Monday, April 29, 2013

MoCCA-fest 2013 Interviews

Much like last year's MoCCA-fest, this year was another opportunity for Joseph Coco to make his rounds, interviewing exhibitors. We view the interviews as triply beneficial in that it 1. Creates excellent content for my blog found nowhere else, 2. Gives artists additional exposure, and 3. Not only introduces the audience to new artists, but gives a sneak peak of their comics and convention table. While he's going around conducting interviews, Joseph has a fantastic opportunity to check out what's being sold at the convention, as well as get a general feel for the vibe for that year, an opportunity I often miss when I'm behind the table.

As much as I would like to perform the interviews myself, Joseph's contribution is essential for a variety of reasons. I'm horrifically shy, and would have difficultly approaching artists I wasn't familiar with, whereas Joseph is fearless. Both of us have experience conducting interviews, but he's much better at asking questions off the cuff. My main reason for attending MoCCA-fest was to help man the table, and so I couldn't dedicate hours to interviewing other attendees, but Joseph's main reason to attend was to purchase comics and perform interviews.

Since MoCCA-Fest, I've been slowly uploading interviews to my Youtube account with the intention of posting them here once all were uploaded.  Last week, I returned to Luling, where my internet connection is unreliable, so updates were slower than I'd liked, but now they're all up on Youtube, so here they are, all in one place.

Heidi Black- ElectricAbyss- The Art of Heidi Black

Eric Lide- Ozzie and Station Square

Ellis Rosen- The Shadow's Nose

Pat Lapierre- The Hugging Club

Joe Ryan- Super 

Anna Raff

Colin Goh- Yumcha Studios

David B. Quinn- The Littlest B

Henry Gustavson- Bill the Cockroach

Liz and Jimmy Reed- Cuddles and Rage

Neil Dvorak- Easy Pieces Comic

Nick Sousanis- Spin Weave and Cut

Sara Peck and MadyG

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gift Art--VGPFC: Title Card

Videogame Playthroughs and Me

Video game playthroughs, sometimes referred to as Let's Plays (after a subforum on the SomethingAwful forums specializing in video game playthroughs) have become a popular internet phenomena in the past five years.  I've been a big fan of playthroughs from the start, as I love videogames, but had to give them up due to increasingly failing eyesight and time constraints.  Playthroughs allow me to continue to enjoy videogames, but don't require the time dedication that actively playing a videogame  demands.

Video Game Playing Friends Club

My friends Frankie Coleman and Eric Lide have recently started recording their videogame adventures and posting them online under the Video Game Playing Friends Club.  I've even been fortunate enough to participate when they took their club on the road in the Video Game Playing Friends Club WORLD TOUR.  While I am a little sad that people recognize me as 'that girl who sucks at Mario', playing videogames with friends again brought back fond memories.

So when Frankie approached me about doing the title card for their Sonic 3 compilation, I was quite happy to comply.  Not only did I have the opportunity to help a couple great friends out, but I also had the opportunity for exposure in a demographic I rarely have access too- non artists.  Frankie's requests were pretty straightforward- him and Eric as Sonic and Tails, emulate the original Sonic 3 cover as much as possible.    I took a few liberties here and there (including shoehorning a cameo of myself as creeper Knuckles down in the bushes), and had a lot of fun with this low stress piece.

My Sonic 3 Titlecard


The original inks were just fude pen over blue pencil on sketchbook paper, scanned on my mother's ailing scanner using her aging computer, and then transferred over to my laptop for some Photoshop wizardry.  It's been awhile since I've done digital coloring, and though my major in undergrad was indeed digital media, I far prefer traditional medias to digital.  However, I wanted the style to fit the content, and unless I wanted to learn how to airbrush over a weekend, digital was my only hope.  The font is a Sonic-a-like font sent to me by Frankie, the subtitle isn't exactly right, but it's decently close.  It was a little difficult working in a different aspect ratio than I'm used to, and required some fudging on my part to make it work, but all in all, creating a titlecard for my friends was a lot of fun!

If you haven't yet, I strongly recommend you check out Video Game Playing Friends Club.  Eric and Frankie are extremely knowledgeable about videogames, and their playthroughs aren't speedruns nor perfect runs.  As players, their gameplay is flawed, and I find that endearing.  I enjoy watching playthroughs where players are free to goof up and make mistakes, and their games are fun and full of awfully hilarious voice acting.

As a little taste, here's the video for their entire Sonic 3 playthrough, with my title card right at the front!  If you like what you see, make sure you vote and consider subscribing.




Thursday, April 25, 2013

Art Based Marker Showdown: Kuretake KureColor Twin S Markers Vs. Copic Sketch

EDIT: It's been two years since I first started doing alcohol based marker comparisons, and these are some of my most popular posts.  If you enjoyed this post, please consider checking out my other art supply reviews in my Reviews tab above.  If you would like to purchase a set of Kurecolor Twin S markers for yourself or a friend, please consider supporting this blog financially by using my Amazon affiliate search link for Kuretake KureColor Twin S markers.
As this blog is completely unsponsored, and I receive no financial compensation from companies to write these reviews, nor do I receive donations, I really depend on the goodwill of my readers.  If you benefitted from this post, please consider contacting Copic or Kuretake with a link to this post and your thoughts.  I would also sincerely appreciate it if you sent me an email with your thoughts, questions, or thanks.

