Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Buh-bye 2013.... The year that coulda been better, coulda been worse....

Hard to believe that the end of the year has popped up again so fast. At the end of each year, I try to go over for myself whether or not the year I made the year successful enough for me or not.

Short answer: Yeah. Enough, though of course not nearly as successful as I would have liked. I just have taken on too many projects and that wasn't that smart. On the other hand, I did try out some things or re-visited some things that I'm glad that I did.
Quick shout out to shout out to Benton and DeAna.. Thanks for the wonderful xmas cards all these years !

(By the way, happy xmas to all, though belated)
Memorable bits for myself in the fan realm...

* Went back and took a beginning film class as a refresher. It was good review, the saddest thing is remembering not only how difficult it can be for a class of strangers to necessarily get along (I didn't get into any arguments- but I was suprised how things have not evolved in that almost every writing and film class seems to devolve into people backing into groups rather than all blending together by the end)- but it really was 'survival of the ones who most pesevered' by the end. Bottom line: I was reminded that no matter the person(s), it's NOT easy to get people to work on your project. I was thrilled that I kept mine fairly modest by design but was able to complete a phony trailer and short film at the same time. Helped a few people out at the same time, helping a few other students complete their first short film- and that had was rewarding to be able to help them and vicariously feel that joy again of COMPLETING one's first short film- and it was exciting to get over my own phobias about being too over the hill at this point to ask complete strangers out of the blue to be in a film for no money. (Yes, it still is terrifying to be rejected at any age, but how thrilling when people say yes, and when you put together something worthwhile to yourself at the end.

* Was 'pushed' to attend the Big Wow! convention in town. Saw a rather cranky (too bad, he was awesome in person years ago at Comicon) Neal Adams, talked to a few indy publishers, and was wowed by the mid-size scale of the convention. Also suprised how friendly the conventiongoers were, made a few friends just waiting in line- (Doesn't happen so much at Comicon- it's too damn huge) - it's certainly has grown. Also finished my pencils (for the most part) of the Faith graphic novel that I brought to Big Wow, as I was searching for an affordable inker/finisher. There, I also got a great review of pencils by a professional inker who works for DC/Marvel- which was a giant boost to the ego- very honest on what was rushed, but he seemed to genuinely find them done well.

* Created a graphic novel class for kids... which on the surface can seem odd if I haven't been published, but I gave the pitch as to what I was designing. Essentially, I was/am passionate about creating a class that I would have loved to have had as a kid. The first session was disappointing, but I'm glad that the reviews don't reflect that. Even though it was small enrollment for session one, most of the kids voted it up- and the second session was fantastic- As with most classes, I find the first go-round is nerve-wracking because it's untested except in your head. Then, one does a post-mortem - review what worked/what didn't, then go back and try it again- and the second time had a standing-room only enrollment and there were so many great talented kids in there that were hungry to create- that I really learned probably as much from me, as I did from them.

* Found an 11x17 scanner! But.... still haven't set it up yet. Must do today! Bad crazy asian man. Very bad.
* One of my good friends who freelance writes for a living comes to visit, and we shoot the breeze over the creative frustration.

* Start a new writing class that gets to be a bit much- in juggling what's going on in life, too- but the instructor extended an invite to retake it. The content is great, for sure. Will see... but considering how some life things came up in conflict with it later on, no regrets.
* A friend nudges me to go to APE-CON! Fun to be a dealer, although admittedly we got into a few heated disagreements about the booth. Met some very cool people there who had/have been doing it for years. Attending the self-publishing chat was part inspiring and depressing at the same time. On one hand, it's nice to know that there are others who are broke but genuinely love the art form as I do. Bummer because we're all freaking old and Dan Vado says that he feels that self-publishing in the current form may be dead and that on-line is the future.
* On the flip side, the writer in the booth next to us did a kickstarter that was successful and shared his story about being a scientist who quit his day job, to pursue doing his graphic novel.... and had GREAT success this weekend. And, no, his wife is not thrilled with his decision.
* What's odd is that I notice a pattern of one thing I wasn't planning on attending leading into something else rather cool happening instead.

