Monday, December 18, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 262: The Serene Logan

Back at it. The semester has ended and Christmas plans are proceeding apace. There are many changes in my personal life, but as they do not relate to my art for the most part, I will just acknowledge them here and move on.
I have had several new pages on the board, but none that really did it for me. I will make time to get more work out over semester break (5 weeks!). In the interim, here's a little something.
Most everyone doodles. Whether it's geometric patterns, cartoon characters or fully fleshed out renderings, most of us will draw something when trapped in a tedious meeting or lecture, even people who fall into the irritating trap of saying "I can't draw."
During a training at my primary job, I just did this. I'm quite fond of it.
The kenji on the side is the character for "listen".
Nothing elaborate, just 20 minutes of mindful drawing with a ballpoint pen on plain printer paper. There are some structural problems here, but I don't care. This is a case of the whole being larger than the sum and all that. This doodle makes me happy, and I'm happy to share it with you.
Next: new page.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Wednesday) No. 261: Tranny Towers Complete cover!

Hi folks;
A week off my game, but never mind. I've had this piece stewing on the back burner for a couple months now. After numerous false starts, here we go. Now it can be told.
I am compiling all the Tranny Towers material. I am planning a Kickstarter. The Complete Tranny Towers. The Tranny Towers Omnibus. Or maybe, as it says on the mockup for the Kickstarter campaign page, just Tranny Towers Complete. I will post notice here when the Kickstarter goes live.
While preparing for this, I realized there were problems with the previous cover. It was drawn for a comic collection in black & white, and while the color added later was successful for the most part, the textures I added were awful. Also, the idea of Athena imagining herself and her trans family as sophisticates while they all have pizza and watch movies on TV was too clever by half. It just didn't translate from the image.
I played with ideas for a new cover for some time. Nothing gelled. In frustration, I thought, "how hard can it be to get the band back together?"
There it was.
I began playing with ideas. Since the strip was from the 90s, I went to girl bands I was listening to at that time. Our ladies as The Runaways. Our ladies as Bonnie Raitt and her backing band. Our ladies as the Bangles. That one was pretty close. I toyed with images based on the All Over the Place (still my favorite Bangles album- so raw!) era shots of the Bangles lounging on a couch. Still not quite right.
Once again, Archie saved the day. I found an alternative cover for The Archies no. 1. It was perfect. I lifted the poses and the setting. I haven't added color yet, but when I do, it will be faithful to the original cover, but with the right skin tones for my girls. I had reservations about using Archie comics as reference again. However, in my search for inspiration, I looked at The Art of Jaime Hernandez. Hey, if Love and Rockets pays homage to, and swipes from, Archie, why the heck shouldn't I?
Here it is.

In case people have forgotten who's who, here's a rundown. Relaxing on the floor, writing sheet music: Athena Hunter, MtF post-op trans woman, bi. Behind the couch, drumsticks in hand: Trina, cis lesbian, and partner of Sonia Kertzer, seated on couch with sheet music in hand. Next to her: Dena Statsin, lead guitar, pre-op MtF trans woman, straight. Seated at the end on bass: Dijan LaSalle, cis drag performer, gay male.
No, they're not a band in the original strip. I am going to do a short story in which they become a band for a brief shining moment, both to rationalize the cover and because it sounds like a fun story.
The collection should be about 100 -120 pages, when all is said and done. It will also include related stories from my other work, including the original Ink Tantrums book, attempts at a graphic novels using the characters, and editorial cartoons I did for TransSisters and TNT News magazines.
I'll also be doing paper dolls of each of the five protagonists, and a new story to give a sense of how everyone ended up. It is a soap opera, after all, and my readers never really got closure.
In case you've forgotten, this is the old cover, which was used in black & white as part of a Xeric Grant proposal so many years ago.