 If you enjoyed this review, please consider donating! Donations go towards the purchase of additional art supplies, which may include more markers for testing. If you found this review useful, please consider sharing it on your social networks- a larger audience means I can afford to do things like Kickstart future projects and makes me more attractive to possible publishers.  There's also a handy pocket edition of ALL my marker reviews in a beautiful little 4"x6" photobook.  It's available for $3 in my Nattoshop, and proceeds go towards things like keeping the lights on and buying more markers to review.

It's been a little while since my last marker review, but I haven't been idle.  In the downtime, I attended MoCCA, went to Luling, and finally received the motherlode of markers ordered via eBay.

This week's marker test is the Kurecolor Twin marker by Kuretake.  Kurecolor Twin is available in two types, both of which are twin tipped- the regular Kuretake Twin, and the Kuretake Twin S, which is smaller.
When testing art markers, I keep three qualities in mind.  These qualities are what I find to be ideal, but may not suite your needs.  These qualities are:

1. Flexable nib that can mimic the flex of a watercolor brush.
2. Refill-ability
3. Blend-ability with other markers

I realize that there are many hobbyists and artists out there who are not particularly concerned with these values.  Stampers may not be particularly interested in a flexable nib.  Students on a budget may not be concerned with refill-ability if it comes with additional price.  Blend-ability may not be a particular concern if one's doing layout work.  I realize that my reviews may not suite every need, so I have widened my marker horizon in an attempt to introduce my audience to new options.

I've used Kuretake products in the past, and am satisfied with their overall performance, so I was eager to test the Kurecolor Twin and Twin S.  As with all of my marker tests, these markers were purchased with my own money, and this is not a sponsored post.  I will be as unbiased in my testing as possible.

Background information on Kuretake and Kurecolor

Kuretake has long had products available in the US under the Zig line of scrapbooking supplies. When I was in highschool, I inked my comics with archival Zig technical pens, and I keep a Kuretake fude brush in my inking kit. Kuretake began in 1902 with the founder, Narakichi Watatani manufacturing and selling sumi ink sticks. In 1965, Kuretake began international trade. In 1997, the Memory System (scrapbooking markers) were launched, and their first retail store, DUO opened. (http://www.kuretake.co.jp/en/history/index.html)  Kuretake offers a variety of products in 2013, including traditional calligraphy items, office supplies, scrapbooking materials, and signmaking tools. (http://www.kuretake.co.jp/en/product/index.html).

Information about Kurecolor Markers

Source

ZIG Kurecolor is a system designed for use by graphic designers and professional artists. With it's vast choice of 106 colours you can create endless styles of artwork. They are divided into 9 colour groups (12 colours per group). They are Basic, Brilliant, Natural, Dull, Pale, Deep, Grey Colours, Cool Greys, Warm Grays. Each marker is colour coded on the barrel and on the cap, making the colour you want easy to find without wasting time!

The range is also complimented by our ZIG Kurecolor Refill inks. There are 106 colours available in a 25cc/bottle. The pens can be refilled through the tip and on average you should be able to refill one pen six times from one refill bottle. The refill inks can also be used for use with an airbrush. By using the refill blender you can create various gradation effects!
 Source: http://www.kuretake.co.uk/products/art-and-craft/KC1100.aspx

Kurecolor Markers feature alcohol based inks, and can mark on a variety of surfaces, including paper, plastic, glass, metal, and photos, much like Copic markers.

Art Supply Review Disclaimer


As always, these art supply reviews are based on my own experiences and tastes, and may not be directly relevant to your needs and techniques. When investing in a product as expensive and potentially long lasting as alcohol based markers, it's wise to take into consideration a variety of sources, and to do your research.

Kurecolor Twin S Markers Vs. Copic Sketch markers

Towards the back, the Kurecolor Twin.  The front, the Kurecolor Twin S.  As you can see, the Kurecolor Twin is much heftier than the Kurecolor Twin S.  Both use the same ink refills.

Neither of these nibs are very exciting, nor do they have much give.



Cultpens sent me my markers in their boxes.

The Kuretake Twin isn't much different than the Twin S, other than size.  The bullet nib is a little bit bigger than the Twin S.



 

Kurecolor Twin S
  • Refillable
  • 106 colors
  • 9 groups (Basic, Brilliant, Natural, Dull, Pale, Deep, Grey Colors, Cool Greys, Warm Greys)
  • Color coded on barrel
  • 2.50 eu or $3.30 
  • Sold individually and in 12 color sets
  • Kurecolor Twin S markers fit comfortably in my hand, the original Kurecolor Twin markers are too large for me to comfortably use
  • Twin tipped- chisel and bullet nibs
  • Availability: Marker Supply, Kuretake's website, Cult Pens
  • replacable nibs
Source

Copic Sketch Markers

Price per Copic Sketch $7.29 (Amazon)
Price per Copic Ciao $3.59 (Amazon)
Price per Refill $10.99 (Amazon Prime) (I've seen it for around $8 at the Dick Blick in Savannah, though)
  • Refillable
  • Replaceable Nibs
  • Comfortable in hand
  • 358 available number of colors
  • Blend-able
  • Color Name and Family on Cap
  • Color Coded cap
  • Super Brush
  • Can mix own colors, blank markers available
  • Availability: limited availability at Michaels, many art supply stores, Dick Blick, Jerry's Artarama, Jetpens, Amazon
  • Available in individual and color themed sets
  • Alcohol based
  • React to rubbing alcohol and 'blender' fluid
  • Can be blended
The cap stickers aren't very accurate to the actual color of the ink.



