For those of you in or near Pittsburgh, PA next week:
Come join the Andromeda Quarterly this Thursday, the 23rd from 6pm to 8pm at the Copacetic Comics Co. for an evening of celebrating Pittsburgh’s own Rustbelt Comics Anthology. Click here for more event details.
The publication is now on Issue 3 and I’ve got a couple of comics in the issue. Come check it out, talk comics and meet some of the contributors in person. They’d love to have you.
The new issue will be for sale as well as past Quarterly and Monthly issues. If you’re interested in submitting you’ll have a chance to talk to the editors and get advice/feedback on your work.
I’ll be there. Hope you can make it!
(Of course, if you can’t make it, you can order a copy online! )
The museum setting established a wonderful tone for the conference. It was a breath of fresh air to go to an intimate event with such a clear focus on discussing comics.
A big thanks is due to Jude Vachon, zine librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. Vachon was the core organizer of this event and responsible for steering it toward such a success.
The days events ran from 10 AM until 5 PM. Each panel was a jam packed 45 minutes.
The first panel of the day was moderated by Bill Boichel, owner of the Copacetic Comics Company. It focused on the idiosyncrasies of the local Pittsburgh comics scene. The panel consisted of Lizzee Solomon, Andy Scott, Paulette Poullet and Nate Mcdonough.
The panelists spoke about their experiences self-publishing and the role that the Pittsburgh community played in their work practices.
Scott spoke about his anthology, Andromeda and the restructuring of the publication in late 2012 from a monthly to a quarterly format. Solomon spoke about cartooning being at the core of her multi-disciplinary work practices while Nate McDonough retold the beginnings of hisGrixly publication.
McDonough, Solomon and Scott spoke of their times drawing together during the early issues of Andromeda and the competitive one-upmanship that their drawing parties would foster.
The panel explored the inroads that the four cartoonists had made into self-publishing and the external factors in their lives that had driven them to continue to self-publish in Pittsburgh.
Following the Pittsburgh cartoonists panel, French cartoonist, Boulet (Gilles Roussel) , author of the 24-hour comic Darkness took the stage to give a lecture on the evolution of his cartooning practices.
He spoke about streamlining his creative process and the increased emphasis on improvisation that he had developed in his work. He spoke about working with Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim on the series, Dungeon along with the exquisite corpse comic, Chicou Chicou, that he developed with several French cartoonists.
The aim of Chicou Chicou was to create a fictional “auto-bio” group comics blog. The cartoonists would pass strips back and forth over the internet adding pages until they were complete. Each of the cartoonists involved created a persona and crafted a drawing style that suited their character. Boulet played a small, geeky girl named Ella.
Besides discussing the subtleties of drawing stories from the perspective of a female character, Boulet talked about the harassment he received online when writing under a female pen-name. He reported receiving unsolicited love letters and invitations on dates and noted that when he got into disputes people would ask “are you on your period or something?”
At the end of his talk, Boulet spoke succinctly of his influences and of his current project, a 200 page improvised story in which he is neither pencilling nor scripting. He showed several of the 60 pages that he’d completed and the audience was in awe.
Freelance writer, illustrator and graphic designer, Joan Reilly then took the stage and talked about her work editing the forthcoming feminist anthology, The Big Feminist But. Joan presented the book’s contents and the genesis of the project.
The Big Feminist But arose from Reilly and O’Leary’s attempts to learn why so many of us, women and men, couch discussions around feminism with the phrase “I’m not a feminist, but…” or “I am a feminist, but…”. They decided to embark on the journey of making a comics anthology as the first step in starting a conversation about the issue.
The result is a promising book that features “graphic musings on life, love, lust and liberation,” by talents such as Jeffrey Brown, Gabrielle Bell, and Lauren Weinstein.
The book’s list of contributors is especially notable for including a number of couples working together, as well as single men and women. Reilly mentioned that a number of Kickstarter backers expressed their gratitude that men were involved with the book as well– an observation that highlights The Big Feminist But’s drive to create an expansive and inclusive conversation about feminism.
Subsequently, John Porcellino, took the stage to talk about the story of his life of zine-making and distribution. He talked about the story of King Cat, and the Spit and a Half zine and comix distribution service.
