Wednesday, July 29, 2009

For anyone who still visits this blog - sorry. I've been caught up in finishing American, Eh and starting a new online comic, Cake Brat. Plus planning for SPX and the launch of my company Acute Studios.

Anyways, I'm probably going to shut this blog down for now, and be posting my updates on the Acute Studios blog instead: And eventually putting up Cake Brat comics. Busy busy busy. But it's good! :-)


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AE Complete (Sorta), The Falls, and Phaira Lore

American, Eh #2 is fundamentally finished. Now I have to go back and clean everything up, add extra details, shadows, redo panels that don't work, etc, which adds a bit more time, but it's nice to have all 17 pages + cover basically inked and in sequence.

I think AE#2 isn't bad at all. I do wonder, though, if AE is too plot driven. The whole "this happened, then this, then this" without much pause for reflection, or getting to know the characters enough. Sure, it's fun for me and family and friends who know me, or know M, but to the outside eye, I don't know if there's much depth. Or if there should be.

I am not thrilled with some of the art, but that's typical artist-angst. I have to keep reminding myself that it's just as important that I'm *doing* these comics, regardless of the outcome, and committing to doing something I've always wanted to. I only started all this in August! I can only get better, right?

Or, to quote James Kochalka: "If you don't think you're awesome, then who else will?" I'm working on that, James.

While I'm scripting AE3 and finishing up AE2, I've been inking a three-page mini-comic, the first of a series of minicomics under the series name Lybarie, which essentially will be a few poems put into comic form as a means to experiment with different styles. A lot of this is going to come from my Master's thesis, but I think, without trying to sound all Master-y, that my poems are very visual, tell some interesting stories, and more importantly they're not vague or sound all academic. So they, so far, are translating alright to comic form. The first is "The Falls" which was the first poem in my thesis.

Either way, it's nice to do something short, instead of looking ahead to pages and pages. Just as a break, but a way to keep practicing inking with a brush. And drawing and inking from memory, and not relying entirely on photos. I'm proud that the first page of The Falls, which is all landscape, is drawn and inked from memory, no reference used. And it looks pretty realistic. That's a big deal!

I'm still hoping that Juniper Key and the Very Serious Girl might be put together for September's SPX Conference (which Jodi and I are now officially online and registered for under Acute Studios - very sweet), but it's on hold for the moment due to Jodi's wrist.

In the midst of all this, I'm looking to put together at least one other book for SPX - something fiction-based and a little different, so there's a variety to display and sell. Still mulling over Cake Brat - I have a lot of scribbled pages and sketches for characters, but it's not ready yet for anything solid. (I kind of have this belief that stories will only emerge when they're ready, so I don't push it if it's not coming to me loud and clear.)

Or, I'm actually considering, and I can't believe I am, reanimating an old universe I created from about 2001-2004, and haven't touched in five years. Phaira Lore is a science fiction series I worked on for years. I wrote five screenplays and lots of short stories in this universe. But I stopped in 2004, moved on, and haven't looked them since (there's some drama behind that decision, but I'm not getting into it). For the past two weeks, during downtime at work or at home, I've been reading all these stories and scripts and kind of marvelling at the energy I had to do all of it. It's a bit of a raw read, though - I'm mildly embarassed at some of it, but I'm.... nostalgic? Relieved to reread it? There's a quiet love for these characters that I haven't touched in years, cheesy as it sounds. They were a big part of my life for a while.

When I left it, I didn't forget about it - I always thought I would eventually do something with PL - tighten it up, change some details, but use what I created. Because despite some of the stuff I'm embarassed at, the overdramatic nature of some parts, or realizing how parts were directly stolen from other shows like the anime Cowboy Bebop, fundamentally it's a story about a girl and her two brothers, and how in the midst of violence and craziness they struggle to work and live with each other. Which I like, and I see clearly now. I don't need particular characters to spice things up - they can be cut. A lot can be cut, and simplified, and in the end it's still interesting characters, a good story, and a universe to work in. Whether in comic form, or maybe story form with pictures.... I don't know. But that's the news for now.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Page 16, Visible Fuck-ups, and Who is the Cake Brat?

I just inked page 16 last night, and have to do a few other bits on it before moving onto penciling and inking page 17, which is the last page. Then figure out the cover, do that, and American, Eh #2 is done. How 'bout that? Not bad at all. I have to go through and make corrections and tighten everything up, but the basics of each page are solid.

