Friday, December 29, 2006

Doctors Without Borders

I love it when I profoundly want to get something very ordinary, and it shows up unexpectedly. It makes me realize God is paying attention to the little things in our hearts.

Starting a few weeks ago, I realized I deeply wanted to get an updated map of the world.

In High School we were never taught any kind of modern world history, which is a disservice to kids and the world alike. Like now I'll read the paper and I realize I really didn't know where a lot of countries in Africa and Asia were, and am disappointed when they don't place a map so we can see. From reading about the plights in many countries around the world, I realized I just wanted to know where they were even if I never visit them. Plus Nashville and our church has a lot of immigrants from places I just don't know. Somehow being able to see them on the map helps me remember them when I read and pray for their situations. I was figuring on getting a map after the new year when I could.

So Chris and I get tons of unsolicited mail from charities all over the place. Frankly I wish we had enough to be able to give, but I'm still only starting the freelancing thing and we're really just a one income family still, so I can only stretch so far. But recently I just got a letter from Doctors Without Borders, an organization that sends medical help to afflicted peoples in very rough and scary conditions (including war zones) around the world, regardless of the risks.

They sent me a world map. !!

I was so happy, I hung it up in the office.

I can't afford to help, but I can shell out the cost of a map. That meant a lot to me.

The Long Chalkboard -and other stories - by Jenny Allen and Jules Feiffer

There's something wonderful and special about a well-illustrated story, be it graphic novel or storybook.

Last night I read The Long Chalkboard - and Other Stories by Jenny Allen, illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I was left with such a happy feeling. The first story -- where the title of the book comes from -- flat out made me cry.

It's the story of a long chalkboard put into a home ... and the people who used it. There was just something so pure and child-hood like in the emotion the story evokes. You'll understand when you read it. (Oh my goodness, just remembering it as I write about it now makes my eyes tear up again!!)

This is must-have.

The Giant Eye of God

You ever get to that point where you feel the Great Eye of God upon you, as He holds you in His hand, and you just know He is waiting on what you are going to do next?

Something deeply shivery and cool about that ...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Notes To Self: What I Learned in 2006 (and I guess this turned out to be a rant after all)

It's been a very surreal end of the year so far.

I never got into the Christmas mood. Simply put, I overextended myself and was TOOOOOOOOO busy far too long and on stuff that, long term, I realize really isn't my personal priority anymore (more on this later).

Because of all that work stuff -- and then the car broke down at the last minute -- I didn't get ANY shopping done at all for anyone I care about (even Chris! Egad!). I have been in a grumpy mood as a result ... I know Christmas is beyond being about the gifts, but I truly feel like I didn't do enough for the folks I love. Bleah.

So I've been thinking about what I would have done differently this year. If only so I can have a happier end-of-the-year in 2007. So in reviewing 2006, I have discovered the following:

1) Comics really thrill and really upset me. I so need to chill.

How can I have such a profound love/hate relationship with this medium? And yet I do. Part of that is probably because I'm Hispanic with mediterranean origins, so I have a naturally dramatic streak. (Too bad I don't act)

I just gotta learn to keep my emotions in check while the crazy comics changes happen (will the new-look Archie comics stink? will DC's new Minx comics line even matter?) and just not let them get me all upset as much like they do.

I gotta shut up and draw. More. Lots more.

2) Painting is not my be-all end-all art passion. Comics are. (Uh oh.)

I'm sure this is not a surprise to anyone who actually knows me. It was, however, something I needed to settle for myself.

So I discovered I love comics. Maybe too much. LOL

This is what I specifically had to resolve: whether or not I had made a bad decision back in the day when I stopped pursuing painting seriously. It's part of the reason why I joined the Nashville Artist Guild.

I thought if I could hang out with some fine artists I could see what I was missing, and whether I should seriously follow that through or not.

See, I started painting when I was like 12 or 13. I even sold some. It felt great. I stopped painting when I hit 16 and discovered Marvel Comics was located a few blocks away from where I lived. (Think about it. Marvel Comics was in my neighborhood!!!!) My boyfriend and two of his good friends got internships there. I went there every day after achool/work for like a year and a half. We hung out with Jo Duffy back in the Epic Comics offices. She shared the office with Archie Goodwin (!). The amazing lineup of Epic artists I was meeting just by being there ... I had no idea then I was essentially in the presence of comics royalty. Wow.

A couple years later I quit college to open and run a comics art studio. I didn't miss school at all. My new group of friends were ready to work in an art studio. I was ready to run an art studio. I didn't know WHAT I was doing. We made no money. I lost lots of money. The comics didn't sell (due to the lack of something called "Marketing"). The studio didn't work out. Much stuff learned.

In the middle of that drama I managed to get a painting scholarship to the Art Students League. I didn't go cause of the work obligations of aforementioned studio, which was also connected to a comics shop. I wasn't an artist at the studio, so much as the studio manager for my artist friends (two of whom today now run their own successful art studios, yay!)... but I made the decision to not take the scholarship.

I had wondered if I had made a mistake ever since.

But now, after an intensive 20 months of arranging and hanging art shows with the Guild I really find that by working in comics production I'd learned a lot of useful business practices. I wouldn't have learned them in the Fine Arts circles. Not really.

As frightening as it's been to meet tons of people who want to make and publish comics and are honest-to-goodness clueless and flat out unprepared to do so ... they are still all WAY AHEAD of the Fine Arts circle folks.

At least in comics and in the graphic arts (in all its forms) we have tons of how-to-run-your-studio books and have the Graphic Artist Guild Handbook to refer to as far as contracts and pricing guidelines.

I've met a lot of Fine Artists via art reception openings and such, and I've discovered that a surprising percentage of them are just winging it. Worse, they're doing themselves a disservice by not even educating themselves about the business of selling their art!!

That makes someone like me -- a Production Manager geek -- ab.so.lute.ly NUTS.

How can you do business when you don't have a basic grasp of business protocols?

Painters and the like have the absolutely wonderful How To Survive and Prosper As A Fine Artist: (Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul) by Caroll Michels. But not as many painters even read it as should. Why do so many of them not know this book exists?

I really highly recommend this book if you're getting into Fine Arts as a business. It's a must. All that "romantic Bohemian painter life" crap that the Fine Arts business is to be made up as you go along is a lie. No really. Let's NOT confuse a lifestyle with the actual rudimentary bits of running a business and making it work. We're talking making money. Not sitting around drinking and hoping you'll sell something. (That can happen after you put in a full day of work.)

If we don't try to learn how to manage our art as a business it's far easier to get taken advantage of and make unnecessary mistakes ... all of which are enough of a risk when you wanna run any kind of business in the first place. It's an awful waste of time, reinventing the wheel, when you don't have to. If you don't manage your art, or make enough to pay someone to handle the business aspects then it seems to me you're not respecting your art. Not if you want to really be a professional.

Besides, even if you're just doing it as a hobby, you still gotta keep your paperwork in order.

One of my pet peeves is that "artists are not as intelligent" or are somehow "unable to do math" or "have to starve" BS notion. I've been dealing with that for too long. And it's a lie.

With as much artistry that needs to go into designing a car, a cartoon, an article of clothing or even just a bad comic book, this notion that business tactics don't apply to the Fine Arts circles is a LOAD.

End of rant.

3) Never get so busy you forget the holidays. Passing out from exhaustion is really not as fun as just taking a rest from work.

4) I really love comics. (I didn't say that exactly yet, right?)

5) ComicSpace is COOL!

6) I should make sure to make more comics next year. I am terrified to make more comics. I want to make more comics.

7) I want to make more comics in 2007.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I'll Never Know How Much It Cost

There's this song we'll sometimes sing at church. We sang it last Sunday. I'm actually not sure of the title.

There's a part of the song that goes:

"I'll never know
how much it cost
to see my sins
upon that cross"

The choir will lead the congregation in song. And we'll repeat this particular phrase several times, right near the end.

And Every. Single. Time.

This song will make me weep.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Why Did Hacks Always Seem To Get All The Work?

Before I begin, I have to say I no longer collect superhero comics like I used to. I would, if there were something good to read ... but as it stands lately there are only a select few I enjoy anymore, like Steve Rude's The Moth, Dan Slott's She Hulk, and some superhero reprint TPBs of '70s and '80s comics ... like are in Marvel's Essentials and DC's Showcase Presents. So as far as just what proportion of brand new mainstream superhero comics published lately by the big handful, are actually done by what we old school folk call "hacks", is honestly a mystery to me. So this is more of a reminiscence, and then a bit of advice for new folks who want to break into comics.

I want to talk about "hack work", because I've just gone through an interesting circumstance on the "Fine Arts" end of things lately, and it made me think on the subject.

I get into polite disagreements with my new fine artist friends about what makes an artist a professional, or of professional calibre. It's interesting, too, because I approach fine arts with a corporate and company mindset as well as an artistic one because I've worked in comics.

Professional calibre goes way beyond what is pretty to the eye or technically well-done and "accomplished". After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You can have the most beautiful artwork under the sun ... but if the artist can't meet a deadline or handle their paperwork then their professional career is kinda doomed.

