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!

Much Productivity

Watch out, this is going to be a long one!

joealienssmalldomcolor

Firstly, I would like to engage your attention with some art. I’ve done some portraiture lately and am really digging it. I tried a looser style than usual and am really happy with the result, I look forward to doing more.

Work on Under the Apple Tree/my senior capstone project is still in progress! My blog hasn’t seen much action, but I have been quite busy with preparations. A lot of energy has gone into networking in particular, and I’d like to focus on that part of my project in this entry.

I’ve discovered that a huge part of the enjoyment of creating comics is the company, advice and support of other creators. It’s invaluable to my process and I’ve focused a lot on it recently. There are a couple different venues I have utilized…

The Internet.

The most obvious and definitely one of the most helpful, the web has a huge amount of resources. Some of the most useful have been…

Drunk Duck (Support from readers and constructive criticism are both huge motivators.)

Webcomics Community (A specialized forum is a great resource for everything from crit to finding places to get merchandise made to… well, everything.)

Deviant Art (This website has a bad reputation as far as quality goes, but I’ve found a great amount of support there and even have built relationships there with professional cartoonists who give me advice. Pretty awesome.)

Local Organizations.

The internet is wonderfully convenient, but it doesn’t replace real contact with other creators, as well as such genuine opportunities for networking. Some options…

The Maine Comic Arts Festival is new as of last year and a great opportunity! I am registered as an exhibitor and can’t wait. The first one was awesome and the next one, I’m sure, will be even better. For those who don’t know, it’s a convention of sorts in Portland, Maine that takes place in May (mostly self-publishers with a few fancy guests, comparable to a small MoCCA Festival).

Maine Cartoonists is a group I co-founded. Its e-hub is a Facebook group, and as you’ve seen a couple entries ago, we hold “roundtables” where a bunch of people get together and share our work and mingle. It’s a lot of fun and something really cool has evolved out of it (which I’ll get to momentarily).

Other Stuff.

I’m not a Penny Arcade fan, really, nor am I a gamer… but I am going to PAX East. It’s a great networking opportunity that I’d be silly to pass up. It’ll be a huge event that combines two things that are very important to me right now: comics (after all, the huge phenomenon that is Penny Arcade originally just started out as a web comic, just like Under the Apple Tree), and the game field (though I am not a gamer, my current full time job is as a designer for games, so I have that association). I plan on bringing business cards, as well as perhaps postcard samples, to share as I mingle.

And now for the best part…

THE COLLECTIVE.

(YEAH!)

I realized a couple things recently.

Firstly, I plan on moving to the Boston area in the near future and that means I will be somewhat disconnected from Maine Cartoonists. Not that we meet all the time, and not like Boston doesn’t have its own group, but it just won’t be the same. How will I keep in touch with all the great people up there?

And also, I’ve admired collective blogs such as Gorilla Artfare for quite some time, and suddenly realized it wouldn’t be that hard to start my own. Except mine would be geared toward comics instead of general illustration.

And then, from these realizations, something was born!

Picture 7

The Collective is a blog I have started that will function much like Gorilla Artfare, only the members are all New England creators. (That’s right, not just Maine, but all of New England! I couldn’t start something like this without including all the other amazing talent I’ve met from places like Boston and the Center of Cartoon Studies in Vermont and the Trees and Hills dudes from New Hampshire.) It’s just getting started, but there is a great handful of creators registered to be authors and I can’t wait for things to really get going.

The site will hopefully expand, but for the moment we just have the blog, a lovely rotating header system so all of us can contribute artwork to the design of the site and an events calendar (still being worked out) so we can keep up with the goings on.

I can’t wait to make it turn into something really great.

If you’re still reading at this point, I am very impressed. Look forward to some more updates soon, including the conclusion of Chapter I (which must be finished in time to get printed for the May festival), some art and some other tidbits. I know there isn’t much to show, at least visually, for all the work I’ve been putting in this past month, but I assure you, much has been accomplished. I don’t feel like it’s been wasted at all.

I really wish I could share the game development work I’ve been doing for the agency in Boston. I can’t wait for them to be released in September so I can finally show everything off, it’s been so much fun! My main responsibility lately has been character design/development and it’s been one of the most fun, educational and productive experiences of my life.

Oh, and I redesigned my main website. Check it out. (Still fixing the portfolio section, though. d’oh)

Sketches and Trades

I’d like to apologize for lack of updates on Under the Apple Tree. I can promise that updates will resume within a week or two not just because I think I can do it, but because I HAVE to – it is a condition of my graduation this spring, as it is my senior capstone project! My new job has just been more time consuming than expected, even just in the first week, and I need a bit more time to settle into the new routine.

Until then, I have some art to share! I’ve been taking trades and also have done some sketches for people. Here’s a few:

moirasmallrileysmallunasmall

Comic Update!

p017webWe have arrived at a new scene! I altered the colors to portray the fickle weather of New England; that afternoon was bright and sunny, but once Maggie got out of school it became overcast and a little dreary. I am now more than half way through the first issue and look forward to reaching the home stretch.

