Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stumptown 2012, Part 1

Abe and I were able to attend Stumptown 2012, but just for Saturday. Try as we might, we waited too long to decide to stay all weekend and couldn’t finagle arrangements for our dogs so we could stay away over night. But boy was that one day exciting.  By the time we left, I had such an adrenaline high that my mouth was dry.
I will post about the stuff we got in another post. So here’s our experience networking and about the panels we attended.
Beautiful carper at the Oregon Convention Center.
One of our goals was to network or whatever, so we handed out 26 ashcan copies of a story called Bubbles! People really seemed to like it. Ted Naifeh laughed as he read it and said it was cute. Lots of people said it was cute. When I said there was probably too much text on the back, Natalie Nourigat was very encouraging and said it was not. She seemed to like it a lot. A lady at the Dark Horse booth, whose name I have forgotten (!) liked it and said it reminded her of Savage Vampire, so there is another book we are going to have to hunt down. We also gave her a free sample of The Jerks.
As part of all that networking, we had two people to go see. Shing Khor of Marlowe the Monster was top on the list because we have been talking to her via twitter. I bought a necklace of hers and got so many compliments while walking around Stumptown. I pointed out where her booth was so they could all go buy her stuff.
Shing Kohr of Marlowe the Monster being totally awesome
We also went back to see Liz Conley because she was so inspiring last year. Her mini comic ‘Balloon’ is still my favorite purchase ever. It inspired much of our production – we now hand bind all our comics (sewing) and did single spot color by hand on our to wee comics, The Saddest Sasquatch and Square Today, Circle Tomorrow.
Those were the two high points, but we also got to sell our comics at the Bureau of Drawers booth! They were nice about it even though we had TONS of stuff to put on their table.
Scott Faulkner at work setting up the Bureau of Drawers booth
Left side of the BoD booth
Right side of the BoD booth
We went to fewer panels than we had planned on because we wanted to spend more time on the floor talking to the people at the booths. This is a first for us. Usually one hour is enough but we spent about 3 hours on the floor this year.
Journal Comics with Emi Lenox.  We were just a little late to this one because we were starving and needed to grab lunch. We did have breakfast at 6 in the morning and it was already noon. Anyways, we have actually seen Emi speak a number of times and she is always funny and charismatic. This was a workshop, so she didn’t talk too much. When we got in she was saying how you shouldn’t bother wasting money on a site since there are so many free ones. Well, something like that. Then to get her comic started, she made postcards to hand out. At Emerald City ComiCon, she had a mini comic of her auto bio comic that she handed out to publishers and that is directly what landed her book through image.
I am already having a hard time remembering the order of things, but I do remember she went a bit into the history of journal comics and the various styles. Everyone laughed when the first image she brought up was a cave painting. But it’s funny because it’s true! Anyways, she went on to discuss American Elf, Fart Party, and sadly a bunch of others I can’t remember off the top of my head because I didn’t write them down.
Then she went into her process for a bit. First and foremost, she told us what a difference drawing every day made. She showed us the difference from her first drawing to her more current drawings and she has grown a lot as an artist. In regards to designing a character, she pointed out that it is pretty important to have a simple character design. You don’t want to spend all your time just drawing your character. As part of that, the best advice she had for keeping up with the comic every day is to keep it simple. Which makes sense. To make her comic, she also kept a notebook for each day with doodles of ideas and notes about interesting things that happened. She keeps the whole thing really free form. She will sketch out the images, but not the text. This helps her keep it fresh. And her lettering is so clear, it surprises me that it is completely freehand. No guidelines or underwriting. Straight ink. This keeps it more like a diary, she says.
Then the rest of the time, she talked and answered questions as we drew our own journal comic. I have started a journal comic of sorts in a different style. More like Julia Wertz I would say. But I really enjoyed Emi’s freeform style and might have to give this a shot, too. Having a journal comic already made mine draw up really fast because I didn’t need to design a character.
