday night (more on that later if appropriate).
I had a blank page on the board, and after resting for a bit, started drawing, based on the rough in the draft version of the work.
Here's the draft version.
It's legible, but the art is barely there. Many scan artifacts not removed, text layout is static, and those facial expressions- ouch!
I decided to stick with the pencil for the final version, for two reasons. First and foremost, the other pages in this section have been based in pencil, so I thought it might be jarring to switch media within a chapter. Such a switch does occur at the end, but that's a closure thing, and I think it works. We're 8 or 9 pages away from that yet, so some time remains to resolve the issue, if necessary.
8 or 9? I'm considering adding a page right before this one. This is a key event that built for five years, so a little more background on such matters could help clarify things.
Here's the (possibly) final version.
The text integrates more successfully with the image. I'm also trying to use the advice of that old Archie illustrator. Don't have your characters just standing wooden. Have their poses reflect action.
In the first panel, I've gone for greater emotional intimacy. The text says a lot of that. It was my moment of greatest triumph. I had accomplished one of the major goals of my life, possibly the most important one. And there was no acknowledgment from family (to be fair, my Mother did call).
I rendered the hospital bed from memory rather than reference. Since I work with them in my AIDS caregiver job, I'm pretty clear on the basic structures.
I'm rendering Curt pretty much the way he looked. After 5 years with someone,  you get to know their nooks and crannies. I think the loving/bedraggled look I gave my face in the first panel is just right.
The second panel is one of my favorites. Though I do love realistic rendering, the flowing lines of a loosely structured, almost gestural pair of figures is somehow emotionally satisfying. As I was writing this, I noticed that the figures form an ersatz heart shape, which was NOT my intention.
I made a conscious  decision to delete the white from the word balloons and let the pencils show through. I'm happy with that.
The only thing I wonder about on these pencil pages is weight. I don't push the blacks far enough when working in graphite.
I may rescan this. It retains a few more artifacts than I like, there's a slight disjoint where the two scans of the half pages don't match up, and there are some cloying shadow lines at the base of the page. I fret a bit about having to re-enter the type, but I could just copy and paste those parts of the image to the new file.
I still have large format scanner access at my other job, even though I don't have a summer contract, so it's just a question of better time management.
In general, the page works, but there's some fine print to address.
Materials used: Canson XL Recycled 90# Bristol, soft lead in holder, #4 solid lead stick, #4 solid lead pencil, Magic Rub erasers, HP Deskjet 1510 scanner, Photoshop cc 2015.
Next: page four of this story. I have a couple short pieces tickling the back of my brain, but I'd like to stick this story out.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Monday) No. 243: Athena's wine (Tranny Towers!)

April 20 is the anniversary of my surgery. I try to find some small way to celebrate every year, however quietly. This year, I was working.
I used the tools on hand to do a sketch on break, in the wee hours (I'm usually pretty much caught up with my duties between 4:30 and 5:30 AM, though I do make rounds regularly even then). All that was on hand was a no. 2 pencil with a dull lead, ballpoint pens, and printer paper.
Inspired by the recent positive reaction to my work at the Queers and Comics conference, I decided to revisit Tranny Towers. I did a quick sketch of my main character from the strip, Athena.
There were a couple things that weren't quite working. I let it be for week and came back to put some finishes on it. Going in with brush tip marker, Pro Art India ink and a no. 4 synthetic brush, I corrected a few things, and did a bit of clean-up.
Some of the sketchy ballpoint lines irritate me, but they provide enough character that I can live with them.
Originally, I had rendered the night stand on which she was resting her hand at an odd angle, almost an isometric drawing. Between that and having originally set her left leg way out and at an equally odd angle, it appeared our dear Athena was not on her first glass of wine!
The wine glass, still not the best rendering I've ever done of an object, is miles above the original sketch.
Athena's figure works for me. I've always seen her as having more full/real world proportions. I know many trans folk who thrive in the high glamor look. I did that for a while and I liked it, but it just wasn't me. As Athena is the character from the original strip who I always considered my closest parallel, it makes sense that her look should follow suit, although her hair has always been nicer than mine!
It does feel good to get back to Tranny Towers. The strip had some problems, I suppose, but I was so bold and excited doing that work, right up to the end. I took a lot of chances in the work, and most of them paid off.
Next: back to Sharp Invitations. At last.