I apologize that it’s been a few days since the last page, but I have great news! I have landed a full time job as an artist for a company that is currently producing some games. I had my first day yesterday and it really is one of the most amazing feelings to know that all my hard work and these years in college haven’t gone to waste and my talent is needed. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the luckiest people in the world, and the support I’ve received from friends and family in wishing me luck and celebrating the good news really means a lot. Something even crazier than getting a job before I even graduate in my field: my best friend Vanessa got a position, as well, and we’ll be working together. So awesome!

Fortunately I’ve accomplished a good amount of my comic before full time work came in the picture and am not too concerned about my productivity being interrupted, it just may be a bit slower. Considering I started exactly a month ago and have already produced a full website, done a good deal of networking with other cartoonists and have completed 17 page (at 3-4 hours each that’s about 60 hours of work in 30 days), I believe I am in pretty good shape.

This past Thursday I organized a Maine Cartoonists Roundtable and we had a great turnout! A couple fellows from the Trees and Hills collective out of New Hampshire/Vermont were in the area, and we had some new faces as well. I look forward to the next one. Thanks to Coast City Comics for lending us their space, and thank you to the people who showed up! I look forward to the next one.

And thanks to anyone who reads this thing, too. : )

Weekly Update

I was busy on Wednesday, so my weekly update is Saturday this time. This past week was pretty exciting, as I had an interview in Boston for an artist position (cross your fingers for me). I also took my first three day break from the comic since I started at the New Year, but I quickly got back on a roll and have produced two pages in the past two days.

p016webThe most recent installment (currently available at the website, click image above to go there, or will be posted tomorrow at Drunk Duck) closes the “first day at school” scene in which Maggie meets her new classmates.

Notes:

The usage of “queer” means strange in this age and context, nothing like the typical modern usage. Don’t get offended by it! Also, open racism was the norm and will appear more than once in the story. While the graphic novel will overall be fairly tame, I intend to be as true to the setting as possible, which might not be exactly PC all the time. I would say it is meant for no younger than the teenage age group.

Halfway through Chapter I!

With the posting of page 13, I am officially halfway through Chapter I of Under the Apple Tree. Since Drunk Duck’s page uploader is down until tomorrow I figured I’d mention it here, as well as some historical tidbits about the comic so far. I’ll post the page up there once everything’s available again.

p012

The current scene features Kennebunk High School, where Maggie is the newest student. The building was built in 1938 so it would still be pretty shiny and new when she came to town in 1943. Back then there were only a few hundred kids so the main brick building was enough, but by the time I attended in 2001 there were two larger additions added on that make it look quite different than it should in the comic.

CutKHS

The main building is what you see in the comic, and that extension in the back was added much later. There is also a large wing behind the original that extends far out to the opposite side. As I have no references of what the school grounds looked like before those were added, I kind of had to make up what it looked like. I assumed there was much more green and trees.

Wednesday Update

I did four pages of the comic this week and updated some of the materials on the website. On top of that, I registered it with Comic Rank so I can keep track of the number of readers I have, as well as Comic Space for further networking. I am still seeking votes on Top Web Comics, my goal is to be in the top 100 someday!

I found it rather difficult to get new readers to the official website, so I created a mirror at Drunk Duck where I will also be posting the new pages. By being a part of a site like that I have the support of a comics community as well as the handiness of the option to comment on each of the pages and other nifty features. I still redirect anyone looking for character descriptions, etc to those pages on my personal website.

At this point I’m in the networking/gaining readers stage, and I’d say I’ve been pretty productive. That amount of work with four pages at probably three hours a piece puts me at a pretty high production level this past week. Let’s see if I can keep this up!

Comic Creator’s Alliance

I forgot to update when it first went live, the Comic Creator’s Alliance went live this past Monday! If you missed my first entry about it, it’s a collaboration of something like 87 different cartoonists, their female characters appearing on a downloadable wallpaper that you can access if you donate toward organizations working to end human trafficking.

“There are currently 27 million enslaved people worldwide- more than double the number of enslaved Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children every year are sold into slavery, most of it sexual. The US Department of Justice estimates 16,000 victims of human trafficking are brought into the United States every year.”

Definitely a worthy cause! I didn’t contribute because my comic wasn’t live at that point, but I donated and now proudly sport my shiny new desktop! Even if all you have is a couple bucks, every little bit counts.

Also, I put another page up at Under the Apple Tree and anticipate another soon. The update schedule will probably consist of pages being posted as they’re finished, but I’ll do an “official” update on Wednesdays and maybe another day of the week so no one misses any pages.

First Wednesday Update

I’ve decided to make Wednesday my scheduled update for my new webcomic, Under the Apple Tree. It seems to make the most sense as I have most of the day off so I can catch up before I post, and not many of the other comics I follow update on Wednesdays (lots of Thursdays and Fridays), so hopefully that will get me some more traffic later on.

Today I was only able to put one page up, but if I finish some more this afternoon I will post a second. Scene 2 opens with Maggie waking up and hearing music playing from down the hall. Now you get to meet Mrs. Ripple, her mother.

Constructive criticism is always appreciated. I have mixed feelings about that last page, so I’m curious what you all think. The style is more simplistic than before with a sort of retro home-y color scheme to invoke a certain feeling for the scene… we’ll see if it works.

I have also worked quite a bit on the website and now there are wallpapers available, as well as character descriptions (which I’ll update as more appear) and a fleshed out links section. If anyone would like to exchange links I’d be happy to oblige!