My Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency Starts Monday; Presenting My Associate Artists!

I leave Sunday for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to start on Monday my three-week “Master Artist” comics residency with the Atlantic Center for the Arts. It’s been three years since I was first tapped for the ACA residency (giving up my spot in 2012 in deference to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship), and I’m psyched for it to finally be happening. (I’m also going to miss Sari & Phoebe! Happily, however, I won’t be without them for the whole time—they’re coming down the very first weekend after the residency starts for a three-day visit, occurring over Sari’s birthday! Do I hear a beach birthday?!)

My residency is focused around nonfiction comics, and I’m really excited about the Associate Artists with whom I’ll be working, who hail from all over the States and beyond, including South Korea, Australia, and Ireland. (It was quite a task whittling down the initial group of talented and deserving applicants for the residency, and I went through quite a bit of heartache selecting these eight exceptional cartoonists.)

My plan for the residency is fairly open-ended and in many ways will depend on the needs and desires of the group. I plan to spend good chunks of each day with them in a studio environment, and we’ll do the occasional group exercise and critique. Maybe some form of collaborative project will emerge? The main thing  I want for each Associate—and myself—is to come out of the residency with a clearer idea of their personal project, and renewed enthusiasm for finishing it.

So without further ado, here are the Associate Artists of ACA Residency 155:

Robin Ha—born in Seoul, Korea, and moved to the United States when she was 14. Since graduating from RISD with BFA in Illustration, she has been working in New York. Her work has been published in independent comics anthologies, as well as Marvel comics and Heavy Metal Magazine. Her plan is to continue working on a graphic memoir about her immigrant experience as a teenager in Alabama.

Sarah Howell—an Australian cartoonist who has worked extensively in festival and youth arts. Sarah’s project is a graphic novel (with support from the Australian Prime Ministers’ Centre) about the final days of the three P.M.s who died in office, all as witnessed by Dame Enid Lyons, the first female federal Member of Parliament.

James Kettner —“Kett” grew up in Westchester and studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. After a decade of misadventures he made it to the West Coast (now Oakland, CA) where he received his MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Kett’s comix have appeared in print and on the web in publications like SF Weekly, and he’s a regular contributor to the punk comix anthology As You Were. Kett’s project is Full Moon, a graphic memoir about his time working at an adult escort agency.

David Kiersh—an associate artist in residence at ACA in 2010, when he worked on his self-published book After School Special. He also received a 2008 Xeric Grant for his book Dirtbags, Mallchicks, and Motorbikes. Dave’s project will be his new book, Love is Strange.

Joseph Luby— a Savannah College of Art and Design honors alumni, where he majored in Sequential Art and Illustration. Joe says he “only ever wanted to do three things in life: be a teacher, be a good father, and draw comics.” Joe’s project is an illustrated history of earth-space science and the scientific method as taught and understood at the middle grade level.

Cliodhna Lyons—Irish illustrator and animator. She studied animation at Ballyfermot College in Dublin and comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has contributed to several comic book anthologies and has self-published a number of minicomics and hand-bound books. In 2013 she became a comic book tourist and spent seven months traveling around the world meeting other comic book artists and creativites in over 30 locations. She currently lives and works in London. Cliodhna’s project is the tale of the ocean-going royal mail ship RMS St Helena, her  crew, and the tiny island of St. Helena which she faithfully serves.

Neil O’Driscoll—Irish illustrator and filmmaker who was born in the southeast of Ireland and is currently based on a cliff just outside of Dublin. Having trained in animation, design, and crafts before completing a degree in film at Edinburgh College of Art, he now works freelance while illustrating the independent comic Big Bastard. Neil’s project is a graphic novel about human rights pioneer Roger Casement.

Sara Woolley—illustrator and graphic novelist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Sara’s project is a fictionalized graphic memoir written with her mother and art partner Leila Gómez Woolley about a young girl’s upbringing in, and exile from, 1950s Colombia.

This weekend I’ll be heading to my first SPX in 5 years

SPX 2014Friday, the Hang Dai gang and I will be heading out to the Washington, D.C., area for the 2014 Small Press Expo, taking place September 13–14. This’ll be my first SPX in quite a while—since 2009, to be exact, when I debuted A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.

