Pop! (a call for artists)

The MTS gallery is hosting a show Pop! in April recreating all of the majesty and wonder of your youth. Skateboards, posters, records, comics and mix-tapes! It will all be there. This is your opportunity to create (or recreate) everything that was and is awesome! I\'m co-curating the show at the MTS gallery with Carolynn Kinneen and Clark Yerrington. We\'re looking for artist\'s proposals for the show by March 1st. The great thing is that we will be looking for a huge variety of work, as noted below, so the sky\'s the limit. What are we looking for? Anything really. 

For example: A imaginary punk flyer from 1982. That gate fold prog-rock album with the sweet dragon and narwhal you had a dream about once. A better version of that Kiss poster you stared at as a kid. The cover for that mix-tape you meant to make in college with the collage cover and all the songs that started with the letter \"Q\".

The call for artists is below and you can submit proposals for more than one category. Please forward this along if you know of anyone who would be interested. The submissions are not limited to just Alaskan Artists. Feel free me to contact me or Carolyn with any questions.

*****Call for Artists*****

Pop! Art exhibit at MTS Gallery Anchorage, AK
Inspired by the pop art movement & everything that mattered from your teenage years – whenever they took, place. Use whatever medium you desire that fits the format & theme. 
Formats we are accepting:
  • Snowboard deck (no longer than 160 cm long, 257mm wide)
  • Skateboard deck (no larger than 8.25 width x 31.25 long)
  • Cassette Mixed Tape (w/liner notes) (average cassette tape)
  • Album cover 12.5 inches x 12.5 inches
  • Zine or comic book cover (11x17 sheet back & front, with half-inch side borders and one-inch borders top/bottom)
  • Posters (no larger than 24x36)
  • Concert Flyer (need 30 black & white Xerox copies) no larger than 8.5 x 11 
Deadline for email proposal: March 1st 
We will reply to all submissions by March 9th
Finished Artwork needs to be completed & turned in by April 11th 
Email submission proposal or jpg of prior work or questions to ckinneen@mac.com

Life Drawing Classes in Anchorage

The Anchorage Museum is sponsoring life drawing classes each week, Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., through Mid-March.  The classes are $20 per class with two 10 and two 20 minutes poses with professional models and hosted by the esteemed Don Decker.  Its the best deal in town.


Your Handwriting is Awful.

Hey, Your Font  lets you upload your handwriting to be turned into a font pack.  A useful resource for comics artists and lazy handwritten breakup letters.

Inking with Michael Cho

Michael Cho is one of my favorite artists, in part due to his strong 3-color illustrations.  He's posted a set of comics illustrating the basic principals of inking , which are top notch. 
You'd also do well to check out his blog, especially his series of alley sketches .  His posts are especially noteworthy because he takes the time to explain his process deceptively simply.  

Copyright and Artists, Friends?

I was able to sit in John McKay's presentation at the Arts and Cultural Convention, " Fundamentals of Copyright, Trademark, and Intellectual Property Rights."  He spoke eliquently on many facets of U.S. copywright law as it relates to artists, which I'm very clearly not qualified to pass on, however I ran across a number of articles the next day which carry on his points.

Cornell Information Center has a wealth of information on the nuts and bolts of the copyright law and ways your work is and is not covered.
The Blog Photo Attorney has an illuminating discussion about the legality of the use of the photograph that the now famous illustration of Obama was based upon.
TechDirt continues the discussion with "Yes, Artists Build On The Works Of Others... So Why Is It Sometimes Infringement?"
Finally, the Wall Street Journal has the definitive word in the comprehensive article on art and copyright:  "Color the Law in this Area Gray".

Presenting: Pat Race and Alaska Robotics.

I'll have the pleasure tonight of presenting with Juneau filmmaker and illustrator Pat Race.  From his his website:
Patrick Race makes short films and illustrates the Alaska Robotics comic. He studied computer science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and screenwriting at TheFilmSchool. He was named to Alaska's Top 40 Under 40 in 2006 and was a founding member of the Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society .
Check out his work and that of his crew, Alaska Robotics.  Awesome stuff.



Illustration and Comics: Lessons Learned by Lee Post

This is the presentation I gave at the Alaska Arts and Cultural Conference in Anchorage, Alaska on January 30, 2009 in the Sydney Lawrence Theater at 7:00 p.m.

Web Comics vs. Traditional Comics

Brian Clevenger , the author of the successful web comic "8-bit Theater" and the critically acclaimed comic "Atomic Robo" wrote an excellent post about the the difference between web comics and traditional comics in his view.  It's especially insightful because he's achieved a fair about of success in both realms.  His basic premise is that web comics are the wave of the future and the best path for making any money from one's hard work, but it's incredibly difficult to receive any kind of recognition or acclaim unless you go through the print realm.  All true based on my experience.