As you can see, the Kurecolor Twin S is still pretty large compared to the Copic Sketch.  It's both longer and bulkier.




 

 

The Comparison

 

The Test Results

 This test is my standard for all alcohol based marker comparison tests, and you've already seen it with my Spectrum Noir, Prismacolor Premiers, and Pantone Letraset Tria tests. I test the marker's compatibility with a variety of technical pens (Sakura Micron, Copic Multiliner, Pitt Pen, the waterbased ink found in Akashiya brush pens, the gel ink in Hi Tec C rollerball pens), as well as it's ability to blend and layer (shown on the sphere) and it's ability to mix with the other marker (show in the boxed area). New to this test is the compatibility with Copic's Colorless Blender. ShinHan also has a colorless blender marker available, but I don't have one to test for this supply review.

I had a little trouble matching colors with the Kurecolor markers, even though I used my Copic swatch book.  When ordering markers, I'd tried to order markers similar to what I already  have, but perhaps the online color swatches weren't very true.

I had some trouble blending the Kurecolor markers in the shading sphere, as my only tip options were a chisel tip or a bullet nib, neither of which had much give.

In general, Kurecolor ink reacted much the same way that Copic ink reacts to the inks I usually test- Akashiya bleeds terribly, as do fude pens, and if applied too soon, both the Multiliner and Microns will bleed a little.  Kurecolor ink does react to the Copic Colorless blender, and it is possible to blend the two brands, but it may take some effort to blend very different colors.

The Verdict

Kurecolors are slightly more difficult to find than Copics, I've never seen them in a brick and mortar store, but are easily available online after a quick Google search.  They're refillable and have replacable nibs, but nowhere near the variety of nibs available.  They have a wide range of colors available, and play well enough with Copics.  I'm not really a fan of bullet nibs, and I prefer the chisel nib available on Prismacolor markers, but this marker may be a decent choice for stampers who don't need a brush nib option on their markers.

Kurecolor are available in two sizes, the regular Kurecolor Twin and the Twin S.  The Kurecolor Twin may be difficult for those with smaller hands, but it has a larger ink resevoir, whereas the smaller Kurecolor Twin S is sized right, but the square barrel may be annoying to hold (but it won't roll off the table).

I personally won't be adding more Kurecolor Twin S markers to my collection, but I certainly do not recommend against purchasing them, particularly if you find them locally, as you won't have to pay for shipping.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guest Post-Gibson Twist- A Critique on Critique

Becca's note: I loaded this post into the system while I was on the road, pasting it straight from the email, so the original upload had a lot of HTML markup. Now that I'm better able to edit and correct, I am reposting this guest post in its intended form, without annoying markup. My apologies.

Gibson Twist is the author of Pictures of You and Our Time in Eden  and occasional bouts of rhetoric under the Tweety handle @GibsonTwist. He has never driven a car.


Admittedly, my view of the internet isn't a complete one. I don't spend much time watching videos or following news sites, nor do I read a multitude of blogs. It's not that I think they're beneath me or a waste of time, they're just not my thing. One thing I do know about the Internet, though, is that there is no shortage of critics. Everywhere I go online, there is a running commentary of how terrible everything is. Hardly does there seem to exist anything online, be it creative,informative, or opinion, that someone hasn't decried, often vitriolically so.

Where this becomes most problematic, in my mind at least, is in young artists and writers reaching out for feedback on their work. It is a great and necessary thing to seek independent examination as we develop our craft, especially among comickers who have precious few authoritative resources, even fewer outside the accepted mainstream genres. They are the ones who are in the direst need of sincere and informed opinions on their work, and are too often met with ill-intended scorn.

To my memory, I have never asked for a public criticism of my work. I choose specific people I think will provide detailed and informed opinions. That said,posting a webcomic as I do, I am the recipient of a good deal of public criticism. Much is positive, some is negative, and the more preferable is a balance of the two. While I've been able to glean helpful insight into how toimprove what I do, there is no question that no small amount of it lacks helpful intent or effect.

In fact, there is considerable criticism of my work posted on blogs and so-called review sites dedicated to explaining in varying levels of detail how it is among the worst sequential art to hit a computer screen. Many comickers, and those in any other genre of creativity, have had the same experience and continue to do.

This is usually pretty good for a laugh, but in truth, it's indicative of an element of critical culture online that seeks more to elevate the reviewer by tearing down the material, a result of the unprofessional deeming themselves authoritative. This seeps everywhere in varying degrees, not always identifiable as simple derision. While any artist who presents their work for public assessment should be prepared for all the responses that come to them,it's often overlooked that not all of the advice that comes back will be constructive, qualified, or even valid.

You know the procedure. You've posted an example of your work, be it artwork,writing, or pages of sequential art, on one of the wide army of art-sites and forums spanning the internet. Maybe you've asked for feedback, maybe you haven't, but with no doubt, feedback you will get. The one true thing about the internet is, somewhere, someone is waiting to tell you what you've done wrong.There is informed feedback from professionals and other amateurs, offering even and measured review of what the artist is doing right or wrong.  There is also undulated praise. There is also vicious lamb-basting.

We hear a lot about how artists should accept the criticism put to them, and while this is true, there is an arrogance of some offering critique that their opinion is golden. The subjective nature of feedback is overlooked, and no one ever teaches us (most of us, at least) how to examine it. Really, we need to review our review.