In addition to myself, the Hang Dai table will feature Dean Haspiel, Gregory Benton, and the lovely & lovable Christa Cassano. (Of course, schmuck/mensch and Hang Dai original member #3, Seth Kushner, will be absent as he recovers from a bone marrow transplant—next year in Bethesda, Seth!)

We’ll be at table 16B. I’ll be hawking The Vagabonds #3—only available directly from me, and with a free sketch!—as well as The Influencing Machine, copies of  The Vagabonds #1 and #2, and A.D., and A Few Perfect Hours, and, and… You get the picture.

SPX special guests include Jules Feiffer, Lynda Barry, James Sturm, Bob Mankoff, and a host of others—check out the full list here.

Here are the details:

SMALL PRESS EXPO
September 13-14: Saturday: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm;

Sunday: 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm 
$15 Saturday; $10 Sunday (or $20 for the weekend)

Marriott Bethesda North Hotel & Conference Center
5701 Marinelli Road
North Bethesda, MD 20852

Tomorrow: New York Comic Fest, Westchester

nycf-poster2014smTomorrow, the Hang Dai gang and I will be heading out to the New York Comic Fest convention, in White Plains, NY. This’ll be my first “mainstream” con in quite a while, so I’m curious as to what the turnout will be like. Other guests include such old-school stars as Jim Steranko, Denny O’Neil, Paul Levitz, Larry Hama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Fred Hembeck. (Of course, indy coolios like Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Nick Bertozzi, and Danny Hellman will be there as well.)

Will someone in a Star Wars Stormtrooper outfit buy a copy of The Influencing Machine? We shall see! In any case, I’ll have that for sale, as well as my newest comic, The Vagabonds #3—only available directly from me–and with a free sketch! I’ll also have copies of  The Vagabonds #1 and #2, and A.D., and A Few Perfect Hours, and, and… You get the picture.

Here are the details:

New York Comic Fest
Westchester County Center
198 Central Ave.
White Plains, NY
$25 at the door

Atlantic Center for the Arts “Master Cartoonist”: Take Two

Back in 2012 I was forced to give up my ACA Master Artist gig due to my receiving the Knight-Wallace Fellowship and moving temporarily to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Well, ACA program director Nick Conroy was nice enough to invite me again, so this fall (October 13–November 2, to be precise) I will be leading a three-week residency focusing on the nonfiction graphic novel.

I still find it a bit intimidating to be called a “Master Artist,” but at least since 2012 I’ve also done a lot more teaching—including two consecutive years conducting week-long courses with the Fine Arts Works Center Summer Program, and more Speaker/Specialist programs (like the one I did last fall in Mexico). So I’m probably more “prepared” for the experience this time around.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts, located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary artists’ community and arts education facility. Their mission is to “promote artistic excellence by providing talented artists an opportunity to work and collaborate with some of the world’s most distinguished contemporary artists in the fields of music composition, and the visual, literary, and performing arts.”

During the three-week residency I will be working with eight “associate artists” on their long-form nonfiction comics projects. As part of the residency, we will be spending (at least) two hours a day together, conducting workshops, talking about the challenges we face, and working in a studio setting. I look forward to helping my associate cartoonists explore the best ways to make their ideas come to life.

By the way, my buddy Dean Haspiel took over my residency back in 2012—making it very much is own—and his group had a great time. They dubbed themselves Studio Yolo (“You only live once”), engaged in various team-building activities, and even produced an anthology. Read more about the experience here…

If you’re interested in applying to be an associate artist in my residency, or know someone who would, please check out the ACA website for further details. There are descriptions of the residency requirements, a FAQ, and lots more information. The application deadline is May 18, 2014.

This weekend I’ll be at MICE in Cambridge

logo-yellowI’ll be a special guest this weekend at the fourth annual Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE). Like SPX, APE, MoCCA, et al., MICE focuses on the art making comics as opposed to commerce and memorabilia. In addition to the exhibitor area, there are workshops for children and adults, as well as panel discussions on the craft and relevance of the comics form. MICE is free and open to the public. And for the first time, this year MICE is expanding to two days!

In addition to copies of A.D., The Influencing Machine, A Few Perfect Hours, Katrina Came Calling, The Vagabonds, Titans of Finance, and even Keyhole (!), I’ll be selling homemade print mini-comics of Stowaway, the previously online-only story I co-created for The Atavist last year. I’ll also have A.D. giclée prints for sale—proceeds go to ongoing hurricane relief efforts in New Orleans.