There are practical considerations to the new cover. The proportions of the cover may be a tad off. This is intended to serve as a wraparound cover. Ideally, the spine will fall near the edge of the couch. It will be easy enough to extend the right edge with large flat blocks of color to make this happen, if need be. Also, the large black area on the floor can easily be cropped or extended if necessary. Bear in mind that at this stage, we don't know how thick the spine will be! There's also ample air for copy placement on the back cover, and on the front cover near those windows and in the aforementioned black area of the floor.
In short, the piece is designed so I can play with it until it's technically right, if it's not already so.
Materials used:
Canson Recycled Bristol board
Straightedge, triangle and T-square
No. 2B and no. 4B solid graphite sticks
Lead holder and No. 4 lead
Magic Rub eraser
Dr. Martin's Black Star High Carbon Walnut Ink, which I continue to love
3/4" Princeton synthetic brush, flat
No. 4 Escoda Reserva Kolinksy Tamyr brush, flat
No. 4 Princeton Synthetic brush, round
Faber Castell brush tip marker, 80% gray
Crow quill and nib
Tight Spot angled correction brush
FW Acrylic White
I am enjoying the No. 4 brushes a lot. 
I have some reservations about starting a  new project before completing Sharp Invitations. But as I've confided privately to several friends, I relive my pains and stupidities (along with the joys) when doing that work, and it's emotionally draining. It's vital, and I'll keep doing it, but sometimes I need a hiatus. This is a project I can complete in fairly quick order (though I suspect fulfillment will be a nightmare). Also, it's pure joy. I had forgotten how much fun I have drawing the Tranny Towers characters!
Next: back to Sharp Invitations, either the Curt story or a long-promised single page story.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 260: Sharp Invitations: Linda, middle page

I'm rather proud of this page. I'll tell you about it in a minute, when I'm done crying.
I was all set to do the next page in the Curt saga. But I had some talks with friends, both trans and cis, that took me back to the early days of transition and the end of my marriage. Many of my trans friends have had relationships that survived the process of them becoming themselves. I am happy they are so blessed, and know (suspect) that theirs is not an easy road either. Much as Linda and I loved each other, the kindest thing we could have done for each other when I came out was to part ways.
But it sure didn't seem like it at the time. Not to either of us.
I could not get this out of my head. This had to be the next page I did.
I like writing on this a lot. It hurts like hell, but I think it's solid writing.
It sums up the desperation and bitterness we both felt as our life together careened to its inevitable conclusion.
I honestly don't remember if that song (There Is A War, from Leonard Cohen's third album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony) was playing in reality as she said that, but it certainly echoed in my head and in my heart right then. The irony and bitterness of the line was so precise, so cutting.
"You cannot stand what I've become, you much prefer the gentleman I was before."
Well, yeah.
She did.
Somehow I don't think this is quite what Leonard had in mind, but once you've considered it that way, there's no other way to hear it.
I had betrayed her by being myself, and she betrayed me by being betrayed.
In fairness, while she did say that line, she said it with much more kindness than I've shown here. And she said it in the response to the fatal, desperate question, "how do I look?"
This page does something I've been trying to avoid. It shows me as an adult male. While the reality of that past is inevitable and must be in this book, I don't want to see myself that way, let alone share that with anyone who knows me now. Inevitable as it is, it feels like I'm betraying myself to do these particular pages.
But truth is capricious. It's also elusive. Even in this, I'm going to put myself in the most flattering light possible, even when I'm engaged in the most dishonorable acts, like taking someone's husband away, as I did here.
There's so much more to the story of Linda and me. And dear readers, please don't paint her as a villain from this page. She's a complex and loving person who only did right by me, as you'll learn when the rest of the story is told.
Production notes: backgrounds continue to vex me, but in a very different way. I did a very nice background/environment for this page, but much of the detail was obscured by the placement of the figures. The page could use more heavy blacks, but it serves as is. I wanted to use the layout to show distance between us, even in the same room. I also wanted to show my emotional rigidity at the time. I was just a few months on hormones, and would cry at the drop of a pin (as opposed to my present stoic and stable emotional state, of course). I felt like I had to  be in complete control, and the more things fell apart, the more I felt a failure if I didn't maintain composure.
Tools used on this page:
Photoshop (update 2018)
Canson recycled Bristol  board
Straightedge, triangle, T-square
Alvin flexible S curve
lead holder and No. 4 soft lead
Iyota .06 fine line marker
Dr. Martin's Black Star Walnut India Ink
Crow quill pen
Princeton No. 4 synthetic round brush
Faber Castell 40% gray brush marker
Magic rub erase
Next: either back to the Curt story or a revisiting of Tranny Towers.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 259: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 13

