Oops, It’s Mer-May

I don’t have a lot of updates for you – aside from “Hey, I’ll be at 3 Rivers Comicon this weekend, May 11 and 12 in Homestead, PA.”

So here’s a sketch of an eel girl because I forgot it was Mer-May.

(Yeah, this was sketched before Mer-May, so ssshhhh).

RathaCon 2019 In Review

I’ve been to RathaCon many a year before. It was one of my first shows as a vendor, and has since become one of my anchor shows. Because of that, I do my best to go every year. I even turned down the offer to go to Awesome Con in Washington, DC again to get to RathaCon instead.

(Mostly because both shows were happening on the same weekend… but RathaCon is physically closer to me and lasts only one day. So I could just drive down, show off, and drive back home without paying for a hotel. Very nice.)

However, this year, RathaCon had a couple of things working against it.

See, Awesome Con wasn’t the only other show happening the same weekend: there was also Gem City Comic Con, and two other shows in West Virginia that I can’t remember the names of. So RathaCon had to work extra hard to get folks to come in.

To my understanding, they ran radio ads, because there were a few attendees who mentioned, “I didn’t know this show was a thing until I heard about it on the radio yesterday! So I HAD to check it out!” So, kudos to the RathaCon staff for getting the word out.

And I’ll humble-brag a bit: I think the print I made for RathaCon helped to draw eyeballs to the show on social media. Especially on Facebook.

That said, the crowd this year was about the same size as last year’s audience, but they thinned out WAY sooner towards the end of the day. Partly because of the rain, I think.

I’m not sure how many attendees were current students of Ohio University, though.

One of the reasons the convention staff picked the day they did was to try and entice the local college crowd to come and attend.

But here is where another factor worked against them: April 27, the day of RathaCon, was a week before finals. No sane college student is leaving campus the day before finals week hits, unless they are Sherlock Holmes’-level of confident about their work.

When I talked about it with the staff, we mentioned the idea of offering discounted attendance to people who brought a valid OU ID. Hopefully they do that next year.

Another thing I hope they do next year: get volunteers who check in with the artists more often throughout the day. I was the only person at my table and, aside from the one or two times I could see another neighbor’s table, I could not leave my spot. I’m glad I packed a lunch.

This is a grievance I’ve already discussed with the staff, and they’re working to resolve the issue for next year. I’m confident they’ll fix it, because RathaCon is VERY good at accepting constructive criticism and working to improve year after year. That is one of the reasons they are my anchor show.

In conclusion: was this the best ever RathaCon so far? No. It wasn’t awful or even bad. But there will be changes next year. Hopefully for the better.

And hey! I booked another appearance before 3 Rivers Comicon!

If you’re in the Saint Clairsville, OH area on May 4, stop at New Dimension Comics in the Ohio Valley Mall. They’re running Free Comic Book Day, and they gave the OK for me to showcase and sell my work. Also, there will be a GhostBusters division there. (I talked to some GhostBusters at RathaCon and they mentioned they were appearing at FCBD at the comic shop.)

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

What’s Going On? An Update About The Legend and the Patreon Pledge Drive

For the sake of full transparency, I want to keep y’all in the loop. Considering that I missed the update for The Legend of Jamie Roberts on April 17, you should know what’s going on.

Patrons on Patreon already know the gist, but I don’t think I went into detail about it. And I may have mentioned this a few times here on the site, but…

In short, I got a side hustle working at a gas station in my town.

Back in September of 2018, I left the comic shop I was working at, due to some drama I will NOT get into here. For the next two months after that, I kept to making Validation, doing Patreon work, selling at conventions, getting consignment earnings, and freelance gigs.

With those income streams, I was able to pay for rent, groceries, and everything else I needed to live. However, it was not paying off my student loans at the clip I wanted, and my savings goals were suffering.

So I bucked it up and applied for part-time work at the local gas station. They needed someone to come in from 2 pm to 10 pm, which works for me, since I do my best creative work in the mornings. It also paid $9.50 an hour for the first 6 months of the job, and it’s set to jump up to $10 an hour after that period. Plus I could earn quarterly bonuses if the store kept up the friendliness and cleanliness ratings. And after working there for one year, I could open a 401K and get stock in the company – even as a part-time worker. That’s, frankly, unheard of around these parts.

