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Maintenance

I updated my wordpress install and it broke everything; I’ll fix it, but I can’t promise when.

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Blog News and Updates

Where I’ve been!

It’s been a minute, huh? I didn’t mean to let the comic lie still for this long, but then again I never mean to let it lie still for longer than a week. Sometimes life gets in the way! I kinda got buried under commissions last year and they have a way of running out in front of me – the bills stack up faster than I can finish the work I owe, and then one thing leads to another and I’m permanently months behind.

My wife and I had kind of a financial disaster last March, when we found out that she wouldn’t have a classroom to come back to at the end of the 2016/2017 school year, and so we decided that it was time to leave Weaverville to move somewhere that I could also be employed. Weaverville kind of only worked for us as long as my wife could be the primary earner, but when there’s hiccups in her job situation I’d prefer to be part of our financial safety net, even if that means I’m not doing art full-time.

So last summer we moved to Seattle. It’s been an ongoing process – we took what remained of our savings and rented a room from some friends who already lived here, both of us were able to find employment, and last month we moved out into our own place. There’s just been a lot of other stuff that’s had to take priority over working on the comic, I’m afraid.

There’s some positives: since I started the new job, I’ve spent most of my free time cranking on commissions, and because I haven’t really had to take any new ones, I finished up all the outstanding illustrations I owe. (I still have some 3d work to finish up and will continue to work on those!) And I’m not stressing about money anymore, with the two of us working we can actually pay all our bills without having to take on more work, and still have money to set aside for other things.

We’re not quite done moving yet. We knew we’d be spending the first few months here in a single bedroom so most of what we packed was clothes and computers. Most of our things are still in a storage unit in California, and that includes a lot of the things I use to make the comic: my watercolors, printer, and scanner.

If you want to help us finish our move so that I can get back to work, we have a fundraiser going that you are welcome to contribute to. We’re pooling it with our own savings – once we reach $2500, we’ll make the final trip down and then back up again and finally settle in. I expect it will still take another month or two before we’re finally there.

In the meantime, I’ll be using that time to do some long-overdue housekeeping on the comic: overhauling the Patreon page, compositing and uploading the new scans of old pages, and writing and penciling the rest of the story so I’ll have a running start.

Thank you for your patience! I can’t wait to jump back in with you.

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Blog News and Updates

The Tiger Who Roared Her Stripes Off

For the last several months I’ve been working on a children’s book, following the urging of friends and family who’ve seen my other work and have wondered what is wrong with me that I’m not doing children’s books. I never really bothered to try sending my art anywhere, because I know how prohibitively difficult it is to break into that industry, but it turns out that Amazon will let pretty much anyone upload stuff to the Kindle store, so I gave myself an assignment to learn the process of making a children’s book by making a children’s book.

It’s 30 pages (that is to say, 30 individual illustrations), and while it is meant for children, I think that if you enjoyed some of my short stories here, especially stuff like How The Raccoon Got His Coat, or The Soldier and the Tsar, you’ll find that The Tiger who Roared her Stripes Off fits right in alongside those.

(I’m also curious to know how it renders out on various devices after going through Amazon’s internal file conversion processing mechanisms – I can preview it on my own devices prior to file upload, but still. If you decide to get this book and have comments on it, please do drop me a line.)

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Blog News and Updates

Music and merch

I mentioned last month that there were some pretty neat things that had happened in the intervening year and half while I was away, wanted to talk about some of them now! The first is back in September of last year, I got a very kind email from a composer named Aaron Hourie, who, after reading They Sit So Still, recorded this piece of music and sent it to me. The idea that anything I made would inspire anything as pretty as this is a concept that I’m still struggling to deal with. If you want to get absolutely emotionally wrecked, maybe try listening to it and reading the comic at the same time:

And, completely unrelated, before I ever got started working on the comic, I would periodically compete in Shirt.Woot’s weekly tee-shirt design contest. I never wound up winning, though I came close a few times, and eventually I realized I was doing an awful lot of work that I was never actually getting paid for, so I quit participating. And then about a year ago I realized that with the advent of crowdfunding, I could actually probably get some of the more popular designs printed on my own, and so in the summer of 2012 I launched a kickstarter and wound up having a whole pile of t-shirts made.

This was originally done with the intention of having some more varied merch to offer in the store, but I wasn’t really fully prepared for the complications that shipping a large number of orders would introduce, especially when international shipping was involved. So I sort of sat on them for a while, until I was able to get the bulk of the orders taken care of, and only just now have I gone through and inventoried what I can actually sell.

The executive summary here is I’ve fixed and reopened the store, and there’s now t-shirts available, though there aren’t too too many remaining – between 1-4 per design per size. Ideally, as the Patreon train picks up steam and I get enough of these sold, though, I’ll be able to order a second run.

I also want to add more metal tag designs, but of course my first priority here is getting the comic itself buffered and up to full functionality! I feel very optimistic about everything right now, so of course the temptation to over-promise is very strong.

