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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Choogling along

You know that graphic novel I've been working on for the last few months? You, know, this one?

I'm up to page 63 in the illustrations. The story has been outlined and about 1/3 of it written. 

I originally planned to write the whole thing first, then sketch it all out, work a second draft, and then do some finished art for submitting the whole thing to a publisher.

But I was itching to start working out the art—figuring out how it should look, colors, etc.—while I wrote. I figured if I set up the detailed story arc via the outline and wrote a section of chapters, the second draft of that section could be worked out while I did the sketches for each page in those chapters.

This is probably madness, and no doubt an experienced comics person would snigger in disbelief at how I'm doing this, but it seems to be working for me so far. But stay tuned—the projected finish date I've set up for myself is August 2017. I might be singing a different tune by then.

The most I can do per week is 3 finished pages of art—sketch to finish—while I do other work that actually earns money. Maybe at some point I'll be able to work faster without the quality of the work suffering, but for now I have to be content with this pace. 

But the surprising thing is this—me, Ms I Will Never, Ever Be A Morning Person. Ever.—decided to started getting my butt out of bed early in the morning: 5 or 6 a.m. I'd read a blog by comics creator Greg Ruth, who has some pretty sound advice:

Sure it means you're hungry for lunch at 9-10 am and that's weird, but the overall effect on your health is impossible to disregard. Even if I had superpowers and stayed up late woking on INDEH I'd still never have turned it in on time. I was producing someday as much as five or seven pages of fully finished lettered and printable pages of art every two days waking up early. It was exhausting, but like the kind of exhaustion a nap can solve, not the bone burning tongue-wagging hellscape you enter when you've clocked the same hours late into the night. Humans are daytime animals, even we natural night owls must accept this. Your pals scoff at your crashing out around 10pm where they're just getting started? Just wink at em and walk away knowing you're doing it better and in the end, your tortoise will totally crush those obnoxious rabbits at the finish line. Seriously- try this out for a week and see if it doesn't change your thinking. You don't like it, switch back. But I think you'll dig it. Even after I turned in the book, I'm still on this schedule. This is my new schedule now, (though not the seven day a week thing. that sucks and should never happen).
Link here.

Let us all pause for a moment of silence while we ponder "five or seven pages of fully finished lettered and printable pages of art every two days." Holy shit. I think he's talking about black and white art, not full color, but still! I bow to you, Greg Ruth.

Changing work hours made a lot of sense to me, and I thought why not try it for a week? And I was pleasantly surprised at how much more I was able to accomplish when doing the work at the beginning of the day instead of the end of the day. And if I need a short nap in the afternoon I don't feel guilty about taking one. I'm in the third week of this experiment, and it seems to be sticking.

Oh, and before I go, here's a project I'm really excited about. Knoxville Stomp is a new music festival to be held May 5-8, 2016. It will celebrate the Brunswick/Vocalion record label recording sessions made at the St. James Hotel here in Knoxville in 1929 and 1930. Country blues, hillbilly, and popular music were recorded, but the Great Depression interfered with the release of much of it. Bear Family Records, highly respected as a source for archived historic music, will be releasing these recordings in a new box set, and the festival will celebrate this and the musicians who music at the St. James.

Since I love Depression-era music and collect 78 rpm records, I will be creating little bio comics about these musicians which will run in the Knoxville Mercury, if all goes as planned, in the weeks leading up to the festival. This so satisfies the inner librarian in me as I research who these musicians were and what they looked like while I write their stories and listen to their recordings (which are old but mostly new to me). The title of the comic may change, but for now I'm calling it "Ghosts in the Machine." I hope it sticks. Listening to music made in that era is kind of haunting, but in the best way.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before—this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea."

—from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

Coming in 2016:

Cover art. I thought about showing more of the hiker so that we'd see her awesome 1930s-era knee-high lace-up hiking boots, but the composition seemed to need her at this size.

I will probably make some small adjustments here and there before the book goes to print, but this is pretty much it. 