That said, comics are still my full-time endeavor. I’m sticking to the gas station as a part-time side hustle to pay off the student loans faster, and save back a little bit for my savings goals… including a new laptop and tablet set-up. My current laptop is close to 8 years old and Clip Studio Paint tends to crash at least once a week on this thing.

Now, I wanted to talk about this because in May, there’s plans to run a Patreon Pledge Drive.

“But wait,” you might be saying. “Why have a Patreon Pledge Drive when you can keep working at the gas station part-time and use that money for your stuff?”

The gas station gig is to pay off debt and save back for some savings goals. That’s it.

Patreon earnings right now cover groceries, my phone bill, and one or two business expenses. And everything else I need gets supplemented by freelance gigs.

And I’m sticking to comics as a full-time job because IT’S WHAT I WANT TO DO.

My goal is to increase Patreon from its current $215/month rate to $500/month.

By doing that, Patreon can cover the groceries and phone bill, yes. AND it would cover rent, gas to conventions, website hosting, domain registrations, and art supplies needed for making the comics actually happen. By doing that, I would be less reliant on freelance gigs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve liked (most of) the clients I’ve worked with. But freelance earnings are REALLY inconsistent from month to month. If Patreon earnings can go up, I can curb the need to do freelance work to bridge the gaps.

Also, fewer freelance gigs means more consistent comic updates. Because that way, I’m not trying to split my attention and time between the gas station, Patreon, and however many clients I’m working with on freelance projects.

So be prepared for the Patreon Pledge Drive to happen throughout May. The Pledge Drive will include:

  • Increasing email newsletter updates from once-a-week to twice-a-week,
  • New posts on the blog talking about what’s on my Patreon page,
  • Fliers to pass out at conventions about the Patreon page,
  • And lots more!

I’ll do my best to keep the Pledge Drive entertaining and not annoying. But bear with me for the next month.

That’s all for now. Thank you for your patience and support.

You. Are. Awesome.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Chaco Canyon, and Historical Preservation

Notre Dame cathedral in France caught on fire. And that got me thinking.

Specifically, it got me thinking about the importance of cultural preservation, how we got to caring about Notre Dame cathedral so much, and how we can carry that attitude moving forward.

We as an American/European culture got to caring about Notre Dame cathedral mostly because of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame – or, in the original French, “Notre Dame de Paris.”

Believe it or not, that book has nothing to do with the love “triangle” of Quasimodo, Esmerelda, and Frollo. That dynamic was more due to later interpretations and adaptations of the novel to the movie screen. (For more on that, check out this video by Lindsay Ellis if you haven’t already.)

No, the original book is a lengthy essay about the importance of architecture to a culture and how architecture outlives and outlasts the people who live around it.

So, if you ever read the book and wondered, like teenage-me did, why the characters are so unlikeable and why there are entire pages devoted to the flying buttresses… well, now you know.

In short, Victor Hugo’s book was written in an attempt to preserve Notre Dame cathedral at a point in time and history when cultural preservation wasn’t even a concept. Keep in mind, too, that when Hugo wrote the book, Notre Dame cathedral was practically a shell, having been looted and torn apart multiple times until he wrote “Notre Dame de Paris.” This book was written with the intent of telling people why this cultural edifice was so important, and urging people to restore it and preserve it.

I’m glad we now live in a world where historical and cultural preservation is a thing. And I’m glad to live in a world where the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral is considered a tragic event because of the historic significance of the landmark.

That said, don’t worry too much about Notre Dame Cathedral. Now, I’m saying this as an American Pagan and not a French Catholic. I’ve never seen the cathedral in person, and my only visual memory of it is the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, Notre Dame Cathedral has the Catholic Church and the support of millions of Catholics around the world to restore it. Notre Dame cathedral will be fine.

My hope is that we remember the significance of cultural landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral, and we carry that attitude with us towards monuments and landmarks that are at risk.

Like, here in the United States, we have a lot of cultural parks at risk at the hands of our current government administration, who are more focused on resource extraction than on cultural or historic preservation.

As an example, let’s take a look at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. This site is not only a culturally significant site to MANY Native American tribes. It’s also the home of the oldest Pueblo ruins in the United States.