I'm pretty stoked, actually. I made a goal a few months back that I had to finish a minimum of two pages every week. Well, with Christmas, then NYC, and just that heavy winter laziness that robs me of any kind of motivation, that goal got pushed back. But for the past month, I've been sticking to it, and making myself work on the comic at least one hour every day. And the 2-pages a week goal hasn't been too difficult at all, it turns out, despite all the mistakes and set-backs.

I make lots of mistakes. Lots of mistakes. My white-out pen is always popped out and shaken because I'm still not a confident inker with a brush, particularly now that I'm re-learning to hold it vertically (as you are supposed to do, I learned) instead of angled like a pen. I will never be able to sell original copies of my comic pages for this reason - who wants visible fuck-ups? I can't help but wonder how they *do* that - even the more amateur artists at the SPX who aren't super famous. Am I missing something here? Are they faking me out with their pretty, perfect boards?

I'm also debating what to do next, while I'm scripting AE#3, which usually takes a couple of weeks to figure out. I want to keep going with inking and practicing with my new swanky Winsor and Newton Kolinsky sable brushes (which *do* make a difference, holy crow) . One thing I'm turning around in my head is another title, which came from a random reading of a post on Hong Kong food.

Cake Brat is actually this:

But someone in the comments section made mention of what a great name it was, and I agree - it's stuck in my head for weeks now, and I've been turning it over in my head, and letting characters and situations come to me. Everything is scribbled in my little black sketchbook right now, but I'm thinking it might be something new to try, something outside of my personal romantics. Titled Cake Brat, with overdone, overt covers. Sprinkles on red lips that spell out Cake Brat, you know, really over the top, trying-too-hard stylized art. But then inside, it's just someone who is known as "the Cake Brat" from these covers, whether it's a band name or or even as just a nickname.....

It probably sounds strange, but I'm not going to get into much more here, because it's all still being figured out in my head, but we'll see where I end up going with it. It's probably going to have something to do with food and music and stuff.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SPX, NYC, 10,000, and JOM

Hey. So been a while. Yup.

What's going on. Hey, American Eh #2 is on its way to being done! That's something. It's slow going, but getting there. I'm working on page 12 right now, out of an anticipated 17. I'm going through the predictable "why am I bothering, this sucks" phase now that I'm 2/3 of the way through, but I'm trying not to let that get to me.

Keep going, right? At least I'm drawing and inking and trying to get better.

American, Eh? #2 details how I ended up leaving after my sophomore year at the University of Windsor, Ontario and moving on a whim to a room in a house in Quincy, Massachusetts, which is just outside of Boston. I did not exactly think this sudden, very dramatic move through, as you'll see.

Some panels, though, I do think came out really nice.

I sent off registration and a big hunk of my personal savings to the Small Press Expo last Friday. Jodi (of Rottin Rotti and others) and I are going to come together in October under the umbrella of Acute Studios, our working company name. I hope people buy stuff, because the thought of the printing costs and other big gulps of my savings floating away to prepare for SPX, well, I just hope that at least, I can break even. Making a bit of money would be cool too, but mostly I just want to be a part of the community, even if for a weekend.

M is also coming to help hawk our shit - he'll be behind the table with us, pointing at AE books and yelling "Hey, I'm in this! Did you see? Get over here!" His dream come true. (Do you know how many years he's been asking me when I draw: "Is that me? Is that me? Why don't you do a comic with me in it?" Well, HERE. It's a whole frickin' series!!)

Besides three planned issues of American, Eh? the plan is to possibly have one or two other mini-comics to sell, possibly poems / images done in ink washes, possibly something else. I'm focusing on AE right now, so I'll decide later. Jodi will have her Rottin Rotti comics, her Julie Light comics, and I don't know, maybe Fighting Divine? And Jodi and I are collaborating on my kid's story, Juniper Key and the Very Serious Girl - I wrote and created, she's gonna illustrate. Hopefully we can get that together because that would be extremely cool to have something by the both of us to display.

Besides all this preparation, M and I and our friend Net (who is featured in AE #2) went to New York City two weeks ago, my first time, and I completely fell in love with the city, the food, the atmosphere. I am already plotting my return - I think I started plotting on the train back to Providence:

And I've dropped some weight, which was a pleasant surprise. It was weird though, to suddenly be a size 8, struggling to keep pants up, after years of struggling at size 10, going vegetarian, working out every day, counting every calorie and nothing ever changing. Then bam! Down 10 pounds? How??

