Process: Lighting for Ruined #3

process

Indoor nighttime Regency lighting is tough! They pretty much relied on fireplaces and candles, and since wax candles were so expensive, even those were at a minimum. It’s a challenge to portray those limits while keeping the characters and environments legible so Sarah’s scripts shine through.

This worked to our advantage in issues three and four, thankfully. I looked at it as “mood lighting” to visually enhance the emotional rollercoaster Catherine experiences on her wedding night. Exaggerating the dark corners of the Davener house only adds to its mystery. This draws our attention back to the characters, whose facial expressions and body language are a key part of these scenes.

The obvious solution from art training is to go cool with bluer tones through most of the art, then use yellow highlights to insinuate the warmth of the lighting. I wanted something more sensuous than that, though –– after all, we’re waiting to see how the consummation of their marriage goes –– so I gave her room deep pink wallpaper. The characters are enveloped in this rosy warmth, but it’s deepened and desaturated, so the golden firelight both maintains its cozy allure and draws our attention back to well-lit areas with its higher saturation and contrast.

I do line art in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, then color and finish in Photoshop.

Technical steps:

  1. Get flats from color assist Justin, and they look great! I tweak the palette and clean things up a little.
  2. I add background lighting…
  3. Then foreground lighting in two steps: one to account for the glare of the candlelight on the vanity’s mirror, then another layer for the general environment.
  4. I add a radial gradient that deepens the corners of the panel, adding contrast and mood that draws our attention more intimately into the moment.
  5. Then I overlay some texture and adjust levels, which smooths out the gradients and reinforces an antiqued feeling in the art.

If you like this sort of thing, I share a lot more process posts over on my Patreon!

Patreon Launch

Patreon

I now have a Patreon where you can subscribe to secret-for-now comics and a behind-the-scenes blog that will feature special sneak peeks of current projects!

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

Secret Loves

Did you know that Margaret Atwood draws comics? Neither did I, but apparently we’re in a book together! The Secret Loves of Geek Girls features comics, illustrations, and prose by so many ladies I admire and respect that you should probably just go ahead and check out the contributor list. It features Trina Robbins, Mariko Tamaki, Danielle Corsetto, Irene Koh, and Jen Vaughn, to name just a few.

“Better Than Fiction” is somewhat of a sequel to my Chainmail Bikini story. It describes my journey from relying too heavily on escapism through fiction to finding romantic fulfillment in reality. Here’s a preview of my rough-rough draft (yes, that’s Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, and preteen-me’s terrible attempt at imitation):

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Busy Summer Ahead

Still very busy! The first issue of Fresh Romance (featuring Ruined) is on the verge of release, I’m steadily at work on the next issue, and it’s scripts and thumbnails galore as I plan my next few anthology contributions.

I’m also finishing up my comic for Dirty Diamonds‘ next issue, which focuses on the theme of beauty. My story is about my evolution as a person as reflected through the evolution of my hair.

Dirty Diamonds

I’m working on some other things, too! You can check out a frequently-updated list of all past, current, and upcoming projects over on my bibliography page.

Food Porn Anthology

Food Porn

Food Porn is the first print anthology by Filthy Figments (nsfw)! If you enjoyed Smut Peddler, this would be right up your alley. The content consists of lady-made, sex-positive, queer-friendly erotica, and this book has the added bonus of recipes with each food-themed comic. Cute, right?

My contribution’s called Seaside Sweethearts, and it’s about a couple who go on a beach picnic… but they’re more interested in each other than the scenery.

Seaside Sweethearts

And here’s my “foodsona” (a fluffy pink cupcake, of course, and probably the sexiest I’ll ever draw myself):

foodsona

Fresh Romance

Fresh Romance

I’ve barely been able to contain myself as I’ve worked on this over the past month! Fresh Romance is founded by the formidable Janelle Asselin and will feature Ruined, a no-nonsense Regency romance for the modern reader co-created by amazing writer Sarah Vaughn and myself. Alongside it will run two other stories by people I really admire, including queer content. I really look forward to Rosy Press’ future as an outlet for diverse creators and stories.

