VanCAF 2017

I’ve been meaning to tell you about my time at VanCAF, the Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. This took place back in May 2017. For months prior, I was gathering my stuff and worrying about the customs procedure in flying from the US to Canada. 

At Vancouver, I met up with my brother who lives in Seattle. The day of the con we hauled my stuff a few short blocks to the Roundhouse Community Center. The venue was spacious and beautifully designed. I got my table in the gym set up in no time.

Through the weekend, there was a steady stream of people passing through. It was obvious people were really excited to be there, and everyone was a fan of small press and independent comics. I had my stickers and comic One Lucky Bride for sale, as well as the LGBT anthology Lilies Vol. 2, where I have a little story included. Sales were all in Canadian dollars, but I forgot to get loonies! Thankfully my brother was able to run to a bank and break a $20 CAN for me.

One of the only things I purchased was a nice print by @JoanChao (inkblotblunder.com) about working hard, as you can see in the 3rd image below.

After the con, we took a ferry to Granville Island. Beautiful peaceful place! Unfortunately the only photos I took were of seagulls and crows dumpster diving. They kept ripping open the garbage bags to get the fries inside. Such clever birds!

Vancouver really impressed me with its natural beauty. I caught glimpses of its mountain, and was surrounded by more green than I’ve seen in a while. There are recycling stations but everywhere, and the city itself (least the area I was in) positively shimmered with cleanliness. When I got home to Jersey, the difference really hit me.

I would definitely be interested in doing VanCAF again, but might like to alternate it with other Canada shows like TCAF.

Screaming into the Void

Sometimes its rough being an artist on the Internet. Your very finest work might get overlooked or ignored, and you wonder why. Last fall I was musing on this and needing to warm up for other drawing, so I created this series of scribbly one-offs. I timed myself to complete them in under 45 minutes and restricted myself to one color. This forced me to keep things simple. I crank out these  whenever an idea comes to me, and they're fun. One day I might collect them into a zine, perhaps.

Watercolor Experimentation

Since 2014 I've used the same small pan of travel watercolors. I adore how compact it is along with my waterbrush, which means I can take it anywhere. But 12 colors is a bit limiting sometimes. Recently I bought a 36 set from Blick and am learning to use it. I thought the paints were good quality, but now I'm not so sure. I have to really work the paint with my brush in order to get any color out of the pan. But I don't know what quality paints are supposed to feel like. So I make do with what I've got.

The newest series I'm working on is pop stars, namely Beyonce. I love her music videos and her varied outfits. It's amazing how different the same person can look depending on their hair and makeup.

Here I've done Bey from her songs, Hold Up, Formation, and Run the World. I love listening to her music while I work, so this was extra fun to do. Each piece is 5x7 on watercolor paper.

Lovecraft Bar Art Showing

Around Valentine’s Day last month I got invited to participate in a group art showing at Lovecraft NYC in the East Village. It’s a bar with a dark, lovecraftian décor and the theme of the event was “fashion, horror, and creepy”. I created this piece specifically for the event.

Horror is a challenge for me because I don’t do a lot of work in that genre. After doodling in my sketchbook I hit upon an idea that I think fit with the event’s key words. My concept was a mother and child on a walk through a snowy forest. From behind, they might look human, but once they turn their heads they are revealed to be… deer skeletons! The mother puts out a hand as if to usher the child away from the viewer. The green balloon I feel adds a pop of color while also highlighting the child’s innocence.

I used a digital collage approach because I’ve been inspired by certain artists online recently and wanted to capture that lineless look. After creating all the main shapes, I added in textures that I had created with traditional media and scanned in. The end result came out a bit pinker than I had envisioned, so I tried to tone it down with a sepia filter. Still, I think the spirit of Valentine’s Day was upon me as I made this piece. :)

While hanging my piece at the Lovecraft, I got to meet the other artists showing their work. I found a diversity of pieces, from realistic pen and ink to abstract acrylic work. My photos don’t show it, but as the night got started, the event was packed! I had a lot of fun and am looking forward to doing it again.

 

work in progress

work in progress

finished piece

finished piece

The Feel of Green

This week I'm submitting a pitch for the Tim'Rous Beastie Comic Anthology. This will be a collection of black-and-white short stories featuring animals living in the world of humans (a la Beatrix Potter, Rats of NIMH, Redwall, etc.)

