Monday, November 10, 2008

Wizard World Texas: Aftermath

[image: my convention painting that was done at the table. Watercolor, gouache, silver paint, and ink on 300 Lanaquarelle.]

The Wizard World tour retires this year with it's final stop in Texas, and what a stop it was. Conventions have been a real drain on the finances: table, travel, food, product. Product is going to take a while to cover, but for the first time ever i covered expenses (table, travel, food, small purchases). I'm typically the one that makes the least amount of money if i make money at all. This is partially due to the fact that i am a dog zodiac so i tend to wander off. But as Evan said "We know we did good because Luan was actually at the table for 95% of the time. Can you imagine what would happen if it was 98%? I don't even want to think about it." It was that good; and the show was pretty good to all of us. We've been doing shows together as a studio for little over a year now, and i think we've done a lot over that year. I think this next year will be a good indication as to where this will be progressing to; and it's been a really good haul so far.

Wizard World Texas is one their newest additions to the tour and it wasn't bought from a previously successful convention (a la Chicago, Philly, LA). So they had to build this show from the ground up, trying to figure out what the market here wants. It's been an interesting evolution over the years, so there are always rumblings of them not having a show the next year. Their first year here they brought along the big booths and heavy names (Lee, Silvestri, Turner, etc), treating it like one of their big media shows like LA or Chicago. They had artist alley tucked away in another room, dimly lit and unadvertised. I think now they understand that people here in Texas don't want the big media glitz. There's a certain pride here of not being like LA or NYC: things here are bigger, stronger, and more easy-going. Over the years artist alley has grown immensely; and they have kept it to small press and independent artists. Gone are the models, small retailers (for the most part), and media people. It is truly an Artist Alley. The main reason i made the money that i did was because i had original paintings. Studio-mate Evan had the same experience and i think Tommy Castillo did bang-bustah his originals as well. People are there to look for convention sketches and original art. I think that's why the live art scene here has been booming lately.

[image: my live art painting for Heroes4Heroes Fundraiser. Watercolor, gouache, and ink on 300 Lanaquarelle.]

had their third annual live art fundraiser on Saturday, and i think it went awesome. It was pretty cool to work along side with such great talent; the Space-Gun Kru ran really strong and turned a few heads. I feel that I need to bring my "A++" game to these sorts of events, this one in particular. The audience for the most part not as local as the other shows that we do. I feel that i am not only representing myself but my studio and the Dallas art community as a whole. Over the course of the last few years, I have identified myself as a Space-Gunner and a proud Dallas artist. So at this annual show, I feel that I need to step up and show that Dallas isn’t just a city of cowboys and corporate offices. There is a real thriving art community here, and we rock it pretty hard.

They had more and a traditional English Open Auction this time, with a stage for the pieces and the bidders were seated in front of the stage. It went fairly well for the most part; though i think how the pieces go up for auction could be more streamlined as a few pieces were forgotten along the back wall for hours. Understandably, they want to get the headlining guests up first/early as their pieces would carry more weight; but a few great pieces got less love than they deserved as the night got late. Though this is their third show and it’s only once a year so there will be kinks here and there to iron out as they find a system that works for them.

This con was a great way to end out the convention tour. The art show was awesome; the convention was really good to us overall. We all left with contacts and money in our pockets; there’s not much more you can ask for. It’s a great way to wrap up one year of shows. Thanks to the Wizard World staff, they were friendly in correspondence and in person as well. We’ve never had any issues with anyone at these shows. Special kicks out to Dave Hopkins and Paul Milligan for being cool convention neighbors; to Tommy Castillo for throwing down some veteran advice on me; and to Terry Parr and Amber May for just being cool and even shelling my pinup book at their table. And a huge thanks goes out to ArtLoveMagic for having the Space-Gun Kru be part of their setup at the live art show.

And now to find real work and replace all the art that I sold.

Wizard World Texas
Heroes4Heroes Live Art Fundraiser

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Paintings

This blog has gone too long without art. So here are some paintings that i have done recently over the last month or so. Sitting at home looking for work gives me a lot of free time to draw. Most of these will stay as is, some may get changed up between now and whenevers.

Elvis Costello: NYC
Ink and acrylics on 15x20 matt board (the rectangles are
photos that were already pasted to the board).

Painted Helen: NYC
Ink and acrylics on 15x20 matt board (the rectangles are
photos that were already pasted to the board).

Viet: Political (GIFT/NA)
Ink and acrylics on 15x20 matt board (the rectangles are
photos that were already pasted to the board).

These are ink wash, watercolor, gouache, and some metallic paint on 5x8 Cresent hot press. The Delirium piece was a gift to a friend.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wizard World Texas & Live Art Show

[image: Wizard World Texas Location Map]

Well, with the Zuda competition and the lessons therein behind us, it's time to move on to other things. This weekend is the annual Wizard World Texas show in Arlington. This year they are co-promoting it with Texas Fearfest, so there is a fairly eclectic guest list. From Terry Moore to Corey Feldman to Dallas's own Vinnie Paul of Pantera. Weird, no? The dates for next year's show is TBA while all the other cities have their dates pretty solid; so it doesn't really bode well for the convention. I would be sad to see it go as it is THE biggest comic show here in Dallas. Co-promoting with FearFest is a pretty good move on their part. Texas has a pretty damn big horror scene for whatever reason. We'll see how it pans out for them.

The Space-Gun Kru will be set up at 2520 and 2530 a little off-center of the artist alley. We'll have a full spread of books and art for you guys; even with two tables between the four of us it's getting pretty packed really fast. I'll have my Gun Gals | Blade Babe pinup book and prints as well as the paintings that i have been doing recently. This is also an opportunity for you local folks to pick up a copy of Synesthetic for yourself.

Saturday night, Novemeber 8th at 7PM Heroes4Heroeswill be hosting a live art show at the Sheraton Hotel Arlington. Along with a myriad of pros that will be arting live, the Space-Gun Kru will be getting our art on with ArtLoveMagic and other local artist. Heroes4Heroes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works directly with members of the United States Military, corporations, and the general public to provide portable media to active troops in order to boost morale and keep our men and women in uniform culturally tuned-in. They gather, organize, and send entertainment material such as comic books, DVDs, CDs, books, magazines, MP3 players, and game systems to our Heroes. This is a great organization that is doing their part to support the troops without having a political agenda. The live art is a free event with cash bars; what more do you need? So come on out, support out troops, and watch some wicked art get done live!

Fanboy Video Recap


Wizard World Texas
Arlington Convention Center
November 7-9, 2008
Tables 2520 and 2530

Heroes4Heroes Live Art Show
Saturday, November 8th
7pm Free Admission
Sheraton Hotel @ Arlington Ball Park

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ending Sound

Well, it was a long and actually hellish month, but the Zuda competition was officially over today at noon. After twenty-five long days, we ended up in third place. We took some pretty hard hits from the community. Doug got his story-telling ripped on and Evan's style really rubbed some people the wrong way; and i was pretty much ignored for being a simple letterist. Though it wasn't all bad news bears all month. We also got some real support from the community and even some pros as well; people were willing to engage in actual discussions over the comic and we all also got some real praise on each of our parts. And we held on to first place for half of the competition; and we dropped to only third place. And I am soundly proud of that as we did very minimal advertising. It was mainly a grassroots campaign on our end. In total, we spent about thirty dollars in internet ads and about ten bucks in flyers. Our marketing was emails, facebook, myspace, and message boards. That is probably why we didn't win, but i'm okay with that. I knew that the marketing is a huge part of their competition model, but going through it gave me a real understanding on how it works. And I'm not entirely sure how comfortable i am with that fact. Their number system is also really interesting; I'm going to see if i can get how many actual votes we got. I'm interested in seeing how those numbers compare to our views/favorties and emails blasts. I may be going through this again with my other studio-mates so I want to be better informed on what worked and what didn't. Ideally, being able to see what each action did to our numbers would be the best; but i'll probably have to settle for what i get from Zuda/DC.