Check it out on Kickstarter!

Ruined

Ashcan Comics

Did you know that I do cartooning workshops? Well, I do! Here’s a quick ashcan comic that I made as an example in a session I did with some kids a few years back. It’s about my dinosaur BFF.

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Kind Words

Seeing this interview over at Diamond Previews made my day and I just wanted to share these kind words that Kathryn Immonen had about my work. Moving Pictures was a big deal to me when I started to pursue comics really seriously –– historical fiction in particular –– and it means the world that she thinks highly of what I do!

kind words

Chainmail Bikini is alive!

Chainmail Bikini Kickstarter

We’re live and almost funded in just the first couple days! It’s a really fantastic book, I’m proud to be a part of it and I highly recommend checking it out. Here’s a preview of my contribution:

Chainmail Bikini Chainmail Bikini

Witchsona 2015

It’s becoming an annual thing that a bunch of cartoonists/illustrators ’round the web draw their “witchsonas” (witch personas). I’ve leveled up since last year as a person and wanted to make sure mine reflected that.

Witchsona detail Witchsona

My witchsona specializes in the magics of love, creation, and renewal. Is spring here yet?

Chainmail Bikini & Filthy Figments

Figured I’d share a couple panels from current projects as teasers!

Chainmail Bikini is an anthology about women gamers. Keep your eyes out for a Kickstarter in the next couple months. My contribution is about play-by-post roleplaying, how it’s prepared me for a career as a cartoonist, the wonderful friends I’ve made through it, and despite how much I love it, how dudes are still gross on the internet sometimes.

Chainmail Bikini

And this is from First, which is debuting over on Filthy Figments (nsfw) this Tuesday! It’s a very sweet lady love story.

Filthy Figments

2015 Projects

Oh goodness, so many exciting projects are rolling for the first half of 2015!

Filthy Figments: Making a lady love story for a women-authored comic erotica site. Adult content. See cover here.

Chainmail Bikini: An anthology about women gamers. My story is about my experiences with play-by-post roleplaying –– creative writing for geeks, essentially –– and how it’s prepared me for a career as a cartoonist.

Love in All Forms: The big book of growing up queer! This is a kid-friendly anthology of comics, and my story is about a girl’s first crush at summer camp.

Colonial Comics Volume II: This volume will cover New England history between 1750 and the shot heard ’round the world. My contribution covers Molly Ockett, who was pretty much the coolest.

In other news, there are a couple other projects in the works that I’m not ready to share yet, but I have high hopes for 2015.

Here’s a postcard I illustrated to send out to friends to wish them a Happy New Year!

Front:
New Years

Back:New Years back

It’s Aliiive

Colonial Comics is alive and well and in shiny print!

Colonial Comics

Here’s a blurb about my story: “Puritan America was, for women, a time of tremendous restriction. For those with an ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, their best bet was to marry a supportive man who would allow them a certain amount of autonomy, giving them the status to make such endeavors socially acceptable. One of these women was Mary Huntris. A series of court records chronicle her struggle for independence and the archnemesis she gained along the way.” More information can be found here.

Title Page

You can order it through your favorite local bookseller (or Amazon, if that’s your cup of tea). Keep up with the Colonial Comics blog for information about giveaways and resources for educators.

And, I am proud to announce, you should keep your eye out for news about the second volume –– I’ll have a story in that one, as well!

Drawing Conclusions

I’m very excited to announce my latest project, Drawing Conclusions! My colleague and friend Nicole and I are developing a graphic resource for the Dialogue of Cajamarca, an important (and particularly interesting) moment in the Spanish conquest of the Inca. We will work on the first chapter over the summer and will post our work online as an annotated web comic; keep an eye on drawingconclusions.org for updates, and head over there now to read our introduction (excerpt below)!