He also mentions IVerse , an new distribution path for comics on the iPhone/iPod Touch

Presenting: Robert Goodin

I met Robert Goodin and his wife Georgene at A.P.E this past November when he was promoting his sell-out comic from Top Shelf, "The Man Who Loved Breasts".   Roberts work has appeared everywhere from a number of compilations from Top Shelf, to the New York Press, to McSweeneys, in addition to his self-published books.  Robert had an amazing array of merchandise from the normal t-shirts and mini-comics to handsome wooden sketchbooks and wooden postcards.  

Robert currently works as a storyboard revisionist for "American Dad" on top of his comics career.  Robert described the struggle of finding time to work on comics when he wasn't working as an animator. 
"I went into animation after school with the belief that I could easily get a job to pay the rent and then do comics on the side.  However, it took a year and a half to finally get that first animation job and then I found that animation can burn up a lot of time and energy, leaving little for comics.

When I started doing comic work I think I did that ass backwards as well.  I became a publisher which took up even more resources and I lost a lot of money publishing books that I was proud of, but not finding an audience.  Storyboarding in animation was becoming more demanding as well.  I dropped publishing and for a while dropped animation, living a very frugal existence and mostly off of my wife's income while I continued to draw comics.  Now I have been lucky enough to become a storyboard revisionist on American Dad.  This job is strictly 40 hours a week (no more), so I am able to finally make a comfortable living and have the time and energy for comics."

He had this advice for someone just starting out: 
"As far as finding an audience in comics, I would do as I say and not as I did.  I would begin my doing short stories and send them to anthologies.  If they get published, great, if not, collect them in a mini comic and sell that at a local convention or comic stores.  Continue this process and as hopefully one will get better, get more exposure,  and meet more people.  Over time and with more exposure some success can be found.  The key is to keep doing the work and getting that work out there." 

Presenting: Shannon Wheeler

Shannon Wheeler is a pillar of the indie comics world, with his most famous creation being "Too Much Coffee Man ".  From its modest beginings, his strip has spun out into a newspaper comic strip, books, a lunch box, coffee mugs (natch) and two (!) operas.  His latest strip "Postage Stamp Funnies" is in the print edition of the Onion .
Aside from the advice above, Shannon Wheeler had this advice for illustrator's developing their portfolios: 
"What do I wish someone had told me? to trim my portfolio to target the client. I shouldn't try and show them that I can do all sorts of things - just show them that I can do what they want me to do. It would have saved me a lot of time and worry."

"Writing in the Age of Distraction"

Cory Doctorow wrote a wonderful article for Locus magazine, "Writing in the Age of Distraction " with some solid advice for writers.  In my experience, he's got excellent advice for any freelancer: set small, reasonable goals, don't over extend yourself in your effort to be productive, work simply, work a little every day, if you don't feel like working on a project . . . still work everyday.
It's the kind of advice I learned after grinding out my comic strip every week for six years and torturing myself with years of over extending myself and wasted time in front of the computer.  I wish someone had told me some of this advice much earlier.


Self-publishing: What you need to know

Cnet.com of all places published a great article "Self-publishing a book" 25 thinks you need to know " by David Carnoy.  The article itself lays out the huge benefits and sizable pitfalls of self-publishing.  He talks specifically with Amazon's Booksurge division, but touches on the other large self-publishing houses.  The article talks specifically about publishing novels, but reading through, it also applies to non-fiction, children's books and graphic novels.  The logistics of marketing and selling a book, regardless of content, is the same across the board for the most part.

If you are going to take a plunge into book righting, either by looking for a publisher or going the self-publishing route, do your self a favor and scan this article.  I would add my advice based on my expierences, but really he covers all the bases.


Also, The Beat at Publisher's weekly just published an article about changes at Dimond, Comic's largest distributor, that gravely effect the small self-publisher, raising the minimum sales threshold to their service. Practically, this makes it much more difficult for a new or fringe comic book publisher to find distribution.

"According to a letter from SLG’s Dan Vado published at The Comics Reporter, at SLG’s discount level, a comic would have to sell $6000 at retail to meet the benchmark [of $2500 sales wholesale]. Comics selling this amount are well within the top 300 comics published every month, including well-known or critical faves. Quoth Vado:

The average person reading this may not realize that most small press comics (and by that I mean floppies) do not meet that benchmark. I think if the average reader knew how lousy some of our sales were they would be stunned. I can’t tell you how many times people have wandered into our booth at one convention or another and engaged me in conversation and walk out scratching their heads and reeling to find out that the comic or graphic novel they just love more than anything sold maybe 300 copies total."