Now back in the day, (late '80s) I used to hang out with a group of artists. We were all like 18 -19 and SO wanted to break into comics ... We lived in NYC which is home to the Big Two -- Marvel and DC -- so it seemed really doable back then.

We of course hung out in the back of a comics store. I found out about this place via a guy I started to date. We were both artists. We talked, liked eachother, started to hang out and one day we went downtown and he introduced me to the group.

He was part of a core group of three friends, who were learning to draw comics and who Every.Single.Day. showed up to draw in a studio space in the back of the shop. Today, twenty years later, two of them are graphic designers (& do everything from storyboards to toy packaging to even videos last I heard) and the third just released his first graphic novel through Lulu.com.

I would go to the comic shop every day after work, and the lot of us (along with several others who'd show up during the course of the day) would sit around for HOURS drinking too much espresso with milk, eating Chinese or Cuban food, yakking about comics and life until Midnight, 6 or 7 days a week.

(Sounds like your dream come true, eh?)

Anyway, part of our usual routine was to go through our weekly reading pile to drool over our favorite artists' work and tear apart what was wrong with the art in this or that book. We were quite heartless.

What was always a mystery to us was how the "less than great artists"-- in our opinion, of course -- always seemed to get their work printed, when brilliant artists like Michael Golden or Art Adams never seemed to get enough work printed.

Fast forward several years to when I'm working for comics publishers: working on the other side of the books, I finally understand why some artists who produce gorgeous work never seem to get published as often, while artists who make just okay work (again in our artistic opinion) always seemed to be in print.

It wasn't ever about being artistically pretty or being artistically the best. It's really just about getting the job done on time.

It's called a deadline.

You'd think it'd be obvious! But it wasn't to us. Not then. We were just kids. Consumers. Wanna-be artists crabbing about the art. Who knew or cared about deadlines?

But Publishers do have what is called a monthly deadline. They publish monthly comics! That means comics artists need to draw 22 full comic pages in 30 days!

22 comics pages in 30 days? To quote Raymond's Dad: HOLY CRAP.

Have you ever tried to draw or ink 22 pages in 30 days?

And did you know colorists are on average supposed to color 22 pages in 10 days ? (When you were LUCKY you got 15. But that didn't happen much.)

Think about that next time you feel the need to tear someone's comics work up. Sobered me up right quick.

Comics are a business. When we're LUCKY it can be an art, too.

Anyway. 22 pages in 30 days. Who knew that? I mean, it's kinda obvious but wasn't exactly common knowledge that trickled down to the artist. Not until you went to a comics convention and had your portfolio reviewed by a pro. AND that is, if your stuff wasn't torn apart by the reviewer first! (Are pros nowadays are as mean as they used to be? Some sure were back then! I have a friend or two still bitter over mean-spirited portfolio feedback given to them long long ago by artists they used to admire. If you're truly a pro, seems to me there's really no need to be a jerk to a newbie at a portfolio review. But I digress.)

So since meeting the publishing deadline is the priority, then the editor's priority is to get that job DONE within the time frame given. So the writer and then the artist has to MEET the deadlines to keep the job. If you can't keep the deadlines, you get replaced.

A lot of professional artists can do a good job and meet the deadline.

Fewer professional artists can do a great job and meet the deadline. These are the exceptions and why we admire them so much.

Great professional artists KNOW exactly how much time they take and need to get a job done. Know yourself going in.

Don't make the mistake and say you can do the job in 30 days if you actually need 45. The Editor will respect you more if you're just honest.

If you need to pass on the job this time cause you know can't do it, it's okay. If they asked you this time, they will probably ask you again some other time. It may take a little while but they will remember that you were straight up with them and that goes a long way.

Think of it this way: you will not be hired again anytime soon if you do screw the deadline up.

When you take the job:

Don't make the mistake of NOT answering the phone if your editor calls to ask you how you're doing. Nothing gives us staffers more grief than people who do not communicate with us when a deadline is looming. It scares us, it makes us think "oh my gosh, what if he's sick/was in an accident/I have to replace this issue...?" Help us do our job by doing your job. Communication is part of the job of being a freelancer. Your actions (or inaction) affects the rest of the team.

If you have a smart editor and you know how long it takes you to make your part of the comic, and it's longer than 30 days then MAYBE you guys work it out and schedule things far enough in advance to accomodate everyone. In this case everybody wins. (What a rare treat that is!)

I hope my venting helps someone.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Fan Girl Geek Moment 1: Steve Rude announces Publishing Schedule for Moth AND Nexus


[Me pretty much dancing around my art table upon hearing this news:]

Steve Rude and Rude Dude Productions are going forward with their plans to launch and publish comic books starring Nexus and The Moth.

Each series will run 4 issues, and will first kick off with Nexus next July 2007.

He also plans to print a Nexus Special for next year's Free Comic Book Day!

Read more on the full press release on his website.

(pictured: Steve Rude's The Moth)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Finally, Que Es Amor

For his birthday, Chris and I collaborated on a comic called "Que Es Amor" (What Is Love).

Part wee bit of X-Files, part wee bit of Kolchak: The Night Stalker and starring Cupid, Que Es Amor for us was like drawing a back up story to our Fallen World mini-comics ... (yes, this is a truly very inside joke for like all 7 of us who get it. sigh.)

We don't yet have our Fallen World minis up on our website, but we're considering it ... AND I thought it might be fun to put all these minis we've done so far into a real-sized comic. But the mere thought of the task of scanning them all in leaves me tired. Production work on someone else's book? Fun. Production work on one's own book? Not so fun.

Plus. I've been thinking about whether I needed to re-letter issue 1 so it'd match the fonts of 2 and 3 ... so now the proverbial sock is unraveling ... Oy.

So while I go fret about whether or not to leave those smutzy dots in the scans of these other minis, check out our Que Es Amor.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What You Feed Your Eyes Visually ...

Not trying to do the soapbox thing -- though it might come out that way.

No. Yeah. It will come out that way.

Been readin'/watchin'/listenin' to the news. There's been a super- creepy ebb and flow going on lately. Things all over seem to be going to hell in a handbasket. But the handbasket's on a freight train. And the brake just might be broken (folks seem to be running to the front car to see!!)

We need a huge planet-wide reality check. Seems like in the so-called Pursuit of Happiness, Common Sense got accidentally thrown out with the trash in the clean up after the big party.

So here's my rant:

I was up in de ol' NYC stomping grounds this past week and walked/rode around West/Mid/Lower Manhattan to meet up with dear friends and family. Plastered all over the street on the scaffoldings around the excessive amounts of construction sites -- for YET MORE overpriced luxury apartments/condos -- were these ugly posters for some kind of horror movie (video game?) due out.

The various promo posters all had shots of a demon pictured with a nude woman. At least one shot was a full-length side view of her. I saw more than one man do a double take as they walked by! And if I saw the poster correctly (sorry, I couldn't stare long enough to confirm) in a shot or two the demon was actually caressing her. YUCK!

The woman didn't seem to be reacting in any of the shots, too, as if her being caressed by a demon were all a totally normal, la-de-da thing.

I take offense at this visual being on public display on city streets where little kids (who still do get frightened by scary-looking things) and anyone who simply hates this type of visual (like me) could just see it. I mean, make/sell/see the stupid movie if you want, fine, but dang, pick a different visual for your promo poster! What's so difficult about that?

People can be so immature.

Maybe this will surprise you, but it wasn't just the obvious naked woman that bothered me. This poster ultimately wouldn't be an acceptable visual if it were a naked man, or clothed figure either.

Ok, this not a PC thing to say -- but frankly, this demon carressing a woman isn't a normal visual to display. It's the spiritual implications that offend me.

I mean, think about it. Mankind consorting with demons -- because that IS implied by having the naked woman there -- her acting like it's no big deal really saddens me.

Yeah, I know. It's supposed to be creepy. It's a HORROR MOVIE (or horror video game?). Duh. I get it.

But it's just that some folks really make light of the spiritual reality of life. And yeah, I'm taking about spirituality. Life is both flesh and spirit.

And yeah, a person practicing religion or lack thereof is their business -- until it starts to negatively affect others. But that's also why we have laws in place and separate the two. AND why we need to stay alert and cannot allow censorship laws that then pervert and warp into genocide.

We seriously need to actively get along if we all want this planet to continue.

It's not PC to say that portraying demons consorting with people like it's no big deal -- or worse -- normal! -- is asking for trouble on the spiritual plane.

Some people -- nothing personal -- can get dull-souled and lose the ability to cherish and value other humans with too much exposure to this type of horror stuff. It's just a side effect for some people -- like how some people can't hold their liquor. We took smoking and liquor commercials off the TV for those types of reasons. Those industries sure haven't suffered for lack of promotion there!

But these are tangents. I just wanna deal with the disgusting poster on the street.

So while I can't speak for bad Christians, I DO know that Jesus taught us to let the wheat and the weeds grow together. He'll do the separating at the end. So I CAN'T make you pray but I do meanwhile HAVE to walk down that street to get to the building I'm going to. And that poster really hurts.

