TCAF, Diaspora and my first piece of press.

This past weekend I traveled home to Ontario for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It’s the best clusterfuck of comics around. I prefer it over other conventions like Fan Expo because it’s comic-specific and features tons of independent creators alongside established industry luminaries and publishers. Fan Expo and the like feel garish in comparison, trying to cater to everyone at once and being more about merchandise than actual content.

I got a decent haul of comics from indie creators I like and new ones I just found. People are making amazing work and beautiful printed objects that are really inspiring. It’s days later and my head is still spinning. It’s got me thinking about how to take my own comics to the next level (for me) and how to make an attractive finished item and not just a bland stapled thing.

I’ll be posting some quickie reviews of the comics over the next while, both to promote the beautiful work I’ve been enjoying reading, and to sort out what I take away from it. Stay tuned.

Next on the agenda is my ongoing webcomic project Diaspora. Tonight’s update has 3 new pages, getting issue 1 up to the 20 page mark, which is a nice little milestone for me. I have the rest written but still don’t know how many pages part 1 will work out to. Click the image to go check it out!

I’m getting into a new creative groove and am trying to go with it and get as much new work done as I can. I’m in a new place and need to meet people bla bla bla, but for now, this glorious desolation is working in my favour, leaving me alone with my work, which is a big part of what I wanted in moving out here (to Montreal).

Finally, my good friend Graham from Highbrau Magazine contacted me out of the blue to congratulate me on a review published in the latest Broken Pencil Magazine of my 2013 sci-fi comic Midcourse. The review isn’t online so I transcribed it here:

This sci-fi tale recounts the misadventure of the crew of the space ship Nomad. During a routine collection stop on a distant asteroid, the crew discovers the mining robot has been clogged up by a mysterious object. They bring the obstruction aboard the ship for further analysis, and that’s when things start to go wrong.

The close-quarter pressure of living in a space capsule make interactions tense aboard the Nomad, and under the influence of the mysterious object, things take a turn for the worse. The artifact itself – resembling a small submarine – seems inert, and for some reason is spot-coloured a different hue in each chapter.

The art is simple and cartoon-ish but well rendered figures give it a lively feel. The story flows well thanks to clear dialogue and orderly panel layout on the half-size pages.

Midcourse is a good read, with plot twists that surprise and lively art that keeps it from being too dark. Definitely worth getting for the sci-fi fans and anyone who enjoys a good story.

-Rod Dickinson

Now you’re wondering how you can buy this acclaimed comic book. I’m happy to let you know they are on sale and operators are standing by to take your order right now. Simply click here, and be the first on your block to read Midcourse. I don’t mind being a salesman when it’s actually my own work I’m peddling.

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The stars look very different today

I’ve made some big changes. After finishing school, I moved to Montreal. I’m wrapping up Mute Swan / Trumpeter Swan with Steve. I’m doing more work on Diaspora, working on new pages, writing, and fixing up old pages. I’m writing new stuff that I’m not happy with yet. I attended my first event at Drawn and Quarterly which has my head swimming. I want to go to more. My new life here is off to a quiet but solid start. I’m also living alone for the first time which is a nice life milestone for me. My life is the most together it’s ever been.

Further

I’ve had a bit of breakthrough just now. I’ve been stressing about every aspect of my life. All of life is a transitional phase but right now it’s especially true for me. I’m at the end of an undergrad (that I began at 25) and am looking for work and re-evaluating my goals and focus in life, thinking about what city to live in, what sorts of jobs to look for, if I should even bother looking for a partner anymore and trying to fix myself in that area anyway. The point of all this is that in my head, everything is up in the air and all I’ve got is doubt.

I’m scouring my life to try and decide which scraps to try to build a career upon. I feel like the clock is ticking (because it totally is), that I’ve squandered my twenties and there’s this pressing urgency to get busy at something and see it though. Talking to people about the sorts of creative work that are around keeps telling me to learn graphic design, to learn web design, to learn UI/UX and to network and build a portfolio.

But no. I draw comics. It’s thankless work that does not pay, but it’s what I love and it’s the skill that I’ve put the most thought and effort into, and it would be a crime to neglect it. Design and UI/UX are sciences unto themselves, and to learn them (even though I could do it well) would require enormous commitment and time that would be a gigantic detour from where I want to be and will only hinder my comics development. 

So I have to keep drawing, I have to keep writing. I have to keep my head in the clouds (or in orbit, as it were) and keep making as much time as I can to work on my projects, my art, my life. As I said, it’s thankless, it’s solitary, and (at least here in Kitchener-Waterloo) isolated from guidance and support. But it’s got to be done. 

It’s hardly encouraging to realize this. It’s sobering. This is choosing to make life difficult for myself. But it’s a bit of clarity of mind, and that’s something.

