I did this sketch at S.P.A.C.E. 2013 a couple weekends ago. I figured it was time to whip out my Noodlers Konrad brush and Ahab Flex pen, and hit this planner with amazing paper by Quovadis. But the paper has a lot of sizing on it, and I’m using Noodler’s Bulletproof Black. I love this ink, because it writes first time every time, even if you ignore your pen and brush pen for a while. Not that I do that, of course not! I also put Noodler’s turquoise ink in my red sable Kuretake brush pen. I had to dilute it to get the effect I want. I did a comic using this blue on black a while ago, and some sketches, and they’re still some of my favorite work. So it’s back to blue and black. I did it. It’s easy to split apart if I need grayscale production. I insist on black lines, not screened, so I split the blue out of the black and twin them up in InDesign, a great layout program. My past experiences with the Ahab and Bulletproof on this Quovadis paper proved that it took the ink forever to dry. It does best on paper with tooth and no sizing. Bulletproof has to interact with the cellulose of the paper before it dries. Once it does, it’s amazingly waterproof. I think the fluidity and non-clogging aspects of Noodler’s ink far outweighs the drying aspect. But instead of using the pen nib on my large lines I went all brush on the figures, and used the pen for background detail. The Konrad brush lines dried in just a minute or so, and the pen lines only took a couple minutes. And no bleeding into the turquoise when I applied later on. All in all, a fabulous test.
Having just got back from S.P.A.C.E. 2013 (the Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio, I’m extremely glad I went even though from a sales and traffic standpoint the con was a complete bust. There were problems, for sure, but the contacts and new friends made, all working in alternative comics to one degree or another, having held precious legendary comics originals in my hand, and meeting wonderful Ohioans that blew me away with their hospitality, all made it worthwhile. I’ll be going back next year for those reasons alone.
The main highlight of visiting Columbus? Yvonne and I visited the Wexner Arts Center at The Ohio State University, which is home to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. This place is amazing. GO!!! It’s moving soon to a larger and better facility. We braved the Ohio “spring” (cold wet wind … I have new respect for Ohio weather) and lack of parking and made our way into the museum. I wasted no time introducing myself and getting registered there. Then, I immediately asked to see original art pages. I found out the process required, and in no time I was handling, inspecting, reading and learning from an amazing Roy Crane “Cap’n Easy” strip from 1933. (Yvonne wasn’t permitted to take photos of the artwork, but they wonderfully allowed a non-flash, distance shot.)
Roy Crane invented the adventure strip, and he remains one of my absolute favorite cartoonists of all time. Seeing that original just sealed it for me. He drew in blue pencil and often made notes to himself. I found out that he “pencilled” also in blueline and used only block shapes, completing the majority of the art in the inking stage. He meticulously planned out his white, gray and black areas with notes below and in each panel. I was thrilled to see this. I’ve been doing the same on “Keriana” and will continue to. Seeing a true legend do the same thing made my day. I inspected this piece for 20 minutes or so, handling it with gloves provided by the museum. I did my best to keep my emotions at bay and not stain the piece with tears. I myself am moving to blue pencil now, so I won’t have to erase pencil lines. I’m going as bare-bones pencilling as I can do and leave the rest for inking.
After Crane’s original, I requested a Frank Miller and Klaus Janson page from a 1982 “Daredevil”. Amazing. And then I requested and got to hold and inspect a thumbnail drawing and full-page final of Will Eisner’s “The Building”. Eisner “thumbnails” were a work of art unto themselves. They looked very finished compared to most thumbnails I’ve seen. He blue-line pencilled on a 5×7 piece of bond paper, then used pencil on top. He even drew out the lettering in beautiful style while figuring out the dialogue and narration. Then he just ramped up what was on his thumbnail layout onto the final page, 11×17 if I remember correctly. Eisner made the text and art even more detailed, made changes to areas of black, white and gray, and emotion and action on the figures. Another huge tip I learned from handling these originals is that Eisner used white silhouettes as well as black silhouettes in his work. I’d never noticed that before, but I’m totally doing this! I saw right there the importance of thumbnails and layouts, something I haven’t been doing. It could be as simple as stick figures. I need to start doing this, no doubt.