I was inspired by an article I read about two men, one blind and one without arms, who work together to plant trees. One selects the saplings and plans the holes and the other does the digging and planting. In the article, they stated that when they are together, neither one feels disabled. The example of close friendship touched me... though I wish I could get my hands on that article again!

In my story, it's two pigeons living in Chicago. One is blind but otherwise able to fly. The other is malnourished and crippled, but with sharp eyes. They team up to find a patch of earth, a rarity in the city, to plant a secret stash of grass seeds.

Over the holidays I visited my family in Chicago, and got to ride the "L" downtown. I took plenty of pictures of the stations, and as always was delighted to see the pigeons that roost in the rafters. These guys are so accustomed to city life, they don't even flinch when the trains go rumbling past. Winters are harsh there, and many birds succumb to frostbite. The ones that survive often lose their toes or entire feet. I feel pity when I see those birds hobbling about. They deserve love and cheetos just like the others, maybe even more.

Cactus Person Design Process

Who doesn’t love a cactus person! I had a lot of fun trying out different options for this creature, the only criteria being that they are very tall and resemble cacti. I used for inspiration some Google images of cactuses and my own recollections of the saguaro cactuses I saw in Arizona when I was 6 years old. Driving to the Grand Canyon with my family, I was delighted at how the branches resembled arms and appeared in an infinite number of poses. 

 

Beyond the typical upright cactus, there are other shapes to consider, like the short and squat cactus, or the prickly pear cactus. (I think I’m naming it right). Here are the rough versions and the more refined inked version the client picked.

The cactus’s expression needed to be just right, too. The client’s description was that it should have human-like eyes. The question was, how human? And should they be funny or go more serious? Only way to find out is to try multiple options.

Final running cactus, complete with sweet foreshortening (if I do say so myself)

The most tiresome part was getting all those spines to stick out at convincing angles. The perspective needn’t be perfect, but it at least ought to make clear what kind of a shape the spines are going for.

 

Costume Design for a Dandy

I tried my hand at costume design for this one. The client’s roleplay world is partially based on 19th century Italy, and wanted a human character to embody that. He didn’t have a clear idea for the look, so gave me free reign to play around with styles. The human had to be aristocratic, vaguely recalling one of the playable characters of Final Fantasy 6, and there were certain accessories the client did not want to see included.

This assignment needed a bit more research than I’d done before. I went to Pinterest for initial inspiration and created a board just to collect all the costume samples. Searches like "italian aristocrat", "19th century gentleman", and "1800's clothes" brought up results from textile museums, TV screenshots, and oil portraits.

I came back with some very rough concepts for the client, and we discussed his preference and the next modifications. This time I included photos handwritten notes directly on the images instead of explaining the options in my email to the client. I ought to do things more consistently, but hey, it gets the job done. The poses, I'll admit, drew heavily from that one FF6 character. I couldn't resist; he is my favorite. :)

I sort of did the inking and color steps together, delivering the inked version at the same time as the color options. It its easy to quickly change the colors because I keep each piece of clothing on a separate layer in Photoshop. This keeps my options more flexible and saves time down the road if last minute changes are needed. It makes for a bigger file, but so worth it. The client had a color scheme in mind already, but I like to include a few more options just for the sake of variety. With each color on a separate layer, palette swaps are a piece of cake.

We settled on a color choice, and after a few final adjustments and corrections, we had ourselves one handsome human.

Kappa Character Design

More creature character design! I knew about kappas from Japanese mythology, and was really pleased to design one that conformed to those traditional descriptions but was something unique and new.

This time the client sent me a link to Wikipedia’s page on kappas and a few pictures of other artist’s interpretations to better explain the look and feel he wanted. I came back with some ideas:

This assignment went pretty straightforward. I heard back about which version he liked, and I tightened the inks and colors with few modifications:

A menacing fellow, isn’t he? 

I can draw stuff for you, too! E-mail me at juliahut6(at)gmail.com.

As always, thanks for looking!

 

Etsy Shop Open and New Jersey Comic Con Wrap Up

Just added new prints, stickers, and Holiday Cards to my Etsy shop. Also did a photoshoot of my Doctor Who pillows and replaced the images already on Etsy's listings:

In preparation for New Jersey Comic Expo this past weekend, I had a lot of new product printed. This was my first time tabling in years, so I had a lot of catching up to do. The con was at a large expo hall, and included all your standard trappings like guests, signings, panels, and exhibitors. There was plenty to do but sadly not too many attendees. My table mate Rel said it best when she pointed out the large number of Exhibitors browsing the tables-- a sure sign of a slow con. The people who did attend seemed to have fun, though.