A little discretion on the promo posters for public consumption is not going to affect the bottom line. If your bottom line is affected, it's only cause the movie (or clothes, or CD) wasn't very good in the first place. No amount of advertising can really help that. (Either that or ya coulda worked with a smaller budget so ya coulda recouped faster. Be practical.)

We can respect others for the sake of protecting children and others and still not curtail our individual freedoms as adults. Really. If we don't respect age-appropriateness and respect others, we develop into a society that feeds on and eats itself alive because it's not watching out for anyone, anywhere. That's not healthy, it's a miserable state to live in, and that's how societies end.

People like to pass the buck and say this is a "dog-eat-dog world", but this is NOT a dog eat dog world. This is a world populated by humans and mankind is accountable. It's a little bit of work, but we all have to practice the live-and-let-live community attitude proactively.

Have respect for others. That's how you earn it for yourself.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

24 Hour Comics Challenge This Weekend

YES -- it's THAT time of the year again (granted "that time" USED to be in the Spring and this year it's been moved over to the Fall).

This weekend, starting sometime Saturday October 7th through sometime Sunday the 8th, it's time for

THE 24 HOUR COMIC CHALLENGE.

24 comic pages in 24 hours. One person.

Are you ready? Are you participating?

Most of us in the NCC are.

Whatever we get done this weekend -- 24 pages or not -- I hope to post to the Nashville Comics Creators group website when I get files from folks; and whatever Chris and I get finished we'll post on our website. I'll blog-post the links here.

This will be my 3rd official 24 Hour Comic, 2nd in Nashville. I am SO psyched!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

TACA Fall Craft Fair at Centennial Park

I have to preface this post with context:

One of my freelance jobs lately has me culling information from various press releases to fit the most pertinent info for readers into a set amount of pages. I hand this in to the editor and he makes sure it all works and they print it in their magazine. This has been VERY educational to me.

Writing press releases -- effective press releases -- is an art.

We all know BAD press releases/info when we read them. They just make no sense. They take too long to get to the point. The worst of them never really tell you what they're selling!

This is something all aspiring authors (non fiction or fiction) and all working artists really need to keep in mind when they send press releases out. Does it tell me exactly and all about what you're selling? (I don't have time to call you to clarify this murky copy!!)

When I bump into a well written press release or am given great marketing material -- oh my goodness! It's like a gem found in the sand. It's a lovely thing to see and read and I appreciate their work all the more.
All this then, to preface the most excellent postcard I got from TACA last week. The Tennessee Association of Craft Artists is holding their Fall Craft Fair this weekend at Centennial Park.

On the back of the postcard they listed the Top 13 Reasons to Attend the TACA Fall Craft Fair, and I HAD to share them with you here!

Top 13 Reasons to Attend the TACA Fall Craft Fair

13. Polish off your holiday list 86 days early.
12. Free Admission=Cheap Date.
11. It’s the only event in Nashville where cowboy hats are optional.
10. Unhook your kid from his/her Gameboy, X-Box, and I-Pod with “TACA Kids Unplugged”.
9. Crafts are chick magnets.
8. Find out if a lip wrap is: a) a cosmetic procedure, b) a boxing injury, c) a glass technique, or d) illegal in Alabama.
7. Real men dig craft demos.
6. Shop til you drop! (We’ll have paramedics on-site)
5. Where else can you see someone throwing mud without wrestling?
4. Add sgraffito, cloisonné, and murrini to your vocabulary.
3. Our director’s name is Craig Nutt.
2. He can tell his sgraffito from his burrito. (But he doesn’t know his warp from his weft).
1. Because sometimes chicken comes on a stick.

LOL. I enjoyed this list a lot.

Beautiful crafts, and a sense of humor, too! What's not to like? Go enjoy the park and meet these talented craftsmen and craftswomen and support local artists!

The fair starts on Friday at 10 am, and runs til 6pm. Saturday it runs from 10am to 6pm and Sunday it runs from 10am to 5pm. Centennial Park is sandwiched in Midtown, within West End and Charlotte and 25 - 28th Avenues.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The 45 Degree Angle (Back Onto a Straight Line)

Life is so interesting. Sometimes ya just gotta figure out a plan, try it on for size, then adjust accordingly.

I'd started out the summer with plans of formalizing and developing a graphic design studio. Let's call it The Summer Formula. I had big plans for it, too. I figured I could do that sort of thing and support making webcomics that way. Eventually I could earn enough to print them. (Told ya. I was thinking big.)

Or at least that WAS the plan until the computer equipment rebelled. Seriously. Once that happens that pretty much trashes any graphic design plans, since a GD studio hinges on your equipment.

So I couldn't get my CD burner to work. My printer started to freak out when I wanted to print in color(!). The browsers were spazzing. I couldn't even blog while I figured all this out (there's about a two week break in these Blog archives between the end of August/early September.) And it wasn't a virus causing this; we checked many, many times. Systems were clean.

But it probably is partially my own fault; I've asked God to be REALLY obvious with me about my artwork. My birthday was coming up and that always makes me reflect on what I've done/where I'm going. And I've worn many (weird) hats over the years as I've tried things on for size to figure out what was mine to do: Painter, Stage Manager, Opera Singer, Production Manager, Web Comic Artist. Sometimes you can be a Jack of All Trades & Master At None.

OR sometimes you can be smart, fit a little of everything in, manage your time well and have a really fun life.

What has happened this summer instead -- VERY long story short -- is the webcomics have temporarily stopped while I start on a new comic strip that Chris is writing for us. (YAY!) I hope to start posting that by the end of October. I will give you a sneak peek here first.

The graphic design studio has instead become more of a book-art and painting art studio, so it's much less production work, and much more art work.

The biggest surprise was I have unexpectedly started oil painting again ... so I'm calling this whole summer the 45 degree angle on the path (which led me back to a straight line).

The funny part is painting was really peripheral in the Summer Formula. It was so at the bottom of the To Do list, I had even given a painter friend my paint and easel several years ago to encourage her to paint.

But painting was the crazy key -- work with me here -- see, cause when I bought new tubes of oils (for my birthday!) and picked up the palette knife and paint brush and started painting -- (oh my goodness, and now I have at least 5 laid out!) later that week the computer equipment all started to work again. (Don't laugh -- it's true!)

I finally figured out the conflict in the extensions for the CD burner. The printer finally stopped choking YESTERDAY and will now print again as long as I resize color files to print them out small (okay, but I admit I really DO have to replace this thing. LOL) And I figured out I had a program conflict that was spazzing out my RAM.

Really, what I discovered was that I had to re-adjust my focus. Re-prioritize my To-Do list. Embrace this thing that I actually love, and move it further up the To-do list. Most of all I had to stop putzing around with production already. Production should serve the work I do, not be a substitute for creating art.

What a subtle refocus.

This journey is so interesting sometimes ...

pictured above: "Amor Captivo (Captive Love)" at Cornerstone Credit Union in Hillsboro Village, September 29 through November.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Her Eyes Were So ... Blue

Back in the '70s we used to call the Homeless "bums".

That was because the homeless were really just old men, typically over 50, and typically constantly drunk. Staggering about, slurring their words even in the daytime. In desperate need of a bath and shave. They would try to bum change off passersby, usually for more drink. Occasionally one would become "a neighborhood regular" and we'd give them a sandwich or some food.

Somehow someone (who?) figured out that the mentally ill were having their civil rights infringed upon by keeping them hospitalized. And somehow taking care of them with the tax dollars generated by the rest of us was being unjust (never was quite sure to whom.) Our local Psychiatric Ward had to let them out -- and they had a whole building full of them.

The bums were soon joined by those who were formally hospitalized. These being mentally ill people, they didn't know how to take care of themselves. Keeping a job and paying rent and all that burdensome crap was just beyond them. Suddenly there was a flood of people living on the street. All kinds of people -- calling home these weird little cardboard shacks or park benches with old blankets draped around them.

So sometime in the '80s the bums became "The Homeless" ... a strange subset of people who never looked you in the eye, who held their "Help me" signs way out before them as they shook empty coffee cups and asked for change. People who "wanted money for food" but who would then get very angry when you bought them a meal. It was just weird.

I was in High School when I walked along St. Mark's Place in Manhattan, and saw for the first time a Punk Rocker kid, not much older than me, bumming for change. I was ... well, shocked.

It got to a point where you seriously couldn't walk along certain streets without being asked for money by someone every few feet. Creepy.

So I've read there was a sizeable homeless population in Nashville. Seen a lot mostly down by Plaza Art Materials, since the Nashville Rescue Mission is down there. But hadn't seen any just really walking about in Midtown except for once or twice from a distance.

This one walked right up to me -- like they do in New York if you let them. Usually you try not to let them. (Unless you're planning to give them change or food.)

I was carrying a heavy portfolio full of artwork over to an appointment and had stopped to fix my grip. She asked me for change but I was distracted and brushed her off.

See in New York you learn to say "no" to the street beggars cause some of them are just opportunists. You also learn fast to never to show bums where you take your money out of. When I said no she walked away but stopped and told me she liked my cap. I told her my friend gave it to me. I straightened up and looked at her and said thanks, and I realized how tiny she was.