* Another side effect of APE is that I found out about a local writing group that was also trying to do comics, so I have started to attend that. That, in turn, got me to moving further ahead in the comics' realm and prepping a few graphic novels- along with learning much with my friends' self-publishing ventures this year.
* Well, the bummer side is that the year wrapped up with a full-time teaching position falling through & health issues that are on-going..... but I look forward to getting things revved up this new year.

Happy new years to all!

Friday, November 01, 2013

Realization that I shoulda had many moons ago: It's not IMPOSSIBLE to create alone, but.... easier if you're part of communities....

Been a crazy month. Job stuff and life and family stuff, juggled in the air with a few meetings with the new writing group, full of very kind and generous folks. I'd been part of (and even had started) writing groups before, but more often than not, they fall by the wayside after a few months. Why does this group succeed whereas the others failed? I don't know all the variables, but one thing seems to be key: NO CRITICISM is the rule. Odd how just sharing with an audience and sitting at a table writing together can be calming and suprisingly far more productive than I would have thought. (The previous writer groups were critique- based, although I still think there is merit to those as well) Anyhow...

The problem of working alone has it's pluses and minuses. The plus side is: nobody is giving you a deadline, and there's no need to be accountable to anybody but yourself. There's no pressure.

The bad side to working alone is just that: there's no pressure.

In any case, the group is full of very nice folks, but I know full well that if I want to be more productive, I can't just depend on one group to keep me on track. However, I compare it to having to meet someone to go out and jog. If there's always an excuse NOT to jog, it's harder to dismiss jogging or putting it aside if there's going to be another person waiting for you at a certain time to be there.

So, what am I saying?

Writer's group was a great start.

Maybe this time around I should be part of a FEW creator groups. More than one writer's group. And artist's group as well? Maybe...

In any case, still lots of juggling before the end of the new year...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The fun begins (well, for me, anyways)... Doing art research for my graphic novel series....

The writing group was incredibly welcoming, although I admit I felt incredibly small and intimidated when I found out how many there were published authors.

Still... the main thing is- it's got me enthused and got me to get STARTED on what might be my 'life's work'.

Now, in saying that, it's not like I expect any great masses to actually enjoy the book(s), but I feel great in that I feel like I've gone through giving a damn about what others might feel or think about my work- and now... FINALLY, feeling confident that what I'm doing will be so personally rewarding that I honestly won't care. (Hopefully)

Right now, I'm embracing two things that I felt used to be obstacles in creating a comic: (1)the idea that there are TONS of comics already out there, and (2)the idea that there's MILLIONS (perhaps billions?)of fabulous concept and art designs that will always dwarf what little I can offer. But-- the difference between this go-round and the last go-round, is that I'm going to look at those two factors as allies- and not competition to what I'm trying to do.

One thing that I'm currently doing is 'dream casting' my ensemble of characters. Finding that's a lot of fun- although the tough thing might be what I have to do AFTER I set up the panels and have to bring these characters/images to life. Too often I see art references used in books, and the result feels like- well - (and I've been guilty of this, too)- traced photos.

Ralph Bakshi once said that the difference between bad rotoscoping and good rotoscoping was the artistry that was used so that the reference wasn't totally depended on, but merely used as a basis. I need to keep that in mind.

In any case, story ideas are influencing some art ideas; art is helping come up with story bits. Cool fun. Hope it lasts.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Starting again.... from the ground up. How DO you become any good at BOTH writing and drawing, if you're not even 100% (or 50%?) at one?

Being impatient for results; not having enough access to art teachers that I needed in the past; and not having a community of folks that wanted to pursue the same thing led to me pretty much trying to make it up as I went along.

That worked fine for some who became professional artists who are self-taught.... But I bounced in/out of illustration so many times, and saw so little progress, (and life was lacking in other things), that there just wasn't enough joy in it to keep at it.

It's definitely hard to stay committed to something if you feel like it's going nowhere. I had spotty encouragement, but too often/more often than not, I felt like I was spinning in space without a foothold or real solid opportunity to get anywhere.

So, this time.... I need to empty the cup and start fresh in both writing and drawing. I need to be more well read. I need to draw more regularly until my eyes fall out and my fingers are unable to continue.