And now, back to work on the graphic novel! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Armchair Traveller

Wait…that cyclist is sinking into the brick street.

I was scrounging around on Google Maps Streetview, trying to pinpoint the exact location of an address I was looking up. And this popped up:

Ever since then, I've developed an interest in finding odd moments the Googlemobile has captured across the world. When I stumble across one, I take a screen snapshot and toss it into my Google Wanderings file.

Google Streetview is a great visual reference for illustrators looking for interesting street layouts, buildings, and other places we've never been before. 

But these strange little visual oddities add an extra dimension of fun.

Ghosts in the machine.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mysterious Stranger

What caught my eye, looking at the old photograph, was the dark, ominous figure looming over the small child.

* * *

I love photographs from the early 20th century, especially those from 1900-1920. But they can't just be stiffly posed images snapped in a photographer's studio. They have to be special.

Once in a while I come across a photo album from that era where the photographer seemed to shoot from the hip, and the results are fantastic. I have a treasured album I found in a junk shop in Rapid City, South Dakota, that's like that. So many of the images are so wonderful that I sometimes wonder if maybe they were planned, after all.

* * *

In search of old records, we travelled to the Hillsville Flea Market in Hillsville, Virginia. We got more out of the day by sweating profusely and people watching. We saw lots of beefy males in fatigues, there for the big VFW gun show; lots of determined-looking women pulling two-wheeled metal shopping carts behind them, looking for bargains; couples pushing strollers of toddlers in the heat. I had immediate information fatigue short-circuiting my brain. But I was looking for old records, by God, and I was going to find some. The hunt was fairly uneventful; I found a handful of old British 78s, and Dave found an old Mothers of Invention record, but for the most part items felt overpriced. 

Instead, I found several loose pages from a photo album dated around 1915. Interesting objects, events, and people will always turn up when you're not necessarily looking for them.

So what is it about these photos, anyway, besides the clothes and the settings and the unposed quality of many of them, that catches my eye? 

The Mysterious Stranger.

Posing the subjects so they face the sun in the photographs, the Mysterious Stranger casts a shadow near them. He (or she) is usually the photographer, but not always.

Once in a while I toy with the idea of the shadow belonging to the same person, over and over, across many eras and many photo albums in many locations. 

If you let your imagination fly, the shadows can sometimes feel threatening.

The shadows always appear in an interesting way.

Sometimes they almost feel like an accusation

or a watchful presence

or a reminder.

These days, the Mysterious Stranger seems to have packed up and left town. 

It's an era of selfies.

And how ironic is it that Blogger's autocorrect originally changed selfies to selfless?


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Olive Tilford Dargan

From the upcoming No Place for the Weary Kind: Woman of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Maynard & Maybelline

The usual goings-on around our wretched house. Yes, we do have a nest of mourning doves in the rafters of our porch. Or did.

The sad, sad truth.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Frammin' on the Jim Jam

Proposed art, with puppet, for a picture book about visiting various national parks. This particular art was for Alcatraz Island. If you do the tour, you get to go inside one of the cells and goof for the camera. 

For extra eeriness, on the tour they'll electronically open and close all the cell doors at the same time, creating a haunting echo throughout the former prison. 

"There must be some way out of here…"

One of the fake papier mache heads created by Alcatraz escapees Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris in 1962. They tucked each of the heads in their beds as foils, escaped the prison through an unused utility corridor, and were never seen again.

Many believe they ended up as shark bait.

Props for their creativity. Ranks up there with John Dillinger's carved wooden gun created for a jailbreak in 1934.

Monday, August 17, 2015

No Place for the Weary Kind

Here's a sampling of some illustration work I'm doing for an upcoming book, No Place for the Weary Kind: Women of the Smokies by Courtney Lix.

Courtney's book is a fascinating look into the lives of various women who lived and worked in the Smoky Mountains: craftsmen, artists, musicians, writers, and tough women in general who kept their families together during difficult times.

I'd imagine many of these women would never have dreamed they'd be featured in a book about their lives, so it makes me very glad indeed to take part in this project.


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