Fresh off the weekend’s artistic adventure: this year saw some really talented folks take the challenge, with many others sitting in for a few hours just to work on their own stuff and be a part of the event. Really missed the presence of some of the old crew who have since moved elsewhere, but there was still enough of a showing from the hard-core to make it almost seem like a reunion, along with a bunch bunch of random friends and even former students from the Cartoon & Comic Art class showing up too. And also lots of newcomers checking it out for the first time and some super-cool parents with their kids who were just starting to get into drawing. This in turn was also a nice bonus for the store’s bottom line, as more often than not it was dad who disappeared into the stacks, reappearing later with an armload of comics. Also it goes without saying that doing events such as this entail performing out in public, so the unexpecting customer is oftentimes treated to a live demonstration of the very same skills required for producing the exact sort of material that they are perusing in the store. Plus there’s nothing more inspiring than to sit around for a non-stop drawing session while surrounded by tons of comics and a crowd of fellow aficionados and devotees to the craft.
Just a few mere hours before heading off downtown for setup, my nebulous concept started to coalesce, and I set about trying to consolidate potential resources and references. A bag of old photo graphs, letters, postcards and journals went into a bag, along with drawing paper and my trusty artbox of supplies.
I took a different approach this year compared to previous ones: for starters drawing my pages on 5 ½ x 8” spiral-bound sketchbook paper, which necessitated the limiting of panels and compositions. The trade-off was being able to work at 100% size and faster in theory, with a pay-out at the end in being able to lavish a bit more time and attention on details such as textural effects. I also spent a comparatively inordinate amount of time at the outset just reading and taking notes, culling through the piles of supplemental material. I took detailed notes and sketches while excerpting key passages from the journals, and used a master index page of thumbnails to start cross-checking how the edited text would be juxtaposed against which particular image. Sometimes to better facilitate the pace for the reader and improve narrative flow I would rearrange elements like reordering pages or swapping panels.
Attempting to speed-read through journals crammed with at times barely legible handwriting slowed me down, and it was five hours before I began to first start penciling my pages. In fact, much like many of this past season’s mountaineering attempts and turning away just short of several summits, I reconciled myself early on with the assumption that there was simply no way I could ever get everything don this year. I was totally okay with that, as it ratcheted down the stress level and made the event that much more enjoyable. This was actually good because due to the extremely emotional load of the content I was poring over, much of it for the first time, I needed frequent breaks to absorb some of the potent details coming to light about my family history and confront personal baggage. Needless to say for the first time this was also a project without anything funny whatsoever.
|Speaking of re-caps: standard uniform for a cartoonist (who needs a mask or a cape).|
On the other hand, the event itself was hilarious as usual. This is perhaps the one time and place where we can all get together and not be looked at as geeky weirdoes – there was even a horde of gamers segregated off in the other side of the store doing their own version of an all-night session (Warhammer 40k, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic the Gathering, Deathwatch, Twillight Imperium etc. + a Playstaion & X-box setup and some folks assembling and painting their models).
As evidence for how uniquely awesome this particular gathering of fellow aficionados was, instead of the usual arguing over which particular superhero would win in a fight, our gang instead debated the relative merits and shortcomings of the local Thai restaurants. And we'll just leave alone the evening’s running gag over my 6” ruler.
Of course as the crowds trickle away and the hours grind on and the second- or third-wind dies down, it ain’t such a pretty picture anymore.As the cold and dark settles down over outside the store everyone starts to buckle down and dig in for the long haul. Headphones get plugged in, calls quit coming, and everyone starts to zone out on their unfolding comic. More coffee!
Of the original seven core individuals that started off at noon on Saturday, only four managed to successfully complete the challenge. While this number was smaller in comparison with the averages we’ve seen over the years, but it helped to stay humble and remember it ain’t a competition or a race, and there aren’t any "losers." Many times it’s invaluable experience to take back to the studio and translate similar logistical effort into other projects. In other words, it kinda kicks out any excuses that have been propping up any back-burner projects that you maybe don’t have the time to start something, or to finish it. Often other times it helps top make a couple dry runs at it so as to pick up on helpful advice and short-cutting tips from other attendees. Also I love sitting down at my own drawing table at the home studio and knocking out a panel after gigs like these, as it sure puts everything into a new perspective.
Generally around a dozen or more participants were working at the tables at any given point, with dozens more taking various stints throughout the evening. Of course there were also a handful who arrived late who still held out until early Sunday, and more than a few will be completing their respective projects at home. A first-timer completed his pages at 9am, a returning veteran drew her pages to a close by 10am, and another finishing hers a half-hour later. I completed all twenty-four pages around 9am, but spent another three hours (in fact working right up to 11:59am) erasing, adding spot-blacks an textural details + last-minute edits and revisions. By then at the bitter end there was only myself and one other attendee left at the tables.
|Attempting to directly imprint a creative vision onto the page via osmosis|
At approximately around the half-way mark I finally started to ink my own pages in. Another key difference between this year’s event and previous years for me was using a traditional dip-pen, as opposed to standard magic-markers, which besides causing neurological damage (hard to tell when it comes to some cartoonists) and inflicting passive huffing on innocent bystanders are much faster and easier to use (note : Sharpies are non-toxic). Still the only real issue I had with the pen was the ink (Winsor & Newton black India) kept thickening up after so many hours of the bottle being left uncovered and also clogging the nib. Fortunately I had brought another bottle to start swapping off between, and next time I’ll remember to pack the hair-dryer so as to speed up the drying period.
Be posting my pages + links up here soon than later, whenever I get time to scan them all in, and hopefully all the participant's works will get copied and stuck up on the wall at the newly expanded game-room in the Comic Shop for a temporary display.
|The drying rack|
Many thanks go out to Kevin for once again hosting the event, and all the supporters and friends who dropped by to offer encouragement and support - and almost as importantly, brought refreshments – including the Significant Otter who supplied the ride, the precious egg-nog lattes and spicy curry. I’ve never drunk as much coffee in a 24-jour period, and spent the following twenty-four hours constantly “decaffenating.”
Which might explain why for the first time while attending one of these gigs (five out of the previous six years held here in Fairbanks) that I didn’t take a nap. The final quarter from 6am to noon on Sunday is usually the roughest haul – many folks nodded off in their chairs, face-planted on their pages or crawled off to curl up on the thinly carpeted concrete. There is a certain irony in shambling into a display rack for the “The Walking Dead’ while barely conscious. The flip-side of this was getting progressively more and more strung-out with the occasional shakes, dizzy spells and hand-cramps.
In other words, a total blast: already can’t wait for next year.