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.

FOR THE HERD! …Con

Holy banana pants! HerdCon was a BLAST to go to!

I actually left for the show a day early: the organizers informed artists and vendors that the building had only one elevator. Because of that, the organizers suggested (pretty heavily) that we vendors and artists set up the day before the show, to prevent congestion on the morning of HerdCon.

Which is what I did. As expected, the Friday before the show was pretty congested for set-up. But it was still nice to take my sweet bippy time to get the table ready… instead of feeling the pressure to have everything all set up in an hour or less (which is what I’m used to with other shows).

On the day of the convention, I wasn’t sure what to expect for attendance or sales.

By the end of the day, it was the BEST sales day I’ve had at a one-day show since I started selling my work at conventions!

What helped with the sales, I think, were the following key points:

  • The organizers knew what they were doing. They approached the show as a non-profit community event (as events like these should be treated, in my honest opinion). Their communications with the organizers was quick, thorough, and to the point. Plus they made lunch available for vendors for an extra $10…which I took advantage of. I got the veggie sandwich lunch (admittedly, I should have ordered the ham sandwich. But hey – lesson for next time).
  • The show organizers promoted the HECK out of this show. They reached out to local press, updated their Facebook and Instagram accounts consistently, and offered freebies that would entice the audience they were looking for. I remember one Facebook post promoting a giveaway of free dice with the HerdCon logo as the highest roll number. If that’s not nerdy, I don’t know what is.
  • I talked a lot about the show on my email newsletter, and got some peeps from previous shows to show up to visit. Thanks for coming! And thanks for putting up with my incessant talking about it.
  • There were things on my table marked down for clearance. I know what it’s like to be a broke college student. Plus there’s a LOT of inventory that needed to be cleared out so I can make room for future books, prints, and stickers. So I marked all of my 8.5 x 11 prints down to $3 each – buy one get one free. And I had grab-bags. While grab bags didn’t sell as much, prints certainly did – I have only 4 designs left!
  • I also did caricatures on the spot. I was surprised at how well caricature sales took off at Marietta Comic and Creator Con last year, so I thought to bring it here. The sales of caricatures alone made up for the cost of the AirBNB and gas to get to HerdCon.

Would I go again next year? ABSOLUTELY.

Should you go as an attendee next year? DOUBLE-ABSOLUTELY. Everyone I chatted with had a fun time, enjoyed the Artist Alley, and got to go to fun panels and play tabletop games. Fun times were had by all!

I’m so tickled by how well this show did, especially since I mentioned in my previous post that I had been burned by inaugural shows before. So I’m happy to see HerdCon succeed! I hope it continues to do so.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

Getting Ready for HerdCon

From the HerdCon Facebook Page.

HerdCon is a new pop culture con hosted by Marshall University. The folks who organize this show asked me almost a year ago if I would be interested in having a table at their show, to showcase my work.

I had to give it a lot of thought, considering I had been burned before by new convention launches (looking at you, Put-In-Play). But I was willing to give this show the benefit of the doubt for a few reasons:

  • The table was inexpensive (less than $40, even with me pre-ordering lunch).
  • It’s hosted by a university – shows hosted by universities tend to do well. For examples of this, I think of Parkersburg Pop Con and Animarathon.
  • It’s a one-day show.

Now, the show IS just for one day, but I’m shipping out a day early to go and set up the table the night before the show.

Why? Well, besides the practical reason of “the building has maybe two elevators if you squint,” it would give me a chance to visit Huntington. A city I’ve not been to before.

I’m hoping to go down to town and look around for any comic shops, coffee shops, or indie bookstores that may be interested in carrying my books, minicomics, or prints.

But back to HerdCon itself.

This is usually the part of the post where I talk about a giveaway I’m doing. Well, this year, I’m saving giveaways and freebies for shows where I’m a return guest, like RathaCon. Since this is my first year at HerdCon, no giveaways or freebies will be there… this time.

With that said, if you’re going to HerdCon, I WILL have my 8.5 x 11 inch prints on discount. Plus there will be a new 4 x 6 inch miniprint for sale, and the Buffalo God Print will have a price drop, from $20 to $15.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading, and I hope to see you at HerdCon!

You. Are. Awesome.

Xemnas (A Sketch)

Yes, I finally got a copy of Kingdom Hearts 3 and started playing it recently. (Don’t spoil anything! I’m still only one world into the game).

Kingdom Hearts is a game series I have a lot of fondness for in my heart, despite all of its issues. It was the series that convinced my teenage self that video games could be an art form because it prompted SO MANY FEELINGS (instead of just rage and frustration at the mechanics of whatever game I was playing).

This was the series that helped me get through high school. Not just because of its cool game-play or its silly character moments, but also because of the fandom.

Yes, I was one of those fans who giggled at the idea of rearranging Xemnas’ name into “Mansex.” Who loved all the crack comics comparing Saix to a puppy and having Demyx and Roxas use a laser pointer to torture him. I even devoured so many hours of a video series called “The Stupid Files” where a fan with a LOT of time on their hands spliced comedic audio samples over Kingdom Hearts cutscene footage. It was like a precursor to all the abridged anime series’ out now.

But.

Kingdom Hearts as a game series has a LOT of issues. I am not a fan of the fact that the spin-off titles, or “interquels,” change the core mechanics of the gameplay. I did not like the card system of Chain of Memories, but I ESPECIALLY hated the Tetris-inventory mechanics of 358/2 Days. I could not finish either of those games because of those gameplay mechanics.

As a fan of the series, I feel like a lot of those in-between games could have just been made into movies and be JUST as effective. Most fans of Kingdom Hearts I know only ever watch the cutscenes of the side games and play just the anchor games (the anchors being games 1, 2, and now 3).

That’s the thing that being a fan of Kingdom Hearts has taught me: that you don’t have to consume EVERY FACET of a property to be a big dork for the thing.

I will never play the interquel games. At most, I will watch the cutscenes. Heck, you can watch videos on YouTube summarizing the lore of Kingdom Hearts so far and – ta-da – you’re now caught up to the series without having to touch any of the crap side games.

(358/2 Days, why did you have to SUCK?)

That said, I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts 3 so far – on Proud mode! I haven’t touched a new video game in 13 years and I can play Kingdom Hearts 3 on Proud Mode without dying. That…actually might be more a statement on the game’s difficulty than on my expertise. But that aside…

Playing Kingdom Hearts 3 reminded me why I love this game series in the first place. It’s fun to play (at least the anchor games are). The characters are stilted but they’re still fun. The dialogue is cheesy but it works. And GOOD GOLLY JEEZ, the fact that you can play as a character interacting in Disney worlds is great. I’m looking forward to the Toy Story world the most because those were some of my favorite movies as a kid.

It’s a game series made for people who are young at heart, who need a little light to combat all the cynicism and self-awareness that the video game industry is saturated in. And thank goodness for that.

That’s all I’m going to write for now. I could talk for days about this series.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.