The purpose of reviewing work isn't to show you how to do comics right, it's to show you how to do your comic better. To do this, your critics need to be able to understand the project, to be able to relate to what you want to do, the story you're trying to tell and how you want to tell it, and delineate how to get you there more effectively.

It would be nice if anyone with a keyboard had this ability, but they don't. Many do, to be sure, but most don't. There is gold among the rocks that are unsolicited or generically-requested feedback, and it should never be ignored,but it should all be taken with a measure of skepticism and consideration. None of it should be taken as fact.

Your best option for feedback will always be from those you seek specifically,artists and writers or even readers whose work and views you not only respect but are compatible with where you want to take your own material. Find those who understand your vision of comics, even those familiar with your work already. It's a much more laborious path than spreading the net wide, but what you get back from it will be more specific, more in-depth, and in most cases more valuable.

Think of critique as an interviewing process. Look over the candidates, both sought and unsolicitied, reject what is clearly invalid, assess what remains, and make your short list. Consider how it relates to your work, sort out what you think will make your project better, and only then begin to apply it. As you continue, be aware that some of this won't improve your style the way you thought it would, and make adjustments and omissions where it's appropriate.

But,of course, take all of this with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guest Post: Heidi Black: Kickstarter Fulfillment and Shipping



 In the past few months, Heidi Black has successfully funded her artbook, ElectricAbyss:The Art of Heidi Black.  Now that the artbook is written and funded, she faces the daunting task of mailing, a problem many Kickstarter campaign managers fail to plan for.  Like many, she underestimated the cost of shipping books internationally, and has had to find solutions where there is little precedence.  I asked Heidi to write a little about her experience in hopes that it might help others.

People tend to forget about one of the most important parts of a Kickstarter:  fulfillment – and this often means SHIPPING.  Shipping things around the US is not that big of a deal – we've all had to mail things or UPS/FedEx them before, so we're all probably somewhat familiar with the process.  But shipping things internationally can be a whole different kettle of fish, and a very expensive one at that.  Here are some tips for shipping that ought to help you out.

1. Can you ship directly from the printer? 

In the case of Createspace, I don't get a bulk discount until I start getting into numbers upwards of 500 – and since I only needed about 80 copies of the book to fulfill my Kickstarter, I wasn't going to hit that. Rather than pay the cost of having the books shipped to me (the cost of shipping for 40 books is about $35, plus I also had to carry those 40lbs of books up to my third floor apartment) you can ship books directly from Createspace to your recipients.  This is a little bit more expensive up front (it costs about $4 to ship my book from Createspace) but you are saving on the cost of shipping to your house, shipping FROM your house, AND buying the envelope/packing supplies.  I also found with Createspace, 40 orders of one copy of my book get printed and shipped faster than one order of 40 copies.  (go figure?) 

EVEN BETTER, INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING IS WAY CHEAPER.  Yeah.  Shipping my book with the USPS (the cheapest service I found) costs $20+ internationally.  Even after researching, I couldn't find a cheaper option, until I checked to see how much it would cost Createspace to ship directly.  While the shipping speeds are slow as all get out (they are probably being put on boats and freighted overseas), because Createspace uses Amazon Distribution, they have arrangements with shipping companies and can ship overseas for way less – the most expensive ones were to Australia, and even then it was never more than $8 – way less than the $20 the USPS charges.

Screenshot of Createspace international shipping rates.



2. Bulk shipping supplies

For all the rewards you have to ship from your own home, you won't be able to ship directly from the printer, so you'll have to package and mail these yourself.  You can save money by purchasing bulk shipping supplies online.  Padded envelopes/bubble mailers you can get for less than a dollar in bulk, and the same for mailing tubes.  A simple Google search will find you a lot of sites that sell these items.  Do look into whether it is cheaper to buy them in bulk or just the few that you need – if you are only shipping ten packages, it may be cheaper to just buy the supplies at a local store.  Alternately, contacting people who have already done a Kickstarter and may have some extra shipping supplies laying around that they would be willing to sell for cheap is also a good idea *coughIhavemailingtubescough*


3. Media mail

If you are shipping books, you can send them MEDIA MAIL!  Sometimes this is cheaper than first class mail or standard shipping (but always check to make sure) but you will have to do this in person at the post office, you can't use their automated machine or online services.  Media mail is specifically for books, so if you are sending DVDs or the like you can't use it, but for me it was a good way to save a few dollars.  My envelopes with extras shipped media mail around the US cost about $2-3 to ship each.  Media mail takes a little longer sometimes, but it should still get there within a week or so.



4. Use the smallest envelope you can, or fold over envelopes to make them smaller.

This may seem kind of obvious, but not everyone knows it.  The post office often charges more for packages over a certain dimension (unfortunately, over 3/4” thick is one of them, and my books all exceed that) and 12” is a common dimension cutoff.  My mailers are 10x14, but I can fold over the top some to make them smaller, and sometimes cheaper to ship.  If you are shipping in boxes, get the smallest box you can use without damaging the goods. 


Those are the best tips I have.  Hopefully they will help with all of your shipping needs!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Forest of Comics

Imagine the comic community as a forest.  You have the tall, older trees who have the full benefit of the sun and the rain.  Their deep roots can draw plenty of nutrients from the soil.  They've withstood harsh winters, severe droughts, spring rains.  They're not going anywhere.