Porcellino touched on his artistic development and the early years of King Cat (focusing on the first 50 issues, collected in King Cat Classix). Porcellino has created books, comics, and publications since he was 7 or 8, and was creating zines for years before he discovered Factsheet 5 and learned that other people were doing it too.
He read some highlights from early King Cat issues and talked about his work processes and goals in creating that work. One revelation from this portion of the talk was the influence of Marvel’s monster comics from the 50s and early 60s.
While the relationship between these fantastic stories and Porcellino’s chronicles of everyday life might not be immediately apparent, Porcellino emphasized the drab, repetitive nature of the monster stories as well as the alienation of their typical mad scientist protagonists. “As an artist I’m very interested in repetition and boredom,” he said.
Porcellino also talked about the sales and distribution history of King Cat, which was instructive for the many self-publishers in the audience. Gesturing to the cover of the first issue of King Cat to be sold in stores, Porcellino noted the 35 cent cover price and remarked “in true zine fashion, I probably charged 35 cents because it cost me 36 cents to print.”
He also talked about his history of working bizarre or menial jobs to support his comics, and pinpointed King Cat issue 42, which he wrote, drew, and edited entirely on company time, as “the point I became a professional cartoonist, because I was being paid to draw comics.”
Porcellino spoke about his interest in the idea of real life and the ineffable experience of being alive. One thing he mentioned—and we think this is a big part of what makes King Cat so special—is that he tried not just to describe the event of his experience, but to communicate the feeling of that experience. Porcellino characterized the subject matter of his comics as “this weird feeling I had… [of] the underlying mystery in every moment,” a description we think King Cat readers will agree is quite fitting.
Caitlin McGurk, librarian at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum moderated the following panel on self-publishing. Porcellino remained on stage to join Ramsey Beyer, Rachel Masilamani and Bill Boichel to chat about their experiences self-publishing in the United States.
Similar to the first panel of the day, the panelists spoke of how they’d found their way to comics and more generally towards self-publishing.
Masilamani recounted first encountering zines through Christina Kelly’s zine of the month column in Sassy magazine. She spoke about the experience of receiving the Xeric grant and the consequences that it brought along with it. It allowed for her to get her first comics into the world and to hit the ground running with her first collection of RPM, but from the get go she was on her own.
The panelists thoughts on the pricing of mini comics were particularly interesting. Not surprisingly, Boichel as a vendor and Porcellino as a distributor had a lot to bring to the discussion of the relationship between self-expression and the commodification of desire. Boichel mentioned that artists sometimes come to him with $20 minicomics, reporting that they sold a lot of copies in New York, but he knows they won’t sell at that price point in Pittsburgh.
Beyer emphasized the importance she placed on the ethics of the production process and mentioned having worked with 1984 Press in Oakland California.
Boichel, suggested that aspiring cartoonists always pick someone to write to; a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, someone. By thinking of their audience’s interests and their budget, they could be more likely to create works that would move through the world more freely.
Dash Shaw followed the self-publishing panel. He began his talk by showing some recent animation work. One of the most striking animations that he played was the music video,Seraph, which he had made in collaboration with Frank Santoro and other artists for Sigur Ros’ valtari film experiment.
Shaw took the audience through a brief survey of his cartooning work, starting with his three current publications– the minicomic New Jobs, published by Uncivilized Books, the pamphlet3 New Stories, and the graphic novel New School, both published by Fantagraphics– and working his way backward to the mammoth graphic novel Bottomless Belly Button.
One through-line of Shaw’s talk was his thoughts regarding line and color. “I could talk about color forever,” he said, and it’s hard not to get excited by his original and distinctive ideas.
Many of the pages Shaw showed from New School use color in ways that are entirely divorced from traditional comic book coloring. Shaw rarely uses colors to simply fill out the drawing, preferring instead to use the collision between the color and the line-art to create meaning and emotion, often in oblique and subtle ways.
This unwillingness to spell things out directly for the reader was evident in Shaw’s discussion of line and drawing as well. He spoke of being inspired by David Mazzucchelli’s idea of the “dumb line,” (which he describes in more detail here) and by trying to push back against the conventions of “good” illustration.