Tonight, there's a free writer's group, I'm curious about. Will see how it goes... though I need to remind myself that I have to find the mindset that'll keep me producing no matter what any feedback might be to what I do.

Seeing another side of the Ape--- and Apecon Part Deux for me!

With the number of creative projects that I announce I'm excited in pursuing, then don't have follow up on, I'm more hesitant to talk about projects until I can guarantee the deadlines that I say they will be.

Having said that....

While video/filmmaking has been wildly fun and exciting (as well as being simultaneously frustrating and stress-inducing), my first love has always been comics. I've had three long-term "dream" projects gestating in the background, but life distractions and insecurity on my skill level has kept them on the far backburner.

However, that hasn't stopped a couple of friends and acquaintances from going full-throttle on their own comic book dreams. One acquaintence wrote his book, self-published it cheap (thanks to China's cheaper printing processes) with a 500 print run, and just had his first 'comic book sales tour' and made his first rounds at a convention. On his journey, he shared some tips: like on buying a used upc code to save money (a upc code is something apparently many comic shop owners desire), unexpected 'extra' charges that can come from a cheap China printer, that you CAN have a full-color nice paper comic for about $800 (500 copies) if you shop right, and that there is a mixed bag when you approach comic shop owners- that (to my suprise)--- some comic shops ARE still open to consignment or even buying a copy or two of an indie comic that's not Marvel or DC.

(This isn't my photo, but this is one of the coolest stores came across in SF during my friend's 'world indie comic selling tour' & hopefully they don't mind the plug.)

Anyhow... Oddly, this is the second year in a row where I attended APE-Con primarily because of a friend dragging me along- but I was damned glad that they did! It was like church for wannabe comic book geeks like me.... and I got a LOT of learning in church this time around, I think- and some of which I'll try to recollect and share here!

Anyhow- the rest of these ARE my images from a rather weak flipcam (next time I'm bringing a better camera, dammit!).... As opposed to last year, where it was more of a social event with a friend who I rarely get to see, this time around- it was really more about 'clicking into' what it might be like to BE an indie comic creator.... 'research' perhaps might be a way to look at it.


This has been dogging me for... well, forever. All I had to do was look on the internet or go to a local comic shop to see a wall of current comics by artist that have such consistent talent- that it's incredibly easy to go: "I give up. I not only don't have any talent, but I never will get good enough in time to make any difference or be able to create anything worth a shite to the general public."

My counterargument to that is: There's TONS of slick professional art in comics today. You might not win. No one might give a real shite about anything done. But.... it's no excuse not to keep trying, if the process of creating, and trusting that eventually you see SOME improvement happens.

Plus, I'm starting to realize: creating isn't always about the end result. Sort of like exercising.... it's not just about the hopeful reward at the end--- but maybe it's that you get your head into 'that zone' and for that time enjoy that mental state where age and mortality disappear and it's all about romancing one's imagination, that one often lets reality bury under negativity and despair over unpleasantries that can't be avoided or changed in life.

So.... I'd like to think that the reason to create something from beginning to end- is, in a way, its own reward. Sorta. But.... I know something has always been missing in my motivations (otherwise I wouldn't have let life distractions push my own creativity aside for--- well, most of my life- It might have been never seeing art as even possible for me to do professionally, so it could have been part of a self-confidence thing, but, also, it was more fear and not knowing how to confidently make a living at it at a time when family concerns were more pressing. Eh. Who knows. I just know, there's something freeing about knowing that it's OKAY to make something that exists for you, and may be valued by you and you alone... (Though some might call that 'loser talk', I don't see it that way. Success could be overcoming personal lack of confidence to just CREATING and COMPLETING that thing that you thought you could never finish. Ya know?


I have one friend who is convinced that self-publishing is an all/nothing game.

If something has quality, then it will find financial success.... and conversely- if something doesn't get financial success/if it doesn't SELL.....it sucks.(And, by extension, so does the creator of such property. Ow.)