People have asked, and I've thought about it, and I guess it happened slow over the past six months due to stuff like this:

-stopped eating fast food altogether, except on very rare occasions
-have much less soda on a weekly basis. Drink lots of tea instead.
-cut down on dairy to just cereal in the morning, yogurt in the afternoon, and a glass with dinner.
-started eating a real breakfast, usually fibre-full cereal and juice, instead of Carnation Instant Breakfast
-starting making things like cookies and other sweets myself instead of packaged. Also stopped eating things like microwaveable dinners and Hamburger Helper and now make fresh dinners every night.
-started listening to my body when I ate, and when I start feeling full, I stop.

Since I realized I lost the weight (which was Christmas, and on Jodi's Wii Fit in Canada. I was "WTF" for the whole day after that - sorry Bean!) I bought a pedometer and I'm trying to walk more - leave my office at the college twice or three times during the workday and just walk around for 10 minutes. I think it helps, though I don't know how the hell you can hit 10,000 steps a day, like they suggest. I hit 6,000 on an active day. 10,000 is balls.

And hey, did you hear? I have a new little nephew. Mr. Jack Oliver McCallum.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Curvy Wisdom Teeth, Uses for Teabags, and Psychic Mum

So I had that one random wisdom tooth out today. I was really freaked about it going in, and M had a good explanation for it: "That's the problem when you're never sick - being sick or having something wrong affects you more than it might others." Of course, hearing his horror stories (and the stories of countless others) didn't help with my fear.

It wasn't so much the actual tooth removal that scared me, but the drugs. (The tooth was actually kinda neat on the X-ray - the top was normal and straight up, but the bottom long two points were really curved away. It looked like a jellyfish or something. I really wish I could put the X-ray on here, it was funny.) I learned that I was getting three different types of drugs for the surgery - local novocaine on the actual area, an IV of Valium (!) and then the anathestia gas. They told me it would knock me out. And the idea of losing an hour and not remembering anything was really freaky to me. Plus I had some paranoia about experiencing some side affect of being knocked out. It's being a bit wussy, I know, and it could be way worse, but I'm a chicken shit, I guess.

Anyways, I go in, and they lay me down and put a heart monitor on my finger. Which doesn't help the nerves (but didmake me think, wow, just like on the medical drama shows). They put the gas mask on, and as I breathe, my whole body becomes more and more numb, which I hate and makes me increasingly nervous. I shut my eyes for a minute, open them, and poof - surgery's done. WEIRD.

So it's done, and I was a bit fucked up earlier, but now I feel okay - it's just taking forever for the bleeding to stop entirely. So I've had lumps of gauze in my mouth all day (and now I'm popping frickin' VICODIN post-op, like Dr. House!) and for the past two hours, been following the suggested alternate of taking a tea bag, wetting it, and wadding it against the extraction point. Which is gross, because your spit mingles with the tea leaves, and you've got mouthfuls of light brown goober. I just took the last bag out, put in some fresh gauze, and I'm hoping it's stopped. We'll see.

Otherwise, I've kept a steady icepack against my cheek in the hopes of staving off any future swelling. M was so nice to me, particularly when I came home and I was on the verge of fainting and really confused about all the instructions. He's always physically warm, and has big warm hands, and when you're upset, it's such a comfort to cuddle up. He even got lecture-y like my mum when it came to keeping to the schedule and eating, which was funny.

Speaking of mum, again, funny, but earlier today M asked if I wanted to call her. I did, but 1) I had a big wad of gauze in my mouth and 2) I didn't figure she'd be home (she's the Exec. Director of a Community Foundation and works more regular hours now). I also feel a bit silly that I want to talk to my mum when I don't feel well when I'm pushing 30, but hey, I do.

So who calls at 6:30pm? :-)

Even if it was just for a few minutes, it was really good to hear her voice.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Polar Opposite Cats

I realize a big blog post about your pets is kinda silly, and thus lands me in that self-indulgent, no one really gives a shit column, but eh. I was thinking about them last night, about how weird and opposite they are. And I need to post more on this blog anyways.

So. These are my girls.

Kiko was born on Hallowe'en, and looked like an albino bat when we first got her. Skinny, ears full of mites, a little puffball that I put in my coat when we got her in February. I chose Kiko through the word kiku, which means "chrysanthemum" in Japanese.

She got prettier, though, thanks to some good care from yours truly. And even more so that she doesn't have that squished cat face of some white cats. Regular cat face, but bunny-soft long white fur. And she knows she's pretty- when you come into our house, she will daintily walk up to you, swishing her tail and her head high. One of her common nicknames is "pretty" and she responds to it. She also responds to "coochie" because she has the unpretty habit of laying on her back with her legs out on either side.
Kiko is the cat you admire for her prettiness, and you play with at close range because she doesn't use her claws. She and I have a lot of fun chasing each other through the house. She gets all hyper and bug eyed and darts around like a maniac. Trills and meows loudly if she thinks she's alone in the house, and when you call her, she'll come running for attention.