“So much illustration is about telling people what something is and how to feel about it,” Shaw said, adding that he wanted to make drawings that don’t tell their reader how to feel.
He also spoke about his fascination with the house styles found, among other places, in manga and Archie comics, speculating about an ideal, impossible Archie style. In Shaw’s conception, even the best Archie artists fall short of this Platonic style, and their own personal style would be the accumulation of their failings at achieving a true Archie drawing.
All in all, it was a dense, stimulating talk, and we can’t wait to dive into New School and read it with the attention Shaw’s work demands.
The fluidity of the discussion was really satisfying. Without much effort it hopped from discussions of style (and avoiding “style”) to explorations of narrative collapse. Of course, a highlight of the panel was the discussion of the differences between making money around comics and making money in comics.
Career development and survival were recurring topics, and every member of the panel had a different way of approaching making a living as a cartoonist. The common thread was work ethic and hustle.
Santoro half-jokingly described himself as “basically a used book dealer at this point.” Rugg spoke about doing design work and also discussed the Flight School fellowship , a professional development program for Pittsburgh artists he recently participated in.
To see the comics medium getting the attention of an established institution like the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and for it to occur at the Carnegie Museum was inspiring. Here’s hoping for more small events around the country with this level of intimacy and intensity of dialogue.
all in all, you could say…
I’m Pittsburgh bound, but I have pangs to be in Columbus. At the Billy Ireland Library and Museum, more precisely. Man, what a spiritual place…
Julie Sokolow recently produced a short video that explores that Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State University. Watch the Tell Me Something I Don’t Know crew geek out over Nancy panels with librarian, Caitlin Mcgurk.
Speaking of spiritual places, I’m off to go to Pittsburgh real soon. I have the first edition of my first Dailies collection. I’m damn proud of my babies. I’m looking to give them out to all the good folks that have helped me out in my cartooning endeavors and then to sell a couple. Hope folks in the ‘burgh like ‘em!
During the last week that I’ve spent back in Pittsburgh, I’ve been repeatedly reminded by how invigorating its community of creators has been for me in my growth as a cartoonist. It’s a great place filled with some truly hard working creators.
One of the things that bums me out the most about not having been in Pittsburgh this past fall was not being able to attend the 2nd Annual Zine Fair. With a roster of exhibitors as juicy as the one that they organized, the event was bound to be a blast. Hopefully, the timing of the 2013 zine fair is conducive to me trekking down to the city.
For now though, I’d like to share a couple of photographs taken by Anna Lee Fields.
If you’d like to see more photos from this gathering, hop on over to the Zine Fair’s site.
Drawing Power will be a one day event celebrating and exploring the small press and self-publishing comics and zine community of Pittsburgh and its connection to the larger world. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, check ‘em out below.
Saturday, April 20th
Carnegie Museum of Art Theater (lower level)
4400 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Moderators will be Bill Boichel from Copacetic Comics and Caitlin McGurk from the Billy Ireland Collection at OSU.
10:00-10:30am: Meet & Greet; tabling
10:30-11:15am: Panel 1
11:30-12:15pm: Boulet presentation
12:15-1:00pm: Big Feminist But presentation
1:15-2:00pm: John Porcellino presentation
2:15-3:00pm: Panel 2
3:15-4:00pm: Dash Shaw presentation
4:15-5:00pm: Panel 3
Panel 1: The Pittsburgh Scene, Bill Boichel moderator
Panel 2: Self-Publishing, Caitlin McGurk moderator
Panel 3: A Career in Comics, Caitlin McGurk moderator
On a different note, I would like to share a youtube channel that I’ve been watching recently, offtheLeftEye.
Sometimes we get too caught up in our own minds, concerned with how we compare ourselves to others. Those trains of thought often wind up hurting us. If you’ve ever grappled with your ego, you might enjoy the following by offtheLeftEye.
This past Saturday I travelled to Pittsburgh to lead a 3-hour cartooning workshop with Andy Scott at the community space for arts and technology, Assemble.
Have a look at the goings on. It was a blast.
To get into the nitty gritty about the workshop, Andy and I facilitated three primary activities.
To cover the basics and to make sure that kids didn’t feel much pressure regarding their drawings, we has a station dedicated entirely to covering the step by step construction of cartoons. Andy and I provided materials that would allow them to draw both famous characters and entire simplified worlds a la Ed Emberley. The kids would have the opportunity to copy them by sight or by using tracing paper.