She was tiny and sunburned and thin -- little kid thin. She was probably in her late 40s, the sun was making her delicate skin wrinkled sooner than necessary. I looked at her and we smiled awkwardly. We were under shaded trees, but her eyes were so bright. We waved and walked away.

I remembered I had a little change in an outside pocket so I took it and ran over to her, and said 'hey, here's a little bit. Remember to use it for food.' And she thanked me and smiled.

Her face was full of light even under those shaded trees. Her eyes were so very blue.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

FD/FC: Squat By Taylor Field

I apologize for not posting the first chapter preview of Squat by Taylor Field back on September 1. Here it is.

I must confess I'm behind on my big ol' book-reading stack, so I didn't get to read Squat -- but I will mention I'm a "fan" of his -- if you can really call it that.

I have Mr. Field's two previous non-fiction books: Mercy Streets and a A Church Called Grafitti, and I just love them. To me these books are like having a little piece of home with me.

Mr. Field is a Pastor of the East Seventh Street Baptist Church located in Manhattan's East Village. The two non-fiction books are collections of stories of his arrival in NYC back in the late 80s, and the homeless, drug addicts and lower-income people that make up the congregation and the neighborhood.

His love for the people that surround him is touching, and his observations on their lives and on NYC itself, all familiar to me. How Big City Livin' with its extreme poverty and extreme richness all affects him -- a midwestern boy sent to serve -- is moving.

Proceeds from all the books, including Squat which is his first novel, all go to the Graffiti Mission Ministry connected with the East Seventh Street Baptist Church.


CHAPTER 1

CALMLY, THE GIRL on the sofa reached out and pulled up a flap of skin on the little boy’s thin arm. It could have been a gesture of affection. But then she pinched the skin and twisted it. Hard.

“Ouch!” He whipped his pencil in front of her face once, like a club, and then cracked it on her forehead. He pulled the pencil back, ready to strike her again, crouching against the back of the couch like a cornered weasel.

The little girl wrinkled up her round freckled face but did not cry out. She looked toward her mom, who was talking to the receptionist. The boy’s mom, seated across the room, didn’t look up. She continued to look through the pages of her magazine, snapping each page like a whip.

“You could have put my eye out!” the freckled girl hissed.

The boy rubbed the two blue marks on his arm. He looked her steadily in the eyes and growled.

His mom called him over. “Come sit by me, honey, and stop making so much noise.” She patted his hair down in the back and smiled at him. She wore lots of eyeliner and widened her eyes to make even sitting in a waiting room seem like an adventure. “You’re such a big man, now,” she had said this morning as she combed his hair and helped him put on his best shirt. She was humming “Getting to Know You” even though her voice quivered just a little. She had put a lot of extra perfume and sprays on this morning. She smelled like the women’s aisle in a drugstore.

Once the little girl’s mom finished with the receptionist and returned to the sofa, the little girl started crying with one soft, unending whine.

The boy rolled his eyes and looked for a book to bury his head in.

“What’s wrong, honey?” the mom asked as she swept her little girl up.

“That boy hit me.”

A stuffy silence reigned in the waiting room except for the sound of the bubbles in the aquarium above the magazine table. The girl’s mother glared at the boy and then at his mother. The boy picked up a children’s book with some torn pages and began studying it seriously. His mom hadn’t been listening to the girl. She was still snapping through the magazine’s pages.

Finally, she threw it down with disgust and looked at her watch again. “I’m going outside to smoke a cigarette, honey,” she said, oblivious to the stares of the mother and daughter across the room. She stood up, adjusted her dress with an efficient tug, and stepped outside the office. They gaped at her departure with their mouths open, like two goldfish.

The aquarium continued to gurgle. In the following silence, the little boy became dramatically interested in the book in front of him. It had been pawed over by a lot of children waiting in this doctor’s office, and the first few pages had been torn out. The pages that remained had rounded corners and smudges along the edges. The little boy squinted his eyes in exaggerated concentration. He preferred the smudged pictures to the astonished fish eyes of the adult across the room.

He studied a picture of a man who wore a robe down to his ankles. He had a beard and a sad look in his eyes. In front of him was a young man with no beard, lying on a stone with his hands tied. The man with a beard had a knife in his hand and had his hand raised high up as if he were going to stab the boy. Out of a cloud an angel was reaching out to grab the hand of the man. The angel hadn’t touched the man yet, but his hand was getting close. The man didn’t yet know that the angel was there.

The boy forgot about the girl and her mother. The color of the man’s robe was so deep and blue. The angel’s wings were more gold than his mother’s best bracelet. The boy on the stone had a robe that was silvery-white like clouds. The sun in the background was redder than any sun he had ever seen. It was as red as a hot dog. The little boy felt he was swimming in this world of rich colors and robes, a sleepy world tempered by the sound of the bubbles in the doctor’s aquarium. The boy put his finger above the picture book, to the right of the book, and then to the left of the book. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three,” he whispered to himself, touching each of the three points three times.

His mom opened the door and came back in. The summer heat from outside reached in to bathe him in warmth. She shut the door with exasperation. She sat down beside him, reeking of cigarette smoke and hair spray. She adjusted his collar and gave him a nervous smile. “You’re such a big man now,” she said and patted his hair again.

The boy pointed to the man in the robe in the picture. “Mom, is that boy that man’s son?”

“I don’t know, honey.” She picked up the same magazine again and started ripping through it at lightning speed.

“What’s he doing with the knife, Mom?”

His mom gave a half smile and looked at the picture absentmindedly. “He’s protecting his boy from someone who might hurt him. Stay still, honey. Why is the doctor making us wait so long? If he doesn’t see us by twelve, we’ll have to leave. He ought to pay us for making us wait.”

The boy studied the picture again.

“That’s Abraham, stupid,” the little girl stage-whispered from across the room.

The boy looked at her and scowled. “Yeah, like you know.”

She stuck her tongue out at him and turned it upside down.

His mom backhanded a few more pages, put the magazine down, and looked him in the eyes. She beamed. “Honey, I have a surprise for you. I’ve been waiting to tell you, and I’ve been looking for the right moment. I guess no moment is really the right moment. At 12:15 today we are going to see Sammy again. He’s come back. He’ll be waiting for us at our place. Isn’t that exciting? Everything will be different. You’ll be nice to him, won’t you? Honey, don’t bite your thumbs, you’ll make them bleed again.”

The boy wouldn’t look at his mom. He stared down at the picture of the man with the knife. Then he looked up at the clock above the receptionist. The little hand was close to the twelve and the big hand was on the eight. He turned the page of the book and another page was torn out. The next page after the torn one had a picture of a man sleeping with his head on a rock. He didn’t have a beard and he looked scared. His robe was a dull gray and looked dirty, but in the background, angels were coming up and down out of the sky on a shimmering stairway.

“I want to camp out on my own like this guy does, away from everybody, away from the house,” he told his mom.

“That’s sweet, honey,” she said as she finished the magazine again and looked at her watch.

The little boy’s lips moved as he carefully scrutinized the words beneath the picture of the man camping out. His eyes got wider. He traced a word with his finger. He almost forgot where he was. “I want to be like this guy,” he whispered.

A man in a suit breezed in and talked to the receptionist. Immediately his mom sat up straighter. The man finished with the receptionist and turned around and looked for a seat. His mom widened her eyes and smiled at the man. He smiled back.

The next page of the book was also torn out. On the following page was the best picture of all. A youth was wearing a beautiful robe with many different stripes of colors. He seemed so happy and looked as though nothing bad would ever happen to him. A man with a white beard was smiling next to him in the picture. The boy stared at the colors in the book for a long time. If he focused his eyes beyond the page, the colors blurred together like rainbow ice cream. Somehow looking at it kept his stomach from hurting so badly.

“Mom, I want a coat like this one.”

His mom looked at the picture for a moment. Her tone sounded much more patient with him now that the new man was in the waiting room. “Everybody wants a coat like that, honey. You’ll get yours one day.”

The little girl stretched her freckled face up as high as she could so she could see the picture. “That’s Joseph, you toad,” she said hoarsely from across the room. “Don’t you ever go to church?”

Her mother pulled her back close to her lap and said, “Hush.”

The boy looked at the clock. The big hand was on the nine. “Mom, let’s just stay here. It’s nice and cool and our air conditioner doesn’t work at home. I like looking at the books here. I like the fish. Let’s just stay here and not go back home. It’s too hot there.”

His mom looked at her watch again. “Why are your hands so clammy, sweetie? You’re making the book wet. What’s wrong with you? Stop biting your thumb or you’ll make it bleed right before we see the doctor. Do you want to get me into even more trouble?” She smiled at the man as she got up and walked past him to the receptionist. “Could you tell me how much longer it will be until we can see the doctor? I have another urgent appointment.” She conferred with the receptionist for a few minutes in hushed tones.

The boy found an envelope in the back of the book with all the colorful pictures. It had bright green writing on it and a red border. The envelope said you could send off for more books with other stories. The boy looked up at the little girl across the room. She was yanking on her mother’s sleeve and whispering something in her ear. She was probably talking about the boy’s mom. While making sure the girl was still looking at her own mom, he carefully folded the envelope once and put it in his jean pocket.