Then you have the saplings.  They've been around a few years, but don't really get much of a shot at the sunlight.  They stretch and reach, contorting around other trees in their quest for light and fresh water.  Their roots aren't as deep as the older trees, many of these roots may just be surface level.  Some of them could possibly survive what the older trees have, but they are yet untested.

Then there's the ground cover, the trees that aren't even knee height.  They've barely emerged from the soil, many may still rely on the seed they sprouted from for nutrients.  They get very little sunlight, compete fiercely for any nutrients, and many are washed away by even a light rain.

The established artists are, of course, the older trees.  They've been around for awhile.  Many have insanely successful webcomics, Kickstarters that astound onlookers with their massive success, have published several books, or have won prestigious comic awards.  They've paid their dues.

Saplings haven't been around quite as long as the older trees, or if they have, they may have taken longer in their quest for the sun.  As comic artists, they may have attended a school specifically for comic craft, they practice daily, they solicit and offer advice, they attend a variety of conventions, and they keep hammering away in semi obscurity.  Saplings may have a hard time earning respect in the comic community, as it takes an audience to build an audience.

The youngest trees, the sprouts, are the teenagers dreaming on DeviantArt.  They may take art classes in high school, practice infrequently (and often just the things they enjoy drawing).  There's a lot of potential, but they're very much reliant upon their parents for guidance, and may never choose to pursue a career in art.

All of these parts are important to the forest.  The saplings and sprouts are the future.  The older trees are experience and wisdom.  This ecosystem works best when there's synergy between the three classes.  The saplings and sprouts consume the works produced by the older trees.  The older trees, in theory, share their wisdom and experience with the saplings and sprouts.  In terms of numbers, the undergrowth outnumbers the saplings, the saplings outnumber the trees within the canopy.  It's a pyramid, with everything resting on a base of undergrowth.  

A Meltdown in the Ecosystem


Unfortunately, there's sometimes a breakdown.  Sometimes the chain breaks at the older trees.  Sometimes they get complacent, forgetting that most of their audience is composed of their fellow artists, many of which aren't as experienced as they are.  They forget that their tumblrs, blogs, and Twitters may be public access, and that they may alienate their audiences with unprofessional behavior.  Of course, this happens with saplings and sprouts too, but they have less to lose as they're not in the public eye.  These meltdowns aren't as publicized.  There's an opportunity for a rebound.

Sometimes the chain breaks at the saplings, artists who have received help and advice from an existing art community, but fail to share this help with others in need.  They may guard secrets like a dragon guards its hoard, jealous of anyone may benefit from this knowledge and surpass them.  Saplings can be as dangerous to one another as to the undergrowth, refusing aid and community participation when its desperately needed for the health of the comic ecosystem.

The chain can even break at the undergrowth level, when these new artists refuse to progress, don't utilize the help given, and continue to stagnate.  At this level, so long as the problem isn't widespread, it causes little harm to the overall ecosystem.  Every year, many artists realize that they're not cut out for art- they may be unwilling to dedicate the time necessary toward improvement, they may wish to keep it as a hobby only, or they may realize that the struggle is difficult and sometimes not rewarding.

Right now, there isn't a whole lot of sunlight to fight over.  The comic industry is going through some major growing pains, and a lot of publishers just aren't looking for new talent.  Quite a few are happy to rely on the old payoffs, but aren't looking for new risks.  What was new and exciting in 2004 (like an anime style) is now seen as crippling, and sapling artists are encouraged to find their own voices when they draw from inspiration similar to that of the older trees.  The new and fresh of 2004 is dated and played out in 2013, and we're encouraged to find our own inspiration.  Many artists find this frustrating.

In a forest, eventually older trees are cleared, making room for a little more sun to reach the saplings.  Those fit to survive and thrive, will.  In comics, our timeslot for sunlight is far shorter than that of trees, and established artists are reasonably loathe to share the sunlight or to step away from lucrative jobs.  While I personally believe that one with great power has a great responsibility to aid others, many do not share this sentiment, and I respect their decision, although I lose respect for artists who go out of their way to inhibit the growth of others.

Responsibility Towards Others


I do feel like established artists who have adopted a public role should serve as role models to younger, less established artists.  If they cannot do this, they should at least behave like professionals, and barring that, adults.  If this is impossible, they should strongly consider locked accounts for social media.  Part of this has been ingrained in me during my time at SCAD, where we are taught one thing above all others.

As a comic artist, you need to be two of three things:

1. Fast (or reliable)
2. Nice (professional)
3. Amazingly good

The easiest two are nice and fast, as it costs little to be nice and professional, and reliability can come from understanding one's limitations, and working within them when creating work for hire.

A Real Life Example


I've noticed a lot of annoyance among my fellow saplings following the SPX registration, mainly towards the entitled snarkiness emanating from a few more established artists.  Although these artists were in the vast minority in their spoiled behavior, it can still leave an impression.  A few realized their faux pas and deleted said offending tweets within hours, but a lack of apology, while mitigating future ill will, will not heal the ill will garnered during the two hour dash for tables.

A Simple Solution


 For this, I have a simple solution.  If you don't like how an artist behaves, you are totally free to BOYCOTT THEIR WORK.  We saplings are the  major audience for many more established artists; we appreciate their work, we verbally sell it to others.  We share their websites, we loan copies of their books to friends, we introduce it to our classmates and professors.  If you have been offended, STOP SUPPORTING THE OFFENDER.  There are plenty of other deserving artists who will appreciate your efforts and treat you like you matter.  There's no need to blacken any names, burn any bridges, or point fingers.