The museum’s incarnation began by legendary cartoonist Milton Caniff. Billy Ireland, a cartoonist for the Columbus Dispatch, was a huge influence and mentor to fellow buckeye Caniff. Before he died, Caniff donated all of his originals to the university. He never sold a piece (amazing). He was quite successful in his lifetime, and made a huge impact with his adventure strip that evolved into a noir approach to comics. Since OSU has this amazing resource, I must now say with upmost pride as a cartoonist that I am now an unabashed Buckeye in spirit. GO BUCKEYES!!! I will forever pull for all Buckeye sports teams from here on out (along with our ACC schools, of course). Booooo Michigan Wolverines, yaaaay Brutus the Buckeye!!! I will annually visit this museum and library. You’re an idiot if you are in Columbus and don’t do this.
The comics con was held at the Ramada Plaza in on Sinclair Road in Columbus. This is truly an armpit of the town. There’s nothing around, except for chain grease spoons and bad hotels. Why would anyone want to come to a complete dump of a hotel that’s 30 years past a renovation to an indy comics convention? Well, not many people did. Having gone to S.P.A.C.E. in 2004, I expected low turnout and for this indy comics con to be mostly a swap meet of like-minded folk. That’s exactly what it turned out to be. Almost every exhibitor I saw and met had the same, “Dear God, make this end” look on their face at one time or another during the con. A lot of that was due to the venue. It was roasting hot on Saturday and freezing on Sunday. The convention hall and hotel in general was stinky and dank. What few members of the public came just wanted to circle and get free shit, such as business cards or bookmarks. Why in God’s name would someone want a business card of an unknown cartoonist? And many seemed to go from table to table doing the same thing. But, I’ve learned from Heroes Con here in Charlotte, as well as Fanaticon in Asheville and other shows that their are always those people who do that. They pay to enter a convention and don’t buy a damn thing. WTF? Most sales I saw were being made by other exhibitors. When we get bored stiff sitting at a lonely table thinking “Will anyone please stop by my table and buy something?!”, we get up and walk around and buy amazing comics we find and chat with fellow cartoonists.
I was in the WORST possible part of the room, in the back left-hand corner. I was pretty upset at this, since I registered VERY early on. I’ll not make that mistake again. Apparently, if you register early, your name gets put on the “stick him in the far corner where no one will go” part of the grid. Once, just ONCE I’d like to be in a central area of a convention. I ALWAYS get stuck on the outside perimeter. It truly sucks, as people round the corner and don’t notice your table. You end up seeing asses all day long as people pass by.
Why in God’s name isn’t this convention held SOMEWHERE on High Street??? This long street goes throughout downtown and then some, including right through the campus of The Ohio State University. It’s a super busy, FUN and jamming place to be. There are amazing restaurants, fabulous bars, book stores … heck, the local comics store is on High Street. Why is S.P.A.C.E. out in the Twilight Zone of Columbus? Come on, get this potentially awesome con out of this horrible hotel’s dungeon and onto a happening part of town. Please!
Also, please regulate the temperature. We roasted and sweated our butts off on Saturday. When you fill a room with several hundred people, you need to have the air conditioning on. Then on Sunday, they decided to put us all in a freezer. Everyone was either wearing jackets and sweaters or chattering their teeth. Neither scenario wants to make people buy stuff.