Web Comics

Webcomics and electronic distribution have been a tricky proposition.  The ease of distribution and the possibly is a huge draw, but with that comes the likely hood of having your work get lost in the shuffle amongst the thousands of other comics scattered across the web, much less receiving any type of money in return for your efforts. 

When I was working on a weekly comic, I distributed the last 100 through Pixelstrips.com, which was then a new venture.  I put a lot of research in as part of my decision to sign up with him, and I think I made a good decision.  Kevin Volo who owns and operates the site put a lot of effort into promoting the site and the individual strips involved.  Kevin works in the comic industry as a colorist, so he’s decidedly creator friendly.  From my perspective he did all the right things, participating in forums to get the word out, doing interviews and advertising exchanges with relevant podcasts and websites, operating booths at conventions, making t-shirts, distributing stickers, and starting a podcast about comics and web comics.  There wasn’t really much else as far as promotion I think he could have realistically done to make the website a success.   That being said, how much money did I make distributing 100 comics over two years  . . . roughly $2.50.  How many posts to the sites forum a month? A handful at best.  My point is despite excellent efforts by knowledgeable people, it’s an uphill struggle to build an audience for your work on the web.  Not impossible, but very difficult.

This article discusses the changing face of the comics pages with shrinking newspapers and growing channels for electronic distribution.
 A good overview of the top tier of web comics and the thoughts behind their different methods of distribution.
What looks to be a comprehensive guide to putting your comic on the web and potential pitfalls to avoid.

Presenting: Jamie Smith

 Jamie Smith lives in Ester, Alaska, outside of Fairbanks, and publishes the comic strips "Nuggets" and "Freeze Frame" which have appeared in newspaper's around the state as well as in three books.  He's also an accomplished editorial cartoonist.  Jamie teaches Sequential Art in at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has been a force in the Northern Alaska comics scene, organizing various comics jams, workshops, and a 24 hour Comics Day in Fairbanks, in which participants produce a full comic book from start to finish in a days time.  He also put on the "Cartoon North" gallery show, spotlighting sequential art from Alaska and nationwide.  He's recently started a new blog "Ink and Snow" documenting his Spring 2009 drawing class.

Jamie had a lot of great advice:

"One of the finer points I frequently mull over is the divide between reclusive, in-grown artists and the contrast between them and outgoing or aggressive or savvy self-promoters etc. I think in hindsight my advice to aspiring talents is to first secure employment in the food service industry." "Being a waiter for years taught me not so much about people skills, promoting whatever's on the special and self-confidence, it basically just helped me to get over it and stop caring so much, just do the job and do it well. Training oneself to walk up to relative strangers and try to sell them stuff gives a valuable perspective on peddling artistic talent."
"Another key point I always try to drill into beginning art student's heads is the analogous ratio of success in sports: everyone's into it at a young age, but the field seems to exponentially narrow the older one gets until only a select few are left - which is not to say folks ever have to stop participating or (more commonly) become a spectator relegated to the sidelines. I think what sets the people who stick with it and find whatever measure of success to keep them motivated is the simple element of time, as in disciplining oneself to devote the majority of their energy towards the craft. In my most bitterest sometimes it explains the disproportionate number of retirees that flood the arts, or trust-fund babies, or being bankrolled by their significant other, or cluelessly naive/stubbornly idealistic (lots of student loans), or some combination thereof. More power to 'em."

"My challenge has increasingly been to make drawing relevant and real to students: by the time I get them at college age they are damaged goods in the sense that the majority of them have long since written off art, and/or are seeking an easy "A" for a humanities credit. Seems there's always been somebody in about middle/high school in the class that is the designated artist, who can draw rocket ships or dinosaurs really good (i.e. look realistic) and everyone else just gives up & bails on trying thinking they suck. So years later they are still carting around this baggage and I take it upon myself to deprogram them and reinstall some validity if not vision. In that way as a cartoonist it doesn't come across so high & mighty artsy-fartsy; it is a low-key, non-intimidating back door into art as it were. Like teaching figure drawing for example - I always now start out with a lesson first in caricature; it really helps approach what is normally the hardest subject matter in a looser, less stressful way."

Cartoon North
Jaime Smith's Books

Presenting: Jon Adams

I met Jon Adams a few years ago through his four-issue comic series "Truth Serum" that was published through Slave Labor comics and I've had the pleasure of hanging out with him at his booth in the Alternative Press Expo the last three years.  He's published three exquisitely designed collections of his comics and is producing a weekly comic strip on his website City Cyclops.  Jon recently quit his day job and made the transition to the life of a freelance artist.  He's got this to say about that move and his philosophy on building an audience.   