The girl was staring insolently at him again. He wanted to do something to the book. He wanted to add a character to protect the boy from the father with the knife. He reached in his other pocket and pulled out half a red crayon. He wanted to draw a picture in the book. He wanted to put someone in there to help that angel keep that boy from getting cut, but he knew that the girl on the opposite couch would never let him get away with drawing in the book. He pulled out his stack of baseball cards as she continued to stare. He carried only Yankees. He pulled his prize Reggie Jackson card from the stack and began to place it in the book but decided against it. He pulled out a relief pitcher, Dick Tidrow. He would be a good enough guard to help the angel. Then he put the card carefully in the page where the sad man was dressed in the long robe and holding the knife. He made sure that the edge of the card was exactly parallel to the edge of the book. He knew the girl was watching him. He closed the book very slowly and with great respect. Very quietly, with just one finger, he touched three sides of the book again, three times. “One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three,” he said under his breath. He put the book down gently on the table and then put both hands on his stomach and doubled over until his head touched his knees. A groan came out of him before he knew it.

The little girl sneered at him, “You’re nuts!” Her mom held her closer and made a shushing sound.

The boy looked at the clock again as his mom plopped down on the sofa with a snort. The big hand was already past the eleven. “Mom, let’s stay here. We’ve already waited a long time. Let’s stay.”

“Straighten up, sweetie. Why are you bent over? Everything is going to be fine. Soon we will see Sammy and everything will be different. It won’t be like last time. You’ll see. Everything will be fine.” She looked at her watch again then got up to talk to the receptionist. She seemed to be talking faster and faster. Finally she marched back to her son and said firmly, “We’re going now. We’ll have to come back another day. Let’s go, honey. Straighten up and stop frowning.”

She grabbed his hand, but he grabbed the arm of the sofa with his other hand. The arm of the sofa had padding on the top, but a metal support on the side. It was just right for grabbing. She pulled and his knuckles whitened. “Come on, sweetie, don’t be silly.” She smiled at the man and the other mother. She was petite and could not get her son to loosen his grip. He was small for an eleven-year-old, but his grasp was almost as strong as his mother’s. She reached to loosen his grip with her hand, but he simply grabbed the arm of the sofa with his other hand.

She smiled sweetly to the man and said, “Would you mind helping me, please?”

He hesitated, got up awkwardly, and began to loosen the grip of the other hand. The aquarium began to rumble like a volcano, and both the receptionist and the other mother stood up. The boy was stretched out like a cartoon as the mother pulled and the man pried his fingers from the sofa. In the middle of the hubbub, the little girl came up to hold his torso, as if to protect him from falling. Where her mother couldn’t see, she grabbed the sensitive skin next to his ribs and pulled and twisted at the same time as hard as she could.

In the tussle, the book with the men in robes fell to the floor and the little girl slipped on it. The baseball card slid underneath the sofa. The receptionist picked up the phone to call someone. The other mother grabbed for her daughter. The little boy squealed a high squeal; he was a desperate guinea pig grabbed by many hands.

Finally, the man got both hands loose, and his mom dragged him by the torso and opened the door. He clutched at the frame of the door but couldn’t hold on. By that time, some people in white coats came out with the receptionist and shouted as his mom dragged him out to the steaming parking lot. His mother roared back at them with a curse. He cried and whimpered for help as he got one last glimpse of the girl looking out at him from the waiting room window. She stood with her hands on her hips and her tongue sticking out.

Until he ran away from home, a number of years later, the little boy never went back to a doctor.

***

Please Note:
All author proceeds from Squat will go to Graffiti Community Ministries, Inc., a service arm of the East Seventh Street Baptist Church on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where Field preaches.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So What Motivates Superheroines?

If the comics "trends" in stories show that superheroes "need" to have their significant female others to be killed/maimed/victimized/destroyed in order to provide "sufficient motivation" for them to take up/continue-to-take-up the mantel of doing superheroic acts ...

then what's the motivation for Superheroines?

Isn't there enough crime happening worldwide to keep all the heroes (male and female) pretty busy if they wanted to get involved?

We really don't see the reverse happen as much -- male supporting character death to motivate the superheroine: "Men in Refrigerators" (Not that we need to.)

I just find that disparity odd.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What About Publicity and Self-Promotion for Artists?

We expect a musician or singer or actor to have to do a certain amount of self-promotion and publicity for their new CD or movie or play. Something about seeing these "bigger than life" people in a more "human sized setting" on a talk show or a Hollywood TV news show just helps make them more appealing somehow. You see them, hear them talk about the project, then you find you really wanna go support them and get their CD or see their movie.

To a degree that's also what happens at conventions, where you meet "the face" behind the book or comics project. Same for an art reception. Something about talking to the artist and getting to know the thinking behind the artwork they produced that's just appealing. You understand the art to a deeper level and can appreciate it so much more.

It still is a more elusive idea for a writer or artist to grasp, the whole handling their own publicity and promotion concept. I mean, after all, we're not "selling our presence" like singers and actors do. We just wanna sit at home and make our books and artwork. But the need to handle a certain amount of publicity and self-promotion is still just as important.

I was horrifically surprised to discover this author responsibility on the "back end" so to speak with Chris' books. I presumed publishers would take care of a certain amount of that sort of thing, out of the sheer interest and necessity to sell the merchandise, right? It just makes sense to expect that.

Who wouldn't?

But I'm finding across the board, regardless of publisher, nearly all of our writer friends are stuck in that elusive and strange place of having to actively self-promote to help sell their books. GAK.

It's bad when you're surprised by it. It's so much harder to play catch up. But when you know that going in, then you can actually be proactive. Proactive is WAY BETTER than Reactive.

The great thing about writers is that they've caught on to this, and have created various blog alliances and site alliances and have been quite generous with sharing their information with each other. It's a smart way to handle things. Grassroots marketing (like we've heard and seen for Snakes on a Plane) can be super effective.

Or at the very least help provide a foothold that can grow stronger and sturdier.

I've been adding terrific links to my sidebar here with writer advice blogs and all this is just the very tip of the iceberg. My husband, Chris is very proactive with getting this publicity machine in gear to help promote his books. I'm learning a lot just by checking these wonderful writers out, and by participating when I can, like with the Fiction In Rather Short Takes Program (used to be First Chapter/First Day) Chris pulled together that's now being handled by MC Pearson.

Anyway, not to digress into fiction (fiction is on Thursdays!) but rather to think out loud.

A local artist blog alliance would be REALLY COOL.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gallery Hopping: The Refreshment List...

I was musing about art galleries the other day and was thinking how, with all the various art galleries at my disposal when I was living up in New York, my favorite thing to do was to go visit The Met.

Back when SoHo was the hot art gallery place back in the 80s (and early 90s...?) I used to go there often to look at all of them, one after the other, and that was fun ... but ... then they disappeared ... and for a time I kinda disappeared from creating art, too ...

When I got my art-head back on after 2000, frequent visits to The Met helped clear my thoughts of the cobwebs. I got into the habit of taking a brisk walk through the galleries and having a coffee or juice in their cafe space on the first floor afterwards. I really felt renewed when I did that.

I have to admit the other fancy uptown art galleries never interested me much, if only because they seemed "packaged" for the person who wanted to have a piece to go with their couch and vase. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just a different atmosphere -- and frankly one that's somewhat intimidating for someone who doesn't live that lifestyle. I didn't want to "intrude" to "just look".

And when the new art galleries reappeared in Chelsea, I started to discover those. But I didn't get acquainted quickly enough to visit them with any regularity before I moved here. So The Met it was. Good, affordable and favorite art standby.

My recent reminiscing made me realize I somewhat equate galleries with refreshments, because I literally am refreshed when I visit them.

The Met was sweet. It was my glass of water.

I visit art galleries when I need new input: an infusion of new sight, a peek at new thoughts. I want to know what other artists are thinking and want to see that out loud on their canvases. I know it's been an especially great visit when I leave and am happy to be part of the art community and just feel good. The work may spur me to want to be creative, or it may move me to want to be very quiet and just learn something ... Sometimes I just need a rest and need to look at something new.

I want to be refreshed by art galleries.

Refreshments are necessary, since drinking helps the body ... but part of the fun is also their variety, and the why one enjoys them ... I even made a list. For example:

Water is the old and best standby. It may come off plain, but we need it to live, and it can't be beat when you're parched.

Lemonade is sunny, tart and if you had to call a drink literally "refreshment", I would call lemonade that. I would drink this all year round if I could find it at the supermarket. (ie., anything with High Fructose Corn Syrup in it isn't Lemonade!)

Coffee is a working drink. I enjoy it as I draw, write, blog, paint. It sharpens the mind and revs everything up so it all gets done ... all 2, 3, 4 cups of it ...

Cranberry Juice (with a slice of lime!) is a drink of leisure, relaxation ... I associate this with lunches that are not rushed ... and lunches where we have discussions ... it's thoughtful and great company.

Wine is the drink of friendship and celebration. Of course we would serve this at an art opening! A new show with new ideas is a wonderful thing and must be celebrated!

I don't drink Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea enough to count, so that one's off the chart.

And that's my refreshment list.