Is the first to try and get into forbidden places, like the basement or outside, so you have to be careful with doors. Recently, I opened the back door with groceries and she slipped through the crack. Luckily it was raining so she stopped dead in her tracks and I was able to push her back inside.

Kiko is not the cat you can give a hard scratch to, or pick up (without her getting really annoyed), or snuggle all that often. She likes to be pet gently, and to settle next to you on the couch and occasionally on our lap. But she startles easily and you have to be all cool about it, or she'll leave.

There are a lot of rules when dealing with this cat.

Now, Tora.

Tora is six months younger than Kiko. We got her from a shelter because I was worried that Kiko would be lonely. Tora announced her existence by mewing at me from her cage and purring like crazy. When I picked her up, she scrambled up to my shoulder and snuggled into my neck, continuing to purr. We chose the name Tora because it means "tiger" in Japanese (notice a trend?).

Tora's purring is a wonder. When we took her to the vet for the first time, she wouldn't stop purring. The vet had to put rubbing alcohol under her nose to get her to stop so she could hear her heartbeat. She purrs with her entire body and all breath in her lungs, so it sounds like a jackhammer sometimes (PURR PURR PURR). Tora isn't as obviously pretty as Kiko, but she has cool markings and colors, and a kitten face that's very cute. She also has a scratchy kind of meow, or sometimes no sound comes out at all.

Tora is always happy, and always wants to be pet, touched, snuggled, etc. ALWAYS. This cat follows me around all day, and sleeps with me all night. She is a cat who aactually wants to be picked up, who will sleep on my head, who always wants to be on my lap. Her happiness comes through in purring, and also licking. Yes, I have a cat who licks like a dog. She will purr and lick my hand or face obsessively until I push her away.

Tora is the cat you give lots of petting to, and the one you do long-distance playing with, because she will get excited and use her claws if you're not careful. Tora plays fetch with little sponge balls, and brings it back in her mouth. She also loves playing with a string, or with her "crunchy mouse" which is a hard yarn covered thing. Though we call her "pea-head" sometimes, she is a smart-ass cat. These are the words she knows: ball-y, string, crunchy mouse, bored, hungry, soft food, treats, the dot (and spelling out D-O-T), and there's probably others I can't remember.

Tora is a chewer,though, and is currently eating my plants. She will chew through any kind of string, including blind strings unless we keep them up. She is also usually the instigator of very rough fights with Kiko, that we usually have to break up. She does scratch when she gets excited, and deeply at times - I have a scratch scar on my thigh that has yet to fade away. And she is a shameless beggar for people food, whining and crying for it and generally being a nuisance.
But I love'em.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weird Moments in Teaching

A quick post before I go and start vacuuming up my flooded basement:

Teaching college creative writing has been a frustrating experience for a variety of reasons, but we'll focus on one now, since there was just an interesting moment that happened.

One thing I find frustrating is students who fuck around and, as cheesy at it sounds, don't live up to their potential. I had a student this semester who did that. And he is a great writer. For his young age (these are sophomores, mostly), he's got major potential. His writing is always interesting, always well done and complex and researched.

But he barely participated, just doodled in his journal. Sometimes didn't hand in stuff. And when he did participate, it was often with a quiet, but challenging tone. I quickly got the impression that he wasn't impressed with the class, or me for that matter, that he might have felt "above" the introductory subject matter.

Now I told these kids from the start: being a good writer does not mean an automatic A. I'm more interested in the effort put into it, the genuine effort to try and get better. You can be a great writer, I told them, but if you don't put in the work, you're not going to get a good grade.

So today. The kids came in to hand in their final portfolios, no actual class. I said I would be in the classroom from 10:45 - 11:15 to receive portfolios, and if they were late, it was their own fault, and I wouldn't accept it after that time. They trickle in slowly, unless it's down to one last student to come in, our buddy here.

11:10 - nothing.

11:15 - nothing.

I'm having this internal monologue at this point - I'm asking why do you do this? You're so talented, but you keep fucking around, and now I'm going to have to drop your grade by 15% because you're not here on time to hand in your portfolio, blah, blah.

11:16 - pack up my stuff.

11:17 - he walks in.

I say "oh, you are lucky! I was just about to leave!" He says "yeah, I guess I am" with this offbeat, kind of light tone (very ususual).