Boycotting the offending artist does not invalidate the quality of their work, but it may prove a point to this artist.  A few established artists have become distanced from the main body of their audience, and encourage said distance.  While this may have worked in the time before the internet, fans now demand interaction, and if not interaction, at least some respect.  If an artist has shown disrespect toward you, or toward a group you are part of, you are under no obligation to continue to support their work.  If enough of the audience is offended by their treatment, the artist will see some financial loss.

Maintaining the Balance


At all stages of growth, it is important for an artist to stand up for what they need, and for what their artistic community needs.  The undergrowth needs room to grow, tutorials and guidance to feed upon, and the ability to make mistakes without drastic punishment.  Saplings also need room to grow, but they need the opportunity to be tested, a chance to prove that they have what it takes.  This can come in a variety of forms: comic conventions (a chance to sell their wares, an opportunity to make new wares, a shot at meeting other artists, an opportunity to create an audience for themselves), publishing opportunities (both the ability to produce garage prints, participate in anthologies, create webcomics, and produce Kickstarter campaigns), a chance to make a name for themselves online and in person (Twitter, Tumblr, blogging, Facebook).  Even established artists can grow in a variety of ways.  They can become more professional, more friendly, more engaging, they can extend their reach, and grow their audience.  I believe that every stage of growth is reliant on the other stages, and that some form of recognition is in order for the cycle to continue.

Friday, April 19, 2013

April Deboxing: Art Snacks, Box 1

EDIT: If you enjoyed this review, please consider donating! Donations go towards the purchase of additional art supplies, which may include more markers for testing. If you found this review useful, please consider sharing it on your social networks.

Art Snacks, Box 1


About a month ago, Heidi Black pointed me in the direction of Art Snacks, a subscription art supply service with the intention of '...send(ing) you cool stuff to draw with'.  As an avid art supply tester and a huge fan of blind boxes (ReMent, Gachapon, lucky grab bags, you name it, I've indulged) I was intrigued.  I saw a lot of potential for a service that mailed out the best of the best art supplies to interested consumers, and thought it'd be a great opportunity for me to test out art supplies I might not have tested before.

Subscription boxes aren't a new thing, and I'm not new to them.  Last May, I purchased my mother an Umba box subscription for three months for Mother's Day.  In general, with subscription boxes, you don't get to pick what goes in them- you pay a set amount each month, and you receive your box of surprise goodies.  This means, for every item you love, there'll probably be a couple flops.  A subscription box is about the thrill of the unknown and the possibility of discovering new goodies.

In the words of the Art Snacks FAQ:

Will you tell me what is coming in my box ahead of time? Can I choose?
No, we won’t tell you; we like surprises. But we definitely want to know if you have suggestions for future boxes. Send us an email with a link to a cool art product and we’ll consider it for the future.

I decided to subscribe to Art Snacks so that every month, I'd have an opportunity to review art supplies I might not select for myself.  I liked the idea of random chance entering my reviews, and thought that if the Art Snacks proved interesting, some of my readers might be interested in following along.  I'm also a big fan of supporting small art related businesses.  I ordered my first Art Snacks box sometime in February, and it arrived just this Tuesday.  I had to wait until I got back from working to open it, as I wanted to be able to share my goodies with you guys.


My March-April Art Snacks came in this cute little box, the perfect size for shipping most art supplies.

Inside was an adorably wrapped little tissue package with an Art SnaDuDumcks sticker.  Also included was a Dum Dum sucker and an Art Snacks pretzel sticker.  I feel like their presentation was spot on- it was like getting a cute little present.

Also included was an instruction card, introducing the materials for this month (April).  A very nice touch.



Close up of the pretzel sticker.


On the wrapping sticker, there's a link to share your unboxing- a clever way to promote both yourself and Art Snacks.  Well played, Art Snacks.


This month's box included a Caran d'Ache watercolor pencil, a Stabilo fineliner, a tri-tip eraser, a General brand charcoal pencil, and a Spectrum Noir marker.

These are all materials I've used in the past.  Recently I tested Spectrum Noir markers against Copic Sketch markers, and found that they are a cheaper, acceptable alternative.  I was impressed that Art Snacks included one, since they're a newer entry to the art marker arena in the US.  I was also impressed by the Caran d'Ache watercolor pencil, as those are very nice quality watercolor pencils that perform quite well.  Unfortunately, the rest of the supplies were less exciting for me as they're very commonly available art supplies and tend to be staples in most high school art kits.  Considering that two of the five supplies impressed me, I'd say that's a good run, although only the Caran d'Ache will be entering my usual rotation.

While I'll continue to subscribe to Art Snacks for awhile, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed with their overall selection.  On the site, they promise the best supplies hand picked by artists, but the selection hasn't been exciting.  I was impressed that this month's box included a Spectrum Noir marker (include link to test), as they aren't particularly well known yet, but I was disappointed that last month's box included a tube of Reeve's watercolor paint, a brand which is notoriously awful (and available in sets of 12 for $10, which is always a bad sign).  I understand that $20 for 4-5 art supplies means there's limitations on what's in the box, but I'd hoped that their ability to purchase in bulk would mean exciting new test products and samples of products one might not otherwise be able to sample.  I guess I'd hoped that a subscription service would have further reach than a small time comic artist.