So now what would I call each local art gallery if I compared them to one of my favorite refreshments ... ?

Cheekwood's Highballs & Hydrangeas Tonight

Ok, Ok.

I know I said (yesterday!) that I was only going to post from Tuesdays through Thursdays from now on, but cut me a little slack. The thunderstorm last night was CRAZY and I had to get offline before I got to finish all my posts for the day... So I have a few things to mention just yet!

First off -- tonight is a Cheekwood "Highballs and Hydrangeas" night.

Both Cheekwood and The Frist have set aside (usually Friday) evenings for visitors to additionally enjoy music and drink when they visit the exhibits in the galleries. These nights are terrific for catching up on socializing and hanging out with friends and even for learning more about the art on display. Tonight Cheekwood's curator will be speaking at 7pm. (You will have to RSVP for that since space is limited -- more info at the Cheekwood site.)

Located over in Belle Meade, the Cheekwood also has the additional beauty of its gardens to enjoy while you soak in the lovely art and atmosphere ... so enjoy the evening, because even in the rain it's still gorgeous!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Steve Rude Sketchbook 2006

My VERY first comic book fan letter (back in the day!) was written to Mike Baron and Steve Rude, the writer and artist team of the gorgeously drawn and intriguingly written Nexus comic book.

That was the very first indie comic I ever collected.

["Indie comics" are comic books published by younger and smaller publishers that are not owned in any way by "The Big Two"; Marvel Comics (Spider-Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four) and DC Comics (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman).]

I like collecting art books, and collections of art by favorite artists ... but I'm not a big sketchbook fan ... until I got the Steve Rude newsletter a few weeks back letting me know they were putting together a Steve Rude sketchbook just in time to ship when they all got back from the huge San Diego Comic Con.

OH. MY. GOODNESS.

Chris saw the look on my face.

So I ordered my first sketchbook.

I just got it Thursday ... !

Full of "thinking" sketches and commissioned artwork, I'm enthralled by his art. This man can draw.

The sketchbook is a lovely addition (and incredibly affordable at $20!!) to the art library, and a bit of comfort/art fix while I anxiously await the start of Mr. Rude's latest comic book mini series on his new character The Moth.

JOY!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Louise LeQuire, 1924 - 2006

How do you mourn someone you wanted to get to know better but still feel a tremendous loss for?

When the Nashville Artist Guild was informed on Monday that founding member Louise LeQuire had passed away on Sunday, I had to catch my breath. We knew her health was so very fragile lately, but I still hoped for her health to be restored ...

I had an inkling of her greatness as teacher, mentor, arts advocate and artist via the fellow Guild members who referred to her with huge respect. Who is this amazing woman I wondered? I wanted to know more.

I can probably count on one hand the times I spoke or emailed with her since I joined the Guild and began participating in January of 2005. In this handful of times I had the sense I was in the presence of a great lady, and that it would be good to learn from Louise about Nashville's Art History. I wanted to know what Louise thought and felt about these things. What fueled this love in her to work so hard to change it here.

She was a founding member of the Guild, and here, 55 years later she was still an active participant ... so that answered a little of the question. She is dedicated. Then on my visit to the Rau Exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum last November, I saw Ms. LeQuire had sponsored a painting in the tour ... and that answered another little question. She helped bring the art here.

Earlier this year the Guild collected bios to put into a booklet to be shared among members. Since we don't always make every single meeting, this way we could still get to know eachother and so be more fully prepared to work together in our aim to better fulfill the Nashville Artist Guild objectives.

Louise was the first member to send in her Bio when the call went out. Through the bio I really discovered this woman was a treasure amongst us. And the info in this bio was only the tip of the iceberg of what she'd done.

Artist, teacher, writer; also interested in writing and producing documentary films. She was a proactive educator. Through others in the Guild and the (August 1) Tennessean's short article on her passing, I'm only starting to get a clue of just what an active and direct impact she had in carving out the very Arts scene here in Nashville, helping it get a foothold and helping make it grow.
I'm sad and feel such a loss -- there was so much to learn from her. How do you mourn this...?

But I am yet hopeful. There is still so much to learn from the very example she set. I hope through it we as an Arts Community may be able to make her proud. May we then be able to continue to foster the Arts in Nashville with that same love she showed.

Hazel King & Centennial Parks Art...

Last week Tuesday I posted how Metro Council cut the city budget to the Arts so much it was closing the Centennial Park Arts program. This would pretty much end the incredibly affordable and all-skill-range art classes taught there by Hazel King. I was absolutely thrilled to see WSMV Channel 4 was going to feature Ms. Hazel later that evening at the 6'oclock news.

I was disappointed that the segment turned out to just be a "people piece" and didn't touch upon the program cuts themselves and how it would affect the next round of people who would NOT get these classes and get to meet this terrific and inspiring artist ...

But I did like how through the segment more people were able to get to know more about this fantastic art (and dance!) teacher. We should all be so involved and active in the community and in life all the time. Ms. Hazel amazes me.

I was comforted to a degree to read in the Sunday Tennessean's Editorial page that they were also of the opinion that these Metro Cuts embarrass Music City ... and the Monday Nashville City Paper also did a little interview on Ms. Hazel.

The Tennessean editorial touches on how artistic ideas need to be nurtured and shows the cuts from the budget side, which was helpful. It didn't cover how important and influential a teacher can be in fostering and mentoring a fledgling artist -- but for that you could ask artists like Darlene Shadden, Juliana Erickson, and Jerry Adams who Ms. Hazel has taught or mentored.

At the very least I hope all this coverage adds a bit of perspective to what Ms. Hazel has done and does in the Arts Program. This program shouldn't have gone out like this.

I've gleaned from the little info available within the 3 pieces that Ms. Hazel will be kept on as a "Guest Instructor", but what that means in the "before" and "after" picture or what it means the Program itself might change into, I don't know.

I guess this is something to find out about ...


Related Posts

Metro Council Cuts Centennial Park Arts Program?!!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stick by Jeffrey Metzner


So we see Flicka and have a great time ... then once we returned home I got to sit with a little book my sister sent me, Stick by Jeffrey Metzner.

Stick is a collection of one-page panels of -- get this -- stick figures posing like famous paintings, movies frames, moments in history, and scenes from stories...

I. FELL. OUT. LAUGHING.

These moments are exquisite in their stick-ness. Jeffrey Metzner is BRILLIANT.

Thank God for sisters. And hilarious writer/artists like Metzner!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Orphan Works Act -- If You Needed Convincing --

Geez louise this is angry blog-post day.

If you STILL need convincing as to why the upcoming Orphan Works Act of 2006 would ROB YOU of YOUR VERY OWN Copyright to the very work you as an artist create --

let me direct you to the Testimony of Illustrator Michiko Stehrenberger, whose artwork was deliberately stolen by a tobacco company for use in their advertising.

This should scare you:

Her work was stolen via her SENDING OUT A PROMO PIECE which the company then scanned in, removed all identifying information and didn't intend to compensate her for until she took them to court.

It cost her almost $100, 000 to defend her right to her own work.


Related Links:


I Wrote My Senators re: Orphan Works Act
Orphan Works Act Update

Dump The Orphan Works Act of 2006

Your Senators and Rep

Our Nashville Senators and Rep

The Orphan Works Act Infringes On Your Copyright!

Orphan Works Bill: Worry about Art Copyrights

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Wrote My Senators re: Orphan Works Act

I wrote TN Senator Alexander, TN Senator Frist and my TN Representative Jim Cooper at both their Nashville and their Washington DC offices just about a month ago. (Previous posts linked below do further link to a website where you can get their addresses.)

Earlier this week I got a letter(!) back from the D.C. office of Senator Lamar Alexander! YAY! I was so excited -- (I think this might be my first set of letters written to Senators ever...)

My letter to him was acknowledged!

Ok, so I got a form letter. Sure my last name was misspelled (everybody wants to add a "s" to "Well".) Sure the form letter didn't even form-letter-acknowledge the right general topic... but that's okay. I understand how much work it must be to process the volume of incoming mail, so I'm just glad to get the acknowledgement. (I just hope they FILED it in the right stack.)

Let's defeat this Bill before it crushes the American Citizen's Copyright.

Related Posts:
Orphan Works Act -- Update
Your Senators and Reps
Our Nashville Senators and Rep

Dump the Orphan Works Act of 2006!
The Orphan Works Act Infringes On Your Copyright!

Orphan Works Bill: Worry about Art Copyrights

Orphan Works Act -- Update

Off the Graphic Artist Guild website:

National Arts Organizations are so concerned about this Orphan Works Act of 2006 being pushed through Congress, they have now formed a coalition:

Coalition on Orphan Works
Advertising Photographers of America
American Society of Media Photographers
Editorial Photographers
Graphic Artists Guild
Illustrators Partnership of America
National Press Photographers Association
Picture Archive Council of America
Professional Photographers of America
Stock Artists Alliance

Please please please, if you're an artist and make your living in any way, shape or form from creating artwork and photography, it's urgent that you to write your Senators and Representatives to protest this Orphan Works Act! This Orphan Works Act of 2006 -- if it's allowed to pass -- WILL RENDER YOUR AUTOMATIC COPYRIGHT TO YOUR OWN WORK NULL AND VOID!