Completely and utterly bored beyond belief (really, this was the WORST convention I’ve exhibited at traffic- and sales-wise), I decided to make table signs throughout the convention. I had a lot of fun doing this and will be doing this from now on. Very few seemed to notice, but one fellow bought a comic as a result. One read, “Don’t worry, I promise, I won’t make eye contact.” Soooo many people are scared to lock eyes with a cartoonist, assuming they’ll hit them with a sales pitch and beg them to buy their comics. Just smile and move on if you’re not interested. For God’s sake, we love a smile and likely will smile back and say “hello” for your trouble. Yeesh. Another one I penned said, “Trust me, you’ll really enjoy buying my comics from my lovely wife while I’m not at the table.” While there, some young ladies doing a compilation DVD interviewed me on camera about my comics, the how’s and why’s and inspirational tips for creators.
Yvonne was wonderful enough to sit at the table on Sunday and handle the huge rush of traffic (sarcasm alert) while I attended panels. They had a few great ones, I was delighted to see. I determined that I would attend some panels at a con for the first time ever (can’t believe I haven’t left the table to do this before). I couldn’t believe how few people showed up at these. I got some huge advice from great cartoonists including John Porcellino, Nate Powell and Tom Hart on memoir comics. That made the convention worthwhile, as far as I was concerned. That and a “panel” held at 4 p.m. Sunday, on the creative process: inspiration, thumbnailing, layouts, line and color work, distribution and so on by the fabulous Mark Mariano. I felt like I’d made a new friend and contact. He really inspired me. He’s a government employee who has a drawing table set up in a back corner of an archive room or something, and on his break draws comics. I was inspired by his dedication and discipline to use every minute available to make his art. I was the first person to show up at the panel.
I got to chat with Mark one-on-one while we waited for the previous panel to wrap up. As we sat down, realizing it was just him and me, two more people showed up. That was it. We pulled chairs into a circle and hit this wonderful topic. I brought my teeny 4-1/2 x 6-1/4″ journal that I’m drawing my latest comic in. He was thrilled with the results. I’m pretty proud of my “Keriana” story. Talking with Mark, I realized how important it was for me to stop doing this story impromptu and to use my very own method of time-lining the comic in it’s entirety. That’ll be easy, as I’m half-way or more than half-way through the story. Then, Mark really drove home the importance of thumbnailing the page layouts. I grudgingly agreed to start doing this but I know it’ll make a huge improvement in my work. I’ve done this on my Alphabeasts project, and it was, indeed very successful. Why wasn’t I doing this in my comics? I think both time-lining and thumbnailing my work will really speed me up. I’ve got stories to tell, damnit! So I need to get on with it. I promise, dear reader that I’ll be posting regularly on this site both in comics, sketches and blog posts from here on out.
While in Columbus, Yvonne surprised me with a trip to the Brother’s Drake Meadery & Bar in Columbus for my very first ever mead experience. The meadery uses all local and Ohio ingredients, from their honey to their hops to their bergamot. After experiencing a flight of meads, 5 in all, I settled into two more glasses of the amazing elixirs. I am so glad my first mead experience was at a top quality meadery. I think this may be the only establishment that specializes in mead. They’re busy planning to open another bar in California. The Brothers Drake also features fabulous appetizers from a food truck parked outside, and has local live jazz with no cover charge. Local art adorns the walls. The bar is beautiful. The mead will put you in the clouds of happiness in no time. One of the owners was kind enough to tell me all about mead and give me a tour in the back, where dozens of huge cauldrons bubbled away, making mead. Some are stored in whiskey barrels for 3 years. Their youngest mead ages for 1 year. Most horrible meads, he told me, come from two-week old mead. Making mead, or honey wine, requires just three ingredients: honey, water and yeast. It’s so simple, but so easy to screw up. The Brother’s Drake really does go all out on delivering an amazing product. We came home with smiles and two bottles of this amazing liquid. As a beekeeper, once I get a surplus of honey I am most definitely making some mead of my own. It could become another product of T’s Bees Honey. Who knows?
Hopefully S.P.A.C.E. will continue to be a great place to make new cartoonist friends and network, and fingers are crossed that the venue will change next year and sales and the event as a whole will benefit. All in all, though, a beneficial trip thanks to the museum, mead and new friends I got to make.