"Having a day job means steady income, but little time for emotionally fulfilling enterprises or a balanced life. Living as a freelancer means happiness, but the constant threat of an unstable income. At least until one reaches the point of being wildly successful.
Speaking of income, I've been incredibly fortunate to not go broke. I simply don't have the time, know-how or energy to properly market a book. That's what publishers are for. 
The only thing I think I do well is creating marketing that is at the very least not offensive. Every time I send out a newsletter, design an ad or post something to my blog, my main goal is to make it entertaining. Nobody wants to read a bunch of dry quotes about a product or look at a visually bland design. I try to make my marketing enjoyable and hope for the best."

When not creating, Jon prefers to spend his time pretending to be deceased in public.

Now Presenting: Ben Walker

In preparation for my talk at the 2009 Alaska Arts and Culture Conference, I was able to reach out to a number of artists I've meet over the years to ask about their experiences and for any advice to young artists. 

 Ben Walker is such an artist.

I met Ben Walker at San Francisco's Alternative Press Expo and have talked to him periodically over the years.  Ben has some excellent bear and western themed worked and has done an excellent job translating his work seamlessly between gallery prints, t-shirts and books.  Ben had this excellent advice on building a fan base and a long term career as an artist:
"I think when it comes to selling paintings, just getting cool art up in galleries isn’t enough. Art buyers want to have a connection to the artist. A successful artist needs to be "Out There." In other words an artist needs to be available for one on one contact with those interested in his art and be part of an art community in general.
Aside from painting and illustration work, I run an alternative life drawing studio called Pompsicle. Pompsicle allows artists of various backgrounds and skill levels the chance to draw awesome models in cool outfits and costumes. My painting career feeds into the growth of the drawing studio and vice versa. Folks see my artwork at galleries and hear about my drawing studio (because I'm there, meeting and talking with lots of people). They think “Yeah, I’d love to hang out with this Ben Walker guy and get some tips on drawing!” Attendance of Pompsicle studios grows. On the flip side: regular attendees of my drawing sessions are often the ones who are end up buying my artwork at gallery shows. They buy art because they feel a connection to the artist. The art career grows.
So my advise is to (of course) work on your drawing/painting/etc every day and also get “out there”. Go to gallery openings, attend workshops and conventions, talk to people and generally be part of the scene. If your town seems to be lacking a "scene" start making one! As your art career progresses I hope that you will find your level of involvement in the art community grows with it."
Ben Walker on Flikr

Just Starting Out

This was a great little story from the Comic Book Resources blog about getting into comics, namely the daunting economics of preparing and marketing a book"

"If each issue is a color cover with B&W interiors and, say, a 24 page count and, optimistically, a 3000 copy print run (based on the current climate and the fact that you are unknowns), you’re looking at a publisher committing $30,000 to your printing bill alone. Six full-page PREVIEWS ads will top $7000, and throw in another three grand to round it off for production costs and shipping charges and whatnot, and that’s an outlay of forty grand. Just ballpark, but close enough. If the cover price is $2.95 a unit, and you sell to Diamond at 60% off, you get $1.18 a unit. That means you have to sell an average of around 5600 copies an issue just to break even on expenses before the creators start making money. That’s just unrealistic in this economic environment, where Marvel, Dark Horse, DC, and Image account for 92% of the sales of comics and every single other publisher in the back of PREVIEWS carves up that 8%. It’s just not going to happen."
 The happy moral:
"If you have a story to tell, and a burning desire to have an audience see your work, you’re either going to have to be related to Paul Levitz [the editor of DC comics], or you’re going to have to do it yourself until they offer you a chance to write KAMANDI based on the strength of your indie-darling reputation. But either way, keep at it.

If you love comics as much as I do, you’ll always find a way to make your own"

Illustration Tutorials

Drawing books and tutorial sites are a dime a dozen, and I've always had a problem sitting down and actually working my way through them. I've found a few sites that I've found my self going back to again and again.

Illustration Class by Von. R. Glitschka

I've been following Glitschka's site for a while now and I can guarantee that every tutorial is top notch.  He works from his illustration comissions, and walks you through step by step starting from his inital thought process to working up a draft to the fine finish work that makes the difference between amature work and a real professional product.  You'd be well served to download a few that intest you and walk through his creative process.

DaniDraws by Dani Jones

Dani site is a more of a traditional blog with wide-ranging posts with toriials or videos about making a portfolio, to picking colors in Photoshop, to the process of making a children's book.  Every post may not intrest me, or you, but two out of three posts are exactly what I'm looking for.

Penciljack and The Drawing Board
I'm not a huge forums guy, but both of these sites are quality, with pros and amatures posting their work and exchanging an amazing number of tips for tranditional and computer asisted illustration. 

Alaska States Arts Conference

In anticipation of the Alaska State Arts and Culture Conference at the end of the month and my talk on the Animators and Illustrator's blog, I started a blog to keep track of the illustrators and comic artists who have helped me with my presentation along with comic and illustration related sites of intrest on the web.