Posting on a Sunday again. That's good. Life remains hectic, but I turned a corner on a couple things in my personal life this week. I won't elaborate here. Suffice to say that some things are more manageable.
When we left our heroine (me) and Sara, I had just spoken my attraction to her.
Read on.
Just the facts, ma'am: That's exactly what she said to me before we kissed.
Sara was not the first trans woman I was interested in, but (not to deride her predecessor), she was the first one that mattered. The previous one was an act of desperation as my marriage was ending and I was feeling unloved and running scared. Was this also desperation as Curt's abuse began to manifest itself? Maybe on some level, but the most important thing to me was my attraction to her. Then and there, nothing else mattered.
To be completely clear, and for the umpteenth time, this is not how Sara looks, nor her proper name.
Technical notes: the inks were fairly cooperative today. When considering the background, I went with angled strokes, a technique I used on a page of A Private Myth years ago. It works to make the figures pop.
The lamp, however, is another story.
The intent was to anchor the setting with an element from the opposite side of the room, 90 degrees off. That way, when you see the lamp on the opposite side, you have a sense of motion and place.
Nice idea, but I don't think it works.
For one thing, while it's technically accurate, the lamp is pretty blah to look at, and adds very little visually. For another thing, it doesn't really communicate space the way I hoped it would. When I was done with it, I thought it was a separate and rather boring drawing that just happened to be on the same board. So I took the lamp out. Here is the result.
I hope you agree that it's better this way. I continue to work on my environments, but the old axiom remains valid. Sometimes less really is more.
I used one of my favorite devices here, making a complete border by dropping out opposite edges. I like that one. It gives a sense of unity, while still allowing plenty of air.
Materials used on this page:
Canson recycled Bristol board
Ellipse templates, triangle, T-square
Dr. Martin's Hi-CArbon Walnut Ink (continue to love this stuff)
Princeton #4 round synthetic brush (also rapidly becoming a favorite)
Crow quill pen and nib
Faber Castell 20% gray brush marker
Magic Rub eraser
Next: either the next page of this story or the long promised new Tranny Towers piece.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 258: Ida