Drawing Conclusions

2014 Excitement!

I sure have been busy so far this year! Any radio silence here has been wholly due to too much comics-related excitement (which, in all honesty, is always a good thing). If you’re looking for more frequent updates, check out my Tumblr.

So far I’ve exhibited at SPACE (Columbus, OH), TCAF (Toronto, ON), and MeCAF (Portland, ME). All three have been wonderful experiences and I’m crossing my fingers for at least two more shows in the fall. I’ll update the appearances list on my about page  as I get confirmation.

I have three publications in 2014: a few pages of bonus content in volume three of The Dreamer, a story in this year’s edition of Smut Peddler, and a story in the first volume of Colonial Comics. Learn more about these on my projects page. Also upcoming with a TBA release is Then It Was Dark, in which I’ll have a story as well!

In the next few weeks I should have an announcement about a comics project that a colleague and I are doing in affiliation with Harvard University. Check back for news, I’m really excited to get it rolling!

Until then, here’s a poster I drew for the Smut Peddler Portfolio:

Smut Peddler Portfolio

Hourly Comic Day

February 1st is Hourly Comic Day, wherein you make a little comic for each hour you’re awake. Here’s mine!

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2014 Projects, Publications, & Shows

Colonial Comics

It’s shaping up to be a busy year and it’s barely even begun!

First, I’d like to direct you to the new “Projects” section on this website. I’m listing information there on my work in comics, including titles, publishers, and release dates (I can’t express how exciting it is to have added a “Publications” section to my resume/CV)! Go check it out.

One of the announced publications is for the bonus content I drew for Lora Innes’ The Dreamer (you might remember my mention of it a while back). She’s been an amazing mentor as I’ve worked my way into the comics industry and it’s an honor to be included in the print edition of her series.

The other announcement is for my Colonial Comics contribution. I can’t express how excited I am about that anthology!

Second, I will be at a lot of different shows this spring. I’ve never done this many in an entire year, let alone the span of a few months –– wish me luck!

Anime Boston
Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA
March 21-23
(Not tabling myself, but will be there with Alan and Lora –– let me know if you want to meet up!)

Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo
Ramada Plaza Hotel & Conference Center, Columbus, OH
April 12-13

Toronto Comics Arts Festival
Toronto Reference Library, Toronto, ON
May 9-11

Maine Comics Arts Festival
Portland Company Complex, Portland, ME
May 18

Late 2013 Festivities

CC

It’s been a busy end-of-year! I finished the piece for Fulcrum Publishing’s Colonial Comics anthology (detail above) and am rolling straight into the project I worked on over the summer at the Center for Cartoon studies.

I’ve also received confirmation that I will be exhibiting at the Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus, Ohio in April, as well as the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) in Toronto, Ontario in May! I haven’t done these shows before but I’ve heard great things. If all goes well, I’m hoping to attend the Maine Comics Arts Festival (MeCAF) and Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) again, too. We shall see!

Interview with Library As Incubator Project

LAIP

The Library as Incubator Project interviewed me about my experience as Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library! Go check it out, as well as the rest of their website. Libraries are awesome.

The Center for Cartoon Studies

If you follow me on social media, you already know that I spent the past week at the Center for Cartoon Studies for the Graphic Novel Workshop. I shall record my experience here for, you know, posterity or something.

It all began Sunday evening. Coated in sand and salt from my aunt’s beach wedding that afternoon, I set out for the mythical land of White River Junction, Vermont. Two hours later I pulled into a spot in front of the Hotel Coolidge, across the street from CCS and my home for the next five nights. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who was nervous:

Emily

I have to admit, after my first night at the Coolidge, I already felt a bit homesick. There’s something about having to share a bathroom with a dozen other people (and mysterious, alleged arrests) that put a damper on things. But as soon as I got to class and Judith sat down next to me, I knew it was all going to be worth it. The instructor, Paul Karasik, quickly set us to work, and there was no turning back. We did some exercises to break the ice:

Nancy

The days consisted largely of intensive studio time when everyone focused on their projects. These long hours were interspersed by lectures, as well as group discussions and mini field trips. I’m probably biased, but I’m convinced I had the best cohort. It consisted of: Judith (who’s working on an incredibly meaningful memoir about “being a mother and not being a mother”); Steve Bissette (of Swamp Thing and badass dinosaur comic fame); Cara (a lovely young lady who took the workshop with her father, both with independent projects); and myself (the awkward one).