All in all, it was a pretty damn stressful experience. I got a lot of love and a lot of hate as well. It was some harsh lessons about this industry. Nothing new per say, but a nice rehash of old lessons of life: a lot of hard work sometimes gets paid back with bupkis; and money talks. I grew up in a world of critiques; that's part of how i grow and learn. However, on this sort of platform, it's not critiques but reviews. Some reviews are very sound and in depth conducted by people who understand the craft and have valid points. Others are done by fans who only know what they like and will not understand anything outside of that. It's like dealing with an art director vs a client: one will tell you why something doesn't work and call you an idiot, the other will not like the shade of blue you're using and call you an idiot. Welcome to the internet I suppose. As Doug said, it's going to happen; especially when you're in the spotlight on such a large scale.

Though for pluses, you can meet some real genuine people and you do get your name out there on a national/global scale. And to a certain degree, you can see who among your friends really support you and understand the crazy amount of hard work you put into these projects. But that's a whole other subject; one that i would be willing to discuss over beers if any of you would like. Also, make sure you fully read the contract (which they freely posted on their website) so you know exactly what you're getting into. It is DC comics, so it's not a creative owned project as other webcomic deals. But they do have clauses for reversion of rights. Read over it, and if you're really serious about it, get a lawyer to read over it as well. It is a legally binding contract and it's always a good idea to have someone look over it for you.

And finally, serious thanks for all the support everyone showed. It's been along and turbulent journey; and i really do appreciate the words of encouragement and the faith you guys have in me in trying to make it in this industry. Thanks for believing in me and I will do my very best to make you guys proud. Special thanks to Titan Comics for letting us leave flyers in the shop, and to Zeus Comics who even bag-stuffed them for us. Both shops always show some real support for the local scene; so go show them some love.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zuda: Hammer Sound

[image: banner ad for Hammer Sound; illustration by Evan Bryce, design by myself]

This month's Zuda competition features Hammer Sound written by Doug Wagner and drawn by Evan Bryce with myself on the letters. It’s a great step in the right direction for us; it could be the door that opens up a lot of opportunities for us. Though I’m going to need your help in opening that door. As I said, Zuda is a monthly competition. So I need everyone to go to Zuda, register (it’s free and the don’t spam you), and give your vote/favorite to Hammer Sound. If we win, we get to develop the story further and get PAID for it! What is up now is essentially a pilot; winners become a continuous update with a printed collection at the end of the story. And I can’t stress how cool that would be.

Hammer Sound
Zuda Page
Media Page
Facebook Event
MySpace Group

Hammer Sound has been in development for a while; Doug approached Evan about working on something together after being inspired by one of Evan’s sketches. Evan's art has come a long way since they started talking about the project. He’s worked really hard to get where he is and to help him with this latest project is a real honor. Zuda is a branch of DC comics, so this is a big deal/opportunity. Or it could be, it’s a fairly new program so a lot of it is untested. But the very fact that the story got picked is an indication of where his talents are going. And Doug’s writing is the hyper-fuel that feeds that fire.

As for my small part in this, I’ve really developed a kick out of lettering comics. There’s a real, gratifying challenging is trying to enhance the story without being too overt about it. Good lettering will go unnoticed, bad lettering will glare at you with the evil i. It’s taking all that I learned as a good designer and applying them to a field that I loved since childhood. Comic book lettering doesn’t have to be “comic book-y”, there’s no reason to not apply the same finesse that is used for high-end design concepts. At the core of it, it’s about using type to rely and enhance a message to the audience.

A big influence on this project was Todd Klein’s run on The Sandman. The different lettering for the characters really added to the their personalities and became a real integral part of the character’s identity. I wanted the robot to have it’s own particular identity; I hear his voice as a modulated British accent. Though I wanted to keep the corners of his word boxes round because I find him rather endearing and softhearted. Jonah’s size and shape demanded something with a heavy timber; so his typeface is a bit bolder than the rest. On the other end, I hear Polly as a soft, cute whisper. So there is a bit more open space in her balloons and the type is slightly smaller. Nothing that would be noticeable right away, but hopefully just enough for you to sense it when you read over the text. All the balloons are set at a small transparency; I think word balloons should set back a bit. Using start white makes them pop too much, hence the small decrease in opacity.

Granted, I’m probably one of the few people who put this much thought into lettering a comic. But that’s okay, I’m weird like that.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

ArtLove 10.04.2008 Recap

[image: acrylic, ink, and others by the Space-Gun kru with assists from the lovely Emily and Erin]

Another great show at ArtLoveMagic this weekend. The collaborative arting went well enough, though the frantic pace kind of burned us out fairly quickly. It was our first time trying something like that, so there were some lessons to be learned. I think because we busted the paints out at the get-go, doing anything else was difficult due to dry time. Things got a bit muddy in some of the pieces for the same reason. We were able to salvage all the boards though; some were more successfully than others. But overall each of the six boards turned out pretty good. A few lessons learned, which is always a good thing.

Overall, it was a good show. My friend Erin rocked the open mic pretty hard. I’ve been bugging her to come out to one of these things ever since I ran across her musician MySpace page. She was a design classmate of mine from college; though I don’t think she was ever happy with the program. She was good, but you can tell it really wasn’t her thing. She graduated though, which says a lot about her visual talent and drive. But she told me she hasn’t designed a single thing since graduation. So when I discovered that she was extremely talented musically, I knew right away that this was what she really wanted to do. She got a really positive response to her performance, the second time she ever performed live. She seems much happier now, and I’m so happy for her. It’s always good to have a ‘safe’ fall back plan in terms of careers, especially in these creative industries. But you have to push your dreams and passions as far as you can. There is no reason not to, especially for people in our position: we’re young and stupid with no real serious responsibilities (house payments, children, serious relationships). This is our time to push forward and see how far we can go before it all burns out.

And mad, MAD props to my friend/cousin Nam, who was our merch-man as we painted. He was also our photographer for the evening as he was playing with his new camera. Photos can be found on my FlickR account.

Friday, October 3, 2008

ArtLoveMagic: 10.04.2008

The Space-Gun Kru (Evan Bryce, Jake Ekiss, Matthew Warlick, and
myself) will be doing some live art at the Mokah Lounge & Gallery this Saturday, October 4th in Deep Ellum. We'll be doing some collaborative pieces and doing some artistic musical chairs so it'll be interesting to see what we end up with. Also, we'll have on hand copies of the Synesthetic Anthology, a 140-page anthology that we put together with 20+ creators from the DFW area. Some of the other creators will be there as well so you can get a fat stack of autographs. We'll also have our prints, sketchbooks, and original paintings/drawings for sale as well. I will have copies of "Gun Gals | Blade Babes" there too for those of you who want to check that out. Come on out and check out the show; it's a great venue with a real positive vibe. I can't mention enough how much i really enjoy these ArtLove events. The atmosphere is really awesome; it’s a celebration of art on the street level without the highbrow artiste attitude. I'm also trying to convince my wonderfully talented friend Erin Gayden to rock the mic, so it's looking to be a great night.

Check out the my photos from previous events on my Flickr account.

Official release from ArtLoveMagic:
ArtLoveMagic presents
Open Mic and Live Art Show
Saturday Night October 4th

Join us for an inspiring night of art, music, and poetry. Live artists will be painting and drawing while special guests like poet Michael Guinn and musicians Faded Fools will entertain from the mic. Bring your poetry and music and share your light. Artists and performers will be selling original works and prints.

Mokah Lounge & Art Gallery in Deep Ellum
2803 Taylor Street, Dallas

8pm - midnight
$7 Admission

The ArtLoveMagic collective puts together amazing live experiences that tear down the walls between artist and audience.