MIDCOURSE available March 21!

I’m happy to announce the publication of my first actual comic book, Midcourse, completing the 10-page Part 1 first published in WHAT #2. You can view that first part of the story online HERE.

The 30-page anthology will be available for purchase for $10.00 starting March 21, where I’ll be selling copies at the opening reception for my undergrad thesis art exhibition at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery from 5-8PM. More info on that show HERE.

The ship is dockin’, interlockin’

I’m reporting live from the depths of the most productive period of my life thus far.

It’s my last term of my fine art education and I’m racing to get my work done before the end of the term. My class has an exhibition at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery in mid-March as both the culmination of our four year program and as (ideally) the beginning of our professional art careers.

I’m working on finishing my latest comics project, Midcourse. It’s a sordid near-future sci-fi tale of deep space. I published the first installment in WHAT #2 in October, which you can see here.

what-preview

 

I’ve completed part 2, and part 3 is underway. I’ve never been this efficient and productive. I’m amazing even myself. I thought it would be a lonely task but I really enjoy blocking out the world and zoning into my drawing table with some good music, snacks and laptop nearby. Also coffee.

 

The three parts will be released together in print, which will be my first real comic book. I’ll be debuting it at the grad exhibition on March 21, with the comic and some other drawings and work of mine. I’m really excited, but there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m currently at 22 pages out of an eventual 34.

I’ll still have 2 more courses to do over the summer, but come August, I’ll be done university and will need to start a life or something. I’ve been applying for things, making longer-term plans, but I’m still very uncertain about the future. At hand is the task.

I am the alphabet.

Acid boy is complete. I keep trying to come up with some kind of clever title for it, but I can’t for now. I’ll sleep on it some more.

IMG_2541

 

I filled the cracks with epoxy and painted him in acrylics. I like to pat him on the head.

Other than that, I’ve got one more assignment to finish and then I’m done school for the term. I can’t wait to be done. I’m already dreading going back in January. The only reason I’m going is to finish the degree and make good on ten years of wasted time. I love art and love what I’m doing but I loathe the institution. I’m sure life after school will suck in its own ways but for now, this school phase of my life has long overstayed its welcome.

Ok. So.

It’s Saturday and I’m relaxing. I have one week left of school for this term. I have been very busy, and have gotten past a big hump. All that remain are a photography project, a short paper, and preparing the term’s work for faculty critique and marking on Friday. I’ll certainly have a few late nights ahead of me, but I feel like the worst is over.

This past week I finished two final projects for my ceramics class. Ceramics has been a lot of time-consuming work, but I enjoy the medium and am glad to have had this dabble. I like the idea of collecting primary human skills. Gareth Lichty taught me to weave, himself learning from a Maori master weaver. Now I have pottery skills. These two technologies are among the earliest of human industries. I guess I should make stone tools next.

One of the projects in ceramics was to make a human figure of some kind. I made a large coil vessel in the style of Andean clay jugs. I was referencing one in particular, featuring a shaman holding cactus, his face in shamanic trance as he has visions. Precolumbian Andean spirituality revolved around ritual consumption of mescaline-containing psychedelic cactus. In the contemporary North American context, psychedelic drugs are used primarily recreationally by young people wanting to get high. The potential to be a powerful spiritual tool is still there, and surely many use them as such, but this is mostly ignored in favour of tripping out.

So my clay jug depicts a college kid eating acid, framing psychedelic drug use in North America as cultural appropriation. It’s a work in progress. I’m not super great with clay, and as it dried, certain parts began to crack. It’s in the kiln right now, so hopefully it survives. I took lots of iphone photos as I finished. The logo on his hoodie is that of Aphex Twin, a popular musician in the psychedelic community.

    

There’s also a new Diaspora page up, and I’ve gone back and edited a few things on previous pages. If you can guess what I changed: good for you! You win nothing.

I’ve been going to art events. I recently did a talk about my work along with other emerging and mid-career artists for CAFKA (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener + Area) and it was a great exercise is gathering my thoughts about my work. As usual, being a cartoonist had me as the odd man out, just like school, where I often have to try to justify what I’m doing in the fine art context. The talks were led by artist Rebecca Belmore, who gave a lecture for CAFKA a few days later at Kitchener City Hall. Afterward we all went for drinks and as I was gathering my things to leave I told her I really enjoyed her talk, and she told me she enjoyed mine too days earlier. She also told me I should quit art school, which I took as a huge vote of confidence. Too bad I’m seeing this stupid ordeal (school) through to the end.

I’ve been going to friends’ events too. I have great one-on-one friendships but have yet to find any kind of group context where I don’t feel horribly out of place. I wish being in a funk was actually like funk music. That would be awesome. Once the constant insanity of the school workload ends (this week) I will probably lose my mind. See you then!