On Tuesday, we visited James Sturm‘s studio and heard about his process. He shared a handful of sketchbooks with us, and seeing the sheer volume of extraneous work he’s produced outside his main projects over the years was incredibly motivating. It reinforced something I’ve heard several times over in quotes from many authors/creators I admire: if you want to be a creator, then create. That goes for writing, drawing, unicycling, and yes, cartooning. You’re only a cartoonist if you actually produce comics, so stop thinking about it and just do it. Don’t stop.

Wednesday and Thursday nights featured film nights hosted by Paul and Steve. We watched He Walked By Night, which was quite good, but the second, Rashomon, really made an impression on me. As you’ll see when I start sharing my current project, I’m a huge fan of exploring the ambiguity of the subjective, and it explores that in a really fascinating way.

Jon Chad stopped by, just in the nick of time, to do a guest lecture on thumbnailing. That’s where I was at in my own process, admittedly a little stuck. He shared the dummies he made of his past projects and it was interesting to look through them, since it’s such a different method than I’ve used. I ended up switching things up in the end, departing from my usual all digital workflow, and made physical books for my thumbnails as well. I’ll end up redrawing them when I rough the pages on the computer, but it was a good exercise and they feel like souvenirs:

Dummies

I loved seeing how much progress everyone made over the week, the energy always supportive without being competitive. Friday saw goals met and preparations complete as we readied ourselves to push forward with our work independently, outside the hive. Saying good bye was a bit emotional, at least for me. As someone who made the journey because I don’t have access to that kind of environment at home, I’ll miss it sorely. But I have a bunch of new tricks stashed away in my tool box, plus an envelope filled with moral support from classmates propped on my desk in case of emergency. I’m not one to covet, but this might very well become my precious as I push through production:

Precious

On the way home, as I drove toward a strange, golden moon, I had a sort of out of body experience. I saw myself, and I saw my life right now for what it really is: freaking awesome. Comics are my life, and I consider myself amongst the luckiest of humans to have realized my passion.

And thanks to this past week, I’m finally ready to make this ambitious little project happen.

To see some of the other participants’ work, check out these links:

Instructor, Paul Karasik

TA, Joyana McDiarmid

Ashley Wolff

Becca Case

Cara Miller

Jackie Rent

Juliette Borda

Luke Healy

Maggie Vicknair

Mohammed Al-Mahdi

Rachel Lindsay

Romey Bensen

Stephen Bissette

Tyson Pease

Vincenzo Bizzarri

Here are a couple more sketches to tease my project (coming soon to a browser near you):

Desk Landlady

Edit: Check out the workshop’s coverage on the Schulz Library blog!

Thought Of You

I try to keep things on here related to my work, but I’d like to share this piece by Ryan Woodward. It’s something I go back to watch again and again, it’s absolutely beautiful and inspiring. If you’re into animation, I highly recommend you check out the background of its making on his website.

Current Desktop Art

Main Desktop, Lindsay Nohl Cintiq Background, James Jean

I find it interesting to see what other artists choose for backgrounds on their computers and devices, so I figured I’d share mine. As you can see, I prefer kind of plain/patterned stuff so it’s not distracting while I work. I’m also pretty meticulous about keeping organized and I try not to clutter the desktop with lots of things.

Top is my main screen. I tend to use a lot of patterns by Lindsay Nohlher blog has a ton of really beautiful ones. They’re just interesting/pretty enough without being distracting, I really love them. See the source for this pattern here.