On Saturday afternoon at 3:30 I’ll  be appearing on a panel called Comics and Journalism. Moderated by Dave Kender, other panelists include Colin Tedford and Nick Thorkelson. It’s sure to be interesting.

Here’s an interview MICE did with me. They ask me about being a so-called “cultural ambassador” with the State Dept., my creative process, working with Harvey Pekar, the state of comics today, and more…

If you’re in the Boston area this weekend, come say hi. (And bear with me if I seem a bit tired at the show—I’ll be driving up from Brooklyn Saturday morning with fellow special guests Chris DuffyNick Abadzis, and Mike Cavallaro!)

Details:
Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE)
September 28–29, 2013 (Sat.: 10am – 6pm; Sun.: 11am – 4pm)
University Hall, 1815 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA

Evolution of a book cover: Republic of Outsiders

I illustrated the cover of Alissa Quart’s new book, Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels (The New Press), and I thought I’d take you through the whole process.

The book is about how a diverse group of outsiders who seek to redefine a wide variety of fields—from film and mental health to diplomacy and music, from how we see gender to what we eat—are succeeding in various ways in changing the status quo. So from the get-go the initial concept was to show a large crowd of people on the cover, something to convey the idea of “here comes everybody.” The book’s particular subjects—including  an Occupy Wall Street “alternative banker,” a transgender activist, an autistic artist, and indie musician Amanda Palmer—would be prominently featured at the front of the crowd.  I wanted the art to “bleed,” to extend past the edge of the cover, to help convey the “infinite” size of the crowd of amateurs, dreamers, and outcasts (at that point the book was subtitled “The Power of Rebels, Amateurs, and Outcasts”).

My initial sketch looked like this:

RoO-sketch-lorez

The client was pretty happy with the sketch, with their only major comment regarding the Amanda Palmer figure. Because of some recent negative press, they asked me to downplay her somehow—suggesting I “anonymize her, so she could be a more generic glam genderbending figure.” I pointed out that with my cartoony style I doubted many people who would recognize the character as Amanda Palmer, but I was happy to do as they asked.

We also agreed that I would hand-letter the title and other cover lettering. Given that, the client felt the subtitle needed a little more air. At that point, I came up with the idea of the crowd holding signs making up the words of the subtitle. I thought it further sold the concept of this group being paet of a movement effecting change on society.

This was my first attempt at the pencils (the blue outline shows the bleed and the crop marks of the actual book dimensions):

RoO-pencils-lorez

Although generally happy with the pencils, the client asked for some changes. There was some concern that the central figure (based on a real-life autistic artist was “too prominent and particular.” One way they suggested to do that was to eliminate the plastic iguana she was holding and make her expression less vacant; the second adjustment took care of another unresolved issue, which was how to display the author’s name. They came up with the idea of setting in a foreground sign which also would partly cover the autistic character. In addition, feeling that the “Amanda Palmer” avatar was too aggressive, they asked me to tone down her expression a bit as well.

At this point, I was a bit concerned about the changes being requested because frankly I thought they weakened the impact of the image. My understanding of the project was that the people on the cover were outsiders dancing to the beat of their own drums—and succeeding by doing that. And my feeling was the client’s suggestions were making the cover blander and less memorable. But… in the end, they were the client (who is always right ;->). I expressed my reservations and made the changes they asked for. (I also found out later that there were some legal concerns regarding the autistic artist character, who is only referred to by her first name, Katie, in the book…)

Finally, they asked me to replace the chunky “Outsider” title lettering with a simpler “font.”

