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.

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.

Movin’ on up

Whattup, Internet. I’ve fallen behind on Diaspora but have finally got page 9 ready. It’s intricate and took forever but I’m reasonably happy with it. I’m currently drawing the next page, and hopefully colouring will fall together quickly now that I’m past more meticulous things like a city-wide hero shot. Click the image to go to the new page, or click HERE to start the comic from the beginning.

 

I’m also trying to figure things out for my upcoming graduation exhibition in March. UWAG hosts the fourth-year grad exhibition every year and I don’ really know how my work fits into a gallery setting. I’ve got some related sculptural ideas that tie in both with Diaspora and some other ideas I’ve been throwing around about human impact on the world, and expanding that world to reflect our expanding reach into the cosmos. I’ll keep you updated as I work it out.

I’m also excited about new creative possibilities with friends old and new. I just need to make time to meet up with folks and then actually follow through on our plans. Time management is always the pickle. Now I’m going to go eat.

The bleeps, the sweeps and the creeps.

New stuff up on what. One new page on Diaspora. More in the pipeline.

It’s Halloween weekend. I went to two very different parties. Had fun at both. Except the second party ended up at some bro party in Laurier land and I was reminded how much I absolutely hate males. I then ate a lot of pizza.

Today I wrote some letters to friends. Friends are good to have. I don’t really care to make new ones these days, which is maybe sad, but I definitely want to strengthen my existing friendships. Sometimes it feels pointless, though, with everyone I know in Waterloo cycling out every two years. It seems appropriate for me to duck out as well once I finish school. I plan to airdrop resumes from coast to coast. I’m sad in advance to leave, but I really have no clue where I’ll be a year from now. I feel like life has thrown some major seismic shifts my way, but I also feel it’s nothing compared to what lies ahead. Thinking about it is overwhelming. Time for some Doritos.

 

Annual Check-in

I’ve been extra extra busy. School has hit hard. I’ve moved from my old studio to new space at school. All my old projects still languish in limbo but I’ve gotten a lot done on new things. Projects on the go include:

  • Diaspora: First installment is ready, I just need to make a website. I’m writing the next sequences and about ready to draw more.
  • WHAT Magazine: The second zine is being drawn and readied. I’ve got several pages left to draw and then assemble the final zine. Issue number 2 looms! I’ll be printing many for:
  • Canzine 2012: A big zine fair in Toronto on October 21. I’ve registered for a table and will be selling zines, prints and buttons. You can buy the new What #2, my 2010 24-Hour Comic (also available at my website) and a special minizine made for the convention.I’m also preparing some exclusive WHAT poster prints and business cards and an updated website to roll out with the show. I’m not expecting any huge success with the show, just looking forward to finishing new work and getting it out there.
  • Comic with Steve: It’s rolling along. We haven’t met much since school started but we’re eager to dive back in, and this is the project I’ve made the most progress in. It’s through the process of planning, designing and drawing with him that I’ve further developed my skills and something resembling a style has begun to emerge. It’s encouraging.

I’ll also be doing comics as my undegrad thesis, so I’ve got a lot of formal experimentation and writing and cartooning exercises planned. I’m also self-teaching to switch to all-digital workflow, scanning only maybe loose pencils. I found this great link from idrawdigital for making webcomics, which I’m looking forward to diving into.

The eating of brains and the bleeding of hearts; it all makes for some pretty cool art

Current projects need more doing. I’m making a lot of progress on an as-yet-unnamed comic project with my friend Steve. We’re settling into a productive groove and I’m becoming happier with the work I’m producing. We meet weekly to ensure shit gets done, and it’s working nicely.

Creative routine is key. Ours is to meet and get a few hours of production in, with a downtown lunch run in the middle. I have my drawing table set up with bright heat-producing lighting, and all necessary tools within arm’s reach. Steve sits at a table next to mine, writing and developing the story while I draw. Sometimes we map out pages together, sometimes he seeks my input, other times he’s got a solid page totally planned out and I simply draw it. For lunches, we’ve got downtown worked into a trio of places we go to: The Triad of Cheap. Hasty Market for gyros, falafels and burgers; Mark’s Downtown Diner (when seasonally open); and Queen Street Commons for the best food deals in town. I also ritually get coffee at Pyrus every morning when I arrive there.

I’m trying to apply this to my own comic, Diaspora. I’ve set and failed to achieve goals with this comic chronically over the past couple of years. My current goal is to finish issue 1 by September 1st. Chris Ware said it took him seven years to make his masterpiece Jimmy Corrigan. That’s not super heartening, except for the fact that his work is lavish and meticulous and that I’m no Chris Ware and my simple dumb drawings can be done in an afternoon. Anyway, from there, I may put Diaspora online or try and get it all printed, but that seems like a lot of overhead that I can’t really handle financially. Self-publishing online seems the best option. Waterloo-based Scott Chantler got his start that way, and the webcomic model is a good one to emulate. The thing about following models in the art world is that there is no model. Everyone has to figure out their own hustle. What they don’t tell you or teach you in art school is that you have to be an extremely shrewd capitalist to get anywhere. My goal is to have my finished work seen and appreciated, not to make money. I don’t buy art or comics so it’s hard to expect anyone to care or buy mine. If it’s a decent product, profit can happen later. That said, I need to get on top of finances. I need to grow up and build a life for myself. Wasteful and misdirected energy is something I need to change in my life.

I’ve got about fifteen pages of Diaspora #1 drawn and in various stages of inking, colouring and lettering. I’ve got the first eight done but am currently recolouring and revising some older work I was unhappy with. The most time-consuming tasks are the cityscapes. I’ve put a lot of mental energy into fleshing out a future world for the story to unfold in, and drawing it has been a challenge. What I enjoy about this project is that it’s forcing me to use all my tricks, to problem solve and to self-edit. I’ve become less shy about restarting.

I’m doing this all on my own, and I wish I had some guidance. I’m involved in the local art community and know a lot of brilliant artists but nobody is doing the same work as me. I’m in art school and it’s not preparing me at all; for comics or life. There are some local comics pros I want to get in touch with and seek some guidance. I don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel for myself over and over again, and I’d love feedback on my work from people I look up to.

I’m obsessed with space. That’s what got the whole ball rolling on Diaspora, and I’m transferring that over into another comic that I’m developing, and avidly following the progress of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, the first commercially-produced spacecraft to fly to the International Space Station. Epic, epic stuff. I also started a tumblr of space images, Cosmic Walkabout. Check it out. I’m trying to channel that enthusiasm into motivation for my own work. I’ll go do that now.