Do you understand what I'm saying? People will be able to cherry pick your artwork and use it at will to create merchandise and they won't even have to pay you your "going rate"!

Sounds impossible doesn't it? They couldn't be THAT inconsiderate, can they? Well it isn't, and yes they can. And they will if you don't stand up and say something right away!

Please don't make one of my future blog entries a rant at how shocked I am this HORRIBLE THING PASSED. We can change this!

Make it your business to send a letter out to your Senator and Representative by Monday. Please. (Again off the GAG site, here are additional Senators you can write to:

"It is especially important for Californians to take action, because Howard Berman (CA, 28th), the Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee, and Subcommittee member Darrell Issa (CA, 49th) are particularly sensitive to concerns of visual creators.

In addition, Reps. Bob Goodlatte (VA, 6th) and Howard Coble (NC, 6th) seem interested in helping our cause. Further, Rep. John Conyers (MI, 14th) is especially responsive to the needs of writers."

Let's do this!

Related Posts:
Dump the Orphan Works Act of 2006!
The Orphan Works Act Infringes On Your Copyright!
Orphan Works Bill: Worry About Your Copyright

Monday, July 17, 2006

Your Comics Portfolio: 14 Bits of Advice

The Comics Art Portfolio advice from Andrew Pepoy (link no longer works), other comics professionals on The Drawing Board forum (that link is gone, too) and from the So You Wanna site are all very useful.

Now I'm gonna give you my list and add a few tips most people don't really talk about.

1. Put the work in a portfolio case.
Pepoy mentions this... and to back him up, loose pages means you are NOT READY. It looks unprofessional and it's hard to handle. Please take the time to respect your work enough to put it in a case.

It doesn't have to be an expensive leather case. It doesn't even have to be the type with a handle. There are book-shaped, bound portfolios with a set page count that are quite reasonably priced. They can be found at any art supply store.

PS: stick to a 9 x 12 or 11x14 size. Bigger than that and you'll come off like an art student (and maybe you are but you want a JOB, right?). Make photocopies or print outs of your work so it'll be small enough to fit. Don't bring original art if you can help it.

2. Put your resume on the opening page of the portfolio. It's part of the presentation.
It looks like you know what you're doing. It'll look professional. It'll look like you really want a job.
Include it if you've done illustration work for hire, and include sample printed books or tear sheets if you have them. If you're new at this, don't worry and don't include it.

2A. (Print that resume on nice paper. Make sure there are no typos in it!) (And if you're not including it cause it's your first job, please do make a nice business card with your contact info on it. More on that below in #10.)

3. Arrange your portfolio in some kind of order.
There are all sorts of ways to arrange your portfolio. Pepoy's list had good pointers. Here is yet another way:

Put the resume first.
Follow it with the copies of art.
If you have any of your artwork printed in flyers or ads or in comic books already, place all that stuff together after the art. It'll look good to have printed samples.

10 - 15 pieces total is good. Make sure there is at least 4 pages of sequential art in there. (if you don't know what "sequential art" means, you're not ready.)

4. Only include art on the discipline you want to work in.
This was mentioned on the SoYouWanna site under "KNOW YOUR SPECIALTY". But it bears repeating. In other words don't show "a little bit of everything". It comes off like you're unfocused.

If you wanna pencil, show your pencils. If you wanna ink, show inks.

5. If you want to work in mainstream comics, don't include x-rated art samples.
We don't really talk about this too often ... and it always surprises me when some guy comes up to the table with a portfolio of this stuff. I think it's just for the shock value, but just in case you are honestly genuinely mistaken:

Don't do this. People might be polite to your face but if you offend the wrong person you may never work in that particular editor's office. Ever.

It's unprofessional for mainstream comics, and simply inappropriate since it's not going to prove you can tell a story in comic book form.

6. Know what you're there for. And pay attention.
If you don't know what you're there for, the reviewer isn't going to be able to read your mind. There's also going to be an entire line of people standing in front and behind you.

So know what you're there for. Are you there for a job, or are you there for a review and feedback? Maybe a little of both ... ?

Remember to pay attention and listen to the reviews happening ahead of you when you are close enough. You might learn something.

7. Be Polite when you approach. Speak up and speak clearly. Shake hands.
When you finally get there, introduce yourself. Listen and know who you are speaking with and getting reviewed by.

You'd be surprised at how many people WANT to get a job in comics and then sabotage themselves by being total jerks to the people potentially hiring when their stuff gets reviewed!

8. As you get reviewed, have the courtesy to listen.
Don't interrupt. Don't be defensive. Don't sulk if they turn you down.

Listen. Learn. Get better. Come back to the next Con.

Most people will not walk away with a job after a portfolio review. (SOMETIMES it happens but VERY RARELY.)

9. Don't take the review personally. Learn how to improve your artwork.
When I was breaking into comics and would get a table at a New York Con with my studio mates (between '87 - '92) my friends would get their art portfolios reviewed by VERY FAMOUS COMICS ARTISTS (not naming names) who would THEN proceed to absolutely shred their work apart. And rudely, too. (I don't think there's any need to be rude at a review.)

Today those friends both freelance from their own studios and make a living with their art. They let those mean spirited reviews roll off their backs and just got better where they needed to. (Heck, and the stuff they do now PAYS a LOT BETTER than comics work does! hahahahaha to the mean comic book guys!!)

Making art feels very personal, but when you're looking for work as an artist you enter a whole different ballpark. When you show your artwork in order to get hired, it's now about business. It's not about you. It's all about whether the art is what the publisher (READ: deadlines) needs and is looking for.

Even if they DO reject the art this time, it doesn't mean you'll never get a job in comics. It doesn't mean your work stinks (to say it politely). This is ONLY about being ready for a job right now. This is NOT a personal critique.

It might be as simple as you're not ready to work professionally just yet. It might mean you need to work on your backgrounds and get more reference, or get better at anatomy or at inking line weights or at color depth.

Or it might mean you are ready but the art looks like everyone else that already works for them, so you really need to knock the ball out of the park with something really great and imaginative to impress them.

Or they're just not hiring NOW and they'll keep your card in file ... ! (keep sending them samples. You never know when they JUST MIGHT NEED YOU...)

If you have a good reviewer, they will tell you exactly what you're missing and what to work on. And if they are a reviewer worth their salt, they'll be able to convey that feedback in a constructive way that doesn't belittle you or your work.

A lot of this is about having the stomach to handle rejection. (Don't worry, this happens to novelists and painters, too.)

10. Make sure you have a business card on hand and some sample packets ready.
Maybe you'll use them. Maybe you won't. But it's better to be prepared.

Some editors may not want to take photocopies of your work at the con. Don't worry. If they like your work, they may instead ask you to mail samples to their office after the convention. If this happens, TAKE THIS OFFER SERIOUSLY AND GET THEIR BUSINESS CARD. MAIL THEM PHOTOCOPIES when you get home!

I can't tell you how many artists mess it up right here because they never follow up!

If there's no follow up, they won't remember you from the other 100 portfolios they saw that day (let alone weekend). And if you don't follow up, it means you don't care. At the very least, have your business card on hand. If they have your card and get your package when they're back at the office, they will remember you.

11. If the editor/reviewer says he can't give you feedback don't push him for feedback.
Don't be pushy. If he can read art, he'll tell you when you come back to be reviewed. If he's leaving, he can tell you who else at the table can review you.

If you stopped by at a bad time, make it your business to come back.

But if he says "he doesn't know how to critique art" believe him! I've heard more bad advice given out by non-artistic editors who don't know how to direct artists (yeah, you wonder how they get hired too, huh? I do.) and usually this happens when they get pushed by someone who is Anxious for a Review From Anyone Behind the Table.

12. Don't use pornography as anatomy reference.
A few years ago at a NY Comic Con I overheard one editor tell a newbie artist to use porn as anatomy reference (!) That editor no longer works in comics.

It's just not professional to use x-rated stuff as reference. Why?

a. The anatomy will look weird. The pictures are doctored, and the proportions are faked via surgery or Photoshop.

b. The poses are unnatural. If you think putting a costume solves "the problem", it doesn't. People don't sit or pose or stand like that in real life. Really.

I'll even spare you the why it's bad from a spiritual angle this time (the root word of pornography is "porne", which is Greek for "prostitute". You figure it out.) So let me instead appeal to your greed for fame and fortune as a popular comics artist:

c. Use inappropriate reference for your artwork and you WILL cut off an entire section of your potential fan and readership base.

Go take a real anatomy class at an art school and draw real naked people in a normal art classroom setting. You'll learn better. (And it won't set the rest of our collective teeth on edge.)

13. If you want to work in comics, know what you can handle.
Comics means publishing means deadlines. You will be expected to keep deadlines. Knowing you can meet them will make a difference to your publisher.

How much can you draw a day? You have to know this when you bring in your portfolio.

To get a monthly book you have to be able to pencil one page a day MINIMUM.
To get a monthly book you have to be able to ink one page a day MINIMUM.
To get a monthly book you have to color 2 pages a day MINIMUM.