This is what the second round of pencils looked like:

RoO-pencils2a-450px

By this point, the client and I were pretty much on the same page, and they gave me the go-ahead to proceed to inks. Wait! There was one more last-minute change: the subtitle of the book was changed from “The Power of Rebels, Amateurs, and Outcasts” to “The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers and Rebels”. So, here are the inks:

RoO-inks2-lorez

After a little more back-and-forth (thankfully, nothing too onerous), they gave me permission to color the piece, which I did in PhotoShop. As is my wont, I went with a reduced color palette, focusing mostly on greens and yellows, with a optimistic blue sky and red lettering to really pop. Here’s how it looked:

RoO-colors-lorez

The first color treatment made it all the way up the line to publisher, but she felt the palette was “too retro.” The client’s direction was to “maybe lighten the skin tones and add a bit more cyan to the clothes, so they’re not so contrasty with the sky.” Given how “unrealistic” the original color treatment was, I  was prepared for some pushback, and thought their comments made sense. So I warmed up the skin tones and made a few other adjustments (including making the “Katie ” painting a bit more distinctive from the rest of the scene). I thought the changes relieved the “monotony” of the original color treatment while staying true to my original concept:

RoO-colors2-lorez

Success! Everyone liked the new color treatment. So I was done, right?

Wrong! When it came to mocking up the book, the artwork on the right-hand side didn’t extend far enough to cover the bleed on to the dust cover flap. Left as-is it would show the art “fading away”—which I thought undermined the “infinite” feeling of the crowd. They also wanted the line “author of Branded and Hothouse Kids” added underneath the author’s name. So… I went back to the drawing board (literally) and extended the artwork to the right (as well as adding the “author of” line in PhotoShop, using a font of my lettering). And, voila:

RoO-revise-lorez

We were finally done! This is how the “mechanical” (front, back, flaps, and crop marks) looked on publication:

Republic-of-Outsiders_1st-mech-lorez

The book came out last month, and it’s been cool seeing my work on the cover—a first for a book I did not myself draw.

After all the back and forth, I obviously felt very connected to the process, and to all the individual decisions that led to the distinctive final product. So I was a bit chagrined when this image was brought to my attention: the cover of Eric Alterman’s 2008 book, Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America (Viking), illustrated by the very brilliant Tom Tomorrow

Alterman-WhyWe'reLiberals-cover-lorez

Oops! I don’t remember ever seeing that book cover before, I swear!

Influencing Machine featured on 1book140 (The Atlantic.com’s Reading Club)—Twitter convo tonite!

IF-paperback-coverThis month The Influencing Machine is one of two graphic novel’s being read on 1book140, The Atlantic.com’s Reading Club. And tonight at 7pm EST, writer Brooke Gladstone and I will be taking part in a live Q&A via Twitter. Please join in the conversation!

1book140 has been running since May of 2011 and they’ve read & discussed works by living authors and by dead authors; they’ve read thrillers, mysteries, beach reads, science fiction, poetry, history, and travel writing. Some of the previous entries from the 1book140 reading list include Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five,  P.G. Wodehouse’s Right Ho, Jeeves, Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, China Mieville’s The City & the City, Patti Smith’s Just Kids, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son. And they’ve even read comics before, including Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Alan Moore & David Lloyd’s V for Vendetta, and Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg’s Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.

1book140 is currently being run by J. Nathan Matias, and the process seems very democratic. Books are nominated on by readers and the finalists are voted on in online polls. And now, after some runoff voting (against  very esteemed competition), The Influencing Machine—along with Chris Ware’s masterwork Building Stories—has emerged as this month’s 1book140 selection! The first two weeks of August were spent on Building Stories and now it’s our book’s turn.

Tonight from 7-8pm EST, Brooke & I will be sitting by to answer any and all questions related to our collaboration. To join in, tweet your question to #1book140; we’ll do our best to respond!

Instead of Coffee, I’ll have TCAF

600px-tcaf_2013_prelim_poster_maurice_vellekoop_crop_fullsizeThis weekend, we’re heading to Toronto, Canada, for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, more commonly known as TCAF. It’s my first visit to TCAF, and my first visit to Toronto since I was a ten-year-old for a hernia operation (!). It seems like I’ve been hearing about TCAF forever, and this year—seeing as we’re in Ann Arbor, MI—it was more geographically feasible to visit. We’re also making it a family vacation, taking Phoebe out of school and everything. We’ll drive up to Toronto on Friday, stay for the festival, and then hang around for another couple of days to see the sights. I’m excited!

My expectation is that TCAF will be more like a European comics festival than an American-style comic convention. (Since I finally made it to Angouleme last year, I now fully appreciate the difference.) My favorite U.S. conventions—by far—are MoCCA and SPX—and I basically avoid all the rest of them when I can. My hope and expectation is that TCAF will join their ranks. The panels and programming look particularly promising—some of the panels I hope to make it to include Gilbert Hernandez, Michael Kupperman, Art Speigelman & Seth in Conversation, and Adventure Time!