ArtLoveMagic Website
ArtLoveMagic MySpace
ArtLoveMagic for your iPhone

Monday, September 29, 2008

Baltimore Comic-Con: Total Perspective Vortex

[image: part of our setup with Jake's sketchbook, one:off, and Evan's sketchbook; the rest of the images can be found on my flickr account]

Every once in a while, the universe will let you know where you stand in the grand scheme of things. This can be taken as a total beat down of morale or as a harsh life lesson in the form a total beat down of morale. This weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con, it was both and then some.

The kru and I were riding high as we landed at BWI Airport. Laden with 100+ books, prints, and art supplies, we looked forward to a triumphant return to Baltimore Comic-Con as legitimate comic creators. Our setup was stocked with books and prints; the quality and quantity of our products had jumped immensely from our last appearance. The months of prep we did for this convention was noticeable as we set up our tables: the three of us barely had enough room to fit everything on two tables. We ran into small press and professionals alike that recognized us and were excited to see us setup at the show. This was a great sign. Then the doors opened, the crowd rushed in and it rushed hard. Usually there's a slow buildup to the constant rumble: the crowd would trickle through the convention center, the noise would slowly ramp up, and within two or three hours we would be at a frantic pace to keep up with everyone dropping by the table. Somewhere, somehow, the magic mailing list appeared, and everyone got the memo: Baltimore Comic-Con is a great show. The attendance seemed to have double and right off the bat traffic had hit rush hour mode. Getting across the hall became a weary adventure for anyone. By noon, we could tell it was going to be a long day; sadly we didn't realize how long it was going to be.

Traffic was great, our work caught a lot of eyes and people were dropping by to check it out. But checking it out was all they were doing. We all made some pretty quick sales then there was a massive drop off. Then there was a massive drop off in traffic as well. It was like Chicago all over again, but not as harsh for some reason. I think it was because this time we didn't have as measly of a setup; which to a certain degree made it worse. There were months of prep work for this show: months of fidgeting with book specs, and weeks of waiting for books; tons of emails to/from convention reps, printers, and UPS. I have a stack of invoices for stuff i spent a lot of money on; and I end up with nothing to show for it but solid red numbers. This is the harsh reality of it: sometimes hard work pays back with absolute nothing. In this industry, there are pros and amateurs collecting pay. This time, we paid to be the amateurs.

It was a real good knee to the face; I'm talking a solid clinch and constant, Wanderlei-esque barrage for most of the weekend. My hopes were high for this convention; and honestly a bit too high. In my personal experience, I spent most of the weekend watching others make sales, contacts, and connections. My own shortcomings in trying to make it in this industry were brought straight to the forefront, glaring loudly, and making a scene by not making a scene. It was like being back in my design classes in college: the honest glance-over from the professor that said "why are you wasting my time with this?" followed by curt walk-away. As I sat there watching the traffic flow straight pass me, I honestly thought about quitting. I put serious thoughts into flying home, going back to the office in slacks and a button down, and never turning back.

But that's the reality of it, and it's a lesson that I learning the hard way, which is the only way to really learn good lessons. The weekend was harsh, but not the end of the world. There were some sunny spots in the storm kept it from being a total disaster. For one was the loving warmth of our hosts Eva and Steve. Evan said it best: a home cooked meal is the ultimate sponge that soaks up all the fail. Spending a relaxing evening with a nice meal with loving people was the solid corner stone to my weekend. If i had to spend the night in a hotel room somewhere with the day's failures still pounding down on me, I don't know what mindset i would have been in for Sunday. The guys from Gaijin Studios gave us real words of encouragement; even offering us various places to stay if/when we visited them in Atlanta. A plan that i think we'll take them up on soon. And a quick shoutout to our semi-neighbor Michael Bracco (aka. Mikey B, because we know too many Mikes/Michaels). It nice being around such an uplifting and supportive personality. Check his stuff out and send him some love (and money!). Special thanks to the booth babe in the tight vinyl dress across from us. And even more specialer thanks to the cute girl for the most interesting con sketch for Jake ("Doc Savage with Hawkgirl in a suggestive, not lewd, pose"); and for giving me my only sketch for the weekend. I'll take sympathy when I can, especially when she's cute.

This is one of those times that I'm going to have to listen to my own advice: sometimes life sucks, sometimes the industry will beat you down and tear you up, sometimes you want to toss in the towel and give up. But how you take these events is an indication of character; if you can't withstand these harsh realities, then maybe this industry isn't for you. But if you really want to do this for a living, then understand how you fucked up, then shut the fuck up, and then cowboy the fuck up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baltimore Comic-Con 09.27-28.2008

[image: my new 11x17 prints, 100lb. glossy]

Three-fourth of the Space-Gun kru (Evan Bryce, Jake Ekiss, and myself) will be at Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend up in Maryland. We had a great time last year and are looking forward to this year. It's kind of a nice turnaround on our part, coming back with Synesthetic and a plethora of other stuff in tow. I've been cranking out the paintings and drawings in preparation for the show. I've got a new convention bag; it holds my 11x17 portfolio nicely with room to spare. We'll see if it holds up to the traveling. I should be getting my Gun Gals | Blade Babe pinup book in the mail on Thursday. There seemed to have been a slight hiccup in my transaction hence the late(r) delivery. We'll see how this turns out. I do have my 11x17 prints though, so at least i'll have something with me. So if you're out at the con this weekend, drop by and say "HI". We'll be at table 88, 89 with Jose Torres, writer of Leviticus Cross. What i look forward to: hanging out with Eva and Steve, our gracious hosts; seeing all the peeps at the convention again; getting a chance to meet Adam Hughes and Bernie Wrightson; and showing the the book to the peeps who saw us on our journey last year. What i don't look forward to: getting through the airport security, the long convention hours, and going to Jury Duty on Tuesday. Ah, cons, it's such a love|hate relationship.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Art Drop

[image: The Blue Raja from Mystery Men]

[image: Kaniugian Islands]

[image: Ref'd photo of nude model Justine Jolie; photo warped with photoshop to get that fish-eye distortion]

[image: Ref'd photo, random find; also warped with photoshop]

Sadly, my french gray set is running a bit low. The debate now is to either buy another set from Prisma; or "upgrade" to Copic, but then i would have to figure out what would be their color equivalents.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Inked Ghost Rider

[image: Ink on 5x8 Cresent hot press]

I don't know a lot about Ghost Rider besides the basics. I think the only book i have that he's actually in is "Hearts of Darkness" where he is teamed up with Wolverine and The Punisher. Romita's line work in that is what I associate Ghost Rider and Punisher with for the large part. And with Ghost Rider, he's really, really easy to draw: skull, fire, POOF! done. I'm trying out some feathering and hatching in this piece instead of doing a wash as a means of modeling. This was one I worked with entirely with a Pentel brush pen. I rediscovered it's awesomeness thanks to Mitch Breitweiser's inking tutorial. It is a great brush pen filled with terrible, terrible ink. It's a great line tool but not so good as a hatching tool. I never got the hang of using nibs which is why i stick to brushes/pens. There's a few brushes i want to try out that are a bit shorter with a bit more of a spring to them. It's funny because Evan is looking for a Photoshop brush that works like a real brush; and i'm looking for a real brush/pen that works like a Photoshop brush. For some reason I always looked for that one perfect brush that did everything: line, hatch, shade, paint. Now I'm way more open to have several brushes with each for a specific task.