You have to be able to meet these minimums -- and don't be shocked -- but know you're probably going to be working freelance at about $10 an hour if you're breaking in as a penciller. (Inkers and colorists make less ...)

14. A lot of women work on staff in comics.
You may be under the impression that the comics industry is dominated by men, and that may be largely true for the higher profile artist and writer side of things. But a surprisingly large number of women work on staff in production, as editors, assistant editors and in other departments that are not immediately obvious to the public. This might really help you with points 5 and 12.

It will help you stick with it if you love the field and the potential it holds as a storytelling medium.

Good luck. Have a great show!

A Comics Portfolio for the Convention ...

This week's comic-con (although I am nowhere near it) has put me in a comics mood!

Back when I lived in New York City (home to Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Archie Comics) and I was considering drawing mainstream comics for the above mentioned Marvel, DC or Archie (back in the late 80s early 90s) there really weren't a lot of resources to gather information from.

The conventions were the main place to get feedback on your art. And a lot of the times feedback could be brutal ...

But nowadays there's loads of places to find great info and learn how to draw this stuff. There's the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning, and some colleges now offer comics art in their curriculum. There are also TONS of HOW- TO books on cartooning, making American-style comics or Japanese-style comics (called "manga") and etc., etc., etc, ...

There are comic book news sites, comic book publisher sites, comic book creator sites, comic book communities of all sorts, comic book Amateur Press Associations (APAs), comic book retailers, conventions, blogs, etc., etc., etc,. All online. All relatively easy to find. You can become SO PREPARED to work in this field if you want to!

Amazing.

In short, it's fabulous how you can learn the craft of comic book making all without even leaving the comfort of your own home or going very far from your drawing table ...

So you'd like to work for the comics companies or in animation or toy design or etc.,? There are opportunities to get your work reviewed at the San Diego Comic Convention:

Here are some good tips for the portfolio review process courtesy of Andrew Pepoy and the Comic Con site. [2014 update: Link is no longer in service.] Andrew Pepoy is comics inker (15 years and counting now). He wouldn't remember me, but he inked comics for us when I was on staff for Milestone Media. I remember him being a sweet guy.)

Here are more great tips on Prepping a Comics Portfolio from SoYouWanna.com.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dump the Orphan Works Act of 2006

I'm happy to say I've mailed off letters to my Senators (Mr. Frist and Mr. Alexander) and my Rep (Mr. Cooper) protesting the Orphan Works Act of 2006.

So now I am relieved but anxious, hoping that enough illustrators, graphic designers and artists are doing the same so that we can get rid of this thing.

This proposed amendment -- HR 5439 IH -- which is to amend the Copyright Law, is a wolf disguised in sheep's clothing. The language used in it seems like it's aiming to make nice between all the parties involved, but it actually erodes creators rights instead, in favor of pirates.

This amendment in a nutshell will favor an infringer's rights over the creator's lawful copyright when the infringer doesn't bother to do their homework and find the actual copyright owner in time before using artwork and photographs. Talk about opening a can of worms.

The amendment further offers to start a whole new department to deal with the legal issues that might result from this. Creating this "new department" will be an unnecessary WASTE OF MONEY AND TIME.

Infringers will abuse the new system and artists will be caught up in and forced into a legal Circle of Hell trying to protect their copyrights instead of being in their studios creating artwork. (If that isn't evil getting a great foothold and being destructive towards beauty...I dunno what is.)

Yes I'm being dramatic. I have to be. The Copyright Law as it stands ain't broke, so don't "fix" it with a weak addition that will undo who it's supposed to protect.

I don't spend days drawing comics or illustrations or painting just to have some idiot help themselves and slap my work on something I never okayed in the first place just cause they didn't bother to find me.

I'm also thinking about all the artists I know who are not online blogging and who don't have websites and who may not be represented by a gallery but still make their living creating art. They may not be Googleable, but they still have rights to use their artwork as they see fit.

But instead of just reading me complain about this (to put it nicely), please go visit the Frequently Asked Questions page regarding this Orphan Works Act over at the Illustrators Partnership. They explain all of this in a really calm and cool fashion and they will make loads of sense.

Then when you've read it, please write a letter to your Senator and Representatives asking them to help defeat this amendment.

Thanks!

Earlier Posts:
The Orphan Works Act Infringes On Your Copyright!
Orphan Works Bill: Worry about Art Copyrights

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Orphan Works Bill infringes on your copyright!

You'd think having the U.S. Copyright Law in place would be a good thing ... Register your work, and ta-da! Your art is protected from infringement by bad people who don't want to pay you for your work. Well it is, until law-makers start to fiddle with Copyright Law and mess it up for the hard-working Americans who paint, draw and shoot pictures for a living. Grr!!

What am I growling about?

There's a Bill -- HR 5439 IH a.k.a "The Orphan Works Act of 2006" (Go read. Don't be afraid of the legalese.) -- that's been introduced by Mr. Smith from Texas. (I guess this would be Representative Lamar Smith, R-21) This bill aims to amend the Copyright Law to cover the useage of so-called "Orphan Works".

I'll give Representative Smith the benefit of the doubt. It's probably his ignorance of the workings of the art business that helped create this Bill and get it introduced in the first place. (Let's help set him straight.)

"Orphan Works" is what artwork is being called when the creator and copyright holder of the artwork cannot be located, but someone who is NOT the artist wants to USE that art for something they're doing. The Orphan Works Act basically allows this stranger to take and use the art if they "can't find the artist" through "reasonable means".

In other words, the bill conveniently creates HUGE loopholes that clears the way for unscrupulous people to rob Individual Artists of their Rights to license and sell their own artwork as they (and only they) see fit.

Orphan Works makes no distinction between work that is old enough to be in the public domain and work that may have been created today. It's all fair game if it has no identifying marks or credits on it.

Artists already have to put up with the occasional unprofessional who hires us for a job and then (after we finish it) decides the artwork "is not what they expected" and then won't pay us for the work or even just the time we invested. Their justification for not paying is "but it's just art...It's not like it's construction or accounting or something important like that".

So let me clarify something. "Art" is not just the "foofy" or "high falutin' " paintings that hang in museums and that were painted by dead guys. This Bill rolls into and over the artwork created for everyday use in things all around us.

Let me give you a visual: what would our stores look like without graphics on the signage and designs on the packaging on the shelves? How interesting would a book or CD look without a drawing, photo or design of some sort on the cover? Not very. What if photos and drawings disappeared out of the newspapers and magazines? What if photos and art disappeared off the INTERNET so it was all just text up in here? What a visually boring world we'd live in! This is the art that is in danger.

Modern manufacturing and publishing uses a lot of artwork and photography that gets printed and reproduced that never credits the artist-- either because of simple oversight or because no manufacturer really wants to have the artist's signature on the book cover or on that little pad of stationery paper on sale at the dollar store. If a staff member keeps sloppy records, or if the staff turns over and that company handles a mix of new and public domain artwork, just how are they supposed to ID this work if it's in their files from a previous job?

Then what IF the artist they think it MIGHT BE doesn't maintain a website because they're too darn busy ACTUALLY drawing to make a website and maintain it so that artist is NOT "Google-able"? (Yes, not everyone is obsessed with the internet. Imagine that!) What is going to constitute "reasonable efforts" to locate the copyright holder in THIS SCENARIO?

You can't "Google" fragments of artwork yet.

And we won't even get into the whole issue of art "sampling". (yes, like what happens in rap music)

Then there's the other more subtle problem when an infringer is finally caught by the artist. Normally after getting busted the User has to pay the artist for the use of their artwork. In this version of the amendment to the law the subtler term "reasonable compensation" may mean a world of difference to the dollar market manufacturer than it would to the high-end market manufacturer. Both markets VERY different ideas of what's "reasonable compensation"!

I should be paid a fraction of my going rate because someone helped themselves to my work? Excuse me, but that is bad form.

I've worked in comics publishing, with and for freelance designers, and for manufacturers. I've been on both sides of the fence. I can see all too easily how the information for any particular artist can fall through the cracks and be lost by the manufacturing staff if someone is not on the ball or if staff simply turns over and someone's office gets cleaned out! Work that in no way shape or form been abandoned can get caught in the net of a false "Orphan Work" claim. This is a problem.

Artists, you'd better read this HR 5439 IH Orphan Works bill and then do something about it. You may also read the original Copyright Law in effect.

Perhaps in reading the bill you will misunderstand and think it's just trying to help those kind folks who are trying to get things done for education's sake and for those great PBS shows. Oh, if only that were so ... but no. The unscrupulous manufacturer is out there and they'd have a FIELD DAY.

The Illustrators Partnership has put together an excellent overview of Frequently Asked Questions -- FAQs asked by artists and non-artists alike -- that covers just WHY this Bill is SUCH VERY BAD NEWS FOR ARTISTS. Please read it.

Then when you understand, write to your Senators and your Representative. Our Nashville Senators are Bill Frist (R) and Lamar Alexander (R) and our Representative is Jim Cooper (D-5). Write to both their DC and to their Nashville offices. Voice your concern and ask them to get rid of this amendment because it's really bad for us.

Heck, write to Mr. Lamar Smith, too, just to get him up to speed.