And the problem? The largest of those ruins, Pueblo Bonito, was excavated, but nearly half of it was buried again under a landslide. All of that work, and all of the artifacts left to excavate, was lost.

And my concern? Right now there are fossil fuel companies looking to build mines, or god forbid, go fracking, in the lands in and around Chaco Canyon. The earthquakes that those operations cause could bury more ruins and make us lose more history.

My hope? I hope we remember the example of Notre Dame Cathedral and we carry that momentum forward, to protect the cultural landmarks that contain our history.

Chaco Canyon and Notre Dame Cathedral mean different things, depending on your religious outlook. But they are both significant landmarks that have outlasted and outlived the peoples who originally built them. My hope is that we remember the significance of places like Chaco Canyon and we treat it with the same care and respect as we do Notre Dame.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

P.S. If you would like to find out more about Chaco Canyon, here’s their official website (if you have the means to, they also accept donations). And be sure to check out (and if you can, support) The National Park Service, the organization that protects sites like Chaco Canyon nationwide.

How I Made the RathaCon Limited Edition Print Art

This post does contain affiliate links. Bear with me.

So this started, initially, as a multi-part blog post series.

Then it got complicated.

Specifically, the art got complicated, and I wasn’t able to make a new blog post each week to detail the process of making this thing.

Let’s go into the details, though, so I can show you WHY this art took so long. And also how I make big illustrations like this one.

STEP 1: THUMBNAILS

Thumbnails are what I like to call the really rough sketches of an idea. It’s something I borrowed from animation film language.

I already wrote a post about this step, which you can read here.

STEP 2: PENCILS

I wrote about why I choose this design, as well as the details of it, in the second part of the blog series. Now I’m going to get into the how.

It took a little while for the email chain with the convention staff to start (another reason that the weekly blog post idea had to get pushed). But once it got going, I was able to get feedback and get to work.

Pencils – or, the sketched the version of a thing – is something I do with just one pencil in one go.

When I first started in comics, I USED to do the undersketch with one pencil (usually a 2H), then the top layer in a darker tone (like B).

Now, I do all of my pencilling with just one pencil. Usually a mechanical one. I believe the RathaCon art was drawn with my Tombow monograph mechanical pencil, but right now I am in LOVE with the Zebra DelGuard mechanical pencil.

STEP 3: INKS

This step takes a deceptively long time.

It takes a long time for me because I try to control the line weight as much as possible: making some areas dark with a bolder line, but light with a lighter line.

Inking is also the stage where I have to squint at my pencil drawing and determine what lines will look the best when inked.

Because pencils are when I get real loose. Inks are where things get tight and snappy.

STEP 4: COLORS

Depending on the piece, I’ll make it either traditional-only (usually with Copic markers). Or I make it a combination of traditional and digital. Or I have all the colors be digital.

For the RathaCon print art, I opted to combine the traditional and digital modes. So I colored with my Copics first, then scanned the art, to start the next step…

STEP 6: DIGITAL EDITS

At this stage I go back over the art in Clip Studio Paint and erase any stray marks, fix any color bleeds, and generally just clean the piece up.

I also like to adjust how much the colors pop at this stage. So I play with the levels a little.

STEP 7: DIGITAL COLORS

With the RathaCon art, the only digital color I needed to add was the background tint.

In almost any other piece, I’ll add a layer over the art in Clip Studio Paint in order to add shadows. These make the art pop even more.

STEP 8: FORMATTING

I originally made the art for this print at 11 x 17 inches.

About a week ago, the RathaCon staff asked if I could make the piece an 8.5 x 11 inch one instead.

Pro tip: it’s WAY EASIER to shrink an illustration than to enlarge it.

It took a little wiggling to keep the scale of the piece consistent and not accidentally cut off bits of it. But a new scale was figured out.

And there you have it!

As I mentioned, this art will be available as a limited edition 8.5 x 11 inch print at RathaCon, for $10 a piece.

So if you’re in Athens, OH on April 27, I hope you get it! This is a limited print run, so once it’s gone – it’s gone.

I’ll have these beauties for sale at my table, and they’ll also be available at the RathaCon official table.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.