I'm not sure about some of the hatching though; there are a few spots that it doesn't work. I put down the lines then went, hmm, well that didn't work out. I wish life had a CTRL+Z.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ink Washings

Ink wash (and acrylics on the top one) on 5x8 Cresent hot press. The second on is inspired by Dream from The Sandman; the helmet is a bit off though. The top one is inspired by Destiny, but not exactly him. I always loved The Endless, they're really fun to draw and interpret in your own way.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

POW! Fallout

[image: Brian and Paul auctioning off a Tara McPherson print]

The POW! show at Titan was a lot of fun. The live band was great, though just a bit on the loud side. Titan isn't the biggest of venues so it was hard to talk to folks. Granted, the Space-Gun Kru are a bunch of talkers. We like talking with people at these things while we work. We kind of get locked away in our homes working on projects and such so these events are the rare chances for us to see some people. But overall, a great time. Evan wrote up a blog that better encompasses the evening and the overall vibe of the show. I'm glad Evan is getting into the whole live art thing; it's a great way to hone particular skills and meet people. There's a level of spontaneity that live art creates; plus it's a good way to develop social skills within the industry/scene. I'm a bit wiped to go into details anyways. You can check out my photos on my Flickr account.

[image: Death from "The Sandman"; ink, gouache, beer, kosher salt on cold press]

This was my live piece of the night. It was done on another spare piece of illustration board i found in the time-machine. I think i'm going to stick to hot press for these things as I can not get a clean line on cold press. The toothy surface of cold press is really nice for the more abstract, splatter sort of art. But when i'm going to be doing way more inking than soft painting, hot press is the way to go. And doing a checkerboard pattern at a live art show is stupid, stupid, stupid. Thank god for the beer.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I recently dug through the ol’ way-back machine in the studio. And by way-back machine I mean the canvas bag that carries my oversized supplies like paper, pads, and such. I found some really old illustration board from my typography days; I guess they were spares I had made just in case I messed up on the project. I won’t go into why I hated my typography class this time around; I’ll just say that I was very, very glad the teacher left the program after that semester.

Anyways, I’ve also recently discovered the wonderful world of poster art via OMG Posters!. It’s a great site with daily updates with wonderful poster art. It really makes me wish I had taken a printing class of some sort in college. I wonder how my career would have differed if I had known about this sort of community in my high school years. Anyways, I thought It would be cool to start doing little posters on illustration boards. Ideally I would print the lineart onto the board then hand color it; but 1) I don’t know how to or have the equipment to screen the art onto the board, and B) illustration board won’t feed through my Canon printer. Trust me, I tried. So I’ll just do some little posters by hand until I figure that out.

On the topic of illustration board, I have a terrible memory for the specs. I’m a bit more tactile when it comes to selecting paper and such. So when you ask what sort of paper I’m using; I have a hard time calling it on the spot. Cold, hot, rough, pounds, gsm, ply, smooth, vellum, etc; it gets all jumbled in my head. So I try to stick to what I already know… if I can remember what it was.

This piece is just me playing around with the materials and surfaces. Trying to figure out the best way approach to this. Dick Blick has a minimum order of 10 boards for the ones I’m looking at so I’d rather get what I can work with than have a bunch of sheets that I don’t like. Excuse the scuffmarks; working with digital media has made me a bit sloppy. You never have to worry about smudging ink in photoshop. And you can’t really undo an accidental ink splotch. Oh how I wish I had a CTRL+Z for real life.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Synesthetic in Quick!

Local journalist Dan Koller gave us some page space in today’s Quick, Dallas' free newspaper for hipsters and business folks with short attention spans. Our first write-up; how cool is that?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

POW! Live Art Auction 09.06.2008

[image: POW! Flyer by Paul Milligan]
Dropping a note about a live art event held this Saturday at Titan Comics here in Dallas hosted by The Hero Foundry, a non-profit organization that provides comics and graphic novels to school, libraries, and hospitals. It’s a great organization run by some great folk. The Spacec-Gun Kru will be there large and in charge with some live arting for your viewing and purchasing pleasure. The Hero Foundry has really ramped up their organization and is doing really awesome things for the local communities. It’s a free event with no cover charge and free food and drinks. So come out and support a great cause.

WHAT: POW! Live Art Auction
WHEN: Saturday, September 6th from 8pm - 11pm
WHERE: Titan Comics
3701 W. NW Hwy, Ste 125
Dallas, TX 75220

The shop is kind of tucked away in the back. It's behind the 7-11 in the back row.

Artwork from Tara McPherson, Rafael Albuquerque, Katie Cook, Ross Campbell, Evan Shaner, Ralph Niese, Mike Lagocki and more!

Live Art by David Rodriguez, Sonny Strait , Joe Eisma, Matthew Warlick, Evan Bryce, Vinh Luan-Luu, Jake Ekiss, Jonathan Miller and many more!

Live Musical Performances by American Werewolf Academy and DJ T.Strick!

If you're interested in participating in the Live Art Show and/or donating artwork for the Auction at the end of the night please email Paul Milligan at

Hero Foundry Website

Monday, September 1, 2008

Manga Studio

[image: Rouge pinup by Randy Kintz]
For the first time in a while I had some freetime to play with some programs. I've been holding off on using Manga Studio for a few reason. First off, a lot of the projects I was working on needed a fast turnaround and didn't give much leeway for experimentation. So I stuck with Photoshop which I've used since version five. Secondly the brush/table was offset by like three inches, which was really odd. Though all I had to do was reinstall my Wacom drivers which fixed everything.

Manga Studio is an interesting program, build exclusively for comic book production. I haven't messed with all the functions in this, but i've heard good things. So I just wanted to get my feet wet and work on some quick pinups. Randy Kintz has a some great, fun work. And he seems to have a similar inclination to draw hawt girls as I do. His pencils/pinups that he's posted on his DA site are tight enough to follow but rough enough to allow for some interpretation. And there's a level of complexity to them that is fun challenge to me. It allows me to work on some different lines than I normally wouldn't get the chance to. So with me caught up on projects for the most part, I was able to find some time to play with some new line-art that would be a challenge without making me cry on a new program that offers its own challenges.

[Another piece by Randy]
So, after reinstalling the drivers, Manga Studio worked like it should. It's an interesting program; much more control than PS, acts much more like a pen/brush for this sort of work. I had to tweak out the brush settings because it was trying to think for me. But I finally got it to work in a way that i can handle it. Hatching and feathering is much, much easier in MS than Photoshop. It also offers real time, arbitrary rotation of the page that doesn't muck with the lineart. This a godsend that baffles me isn't in the Adobe Suite. It's in nearly every other art program i've run into: ArtRage, Painter, MS. Free range page rotation is natural part of drawing because we use a different natural line. It also keeps me from craning my neck at odd angles to rotate my visual plane. The program is aliased so that's something to get use to; though it would make coloring/flatting a much easier process. So far, thumbs up. I'm going to play with for a while longer before I jump into it for a project.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Work Doodles

This is how i doodle/sketch; these are usually done at work whenever there is some major down time. The recent contract I got wasn't every involved on my end so i pretty much tore through a few scrap sheets and half the ink in a new ballpoint pen. This particular one was done on the back of a rejected table top sign. As you can see, my natural drawing style is a bit different from what the photo-referenced stuff. I've been looking a lot at Trent Kaniuga's environmental designs thanks to his blog and his books i got. I've always done a lot of hatching and such in my traditional pen drawings. I didn't do a lot of coloring back in the day so everything was in black and white. Hatching was the only way i was able to add any sort of gray shading to a piece. I'm thinking about getting a nice moleskin sketchbook and filling the whole thing with nature studies (trees, ferns, forests, water, etc). It would help me get back into actual drawing again at least. With the amount of traveling that could be involved in my foreseeable future, it would at least help me kill some time. Well, moving forward.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Synesthetic Part 5: Baltimore and Fin

[image: the cover to our mock-up copy of the book]

Between Chicago and Baltimore was corporate work for me. I had taken myself off the "On" list at the agency for about six months to work on Synesthetic. I had even turned down a full time job to do be able to what I'm doing. At this point I had torn through all my savings, accumulated some more debt, and thus needed to get back into paying work. I honestly still haven't fully recovered financially from that period of time. As I have said before, we did some real stupid things. But we're young, we're allowed.