I’ll be taking part in a panel myself, called Comics & Politics, on Saturday from 4:00–5:00 pm. My fellow esteemed panelists are Sarah Glidden, Rutu Modan, and Matt Bors, and the discussion will be moderated by Nicole Marie Burton. That’s Saturday, May 11, at the Toronto Marriott Bloor Yorkville Hotel, Forest Hill Ballroom. More details here.

When I’m not at a panel, or seeking out buddies I haven’t seen in a while, I’ll be seated at table #112 in the Atrium, alongside Colosse and Sophie Yanow. I’ll have copies of A.D.: New Orleans After the DelugeThe Influencing MachineA Few Perfect Hours, and a mini-comic I put together just for the occasion. Hope to see you there!

Toronto Comic Arts Festival
May 11-12, 2013
Toronto Reference Library (TRL)
789 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M4W 2G8

This Summer in Provincetown: Josh and Sari Comics Workshop Take II

FAWC Summer Program

Sari and I co-taught a comics-making workshop last summer in at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and it was a really rewarding experience—for us and for our students. We had a great mix of “serious” comics-makers and those trying out the form for the first time. (In fact, one of last year’s students was recently accepted to the Master’s program at the Center for Cartoon Studies, so we feel pretty proud of that!)

We learned that nothing makes a better combination than writing and art… or summer and beautiful P-town… or Sari and Josh! (*wink*) So that’s why we’ll be teaching the class again this summer, during the week of July 21–26.

Our workshop is called The Graphic Novel: At the Intersection of Writing and Drawing, and here’s the class description:

In his seminal work Understanding Comics, cartoonist Scott McCloud writes, “The art form—the medium—known as comics is a vessel which can hold any number of ideas and images.” This class will explore the dynamic realm of sequential art, and the ways that graphic novels/comics can produce powerful moments of frisson between words and images. Some find their way to the form through their writing and others through their art—comics allows for both options. To that end, we as workshop leaders offer two perspectives: that of a cartoonist and that of a writer. We welcome confident storytellers in either, or ideally both, arenas. If you’re “just” a writer, we believe that you can learn to draw in a way that will serve your words.

Participants should have an idea for a sequential narrative and preferably some existing notes, scripts, and/or art. We’ll unpack how comics are constructed: from scripting to page layouts to thumbnailing to creating finished art. We’ll explore the ideas and images you bring to the table, and through group feedback generate ways you can hone your vision. We’ll also spend some class time on various collaborative exercises we’ve found useful in producing strong comics work.

Although this class focuses on the comics form, experience shows that the skills we develop translate to many other visual storytelling modes—including storyboards, video games, and even PowerPoint presentations.

Please email a one-paragraph description of your project and what you hope to get out of the workshop to workshops@fawc.org by July 1. In addition, please bring writing and drawing materials.

Click this link to find out more about the program and how to register. Please spread the word about the class, and encourage people to sign up soon. Classes fill up quickly.

 

MSU Comics Forum this Saturday, March 2

This Saturday I’ll be up in East Lansing (Go Green!) at the MSU Comics Forum, an “event that brings together scholars, creators, and fans in order to explore & celebrate the medium of comics, graphic storytelling, and sequential art.” I’ll be participating in two panels, the “Artist Spotlight” at 1:30, and “Comics and Journalism: Practice, Publish, Innovate” at 2:45. I’ll also be hanging out in Artist’s Alley at other times throughout the day.

The “Artist Spotlight” panel also includes my good buddy and MSU Comics Forum keynote speaker Nick Bertozzi, as well as cartoonist and teaching artist Jerzy Drozd.

The comics journalism panel also includes Darryl Holliday, writer and co-founder of the Illustrated Press; and Joyce Rice, creative director of Symbolia Magazine.

Details:
MSU Comics Forum
Michigan State University
Snyder/Phillips Hall, 2nd floor
East Lansing, MI

Friday, March 1: Keynote Address with Nick Bertozzi – 7:00-8:30pm
Saturday, March 2: Artist Alley and Panel Discussions – 11:00am-5:00pm

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