He hands in his portfolio, then sticks out his hand.

"Good class," he says pleasantly.

Shakes my hand. Then leaves.


But weirdly enough, I find that one sentence to be a big compliment.

I might post more later, after this flooding thing is dealt with.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moving Sloowww.....

Finishing up page 5 of AE#2, did a thumbnail sketch of page 6 and will probably pencil it tonight. It's kinda slow going, but it's happening. Don't know if I can get it all done by January like I hoped- will have to see if I can get some extra work done when I go home to Canada for Christmas.

Am thinking that I need to step up with a strip or regular short comic on this blog, rather than just lame-duck entries updating on the second mini-comic. Maybe take the focus off of my life and get creative again. I have a bunch of stories I've put aside in the past few months - maybe I should do something with them. Or do something completely different.

It's hard - I think the winter is slowing down both my brain. I don't want to do fucking anything when I get home from work.

Too bad, because I like winter, and when we got a dusting of snow last weekend, it not only made me happy, but also homesick. Isn't that weird - the most stereotypical aspect of Canadian life is the thing that makes me all gushy? But for whatever reason, that cold, crisp smell does take me right back to Ontario, to Sauble, and the way the beach is in the dead of winter.

I actually love going back to Sauble in the winter. Sure, it's known as the ultimate summer beach location, but I love how much it's like a ghost town in the winter: pillars of snow, trees covered in white, and the sound of the water rolling in slowly. It's really beautiful. But an acquired taste, I think. Not for most people. Probably because you need to wear layers upon layers to do anything. But I like layers. So there you go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Huzzah! Success!


Am thrilled to death with the progress on page 4 - just had a *very* satisfying inking session, where everything was just working out perfect. After the struggle with 2 and 3, it's a welcome change, and actually boosts my confidence. Now to figure out what to put on all the bare walls of the scenes. Pictures? Plants? Graffiti?

I also moved my drafting desk further away from my work desk, and feel like I got a bunch of new space to breathe. Why didn't I do this earlier? Dumb dumb.

M and I just got our Christmas tree, and it's all fat and falling slowly and filling the house with piney smell - we'll decorate tomorrow, I hope. I have some ornaments from when I was a kid that my mum gave me, and also a silver bell from my Gram's tree from when she and my dad-dad (granddad) first were married. It's signed: "A & W, 1948." I love it.

I'm surprisingly in the spirit this year, and I'm a notorious Scrooge - I'm the one who usually refuses to let M listen to any Christmas music until about two weeks before the holiday because it's just wrong. But now I'm the one humming. I like all the old versions of Christmas songs best - Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole. Probably because my parents played them, they just sound familiar. But these days, I'm mostly humming one of my favorite Christmas songs:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Pages, Inking Gods, and Waiting for my Turn to Kill

The much-cursed Page 2 and 3 of AE #2. Yes, it's taken me a long time to get this done. Bad, bad Canook. Back to the grind. Trying to average 1 finished page every 2-3 days. Trying to juggle the jobs and errands.

Something I notice as I look at the above picture (again, no scanner, so digital photo it is) is that my bodies are stilted. That is, there's a stiffness I know I have to work on. I know it'll come with more practice - I should probably go back to AS220 for more figure drawing classes. And take some time and just go sketch people in a public place. I think it'll also come with the increased comfort I get with inking with a brush.

I am in awe of those comic artists who are doing what I do with an inkwell and brush, but are so masterful and smooth and confident with their lines. Again, I'm sure that it comes with years and years of practice, but when you're hunched over your art desk, brush in hand, that inadvertant quiver causing a slightly wiggly line as you stroke down, well, I can't even image inking like Terry Moore of Strangers in Paradise, for example.

Now he's a guy that I study as an inker. The way he has extreme detail, varied lines thick and thin to create three-dimensional, realistic characters (realism being the key and drawing real women what he's known for) His use of shadows and full on black to achieve a fully balanced page, the way he illustrates hair and cloth - total inspiration. I doubt I'll ever get to that level, but it's worth trying to learn.

Beyond the pages, planning my trip home to Canada to see my family and friends, preparing to sing with my chorus in a Christmas concert (with lots of singing about Jesus - very strange for a non-religious person like me - I just try to enjoy the singing) getting into playing Scrabble and Scramble, and right now, enviously waiting for my turn to play Ninja Gaiden II (so gross, so hard, but so fun) and making a cup of fresh Red Rose black tea, the stuff I grew up on and one thing I am truly thankful for finding here in Rhode Island.