Jake and I promised ourselves that for Baltimore we would sleep the night before the flight. That was a total lie. So we arrived at Baltimore sleepy and bleary-eyed but were in much better spirits than our arrival at Chicago. For one we were staying with Jake's sister Eva (no actual blood relations, only spiritual) and her boyfriend Steve. Having a nice place to stay with wonderful people is always a good idea if you can swing it. It makes the grueling hours of the convention much more tolerable. Hotels lack that comfortable homey feeling that can really relax you from being behind a table all day. This is especially true for these first few conventions as we were trying to feel out conventions' natural ebbs and flows.

Baltimore was much more artist/publisher orientated convention. I would guess maybe a third of the floorspace was dedicated to dealers; the rest was setup for independent artists and artists with their publishers. There were no real dead spots with the artist alley as it ran the perimeter of the convention hall, which also helped with the traffic flow and visibility. The atmosphere was much more relaxed than the frantic pitch that permeated the air in Chicago. Which is surprising with the sheer number of big names on the guest list. I was much more exited about the guests here than Chicago and the audience seemed much smaller. Though this could also be due to the convention's usage of space. The walkways were much wider here; and they didn't try to cram as much as they could without breaking fire code as Chicago seemed to have done. Chicago was more of a fanboy's show, Baltimore was more of a fan's show. Everyone was way more laid back and casual. I remember talking to the guys at Gaijin Studios at one point when Jimmy Palmiotti just strolled on behind the table, sat on the floor, and started chatting with the guys. It was a surreal moment and an indication on how the pros approached the convention as well.

We met up with Evan at the show and found a slow period to approach the Gaijin Studios table with our demo copy. Brian Stelfreeze is a sort of idol/mentor to Jake and Evan; especially to Jake. He has been a real long time fan, going to Aggie-con for years and years just to get critiques from Brian. So you can understand what it meant to him to show Brian a product he could really stand behind. I remember Jake handing Brian the book for a critique and the first words out of Brian's mouth was an impressed "Damn!". He flipped through the book with a look that only Brian could pull off that said "wow, you serious? this is way too cool". It's hard to describe unless you know him to a certain degree; but it spoke volumes to us. He had very little critique to give us, just a few choice words on color and design/layout. He then mentioned there was a group in Atlanta he was kind of guiding that was trying to do what we just did on our own. Then it all came to the definitive statement: "Is this your only copy? Well, when you get this printed, send me a copy. I want to read this." That was it, everything melted away and made everything all worth it. All of it, the turmoil, the grind, the crushed morale; it was all worth it now. Within a few minutes, someone we looked up to saw our efforts, understood the work that was involved, and was not only impressed but respected us for it. That was all we needed; for me, the convention was done. The yummy seafood in Little Italy was just a bonus.

[image: the final cover of the book by local artist Kathryn Petroff]

It would take a full year before we could take the demo copy to self-publication. Finding another set of eyes to go over the text was problematic. I just ended up rereading the entire book a few times by the end of it. We had to tell some people we were going to do some major rehauls on their story because things were not working out properly. Filling in some gaps was a real obstacle. Then finding a place to print it on demand was a debate. On top of that was the real world. I had to find paying work as a freelancer. Jake had to not only graduate but find a job because he couldn't keep his university job being that he was no longer a student. We had to decide if we still wanted to be roommates; and then find a place to live in Dallas that was in our budget. Then move out of Denton and into Dallas. Through that was also the ending of Space-Gun the webcomic and the start of Space-Gun Studios. It's been some real busy times, but all worth it.

So after three days of re-prepping files for the newly chosen printer, and a few weeks of emailing, we now have a small stack of Synestetics in our living room. We couldn't get a lot of copies in our first batch because the page count (140) makes the printing costs a lot higher than a standard book. ArtLoveMagic and Titan comics are generous enough to organize an in-store signing for us and another local book "Eye Witness" this Saturday, August 16, 2008 at the Titan location here in Dallas. Our first in-store signing, how cool is that?

Well, that's it. Two years of sleepless nights and hard work. Was it worth it? Hell yeah. I have a final product that I'm proud of; and I've learned a myriad of lessons that I could not have learned otherwise. After coordinating 20 creators and grinding on no sleep for wo weeks to produce a 140 page book, everything else seems much easier now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Synesthetic Part 4: A Lesson in Cons

Wizard World Chicago 2007 was a harsh lesson to learn coming out of the gate. This is especially true on two weeks of no sleep. Looking back at Chicago, I count it as one of the dumbest thing I've ever done. Sadly it also counts as one of the most expensive things I've done as well. I've never worked an out-of-state convention, so there were little things that I did not anticipate. One such thing would be the car rental. I had forgotten that you have to pay an extra fee if you're under 25 years of age as a renter. And this extra fee cost me MORE than the rental itself. After telling me the fee would be about $250 on top of the rental cost (~$200), the clerk asked me if I still wanted the car. I just stared at him for a second. How else was I going to get around? I'm from Texas, I barely have a concept of how public transportation works let alone the public transportation of this area. Wizard World Chicago isn't held in Chicago proper but one of its suburbs. So it looks a lot like the urban sprawl of Dallas, which means you need a car to get around. The only concession was we got upgraded to a phat full size car when a mother and daughter asked for the last compact. It put us in better spirits at least. Then we got slammed with the daily parking fee at the hotel. These little things were really starting to add up and wreck our moral. And this was only an hour after landing. We still had five days to go.

We visited my friend Anthony as he is a Chicagoan now, living pretty central downtown. He's the author of the short story that "Down Time" is based on. And of course with it being Anthony, he and I end up at a Kinko's at an ungodly hour to print out stuff for the DC Talent Search. And by "ungodly hour" I mean 11PM, which to Jake and me felt like 5AM. And no,there is no time change between Dallas and Chicago. Remember, at this point we were running on maybe five nonconsecutive hours of sleep. And of course with it being with Anthony, something goes terribly wrong at Kinko's. This time it was a broken color printer. Which meant we had to walk not to the closest Kinko's ("It's dark, we're not walking that way") but to the next closest. Did I mention that Anthony only enters a Kinko's with me on these stupid last minute print runs and something always go wrong? I'm still surprised he agrees to go.

As for the convention itself, Chicago was massive. I was not prepared for the capacity of this convention. The space is immense, the people are numerous, and the noise is a constant rumble. This was also the first comic book convention that Jake and I attended as artist alley participants. The previous cons we went to were all anime conventions, and the difference is immediately noticeable. Anime conventions, people are looking for commissions and art prints; at comic book conventions, people are mostly looking for books and autographs. And as we only had one book which was not for sale, we were ill prepared for this show. Also with Chicago being the size that it is, people there were looking for the big names. First time out-of-towners like us hold little to no draw with the fans. We had no local support, no products besides our prints, and no reputation to bank on. I think the only reason we got any attention was due to us painting at the table. Thankfully that drew in considerable amount of attention; otherwise it was have been a much longer weekend.

I spent most of my weekend talking to editors and creators showing them the book. Jake is a way better on the spot artist so I felt more comfortable with just him at the table than if it was just me. Plus there's a certain level of wanderlust that overtakes me; I'm getting better restraining myself these days. Anyways, as this was our first time at a comic convention, it took me a day or two to get the approach down properly. There's a craft to it that is difficult for an introvert like myself. First off is the intimidation factor. You got to be fearless and confident yet humble enough to not come across like as arrogant prick. Conventions have this organic ebb and flow, it can sense fear and pride with pinpoint accuracy. And with a convention this size, getting the attention of any one person is difficult. Trying to force yourself into their attention/conversation will turn people off. I've discovered over time that being known as "a nice dude" can go a long way. So figuring out how the convention floor operates was a trying process: frustrating at times, infuriating at others.