I'm back from vacation. Only did a couple drawings during my week in New Mexico. I did make music with some wonderful friends, including members of Gentle Giant! I played better and had great fun, as well as learning a lot, especially from drummer Malcolm Mortimore, who took me under his wing for a much-needed lesson on pacing.
The next page of Sharp Invitations is laid out and ready to hit the board, but I want to resolve a couple more pages before I go to inks on this one. In the interim, here's an ink piece.
I'm not doing the full Inktober experience. I will ink as much as possible this month. I learned a great deal last year from copying the work of people whose work I revere. I hope to expand on that experience this year, but I simply don't have time to ink every day right now, much as I would like to.
When cleaning some old files, I found an obituary of Ida Lupino, a woman whose work, integrity and singular beauty always impressed me. The obit included a remarkable photo of her, very sultry.
I've always loved that word. Sultry.
I've been meaning to draw from that photo for decades. Since I'm not working on the old magnum opus today, this seemed to be a good time. The finished product doesn't look like the original. I'm not even sure it looks like Ida Lupino. But I like it anyway.
Production notes: Be very careful when working with that Dr. Martin's Black Star Walnut Ink! Yes, it's a full, lush black. Yes, it flows smoothly and is fairly easy to control. But man alive, does that stuff smear if it's not set! I gave the Acrylic White and the correction brush quite a workout on this one.
There's a bit of dry brush on this. Love dry brush, but still working on controlling it. Some of the hair textures were done in dry brush.
In terms of layout, it's a bit of a shock the way the left arm fades to black, but it's effective. The lights and darks of this are so noir, so compelling. Not surprising, since Lupino was one of a handful of women to direct film noir. Her work Outrage was one of the first films to treat rape survivors with any real empathy.
As anyone who had been following my work for a while knows, hands are often my bane. I'm happy with the drawing of these.
I could have pushed the gray values farther in places, but it seemed time to step away.
Pentalic paper for pens
Martin's Black Star Walnut Ink
FW Artist's Acrylic White
#0 Tight Spot brush
Princeton #4 Round brush (just got this a couple weeks ago, and I love it)
Princeton #4 scumbling brush
Magic Rub eraser
Next: More Sharp Invitations, if I don't do a new Tranny Towers piece.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Friday): Sharp Invitations: Curt, p.12

We're back to Sharp Invitations.
Got this page done at last! After wrestling with the layout and narrative flow for weeks, dabbling in other projects along the way to keep fresh, I finally got something with which I'm happy.
When we left our heroine (me), she had met Sara just outside the Library. Sara outed herself to Diana, and they agreed to go have a chat.
I kept this clean and did decent, slightly less sparse, backgrounds. It still reads a bit light, as regards heavy blacks for balance, but between Sara's hair and my shirt, I think- hope- there's enough. If I take time for revisions later, I might map some darks on tracing paper, just to see where I can push farther without killing the work.
Layout considerations: the three tier banner layout works fine.  The bottom tier, the open top panel with the abrupt shot reverse shot and jump to a tighter view, connected by my word balloon pointing to both of me- that works if you don't think too much about it. It takes the emphasis away from the album being discussed and puts it on the two of us. the lettering in that last panel is completely free hand- not even ruled guides. I just flew at it.
I wish I still had that particular Procul Harum album. It was a very cool cover indeed.
I'm reconsidering larger flow issues. I'm not sure why Delia's story came first in this large chapter, since I met her second. I may remedy that in the final.
This is exactly the way I remember this talk. I was much more of a jerk about Sara being lesbian, asking some rather asinine questions, mostly because I'd never met a trans lesbian before and didn't know how not to be stupid yet. Also because my attraction to her made me nervous.
My attractions still make me nervous. But I'd like to think I'm more graceful about it by now.
I was surprised to feel that attraction, but even with my being in another relationship at the time, I had no problem giving it voice. As will be shown more fully in the chapter on dating guys, I think that, despite occasional and sometimes powerful attractions, I always knew that wasn't who I really was/am. Sara's line here, "men are scratchy and smell funny" is pretty much my mantra on this topic now, and it's a line I gleefully stole from a Gay Comics Roberta Gregory story.
Again, the real Sara looks very little like this. She always had such incredible musical tastes and experiences. I loved it when our music overlapped. Her taste ran in somewhat different directions than mine. I shan't elaborate on that here.
Material used in this page:
Canson Recycled Bristol Board
Faber Castell brush tip markers
Straightedge, triangle, ellipse templates, Ames lettering guide, Magic Rub eraser
I'm on vacation for a bit, but as it's Inktober in a few days, I hope to be able to post anyway. I'm traveling, and as such, may not have time to do another page before going.
Live in hope, babies.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Saturday) NO. 256: Bugs meets Gargantua