The bottom image is my Cintiq’s background. I found this piece by James Jean in super high resolution somewhere, ages ago. Its colors are understated so I can work over it easily, but it still shows his sense of form and stylization that I drool over, so it’s inspiring to catch a glimpse while I move windows around. See the original on his site here.

August Activities

Arts Adventures Club at PEM

The Peabody Essex Museum invited me back as a guest artist for their Arts Adventures Club, a summer program for creatively ambitious kids who want to develop portfolios over the summer. As resident cartoonist, I’ll be teaching a unit on making comics. I’ve had really wonderful experiences there and I can’t wait to go back in a few weeks! At the end of each session, the kids hold an exhibition in the lobby of the museum, and last year the event fell on my birthday. A bunch of them made copies of their cartooning work as gifts. Best. Birthday. Ever.

The week after that, I’ll be shipping up to White River Junction, Vermont to participate in the Graphic Novel Workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies. I’ve been teaching so long now, it’ll be amazing to spend five blissful days focusing on improving my own work amongst like-minded folks. It’s been far too long since I’ve been on the receiving end of creative instruction. I am so very, very stoked.

That being said, I am always available to do cartooning and other storytelling-related workshops! I’ve held them at many schools, libraries, museums, and other community-oriented organizations.  To learn more, visit my workshops page.

Peter and Wendy

Peter and Wendy

J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy (read it for free on Project Gutenberg) will forever be one of my favorite books. It has its flaws, but all in all, it’s a very different story than the Peter Pan play (and, consequently, Disney movie) version. Someday I would like to do a full graphic novel adaptation which sheds light on the darker aspects of the story, including the intriguing mythos behind it all.

This little comic is based on my most favorite bit of the entire story: Mrs. Darling’s recollection of Peter Pan.

Occasionally in her travels through her children’s minds Mrs. Darling found things she could not understand, and of these quite the most perplexing was the word Peter. She knew of no Peter, and yet he was here and there in John and Michael’s minds, while Wendy’s began to be scrawled all over with him. The name stood out in bolder letters than any of the other words, and as Mrs. Darling gazed she felt that it had an oddly cocky appearance.

‘Yes, he is rather cocky,’ Wendy admitted with regret. Her mother had been questioning her.

‘But who is he, my pet?’

‘He is Peter Pan, you know, mother.’

At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into her childhood she just remembered a Peter Pan who was said to live with the fairies. There were odd stories about him; as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened. She had believed in him at the time, but now that she was married and full of sense she quite doubted whether there was any such person.

‘Besides,’ she said to Wendy, ‘he would be grown up by this time.’

‘Oh no, he isn’t grown up,’ Wendy assured her confidently, ‘and he is just my size.’ She meant that he was her size in both mind and body; she didn’t know how she knew it, she just knew it.

Until I can put my own twist on the text, I’m enjoying fellow Maine cartoonist Renae De Liz’s own (totally gorgeous) adaptation. Follow it on the website!

In Memoriam C.C.S.

Creepus Memorial

It’s been a rough few weeks. My chinchilla, Creepus, fell ill again, and I ended up having to make the difficult decision to put him to sleep. He’d been sick for a while, it was only a matter of time, but it was rough all the same. At this point I’m just grateful that I had him in my life as long as I did. He was an awesome little dude.

Around the same time as this last bout of chinchilla illness, my cat also got sick. I took her to the animal hospital with a fever of over 105. She spent the night, came home with lots of drugs, and while it was very stressful, having her treatment to focus on was a nice distraction from the empty place left in my room where Creepus’ cage once sat. In order to give her the medications, I had to wrap her up in a towel.

Cat Burrito

My grieving process apparently consists of drawing lots of ridiculous homages. I channeled a bit of that energy into sending Creepus’ vet a card; they were amazing with him and I can’t recommend them strongly enough to anyone looking for a vet in southern Maine.

Card Creepus CreepusMemorial-small