I got some real positive responses from some of the people though. The editors of APE and TopShelf were fairly receptive and positive. However TopShelf was not looking for an anthology and the editor I talked to at APE was much more responsive to a particular style than anything. Though the coolest response I got was from Ivan Brandon. He is the editor of 24Seven, the book that inspired the entire project to begin with. He was fairly impressed with the book and had some good comments to make as well as some helpful critiques. He gave me the best compliment I got all weekend when he said he really liked how the cover was designed. I really like how 24Seven was laid out, the design work on it is really good so that meant a lot to me. He wished me luck with the book and sent me on my way. This was the theme for the weekend: Good luck with the book; laters. It was another lesson we had to learn the hard way: getting picked up at a con via a submission sample is really rare. Publishers aren't really looking for talent at shows. They have people looking through the indy scene to find talent and books to sign to their company. The independent market allows for a publisher to talk to your editor about your work ethic, your speed and skill, and how well you work with others. They can look at your release schedule to see your productivity and longevity so they can pick up a stable worker and not someone who will burn out in two months. A major publisher picks up maybe, MAYBE one or two talents per year on the convention circuit. I got all of this directly from the editor of DC comics at their talent search orientation.

Jake and I refer to Chicago 2007 as "A Con". We sold a shirt, a print each, Jake did a sketch and got a commission (which was done/paid out later, after the con), and I sold a painting. Compare that intake to the output of airfare, car rental, parking, table cost, food, cost of the demo copy (a buck a page in a then 130 page book), and for me six months of wages so I could work on this project. We couldn't even hang out in the lobby with people because we were still so tired. After dinner we would just crash in the hotel room. So you can understand the level of dejection that loomed over us as we sat at the bar Sunday night doing our traditional post-con review. Though we couldn't even talk about the con. We couldn't tell you why at the time, but looking back now it's pretty obvious. It was a terrible con for us; we barely talk about it now even. Though we did take away from it some very valuable lessons and experiences. I liken it to being tossed in the very deep end of the ocean with our arms tied together. We didn't sink, we didn't swim, but we somehow paddled our way to shore eventually. I think we got saved due to the fact that the con had to end at some point.

What we did talk about at the bar was Baltimore, the next show we would be attending. It would be great; we would get a chance to hang out with Jake's sister, meet the guys of Gaijin Studios, and finally be able to meet Mike Wieringo. Jake has been a long time fan and I had recently discovered his online presence and have been following his art religiously. Everything we've heard about 'Ringo had been very positive and upbeat. Not one person ever had anything negative to say about him as a person and about his art. We concluded if there could only be one person to draw Spider-Man from now until the end of time, we'd choose Mike. We were excited.

Then on Monday, not long after we got home, I read the news that brought the comic world to a standstill. Mike Wieringo had died that previous night, probably around the time we were at the bar talking about how great he was. You could tell how the news shook the everything. There was an outpouring of love and admiration from every corner of the field. It felt like the entire industry, pros and fans, closed its doors to mourn a great loss of their own. I honestly felt a bit cheated by the universe. I just wanted to meet him in person to say "Hi", shake his hand, and tell him how much he rocked. Now I'll never get that chance.

To Mike Wieringo, a great artist and a great person. You rock, man. Then, now, and forever.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Synesthetic Part 3: The Grind

[Image: My inks on Paul Milligan's pencils. This is why Paul can be a badass and a bastard in the same breath.]

For two weeks, Jake and I locked ourselves in front of our computers every waking hour that we could. I fortunately had saved up a few months of bills to I could stay home and work on this project full time. Jake on the other hand still had work at the university; though it this was during the summer so he really didn't have anything to do at the office. Which honestly is pretty horrible because the office life can really kill your grind. Sitting at a desk doing nothing is really life draining, especially when you know you could be using your time to do other things that needs to be done and done very soon.

We had turned our dry-erase board into our happy home. On it was the list of pages that needed to be done. Each of the stories had a row of open circles; each circle represented a page. It would get half filled when the inking was done, completely filled when the coloring was done. This was more of psychological than anything else. Being able to visualize the progress and see the goal get met kept us from getting mentally overwhelmed. We could see the big picture when we needed to but could also focus on each step one at a time. With the daunting tasks that were ahead of us, keeping mentally sane was pivotal to our health. Because honestly our physical healths were getting destroyed.

At this point, sleep was the enemy. We did not have a lot time to do what needed to be done. Back in my design college days, I had developed a few tricks to keep the oil burning way past midnight and into the next afternoon. When I needed to sleep, it could only be for a few hours at a time (about three to four). One technique is to leave the lights on. You body rests a little differently when you're under lights compared to darkness. I would sleep on the covers to keep myself from getting really comfortable and had my feel slightly elevated to help with circulation. I also set two alarms (clock and cellphone) as per usual habit. Again, some of this could be more psychological than physical but honestly, it worked. I could sleep for four hours then abracadabra get up like Viagra to start on work right away.

We were getting the work done at a decent pace, but it was really wearing us down. We made sure to tell everyone to not contact us during those weeks. We essentially only saw each other, though briefly at some points because we had different sleep cycles. Jake would be awake for most of the day due to work; I would be up most of the night. Still, the stress was getting to us. There were several occasions where we would just snap at each other; nothing really mean or vindictive, just short and slightly hostile. Luckily we understood what was going on and saw these signs for what they were. "It's not him, it's an honest question/concern, no reason to be mad, I'm just stressed out, calm, keep working, breathe". The fact that no one came out with knife wounds is a freaking miracle. Seriously, our apartment has various sharp and blunt metal objects everywhere. When you live right next to a graveyard, you have to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse. But that's a different blog entry.

We did take a few breaks in that time frame though. Our friend Fran somehow convinced us to take a break one evening and cooked us dinner. Granted, it probably didn't take much convincing. Though it was only for a couple of hours, a home cooked meal and some breathing time felt like a day of rest. Our friend Alex also came by to visit very briefly. If I remember correctly she was on a weekend leave from her FEMA deployment during the floods in central Texas. It was nice of her to drop by because we didn't know when we would see her again. To give you an idea of what condition we were in at this point, when we opened the door for Alex, the first thing out of her mouth was "You guys look like hell". She had wanted us to come with her out on the town with some friends but we were right in the middle of the grind at this point. Though the hour or so of her visit was a good break for us. I don't think the girls fully understand how much that meant us and our psyche. It probably kept us from a complete meltdown and murder.

But there was a lot of work to be done and the deadline was coming up way faster than it should have. With me mostly caught up with the inking, I comped together a wraparound cover and title page. During the last few days, I was adapting the short story for "Down Time" to Grant's pages. When Jake finished coloring a page, I immediately opened it to letter it. At this point I was essentially writing each page as they came in. Luckily Jake's story has no text (it's set to music) so after I finished inking them all was left was the coloring. As he colored those final pages, I started to prep all the other pages to get ready to print. Which meant in the 24 hours before our flight to Chicago, I was resizing pages to fit the final margins correctly, tweaking some pages to ensure proper bleeds, rescaling files that had their dimensions corrupted, and dropping in page breaks as needed to make sure that each story started out on the correct side. Jake finished coloring the last page at noon thirty, seventeen and a half hours before we had to leave for the airport. I exported the layout to PDF, burned the CD, and it was off to Kinko's.

This was cutting it close. The time estimate I got from a store employee was at least 5 hours. This leave very little time to get to Lewisville where a former employer said I could perfect bind the book there for free. Sleep deprived and hungry, I panicked as I stepped through the doors at Kinko's. Behind the counter were stacks and stacks of orders. When I asked if they could print something for us on the Fiery, the girl frowned slightly. "We're kind of backed up, let me ask Patrick how long it would take". I am Luan's brain, and I'm about to have a stroke. Patrick hemmed and hawed for a bit and spouted out a miracle: two hours. Holy Jesus, it's going to work out. Leaving the disk in the hands of St. Patrick, we left for food. It had been about twelve hours since either us ate. We were hungry.