So much running, but I'm actually getting somewhere and very happy about it!
I'm deep in the throes of a new semester of teaching, plus my continuing workload at the other job, which I still love. I'm also on Faculty Senate this year, and taking the time to enjoy life in the midst of it all.
There's also a new Big Project, along with the previous Big Project. I'm behind on the first Big Project not because of that, but due to being stymied on layout revisions for the next page. I had a breakthrough before work Friday, so I should be able to post Sunday or Monday.
Meanwhile, something else.
Though they show up in the name of the blog, I seldom mention Gentle Giant here.Well, I'm planning on attending GORGG in two weeks. This will be my tenth GORGG, and the first time I've ever gone for the entire event. The planning is complex and incredibly stressful and fun, all at the same time. This is a wonderful bunch of people, and I'm excited to see them again, and to play on the big jam night!
In anticipation of being in Albuquerque on matters Gentle Giant, I came up with a quick sketch inspired by the classic Bugs Bunny line: "I knew I should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque!"
Canson sketch pad
# 4 lead in holder
#4 solid lead pencil
Brush tip marker
Magic Rub eraser
Next: back to Sharp Invitations.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Original Art Sundays (Friday), no. 255: Sharp Invitations, cover draft and poster

Well, this is rather a bit of cheating in a way.
I got my minor Adobe license issues resolved, and was able to complete the revised version of the alternative (far from final) cover for Sharp Invitations.
Lately, I've been fascinated by David Mack's evocative watercolors. He gets such mood and intensity out of what appear, at first blush, to be random spatters. While I don't have his level of control, I do enjoy testing the waters (so to speak) with this stuff. This was done with Windsor & Newton colored inks, as I believe I mentioned in my previous post. I much prefer them to conventional watercolors- so much more vibrant!
The typography is more dynamic here than on the previous version of the cover. The colors work, but not as consistently as I might like. There are places in this where I'd like the brush strokes to be less prominent. I'm compelled by the profile silhouette, even though the hairline is iffy.
I know, I know. I should take the advice I give my students and not point out flaws in my work.
In general, that's good advice. But if you don't see the flaws in your own work, you won't try to fix them. No need to improve if you think you're already perfect!
I probably won't use this for the cover. But I'm far from completely happy with the previous version. I have a resolution in mind.
But there's more for right now.
As I work on this book, I find myself considering and reconsidering the issue of detail. My work has often had a more stripped down quality, but I revere the detail work that many artists do. Trying to seek a balance on this issue, I remembered Marc Hempel's innovative work (shades of Krigstein!) on the Sandman story-line The Kindly Ones. Sparse and stark, almost crude in spots, it still felt elegant, full and complete.
In re-reading the story to reconsider the art, I chanced on this passage that hit me right in the gut. This blog is just about the only place I haven't talked endlessly about the profound and absolute rejection I got this summer from a woman I liked for years (possibly loved, who can say?), abruptly truncating years of hope. Oh, she was more than decent about it, especially considering that I just dropped my feelings on her out of nowhere, and I was treated with compassion and with great respect.
I was so proud of me! I had finally and completely resolved my weepy school girl feelings. I was actually becoming a grown-up about it, very sophisticated. Then I read this, and it was right back to primal scream tears.
In a few lines, Neil Gaiman has summed up the inevitable, dreadful and devastating nature of this experience. I'd like to think that as a lesbian trans woman, I have a special brand of this stuff. But no. Love is love and pain is pain. While nobody may know exactly how I feel, everybody knows how I feel.
Inspiration struck. I added Neil's thoughts on the subject to this image. I left out Neil's last line, "I hate love". I hope he'll forgive my chopping his words, but I don't hate love. I just wish it would pop in a bit more often.
This adaptation of Neil's ideas works. It's not perfect, but then, what is?
Next: back to Sharp Invitations, the story proper.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 254: Sharp Invitations, Cover Preliminary