I haven't lost hope for the future of Art Snacks.  I think it would make an excellent present for a young artist who might only have a small collection of art supplies.  I would like to see the company continue to grow, and I hope that as time progresses, they gain the ability to offer more exciting products.  I would like to see Art Snacks begin communicating with companies like Jet Pens to bring more exotic supplies to artists, as there's a variety of exciting Japanese art and stationary supplies that are relatively cheap but not available easily in the US.  I also know that companies like Dick Blick and Jerry's Artarama offer bulk discounts on supplies.  Some supplies I'd be interested in seeing in future Art Snacks boxes include:

  • Fude pens
  • Watercolor markers
  • Colored pencil leads
  • Variety packs of artist trading cards (for paper variety)
  • Caran d'Ache non photo blue pencils
  • For commonly available materials included, I'd like to see one clever, little known trick included with the material.  
  • Cotman watercolors (cheap but perform well)
  • Spectra Gold Watercolor Brushes or Winsor Newton Cotman Brushes (small rounds are pretty cheap, and good), Robert Simmons brushes (especially Filberts)
  • Liquid concentrated watercolors (vibrant colors, but few people know what they are)
  • Derwent Intense Stones (really really nice, rich watercolors) 
  • Iwako's cute erasers- not really great for arting, but really really cute
  • Strathmore tends to be generous about their samples, maybe something like that
  • A variety of artist grade gel pens like white and black Signo pens, Hi-Tec C pens
  •  Mono erasers
  • Pentel Pocket Brush
Also useful would be an  area on the site where users could submit what they've done with the materials, and perhaps a user gallery.  Submitted tutorials listing which Art Snacks materials used would also be neat, and would help subscribers who aren't familiar with the materials become familiar with them quickly.  Another neat feature would be interviews with professional artists to find out what they use, include one 'recommended item' per box, and maybe a small demo or tutorial of the artist working with that material.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest Post: Joseph Coco, MoCCAfest 2013 Recap

Although Joseph Coco isn't a comic artist, he's spent a lot of time around them.  My best friend, significant other, and go-to convention monkey, Joseph's attended a variety of comic and cartoon conventions at my behest, helping both in front of and behind the table.  During this immersion into comics culture, he's become a big fan of mini and independently published comics, supporting a wide variety of artists at every convention he attends.

I went to the 10th annual MoCCA fest as both a convention helper for Nattosoup (and partially for Rascals, Rogues and Dames) and an attendee. Because of this, much of my convention costs were covered. Last year I went solely as an assistant, but I enjoyed talking with the artists so I made sure to make time this year and to buy their indie comics.

Attendee

Products

MoCCA festival being a mini comics festival, most of what I saw, what caught my attention, and what I purchased was naturally mini comics. I probably bought 5 perfect bound books, 2 hard cover, and 30 minis. Not for lack of selection. Indeed, the aisles were packed with independent mini / small press comics and even indie professional comics. I saw less t-shirts and toys this year, and commissions were not advertised as much, but roughly the same number of buttons, charms, bookmarks, prints, magnets, etc.

There was not a particular genre or theme this year, though last year there seemed to be an exorbitant number of hyperbolic comics with intentionally poor art, I enjoyed the variety. I haven't had a chance to look through everything I purchased, but what I like is that most of the topics considered taboo to traditional or mainstream comics such as religion, politics, sexual abuse, legitimate philosophy, feminism, slavery, or even everyday life find a place at MoCCA fest.

There were the typical tropes such as superhero, fantasy adventure, or comics about the creator's pets, but at the very least everyone had their own take on these stories and were not tied to particular art style enforced by an entrenched audience.


Convention Setup

Upon entering the convention I was inclined to walk forward, down aisle C. I quickly noticed all of the publishers were towards the front of the armory and just walked by stockpiles of hard cover comics. Not that I have anything against publishers, but I have many professional comics on the shelf which I have yet to find time to read. There was generally a crowd at publishers, but not so much that it clogged traffic, except during the busiest hours between 1PM and 3PM.

There was roughly an equal number of males and females at behind tables. I generally looked at the artist's table before them as I don't know many artists so it didn't matter either way. I tended to take a peek at crowded convention tables and walk by if something didn't catch my eye in a few seconds. The number of people at tables affected whether I just walked in the middle and looked at booth sides versus scoping out a large chunk of one side, then the other.

Even though I didn't use the cafe inside the convention center it was nice that one existed in stead of empty vending machine. This year there was only one 'swag station' which was easier to find which was nice. I picked up a comic off of it but grabbed cards from the comic artist's tables.

Even though there were many more open social areas (with seating) than last year to pull people who lingered off the floor, I didn't meet many non-exhibitors aside from friends of friends. Few people come to conventions alone. So if you're looking to make friends, engage an artist, latch onto to a friend to have him or her introduce you to people, or arrange something through Twitter or Facebook.


Table Setup

I found artists to be incredibly approachable in terms of answering my questions about prices, their process, what was new, what they'd recommend, etc. I was most comfortable with someone making eye contact with me for more than 2 seconds and engaging me in some way other than just saying hi, but I understand this can be taxing to both customers and exhibitors. I wouldn't mind if I saw an artist sketching or working on a commission, but I was slightly less inclined to purchase if I didn't know who the comic artist was or if they simply ignored me to speak with friends.

