Saturday, April 21, 2018

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) No. 256: Curt, p. 15

This page was done on Sunday, except for the first panel. For some reason, the comapratively easy first panel took just days.
Overall it's working, but there are some things I'd like address down the line (aren't there always?).
Here we go.
When we left our heroine (me), she had said goodbye to Sara, the trans woman she met at the library and fell for (well, it was mutual, and it was really hot, though we didn't call it that then). A few days later, Diana's (my) boyfriend came to town for his bimonthly weekend date. I confused and terrified myself. Here I was with a guy who was traveling hundreds of miles to see me and talking of marriage. And I had just taken up with a woman, who was more exciting and interesting in every way. What to do? Well, I am a Minnesotan, so the watchword is denial.
Read on.
Here are some technical and narrative considerations.
The page is working well, for the most part. The captions describing our shallow debaucheries are fun.
There are a lot of things here I like visually. The panel progression, leading the reader to the banner panel at the bottom of the page, is an engaging layout.
The darks in the first panel could be a bit stronger, but it's acceptable. I like the way the cozy cuddle between us came out. We did share a fascination with Star Trek (and with Frank Zappa, but he liked the potty humor more, and I liked the experimental music).
The second panel: not sure about this one. The lights and darks are working well. But it's not as clear as I might like what we're really doing. The joint is buried in the dark shadows of the hands. I don't think the viewer can tell we're smoking demon hemp. I think I'll try another version of that panel and cut it in later, probably a close-up two shot with the joint featured more prominently.
Looking back on that night, it's astounding that neither of us were injured by passing something burning between us when we were both nude and stoned. Dumb luck, I guess.
Panel three was a different sort of challenge. Despite my proselytizing for freedoms, I'm a bit of a prude at times, usually odd and unexpected times. While I've known it was on the horizon for a while, the idea of drawing myself having sex turned out to be a bit more daunting than expected. I've drawn my characters, including characters that are obvious stand-ins for me like Athena in Tranny Towers, behaving sexually before. But this is No Excuses time. If you're telling your story, don't leave out anything important. This was not our first time by any stretch, and the story of the first time will be told (briefly) towards the end of the book. For now, just let it be said that we had a powerful sex life. Sometimes that's all we had. Drawing sex is challenging. I think the silhouette is a good option in this case.
The last panel was also a daunting emotional outing. While it was not the only time he choked me while in the (for lack of a better term) throes of passion, it was a shock the first time out. I tried to draw his expression at the time, a combination of passion, ecstasy and rage, but I couldn't get it quite right, so I opted for my reaction instead.
I'll let the reader judge the success of the outcome on that one. I think it works, at least aesthetically.
Thought on structure: the part of the story related to Delia has to come after this, since that's the order in which it happens. There's an allusion to Curt's penchant for choking me in that episode as well, which is why it comes to mind here.
Materials used on this page:
Canson Recycled Bristol
Lead holder
Solid Lead #4B
Magic Rub eraser
Crow Quill and nibs
#4 Richeson synthetic brush
Tight Spot correction brush
Dr. Martin's Black Star Walnut Ink
FW Acrylic White
Micron Markers #3, 4, 6 and 8
Faber Castell Brush Markers
Really, when it comes down to it, that's one of the keys to doing this book. Like any memoir, it's as much about the creator understanding herself as it is about offering something to the reader. I see the pieces of this life in the order in which they happened, but their cumulative impact is non-linear, and the graphic memoir is an attempt to understand how the pieces fit together.
Good or bad or both, these are the events that shaped me, and through me, shaped the people I loved, hated and irritated. Somehow I suspect there are more in the last group than there are in the other two.
Next: more Curt, ideally. I really need to finish this chapter, since it's so emotionally draining. But it shapes so much of what comes later, I don't want to give it short shrift.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Original Art Sundays No. 255: Curt, p. 14