I wanted to make sure that we harped on copying as a positive learning tool and not as something to be ashamed of. I know first hand how empowering it can be to know how to draw a character that you see on tv and on billboards. In my mind, an activity like this one would allow the kids to go home having nailed down Homer Simpson or Sponge Bob, a brag worthy skill that’d be a great boost to their self-esteem.
Besides step by step cartooning, we set up a self-portrait station, where kids were encouraged to draw themselves as animals, robots, bugs, superheroes or their favorite household items. These drawings would then be used to create a poster design for the following week’s Crafternoon.
In addition to that there was a large collaborative megacomic on a massive sheet of butcher paper. For this megacomic, Andy laid down a basic structure of frames, a couple of “meanwhiles” and “BUT”s and a few city skylines. After that, we let the kids go to town, encouraging them to take the stories to the outer limits of believability.
Of course, given that the space is oriented towards drop-ins, kids were welcome to follow their cartooning muses in any way they pleased. Some kids wanted individual attention, so I spent time with many of them making one sheet minicomics. The chief approach to my process was by collaborating with the kids, trading off our comics frame by frame.
Everyweek, the crafternoons offer a different engaging activity free of cost to kids from around Pittsburgh, but particularly to those from the Bloomfield, Garfield and Friendship communities. Have a look at their varied March offerings:
If you’re living in Pittsburgh and are interested in the possibility of volunteering your time to lead a crafternoon, please do so. The more we share our talents with kids in spaces like Assemble, the more opportunities for growth we give ourselves and the children in our communities. You can get in touch with assemble via the following email: email@example.com
Next week’s Crafternoon will be a screen printing session with Steph Tsong and the friendly folks from the Artist’s Image Resource in Pittsburgh. Using the contributions of the workshops attendees, I put together a little poster for the kids to try their hand at printing.
The goal of the poster was to create something that would work as promotional material for the crafternoons that would playfully capture the high energy environment which typifies the Crafternoons at Assemble and that could also be customizeable by the kids on their own. (Thus the empty word balloons.)
It was a blast to run a workshop like this. I hope to work with Assemble and similar organizations in the future to create spaces for kids to draw and work on comics fundamentals.
If I could do this for a living, well, that’d be a dream come true!
I’m excited to relay the following announcement from Little Tired Press regarding the newest issue of Andromeda and it’s transition to a quarterly publication:
Andromeda has transcended it’s hey day as a monthly comics publication and is now dawning a new age as a Quarterly Comics Anthology. The very 1st issue as a quarterly will be available for reading as well as purchasing at the Copacetic Comics Company in Polish Hill. This will be a seriously casual event, mostly chatting about comics and Andromeda in particular. A handful of the contributors will be there as well as Andy, editor and publisher of Andromeda, to answer questions or talk shop. Copies of the new Quarterly will be on sale for only $5 each, which is a steal as the book is 40 pages mostly in color and wrapped up nicely in a snug perfect binding. So swing on by 3138 Dobson Street next Thursday starting at 6pm for an evening with the burgeoning Pittsburgh’s comics and cartooning superstars!
Below is a peek at the luscious cover by Andy Scott. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these puppies and to see how the beast has changed as its moved from a monthly to a quarterly publication. If you’re interested in getting a sneak peak and about learning of the recent changes hop on over to Andromeda’s Facebook page.
I christen this the beginning of an era of regular updates.
As y’all already know, I love WRCT. It’s a place of good music and good people. Two things, that, more often than not, are hard to come by.
Last weekend I took a trip down to Pittsburgh for which I prepared 62 little graph paper notebooks with silk screen covers and inner covers. They idea was to make somthing nice for the station’s current membership given that I’m away. It seems like the station has grow immensely over the past couple of months and that the programming has gotten exponentially better since the summer. Knowing that warms my heart.
After making 62 of those, I’m pretty sure I’m never going to buy a sketchbook for a good long while. I’m too precious with things I buy and, at this point in time, I can’t afford to be precious with my drawing. Right now, my aim is to just get all of the shitty drawings out of my system. It’s going to be a while, but the shittier the notebooks, the faster this whole process’ll go.