Angela's notes and comic from the Journal Comics Workshop
Comic Layout with Frank Santoro. His ideas were a little strict for my liking. Also he kept talking about “finding the square” but not what to do with it once you did. This was a difficult panel because it was over Skype and he had to call in three times throughout the session to keep his audio live. I think he had so much to say about it that he ended up saying nothing. He is obviously very passionate.
He talked about the correspondence course he teaches. The method he teaches is to draw thumbnails on index cards. Then lay out the index cards and use tracing paper to pencil the story: yellow for the background, blue for the mid-ground, and red for the foreground. This let’s you make inking and coloring decisions later where the different levels can provide shape distinction. If I understood correctly. Anyways, You put another piece of tracing paper overtop the pencil tracing paper and ink away. He also likes about an 8-panel page, it seems.
He is not a fan of the practice of penciling, scanning, fixing in Photoshop, then inking. It seemed he thought it took out some of the rawness? He talked so fast and the Skype kept cutting out, so I think I missed part of what he was trying to say.
Angela taking notes
Euro Comics. This panel was brought up because of the new Manara library from Dark Horse. I eventually figured out Manara is a guy, Italian, and they are publishing translation of his stories. Diana Schutz, Executive Editor of Dark Horse’s Manara Library and Blacksad, was the main speaker, and the moderator was Joe Keating, who was pretty funny! First they went over a history of European comics coming to America. This was basically a huge list of artists and books to go find because they sound awesome.
They also went into the problems. In Europe, comics have a tradition as fine art, where as in America comics are thought of as more of a throw-away art. Which you can really see in the process of comics like DC and Marvel, but that is another conversation entirely. But this means there are amazing comics over in Europe that deserve to be read. However, translation is very difficult. The typical process is to hand the original script to a professional translator who doesn’t know anything about comics and they do a raw translation. Then another person, a creative write who does know comics, goes through the raw translation and fixes it up. But the writer is missing all the nuance and character information from the original comic to be able to translate faithfully. This two-step process needs to be one, and that is what Dark Horse has been able to do with the Manara translation. It sounds really exciting. Kim Thompson of Fantagraphics, is working on the translation. He speaks Italian fluently and has intimate knowledge of comics and so can bring all that knowledge to a faithful, instead of literal, translation. Later, they also pointed out that often, a translation is considered to be a reprint and so is given to a junior editor. But with Manara, they have given it to a head editor who also speaks a little Italian and other similar foreign languages and so knows when Kim get’s too excited and can reign in his translation.
Speakers at Eurocomics Diana Schutz and Joe Keatinge
Digital Inking with Benjamin Marra. I have been to a number of digital inking and coloring panels before. I am not even sure why I keep going. It is fun to be able to get people to draw for an hour though.  Anyways, Benjamin started by saying how a lot of people combine traditional and digital. He mentioned one flow (thumbnail in pencil, scan, change to blue, enlarge, digital ink), but people do the opposite, too. The whole digital thing is about trying to save time. He did mention, though, that it can actually make you slower because you can zoom in so far and start drawing details that won’t be duplicated in print.
He typically draws at 300 dpi, it sounded like. Though perhaps he also works larger at times. For the ‘brush,’ he uses about a 3px and doesn’t use any dynamics. Anything smaller than 3 px is unlikely to reproduce well. He likes the cleanness of a fixed width brush, like working with a micron pen.
He uses layers for everything. “When in doubt, make a new layer.” To start, he does a quick sketch in a color similar to non-photo blue because that is what he is used to. He likes the digital part for this because you don’t have to worry about preserving the paper. Sometimes, he will go from this sketch straight in to inking. But usually he does another layer to tighten up the sketch. He lightens the sketch layer through the opacity and starts a new layer with the same blue to add in the details. Then he lightens the tight pencils, hides the sketch, and starts a new layer to ink on. In addition to the pen, he uses the lasso tool to fill in large quantities of solid color, like for shadows. He will often use a 6px brush to outline the character. I was surprised how this made the character pop.
Yeah, so I had a blast. Look for more tomorrow.

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