After our meal, we sat at Kinko's, waiting for our book to be printed. From where I sat, i could see the intense blue inside-front-cover come out of the printer. It was a good looking blue, the exact intense, electric blue I had wanted. As the other pages came out, Patrick looked impressed. "Is this your book?" he asked. "Well, kind of, it's us and like twenty other people," we chuckled. The pages kept printing, it was a huge stack. "It looks really, really good." Thank the gods. As I paid for the service, we flipped through the pages. It looked awesome; and it was our only set. Now to Lewisville. Jake was holding on to the pages with the protective nature of a grizzly bear. Mess with the cub and someone is going to get owned.

The binding was a nerve wrecking process. The guy in charge of the print room ran a few tests on the binder. The book was an nonstandard size so the machine had to be calibrated just right. We had one shot at this. We only had the one printout. I had no idea how deep the book would end up so i just guessed on the spine width. So when it came time to cut and glue the book to the cover, I was on edge. And like that, it was done. Perfect bound perfectly. We hugged everyone at the office and left with a skip in our step. We had to show SOMEONE. And who better than the person who started this project with us. We dropped by Evan's place to show him the book. Hearing him get excited about our prospects as a group was great. Jake and I have been locked away for two weeks; and for Evan to tell us "Dude, this is going to rock!" was what we needed to get geared for Chicago.

When we got home, I crashed out for a few hours as Jake did his laundry. Then he crashed out while I did my laundry. As we were zipping up our luggage and printing out the flight itineraries, a knock came to our door. It was our friend Kelly, outside in a world of morning blue, ready to take us to the airport. Bags packed and book safely at our side, I woke up at O'Hare airport about to embark on another four day grind: Wizard World Chicago.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Synesthetic Part 2: Turning Point

[image: page two of "Floater" by Evan Bryce]

I came back from my NYC with mixed feelings. On one hand, I loved the city that I had dreamed about since high school. On the other hand, I had a few ties left in the DFW that had to be settled one way or another. Space-Gun the webcomic was still ongoing, having just celebrated it's two year anniversary. Then there was Synesthetic. Some progress had been made by this point but not much. I had started my introduction pages to the book; references were shot, and the first three pages were completely finished. Evan had started and finished the story Jake had wrote for him. We had a handful of other pages from Nate, Matthew, and a few others at that point, but it was slow going. I honestly thought I would finish the prepress on the book in NYC that fall and be done with comics. I have a degree in design and that's what I would be doing as my career after that year. Then, we had The Meeting.

After a lot of "maybes" from the various creators, Jake organized a be-all meeting in Dallas. It was essentially an ultimatum: be at this meeting or you'll won't be in on the book. We were going to be moving forward no matter what. I honestly didn't expect a lot of people to show up. But I dressed in my business casuals (jeans, button-down, and a tie) and hoped for the best. And under the unforgiving Texas sun, we completely took over the patio at Cafe Brazil. With four tables strung together, we started in-depth discussions on everyone's story and ideas. Jake took one end of the tables and I went to the other. We made sure to talk with every single person there, refining ideas, making sure the stories fit our concept, establishing who needed what in terms of production, and gaining their confidence. I had printed out everything we had at that point, most importantly Evan's story. Evan's hard work had paid off in ways he would not have imagined. By passing around the finished story, you could see the slight panic in everyone's eyes. Not only was this project moving forward no matter what, the content looked amazing. You could tell that no one wanted to be the weak link in the anthology. With that meeting we essentially set the bar of standards for the project. It was the real catalyst that drove the project from its possible thirty pages to a solid 140 pages.

Unfortunately, this third boost didn't come until mid May. Everyone's due date was July 19th. Jake's and my real deadline was August 8th, the day we would fly to Chicago for Wizard World. This three week buffer was originally intended for wrapping up loose ends on stories and getting the pages ready for print. I've been through way too much hell in my design classes and found that leisurely wrap up from end production to print way better for the final product. I thought three weeks would be plenty of time to get that done. Sadly I had not anticipated the natural tendencies of comic book people to break deadlines. We did get a few finished stories before the due date, but nearly everything came right at the deadline or during the week afterward. The buffer was created to accommodate something like this but not to this degree. Jake and I had on our hardrives only a handful of finished pages, no cover (because only one person turned in spot illustrations for it), and under two weeks to color 41 pages, ink 18 pages, and letter 33 pages.

We put up a "NO VISITORS" sign on our door, got a bag full of Starbucks Double Shot Espressos, and implemented a handful of ancient sleeping techniques I picked up in design school. The next two weeks became the legendary "Synesthetic Grind".

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Synesthetic Part 1: The Beginning

[image: the initial Synethetic proposal to creators]

The Synesthetic Anthology is a 140 page, self-published creation that involved the organization of over 20 different creators. The project took about two years to put together from concept to finished product. Everything was done in-house. Synesthetic represents ten years of professional experience packed into a frantic two years span trapped in our tiny living room way out in Denton, TX. To give you an idea of where Denton is located: it's twenty minutes past Corinth, TX. And you never even HEARD of Corinth, don't try and pretend. Out in a small college town, locked away at Space-Gun Headquarters (ie. our tiny cave of an apartment), we did the impossible. And "impossible", I mean "craziest and stupidest thing we could do at that point". But we're young, we're allowed. And these are my experiences of how I drove my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

About two years ago, Jake Ekiss approached me about putting together an anthology with his friend Evan Bryce. They had recently bought the Image anthology 24Seven and thought how cool would it be to do a similar project with our friends. There was a sense of creative freedom on those pages; it seemed like a great deal of fun. Evan had been thinking about this project for a while when he approached Jake about it. In their various discussions and instant messaging, they brought me aboard to help out with the more technical stuff and to contribute a story. They also established that a overall concept was needed to tie the book together; something that brought the pages in as a whole and not a series of disjointed stories with various aims. They began debating between the abstract concepts of time and sound. I believe each had an idea for that concept and wanted to be able to do it. Somewhere in those discussions, they thought why not do both? By bringing in some concepts from McCloud's Understanding Comics, they added space as another theme. This was the birth of the hard to pronounce "Synesthetic". With the hardest part over, we began to look for other creators that would join us on this project. It was a fun idea, who wouldn't want to work with us? Oh, how little did we know.

Evan had gone to HeroesCon that year with the plan of sending out feelers to the comic book pros that he knows. That wasn't his only reason for going, but he thought "might as well ask while i'm here". We knew that if we could get one or two established names on the project, then we'd have an exponentially larger chance of getting published by an actual publisher. We also approached people at Wizard World Texas and CAPE! with our proposal. We quickly found out that everyone was hesitant to work with a rag tag band of unestablished names. Which is understandable; we had no publishing guarantee, no money, no history, no experience in this sort of thing. Evan had done just some things in the industry at that point (flatting and coloring); Jake and I did a webcomic that barely made a splash on the internet scene. We had nothing to really give them as an incentive. This was a major blow to the initial drive for the project. Support in the industry equates to respect, and we came to realize just being friends with them was not enough. We had to prove ourselves every bit of the way.

Right around this time Jake and I had started to meet more and more of the local comic book scene. We started to attend the monthly sketchgroup started by the folks at Stumblebum Studios. We found that the local scene was diverse and thriving; people seemed genuinely into comic books. This presented a great opportunity for us: these creators were local, much easier to communicate with, and we could sell them on the project in person (which turned out to be very important). This is when we spent a few days drafting up a proposal to bring to the sketchgroup. This was an agonizing process. Not only did we have to establish our goals, intentions, and means of doing it, we very little to no grounds to be even asking this of them. We had met these people once or twice before, with no real credentials other than our biweekly webcomic (which i doubt any of them even read or even looked at). They had every right to dismiss us, and we knew that. Which is why our proposal was so meticulously put together and worded.