If you’re interested in seeing some the junk I’m churning out, check out my tumblr. While some of the drawings may be nice, they definitely don’t deserve spotlights here.
So, if I haven’t told you this in the past couple of days, Pittsburgh, I love you. 42 hours on the road and 46 hours in the city and every minute was precious. I really needed the trip.
I spent the weekend with my good friends Tim Sherman and Caitlin Boyle and got the special treat of being their helper monkey as they built arcade cabinets with the New York City game collective, babycastles. The weekend saw the glorious housing of two fun games, the TOASTMOTHER (Tara Helfer and Tim Sherman) and the sleeper hit, Trampoline Goat (Caitlin Boyle and Tim Sherman).
Babycastles did some workshops on cabinet building and gave a talk about their history as an organization. They’re stupendously nice people with an amazing outlook on creating. Although I’ve never programmed any games before, the fine folks at Babycastles have lit a fire to do so. DIY or die.
Here are some photos from the work on Saturday and Sunday.
Tim Sherman working on the Toastmother Cabinet.
Caitlin and the two beautiful cabinets that we transformed to house the Toastmother and Trampoline Goat.
And here you can have a look at the one and only, Trampoline Goat. Trampoline Goat was a game that Caitlin and Tim churned out in an hour while at CMU. The game was astonishingly popular. The premise is simple: Move left and right to stay on the trampoline. Collect Tomato Soup cans and avoid the bluebirds that race across the screen to bring your downfall. The record for the night was 18 points (soup cans collected in mid-air).
Babycastles have a history of making buttons out of objects (In the case of the games we made, toast and lamb plushie were used). They also like to make plushies into game consoles. Behold QWOP on the fish.
Additionally, I got to catch and help out with a visual performance by Tim that he did for the DJ duo Tiger and Woods.
To give you an idea as to how much I like Tim’s visual work, I often go to shows solely for his VJing.
I caught some performances, danced my ass off and got to see a bunch of my friends. Given that practically anyone who knew anything about anything was in East Liberty for VIA that weekend, I didn’t have to go too far to see folks. Hug after hug after hug, the weekend did me a lot of good.
Arguably unfortunate timing made it such that I had no time to work on CCS projects on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, which definitely put me at a disadvantage with respect to my fellow students, but I wouldn’t have traded this weekend for the world.
While I’ve been getting my ass handed to me right now at CCS, and that’s mainly my fault, last weekend’s trip has given me a good deal of perspective on the past month of classes and work at CCS.
You already know how much work cartooning and comics are, so I won’t belabor that fact. Suffice to say that I’ve underestimated the time things take to complete and as such have been doing A LOT of crunch time work that has been up to snuff.
After this week’s work I’m finally hitting a stride. I’m caught up on everything and besides making solid headway in my current projects, I’m revising all of my past projects so that they’re genuinely great. That’s why you haven’t seen anything round these parts of the internet from me. When they’re ready, your eyes will have plenty to gobble up. A series of George Herriman Krazy Kat imitation strips, an Ed Emberley styled story featuring Miyazaki’s Kiki and a one page poster sized comic about bird watchers in the style of Charley Harper (which is really just a subconscious meditation on my parents) are all on their way.
Stay tuned, sweet heart, as this boy’s got plenty of things up his sleeve for you.
It’s well worth your time to listen to these dudes geek out over back issues.
Oh and if you haven’t already checked out Jim and Jasen’s podcast, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, head on over to their site and check out the chit chat’s they’ve had with artists over the past couple of months. The subject matter covers quite a broad scope, so there’s sure something of use to you!
VIA 2012 is coming up on the horizon! A festival that’s just as much a tech and culture laboratory, VIA’s bringing talented folks from around the world to do what they do best for a whole week. From workshops, performances, interactive art, dance free-for-alls, VIA has been the root of some of my greatest experiences in Pittsburgh.
Today I finished up a little page to celebrate the upcoming Pittsburgh Zine Fair on September 22nd. Thought I’d share with y’all.
If all goes well, this’ll be the back cover for the program guide for the event. I’ve never hand lettered to this degree, so it was a satisfying exploration. This isn’t the best scan, but it’ll do for now.