Photos taken from the NJCE Facebook Page. That's me in the yellow. Overall, I'm glad I went because it pushed me to start producing merch and made me purchase the banners and display stands I will need for future cons. But I wouldn't go back to this one. Its focus seemed more on the Big 2, and I'm really more indie and small press.

 

Cave Cat Process

Another commission was doing the “cave cat”. Like the mimic, I started with a few rough sketches based on a written description I got:

Like before, the client picked a version he liked, with a few ideas and suggestions for tweaking the inks and colors. I like to label the versions so its easier to refer to them while in conversation. Its real easy because the client can say something like “I want to see the pose of C1 with the body type of A1 and the colors of B2″. And I know exactly what he means.

I came back with some final inks, and this time instead of slapping the colors on, I indicated the palette with little swatches next to the inks. I don’t know why I did it this way, but it works.

This time I had two finals, seen below:

Nice, huh? If you got an idea you want to see on paper, shoot me an email and we’ll work something out! I’m at juliahut6(at)gmail.com

Let’s talk about yetis

Today I wanted to share a little about character design. The assignment was to design a Yeti.

Now, at first I was a little worried. A Yeti is basically like Bigfoot with white hair, right? How much variation can there be? Well, lots. I started by doing a Google image search for “Bigfoot” for initial inspiration. It led me to searching for photos of gorillas and in no time I was back in anthropology class. A few first passes I showed the client:

The version A was really inspired by the initial Bigfoot and gorilla ideas I had, and I bet it shows, haha! I also tried giving different poses and playing with shapes a little. My favorite of these was C because I was actually thinking about silkie and brahma chickens when I designed him! Those are the birds with feathers on their feet and very fluffy bodies.

So I got a response from the client along with a few suggestions. He wanted to see some variations for B’s face. So I did a semi-final inks version showing the two along with some color choices thrown down:

Again, I’m labeling the versions so they’re easier to talk about. As a side note, see how light the body color is against the white background? When coloring in the solid mass of the body, I found it easier to work with a brighter color:

That way, I could make sure I was filling in all the tiny spaces of the tips of the hair. But at one point I had to step back and laugh at how it looked!

A few more corrections and tweaks and Yeti was ready to walk the snowy wastelands:

I’m particularly proud of the way I added highlight “V”s to the shadowy parts of is leg. That’s some outside the box thinking for me right there.

Commissions are open if you are interested: juliahut6(at)gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

 

Harlequin Costume Design Process

More character design, this time for a harlequin! This assignment was also pretty wide open, just that the character needed to be from roughly that 19th century Italian style, and wearing a creepy mask. I came up with a variety of poses, outfits, and mask types. I was looking at a lot of Venetian masks. My this point, I’ve been working with the client for several months, and involved in many conversations. I believe I have a good feel for the type of look he wants for his project. Nonetheless, I enjoy throwing in one or two extra design options just so he can consider a wider range of styles.

Again, I’m labeling the options, so the client can easily write back and say “let’s see option A with the shoes of option C”. Which makes things very clear, and I know exactly what changes to make. I come back with some color options plus I offer to do a few headdress options, based on our email conversations.

Here I was surprised at the client’s color choice- I included the red/black/white option just as an extra off-chance thing. I expected one of the brighter options to be chosen. As I worked on the final piece, I changed my mind and decided the red/black/white fit in best because the character is supposed to be creepy. I could see this guy on a Venetian street, beckoning you to follow him down a dark alley. Augh!

This was one of the more labor intensive commissions, and I am especially proud how it came out.

Comparison- old vs. new tablet

Yesterday my trusty Graphire 4 went to join the cripples at the edge of the herd. Its Day One for this new secondhand Bamboo, and I just noticed it has no preset buttons on the tablet, just the two on the pen itself. The pen itself is slippery, no cushy padded part that helps with the grip. And the active surface is ever so slightly textured, like I’m running the nib along the finest sandpaper. Do you like drawing on sandpaper? I do not.

The plus side is I got my pressure sensitivity back! See the above Terras for comparison. The right one is the Bamboo, and the lineart looks much better (to be fair, I was trying harder too).

 

So I guess I’m adjusting to the new tool, though I don’t like it much. It’s a stopgap measure until I can save enough for that fancy Cintiq or a scanner to incorporate more hand drawn linework.

Btw, did you know its pronounced “wack-com”? I’ve been saying “way-comb”.