I don't believe it's necessary for exhibitors to encourage me to pick things up, ask questions, take a business card, or to tell me about the cheap items / deals on their tables which are readily available on signs. I can see the function for walk-ins (people who don't have badges) who have just stopped by because something was going on in a place they were passing, but I think most con goers know the drill, and that effort could be used to say something meaningful or more engaging.

I did however like it when an artist recommend one or more things to me if I was indecisive. Sometimes it's nice not to have to make a choice. So if I enjoyed the artist's work and could spare the money, I didn't let a broad selection dissuade me from making a purchase. An indie comic artist not being confident about their work, or making excuses for it, did not encourage me to pick up other things.

Back to signs, as long as signs were clear and informative, I didn't much care how professional they looked. This isn't to say a table's aesthetics are not important. If one is trying to maintain a particular image then I would encourage one to style their signs to add to the immersion.

I had some trouble delineating which tables were being split by artists, shared by a studio, or were a single artist's work with an assistant. I think distinct table clothes would have helped with this but far fewer people had table clothes this year because the Society of Illustrators supplied them. I try not to leave an artist's table without engaging them in some manner, but when my eyes are traveling across a table and someone else requests my attention it can be hard.

Tablets to aid a table display were few and far between. I wasn't inclined to use them much when they were available but I could see how they aided when a comic was available digitally. I was more inclined to look at banners though I didn't like any larger than a few feet.


New York City

Aside from food and friends, I didn't get to experience NYC as much as I would have liked. My hotel was comfortably shared with 3 other people and was a few blocks from the convention center and a reasonable walking distance from many interesting things. Alas, the MoCCA museum was not open the days I was there and my group could not find time to go to a broadway play or other such tourist activities. We did make it to a book off though to purchase some cheap English and Japanese manga.

The trip itself was expensive. There was a lot of cash being passed around for taxis, snacks, food, comics, MoCCA stuff, etc. Much like last year, I wished I had stayed longer than a few days as attending a convention can wear you out.

Convention Helper

As a convention helper, I did most everything I could to help Nattosoup, Becca Hillburn, have a successful convention. Frankly, much of what I did was to relieve stress and make things run smoothly.


Basic Duties

A lot of what I did was food / coffee / snack runs. When you're tied to a booth simple things like bathroom breaks or getting / eating lunch can be burdensome. Minimizing the amount of time an artist has to spend away from a table reduces the chances a fan will return for a comic or charm only to walk away because he or she doesn't want to wait. It also saves a friend having to awkwardly explain they are not the artist or possibly confusing one artist for another because they are minding a table.

I also assisted with bags, including providing extra bag space for convention setup and goodies. Helped pack, unpack, and setup. Helped organize arrangements after the convention. Could speak on behalf of the artist when she was away from the table. I also delivered messages to people, hunted down staff members for various reasons, and generally tried to promote Nattosoup's brand and table when I was engaging with others. I also traded a few of Becca's comics with other artists she knew, which I would not necessarily recommend as engaging with the artists should be part of the trade. The same goes for purchasing other artist's independent comicbooks.


Stalking Editors

I'll admit I should have done a bit more research on this, as I only knew what some of the editors look like. But part of my job was to find a good moment for Becca to speak with editors or popular comic artists. For a smaller convention which doesn't schedule portfolio reviews, finding an opportune moment to show off or gift some of your works can be difficult as crowds vary, people eat at strange hours at conventions, and editors / artists aren't always at their tables. This was actually fairly easy since it was just something I had to keep in the back of my mind as I was passing by tables.


Table Setup Photos for Blog

I try to encourage good convention behavior. So I always inquire before I take a photo of a booth (photos available in Becca's MoCCA recap). I don't give a spiel about what it's for or play up its importance. Most exhibitors are fine or even flattered with me photographing their table, though almost everyone asks if they should be in the picture. I generally tell them if they believe their person represents their brand that they should stay in the picture. The important part here is to catch the exhibitors before convention traffic picks up, but after their entire art table is set up. Some artists or illustrators will request I take a picture with their camera, while others will just ask where they can find it--a business card suffices.


Artist Interviews for Blog

Since MoCCA fest is a small two-day indie comic show, Becca likes to talk with the up-and-coming artists to get their perspective on the convention and to promote their work. Much like the table photographs, timing is key for this task. I don't engage artists who are bombarded with customers and will return if need be. I generally try to interview a variety of people, though I try to pick people I personally find interesting so I won't feel guilty taking up the artist's time, possibly loosing them sales, and not even purchasing anything. The videos are on Nattosoup's YouTube channel if you'd like to get a taste of them.

I don't follow a particular format and the interviews are not rehearsed. In fact, there's virtually no preparation. Usually a 30 second to one minute introduction followed by impromptu comic artist questions as I dig deeper into the work and history of the interviewee. I shoot for a minimum of 4 minutes and a maximum of 11. I always take their business card so I contact them afterwards and encourage them to check out Nattosoup's table when they get the chance.


The artists are surprisingly open and honest and generally not flustered. I wouldn't say they aren't treating the interview seriously as much as they are passionate about their work and can't help but let some of that show through when I dive into their work, process, triumphs and tribulations.

I try to give a roughly equal amount of face time to comic time with the camcorder, and generally lead the interviews down paths of the artist's unique experiences or expertise. No one has turned me down for an interview and everyone seems happy with the result. Honestly, it's a great way to get to know an artist as there is a bit of pressure to condense a story in an interview to maintain interest as opposed to casual conversation.