Hey, look! I'm still here! And yes, Virginia, there is still a graphic memoir in the works.
This page took forever and a day. But we got here.
I have been wrestling with this page for two months. Usually I can do a decent page in a day, or a week if the time is tight. But this one gave me no end of trouble. At first it was an emotional challenge. The events portrayed here were not my shining hour, and recounting them remains more difficult than I anticipated. I finally decided that there's no point in sugar coating this stuff, and resolved to just do the page.
I got to work and the page was about 3/4 done.
I hated it.
With a bright purple passion.
Oh, there was nothing really wrong with it. The drawing was adequate at worst, the writing was tight enough, and the layout was serviceable.  But it was so boring! 2 shot, 2 shot, 2 shot, tight on hands, figure seated and cowboy shot framed in doorway. 6 panel grid, 2 x 3. All straight on. It was a dialogue heavy page where nothing was happening visually.
Between drawing a couple operas and sneaking in a few other pieces to keep my hand in, I got a revised version on the board. And got it done in proper time, once begun, thank you very much.
The final version. Possibly.
This iteration still has it issues, and I'll get to those in a moment. As regular readers know, I'm fairly harsh in evaluating my work.
But the page is working in ways the original version wasn't.
It's about the embrace, whereas the previous version put equal emphasis on everything. Giving the page a focal element gives narrative direction and helps the reader understand what's important.
The isolated quiet moment in panel one: very happy with that.
The open panel two: The embrace works, the figures are slightly elongated (as I tend to do), and the dialogue is fairly well placed.
Panel three, the hands parting: Even though I still have issues with them after all these years, I do love drawing hands. To overcome my issues around rendering hands, I did an entire strip using nothing else during the Tranny Towers days.
Not 100% happy with the figure in Panel 4, but the pose and facial expression are just what I was anticipating.
The last panel gets the character (me) out of her bewildered fantasy and reverie and back into the mess she's making for herself. The last panel is also crucial in that I'm not on camera in that one. Again, variety is the watchword.I like the use of the arched background giving the last panel weight. This page remains a bit light, and deliberately sparse on environments/backgrounds. Still have to work on spotting more heavy blacks, though I'm at ease with not always doing so. I do like the claire ligne style a lot!
Just for information and integrity, Sara was not the first trans woman with whom I was intimate after coming out (none before then, if you're keeping track). But she was the second, and the first one who mattered.
I might try a fourth iteration of this page down the line, when I'm reviewing to for publication. But if I'm ever going to reach that point, I have to move forward. Seeking perfection in this kind of work can be another evasion tactic. Move on with the story.
Tools used on this page:
Canson Recycled Bristol Board
The previous version. Nothing wrong with it,
just blah.
Lead holder, #2 and #4 lead, Magic Rub erasers
Staetler Line Markers, .02 and .06
Faber Castell Small Tip brush marker
Dr. Martin's Black Star Walnut Ink
Various crow quills
 #4 Richeson synthetic brush for spotting heavy blacks
FW Acrylic White and Tight Spot brush for corrections
I'm including the flawed second version as a point of reference. The first version was a sketchbook layout, and we will not speak of it again.
This is an adequate page. It's just not very good storytelling.
Last night I attended a presentation by Venus de Mars, a retrospective of her life and creative career, as much as one can summarize such things in less than an hour. We chatted briefly about our scattered old times- knowing her as long as I have, I'm astounded at how little time we've really spent hanging out. There are reasons and reasons for these things, and after a while they don't matter. I suppose that's part and parcel of working in different art forms, though I also respect her drawing and painting.
No, when you've known someone a while, the other stuff fades. You just remember the joys and marvel at the simple fact that we both survived.
This comes to mind as Venus is also working on a memoir.
Maybe it's just time to do them. Being me, of course, I was intimidated by someone whose life and career have had such incredible highs (at least from the outside) working on something similar to what I'm doing. I sat in awe and deep respect for her unflagging commitment to herself, her love and her career, feeling wholly inadequate.
That, my dears, is self-indulgent twaddle.
I was watching a Neil Gaiman interview a while ago. During the Q & A, someone asked him if fantasy writing was going to go out of fashion. His reply, insightful as always, ended with  (paraphrasing) "literary fashions and trends don't matter. Tell your story as best you can, put it out there and let it find its audience."
Thanks, Neil. I needed that. My natural tendency to judge myself and my work against the work and lives of others, and to find myself wanting in some area or other, remains my worst enemy when it comes to creation. What say we take another stab at knocking that off and just get the work done?
I'll write it and draw it. You just relax and read it.
Next: more Sharp Invitations. I am anxious to move on from the Curt story, but that will only happen when it's all told. I anticipate another 5 - 6 pages before we reach that point.
And yes, there is another opera on the horizon. Thais is about 6 weeks away.