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Blog

‘A Fine Day Out’ wins San Jose Public Library’s Graphic Novel Contest

Hey cats! The short story A Fine Day Out took first place in the Adult section of the Graphic Novel Contest hosted by the San Jose Public Libraries. You’ll find us at the awards ceremony at the Martin Luther King branch this Saturday afternoon, shaking hands and preening and being beautiful.

If you’re local, be sure to come say hello! The website says they’ll have refreshments there and I bet that means they’ll have little cubes of fancy cheeses on toothpicks, and seriously that’s worth the price of admission* right there, I love that stuff. If they do, I intend to eat a completely silly amount of them.

*there is no admission fee.

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Blog Tutorials and Resources

Merch it like you mean it

A primer on how to make money off your artwork on today’s internet

Ads are pretty great, right? You get anywhere between a few cents to a few dollars a day in exchange for making your website look kind of cheap and trashy. We just can’t love them enough, so we stick them all over everything because there is nothing that your comic needs than some gaudy eyesore right next to (or above or below) it to draw attention away from it.

Yeah, I’m not a real big fan of using ads. You can make five dollars in a month on Project Wonderful ads, or you can make four times that by selling just one t-shirt or print. I’ll tell you which one I’d pick.

I’m aware of the ongoing argument about shirts and other merchandise – there’s the contention that if your primary source of income is merch, rather than the comic itself, that you aren’t truly making a living as a cartoonist. And, uh, I don’t really care. I have to confess that I’m a lot more personally invested in getting that paper than I am in scoring points on somebody else’s totally arbitrary purist credibility scale.

If you’re of the same mind about turning your artwork into cash money, let’s continue.

I am going to assume you’ve heard of Cafepress. Let’s not talk about cafepress. You may have also heard of Zazzle. I’m not going to talk about Zazzle, either. In my experience it seems like these two options tend to be about as far as the webcomics crowd is willing to investigate as far as merchandising options go, with maybe Topatoco as being the aspirational destination.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a bigger world out there.

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Blog Tutorials and Resources

Some excellent resources for making comics on the internet

Webcomics.com went subscriber-only earlier in the week, and if you follow webcomics news at all, you probably don’t need me to tell you, since it’s already been reported and commented on by every major source all over the internet.

I have no strong opinions on the subject in either direction, the idea of a paysite for tutorials isn’t totally alien to me, lynda.com, nettuts, and 3dbuzz all charge a premium for access to their content and they seem to do okay for themselves, so what Guigar’s doing isn’t an unproven strategy. If you’re broke, though, there’s still a lot of useful information on the subject of telling stories with words and pictures if you know where to look.

Here’s some of my favorites:

Comic Tools is an excellent, if sadly neglected blog on the craft of making comics, but if you dig through the archives, there’s a lot of information there that is still very relevant. I especially like the articles on drawing and using dialogue balloons, a subject that tends to be an afterthought.

One of the things I’ve always found to be very instructive is to look at other peoples’ process, and there are a number of people who’ve documented theirs to share it. Kazu Kibuishi was kind enough to post a three-part series of how he makes Copper, and it’s just wonderful.

And there are of course the old standbys that seem to make the rounds about once every year or so: 22 panels that always work and Disney’s comic strip artist kit. If you haven’t seen them, there’s also a neat set of instructional drawings by osamu tezuka on how to draw manga. All the instructional text is in Japanese, but you’ll get the idea.

Many of the articles on Animation Meat can readily be applied to comics. there are a series of lecture notes and internal memos circulated to animators available on the site. Of interest especially are the notes on work habits, thumbnailing, drawing, and storyboarding.

Finally, it seems like everybody and my mom are running their comics on the wordpress/comicpress value meal combo, and if you’re one of them, it behooves you to take at least a little bit of time to optimize your wordpress setup. Lifehacker ran an article earlier in the year on doing exactly that, and the article itself is an excellent springboard into other useful WordPress-related learning tools.

If you have your own favorite resources for making comics, be sure to leave a comment and link me up, I’d love to hear about it.

Categories
Blog Tutorials and Resources

On finding a voice

I sometimes find that when I am drawing, there’s a sneaky, subtle temptation to imitate. Especially when I’m able to identify a certain style or mannerism that’s very popular with those circles I’m used to moving in – there’s the thought, “oh, well, this is what people like, and so it must be good, and if I want to be successful, I need to teach myself to draw like that.”

And it’s very persistent, and sometimes it wins over, and there is of course the bewildered disappointment when my attempts to pander don’t net me the success they have for others.

It takes a certain special kind of mental discipline to have enough faith in yourself to be willing to sing with your own voice. People are drawn to novelty, and if you are willing to be different simply by being yourself, rather than by some forced effort to stand apart from the crowd, that kind of distinctiveness has a very appealing resonance.

One of my guiding principles for about the last half of the decade has been: do the work that you want to do, and do it as best you can, and your audience will find you. It’s not a lesson that sticks, though. I have to keep learning it over and over.