Bad news, folks. My Adobe license is down. This was discovered just now. I'm reasonably certain I can get the situation remedied tomorrow.
Until then, here's a piece to tide you over.
This is a quick painting I did on Wednesday. I have plans to add typography to it as soon as software permits. I suppose I could try doing so in Word, but it somehow seems- well, dirty.
I have two different ideas for the execution of this piece. It was originally intended as an alternative cover for Sharp Invitations, but something happened that may modify that. More on that later.
Here's the painting.
Windsor Newton colored inks
Aquabee 80# Rough finish watercolor paper
Richeson Synthetic fan brush #8
Richeson Synthetic brushes #2, 4, 4 Filbert
lead holder, eraser
More soon. Glitch solution imminent, I hope.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Original Art Sundays No. 253: Sharp Invitations: Curt, p. 11

Before we begin, one of my Windsor Newton Red Sable brushes died during completion of this page. We will now observe a moment of silence.
After a couple weeks of false starts (one due to exhaustion following completion of teaching my Graphic Memoir course, the other due to a mercifully brief but intense bout of immobilizing depression), we're back with the next page. It's been a long time since I've missed a week, and two in row really grates on me! I'm planning a trip for October, and will work ahead to be sure I don't miss a week!
This is the seventh page of story culled from the two lines of text on the rough draft page. When this chapter is done, I'll post the whole story with that draft page in relation to it, just to make the point of how much story was left out of the draft edition.
This poses a daunting aspect in the telling of the story. As Alan Moore said about Miracleman, the story is growing in the telling. That's good in the sense that it's a better story if fully told, provided it's judiciously edited. However, it's frustrating in terms of the time it's taking to tell the story. My self-imposed completion deadline of the end of November does not seem plausible right now, and I am eager to complete this. I have a couple other projects I'd like to get going on, and I am reluctant to undertake them before completing at least a more fleshed out (so to speak) edition of this one. Besides- hey, it's my magnum opus and all that.
When we left our heroine (me), she had just married Delia without knowing it. Now we jump back a couple months, still within the time frame of the chapter on Curt.
Read on:
Story: unlike the woman that served as the basis for Delia, I AM still in contact with the real Sara. She remains a good and trusted friend, all these years later. I've changed her name and altered her appearance as she requested. If she wants to out herself as this character, she is of course free to do so. No pressure either way, my dear.
This is pretty much the way it happened. She ran after me out of the Library, outed herself and asked me to follow suit, then we started talking. Pretty gutsy, lady!
My outfit was easy. I was wearing the short denim skirt that was required at the time (as was she), and a black top that I still have!
Technical aspects:The challenging part of the backgrounds on this page was finding accurate reference for the OLD downtown Library, with that odd sculpture in front of it! I had to do the checkout station from memory, As with many libraries, checkout in the Hennepin County system is automated now, so no more checkout clerks!
My backgrounds remain a blend of loose and sketchy and technically accurate. For a while, when I was working on A Private Myth (another project yet to see completion in comic form, though the script is done), I had evolved a trick of penciling tight backgrounds, then inking them in free hand to keep the feel consistent with the art. That works on backgrounds, but not as well. In general, I'm being more aware of the background/environment as a story device. It's crucial, and I'm improving at using it effectively.
So many pages to rescan. This business of scanning in tiers and matching up the halves is tedious at best.
I really like the old trick of using continuous background with dynamic characters as a way of advancing time, used here in panels two and three. The second tier is tied together by the old Terry Moore trick of an arc of black as a weight/background element. Also, we move in from 3/4 shot to cowboy shot to medium close up. Once I got over my usual intial inhibitions about inking, I had real fun doing her hair and my top.
Materials used on this page:
Canson XL recycled 96 pound Bristol
Graphite holder with #2 and #4 leads
#0, #2 and #4 Synthetic and Sable Brushes
Crowquill nib and handle
Dr. Martin's High Carbon India Ink (this stuff is great!)
FW Acrylic White
Magic Rub eraser
And a plain old ballpoint pen for touch-ups!
Next: more Sara, as the Curt story continues