So.... having two panels of a 'current' generation with self-publishers and creators who have had LOUSY sales for YEARS proudly sit there, made me feel great. It was OKAY to put something out there that didn't sell. These folks didn't feel like failures (or come off that way). They laughed about it. They didn't expect to make a mint (or a profit). And it's.... OKAY. That was very encouraging. You're not alone if you create something out of love and passion, and have that creative child be less than GQ-beautiful or perfect.

Like Salieri going around the end of the movie Amadeus and forgiving others of the sins of creating mediocrity.... it was almost like having imaginary shackles lifted from limbs before even starting to write or draw, when listening to these folks on the panel talk about their 'failures' and invisibility to the fans at large.

Re-emphasizing that was the last panel at Ape-con with an OLDER generation of indie creators/self-publishers who talked about dealing with going out on the floor and knowing that their work and the works of their colleagues were never heard of, though they were big 'names' in the day.

At first, I was startled and more than a little unnerved by the idea of being forgotten in more ways than one- echoing once again: "Is creating worth it if nobody gives it any love or attention?". But then- here, there WERE people who got the (comics history-wise) fame and no fortune--- and then, even that's disappearing. So, in the end--- why do it?

What's funny is that I met two amateur creators who seemed at two different points of the universe:

One had gotten giant support from Kickstarter.... in the thousands... and he had a really nice stream of sales and positive comments coming his way in the two days. In looking at his work, I was pretty confident he would do well at Comicon.

As I ponder/ed this, I also met a new friend who was a modest fellow who spent a good chunk of money at a table to put out his personal book, and was just happy to be there at the table, and sold perhaps one or two books the whole convention. He had a regular day job, but had worked on his project for twenty plus years, and enjoyed just being there, and in talking to him, I could see and hear the joy he had in making the characters he thought up in his head materialize into tangible print form... and hearing his excitement and enthusiasm over the characters' next adventures.

Ron Shelton on the panel talked about how amazing comics were in that it was the next best thing to telepathy: while it may take a crew of hundreds to make a movie- it only takes ONE person to create a comic book. It's that immediate. Dan Vado (publisher of Slave Labor Graphics) talked about how comics that were more personal were the more potent ones... and, as far as money goes- Dan suprisingly said that he, as a publisher, may no longer exist soon in this digital comics world- and saw comics as a vehicle for story and image---- he didn't feel that print nor digital were competing for what was a 'real' comic- that both were comics. Period.

I also met a couple of other artists on the 'trail' so to speak that were incredibly generous sharing information: one taught a class in entrepreneurship for artists (that I might well take), and talked about his philosophy of not looking at the world as competition with other artists for an audience's dollar- because it was not only limiting, but the wrong approach as well. He felt that one should fake the 'right things'- like faking confidence in oneself. But that one should aim to do business to get to art.... rather than art to make business. (He sold merchandise that wasn't a comic- though art related. He did have a comic as a passion project on the side, but had no aspirations for that project to sustain his living. He also talked about making a living without unrealistic expectations for money as an artist. Interesting guy.

I also met another artist who talked about being a janitor for 4+ years as he struggled to make a living as an artist professionally for a company.... and that floored me. I assumed that if he did do the 40+ hours a week that it would have killed the hours needed to develop well as a professional. But, there you go. Maybe I didn't try hard enough or had unrealistic expectations or whatever.... but these were eye-openers.

At the end? I saw and heard a lot.... and saw and heard a lot of ways one COULD live as an artist, part-time, no-time, or full-time. In any case, the one that gave me the most encouragement was the smiling guy who wasn't a fast talker, but loved just being proud of his book and being there in the middle of other artists being a vendor. I don't think at this age that I necessarily have it in me to be a professional artist in a traditional sense, but- it was encouraging as hell to see and remember that art and the romance of art could be a life-saver anyways even if you don't sell a single book or have a single person remember your name. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Pencilled Faith

Yeah.... Well.... It's not inked, and it took forever, and it's not quite done yet--- I suffered too much from a case of procrastination, too many projects, and too many life interferences and honestly not enough inking practice. BUT... It's sat on the shelf long enough- On the recommendation of an artist I respected, (and Kristy's blessing) I'm putting up the pencilled version of Kristy's Faith story. Hope ye like the rough version.