This project had to be about a group effort. We could not come across as unfinanced entrepreneurs: lazy "idea guys" who would just sit back, make others do the work, and then reap the benefits without a sleepless night and stacks of energy drinks. People who come up with "cool ideas" are a dime a dozen; "cool ideas" are worthless without the hard work that will make those ideas a reality. So we made sure they understood that we would be in the trenches as well, side-by-side, working hard with them and working even harder FOR them to make this project a reality. We discovered that some people are hesitant to work on something because they feel that they are lacking in a certain area (drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, writing, etc). To alleviate that, we stated that we will either find that person for them or do it ourselves. We were there as a support for them on this project; and that is what really sold it for a lot of people. We also established that we would be taking on all the financial costs and risks involved in putting the book together, getting a copy printed, and traveling across the country to show various editors at Wizard World Chicago and Baltimore-Con in 2007 in the fall. This would give all the creators six months to put together 6-10 pages, which was a nice cushy deadline for everyone.

We approached the sketchgroup in at the end of 2006. We got a lot of positive response, people seemed really interested; which was much better than we had anticipated. The concept was open ended; it had a wide range of possibilities, and (hopefully, HOPEFULLY) we didn't come across as a bunch of newbs asking for a handout. Things were on the ball, ready to roll. Then the standstill. Nothing. No responses, no action, nothing. The project seemed dead in the waters again.

That spring I visited New York City with the full intent of moving there when my lease ran up in August. I met with the NYC office of my freelance agency to talk about job prospects. I talked with my cousin about housing and generally felt the city to see if I could live there. I fell in love with it: the hustle, the bustle, hell, even the subway system. I was determined to be in NYC by the year's end. As you can tell, things change. Let me state that I am not unhappy with how things turned out; I just want to you to fully appreciate my point of view of the situation. Yes, I had saved up a few months worth of bills to work on Synesthetic. Yes, I was fully dedicated to the project. But when the project doesn't seem to be that dedicated to you in return, you have to face the reality that maybe it's time to move on to other things. I was setting things up for my eventual move; and then, like I said, things change.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Hitchhiker's Guide to A-Kon 19

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has this to say about the anime convention A-Kon: it smells. Like really, really bad. It is a little known fact that A-Kon is THE ABSOLUTE trendy spot for galactic smells and has become a immensely popular destination during the aromatic mating season. Scents from across the galaxy will spend many Earth years traveling to small blue-green planet. They hitch from one being to another across space and time, picking up other odors with promises of a wild party. By the time they reach A-Kon, they are throughly drunk on space nickles and will generally have a whooping good time during the convention. Years previously the foreign odors were not welcomed warmly by the Terran smells and thus war was declared. Miraculously, a mephitis war that would have wiped out the entire planet was adverted when a shy, young earth smell met up with a nice odor from the Axel Nebula. Their joining produced a cute, lovable green nidor not entirely unlike rotting Boghog meat. Overjoyed by the endless combination of smells, the olent beings began vigorously mating with anything and everything. Thus turning A-Kon into the biggest odor orgy this side Alpha Centauri. So it is generally recommended to wear protection when attending A-Kon unless you want to become malodorously pregnant or catch an STD (Smelly Transmitted Disease).

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Next Wave

Well, I'm officially out of the Denton (picture is from the move out; pics of the new place is now dependent on actual furniture and finishing unpacking). It only took two more years than it should have, but here I am with a Dallas address again. Which means I'm closer to the hustle, the bustle, and good food. I miss good Vietnamese/Chinese food, and now it's much closer. Though I recently realized just how close the Freebirds is to the new place; it's going to be the ruin of me. The area is really nice, everything is in close proximity. It has the entire range, from Northpark area and the SMU campus to the Sonic where you can get a burger AND your window washed by a panhandler. What more can you ask for? Well, maybe bigger parking spots. These are TINY. Anyways, for those of you around the 75/Lovers|University area, give me a hollah. Or I will bug you endlessly until we have beers. I want a semi-normal life again.

Well, with the convention circuit that we scheduled, I'm still thinking in seasons/semesters. This summer is going to be gearing up for the fall conventions that we're planning on doing (Dallas Comic-Con, Baltimore-Con, Wizard World Texas). If all goes to plan ::knock on wood::, each of the Studio Kru will have a book or two at the tables. Some of it will be hired work for publishers, some of it will be our own works done via print-on-demand. I think it will be an impressive assortment of books. Hopefully I can get enough paid work to make life a bit easier and less stressful, but not too much to interfere with the projects. Such a delicate balance, it always seem to lean too far one way or the other. Ah well, such is the life of a full time freelancer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

CAPE! Weekend Fallout and Space-Gun Studio Launch

I'm finally settled in from the activities of the weekend, a little tired and a little darker. I don't think I've spent that much time outside is a good long while (probably the last CAPE! show actually.) It was a fun weekend overall, a bit tiring, but really fun. The show had a great vibe and wonderful weather. It was a bit windy at first which was problematic, but as my friend Chad mentioned, why are we complaining about beautiful weather? Yeah we had to tape everything down, but it wasn't anything that big.

CAPE! weekend started with the live art event on Friday. The setup was a bit a bit different with a more stage-like ambiance. Though really good for the artists (there was a long table with their supplies on it), I felt there became a disconnect between the artists and the audience. After attending so many live art events (ArtLoveMagics and even the art show at STAPLE!), having a long table that separated the artist from the audience gave off a bit of an odd vibe. But other than that, it was a great time. The DJ was great at keeping up the energies of the night. I was still hearing his beats the next day at the show. I think having energetic music is really important for a show of that size (which is why i think the STAPLE! show was so good as well). As for the artwork, i think Jason Pearson kind of stole the show for a few of us with his Catwoman piece. A few of us from the Gaijin Studio forums stood behind him and watch him work all evening. Mike Huddleston did some amazing work, this piece was absolutely awesome that made me wish i had more money to spend around. Though everyone did some awesome stuff. I wish we could have stayed until the end, but once 1AM rolled around, we had to crash out with our hour long drive home. The guys were biting at the chomps to get on a board; sadly it didn't work out that way. Next time.

The actual convention on Saturday was pretty awesome. Minus the aforementioned wind, it was pretty manageable. Luckily Evan brought a roll of masking tape, which saved us a bit of trouble. It also kept my badge firmly attached to my chest like a lame version of Tony Stark. I got Robert Kirkman's signature on my sister's Invincible hardback books, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, funny as well. I had no idea what to say to him besides "I love your work! DUR!". Also, Kristian Donaldson was nice enough to give me one of his new wallets as a graduation gift for her as well. And his friend Chad Thomas did a way cool Harry Potter sketch. I have a good feeling that she would love his art and I'm glad that I was able to get her something from him. She's a big Harry Potter fan, to the point that she sewed an extra pocket into her graduation gown to hide her iPod so she can listen to the audio books during her THREE HOUR graduation. Poor thing, my graduation was like an hour or something.

We were next to David Mack for the day, which was kind of intimidating on my part at least. I'm such a huge fan of his art work, i don't really know what to say to the man. Plus i'm a bit jealous that he still wears his BPRD beenie. I won one at Wizard World Texas a few years ago (which is when i'm assuming he got his), but i had to give it away because it didn't fit me. Anyways, another show in the pocket and a great one to end out the spring shows. We won't be hitting any of the big summer ones, no reason to go spend a lot of money to get lost in the shuffle of bigger names. Plus it'll give us time to work on our individual projects for the fall shows.

Also, check out our new studio website designed by Matthew. It looks pretty slick, i'll post more on that once we get the full site up and running.

CAPE! Pictures
Live Art Event
CAPE! show at Craddock Park